Monday, January 31, 2011

Before and After

There a many things we learn in kindergarten beside our ABC's and 123's. The learning is deep, and wide (but mostly wide). I suppose the deep stuff will come down the road. We've learned about how to be kind, how to be a good friend, how to communicate and "use your words", as well as how to make the best choices and  how to pick up after ourselves and to be responsible for our belongings.

The winter months are awesome in kindergarten, especially when there is snow on the ground. It's a time of teeny kindergarteners bundled-up plump and warm. Hats, scarves, boots, mittens, snow-pants, and coats line the hallway at various times of the day; however, lately we've been slacking a bit in keeping our lockers neat and organized. My  kindergarteners share lockers - up to 4 in each. The winter months are particularly crazy with the added gear - but let me just say, from experience, that it can be done.

I've been getting on my dragons' case lately about keeping their lockers tidy, and closed. I even jokingly threatened to throw away any belongings that were spilling out of their spaces.  That was a bad idea as they turned and stampeded back down the hall in one chaotic mess of loudness. On Friday, I had an idea. My dragons love surprises and will obey at any cost for a "surprise". I told them to wait quietly at their desks while I went into the hallway to do a little project. They were so excited.

So...while they waited in eager anticipation for their surprise, I went into the hallway and snapped some photos of the latest tornado disaster area.  I went back in to the classroom and proceeded to do a little prep work at my computer. In the meantime, kids were shouting "We're watching a movie!", "Yay!", "Awesome", "Sweet!".  Then I showed them the pictures of their lockers on the interactive whiteboard. Silence. 

I wanted to laugh, but it was such a perfect "teaching moment".  You can probably figure out the rest of the story. I took an additional 3 minutes to tell them how fantastic they were, and that they sometimes get so excited when they come in from recess that they forget to hang up their things on hooks and take a minute to organize - the way they learned on the first day of school. We also discussed how our school depends on us to keep our area clear so students and teachers can move safely through the hallways.

It was Friday - and I  challenged them to organize their lockers as best they could. If they could make them look awesome, then they could watch a dinosaur movie (which I had already planned). I told them that I would take the pictures again, and we could compare the "Before and After". And guess what? It worked.  They were so proud. By-the-way, I plan on posting those pictures on their lockers as a reminder of what they are capable of. See the photo evidence below. Parents, your digital camera may be your next favorite tool.  Hmmm...what else can I take a picture of?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snowman in Citrus County Florida - A Skyping Adventure

A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of Skyping with Mrs.Colier and our newest kindergarten friends at Hernando Elementary in Hernando Florida. Mrs. Colier and her 18 kindergartners were learning about snow in science and wanted to speak with some experts in the field. [Enter - KF Dragons]. Here is a little information about where they are located:

     "We are located on the West Coast of Florida in Citrus County.  We are 13 miles from the Gulf of   Mexico.  We are famous for all the manatees that visit our county in the winter.  They usually come to Crystal River to the natural springs where the water is 72 degrees year round. 
     We are about an hour and a half from Disney World.  Most of my kids have been there.  Myself included.
    Our school is located in Hernando.  We are a rural community.  We have lots of lakes and a several nice rivers for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking along with lots of fishing.  We also have hunting deer, turkey and wild pigs.  I have a little boy that hunts regularly with his Dad and Granddad."

During our visit, our new kindergarten friends wanted to ask us some questions about snow.  They asked; 
1) What kinds of things we did in the snow,  2) How do you make a snowman, and 3) What do we wear when we go out in the snow?  We eagerly shared our experiences, and showed them all of the things that we must have before going out to recess (snowpants, snowboots, coat, scarf, mittens, and cap). As part of the rules on the playground during the wintertime, we also shared that  throwing snowballs, climbing on snow-mounds, and sliding on the ice is not allowed. 

In return, we also had a few questions to ask Mrs. Colier and her class.  We wanted to know; 1) If any of them  had been to the "Magic Castle" (Disney World)?,  2) Is there sand there?, and 3) Is there water there? In short - the answer was "yes" to all three, however I believe we were most excited about their proximity to the Magic Kingdom.

I am still amazed at what technology allows us to do in our classroom.  On a cold snowy day in Missoula, Montana we were able to visit and learn with kindergartners at the complete opposite corner of the United States - much less a location known for sun, surf, and sand! Here are a couple of photos of Mrs. Colier and her kindergartners, and their instant-snowman (a polymer that, when mixed with water, turns into a snow-like material).   

Thank you Mrs. Colier. We can't wait to Skype with you again!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Shapes of Things

Our geometry unit has been a lot of fun. Earlier in the year we learned about some of the basic 2 dimensional shapes, and discussed some of their attributes. Besides the typical square, triangle, circle, and rectangle, we also learned the names of shapes like trapezoid, rhombus (not diamond), skinny rhombus, irregular triangle and hexagon. In our math topic 7 we revisited some of these shapes and added size and line of symmetry to our vocabulary of math words.  We just finished learning about, and discussing, solid figures - spheres, cubes, cones, and cylinders. We learned about which solid figures will stack, roll, or slide - and sometimes a combination of the three. Geometry is so much fun because shapes, 2D and solid, are all around us. In the following activity we read the book Around the Park by Christianne C. Jones, and discussed what our shapes could represent when placed on a mural, or scene, of a park and a beach.  It was so wonderful to see them applying their knowledge of shapes to things we see in real life. As you can see in their murals, a hexagon could be a sun, a rhombus could be a kite. Two triangles when combined also form a kite. Squares when combined formed a beach towel on the sand, and a trapezoid turned "upside down" made a wonderful creative.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mystery Box

I read a post from a fellow kindergarten Tweep (Twitter-friend), asking for some suggestions for end-of-day activities. Here is one that has been a hit with kindergarteners for the past few years. Most of the parents know about this "Mystery Box", but many haven't had the opportunity to see it in action, so I thought it would be a fitting post

I don't quite know what it is, but there is a fascination to the Mystery Box that brings us to a close at the end of each school day.  With approximately 15 minutes left until the dismissal bell, the dragons have two tasks - 1} pack your backpacks, and 2) get ready for the Mystery Box. We all know that if we take too long doing the 1st, there will be little time for the 2nd. Heaven-help-us if it ever has to go that far.

The goal; to place a "mystery" item into the box (a cheap, or donated, collapsible lunch box that I get at the beginning of the year) and have your classmates try to guess what it is from the 3 clues, written and read by the child (in the beginning of the year, parents help out in the writing process).  The only rule (other than that it has to fit in the box) is that the item cannot be alive. It hasn't happened...yet! But it is amazing what some kids can get to fit into the box. "Who knew that a large stuffed animal can be squeezed into such a tight space?"

It's a great exercise in reading, writing, and cognition - and puts a little twist on the typical show-and-share activities. The elements of suspense, and surprise, are nice too!  At the literacy level, the kids learn to think creatively about the clues, write them down, then share them.  At the social-level, it helps us to build confidence as we share in front of the group. The kids know to show respect, have listening-ears, and raise their hands.  Some kids plan out their mystery item weeks in advance - shutting eyes, crossing-fingers & legs at the chance to take the Mystery Box home. We do a random draw from our name-Popsicle sticks, and each kiddo gets it once every twenty days or so. So here you go...our Mystery Box.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dinosaurs - Take 1

We'll...we've embarked on our prehistoric learning adventure to the time of the dinosaurs.  Most of this week has been building background knowledge, sharing what we know about dinosaurs, then discussing what we would possibly like to know about them.  I used our Flip Video camera to document some dinosaur behavior. This was a rather impromptu video that capitalized on our kindergartners incredible ability to be theatrical, and silly, at the same time.  I give to you, KF Dragons rendition of  "Herbivores & Carnivores".

Monday, January 10, 2011


Greetings everyone! A few days ago we began a new math topic and have been learning about shapes. To date - we've discussed circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. Those are the basic shapes, I know, but we have been connecting them to shapes we see in real life. We see rectangles in dollar bills, doors, and envelopes. We see squares in crackers, windows, and stamps...and so on. In fact, to day we learned about shapes that, when combined, create other shapes - for example, two triangles make a rhombus. Three triangles make a trapezoid. Two squares, make a rectangle. Those were a little challenging, but we'll keep practicing. For now, here is a quick video of the kids playing a geometry game using spinners, and counters. Being a roving reporter is the best part of the process (besides their learning, of course). You just don't know what you'll get. I do my best to show you authentic examples of learning. If all of our videos were perfect, or edited, that wouldn't exemplify "real" learning in the classroom. Don't mind the noise in the background. In kindergarten, that's what we call "learning in progress. Enjoy!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Better late than never, eh? Here's an Animoto that was in the works before we left for the break. It's a small collection of the memories we created during the first four months of kindergarten. There is so much more to come. I love my KF Dragons - I may quite possibly have the best job in the entire world. Here's to a prosperous 2011.