Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a-MAZE-ing adventure

It's wonderful to live in a community that offers so much for family to do.  As fall rolls around a popular attraction for families makes it appearance.  What was once a 45 minute drive down the Bitterroot valley, now makes it's home in Missoula, only a few miles away from Cold Springs.  Here are some memories of our recent field trip to the Missoula Maze.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Squirelling" Pennies

Building fine motor skills is (should be) a vital part of any kindergarten classroom.  We expect a lot from those tiny little hands - cutting, gluing, writing, creating, lifting, squeezing, pinching - particularly during a time when the muscles of the hand are still developing and strengthening.  A few times throughout the week I like to do table activities of fine motor skills.  I place activities at each of their tables and have them rotate through.  Little do they know, these "fun little activities" are actually helping them to strengthen and develop the muscles of their hands.

Squirreling pennies is one of the fine motor activities that I enjoy leading. Instead of roaming the classroom, I'll camp out at this table and lead them through some hand exercises.  I learned about this fine motor activity from a teacher in our district several years ago.  I'm still not sure why it's called "squirreling".  Maybe its because the kids look like squirrels trying to pick things up with their tiny little hands, or maybe because those little pennies are so darn "squirrely".

I love squirreling pennies with the kids because it gives me a chance work with them in small groups on fine motor skills. It's also a great time to informally assess the students in other areas like math (counting, one-to-one correspondence) and literacy (communicating, using vocabulary).  First I have the kids pick ten pennies. I think its just the right amount for their little hands. When working with pennies, or any small objects that tend to be noisy on the table-tops, I use felt squares that we call "quiet mats".  I have one for each student. They're pretty inexpensive at a local craft store.  From there I lead them through a set of random exercises that challenge their brains and fingers.  I have them work with one hand at a time. The temptation to use both hands is strong - so I tell them to put one hand behind their back. I mix-up (and sometimes make up) the activities as we go along, but some of the standard exercises are: lining up pennies, flipping them over as fast you can, making a pattern (heads/tails), picking up the pennies with thumb & finger and gathering them in the palm of the hand, dropping the penny between the thumb & finger and placing them back down, and stacking pennies.  Keep in mind, all of these exercises are done with one hand - usually the dominant hand, but we practice with the opposite hand as well. I add a little light competition by timing the kids. My absolute favorite is to see the look of concentration (and contortion) on their faces as they get-in-the-zone. I love it!

Here's a little video of our activity.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Dragons at the PEAS farm

A little over a week ago we took our first "official" field trip to the PEAS farm. We enjoyed romping around our local community garden, soaking in the beautiful Montana fall weather while tasting some fresh, hand-picked fruits and vegetables. Mmmm - tasty! We also had a chance to see some chicken, pigs, and horses (in the nearby fields).  In the end we learned that we can grow and eat our own healthy fruits and vegetables either from our own backyard or from a nearby community garden. What a great way to keep things local and give back to our community.  Here's a little video slideshow of our visit.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

We're Baa-aaack!

Greetings KF Dragons, fans, families, and friends.  Welcome (or welcome back) to our kindergarten blog.  It's been a while since I've been back here, but I'm excited to engage our visitors with highlights of the coming year.  Last year I was excited to introduce my kindergarteners to the blogging world.  What a great way to share the  things that are happening in the classroom. Blogs can serve a variety of purposes.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Some blogs are informative and rich with resources for learning, while others are simply an online journal.of thoughts and ideas.  I hope to offer a little-bit of both here.  I like to think of it as a window into our classroom that gives visitors a glimpse of kindergarten life here at Cold Springs Elementary.  So here's to a magical year...follow along and enjoy the show.