Monday, September 17, 2012

Squares, Stars, Scissors & Sensory...Table

After a few weeks in school I finally opened the sensory table. I don't usually open it up this early because it's normally filled with rice. For the first time in while, I emptied out the rice to make way for other activities. At a workshop a couple of years back, I heard a story about a teacher who brought in a hard-plastic kiddie pool - she filled it with nothing but paper (office paper, scrap paper, etc), attached several scissors with string to the edge of the pool, then let the kids sit inside and cut away. This sensory table activity is a modification that idea.

Today I thought I'd blend some fine motor scissor skills - and number work. It was pretty simple, and the kids had a great time cutting and chatting.  I lingered there for a little while to catch up on the latest gossip in kindergarten.

I gathered the supplies: scissors, 1 inch square graph paper, star-matrix grid (that I whipped up using a word processor) but this could be normal dot-matrix paper, and five random jars that I had in my supply cupboard. I labeled the jars numbered 1-5. Total cost...FREE!

I told the kids to cut out any amount 1-5 of the graph paper squares, or stars, and place them in the corresponding number jar.  And that's it! While they're working on number sense and simple counting - they get the benefit of working the muscles in the hand, and scissoring skills. It turned out to be a great "math-talk" activity. Some kids counted and cut too many (i.e., 6 instead of 5),  so we did a little problem solving. "Could you cut off some squares/stars so that you can put them in two separate jars instead?"  It was great to hear their thinking as they problem-solved.

I imagine a variation of these activities like cutting out colors in magazines and placing them in color jars (great to save for color collages later). Kids could also cut words or letters out of magazines and newspaper. Put different textures, and thickness of paper, for kids to cut and really work the muscles in the hand.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guess-timation Jars

Today was the first day with the kids returning with our new math-ideas estimation jars. I wish I could say where I heard about the idea. It may have even been on Pinterest. I modified this activity to add to our daily math routine. It is a great way to encourage communication and math-talk. We estimate, make predictions, talk about the objects in the jar.  The discussion revolving around the jar and the items can easily be student or teacher led, and can serve as a great transition during your math time.

Here's how it works. Two students each get to take home an estimation jar (I bought these at the dollar store). They can fill it with any amount of 1 object (ex. 5 blocks, 20 pennies, 10 lollipops). Smaller numbers below 50 make it easier to count and compare. The kids return the next day with their jars and I display it on my desk - far enough away that they won't be able to count the items specifically.

At the end of our math-number routine I take out the jars. We discuss the items inside, and the estimation jar leaders tell the group why they chose those items. We compare jars and ask questions like:  How many items do you estimate are in this jar? Are there more that 10? Less than 20? Which jar holds more? etc.

This takes place at the calendar wall where I have number-lines, whiteboard, and other manipulatives on hand for visual reinforcement.  We sit whole-group and take a few minutes to draw conclusions and edit our thoughts - then we count the items.

The first day I modeled the estimation jars I had 11 small tiles in one jar, and 10 larger blocks in the other. When I asked them which jar they thought held more, the immediately pointed to the blocks - likely because they were bigger items and nearly filled the jar. When we counted them during the reveal, they learned that there were more tiles than blocks. We also discussed that just because something is bigger and may fill the jar, it doesn't necessarily mean there are more.

The kids love it so far - and so do I!

Monday, April 23, 2012


Guest post from Mrs. Davis - our University pre-service teacher - delivering a science lesson. 

It’s hard to pick one agenda item to share with you all because we had so much fun discovery and learning in the classroom this past week!  We read a book together called Messenger, Messenger and learned about escalators and delivering messages through a bike messenger.  The kindergarteners even received a special visit from a bike messenger. 

April is poetry month and Mr. Fines has been reading us some fabulous poems and teaching the kindergarteners how to write their own poems.  We break open words together and the whole class collaborates in sharing their favorite descriptive words.  We have had some marvelous poems about spring; Mr. Fines and myself have learned a lot about what each kiddo loves about spring and how they are experiencing the world around them.  Poems are challenging and our kindergarteners are rising to meet this new method of written expression.  They are learning to use all their senses to help them elaborate on their experiences; which brings me to the main topic of our blog this week, science!
We have just begun a new science unit; the kindergarteners are learning about properties.  Science can be such a fun learning experience at this age; Mr. Fines and I have embraced science to create a positive hands-on exploration of properties, as well as the states of matter.  Mr. Fines had previously read the students Bartholomew and the Oobleck, a Dr. Seuss book, which was a wonderful lead in to my introductory lesson on solids and liquids.  We listened to Solid, Liquid, Gas by Brad & Diana and learned some simple dance moves to help our kinesthetic learners associate each phase with a physical representation.  After listening to the song, the students learned about the differences between solids and liquids, and we shared some great scientific discussion.

The students then were able to delve into some fabulous, messy exploration of Oobleck.  I encouraged their scientific questioning by asking them if they could figure out if it was a solid or a liquid.  They were given “I wonder thoughts” by Mr. Fines and I to engage their minds to think about the Oobleck in multiple ways.  I was so excited by all of the incredible scientific exploration, and the discussions about the material with their friends, Mr. Fines, and myself!  Mr. Fines continued our science unit with a lesson on properties.  The students were comparing and contrasting random items and using their words to describe each object in multiple ways.  They even discovered that a sponge is hard and small when it is completely dry but when it is wet, it expands and softens so that it can easily be squished; a perfect example of how scientific learning can be done at home too!
Enjoy the pictures and video from our Oobleck solid or liquid science discovery!

Mrs. Davis

For more interactive activities with states of matter visit:  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Potato Racing

I was in my room catching up on some emails when I heard a raucous coming from down the hall.  Laughing, cheering, and some loud music - which was justified in order to hear it above the kids. I ran down to find the kids in music ending the class with a little movement...actually a lot of movement. Mrs. Spangler was finishing up a lesson with some rhythm and body awareness activities. I loved it. Music is more than just singing - it encompasses the "whole body" engaging sight, sound, touch, and stirring up good feelings all around. What fun!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monte Recess

We're fortunate to have such a great college mascot right here in Missoula. Monte is pretty amazing and he sure gives back to the community, making appearances at community and school events all over town. As a reward to the entire Cold Springs kindergarten for meeting our reading goal for February "I Love to Read Month" - Monte took some time out of his busy day to spend a recess with us. What an awesome time! Thanks Monte!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrity Reader

Each year during I love to read week, Cold Springs is fortunate to have local community members and celebrities visit the school to make a "celebrity appearances" and read to the kids. In past years KF Dragons have had a local police officer, Missoula Smoke Jumpers, the Mayor of Missoula, and UM Grizzly Football players. This year we were so excited to have Darko Butorac - Music Director/Conductor for the Missoula Symphony come and read to our class. 

Before meeting Darko, we had a brief discussion about what a symphony conductor does. Most of the kids had an idea, and a few have even had the opportunity to visit the symphony. They were so excited. Darko did a wonderful job reading to the kids - grabbing their attention and engaging them right from the start.  He certainly has a magical touch with the kids as evidenced by their attention during his visit with us. We were so lucky to have this international celebrity come to our classroom and read to us today. 

A very big "Thank You" to Maia's mom Valerie for bringing him into our classroom. Maia's uncle plays in the symphony.  And of course - thank you Darko!'s all about who you know!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cuddle Up with a Good Book

This week is "I Love to Read Week" at Cold Springs. Each day has a theme. Today the kids got to bring in a stuffed animal that they could cuddle up and read with. From 9:45-10:00 each day this week, the entire school takes part in Drop Everything And Read (DEAR).  The kids get a little excited that every single person (teachers included) in the entire school is reading. Fifteen minutes - no problem! Early on in the year we learned to build our stamina in reading and I've clocked the kids over 20 minutes in uninterrupted reading. Very cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today in Reading

This year I have really been working on instilling a love for reading in my kindergarteners. It is so wonderful to see the kids in love with books, reading to themselves, and reading with others. February is I Love to Read Month here at Cold Springs and we will be (and have been) celebrating reading in a variety of ways. This morning the kids chose to do some quiet reading. As usual, I give them the choice to read in a comfortable spot. They all congregated under their tables to read - some with each other, some on their own. I got some of these pictures of them in action - well, not really "action", more like hard-at-work. Priceless.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dinosaur Song

Whew...welcome back everyone. I hope you are all rested from our snow-days. And two of them in a row - that is a rarity in our district.

We picked up right where we left of in our science study of dinosaurs. Here is a great video that has some facts about dinosaurs. It's a catchy little tune. 

You'll also find the same video and additional dino facts on Wonderopolis Wonder of the Day # 275 - How do dinosaurs get their names? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everybody Do the Dinosaur

It's January in Dragon-land and were learning about...dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs are fascinating, and the topic never fails to hook the kids. Last week we started reading dinosaur books to introduce and, for some, revisit some popular dinosaur vocabulary like fossils, bones, carnivore, herbivore, triceratops, stegosaurus, and of course...T-REX. Oh, an even better hook is that the first T-Rex skull was found in Montana in 1902, and the Maiasaura roamed Montana as well. 

This week we've been getting hands on with some fossils. The kids know that fossils are dinosaur bones that over millions of years have turned in to stone.  We discussed the process in class so I'll spare you the details.  We also discussed that fossils don't always have to be from dinosaurs. We looked at, and held, fossilized shells, wood, fish, eggs, and droppings - but the proper term is coprolite.  We've seen replicas of a Baronyx claw, a Troodon egg, and a T-Rex tooth. Next week we'll extend our learning into some writing and math.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wonderopolis Literacy Center

In October we were one of the proud recipients of the Wonderopolis mini-grants. We used our grant funds to purchase an iPad to use at our iWonderopolis literacy center  that I created for the classroom.  I introduced our new tablet to the class last week and spent some time discussing some basic rules for the center. When the kids arrived today, I had the center ready to go. We are super excited! We'll be sharing all the fun things we're learning and wondering!

It's a work in progress - we'll continue to add new and "wonderful" things that engage and spark curiosity. Our first task this week was to get a feel of what we'll be doing.  The dragons are assigned by pairs at the center. They visit Wonderopolis on the iPad and watch the "Wonder of the Day", or assigned wonder if a topic seems to be out of their reach.  After they watch the video, they write in the Wonderopolis Topic Journals. Here, they have a choice to write an "I wonder..." question (who, what, why, where, if, how, when), or an "I know that...:" statement.  They can write a question that they may continue to wonder about, or a fact-statement about something they learned. When they complete the task  I let them explore some of the educational apps that I have on the home-screen. (Hint - they can only use an app that isn't in a folder) I leave a few out that are germane to the topic, or skill, they are learning. There are many things in store in the coming months.

Thanks Wonderopolis & Better World Books!

Wonderopolis Literacy Center.

Laying down the ground rules!
"Stop talking Mr. Fines...and let us go to the center." Lol!
Checking out the "Wonder of the Day"
Wonderopolis Topic Journal

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And We're Back!

It's our second day back from winter break and its looks like we're good to go.  You never know what will happen with the kids after a nice long break.  While it's only a week-and-a-half, it's enough time away from the daily routines of reading, writing, and working with words and numbers for the kids to need a little "refresher" when they return. I'll spend most of the morning asking about things we learned before the break to see if they still have some of that knowledge floating around in their heads. It's usually never a problem, but it's something you certainly don't want to underestimate. I like to see if the kids still have their "stamina" for learning. I teach the kids about stamina  and they know that, in kindergarten, it means being able to control their bodies during a particular activity for a certain amount of time - anywhere from 10-15 minutes.  This stamina is important for writing time, and read-to-self time.  I asked them if they could still do 12 minutes of quiet reading and writing. It was a breeze for them - and a sigh of relief for me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year

Welcome back everyone ~ and Happy New Year!

Time certainly flies when you're having fun. I suppose that we having our fair share of it, considering our last post was nearly a month ago. I resolve to getting back to more consistent posts. I got a new digital camera/ video recorder that should streamline the process

We return this week and continue on our journey. There are some fun things in store for the dragons. I/we can't wait to share our learning with you in 2012.