Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy (early) Easter!

We are in full Easter mode in our classroom this week!
The children are very interested in reading books and learning why we celebrate this special holiday.
We decided to try a new craft for Easter this year.
My colleague, Ms. Cerbino, showed us an Easter craft she did in the past and we all loved it and knew the children would too.
Best part is....the children did nearly all the work!
Start by laying out strips of lasagna pasta on a baking sheet.
I mixed up a variety of pastel colours of paint.
The students came to the Creative Table all day long and painted the pasta strips.  We had a nice variety by the end of the day!
They helped to add sparkles on top too.
The next day, once the pasta is dry, have the students break it into small pieces and place in a large container.
Each student got a cross made from white Bristol board.  They had to carefully glue the small pieces in place, forming a mosaic. 
All the students worked very hard on their art pieces and they all came out lovely!
I can't wait for tomorrow to continue our discussion around Easter...and who knows?  Maybe there will be a special delivery in our classroom from the Easter Bunny too!
I just had to post this picture I took with the amazing teacher-blogger, Kathy Griffin.
Kathy came to Toronto last week to present at the SDE conference.
I had the opportunity to meet her for dinner.  It was so nice spending the evening with another teacher who shares my passion for play-based kindergarten.
If you haven't visited Kathy's blog yet, you really should!
She has lots of amazing ideas!  You can click here to take you to Kathy's blog.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Our Seed Inquiry

Nearly two weeks ago, a student came up to me and asked "Why is this plant growing all over the place?  I think a pear will grow out of it!"
This sparked a new inquiry in our classroom.
We decided to investigate why the plant was growing so much and what kinds of things could grow from it.
The next day I set out some soil, baby food jars and brought in a variety of seed packets.
I asked the students what they thought they were.
We had all kinds of answers!
F.V.: I think these are magical seeds.  They will grow and grow!
M.P.: These seeds are going to grow all kinds of things!  Maybe we can eat some of them!
S.P.: Maybe we can have a vegetable garden in our classroom!
So we set to work.
Some students decided to examine the seeds in great detail:  touching them and even smelling them!
Other students wanted to get right to work planting them in soil in baby food jars.
The students wanted to label the jars so we could remember which seed was inside.  We have been working on labeling our pictures for the past few months so the students knew that was important to include.  They also decided to put a picture of what was growing beside the word so that all students could read the label.
An ECE from the another class, Ms. Bruni, came into our room and asked the students if they had even grown anything from a plastic bag and paper towel.  The students all replied "NO!" and didn't think anything would grow that way.
So we decided to give that a try to and we charted our wonderings as to what would happen when we planted two different ways.
Pretty soon our Discovery Centre started filling up with inquiring minds.
The students decided to set up a display near the window so the seeds could get ample sunlight and everyone would be able to document what was happening to them each day.
When the students came to school the next day, I set out a provocation for them.
In small containers, I put a variety of bean seeds, which were all different shapes and colours.
We read the book One Bean by Anne Rockwell and discussed how the seed grew. 
We also talked about the variety of beans we eat.
I was so delighted to see the students exploring this provocation at our Creative Centre.  Some students decided to use a pencil to draw their picture first and then glue the seeds on top.
The results were incredible!
M.D.: These are lots of trees.
L.P.:  This is a cupcake.
F.V.: This is a happy face with flowers around it.
S.C.: This is how tall the bean seed will grow...up to the sky!
The students are continuing to document what is happening at our Discovery Centre each day.  When we came in on Thursday, we noticed that our pea seed in soil had sprouted quite a bit!
I can't wait to see where this is going to take us next!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Write the Room Literacy Center - FREEBIE!

My students absolutely LOVE the Write the Room literacy center!
They have such a great time getting up and moving around the classroom, searching for words everywhere and recording their answers!
It's such an easy to set up center and just about runs itself.
Hide the words around your classroom.  Your students choose from a variety of differentiated worksheets, attach one to a clipboard (with the pencil already attached to it by yarn so it doesn't get lost!) and there you have it!
I keep everything in my room easily accessible to the students so when one of them wants to try this center out, they can get all of the materials independently.
This is how I store the differentiated worksheets.  I usually have 2-3 out at a time and rotate the rest over the couple of weeks that one set of themed-words is out.
I like to hide these words all around my class so that students really get into finding them!
Here is an example of one worksheet that a student completed last week.
Would you like to try a Write the Room Literacy Center activity for FREE!?!?
Well, as many of you know, I live in Canada, and many of my students have been asking lots of questions these past few weeks and want to learn more about our country.
So I created this pack.
My very good friend, Lori, from Teaching with Love and Laughter, taught her students all about Canada last week for Field Day using this activity!
You can try out this literacy center by clicking on the picture below and downloading the activity.
I have also included a mini book with the download which has a lot of background information about Canada, including definitions for the words included in this pack.
If you like this Write the Room, you might want to try out these ones too!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day...freebie!

Well, today is the last day of my March Break.
Where did the week go!?!?
I had so much fun with the kids this week....we went to a toy sale, watched The Lego Movie, and went to Medieval Times!
So tomorrow when I head back to work I planned something fun...all about St. Patrick's Day!
I start by reading this book.  It's a rhyming book and simple enough for children to understand.
Then I want to introduce some important symbols and meanings for St. Patrick's Day so I created this little pack which I'll show on the Bright Links board.
Click on the picture above to get your free copy.
These symbols are all found in my St. Patrick's Day Write the Room Literacy Center which is already up around the room and ready for the students tomorrow.
I've also prepped this cute craft!  This is a picture from last year.
I put both of these items ON SALE until midnight tonight!
What am I doing after St. Patrick's Day?
Well, since spring is just around the corner (although the weather certainly doesn't feel like it!), I'm going to be using my new NO PREP Spring Has Sprung! Ready-to-Use Math and Literacy Centers...just print and go...which is also ON SALE until tonight!
Now I'm off to enjoy the last little bit of March Break with my's so hard to see it end!
Happy Sunday!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Daily Writing: Do it! Display it!

I am so excited to be a part of the Bright Ideas Blog Hop!
There are so many fabulous teaching ideas out there that I can't wait to follow this hop to learn more!
This year is our first year with Full Day Kindergarten.  It's a "play-based" program, meaning that learning happens during play.  My students self-regulate during the day:  if they choose to build with blocks, they go to the carpet area; if they would like to paint, they go to the easel; if they are hungry, they eat at the snack centre.
Well, the challenge for me this year was to integrate writing into all of this hands-on playing!
I took a course this past fall with an amazing kindergarten teacher, Joanne Babalis.
You can visit her blog, My Classroom Transformation, to see more incredible ideas.
She inspired me to create a Daily Writing Wall where my students are accountable for posting a piece of writing that they do at some point during the day.
When I moved into my new (and much bigger!) classroom in November, it was the perfect opportunity to implement a Daily Writing Wall.
The picture above shows a variety of different writing the students can do:
1.  Make a Book
2. Make a Plan
3. Draw a picture and a sentence. 
4.  Draw and label picture.
5.  Make a list.
6.  Mail a letter (or card).
7.  Create instructions (procedure).
I've been focusing on various kinds of writing each day.
For example, last month we celebrated our DECE's birthday and I showed the class how we can write our friends a birthday card.  That sparked students learning and they wanted to know how to write a postcard and mail it too!
This month, our Dramatic Centre has been turned into a grocery store, so we have been writing many lists!
I love that there are examples of what kind of writing we can do during the day.
I take samples of students work and post them often here so that we can discuss them as a class and refer back to them during lesson time.
Each student also has a place to display his/her daily work.
I made these using half a file folder per student, laminated it, inserted a picture of the student holding his/her name on a dry erase board and I have thick yarn strung across for easy clipping with a clothespin.
Here's a close up view of a student's personal writing display area.
I placed the photos inside a clear sleeve so that I can reuse these year after year (and I don't have to take them off the wall and start all over!).
This is what the wall looks like when students display their work.
I have these up on the wall right under my Bright Links board at the front of the class near the carpet.  I love how I can always refer to this area during whole group learning and remind students to post something on their space at some point during the day.
Here is the sign for our writing, made by a student.
Students love this writing wall.  They are always creating (yes, even during play!):  while they build they might be drawing their creation; many of them enjoy writing around the room; we have a large dramatic centre where they write lists and items to help them play, and so much more!
Not all work has to have "words" on it - some children are still exploring different drawing techniques (such as working with a variety of tools) and writing techniques (such as labeling and writing our names).
Having our Daily Writing Wall has truly made writing fun and engaging in our class!
Be sure to click the button below and hop over to Whitney Rippy's blog, The Crazy Schoolteacher, to read all about keeping students engaged and thinking during read alouds.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Let's Go Grocery Shopping!

March Break officially begins tomorrow for me....well, tomorrow is a PA Day for students (teachers still have to go in) so it's kind of like it's already started!
As many of you know, it's our first year as a school teaching Full Day Kindergarten - with a focus on "play-based" teaching.  It's a little different than what we are used to doing in the past so our team decided to turn our attention to an area of the classroom that the students love to play at!
We really wanted to make our Dramatic Centre a place to build literacy and numeracy skills, through conversation, problem solving and working together.
We had SO.MUCH.FUN this week at our Dramatic Centre.
We turned it onto a Grocery Store!
I set everything up using the labels I made and the children just brought in items from home to contribute.  I asked them to think about things that would go in a recycling bin and wash them out first (we don't want any unwanted guests at our store!).
The best part was how neat and tidy they kept it!
There were different roles the students could play....some shopped with either a grocery cart or basket, others decided to be a manager (and made sure everything was organized and there were happy customers!), 2 students could be cashiers, there were stock clerks who put the groceries back in their proper places and we even had cart attendants who put the carts and baskets back!
Here is a student having lots of fun shopping!
We kept it at a 5 item limit so things wouldn't get out of hand!
This student wrote a shopping list before she started and is going around checking everything off her list.
Here are the different areas of our Grocery Store:
This is our puppet theatre.  We moved it closer to the Dramatic Centre so it could be used as the fridge (on one side) and the freezer section (on the other).
Can't wait until we get back from March Break and the students will see that I've added a few new food items (in the Produce section)!
You can find all of these printables in my new Let's Go Grocery Shopping! Grocery Store Dramatic Play Center!
Click here to come check it out!
Coming up this weekend....I'm so excited to be a part of this blog hop.....
Check back soon!