Thursday, September 24, 2015

72 Birds and Counting!

They are learning to identify birds very easily!
The guidance counselor came in today for a lesson and the kids were so excited to tell here that they knew 72 different birds.  She was impressed.  Then a little girl asked her, "Do you know what the fastest animal in the world is?"  She did not know, but this girl told her that it is the Peregrine Falcon.  The teacher asked, "How do you know that?  How do you know so much about birds?"  You should have seen the looks on their faces.  They were perplexed and they never did that figure out.  That has happened before with kindergartners.  I thought that was pretty funny!  I guess I don't get any credit.  Ha!

Pedometers on the Kids

Our school received a grant for physical education and to show that the kids are meeting their goals, they need to wear the pedometers at different times throughout the year.  Each day I put the pedometers on the kids in the morning and record the number of steps that are tracked at the end of each day.  Most of the students were in the 5,500-7,000 range.  

We also are tracking how many fruits and vegetables that they are eating in a five day stretch.  Apparently the person who came up with this thought that kindergarten teachers needed something else to do!  Ha!  Anyway...the kids often cannot remember what they had for their after school snack or for supper, so if you would jot that down on paper or send me an email, that would be very helpful.  Thanks!

New Bird Books for Each Child!

These books of backyard birds will be very helpful!

Today the kids received a package in the mail.  I opened the box as they did a drum roll. They cheered and cheered when they saw their new bird books.  I explained that these books are to help them learn about birds and that they would stay in school for the whole school year.  Then at the end of kindergarten, they may take them home to keep.

I sent them off to sit with a friend to look through the book.  They were gasping when they recognized the birds that they knew!  They were naming off birds left and right.  They knew many of the birds in the booklet and of course I was scolded for not teaching them the others!  They seem to think that they should already know all of them.

I had them choose a bird from the book to draw and write about in their journal.  They were SO happy!

Thank you to the SD Wildlife Division of Game, Fish & Parks for the donating these books that I had asked for.  They really are a great tool for helping me teach students about birds!  

Weekly Testing

Each week I test the students individually to see how they are doing on their skills.  I have found that this is the best way at the beginning of the year to track their progress, although it can be time-consuming.  I use flashcards and classroom manipulatives to find out if they understood the skills taught for the week.  This is a good way to monitor how they are doing and who needs more assistance.  The other students are in small groups working on activities in different areas of the room.  They did a great job at staying on task today! 

I would love to send the report home on Fridays, but it takes time and I will need the weekend to get them scored, so they will usually be sent home on Mondays.  You can check the Parent Portal on DDN Campus to see how your child is doing.  

I also take the time to ask the kids how they are feeling about school and what is going good for them or what concerns they may have.  They enjoy testing time and beg to be next!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Merlin - Free Bird ID App

Here is another bird app that is free and it will help you identify the bird that you are looking at by asking you five questions.  Then it narrows it down ten or so birds for your area.  You can look through the group of birds and make your decision.  After you choose the one that you think it is, you may listen to its song, read its description and look at other photos of it. 

With this advanced technology in our hands we can easily identify and learn about birds!
To watch a video of how Merlin works, go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website by clicking here.
Phones with App Screens
Here are three of the questions that they would ask.

Phones with App Screens
After you choose the bird that you think it is, 
you can listen to its song and read about it.

Birdseye World App for Free

I am sure that you know what an app is for your phone or iPad.  There are also bird apps and I have contributed over 420 bird photos to the Birdseye bird app.  I have gotten to know one of the leaders of this company and he is really impressed with the our students and their bird knowledge.  

He emailed me to say that he would like to help the kids.  He said, " I'd be happy to give each of your students a free World membership for Birdseye, if they have access to iPhones or iPads."

With this app your child can look up any bird in the world and see wonderful photos of the bird at various ages, see range maps of where the bird lives, hear its song or call and read information about the bird.  It would be an awesome resource for your child to help continue his/her interest and education in birds!

If your child is in grades K-4 at our school and are interested in receiving this app, let me know and I will get you the information and directions to sign up for it.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy Birthday and Farewell!

The kids were so thrilled to see the butterfly come out 
of the chrysalis, since about seven days ago it
had been a caterpillar.  One boy asked, "Is this real?" 
 I suppose in their animated movies, so many things seem 
real that are not.  I am so glad that he asked!
This is one of the five Painted Lady Butterfly.  
It is a beautiful specimen!
Here are the kids out on the playground about to watch
their winged friends be set free.  They all wanted to hold one, 
but it just wasn't possible and the butterflies were just too 
antsy to stay put anyway

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Journal Writing in Kindergarten

Kindergarten students write in journals!  It is true!  They write in their journal every day.  At first the pages may have a basic drawing and you will see where they tried to write their thoughts.  Throughout the year the drawings become more advanced and your child will start to draw letters and then words using inventive spelling or by looking at the Word Wall in the classroom. In time they will be able to write on their own.  Some kindergarteners come in knowing how to write, so then they are challenged to write more or use adjectives. 

Each child is at a different level and that is okay.  I try to get them to learn something new each day.  Each day I do a lesson teaching them how to write and how to use a "magic line", if they just can't figure out how to sound out a word.  

I explain to the kids that their writing is called "kid writing" and mine is "grown-up writing".  We don't want them to think that their writing is wrong, but just different.  The goal is to get a child to feel free to write and express themselves without the pressure of it being perfect.  I think that you will enjoy seeing what your child was thinking about at this young age.  It is also interesting to see the progress that they make throughout their kindergarten year.  We also keep a class nature journal where we write about what is happening around us in nature.

Journal writing teaches: 
  • how to read from left to right 
  • how to write a sentence and how to read 
  • how to spell and sound out words 
  • how to use correct punctuation 
  • how the spoken word can be put into written words
This is our anchor chart that we read through 
each day as I demonstrate how to write.
"I'd like to fly in an airplane!"
"I love my family!"
"Today was watermelon day."
"I see a cat."
"I like to play with my friends!"
"I like Rascal!"  {He is our class puppet.}

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Your First Bird Lesson

Part of my kindergarten blog will be dedicated to the birds.  Since your child will be learning about birds during this school year, I would like the chance to teach you about birds as well, so that you are "in the know"!  It is a lot of fun to learn something new and since I believe in teaching kids to be life-long learners, we can all get on board and be an example of that.

On our way to the library on Friday, we saw a bird on the bird feeder. I wish I'd had my camera along.   It was a Downy Woodpecker, which I had taught them, but we had never seen one together as a group.  We snuck quite close to this guy.  It is a guy by the way because it has a red patch on its nape/neck. When it flew up into the tree near us, we got an even better look and the kids were so excited!  This was a "life bird" for some students.  That means that it was the first time that they saw that particular bird in your life.  What was your last life bird?

The Downy Woodpecker - I took this photo last February.
There is another woodpecker in our area that looks very similar to this Downy Woodpecker and it is called the Hairy Woodpecker.  It is a bit larger than this one with a longer bill..  To read more about the Downy Woodpecker go to the bird site:  All About Birds/ Downy Woodpecker by clicking here.

To see more of my bird photos of birds in our area, go to my Flickr site by clicking here.  I have found in the past that the students and past students enjoy looking at the birds on my Flickr site.  It helps them learn the birds and learn which birds are in our area.

Waiting for Wings!

I ordered six, Painted Lady caterpillars and we have been watching them eat and grow for a little over a week.  Five of them have attached themselves to the cover and have formed a chrysalis around them.  There are big changes going on inside of there.  Sometimes the chrysalis wobbles around and the kids are so curious about that.  It says in the instruction booklet that they do this to ward off predators.  We thought that was interesting.  There was one runt of the group, but when I went over to school tonight, I saw that it was also attached to the lid.  After they are attached, I carefully pin the lid to the inside of the "cage".  I remember a couple of years ago after we did this.  I explained it as well as I could and we watched them emerged.  A month later a boy asked, "Was that real or make-believe?"


Gloopy, Floompa-Loompa?

Sometimes we get a little silly in kindergarten.  For example, on our color cards there are common items like:  yellow bird, blue fish, brown bear, and then there is this purple card!  We didn't know what to call it, so we brainstormed some ideas and we came up with this.  Now when I go through the cards with them, they get so excited waiting for the purple one and then they laugh!

A purple, gloopy, Floompa-loompa!

Today the "star" is...

Each morning, I draw a star out of the bag that has a child's name on it.  That child is the line leader and helper for the day.  They love to be the star!  We try to learn about that child on his/her day.  

The Finished Product

In Science class, we have been discussing the qualities of living and non-living things.  Now we are discussing plants and we will be moving on to animals.  In Language class, we are discussing what a label is and in this project I incorporated labels.  We are always working on careful cutting, drawing and gluing, so this lesson is covering many standards.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Wheels on the Bus

Last week's reading lessons were focused around the big book titled, "The Wheels on the Bus".  It the same song/story as the favorite children's song.  

One day we headed out to the school bus and climbed aboard to see what it was like.  Of course we had to sing the song on the bus. Those students that don't ride the school bus, thought that being in the bus was pretty cool!  Now we will have to see, if someone will give them a ride on the bus someday.  
Last week's lessons were about learning to match rhyming words, name these nine letters: Gg, Tt, Aa, Yy, Dd, Jj, Mm, Bb and Rr, match the upper and lowercase letters,as well as recall and retell a story.  Working on these skills at home will also reinforce learning and help your child to succeed!

Uh-oh!  Look who is driving the bus!  A 5-year old!  
Those that have never been on a bus thought it was pretty cool!
This was our book of focus for last week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Science Art

Today I had the students work on their listening skills with a step-by-step art project that dealt with our previous science lesson.  The kindergartners are supposed to understand the needs of a plant as well as the parts of a plant.  

This lesson showed taught them where the parts of a plant are located. I encourage them to use the word soil rather than dirt.  We also discussed how sometimes people eat the leaves of a plant {lettuce, spinach, etc.} or the stems {celery, rhubarb, asparagus, etc.} or the roots {potatoes, onions, peanuts, etc} They were surprised by that!  The kindergarten students were quite focused on the lesson and I think we will be doing more art projects in the near future!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Show and Tell

"Show and Tell" is a great way to learn how to be a good speaker and a good listener.  I explain to the students what is expected of them before we begin.  The students learn a lot about each other during this time as well.

She brought two things that rhymed - bunny and money.

His two things that rhymed were a pig and a twig.

Rascal the Raccoon

Meet Rascal
By now, you probably have heard of Rascal the raccoon puppet who visits with the kindergartners every morning.  In fact Rascal has been the class mascot for some 23 years for the kindergartners in our school.  

Rascal is...well...a rascal and gets into a bit of trouble.  He helps the students to learn what is right and wrong.  He also loves the kindergartners and he gives each of them a hug in the morning or a tail whip when he is being a rascal. 

When he visits with the children in the morning he poses questions and problems and I think that the students learn social skills and manners from him.  He encourages them to try hard in school and to follow the rules.  He is all good!  

Rascal is also very funny!  This week he told the kids that he roasted a marshmallow on his tail.  Also he went swimming at the pool using his tail as a propeller and then drying himself while riding on the ceiling fan. The kids love their morning visit with Rascal!