Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Growing Our Muscles!

You just can't plan for these things in the classroom... Today we spent almost the whole time talking about growing our muscles, including our brains.  It started out with a child saying his hand was too tired to practice writing any more. My gut reaction was filled with enthusiasm, "GREAT! That means you're growing your muscles!" Promptly EVERYONE in the class had tired hands, legs and heads.  Thus, the conversation of growing muscles continued throughout the day.  "Shh!! Watch! He's growing his brain!" was said more than once as a child was demonstrating or sharing with the group.  It was so much fun!
 Today we reviewed the letter P and added the sight word "ball".  The kids had so much fun "taking a picture" mentally of the word so they could remember it.  We also continued our conversation about clock letters practicing the letter C.  In math we're wrapping up our number sense unit and had the opportunity to play a few games again.  We made ten frames with Q-tips, tornadoes made our base ten blocks get thrown all around and they needed sorting back onto decimal street, we built the 1-20 chart and made chains 20 links long.
It was such a fun day of learning!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Persistent Learners

Today in preschool we talked about being persistent A LOT.  We jumped right in to work on sorting sight words with do-a-dot markers and then moved to cutting and gluing to make a 15 chart.
 There was much conversation about how the 15 chart was difficult.  It was tricky figuring out what number goes where and which direction to place the number. Often times the first time you do something it isn't easy but with practice it gets easier.  As long as we are PERSISTENT and KEEP TRYING we are GROWING OUR BRAINS!  Isn't that exciting?
 During our writing time today we jumped back into forming clock letters.  We only talked about the letter O today but we did make a capital (mommy) and a lowercase (baby) attempt.  Imagine a clock.  When we write circle shaped letters (imagine the letter "o") we start at the 2 o'clock and go counterclockwise around the clock and back to the 2.  We do the same for letters like "a" (start at the 2, counterclockwise to the 2, then straight down), "d" (start at the 2, counterclockwise to the 2, straight up to the top and straight down to the bottom).  Clock letters include: a, c, d, f, g, o, s, q.  These letters all start at the "2 o'clock" (the f starts at the 2 on the top clock).  This is an important habit to encourage at home.
 The kids were thrilled when I told them they would get to watch a movie.  Shouts of "Iron Man" and "Blues Clues" were offered up as suggestions.  Instead, we watched Steve.  He's the man in the Math-U-See curriculum videos.  We watched about 3 minutes of his segment about "Decimal Street".  Then we played the decimal street tornado game.  Each child got a page with a drawn decimal street and some unit and tens blocks.  We would all make tornado noises and mix up all the blocks.  Then when the tornado ended we had to put the units back in the units house and the tens back in the tens house.
After playing the tornado game the kids were let in on a little secret.  When we write the quantity of blocks in each house it writes the same number as there are blocks!  I explained it in more appropriate 4 year old language and we built the numbers 1-12 on the white board as we were talking through the concept.

These kiddos certainly worked hard as persistent learners today.  Great work everyone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Who We Are: An Interest Led Day

Who We Are: An inquiry into the passions and interests of each child and developing an understanding of being bucket fillers through developing friendships. 

We began our day reviewing the letters we've learned (or reviewed) for the year already.  We've talked about the sight words we've introduced (the, a, I, my) and practiced using our reading strategies.  We are taking a mini break from adding letters this week and dove into interest led reading.  I utilize a site called ReadingA-Z.com where I can print books for kids.  Each child shared an interest and I did my best to find a book that supported that interest.  Then everyone was handed a yellow marker to highlight all the words that they could read in the story.  Some books were the "just right" reading level for the child and they could read all or almost all of the words.  Some books were too difficult and the child could mark only a portion of the words.  Find the book in your child's binder and help them read it if necessary.  If it's a too hard book, use it as a companion reading book.  That's where the adult reads all the words not highlighted and the kids read the words that are highlighted.  It gives the kids access to text that is interesting to them through your support.  Those books do not need to be returned to school.
 Then we turned to our body maps.  Our body maps are a growing collage of images that represent the things that are most important to us.  Having a lot of experience now following "how-to-draw" pages we found pages that represent things that are interesting to the kids and drew them on our body maps.  We also talked about drawing people so we could draw our families and friends.
 Side note: I have a USA map with 4 clocks representing the time zones and I totally freaked out when I looked up and saw that it was 5 after 3 and we were over time already.  Thankfulness then took over as I realized that I had referenced the wrong clock.  Phew!
 As we continue our work on number sense we've started playing with the 100 chart.  Right now we're only working on the numbers 1-20.  The first game the kids found super easy.  I pulled out all but a couple cards in the 1-20 section and then handed one card at a time to a child to put back in its correct home.  Our second game started the same way with the majority of the cards 1-20 being "blown" out of their "homes".  This time, however, I lined up the cards (out of order) on the floor and asked kids to find a certain number.  Using phrases like, "Raise your hand if you can tell me what number comes before 3." and "Raise your hand if you can tell me what number comes after 15." the kids took turns finding the correct number and putting it back where it goes.  This turned out to be MUCH harder than the first game.  For both games I always asked something like, "How did you know the number 16 went there?" or "How did you figure out what card you needed to pick up?"  These questions encourage mathematical language and kids begin to build a vocabulary around number sense.  Try to play games like this at home if you can!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Preschool 9-17-15

Today in preschool B we introduced the reading of two new letters: I and L.  We also learned the sight word "my" and "I".  We seemed to hit our level of understanding at this point with most the kids in the class and will spend some time working on blending and reading with the letters that we've reviewed up to now (MTASBHCIL) before moving on.  Please have your child read their reading book 3x each day and practice sounding out the words on the inside front cover if it's an Amazing Action Alphabet book.
 For writing today we continued our "learn to draw" lesson.  We're pulling pages from a simple drawing book to practice using shapes to draw what we love.  As we dig deeper into passions we'll work on drawing something that we love (or more than one thing) on our body maps.
 For math today we played a game called "Grab It". We each grabbed a handful of pompoms, made a guess about how many pompoms we had in our hand and then counted them out.  It was very telling which children can count 1-to-1 up to 20 and which really struggled.  It's an easy activity to practice at home.
 We also colored our counting to 20 sheets.  The goal was to color each box a different color.  Then as we count to 20 we touch each square to say the number.  Next week we'll begin talking about tens and units so at the end of the day today we had some time to free play with the base ten blocks that we'll be using in our upcoming lessons.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Preschool B - On A Schedule

Can you believe it?  We actually accomplished everything I was hoping to accomplish today in preschool B.  Yay!  It always feels better when we figure out our schedule and I figure out the right amount of material to prepare for a class.  Of course, throughout the year we'll be mixing it up a bit and sorting it out again, but for now it's the beginning of a smooth learning time!  

Our morning group reading lesson continued with discussion about sounding words out (blending them) like people and not robots.  
 We were able to then work through our reading groups mastering the skill of blending and working on appropriate phonics for each group.
 The kids were fantastic in their center rotations as we worked on puzzles and went fishing for letters.
 Our writing time today was technically drawing time.  Many kids started off this year with a blanket statement like: "I can't draw." "I can't do that." "I can't make a circle."  With this negative attitude we aren't getting anywhere with writing letters.  So instead we're drawing shapes.  We have a new "How to Draw with Simple Shapes" book in our classroom and each person picked out an item they wanted to draw.  We did quite a few as a group and then I made copies of the pages and hung them up all over the room for the kids to practice.  For the first time a couple of the resistant writers took a chance and tried.  Yay!  I sent home each child's printed page from the book in the back of their binder.  PLEASE let them practice drawing their picked item over and over again.  We'll talk on Thursday about how practice helps us get better.  PLEASE encourage them to draw a TON this week.  It really will help their writing.
 Continuing our work on drawing and writing:
 For math today I introduced ten frames for the first time.  Each child got a ten frame sheet, a Q-tip and an ink pad to stamp the correct number of dots in each ten frame.  You'll find ten frame activities starting to show up in their homework as well.  We're working on our number sense - recognizing groups of items represent the numeral and the word.
 One of the ways we work on this recognition is through a subitization game of puzzles.  As a class we sorted through the puzzle pieces and made 10 little puzzles representing each number.
I was really impressed with the kids today and their strive to help each other, accomplish the tasks I asked of them, and really work hard.  They did a fantastic job!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bucket Filling Reading Friends

What an awesome day of preschool we had!  It was absolutely amazing!  We started our day off reading "How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids".  I LOVED reading this with our class.  We had great discussions about how we can't see our bucket or other's buckets but we can feel them with our emotions.  It's similar to not being able to see air, but when you blow on your hand you can feel it.  We added the words "Bucket Fillers" and "Friends" to our "Who We Are" chart hanging on the wall.  As we continue to broaden the language we can use to describe ourselves we keep adding to the chart.
 Next we had a fantastic lesson about blending sounds.  Many of the kids know all of their letter names and sounds and we are all ready to master the blending aspect of putting words together.  We worked through the first few books of the Amazing Action Alphabet together.  These are a great tool for beginning readers.  Even the kids who can read most of the words almost instantly are able to learn and practice the act of blending sounds into words.
We really focused on blending the first sound into the second one.  Another way to phrase that is to "not stop the first sound until your mouth is making the second sound."  We spent many a moment laughing hysterically at Miss Amanda's impression of a robot reading.  Just in case you were wondering, teaching a robot to read is REALLY HARD!  However, teaching a PERSON to read when they can blend one sound into the next is super easy! Note to parents: YES, it will still take A LOT of time for your new reader to be fluently reading chapter books.  However, celebrate the blending today and continue working on it!

I put together a little video of how I want the kids to read their Amazing Action Alphabet books from the Baggy Book.  Please be kind - it's not a professional movie.  (See this type of lesson in action from last year here.)  It's amazing how using the strategy of blending each word slowly, then saying it quickly, then rereading the whole sentence fluently sets kids up for successful reading strategies in the future.
Mid reading lesson we got our wiggles out by "Dancing the Robots out of us" to some robot music and sharing about our teddy bears and their names with our classroom buddies.  The teddy bear name thing connects to the Letter B book from the Amazing Action Alphabet.  We went through all of these readers last year with these kids as 3 year olds and this year we're  reviewing them in quite a speedy manner.
 After our incredibly successful reading lesson we only had 15 minutes of our class time left together so we spent it enjoying each other's company and playing with blocks and trucks.  It was amazing to watch these kids light up when they blended the sounds together and successfully read a word.  I loved it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Creative Learning in Preschool B

After our first week of school we are all ready to dive in working on blending letters again.  We started the day off playing with the word factory on Starfall.com on the SMARTboard.  We then read, "The Way I Act" again as a class to talk about all the words that we want to use to describe ourselves.  As we talked about the words that describe ourselves we started talking about things we love, things we like to do, and what we like to think and talk about.  This led right into our body maps.  We worked cooperatively to trace each other's outlines on huge sheets of paper.  Then we worked diligently to add symbols that represented who we are.  We're going to keep working on our body maps in school for another day or two to keep adding things that represent us.
 We had a great time learning the sight word "the" (or reviewing it) and talking about picture clues.  We are going to dive headfirst into our reading strategies on Thursday and picture clues is one of the strategies we can use.  Today we read, "Harold and the Purple Crayon" for our writing time.  As we started writing last week there was a lot of "I don't know how..." and "I can't do that..." when presented with their writing notebooks.  Through the story of Harold we talked about different ways to be creative, imaginative, and represent the ideas in our heads and hearts during writing time.
 I love that the kids get a chance to share their writing at the end of writing time.  There is so much good that comes from the opportunity to share one at a time about something that you created.  It also gives me a way to listen in to their thinking about what they were drawing and writing so I can make notes on the page when I date it at the end of writing.  Though we didn't have time to get to music (again...) we did have about 3 minutes before parents came and were able to build with the blocks and trucks for a short time.
I love how creative this class was today!  I hope we can continue building on the positive energy around learning and identifying ourselves as curious, responsible, compassionate, brave, trustworthy, friendly, persistent, respectful, cooperative, capable, active, considerate and imaginative!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Preschool 9-3-2015

We had a great second day of preschool B today.  We started off the same and kept the activities very similar to day one to focus on the routine and expectations in the classroom.  After playing on the SmartBoard we reviewed our class expectations and then read a book called "The Way I Act".  I LOVE this book because it highlights good qualities in a high quality poem like format.  It helped us talk about the type of people we want to be.  Then we reviewed what centers was supposed to look like and got to work.
 During centers I met with the small guided reading groups.  We had so much fun.  We were learning about blending letters for the first time, blending the beginning into the middle sound, and were practicing our early readers with sight words and CVC phonics.
 After we cleaned up (which they did phenomenally well) we read a book about drawing pictures and writing words to match.  We talked again about how we draw in the empty space and write on the lines.  We discussed the lines and how we use them with our letters.  We also had a mini lesson about how to draw people.  We talked about using circles for the head, eyes and body and using lines for the mouth, arms and legs.  Some kids drew a person for the very first time today and it was adorable!
 After writing we got to play some math games.  We warmed up with our staircases game and then moved to building towers.  They loved building towers and the math language that came out of it was amazing.  I love that I caught the two girls comparing their towers of 6 to make sure they were the same length.  They cooperatively worked on building all the towers they could on their sheet until they ran out of blocks.  Then they started again.  I love how great they worked together!  The environment in our classroom is wonderful, there is so much compassion and desire to learn.  Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Preschool Day 1

What a fantastic first day of preschool B 2015!  We hit the ground running talking about who we are from our inquiry block.  We shared our favorite colors and started a list of words to describe ourselves.  So far we have "Learners" and "Readers" on the list.  A great start!  We spent some time talking about expectations after we had our "Who We Are" list started.  We talked about how expectations are rules and we shared ideas about why they are important.  We came up with the following reasons for having expectations: *So we can learn *So we can stay safe *So we can all be happy.  What a great list.  Next came our class expectations or rules.  We decided on the following: *Treat things nicely *Treat people nicely.  Using this language we were able to go throughout our day discussing how to treat things and people nicely within the task we were set out to do.  

The first task at hand was learning about centers.  We've never really done "Centers" before in preschool.  I've always had activities for kids to do as I work with small reading groups.  This year I'm making them into more formal centers where we set a timer and rotate from activity to activity.  They did great at picking up the routine.  We went fishing for letters and sang the song about their name and sound when we caught a letter.  We played puzzles and we worked in small reading groups.
 We jumped right into what good readers do (use their eyes to look at letters, point at letters, say the letter sounds, and listen to letters).  We are working on reading books, blending letters into words, and combining sight words and simple phonics within stories.  After our reading and centers time we did a "Jumping Contest" where I play a song and the kids can jump around the room without touching or talking and get their wiggles out. The sofa turned out to be a great centerpiece for a "jumping race track" around the room and when the song was done they were all lined up!
 Next we moved into writing.  We talked about the way to hold a pencil, that we don't turn pages since we only work on one page per day, we draw pictures on the top empty space and letters/words on the lines below.  We also started talking about the way to form letters.  We talked about what lines are on writing paper (sky line, airplane line, baseline, worm line).  We talked about how letters start at the #2 position on the clock and work their way around (not all of them, but we worked on letter a today).  Then we drew and wrote.  It is always so fun to see from the first day of school to the last week of school how much they grow during this 4 year old year.  I love it!
At the end of the day we learned how to play "Staircases".  It's a number sense game that I love.  We roll the dice and then make a step with that many blocks.  We keep rolling the dice until we have steps 1-6 to make a staircase.  If the roll is a number we already have we simply roll again.

With all these great activities the kids went home already reading and playing math games.  Try to read and play at home so we can keep the momentum going and build upon these concepts on Thursday.  Happy learning!