Monday, December 12, 2011

helping the Grinch's heart grow.

I have come up with my best idea yet.  Yes, I am flipping my hair as we speak.  For I am quite impressed with myself.

I love the Grinch but couldn't find a follow-up activity I liked no matter how I tried.  My kinders aren't strong enough writers for the "Make a Grinch grin" writing project and {no offense} but I think it looks a little odd to have the writing across his teeth.  So when Pinterest & Blogstalking don't work, what's left to do but come up with an idea yourself?!

I won't say that it was an easy project, you definitely have to do it STEP. BY. STEP. but they're so cute when it's finished that you just have to try it.  The directions are here but you'll need to visit my {TPT store} to get the patterns.

Since Christmas is a season of giving, I will email the patterns for {free} to the first 10 people who leave me an awesome hors d'oeuvres or small dessert recipe.  This will be our first year hosting Christmas at our house {and sleeping an extra 4 at least!} plus we're also having a New Year's Eve party.  Remember...I AM NO COOK so the simpler the better.  :)  Finger foods are always the best anyway, right?!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

hanukkah, kwanzaa & baby Jesus.

Every year before we have our big Christmas Around the World day we teach Christmas, Hanukkah & Kwanzaa first, figuring those are holidays the kids will have experience with in their real lives.

Let me preface this by saying that even though I love the Lord and fully believe we celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus, I start my classroom unit on holidays and celebrations by discussing how there are a lot of cultures and beliefs out there.  It's important for kids to recognize similarities and differences between themselves and others to build friendships and a sense of community so discussing various beliefs and allowing the children to share their family traditions doesn't phase them.  I tell them that we're going to learn about a lot of different holidays happening this month and how children in other countries celebrate the same holidays we have in America but that it's up to them to decide for themselves {down deep in their hearts} what they choose to believe.  In an era where teachers can lose their jobs for the smallest mention or thought of anything religious, I just figured I better put that out there.  {end CYA paragraph here}

To learn about Christmas we do read the real Christmas story.  A few books in my collection are:
We talk about how Mary and Joseph had to take their donkey a long way because there were no cars.  I relate an inn to a hotel and ask the students if they would sleep in a barn with animals if all of the hotel rooms were full.  I explain that the manger isn't actually what old cribs looked like but that it's a place where the animals ate their food.  {the "ick" reactions even from the kids I know regularly attend Sunday School make me laugh}  We talk about how some people believe the reason we give presents at Christmas is because the wise men first brought presents to Jesus to when he was born.  Then we make candy canes {like a shepherd's hook or J for Jesus depending how you look at it} using tissue paper.  I don't get into the symbolism of the red and white colors because explaining Jesus' crucifixion takes it to a whole 'nother level for public school!  {And yes, I realized that my candy canes face the wrong way to make Js.  I fixed it for next year.}  ;)
While we read about a zillion Christmas books about snowmen, Santa, reindeer and the North Pole I also have a collection of books that celebrate other cultures in on my library shelf.  A couple I like for Hanukkah are:
On the 1st day of Chanukah is my favorite because it's a quick read full of good pictures and basic vocab.  The book introduces \gelt, dreidels, Jewish people, yamakas, menorahs, latkes and the star of David.  I ordered a bunch of wooden dreidels online one year and let the kids play with chocolate coins.  We also make menorahs to represent the 8 days of Hanukkah with fingerprint candles.

And here are some of the Kwanzaa books in my library right now:
I always start with reading K is for Kwanzaa aloud because it has the most vocab.  But don't worry...there are pronunciations!!!  :)  We talk about the harvest, the significance of the candle colors, how kids often make gifts to give, the clothes and African American people.  Then we make kinaras to represent the seven days of Kwanzaa.  Sometimes we also weave red, green and black mats but we didn't have the time this year.
All throughout the unit we discuss how the cultures and holidays are the same and different.  We compare the number of days celebrated, the colors of each holiday, the symbols that often represent them, who celebrates each, which foods they eat, etc.  As we go I display all of their symbols on the wall to represent each major holiday in the month.
Merry Christmas to you and well as whatever other holiday you will celebrate this season!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

literacy love.

workshop.  daily five.  guided reading.  whatever you want to call it.  here's some ideas for literacy love.  {in case you're all Christmas'd out or are already planning for january!}

{sight} word search:
I got this idea from Hello Literacy via Pinterest!  She has tons of anchor charts, educational apps, technology hints and {of course} literacy activities.  This one was super easy.  Pick a few sight words {more or less depending on the group} and write them all over chart paper.  I made sure to write each word in every color so they couldn't pick up on any kind of simple pattern.  In my group, I {re}introduced each sight word, we found it on the chart paper by pointing it out and then I turned them loose to find & circle each one with a yellow marker!  
They had to read the word before circling it so I could be sure they were making the connection.  Next time I might give each kid a different color to circle with so I can see who read which words.  {Did they choose the same word over and over?  Did they only do 2 or 3?  Instant assessing!}  ;)

Boomer goes to school {journals}:
We read Boomer goes to school by Constance W. McGeorge then used him as our writing topic!  Focusing on the sight word {is} and writing with sentence structures, we made "Boomer is _____" journals.
 We brainstormed a list of words on the board from our own observations and vocabulary in the story {big, curious, hungry} and the students were allowed to use some of those words in their sentences then sound out their own words on the last two pages.  Illustrations accompanying, of course!
{I Spy} with Environmental Print:
I asked parents to send in their child's favorite snack wrapper, cereal box or other familiar packaging from home.  {I also emailed our staff to help with the collection.}  After I used them in flashcard fashion to encourage the kids that they are readers I hung them up in the alphabet center.
Then I created a simple I Spy recording sheet to along with it.  The kids use their Word Windows to hunt for each of the four letters in words to write down in the boxes.  They really feel like readers, it's an independent center that doesn't require my immediate supervision and it's spread out enough for 3 or 4 students to work there simultaneously!

{at} hats:
so simple.  so cute.  diecut hats {or cats or bats or mats or whatever your school has} and write various -at words on each one!  My kids love a crown...and this was no exception!  The possibilities are endless: {ig} words on a pig, {up} words on a cup, {og} words on a dog or a frog, {ed} words on a bed...or just your head!  :)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Between my Pandora Christmas channel playing in the morning when the kids come in and our schedule being thrown off due to the older kids being in testing, we have been SO in the holiday spirit and can't get enough of holiday {Christmas!!} projects.

{math integration}
As much of a necessity as Elmer's glue is in elementary school, using it gives me hives.  The lid is clogged or they twist the whole lid and a pile of it soaks their paper...I would kiss the inventor of the gluestick.  But, sometimes you just need a little more stickiness.  So I used paintbrushes and my math sorting trays for art and {ta da!} had a liquid glue success story. 
We used sequins {ooh sparkly!} to make pattern ornaments!
I found the ornament outline on the Family Fun website and added the lines myself to help guide the students' patterns.  Go {here} for 40 other holiday craft ideas.
Then we used surrounding patterns to create a different type of pattern ornament!  {These will be gifts for mom & dad.  Sshhhh...don't tell!}

One of my coworkers found an adorable spin on 10 apples up on top for the holiday season.  {If this is your idea, please let me know so I can give you credit!}  The kids make {or color} presents to balance on pictures of themselves just as the characters balanced apples on their heads in the book.  They're SO cute.  The kids worked so quietly that I had to reward them by turning our Pandora Christmas music back on!

If you have them {or enough time to print some out} I've also done this in the past with actual photos of the children instead of having them draw themselves.  Even better if you can get them to make a "balancing" pose.  ;)

{literacy integration}
A few of my kids came in last week talking about Rudolph after they watched the special on TV the night before.  And when your kids have an interest, what do you do??  Build on it!  :)  We started by looking up the song on YouTube and singing along. {Ok, we're listening to Christmas music basically non-stop. But you should see how productive they are!!!}
We made these reindeer with one footprint and two handprints.  I made it clear from the beginning that they were making reindeer {not necessarily Rudolph} knowing I could turn it into a writing project.  I let them choose their own nose color and then they wrote about their character.  Some told their reindeer's name, some told how it helped Santa...I left it pretty much wide open as long as it was on topic.
My across-the-hall buddy is a first grade teacher {and so much fun to "live across the street" from} and we are constantly sharing ideas of things that my kids aren't quite ready for or that her kids have already mastered.  Luckily she's also a fan of blog stalking and cutesy ideas so we help each other out a lot!

When I realized that first grade was writing a list to Santa about things the kids were asking for, I took that as my cue to think of something more kindergarteny.  As much as I keep saying that I'm "beefing" things up or "extending" activities I also think at times we're asking too much of these kids too soon.  {But that is a totally different conversation for a different day!}  And that's when it hit me...Santa Circle Maps.  :)

Instead of requiring that they know how to write full sentences and sound out the items they were asking for {having been in school for an astounding 60-something days} they drew pictures of their lists and added labels.  Still sounding out, still practicing literacy skills...academic check.  They they used scraps from the construction paper bin to make his arms and legs.  The face is just a coloring sheet I found on Google and shrunk down.
When we spend time talking about what the kids want and being self-focused, I always have to combat that with a discussion on giving.  So to complete our bulletin board, we did some argumentative writing practice.  I will give a ___ to ____ because...  Then I glued their writing in wrapping paper scraps to make adorable lift-the-flap pieces.
Some students chose to give to someone in their family while others chose friends or classmates.  What I loved was seeing all unique gift ideas and specific reasons for why they were chosen.  {ie "I will give my dad new jeans because it is getting cold."}
A very logical answer below.  ;)
We also completed a Christmas tree glyph to tell how we feel about all of the celebrations and displays of the season!  I adapted questions from KidsCount to create our directions.  The ornaments are little foam shapes that you can find at most craft or dollar stores...or Target.  :)
And Mistletoe is still in full swing!  Kids who clipped up the highest throughout the week were able to whisper him a secret before they left for the weekend on Friday...which was an added incentive!  ;)
I'll be teaching Hanukkah and Kwanzaa this week to go along with learning the Christmas story last week.  Candy canes, menorahs and kinaras coming up next!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

December = Share your Christmas goodies.

Mistletoe was a HIT hanging in the doorway flowers today.  The kids couldn't find him for the longest time and they thought he left.  I love it!  Christmas as a kindergarten teacher IS. THE. BEST!  For tomorrow, he's hanging out in a backpack...

Coming soon...all of the super fun things we've done this week: pattern ornaments, gift writing, candy canes and surely more things that I'm forgetting.  I was so into completing projects to replace my turkeys that I even forgot to take pictures!  But I have them of finished products at least.  And they are all the next few days.  Tomorrow is our staff Christmas party so I will be celebrating after work with my daytime family!!

I would also like to thank Fern for choosing me in the Sunshine Award!  :)  I'm always amazed when I'm chosen for an award {especially when my posts have been all but consistent} but to be chosen among other ladies that I - let's face it - basically swoon's just so appreciated.  Please go check out Fern's blog and all of her fun stories and ideas.  Anyone who recognizes this awesome talent {ha!} deserves some recognition of her own!!  ;)

The rules of the award are to answer the following questions and pass it along {see below!}:

Favorite color: pink.  Or, glitter a color??

Favorite animal: elephants.  hands down.  They are by far the cutest thing ever and if I could get one I would name her Penelope.

Favorite number: 44.  My contestant number from a little beauty pageant I won in high school.  Or should I say miniscule?  Pretty sure I competed against roughly 5 other people.  ;)

Favorite drink: coffee.  wine.  coffee.  wine.  BOTH.

Facebook or Twitter: Obsessed with my Facebook and Twitter is fun but my new obsession is Pinterest.

Your passion: high heels?  kids?  making people laugh?  First and foremost, loving Jesus and helping others do the same.  But the others come close behind!

Giving or getting presents: I love to give presents and see other people smile.  Luckily, I'm also married to someone whose love language is gift I'm pretty much spoiled with the best of both worlds.  {Thanks for letting me brag, I know I'm a lucky girl!}

Favorite day: Friday.  Love my church family on Sunday and doing {anything} with my husband on Saturday.  But as a teacher, is ANYTHING better than Friday?!

Favorite flowers: lilies.  My husband got them for me on our 3rd date.  And so many times since.

I would like to recognize:

My BBFF {blogging best friend forever, obvi} Hadar who always seems to be one step ahead of me in the fashion department, snagging freebies and winning contests.  You'd think that would be annoying but I just love her!  She's so fabulous!
Mrs. Scoma is just so sweet.  Give her an idea or a suggestion on something she's created and chances are she'll send it to you for free.  Sorry if I just gave away your secret.  {But she's so sweet that she probably doesn't even care!}  And she has super fun news...go check it out on her blog!!!
Annie from The Moffatt Girls.  Besides being an amazing stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls who creates more than I ever will, she's willing to share and doesn't charge for any of her {so great} products.  You haven't taught Sight Words until you've used her Ready2Read printables.  Trust me.  Annie, I want to be you when I grow up.  {for real}  <3

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elf on the {book} Shelf

Last year I got caught up in the Elf on the Shelf hype {how do you NOT get caught up in Christmas magic when you teach kindergarten?!} and wound up with our new friend, Mistletoe. He watched the kids last year and reported back to Santa but other than listening to whispered five year old secrets, he didn't have much participation in class.

I decided to beef it up this year by building on this student interest and making him a writing topic. This is only a sample because it's what I created after reading the book on Monday afternoon. I swear, I get more and better ideas in the last possible second than I do from hours of pre-planning!

You can get the rest of the Elf on the Shelf packet for more journal pages and activities, which has graphics to fit boy AND girl elves!  ;)

Sometimes it's hard to find a lot of new places to hide him in the classroom because he has to be high enough that the doubters can't touch him but in a place sturdy enough that he won't fall down. Pinterest has some fab ideas for those of you wanting to start this tradition at home, but where are your classroom elves landing when they come back from the North Pole each night? Here's a few ideas to get you started!
{high up places where he can see everyone}
{with favorite classroom characters}
{places the kids often look}
{hanging around somewhere unexpected!}
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