I love watching kindergarten learn to write! They come in knowing how to write their name and possibly a few other words and leave able to write a topical paper of a few sentences. What a difference a year makes! But it isn't always easy to get them to that point. These guys have so many great ideas that it can be hard for them to pick just one and to stay with that idea until they finish their work. Most entering students are just not ready to sound out words and form complete sentences. And some are terrified to stand in front of an audience and present their work. From the beginning of the year we work on creating weekly "papers" by following five steps: brainstorming, rough draft, peer editing, final draft, and publishing, or presenting, our work. With enough repetition the class becomes very comfortable putting their ideas down on paper and sharing them with each other. One of my favorite things to see is our "peer editing" day where the students work in groups to critique their papers. The suggestions are almost always helpful and the students are learning how to respectfully work with others to make their work better. Then on presentation day everyone is excited to tell about the suggestions they made if their partner used those suggestions. Such great collaboration going on in kindergarten!
Kindergarten has completed 100 days of school! We have been talking about this day from the very first day of school when we put up a 1 on our number chart. The excitement of the class grew as we watched the chart get closer and closer to that 100. I did have to let a few friends know they weren't done with kindergarten just because we made it to 100 although it will be here before we know it!
We've been prepping for our big day by counting by 1's and 10's and adding a popsicle stick to our buckets every day. Most of the class is able to count to 100 by themselves by now and the ones that aren't quite there have learned a few tricks to help them out when they get stuck. One of the most helpful things they have learned is that 100 is 10 groups of 10. At home, with the help of their parents or siblings, they filled a bag with 100 items. That really isn't too hard when you put 10 items in each of 10 containers. Already multiplying at 6 years old! We also wrote 100 words, counted 100 steps, found 100 kisses and put them in order, made a trail mix with 10 of each of 10 kinds of snacks, counted how many times they could chew a starburst candy, and wrote about what we thought we would do when we are 100. One of the class's favorite activities was doing 100 exercise while counting to 100. Thank you Jack Hartman videos for making exercise fun!
Parents came out for a 100 Day Celebration where the class rotated through 8 learning activities. We prepped a lot ahead of time and the stations ran so smoothly! The class built with 100 Legos, stacked 100 cups, tried to make creations with 100 marshmallows and toothpicks (the kids really had to use their brain to get those marshmallows to stand up), linked 100 numbers in order, made a necklace with 100 beads, used paint daubers to make a 100 gumball machine, worked on a sight word reader about being 100, and my personal favorite, counted how many licks it took to eat a sucker. The sucker group was so quiet and busy I am thinking about doing this activity for every party!
We had a "one"derful 100 Day!
With all of the programs and parties December is a busy month that seems to fly by. We have still managed to pack a lot of learning in kindergarten though.
The students have loved our "Wrap Station" where they have access to wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, bows, tags, and boxes of all sizes to wrap. At the beginning of the month I demonstrated how to wrap a present and then let them go at it. Sometimes they ask for help tearing tape or figuring out how to hold the paper while they tape it to a box but for the most part they are content to problem solve with a partner. Our main objective at the wrap station is to strengthen those fine motor skills used to tear tape and cut thin wrapping paper but the class is also learning spatial awareness, measuring, comparing objects of differing sizes, and even language arts skills when they write their to/from tags! They are working together as a team and really getting into the holiday giving spirit as well!
These kids are now pros at recognizing and creating patterns. We began the year with simple AB patterns and have worked our way up to ABB, AAB, and ABC patterns. We have made jingle bell, ornament, paper chain, and Christmas lights patterns this month alone. Patterning is a valuable skill that helps children understand predictable relationships, builds critical thinking and working memory, and stimulates creativity!
The class is also becoming quite a talented group of artists. We try to complete a directed drawing every month where I give the students verbal and visual instructions to create an image. We all draw the same thing but the end results are so individual. The students really have to listen and pay attention to line placement and size in order to have their picture turn out right. This month we completed a reindeer and an elf and I think they are wonderful!
Kindergarten is learning about money! We have introduced the penny, learned that Abraham Lincoln is found on the face of a penny, and that either the Lincoln Memorial or a shield is found on the tail side of a penny. Some students even found a wheat penny! Pennies are worth one cent and it takes one hundred pennies to make a dollar. The class has been solidifying their number knowledge by counting pennies up to 10 cents and matching them to a number card. This past week they have even been able to "buy" their snacks in the morning with their own pennies. Some students have even been able to figure out that they can buy more than one snack if the prices add up to less than 10! These kids will have no problem with addition facts in the next few months.
The November Fine Motor Morning Work is a hit as well. Students are now pros at finding their name and coordinating drawer in the morning. They have been working on matching numbers to objects, linking sight words, using play-doh to fill a ten frame, adding the numbers of two dice together, and so much more all while working on those tiny but important finger muscles!
With three weeks under our belt kindergarten is really getting into the swing of things. We're getting our schedule down as well as our rules and procedures. Our class is big this year which can pose problems but I am happy to say that the students are getting along well and are a very happy and kind group. I think our biggest challenge this year is going to be talking. These seventeen kids have A LOT to say! However, talkers are usually also great at sharing their thoughts and ideas so I will gladly listen to their chatter.
Our daily routine remains the same as previous years for the most part but I am very happy to say that I have gotten rid of the paper and pencil morning work! It was such a struggle to find something that aligned with what my kids were working on at the moment and wasn't too difficult for a beginning kindergartener or too easy for an advanced student. But the class still needed something to work on in the mornings until we are ready to start the day. After noticing the decline in fine motor skills over the years I have implemented fine motor morning work. Many children, even ones with several years of preschool, are coming to me unable to cut, hold a pencil, open a glue bottle or drink bottle, and many other basic tasks. So after searching high and low I finally found an idea for fun, engaging tasks that strengthen those important fine motor skills, require minimal prep, and are open ended so that they don't have to be finished in the fifteen minutes we have every morning before school officially starts. The class is having a great time rotating through the 12 drawers, or bins and they are interesting enough that I will only have to change them out once a month! In just three weeks most of the class can come into the room, find their name and drawer number on the chart, and pull the correlating drawer out to an appropriate location in the room. We're still having a few problems with getting the drawers back in the correct order but my attentive students are starting to notice when the numbers are out of order and fix them for me without being asked. I've included a few pictures of our "morning work" in action so you can see how much fun they are having while still learning and working those hand and finger muscles!