Friday, December 30, 2016

The best way to teach sight words

Teaching kids to read is the core of any kindergarten curriculum. It's a privilege to have a front row seat to the wonder of going from not knowing any letters in September to actually reading in June. It's one of the things I love most about kindergarten. Watching kids learn to read can be a simply amazing experience for them and for us. 

What do our kids need to know to become effective readers? People have different opinions about the best way to teach reading, and when to teach reading, but everyone agrees we need to teach sight words.
In order to build fluency and comprehension our kids will need to memorize sight words. I call these words trick words because they don't follow the rules. One thing every kid knows about is NOT following rules. It takes the pressure off. No sounding out when it comes to sight words.

Kids learn sight words by being exposed to them .... A LOT!  They need to see them in texts, in pocket charts, on word wall, on anchor charts. everywhere!!

They need to manipulate them. Kids need to build them, stamp them, write them.

Basically when it comes to learning to read kids need to have many different kinds of experiences with sight words.

So have fun, This is all supposed to be fun.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Gingerbread is a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. We take a break from the regular curriculum and have a little fun. My kindergarten kiddos love having centers everyday. It's during our Gingerbread unit that I begin our first S.T.E.M. center.  I offer 3 different challenges after reading the classic The Gingerbread Man.  I introduce the engineering design process. I want them to think like engineers. In the past I've introduced S.T.E.M., but it didn't feel like kids were really thinking critically. They were having fun, but there wasn't a lot of learning. So now I have them follow the design process.
The kids are asked to build a bridge, make a hideout, and build a boat to help the gingerbread man.

We turn the dramatic play area into a bakery shop. The kids use brown felt and colored pom poms to "bake" gingerbread cookies. It's amazing what happens when you add a cookie sheet and a spatular to the dramatic play area.

At this point in the year we are learning to read and write sight words. My kids LOVE using playdoh to "write" their words, and who doesn't love using stamps.     

We don't just read The Gingerbread Man once. We read it multiple times with multiple versions. 
This year I added a fun craftivity to re-tell this classic story.

Are you ready to try Google? It's not too early to embrace this technology with even our youngest students.  I'll be honest. I was nervous to try Google Classroom with my young learners. I always thought it was for older kids. Boy, was I wrong! Google classroom is great for my kids. They feel so comfortable using the chrome books. They are loving Google.

Of course my kids are also loving using the BEEBOT. We have been using this fun little robot all year. By now the kids are able to program the robot all around the mat. I just added a BEE BOT cookie shape mat.The kids are having so much fun.

Take some time this month to break out of your routine and have some fun with the kids. Don't forget to enjoy all the joys of the season, especially your break-You've earned it.
See you next month


Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to survive Halloween in Kindergarten

I know, I know, everyone LOVES Halloween. But here is my deepest, darkest, secret-I don't.  It wasn't always this way, I mean I love candy, I love hanging out with friends and Halloween is basically kid nirvana.

 But  I am a kindergarten teacher, and if you teach in an elementary school the treats of Halloween have now become the tricks. It's the hardest 2 days of the year. Yes, TWO days. Halloween is what everyone expects, kids all hyped up but honestly it's the next day that I dread almost as much. The Halloween hangover. The kids stayed up way too late, they are tired, cranky, and ate a snickers bar for breakfast. Halloween is on a Tuesday this year, that is basically losing the calendar lottery.  (Not as bad as Monday last year, but not good either.) You'll be staring down the eyes of a long long week.
Here are my tips to get you through;

#1 Stick to your routine. I know, I know, you want to have a party or a parade for the little darlings. What child doesn't love the idea of a parade. So do it if you must, but keep it short!!! Take a quick walk to the office and back and call it a parade. Do it at the very end of the day.  You've been warned. Once you get back to the class Elsa will want to take her crown off and chances are it will get lost along with Batman's cape.

There really isn't any way to avoid it, the kids are just too excited not to bring a little Halloween into the class. 
#2 My answer is Halloween centers. I add a couple simple activities to my centers and call it a celebration.
Here are my favorites: 

Popcorn in a glove. 
I usually bring in an electric stovetop and we pop corn the old fashioned way. In a pot, with oil, and kernels. Most of my kids are from the microwave popcorn generation so they have never felt the thrill of hearing that the oil sizzle and that first kernal pop. To add to the fun I always add a little too many kernals so the cover pops off.
Once the kernals are popped  ( have extra, always have extra) place the popcorn in a glove. Add a candy corn to each finger and you have a fun witches hand. My kids never get tired of this activity. Year after year they just love it.

#3 Carve a pumpkin
Most of my kids have never had the thrill of feeling the slimey goodness of the inside of a pumpkin. This is a real treat. Don't forget to pull down the shades and add a light. The squeals of delight never get old.

#4 Ditch the cupcakes
One of the hardest parts of Halloween is all the junk food. Don't get me wrong I love a snicker bar as much as the next guy, but the mess and hyperness that comes from Halloween cupcakes is a headache in the making. I found this idea from and it's a great idea. I now bring in clear plastic cups and I have the kids draw a creepy face, then we add green grapes to the cup. Tadah Frankenstein snacks!!! Best of all: no one is allergic to grapes. You can also do this with an orange to make a cute Jack-o-Lantern.

#5 Add a new center. 
This year I'm adding vamire math task cards with clothespins. Simple to make and fun for the kids. I don't know what it is about clothespins, but any time I put out a center with them, my kids love it. As an added bonus this easy activity increases finger strength. Check it out here.

#6 Good ol' cut and paste.
 I love color, cut, and paste activities. To be honest a simple coloring page usually lasts about a minute and a half. Once you add in cut and paste you've just increased the time to about 15 minutes. These are perfect for hangover Wednesday. Grab them here.

#7 Go Digital! 
Honestly, I was late to the Google Classroom party but now that I've tried it I just love it. I always thought Google Classroom was for older kids, wow I couldn't have been more wrong. My kids love using the chromebooks and I pads. Using Google Classroom is a dream. I can give the kids an assignment and they sit quietly and complete it. That's worth reading again. They sit quiety while they complete their work.  Google is my new favorite way to end a day, especially a day with lots of excitement. A quiet assignment that the kids love that gives me a few minutes to clean the pumpkin pulp off the table. Everybody wins. Halloween Google can be found here.

I recently found a new favorite, Boom Cards! 
Oh my Boom cards are the BEST! Just open an account, add your kid's names and they are ready to go. Boom cards are perfect for the IPad. They self correct AND they take data on rate and accuracy. Seriously if your admin wants more and more data Boom cards are going to make you fall in love. It's so easy to progress monitor with Boom- because Boom does it for you! Grab the Bundle here.

My advice is to enjoy this fun time with the kids. You can give them a day that feels special without making yourself feel exhausted. Remember they will be in on Wednesday, cranky and tired. So pace yourself. 
Good Luck

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Using robots to teach reading

I love robots, I mean I REALLY love robots. I love what it does for kids. How it amazes them, how it empowers them, how it reaches them like nothing else. I don't consider myself "techie" ( my own kids will agree), but somehow this "no tech" person has been coaching robotics for the last 8 years. Prepare for the shamless plug... all of those years my team made it to the state championship. I have had a front row seat to what robotics does for kids. 

I was able to see, literally you can see, the wheels turning in kids heads. Kids solve complex problems using robotics. So it makes perfect sense to use robotics to teach kids.....anything. Kindergarten is the perfect time to get started with robots. I never met a kindergarten child who was afraid to push a button. Their willingness to take risks with technology is far greater than people (ahem) of my generation. 
So where do you start? I start with BEE-BOTs. If you haven't tried BeeBots check them out here. I am an affiliate of BeeBot and can you can use my code Dellasfreeship to get free shipping.

If you have, you already know the power of this simple but amazing little robot. I start the year with simple straight mats. To begin, I just have the kids use the clear button, the forward button, and the go button. I give the kids cards that tell them where to go and then they program the robot to that spot. The cheers that erupt when the BeeBot makes it to it's intended target is a joy to behold. 

Here is a video of my kids using the BEEBOT to learn about the life cycle of the frog. 

Watch my kids reading sight words using their BEEBOT 

I just started using BEEBOTs to spell and read word families

Once the kids learn to program the robot in a straight line you can introduce turns. Now the fun really begins. You can use the robot  to teach reading, math science, anything you can think of. The kids love the robot so much that even if they struggle with a topic or skill they are so much more willing to make mistakes with the robot. If you don't already have a BeeBot make sure you check it out. It would make a quick and easy Donors Choose project. If you already have one check out my BeeBot resources.