Sunday, August 28, 2016

How do you get kindergarteners to start writing?

Ok, so the year is off to a good start. Your bulletin boards look great, all your cubbies are labeled, your parent letters have all been sent. Now you have to teach them to write…..

Today kindergarten is so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. We often have kids coming to us that need so much more than the basics. With each year that goes by I find myself feeling more and more like a social worker, a mother, a counselor and that’s just to the parents!!!!

If we want our student to be successful in school we need to make sure they leave us being able to read and write.  Let’s look at writing. How on earth do you get kids to write when they barely write their name? This is the challenge of kindergarten. 
So let’s roll up our sleeves and figure it out.

Kindergarten writing begins with drawing pictures and dictating.  If we begin to think about writing as thoughts on paper we begin to see drawings differently. Let the kids draw! Let them draw about themselves. Draw about their family, their favorite foods, what they did on the playground.   Let them be free, and you do the writing. Have them dictate what is going on in the picture and you write it down. Every kid I know watches you write their words with intensity. For many of our kids it will be the first time they have “seen” their thoughts in print. It’s a powerful moment for them, and it sets the tone. It tells the kids  “You have a voice, and that voice can be written down and read.”

Let them see themselves as authors.  Each journey begins with a single step. True for us and true for them. It’s so important for them to see themselves differently. Kindergarten is a sacred time, when kids start to see themselves as more competent, more able. They will learn to read and write this year and that transition is so empowering.  We have “book talk” in my class. It’s a time the kids are able to read their “book” to the whole class. I have an authors’ chair they sit in when they read to the class.  For some it may be just telling about their drawing, “This is me and my mom” for others it can be way more elaborate.  “The owl uses his talons to catch the mouse”.  The point is to have them change their mindset to believe they are writers and their writing is important.  Start the first week.

Make it a habit. Writing, like reading and tying your shoes, takes practice. They need to do it everyday. Make sure you have a writing center they can access daily. Add all kinds of fun markers, pens, twisty crayons  (I don’t know what it is about twisty crayons but my kids love them) to entice even the most hesitant student.  Add paper that is typically not used, envelopes, note pads, long thin register tape, anything that looks interesting.
There are 3 types of writing that kindergarteners need to accomplish opinion, informative and narrative. 

Opinion is so easy and the kids are very familiar with this type. I have never met a child who didn’t have an opinion about a topic. “My favorite animal is”, “My favorite food is” the list goes on and on.

 Informative writing is giving more detail. Informative writing tells something about a topic. Using non-fiction books and having the kids respond to the text is a skill they will need throughout their years in school. If your state has adopted Common Core you will hear text dependent writing over and over.  An apple has seeds. The pumpkin is orange.

Finally there is narrative. This type of writing tells a story. The kids describe an event and put some order into a story. We go to gym and then we have lunch.  I eat dinner then I have a bath.  The princess went into the woods and a zombie ate her. (actual story by Jayden, my kids were seriously into zombies last year)

Giving them the “write” tools  (get it?)  the “write” tools. Seriously our job is to give the kids the tools and strategies they need to be successful.  Unit word walls, writing prompts, sentence starters, and cooperative writing these are all the strategies to help them on their way.  We’ll be looking at each of these in detail in the coming weeks… stay tuned.

Remember writing in kindergarten is really just storytelling, and kindergarteners love to tell stories, so we are half way there.  Don’t forget that being a kindergarten teacher is powerful work. We begin to shape how kids see themselves. Take this super power seriously.

Grab these writing prompts.


Check out my newest post in this series, How to make writing more than just narrative.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Are your kindergarten students ready?

It's no secret I love kindergarten. Every year we get the pleasure of seeing these children come in to school in September as babies, and leave as first graders. It's awesome to watch, I'm amazed every year at their growth. But I'm also amazed every September at how young they are, what little skills they have. So many just are not ready for kindergarten. But guess what? Ready or not here they come.

One of the first skills we work on is fine motor skills. The kids are going to need to color, cut and write. Let's talk about cutting. Yikes, every year it seems like I have more and more kids who literally don't know how to hold a scissors, never mind cut a straight line. Over my career I have learned a few tricks to help kids cut. I'm happy to share with you.

#1 Let them cut straws. Gather up some of the straws from the cafeteria and let them cut them. Straws are perfect for cutting because they are familiar to the kids and they are easy to hold. A straw stays still, no flopping over.  The kids love to make "candles" with the straws and put them on play doh to make a birthday cake. Try it, it's awesome!

#2  So let's talk about play doh.  One of the greatest tools in our teacher chest. Have the kids roll out a "snake" and cut the play doh. It's not as stiff as a straw, but it works great.  Having kids cut items that they usually don't cut takes away any fear of "not doing it right" There is no right way to cut play doh, just have fun. The kids wont even know they are working on cutting.

#3 Make a mosiac. Give the kids lots of construction paper scrapes and have them cut them up into small pieces. Cut up yellow and glue it on a bus template, cut up red and glue on an apple template. You get the idea. Again there is no right or wrong way to cut the pieces, you can even tear some. Take away the pressure and kids will shine.

                                              saved from

#4 Use tag board. One of the biggest problems with cutting is holding the paper correctly. If you use tag board the paper is easier to hold hence easier to cut.

#5 Cut thin pieces of paper not whole pages. Again a thin piece of paper is easier to hold and the kids will have more success.
#6 Give them something to hold onto. I use papers with little graphics on them for the kids to place their thumb on. It helps remind them to move their hand up the paper as they cut. Here's a sample of my fall themed resource here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Need new ideas about what to do with your I Pad?

So you just got some new I pads, now what? Are you looking for something new to do with your students?  What’s the best way to embrace new technology in the classroom?

Have you heard about Boom Learning?  It. Is. So. Cool.  No more printing, cutting, or laminating. I love bright and shiny new laminated centers just as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, it can be a lot of work. Boom Learning is awesome. You can use it on your I pads, chrome books, laptops, pretty much anything that has a screen. 

It is a new platform that uses teacher made resources for your students. The students access “decks” which are basically digital task cards. Boom will give you reports about how many the kids completed correctly and how fast they finished. Each child in your class can work on the same deck or on different decks. This is a perfect way to differentiate in the classroom. All the kids can be working on Boom and they can all be working on different levels. Because in 30 years of teaching I have never had a class where everyone is working on the same level.

So you can get to Boom here, and this is what you will see. 

You’ll need to sign up for a membership so they can keep your records. There are different levels; Starter is free and it’s a great way to start to look around Boom and see what it’s all about. If you teach in elementary school you’ll probably want the Basic level, it costs $5 a year and you can add 80 students and make decks for your students. You’ll also get 500 points which is worth $5 which can be spent buying decks other teacher authors have made. If you want to check out what I  have made, here’s the link to my store.
Here's a sample of what is available. 

The decks usually cost 10 cents a card. So if you buy a deck with 24 cards it will most likely cost 240 points or $2.40.  Once you have an account you can add your students. I teach kindergarten so I add all my kid’s names to my class and give them all a password.  Each student gets a cute little animal face.  They use that to log in.

You can assign different decks to different students. When they sign in they go to their assignment tab and get to work. Once they are done, you'll be able to access their reports. The reports give you the number of correct answers and the time it took to complete the task. 

Check out my store and preview the decks so you get an idea what this is all about. You can get started with a free membership and play around with creating decks, or upgrade and have someone else do the creating.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. I love Boom and I think you will too.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What's a BEE BOT?

I love robots and so do my kids. Honestly, bring a robot out anywhere and everyone takes notice. If you don’t have a BEE BOT you should seriously consider buying one. They are sold on both Amazon and Lakeshore.  The sky’s the limit with BEEBOTs. I always say robotics is not something new to teach.  Bee Bots and robotics are simply a new way of teaching.

Even your most reluctant student gets interested when you bring out the BEE BOT. My most challenging kids NEVER have behavioral issues during robotics. Hmm maybe we should spend some time thinking about that last sentence. No behavioral challenges when we use robots? Really? Really!

 The kids are practicing complex thinking, and problem solving.  They are actively engaged, and did I mention no one has behavioral challenges. You had me at no behavioral challenges. 

                                    What is a BEE BOT?

A BeeBot is a small robot that looks just like a little bee. It takes very simple commands. Forward, back, turn right and turn left. That's it. Simple. But oh the possibilities are endless.


There is something about using a robot that levels the playing field.  The vast majority of my kids  (so far, that means 100%) have never seen a robot up close and personal. Everyone has zero background experience. That is powerful for my kids who have challenging home lives. It’s usually the first time they start at the same place as my kids who come from homes that are filled with enriching activities.

BEE BOTs are awesome. The kids have no idea they are learning to code. They just love that little guy. The lights, the sounds, the movement, are you kidding me who doesn’t love that! 

If you are looking for BEE BOT resources. I am adding to my list every week. These resources are designed to be cut out and put together to make a mat. Don't feel like cutting, taping, and laminating?? I have started to offer fully assembled mats sent directly to you.