Sunday, February 4, 2018

Animals in Winter Inquiry

It started when I read these two stories about helping the animals by putting food out for them.

We decided we wanted to help the animals around our school find food.  Our ground has been covered in snow for a while and through these books, they realized that winter was hard for the animals.  We brainstormed things we could use that the animals would like. We dried bread and then set out materials for them to make feeders. Because we have peanut/tree nut allergies we used Crisco as a fat instead of peanut butter to stick the seeds to the bread.

The kids picked this tree in front of our school to hang the food.  It looked like the tree in the book "The Night Tree" plus we love this giant tree!

The kids were very excited to hang our animal feeders and scatter nuts on the ground.

Of coarse we had to stop for a class picture.  The kids had so much fun! I heard one exclaim, "This is the best day ever!!"

I am always amazed at how kids are so drawn to nature when given the chance to interact with it!  As they hung the feeders, they had noticed that the giant tree was like a playground inside! When we went back after the weekend to check our feeders, we noticed that the sunflower seeds on the bread were the favorite!  We collected the discarded pipe cleaners and the kids asked if they could play inside the tree.  It was a perfect day for it! It was like we were in another world!  They loved it.

When we went inside they wrote about what kind of animals they thought ate the food off of our tree!  As I looked at their writing I noticed that some of the kids are starting to put spaces between their words!

Another experience that had them wondering were these footprints in the snow on our playground!  What kind of animal made these prints?

As soon as we went upstairs we drew a picture and wrote a sentence about what kind of animal they think made those prints!  They guessed anything from cats, dogs, raccoons and rabbits to bears and kangaroos! The kangaroo guess actually showed some critical thinking!  He noticed some of the prints were longer and felt it had to be an animal with longer back feet like a kangaroo.

The prints and their interest inspired me to put out these experiences for them to explore animals in winter through investigation and stories. I set out animals with accurate footprints along with white play dough to act as snow and resources to notice the different tracks they made.

I also set up an area that could also be used during Story Workshop to inspire stories about animals in a winter setting that included forest animals and birds, and other loose parts to help them create a small world for the animals and then play out their stories.

Of course, both areas were used together by the kids.  I love how they can look at materials and come up with their own creative ways to use them.

We had learned about how some animals hibernate, some animals migrate and some animals adapt. Check out our little friends migrating as geese from the cold to warmer climate where they found food (cutie oranges) waiting for them. They did this with our Student Teacher Mrs. Madison while I was on vacation and when I got back told me that flying in a "V" formation was much harder than they thought it would be!

I had thought to do a large scale project with them about animals in winter.  I had done a large project in the past with kindergarteners about this that you can see here: Animals in Winter Part 1 and here: Animals in Winter Part 2.  Unfortunately, their interest had waned by this time and they were done with this inquiry.  Not every inquiry ends with a large scale project, but I like to do at least one each year.  I am keeping my eyes and ears open to see what this group will be so interested in that they will want to take it further into a project and presentation! As of now, we have noticed that they are really into slime and have been begging us to let them make play dough!  Let's see where that will take us next!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Snowflakes And The Start Of Story Workshop

When we came back from Winter Break, we actually had some snow on the ground!  Here in Ohio, you never know if another opportunity to explore snow will come around so we grabbed onto it! I set out some invitations for the kids to look closer at snowflakes and see what they noticed!  We read a biography about Snowflake Bentley who spent his life figuring out how to photograph snowflakes so he could share their beauty with the world! I showed them his life's work and they were amazed!  The book he made as his gift to the world! It is the open book you see below!

The story inspired many to visit and create their own beautiful snowflakes using white oil pastel on black paper. Look at the attention to detail in their pictures!

I also put out some loose parts so that they could create some beautiful transient art snowflakes!

Again, their attention to detail amazed me!

I had decided to revamp how I do Writer's Workshop.  I had seen some videos from Opal School in the Portland Children's Museum that really inspired me to start something called Story Workshop. If you search YouTube for Opal School Story Workshop they will come up.  It integrates the arts with Writer's Workshop so that our stories are not limited to pencil, crayons and paper.  My first step was to get them to see the stories in their play.  I wanted them to see that stories are all around us and experiences can tap into a memory or idea that turns into a story!  I set up a few winter themed areas to maybe spark some memories and ideas for stories.  The first one is something we call "Small World Play."  Here the kids get to practice the language standards and orally telling stories as they play with the open ended materials.

I set up another area for story inspiration in the clay area.

I imagined stories about building snowmen or having snowball fights.  I love when they surprise me! Instead of making a three dimensional sculpture this friend stuck the clay to the walls and created a story of a bunch of friends standing in the snow, looking up and watching the clouds go by!

I was letting the kids discover that there are stories within us, all around us and even in the materials in our classroom.  Our next step is for them to use the arts to tell their stories and then publish them.  They can show their story by creating costumes and putting on a play, or through dance, music and song, or by using artists materials such as paint, clay, pastels, markers, colored pencils, charcoal and wire, or by using loose parts and materials for small world play, or by playing out their story in the dramatic play area.  They can show their stories to small groups or our whole class.  After, we will have a writing portion where they can record or publish the stories they created or are working on.  I am very excited about this but also know that this will be a learning process for all of us as our Story Workshop develops.  I will keep you updated on how it is going!

I set out some new math stations. Our focus is on the teen numbers (both i.d. and that the teens are a group of tens and some ones), 3D shapes, and addition.

Below they are exploring the attributes of 3D shapes by seeing if they roll or slide.

Here they can go on a shape hunt around the room. The beautiful three dimensional pictures below came from the amazing Kristen Smith from A Day In First Grade.  Teachers, check out her TPT store for all kinds of amazing resources!

Teen Bingo and a teen board game will help reinforce identifying teen numbers.

The game below was also inspired by Kristen Smith.  This kids take turns using the catapult to toss a puff ball into the cups.  They turn the cup over to see what the teen is.  They then take a ten stick and however many ones they need from the Cuisenaire Rods to show the teen number.  This is how they keep score.  Whenever they get ten ones, they can trade them in for a ten stick. Whoever has the highest score wins. If they get ten groups of ten, they can also trade them in for a one hundred square and win.  This one game practices teen i.d, making teens with a ten and some ones, decomposing numbers, and addition!

I made these addition tubes with beads and baby soda-bottles. This will also help them with decomposing numbers. They look at the beads and write down the addition sentence they see!

In literacy we are looking at c-v-c words (consonant-vowel-consonant) and breaking them apart into their separate sounds and putting them back together (, and breaking them into their onset and rime ( I brought out these letters they can wear and friends are going around the room seeing if others can read their word.  I have seen them using both c-v-c words and sight words.

We recently read a book called The Night Tree! Next time, I will show you what this book inspired us to do!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Celebrations Around the World and More: Part 2

After we explored Diwali, as seen in the last post, we displayed what we did and learned.

Another holiday celebrated by friends in our room was Ramadan! You can see what we learned about each celebration in the pictures.

We also had a friend who celebrated Kwanzaa.

While I pulled out children to test for report cards, our substitute teacher had family members who celebrated Hanukkah!   I had him teach the kids all about it!

He taught them The Dreidel  Song which they sung over and over for the next week!  He also taught them how to play dreidel!  They LOVED this game and it had so many math concepts connected to it!  Addition, subtraction, and the concept of half.

Next we looked at how the holiday of Christmas was celebrated in different areas around the world.  We learned about Los Posados in Mexico and read "The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomi DePaola.

They were able to use art mediums to show what they noticed about a poinsettia and created beautiful still life paintings!  Unfortunately, I did not get photos of their beautiful art.

 We learned about some Christmas traditions in Italy!

We learned that because we have a population from so many countries here in the United States, many of our traditions have come from all over the world!

As we recorded what we learned, the kids either helped read it and highlight sight words, or as you saw in the photos above, they helped spell some of the words by either filling in missing sight words or missing sounds and blends within words.

Here is our finished display showing celebrations around the world!  Kwanzaa actually originated in the United States, but I pointed it to Africa as they are celebrating their African heritage.  The rest of the kids projects were displayed all over our room!

 A group of kids wanted to turn our Dramatic Play Area into Santa's Workshop.  Since I was testing for report cards, they had to do this without much help from me!  I was really proud of how well they did independently! Below you can see them brainstorming and creating a list of what they need to create a Santa's Workshop.  Now THIS is writing for a reason!  It does not get more authentic than this.  Play is when kids get to practice the skills they are learning!

I found them a box as they told me Santa needed a sleigh to deliver toys to everyone!  A wonderful friend of mine supervised this for me!

The kids took a spare piece of cardboard we cut off of the box to make Santa's sleigh and made it into a door for the workshop.  I love the writing on the door!  Again, authentic use of a skill!

The kids then loaded up the sleigh with toys and a globe so that they knew where to deliver the toys!  Some kids acted as reindeer, pretending to pull the sleigh.  They quickly learned that is was much easier to push the sleigh!  They had to explore with the force of pushing and pulling for a while!  There was much problem solving as they had to figure out how many could travel around the room in the sleigh and how full of toys it could be!  They had to organize who could go and who had to wait.  They had to problem solve how to maneuver the sleigh around the obstacles all over out room such as chairs and tables.  They were very perseverant!  The 21st Century Learning Skills that took place with this little side project amazed me!  Creative and critical thinking, leadership skills, collaboration, problem solving and handling disappointment gracefully were the ones I saw the most of!  This is why play and projects are so important, not only in education but at home!  Look at all of the skills that they used, not to mention the pride they felt in what they created and accomplished independently with just a bit of guidance and encouragement from me!

All of the celebrations we studied centered around good deeds, helping others, lights, spending time with those you love and giving.  The kids painted self portraits as a gift to their families.  They can be used as a Christmas ornament or can be displayed as a beautiful piece of art!

They made these adorable gift bags to put the gifts in!

Here are some other holiday experiences put out in our room to explore!  A loom with ribbon and bead necklaces and a christmas tree with beads and wire were set out for the kids to use to create some beauty! Both of these experiences focused on developing the kid's fine motor skills.  The more the kids play with tablets rather than coloring, drawing, playing with play dough, etc,  the harder time they have with holding a pencil, paint brush, or crayon which really affects their abilities to write, color, draw and create!  Because of this, providing experiences to develop these muscles and improve their pincher grasp are so important!

As you can see below, the concept of weaving the ribbons in and out of the holes was very difficult for them!  I will provide more weaving experiences to see if we can remedy this!

Another fine motor experience that I put out was crushing holiday spices!  They had to work hard to grind them up!  Here they had to write a recipe showing how many of each spice they used, crush the spice, and then they could walk around the room and let everyone smell their spice mix! Again, you can see the purposeful writing as they wrote directions and labels for this area.

When we were done grinding spices, I used them as a science invitation to look closer and document what they noticed.

I set up a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) Challenge in our building area!  

The tallest tree ended up being 49 inches!

When the challenge was over, they still loved using the cups to create!

Our Math Challenge: How many bows long is your friend?

Another Math Challenge was on our Engineering Table.  What 3-D Shapes can you make with the cranberries and toothpicks!  Only one was able to figure out how!  Many could create 2-D, but 3-D was pretty difficult!

Another friend found directions to follow with one of our engineering tools and created a cube!

In our Literacy Area, the kids are working on handwriting skills. With the experience below, they had to create the letters by making the lines the correct way and then also put the beads on going the correct way.

The kids created sight words using these materials.

We took a picture of the sight words they made and put them on the promethium board. Whoever made the sight words would point to them and see if the others could read them.  It was almost like a word search puzzle with some being backwards and upside down!  They did it on purpose as a challenge!

Another favorite game is called "Stack-It."  The kids pick a cup. If they can read the word, they can add it to the building.  If they can't read the word, they put it aside.  Our next step is to have them record some of the words they don't know to practice with a friend.

I loved the experience below.  It was such a perfect example of how learning happens and is shown through play!  This friend brought up these velcro hair rollers that they had been building with and said, "Look Mrs. Myers!  3 and 3 and 3 make 9!

I have also been noticing that their structures in our engineering and building areas have been getting more complex!  They are working in teams and collaborating together on their own projects as they work in these areas!

The two friends who worked on the structure below pointed out how they added an AB pattern to their design.

Look how proud they are!!!

We also had an amazing Christmas Program because we have the best Music Teacher ever!  She poured her heart and soul into this and it showed!  The kids loved it and performed beautifully!

I hope that you all have had an amazing holiday season!  Happy New Year to you all!