Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Activity Centers From One Book

penny rubbings
Today, we read Pat Brisson's story, Benny's Pennies. Beautifully illustrated with the use of textured and torn papers, the pictures in this story bring to life the wonderful choices Benny makes with his five pennies. Though this book is part of our Houghton Mifflin Reading program, I love that you can integrate math along with the concept of ways to honor family members. As we head into the Christmas holiday much of the point of why people give gifts gets lost in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bombardment. While many of the television, internet, and other media messages make it seem like the advertisement is bent toward what we can get and give to others, much of it is also very "me" related. 

Reading this book with my class was a wonderful opportunity to look at choices that Benny made. He was generous with his money, spending it all on others and none of it for himself. He was thoughtful to ask his family members what ideas they may have for ways to spend the money. He was kind when speaking with community members as he asked if they might help him to find something his family members would like. We discussed how it is enjoyable to give to others. The children offered what they would like to give to others if they had money to spend without being prompted to discuss this.

The story itself has many wonderful components all wrapped together. The story is predictable with a rhyme scheme. Also, after each penny is spent, the children have an opportunity to revisit how many pennies he has left. When the story is finished, each family member has a gift and the final page can be used for a recalling activity in which you can integrate ordinal numbers. You can focus on what Benny bought first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. You can ask what he bought last and first.

I set up centers in my room after reading this story. In one, my students enjoyed re-enacting this story. They had the opportunity to take turns being Benny as well as the shopkeepers Benny visited. They used real pennies to purchase items. They then took the item they bought and drew a picture of what they bought. If they were able to, they labeled the picture. Some students were able to write a sentence about what they chose to purchase and who they would like to give it to.

At another center, students used their real pennies to pencil rub over them randomly around a piece of paper. I then asked them to choose groups of pennies and circle them. They then labeled the groups according to how much money was in each circle. They seemed to enjoy having control over choosing how many pennies would be in each of the groups.

The final center had them complete a picture page that had the following prompt on it:

If I had five pennies I would buy____________for____________________.
These pages will be finished tomorrow and put together for a classbook called, "Bear's Pennies".

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Peek at My Classroom

"Mr. Harry" getting into the Thanksgiving spirit!
"Mr. Harry" is a handmade puppet that is extremely well loved by our classroom. He "learns" along with the kindergarteners. He likes to try the modeling part of my direct instruction before the students get to. He often makes "mistakes" and the students enjoy helping him to figure out how to do something correctly. Using the puppet is a great way to get a quick informal assessment about who may not be "getting" the objective. The students often learn how easy it is to fix mistakes by watching how "Harry" gets to ask for help and learn from his mistakes. This puppet was made by Cheryl of www.cuddlycritterpuppets.com. They come in a variety of colors. See the video portion of her website to see how "life-like" this puppet can be! Her puppets sell for $40 but are WELL worth the price!

The front of my classroom.
At the front of my classroom, I have my magnetic whiteboard and the screen I can pull down for teaching on my tablet pc through my LCD projector. I have the program, "Journal" on the computer that lets me write in any color or thickness, but I prefer teaching with the software "Kidpix" because I can do all of the above plus write in any medium and add stickers or animation as well. It also has sound I use at times to keep it fun. It can be distracting, so I use it minimally. One erase feature it has is an explosion and the students really love when I choose to change what we are doing. Our school also allows us to scan each worksheet we have to a network, so I can pull the worksheet up on the LCD projector and "write" on it after the students have completed their paper as a way for them to check their work.

Student work bulletin board on side of classroom
 This is a bulletin board that I use to put up student work. It is the first item you notice when you walk into our front door. I change it according to the month or what we are studying. Some months I leave the work up for a number of weeks. Other months, I may change it a few times. For this scarecrow project, students got to design their hats and shirts and choose the color of their overalls and shoes. They also got to choose 2 different watercolors for the ground and foreground. They also embellished the overalls with confetti leaves, plastic buttons, and cloth patches.

Back wall of the classroom by backpack hooks
The back wall of my classroom is twice the size of this picture. I use this large open space for students to showcase more of their work for the month. In this case, we made monoprint fall reflections. I found this project at http:/www.kinderart.com/printmaking/reflections.shtml. This was designed by Pat Higgins, a teacher from Maine. I changed it by having the students wash the top half with watery light-blue watercolor paint and the bottom with a darker wash. Then they washed silver watercolor over the bottom to make is "shimmer" like a lake.
The projects get tons of compliments.

Bi-monthly word wall for writing project
This mini word wall is across the room from the bulletin board the scarecrows are on. I found the large month word posters and word squares at www.lakeshorelearning.com. The word squares were posters that I cut apart so that I could use some words for more than one month. Above it is my rollercoaster of numbers that we are hanging up as we count from 0-100. The students were so excited when they passed the halfway mark and look forward to celebrating the 100th day of school.

Calendar Area

Side view of Calendar Area
This is our calendar area. You can not see that I have a large, colorful alphabet rug on the floor in front of this area. After returning from our morning enrichment (computers, music, art, P.E., or the library), the Bear of the Week will lead us through our calendar time. They discuss our schedule for the day and count the days of the month we are in to decide what number comes next. They then use the pattern colors to tell what color that balloon will be. They spin the weather wheel to the correct type of weather while we sing, "What's the Weather Like Today". Sometimes we sing in opera voices. Other times we pretend to sing like Oscar the Grouch. The students like to come up with different ways to do this, so I let them at times. We then add a straw for each new day and then count the tens bundles and the single straws. After that, the Bear then puts that numbered yellow square number up on the blue chart. A wonderful mom in the class comes later in the week to catch our rollercoaster up. The bears on the calendar wall are the "Yesterday, "Today", and "Tomorrow" bears. Their hats change with the month. Next to the weather wheel on the wall, we use different shape pieces to graph how many days we have been in school for each month.

My desk area
This is my desk. I do not sit here very often. In the morning, I have a bin the students place their homework folders in when arriving at school. During the day, I have "In" and "Out" boxes on the desk. I take the "In" boxes home to grade them. When I return to school, the papers go into the "Out" box to wait to be placed into our weekly Friday folders that go home. During the day, we move at a fast pace and often, I will pile things on the desk as we move from one activity to another. The pile is always dealt with before leaving for the day.

Storage area
This is the area I use for storage. Seasonal and re-usable items go in the large brown cupboard. The two file cabinets are the only ones I have in the room. They house my phonics and math curriculum as well as all the treasured tried and true themed worksheets, journals, and field trip information. The turkey page was done by a wonderful parent in our classroom who conducts "Writer's Workshops". Mrs. Huff has been working a few times a month with my students to teach them how to make their writing more interesting by adding two adjectives to their picture. She then encourages them to write these words themselves. She then has them dictate the rest of the "story" to an adult who writes the rest for them.They then decorate the background of their paper to match what the student dictated to the adult. You can see more of Mrs. Huff's wonderful work at her blog, mrshuffsstuff.blogspot.com!

Phonics review activity

This is an activity we did on one of the days right before Thanksgiving break. Reviewing the letters we have introduced for the year so far, students were encouraged to see if they could come up with their own words. Most students could do this. "Mr. Harry" helped a few who struggled to come up with a word themselves.

I'd love to hear what you think of this room and perhaps how you would use the space if this were your room!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Classroom Management

Placing responsibility for behavior management upon the students themselves saves a teacher a lot of wasted teaching time. Students enjoy receiving stickers from me, but they do not enjoy having to give any of them back. In my classroom, every student has a set of 10 laminated sticker charts. I laminate sheets of construction paper and use large die-cuts to cut them into specialty shapes like fish, penguins, pumpkins, turkeys, books....etc. The shapes are hole-punched and placed on an O-ring. Students work to fill their first sticker chart with 20 stickers. When they receive 20 stickers, they may visit my prize box. However, in instances where they have made a poor choice and have not responded to one verbal reminder, they understand they must remove one sticker of their choice and place it at the corner of my desk. Having to remove the sticker themselves gives them an opportunity to ponder the choice they made. If the system is used consistently, my time having to discuss behavior items while I am teaching is minimized. I simply explain to the student that during their free time, we will have an appointment to discuss the behavior issue. Once a student receives 20 stickers and visits the prize box, they open the O-ring, remove the filled chart, and bring it home to share their great news with their family. They are then free to choose which chart on the O-ring they'd like to begin anew with. Students do not receive stickers for simply doing the behavior they are already expected to. They receive individual reward stickers for exceptional behavior choices such as a kind act or thoughtful word toward another. They can also receive group reward stickers for working well together as a group through a project time. Students are incredibly motivated to work toward a prize and their next chart and minimally end up having to give me many stickers. This has been an excellent tool for behavior management in the kindergarten classroom.
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