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Friday, September 27, 2013

Today's Special Guest

Kindergarten had a special guest today. Colleen Howard, a civil engineer, came to talk to the kinder scholars. She talked to them about the engineering design process, different types of engineering careers, the education required for a career in engineering and safety in the engineering field.


The scholars were very enthusiastic and had lots of questions and a lot to share.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Visiting the Cannon Engineering Lab

Our class took our first field trip the the Engineering Lab this week. The scholars were VERY excited and totally engaged in their engineering learning centers.
As we prepare for a visit from an actual engineer later this week and our first official engineering challenge next week, scholars were challenged to consider what skills engineers must possess, what engineers have to think about and how engineers contribute to our everyday lives.








Friday, September 20, 2013

The best way to become a better reader is to .....READ!

Research tells us that eyes on text reading is the best way to get better at reading. Research also tells us that strong readers are more successful at school and in life.



With this in mind, my scholars participate in a daily reading activity called 'Read to Self'. I teach this activity very early in the kindergarten year giving scholars time to increase reading stamina throughout the year. Read to Self is exactly what it says, reading to yourself.



One of the first supporting lessons for successful 'Read to Self' time is '3 Ways to read a book'. The 3 ways to read a book are:
1. Read the pictures - using the pictures to guide the telling of a meaningful story.
2. Read the words.
3. Retell the story - choosing a known book and retelling the story using the pictures as a guide.


Not all scholars come to kindergarten knowing how to read. However, I still expect them to practice the early reading skills of correct book handling, scanning text from left to right, pointing to words using a 1:1 match, searching the pictures to help read the words, searching for known words, searching for and utilizing a pattern in a book and most importantly to always expect to gain meaning from a book.
After teaching these foundational skills, we begin our work on stamina...developing the ability to 'stick with a book'  and independently problem solve for a period of time. Each day this week our class set a class goal for how long EVERYBODY in our class could read with out stopping...no bathroom, no drinks, no chatting, no yawning, no daydreaming...just reading. Check out our goal setting/stamina chart:

Today, with rousing applause, scholars exceeded their week-long 10 minute goal. We were all thrilled!







Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hall of Fame

Each nine weeks I am asked to select one scholar to be inducted into Cannon Elementary School's Hall of Fame. The members of The Cannon Hall of Fame are a select group of scholars who strive to do their best academically, who are good citizens and who go above and beyond to make Cannon Elementary School a great place to learn.

Congratulations to Javed Drew for being the first kindergarten scholar inducted into The Cannon Hall of Fame for the 2013-2014 school year!



In our classroom we’ve developed some norms that help guide our work. We respect each other, we try our best, we learn from our mistakes, we create, we are a team and we celebrate each other’s successes. When I was thinking about who to nominate as our very first scholar to be inducted into the hall of fame, I was looking for someone who really exemplifies these expectations. Javed was an easy choice. He really does exemplify respect, teamwork, encouragement and persistence…and it’s not that making good choices is easy for Javed…on the contrary, he works very hard at it.
Perhaps the thing I love most about having Javed in class is how encouraging he is to the other scholars, his teams and his partner. I often hear Javed saying things like; good job or I like the way you did that or so-and-so really is a good thinker or you betcha! …with his thumbs up and a smile on his face. Javed really gets that it’s not always going to be about him – and he knows that sharing in everyone’s success makes our classroom a fun place to be.
It is with great pride that I welcome Javed Drew as the newest member of the Cannon Cub Hall of Fame!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The iPad as a tool in Writing Workshop

The other day during Writing Workshop, I was conferencing with a scholar and he wanted to know how to write 'watermelon'.  I said, "Let your mouth tell your hand what to write." To which he replied, "w-w-w...I don't know what letter but I know it's like 'wagon' on that ABC app we use."
What a smart little scholar!!!

I had introduced the app ABC Magic to the class to build letter/sound connections.

It's not a productivity app...just a way to work on skills. But for me, this app just stepped up a level. In the past, I have printed out a reference card with letters and keywords for scholars to use during Writing Workshop. Now, scholars grab their iPad and open up ABC Magic for help with letters and keywords. The upside... the thing that makes the iPad app BETTER than the reference card... is that when a letter is tapped, it articulates the sound and the keyword. In my mind, this moves this app from substitution to augmentation on the SAMR model.


What the heck is a Rekenrek???

You may have heard your child talk about using a Rekenrek in math class and you're wondering...what the heck is a Rekenrek?
"Research has consistently indicated the importance of helping children visualize number quantities as a collection of objects. Most adults, for example, do not need to count the individual dots on dice to know the value of each face. With similar intent in mind, using the Rekenrek with its inherent focus on 5 and 10 is instrumental in helping children visualize numbers, seeing them as collections of objects in groups. This strategy of seeing numbers “inside” other numbers – particularly 5 and 10 – is a precursor to the development of informal strategies for addition and subtraction that students will naturally acquire through repeated use with the Rekenrek."...Dr. Jeffrey Frykholm



After doing some research, I decided to incorporate the use of Rekenreks into my math instruction. I use a large Rekenrek to model and clarify. Each scholar has their own Rekenrek to manipulate and show what they know.
These kid sized Rekenreks are easy to make. I used laminated card stock, pipe cleaners and pony beads. The kids seem to be really engaged when we use them.

I have been using the Rekenrek to develop counting skills. Most kindergartners can rote count to 10, 20, even 100, but many lack the 1:1 skill required for accurate counting. I have also used them to model/practice number combinations. For example:


I am really looking forward to discovering the power of Rekenreks as we build number sense in kindergarten this year!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our First PBL

PBL stands for Problem Based Learning. In as much as possible, the problems presented to the class are real problems. Lessons are designed to allow for creative problem solving while incorporating grade level curriculum lessons and application of skills.
Our first PBL was the result of a request from Mr. Lollis, our music teacher. Each year he must learn the names and faces of a new group of kindergarteners so he sent our class a video asking for some help.



The scholars came up with a plan to use pictures of themselves that they had taken with their iPads along with their written names to help Mr. Lollis. I took this opportunity to teach them two new iPad apps, PicCollage and Storyrobe. They used PicCollage to import pics of themselves and their names made from magnetic letters. They also typed their names into their collage using the keyboard feature in PicCollage. I combined their PicCollages and helped them 'make a movie' as I modeled the use of the app Storyrobe.


This PBL was perfect for the first weeks of kindergarten as traditionally, we work on learning how to correctly write names. The scholars were more engaged in the learning because they were helping to solve a real problem. As we examined, sorted and read names, scholars came up with a list of attributes for names.



Monday, September 9, 2013

A Hat for Rita

Thanks to Madison and her family for using recycled materials to design and create a hat and pinwheel for Rita.
Check out these creative pieces...


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Putting the E in STEM...in Kindergarten

In order to be successful in engineering challenges, scholars need to have lots of experiences with building, designing and creating using many different tools and materials.
This week, scholars investigated some of the engineering tools we have in our classroom. They investigated Legos, Tinker Toys, Plastic Straws with Connectors, K-Nex, Erector Sets, Keva Blocks and Gears. We talked about the attributes of these tools and what could be created using them. This experience also gave us another chance to work on teamwork skills. Needless to say...These tools were a hit!



I Love This App

Thanks to my teaching partner, Jem, I discovered a new app that I love. I need to preface my comments by saying that in general, I prefer productivity apps like Educreations, Skitch etc., however, when I come across an app that can teach something better than I can, I become a fan.
The app ABC 123 Writing English Spanish is a great handwriting app.

Handwriting might not sound very important but it is directly tied to communication - a 21st Century Learning Skill. In kindergarten, it is essential that scholars learn to write correctly and fluently in order to be able to use this skill to communicate. Handwriting has 2 foundational skills: top to bottom and left to right. Writing letters this way puts the hand in the correct position to write the next letter. Kindergarteners often come to school 'creatively' forming letters. Often, these creative ways are not efficient or readable. The problem with traditional handwriting practice is that with 22 kids by the time I get around to checking on them they've written an entire page of letters incorrectly and habituated bad handwriting habits. THAT is why I love this app. It allows practice in upper and lower case letters as well as numbers 0-20. AND it does not allow for incorrect formation. If the user pushes up rather than down or moves right to left rather than left to right, it automatically corrects them. When letters are formed correctly, the user gets positive feedback.The correction piece along with the automatic verbal feedback put this app in the category of 'better then I can teach it'. And YES, it is free. And YES, it has the Spanish alphabet. (Full disclosure: the number 4 is not the typical way we teach the 4 formation...but I can get over that!)



My kindergartners loved using this app.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A girl needs shoes...

Thanks to Ruben and his family for providing Rita with her super cool new sandals. These were constructed using cardboard, recycled applesauce containers and a newspaper ad. They are perfect!



Thursday, September 5, 2013

More on Rita...

Rita is having a fabulous week! Jacob and his family designed and created a purse for Rita using an old milk container, wire and the aluminum tops off recycled cans. I certainly have a clever bunch of scholars!



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rita's Got Bling!


Recycling Rita is looking a bit more stylish these days. She is now sporting a hula-skirt sundress created completely from plastic grocery bags. When I introduced Rita to the kids I challenged them to design and create items for Rita from recycled items. Javed took on the challenge! He and his dad designed a necklace for Rita made from plastic bottle tops. I think she looks fabulous!!


Rita still needs hands, shoes, a hat ... and when the weather gets cooler, she'll need some new clothes. Who is up for the challenge?