KinderGals: May 2017

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Developing STEM and Literacy in the Block Center

How long have you been teaching? Have you been teaching long enough to see things "cycle"?  When I first started teaching, kindergarten revolved around play, recess, and snack. Over the years we have moved to the much more academic side of kindergarten. But isn't there a happy medium? Isn't there a way that we can validate learning through play?  With the new emphasis on STEM, many kindergarten classes are once again pulling out the blocks! Yeah for them!  This post shares ideas on how to make block play meaningful as we develop a generation of critical thinkers!
Here are 4 different ways to develop literacy and STEM in the block center.

Word Cards

 During the year, we change the theme in our block center depending on what we are learning in our science and social studies curriculum. For example, if we are doing a unit on animals, than I want to "prop up" my block center with plastic animals, animal supplies, habitat materials, etc.  During a recent unit on transportation, we stocked up the block center with all things vehicles!  The kids loved building roads, creating maps, etc. To develop that literacy connection, I make a set of word cards to match common vehicles. The kids can use the cards for labeling, sorting, or for other ideas they generate themselves.
Be sure and read to the bottom where you can snag this file of word cards for free.

STEM Task Cards

Another fun way to develop critical thinkers in the block center, is through STEM challenge cards. We created a variety of cards that would require the kids to use to blocks to solve a problem. In this case, the children used the magnetic blocks to build a barn. They chose the magnetic blocks because one child said it would be easy to build a door to keep the animals in!
During a unit on transportation, we added this task card that required the children to build a bridge for the boat to travel under. The next week, we left the same card, but added a larger boat. This required the kids to rethink their engineering plan!
During our fairy tale unit, we added this card. It requires the children to figure out how to get inside the tower.  As you can see, the children's plan failed.  That's perfect! Children need to see that not every idea is going to give them the results they expected. They learn to redesign and rethink their plan.  Don't jump in! True understanding is just past frustration. It's okay for them to struggle!
Be sure and scroll to the bottom where you can snag these task cards for free!

Brainstorming Card

Sometimes children struggle with "what can I build?" Do you ever see the blocks just scattered around on the floor? Or children using the blocks in an undesirable manner? Ever ask yourself why? I think part of it was my fault. This kids didn't know what to do with the blocks. We MUST spend time conducting mini lessons and small group lessons on ways to use the blocks.  One thing we did was to make a list of all the things we could build with our blocks. Feel free to make more lists as the year goes on!
These boys are building a veterinarian office with spaces for the different sizes of pets!
This guy is building an insect habitat following our recent trip to the Atlanta Zoo.
These girls are using the blocks to build a robot!
To snag this brainstorming card, scroll to the bottom for the free file.

Procedural Writing

The block center is also a great place to develop procedural writing!  This guy built a tower. Then, we worked together to get his steps in writing. This was early in the year, so I was taking dictation.  As the children progress as writers, they become more independent in this task and tackle the writing independently.  After I took his dictation, he drew pictures to match each step.
This How To Booklet is also included in the free file below!  Be sure and grab this freebee to "prop up" your block center! Can't wait to hear how it goes for you!

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Making and Reading CVC and CVCe Words

How do you teach a cvc word? This was a recent question during my ESGI webinar, "Wacky, Wonderful World of Words". This blog post examines some of the activities we use to do just that! There is a HUGE FREE file at the bottom of this post so be sure and read to the bottom!
Word Families with Magnetic Letters
I love magnetic letters! Every teacher has them, and you can find them really cheap at most dollar type stores. I *might* have a problem, like many of you. I boarder on being a hoarder! So when I see magnetic letters, cheap, I buy them! This gives me quite a collection of different fonts and sizes! The problem is, most kids could care less about them! I decided to make some centers for my magnetic letters that would give the kids some ideas of things they could do in that center. For this idea, the kids select a word family card. This can be any word family, short and long vowel rimes are included. The children find the cards that belong in that word family and place them in the squares. Then, they find the onset for each of the rimes!
Building CVC Words with Magnetic Letters
Here is another magnetic letter idea! The children pick a card that contains a row of pictures. Then, they stretch each word.
Word Ladders with Magnetic Letters
Ever tried doing a word ladder? A teacher gave me a reproducible for making a word ladder. Talk about a disaster! The kids couldn't figure out where to put each letter and which letter was changing. It dawned on me that it would be much easier if the kids could manipulate the letters! Here's how you do a word ladder. The card has a row of pictures. The letters for the first picture are already on the card.  The second row shows a picture of a cap. The kids need to decide which letter needs to change in "cat" to make cap.  On each row, only one letter changes! They love these!
These activities are in these units.
This unit has the cvc words, along with other activities.
This unit has the cvce words, along with other activities.
Onset and Rime Roll a Word Game
Here's how to play this game:
  • Make a game board. The first column has the onsets, the second column has the rime.
  • Invite the children to roll a dice. Move a cube up the onset (first) column that many space.
  • Roll again. Using a second cubes, move the cube up the rime (second) column that many spaces. 
  • Invite the children to record the word on the recording page. These might be real or nonsense words. It doesn't matter, they still blend the onset and the rime to create the word!
  • To get the FREE long vowel game board, scroll to the bottom of this post!
Spin a Word Game
Here's how to play this game: 
  • Make a spinner game board using a brad and a paper clip to create the spinner.
  • Invite the children to spin the spinner. 
  • Where ever the spinner lands, the children record that onset on the recording page.
  • After each onset, the children record the rime on the card. This picture shows the _at game and the _ake game.
  • After recording the word, invite the children to draw a picture of their word.
  • To get the FREE long vowel spinner game board, scroll to the bottom of this post!
Real and Nonsense Word Sorting
Here's how to play this game. 
  • Invite the children to sort the word cards on the "real deal" or the "silly willy" side of the game board. 
  • Once they are finished sorting, record the answers on the recording page. 
  • To get the FREE long vowel word sort, scroll to the bottom of this post!
When playing this game, here are a few things I keep in mind.
  • Children may have words on the silly willy side but they belong on the real deal side. It might be that the word is not in their vocabulary, so they think it isn't a real word.
  • Children may have words on the real deal side but they belong on the silly willy side. It might be that a dialect error has occurred. For example, many southerners, pronounce saw, "sol"! That means "sol" could end up on the real deal side. 
  • Invite children to work in partners for this activity. Many children do not have inner voice. This makes it very hard for kids to hear themselves saying the word yet they can hear their partner! 
Roll a Word...Cheerleader Style
Here's how to play this game.
  • Make two dice, one with onsets and one with rhymes. 
  • Make each child a cheerleader word book by stapling a cover and several cheerleader pages together. 
  • After rolling the dice, invite the children to write the onset on the first  speech bubble.
  • Write the rime on the second speech bubble.
  • In the last bubble, write the new word. Repeat for the various pages in the book.
  • To get this FREE file, scroll to the bottom of this post.  
Here's how to play this game.
Reproduce the cards, cut apart, and put them in a container.
Put the kids in a circle.
Pass the container around the circle.
Each child draws out a card. When they draw out the card, invite the children to read the nonsense word. Put the word in the middle of the circle.
When a child draws out a "Silly Willy" card, all of the cards go back in the container and the game starts again.
For this FREE file, scroll to the bottom of this post!
If you want the cvc version of these games, you will find them in this unit.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Word Work Organization

During my recent webinar, Wacky, Wonderful World of Words, I was asked about my morning word work schedule. This blog post shows how I organize my daily word work using a carpet bag.
We've all been there. We want to fit it all in, but the day slips by and we realize that yet another day has passed and we didn't add those new words to the word wall. OR, we meant to work on the _ag word family last week, but another week has gone by and we still haven't made that list! I found myself in that boat! I realized I needed to come up with a plan. I needed to make a schedule and not just wait for those few minutes to fit it in.  To get organized, here is what I did....I use a "carpet bag". Each of the children have their own bag. Each morning as part of getting ready for the day, the kids place their own personal carpet bag on their assigned square in our meeting area. What's in the bag? How do I use them?
Each day during our morning meeting, we take about 10-15 minutes to do a little word work.  The first thing in the bag is the traveling word wall.  Every MONDAY I add our new words. When I add the new words, the kids write the words on their traveling word wall.  Want more information about this? I just did a blog post and explained everything in detail. You can read it here.
On TUESDAY we look at our Unit Vocabulary. This is where we learn the vocabulary that is associated with our science and social studies standards. These are the words that are essential for children to comprehend what they are reading in non-fiction text. I just did a lengthy blog post about this, too. You can read it here.  Basically, I ask the kids to tell me words they know about the topic, for example "winter". As they tell me the words, I write them on post it notes and add them to the chart. The following weeks we add to the same chart until we start a new unit in science or social studies. At that time, I remove the post it notes, and we start a new chart.
As I add the words to the chart, the children add their words to their Unit Vocabulary Notebook.
Each WEDNESDAY we look at a word family.  We start with the short vowel word families. I usually pick an "a" vowel word first.  For example, we might make a list of _ag words, or _ad words, etc.  We stay on a vowel for a few weeks or until I think the kids have grasped the concept of that vowel. We do this for all of the short vowels before moving on to the long vowel word families.
As the kids are brainstorming the words, I add them to the chart. In the beginning, the kids are mainly thinking rhyming, but that's okay. Rhyming is the phonemic "brother" to the phonics skill of word families.  Some kids will be working phonetically while others are moving towards the phonics skill.
As I am adding the words to the chart, the kids are adding the words to their Word Family Journal.  Don't get hung up on the handwriting. It's not about that. I have the children write the words as a way to encourage engagement. If the letters are not formed correctly, don't point it out. Make note, then at another time you can work on the actual letter formation!
On THURSDAY we work in our Book of Lists.  Each week we make a list of words that have a commonality.  For example, if we are finishing up our shape unit during math, we might use this time to make a list of shape words. Or, if we just finished a study on characters, we might make a list of our favorite characters.  This is a great way to once again visit vocabulary. We also use this time to practice stretching words.  As we stretch the words, the kids write the letters. I fill in the letters they can't hear. At the beginning of the year, they are mainly providing the beginning and ending sounds. But, during the year, they begin to hear more of the sounds. No matter how many sounds they hear, the words are always spelled correctly with you filling in the sounds they do not hear.
On FRIDAY we visit our academic vocabulary words.  We use Marzano's research to help us structure this time of the day.  Each week we add our new words to our math or literacy vocabulary word wall.  These are the words that we will visit that week during our instruction.  On Friday, we pick one math word or one literacy word that we want to take to a deeper level of understanding. This is a word that we first introduced several weeks prior.  The kids draw pictures and write definitions for the given word. Want more details on this? You can find it here in a blog post!
Let's look at how we organize the bags! 
At the beginning of the year, the bags are empty! The first year I made them, I filled the bags up during the summer. I was so excited!  What a mess! The kids had everything dumped on the floor and mixed up with their neighbors. I took those bags back up and took everything out! Now, as we introduce each item, we add them to the bag. It takes several weeks to add everything. Here are a few of the other things we keep in the bag.
Each child has a pencil bag filled with supplies. They have a pencil, marker, crayons, dry erase pen, dryer sheet (for erasing on the dry erase board), etc. If we are going to be using unifix cubes during math this week, I have each child put them in their carpet bags. This way, I don't have to pass them out each day! I can simply say, "get your cubes out!"
Sound Cards
Each child has a beginning sound card. We play lots of games with this card at the beginning of the year. As the kids become more familiar with the card, they can use it during writing to help them know how to write each letter. Later in the year we add the blends and diagraph card.
Nursery Rhyme Book
We also keep our nursery rhyme, or poetry journal, in our bags. We use these to practice fluency. Each day, we play our nursery rhyme of the week. As the song plays, the kids track along the print as they sing.
Yes-No Sticks
Each bag also has a "yes-no" response stick. These are great for answering questions. The children show their response using the stick.
Math Mats
Instead of having to pass out our math mats, I made a spiral bound book of the mats for each child.  In the bottom right corner of each mat, I added an animal. This makes it very easy for kids to find the right page! I simply say, "turn to your number bond page. There is a bird in the corner." Now, just like that, they are ready to go. No wasted time passing anything out.
Each morning as the kids come in, they go to the baskets and get out their carpet bags. I have 3 baskets, one for each row.  They put the bag on their carpet square, and it stays there ALL DAY! Now, yes it can look messy with those bags on the floor. I have to put on my blinders sometimes and just not look. But oh my goodness! What a change in engagement! What a change in wasted time! At the end of the day, the kids put their bags back in the correct basket to store it overnight! You can get these bags anywhere! I have picked them up at the Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Target. A bag usually last a few years before they need replacing.
All of the resources for the carpet bag are in this unit.
EXCEPT for the Academic Vocabulary. It is in this unit.


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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why Vocabulary IS Important

What is the best way to teach vocabulary? Should I be teaching vocabulary? What vocabulary should I teach? These are just a few of the questions asked during the webinar, Wacky, Wonderful World of Words.
 Academic Vocabulary
First, lets look at Academic Vocabulary. Academic Vocabulary are the words that are necessary for children to understand content specific questions and discussions. For example, if I said, "How many syllables are in this words?" and the children didn't know the word syllable, than they wouldn't be able to answer the question even if they knew how to "clap out" word parts. Robert Marzano is the expert with Academic Vocabulary.  Our school, kindergarten through fifth grade, uses his plan. But, when we looked at the methodology, we made a few minor adjustments for our kinders.
Here are the steps we took:
  • First, we looked at our standards. We made a list of ALL of the academic words that the children need to know in order to master the standards.
  • Then, we made word cards for every word with a picture clue.
  • We sorted the words into weekly sets according to the weeks we were INTRODUCING the standard. Each week, we add these new words to the Math Word Wall as we introduce the standard. We do the same for our Literacy Word Wall.
  • This means that some weeks, 3-5 words could be added while other weeks no new words could be added.
  • Each week we pick one literacy word and one math word. These are words that have been on the word wall for several weeks. The children have already been instructed in the standards that use these vocabulary words.
  • We want to take these words to a deeper level of understanding. We are not going to do this for every word on the word wall, just the most important words.
  • When deciding the MOST important words, ask yourself, which words do they need to know to be successful in first grade. Which words do they need to have such a deep understanding that they can use them in conversation, discussions, and to answer questions?
  • Marzano tells us that children need to have a linguistic and a nonlinguistic representation of the word. This means that they need to be able to draw a picture to show their understanding of the word, and they need to be able to generate a definition--not memorize one!
  • A teacher asked, "What if they can't draw?" Don't worry about YOU being able to tell what they have drawn. If they tell you "this is a _____.", then all is well!
  • You may also want to put this activity in a center, the following week.
  • To do this, provide the children with a recording page to write the word, draw a picture, and create a definition.
  • Marzano also says children should rate their understanding of a word. I provided 3 faces for the children to use to indicate.  Now I know that they don't really understand what they are doing here. But, since our kids are doing this in every grade, I want to set the stage for what's to come.
These resources are from this unit.
Content Vocabulary
Content Vocabulary words are referred to as Tier 3 Words. Ever set in a teacher meeting and just listened? I mean really listened. How many words do you hear that adults, who are not teachers, wouldn't understand? That's because these words are content specific to teachers! This is true of professions and hobbies!  So why is this important for children...COMPREHENSION! If a child is asked to read a book about hibernation, but lacks the content vocabulary associated with that topic, their comprehension suffers.  A child might be able to decode the words, but unless they have an understanding of the words, they can't use them to help understand the text. This is why science and social studies ARE important in kindergarten. It is through these that we develop the content vocabulary that is the topic for many nonfiction pieces of text.
Here's what we do:
  • Each week, once a week, we develop content vocabulary by using this abc graphic organizer. 
  • The first week, I ask the kids to tell me any words they know about our unit of study in science or social studies.  These words are going to be words drawn from their schema. These are words they already know.
  • I write these words on post it notes and stick them on the chart according to their beginning letter.
  • The second and third weeks, we add more words to our chart. These will be words they have learned through our readings and activities. 
  • A teacher asked, "How long should you do a unit?" My first response long as you can! First of all, this makes less work on you!
  • Secondly, and most importantly, by extending a unit over 2-4 weeks, children are able to take their learning from the first week to a deeper level of understanding in weeks 2-4.
  • Children are able to apply, create, and use many other higher order thinking skills.
  • While I am writing the words, the children are busy creating their own Unit Vocabulary list.
  • The children write the letters in the correct squares. I invite them to draw a simple picture to help them remember the word.
  • Don't get caught up in handwriting. Even if the children are not writing the words correctly, they are learning the content vocabulary. They are also learning how to use a graphic organizer to organize information!
These resources are from this unit.

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