Sunday, January 31, 2016

What's happening in math workshop?

We are building number sense every day in math and often times our work does not look like our neighbor's but we have the same end goal.  Students are strategically placed in math groups and given direct instruction on specific skills to help move them along as a mathematician.  Currently we are working on the strategy of counting on when combing numbers (4+5=  ) Say the larger number, 5, count on 4 more (6, 7, 8, 9) to find the answer.  Students can use their hands, number lines, manipulatives, etc. to help them with this skill.  We are also working on recalling what we just know, I roll a dot cube, I see three dots, I say three.  There is not any reason to count them if I know the dot cube has three dots on it.  We are helping students become more efficient with their emergent skills and guiding them to apply those basic skills to solve problems.  

Will students make mistakes in these exercises? Absolutely and I hope that they do, these are amazing opportunities for conversations about their thinking and opportunities for the students to problem solve.  Often times, the peer conversation is more powerful than the teacher to student conversation.  Peers love to teach, support and problem solve with their classmates.  

Here a student uses a number line to help solve the addition problems.  Students write the
equation under the picture and practice the skill of counting on to find the sum.

This student is practicing writing equations to match the dominoes.  Students
finish a row and check in with a neighbor to check their thinking.

Student are also practicing writing their numbers by filling out the hundred's chart,
the patterns they are noticing and connections they are making are amazing as they talk to their
peers.  This is also good practice for students to write their numbers the correct direction.

The Hamburger graphic organizer for writing

This week we explored the hamburger graphic organizer to help us think about a story as a complete item you might order at a restaurant.  All parts to your hamburger must be there when your hamburger is brought to your table for your meal to be complete (top bun, lettuce, tomato, burger, bottom bun).  If a part of your hamburger is missing, the meal doesn't make sense or is incomplete.  When we write stories, certain items must be there for the story to be complete or make sense, just like when we order a hamburger at a restaurant.  

We have just started this process of using a visual to help us monitor our writing for all components: beginning, three important details and closing.  Over the next two weeks we will use this tool for many shared writing pieces to help the students understand the graphic organizer.  Many students wanted to try to put their story on a hamburger and were excited to see they already had many of the components necessary for a coherent and exciting story.  A few students used the hamburger and noticed that they were not able to come up with a third detail and that lead them to revise their thinking about writing that story or to try retelling it again like a story teller.  I look forward to seeing the students expand their stories and make the more interesting using this graphic organizer.  Later in the year we will be introducing other graphic organizers to support other types of writing.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sight words

Part of building fluency in reading is being able to recall known words rapidly to help keep the meaning of the stories that the students read.  Each child has a Word Wizard folder where they sort the words they know and don't know yet.  We practice reading the words we know in a snap and then check the pile of words we don't know yet and see if we have any that we can move into the know pile.  The goal is for all students to know these words in a snap by the end of kindergarten.  Why is that important?  Being able to recall words quickly allows the students to read at a nice pace and focus on the comprehension/meaning of the story.  When students are not stopping to solve every word they are able to think deeply about the story:  what is the author's purpose, make connections to their lives from the story, make connections to other books they have read, question why events happened, and predict what will happen next.     

Writers coach each other to the next level of work

Writers took on the role of a coach with their writing partner today.  They actively listened to their partner read their story and made gentle suggestions on ways to improve that writing.  Students made suggestions by asking questions for more information or by noticing how the writers writing looked (if it was easy to read).  The coaching role is a great opportunity for students to apply listening skills, use all of the information from this writing unit and help their partner see things they may be missing with their own eyes.  They take this job very serious and even through it is difficult to give advice, everyone was successful in doing so.  

Here are some questions they brainstormed about coaching that they could use:
Who was in the story?
Where did this story take place?
Could you add more to your picture so I can see exactly what you are saying?
Are their spaces between your words?
Did you use the word wall? 
What else can you tell me about that story?
What were you thinking when this happened?
What was said?

These questions guided our coaching session.  As you can imagine it is a tough job to be an active listener as well as a thinker to help someone grow as a writer.  They all did an amazing job.  

After they shared advice with each other their job was to go and try the suggestion that was made.  

Later in the week they will meet up again and read their writing to their partners and look for another opportunity to improve their writing.  

Kindergarten Teachers

Kindergartners teach their reading buddies how to play Kindergarten Yahtzee.  The students explained the rules and how to combine numbers to find the sum.  They LOVED being the teacher.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Does it fit?

Does it fit?  How do you know?  What can you say about the other balls after you try one of them?  What statement can you make after you try the solid blue ball and it barely fit?  Students used conversation and reasoning to figure out that if the solid blue ball barely fit then the balls larger would not fit and the balls smaller would.  We tested this theory and they were excited about their thinking, revising and discussing skill that were necessary to figure out this problem!  Math can be challenging but working together to problem solve makes everyone feel valued and safe in our community to take risks in their learning.

Monday, January 18, 2016


What do we know about MLK Jr.?  Here was the poster we made to record what we thought that we knew about MLK Jr. and why we had school off on Monday January 18th.  We read our Scholastic News and two picture books and we revised our thinking based on our new information and this is what we know now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A shift in knowing if we are correct and what to do if we need to revise our thinking!

This week we made a big shift in our classroom when we feel like we have completed our work.  We take our work to the rug and find a peer to discuss it with.  We go over our thinking and talk about/justify our thinking and learning.  If no one is available then the students read a book until someone is ready to discuss.  There are many skills we are working on in this process:  conversation skills, communicating our thinking and understanding in a clear manner, appropriately challenging our peers if we disagree and revising our thinking if needed.  We are in the very beginning stages but the students loved this shift in thinking and were very appropriate in their initial attempt.  

Joshua Davis

Today we had a surprise concert from Joshua Davis.  The students loved hearing about the instruments, the life of a song writer and getting to know Joshua and his band.  They graciously played a few songs, demoed their instruments and even answered questions (including, what color is your house).  Here is a quick video of our fun today!  Oh and one more of the kids keeping the beat with the drum!  What a great way to end our afternoon.  

The message about trying something new, practicing and persevering was inspiring and exciting for all of the students building wide.  Thank you Joshua Davis and your amazing band, we LOVED it! 

Morning Literacy and Math play time

Morning Choice time has shifted into a Literacy and Math choice time where students can explore newly learned skills with friends.  They can listen to stories, write words, stamp phonics words, sort pictures by beginning sounds, build 3 D shapes with Magnatiles, sort junk boxes, make patterns, sort tubs of objects by beginning sounds, book shop for just right books, read from their book box independently or with a partner, learn about opposites through puzzle cards, explore new apps on the Ipads and explore learning on a Chromebook.  Each week we will rotate in a few items and out a few items to keep them interested.  Next week we will be adding a Phonemic Awareness listening station.  

Kindergarten Yahtzee

This week we added a new game to our classroom math stations.  Kindergarten Yahtzee is a fun game where students roll a pair of dice and find the sum.  They check that number on their list and then it is their partner's turn.  If they roll a sum they already got, they just pass the dice to their partner.  This is a great way you can work on addition at home, roll a pair of dice an have your child find the sum.  They could draw a representation to solve the problem or even write the equation.  Have fun with numbers at home and explore their developing number sense by asking how they figured out the sum, did they double check, etc.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Introduction to scales in Kindergarten

What is a scale and why are they used?  

When learner goals have been articulated in scale format, the teacher and students have clear direction about instructional targets as well as descriptions of levels of understanding and performance for those targets. 

We are starting our educational journey of using scales in our classroom to help students become more active in their learning and to help them understand how to self monitor where they are at in their learning and what is necessary to move to the next level in their learning. This is a very cognitively complex task and that is why we are starting with a very tangible goal:  hallway behavior.  Students can see each element on the scale, hands to myself, voices off and traveling in a safe way.  They love the idea of being able to check in next week and see if we have moved on the scale.  My job is to help students realize where ever you start is a great place to be because the end goal is to move up the scale over time.  It is equally important for me to help the students use the scale to see what they need to do to move up and meet the learning goal for that scale.  

We reference our scale before we enter the hallway each day as we are just starting out on this adventure.  We visualize what a 3 on the scale would look like and then we set out to see if we can accomplish just that.  Our goal would be for all learners to get to a 3 on every scale we use in the classroom by the end of the unit.  As this is our first scale, we will be checking in this Thursday and each week for a few weeks until students feel comfortable thinking about themselves, being honest with where they are at in their learning and marking themselves on the scale according to that.  

How Many Fit?

We read the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and then we decided to see how many cubes fit in our shoe.  First the students made an estimate, then they filled their shoes with cubes.  Students then counted their cubes one by one to see how many fit!  Once everyone finished their counting the students had a great discussion on who had the most and why and who had the least.   The students even had great thoughts about students who had wide opening on their shoes like dress shoes and those with narrow openings like hiking boots.  We finished the activity thinking about changing the object to small cap erasers and how would that impact the number of objects that fit in our shoe.  Ask your child how many cubes fit in their shoe.

How to make a snap word

This week we are focusing on tricky words.  These words are words that just need to be memorized (except that).  Here is the sequence we are using to help us learn new words in a snap.  Write these words in rice on a cookie sheet, shaving cream on a table, in finger paint, any where that is different is fun for your child.  Knowing these words will help your child in both reading and writing!

Morning meeting math fun

In morning meeting we explored a variety of equations that have an equal sum.  Students picked a domino, they figured out the number sentence/equation. to match the dot pattern they had (4+0=0).  Once they double checked their work they set out to find a peer with the same sum.  Once they find a match, they link elbows and move together to find another match.  After the class was all linked up, the groups shared all of the equations to double check their work!  The students loved this challenge and worked together to help those that were uncertain of their sum or how to figure it out.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Students shared their Easy to Read writing with Mrs. McPherson's class.  We used this opportunity to reflect on our own work after the celebration to decide if we actually have writing that is easy to read or if we need to revise our writing to include all of the elements we are working on: Using Spaces, Stretching Sounds, Using the Word Wall, Making each word have a vowel and use periods (this is very new).