Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reindeer Toast

Kindergarten cooking projects are one of those things that teach direction following skills, spacial sense and they are just plain fun!
I love doing reindeer toast because it is so easy to prepare and the kids love to assemble the reindeer.
You will need:
A loaf of bread and a toaster. I like to use a 4 slot toaster so that more children can get their toast at a time.
peanut butter or in case of a peanut allergy, chocolate frosting or other spread.
chocolate chips
read candies for the nose.
Toast the bread and cut in half forming 2 triangles. Spread the peanut butter on the toast. Add the pretzels, chips and red candies to make a reindeer face. Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gingerbread man word families

During the month of December, I like to spend a week using different versions of the Gingerbread Boy during my literacy block. Scholastic even offers a new version called The Gingerbread Girl, which my class really enjoyed. As an extension activity I created these gingerbread -an family books as an adaptation of sound boxes and word building.
To make the actual book I used a gingerbread man cookie cutter as a tracer. I traced and drew the page pictured here. Then I traced a paper with 9 "boy"shapes, copied them, cut them out and stapled them on the page shown to make the book.
I've used this both as a whole group guided writing activity, or as a small group during a guided reading lesson. It is a fun way to incorporate thematic instruction with phonics!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Advent started on November 30th, so for all you fellow Catholic School Teachers out there here are some of my favorite ideas for celebrating Advent in my classroom.
First I like to display the stable on my prayer table and add one figure to the nativity scene per day. One child opens the box and places the figure in the scene. It is a nice way to identify all the characters in the Christmas story.
The manager activity helps to reinforce social skills and kindness. Every time a child does something kind or helpful, that child gets to add a piece of straw to the manger. The Children are supposed to do so quietly but in the beginning they need some encouragement from the teacher that it's okay to add a straw.

The advent chain offers a multitude of skill practice. The students create an ab pattern with red and green construction paper strips. The chain can be any length desired. I like to have the students make the chain the same number of links as children in the class. Then I help the students number the links and send a class list home with the chain that corresponds a number to the name of the child in the class. Then when the student removes the link they pray for that child. The star on the top includes the rhyme: "Each night after prayers are said, take off a ring and hop in bed. When only the star is left to shine, you'll know that it is Christmas time!" I also have a chain in the classroom and we do the prayer chain together so that each child knows that they are being prayed for.

The living Advent wreath is my favorite activity. I got this idea from Mary Jo Thureson. You need a green garland or 2 depending on the size of your class. I made "candles" by laminating 3 blue and 1 white 11 x 16 sheets of construction paper and tying yarn through to make them able to hand around a students neck. I also made flames. Each morning we gather in a circle and four students are the candles and we add the number of flames based on the week. When we are in the wreath we say a special Advent prayer or sing "This Little Light of Mine."

Picture Sort Organization

Sorting pictures by beginning sound is an excellent way to help students develop phonemic awareness, alphabetic principal, and writing skills. It is also wonderful for English Language Learners because pictures help vocabulary development. Pictures can come from any resource, magazines or books that are published for that purpose.

But pictures are useless unless you can find them when you want them. So, take 13 legal sized envelopes, fold them or cut them in half and bind them on a binding machine or with book rings. Label each half of an envelop with a letter of the alphabet and load with pictures. They are within reach whenever you need them!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Stretchers are a great way to help teach phoneme segmentation which is one of the building block of early literacy.
You will need strips of elastic (found in fabric stores), adhesive Velcro and laminated letter cards. Attach 3-4 pieces of Velcro to a 5 inch strip of elastic. Attach the other side of the Velcro to the backs of the laminated letter cards. When teaching a decodable word stretch the word out and pronounce each letter sound. Slowly relax the Velcro saying the sounds a little more quickly until the word is said. Note: For this word I would make the sounds of /l/,/i/, /k/ and introduce the concept of the silent e

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Word Work

During independent work time, 5 students can choose word work. These are activities that encourage building and writing high frequency words or spelling words. I have chosen activities that are easily differentiated and can be used the entire year. To make the activities easy to access and individual I put all needed materials in a tub along with a white board, marker and sock (which is used as an eraser) The following is a description of the materials I include in a tub. The magnetic letters are great tools for word building. I store my magnetic letters in an old cake pan. The students build their words on a metal burner cover. I bought a set of 4 at a dollar store and I include 2 in the tub.
Squeezers are words written on paint sticks that have corresponding letter clothespins. Students take the clothespins off and build a high frequency word. I add one or two new words per week depending on what words we are working on. As a challenge students can assemble the word while the paint stick is flipped over.

The name puzzles are the names of each child in my class and myself. The names are written on a sentence strip then cut apart to create the puzzle. The puzzles are placed in an envelope. I also include a sentence strip with the student's name written on it so that children who need support can use it as a guide. As a challenge student's can hide the name strip and envelope and assemble the name without support. Students can also look for high frequency words within their classmate's names.

The letter stamps tub does not include a white board. Instead students stamp their words on a blank piece of paper. They can trace the tops of their words for writing practice

The letter beads are simular to the magnetic letters. This is simply another tool for word building.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Classroom Libraries

I had to ditch the bookshelves. Kindergarten students simply can't put books back in shelves neatly and they have a hard time finding the books they want to read on bookshelves
So, I purchased a whole lot of dish tubs. I sorted my book by topic and marked them with colored dot stickers, or arrangements of stickers. The tubs are easy to carry, easy to look through and the stickers help the students with the skill of matching. Students can use the library with a minimum of assistance from me and I can arrange the tubs on tables, shelves or on the floor. This is the most user friendly my library has ever been!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lets Talk Turkey!

Here are my favorite turkey projects and Thanksgiving related stories.
First, the turkey building station is an addition to my dramatic play. I got this idea at a workshop and it's brilliant. You take colanders of various sizes and attach a turkey head to one of the holes. The students put different colored feathers through the holes to create a colorful turkey.
This is a great way to develop fine motor skills and cooperation.

This turkey was given to me by Merie Elise Silkey. You need paper plates, brown construction paper, feathers,glue and wiggle eyes. The teacher pre-cuts the paper plates to shape. Student color the plate and add feathers. Then the students trace and cut the head and feet.

This is the recycled materials turkey. You will need toilet paper tubes, paper plates, crayons, glue, feathers and wiggle eyes. The teacher cuts the paper plates in half. Student draw the turkey face including wiggle eyes. Then student glue the tube to the paper plate. Add the feather last and viola! A turkey!
Here are my Thanksgiving must reads.
Silly stories:
I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie! by Alison Jackson Illustrated by Juith Byron Schachner (I started collecting the series of I know and Old Lady books. Each one ends with a surprise! These are great for predicting.)
10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston Illustrated by Rick Deas (rhyming)
T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (Also a fun series great for predicting)
Gracias, The Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley Illustrated by Joe Cepeda (A multicultural community helps solve a turkey dilemma.)
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes Illustrated by Doris Barrette (Counting blessings with family)
Thanksgiving Day by Ann Rockwell Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
Historical Fiction:
Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley Illustrated by Holly Berry (Get the real dirt, literally, on life in historical Plymouth Plantation in a fun, interactive comic book style)
Feeling Thankful by Shelly Rotner and Sheila Kelly Ed.D. Photos by Shelly Rotner
Gathering the Sun An Alphabet in English and Spanish by Alma Flor Ada, English by Rosa Zubizarrets Illustrated by Simon Silva

Friday, November 14, 2008

ABC's and XYZ's

I love this book and I use it all the time! Hands On Alphabet Activities for Young Children by Robeta Seckler Brown and Susan Carey
This book contains a mini book for each letter that incorporates high frequency sight words. It also has an art activity for each letter and lesson plans.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Honoring Native People

During the Thanksgiving season teacher are called to teach about Native American Peoples. I often feel ill equipped to do this. I want to be so careful not to trivialize or generalize contributions or culture of any Native people. The following are some excellent books that introduce the concept of many different tribes, contributions of individual people and legends.
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold and illustrated by Tomie DePaola
The Legend of the Bluebonnet retold and illustrated by Tomie DePaola
First Biographies:
Squanto by Sonia W Black Illustrated by Bod Doucet
Pocahontas by Kimberly Weinberger Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi
Many Nations An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac Illustrated by Robert F. Goetzl

The Hospital

We are all looking for ways to save time and energy. I got this idea from Choice Literacy and I immediately implemented it in my classroom. During the course of the day when a student finds a book or a toy in need of repair they put it in the hospital. This is instead of interrupting me, or hiding the broken object. I can fix or throw anything at my leisure and the students learn responsibility.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Mailbox

This mailbox was one of those finds that I knew I would use it when I got it but I didn't quite know how at the time. Well, it soon became apparent that I needed this for my "inbox". When the students need to turn work into me I tell them to put it in the mailbox. The mailbox is enclosed so papers can't fall out and get lost, and it is very easy to find!
You can find these mailboxes at hardware stores and sometimes in thrift stores and garage sales.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Word Walls

If you have an extra pocket chart and some sentence strips you can easily create your own seasonal word wall. For my young learners I make sure that each word has a picture attached. These help my ELL students also with vocabulary. Students can take words out of the pocket chart when they are writing independently.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tales From the clothesline. Scarecrows and winter clothes.

November is the season of harvest and for some reason inspires scarecrows. The following are 2 scarecrow projects and related stories. Enjoy!

This scarecrow body starts with a double U shape. I precut these and made them by folding a standard piece of construction paper in 4 and creating the shape. When unfolded the full body appears.

Then I like to use raffia, paper and paper scraps to make the patches and hay stuffing. Then add a math element by having students cut circles and triangles for the head and hat.

This scarecrow is all about shapes. A rectangular piece of paper is it's body. Small paper plates make the circle shaped head. Triangles make the hat and rectangles make the arms and legs. Shapes can be precut while students need to decide how to arrange them to make a scarecrow.
Reads and Resources:
The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by David Diaz
The Little Old Lady who was not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
The Hat by Jan Brett (These two are not specifically about scarecrows but are seasonal. I love how Jan Brett uses the side panels of her illustrations to show what other characters in the story are doing.)
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabak

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Going Batty!

This is a fun and easy way to make bats! This activity falls under science, parts of a mammals body. (Did you know that bats are the only mammals that fly?) And of course direction following.
You will need: cardboard tubes, black paint, paint brushes, black or brown tissue paper cut into rectangles, white crayons.
First paint the tubes black. When the paint is dry, cut triangle shaped slits in both sides of the tube.Slide the tissue paper into the slits. Add ears, eyes, faces and claws with a white crayon. Wiggle eyes are a fun option.
Bat Books
Bats by Lily Wood (non-fiction informational text)
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (fiction)
There was and Old Lady who Swallowed a Bat! By Lucille Colandro, Illustrated by Jared Lee (Rhyming silly story)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Monsterously good reads

The Monster at the end of this Book. Written by Jon Stone, Illustrated by Mike Smollin, Published by Golden Books Publishing Company.
Students laugh out loud as Grover tries to prevent them from reading the book and coming to the end. He is very afraid of monsters you know. No Such Thing By Jackie French Keller, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin Published by Scholastic Inc. This is a side by side telling of a boy who is convinced that a monster is under his bed and a monster who is convinced there is a boy on top of his bed. Both the boy's mother and the monster's mother are frustrated as they insist, There is No Such Thing!

The Night the Scary Beasties Popped Out of My Head By Daniel and David Kamish. This is written and illustrated by a man (David) and his 5 year old son (Daniel). The pictures are fantastic and the story offers a creative way to deal with nightmare beasties.

Go Away,Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly. Ed Emberly creates a big green monster element by element using see through paper cut outs. Then he makes the monster disappear. This is a great book for students to retell independently.

I also created a big green monster puppet to use as a story prop for this book. I used the fun foam sheets but felt would work just as well, and an odd mitten. I cut all the "monster facial features" out of foam and added Velcro so that they can be attached and taken off during the story.

This will be a great addition to literacy time!

Monster Art

This is a fun and easy project for anytime of year but works nicely into Halloween. I like to think of this as multimedia art sculpture with an element of following directions. Plan 2 sessions for this project.

What you need: cardboard (toilet paper) tubes. I pre glued 2 together. wiggle eyes (optional), construction paper, glue, scissors and tempra paint.

Each child receives a set of cardboard tubes. The child then paints the tubes with his/her choice of paint.

The 2nd day the child adds, eyes, facial features, hair and limbs if desired.

There is no set outcome of how the monster should look so children can feel successful regardless of scissor and glue skill levels and it provides low stress practice using these tools.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Math

I learned the following two games at a work shop from other kindergarten teachers and I've used them every year since. They are a nice structured way to celebrate, that includes learning and also lets the kids have some candy without going overboard.

This game is called Bag of Bones and requires a small supply of the different skeletal shapes. I found the bones candy in the Oriental Trading catalogue 2008 Halloween #20566D1, item #NY-25/4641 Bones Candy
Oriental Trading's phone # is 800-228-2269
So, you make a graph by drawing or tracing the shapes several times. Be sure to leave a space for students to write the number of bones they find. The students receive a bag of bones and graph the different types of bones on the correct line. Then the student writes the number in the space provided.
If buying candy is not an option, I've also made several copies the the different skeletal shapes on different colored construction paper, cut them out and made a "bag of paper bones" for students to sort, graph and count.

I also really like this game, ghost count. To prepare, you need white beans, several small containers and the ghost count sheet. Mark the white beans with 2 permanent marker dots. These are the ghosts. Put 10 ghosts in a film canister or other small container. The students shake the container and pour the contents out. Then the student counts the number of ghosts with eyes facing up. They note this by coloring a ghost next to the correct number. The game can be played until all ghosts are colored or it becomes time to stop. I save the ghosts containers to use year after year, but I have to check them because the "ghosts" can disappear.

To save paper I copy both the bag of bones and ghost count back to back because I know we will play both games.

Pumpkin Poems

I really enjoy teaching adjective to my students with this poem. The first words signified by the pumpkins are "This little pumpkin is..." If I were to do it again I would write these words inside the pocket chart pumpkins but I went and laminated them so now they are what they are. I also discovered that using realia really help my ELL students with their vocabulary and mental process. It is so much easier to match a picture with a word than to try and translate words from one language to another. I brought in real pumpkins that had the attributes described in the poem. This pumpkin could be small and round, sit on the ground or be short and fat.This little pumpkin wore a silly hat.This little pumpkin had a grin so keen.

This little pumpkin said Happy Halloween!