Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I love to let kids kind of run wild with their "vision". This week we've been doing different forms of self-portraits. This time I told them to use whatever materials they chose to make an image of themselves. I really love what some of them came up with and I wish I felt comfortable posting their pictures because many do really look like the original! :)

"The Dot" Story

I heard the book The Dot in a workshop once and really liked it. It's a story about a girl who doesn't think she can draw anything, so the teacher asks her to make a dot and sign her name to it. The teacher frames the painting and the little girl sets out to master the art of creating dots! To me, the big idea is that we always have it in us to be creative if we take that risk and try.

We talk a lot about being creative in the beginning of the year because even though the kiddos may have that innate capacity for it, they are far from being creative thinkers. Strategies to implement those ideas have to be taught. So I asked them to create their own version of the character's dot and here is what we ended up with.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Creative Snacking

Food is always a crowd-pleaser in Kinder! Today was the 1st day the kids were back so we made edible school buses! Graham crackers, nilla wafers, waffle pretzels and yellow food-colored cream cheese were all we needed. The kids had fun with it and it was a nice break in a looonnnggg day! :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Justifying Housekeeping Centers

I have to laugh at the way people react when I tell them I teach Kindergarten. "Aw, how cute! You get to play and fingerpaint all day-what a great job!" (this was honestly the comment made by a cashier at Target last week). I agree it's a great job, but a little more involved than fingerpainting. :)

Little do they know how much Kinder has changed over the past years. Things like art and dramatic play centers are unfortunately falling by the wayside. I have a housekeeping center in my classroom this year and here are some ways I'm going to incorporate learning objectives so everyone can see the kids actually are learning.

My mom found these for us at Hobby Lobby. I guarantee you these kids don't know what an eggplant or artichoke are. It can be used to introduce and then reinforce new vocabulary and it's very realistic.

Also, we use pictures of foods from different cultures. They can glue them to paper plates and make a meal with them; match them to countries the meals originated from on a map.

Sorting healthy or non-healthy--with all these anti-obesity initiatives out there you can't tell me that's not a viable learning objective for them.

Incorporate perspective-how would people in different jobs view the foods. Does an artist view fruit the same way a zoo keeper would?

Writing from the perspective of a certain food. Does an apple have the same perspective as a carrot? Probably not since one grows on trees and one comes from under the ground.

Compare and contrast-2 foods of their choice, how are they similar and different?

Where does it come from? I love when you ask a child where milk comes from and they say "the store". Right...but how does it get to the store? Sorting activities that show the different stages and the children have to place those steps in order.

Basic reading-matching the items with paper plates of the words that describe them.

Which costs more? Using coupons and waitress pads (they sell these at Sam's Club) to add up the cost at the Kindergarten Cafe.

Sorting the foods-what various ways can they come up with?

Lots and lots of ways to incorporate a housekeeping center into daily learning! And the best part is, the kids are flat-out having fun doing it. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Critical Thinking

Such an important concept to teach our kiddos and unfortunately not always easy to incorporate into daily activities. Just some ideas of ways to help our students develop logical thinking skills:

1) Give them a realistic problem to solve. The electricity went out in the school for the day-how do they make lunch? The traffic on this certain street is horrible; what could the city planners do about it? Map out the solution.

2) Take a shape or line and create something knew with it-in the beginning this is a tough one. Using a triangle, you will get 15 mountains. But the more you do it and the more you make your expectations clear that you want them to come up with something creative-something no one else came up with, the more you will be amazed at what they can come up with.

3) Invent something new-invent a new holiday and the customs that go with it, a new kind of transportation, a new kind of pet. The key is to get them to describe the components and why they chose them.

4) Put out 3 photos (I do this in small group instruction) and ask them to identify which one doesn't belong and why. A banana, a clock and a pizza---be open-minded-sometimes again they come up with an answer you didn't even think of. I did this once and they said you use a clock and banana to measure-we had just talked about measuring with non-standard things and if they could use their feet, they could use a banana! :)

5) Compare 2 photos or things. The crazier the combination the harder it is to complete. Compare a dinosaur and a car-they can do it, they come up similarities!

6) What's missing? Put out 5 objects/pictures-have them close their eyes and take one away. Can they name what's no longer there.

7) Create a new game. This is also a hard one until they get started. It can be a board game or game like tag. They make the rules and objectives and by the way love to play it when they are finished. Some kids do this naturally-I've written before about the kiddos playing "zombies" at recess!

8) Make new signs-we have signs everywhere-create a new sign that means "STOP" or "Yield"--what could it look like?

9) Make and compare 2 lists of things. Healthy snacks and non-healthy snacks, summer clothes/winter clothes-analyze what criteria is used to decide what goes on what list. Are there more of one than the other? Why?

10) Comparing amounts. This is a tough one for the younger kiddos. Sort magazine pics-what costs less than a dollar/more than, less than $100/more than (they often think cars and cereal both cost $100). Use containers to see what holds more? Let them figure out how to do that. My mom recently bought me 2 water bottles for school (she still does school shopping :). I was very surprised at which one held more because of the appearance-the one that looked smaller actually held more. Let them figure out a way to solve that instead of just telling them.

11) Old-time sayings. I LOVE using these with young kids because often they haven't used them before. What does "it's raining cats and dogs" mean? Why does "an apple a day keep the doctor away"? Encourage them to be creative in their responses. They have to analyze the words and then come up with a meaning applying what they already know about those things. It's educational and often hysterical! :)

12)  Take an invention that exists today and make it better. How would you improve a video game, a screwdriver, car, backpack? People do this for a living every day-always a better mousetrap being invented out there (or an Iphone 32). I'm always amazed at the things people come with on the infomercials-that bowl that never spills is just genius!!!!

13) Create something out of trash. Ok, well, maybe not trash out of the trash can-but have everyone bring in something that would have been thrown away-cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, etc. Assign them to groups and have them use their materials to create a new kind of bug or mammal or transportation.

14) After teaching them sink or float-split them up into teams with various materials and have them create a "boat" with the goal that it will float. Hopefully they will shy away from heavier things in favor of the wood, etc. Test the boats.

15) Which kite will fly? I haven't done this activity in awhile, but when we did it the kids loved it. I had several different stations-wrapping paper, newspaper, construction paper, cardboard, etc. They had to make a kite out of a material they thought would fly and of course, we tested them-fun, fun spring activity!

16) Analyze the ways people communicate. How could you communicate with others if you could not speak. Make them be really creative with this!

17) How would you change it? How could you change a plane into a boat? A high heel into a sneaker? What would you need to keep, what would you need to add?

18) Your friends disagree about who is the better writer, runner, student-how do you decide? Have them go through the logic step by step.

19) Give them a scenario having to do with a job. You are a teacher and everyone in the class scores 100% on a test-what does that mean? What should you do? You are a firefighter and 2 calls come in at the same time-you have one truck-what do you do? How do you decide which home to go to? These are 5-minute activities-but are teaching them to analyze situations.

20) Using logic to persuade. You want to keep a dinosaur as a pet-convince your parents. What's your argument. What are the pros and cons?

Even the young kids can do this. It may take some time and repetition--but they will start to get it. Sometimes too much. I had a parent complain once that she was becoming to logical. "I told you so" wasn't working as an answer anymore! :)