Saturday, February 28, 2015

Using Photographs in Reading and Math Warm-Ups

I have always had an interest in photography. We have a great story in our family. When I was 5 years old I took a perfectly centered, perfectly focused (no auto-focus back then) photo of my parents posing at the public pool where we used to spend the summer. My sister, always wanting to copy me, then took a perfectly centered, perfectly focused picture of the sneakers at the end of the blanket! I always had a knack for it and have studied some of the greats.

Well, for that reason and the fact that many students are visual learners-I use photographs ALL the time in the classroom. If you need a good place to find them this is a great site: This Week In Pictures .
There are archives where you can go back several years into photos culled from various news agencies. It's not something I would let kiddos just surf because there are violent photos sometimes. But they have great human interest pictures. I store them in a powerpoint presentation and just make my own slideshows each week.

I would use something like this: 

For my reading warm-up before the lesson. We can practice oral language and I ask them to give me a complete sentence describing the picture. We can ask unanswered questions we have about the photo. They practice making inferences-what do you think happened just before, what do you think will happen next, where is this taking place?--all objectives we have in reading that are ongoing all year.

I have also started using them in math as well:

As part of our math talks: what unanswered questions do you have in the realm of math? They might say-how many cups are there? How long is the string? I really think this has helped them differentiate between what math is compared to other subjects areas-that's something we have difficulty with every year.

And then I ask math questions about the pics myself. Do you notice a pattern? Estimate how many phone books do you think there are.

Photographs can be such a great tool in making connections between what they are learning and real-life experiences! 

GT Frames for Kinders

When you go to any kind of GT training, they always talk about frames. Frames are a way to get the kiddos to think more deeply about a character, historical figure, concept, etc. You take several different ideas from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity and have them complete them all with one thing in mind. You can do several different kind of perspective for example ( I always do this with the Lorax-perspective of the Lorax from the tree's perspective, the Once'ler's, etc.)

We are reading the Mouse and the Motorcycle, which honestly, my kids are not really getting into the way I thought they would. But we haven't given up on it yet! :) I asked them to write their unanswered questions about the story so far, about the ethics-was it right or wrong for him to ride the boy's motorcycle. I asked them to think from the perspective of the mouse and also across disciplines-what would a scientist like in the story so far or a mathmatician? It was a challenging activity for them but some of them really did a great job!

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Can you believe this is post # 800 for me!!!! I can't believe I have had so much to say over the years.

As I've mentioned before, I'm doing a bit of professional development with Twitter friends started by @TechNinjaTodd. He shared a wonderful resource of technology bingo and one of the items I thought I could do with my students was suggested by Terri over at: https://engagetheirminds. It's called FakeBook and you can find it here: FakeBook.

It's very easily navigable. You can make a FB page for a book character or a historical figure. I love giving kids options on how to apply what they are learning. They definitely have to know about a character's personality and actions to be able to invent what they would say. My only issue with the site is the ads-but the real FB does have ads so it wasn't unmanageable. We did Junie B. Jones because we have read-aloud 2 of her books now. Here's what it looks like:

Yes, when I typed in "Lucille" the guitar came up. Probably not a reference the make-believe Lucille would understand, but my kids didn't mind.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Performance Assessments

I am a big believer in giving students various ways to apply what they are learning. Several times a year I plan a performance assessment for them and we invite our parents to come watch them display what they have learned. Our big exhibit of the year we call Character Court. After studying fairy tales, the students wrote a debate that 2 characters would have. We brought ethics into the discussion because they were arguing about who was right and who was wrong in the situation. For example, Mama Bear told Goldilocks she was wrong for eating their porridge and Goldilocks replied "but I was hungry". They painted their own backdrops (some of them ended up very abstract :). The parents helped design the costumes and we held a big performance in the gym where everyone could walk around and see their hard work pay off.

Not only are they applying their knowledge in a different way, but they are also getting an experience with speaking publicly. Some of them started off saying their lines to their shoes, but ended up projecting them very nicely by the end-their confidence grew. 

Here is one example:

Backdrop for the Egyptian Cinderella

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Snow White

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kid's Philosophy Slam Contest

I was introduced to this contest last year by Terri at: .

It's the Kids Philosophy Slam:

I was reading some arguments of my own on a teacher Facebook group this week. They were saying that Kinder students should not be writing opinion pieces, because they are too little. Well, of course, I disagree with that sentiment. Young kids are born philosophers! From Day One I have them turn to a partner to give their opinion on something-was television a good invention, is it better to be an only child or to have siblings. They say their opinion and then the key part-they back it up with a reason!

That then translates into their writing. I tie it into the concept of Ethics from Kaplan. Is it right or wrong that....snowflakes melt, or that Oz tricked Dorothy or would you have helped the slaves escape on the Underground Railroad? I have actually had them write about what the Meaning of Life is--I LOVE reading their answers and sometimes they really surprise me with what they can come up with.

Last year for the Philosophy Slam, the question was "what is more important to society-truth or beauty". 95% of them chose to write about truth, which I found very curious. I guess that's something that affects them every day. Are you telling the truth? I wondered if they were given the same question in middle school if they'd have the same response.This year, it asks what has more of an impact on society-compassion or violence. Surprisingly, many of them chose violence this time-I thought for sure they'd go for being nice. One student said-it has more of an impact simply because there is more violence in the world. Very powerful.

You still have time to give your kiddos an opportunity to participate in this contest! My student won 2nd place last year and even though we found out after we were out for the summer, so she didn't get much fanfare, she did get a certificate and a small check that her parents could display. Good luck!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ethics and Valentine's Day

We were talking about whether it was fair that we celebrate Valentine's Day. It is a holiday based on love and friendship-but what if you don't have any friends, wouldn't the holiday make you sad? So I asked them to think about whether it was fair or not to celebrate. They came up with some pretty good arguments!

no one makes the same amount of valentines

People in the nursing home don't get a lot of valentines.

Some people don't get candy.

The other countries don't get to celebrate.

It is fair because it will be mean to them (not to celebrate)

It is fair that we get to sit down with family.

It is fair because they are lonely.

Not fair becasue other people don't get to celebrate.

It is fair..because it is nice.

It is not fair because people have just a card and y'all have cool stuff.

Wrong because not everybody gets valentines.

It is fair because others will want cards and will miss out the fun.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing With Conversation Hearts

Did you know they even make conversation hearts in Spanish now? I think that is so cool! So I had the idea to use them to inspire our writing today (the English ones). I handed out hearts with messages that I thought were appropriate for regular sentences. The kiddos wrote a sentence and used the saying on the heart. I thought they came up with some really cool ideas! I know the hearts are hard to read but I wrote what they said.

Dream Big-In bed I dream big and those dreams are very nice. (Even love the illustration!)

BFF-One day in class I had a BFF (that phrase must be losing steam, some kids didn't know what that was!)

BFF-I did not know that you were my BFF.

Giggle-Once upon a time there were two friends and they were very funny talk. And the talk was knock knock, who's there. Cat. Who cat. Dog. And I giggle.

Miss you-I miss you too.

Marry Me-One day my stepdad said to my mom will you marry me?

Good day. I was in school and had a good day.

Say yes-I want to go on a plane-say yes!

Best Day-When I went to school I had a spelling test and I got an A. I was so happy and I said
the best day of my life.

Wink wink (now we just read about this with Junie B. Jones!)-One day I went to the store
and I saw a cute boy and I wink wink at him.

girl power-I am a girl and I have Girl Power! (look at that illustration!)

Miss you-Once upon a time there was a princess. One day there was an old lady saying miss you.

Let's read (that's an odd one isn't it-not very romantic! :) -One day in class I did a good job on my paper.
Miss Trayers said "Let's Read". (I do not know what's going on with my hair in this illustration! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Unconventional Valentine's Day Celebration

When my GT Coordinator gives tours of our schools to potential applicants, I have to laugh at how she decribes me. I taught both her daughters, so she knows my teaching style well. She tells people-"Miss Trayers is always doing weird activities with her students-they are painting under the tables to be like Michelangelo or standing on their desks to get an idea of another perspective--weird".  I prefer the term "unconventional" and yes, I take that as a compliment! :)

I know I'm an unusual breed of Kindergarten teacher. For example, I hate celebrating Valentine's Day in the classroom. I know not everyone agrees with my decision-but we don't do the typical card exchange you will find in many classrooms. In my experience, the kiddos really didn't get anything out of that. The parents would prepare all the cards-even signing their child's name to all of them. Or my favorite just send them in with an unopened box expecting me to show them how to ready their cards. We would take way too long passing out all our cards (the past few years I have not had less than 25 students and as many times as I would ask that they not put names to address them to anyone specific-that request would often go unheard as well). And then all I would hear would be complaints from the students. She has more than me. I didn't get one with the lollipop. Why does she have that big one and I don't. Ungratefulness really breaks my heart.

So the past few years I have adopted a different approach. We have as an at-home project for that week to make a Valentine for a local nursing home that we have adopted. They made some really creative ones.

And then all week during their writing workstations, they are making cards for their friends. They are writing a real message on it that has meaning. I know several parents already told me they are bringing cards anyway, but a majority of what they receive will mean something to them because someone took the time to acknowledge them. Unconventional, but I still think fun and definitely more authentic.