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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More November catch up! Pilgrims

Learning about Pilgrims!
Yes I realize it's December. With three sinus infections in the last 2 months, a sick mom and a sick (almost) mother in law, Thanksgiving coming early and Christmas break coming late (a WHOLE week late!!!) I haven't had a lot of time. After a suggestion from Dan that blogging seems to be a good stress release for me I decided to work on it today (that and I'm at home sick anyways). So before I tell you all the hilarious things our class elf on the shelf has been up to I will try and catch up on the rest of our November activities. 

Pilgrim Pilgrim!
Before we started our Thanksgiving unit we made a KWL chart. (See last post below). We spent a week learning about the Wampanoags and their lifestyle as compared to ours. Next we start learning all about the pilgrims! We read a little emergent reader I found on Hubbards Cupboard (awesome website if you haven't looked at it before!). Here's the link. (You'll have to scroll down a little until you get to Pilgrim Pilgrim emergent reader. I didn't think I should post her pdf file without asking). We discuss each part of the story as we read it. I make a copy for each of the kids and we revisit it throughout the week. As I've mentioned before I work at a Catholic school so we are able to discuss prayer and things like that very freely. The kindergarteners take religious freedom very seriously when we read our Thanksgiving books! (As much as a five year old can :)  

We read "Tapenum's Day" the week before. During our pilgrim week we read "Sarah Morton's Day" and "Samuel Eaton's Day." Both have awesome pictures and details of what pilgrim life was like for kids. 
I go through and highlight the parts I want to read. It's a very detailed book and some of the parts go way over the kids heads. We make a venn diagram comparing Sarah to Samuel, or comparing Sarah and Samuel to the kids in our class.

We go down to the gym and walk 90 feet to see how long the Mayflower was. When we get back to the room I show the kids a box and explain that most of the families had to fit their belongings in a space that small. We have a big class discussion over what they would need to bring vs what they would want to bring. I have the kids get into small groups with clipboards and make a list (with pictures or words) of 3 things they would want to bring and three things they would need to bring. At centers the kids make their own Mayflower ship out of construction paper and write "If I were on the Mayflower I would bring..."
They always turn out so cute! Again my camera is busted so when I get it figured out I will post some pictures. The thing that made my day was during our class discussion of needs vs. wants. They kids got into a pretty heated debate over whether I was a "need" or a "want" to bring. :)

I'll post more pilgrim related activities later! We also read a lot of fun Thanksgiving/turkey books. Check out my pinboard for November for a bunch of free printables and ideas for November.

Catching up from November

Oh my goodness. There has been so much going on here that I haven't had any time to work on the blog. Can't believe my last post was in OCTOBER! Dan told me I should work on my blog a little since it seemed to be a stress release for me, and I think he's right. I love sharing ideas but most of all I like connecting with other teachers and knowing that I am not as crazy as I think I am! (Especially being the only Kindergarten teacher in my building!) 

Before I play catch up I want to let you know that there are 2 awesome pandora stations for Christmas that I am listening to as I type. 
Indie holiday is one, and James Taylor holiday is the other. James Taylor holiday is my favorite though. 
OKAY! Time to catch up!!!
My camera has decided to fail on me so I don't have as many pictures as I usually do, but I will try to get them to work later and add them in. Here's what we do to learn about Thanksgiving!

Day 1
I do a KWL chart with the kids about Thanksgiving. I usually get some pretty awesome answers when I ask "what do you know about Thanksgiving?" The best one was "I rided a turkey and then we ated it." Second best was "Jesus cried because the gate wouldn't open and the police came." 
Day 2
We read "Tapenum's Day" and Make a T chart to compare us to Tapenum.
We compare his chores to our chores, his games/food to ours, etc. Children will finish sentence “If I was a Wampanoag, I…”  for a writing activity. This book is one of my favorite ones to read the class because the pictures are great and it goes through his entire day. Click here to get a copy. 

Day 3
We look at the word “transportation.” We discussion transportation we use today. We look at a map of where the first Thanksgiving took place and see that it was very close to the ocean, so canoes were often a method of transportation for Wampanoags. I read that Wampanoags often burned or carved out trees to make canoes. The kids make a canoe and draw a picture of themselves inside, and then write underneath it "In my canoe I'm traveling to..." and finish the sentence. Sorry there isn't a picture I will try to get one up as soon as my camera is functioning!

Day 4

We read “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims.” 
We look back through Tapenum's day and look at pictures to see what type of clothing they wore. We make headbands out of strips from brown paper bags and use shape stamps to decorate them. (Great patterning activity as well!) In years past I have also helped the kids make pouches out of brown paper sacks, hole punches and yarn. We discuss resources the Wampanoags had around them and how they used animal fur, bark, and more to survive.
We talk about food we’ve discussed so far. We have seen in the books we've read that Wampanoags often ate fish or clams because they lived near the ocean. We also talk about their use of corn. I got little clay pots for the kids to plant their own corn seeds to take home.  There is also a really cute corn prayer and paint activity on  that I used this year and the kids really enjoyed it. (I teach in a Catholic school so we're able to do prayer activities.) Again as soon as I find the picture i'll put it up here!

Last year we had a mom donate enough corn for each kid to have a chance to "shuck" their own corn! They LOVED it! They did a recording sheet afterwards that said "Here is my corn" (with a space to draw). My corn is                 cubes long. I would eat my corn with                      

More activities:
During our Wampanoag week we read "the Legend of the Dreamcatcher." Here it is!

by Finder
       Long ago in the days of the ancestors, some of the children of the people were having strange, frightening dreams.
       As the children talked to other children, the troubling dreams spread among them like a plague.
       The parents of the children were concerned. The people wanted their children to be happy but they didn’t know what to do.
       The people went to talk to the shaman. The shaman listened patiently as the parents told him about their distress.
       The shaman told the parents that he could help. But he would need to spend some time in counsel with the spirits before he would have a solution.
       The shaman would have to enter the dream world to find the answer.
       Upon entering the dream world the shaman was approached by the four elements: Air, Earth, Water and Fire.
       Air had already heard of the parent’s concern, and had carried the message on the wind to the other elements.
       All the spirits in the dream world loved the children and wanted to help return the children to their state of peaceful sleep.
       The elements and the shaman dreamed together for a long time. They finally came to understand that:
       Air could carry the children’s dreams.
       Earth could hold the dreams within her hoop.
       Water could wash and separate dreams - the wanted from the unwanted.
       Fire could use the morning sun to burn up the unwanted dreams that are caught in the web.
       Now all they needed was something to capture the dreams as they were carried by the air. Try as they might, the shaman and the elements could not think of a way to catch the dreams.
       Grandmother Spider had been listening!
       She said, "Beautiful, loving elements, I can help you as you help me every day." Grandmother Spider continued, "I can weave a special web that only wanted dreams can escape down to the dreamer."
       And so she did, and the first Dreamcatcher was made.
       The shaman brought the dreamcatcher with him when he made his journey back from the dream world.
       All of the families of the people made dreamcatchers. The families hung them above where the children slept, in a place that was seen by the sun.
       No longer were the children troubled by unwanted dreams. Instead they had happy dreams and peaceful sleep.
       And so, at last, Great Spirit looked into the dreams of the children and smiled.

We read the story and then we make dreamcatchers out of paper plates, hole punchers, yarn and beads. I'll post pictures later! I basically cut the middle out of each paper plate, then hole punch holes all the way around the edges. I tie the string on (leaving about a foot hanging off at the beginning so I can tie feathers and beads on when they are done. The kids weave the yarn back and forth across the opening (I have to show them how to do this. They think they are supposed to weave around the edges but it looks cooler if they go across the middle.) when they are done I tie beads and feathers on the end and we hang them from our ribbons hanging from the ceiling.

Centers: Our dramatic play center becomes a "wigwam." I got a bunch of clothes from goodwill a few years back that have worked out great for this unit. I found some tan pants that I cut shorter for the kids, a few tan/brown vests or shirts, some beaded bracelets and head bands as well. I bought a drum from lakeshore five years ago and it has lasted just fine. 
I also bought wooden bowls from goodwill. They lasted five years and only 1 has broken. 
-For fine motor practice we do weaving placemats. I show the kids a few baskets my mother has and explain that the Wampanoags wove a lot of their own materials. We use brown, yellow and orange paper for the most part. 

Well that's enough for now, more to come later!



six days to go

As I sit at home sick with sinus infection round 3, I'm curled up on the couch in pj's and watching It's a Wonderful Life with my favorite furry animals.

They definitely know how to snuggle when I'm not feeling good. I'm going to get a few things off my chest then I'll jump back into sharing all the wonderful stuff we've been up to in my classroom!

Given the events of Friday I am feeling a lot of things. Heartbreak, anger, sadness but also blessed. All I wanted to do on Friday was get back to school and hug my kindergarteners. I am so grateful for my family and my school and my babies in the classroom. I read this and it brought me to tears, I sent it to the parents in my class and I got an overwhelming amount of hugs after school because of it.

 twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
they were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"this is heaven." declared a small boy. "we're spending Christmas at God's house."
when what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
and as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"may this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"come now my children, let me show you around."
excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

With all of this going on I felt an overwhelming urge to show the kids in my class how much I care about them and to make sure and keep the kindness going after Christmas. Since I'm home sick today I've been working on writing a Christmas card to each of my kids to tell them why they are special to me. (It was actually my younger sister's idea when I was having an emotional break down on Friday night) I'm going to hand them out tomorrow with a hug for each one. (maybe two hugs :)

I also read an article on the huffington post that suggested the best ways to talk about tragedies with children. Luckily none of the kids brought it up Monday but I wanted to be ready in case they did. 
Here's the link if you want to look at it:  

 If I can get over this sinus infection then I can't wait to get back up to school for the last two days of craziness with my kids. Immense prayers, thoughts and tears are going out to the families and friends in Connecticut.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October artwork and a visit from the zoo!

We spent a week learning about bats and a week learning about owls. We did a much more involved unit on owls last year so as soon as I get a chance I'll post more info. We read several owl books, learned some owl finger plays and had an AWESOME visitor come from the zoo! We've been doing a lot of artwork lately too. Here' some of things we were up to:

We played "Sight word witch's soup." The kids scoop noodles out of the witch's pot. The noodles have sight words written on them and then they take turns scooping them onto their plate and writing them down.They really liked this game!

We made fall trees using our dot markers. I found a cute poem from "Making learning fun" to go along with it.

It says "Red, orange, yellow, green and brown, the leaves are falling down down down." These were really cute!

At one of the centers the kids worked on making owls for our wall tree. We read an owl book as a class, and had quiet reading time for the kids to research different types and colors of owls.

The kids ripped up different colors of paper and glued them onto the owls. CUUUTE!

We got special color diffusing paper from Lakeshore learning store (down the street from my house! I'm so lucky :) and they turned out SO pretty! The kids got to put a few drops of food coloring on each leaf, then sprayed them with a water bottle. I laminated them and put them in the window.

So to wrap up our nocturnal animals unit we had a visit from the zoo lady! I decided we'd try that in lieu of a field trip this fall. It cost us $4.00 a student (cheaper than the pumpkin patch!) and they were SO excited! We got to choose between 6 different animals from the "critter tales" program and she brought an owl to our classroom!

 The owl's name was Olivia and she was adorable. She kept turning her head all the way around while the kids were watching (well, not ALL the way, but almost!) She also pooped on the floor while we were watching but the lady told the kids that's just part of life and they quieted down pretty quickly!

 I was just as excited if not MORE excited while the owl was in our classroom. The zoo lady brought out a large feather and a whole owl wing, and asked the kids which one they thought would be louder when she flapped it. The kids all said the wing (and so did I!). She flapped the feather really hard and it made a loud whooshing sound, then she flapped the wing really hard and it didn't make a sound at all! How cool is that??

They all got to touch the wing she brought and see how soft the feathers are. She also brought an owl book to read to them, an owl egg, and a bunch of other cool activities. I would highly recommend seeing what outreach program your zoo offers!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spontaneous Learning and a SPIDER!!!

One of the kids found a HUGE spider in the classroom a few weeks ago. Rather than freak out (which my assistant teacher was starting to do) I decided to catch it in the container we had used for our tadpoles last year. I put the spider inside and it turned into a WHOLE afternoon of learning about spiders! I will be doing a more involved spider unit next week but it was so fun seeing the kids get so excited about something. We named her Charlotte (after Charlotte's web of course) and kept her for a few days. The kids came up with questions they wanted to learn about Charlotte. We had a spider drawing lesson on the carpet and learned about their abdomen and cephalothorax. The kids had fun counting how many letters were in each word! :)

 This is my favorite one. One of the kids wanted to show Charlotte her drawing.
 The kids wanted to find out what type of spider she was so I got out a stack of spider books for them to look through. They did this for about 45 minutes! How's that for building reading stamina?!

We found out that Charlotte was a wolf spider, and that she had babies all over her back. (Hence the drawings of babies all over the spider picture) I was really excited that they kids were so into it! We'll be doing our real spider unit next week, so I'll post more later.