Teaching Kindergarten: What's Working? Week #4
I thought that I would do a general entry this week on some games, activities, and books that are working well for me this week. If you're following along with the Pacing Guide, I'm on Week 4, and will reference that outline throughout the coming year. I’m very excited to share these ideas with you!
A Book and a Song
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod and the Zero the Hero song. I found out about this little gem of a book last year on the Teachers.net Kindergarten teachers chatboard! I read it to my kids for the first time this school year this week, and they were enthralled! They absolutely loved the illustrations, and the alliteration in it is absolutely amazing!
It also made them super excited to sing their newest favorite song, Zero the Hero from my Sing and Spell Vol. 5! Some of my students are still spelling it, “ZZRR!” or “EZOO!” or some other joyful combination of letters, but that is not bothering me! They are loving it and begging for the song.
So I hold it over their heads as something to work towards if they are very good. Plus, whenever I hold up the word, “zero” and ask them what word it is, they all call out “zero!” So that’s a start! A third of them still don’t know more than a handful of letters yet, so I can’t complain too much!
A fun new game to play: “Ring the Bell!”
I made up this little game to be played in small groups, and I decided to call it “Ring the Bell!” It has a back to school/making new friends theme to it, and I use it to practice letters, numbers, and a couple of (very) basic sight words. Of course, you could use it to practice whatever concept you wanted.
This is the basic idea: the teacher is the dealer, and holds lots of cards in his or her stack. Some of the cards have concepts on them, such as letters, numbers, or words on them. Others are “special” cards with picture cues and instructions on them. The instructions are below:
1. The dealer holds all the cards, shuffling them before beginning. Try to put one “Ring the Bell! card on the bottom of the stack.
2. The dealer gives the first child a card. He tries to identify the card. If he cannot identify it, just tell him and have him repeat it. There is no penalty.
3. If the child receives a “special card,” then he must do the following things.
Apple: The child has to give his apple card to the teacher.
Snack Time!: The child gets a piece of cereal or some other treat.
Write Your Name: The child tries to draw his or her name (or the first letter of his name) on a friend’s back. Be careful- it tickles!
You Are So Smart!: Everyone at the table points to that child and says, “You are so smart!”
Recess!: The child gets up from his chair and runs around the table one time, saying, “Recess!”
The Dog At My Homework: The child must give all of his cards to his teacher.
You’re My New Friend!: Give someone a card. Giving a hug as well is optional! (We found that this year, we had to add the rule that giving an additional kiss on the lips was a definite no-no!!)
Ring the Bell!: Ring the bell, and then you get all the cards at the table, (except for the dealer’s cards.) We use a Staples’ “That was easy!” button for the bell.
The game continues until all of the cards are dealt. The child with the most cards is the winner.
The children LOVE the Staples “That was easy!” button! And I appreciated that they were not ringing my freeze bell in the classroom, because I didn’t want the children to become “desensitized to the bell” by hearing it too often and not needing to freeze when they hear it. We have just posted this game for sale on our website as a download.
“Communicator Clearboards,” fine point dry erase markers, and Number Monsters
If you have never seen or heard of these plastic sleeves that you can use dry erase markers on, then you are in for a treat! The ones I have are called “Communicator Clearboards.” These little plastic sleeves are a wonderful, earth friendly invention for the classroom, and allows many children to use the same worksheet over and over, since you just use a dry erase marker and wipe off the markings when you are through, and then go on to the next worksheet. We used these plastic “Clearboards” with my Number Monsters worksheets that I bought many years ago. I had the children working on these independently while my aide pulled the children one at a time for testing on sorting, which seems to really take quite a while. (Meanwhile, I was working with a group on language arts.)
My students this year seemed to need more practice on numeral writing than our Saxon math series was giving them, so I decided to pull out some of my old “Number Monsters” worksheets by Shirley Ross and Cindy McCord. This is a very old and really cute worksheet book that is so good that it is (of course) now out of print. It had a cute little monster on each page that had either one of each thing, or two of each thing, etc., such as horns, teeth, eyes, and so on. The children were supposed to search for and circle the target number on that page, and then on the back, practice tracing it and writing it lots of times. Each page featured one of these cute little monsters to color in and decorate. The book also had some pages with this wonderful poem and pictures that I had colored and laminated and made into a book that I read to my class each year when teaching the numbers.
It goes like this:
“Monster, monster, number one, How many claps will get the job done?” (Then the children clap once.)
“Monster, monster, number two, How many claps do we need for you?” (Then the children clap twice.)
“Monster, monster, number three, How many claps should there be?” (Then the children clap three times.)
Etc., etc., etc.! And so it goes, on up to number ten. The kids always get a kick out of it, and it is a very quick read that they can participate in. The best thing about using the worksheets in the Clearboards this way was that we were able to work with some children individually, while the rest of the group was happily engaged. They had all of the worksheets from numbers one through ten in the clearboards (front and back), and that was plenty to keep a group of six busy for 15-20 minutes. With the Clearboards, there is nothing to turn in, (and nothing to correct!) so you don’t need to stress over whether or not they actually finished their work while they were there. They even used these same worksheets for three days in a row and were quite happy about it every time! I think that I may copy some individual pages for them later and let them each color a number monster to keep, since it was such fun for them.
Mini Sing-Along Songbook for the word “The”
We have been working on learning the first of our sight words, and of course the word “the” is always the one to start with! So we learned the “The’ song last week from Sing and Spell Vol. 1, and now this week we made our first Mini Sing Along Songbook for that word.
This came from the new set of Worksheets, Mini-Songbooks, and Flashcards to support Sing and Spell Vol. 1. I did expect them to like making the book, but I was really thrilled with their reaction to it! They were very excited to have their own little book to take home, and some of them kept exclaiming, “I see T-H-E! I found it! I see it! There it is!” They have started to notice the word in print all over the place, and it was really fun for them to make their own little book about it.
They especially liked coloring the large print words at the end, and also rainbow writing the word as well. They didn’t know it, but by the time they were done with the little book, they had traced the word “the” six times, written it from memory twice, colored the chunky letter version of the word twice, and rainbow written it twice. (FYI, “rainbow writing” is just tracing it with lots of different colors.) And during the entire time that they were working, I continually asked the children to tell me what word they were working on. And most of them spent that time also singing the “The” song while they were working! I sure wished I had had my video camera with me that day! I always seem to miss the cutest moments due to that very problem!
We used Crayola Twistable Pencils to color our mini-books, and that worked out great. I love using those in the classroom! I usually buy five or six new packs at the beginning of the year, and they last til the end of the year and beyond. The only problem is that we are now low on certain colors, and I will need to restock soon.
Singing the “Summer” song acappella each morning with the calendar
I started singing the “Summer” song from the Little Songs for Language Arts CD with the kids acappella (meaning with no CD to back me up) as we have been doing the calendar each morning. We have been doing the same thing with the number songs, singing the song for the number of the date. (Those songs are on either Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 1 or 2.) It’s nice because I have just been breaking into song, with the children seated, and they just quietly join in and sing along, and do the motions while seated. It goes like this:
Summer is hot. Hot, hot, hot!
Summer is hot. Hot, hot, hot!
We go to the beach and play in the sun,
We ride our bikes and skate for fun!
We go to the park and play a lot,
‘Cause summer is hot. Hot, hot, hot!
I have decided that sometimes I enjoy having them sing sitting down! They don’t ALWAYS have to be standing up, and we don’t ALWAYS have to play the CD while we sing. It is really quick to just start singing, and I don’t have to find it on the ipod or make a big deal out of it. This particular class absolutely LOVES to sing, and that’s great! But they are a little hard to “bring back down” once they get so excited, and this is a good option for singing some of the “quieter” songs. Plus, the kids are really reviewing each day what the season of summer is like. One day when it was a little bit colder outside, one child was insisting that it couldn’t be summer that day because it wasn’t hot out! So then prompted a good discussion about how we decide when the seasons change. And now, sometimes when we sing the summer song, we sing it this way: “Summer is usually hot! Hot, hot, hot!.....”
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