California Kindergarten Conference (CKA) in Santa Clara from our home in Southern California. This will be a six hour drive, and we’ll need a good head start, so I am writing this blog entry a little early this week to make sure that we get it published before we leave! You’ll notice that some of the entries are written in future tense, because I was talking about what I am “going to do” rather than what I already did. So thanks for your understanding on that one! In any case, since a lot of this entry has to do with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you may get more use out of it if you receive the blog entry a bit early anyway. Happy teaching!
1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sound Effects Story
I have been trying to find time to write another sound effects story since I wrote the first one for my blog entry that I published right before Thanksgiving. If you are not familiar with the term, “Sound Effects Story,” this is a story that you tell and have the children listen for certain key words in the story. You have them make certain sounds and motions as those words come up. This helps them pay attention and adds a bit of fun to a lesson! So I wrote another one this week, hoping to try to use it before we leave for CKA. I was able to introduce it on Tuesday with my class, and then did it again on Thursday. I am including it for you here as a free download today! Hopefully, you will be able to get some use out of it. If it is too late for this year, then perhaps next.
The only issue with this story is that, at least when I told it, my children were so stunned by the message of what life was like back then that they were actually not having a lot of fun! And understand this: I never even mentioned that King was shot or died at the end! I totally left it out of the story. They were just plain unhappy about the fact that life was so unfair to anyone at all, and this could actually be a rule that everyone would have to follow. One of the sound effects that I gave them was to listen for anything that is not fair, and just say, “That’s not fair!” and shake your finger. I guess it turns out that having them repeat over and over, “That’s not fair!” spontaneously is a very effective means of getting them to internalize the message. At the end of the story, one of my little boys jumped up and stood in front of the class and declared, “I know what happened to him then. Somebody shot him- with a GUN!” The kids asked why, and I told them that this person didn’t like it when the rules changed. They wanted things to be unfair and didn’t want to share their parks and schools, etc. And they all just sat their with their chins dropped to the floor in disbelief. I so WISHED we had more time to discuss it, but it was dismissal time, and we had to go!
Now this is the first time that I have introduced the concept of King’s message to my class without a picture book, and I would have expected a picture book to be more effective. However, the children were visibly upset with the message of what was happening to King as a boy, and I have never seen this happen with a picture book. The fact that he could not attend the same schools, play at the same parks, or even use the same drinking fountains as white children was horrifying to them- and I’m very glad to report that this was the case! Did I want and expect the story to be fun? Yes, because of the sound effects! But more than that, I wanted them to understand the message of what was happening in our country during that time, and the fact that it took someone very special and brave to fix it. And the story certainly did accomplish that. And from there, I went on to explain how to do the Martin Luther King themed art projects listed below.
2. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art Project
3. Penguin Guided Drawing
I do love to do guided drawing projects with my kids, and penguins are fun and easy to draw! The directions are included here as a free download. The children are always so proud of their creations! And I love that when we go to write about them, everybody has an idea of how to draw one. Later, I even showed them how to draw a penguin sliding on its belly! Yesterday, a child showed me a picture she drew of a penguin going down the slide on our playground. Too cute! Enjoy!
4. Getting Kids Started With Inventive Spelling
This question was emailed to me regarding writing instruction in Kindergarten, and it occurred to me that my reply would make a good addition to my blog this week. So I am including both the question and my answer. If any other readers have some tips on this that they would like to share, I think that we would all like to know! You can leave comments on this blog, or on my HeidiSongs Facebook page.
“I was looking for some tips on writing sentences since it seems a lot of my students are sticking to sentences with "I like.." or "It is a" Do you have any suggestions as to how I could help them further develop sentence writing. This is my first year and I am looking for any suggestions...”
After a while, I tell my students that we are not going to write those kinds of simple sentences any more, because "that's for babies!" They are too smart for that. And if they start in writing "I see___" or "I like ____," then I stop them right away and give them a fresh paper and remind them that I said we were going to write something else today. A few of them find this very frustrating initially, but I just stick to my guns. I also model writing other sentences in front of them and show them how to write something else.
Teaching beginning writing with those structured sentence patterns is a nice easy way to get them started, (see my blog entry on this topic) but it can be difficult to make them let go of the comfort of knowing exactly how to write something and knowing exactly what to do. They stick to those sentences because they are easy for them, and some kids, especially those who are "perfectionists," need a good nudge to get them out of the "it's got to be perfect" mode. I also assign other sentences for writing practice at home. I try to get parents on board with writing phonetically by showing them what I am looking for at parent conferences and Back to School Night, etc. This helps a whole lot! Children who get extra practice at home in writing "as it sounds" get used to the process and start to accept that what we are really looking for is their thoughts on the paper, and not each word written perfectly. I do tell parents that if we have learned sight word song for a certain word, then I would expect that word to be spelled correctly. But if we have not learned a song for the word, then the child should spell it like it sounds and leave it at that. Last year I had a little guy whose homework showed that he spelled everything perfectly, but when in the classroom, he absolutely shut down and refused to try any inventive spelling at all, and cried. I highly suspected that his parents were spelling for him at home, so I gave them a call and explained the problem. Even though I had already explained the process at Back to School Night and at parent conferences, they still felt that I would want everything spelled correctly on the homework. When I assured them that I absolutely did not want them to spell for him, the crying stopped and he started writing phonetically as I was asking him to do. So in conclusion, I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to get parents on board and to help them understand what it is you are looking for! It can make all the difference.
5. Getting Ready To Test on Matching Sets 0-30
Communicator Clearboards that I told you about on my blog in the entry for Friday, September 17, 2010 in the Number Monsters section. I made some new ones with snowmen, penguins, Eskimos, snow hats, mittens, and also some with hearts and bunnies, etc., to add to my collection and use for review in the coming months. The kids really loved the new pictures, and the practice seemed to do them good! If you are unfamiliar with these Clearboards, all you do is slip a worksheet into one of them and give the children a dry erase marker. I had them try to complete one whole worksheet and then show my aide their work. If it was correct, they could go on to another one. If not, then they had to count over and try to fix it. With all of the practice that they had, I’m happy to report that the great majority passed their test on matching sets all the way to thirty! I figured that most of them would do fine if I can just get them to count carefully. It’s the careless counting that causes the mistakes! Of my 26 students, I have one that cannot count abstract pictures accurately yet (a fall birthday child), and another who simply circled the middle number on the section that tested from 20-30 because he didn’t want to do it, so he missed most of them. I also had another higher student who seemed to be having an “off day” and missed four out of ten of them on the 20-30 section. But that was it!
If you would like to purchase the set, please visit my website. This four dollar download includes ten more pages, plus the three free ones that I already gave you for a total of thirteen practice pages.