Teaching Kindergarten: What’s Working? - Week #15

Here are FIVE more great ideas for teaching kindergarten during week 15 of the school year, which for us falls right smack at the beginning of December!  Read on to hear about my ideas for a fun game called Jingle Bell Bang, a free downloadable Hanukkah candle craft pattern, some free calendar printable calendar icons, an idea for using our Number Pattern Blocks to teach numeracy from 11-30, and some links to my favorite holiday books.  Enjoy!

1.  Jingle Bell Bang!

Many years ago, I came up with the idea for this little game, I call Jingle Bell Bang.  I originally made it using holiday stickers on index cards.  I wrote the directions up on a separate piece of paper, and I have used the game every year since!  I have shared the directions for this game many times on the Teachers.net Kindergarten Chatboard, but was never able to share the actual game cards because I made the game with stickers that I found at Stater Brothers!  Well, I finally found the time to draw the artwork for the game on the way back and forth to the conference in Indiana!  I drew it while waiting in the airport, on the plane, and also in the hotel room!  In any case, the game is all done and ready to go!  A volunteer played the new version with my students this week (below), and they liked it a lot!

This game plays a lot like the previous games that I created, such as Halloween Boo and Barnyard Bang, but this one has a Christmas/Santa theme.  The question cards that I have included cover sight words, alphabet, numbers 0-30, and counting out quantities from 0-30 using sets of tens and counting on from there.  I usually choose either the math or the language arts cards. There would be way too many question cards to use all of them, in my opinion.  There are blank cards included also for you to use if you would like to write different words on them or use different pictures.

At this point in the year, I differentiate instruction by making at least two sets of this game:  one for my higher groups and one for my lower groups.  Depending on the achievement gap that exists in that particular class, I may need three different game sets!  This is especially true if you have one group still working on the alphabet and another that is working on learning the sight words, etc.  Also, many children will NOT be ready to count out such large quantities of objects past twenty in Kindergarten without using real objects that they can touch.  In this case, do not use those question cards for these children.  I tried to include cards that could be used from Pre-K to first grade, so there is a good variety included here.  I would NEVER use them all in one game!  Here are the instructions:

1.  To prepare, duplicate all of the cards and mix them up.  The dealer gives each child a card in turn.  The child attempts to read the word or answer the question.  If he does not know it, he still gets to keep the card; there is no penalty.

2.  If the child gets a “special” picture card, he does the following:

Jingle Bell Bang!:  The child says “Jingle Bell Bang!” and gets to shake some jingle bells.  Then he or she gets all of the cards at the table, except for the dealer’s cards.

Santa:  The child must say, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and then must give another child at the table one of his cards (but not one of the special cards).

Gingerbread Man:  The child says, “Run, run, as fast as you can!  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!  Then the child gets up from his seat and runs around the table once.  Then he changes places with any other child at the table, leaving his pile of cards behind.  (So the children switch seats as well as cards.)

Candy Cane:  The child must say, “Yum, yum!” and then receives a treat, such as a piece of cereal.

Christmas Tree:  You get a present!  (An extra card/turn!)

Elf:   The elf just played a trick on you!  Give that card back to the dealer.  (The dealer should put these cards in a separate stack or this game will never end!)  Play reverses in the opposite direction.  You can have the dealer wear an elf hat just for fun, if you like (if you can find one!).  A Santa hat will probably also work; just tell the kids that the dealer is the elf.  If you put a little sign on the hat that says, “Elf,” they will probably learn to read that word pretty quickly, too!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:  Child gets to pretend to be the lead reindeer on the team.  The rest of the children in the group must follow him as he flies around the table or room (teacher’s choice!).  It’s also fun to make a big red nose out of construction paper and stick it on his nose with double stick tape while he flies.  You could go “all out” and give him a set of antlers on a headband,  but if head lice is an issue, you may need to avoid this altogether.  (Eww!)

3.  When the dealer’s cards are all gone, the child with the most cards is the winner.  If you started with a “Bang!” card at the bottom of the stack, this would presumably be the child that received the last card.  This makes the winner of the game a completely random thing, giving all children an equal chance at winning, regardless of their skills.  Fun!

I suggest that you “tweak” the game to make it work for your kids as much as needed.  You may find that you need fewer picture cards, so you may want to discard one of them that you think your kids won’t enjoy as much.  The parent volunteer in my class felt that the game worked best if she kept the picture cards in one stack and the question cards in another.  She went all the way around the table with the question cards a few times, and then around again, giving everyone a picture card.  Again, the point of the game is to give the children a fun way to practice some basic skills, so I just tell my parent helpers to do whatever they need to do to make it work for each group, and keep it fun.  And that seems to work just fine!

2.  Hanukkah Candle!   

In my class this year, I do not have any children that celebrate any other holiday in their homes other than Christmas.  So it seems to me that this is all the more reason to introduce them to the idea that we do not all celebrate the same holidays or believe the same thing!  So I spend a day teaching them a little bit about Hanukkah, and then we’ll also spend some time talking about different holiday traditions around the world.  My class is going to make this Hanukkah Candle next week, and I am including the pattern and directions for you as a free download today!  I hope that it is useful to you.   All the children have to do is add a flame to it cutting off the corners of a yellow rectangle and then adding some paper squares to make a pattern.  We do this candle as a math lesson on patterning.

Here are some books that I recommend for teaching about this holiday:  

Hanukkah by Julie Murray
This is a nice non-fiction book about the holiday.    

Eight Days of Hanukkah:  A Holiday Step Book by Harriet Ziefert and Melinda Levine.
This is a fun counting book that the children enjoy.    

Chanukah by Marx, David F.
This is one of those “Rookie Readers” that does such a good job of explaining non-fiction topics with short sentences and simple pictures.  

The Matzah Man by Naomi Howland
This is actually a Passover story rather than a Hanukkah story, but it is a Gingerbread Man “type” of tale that is fun to read either when you study Hanukkah or Passover.


3.  “No School Today!” Calendar Picture

This month, when I went to change the calendar to December, I once again ran into the yearly problem that I needed to mark off two weeks as “No School Today” on our classroom calendar.  So this year I decided to actually DO something about it, and share it with you here on my blog!  I drew a picture of a little girl closing a door, and on the door it says, “No School Today!”  I printed several copies of it and added it to my December calendar.  l also printed a few extras to keep on hand for the other months when needed.  I keep each month’s calendar supplies in a large manilla envelope and label it with the month.  Now I can just keep as many as I need in each envelope and not have to search for them or move them from month to month if I run out.    

4.  Number Pattern Blocks from 0-30!  


Remember those alphabet pattern blocks that I told you about in September that we used to make words out of?  Well, my wonderful husband Greg just finished the NUMBER pattern blocks set from zero to thirty!  I think that this is a wonderful resource and another good way to get kids to notice the shapes of the numbers.  The more experiences they have with the numbers and the more chances that they get to talk about them and identify them, the better off they will be!  Right now, these number pattern blocks are just a download, so it’s strictly a “print it yourself” download at the moment.   Hopefully, we will soon have them printed out on nice glossy cardstock as we have done with the alphabet pattern blocks.  But this may not happen for a couple more months, since we have a lot of other projects going on at this time as well.  Meanwhile, I am just printing them out in black and white and having the children glue their colored paper pattern blocks down.  Then I am having them add the correct number of stamps above the number as shown in the picture.

To further reinforce identification of these “tricky teens” and counting out these quantities, I made a worksheet to include in next week’s homework.  I am including it as a free download this week!   I hope that it is useful to you.  :)


5.  Great Books for the Holidays

Here are my favorite book picks for the holiday season, (not including the ones listed above pertaining to Hanukkah, of course!)

The Elf on the Shelf 
This is a really fun book and doll set that my kids are REALLY enjoying this year!  In the book, the elf winds up in a different spot each morning, and when the children wake up, they must find him.  It seems that he has been keeping an eye on them so that he can report back to Santa who has been naughty or nice!  Incidentally, our classroom elf seems to wind up in new spot, too, every single morning!  This causes GREAT excitement first thing in the morning.  (Maybe a bit too much sometimes... but in the spirit of the holiday season, I think I can handle it!)

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie DePaola
This is a lovely story about a little girl whose humble gift of “weeds” turns into the beautiful red flower of the title.  The children are always fascinated by this story, and it also talks about some holiday traditions typically celebrated in Mexico and by some families here in the United States.

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
I love this story about a Latino family that is making tamales for their holiday meal!  The little girl wants to help knead the masa, but also decides to try on her mother’s ring without permission, and soon the ring is lost in the masa.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out how all of the cousins try to help the little girl locate that ring!  I enjoy bringing in some tamales for the kids and having everyone sample some, and then graph whether or not they like tamales.  This is a wonderful way to honor the culture and traditions of so many of my little ones!

Pancho’s Piñata by Stefan Czernecki and Timothy Rhodes
This is a legend of how the first piñata came to be made as a gift from a poor villager to the children he loved.  His star shaped piñata becomes the Christmas Star in the end of the story.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Random House
This book has pictures from the classic movie that most of the kids have probably seen.  It’s a fun retelling of a classic story.  I read it when we make our Rudolph projects that I wrote about last week.

That's Not Santa by Leonard P. Kessler  (Hello Reader Level 1)
In this cute little easy reader book, Santa cannot find his suit, and so tries on lots of other costumes, such as a cowboy, etc.  Every time he does this, the kids say, “That’s not Santa!”  The children always enjoy this one, and it’s a quick read.

The Littlest Christmas Elf by Nancy Buss (A Golden Book)
Children can easily relate to this story about an elf that is considered too small to help and therefore just in the way.  But he finds a larger, friendly elf named Nicholas that doesn’t think he is in the way, and knows just how he can help!  Guess who Nicholas turns out to be?

The Dog Who Found Christmas by Linda Jennings
In this book, a family does the unthinkable:  dumps an unwanted pet somewhere out of town.  The poor little guy finds some Christmas carolers and a friendly old man that happily welcomes him into his home and takes care of him.  Together they have a wonderful Christmas.  Though this book is a little sad, it does have a happy ending, and I do like the opportunity to talk to the children about the proper treatment of pets.  We also discuss the fact that if you ask for a pet for Christmas, you need to be prepared to take care of this animal no matter what, or find a new home for it.

The Bears' Christmas by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
I love this funny rhyming story about how Papa Bear tries to show his son how to safely use his holiday presents.  He does everything wrong, of course, and the children find this hilarious!

Happy Teaching!

- Heidi :)

P.S. Don't forget all our videos are available to STREAM on Uscreen, FREE for the first 30 days!   It's an awesome way to bring some EASY, active learning to your students during this time, and they can always cancel right before they are ever charged, like on day 29! Check out the info page on our website for more info!

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