Teaching Kindergarten: What's Working? Week #3

Well, it's official!  I've already fallen in love with my little cherubs!  They really are a sweet group of children, and they have been really quite easy to train into the routine of things!  They do have their moments when they are noisy, etc., but they can be brought back "down" easily enough.  And though about 12 of them came with really no knowledge of the alphabet at all, I am pleased with the progress that they are making.  Of my 24 students, about seven of them came in knowing most or nearly all of the letters, and sounds, and the rest knew about half of the letters.  The group on the whole, though, is able to sustain attention long enough to practice the alphabet and rhyming words, etc., so I do think that we will be able to get somewhere!

I will keep you posted on my progress towards the goal of getting everyone to know the entire alphabet by the beginning of November.  This may be a real trick, because remember:  the cut-off date for starting Kindergarten in CA is December second, so about 25% of my students are still four years old.  Stand by....

1.  How I  Introduced the iPad in my Classroom, and a Great iPad App:

Picture Dot to Dot

Last summer, I got an iPad for my birthday, and one of the things I wanted to do with it was learn how to use it in my classroom.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about introducing the it to my students, because I had never done so before.  But one day last week, I just stuck the iPad in my school bag and brought it along.  I have been exploring apps throughout the summer for a technology presentation that I have been preparing, so the tablet was all loaded up and ready to go.

This is how I introduced the ipad.  I had given my students a paper to do that was their writing assessment for the beginning of the year.  They were supposed to write a story about themselves and draw a picture.  Now, anyone that has ever taught Kindergarten before knows that at the beginning of the year, there probably isn't going to be much real writing, at least not in a Title One public school in southern California.  Naturally, there was a fair amount of whining and complaining about the assignment.  I told them that if they didn’t know how to write a story about themselves, they could write a sentence, such as “I am a girl,” which I demonstrated.  But other than that, they could write their name, or copy some letters that they might find around the room, or write any letters at all that they knew, and draw a picture.  We did this at my table during our small group rotation, and there was still a lot of stalling going on!  But one of the children in my first group finished quickly, so at the spur of the moment, I decided to get out my iPad to keep that child busy while the rest of the children finished their work.  Voilá!

OF COURSE, everyone at the writing table wanted to do it, too, but I told them they had to finish their paper first.  They all immediately got to work.  As soon as they finished, I let each of them take a turn with this new app I found the other day called “Picture Dot to Dot.”   My kids LOVED it, and it only cost $1.99.

The thing I like about this app is that you can control the settings to tell it how many numbers should be included in the connect the dots activity.  I chose to include the numbers 1-10, but you can set the app to include the numbers up to 50.  All they have to do is take their finger and drag it from numeral to numeral in order from 1-10.  You can also set it to use letters instead of numbers, and then choose lower case or upper case,and include only certain letters, such as from A-E only.  Likewise, you can select it to use only odd numbers, or evens, etc.  A line is drawn as their finger drags.  However, the next numeral doesn’t highlight unless the child hits it the correct sequence.  Therefore, if the child draws a line from five to seven, the line will be drawn, but the number will not highlight.  So I had to coach the children that they did not get it right unless the number changes color.  The key is that they must first TOUCH the previous number, and then drag to touch the next number in sequence.  If they lift their finger up from the tablet before touching the next number, it will not highlight.  Once they understand this, then they are off and running.  Many of the children understood it instantly and got it right away; others needed me to hold their finger down and drag it along for them to get them to understand.

The neat thing about this app is that as soon as the child completes the sequence, the outline of the picture changes into a real photo of a real animal.  The kids were squealing with delight!  I would say, “Look, what did you get????”  And then there were happy shouts of things like, “It’s a rhino!!!” etc.

All in all, it was such an easy way to get the children motivated to complete their required assessment, and I’m so glad I thought to give it a try!  If you would like to see a short video of the children trying this app out, check out my HeidiSongs Facebook page.

When we were done, I gave a volunteer, a check off sheet with the children’s names on them and had her begin to pull the children one at a time for a turn with it.  We’ll have to keep working through that list to give everyone a turn, but I have plenty of volunteers this year, so that shouldn’t be a problem.  Once they all know how to use this app, I should be able to let them use the iPad as an independent center.  However, I expect to also need to teach them how to handle and take care of it, and not click out of it, etc.

2.  Using the Wiggles Book to Practice the Word “The”

We read one of these Wiggles books nearly every day as a way of teaching and reviewing the procedures and rules.

People often ask me if I wait to introduce the sight words until the children all know the alphabet, and my answer is always a resounding "NO!"  I NEVER WAIT to teach the sight words until they have all learned the letters; if I did that, we would be waiting until November to even begin teaching them a single word!  I always teach the words and letters in conjunction.  I find that some children will learn the letters in the word "the," for example, more quickly just by being exposed to the song and the word!  So this is yet another opportunity for the children to learn the letters in a new way, and the word, too, at the same time.

The children found and highlighted the sight word "the" in the book, "Wiggles Learns the Rules at School" to help them recognize the word "the."

This week, we learned the word “the” and it’s spelling song from Sing and Spell Vol. 1. (There is no video clip of this song on YouTube, but it looks a lot like this one when done in the classroom.  So cute!)

So in order to practice their new word, "the," I decided to have them look for and highlight the word “the” in their Wiggles books!  They loved the activity, and they also got a chance to read and color their little kid-sized printable Wiggles Learns the Rules at School books.  (The B/W masters for the child sized books are included at the end of the full sized books.)  We should be finishing up with the coloring tomorrow, which is good because the children are very anxious to take their books home!

3.  Making Sub Plans Easily

People ask me sometimes how I manage to be out of my classroom so often at conferences.  First of all, I have an arrangement worked out with my district that is satisfactory to both of us.  They are extremely supportive of my accomplishments, and I know that I am extremely lucky that they allow me to go speak at different conferences so often! 

Second, I also have a retired teacher friend that has agreed to take my class just about every time I am out, which is wonderful!  I give her all of the dates that I will need her for the year in August, and she puts them on her calendar and saves them for me.  She also lets me know at that time if she is going to be out of town or not, so I can think about reserving my next choice of sub.  She has been in my room so many times that she knows my routine almost as well as I do, and can pretty much look around the room and just “know” what I had planned to do that day!  She also will almost always arrange to come and see me the afternoon before I leave so that I can describe for her what we are working on in person what we are going to do.  This means that I don’t have to write it all down, saving me HOURS of work!  How much more blessed can I possibly be????

BUT... there are times when she cannot come, and for those times, I have created what I like to call my “Generic Lesson Plans.”  Basically, this is a silly name for a skeleton sub plan that has just about everything written out for the day in long hand, except for the specifics, such as the exact activity we are going to do at each table, and what books we are going to read, and what the science lesson might be, etc.  I keep a bunch of copies of this document in my file cabinet, so that any time I need to write out sub plans, I have them.  (At my school, we are also required to turn in these plans to the office each year in a sub folder with a seating chart and a discipline plan.)  Just so you can know what my sub plans look like, I am including them as a free download here for you, and I am giving them to you as a Microsoft Word document, so that if you want to use any of it, you can just type over it and change it.  Since every classroom is different, this may not be useful to many, but who knows?  It also shows my daily routine in EXCRUCIATING detail, so if you are interested in that, you may want to read through it.  You’ll either enjoy it, or it will put you to sleep.  :)

4.  We Love the “Summer” Song!

One thing that I always do is ask the children what season it is when we update the calendar each morning.  And we have also been singing the “Summer” song from Little Songs for Language Arts when we get to that point, as well!   I designed the seasons songs so help children come up with a couple of things that happen during each season of the year, and in my experience, the songs really accomplish this. You can hear the songs and see the little books that go with them on the video below.

5.  Practicing Rhyming Words with Rhyme Puzzles

One thing that I do every year is teach the children to practice rhyming words with rhyme puzzles.  I have gradually accumulated them from places like the Scholastic Book Club with bonus points, etc.  I have them divided into small sets of five or six pairs of rhyming words in each bagged set, and I put numbers on the backs of each card to help keep them sorted.  So all of the puzzles in the picture above might have the number three on the backs, whereas all of the puzzles from a different baggie might have a five on the back, etc.

To use the puzzles, first I teach the children to recognize and name the pictures, and we practice the rhymes a few times.  Then I give each child in the group a bag of rhyming word puzzles and see if they can put them together!  As they work, I circulate among the children and ask them to tell me what the rhyming pairs are.

UPDATE - We now have rhyming puzzles and games I created for sale on our website, including a rhyming bingo game and a Rhyme or Not? game!!! Check them out here!

Enjoy! Have a wonderful weekend!


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SDNana said…
I was excited to look at your sub plans but the document did not work for me. It was just a bunch of random letters and words.

HeidiSongs said…
To SDNana,
It's posted as a .docx document, and should open with Microsoft Word. I just now downloaded it off of the blog myself to see if it would open up, and it opened just fine.
Did you try to open it with Microsoft Word?
Email us for help!
Becky said…
I've been teaching a long while, but last year was my first in K. You were a life saver when I discovered your blog. Your often upbeat, but frank comments tickle my heart. Thank you for taking the time to share both your thought AND resources often.
I was able to order some of your DVDs through school and the children LOVE the ones I've been able to use so far.
Carol D said…
Just have to say how wonderful your songs are, and how much I appreciate your weekly blog! I teach pre-k, but they love love LOVE the Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds! It is the first CD/DVD I've purchased and WOW -- what an impact! Even those who don't "like to sing" get up and at the very least are doing the motions. The whole body approach is very helpful to many of my rambunctious boys. :) God bless you for all you do for us!
HeidiSongs said…
To Carol,
What a LOVELY thing to say! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! And God bless you, too!
hsamuelson said…
.docx is the new version of Microsoft Word. It will not open in the older version. You can, however, save the document as a .doc (Heidi would have to do this) and then it will open in both versions. Another option is to try to click on the document's file name on your computer and then click on File>open with and see if you can open it with a rich text program.
I tried to see if I could upload it as a .doc for you here, but don't know if it worked. I LOVE Heidi's shares and would hate for anyone to miss out on her marvelous ideas! Hope this helps...
HeidiSongs said…
To Becky,
Thank you so much, and I'm so glad that my blog has been helpful to you after so many years of teaching other grades!
I would shudder to think what would happen to me as I would get used to teaching something else! Yikes!
HeidiSongs said…
To Heidi Samuelson,
Thank you for letting me know what the problem is! You know, I'm a Mac, not a PC! So for us, posting anything in Word is a little bit scary! I noticed the "x" after the ".dot" and I thought it looked a bit suspicious, but my computer insisted on doing it that way, so I went with it. I'm not sure how to change it; I'll look into it.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for posting this. I have 5 iPads in my classroom and can't wait to begin using them next week. :)
Charme' said…
Heidi when you go to save your document choose "save as" and in the box that pops up go to the "format" drop down list and choose "Word 97-2004 document", which is the version that should open in most versions. As the technology integration coach at my school this is an issue we've had due to varying ages of our computers. I always have to remember to save my documents this way so all our teachers can read what I send. :)
HeidiSongs said…
Thanks, Charmé!
I'll see if I can get that fixed later today.
Cindy said…
To SDNana

You can also download a converter off Microsoft's website. This should allow you to open up .docx documents. Here's the link

I'm working on a Mac, so if you're on a PC you might have to search their site for a PC converter.

Hope this helps!
Robin Carrier said…
Hello Heidi!
I purchased the sing-and-spell sight word DVD's this summer at the I Teach K conference, and my kiddos absolutely LOVE the songs! We were doing the "can" song yesterday and one little boy blurted out "This is the BEST part of the day!" LOL Thanks for all you do to inspire kids and teachers!!

quiltmom anna said…
Here in Alberta, our kindergarten cut off varies some- some places are December 31 but in the large cities (Edmonton and Calgary) our cut off date is March 1. Some of my kindergarten kids are not 5 until the very end of February. It does pose some challenges for kids, especially those young ones who are trying to meet the demands of the Alberta curriculum.
Thanks for sharing all your ideas- I have been using your shape songs with my little ones and they are really enjoying them.
Regards, Anna
HeidiSongs said…
Oh, thank you Robin, that is so sweet!!! And thanks everyone for help with the Word converters and everything! I'm LOST on a PC!
HeidiSongs said…
To QuiltMom,
Isn't that Junior Kindergarten, though? For us, those children with the Dec. 2nd cut off just go on to first grade unless their parents choose to hold them back, and this is rare.
harborteach said…
Heidi, Have you tried the iPad app called ABC Phonics Rocks!? You can search for it in the app store under App-Zoo. There's a free version which is more abbreviated so you can try it out. My K kids love it! On the Words option, it has the kids figure out 3 letter words in word families. It gives the sound of the letter and if they don't touch the correct letter, it gives them the sound of the letter. The best part is that when they get the word right, the letters dance--and so of course the student(s) "dance" along with the letters by moving their upper bodies. I had to buy the full version! Donna
HeidiSongs said…
To Donna,
Ooooh, I'll have to try that one! Thanks so much for the tip!!!!!
quiltmom anna said…
Hi Heidi,
We have few junior kindergarten programs here in Alberta- though we do have some head start programs. A few of the rural areas do have K- 4 and K- 5 programs. In the city, they would either be play school or head start programs. That too, varies from district to district in the province. In some other regions of the country(like Ontario), they do have junior kindergarten. The province's curriculum is available on line, if you are curious about the curricular requirements for K.
We don't have pacing curriculum or many required resources at a K level. We are also not a mandated program so kids do not have to attend kindergarten here. They can go directly to grade one at age 6. Over 95 % of kids do attend K. Most programs are half day kindergartens. We have around 20 schools in the city of Edmonton that have full day kindergarten. These programs are for students with fewer opportunities and may need a leg up to start their educational journey. I happen to be one of the fortunate ones who has the privilege of teaching a full day kindergarten. It is great for my students. I have taught school since 1978 and worked with kindergarten students since 1983. It is such a great age and never boring. This year I have 27 students with a full time assistant. It is a busy classroom and a very nice group of children.
Debbie said…
At the end of the summer video-you said a little rhyme about sitting down-what did you say------I think I may use that part too!! :)
HeidiSongs said…
To Anna,
That's very interesting; thanks for sharing! Around here, nobody seems to care when they turn six! They all go on to first grade in the fall of the next year unless their parents choose to hold them back. So that means that they start the first grade curriculum at age five and a half rather than six. You are lucky, I think!
HeidiSongs said…
To Debbie:
The rhyme is:
Criss cross applesauce,
Clap, clap, clap!
Eyes on the teacher,
Hands in your lap!

I blogged on it last week, just in case you want to know a little bit more about it. :)
bbailey said…
I also tried to look at your sub plans and it came up as a bunch of random letters and symbols. I have used a fill in the blanks type of sub plan also because there are a lot of details subs need to know and it is silly to re-type it each time. Is there a way you can send me the document that I can open it? You have a lot of great ideas and I would love to look at it. Thanks for all you do for Kinder teachers!!
HeidiSongs said…
To bbailey:
I'm sorry that I can't post another copy of the sub plans right now, but I'll try to do it with the next blog. At the moment, I'm swamped with other things!
You can download a converter that should help you open it, though, here:


I hope that helps!
Jen said…
I have tried to download your free sub lesson plan, but I am unable to get past the first page. It only shows at one page and is downloaded as a picture instead of a Word document. Please help.
HeidiSongs said…
To Jen:
I'm sorry that I can't post another copy of the sub plans right now, but I'll try to do it with the next blog. At the moment, I'm swamped with other things!
You can download a converter that should help you open it, though, here:


I hope that helps!
Joanie said…
I can download the plans and I LOVE detail!! I always feel like leaving kindergarten to a sub is like leaving a newborn to a teenage babysitter. You can never tell them enough details!!
Thank you!

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