September 15, 2019

Kicking Off the Alphabet with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a timeless favorite in kindergarten! See how my class uses this text in meaningful ways all week long! |
watch the video version of the story here.
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It was the second week of school and what better theme to kick off our introduction of letters of the alphabet than with the ever-popular, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? This week I focused on reviewing the alphabet, foreshadowing the uppercase/lowercase work they'll be doing, and introduced them to their interactive notebooks. It was a whirlwind of a week, but I found my kids are really excited to learn which makes my job as their teacher so much more fun!

There are so many activities to choose from when it comes to linking name work with reviewing the alphabet. I continued with whole group lessons before attempting workshop center rotations this upcoming week. I did so in efforts to provide my students opportunities to model and practice the procedures of using class materials, how to cut and glue into their notebooks, and becoming familiar with the routines during class time.

Here's what we did...

DAY 1: Chicka Name Trees 

After reading the story to the class I introduced to them their first activity. We had linking discussions that this year in kindergarten we are going to review the letters of the alphabet, but begin learning that the letters and sounds we hear form words and those words form the sentences we read all over the place. In fact, the most important (and special!) words they have are their names!

This activity was a fun introduction to whole group work time because my students were engaged the whole time and did a wonderful job identifying the letters in their names.

These Chicka Name Trees were a great kickoff to this unit using the mentor text, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! A perfect way to practice sharing materials, gluing, and letter/name recognition! |

These Chicka Name Trees were a great kickoff to this unit using the mentor text, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! A perfect way to practice sharing materials, gluing, and letter/name recognition! |
 letter stickers | amazon

These Chicka Name Trees were a great kickoff to this unit using the mentor text, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! A perfect way to practice sharing materials, gluing, and letter/name recognition! |

Each child selected the color construction paper they wanted and began gluing their trees together. Afterwards I had them write their name and count the number of the letters on the label, to which they glued to the bottom of their page. Finally, (and the most exciting part for them) was hunting for the letters in their names and sticking them on their trees. The final product was so cute and a colorful addition to the empty back to school walls in the classroom!

DAY 2: STEAM Tree Challenge/SEL Lesson

As a review of the story, I found this STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activity that challenges students to create their own chicka coconut trees but only with a block and craft sticks. They were to try and design their trees to hold as many letters as they could and needless to say, this activity was a huge hit among all three of my kinder classes.

Although the activity itself was not based in a language arts objective explicitly, I chose it as an introduction to perseverance, getting comfortable with making mistakes, and finding new ways to solve problems. In the year ahead I expect to grow these skills within my students as it relates to their English language development, reading, phonics, and writing skills. Not to mention, encourage and support them in their speaking and communication skills as well. So, I found this lesson to foster just that.

This STEAM challenge activity blended their learning from the story Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with letter recognition! |

I gave students about 10 or so minutes to complete the challenge, meanwhile taking a craft stick away periodically; making it more difficult to hold the same amount of letters. This kind of activity so soon in the year was a great observation of student responses to challenge or setbacks. I was impressed with each class and their enthusiasm and engagement in their learning! Not one became frustrated or upset; rather they were excited to see how many letters their "tree" could hold.

Extension Idea: this activity was a wonderful whole group activity, but it can easily be revisited as a literacy center. For example, I would have students make their "tree" once more and stack as many letters as they could. Then, have them record each letter (practicing letter formation, pencil grip, etc.) in some fashion such as writing or stamping them on a handout in their notebooks or to be turned in.

DAY 3: Letter Sorting

Day three our class focused on identifying letters, using tools and references in the classroom to help (i.e. the alphabet posters), and sorting uppercase from lowercase letters. I also wanted to choose activities that could be easily glued and included in their interactive notebooks for English workshops. I'm so proud that by this day my students were getting the hang of all the cutting and gluing and getting much faster with this procedure. This practice during class time helps them develop those skills, but their homework is in a similar interactive notebook format so the more time they have to practice the easier it'll be for them at home.

I incorporate interactive notebook style activities that get my students engaged and practicing important fine motor skills and letter recognition! |

I incorporate interactive notebook style activities that get my students engaged and practicing important fine motor skills and letter recognition! |

Introducing interactive notebooks!

A component of their interactive notebooks that I wanted to introduce them to were how to use the spinners and 'rainbow writing'. So, I created this page where they practiced using a paper clip and pencil to spin. In the boxes they were to practice writing their names but in four different ways: with a pencil, marker, crayon, or rainbow write.

As you can imagine, many of these procedures are new for my kinders so these moments to use whole group class time to practice is purposeful in more ways than one. I modeled for them what rainbow writing looked like for this activity, which is choosing a different color for each letter of their name. Rainbow writing will be prevalent this year in their word work both in class workshops and at home for homework. This particular activity took some time for them to grasp, but I found they enjoyed it nonetheless.

I incorporate interactive notebook style activities that get my students engaged and practicing important fine motor skills and letter recognition! |

And that was a wrap of our second week in kindergarten English class! I have been so proud of how well my students are working and working together each day. Over the last few days I've been able to connect with my kids and it's always a pleasure knowing they're having fun. I've already received a number of emails or have heard from my colleagues that English class has been one of a few students' favorite times of the day. I'm looking forward to many more moments where I can leave that kind of impression and encourage these little learners that learning can, indeed, be fun!

Happy weekend and cheers to the upcoming week!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a popular mentor text to use to kick off the year in Kindergarten! See all of my 2nd week of school activities involving this favorite story! |

What are your favorite back to school lessons? Do you read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in your kinder classes? How do you incorporate it?

September 5, 2019

Creating a Culture of Kindness in Kindergarten

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I've officially survived the first week of school and it was a whirlwind of a week! For those not familiar, I am an English kindergarten teacher at a bilingual French-American school and this is my first year teaching here. I've taught for 5 years, and many of those years with the littles, but working at a bilingual school is a career first for me. Needless to say, I loved it!

I have three classrooms this year, which means I have 42 kinders in my care. 42! But, it naturally came easier than expected and I am looking forward to this year so much more. 

With that being said...

This first week of school was all about establishing those new routines and procedures, a lot of modeling and practice, and discussions about expected behavior. But, this year our school is taking a new approach to this...

Creating the classroom rules together.

Every year as a teacher I've always found importance in having my students create the classroom rules together as a unified effort. It's always been amazing to see their responses and how much they already know about how to behave at school. So, why not tap into that resource instead of repeating things they're coming into kindergarten already knowing?

Over the summer I, along with my colleagues at school, participated in a teacher training for Responsive Classroom. As a part of this instructional approach, there was a section about establishing the classroom rules together; making students more accountable and included in the process all year long. RC is new for my colleagues, but thankfully I've had a number of years teaching this way and therefore have been able to help in implementing a number of new procedures.

This first week, I loved co-teaching and working alongside my new kindergarten team in having these discussions with our classes about why we come to school, what they're most excited for this year, and deriving categories to iron out what our classroom rules would be. Here's a peek at some of that process!

DAY 1: Why do we come to school?

Read Aloud: I Am TOO Absolutely Small for School (Charlie & Lola)

The Charlie and Lola series are a new one for me, but I am so grateful to my preschool colleagues (in France, and at our school, kinder is the final year of preschool) who have shared some pretty amazing books and curriculum with me! This story follows Lola, as told by Charlie, as she prepares to go to school for the first time. She is nervous about what she'll experience and comes up with silly excuses as to why she doesn't need to go - often very relatable reasons shared by our kinders.

They loved it and found Lola to be so silly! I chose this story in particular to go along with the first step in our classroom rules creation, which was our question: why do we come to school? This is an easy question to answer by our littles, but often one that gets overlooked and rarely related to why our rules are what they are. By having this discussion up front, it leads to further discussions about behavior and throughout the year we can connect back to why we ask students to behave - it's so they can learn!

DAY 2: What are your hopes and dreams for this year?

Read Aloud: The Pigeon HAS to go to School. 

On the second day we reviewed what we had discussed the day prior and why we come to school and why it's important. The following day we asked our classes to think about what they're most excited for this year. Kindergarten is the final year of preschool and a year with the biggest transitions! Many shared that they were excited to make new friends, to paint and color, to learn about numbers, and to play outside.
I chose to read a Pigeon story because, like Lola, he was feeling nervous to go to school for the first time and it's such a silly read. This was another hit with all of my classes and found them really relating to Pigeon, but also finding his fears and anxieties to be silly since they know school is nothing to be afraid of!

We rounded out these last two days by sharing that the next day we would be diving into how the class can achieve BOTH learning and having fun at school.

 DAY 3: Making Good Choices

After much discussion the first two days, I was eager to get my kiddos working and practicing some key writing skills - beginning with tracing.

Read Aloud: No, David!

Now that students have discussed and thought through why we come to school and what they're excited about learning this year, I began lessons that would connect the two in terms of how we/they could achieve that through their actions and words.

I read them the story, No, David! by David Shannon - a very popular read with the littles. I connected their understanding from the previous days by asking them to think about David's actions while I read the story. Of course they picked up on how mischievous he was being, but the important lesson was towards the end when David's mom hugged him and said "Yes, David, I love you." We had a short talk about how us teachers still love our students even when sometimes mistakes in behavior happen in class. This seemed to really resonate with them.

Categorizing Behaviors

One of the objectives for kindergarten is the ability to categorize, or group, items by similar and dissimilar qualities. This was a great opportunity for us to take what they've been learning all week and summarize it in a visual way using Carolyn's Creative Classroom's No, David resource on TpT! I appreciated how easy it was to prep for the day's lesson!

After we read the story I clipped a few of the visual cards provided in the download (ones that most pertained to the behaviors we've already been seeing this week) and had students come up to the board to place them in either the thumbs up or thumbs down column. Afterwards I dismissed them to their tables to begin practicing using their materials such as pencils and markers. They traced the sentence, "I can make good choices at school" and colored a picture of them making a good choice - using our anchor chart as a reference.

DAY 4: Good Choices vs Bad Choices Sort

Read Aloud: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? 

We made it to Friday and what a week of learning it had been!
To wrap up our week discussing and crafting our classroom rules I decided to break out my favorite book about bucket filling. Instead of using it with a bucket filling lesson, I tied it into what we were already doing in class and decided to use it more as a reference (aka "are you being a bucket filler?"). Being a bucket filler is also one of the cards we categorized the previous day with our No, David! activity and today we bridged that learning by explaining what a bucket filler and dipper is.

After reading the story with the class I wanted to make the anchor chart we did together the previous day as a whole group a little more concrete. So, I used this free resource from Melissa Moran on TpT that had students practice cutting, pasting (dot, dot, not a lot!), and sorting, or categorizing, good behaviors and bad behaviors. I modeled for them how to cut and paste and went over each picture before dismissing them to their seats to get started.

And that was a wrap of our first week! I feel as though my kiddos did a great job with our discussions, participating in creating the classroom rules, and working independently to complete their work. I feel like this will be a great year!

Happy teaching and enjoy your weekends!