Monday, May 21, 2012

Staying Organized with Clipboards

When I first started teaching Grades 1 and 2, students had a coil-bound agenda that was used as a home-school communication tool. Every day, my students copied a message off the whiteboard, took their agenda home, and their parents initialed it and returned it to school. There was a reading log in the back and a plastic pocket in the front for sending notes and money. Then my teaching assignment changed, and the agendas didn't work so well anymore!

The agendas had already been ordered by the time I found out that I was teaching kindergarten, so I was stuck with them for a year. At ages 4 and 5, my students were incapable of copying off a whiteboard to print a message. This meant that if I wanted a message to go home, I needed to photocopy it or print it myself in each agenda! I soon decided that next year I would find a better option.

After talking to other kindergarten teachers, I decided to try using clipboards. I purchased two-sided clipboards (that open like a book) with a plastic pocket on one side and a clipboard on the other. The plastic pocket has been useful for sending notes and money back and forth, and the actual clipboard holds the weekly sheet. I printed each student's name on the front of their clipboard, then began experimenting with weekly clipboard sheets. I finally settled on a winning format, and I have been using them for three years now.

Created in Microsoft Publisher, there is a title at the top of the sheet reading "Mrs. Caldwell's Kindergarten Classroom, The Week of ________". There is an individual box for each school day with the date and a spot to check off after school transportation (walk, bike, bus, pick up by ______) and the child's attendance. Special activities for the day are listed in the box. My contact information is included on every sheet, and sometimes I do a sidebar listing coming events, units of study, useful websites, and skills to practice at home. I decorate the clipboard sheets with seasonal clipart or photographs of the students. On the left side of the clipboard, above the plastic pocket, is where I tape our alpha bag chart (see previous post). Check out this sample. My students only attend kindergarten on full alternate days, so this sample shows a Tuesday/Thursday week.
When students arrive at school, they hand in their clipboards. It goes in a special basket on the counter, and there are additional baskets for home reading bags and library books. I check clipboards first thing in the morning, jotting down important items on sticky notes to remember for later. Clipboards have proven to be an indispensable tool for communicating with parents and staying organized, and parents love them too!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alpha Bags: Simple and Effective!

Since attending a kindergarten workshop several years ago (Jana Oleson, 2009, Brandon Teachers' Association LIFT Conference), I have been using alpha bags to provide additional practice with letters, their sounds, and objects that begin with that sound. They're very simple and effective, and kids and their families love them! Here's how alpha bags work:
-parent letter explaining alpha bags
-I create 26 bags (one for each letter of the alphabet) as well as sh, ch, and th
-a large freezer bag is used. Each bag contains the following items: Letterland flashcard, a PM letter book, and a foam letter that pops out for tracing.

Every night, each student takes home a different alpha bag. An alpha bag chart is taped into the front of the students' clipboard and is used to track what bags have been taken home. Once the student takes home the alpha bag, he works with his parent to practice the letter and its sound and read the letter book. Then, the child and his parent add a small item or picture that begins with the letter. The picture above shows some of the items that have been added to the K bag: a picture of ketchup, a Kool-Aid label, and a key. Students and parents understand that objects added to the bags may not be returned.

The next kindergarten morning, students place their completed alpha bag at their table spot. After circle time, they have the opportunity to share what they added the previous night. Each student tells us the letter she has. We practice the letter sound and its action. We also identify if it is a lip popper, tip tapper, etc. from the Lindamood LiPS program. The student shares the object/picture that she added to the bag, and we check to make sure it begins with that sound. It takes approximately one minute per bag to share, and it is time well spent. The families and I notice a huge improvement in students' letter-sound knowledge in the months we do alpha bags.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Student Services Forum Presentation

My presentation at the annual Student Services Conference, SMARTer with Technology: Effective ICT Infusion in the Early Years Classroom

Session Description:
How can technology engage students and enhance learning in the early years classroom? Session participants will explore actual learning experiences and work samples, web-based resources and tools, and age-appropriate hardware and software to answer this question. ICT infusion is for learners of all ages and abilities!


Aven's Corner The Name Game
Poll Everywhere
Goodnight 21st Century Learners: a window into my classroom
Today's Meet: backchannel site used in the presentation

Technology for Procedures
The Hat: a free download, this tool randomly draws individual and pairs of names
Kindergarten Calendar (available for download from my Google Documents account)
Centre workboard created in SMART Notebook
Evernote: assessment, student portfolios, work samples
Social stories (for example: morning routine and swimming lessons) can be created using a digital camera and Photo Story, Microsoft PowerPoint, or MovieMaker

Technology for Communication
Twitter for classroom use
Twitter for professional learning and sharing
Classroom Facebook page (created as a "secret group")
Using your smart phone in the classroom
Skype: video conference with community helpers, experts, authors, and other classrooms

Technology for Collaboration
Digital Team Teaching: Kinecting Classrooms for Sustainability
Skype Play

Flipped Classroom
-recorded lessons (sometimes teacher-created, other times student and teacher-created) of important concepts for preview, review, and family involvement in learning
-shared via classroom YouTube channel, iPod Nanos, Facebook page, email links
-enables students to learn and practice basic concepts at home, teacher can use classroom time to differentiate (enrich, remediate, etc)
-family directions for using an iPod Nano
-interesting article

I Touch for Special Needs
Sesame Street video: There's an App for That

Some of My Favourite Resources
-follow this link to my Diigo list

Work Samples

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

3-D Objects: Lesson Ideas

Shapes are often a fun break from the more serious business of learning about numbers in kindergarten math! For the next week, we are focusing on 2-D shapes and 3-D objects. My student teacher led our first 3-D objects learning experience today, and I thought that I would devote this blog post to sharing some of our favourite resources.

Created in SMART Notebook, this activating activity uses the screen shade to cover drawings of 3-D objects. We reveal the object slowly, taking guesses as more is revealed. Students are able to guess and check. Or, we quickly flash the 3-D object to the students and see if they can name it. This also makes a great centre activity. Included at the end of this activity is a link to an excellent Brain Pop Junior video on 3-D objects. This site requires a subscription, but 30 day trials are available. Brain Pop Junior and Brain Pop is a fabulous resource for all subject areas.

Two years ago, I attended a Harvey Almarode session at an ed tech conference in Alberta. He specializes in designing SMART Notebook math resources--his session was excellent and so are his resources. All of them are free to download and can easily be adapted for your own classroom and students. Please follow this link to his geometry resources.

Other 3-D objects lesson ideas:
Which shape is missing?: line up 3, 4, or 5 3-D objects. Students cover their eyes while the teacher or a helper hides one. Which shape is missing? Works well for developing 3-D object vocabulary. This can be done on the SMART Board as well, hiding the 3-D object under something.
Shape Hunt Around the School/Playground: photograph with a digital camera, import into SMART Notebook, use the pens to trace edges, circle vertices, etc. Label the parts of the object. For a centre activity, drag the labels off to the side of each photograph and have students drag them to re-label.
3-D Object Show and Tell: send a note home to parents, asking students to bring a 3-D object to school (such as a can of soup, tube of lipstick, etc). Using a document camera connected to your SMARTBoard, display each object for the entire class to see. Photograph each object using the document camera. These photographs can be used for sorting and labeling activities.
Constructing 3-D Objects from Marshmallows and Toothpicks: use a planning sheet to design the 3-D object and calculate how many marshmallows and toothpicks are needed to build a 3-D object.
3-D Object Mystery Bag: place a 3-D object in a bag. A student inserts his/her hand, describes what he/she feels, and names the 3-D object.

What would I do without YouTube and Mr. Harry's Kindergarten channel? The students and I love these two videos on 2-D shapes and 3-D solids.
2-D Shapes I Know
3-D Shapes I Know