Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let's Get the Party Started in Junior Kindergarten!

This is my first year of teaching separate junior and senior kindergarten programs for my 4 and 5 year olds. For the past four years, I've taught a combined program, but due to large numbers I am running two separate programs this year. I've discovered there are some pros and cons to both models, but I am really loving being able to develop a program dedicated strictly to four year-olds. Here's what we've been up to in the first month of junior kindergarten!

My senior kindergarten students requested a bakery and ice cream store for our first dramatic play centre. When the JK students arrived the next day, they were excited to explore the materials in the play area. As I observed the play, I watched it evolve into a birthday party. They were so enthusiastic in planning a pretend birthday party, and I was invited as the guest of honour. A lightbulb went off in my head and our first theme for JK was born! 

To get started, we talked about birthdays, then made this chart showing what we needed to throw a birthday party. We decided to ask our parents for any leftover birthday party supplies by posting a message on our classroom Facebook page. The next JK day, bags of party supplies arrived! We also Skyped my friend Mrs. Lowe's class who was also very interested in birthday parties. We shared our birthday party charts by sharing our screens. It was both classes' first Skype call ever, and we worked hard to teach appropriate behaviors before and during. Both groups did great!

Next we completed this graph on the SMART Board to infuse some numeracy into our birthday party play. We were excited to discover that more people preferred birthday cake over cupcakes!
Mrs. Lowe suggested that we exchange labelled photographs of our birthday party play areas. This was a great early literacy activity for my JK students as we discussed what letter was at the beginning of words.
We also decided to investigate shapes through birthday party supplies. We wrapped a variety of boxes for pretend presents, and examined plates, cups, party hats, rolls of ribbon, and balloons, and compared them to pattern blocks and 3-D objects. Check out the movie we made using Animoto!  

It has been exciting to watch the play evolve throughout the past month as different children have become involved in the birthday party first only my little girls were planning and throwing parties, but later on my little boys joined in and took active roles. Surprise parties became a favourite activity! To wrap up our birthday party theme, we are throwing a class birthday party tomorrow--writing invitations, baking and decorating cupcakes, and celebrating as a class!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Pigeon Has Landed in Senior Kindergarten

As we regularly Skype with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 class (now her Grade 2 class as she has looped with this fabulous bunch of learners), we knew that they were passionately interested in reading Mo Willems' pigeon books. When they decided to write their own pigeon books in the style of Mo Willems', we followed with interest and learned alongside them as they investigated copyright rules for using an author/illustrator's character. We were excited for them when they were granted permission by Mo Willems to create their own pigeon stories! And talk about great digital citizenship at a young age...they actually contacted Mo Willem's publisher to find out if they could draw and write about his characters!

Our first day of senior kindergarten began with one of our Grade 2 friends sharing her pigeon story, and with that the pigeon craze came home to roost in Oak Lake Community School's senior kindergarten program! Since the first day, we have enjoyed one or two pigeon stories each day from our Grade 2 guest authors via Skype, and we've adapted the project to suit our kindergarten interests and abilities. Here's what we've been up to!

Reading and exploring: we've read every single one of Mo Willems' pigeon books MANY times. We've examined how the author uses speech and thought bubbles, hearts, different kinds of text, and punctuation. We've watched a number of YouTube adaptations of Mo Willems' books...some definitely better than others. This one is our favourite!

We also graphed our favourite Mo Willems' pigeon title on the SMART Board. Here's the slide if you'd like to use it.

Learning to use speech and thought bubbles: after discussing the speech and thought bubbles in Mo Willems' books, I taught a mini-lesson on why and how to use speech and thought bubbles in writing. To make it more fun, we added speech bubbles and used different kinds of text (and hearts) to a few pictures of us.
speech bubbles_1

Drawing the pigeon: we visited Mo Willems' site and found this tutorial to learn to draw the pigeon. We went through it step by step, and I could NOT believe how well my students did! By the second time we drew the pigeon, we had some fantastic artwork! Wow!

Publishing our first book online: Next we took all of our pigeon drawings and organized them into a book. We developed a simple story together and I used speech bubbles to caption each picture. Our first attempt is very rudimentary, but the kids love our first book, "Don't Let the Pigeon Go to the Ice Cream Store" and we've read it many times!

Don't forget about the duckling: next the students insisted that we learn to draw the duckling. We explored a few tutorials on YouTube, but eventually just referred to Mo Willems' illustrations. The results were equally impressive, and we had a gallery walk to share our work!

Authoring our own stories: now that we are proficient in drawing the two main characters, the duckling and the pigeon, we investigated how an author develops a story. Today we focused on beginning, middle, and end, and examined each pigeon book. To develop our understanding of beginning, middle, and end, we watched a great video on Discovery Education Canada, Discovering Language Arts: Beginner Writing--the segment on beginning, middle, and end was simple and appropriate for kindergarten kids! We also viewed Brain Pop Junior's video on plot. It contained a ton of useful information, but it was a little too advanced for my little ones. However, we did recommend it to Mrs. Obach's Grade 2 class!

Setting up our writing centre: now that we are eager to develop our own pigeon and duckling stories, we wanted to have a special place in our classroom to do so. Today we set up our writing centre. We've included these supplies so far: blank booklets for writing stories, clipboards and paper, writing materials (markers, pencils, crayons, erasers), and an alphabet linking chart. We were eager to get started during centre time today!
What are our next steps? Well each of us is excited to create and author our own duckling and pigeon book to share with the class. But I'm interested to take it a step further...the Windows App store has launched a new app called Chekhov Story Author that I'd love to try....creating our own eBooks in kindergarten? Why not! Even better if we could narrate the story to match our drawings!
We'll keep you posted!