Monthly Archives: March 2018

A New Kind of Egg Hunt

New Egg Hunt (1)

 

I don’t like Easter Egg Hunts. In fact, if it was up to me, we wouldn’t even do one.

And right now you’re probably thinking, Why in the world don’t you like egg hunts???? The kids love them! 

For starters, they have absolutely nothing to do with what Easter is even about, but that’s another story for another blog on another day…

What I really can’t stand is how we spend every minute of every day trying to teach our kiddos to treat each other with kindness, to share, to let others go first, to take turns.

But then…

On egg hunt day, all that goes out the window. We lay brightly colored eggs filled with all kids of yummy treats all around our playground, and then it’s every man for himself!

In that instant, we are telling them that it’s not only OK to be greedy and selfish, but it’s actually encouraged in this venue.

Even if we even things out at the end of the egg hunt so that everyone has the same number of eggs, even if we use a system of numbers to ensure each kiddo only gets her fair share, even if we do everything in our power to create a “fair” egg hunt, we are still fostering greed and selfishness.

I mean, think about it. Have you ever seen a group of kids calmly walk to go find their 12 eggs when you say it’s time to start??? NO! They run, they scream, they go as fast as they can to get the eggs first. They want the biggest ones or the prettiest ones or (heaven help you if someone sends this kind..) the golden ones!

As soon as we say, “Ready, set, GO!” we might as well be saying, “Forget everything else I’ve taught you this year, and go get those eggs!”

I just don’t like it. Like I said, I wouldn’t even do it if it was up to me.

But it’s not.

So, if I’m going to have to do an egg hunt, I figure I might as well use it as a teaching opportunity, right? So, here’s what I did…

We had and Easter egg hunt AND SHARE! We still set a limit on how many eggs each kiddo could get, but here’s the kicker: They weren’t allowed to find eggs for themselves. They each had a buddy, and the eggs they found were for their buddies, not for themselves.

So, we talked about asking your buddy which size or color or type they liked the best. We talked about staying together so that your buddy would be close by when you found an egg for him. We talked about NOT putting eggs in your own basket. We even practiced earlier in the day during our math time with a “Shape Hunt & Share.”

Most of my kiddos did a great job with it! I could hear them saying things like, “Isaac! I found one for you!” or “Jasmine, do you like this one?” It was SO much better than the “normal” way of doing it! I loved watching them think of their buddies over themselves! They were giving and sharing instead of taking and being selfish!

Now, don’t get me wrong… We are 4 years old. And there were a few kiddos who just couldn’t grasp the concept. So, we just had to give those kiddos a little extra  guidance while they were hunting. (And maybe move some eggs from their baskets into their buddies’ baskets!)

But, overall, it was great success! Sure, I’ll make some adjustments to it next time around, but for now I’m extremely happy with how it went!

Happy Easter and Happy Teaching!!

Sight Words in Pre-K???

There’s been a lot (and I mean A LOT!!) of discussion lately in several of the preschool/pre-k teachers Facebook groups I’m a member of about teaching sight words in pre-k. It seems that many teachers teach sight words to their kiddos because they choose to, others because they are required to, and others don’t teach them at all. Not surprising, considering how diverse our teacher community is, right?

But, most of the discussions have a lot of common elements. These are the things I read over and over again in those threads:

  • sight words aren’t developmentally appropriate for pre-k
  • all kids are different and some might be ready for sight words
  • send a list home and let the parents teach sight words to their kids
  • they have to know so many sight words in kindergarten, we really need to get them started in pre-k

I have to say, I both agree and disagree with parts of each of these statements.

  • I don’t believe sight words on their own are developmentally inappropriate for pre-k kiddos IF they are taught in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Some kiddos might be ready for sight words, but they still must be presented to pre-k kiddos in the right way.
  • IF the kids are ready for it, and IF you’re teaching them in developmentally appropriate ways at school, there are ways to let your kiddos practice them at home with their parents.
  • They do have to know a lot of sight words in kindergarten (That’s the part of that statement I agree with.), but that doesn’t mean that I have to feel obligated to teach them in pre-k. They are part of the kinder curriculum, not the pre-k curriculum.

So… where does that leave us? Well, the leading authority on all things preschool is the NAEYC. You can read their position statement on learning to read and write here. If you read this document, you’ll notice that sight words (or high frequency words) aren’t even mentioned until kinder. But, development is a tricky thing. Each kid is different. So, my approach is to expose my kiddos to a wide variety of things, watch for what they grab on to, and follow their lead. (And I do that with pretty much everything from an academic standpoint, not just sight words!)

The biggest teaching tool for me when it comes to this is shared reading. According to Fountas and Pinnell (My early literacy heroes!!) in the book Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook, shared reading is when you read a big book or an enlarged print version of a poem in unison with your kiddos. They go on to say that it is by nature inclusive, and it encourages all children to participate as “readers” even if they are not yet readers in reality. We do shared reading in my room every single day!

Here’s an example of one of the poems that is currently in one of our pocket charts:

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The first few times we read a new poem, we echo read. (I read a line as I point to the words then I point to the words again and my kiddos read it.) Once they have the basic gist of it, we just read it together. By the end of the week, my kiddos can come point to the words while we all read it. They also LOVE to get one of the pointers and read these during centers!

After we’re done with a particular poem in our whole group setting, a smaller version of it moves to our reading center.

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They always have multiple poems to choose from, in addition to all of the books that are in the reading center. But, they love to continue to read the poems with pointers, even long after we’ve moved on to new ones!

My main goals with shared reading are centered around the prekindergarten guidelines. Concepts of print are huge in pre-k, so we work on that a LOT! I also use the words from the poems (once they are familiar with them) to work on phonological awareness.

But…

Every once in awhile, you have that kiddo who says, “Mrs. A! This and this and this are the same!” as they point to the word “am” in every line. Or, they notice that “i-n” is in the poem, and it’s in the morning message. Once they start noticing these types of things, they are ready to start recognizing some basic sight words.

However, even with these kiddos, I still do NOT do formal sight word instruction. No flash cards. No worksheets. No writing practice. I simply become VERY intentional about asking them the right questions to push them a little farther. I point out the words they’ve become familiar with in other settings to see if they can make that transfer. I give them opportunities to read things that we encounter that contain the words they’re familiar with. I continue to push them and their learning, but I continue to do it through authentic and play-based experiences.

Simply stated, I watch for what they grab on to, and I follow their lead.

It’s really no different than when you notice a kiddo is struggling to write her name, so you put some extra supports in place to help her be successful.

If you want to check out my shared reading sets, you can find them in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! There are several to choose from, and I’m adding to them almost weekly, so keep checking back!

Mrs. A’s Shared Reading Sets

It’s not rocket science, and it’s nothing super extraordinary, but that’s how I approach sight words in my classroom!

How do you approach sight words with your pre-k kiddos?

 

Happy Teaching!!

 

Question of the Day

The Question of the Day is a great routine to establish in your classroom! Some of the benefits include:

  • Your kiddos get a daily opportunity to make a choice and express their opinions.
  • The questions are great conversation starters and help you create opportunities for oral language development.
  • You have daily opportunities to discuss and reinforce math concepts like graphing and data collection, vocabulary (more, less, how many more, how many less, equal), and counting skills.

This is part of our routine every single day, and my kiddos love it! In my room, I don’t go through the whole process in one sitting. Here’s how I do it:

  1. At my school, all the kiddos come to the room at the same time. (What a blessing!) As they come in and go to the carpet, they are always trying to read the question of the day to figure out what it says before I tell them!
  2. Once they are all sitting, I read the question to them. (We call it our choice board.)
  3. I call them one or two at a time to move their name card from “Home” to the choice board. (All the name cards start on my circle time board under the “Home” heading until the kiddos arrive. Hint: This is a super easy way to keep tabs on attendance!)
  4. Later in the day, during our math time, we have our discussion about the choice board. We count how many friends chose each option. We make cube towers to match the two numbers. We compare the cube towers using terms like more, less, equal, difference, how many more, and how many less.
  5. At the end of the day, when each kiddo gets packed up to go home, they move their name cards back to the “Home” section of our circle time board.

When you first start implementing a question of the day, you’ll need to spend a lot of time teaching the procedures and key vocabulary terms. BUT… before too long, you will notice that your kiddos start to internalize these and using them on their own! They will start counting, comparing, and discussing before you ever direct them to do so! This is one of the reasons why I love to delay the discussion of our choices. It gives my kiddos lots of opportunities to have their own discussions before we ever do it together!

Now we are at the point that, after we count each group of names, all I have to do is say, “What do you notice about our choice board?” And, the replies come flying!! They get so excited to tell me all the things they notices about the choice board!

Here’s what our choice board looks like, with an example of one of our questions from our Dr. Seuss unit:

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As you can tell, “The Cat in the Hat” was the favorite by a landslide! But, you get the idea!

So far, three sets of my questions of the day are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, and more are coming soon! Just click here to see which ones are currently available! (Note: The question pictured above is not included in the Silly Cat Question of the Week because of copyright restrictions attached to the two book covers. But, the words are included, and you can get the books images off the internet!)

Happy Teaching!

The Cat in the Hat Week!

Our second week of Dr. Seuss was all about “The Cat in the Hat!” And, while this is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, my kiddos this year didn’t love it. So, I followed their lead, and altered my plans a little as the week went on. They had a blast with all of the games, activities, and centers I had for them. They just didn’t like the story. So, we read a lot of other Dr. Seuss books this week after our first read of “The Cat in the Hat.” Here are some of our favorites from the week! (Click on the images to get your own copy!)

Cat Hat Book Snip    Ten Apples Book Snip    Cat Comes Back Book Snip    Mr Brown Book Snip    Dr Seuss Colors Book Snip

Our shared reading this week included the poem “Hats” and the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.” We read them over and over again until the kiddos can read them independently. They get so excited when they can read something by themselves! This shared reading set is in my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you want to have your own! Just click on the images to get yours!

We always start with the poem on a chart or in a pocket chart. We echo read several times, and when the kiddos seem to have it down, we choral read. But, no matter how we are reading it, I always point to the words with a pointer! At the end of the week, the kiddos get their own copy of the poem. Sometimes it’s a little book that they color, practice reading, and put in their book boxes. And sometimes it’s a poem page that they color, practice reading, and add to their rhyme folders. Either way, they are “reading,” and they love it!

During circle time, we played several different “Silly Cat” games! “Silly Cat Snap!” is a fun letter recognition game. “Silly Cat, Where’s Your Hat?” helps us work on syllables. “Silly Hat on the Ground” gives us practice with letter sounds. And, “Which Cat Took the Hat?” helped us practice colors and positional words. This set is also available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! Just click on the images to get your own set that includes all the printables and directions!

 

We did some super fun crafts and art projects to go along with the book this week! The first one we did was Cat in the Hat directed art project! I love these projects for extra practice with shapes, fine motor skills, and following directions! Basically, I give the kiddos a piece of construction paper (usually a square or rectangle) and show them how to cut it to make a different shape like a circle or a triangle. Then I show them where to glue each piece. (These are three different examples of how three kiddos made theirs. They all started with the same pieces, and they were all given the same directions, but they each turn out a little different!)

We do it one piece at a time until we get to the finished product. Unlike a traditional cut-and-paste craft, their own personalities really come through on directed art projects!

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We also painted our own version of Thing 1 and Thing 2, but ours were PK Things! First we painted the shirts red.

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Then we used droppers and straws to blow blue paint around the page to make the crazy hair!

 

After they were dry, I added the kiddos pictures to be the faces! Unfortunately, I can’t show you that part, but they were ADORABLE!! Here are a few of their finished products minus the pictures:

 

The cats and the PK Things all ended up on display in the hallway as part of our school-wide Dr. Seuss celebration!

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Our final “Cat in the Hat” craft was to make a new hat for the cat. The kiddos got to color their hats however they wanted to, and they were super excited that they could use markers!

 

It was a great week even though I had to change course slightly! Our first Dr. Seuss week was all about Green Eggs and Ham! If you missed it, you can read about it here!

Next week we are moving on to “The Three Little Pigs!” We’ve been having some struggles lately with self-regulation and being a good friend. So, in addition to the academic skills we’ll be working on, I’m going to take advantage of this story to do some teaching and practicing with some social/emotional skills as well! Stay tuned for more about our “Three Little Pigs” book unit!

To get more frequent updates about what we’re doing, follow Mrs. A’s Room on Facebook and Pinterest!

Happy Teaching!