I love Halloween for doing crafts with my kinders. It seems that my boys (who are often the ones needing more exposure and practice with activities involving tracing, cutting, threading, etc.) are often very motivated and interested in practicing these skills when they involve bats, spiders or anything else Halloween.
Here are my top 5 favourite Halloween crafts for early learners (click for instructions):
A couple of years ago, I came across Symbaloo, a great website for sharing internet favourites with my kinders and their parents. With symbaloo, you can create your own account (here’s mine) and make buttons for your favourite curriculum-related websites. The brilliant thing about it is that you can add an image to each of your links so that non-readers can find their favourite sites too. Also, you can constantly edit your Symbaloo page, adding and removing buttons as needed.
I set my Symbaloo account as my homepage on my classroom computers to help make my students more independent at finding their favourite sites (that being said, I still have to supervise them closely, but it stops me from being constantly asked to help find the pattern machine game or Toupie et Binou).
And, if that is not all, Symbaloo now has a FREE iPhone app! If you create your own free account, you can now access it and any other webmixes you like on the go.
I like to share my Symbaloo site with parents so that at home, they can easily find websites that are appropriate for kindergarten students. Parents have the option of setting it as their homepage or adding it to their iPhone as well.
As a French immersion kindergarten teacher, my links relate to French language learning, math and problem solving. What is your favourite website for your kindergarten students or child?
If you are like most kindergarten teachers, the beginning of the school year brought you a handful of students who are still learning to hold and use scissors properly. If you are looking for a strategy to help them remember how to hold those scissors, try using these six cues that our OT used with my students. I have made them into a poster with visual cues that my students are able to read independently as a reminder to themselves and each other. (No chicken wings means keep your elbows down).
One other little trick that I sometimes use for students who are having a hard time keeping their elbows down is I have them lie down on their stomach while cutting. As they need their elbows to support themselves, they are forced to keep their elbows down and in turn, use their helper hand to steer.
What do you do in your class to help your students learn scissor skills? If you have another trick or idea, please share it below.
At the beginning of every kindergarten year, I have at least one child who fists their pencil. Here is my favourite way, in 5 simple steps, to teach most children how to hold their pencil with a proper tripod grasp.
1. Make an elastic pencil holder (as you can see, I made this one out of a black and a blue hair elastic, a big star bead and a small zip tie).
2. Have the child slide their dominant hand through the black elastic.
3. Have the child hold the bead with their middle, ring and pinky fingers. This gives these fingers something to do and gets them out of the way.
4. The thumb and pointer finger become “pinchers” to hold the pencil. I find using a Start Right pencil grip, makes “pinching” easier at first and stops the thumb and pointer from wrapping too far around the pencil.
5. For most pencil fisters (or students who use too many fingers to stabilize their pencil), the pencil will often lean forward when they try using only their thumb and pointer to hold it. To fix this, simply thread the un-sharpened end of the pencil through the small loop you created in the black elastic. The pencil will be tilted back and held in the web space between the thumb and pointer.
Do you have a different tried, tested and true way of teaching your students proper pencil grasp? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Do you know someone who always puts their shoes on the wrong feet?
If this looks familiar, here is a simple trick to help your little one get their shoes on the proper feet. With a permanent marker, draw a dot on the inside edge the sole of each shoe. Teach your child to line the dots up before putting their shoes one. If their shoes are on the correct feet, the dots should be able to touch. If they can’t touch, a simple reminder like “Did you check your dots?” is usually enough to help the child figure out how to make them right.
Lining up these little dots before putting on shoes helps children get them on the proper feet.
If you have ever watched little ones learn how to use scissors, you know how many little bits of paper you can end up with all over the table and floor when some of them try to cut out even the simplest of shapes. For those of you who can’t relate, imagine taking a piece of paper and trimming the edges, a little piece at a time until you are left with the shape you want. Now imagine trying to get all those bits from wherever they landed into the classroom recycle bin. Not an easy feat to say the least!
One simple trick I learned from a colleague a few years back is to put mini-recycle bins on each table. I teach my students from day 1 to put all their little scraps into these bins and they are emptied when we are all done cutting. This simple little trick really helps make clean-up time easier.
My students use mini green recycling bins for all their paper scraps when doing cutting activities.
When I began teaching kindergarten, I muddled with different ways to keep everything organized for two different classes. (Those of you who have always taught full-day kindergarten probably can’t relate!). The secret to my success: I colour code my classes.
I use green for my AM class and blue for my PM class, but you could use any two colours as long as they are readily available. (I use the same system for anecdotal notes and assessments so it is important that I pick colours that paper is also stocked in at my school).
These are our bins for inside shoes. AM students put their shoes in the green bin when they go home and PM students use the blue one.
These bins are our “catch-alls” for handouts (and student work) that need to go home, again green for AM and blue for PM.
In our class we all sit together for snack. Each student hangs their open backpack on the back of their chair and once everyone is settled, I can easily put things directly into each student’s backpack. At our school, we often have notices for the “oldest or only” student from each family. At the beginning of the year (until I have this list memorized), I tie a bright yellow ribbon on each “oldest or only” child’s backpack so that I can efficiently hand out these notices.
The green and blue bins on this shelf are used for students to return their library books (our librarian likes them to stay separate by class).
What is your secret to keeping more than one class organized? Please leave a comment and share.
After reading, google-ing and reading some more, I decided to set up my room a little differently this year. I wanted to create an inviting environment that fosters independence, creativity, curiosity and exploration, all through play. After much moving and reorganizing, here is what my kindergarten classroom looks like so far:
Here is the first impression you get when you walk in our classroom door.
Another look from the door, this time looking in and to the left. Our sensory table still needs to be filled!
This is what you see standing in the door and looking towards the door.
Our carpet time and gathering area.
Here is our dramatic play area, setup with a “kitchen” to start the year off.
This is going to be our “art centre”. I made the bench this summer with drawers to hold some of our bigger art materials like paper rolls, egg cartons, etc.
This small carpet area is for our building and construction centre. Beside it, is our shelf of “tub toys” that we use to start each day aa well as our blue and green bins for returned library books.
Here is a look at another play area carpet and soon-to-be science area. In this picture you can also see the blue egg-chair for children who need a moment to calm down right beside our computer station (we got new computers and they have not been set-up yet).
Please leave me a comment letting me know what you think so far. Do you have any other ideas you use to create a welcoming classroom environment?
One of the things I love to do with my students to help improve their fine motor skills is “guided drawing”. During a guided drawing mini-lesson, I show my students how to put basic shapes together to draw a picture. Basic shape, in order of easiest to hardest, that children need to be able to draw before they are ready to print all their letters are:
What better way to practice these shapes, building the skills needed for printing, than learning how to put them together to draw pictures? After drawing a basic picture, we then extend it by discussing and adding details to make our picture even more interesting. At the beginning of the year we spend time learning to draw different people, all with very similar starting points (head, trunk, arms, hands legs, feet, eyes and mouth). This is how we can turn our basic person into a pirate:
Here are some tips to make your guided drawing lesson successful:
Use individual whiteboards with students. Many who find drawing challenging are more willing to try if mistakes can be easily erased.
Before you begin, decide whether your whiteboard is “standing” or “sleeping” and make sure students hold theirs the same way. This will make it easier for them to copy your drawing and will also help them learn how to effectively use their page.
Remember, it is a mini-lesson! Keep it short; 5 minutes is more than enough time to draw a pirate.
Develop a routing from day 1 for handing out and collecting student whiteboards. We have a bin for whiteboards and another with mittens stuffed with dry-erase markers. When students are called, they come get a whiteboard and a mitten.
Draw pictures, one element at a time, giving students the opportunity to copy after each step.
Adding details provides an authentic opportunity to develop language and learn new vocabulary, esspecially in a second language classroom. In the pirate example given, vocabulary such as patch, peg-leg, map, treasure, scruff, shovel, palm tree, etc. are just some examples of the rich vocabulary that would have been discussed during this mini-lesson.
Revisit pictures that you have already practiced on a different day. This gives students some familiarity and allows them to better predict what shape may be drawn next. However, the next time you draw a pirate, for example, you could mix it up by adding a cutlass, telescope, pirate ship or hat, just to name a few new possibilities.
At the end of a guided drawing lesson, I will sometimes practice printing a letter or number, just a few times. If you decide to do this, start with the simplest letters to draw (ex. L and T) rather than going in alphabetical order. See Handwriting Without Tears for more information on my favourite way to teach printing.
Here is an example to show how some kindergarten students’ drawings turned out during a guided drawing lesson. This time we were drawing giraffes.
I hope you enjoy trying this with your students! If you do and are interested in more, check out some of my other guided drawing resources here:
Here is set of mini-posters I created this past year to help parents understand why we make so much time to play in our classroom. They link kindergarten outcomes (from the Alberta curriculum) with different centres we have in our classroom. I posted it just outside our room to help parents understand how play is children’s work.