Christmas World Tour: Part One

At Christmas time, I love to take my students on a journey around the world to celebrate all the wonderful and diverse ways people celebrate the holidays. It's a great way to introduce them to important social studies concepts in a playful and celebratory way! We love to read books about the different celebrations around the world as we set out on our adventures. Here are a few good ones to start off the journey:


Germany


The first stop is Germany, where we read German Christmas stories and discuss German Christmas traditions. Children love to learn that our tradition of the Christmas tree originates in Germany where they are known as "Trees of Light".

I love this version of "Oh Christmas Tree" in beautiful stop motion animation, and the kids do too!

In the "Christmas World Tour: Part One" packet there are even more activities for children. They can practice their math skills with a German advent calendar, learn the words to "Oh Christmas Tree/Oh Tannenbaum", make a Christmas countdown, and learn about other German Christmas traditions.

 
 

Australia


Now it's time to visit Australia, where the weather is warm at Christmastime and sometimes Santa goes surfing! Since picnics on the beach are an Australian Christmas tradition, we bring towels to sit on and have a Christmas picnic lunch in our classroom. We also watch "Go Santa Go" with The Wiggles to get into the holiday spirit!

In the "Christmas World Tour: Part One" packet children learn about more Christmas traditions, practice phonemic awareness with surfing Santa, sing about "Six White Boomers" and learn how to make Fruit Pavlova.

 
 

Russia


While visiting Russia we discuss the beautiful nutcracker ballet and how children receive Christmas presents from old Babushka.

While visiting Russia we make nutcracker dolls out of paper towel rolls. For an added bit of STEM, you can challenge the children to give the nutcracker a working mouth. This is how ours turned out using tongue depressors, a crayon, and some tape.

 
 

It was fun to see how they turned out, even if there mouths did look a bit like the aliens from Sesame Street!

Some of the other things we do in Russia are make Russian nesting dolls and play a game in the land of the sugar plum fairy that helps children practice answering and asking questions about key details in text.

 
 

Denmark


While in Denmark we celebrate the works of author Hans Christian Anderson, read the Highlights Magazine story A Danish Christmas Remembered, and make red and white Danish Christmas decorations.

Also in Denmark, we play a number sense game with the mischievous Nisse the elf and sing a song about 10 Christmas gnomes. 

 
 

Spain


Next we're off to Spain, where we watch costumed boys dance a dance called Seises and talk about the celebrations that occur around the Feast of Epiphany when the Three Wise Men bring presents to good girls and boys. 

In the "Christmas World Tour: Part One" packet there are more activities, including practice writing numbers with Spanish shoes and painting a picture of the Three Wise Men.

 
 

England


England is the birthplace of one of the most beloved Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I love the illustrations in Brett Helquist's picture book version for my class! England is also the home of many well known Christmas songs, such as The Twelve Days of Christmas. 

While in England we also practice Common Core standards by counting as we stuff English Christmas stockings and write Christmas cards.

 
 

France


Now it's time to go to France to celebrate Le Reveillon. We look at beautiful French Christmas creches and sing the French carol The Friendly Beasts while waiting for the arrival of Pere Noel.

While in France we practice rhyming words while having a Le Reveillon feast and make santons for our nativity scenes.

 
 

Africa


Now we visit South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, and Ethiopia where oil palms are decorated as Christmas trees and candles are part of the celebrations.

While in these African countries, we practice recognizing groups of tens and ones to meet Common Core standards and make candle art work.

 

 
 

Canada


The traditions in Canada are wide and varied and there are a lot of fun Christmas stories by Canadian authors available to read in the classroom.

While in Canada we practice making combinations of 10 while delivering Christmas trees and make Christmas trees from strips of green paper.

 
 

Greece


Next we're off to Greece, the home of Saint Nicholas, fasting, and feasts.

While celebrating Christmas in Greece, we practice letter sound correspondence as well as decorating Christmas boats (as is traditional in Greece).

 
 

You can find all of these activities in our Christmas World Tour Part One packet and supplementary materials in our Christmas Around The World Scrapbook. Both are available here and at our Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Here's what people are saying about this unit:

WOW! This is a HUGE unit. It was difficult to choose which to use... great information! I also purchased the Holidays Around the World unit. I have students who ‘don’t celebrate’, so it worked nicely with SS standards as world and cultural traditions.
— Kindergarten Is Simply Sweet
This pack is amazing! I love how the common core elements are included in the activities to help the kiddos remember the main idea from each country! So eager for Christmas now!
— Rachel P.
Awesome job and my kids enjoyed all the different activities!
— Helen M.

Our Christmas Around the World tour continues in Part Two!

Looking For The Perfect Christmas Program?

For 16 years, my colleague, Kathleen Law, and I, put on he Bears Great Adventure: A Christmas Play (32 productions because of 1/2 day kindergarten), and it was never the same twice! We never knew who was going to have a meltdown caused by severe stage fright, who is going to scream the words at the top of his/her voice, who will find the world is his/her stage, or who will cry endlessly because they cannot see mama (even thought she is on the front row). However, it always turned out to be a great success after a lot of hard work by eager 5 and 6 year olds.

We know from experience that this is a play that delights and brings joy to kids and parents alike. After 16 years of being our own, we released the script to this play. It is available here, or and at our TPT store. We include with it many tips, helps, and hints for success.

This play is the story of four little Bears who take a winter walk and have an adventure along the way. Act 1: The Woods; Act 2: Mother Goose Land; Act 3: Winter Wonderland; Act 4: The North Pole. 

This would be a great addition your class's Christmas celebrations this year!


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Here Are What Purchasers Are Saying...

"I modified this into a shorter version for my kinders this year. It was a blast - and the parents loved it! Thanks for helping me spruce up my Christmas Program this year! :)"
"This is a great "base" from which to dive off and so easily modifiable. Thanks!"
"After I read this story with my students, we could create another version of Xmas adventure play. Thank you so much! My students and I love you story!"
"We used this for our Christmas Play at our small DODEA overseas school. It was perfect for our community and I love the flexibility of the program to add/delete portions based on our own school needs."
"We did this for our parents and the kids and parents loved it. Thanks"

Thematic Unit: Families

Kids love to talk about their families; of course they do! Families are the most important thing in our lives.  A family is the community in which all of us grow and thrive. I like to begin this unit with some great books about families. Here are some of my favorites, with my affiliate link.

All of these books help children understand the similarities and differences of family life. I love all three of these for different reasons, but I love, LOVE,  Families are Different because it talks about how all families are glued together with love.

I really like to send home this special homework piece that allows students to bring their family to school. Kids show these completed pages to the class (with giant smiles). After the page is shared, I hang the family sheets in the hallway for a time and then move the sheets to the students' portfolio. I am always amazed that on the days we look at portfolios, the family page is always the kid's favorite page. I have seen kids stop and rub the page. Others have given it kisses. Some even  give it a big hug!

 

 

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There are a lot of cute family songs. I have several original songs in my unit, one of them is called "My Family Tree." 

I have found that kids really enjoy learning the sign language for family. The site Signing Savvy at https://www.signingsavvy.com is a great way to teach your children those meaningful signs.

Another song that is a lot of fun is "We Are Family" by Elf Kids Video. It is fun to take this song and make new versions that match each students' family dynamics. 

 

 

This song, sung to the tune of Ten Little Indians is a great one.

The Family

Some have fathers, Some have mothers, some have sisters, some have brothers. In some houses, there are others. Every family is special.



Planning the Thematic Curriculum

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The activities for my thematic unit on the family (as with all of my thematic units) begins with a planning sheet, as planning is the most important part of teaching. As the purpose of themes is to link learning across the curriculum, I am careful to plan for all of its aspects.

This family unit includes all of the materials included on the planning sheet and provides space for additional materials that I have available.

I organize my classroom by setting up a kitchen in my playhouse for some good old-fashioned family meals. I am sure to add cookbooks, keys, telephones, cameras, and all sorts of play dishes and play food.

The block center is a great location for some family blocks such as these, with an affiliate link. You simply can't go wrong with Melissa and Doug!


Guided Reading

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One of my favorite guided readers is included with this unit. You can grab it for free right here. It is the perfect reader for the mid-kindergarten year. It features the sight words: I, like, the, am. It also uses familiar family words and is strategic about using picture clues as a strategy to read for meaning.

 


Literacy

This fun game called Family Vacation offers dozens of picture cards that are ready to teach segmenting to your students. A vacation back is provided to give cards a professional look.

This fun game called Family Vacation offers dozens of picture cards that are ready to teach segmenting to your students. A vacation back is provided to give cards a professional look.

Family Camping Trip is a game that allows students to practice their fluency with letter naming, naming of letter sounds, or naming sight words fluently. Choose the lesson that matches the needs of your students.

Family Camping Trip is a game that allows students to practice their fluency with letter naming, naming of letter sounds, or naming sight words fluently. Choose the lesson that matches the needs of your students.

The game Family Reunion allows students to practice rhyming words as they pack the basket for a picnic.

The game Family Reunion allows students to practice rhyming words as they pack the basket for a picnic.

The game Animal Families again deals with the fluency needed to become emergent readers. The games include materials and instruction for letter naming, naming letter sounds, and reading sight words.

The game Animal Families again deals with the fluency needed to become emergent readers. The games include materials and instruction for letter naming, naming letter sounds, and reading sight words.

Math 

The game Family Counting Tree gives students opportunity to practice beginning addition and subtraction skills in a fun way.

The game Family Counting Tree gives students opportunity to practice beginning addition and subtraction skills in a fun way.

While playing The Family Tree, students are asked to match quantity and numbers up to 20.

While playing The Family Tree, students are asked to match quantity and numbers up to 20.

Family Cookie Day gives students practice counting forward from any given number. Counting forward is an important step in learning to add.

Family Cookie Day gives students practice counting forward from any given number. Counting forward is an important step in learning to add.

Creating a classroom birth order chart allows students the change to sort, and classify data and then record that data in a graph form.

Creating a classroom birth order chart allows students the change to sort, and classify data and then record that data in a graph form.

Other Curriculum Areas

These other activities bring in the components of writing, social studies, and song.

These other activities bring in the components of writing, social studies, and song.


You can purchase the thematic unit The Family here at our Squarespace Store or at TPT.

 
 

Thematic Unit: Elves Featuring The Elves and The Shoemaker

One of my favorite tales to teach young children is the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker. It is a great way to sprinkle a little dust into the season if you are unable to talk about Christmas in your school, or as a juncture from storybook elves to North Pole elves if you are. There are many versions to purchase of this title, Here are a few of my favorites (with my Amazon affiliate link).

I like to get at least 3 copies of any book that we will be studying so that we are able to do a compare and contrast activity as we read. I also love to bring in the non-fiction aspect into all themes. This theme does not easily lend itself to nonfiction literature, but there are a few videos that show the work of a cobbler.

Kids love the non fiction connections. Especially when the connection brings in a science or social studies concept. 


The next thing I think about when teaching a theme is gathering some great songs! This song, which is included in our Elf unitm is one of my student's favorites! It is simple, yet so much fun to sing! Our unit contains a 5-day plan to incorporate the song into your classroom.

The song Cobbler Cobbler Mend My Shoe is also a lot of fun. My students love this version that uses the song Johnny's Hammer for the melody.  It is fun to act out using our hands, feet, and even head as a hammer. You can listen to that version here.

Kids also love the kinesthetic link of singing and dancing to this traditional Danish Dance called The Shoemaker's Dance.

This fun tune is also simple to sing at transitions, It is called "We are Elves." It is a great sing/song tune that can easily have more verses added by yourself and/or the students.

The classroom also provides opportunity to excite students to learn academic skills with some elf-style flair.

The playhouse is a great and easy place to set up learning experiences. I purchased a cheap, small tree and a few non breakable ornaments to allow for decorating and undecorating, then I made a few felt hats and aprons, found an old Santa costume, and added some kitchen tools, some play cakes, candies, cupcakes, and other play sweets. The kids LOVE this kitchen, and I LOVE to listen to the language that is developed as the students bake the elfish goodies.


The supportive material to use with all of my thematic units are organized on my planner sheets because I want to make sure the theme covers all aspects of the curriculum.

I make, laminate, and file each activity so that any prep is a one-time prep. After use, all items are carefully filed, ready to go year after year.

All of the activities are standards-based and have been used successfully with hundreds of kindergartners.

Here are a few examples of the many games and activities that are included in the unit.


Literacy 


The Elves and The Shoemaker Storytelling Activity.

The Elves and The Shoemaker Storytelling Activity.

The Little Elves Poetry Activity: 5 Day Plan

The Little Elves Poetry Activity: 5 Day Plan

A sample of the literacy lessons and worksheets that are included.

A sample of the literacy lessons and worksheets that are included.


Math 

A sample of the included math lessons and worksheets.

A sample of the included math lessons and worksheets.

Writing 

Materials included to get kids writing.

Materials included to get kids writing.

Guided Reading - Social Studies - Art

Guided Readers that kids love, easy to make art portfolio sample, songs to sing, and a visit to your classroom from the kindness elves.

Guided Readers that kids love, easy to make art portfolio sample, songs to sing, and a visit to your classroom from the kindness elves.

This project is included in our North Pole Theme. Kids love becoming elves. Template and instructions are included.

This project is included in our North Pole Theme. Kids love becoming elves. Template and instructions are included.

This reader's theater is a highlight to top off this fun unit.

This reader's theater is a highlight to top off this fun unit.


This unit is stuffed with academic learning, and always leaves the students begging for more! As with all of our products, they are available at Teachers Pay Teachers or here at our Squarespace Store.


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Using ESGI for Required Data Reporting

I know that schools all over the nation have different requirements for data keeping, student goal setting, and data reporting, luckily ESGI meets all of those needs!


 

Take Laura for example. She made great progress during Trimester One, she was able to set goals through the whole process. Now it is time to click on the Trimester Two tab and begin new testing.  As you can see, when I click on the Trimester 2 Tab, all of the Trimester 1 data carries forward.

Whew! Lucky me! A lot of Trimester 2 testing is already done! I can bring Laura forward and easily show her the pie charts that are hers alone. Kids LOVE the pie charts. It is easy to make a goal and see when it is accomplished. This easily fills the requirement set by many administrations of student goal-setting.


 

If you want more information to help with goal-setting or data recording, you can click on each skill to see the correct and incorrect answers. It even records the date the new skill was acquired! You can also do this for the entire class as a whole to compare known and unknown skills.

 


 

I can easily get more data by using the bar to the side of Laura's report. (Or for the whole class if I choose).

My kindergarten block needs detailed student information on certain skills. No problem! I will just make an excel report that will show the 4 skills that I am required to report.

 

 

After clicking the tab, "Class Totals Report," I will click on Download as Excel 2007 or greater, because that is what I have on my computer.

Next I will open that Excel document. This is what it looks like --- way more information than I need at this time. (But notice how it has all three testing periods I did on each of the skills, this comes in handy when I need to show student growth).

I will delete any cells that I don't need at this time. It's easy. You just delete the cells you don't need in your report by highlighting and pressing delete.

 

Now I have only the cells I need, I will insert new columns to the right of each score. I will then cut and paste the names of the students on the right of each score. *Be careful as you do this step to keep the right score with the right student. This step is very easy with a little practice. But it is a little tricky the first time. Now delete any other cells you don't need including the main name cells to the left.

Now it is time to sort the data. Go to the DATA tab. Look for the sort button on the left. It has and AZ with an arrow.

 
 

Highlight the two columns that you are going to sort. For example, first I will sort the letter naming skill. I will highlight the column of scores 38-29 and the column of names directly to the right. Two columns are now highlighted. I will then click on the sort button. I will do this for each skill.

To make things a little more clear, you can insert a blank column between skills.

I love to then color-code according to my benchmark scores of my school.

I am now ready for my meeting! I have the students listed according to their needs. I made the students with benchmark scores green, strategic instruction students yellow, and students in need of targeted instruction red. I can see their needs now at a glance!

This may look like a long process, but after a few times of practice, I can have the finished report in less that 5 minutes for any skills I desire.

I can also use these results for my center groupings!

ESGI is amazing! If you haven't yet signed up for your subscription, do it today! You can try it out free for 60 days! Sign up using promo code B7227 to save yourself $40 off your subscription.

Educating Children of Migrant Families

 
 

A while back, I had the opportunity to watch the PBS documentary, Class of '27. It is a beautiful documentary that details early educators working with children in unique circumstances and highlighting the importance of education in the lives of these children. I highly recommend watching the documentary, and I've linked to the video below. After watching the documentary I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Maria Mottaghian and Aimee Brown from the Oregon Child Development Coalition who were featured in the segment of the documentary called Fields of Promise. They generously shared their expertise in working with migrant families and children. I had some trouble with the audio, so I wrote out a full transcription of the interview--what they had to say was just that good! 

Lyndsey: Would you like to introduce yourselves first? I think that’s a good place to start.

Maria: Ok. Hi Lyndsey, my name is Maria Mottaghian and I’m the program director for Oregon Child Development Coalition here in the county of Multnomah. We’re located in Gresham, Oregon. And with me... I’ll let her introduce herself.

Aimee: Hi, my name is Aimee Brown. I am a preschool teacher with Oregon Child Development Coalition. I’ve been with this agency for about 5 years.

Lyndsey: I learned about you by watching you on the documentary about how you’re working with families there. It’s called Class of ’27, right?

Maria: That’s right. The particular segment that was done here in our location is the Fields of Promise; it’s based on the Latino migrant families. We had the pleasure of being selected. The program was filmed about 2 years ago and we had the documentary film maker meet us in California while we doing recruitment; letting the families know about our services, and then from there she let families know that we were interested in a family who was migrating here and would like to participate in the documentary. So it was all very exciting to us.

Lyndsey: It was and I’ve been sharing it with a lot of people because I was very moved by watching what you’re doing for these families and moved by the families themselves and what they want for themselves and for their children. It was very inspiring to me.

Maria: Yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons that many of us work here at Oregon Child Development Coalition because it gives us an opportunity to see the impact that Head Start has on children and their families. It’s awe inspiring.

Lyndsey: Can you talk a little bit about the background of the families that you’re working with there? 

Maria: Sure. I can tell you that the majority of the migrant families that are served by Oregon Child Development Coalition come to us from the central valley of California, which means that, for them, California is their home base. That’s where they live and work for all of the months, except for the three months that they’re with us. They come to Oregon to pick from a multitude of berry crops that we have and they come here during the months of June, July, and August. Our migrant program is a very high impact program and we’re serving children 6 weeks to 5 years of age. So it’s not uncommon for us to see the same children year after year. We bus the children for our program which operates from 5:30 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, 5 days a week, and the families live mostly in 3 of our labor camps that are located near the Center. The families themselves are primarily Latino. The families come from Mexico, the state of Oaxaca primarily, which means that they are an indigenous group of people born in Mexico, but Spanish is not their first language, they speak a dialect called Mixteco. So Mixteco is their first language, Spanish is their second, and many of them are learning English as a third language. And for the children, they are the first generation American.

Lyndsey: What’s that language called again?

Maria: It’s called Mixteco. 

Lyndsey: Okay. I’ve never heard of that. 

Maria: Yes. It sounds nothing like Spanish. It’s found in an indigenous group of people called Oaxacan and they are from the state of Oaxaca.

Lyndsey: Does anyone in your program speak that language?

Maria: Yes. We are very fortunate that we have staff who actually are able to speak that dialect, and they are a great asset to our program in that not only can they help us do the recruiting and talking to the families about our program, they can help us with enrollment and, of course, we utilize them in the classroom, so that the children can hear their first language as well.

Lyndsey: That’s really fortunate. That must be a real blessing to have.

Maria: It is! Many of the folks that we have here who speak Mixteco are former parents who have now been working for us as employees, and that’s just part of the spirit of Head Start in that we always encourage parents to consider working for us as employees themselves.

Lyndsey: Can you talk about some of the challenges that your students are facing that you think all teachers with migrant children should be aware of as they are working with them?

Aimee: Well sure. One of the things that we know is migrant families experience a unique lifestyle. They are seeing a lot of change as they move and so the children have the potential to teach them about flexibility and teach them about resilience, but we also know it can lead to a lot of stress. Sometimes our students come in and they’ve never left their parents before; they’ve never left their other family members before and this is their first time being separated from them and that’s pretty stressful for a child. On top of that, this is oftentimes their first experience in a school or in any kind of classroom setting, so they’re probably feeling pretty out of their element. For us, we know that relationship building with these students is particularly important, because they won’t be able to focus their learning on areas like math and literacy until they can feel safe and secure; like they know their teachers and they know the other children in the classroom. In our case, we are only seeing them for nine weeks. That’s a really short amount of time, and, like Maria said, it’s high impact. We’re trying to put a lot into those nine weeks. For teachers, it can feel like you haven’t really helped them or you aren’t even teaching, but we have the opportunity to see certain families, like Maria said, year after year they’re returning. We’re seeing the children grow from 6 weeks until they go to kindergarten and even after. So it’s a great feeling to look at a child and say, you know, they did learn something from me, because they remember that routine from last year, they remember how to sing a certain song that we sang or they’re more engaged in circle time than other kids who are coming in and are new. So we do see the impact and we know it is beneficial for them.

For us, we know that relationship building with these students is particularly important, because they won’t be able to focus their learning on areas like math and literacy until they can feel safe and secure; like they know their teachers and they know the other children in the classroom.

Lyndsey: That must be so nice, because I know in my experience when I had migrant students who would come in and be there for such a short time. I would feel, when they left, did I even make a difference for them? So it must be so nice that you get to see them every year and see the growth.

Maria: It is exciting! We are always very excited to see them when they come in the summer. We’re also very sad to see them go leave in August, but we always know that they might be returning to us the following year, and they do, and the children, of course, have grown, and some of them remember us and it’s a very unique experience working with these migrant families.

Lyndsey: Are there any barriers to the education of these children that we can help them overcome as we’re working with them in our classrooms?

Maria: Did you say children or families? I’m sorry.

Lyndsey: Well, both. What are the barriers that they’re facing that we can help them with?

Maria: Do you want to talk about the children Aimee and I’ll cover the parents?

Aimee: Sure. Well a lot of the time what we see, kind of with children, but it comes from their families too, is we know the families understand how important education is for their child. They know that. Sometimes though, the parents need a little bit of guidance on what they can do at home or how they can promote their child’s learning at home and that’s where we can really help them. We are trying to give the children ideas of what kind of opportunities education can open up for them: what kind of careers, or different paths in life, they can look for that education can help them succeed in. So when we find a child who particularly excels in an area, or has a particular interest, a strong interest, in an area, we’re trying to promote that in the classroom, while sharing it with the parents at home, maybe giving them ideas on activities they can do at home that would help the child focus in on what they might naturally be gifted at.

Well a lot of the time what we see, kind of with children, but it comes from their families too, is we know the families understand how important education is for their child. They know that. Sometimes though, the parents need a little bit of guidance on what they can do at home or how they can promote their child’s learning at home and that’s where we can really help them.

Maria: Yeah. Many times for us here in the summer program we see that the families have very little resources out in the farm labor camp where they live. Theres no books. Theres no paper. Theres no crayons or pencils. There no playground for these children, and so the teachers use all these resources that we have here available here at the center, and I think Aimee can probably talk about some of the things that when the teachers go out on home visits they take these things to the families so that they can do activities with the children.

Aimee: Yeah. We’ve taken before, of course, writing utensils and paper, like Maria mentioned. I’ve taken goal charts for children and explained to a parent how that works: if you’re trying to motivate your child to do something. We kind of demonstrate, you know, giving them a sticker (or something like that) and then at the end they get a reward. Kind of like a reward system. A lot of times that’s the kind of guidance parents are looking for. We definitely take them books. We take small games that they can play together. We’re teaching the kids who are going to kindergarten how to so tic tac toe; little recreational things that we can do that are going to help them pass time recreationally with their parents.

Maria: At the end of the summer we usually have a celebration. It’s our way of saying, “Come and join us for a party, where we’re going to thank you for letting us have your children for the summer and we wish you well as you travel back to California.” And we get a very good response during that time. We also have people from the community. For example, the library comes and they give books out to the kids, and the children and the parents are so happy to receive those free books, and I can give you a story if there’s time, about one of our teachers going out to a home visit and when she got there she went into the room where the mother and the child slept, and there on the bed was the mother (who couldn’t read and write) and there was her preschool child reading the book to the mother, and that one little book that the library gave to that child made such a difference. That’s a beautiful interaction between parent and child and that’s what we try to promote here at OCDC.

[T]he library comes and they give books out to the kids, and the children and the parents are so happy to receive those free books, and I can give you a story if there’s time, about one of our teachers going out to a home visit and when she got there she went into the room where the mother and the child slept, and there on the bed was the mother (who couldn’t read and write) and there was her preschool child reading the book to the mother, and that one little book that the library gave to that child made such a difference.

Lyndsey: That’s beautiful. You’re making me cry Maria, don’t do that!

Maria: I think you’re probably feeling some of the things we feel throughout the summer. When we talk about education and migrant families, being a migrant child myself, and I’ve now been in Head Start for over 40 years, I can tell you that there’s been the misconception that migrant families don’t care about the education of their children because many families in the past were forced to take their children out of school in order to travel to another state or another area to work in the fields, and so teachers were always very disappointed to see the children being taken out school, and so they thought, “Well, these parents don’t care about education”. We know, from our own experience, that parents truly, from the heart, do care about education for their children. I think that was evidenced in the segment Field of Promise when you saw the mother, when she came to tears was when she was talking about what she wanted for the children--when the father said how important it was for his children to be educated. He has a 4th grade education. Mom has a 1st grade education. That’s not what they want for their kids. That’s one of the reasons they’ve come to this country, is because of the opportunities that are available to their children, and that they know that the only way those children are going to get out of the fields is through that education. Iris is probably going to go to college, and I can’t tell you how proud that is going to make her parents.

We know, from our own experience, that parents truly, from the heart, do care about education for their children. I think that was evidenced in the segment Field of Promise when you saw the mother, when she came to tears was when she was talking about what she wanted for the children—when the father said how important it was for his children to be educated. He has a 4th grade education. Mom has a 1st grade education. That’s not what they want for their kids.

Lyndsey: I agree. I felt a lot of love from the families as I was watching the program. I felt so much love from them, and so much pride for their children and their families. It was really moving.

Maria: And the children are so proud of their parents. Iris, who also has a child who’s been our program. Iris--we were able to see the making of the documentary, so there were a lot of things that were filmed didn’t go into the actually documentary--but Iris was talking about her parents and she said that her parents are her heroes, they are her role models, because she realizes the sacrifices that her parents have made so that she can now go to Fresno State, and so I think that’s a beautiful thing that you can hear children talk about how much they admire their parents. That tells you that those parents have given a lot to their children.

Lyndsey: They have. As we are educating these kids, if we are outside of their culture, or we don’t understand their culture, is there anything that you could share that could help us connect better or make more room for the culture in our classrooms?

Maria: Well, I can only tell you what we do here at OCDC. We believe that our environment must reflect the culture of every family that comes into this building, and by doing so you are telling the parents: we value you; we welcome you; we respect you. And that is what makes parents feel comfortable coming back again and again to our facility. We have people here who speak, not only Mixteco, but Spanish and English. So there’s always someone here who can attend to the parents needs. So that would be number 1: setting up an environment that makes the children and the parents and the staff feel comfortable. It’s about quality of environment. The other thing that we highly promote and that is that teachers, family advocates, anyone who needs to make a connection with the family do a home visit. We feel that home visits are a way to connect with families, to check out the environment in which that family is living, and to better understand some of the obstacles, barriers, and the successes that are going on in the home, and Aimee, I know you’ve gone on plenty of home visits, you wanna talk about one?

Aimee: As someone who, unlike Maria, doesn’t have a background from a migrant family, I didn’t work with migrant families before coming to OCDC, the home visits are enlightening, and I would say crucial, to anyone who is unfamiliar with the background of a family. As educators, it’s really important to go and see how the families are living. You get a real sense of what they need; of where their resources need to go. It becomes clear where they need support. You’re gonna see if a child needs help because they’re potty training. If a child needs help with any type of goal. That’s going to become clear how they might be bringing their circumstances in at home or in their environment into the classroom. It’s going to help you connect to the family, and at the same time, know where the child’s coming from, and what kind of experiences they’re bringing to you every day.

Maria: I think it also promotes empathy. I think there’s nothing like finding out what a farm labor camp actually looks like. Many of our teachers have never been out to one, so the first time they go out there they find out that our families are living in extremely tight quarters, they may be sharing living space with other families that they don’t even know. There may be communal kitchens that they have to share. The sanitation facilities might not be the best. In some cases there’s a spigot for running water for drinking and washing hands. They’re not always the best conditions, and also, because it does get hot here in Oregon we find that our families are living in stifling environments where there’s no proper ventilation--certainly no air conditioning. I can tell you one summer we went out and did a home visit and we were wondering, why are the children so tired when they’re coming to school every day and the families also looked very tired. So when the parents showed us the rooms that they were sleeping in, these were rooms that had no windows, there was no way for them to sleep comfortably at night so the children were waking up crying, parents were not sleeping well either, so that was an opportunity for us. We went out and we got some fans, we brought them the fans and it made a huge difference for those families. We lent them to them. At the end of the summer they returned them to us. They were very grateful, but had we not gone out to the camp to see the environment, we may not have known about that need. And by being in their own environment the families felt comfortable in talking to us and explaining to us. So, again, I think that home visits are invaluable and sometimes you don’t even have to speak the language of the family. It’s the smiling face, the kind face, it’s the body language that can covey a lot. It’s what we call in Spanish, well, I call it “breaking bread”: it’s where you sit down with the family and get to know them. And I can tell you, you will never go to a Latino home without them offering you a cup of coffee, a piece of bread, something. And it is through those conversations that the parents will feel comfortable with you and you [will feel comfortable] with the family because, keeping in mind, school, for many of our parents, it’s an institution. It’s not the most comfortable place to go. If we can be in the environment that is comfortable and relaxing to them, then we are making them feel respected and cared for.

It’s what we call in Spanish, well, I call it “breaking bread”: it’s where you sit down with the family and get to know them... And it is through those conversations that the parents will feel comfortable with you and you [will feel comfortable] with the family because, keeping in mind, school, for many of our parents, it’s an institution. It’s not the most comfortable place to go. If we can be in the environment that is comfortable and relaxing to them, then we are making them feel respected and cared for.

Lyndsey: I am so moved by everything you’re saying Maria.

Maria: Thank you, you know, we talked about home visits, I think the other thing that I want to encourage is parent engagement. We are always proponents of asking parents to be participants in our program. We invite parents to come and volunteer if they have a day off. We invite parents to sit in on our trainings, on our committees: to be an active part of their child’s school. We promote the belief that they are their child’s first teacher. The home is the child’s first school and that together, working with them, we can make the life of the child that much better. So, again, it’s that parent engagement. You have to draw them in. What is it that’s going to bring them into the school so that they can be an active part of their child’s school?

Aimee: And I would say for educators, all of that (parent engagement, home visits) it helps the educator from their side, looking at it from a parent’s point of view, from a parent’s perspective, because it does make it easier to see that they do care about their child’s education, when you’re going out to the homes and they’re engaging with you in a home visit and they’re asking questions you see how involved they want to be. They might not always be able to be at every training or every meeting that we have at the center, but they are definitely engaged in what their child is learning

Maria: And the parents, when we invite them to parent meetings in the evening, they’ve been working the field. They’ve gotten up at 4:00 in the morning and they don’t get back from the fields until, maybe, 5:30. We have parent meetings as 6:00 and we have parents that walk in, they haven’t had an opportunity to even go home and change, their hands are covered in stains from all of the berries that they’ve picked that day, and yet there they are sitting in a meeting, or a training or, whatever the event may be, with us for those 2 hours, knowing that they’ve got to get home and get everything ready for the next day, because the next day starts again at 4:00. So, to me, again, it’s inspiring, to see the commitment that these families have and they also come to our meetings to express their appreciation. They are very appreciative of the services that we provide, and, of course, that makes us all feel so good. 

Lyndsey: Do you have any other suggestions for educators, Aimee?

Aimee: Well, I think that the great thing about what we are able to do here at OCDC, in our position, is that we’re able to work both with the students in the classroom and with the family in their home. We’re able to provide a safe and inviting learning environment and, at the same time, share our resources with the families, whatever their needs may be. In the classroom, particularly, we focus on building social/emotional skills, which are so critical. On top of that we’re also looking at school readiness goals, for a lot of the kids who are entering kindergarten, certainly, in preschool. We recognize the importance of preparing these kids to be engaged in the classroom; to be learning next to their peers. Simple things like that that are really going to help them when they go to kindergarten. A large part of that is making sure that they are ready to communicate in English, that they’re ready to receive and express themselves in English. It’s kind of this line that we walk, and we don’t want them to loose their first language, be it Mixteco or Spanish, but, at the same time, they need to be prepared for public school so we’re doing both at the same time--a duel learning environment. Outside of the classroom we’re helping families, like we talked about before. The families are learning themselves how to promote their child’s education at home. We’re taking them activities that their child enjoys to share with the family so they can do it at home together and also taking tools that we can give to the families, demonstrating with the family how to use them to work on a particular goal that their child might need to accomplish that would help them in school. Things like course writing materials, and showing them how to practice writing their name, things like that, because, like we said before, we know the families know the importance of their child’s education, but sometimes they’re unfamiliar with what they can do as parents to help, so we want to help them feel comfortable working with their child at home. We know that this kind of support that we provide is not just preschool, this starts a lot earlier than 5 or 6 when a child is entering public school. We’re starting with 6 week olds who’ve never left mom’s side before, helping them learn how to be cared for by a different adult, which is a skill in flexibility. Our early Head Start teachers have such a tough job an such an important job so that parents can work and they know their children are safe coming to a caring environment.

Lyndsey: You are bilingual, right Aimee?

Aimee: Yes. I’m told to say yes.

Maria: Yes you are. She is. She speaks Spanish very well.

Lyndsey: Do you have any suggestions for teachers who are not bilingual but they have multilingual students in their classrooms?

Aimee: I know from experience that you can work on conversation skills without necessarily speaking the language of the student. If you have a good relationship, if you’re playing alongside, you’re building a relationship. Conversation skills are more than just the words you’re using. It’s about a back and forth exchange. It’s about waiting your turn to express something, so that doesn’t always have to be in the same language. Just making eye contact, going back and forth, or passing things, those are all the first skills that a child learns before they learn, necessarily, an actual conversation. So I would say just try. The important thing is that you are building relationships with a child, playing together, experiencing something you both enjoy, having fun together, and the child will build the relationship with you. That would be my suggestion.

Maria: I think that applies to parents as well. I think that reaching out to parents, again, like Aimee was saying, it’s the tone of voice, the facial expression, just that reaching out.  Many of our parents may not speak English very well, but they try and I think that that’s how communication comes about between a monolingual English speaker and a monolingual Spanish speaker. We also try to ensure here that we find out from a parent what is the best way to communicate with them. Is is via written messages? Is it by the phone? Is it email? Is it texting? Is it face to face? We also find out what is the first language of that child, because just because the family is speaking to us Spanish doesn’t mean that the child is going to speak Spanish, maybe they’re only practicing English with them at home or maybe they’re only speaking Mixteco. So I think as educators we always need to ask families “what’s the best way for us to communicate with you?” in order to be successful. 

Lyndsey: Do you have any other ideas, Maria, on how we can improve our connection between the school and the home that we haven’t mentioned already.

Maria: I certainly think that films like Fields of Promise help a lot for people who have never been around migrant workers, never seen what a migrant family goes through each summer. I think the more that we can tell educators about the different families that are out there, the better that they will understand and reach out to families. I believe as educators we want to do the very best by the children and by the families, but sometimes we just don’t know. So if one doesn’t know, ask. There’s always somebody out there that can tell you a story about a migrant family and about those experiences that will help an educator to better understand an walk in the path of those families. 

I think the more that we can tell educators about the different families that are out there, the better that they will understand and reach out to families. I believe as educators we want to do the very best by the children and by the families, but sometimes we just don’t know. So if one doesn’t know, ask.

Lyndsey: Thank you both so much for sharing! Like I said, I was really moved by the documentary and what you are doing and the families that you’re working with and thank you for sharing your expertise so that we can improve education for these kids everywhere they’re at.

Maria: It’s been our pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to know more about OCDC here in Multnomah County. It’s a pleasure to talk to you. If there’s ever anyone out there that’s listening that wants to know more about our program all they need to do is reach out to OCDC.net and someone will be there to answer any questions they might have about our services.

Lyndsey: Thank you so much. That’s going to be a great resource for people.

Aimee: Thank you Lyndsey.

We want to help you make connections with families and provide them resources for positive educational interactions as families. That's why we've made monthly homework packets that are comprised of learning games that families can complete and play together in both English and Spanish. You can look at each packet individually, or get the complete collection here:

 
 

Ten Early Learning Games to Build Fluency

Practice early learning skills and have kids begging for more! My students can't get enough of these fast-paced, fun games.

This set of ten fun, fast-paced learning games features five early learning skills that are strategically linked to Common Core Standards.

A special algorithm allows for a match to be made every time!

Contents include:

 

Dinosaur Alphabet Match Up: Matching and identifying lowercase letters.

Circus Time: Matching and identifying uppercase letters.

Yee-Haw Sight Word Match: Matching and identifying sight words. (The words in this set correlates with the Wonders Reading Program.

Pool Party Match Up: Matching and identifying sight words. 

Garden Party Sight Words: Matching and identifying sight words. 

2D Shape Match Up: Matching and identifying 2-D shapes. 

3-D Match Up: Matching and identifying 3-D shapes.

Number Match Up Level 1: Matching and identifying numbers.

Number Match Up Level 2: Matching and identifying numbers.

Lil’ Artist:  Matching and naming colors.


Available here at our TPT Store.

Or purchase it directly from our Squarespace Store by clicking add to cart below.

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The Virtue of Gratitude and Young Children

Winterfell.jpg

Teaching young children the art of gratitude can be difficult, especially when children are naturally egocentric, but nurturing this character trait will certainly pay off.

According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, genuine gratitude is the key to living a happy and fulfilling life. Dr. Emmons has found through his studies that practicing gratitude can increase happiness level by around 25%. He also mentions that gratitude increases creativity and productivity.

I love the simple song from my childhood,  "I think the World is Glorious." Each time I am feeling down or a little less grateful, I sing this little song over in my brain as a reminder of gratitude. 

Because teaching young children the virtue of gratitude is so important, I would like to share a few tips to build a greater sense of gratitude in not only our own hearts, but in the hearts of children in our lives. 


Model Gratitude

Openly voice appreciation for the world and those who truly make it a better place. Use words of gratitude to increase appreciative vocabulary. Call attention to the kindness of others and show respect for efforts by using words like "please" and "thank you" in front of your children. Express gratitude for the child and how he/she make your life better.

Show Appreciation

Display genuine appreciation for a child’s efforts for assigned tasks. Never jump in and help them, but rather appreciate their abilities as you let them experience that tasks take effort. As this effort is experienced, appreciation for the efforts of others will evolve.

Be Patient

Allow your child to evolve the virtue of gratitude naturally. Reinforce constantly, and compliment each step along the way. Understand that children's egocentricity is common and natural, and that learning to be grateful is a process.

Create Opportunities

Allow opportunity for children to be generous. Create “Secret Helpers” in the classroom or home. Help your child/children to do small tasks for others in secret, to allow for the experience of watching the joy felt by others.

Don't Focus On Possessions

Remove material things from the gratitude equation. In the days of affordable toys, children generally have many possession they gained without any effort. I would call this lucky. “Wow, aren't you lucky to have such great toys?” But once you tag the need to be grateful for these toys to the equation, the child will not be able to truly discern what grateful is, as most toys are gained without effort. Rather, focus on the gratefulness of food, family, love, caring, fun, time, events, field trips, excursions, and other gifts of a non-material nature. Also focus on things of nature such as moisture, sunshine, day, night, stars, etc.

Document Gratitude

Create a classroom or family grateful journal. Assign a different family member or class member to record something he/she appreciates. Read the journal as a group once each week, reflecting on each new entry.


One of my favorite teacher spots is Wondergrovekids.org. Check out the free videos on the topics of thankfulness.

Developing Fine Motor Skills Through Play

The hand is our most important tool. We use our hands in almost every activity we engage in throughout the day, therefore, hand muscle development, or fine motor development, is crucial to the school success of young children. 

Fine motor skills are developed as children use their hands to interact with the environment. In the past, children were strengthening hand, wrist, and arm muscles as part of the family chores that were necessary to survival, during hours of endless play in the outdoors, or by playing with tangible building toys. But in today’s technological world,  the development of those important muscles can be missed.

Do you have students that have under-developed fine motor skills? I do to! Here are some of my favorite activities that help children develop those important muscles in a playful way:

  • Play games that use upper body strength like crabwalking, catterpillar walking, and the old-time wheelbarrow race game (where one child walks on her hands while another child holds her legs).
  • Ask children to use large sidewalk chalk to draw on uneven surfaces with the arm fully extended.
  • Add sponges to a sensory or water table and let kids squeeze. Provide small containers to collect the water. Add some eye droppers and small tubes to add to the intracaticity of the activity.
  • Provide students large brushes and have them paint alphabet letters, numbers, etc with water. Or, to changeup the fun, make a mixture of cornstarch and water colored with food coloring. Have students create sidewalk art using their large brushes. Brushes naturally encourage the use of large arm muscles. 
  • Encourage students to play on the climbing toys on your playground. Have you noticed that your children who are struggling with fine motor skills are also the ones that lack the upper arm strength to climb? For students to become good at penmanship, not only the fingers need to be developed,  but the entire hand, wrist, and arm.
  • Create simple games where children are required to pinch and open a clothespin. This makes the thumb and pencil-grip fingers work in a strengthening way. 
  • Another outdoor art-based activity is to allow students opportunity to create art using spray bottles with a small amount of food coloring added. Squeezing the spray bottles repeatedly builds hand muscles.
  • Play a game of target practice. Provide a target and have students scrunch a small sheet of newspaper and throw toward a flat target. Make a target with anything you are studying, numbers, letters, etc.

With a little bit of thoughtfulness and creativity, we can integrate fine motor strengthening activities into our daily lessons on literacy and mathematics, increasing our student's ability to be successful in their academic career, as well as increasing their fun!


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For more ideas on how to develop fine and gross motor skills, listen to our podcast interview with Megan MacDonald Ph.D here:

 
 

Building Fluency in Young Children

Fluency is a skill that can be and should be taught. In 1997, The National Reading Panel which included guru Marilyn Jagar Adams stated, “... [F]luency is the ability to recognize words easily with greater speed, accuracy and expression...children gain fluency by practicing.

Letter Fluency Probe

Letter Fluency Probe

Adapted Fluency Probe

Adapted Fluency Probe

And practice we must because all tests such as AIMS Web, Dibels, and the like require fluency to measure outcome whether we agree with the philosophy or not. Fluency is here to stay.

Fluency can be taught using games, activities and fluency probes. The most important part of teaching fluency is to remove fluency from a skill that is yet to be mastered at the knowledge level. Or to include the practice in a safe game-play activity. My kids love naming a strip of random letters for the chance to put a sword in the "Pop Up Pirate!" I simply help them with unknown letters to help them get a feel for naming letters quickly.

When practicing the "official" fluency probe I would adjust as needed. Joey knows only the letters A z O w X x and Y. So to help Joey become fluent, I would certainly not present him with the entire fluency probe as pictured, I would create a probe with the letters he knows (add both upper and lowercase versions if they are the same such as Xx and Oo). Once Joey tastes the success of fluency, he will become faster and faster and happier and happier. As with any other skill, teaching at the zone of proximal development is key to success. I would then move to a two-line probe adding letters that are not yet known by Joey; increasing as his letter knowledge increases.

Another way to increase Joey’s fluency is to add additional fluency activities such as lining up toys or other common objects and naming them quickly. Fluency probes with colors and other common objects also build fluency, confidence, and success.


Take the Stress Away From Fluency To Build Fluency


If you have a student that is struggling with fluency, try developing his/her fluency separately from the reading task (remember that fluency is a task in its own right). Practice fluency with a fluency probe that you are confident he or she can be fluent at. Let him or her feel success. 

Another issue to remember is fluency is not speed. Have you ever heard a student read so fast that you can’t even understand him, and then worse yet, he can’t recall what he has just read? A great way to help students understand the difference between fluent reading and super-speed garble is to tape the student reading. Let him listen to the difference between fluent reading and speedy garble. 

If you are interested, here are  two 1 minute fluency probes you might wish to try to help your students on the way to automaticity.


Many of our thematic units include fluency building games! If you are planning on an around the world Christmas theme, you will love the game Gathering Poinsettias. All of our products are available here at our Squarespace Store or At Teachers Pay Teachers. 

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A Free Election Theme Game

Enjoy this free game, Race to the Capital! To play, students will read alphabet letter sounds as a precursor to decoding words. And for kiddos who are ready, they can use this for decoding practice.

Happy Election Day! May the results go your way!


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Or Get it here at our TPT Store

Or Get it here at our TPT Store

Growth Mindset for Young Children

It is so important for our students to have a growth mindset in order to accomplish their learning goals! We've put together a packet of activities that you can use all year long in order to encourage children to learn that they can be successful and that learning depends on hard work and persistence. The packet is available here or at Teachers Pay Teachers.

 
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Want to know more about teaching growth mindset all year long? Listen to our podcast interview with Annie Brock and Heather Hundley discussing their book The Growth Mindset Coach! This is a great book that is full of tips, suggestions, ideas, and research that will help you build a classroom of fearless learners!

Thanksgiving Activities to Get Your Kids Writing!

You will love this way to get kids writing!! You can use these as a permanent writing center, as worksheets, as literacy centers, or more... We offer this writing product in many themes!

 

Writing Activities Included in this set:

Can Have Are Labels & Worksheets

Thanksgiving Write a Story Task Card

Write a Story Worksheets

Label-It Task Card

Label-It Student Worksheets

Make a List Task Card

Make a List Student Worksheet

Make a List Word Wall

Write The Room Task Card- Sight Words

Write the Room Word Cards

Write the Room Task Card- Alphabet

Write the Room Word Cards

Write the Room Worksheets

Backwards Words Task Card

Backwards Words Worksheets

Backwards Word Word Cards

QR Words/Letters Task Card

QR Words/Letters Worksheets

QR Sight Words

QR Alphabet Letters


Get our Products here or at our TPT Store.

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Other Thanksgiving Products:

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Teaching Kindergartners to Blend the Play Way

The systematic teaching of all phonological awareness skills is imperative to ensure a students’ future reading success. Daily, intentional instruction of, and more importantly, the “playing with" individual sounds in a meaningful way will build cognitive clarity as students experience how sounds work together to form words.

A child’s future reading success is directly linked to his/her understanding of phonological awareness skills. Consequently, daily intentional, strategic teaching of those skills must exist in the kindergarten classroom. The best way to teach these skills? Well the play way of course!

The last few weeks I have been practicing the art of blending sounds together to make words. (A crucial precurser to decoding). After a few mini-lessons on the skill, I bring out the blending magic bullet, a basketball. Yes, a ball adds that touch of kinesthetic action that actually allows not only a visual to auditory blending, but adds the rhythm as well. Try out this game, you will love it!


Bounce the Blends

Common Core Objective RF.K.2. Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).

Materials: Gather a small basketball or playground ball (I have a jack-o-lantern ball that is perfect for a halloween theme).

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Today we are going to make words by blending sounds together. On your turn, I will bounce three sounds like this (model as you say the sounds, bouncing once for each sound) /b/ /a/ /t/.

What is that word? (Assist as necessary. If student is struggling try the word as an onset-rime /b/ /at/ (two bounces). If he still struggles move to /ba/ /t/ (two bounces). Slowly pull away from these methods after time until student can hear the three distinct sounds).

When the child responds bat, throw the ball to him and then have him toss it back.  Repeat again with a new word (and new student) continuing as time allows.

*Note. When students conquer the skill of blending use this same game in a reverse manner. Have student draw a picture card and then bounce once for each sound in the word, then say the whole word as they toss the ball to the teacher.

--Check out our online store by clicking "Shop" for a huge variety of kindergarten activities that keep PLAY in kindergarten. And, yes we are available on

If you want to learn more about teaching phonemic awareness skills to young children, check out our podcast on the topic. 


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Stomp Rockets

My grandkids love Stomp Rockets! They are great for teaching STEM skills, such as cause and effect and trial and error, and very fun! In order to launch the rocket, kids jump on the plastic box, forcing air through the blue tube, and launching the rocket into the sky. There is a stand that comes with the rocket, but it's not very sturdy. Fortunately, the kids enjoy holding the rocket while they launch it (unfortunately, that makes it easier to point the rockets at each other).

If you want a fun science activity for your students, I highly recommend Stomp Rockets!

*Stomp Rockets sent me one to review, and guess what? We already owned some. They are just that great!

Beautiful Bones!

It is time once again to put out those bones at the science center! 

To get my students ready for our study of the human skeleton, we will sing the song, The Skeleton Inside of You. This great song by Joan Sowards is offered free for classroom use here.

This song gets everyone excited, especially at Halloween time. "What?" "We're a skeleton?"

*Follow this great song with this simple science-based lesson.


Amazing Bones!

Objectives: Children will learn about bones and the skeleton.

Materials: Skeleton model (you can usually find full size paper or plastic skeletons at any discount store), X-Rays (really, hospitals or vet offices will give you some, or you can purchase at stores such as Lakeshore), Sheets of paper, paper plate, counters, animal bones (including one that is broken). *Bones can be purchased from any butcher. In fact, they usually give them to your for free.

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I see (number of children) skeletons. (I like to pause with dramatic effect). Guess what! You are the skeletons that I see.

Bones and muscles give our body its shape. Did you know that we have more than 200 bones inside our very own body? The whole set of bones in our body is called a skeleton.

(Show students a real bone). Bones are hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Bones protect the inside of our bodies, the skull protects the brain, and the ribcage protects the heart and other organs. Drinking milk makes our bones strong. Can you feel your bones under your skin? Instruct the children to feel their hand, arm, and rib bones.

Show the children a basket of X-Rays. An X-Ray is a picture of the inside of a persons body. Hold up each X-Ray, one at a time, against the white board. Instruct the children to compare the X-Ray to the skeleton model. Where is the bone shown in the X-Ray on your body?

Show the children the basket of real animal bones. Look at this broken bone! Point out that the bone is porous and hollow.

Roll up a sheet of paper about one inch wide into a cylinder, then place a paper plate on top of the hollow “bone”. Ask a child to add bear counters to the plate one at a time as they are counted. Let's count how many bears the plate can hold before it collapses the “bone”.

Roll up another sheet of paper as tightly as you can so that there is no hollow section. Stand up this “bone” on the table before placing the same plate on top. Add bear counters to the plate until the “bone” collapses. Ask the children Which bone was able to hold more weight? The hollow center gave the bone a better design and made it stronger. The large bones in our body are also hollow, which makes them strong so they can support more weight, but also light and easy to move.

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Follow Up With Skeleton-Themed Academic Learning

After this lesson, I follow up throughout the week with many great activities that are science, literacy, math, music, and writing based. (See the unit description below for activity specifics).


Also, my skeleton unit wouldn't be the same without a few great videos.


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Enjoy this free original song. Kids LOVE it!

Enjoy this free original song. Kids LOVE it!

Also available at TPT

Activities include:

Literacy Activities:

Bones is His Name: Metacognition

Six Swinging Skeletons: Naming and Generating Beginning Sounds

Skeleton Town: Uppercase Alphabetical Order

Skeleton Dance: Matching Letters

Black & White Party: Opposites

Skeleton March: Graphophonemic knowledge

Math Activities:

Skeleton Match-Up: Matching Quantity With Numbers

The Bone Yard: Counting Backwards

Skeleton Squeeze: Greater & Less Than

Collecting Bones: Counting & Cardinality

Skeleton Family: Writing Numbers

Songs

The Skeleton March

The Ghost of John

Art Projects

Skeleton Construct

Science

Q-Tip Skeletons: Following directions to make a skeleton.

The Human Skeleton: Magnet Skeletons

Guided Reading Books

Skeleton

The Skeleton

Writing Prompts

What I Know About Skeletons

Skeleton Word Wall Words

Label-It Skeleton

Halloween Themed Learning & FREE Halloween Songs

I love the simple Halloween songs of my childhood! I have continually shared these songs with my kindergartners year after year; always with the same reactions -- Kids love them. Following are the jpgs that you need to print as posters, and the mp3 you will need to sing the tunes with your classroom. These songs and more are part of our Halloween Thematic Unit. This unit also includes the piano scores.

 All of our thematic units contain activities that provide strategic academic teaching in a play way, reaching all areas of the curriculum. And now is a great time to try one of our units out! If you enter the promo code HALLOWEEN at checkout, you will save 50% off the product "Halloween Spooky Fun." The unit will be yours for only $4, now through October 31st.


Here are some of our great themed products that are great to use at the Halloween time of the year. Click to read the full descriptions of the products. All products are also available at our TPT Store.

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Communicating With Parents

When it comes to communicating with parents and engaging families, I have yet to find anything as easy to use and all inclusive as Kyambu. Here are a few things that Kaymbu will do for you and your classroom. Classrooms of any grade level!


Using Kaymbu in Your Classroom

Kaymbu is a wonderful tool to build positive relationships with families. By publishing moments and inviting families to be a part of the big and little moments at school, all families can become more engaged with the classroom and with their child's life at school. These strong relationships and trust between home and school are what allow teachers to not only better serve their students, but also tackle those difficult conversations that sometimes need to happen.  Kaymbu is a proactive rather than a reactive form of communication!


  • Messages (Photo/Video/Text) - One of my favorite features of Kaymbu is the "Message Archive" that logs every single thing I send (text, photos, or videos) connected with each parent sent the content. It's such an easy way to track things, and I can see immediately when messages are opened! And best yet, the parents are allowed to receive these messages and/or photos via text or email. So rather than feeling like my messages and/or newsletters are getting lost in the universe, with Kaymbu I can see if the message has been opened once, twice, or however many times! On average, messages sent through Kaymbu have between a 200-300% open rate (because Dad might forward to Grandma or something like that).
  • Parent Connections -I can't tell you how much feedback I get from parents or family members that getting pictures and videos of their child from school, real time, adds a brightness to their day. The parents feel better connected with the classroom.
  • User Friendly -Since Kaymbu knows teachers have millions of tasks and responsibilities on their plate, they have made it a top priority to design an app that is easy to understand and implement in the classroom. Simply put, Kaymbu is user friendly! In fact, many times I have my own 5 year old students take many of the photographs for me! After snapping the photo, I can simply click on the name of the student(s) that you wish to send the photo to and press publish (or push delete if the photo is not a great one).
  • Portfolio Building - Kaymbu makes parent/teacher conferences, teacher/administrator meetings, and portfolio building of all kinds a quick and painless process! Since schools and teachers can create customizable tags (based on events, their state's learning standards, etc) to document learning strategies, objectives, and individual students, locating saved work is easy to do.
  • Storyboards - This is another great built-in feature that I can utilize to create beautiful resources for newsletters, emails, or I can even print them out to display on bulletin boards.

Did you know that you can visit www.kaymbu.com and sign up for a free 30 day trial? Try it out, you will love it. 

(*I have been given a free year of Kaymbu in return for this posting, but honestly I LOVE this product. It has changed for the better my communication with parents).

Make a Spiderweb Sensory Tunnel

Here's a fun activity for you, via my grandkids. Grab a large cardboard box and have your kids or students decorate the outside of it with pictures of spiders. Then glue or tape to the inside roof of the tunnel as many black threads as you have patience for. In a darkened room, the black threads will be difficult to see, and it will feel like crawling through a spiderweb infested tunnel to the little ones that dare to crawl inside!


And for more spidery fun...

 
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Firemen and other Community Helpers

October is Fire Prevention Month! Whether you visit a fire station, have firemen come to your school, or show a video about fire safety, make sure you address these simple points with your students: 

  1. Don’t play with matches or fire. 
  2. Stop, drop, and roll. 
  3. Crawl under the smoke.
  4. Feel the door before opening it. If it’s hot, don’t open it. 
  5. Don’t hide from the firemen.
  6. Go outside quickly if there is a fire.
  7. Have a meeting place outside.
  8. Stay out. Don’t go back into a burning building.
  9. Learn your address and phone number.
  10. Dial 9-1-1 only if there is an emergency.

Although I visit the firestation in October, I personally like to do my community helper thematic unit in March. No matter the month, be sure to bring the community into your classroom. Kids love learning more about their great community and those who serve.


Thematic Unit


Are you looking for a "Developmentally Appropriate Thematic Unit" that is also academically challenging and linked to the Common Core Standards?

This unit, "Fireman and Other Community Helpers" reaches across the curriculum to meet your classroom needs! It is divided into areas of literature/media, music, art, literacy, math and science activities, creative writing, word wall, and guided reading. 

The activities are clearly written, easy to use, and need limited amounts of preparation. "Ding Ding, Let the Firemen in!"

Contents Include

Literacy Activities:

ABC Firemen: Letter Identification

Race Up the Ladder: Identifying Syllables

Help The Helpers: Beginning Sounds

Fireman Fluency Flash: Beginning Fluency

Math Activities:

Fireman Number Race: Matching Numerals to Quantity 1-6

Cop Patrol: Identifying, Creating & Extending Patterns

The Fire Station: Five Frames

Fire Truck 1-10: Ordering Numbers

Worksheets

The Fireman Race

Around the Town

Fireman Portfolio Page

Art Projects

Construct a Fire truck

Construct a Fireman

Fire Safety Arm Band

Policeman/Fireman Hat

Draw a Fireman

Writing Prompts/Word Wall

Word Wall Words

All About Fireman

What Might I be?

Guided Reading Books

The Fireman

Songs

My Neighborhood

People Who Help

Ding Ding Ding

Five Little Firemen

The Policeman

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