Our "Kinder Garden", Pumpkin Jack, and a little break!

On Wednesday, I took my class out to our "Kinder Garden" and we planted pumpkin and sunflower seeds as well as marigolds and corn. Unfortunately the weather here in central Illinois has taken a turn for the worse and it feels like August! Seriously, 95 degrees in May and the forecast is for 97 degrees on Sunday - what is this all about???  Whew! This, of course, is not good for a newly planted garden, so when the weather turns a little cooler (hopefully!), I will probably have to do some replanting so that we have a crop in the fall when the kids return. :)

 We read the story of "Pumpkin Jack" by Will Hubbell in the fall. In this story, Tim carved a pumpkin for Halloween and named him Jack. After Jack began to rot, Tim set him out in his garden and watched him slowly shrivel and decay. As the winter came, Jack disappeared and Tim was sad. When the spring came, Tim saw that Jack had sprouted and he took care of Jack's vine all summer. In the fall, Tim found his Pumpkin Jack again! So .........we did the same thing with OUR Pumpkin Jack and put him out in the school garden after Halloween. Look what we found coming up in the middle of our garden on Wednesday - It's our Pumpkin Jack! How cool is that???

 My class gave me this beautiful hibiscus for my end of year gift! Isn't it beautiful? My Room Mom enlisted the aid of our art teacher and the kids all signed their name on the pot and used their thumbprints to make the flowers - cute, cute! Now I just have to make sure that I keep the plant healthy over the summer!

And speaking of the summer....... Our school year officially ended on Friday, May 25 BEFORE Memorial Day, which is early for us, and probably will not happen again for a long time! I thought that I would take this extra time and do things like clean my house, remember what it is like to cook a real meal, clean closets, take care of my yard and garden, catch up on my reading, and enjoy my family. So...........I am going to take a little break from blogging for a while. I need to think about other things than school for awhile.  I thought that I would post again in mid to late June. I LOVE, LOVE teaching, but I need to "power down" a bit so that when I start back up, I am energized and ready to go! So many people ask what teachers do in the summer..... well for me, I take a few weeks to do exactly what I listed above and then start preparing for the next school year!

Happy summer to everyone and I'll be back in a few weeks - don't forget me!

Peace and blessings,

Flower Fun!

On these last few days of school, we have been learning about flowers! I thought this would be a good end of year activity since I am sure my little kiddos will be seeing flowers all summer on their trips to the park and around the neighborhood.  So we began by reading "Planting a Rainbow" by Lois Ehlert. After reading the story, we discussed the different types of flowers. We looked at colors, leaves, and shapes.  I then passed out the student booklet "In My Garden" and the children illustrated their own booklet. They wrote the color word of the flower on each page and created the flower from paper following step-by-step illustrations. What fun we had AND the children learned some flower identification as well as practicing their reading and writing color  words! If we had lots of time, I would take them out on a walk and we would sketch the flowers that we see around the school property. But unfortunately, we will have no time for that in our crowded last 3 days of school!



We also did a little math measuring with Unifix cubes. This activity is not my original idea. I think that I got it from Kim Adsit, but I just revised it a little so that my kinders could do it independently!
  If you would like to do these activities, click here and you will find the packet in my TPT store - it's free!

Welcome poster for next year's class

One activity that we do in our kindergarten is to make a welcome poster for next year's class. We make a sign that says "The kindergarten class of 2011 welcomes the Kindergarten Class of 2012!" Then each child makes a flower with a paper stem and paper leaves. Each child writes his/her name on a leaf and glues to the bulletin board paper. Each child's hand is painted and added as a flower on the stem. This year I asked each child to make a head of themselves as the flower center. We ask the children to create one detail for the poster. There are 3 kindergarten teachers in our school and even though we did the same activity, we all came up with something different! Lisa had her kids write their names on a seed that was glued under the flower. This was really cute symbolism - the seeds of kindergarten were planted and grew into beautiful flowers! And look at Lea's sun - her students were so excited to show me that their sun had braces!

We did our posters during literacy center time. Instead of having a guided reading group, we brought each reading group over to the table and had them create their flower. This made it so much more manageable because we were only working with 4-5 children at a time.

We save this poster over the summer and then put it up as a welcome for the first day of school in August. Of course, it is not as meaningful to the new kindergarten as it is to our present kiddos, but those new first graders really enjoy coming back and seeing their work! BTW: This poster rolls up really well, so it stores nicely over the summer!

We still haven't planted our "real" garden! Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we will get out there tomorrow!

Yikes! Where is the time going?

Tomorrow and then 5 days next week and school is finished for me until August! The end of school is CRAZY - so many forms to fill out, equipment to check, scrapbooks to finish, report cards to do, permanent files, good byes to faculty and staff leaving - Yikes!! And we are still teaching - going strong and not giving up! :)

Tomorrow we will go out into our kinder "garden" to plant pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Then on Monday (or Tuesday), we will plant annual flowers. We also will be making our scarecrow who will take up residence in our garden for the summer. I will post pictures of that activity when we have completed it!

Our Painted Lady butterflies have hatched! And they are so beautiful! It is so much fun to see the metamorphosis in real life! After all the butterfly activities that we did in April, it is wonderful for the kids to have watched them actually happening!  We put orange slices in the bottom of their cage for food and will be letting them go tomorrow - and that will be the end of our classroom wildlife! :(

Do We Need Common Core Standards?

 I came across this article from the Huffington post written by a parent about the Common Core.


The article is interesting - especially the comments at the bottom. The parent in this article is distressed because his son's school put into place the Common Core Standards in February and his son has gone from a child skipping to school to one that drags his feet when time to leave.
 "The teacher started dedicating two hours a day to packaged lesson plans. Rather than giving the students free work choice, in which they build with blocks or paint, the students must sit on the floor while the teacher lectures at them. Rather than tailoring the curriculum to each child, she hands students books from a narrow, predetermined list."

Make sure that you scroll down and read the comment section of the article. Then continue reading my post......

I agree completely with the comments that the Common Core Standards are just benchmarks and that teachers should be allowed to approach them in a way that suits the needs of his/her classroom. Thankfully I am in a school that does not force me into pre-packaged units and respects my ability and knowledge to put into place units and activities that are thoughtful and meaningful to the curriculum we are teaching. I believe that worksheets have a place in the classroom, but should not be the sole base for instruction. In my experience, I have found that children learn best when allowed to explore and create. I think Benjamin Franklin said it best "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. "

If school districts have no trust in a teacher's ability to design curriculum to suit the needs of his/her students and simply offer a packaged curriculum with meaningless fill in the blank and multiple choice worksheets, then our students are certainly destined to hate school and never reach their potential. But if the Common Core Standards are used positively and teachers allowed to create curriculum that builds upon the Core in a meaningful and creative way, then our country is headed in the right direction. Every child has the right to an education and every child has the right to have teachers who believe in the potential of every one of their students. When school districts trust their teacher's ability to create units that are built upon the Core and  created in a way that allows students to become involved in their educational journey, then we are on our way to once again promoting students excited to learn and be in school.

I love the fact that our country's educational system is working to design a curriculum that mandates all states to have the same basic standards. Because of the transient nature of our country, it is  not unusual for a child to be in one state in the fall and another in the spring. It will also benefit our colleges and universities if all college freshmen are entering with the same standards. BUT, if teachers are not allowed to involve their students in their learning, then we are surely destined to failure. It is my hope that our country's schools do not end up like the one written about in the Huffington Post article. As a nation, we need teachers who inspire our students to dream and invent. Pre-packaged worksheets will not do this. Hands-on, inspirational, and involved projects and activities will!

Peace and blessings,

Baby Chick Update!

This is just a quick update on our chicken project. We ended up with 19 baby chicks! Wow! It's amazing how fast they grow! They just hatched on Tuesday and already they are growing wing feathers! They will be at school through the weekend; then on Monday, we will be taking them to a free range farm. This is such an amazing project to do with kids - it teaches them so much about life as well as gentleness and patience! They couldn't wait to hold them, so today I allowed each child to hold a chick if they wanted to and of course, they all did! It was such a sweet thing to watch how carefully each child held the chick and the smiles that came to their faces. This was such a fun way to finish our farm unit!

Nature - field trip to the woods and living things in the classroom!

Today we went on a field trip to our local nature preserve! It was a GLORIOUS day! How lucky we were because yesterday was a very rainy and cloudy day! We did not leave until late morning, so we had the opportunity to watch the hatching of one of our chicken eggs and to observe that our caterpillars were totally changed into a chrysalis!
   Then we headed off on our school bus and drove to the Nature preserve! We were there all day. In the morning, we learned about mammals and in the afternoon, we learned about frogs. The children brought their lunches and we had a picnic in the woods!

  A few highlights:

We touched the pelt of a real fox!
We saw a big bull frog sticking his head out of the lake....
We walked across a suspension bridge.........

We had a duck follow us around on our hike because he thought we had food for him! We were told that feeding ducks and geese is not a good idea because the food that people give these animals is harmful to their digestive systems. 
We witnessed a Papa goose chase off a two other geese who apparently looked threatening to his goslings. Notice Papa Goose's neck stretched out. This is an aggressive  movement we were told.

One of my kinders was transformed into a frog! :)

And when we returned we had more baby chicks! What a great day!!

Farms and living things!

Hello Friends,
We are in our Farm unit - one of my favorite themes to teach!

Since I am the wife of a farmer, I have pretty strong opinions about how this unit should be taught! First of all, most modern day farmers do NOT wear straw hats and wear overalls! My husband goes to work each morning in jeans and a button shirt and the only hat he wears is a ball cap when the sun is really strong! He also is a college graduate so he is a very smart man as well! Anyway.............  I then start to discuss the concept of where our food comes from. When I asked this question last week "Who knows where our food comes from?", my kiddos said "The grocery store!" This, of course, IS true, but then I asked "Where did the grocery store get their food?" My kiddos really did not know and when I said "the farm", one of my little guys said "Not all our food, though." I asked him, "Hmmm, where else do you think it comes from?" He said, "The food in the boxes doesn't come from the farm." Okay........ we have some work to do here, I am thinking!! :)

So............ last week we discussed the fact that not all farms have animals that live on them - some farms just grow crops.  Here in central Illinois, we grow corn and soybeans and a few farms grow wheat. So we talked about the plants, how they grow, and what products are produced from the plants after they are processed.  We have been using some big vocabulary words in this unit! We also discussed the differences between a tractor and a combine and their uses. This week we are discussing some of the animals that live on a farm and the products that they produce. I do not, however, discuss the use of animals for meat. Rather we discuss how we get milk products from dairy cattle, eggs from chickens, and wool from sheep.

  Last year, one of my wonderful co-teachers, Lisa, created a dairy cow from a saw horse. Here is a picture of it! She covered the legs with felt and made a felt head. She covered the saw horse with a plastic table cloth and glued on felt spots. To create the udder, she used latex gloves and inserted a pin into one of the fingers to make a small hole. Then she filled the gloves with water and attached to the bottom of the saw horse. We put a bucket under the udder and then asked our students to milk the cow! This picture shows one of my students milking our cow, Betsy! :) Fun! We haven't decided if we will be doing this project this year - it IS rather ambitious and we aren't sure if we are up for it this late in the school year!

We hatch chicken eggs during our Farm unit.... My kiddos are thrilled when the eggs hatch into little balls of fluff!

If you are interested in my Farm unit, click the photo below to take you to my TPT store.


Until next time!


Another Mother's Day Idea!

Okay, I tried to keep away, but just couldn't! I had to share this really cute Mother's Day idea that we completed today! We painted clay pots -  and we even used ACRYLIC PAINT! :) Then I copied a body shape onto cardstock for each child. I set out scrapbook paper, construction paper, and buttons for the children to use to decorate as their Mom. When completed, I taped their "Moms" onto a popsicle stick that was pushed into the soil of the flower pot.

 For the card, the kids decorated the outside with a flower pot cut from scrapbook paper, green construction paper stems, and tissue paper flowers. They glued the "Happy Mother's Day" label to the front of the card. For the inside, they wrote some sentences about their Mom - so cute - and then I stapled the words inside the cover. Cute, cute!! If you would like the Google doc for this activity, click here.