Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving in kindergarten

Of all the holidays we celebrated in kindergarten, I think I enjoyed Thanksgiving the most. We spent weeks preparing for it. The following is a list of our activities:
We celebrated for two days. The first day we had an "Indian Feast". We studied about Indians for a number of days. One of the things that has always bothered me is when Thanksgiving Indians are portrayed as the plains Indians are portrayed as the plains Indians such as the Sioux with big feather headresses.
We had pictures of the East Coast Indians around the room and read stories about them. (Scholastic has some excellent books about Indians and pilgrim childen at Plymouth Plantation. I don't remember the title of all of them but one of them is called "Sarah Morton's Day".) We talked about their clothes and how they had to make everything instead of buying it at the store. We talked about how they had to dry their fruits and meat to preserve them for the winter.
I had a real tanned deerskin that I brought in for the children to see and touch. We made Indian vests out of brown paper sacks and paper mats to sit on since the Indians didn't have furniture. We talked about the Indians use of "picture writing" instead of ABC's and students wrote a "picture story" on their mats.
Since Indians couldn't go to the store, they had to use things they found in nature for everything. I brought examples of necklaces made from wood, dried corn, leather and bird feathers. We made died pasta necklaces. Different colors were used to reinforce patterning. (Rigatoni works well. (If rubbing alcohol and food coloring are used in a large plastic zip-lock bag to shake with the pasta, the colors are brighter. Also dipping one end of the yarn in paraffin wax or melted crayons about 3 or 4 in. makes it easier to string. When the wax cools it is stiff, almost like a needle.)
Students also made headbands to wear. They had to match the number of paper feathers they put on their headband to the number of letters in their name. I could never pass up the chance to reinforce 1-1 correspondence. On the day we had our Indian feast students ate popcorn, raisins (dried fruit), jerky (dried meat), and peanuts (nuts).
The next day (usually the day before Thanksgiving vacation) we had our Pilgrim Feast. We had spent days preparing for this too. We made paper hats, black stovepipe hats with a buckle for the boys and blue and white bonnets for the girls. We also made large white collars to wear.
Students made corn muffins ( a Jiffy brand corn muffin mix with a little added sugar since we would not be using jam or honey. I decided this would not be the time to teach the differences between the taste of our food now compared to culture in the 16oo's.
The day before, students had brought in a vegetable of their choice and we learned to cut them properly (using table knives of course). We all added them to the vegetable stew.
We made home made butter (see recipe at to put on our corn muffins. With our modern day adaptations they tasted kind of like cupcakes with whipped cream on top. I also had a mom bring in a pumpkin pie.
Parents and grandparents were invited to our feast as well. We showed off our accomplishments and sang Thanksgiving songs for them. We had a wonderful celebration with I hope some learning too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Number Poems con't.

Fat old five has a hat on top
Go down and around
And see what you've found

Note: Some writing styles instruct you to put the "hat" on top last which is the way I learned it. This was awkward at first but with some practice it became easier.

Roll a hoop and make a loop

Across the sky
And down from heaven
That's the way to make a seven.

Make an "S"
But do not wait,
Go back up and make an eight.

Make a ball
And then a line
That's the way to make a nine.

Note: The ball must be started and stopped in the correct position to have the line in the right place.

Make a one
And a zero again.
That's the way to make a ten.

Some children rely on these poems when writing numbers for some time. Giving stuents a way to remember things is importent, whatever that way is. When I would teach alphabet letters, I would also teach and we would practice the american hand sign for each letter. I would not test them to see if they remembered the sign but I would notice that the kinesthetic learners would put their hand behind their back and make the hand sign to help them when they were being tested on alphabet letters.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Writing Practice

Students usually love to write but school is generally their first experience with persistent writing exercises. Girls usually are more adept because they have built up the fine motor muscles in their hand by being more inclined to write daily. Boys would rather throw a ball or stick so they have built up their large muscles.
I would do art projects with all children using paper punches to build up muscles in the hand. (See the art technique called "pointillism")
We would learn how to write each letter of the alphabet as we leaned letter recognition and letter sounds. One thing I learned was that you don't have to use up the whole tree resource providing lots of paper and practice for students. I found that about 5 times was sufficient. Otherwise they would make a mistake and practice it over and over again until the mistake became a habit.
We learned about numbers too. One of the misconceptions that beginning students have is the difference between letters and numbers. In kindergarten we had poems that went with each to help students remember how to make them. We made books with a page for each number. After learning to write the number students would draw p ictures to illustrate the quantity or number concept. (e.g. six balls or 9 candy canes)

Below is the poem for each number:

1. One is fun!
2. Around and back on a railroad track. ( Care has to be taken here to explain the position. Most beginning students want to draw the "railroad track", the bottom or base of the two, directly under the right side of the curved beginning. We would check to make sure that an object dropped from the two's 'nose" ( the beginning of the curved line on top) would fall directly on its "toes' ( the beginning of the straight line at the bottom). We would practice dropping a clothespin from our nose and watch its vertical drop to our toes.
3. Around like me
Around like me
That's the way to make a three.
(We would talk about how the top and bottom should be equal so it has a "waist" ) .
4. Go down and over
And duwn some more
That's the way to make a four.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I probably should have posted this a long time ago, near Valentine's Day but I didn't and Ralph had to give a lesson on Charity so it's been on my mind recently.
Shortly before Valentines' Day in kindrgarten the students would make an inter-active bulletin board. We had already talked about love beyond the "boyfriend/girlfriend" stuff and learned songs etc. about love and being kind.
I explained to the students that we would be working as partners on the bulletin board project. Immediately they moved toward their friend and started to all talk at once. "I want so-and-so to be my partner." Then I would explain the "partnering" process. I would choose someone who could then choose a partner. We also discussed how someone would feel if the partner they chose made negative comments or showed negative body language. We even did a little role-playing for emphasis.
When it came time for partner choosing, I would have all the "loser" kids do the choosing. Inevitably they would choose the most advanved partners, both academically and socially. It was interesting to watch these top performing, popular kids say, "I'd love to be your partner", even though they would have made a different choice.
It became an exercise in further kindness and tolerance after I explained the next part. Each set of partners was to agree on two identical hearts I had dittoed off. Some were plain. Some had vertical lines, horizontal lines, or large polka dots marked on them. Partners had to color them exactly alike. That meant that if a student colored badly the partner would have to work to make his/her heart match exactly. It took effort for both partners. The less capable students tried to do their best work and the more advanced students tried to be kind and understanding. I think it was a good learning experience for all.
When students thought they had two matching hearts, we put them on the bulletin board in random order. I had already stapled large red hearts all over the bulletin board to frame the smaller, student-created hearts. Students could choose the placement of their hearts to make the matching game 'tricky". Anyone who came into our schoolroom could play the game by trying to find the matching hearts and all students were proud of their creation.

What I learned: All students want to show love. To some it comes naturally. Others have to practice. Showing love is not only in what you do but in how you make others feel.

Monday, June 8, 2009


About this time of year I would introduce students to tangrams. They are an oriental invention consisting of a group of about 7 shapes made out of plastic, cardboard or other material. Each child would get their own set and I would introduce them with a book called "Grandfather Tang" about a chinese grandfather who made animal shapes with tangrams and tell stories about them.
I had laminated outlines of animal shapes and students had to make the tangram shapes fit to form the animal. They were surprisingly difficult and sometimes when I was modeling how to do the puzzles, it would turn into a lesson on perserverance because it would take me so many tries to complete the puzzle. We also made our own tangram animals out of construction paper.
It was surprising which students found the exercise easy because they had good perception skills. Some students who were good at rote memorization found visual perception very difficult. I liked it because some students who weren't used to "shining" could be "stars".

What I learned: All students have something to "shine" at. The teacher is responsible for finding it and building their self-esteem.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


With some practice writing messages to each other, students are ready to use their imagination and write stories. I explained that a long time ago they didn't have TVs or movies for entertainment so they told each other stories. One common story was told to explain the world around them, especially why animals looked the way they did. (See "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling or "Mother Westwind Stories" by Thornton Burgess.)
Students were given a small book made out of a regular (8 1/2" x 11") folded in quarters like a greeting card with a picture of a bunny on the front who had no tail. After reading some examples of stories ( e.g. "How the Camel got his Hump and Why the Bear Has a Stumpy Tail) students would write a story about "How the Bunny got a Fluffy Tail". As an incentive students got a cotton ball to glue on their bunny. Students would come up with ideas like "the bunny planted tail seeds and grew a tail" or "the bunny glued on some cotton candy for a tail".

What I learned: Children are reticent to make up their own stories but with a little practice and encouragement they can write delightful tales.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Post Office

When students are comfortable sounding out words, I set up a post office. I used a shallow, sectioned cardboard box. One section was stocked with paper. I used a regular sheet of 8 and 1/2" by 11" white paper cut in half. I folded each sheet in half to look like a greeting card. Then I would demonstrate how to use the post office. I used a wonderful little book to introduce the post office called "The Jolly Postman" by Ahlsberg. It is set in familiar nursury rhymes and fairy tales. As the jolly postman visits each familiar setting there is a card or letter that can be pulled out of the page which is shaped like an envelope.
On the outside of the card students were to print the name of the person the "card" was intended for. This was never a problem as names of classmates are the first thing students learn. Besides each student's name was clearly written on the outside of his or her personal "cubbie" (mailbox).
I was going to use stamps that came in junk mailings for ordering magazines but I found too many inappropriate pictures. Then I discovered I could make my own "stamps" by using a plain white piece of paper. I would use my own sewing machine without any thread in the needle to make the perforated edges. Students could easily tear off one stamp and attach it to the outside of the "card" with a gluestick I kept in the supply box. They got to design their own stamp by drawing a picture such as a flower or a famous face on it.
Inside the "card" they were to write a message. It was usually pretty short and simple such as, "I like you" or "Can you play at my house today?"
If students complained that they didn't ever get any mail, I would encourage them to write some letters asking for some. This however was rarely a problem.

What I learned: Children enjoy this new way to communicate and express themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Word Bank

About this time students are ready to learn that ABCs and words can be a form of communication. We began writing a sentence on the board for the afternoon class to read. They would read it and compose another sentence for the morning class. This would give the students practice with "ear spelling" and reading. They were simple sentences like "The plant is big" (our classroom plant on the science table) or "Sam is sick" but it was highly motivational because each class wanted to know what the other class was saying and it was very personal to them.
There were some words that we would use often and students just needed to memorize them. They were words like "the" and "a" so we would put them in the "word bank" for students to use whenever they were needed. I drew a large piggy bank on the board and wrote common words that didn't always follow the rules inside. It became a useful teaching tool for me and a valuable learning experience for the students.

What I learned: Reading becomes a vibrant, "real life" experience when it is something besides sitting in the "Bluebird" (or "Buzzard") group and trying to decipher what is in the reader.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

I probably should have posted this earlier but it is still an important principle. One of the first activities we do in kindergarten is to make our own Brown Bear, Brown Bear book after reading the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carl. Besides re-inforcing the colors we are studying, (kindergarten kids come to school with a wide range of abilities and knowledge. One boy came to school knowing all the colors but brown was "mud", green was "grass", yellow was "sun' etc.).
We had a book with the words already printed and students would draw the pictures. When I told students they would be drawing the pictures, some would begin to wail, "But I can't make a bear!". I would explain to them that this was the reason I was the teacher. I would show them how. Each day afterward we would learn to draw a brown bear, yellow duck, red bird, green frog, blue horse, black sheep, white dog, grey mouse, pink elephant, and orange fish. This gave me a chance to evaluate each student's understanding of position word like up, down, around and across etc.
By the end of the book, students were surprised and proud of their own work. At Parent Night some parent's couldn't believe their own kids had made the pictures.
I thought of this recently as my husband and I were talking. He teaches at a local college and many students say similar things with a wail in their voice.

What I learned: A teacher (or parent's) job is to show the student (or child) how to do new things, or build confidence that he/she can already do more than they know.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Used To Be a Button

Once students learn the sounds of the alphabet they are ready to sound out words. Spelling may not be correct but I always ask students if they want me to write the "book spelling" if the word is misspelled. (e.g. "flaur" instead of "flower') About this time we make a book called "I Used To Be a Button..."
To do this fold a 9x12 piece of construction paper in half top to bottom. I used white so children's writing would show up. On the front cover of the book write the words, "I Used To Be a Button..." Cut a hole in the cover of the book about 1 1/2 in. in diameter. With the cover closed, glue a large button through the hole to the inside of the book. When you open the book, the button will still be glued to the inside. Inside the book write at the top of the page, "But now I'm a ..."
Students make a picture inside using the button as part of the picture. (e.g. a flower, a bike or a clown's nose.) then they write the word beside the picture using their "ear spelling". (e.g. "flower", "bike", or " clown's nose". ) Students are proud of their first piece of literature.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kindergarten Spelling

About this time of year we have learned the sounds for all the letters of the alphabet. (Vowels are last because we learn more than one sound for each vowel.) Students are now ready to begin writing words. We practice using our ears to tell us what letter to write. We call it Kindergarten Spelling. I send a note home to parents assuring them that we will teach correct spelling but for now, we are teaching them a new way to communicate
It was always interesting to see the way childen would spell things. If they misspelled a word I would ask them if they would like to see the "book spelling". I would write the book spelling (correct spelling) beside the "kindergarten spelling". (Some people call it "ear spelling.)
I am convinced that learning to pronounce words properly is a big key to correct spelling as is illustrated by the following example:
A student was trying to spell the word spaghetti and was using a b to start the word. Another student was trying to help and said. "Watch my mouth. It's "pasghetti". She emphasized the sound of p at the beginning of the word.
We would start with words then move on to sentences and stories. We had a word bank. This consisted of a giant piggy bank drawn on the board with commly used words in it such as "the".

What I learned: It was magical to see students learn a whole new way to communicate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kinesthetic Learners

Some people are visual kearners. (remembering what they see). Some learn best through auditory means, ( hearing) and others are kinesthetic learners (learning through touch or doing). All methods of learning are used by everyone but a person goes automatically to the style that is best for them. For example I think I am a visual learner because I visualize the keypad when I am trying to remember a phone number or I visualize the written word when I want to remember a spelling.
In kindergarten I would try to use all three strategies, just to cover my bases. When teaching the letters of the alphabet I taught the American Sign Language hand sign along with each letter of the alphabet.
This principle of learning was reinforced to me when I would test students to see how many letters and sounds they knew. I would hold up a letter of the alphabet and individually students would be required to tell me the name of the letter and its sound. Some students would put their hands behind their back and make the hand signs to help them remember. They were always a little embarrassed, like they were cheating. In actuality they were using a good learning tactic.

What I learned; People have different learning styles. The one that is right is the one that helps them and may be different from the way we learn best.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who's In Charge?

This probably should have been my first teaching BLOG because it is so fundamental to life and learning. Early on, close to the first day of school I explained the rules. 5 year olds usually can't read so I made pictures of each of the four rules and mounted them on the board at the front of the room. I explained each rule thoroughly. 1. How to sit so as not to bother anyone or have your legs fall asleep. 2. Be quiet. ( Humorous note: This was a picture of a little boy saying shhh with his finger to his lips. Once when I asked if anyone knew what rule this picture represented a boy raised his hand and said, "Don't pick your nose?") 3. Raise your hand and wait for the teacher to call on you before talking. 4. No running
After the rules were thoroughly explained, I asked who was in charge of seeing that they follow the rules. In all my years of teaching no one got the answer right. Lots of hands went up and answers were, "The principle, You, Our Parents etc." I would shake my head and answer no to all of these suggestions. By now there was always someone who was about to burst because they were sure they had the right answer. ( I could always tell which kids went to Sunday School.) This child would answer with wide eyes and awe in their voice, "God." They were always surprised when I shook my head, no, again. It was a revelation when I told them that they were in charge of their arms and legs and mouths. They were in charge of seeing that the rules were followed.
For most kids it had never occurred to them that they were accountable for their own actions and had some control over them. I followed this up at the end of day by letting each student choose how to say good-by - with a hug, a handshake, or nothing. For some students it was liberating to square their shoulders and say, "Nothing." Thus began a student's journey towards learning and accountability.

What I learned: Learning won't happen until a student realizes that it is all up to themselves.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speech Worries

Along with many worries parents have when children start school, are worries about speech. In kindergarten many children come to school with imperfect speech patterns. With each new letter of the alphabet we would practice the sounds of the letter along with a clear decription of what is happening in the mouth and throat. (e.g. When one makes the "l" sound, the tongue touches the roof of the mouth.) If the student continues to make errors toward the end of the year, it is time to call in a speech specialist. ( If a stuent is still saying yoyipop instead of lollipop or similar gross errors) Most students have fairly normal speech by the end of kindergarten and their few errors are developmental.
It is natural for parents to worry about their children. I had many parents who were sure their child was dyslexic because they wrote their name backwards. In kindergarten, many children still retain their multiple perspectives. After all, a watch is a watch no matter which way you hold it. No wonder there is so much confusion with b,d.p and q. As children grow, they lose this ability so if your child is still writing his name backward in third grade. it is time to be concerned.

What I learned: Children grow out of many stages. You can't stop trying to improve but it is hard to be patient.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


About half-way through the year I would introduce rhyming to the kindergarten students. I didn't realize how important recognizing beginning, middle and end sounds were until then. (See previous post) Until then, we had been focusing on beginning sounds and when students insisted that "dog" and "dock" rhymed, I knew I had some work to do.
We sang lots of songs. Two of my favorite were "A Hunting We will Go" and "Wiloby Waloby" "Wiloby Waloby" can be chanted or sung. It goes like this:
Wiloby Waloby Woo
An elephant sat on you
Wiloby Waloby Wee
An elephant sat on me.

Wiloby Waloby Wusan
An elephant sat on Susan.
Names of students in the class can be substituted for Susan. (e.g. Wack-Jack and Wam-Sam) Students try to guess the second name. Students love this, the idea of somone they know getting sat on by an elephant.
Another activity we used helped to distinguish beginning middle and end sounds. I lined up a bell, a box of rice and a New Year's Noisemaker. You can use other items as long as they have three distinct sounds. I would have students close their eyes. Then I would mix up the order of the items. After I made the sound of each item, students would have to tell me if the bell sound was at the beginning, middle or end.
We would use other activities such as rhyming Bingo to reinforce the principle. We also sang rhyming songs every day. One song called "A Spider on the Floor" I sing now with my grandchilden. The song is sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" Those singing the song make a five legged spider out of their hand and put it on the floor. This pretend spider crawls to the corresponding body part with each verse of the song. (Management tip: The rule is that the spider can only crawl on one's self, not on anyone else.)

The words go as follows:

There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.
Who could ask for any more
Than a spider on the floor.
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.

There's a spider on my leg, on my leg.
There's a spider on my leg. on my leg.
Oh, he's really really big.
I've got a spider on my leg,
There's a spider on my leg, on my leg!

There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.
There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.
Should I pull the fire alarm
I've got a spider on my arm.
There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.

There's a spider on my neck, on my neck.
There's a spider on my neck, on my neck
Oh, I'm gonna be a wreck.
I've got a spider on my neck.
There's a spider on my neck, on my neck.

There's a spider on my face, on my face.
There's a spider on my face, on my face.
Oh, its such a big disgrace
I've got a spider on my face.
There's a spider on my face, on my face.

There's a spider on my head, on my head.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.
Oh, I wish that I were dead.
I've got a spider on my head.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.

(spoken: But he jumps off.)

There's a spider on the floor, on the floor...
(Song can be sung again if desired.

What I learned: Children may be able to rhyme but they don't understand what makes a word a rhyming word so often are not conistent.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


In kindergarten we had 5 or 6 students share each day something they had brought from home. We started with the "color of the day' and students brought a picture they had colored or one they had cut from a magazine showing the appropriate color. A little later in the year we had a "letter of the day" and students would share something with that letter in the word. I would write the word on a big chart at the front of the class and students would tell me whether the "letter of the day" came at the beginning, middle or end of the word.
At first I thought this activity was for building self-esteem which it did, but I discovered I could get some learning mikeage out of it too.

What I learned: Students - even some adults, are not aware of the sounds they make in every day language. Knowing the sounds and their placement will help them in reading and spelling.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


This is only a test. I am trying to see if my theory as to why my BLOG keeps posting to the wrong site. Sorry eveyone has to put up with my computer remediation.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One more note

What I learned: You can have fun while learning/ you can learn while having fun.

Oops again

This time I know I clicked on the right button but my BLOG was posted to the wrong BLOG site. Oh well, you can read it by going to

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mystery Shape

After I had introduced all the shapes, (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, and diamond) we would play a game called "Mystery Shape". I would teach the students horizontal, vertical, oblique (slanted) left, (toward the windows) and right (toward the wall). We would practice horizontal and vertical by laying down and standing up.
Students would have to describe a shape verbally and I would draw it on the board. I would purposely draw exactly what they said even if I knew they meant differently. This way students would have to communicate clearly. The rest of the students would try to identify the shape.
Students would reaize as soon as I would take them literally if they did'nt tell me to stop and I would draw a line to the end of the board. They would realize they had not communicated clearly.

What I learned: Knowing something and communicating what you know are two very different things.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Children in kindergarten learn about six shapes. circle, square, triabgle, rectangle,diamond and oval. I learned that the most effective way to introduce a shape is to start with a straight line. I would show students a wire covered with chenillle. They used to be called pipe cleaners. I don't know what they are called now but you can get them at a craft store and are about 12 inches long. I would then show the students how the shape was formed I would do it with each shape introduced ( they could see the differences between a square and a diamond, a difference that even escaped our principal when she came to observe.) We would look for the shape around the room. (e.g. square - window, rectangle - door etc.)
We would also make a book the same shape as each shape as the shape just introduced. (e.g. a round book shaped like a circle.) The first page would say trace a circle. the second page said color a circle, the third - trace a circle, the fourth, draw a circle. The fifth page said, Cut a circle and included a small piece of paper with a circle drawn on it. Students would cut it out and glue it to the page. The last page was labeled, "This is a Circle Picture." Students would make a picture using the introduced shape. (e.g. a circle shaped cookie, triangle Christmas tree, rectangle robot, etc.) We learned a song for each shape and continued to revue them throughout the year. Interesingly students never had trouble identifying the required shapes.

What I learned: Repetition is sometimes necessary for remembering. The key is making the repetition interesting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


My last post was accidentally posted to the wrong blog, It is entitled patterns. You can read it by going to foreverblooming . blogspot .com