Kindergarten Centers

I love center time. Wait, let me make that clear. I love center time after the first two months of school. When you teach the youngest students in the school you literally need to hold their hands for the first several weeks/months. This is why routines are so important at the beginning of the year. Because once they get those routines down, it’s amazing what a five-year-old can do.

Our kindergarten program has center time in the morning where they are rotated through the seven centers we have set up (three centers per day for about ten minutes)  and then in the afternoons at the end of the day they have 15-20 minutes to choose their own center for “free-play”.

I love hearing about the different centers other teachers have in their rotation and gleaning ideas from them. In my classroom the seven centers are:

Construction Zone: Outfitted with a Lego table and a ton of foam blocks for students to build with!

Imagination Station: Where there is an actual wooden treehouse/fort (we never know what to call it as it’s not actually in a tree), tool bench, kitchen, puppet stand, and dress-up clothes galore.

Reading Center: Books, books, books! (This is obviously our classroom library corner as well)

Technology Center: We are blessed to be able to have three iPads and two Mac computers to deck out our tech corner. This took time to integrate into center time as the other Kindergarten teacher and I had to work one on one with each student to teach them how to properly handle an iPad and how to log into their raz-kids account.

Writing Center: The students use what they learn during writing workshop and write stories, we usually give them a prompt or ask them to finish a story they started the day before. Our most recent guest blogger, Mark, gave some great ideas to add sight words and such into this center. I am going to add Jewel King!

Math and Science Center:  At the beginning of the year it was lame, but after a couple of months we were able to get some great pattern block pages and other math games, as well as magnets for science (though, admittedly it’s more of a math center) . Later, I will do a separate post on some of the great activities we have been able to put into this center.

Art Center: Depending on the season, I will assign different activities for the students to complete during the week in art center. This includes creating fall pictures, making snowman to decorate the classroom with, cutting and coloring hearts for Valentine’s Day, etc. A friend told me that she has a cutting center (which I love) and since then I try to incorporate scissors into the art center regularly.

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What are your favorite centers to do?

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Guest Blog Post: A little Creativity goes a Long Way

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Our first guest blogger of the year is Mark Yu, a Kindergarten Teacher  at Korea International School – Seoul Campus. Mark is an amazing teacher whose ideas I am constantly stealing from Instagram. I am absolutely thrilled that he was willing to write-up a guest post for Two Apples A Day. More guest posts in the future? Yes, please!

Sometimes repetition is necessary. Especially in a  Kindergarten classroom.

To add more flavor to my literacy centers, I sometimes come up with games to help my kiddos have more fun with the  activity. Where do I come up with these ideas? I really have no idea; my ideas come up at random!
So instead of this:

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Which is a game, but it’s just taking turns rolling the two cubes and then reading and writing the word on a dry erase board… not too exciting.

I came up with a game called, “Jewel King,” which looks something like this:

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As you can see, just by changing and adding a few things (including the name) it makes the activity seem much more exciting than it really is.

I let my students use my “special” colored pens and choose one color to be the “king” or “queen” of. So if a student chose light blue, for example, he would choose to be the “King of Light Blue.” They will be using their pens to write the words they roll on their kingdom’s “scrolls.”

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After they decide which pen color they want, they can start the game. The point of the game is to get as many jewels as you can for your “kingdom.”

Now, to earn jewels, you have to make a correct prediction of which word you are going to get. So the student has to pick letters to make a CVC word, and hope to actually roll that word. For example, let’s say before I roll I choose “d” and “ot” to make the word, “dot.” If I roll and actually get that word, I get a jewel for my kingdom. It may sound complicated, but just modeling it a few times helps the children to catch on pretty quick.

This game actually gives all the students more practice in decoding and reading CVC words because they must choose a word they want before they roll, and then they have to read the word they actually roll, as well as write it down on their scroll.

Not to mention this game allows the practice of social skills in learning to cooperate with others and following game rules as well as taking turns!

I also did the same thing with a sight word graphing activity. Before “Jewel King,” it looked like this:

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Just rolling and graphing the word.

Then after making a few changes… and voilá!

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Same concept as the other game, the student picks a word on the cube and says it out loud, and if they get the word, they get a jewel for their kingdom! Whatever word they get, they fill out their graph.

And you can differentiate with your students.

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I have some of my center groups simply graph by making Xs over the words they roll, and I have other students practice writing the sight word in the graph. And others, I have them write a few sentences on the back about which word they rolled the most and which word they rolled the least!

And you can always change it to “Catch the Dolphins” and use little dolphins instead of jewels or with whatever you would like to use! And it really didn’t take much time at all to make these changes to my centers, but it made a world of difference to my kiddos. Who doesn’t love pretending to be a king or a queen? ^_^

How can you add some flavor to your centers?

Mark

Follow Mark

twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kismryu 

class flicker site: http://www.flickr.com/kismryu

Developing Story Arcs with Sarah Weeks

One of the key and most practical take aways I had this summer from the Teachers College Writing Institute was during my session with author, Sarah Weeks. I attended her class on writing children’s books. She shared with us the importance of a balanced story arc in children’s stories. We examined how the best children’s books out there had really strong story arcs. She had story arcs written out for various well known children’s books. We looked at the story arc of the action in the story, which showed what was happening in the beginning, middle and end. Then, she had us also examine the emotional story that the character went through.

The next step was to start creating our own story arcs for the picture books we would write that week. She shared with us how some teachers, actually had a piece of string that they used to represent the arc. Another method was to use post-its. One color post-it would represent the action of the story, and another color post-it would represent the emotional story arc of my main character. I really loved using the post-its verses just writing it down in my notebook, because I could move around the post-its, add more details, and I could clearly distinguish between the two different arcs. After many hours, I finally had a story arc for my children’s book (still a work in progress).

Last week, I found myself whipping out the story arc I created this past summer, during one of my mini-lessons for our fantasy unit. My students were collecting ideas for their fantasy stories and we had just gone over the story arc of The Paper Bag Princess. I modeled for them creating a story arc of the action and then the emotions of the princess. Then, I showed them the story arc that I created for my children’s book as another model.

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Then, I had them create their own story arcs. I gave them post-it notes, bigger sized white paper, and let them go. I encouraged them to be creative and manipulate the size of the post-its as they needed. I had a few students add another arc, of the setting, with another post-it color. Another student included small drawings on her post-its along with the description. I even had some students layering the post-its on top of each other as they added more details. As the students worked on their story arcs, I kept emphasizing the importance of how having a strong story arc would help them write a better story. Plus, it would make the drafting process a lot easier.  And this was a lesson I definitely learned after spending many hours writing and revising my own story arc this past summer.

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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas!

As a teacher, Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It’s true. I LOVE IT.

This year I had my Kindies cut out hearts (making the hearts from the heart shape in Word) and I asked them a simple question, “What is love?” I told them to write “Love is …” In the middle of their hearts and then color it. I tried very, very hard not to lead my students. We talked about the word love and the different kind of love you can feel. Love for your parents, your brother or sister, your classmates, your teacher, and so on and so forth. But I really didn’t want to give them examples because I wanted to see what they wrote.

Some of my favorites (though all of them were my favorites really):

“Love is my mom’s love.”

“Love is fish and cake.”

“Love is good.”

“Love is friends.”

“Love is hearts.”

And one student said, “Love is BCC [name of our school], KTX, and Frozen.” The KTX is our speed train here in Korea. You can go from Seoul down to Busan in three hours. I also think Love Is KTX. And another thing, Frozen is SO WILDLY POPULAR here in Korea. My students have seen it up to 6 times in the theater.

Here is a picture of our final board:

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Don’t make fun of the background and border of my bulletin board! You work with what you have when you don’t have a Teacher’s Center around the corner/around the nation.

Another idea I found that I am having the entire elementary class do this Valentine’s Day is a project called “Inchies” though I made my squares 2″ by 2″. I found the idea on That Artist Woman and I LOVE IT.  Check out the link.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

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