Today we had tons of fun exploring another one of our DonorsChoose.org gadgets! This week we had the opportunity to do more explorations of our littleBits sets. Students got really into creating - first putting together an assortment of pieces and checking out how they could make their buzzers or light work. Then (in some extra proud moments for me...), the students began using the instruction booklets to create more complex circuits. One group had fun making a joke hand buzzer and another group asked me if I had a feather so that they could use the motor to make a tickle machine. I was so impressed with students' ability to design circuits and their enthusiasm for beginning to create projects that would do something specific (like tickle a classmate). I can't wait to see what they start making once they start coming up with their own creations!
Fridge Magnets are some of my favorite interactive elements to work with on the Smart Board. We love to use them to create words for a given word family. It is super simple to set up - I type the word ending and use an infinite clone to put the ending all over the board. Students brainstorm words for the word family and then use the fridge magnets to complete the words!
This week, we started working in our Handwriting without Tears books. We began with some simple activities, including making different types of lines (zig-zag, swirls, and straight lines) to complete pictures. These activities introduced students to the different types of lines they will be using for letter formation, but also helped us to ensure that we are holding our pencils the right way before we start working with actual upper case letters. Another hallmark of the HWT program is the wet-dry-try method. Students us a small chalk board to practice letter formation in three different ways - first by using a small wet sponge to make the letter, then drying the area with a small paper towel, and then finally using chalk to form the letter.
This week exemplified why it is amazing to be a STEM teacher!!! Thanks to another DonorsChoose.org project, my class received 6 MaKey MaKeys to use. MaKey MaKeys are invention kits created by graduate students at MIT. MaKey MaKeys plug into a computer's USB port and can be used to control the computer in various ways - activating the directional arrows, space bar, and mouse clicks. After plugging the MaKey MaKey into the computer, students use alligator clips to "ground" the board and then to complete circuits to control the computer. First, students controlled the computer by high-fiving or head-patting the person holding the grounding wire (thus completing the circuit). Shortly after figuring out the basics, students began to ask for other materials to use to make circuits. Throughout the course of the day, we used graphite pencil marks on paper, bananas, gummy bears, foil, assorted fruit, and Play-Doh to make the MaKey MaKey work. Did you know that gummy bears can be used to conduct electricity?
One highlight was when a group started wondering what other materials could be used and independently began trying out different materials - pine cones, Velcro, and plain paper. While they didn't work, students were problem solving and coming up with questions to test on their own!!!
Check out the video that inspired our learning:
This week we started utilizing some of our DonorsChoose.org gadgets! We had an amazing time testing out our new Ozobots (tiny robots that can follow any line you draw with markers) and our littleBits electronics kits.
Students used black markers to create paths for the Ozobots to follow. We then experimented with getting the Ozobots to do different "tricks" by using green, blue, and red markers. The use of colored markers creates a code that the Ozobot reads to execute different moves, like u-turns, spins, and zig-zags. Starting next week, students will be using the Ozobots to review sight words, creating paths for the Ozobot to follow using the words on our word wall!
Students also used the littleBits kits to begin experimenting with ways to create gadgets. Students connected the magnetic pieces in the kits to a 9 volt battery and tested out what cool inventions they could make. Students were able to create buzzers that were activated with the press of a button, a teeny back massaging machine that used a finger sensor to turn on, and a little fan that was turned on using a dimmer switch. We liked the highest setting on the dimmer switch best because it cooled us off a little bit in our hot classroom!
This week we focused on making inferences and being sure that we were using evidence from the text to support our thinking! Did you know that in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, you never get to see the Once-ler??? We went back into the text and used the words and the pictures the author provided to help us get some clues about what the Once-ler looked like. We then talked about our schema - we know that the Once-ler is old at the end of the story. Students explored their schema, thinking about some characteristics that old people might have and came up with beards, wrinkles, and gray hair (also dirty teeth?). Students combined their schema with the text details to create their own illustration of what the Once-ler looked like. This was a great opportunity for students to see that different readers make different inferences and all of our inferences can be "right" as long as they are supported by the story. Check out some of our Once-lers!
This was a super proud week for me as a kindergarten teacher! Close reading is a hot topic in education these days with the implementation of the CCSS, but there is a lot of debate about close reading in kindergarten. This year in kindergarten, we have worked really hard to develop our skills in discussing a text in order to get a deeper understanding. Over the course of this week, we read Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back several times, each time going deeper into the text to think about what the author wrote and how the author wrote it. We made inferences, making sure to refer back to the text and tell our partners which page showed evidence for our thinking. Students used highlighters to find specific parts of the text and discussed the actions of the main character, Bear. The goal of this lesson was for students to make inferences about the character of Bear. Students were asked to write and draw about Bear's character traits and provide page numbers that showed evidence for their thinking. It was amazing to see that students recognized that Bear could be different in different situations - helpful with some characters, and according to one group, "horrid" with others.
One amazing moment that I won't forget is when two of my students were having a discussion about what happened to the Rabbit who stole Bear's hat. One student thought that the Rabbit had run away, while the other student thought that Bear ate Rabbit. The students discussed their thoughts and showed each other evidence in the text. At the end of the discussion, one student said, "I agree with you now. I changed my mind. I DO think Bear ate Rabbit!"
*Teacher's heart soars.*
I love teaching kindergarten literacy at STEM! It is amazing to be a part of the reading and writing growth of a kindergarten student. You get to see kids move from knowing some letters and sounds to being enthusiastic readers and young authors.