Kindergarten, Butterflies, and the iPad!

A few weeks ago I was in a kindergarten classroom to teach a unit on butterflies!  It is so exciting to be in kindergarten, but also nerve wracking because I taught 5th grade before moving into my current role of curriculum/technology coordinator at my school!  Kindergarten is quite different from 5th grade!

I had the best time teaching these little ones!  The best part about teaching kindergarten is the students are sponges!  They want to learn everything they can and have so many awesome questions!

I knew that I wanted to incorporate a lot of technology into this lesson, but I also wanted to encourage the students to do some hands-on projects so we could work on our writing and our fine motor skills.

I started the week by giving each student a post-it note and had them write or draw a picture about what they knew about butterfly’s.  The students came up with they fly, they have wings, they eat nectar, etc.  Then I gave I put the students into groups and gave each group a non-fiction book.  I wanted the students to discuss with each other what they noticed about the book, hoping we would be able to pull back together as a group and create a list of text features of non-fiction books.  I realize now that I hurried into this process and I should have modeled it with the students prior to putting them into groups.  However, with a LOT of scaffolding, I worked with each group and they found some features of non-fiction text.  Then, used the following anchor chart to describe non-fiction text (this isn’t mine, I found it on pinterest – I don’t know the reference or I would include(here is a link to my kindergarten board on pinterest).  Finally, I read the book Waiting for Wings and we tried to decide if the book was fiction or non-fiction.


We began the next day reviewing our features on non-fiction text and reviewed while reading a story.  Then, I took all the kindergartners to the computer lab and we worked on a game to put the lifecycle of a butterfly in order.  We used two websites.  The links are here and here.

The next day we did a craft I found on pinterest!  Don’t you love Pinterest!  The students loved this craft!  The picture is linked to the source.


We also worked on a non-fiction book project about the life of a butterfly.  Again, the picture is linked to the original file location.

Screen Shot 2012-03-23 at 7.53.01 AM

The last project we did was on the iPad.  I wanted the students to somehow illustrate the butterfly lifecycle, but I wanted them to use words and pictures.  So, of course, the iPad was the perfect solution.  I used one of my favorite apps, Puppet Pals HD.  I preloaded in pictures to be used and then I showed the students how to make a puppet show.  I let the students choose from a couple of different backdrops for this experiment AND I had given the students free time the day before to play with the app and get used to how it worked.  Below are a couple of examples of students explaining the life cycle of a butterfly with Puppet Pals. 

21st Century Classroom Design

I was offered an AMAZING opportunity yesterday!  My school is doing a new ad campaign (we are an independent school) and I was asked to be the faculty representative in the campaign – but, that is not the exciting part!  As part of the photo shoot, I get to design my dream classroom/workspace!

I am a HUGE believer in the power of collaboration and teaching students using 21st century learning skills.  I believe that a teacher should act more as a coach, than a “Sage on the Stage”.  I want students to be completely engaged and immersed in the learning process, using whatever tools fit their learning style.  I LOVE technology and encourage my students to use technology every chance they have!  To be given the opportunity to take all that I believe and turn it into my dream classroom is amazing!

When I was approached, I knew exactly what I would do.  Just the day before I had been reading this blog post on using ipads and project4003255229_f634840b86 based learning on a science lesson.  I am going to take this lesson and incorporate it into a design based classroom.  I am going to use the ideas from the D School at Stanford to create an amazing collaboration space where students can research, design, build, make mistakes, fail, and start over again!

So, as soon as I found out I had this awesome opportunity I set about to design my room.  My classroom will be walls that are all whiteboards.  We are going to use shower board to make the white boards.  We found the plans here.  The room will have fabric cubes for the students to sit on and we will have some tables for students to spread out materials.  We are also going to add in bins with all types of supplies for students to work with – expo markers, post-it notes (LOTS AND LOTS OF POST_ITS) yarn, foam, colored pencils, pipe cleaners, paper, etc.  Here is a sketch of my room design.

21st Century Learning P8

As I work out the details of the lesson and the room comes together I will post more details.  Also, I will post what happened when I asked students to help with the photo shoot, but emphasized to them we would be doing and actual lesson and they would have to do more work! 

The ability to design the workspace of your choice is an amazing opportunity.  What would you do if given the opportunity to design your dream classroom?

Research in Kindergarten!

This week I have been in a kindergarten classroom working with the students on their literacy skills and RESEARCHING!  It has been an awesome week and I have to say that I was very nervous going into this week that my plan would be successful!  The kindergarten teacher contacted me and wanted me to come in and work with her class.  I researched on the internet and found some amazing posts about kindergarten students making movies and I immediately decided this is what I wanted to do with the little ones.  The class was focusing on the rainforest and grasslands so, I decided we would focus on researching and making a movie!Image

When I went in the classroom the first day I used an anchor chart to discuss with the kindergarteners the characteristics of non-fiction texts.  I found this awesome anchor chart on pinterest.  I love this anchor chart because it has wonderful pictures!  Not being an artist myself, there was no way I could recreate this anchor chart so I just saved the picture and put it in my flipchart.  I pulled this anchor chart up on Monday and the students and I talked through each part of the anchor chart.  I had a non-fiction book with me and as we discussed each characteristic I pointed out an example in the book I had.

After we talked through non-fiction text I showed the students the book that I had with me.Image  It was a book about hyenas (going along with the grasslands theme).  I showed the students my book and had the students ask questions about the book.  The students came up with the best questions!  I wanted to set a premise for reading the book and the questions were the perfect introductory activity!  As we read through the book we found all the answers to our questions!  The students were so excited!  After we read the book, we assigned all of the students an animal that they would be researching!  Their animal would either be from the rain forest or the grasslands.  I sent the students back to their tables to write their own questions about the animal they were assigned!  It was wonderful to see the types of questions the students asked!


The students all asked great questions!  The next day when I went into the room, I asked the students what they remembImageered about the characteristics of non-fiction next.  One student said, “They have a gallery!”  I was so excited, because I knew she meant glossary!  The fact that she was nearly able to recall the word made me so happy!  So we reviewed what they remembered and then we went over the anchor chart again.  Then, we looked at the questions the the students had asked about hyena’s the day before and I asked the students if we had found out any answers in our reading!  The students, of course, remembered everything we had read!  We wrote two facts from our book about hyenas.  Then I gave the students books about their animals and had them go and read their own books (some of them needed help reading, some did picture walks to determine facts, and some read on their own).  Then after they had read their books they had to write two facts about their animal.  Some of theImage kids wrote 4 or 5 sentences about their animals!  Another teacher walked in the room while the students were completely absorbed in reading and writing and asked the students what they were doing.  All of the students popped up and said, “We are researching!”.  They were so excited and the teacher was so impressed!

So today when I went into the room we had the kids draw Imagepictures of their animals (for the movie) and then we put the students into groups so they could work with their group on facts about the rainforest.  The group had to work together and decide on which facts they should write about the layers of the rainforest.  I don’t have pictures of those because we put them up on the bulletin board outside the classroom.  The collaboration part was a little hairy as the students hadn’t ever done something like that before and were a little unsure of what I wanted them to do.  I am confident that if I continue to work with them, they will improve in their group work skills!

Tomorrow we will put our movie together!  I am going to record the students with masks on as their animals!  They are going to present their facts and their pictures.  After I get this activity under my belt I will continue to branch out into other movies with the kindergarteners!

Online Collaboration by Teachers

I love the online collaboration that is available to all teachers now!  I spend hours searching the internet for the best lesson plans and the best games and the best webquests around!  I love that teachers share the work they have done and are willing to put their work out on the internet to share with other teachers!  I admit I am severly creatively limited and I find it helpful to see what other teachers are doing!  I have great difficulty coming up with creative and original ideas on my own but I am pretty good at taking another idea and building on it.  However, one of my biggest pet peeves in education is the competitiveness of teachers!  I was thinking about this yesterday at school; Teachers aren’t willing to share their brilliant ideas with teammates or others at school because of competitiveness – the desire to be “The Best Teacher” at the school!

That mentality makes me crazy!  I know that I am not really speaking to the people that share their information online because I am sure they are the teachers, like me, that share everything they do with everyone around them – probably making everyone crazy with the latest technology idea we have come up with!  I think teachers often lose sight of the MOST important thing that we do and that is TEACH!!!!  Our one main goal and our one main driving force has got to be – What is best for the students that I teach! If we teach our students that colloboration is so important and then we as teachers don’t utilize the same mentality are we really helping our students?  My students ask at nearly every lesson, “Mrs. D, did you make this lesson or did you “borrow” it from someone else?”.  I tell my students all the time that working with others will only make me better – because I understand that others have talents that I can learn from.  My principal said that the award, “Teacher of the Year” only fosters competitiveness among teachers and for that reason my school does not have a teacher of the year.  I think that is a great stance – because we should be striving to make each other better for our students – not competing with each other.

I worked in the business world for 5 years before becoming an educator and I did not see competitiveness in the business world the way I see it in education.  I wonder why teachers are such a competitive group and I wonder why the online world has opened up a free-source of sharing that hasn’t made it’s way into the classrooms yet?  I love going on line and learning from those around me and I wish more teachers in the classroom would realize that we are all on the same team and by sharing and not competing we are only making our students stronger!