May 26, 2013

It Is {Literally} a Zoo In Kindergarten!

I've seen the phrase "It's a Zoo In Kindergarten" many places in my time teaching this very special age of children.  The past two weeks have literally been a zoo in my classroom.

Let me backpedal for a minute...

This past winter, my school purchased 7 iPads for each K classroom.  Our district has an awesome technology integration vision, and by the 2014-2015 school year, each child in grades K-12 will have some sort of device at a 1:1 ratio.  To say I am grateful and excited would be the understatement of the year.

As soon as those fancy little devices entered the doors of room 100, I knew I wanted to do something BIG with them.  Sure, using them as a supplement for literacy, math, and science is engaging and cool as all get out, but I am a firm believer that effective technology integration is more about output than input {fancy for creation versus just using it for fun and games}.

My wheels began spinning.  I knew our theme list for the remainder of the year, and the lightbulb went off when I started thinking of our zoo animal unit.  This unit falls right after Mother's Day, and we typically study a variety of animals.  Every unit we do throughout the year integrates science and/or social studies with teacher-directed research.  We do bubble charts, flow maps, Venn diagrams, can/have/are charts, etc., etc., etc.  By the middle of May, my kids are experts on how to organize research.

So, we began our zoo animal unit by talking about zoo animals in general.  Our first activity was to identify common zoo animals with a labeling activity from DeeDee Wills' Writing Station Activities for May.  (Off topic--but these packets are worth EVERY PENNY!  I have all of them, and the activities have brought new life to my writing station!)

{I like to draw a larger version on chart paper and hang it in the writing work station area for my kids to use for support if they want to do this activity later during independent station time.}

On Tuesday, we made a list of our favorite animals.  The list included.... Drum roll.... Lions, zebra, alligators, monkeys, giraffes, and elephants.  I allowed each child to pick their favorite from this list, grouped them by their choice, and let the research begin.  The first order of business was to create a visual representation of each animal.  Groups got together all over the room to create these cute little boogers from Deanna Jump's Zoo Animals Literacy and Math Fun pack.  

 {Aren't these the CUTEST?!?!  I didn't get a zebra or alligator in the picture, but rest assured, they are just as cute!}

We did lots of graphic organizers from Deanna's unit, as well as some I created for them to use to guide their research.  We used the phenomenal San Diego Zoo for Kids site to find most of our information, as well as BrainPop videos, books, and videos from My Big Campus {separate post on that in the future}.

{This sweetie is researching her zoo animal on the San Diego Zoo website in computer lab.}

After a week of group work and researching, the real fun began.  Our district has a New Tech High School, which is basically a PBL high school.  The kids are required to complete community service hours, so what better way for them to earn those hours than to spend time helping my kiddos create iMovies?!?! :)

{This is the giraffe group working with their high school buddy.  They were recording voice overs here.}

I'll admit it... I was a nervous wreck tad nervous for my kids to create iMovies.  I had visions of them being totally clueless on how to work the program, and the high school students running out on Monday and never returning.  

How wrong was I?!?!  My kiddos were done with their movies by Tuesday!  We spent Wednesday tweaking the voiceovers, but other than that, they were finished!  I was amazed to say the least.  In my experience with using iMovie, the app is so kid-friendly!  If you have iPads in your classroom, get that app!

Our presentations were Friday.  Again, my kids amazed me.  They were so professional and PROUD of their work.  We had parents, administrators, other classrooms, and our high school buddies come to watch our videos.  It was most definitely a proud teacher moment.

{The zebra group ROCKED their presentation!  One little sweetie even dressed the part. :)}

{This is my class with their high school buddies.  Yes, they were being silly.  This teacher was breathing so many sighs of relief over our huge project being done that I was totally fine with that.}

So, there you have it.  Our huge end of the year project is in the books!  I am already excited to do this next year with my next group of kids!

This week will definitely be bittersweet.  I cannot believe it's almost over.  Graduation is next Monday, and there is so much to do!  Check back next week for Lego Robotics presentations {We will be guinea pigs for a group of 4th and 5th graders presenting at the State Fair this summer!}, Field Day Fun, Walk-a-Thon, and Fun in the Sun party!

My new social media obsession is Instagram!  Follow me @iheartkindergarten for the latest on what's going on in Room 100!

You can also find me on Facebook:  Mrs. Banister's Kindergarten Kids, and Twitter @kindergartenvf.

May 23, 2013

My Summer Bucket List

To celebrate the end of the school year, I am going to link up to a fun linky party!  Three teachers who I love to blog stalk follow are hosting a Summer Bucket List Linky Party!  (I have to fess up--my husband makes so much fun of the phrase "linky party." I don't get it either, but I guess it's just a teacher think! :)

I will admit, I am PRETTY excited about this summer.  It is the first summer in 4 years where I haven't been pregnant, nursing, pregnant with a toddler, puking my guts up from said pregnancy, nursing with a toddler in the house, or just too dang tired to do much of anything.  I have a lot on my agenda (both personally and professionally), but here are the top 5 things I want to do this summer.

1.  Potty train this little diva.  

I have loved every stage that my children have gone through so far, but the sooner my precious last child is out of diapers, the better.  Porter (my son) was so easy to potty train.  Maybe it was because he was a boy.  Maybe it's because we live in the country.  Maybe it's because he has such a sweet demeanor.  Whatever it was, I hope Claire is just as easy!

2.  Visit IKEA

I'm ashamed.  I'm ashamed to admit I have never been to IKEA.  There is one just a few hours away from me.  I feel like I haven't reached my full potential as a human being.  Sad stuff.  

A few of my teacher pals have talked about hijacking our district mini bus and high-tailing it to Ohio so we can feel fulfilled in life.  Okay, so we won't really hijack it, and we probably really won't even take a mini bus, but we are planning on making the trip. :)

Seriously though, I am pumped about this.  I want to stock up on functional things for my home and classroom.  One of my apartments in college was furnished with IKEA furniture.  While I wouldn't want it in my house, it would be PERFECTION for my classroom.  

3.  Paint my classroom

My classroom is my haven.  I love everything about it.  Well, almost.  Here is what it looked like almost completed at the beginning of the school year.

I love so many things about my classroom (the HUGE, ugly alphabet and number circle is NOT on my list of things I love about my room).  I want to freshen it up a lot bit and make it brighter and more inviting.  My district will pay for the paint if we paint it ourselves.  Suggestions wanted and welcomed! :)

4.  Be crafty, crafty, crafty!

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a little obsessed with the Hob Lob.  I love making things, whether it is for my classroom, my home, or for a friend.  The glue gun is my BFF, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Burnt fingertips and all.  Here are some of the beauties I would like to make this summer:

Source:  Etsy  

Source:  Pinterest
I can see this hanging in our sitting room!  I can also see paint being found in various nooks and crannies for years to come after making this with my angels.  :)

I want to make this for my classroom.  Loving the chevron!

I love this.  I tried this on one half of my bulletin board at the beginning of this year.  Yes, one half.  After an hour of working and forty eleven staples, I ripped it down, cause ain't nobody got time for dat.  But it's cute.  It's really stinkin' cute.  This will be done this year.  I think going with a green background with pink border throughout my room.  Or maybe visa versa.  Either way, I think that will look like perfection. :)

5.  Spend as much time as I can enjoying and loving on these babies.

These are my babies.  They are my whole entire world.  I don't know what life was like before them.  My daughter, Claire, is 2 and full of spunk and sassiness.  She loves for Mommy to paint her nails and braid her hair.  My son, Porter, is 4 and the sweetest, most gentle soul.  He loves superheroes, Legos, and his iPad.  We all know teaching is a profession that is so tough at times for various reasons.  There is no other profession I would rather have than teaching.  I don't see it as a job; I see it as a great pleasure that I get to do every day.  However, there are many days when I would give anything to just be able to be Mommy.  I know, I know.  In just a few years, both of them will be at school with me every day, and life will be grand.  But these guys are awesome, and I sometimes feel like I miss out on a lot because I work.  I love my job and would never give it up, even if we hit the lottery and I could retire at 30 to be on the Real Housewives of Southern Indiana {it needs to happen}.  Being able to just be Mommy for a few months is the reason I so look forward to summer.  So here's to weekday snuggles; watching Dora for three hours on rainy days; water fights; picnics; trips to the zoo; vacation to the beach; scratching backs at nap time; making grilled cheese, hot dogs, PB&J, and whatever else they can think of to making me feel like a short-order cook; painting fingernails; taping Lego movies for my 4 year old to upload to YouTube (yes, I just said that... another blog entry in and of itself...); and getting to spend every minute of every day with my babies.

So there you have it, friends.  My summer bucket list.  Oh, but how could I forget the most important one...  BE PART OF A FLASH MOB.  It. Needs. To. Happen.