March 30, 2014

Indiana Bloggers $1 Sale

Indiana is such a funny state.  Half of the state is starting spring break this week, half of the state is ending spring break today (like me... Sadsville), and there are some stragglers who either don't get a spring break thanks to the Snowpocolypse we had this year, or have it at some other random time.

No matter what your spring break situation might be, let's celebrate the return of beautiful weather and the exit of snow (fingers crossed) with a little $1 sale!  Over 65 IN bloggers are marking items in their TPT shops down to $1 TODAY ONLY!  I am slashing the price of these items:
A zoo themed write the room station activity

My students love I Have, Who Has!  They could play it any time of day, for any skill, and still squeal with excitement.  They love this sight word version!

And of course...  Some Kentucky Derby Fun!  My class does the Derby up in a big way.  Being only 30 minutes from Louisville, our neck of the woods LOVES the Derby!  I'll let you in on a little secret, too...  I'm going to add a TON to this pack in the next few weeks, so you can buy this for $1 and get at least double of what is currently included in time for the Derby!  That's a STEAL!!! :)

Check out the other goodies from more talented Indiana bloggers.  You won't be sorry, and you won't be broke, either! :)

March 25, 2014

Project Based Learning

I've heard a lot of buzz about Project Based Learning (PBL) lately.  Other bloggers, Twitter, and Facebook seem to be talking a whole lot about this method of teaching, and it just so happens that my school district is the recipient of a large grant to explore PBL.  To date, I have had some formal PBL training, as well as exploring this curricular model on my own.

What is PBL?  The Buck Institute (the PBL gurus) define Project Based Learning as "a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge."  You can read all the gory details of PBL here, but the big components of a true PBL project are quality content, 21st century skills, inquiry, a solid driving question, need to knows, voice and choice, revision and reflection, and a public audience.  

How does all that fit into kindergarten, you ask?  Well, it's definitely possible.  It's a lot of planning on my part, yet it's also a lot of letting go of some control and giving students freedom in their learning.  I'm all about that!  I will admit, although my class has completed what I feel like was a very successful project, I do not claim to be a PBL expert.  I am planning on attending a national summit next month that will help me to better understand how the encompassing PBL model fits into a primary classroom.  I will make sure to keep you up to date on my findings as I learn them.

Anyway...  Onto our PBL project...

The event that got our project rolling was our President's Day unit.  Snowmageddon 2014 caused us to not spend as much time on that unit as I would have liked, but we went on as planned. Since my students had knowledge of some of the Presidents (mainly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln), I began one of our meetings with a discussion reviewing these two famous Americans.  After discussing for a few minutes, I asked the kiddos if any of them had been to a museum.  The results were about half and half.  I showed the kids this video from the Smithsonian Museum of American History:

After watching the video, I posed the question to the kids, "How can we, as museum curators, teach our peers about famous Americans throughout history?"  (I will admit--it didn't happen quite that smoothly... I had to answer some random questions, have some random conversations, and lead back to the topic at hand before posing the question.  Tis the life of a kindergarten teacher...)

The following day, we created our list of Knows, Need to Knows, and Next Steps.  This is a critical component of PBL.  Here is our finished (and rewritten--blame it on my horrible penmanship) anchor chart.

After we finished the top part of our chart, I sent the kids to work in their groups (which I selected) to come up with a first and second choice for their topic.  As you can see, the kids chose a wide range of people to study!

From there, we spent the next few days in workshops.  The workshop consisted of a combination of direct instruction, watching videos on BrainPop Jr. and Learn360, and reading books on MyOn.  

Here is a peek inside one of our workshop days.  The kids used the MacBooks to watch BrainPop Jr. videos to research their American.

A wonderful resource I used to guide some of my instruction was this little product from Teacher to the Core:

While I did adapt this to meet the needs of our class and project, it has so many FABULOUS resources.

After workshopping was over, we began working on our final steps of our project.  We created posters of each American to display next to our projects.

We went outside to make our posters... It was 70 and sunny.  After the winter we've had, who can blame us?!?!

The kids decided (with A LOT of input from me) to create iMovies as their displays.  One partner would dress the part of the famous American, while the other held the display (the iPad).  

The students were required to find at least 4 pictures of their American, and write 4 facts.  We created the entire project on the iMovie app, which is extremely kindergarten-friendly.  It took about 2, 1 hour work sessions to complete all ten iMovies from start to finish.  I told you, it's extremely kindergarten-friendly.

Our presentation day came, and  These kids blew me away.  I don't know how many times I said, "We are acting like professionals for our audience!" (may as well had my voice recorded saying it), but it stuck.  Here are some pictures from the public performance.

Abraham Lincoln

Jackie Robinson

Johnny Appleseed

Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amelia Earhart

George Washington

Betsy Ross

Overall, I feel as if this was a successful attempt at Project Based Learning.  As I said in the first paragraph, I am extremely interested in learning more about how to integrate PBL into ALL subjects. While we used our literacy and math skills in this project, I would love to see what I learn at the Elementary PBL Summit next month.  

Our next project has already started!  We will be creating a pocket park in our city with the local Street Art Initiative.  Before spring break, we had our entry event; check back later this week for more details of what we will be doing next!

March 24, 2014

French Lick Blogger Meetup

In case you haven't heard, some teachers from various parts of the country decided to get together for some fun and networking this weekend in a little place called French Lick, IN.

When Greg messaged me about this meet up, I knew I had to go.  

Four of my teaching BFFs drove the hour drive to French Lick on Saturday to attend.  To put it lightly, it was a BLAST!  Holly did a fantastic job of organizing this event.  It was seriously one of the most organized events I've ever attended.  Not only that, but I feel like I came away feeling refreshed and renewed, and with 50+ new BFFs!

My crew:  me, Lindsey, Jena, and Tiffany...My friend Marissa wasn't there yet for this picture!

Our SWAG!!!  Thanks, Vera Bradley, Scentos, Erin Condren, Crayola, Crystal Springs Books, SDE, Jamberry, and Kaden Books!

Four teachers... one night... twenty bags...

We took a golf cart ride through French Lick.  They are apparently street-legal there.

 We ate some yummy pizza at Off the Brick in French Lick.  We were able to watch the game AND eat our weight in cheesy bread.  Win-Win.

Speaking of win-win, we might have spent a little time in the hotel casino.  Although this picture looks a tad deceiving, I did not win big, but we did walk away with free Cokes!

We said goodbye early Sunday morning.  Sadsville.  I'm already looking forward to the next meet up. This weekend was just what I needed.

I found this little tidbit Sunday night after my bags were unpacked and reality set back in.  I think it's pretty fitting to describe the feel of the weekend.  

There is more to come from the amazing group of teachers who met this weekend.  I won't let the cat out of the bag, but stay tuned!

March 16, 2014

Peek at My Week

One week until Spring Break.  And all God's people said, "Amen."
I'm linking up with Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten for the first time in forever to share my plans for this fun week.  It's all about weather this week, and boy oh boy, have we had insane weather lately.  Yesterday, it was a lovely 78 degrees.  My daughter and I went shopping.  We had steaks and corn on the cob on the grill for supper.  We enjoyed a bonfire with our neighbor friends.  It was glorious.

Today, I look outside after taking a nap to find at least 2" of snow covering our grass.  S.M.H.

Anyway, on Monday, it's all about clouds and the water cycle.  Tuesday, Christie Dutton (meteorologist) from Wave 3 will be visiting our classroom to talk about clouds.  She's come for three years now, and I promise, if she decides to quit doing the weather, she would be a dynamite kindergarten teacher!  She's a wonderful person, and the kids LOVE her!

Wednesday, we will be talking about rain and using an eBook on Storia for that.  I love the enriched books!  Thursday, we will FaceTime with another meteorologist (don't know who yet) from Wave 3 to discuss the job a meteorologist does.  Friday, we will learn all about the wind.  I'm hoping the weather cooperates and we can enjoy some beautiful weather rather than the eternal winter we've had so far.

We are also beginning our next PBL unit.  We are creating a small park in our town.  We have our entry event on Monday, and the kids will be SO EXCITED!  More details to come...

If you haven't yet, please check out my newest blog that I am co-authoring with my BFF.  It's all things technology (my number one passion, followed by kindergarten!)

This weekend, we blogged all about Integration 101 for the primary and intermediate classrooms.  There are lots of helpful hints!

March 13, 2014

Yes...I'm Alive.

It's been awhile.  Life has been very busy, to say the least.  In February, my district voted to extend the school day one hour to make up for all of the snow days we have had this year.  That hour, while not seeming like much, has been hard to get used to.  It's going well, but makes for much less time for things like blogging.

We have been busy, busy, busy with our first PBL project.  I'm hoping to blog all about it next week.

In the meantime, my best friend and I have started our own little blog about all things tech related.  Check us out:

We're gearing up for our big weather unit next week!  We will learn about clouds, weather patterns in relation to the seasons, what a meteorologist does, and discuss our favorite types of weather (snow will NOT be discussed).  To get in full swing, I created what I consider one of my favorite products to date.  

Just for fun, this product is on SALE until the weekend is over.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Wish us luck tomorrow on our big presentations! :)