End Of School Year Books!

I think everyone has a go-to list of Back to School books (my favorite is Polka-Dot Fixes Kindergarten!) but very seldom do you hear about books to read at the end of the year. This could be because we are all simply too exhausted to even think about it, but reading aloud some great EOY picture books is a good way to wrap up the learning, set the tone for the summer and encourage kids to discuss how they're feeling about being out of school or going to the next grade level.
Often times, as we take things off the walls, pack up items and prepare for the summer a bit at a time, we forget to address how this is going to make our students FEEL. Especially for those children for whom school is a safe refuge, where they know they will be fed regularly, encouraged and valued, the EOY can be stressful! For those that truly enjoy school, it can be wrenching to have it all come to an end. And for those that just can't wait for summer to start, it can be hard to contain that excitement and still follow procedures through to the end!

Here are some of my absolute favorite EOY read alouds that address all of those issues - you can click on the pictures to see the books on Amazon! If you buy through one of my links I will get a small amount from Amazon (like 10 cents lol) to help buy things for my classroom. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps - as you all know!

If you've read aloud any of the other Miss Bindergarten books, this one is a must (and even if you haven't!) This books summarizes the whole year and covers EOY procedures like washing tables and emptying cubbies!

The Last Day of Kindergarten
This book also deals with EOY clean up, but it also addresses the fact that the last day means leaving behind everything that is familiar and dear. It does have a graduation ceremony in it, so if your school doesn't do graduations that might be something to discuss - how every school does things differently!

Lizzie and the Last Day of School
This one is for those kiddos that love school and don't want it to end! In this story, the student and teacher end up at the same summer school, so the fun learning experiences continue!

Last Day, Hooray!
This is a sweet story that also deals with EOY clean up which students and staff engage in as they think about the coming summer vacation.

When It's the Last Day Of School
This book captures that  last day of school excitement! But, it reminds students that they still have to follow the rules...until that last bell rings!

The Night Before Summer Vacation
More than likely your students are already familiar with "The Night Before..." series, so this book will have a familiar format for them. Great rhyming text and although it doesn't mention school, it does deal with vacation time. If you're at a Title I school and most of your kiddos won't be going anywhere over the summer, you might want to be sensitive to that and skip this one.

The Berenstain Bears' Graduation Day
This Berenstain Bears book has ALL grade levels graduating - something that wouldn't happen anywhere but Bear Country! Still, its a cute read, especially if your school does have a K graduation ceremony!

Last Day Blues (Mrs. Hartwells classroom adventures)
This one is a bit ironic - as the kids are worried about their teachers missing them during the summer, the teachers are thinking about vacation plans! It is great way to bring up the point that you will miss all of your students and encourage them to come back to visit you next year - but that you will ALL be fine over the summer!

I hope you can grab a new story or two to help your class process the EOY!

10 of the Best FREE Kindergarten Math Videos

Using videos to teach Math Skills in Kindergarten

Yesterday I shared Dr. Jean's poem "What's the Point?" which encourages all of us to SHUT OUR DOORS and bring the singing, dancing and playing back to kindergarten! Of course this applies to all grade levels - I've seen pre-k classes where children are filling out tracing paper after tracing paper but spend very little time at centers. I've seen 1st grade classrooms where everyone is sitting quietly - in the dark! - working on a worksheet packet almost too thick for normal staples! Walking into these rooms felt like being sucked into a depressing bog, the students were apathetic, disengaged (for all that they were quiet) and just dying for the bell to ring.

But, what if you're not a singer or dancer by nature? What if you ARE but you just don't know what songs to teach the children that will help them learn? What if you want to make learning fun, but still cover your butt with your admin because you NEED your job?!

Well here are 10 of the BEST FREE Math videos I've found! These are all free to watch on youtube. If you don't have youtube access at school check out this quick tutorial for how to download the videos at home to transfer to your work computer. If you have a Smartboard, you can project these directly to your screen and then have everyone stand up to sing and dance along! Don't have a Smartboard? Play them on your computer and make up your own movements!

This is a great song for learning to count to 20 - and the kids love the movements! Play this at the beginning of the year until everyone can count to 20 and recognize those numbers. I love how Matt claps out the syllable too - cross curricular bonus! And how about all the midline crossing he does?! Dream English has a ton of ELL friendly songs!

I love the message of this song "Numbers Help Me Count" it's one of those "Duh!" things for adults but so important for children to learn -we have numbers for a reason! And of course the kids love the hip hop style of Mark D. Pencil!

 I love all of the Have Fun Teaching videos! Here's their counting by 1's video for 1-50, they have lots of other skip counting videos too!

Ready to count to 100? Jack Hartmann has this great video that combines exercise with counting! This is a great brain break or indoor recess song too!

Note - if you play the same video every time, kids WILL get bored! It's important to have many different songs/videos that address the same concept - you never know which one a student will connect with! Not to mention, what kid wouldn't want to be a counting super hero?!

How about counting to 100 macarena style (meaning lots of midline crossing!) plus this video explores the concepts of 10s! My kiddos always love this Dr. Jean video!

This big numbers song is so calming! Its great for when you first get back in from recess, to help kids settle down. The kids LOVE the big numbers at the end! Sometimes I pause and ask someone to come point out the ones, tens or hundreds in one of the big numbers!

Teaching skip counting? This video is one of my all time favorites for counting by 10s!

 How about addition? Harry Kindergarten has this great Pirate themed video - plus there's a matching subtraction song! 

This is a quick, fun video for comparing numbers! It user the proper terminology while still giving the kids a visual they can connect with!

My kids love this one for learning 3d shape names, especially because I hand out some of these 3d Shapes and during the song if they have the shape being sung about they get to hold it up! 

Now remember, this is just a SMALL sampling of the songs and videos that are out there! And, please remember to support those who share their talents on youtube by following their channels, visiting their websites and consider purchasing a dvd, cd or song download so that they can continue providing us with these great videos!

If you know of any other great, free kindergarten math videos, please "Rustle Up A Response" and share them in the comments below!

Now, if anyone says anything about how "kindergarten is just dancing and singing all day" you can say "Yes! and we're proud of it, because that's how children LEARN!"

What's The Point?

Recently I cam across a Dr. Jean poem that really speaks to me. It is called "What's The Point?" and although it references kindergarten, it could really describe any primary grade. It speaks to this "top down" curriculum that has teachers pushing more and more developmentally inappropriate academics on students so that one day they might do well on a standardized test.

 Read the blog post where she shared this poem here!
And if you click on the pic you can download this version of it.

It's one of those things that is really hard to believe if you think about it. It's gotten to the point that I've seen teachers - good teachers! - go from having center time and cooking experiments and lots of songs and stories to having students sitting all day, filling out worksheet packs because "they have to be ready for 1st grade". And the 1st grade teachers are coming down and telling kindergarten teachers what they need to be pushing because the 2nd grade teachers are breathing down THEIR necks! Third grade teachers are asking 2nd grade teachers to start pushing more and more skills because of that darned test that assesses children in things that they just might not be ready for!

But the thinking becomes, "If they fill out a 120 chart every day then eventually they will master the number concepts involved." or "If they do 30 addition problems every day and memorize their facts then they will be prepared for the test." without regard to whether the child actually UNDERSTANDS why 4+5=9. Or "If we push sight words so that they can read 200 words in kindergarten it will help on the test." regardless of the fact that forcing the rote memorization of all those sight words might turn a child off of reading forever.

Students are held in at recess to complete those packs of worksheets that they couldn't focus on during class - because somehow, being forced to sit still for even longer will make them focus better the rest of the day or "teach them" to focus in the first place! It becomes a case of, "The brightest minds in the class can complete the worksheet packet in 20 minutes (meaning they probably didn't even need the practice!) so if I give the rest of the class twice that amount of time, they should be able to finish it. And those that are overwhelmed or lost or space out will just have to learn to keep up with the rest of the class or miss out on every social and/ or physical activity until they do!"

And God forbid that anyone come by our classroom and see that we are not knee deep in some kind of obvious learning activity - ie worksheet - because if it doesn't look difficult, serious and quiet then it can't possibly be teaching anyone anything. On the contrary! Our classrooms should be loud, fun, and organized chaos! Learning isn't quiet! It isn't solitary! It isn't boring!

When we want a baby to learn to roll over or crawl we don't shut them in a quiet place without distractions. No, we get them the shiny, noisy toys to attract their attention and we encourage them to scoot just an inch closer and then we celebrate like crazy so that they'll scoot another inch. How do we go from THAT to thinking that a child can possibly learn in a quiet room with just a pencil/paper?

In my pre-k class this year we do play-based learning. We have long recesses, even longer center times and nap time! And yet, my students are learning! On the playground they run up to me with sticks to show me how they can form different letters out of them. At the art easel they paint letters from their friends' names. They can be heard counting out blocks at the Lego table to make sure everyone has an equal amount of the coveted yellow ones so that its fair. At the dollhouse, the finger puppet theater was appropriated so that the dolls could put on a stage act of Little Red Riding Hood.

These are activities that the children think up on their own and CHOOSE to do, because they are allowed to explore and play and internalize the "lessons". And those "lessons" consist of reading stories aloud, singing songs, and dancing. Every child in my class has learned to write their name - with one capital letter and the rest lowercase - without a SINGLE name worksheet. Without a SINGLE actual lesson. Instead they see their name in print everywhere, they learn how to form the letters from fun songs and videos and they are encouraged to write with markers, chalk, crayons and paint brushes or even with sticks in the mud on the playground!

In fact, I recently purchased a HeidiSongs Alphabet dvd (love the children's artwork in the videos!). On Friday we sat down to check out the songs with our dry erase boards and markers. I encouraged the children to write the letters as we played the songs. I watched for the kids to get squirrelly or disinterested, but they loved watching the videos and hearing the different songs so we made it all the way to Z. This is what 4 and 5 year olds can learn to do without ever touching a tracing sheet!

 Not one of these babies was able to write a single letter in August!

So my message for today is to STOP and THINK and decide for yourself what the best way to teach is. I'm not saying to ignore your admin or to not do what your district mandates. I  AM saying that if you think about it, and work on it, you will be able to incorporate play and dancing and singing into your classroom and STILL achieve learning. In fact, the learning gains your students make will be even more dramatic than if you have them filling out worksheet packets every day, I promise!

I'm going to be doing a series of posts on play based learning, and what it can look like in your classroom, so please follow my blog and let's take this journey together - to prove that play belongs back in the classroom and that the ONLY way to get our children to "do well on the test" is by letting them engage in fun, developmentally appropriate activities that trigger their innate learning drives!

Pattern Worms & Chenille Chicks

Yesterday we went up to Oklahoma City so my daughter could receive a Poetry Award (she won 1st place in the 2015 Oklahoma Lore Youth Poetry Contest for 10th grade).

Afterwards we decided to stop at the zoo for an hour. Last time we were there, Sullivan was all about the animals. In fact, he spent 20 minutes jabbering to the gorillas. In a dramatic turn of events, he went into hysterics when we entered the ape building this time. He started screaming "No monkey!" No monkey!" when the orangutan got close to the window. So...we headed for the gift store. After placating him with a new giraffe rubber duck (he has a rubber duck obsession, at last count he had 50+, all unique and much loved, they are his go-to distraction and as toys go, relatively cheap!) I got to peruse the books and found this gem, 10 Little Hermit Crabs, for our upcoming Ocean Theme:

It's a super cute counting book with a happy ending (all 10 hermit crabs show back up on the last page!)

We've been finishing up our Spring theme in class - although our butterfly and chicken eggs arrived late this year so we'll be doing our Life Cycle unit in conjunction with Ocean and Farm instead of during the Spring theme as planned.

One of our favorite Spring activities was our Pattern Worms. These are super simple and a great quick patterning assessment!

 I cut pipe cleaners in 1/2 and then twisted one end to form a loop.

I had both clear and opaque pony beads, so the kids could choose whatever colors they wanted.
Once the beads were in place, I made a small loop at the opposite end and hit it with the glue gun to ensure the beads stayed on.When the wiggle eyes were attached, the kids were thrilled with our "worms" and loved playing with them!
The best thing is that everyone can be successful - whether they're still working on AB patterns or have moved on to more complicated patterns (I had a sweetie do an ABCDEFG pattern correctly!) each child was able to create a pattern worm. And, its great fine motor practice to get those slippery beads onto the pipe cleaner!

Our Sand & Water Table also got a fun Spring theme activity! I took chenille chickens and baby chick (both from Hobby Lobby's Easter aisle) and added mini eggs (also Easter) and mini birds' nests (from over by the artificial flowers and birds). Then I added some plain white paper litter (from PetSmart - it's meant for small animal cages, but its dye free & dust free so its great for the sensory table!) and some lima beans.

The lima beans had upper case letters, lower case letters and the #s 0-20 on them.
After the kids had fun playing with the chicks, invariably they wanted something to do with the lima beans! We did everything from sorting them by upper/lower case, sorting by letter/number, finding specific letters, spelling out names etc. This was a super quick bin to put together and the kids had a lot of fun with it. They did wish I had created a sorting mat for them like I did for St. Patrick's Day, so that's on my to-do list for next time I change the materials!

April Showers Bulletin Board

Using Student Photos to make a Spring Bulletin Board

To go with all of the awesome Spring crafts we made for our Spring Bulletin Board, we also had to have an April Showers bulletin board! We've had a ton of inside recesses due to rain lately, so the kids were quite familiar with the idea of a thunderstorm. And, what kid wouldn't want a giant umbrella so they could play in the rain?!

We've read several books about the rain this Spring - some of our favorites were Listen to the Rain and The Rain Stomper.


This was the perfect craft to go along with our "April Showers" theme. First, I cut the plates in 1/2 and then cut the points along the edge. I did this free hand and it isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be!

Next the kids picked out their favorite colors of tissue papers. I have a box of Pre-Cut Tissue Paper Squares, which makes crafts like these super simple. Each student got 3 colors of tissue  paper and went to town crumpling them up. This was the tricky part - having to separate the squares to work with just one at a time, crumpling them not too much and not too little - great fine motor practice!

We applied liquid glue to the umbrellas in sections - once they finished covering up the glue they could apply more to the next part. Limiting the glue application like this meant less mess!

Once the umbrellas were dry, each child picked out a pipe cleaner handle and I attached it with hot glue. I took their full length pictures with my phone - I just positioned them in front of a blank wall and told them to pretend they were holding an umbrella. Then I removed the background of the pictures (see this tutorial for an easy way to do this!) and printed the pictures on cardstock.

My daughter painted in the grass, clouds and raindrops on the bulletin board, and then we added the kids' pictures and their umbrellas.

The kids were so excited to point themselves out to their parents as they were being dropped off this morning. Using their pictures makes the board extra special!

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