Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Our First Birding Trip

Here they are on their first birding trip!  We only had to go a half block away from the school to the dried up creek where there was a huge flock of birds feeding on Cedar berries.  There were many Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.  There also were some House Finches, Northern Flickers and Blue Jays.  I'm not sure how well they could see them as there weren't enough binoculars to go around and it does take awhile to learn how to use them.  I know some were calling out the birds that they knew, so they were seeing them.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Working at centers is a great way to work on their skills in a fun, informal way.  Students really enjoy it and it teaches them how to work in groups, cooperate, share, and how to ask for help besides learning the focus skill.  The centers are more "hands-on", which young students really like.  This also gives me time to help students individually.

Categorizing and reading color words are some 
skills that these girls are working on.

These boys are working on rhyming and the first 
sound in a word.

Being able to actually feel the shape of the numbers 
helps them understand how to write them.

They boys are matching opposite cards.

I have a handwriting center each time, but it is 
not a favorite of the kids.  They need to practice it though.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Butterflies on the Loose!

It was time for the Painted Lady Butterflies to be set free!

A Mouse in the Schoolhouse!

So...to make a long story short, we acquired a mouse.  We had him for one day due to some kids opening the lid often.  We could have had him longer, but he seemed pretty hyper at times, so he needed to be free.  The kids were really fascinated by it.

Most of us thought he was pretty cute!
He looked really cute when he was sleeping.
The kids loved the mouse!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We've Got Butterflies!

The butterflies were hatching quickly this morning as we watched.  They slipped right out of their chrysalis with ease.  At first they had wrinkled wings, but after awhile they were able to fly.  The kids were thrilled to watch this process.  The butterflies we have are Painted Lady Butterflies.  One child asked, "Is this real?"

Happy Birthday to the Principal!

It was the principal's/superintendent's birthday on Monday and since her twins are in the class, we really wanted to surprise her!   Each child made a card for her and we gave her a birthday crown too.  Her husband was sneaky and had sent treats for the class.  We turned out the lights and the kids hid under the table so when she walked in she heard, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!"  The kids thought it was great fun and they enjoyed getting to know their principal a little better! 

The Donor's Choose Items Have Arrived

We were thrilled to receive our box of 
educational materials. Thank you to all of 
our donors!
There were smiles all around!
These items will help make learning more fun and valuable.
I'm really excited about these weekly science magazines.  
I can add to any concept and there is an online component to it.  
We may also watch 1-2 short videos each week about 
the lesson and there is a game to go with.  What a fun 
way to learn more about our world!
This is the paper for the last week in September, 
but they had to check it out!

Art/Science Project

Last week's art project was based on our science lesson.  Students need to know the needs and parts of a plant. They seem to enjoy art time more than anything else we do.


Check out the birthday girl's cute 
nature cupcakes with butterflies and 
the pretty flower rings.

Patriotic Songs

If you hear your young child singing patriotic songs around the house, that is because I teach them the songs each morning and we sing them after the "Pledge of Allegiance".  It doesn't take these young children very long to memorize them and they really like to sing.  They know two so far:  This Land is Your Land and You're a Grand Old Flag.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Downy Woodpecker

I took this photo of a Downy Woodpecker in February 2014.
This small black and white woodpecker is a year round resident that is in our area.  The red patch on its nape/neck tells us that it is a male woodpecker.  You may see them in your yard or in the woods.  If you put a suet feeder in your yard, they will come to it often. it flies like other woodpeckers in roller coaster fashion going up and down.  You may hear it drumming as it pecks at wood to find insects in the tree trunk.

There is another woodpecker in our area that looks very similar to this Downy Woodpecker and it is called the Hairy Woodpecker.  It is a bit larger than this one with a longer bill..  To read more about the Downy Woodpecker go to the bird site:  All About Birds/ Downy Woodpecker by clicking here.

To see more of my bird photos of birds in our area, go to my Flickr site by clicking here.  I have found in the past that the students and past students enjoy looking at the birds on my Flickr site.  It helps them learn the birds and learn which birds are in our area.

 A "life bird" is a bird that you've seen for the first time. the next time that you and your child see a bird for the first time and you can holler, "Life bird!"  Some people make lists of their life birds complete with the date and location.  It could be a fun journal idea for a family to keep.  The child could draw the birds they see on each page.  What was your last life bird? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Waiting for Wings!

We had ten caterpillars in the jars last week, but when we returned on Monday morning each of them were hanging from the lid as a chrysalis!  The kids were so surprised and they are impatiently waiting for them to turn into butterflies.  Now we wait. 

A Large Spider Visits School

Someone dropped this spider off at my house yesterday.  It is a huge garden spider and the kids were impressed with it.  I try to teach the kids that just because an animal may look creepy to them that doesn't mean that it is bad.  They should be like a scientist and watch it to see what it does and where it goes.  I also remind them that if they have an animal in a jar, they should let it go later like I did today with this guy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Have you seen this bird?

If you see a bird with a bill like this, it is an Ibis.  This is a White-faced Ibis and I took this photo right before sundown yesterday.  You can find it by looking in the shallow ponds on the east side of the highway north of town.  Look for a dark, wading bird about 1.5 feet tall.  There are about 20 of them there.  You may want to bring binoculars for a better look.  It can be quite pretty as its feathers are iridescent in the sunlight.  They seem to be always be busy probing in the mud with that long, down-curved bill search for aquatic insects.

Take a Hike!

Corsica Lake

It is going to be a beautiful weekend and it would be the perfect time to get some outdoor hiking in.  I have a suggestion for two great places to visit.  Corsica Lake is a nice place to go hiking and birding.  It is only ten miles northeast of town and there are trails on both sides of the lake.  They are both an easy hike on flat ground.

The Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge trail is only 15 miles or so southwest of here.  This trail also is an easy hike with the lake on one side of the trail.  There are usually many birds to be seen along the way.  Be sure to drive on the road over the lake and you might get to see pelicans, gulls and ducks.

Both places have a bathroom and a picnic area. Take time to explore, throw rocks in the lake, catch some frogs, look at butterflies, check out the different wildflowers, or see how many species of birds you can spot.  Maybe you could even bring a picnic along.  Bring your binoculars, if you have them and take some photos to mark the day!  Have a great weekend!

Bird Lesson #2

A Great Blue Heron is as tall as a kindergartner.  It moves very slowly while fishing, but it can catch a frog or fish with lightning speed as it jabs it with its long, pointed bill.  It is mostly gray, while some are more blue than others.  When it flies its neck is shaped like an S. It is North America's largest heron.

Great Blue Herons nest together high in trees.  This nesting site is called a rookery.  These birds will be migrating to Central America as the colder weather approaches.  They hang out in ponds out in the country and there are usually many at the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge about 12 miles from here.

For more on Great Blue Herons, go to the "All About Birds" website by clicking here.

I took this photo of a rookery back in April in Charles Mix county.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Journal Writing in Kindergarten

Kindergarten students write in journals.  It is true!  They write in their journal every day.  At first the pages may have a basic drawing and you will see where they tried to write their thoughts using lines, circles or random letters of the alphabet.  Throughout the year the drawings become more advanced and your child will start to draw letters of that sound and then words using inventive spelling or by looking at the Word Wall in the classroom. In time they will be able to write on their own.  Some kindergartners come in knowing how to write, so then they are challenged to write more, use details and adjectives. 

Each child is at a different level and that is okay.  I try to get them to keep advancing at their own pace.  Each day I do a lesson teaching them how to write and how to use a "magic line", if they just can't figure out how to sound out a word.  I model the writing for them at the board to demonstrate how it is done.

I explain to the kids that their writing is called "kid writing" and mine is "grown-up writing".  We don't want them to think that their writing is wrong, but it just different.  The goal is to get each child to feel free to write and express themselves without the pressure of it being perfect.  I think that you will enjoy seeing what your child was thinking about at this young age.  Its very interesting to watch them progress throughout their kindergarten year.  

We also keep a class nature journal where together we write about what is happening around us in nature.  Encourage your child to write at home too. 

Journal writing teaches students: 

  • how to read from left to right 
  • how to write a sentence 
  • how to read 
  • how to spell and sound out words 
  • how to use correct punctuation 
  • how the spoken word can be put into written words 
"The fire truck is going to the fire."
"I like to be outside."
"My grandma has a broken leg and she is in the hospital.  
Two snakes are outside.  One can go underground 
and one can break down buildings!"
"I like boats!"
"I like hotels."

    Saturday, September 3, 2016

    The Wheels on the Bus

    Last week's reading lessons were focused around the big book titled, "The Wheels on the Bus".  It is the same story as the favorite children's song.  

    One day we headed out to the school bus and climbed aboard to see what it was like.  Of course we had to sing the song on the bus. Those students that don't ride the school bus, thought that being in the bus was pretty cool!  Now we will have to see, if someone will give them a ride on the bus someday.  
    Last week's lessons were about learning to match rhyming words, name these nine letters: Gg, Tt, Aa, Yy, Dd, Jj, Mm, Bb and Rr, match the upper and lowercase letters,as well as recall and retell a story.  Working on these skills at home will also reinforce learning and help your child to succeed!
    Uh-oh!  A five-year old bus driver?  I'll walk.

    The kids loved the bus!  We sang the song from our story today.

    This was our book of focus for last week.  The kids are good singers!

    Weekly Testing

    Each week I test the students individually to see how they are doing on their skills.  I have found that this is the best way at the beginning of the year to track their progress, although it can be time-consuming.  I use flashcards and classroom manipulatives to find out if they understood the skills taught for the week.  This is a good way to monitor how they are doing and who needs more assistance.  The other students are in small groups working on activities in different areas of the room.  They did a great job at staying on task today! 

    I would love to send the report home on Fridays, but it takes time and I will need the weekend to get them scored, so they will usually be sent home on Mondays.  You can check the Parent Portal on DDN Campus to see how your child is doing.  

    I also take the time to ask the kids how they are feeling about school and what is going good for them or what concerns they may have.  They enjoy testing time and beg to be next!

    Great News!

    My Donor's Choose project was just funded today!  New reading, math and science materials totaling $569.00 will be shipped soon!  If you know the donors, be sure to give them a big thank you as these materials will positively affect these kindergartners!  

    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    Meet Rascal

    Meet Rascal

    By now, you probably have heard of Rascal the raccoon puppet who visits with the kindergartners every morning.  In fact Rascal has been the class mascot for some 23 years for the kindergartners in our school.  

    Rascal is...well...a rascal and gets into a bit of trouble.  He helps the students to learn what is right and wrong.  He also loves the kindergartners and he gives each of them a hug in the morning or a tail whip when he is being a rascal. 

    When he visits with the children in the morning he poses questions and problems and I think that the students learn social skills and manners from him.  He encourages them to try hard in school and to follow the rules.  He is all good!  

    Rascal is also very funny!  This week he told the kids that he roasted a marshmallow on his tail.  Also he went swimming at the pool using his tail as a propeller and then drying himself while riding on the ceiling fan. The kids love their morning visit with Rascal!