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# Teaching Kindergarten: What’s Working? #9

We are moving right along and are into week 9. Today I have two free Halloween downloads for practicing counting! I also share my calendar book, our Farm book and our farm bulletin boards, and a few favorite tools for helping develop fine motor skills.

1.  Here is our Farm Bulletin Board!  I love doing our farm unit!  This is what we do:  we study each animal, using non-fiction books and discussion.  Then we make each craft project, and use them for the bulletin board.  We enjoy them on our walls for the duration of the unit, and then after that, we take the down and put them into our Farm book.  Then I use the book for a guided reading lesson with the kids.  You can see how our “Singable Book” looks below!  Everyone can be successful with it, because they can all sing it- so of course they can easily “read” all of the words.  Some kids are really reading, and some are emergent readers.  But no matter what, they all benefit!

These horses are part of our Farm Book. We first put them on the wall, and then when the unit is finished, we glue them into the kids’ books.

These adorable little piggies and sheep are also part of our Farm book! I love the way each one has its unique expression!

Here is a farm bulletin board that we have been working on!  You can find the masters as part of our Farm Song Singable Book here.

The book has even been animated!  Check this out!  LOL!

2.   “Pumpkin Patch Counting” and “Spider Counting”

I always try to combine fine motor skills with academics if I can, and this seems easiest to do when the children need to practice counting objects.  I also like to stick to the themes that we are studying for social studies or science.   So I decided that I would make a couple of counting worksheets that are along the lines of the “Number Tree” activity that is a free download on my website. (The Number Tree idea originally came from Pre-K Pages.com, but I created the paper to go with it.)   In this activity, the children count out a given number of plastic farm animals (or whatever you want) and put them in the pumpkin patch.  They then raise their hand and tell the teacher, aide, or volunteer that they are ready, and how many farm animals they counted.  If the adult agrees that it is correct, then the child may color in that numbered pumpkin on his or her pumpkin patch.

There are three different versions so that the children can progress from smaller to larger numbers.  The first one goes from one to ten, the second from eleven to twenty, and the last goes from twenty-one to thirty.  When the children get to the pages with the numbers past ten, we give them Cuisenaire “Count-Ten Cartons,” which are just like egg cartons that have been cut down to have just ten spaces.  (Ice cube trays with just ten spaces work great too, if you can find them!  Sometimes they have them in the dollar store.)  This helps them count the larger numbers more easily.  For example, for number twelve, they put one animal in each space, and then put two extra farm animals in the pumpkin patch.  Then once the adult checks that they really do have twelve animals, and have identified which pumpkin on their worksheet has a number twelve, they may color in that pumpkin.

I made a spider web page that is exactly the same thing, but with spiders!  I bought a box of plastic spiders at a party store, and saved them so that the kids could count them for Halloween fun.  I was going to ask parents to donate some black nylons (knee highs would have been perfect) and then stretch them over the tops of some pie tins.  That would have made some excellent spider webs!  But alas, I was not around to take care of this, so I think that we are just going to count the spiders into bowls or paper plates and call it a day.    There’s always next year!

Just for fun,  I purchased some plastic spider rings, and I thought that next week we will put one ring on each finger and count them to ten.  Then we’ll add a few more plastic spiders in the dish, and count them up to twelve or thirteen, etc.  Anyway, the good news is that these two counting sheets (and Spider Numbers, all three versions of each one) have been included as your free download this week.  I hope that they are useful to you.  Enjoy!

3.  Great Gadgets for Fine Motor Skill Development

At the KTot Conference in Texas, I enjoyed purchasing a few new items at a booth called, “Write Out Of The Box,”  where they stock a lot of fun little items that help children improve their fine motor skills in fun and clever ways, such as wind up toys, squeezy balls, stretchy toys, pincher grasp items such as kid friendly tweezers and things like that.  I chose to add to my collection of wind up toys that I use as rewards when the children participate and try their best during my guided reading groups, much the same as I use the balls.  (See last week’s entry on using a balls to motivate a reading group for more information.)  I like that the rewards that I give them can also improve their fine motor skills as well!

I also purchased some “Mini Grabbers” there that we used with the kids to pick up their farm animals in the Pumpkin Patch counting activity above.  That made it super fun for them!

Children put one orange pompom on a plate, and then raise their hand to tell the teacher they are ready. If the teacher agrees that they do have the correct color and quantity, they may color the pompom orange!  Download this paper free here.

We did a similar activity the week before using the “Bug Catchers” to pick up pom-poms at their math center.  Their job was to read the directions and then pick up five reds, two pinks, one black, and so on.  If the adult agreed that they did this correctly, then they got to color in that square.  (Yes, this is very similar to the activity above, but uses color words as well!  )  We did this once with tweezers and another time with the bug catchers.  I got my bug catchers at a local US Toy Company store, though, not from WriteOutOfTheBox.com where they are much more expensive. A friend pointed out that many of the things they sell there can be found more cheaply in places such as the Oriental Trading Company, so it is certainly worth looking other places before making a purchase!

I should note that I bought a dozen of the bug catchers, and two of them are already broken.  So beware!  I have really not had much trouble with wind up toys breaking, though- thank goodness!  But you can get cheaper ones in the dollar section at especially during the springtime when people are looking for Easter basket stuffers. THOSE are much pricier- but pretty neat!

For a lot more really COOL ideas for improving fine motor skills, check out my Pinterest Fine Motor Skills board here!

4.  A Movie for Using Balls to Motivate Young Readers– and Zoo-Phonics, too!
Last week I explained this motivation technique and decided to take a movie of a reading lesson in which I used balls to motivate my students, so I am including it here.  In it, my students are doing the Zoo-Phonics motions to practice their letter sounds.  But they are not looking at the Zoo-Phonics cards anymore!  They have transitioned away from them and are now practicing the sounds with just plain lower case letter cards.  As you will see in this video clip, they really, really REALLY like Zoo-Phonics!  And, they were SUPER excited to earn a ball to play with for just a minute- you can totally see the joy and excitement in their little faces!  I am SO proud of these children, because they did not know a single letter or sound when school started on August 23rd- and now they just about know them ALL!  And what a fun way to practice!  I highly recommend Zoo-Phonics for the active learner- it just can’t be beat!

5.  Calendar Book- Updated Files for Write the Date

For those of you that are doing the calendar books, I am posting a few more of the “Write the Date” papers.  I previously posted them for September and October, but did not have anymore after that.  I have had a chance to finish up the rest of the months this week while I was trying to let my eyes heal, so I am including them in this blog posting. Get the currently updated copies for this year here.  I hope you like them!

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