Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

STEM During the Month of October!

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Oct 27, 2016 3:38:00 PM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years. She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.

What’s not to love about this time of year? October is the perfect time to kick learning into high gear with an already inquisitive group of kindergarten students. They have a “built-in radar” for all things that fly, screech, roll and grow!

During this month, we have discussed how animals prepare for the coming winter months; the change of the season with its hues of gold, red, and orange; and decreasing hours of daylight that allow those true colors to reveal themselves. So much to cover in so little time!
This year, we are focused on nocturnal creatures like bats, owls and coyotes, all of which are indigenous to our S. Missouri Ozarks. We will be making a Compare/Contrast Graphic about the similarities and differences in owls and bats. We’ll also be giving them a test flight after designing and studying the way they fly via conservation videos. And to get our learning off to a great start, we’ll be reading two little readers that relay a simple set of facts about the two flying creatures.

Hameray has some amazing materials for STEM! Among them are these two gems that give students basic knowledge using real photographs of the animals. Students prefer books of this nature that give them a first-hand look at something they are deeply interested in. The books I use come from Hameray’s ZooZoo Animal World Series.

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In addition to the Owl and Bat books, Hameray publishes a book about Coyotes, perfect for highlighting another well-known animal in the area my students live in. All of my students have heard the high-pitched barking of coyotes as they roam the hills and pastures hunting at night. This book really brings them to life!

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If I had one piece of advice for teaching about animals during the month of October, it would be to focus on animals native to the area in which you live. You can also include traditional creatures of the night associated with the season, though. Students love it all!

Pumpkins are another highly engaging topic of study. This year is a very special year in my class because all of the pumpkins we will be using were grown on our farm just across the road from our home. Students will get to help carve them, decorate them, eat them, and the most fun of all…ROLL them! We will study how the size of pumpkins has a great deal to do with how far they will roll!!!

Here is a video of my music room/dining room with just part of the harvest! It was so warm during late September/early October that we had to keep the pumpkins inside! We had as many as 260+ pumpkins in there at one time!

 

Overtaken by pumpkins!!! #weneedapumpkinintervention #anypumpkinpeddlersoutthere #teacherfriends #teachersofinstagram

A video posted by Maggie Hufstedler (@maggieskinder) on

I CAN’T WAIT to begin our Pumpkin and Bat activities! Just look at the cute “Nemo” stick-ons! They are the cutest!!! And just look at the realistic bats! I also have little bead necklace crafts for them to practice counting! 

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Click on the image below to download an information sheet about ZooZoo Animal World, which contains the books featured in this article.
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Topics: Zoozoo Animal World, Margaret Hufstedler, Halloween, STEM

Summer Fun with Letter Learning!

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Jul 30, 2015 4:41:00 PM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years.  She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.  The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.

With the summer months here, it is so much fun to be outside enjoying activities with little ones. I love playing camp out in our washing machine box "cabin," reading great books, and mixing up various concoctions. Combining books and concoctions is one way to make summer letter learning fun!

I recently received a set of Letter Buddies Letter Books from Hameray, so my grandchildren and I spent a lot of time looking at the colorful pages and discussing what the objects on each page had in common. We talked about the shape of each letter, the sound at the beginning of each object name, and how we could write, paint or draw the letters. This led us to a search on Pinterest for recipes on sidewalk paint using corn starch, water and food coloring.

summer_funAfter a brief scramble to find paint brushes, then mixing the "paint" and adding color in each of 12 muffin tins, we went outside! Wonder of wonders! This was the best activity of the summer! I asked the children to try making the first letter of their names, then we tried other letters. The oldest painted the entire alphabet! The best thing about this paint is how it brightened to a beautiful chalky appearance as it dried.

After the fun, we came inside to clean up and look at the books that had letters we had made. We also made letters by arranging beans, cereal, raisins, baby carrots and many more edibles, and everyone had a good time!

Using books as a springboard for learning helps children make permanent connections about important concepts. I encourage you to try the paint and a few other things to create your own summer fun!

Recipe for chalk paint:

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. corn starch

1/4 c. water

bright neon food coloring (color to suit your needs)

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 For more information about the Letter Buddies series, click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below to download an information sheet. 

 
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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Margaret Hufstedler

It’s Summer! Plan Your Nonfiction Library Now!

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Jun 9, 2015 3:30:00 PM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years.  She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.  The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.

Summer is the time teachers hold sacred because it is a vital to helping us renew and replenish what made us become teachers in the first place. As we sit in our comfy chairs, we enjoy the break, but our minds often wander back to what we love to do: teach. Our minds trace the layout of our classrooms as we sit wondering if there is a better way to arrange furniture, a better way to structure center times, and going over a whole plethora of other issues that help to balance the time we are with students.

ITW-Nonfiction-FrogOne necessary component of the classroom that is absolutely vital to learning is a well-stocked library. If you are like me, you have roughly an 80/20 ratio of fiction to nonfiction picture books in your class library, the way many primary classrooms are set up. However, it isn’t necessarily the way they should continue to be set up. Research supports the necessity of great informational texts as a choice in the primary classroom. Many teachers know students who are struggling to read informational texts now who could have benefitted from exposure to them earlier in their schooling.

From personal experience, my observations draw me to conclude students prefer a good nonfiction text over a narrative. During group reading, students are much more likely to maintain focus when engaged in reading with each other about animals, insects, nature, or transportation (to name a few). Students love giving their opinions, and isn’t that what we want them to do? Forming an opinion is part of the higher-order thinking model. We all want to help our students be better problem solvers. Informational text is an important bridge to making our students “thinkers”.

ITW-Nonfiction-ElephantYou may ask, “Where on earth am I going to find additional informational texts?” I hear you, and I have some ideas that may be worth your time. If you are short on funds, and you are a new teacher just beginning to build a classroom library, or you are a seasoned veteran just looking for more books, there are places to look without “mortgaging the farm.”

Some sources may be no farther than your fingers and your laptop. There are online garage sales all over sites like Facebook, so do a search for them in your area. Many times, families are just wanting to rid themselves of an overabundance of children’s books. Another source may be a site called freecycle.org. I was able to find an entire set of Beanie Baby toys for free a few years ago. The thing that distinguishes this site from other sources is the guarantee of items being free. Join up, then explain that you are a teacher looking for nonfiction or real children’s books for your classroom library. As always, use caution when dealing with online communication. Meet in a public location to pick up any resources donated. I met the donor of my Beanie Babies during the day in a parking lot next to a law office. Another resource is the old-fashioned yard sale. Check newspapers for locations and times as well as what is being offered.

Finally, many new informational texts can be found inexpensively here on the Hameray site. Something to consider: Hameray’s books are leveled readers which makes them perfect for independent reading, and the variety of topics is endless! Most of the informational leveled readers are under $5, making sets of them very affordable I am especially loving the Zoozoo Into the Wild series. There is even a Zoozoo app!

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 For more information about the Zoozoo Into the Wild series click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below to download an information sheet. 

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Topics: Kindergarten, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Margaret Hufstedler

Project-Based Learning In Kindergarten

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Feb 3, 2015 8:00:00 AM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years.  She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.  The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.

If you have ever been around young learners, you realize very soon that they learn best from participating in interactive activities! They really seem to thrive when you introduce music, movement, and a great deal of picture books, and provide them with access to a variety of materials that allow for self-expression.

I’m sure you have also noticed how students react when you invite a local fireman, a dairy farmer or any other community worker to your classroom? 100% buy-in! Eyes glued to the presenter. All hands raised! Opportunities such as these are the perfect springboard for project-based learning (PBL), and, because writer’s workshop lends itself toward the reporting aspect of PBL, we do many of our projects during that time. Some students are conferencing with me during writer’s workshop, while others are researching and recording information that appeals to them. 

For those of you who wonder how to integrate project-based learning into current textbook lessons, here is an example from last week in my own classroom: 

Lesson 18 was all about butterflies. Since it was our first PBL lesson for this year, we looked up videos and read books as a whole group. Our project was handprint butterflies, illustrations of the phases of metamorphosis, and our own writing on individual writing papers. PBL can be whole-group since kindergarteners need that support. 

What do I consider the major components of PBL in kindergarten?

  • Begin with a big, attention-grabbing question or example: have a guest to visit, bring in an exotic animal expert, or have a Skype visit with the zoo.
  • Chart expectations and brainstorm with students what will you require for this project. For example, the project could contain these steps: 
    • Choose an animal to research.
    • Illustrate, draw, and create the animal.
    • Talk about the animal and its environment.
  • Provide an “Inquiry Table” area in your classroom that includes books (in this project, we are using books about arctic animals from Zoozoo Animal World) and an iPad with links to videos about the topic you are studying. Make materials available for students to create their own project displays or story boards. Materials may include photos from magazines, a variety of writing instruments, booklets for creating “All About” books (paper stapled together works just fine), and things to make models out of (straws, poms, glue, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, etc.)
  • A designated backdrop area for recording video (for instance, a snow or ice backdrop made from a blue plastic tablecloth and white paper snowflakes, or trees and leaves, etc.) 
  • A camera for snapping photos of students acting out the topic/animal they researched (this will go on their final project display or in a booklet they have made)

So what does a kindergarten level PBL project look like when completed?

Currently, we are discussing and researching animals that live in the coldest climates on the earth. We have books about the Arctic, Antarctica, polar animals, and weather on our inquiry table. We also have pictures of arctic foxes, polar bears, penguins, seals, walruses, narwhales and icebergs. Part of our inquiry table is our iPad “theater,” where students can view videos of animals from arctic regions.

After students gather enough information, they may write and illustrate a book about the topic they have chosen, or they can get help from or our A+ student tutor or me to help make a video report about their topic. I also have twistable crayons, markers, scraps of colored paper, animal-print paper scraps, glue, scissors, craft poms, and more available for making props for student reports. 

In addition to all I have mentioned, I include stuffed animal bears, seals, and some non-arctic stuffies for students to practice categorizing by "Arctic" or "Other." ALL of this material aids in creating inquisitive, happy, productive students who are developing a love of learning. 

During our butterfly unit, we had all kinds of books available to read or look at as we created our illustrations, but the one students kept returning to was the small Zoozoo Animal World book named Butterfly.  It has a word count of 39, and it is perfect for independent reading. There are so many non-fiction titles to choose from in that series, too.  I am excited to add to my collection as time goes by. 

Are you ready to try project-based learning? Build your own inquiry center and get started today!  

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 For more information about the Zoozoo Animal World Series click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below to download an information sheet. 

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Topics: Kindergarten, Zoozoo Animal World, Project-based learning, Margaret Hufstedler

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