Catching Up With Kinder

It has been far too long since I have posted, but rest assured that we have been hard at work in GT. Friday mornings, with my kindergartners, have been especially busy.

Two weeks ago we worked on learning how to amp up a simple sentence into a POWER sentence. After reading The Alphabet Tree the kids learned the strength that words can have when we connect them with other words to make sentences. We then learned how to take the simple subject-verb sentences and make them stronger through adjectives and using more vivid verbs. The kindergartners used a cool web tool called Google Story Builder and worked to move a sentence from the simple to the powerful. I hope you will enjoy the samples below. Just click on the links below to watch their sentences evolve.

Justin, Jovanah, Alena

Ethan and Emily

Jovanah and Mrs. G.

After spending time thinking about how words play an important role in communication we did an activity called Which Face?  This activity allowed the kids to realize that our facial expressions and body language can communicate just as clearly as our words…sometimes more clearly than words. The kids had 9 faces on a piece of paper.  I would read a sentence and they had to match my sentence to the correct expression.  After they were finished, they chose one of the faces to create a nonverbal story.  Enjoy their interpretations below.

This past week we finished up facial expressions by having each kid choose 4 feeling words (from a list we brainstormed) and they used the iPads to take their pictures demonstrating each feeling.  The kids labeled each of their feelings.  As you can imagine I got a lot of HAPPY, SAD, MAD, etc.  I wanted to encourage the kids to develop their vocabulary, to use stronger words. I introduced them to the term synonym and to a thesaurus.   Each student had to  find a synonym for each of their 4 original feelings words.  It was a lot of fun.  We ended up with words like MELANCHOLY  SPIRITED, APPREHENSIVE, FEROCIOUS, GLUM.  The kids inserted their 4 pictures into an app called PicCollage to create a poster of their four facial expressions.  They then inserted their PicCollage into another fun app called Wordfoto.  They typed their original feeling words along with their new synonyms.  I think the finished products are awesome.

Which Face? on PhotoPeach

Continuing with our theme of nonverbal communication, I had the kids watch a beautiful silent movie called Monster Box.  It was created by 4 french graduate students at Bellecour Ecoles D’Art.  After watching the video the kindergartners used oil pastels and watercolors to create their own monsters.  They wrote a cinquain poem about their monster and used an app called Videolicious to record themselves reading their poem as the audience enjoys their monster art.

Cool New Tools in Kinder

With Bike Rodeo taking place today, I wasn’t sure how much we would accomplish, but boy did the kids surprise me.  They were here ready to work.

Convergent Thinking and Mystery Creatures

Last time we met I introduced the kindergartners to Convergent Thinking.  We became detectives and put on our convergent thinking caps to examine some clues.  The clues were about various mystery creatures.  It was fun to use the clues to try and guess the animal.  It was a challenge for the kids to not jump to conclusions, but rather to go through all of the clues before making their prediction.  They did get better after we had gone through a few examples.

Next I had the kids choose a favorite animal and generate clues that would help us guess their mystery creature.  They used a fun app called TypeDrawing to draw their creature.  They saved it into the photo roll and used Educreations to create a video with their clues.  I hope you enjoy their finished products.






Communicating through Powerful Sentences

We also read a wonderful story today called The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni.  It is a wonderful story about a tree full of letters that learn to work together to make words, sentences, and then more powerful sentences.  It demonstrates the power letters have when they combine together, which fits nicely with our unit on communication.

I introduced the kindergartners to some new language today: NOUNS, VERBS, and ADJECTIVES.  We talked about how these words could help take a simple sentence and turn it into a powerful one.  Below you will see a Google Story Builder that we did as a class that demonstrates how to transition from a simple to a power sentence.  We did this one as a team, but next class they will create one together.  Click on the simple sentence below to see how we changed it.

The dog ran.


Fabulous Tuesday by Sydney S.

In 5th grade G.T. we are studying genetic diversity, to do this we played a genetic game, separating into two teams we were able to find out how wonderful differences can be. For instance if everyone with brown eyes died off there would still be people with green, hazel ,and blue eyes left to repopulate. In the giver there is almost no differences between their people! And they like their world that way!

“For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.” (page 179 of The Giver by Lois Lowry)

We also did some art pieces on our thoughts of elsewhere (the place where Jonas (the main character of the giver) is trying to go because, based on the Givers memories that he has given to Jonas, Jonas decides to go try to find elsewhere.) Some of the thoughts of the class were that Jonas and Gabe had died or that he had really made it to elsewhere. What do you think happened to Jonas?

 Today we started reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by:  John Boyne. It is about a boy named Bruno who unexpectedly has to move away from Berlin with his family for his father’s job.

By Sydney Swail

Sydney created the Powtoon on Cells below.  I hope that you enjoy a piece of her work.  She did this as an independent study.  Way to go Sydney!


Polygon Fun

This week the second graders were given a bag with various shapes it.  They were told to examine the shapes and sort them into at least 2 groups.  The kids were in charge of determining the categories after evaluating the various shapes.  There were many debates on the “right” way to sort the cards and many kids asking me to referee.  They are used to parameters…sort by biggest and smallest, curved lines and straight, etc.  It took compromise, patience, and risk-taking for the kids to create their own groups.  They did a fantastic job.  Below you will see pictures of the kids categories.  Once the tables were done we took a gallery walk to appreciate the many perspectives.  We came back together and discussed patterns we noticed: sides, vertices, open, closed, etc.  I then introduced them to the term POLYGONS.  We watched a Brainpop video on polygons.  The students brainstormed the rules for Polygons based on the video.  They then reorganized their shape cards into two categories: Polygons and NOT Polygons.  Next week the children will use polygons to create an art piece.  They will also use Depth and Complexity to reflect on the details and rules of polygons.

 Getting to Know Polygons on PhotoPeach

Independent Studies

What an amazing day I had with my 5th graders yesterday!  It was one of those days when most everything went perfectly.

To get the day started I had the kids go to A Google A Day for a research challenge.  I think the kids thought it was going to be a piece of cake because they all live on the internet…it was NOT!  After 10 minutes we discussed what we discovered as we were researching.  The kids made some wonderful observations and I think it will help change the way they search.  We will continue to participate in these challenges from time to time.

Next we discussed Independent Studies…what they are and their purpose. We discussed diving below the surface and going beyond the simple.  I think the 5th graders were starting to understand, but it will be a year long process.

Next came the step the kids had been anxiously waiting for…GOOGLE DOCS.  Each child learned how to log in to their account.  They learned how to tie their doc account to their Edmodo account…truly amazing!  Then we collaborated on one spreadsheet to share the Rules, Details, Language, Big Ideas and Unanswered Questions about Independent Studies.

Finally, the students were able to use Google Docs and Visuwords to begin planning their Independent Study.  Success!

Below is a photograph made with Wordfoto (app) showcasing the things the kids had to say about doing Independent Studies.  The reviews were positive.

Taking Risks

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”

-Henry Ford

These are important words to live by and ones that we will hold close as the third graders navigate their way through the 3-5 GT program.  To get the students to truly understand the meaning of these words, we started with Henry Ford himself.  The kids looked at a picture that included Ford and attempted to find the genius.  It was neat to hear their reasoning as they attempted to pinpoint Henry Ford.  We watched a brief video clip and read a short biography about him.  The kids brainstormed characteristics that might describe Ford.  They came up with: creative thinker, risk taker, problem solver, brave, persistent, etc.  The kids had not yet been introduced to Ford’s quote, so it was exciting to see them come up with risk-taker.

After we spent some time learning and discovering about Ford, I posed a problem to the kids.  I gave them a 3×5 notecard.  They were to cut the card in a way that would allow it to slide over their head.  They could only use one card and a pair of scissors.  As you can imagine I heard many, “That is impossibles.”  The kids made many attempts.  They looked around at their peers for ideas.  They begged for glue, tape, and extra cards.  We discussed what would have happened if great inventors said “it’s not possible” when they were struggling with a problem.  Finally, I revealed that it was in fact possible to cut a 3×5 card in such a way that it could slide over my head and even my shoulders.  They were in awe…and busily trying to see if they could do it too.

We ended with Ford’s quote and the kids created similes for about taking risks.  Enjoy their work below.   

Taking Risks on PhotoPeach

Brain Injuries

The third graders have been hard at work learning about the brain, it’s parts and how they work.  In our study the kids have had questions such as:
  • Can you live without a brain?
  • Does your brain ever stop working?
  • What happens if you fall and hurt your head?
  • What happens if your skull breaks?
  • Can you have only part of a brain and still think?

With these questions being asked I thought we should take a look at two well-known cases involving severe brain injuries.  We started a 160 years ago with a railroad forum that was injured with a tamping iron.  This 3 foot piece of metal flew in under Phineas’ left cheek, behind his left eye and out of the top of his head damaging his frontal lobe.  We then took a look at the case of Gabrielle Giffords, the state representative who was shot in the head a couple of years ago.  Below is a look at the differences and similarities the kids found in the two cases.

We’re Brainy!

The 3rd graders had a great time exploring many different aspects of the brain through some brain centers. They were learning about the functions of the small parts of our brain, like the amygdala and hippocampus, by solving a cryptogram.  They worked on writing a script for a radio station sharing their understanding of the large parts of the brain.  The kids used 2 great sites to learn about the neuron and brain related issues.  They also had the opportunity to create their own neurons using pipe cleaners.  It was neat to see them working away.  The brain is a fascinating topic.  Enjoy the video below showcasing the kids at work.

Brain Centers on PhotoPeach

What do you wonder about the brain?  What questions do you have? 

Leave them in the comments.


What A Monday!

I had quite the Monday with my first and second graders.  I started my morning by traveling to Africa with my first graders, but by 11:00 was in Australia with my second graders.  You can imagine my exhaustion after traversing two such amazing continents.

As I said, I started my morning with a trip to Africa with first grade.  We read a terrific folktale called The King of the Frogs.  It was the story of how peace came to the frogs.  You may not realize, but frogs were quite the rambunxious group before gaining a new king, Mamba the Crocodile.   The unruly frogs had asked their God Mmumi for a King, but I am not sure this is what they had in mind.  The kids and I had a wonderful discussion on being careful what you ask for and having the ability to govern ourselves. It was neat to hear their perspectives.  Following our discussion the kids created their own origami jumping frogs using an index card.  They had a wonderful time allowing their frogs to jump about “doing as they please” just like the frogs did in the story…before grumpy King Mamba entered the picture. 

After our frogs settled down long enough to sit in their habitat, the first graders created poems about their frog.  Enjoy the example above.

Once we arrived back to Bulverde Creek it was time to head off to Australia.  The second graders spent time learning about the Aborignies (natives to Australia).  We studied their cave drawings, their technique, languages, music, etc.  It was great fun.  After studying the beautiful art attributed to the Aboriginal people the kids were influenced to create their own pieces.  They attempted to use many of the techniques we saw in the paintings we studied.  The kids wrote poems to go with their wonderful art work.  Below is a book with a preview of some of the art and poetry.  To see the completed book, please click on the link below the book.

Click HERE to see the completed book. When you See CLICK HERE TO READ, please click on it so that you can see the book in Full Screen. 


Friendship Quilt

In second grade we have started our travels around the world to learn about various walls and their concrete and abstract meanings.  We started with a trip down under, to an island south of Australia, called Tasmania.  The children learned about a wall at was built to celebrate the different cultures that are present in Tasmania.  It is called The International Wall of Friendship.  The kids created a symbol to represent friendship.  Below you can see the kids symbols and hear about the reasoning behind their creations.