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Monday, February 25, 2013

~ Kindergarten Days ~

So, I need to come up with a better name for what I have created...feel free to send or post suggestions!

In lieu of catch-up (ketchup) days, I will now have kindergarten days.  At the end of each of my units I try to give students that were absent during a project, groups that have fallen behind, and students that do not complete work at home the opportunity to make-up the assignments in class.  In most cases this is close to half of my students.  On these catch-up days I work with students that have fallen behind and allow students that have turned in their assignments the opportunity to play computer games aligned with the unit we are wrapping up or the unit we will be starting.  While this has worked well for me, I don't like it anymore.  So, in place of catch-up days, I am creating kindergarten days. 

On these kindergarten days I will set my classroom up like an old kindergarten classroom.  I will have a reading nook, artists corner, research lab, K'NEX construction, gaming center, and writing workshop.  (I have additional ideas but they are still a work in progress...)  At these centers the students will be given a number of different choices of activities that I have connected to STEM.  Students that have completed their work will be permitted to participate while students that are behind will have to work quietly.  I am hoping that this will motivate students to complete their work on time.  Below are the centers that I feel are ready for implementation in the classroom for my first kindergarten day...

Reading Nook
Students at this center will be given a number of books and articles (on iPads) to read about topics we have studied in class, broader STEM-related issues, and STEM-related careers.  The books I mentioned in my previous post will be checked out of the Literacy Center's library and laid out for students that just want to read.  Articles will be selected and downloaded to the iPad and applications like Science360 and National Geographic, will also be utilized.

Artists' Corner
This was a difficult center for me to develop independently, so I turned to our AWESOME art teacher for ideas.  At this station I will provide students with the following activities:
  1. Junkyard Creations - the students will use a laminated drawing (done by the art teacher) of a junkyard or home full of broken bits and pieces to create their own original design.  Students will only be permitted to use items from the drawing in their creation of a robot, vehicle, or device.
  2. Blueprints - the students will have prompts asking them to redesign our classroom or school and create a blueprint drawn as close to scale as possible.  There will be no limitations on students, desk space, or accessories for the space.
  3. DaVinci - the students will view sketches of parts of DaVinci's inventions and build off of what he started with, identifying the purpose of his invention and name.  The students will be expected to continue the sketch series.
Research Lab
In the research lab, students will be given the opportunity and freedom to research extension topics related to previous and future units.  For example, a number of students were disappointed that I did not allow for time to research and discuss different currencies of different nations during our money management unit.  These students could spend their time researching currency and exchange rates in small groups (if multiple students are interested) or independently. My hope is to have safe websites linked up to my wikispace for students to explore so that students are not relying on Goggle to filter inappropriate material.

K'NEX Construction
Since I have four Engineering Design Marvels and four Bridge Building kits, and the students LOVE the K'NEX, I thought a K'NEX center was absolutely necessary.  For this center students may work together on one of the structures outlined in the instruction booklet or create their own.  If students chose to create their own structure they will need to spend part of their time brainstorming and planning their design.

Gaming Center
For this center students will be allowed to play any of the games I have linked to on my wikispace.  All of the games are aligned to the Pennsylvania State Standards and/or my curriculum.  A popular game last marking period was the Wallace and Gromit test lab.  Now students will be given the opportunity to play the game for more than the 20 minutes I provide in our regular class.  In addition to the computers I will also have iPads with appropriate games related to STEM topics for the students to play with.  This may have to become two separate stations. 

Writing Workshop
Students that select the writing center will be given the opportunity to complete a number of activities.  So far this center is still a work in progress, but the writing ideas I have so far...
  1. ABC's of STEM - I found this fantastic ABC book that students can make using vocabulary words from STEM.  Students can start their book and work on it throughout the marking period or each time we have our kindergarten days.
  2. Acrostic Poem - Students can use this time to create an acrostic poem using a vocabulary word/word wall word from one of our units.
  3. Journals - The Literacy Coach suggested making little journals and allowing the students simply the opportunity to reflect or journal on what we have done in STEM.  I would like to give this a bit more structure, so I may have an envelope full of suggested STEM prompts that students could write about.  (Maybe a paragraph explaining a real-world issue and then the opportunity to react to it?)
I would love to know what other centers I could incorporate into my kindergarten days.  I have some board games as well as folder centers geared towards the use of math in real-world situations that I may integrate into my rotations.  I was also tossing around the idea of a puzzle station where kids could do logic puzzles, tangrams, and sudoku puzzles.  As soon as I have everything created and finalized I will post materials and pictures!