Decorative banner image

October 7, 2011

Seven Weeks Down: More Fun With Counting Creatures, iPad Apps, and More!

Well, I am happy to say that this week was as easy as last week was hard!  As difficult as it is to be out of the classroom, once you are there and just sitting, it can be pretty darned relaxing to just let someone else do the thinking and then go home.  So that is what I did on both Monday and Tuesday at my district inservice that I had to go to.  And yes, parts of it were boring and seemed pointless for me as a Kindergarten teacher, but on the other hand, I was NOT physically exhausted at the end of the day!  Wednesday and Thursday were Minimum Days for parent conferences, and Friday was a non-student day for the same reason.  But the Kinder teachers had already conferenced with every parent during the month of September, so we are off the hook for parent conferences until November, when we will conference again with all of them.  So as Pete the Cat would say, “It’s all good!”

 Also, just so you know, I posted a video on my HeidiSongs Facebook page of my tutoring group working on the alphabet using some of those little tricks I told you about in my blog entry last week, so if you are interested in seeing a demo of that, check it out!

1.  More Fun With Counting Creatures
I mentioned last week that I introduced the Counting Creatures, and the children are still having a ball with them!  (To find them, go to this link and SCROLL DOWN!)  I keep thinking that they will get tired of clapping out the poem and coloring those poem pages at playtime, but so far, interest in this has only diminished slightly!  It makes me very glad that I have that download on my classroom computer, because I just keep printing out whatever pages the children want to color each day. 

In any case, at the math table this week I had the children working on some of the “count and draw” pages included in the book.  I put copies of the pages into some dry erase sleeves and had the children take turns rolling a die to decide how many objects we would color.  For example, how many teeth would we draw on Creature Number Five or wheels on Robot Number Six?  First, we practiced drawing them together (and adding a numeral to the page as well) on the large format pages with dry erase markers.  Then later as a large group, I had the children try to draw the objects independently on their own pages with a pencil and let them color them if they chose to do so.  I am including a couple of these pages as a free download this week for you, just in case you might like to try this yourself!  The top half of my class did this task with minimal problems, but some of the younger children with the fall birthdays were having quite a difficult time relating the numeral to the correct number of objects!  I don’t know why this sort of thing surprises me year after year, but it always does!

I decided to make a game out of it by having them roll a die to see which number of objects we would draw each time.  So if we rolled a number one, everyone drew one object, and wrote a number one by it.  No problem!  We rolled a number two, and everyone drew two objects and wrote a number two by them.  Then we rolled a number five, and several children drew MANY objects on their papers- maybe ten or more- and had no idea at all that they had made a mistake!  OR- they rolled a four and draw five things, and simply couldn’t figure out that they needed to erase one.  OR- they rolled a four and drew three things, and could not figure out that they needed one to draw one more thing.  The good thing was that those that already had it down were able to draw and doodle on the Counting Creatures in the Dry Erase Sleeves, so that worked out very well.  I just kept some extra ones handy, since I assumed that this would happen, and I’m very glad that I did.

Clearly, the children that are “stuck” at this stage need more practice with real objects, and more counting in general.  They also need to transfer what they know with manipulatives to paper.  As I watch the videos of myself giving the lessons, the first thing that strikes me (other than “Oh, God- I need to lose weight!) is that I should have gotten out some blocks and had them place the blocks on the paper FIRST.  Then I should have had them remove the blocks one at a time and draw one item for each block; that would have done the trick, at least for the time being.  I’m sure that the children that are not quite ready for this activity would need a lot more of this sort of thing before they will really understand it and truly be developmentally ready to transfer what they know with manipulatives to paper, but I know that the practice is good for them, and that they did enjoy the activity.  The extra practice with the fine motor skills is also welcome!  Incidentally, watching yourself give a lesson is a really interesting (though potentially intimidating) way to analyze your own teaching!  Truthfully, I had no idea what I had done wrong or how to fix the problem until I watched the movies of the lessons, and then it occurred to me that I needed the concrete objects. 

And at this stage in my career, I should know this by now.  Duh!

Of course, the ones that are past this stage really could move past that and work on something more challenging.  How to combine those two levels at once?  That is the question….  I may let the more advanced ones in a group play some of the problem solving games on my iPad and iPod while I work with the ones that are struggling.  The children are getting really good at playing these games without any adult intervention, so this little plan just might work!  I’ll be letting you know.  And speaking of technology….

2.  A Couple of New iPad Apps to Try!
It rained this week in Southern California, and this made it impossible for us to have our normal day of motor development activities as part of our Wednesday small group rotation, since all of that happens outside.  So I as I was to scrambling to think of something else for the children to do at that center, it occurred to me that the five or six children in the group could probably take turns playing games on my iPad and iPod, as long as there was one other thing for them to do as well while they waited.  I did have one parent volunteer there at that center, so I let her manage those three activities.  The children were either playing a game called “Short Vowels” on the iPad, “I Write Words” on the iPod, or were matching sets with number cards while they waited for a turn to play one of these games.   We have also tried a few games with parent volunteers at other times over the past couple of weeks.  So here is a quick review on each of these games:

“Feed Me!” by PencilBot Preschool- FREE!
My kids REALLY liked this simple app, in which a lovable little monster asks you to feed him an upper or lower case letter to match the one that he is daydreaming of!  All the children have to do is drag the letter to the monster’s mouth to feed it to him.  It works well on both the iPad and the iPod, and it’s FREE! 

“ABC Alphabet Phonics” by $2.99.
A nice app for practicing the alphabet and its sounds, but a bit over priced at $2.99; I think it would be more appropriately priced at $1.99 considering what it does.  There is a free version, but I felt compelled enough by the free one to buy the purchased app instead. 

I Write Words-  Free!  (We used this on the iPod, but it works on both iPad and iPod)
You trace each letter of a word by pushing the crab around with your finger.  The letters form a word.  Then you tilt the tablet so that all three letters fall into the spinning flower in the bottom corner, and you are given the next word.  A nice app, but this is ALL that it does.

“ABC Coloring”- by Abitalk- Free!
On this one, the kids choose a color to fill in each section.  They can fill it in with any color they choose.  However, on some of the pictures, they didn’t think too hard about where they put all of those letters!  But most of them are very good, particularly since this is a FREE app!  But… sometimes it can be hard to tell which letters are the capitals and which are the lower case- even for an adult.  For example, there isn’t much of a visual difference between the capital K and the lower case K, etc. 

“My First Puzzles:  Dinosaurs”   $1.99
    This app gives you lots of different dinosaur puzzles to solve.  The only thing is that you could do them all and then run out of puzzles to solve.  Good for the first half of the Kindergarten year.

“Park Math” by Duck Duck Moose  $1.99
    This helps kids learn counting, patterning, sequencing, problem solving with addition and subtraction.  Problem solving example:  If two more ducks climb up, how many will be at the top?  We have only tried the patterning section of this game, but they did very well with it, and enjoyed it a lot.

ABC Phonics Short Vowel Words (by Abitalk) – Free!
All you do is click on the fish that have the short vowel in the middle that they are asking for, and the little submarine shoots it down.  But that is ALL that it does.  The idea that this helps kids practice reading words with short vowels is a fallacy, in my opinion, because my kids loved this game and only one of them can read any short vowel words.  My helper told them to “find a word with an A in the middle,” etc.  They liked to touch the word and watch it explode as the submarine shot it down.  So it is really about visual discrimination. 

Interestingly enough, nobody complained about having the smaller iPod as compared to the larger iPad, and that really surprised me.  I was getting really “brave” and let the children play with both the iPad and the iPod during playtime, and two children were playing with this same app at the same time, and loving it.  I didn’t think I would be able to walk away from them to solve problems while they were playing with these items, but I did, and nothing bad happened at all!  I also assumed that I would have a LONG line of children waiting for a turn to play, and this would cause problems in itself, but apparently, these “digital natives” are familiar enough with technology that this didn’t happen at all- thank goodness!  Years ago, I would have about five children or more who would spend their entire playtime waiting in line to play games on the computer, and would not play with blocks or anything else while they waited- even if I promised to call them when it was their turn!  So I finally turned off the computers completely during playtime because I felt strongly that this was NOT the best use of their time at all.  I’m happy to see that things have changed! 

3.  Learning the Word “My” with Alphabet Pattern Blocks!

One thing that I always enjoy doing with my class is having them make words with my Alphabet Pattern Blocks, and  having them glue the paper pattern blocks down so that they can take the word home.  This time, rather than do it at the art table, we did it at my language arts table so that I could
more closely supervise the activity and work with them a little bit on it.  I’m so glad that I got the chance to do that, and I video taped the activity to share it with you here!  To prepare, I had copied the black and white version of the M and the Y pattern blocks and had volunteers glue them down on a large piece of construction paper.  I also got the paper pattern blocks cut out.  Luckily, we have a die cut machine with all of the different pattern blocks cut outs to make it a little easier to get them cut out, but in the past I have had parent volunteers cut out the blocks.  I find that it works especially well to give this sort of thing to parents that want to help prepare things at home because they do not have time to help out during the day.

 For the lesson, first we sang the “My” song from Sing and Spell Vol. 1, and then we started gluing down the paper pattern blocks.  I combined math with the lesson by asking them to tell me the shapes as we went along, and also kept asking them to tell me the letter names as well.  When we were done, I also tried to find the time to ask each child what word it was, and perhaps to sing me the “My” song and point to each letter as we sang it.  I think that they really enjoyed it, and I do hope that their “work of art” winds up on a wall in their homes so that they can read again many times!  I also told them to sing their parents the “My” song lots of times when they got home.