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Our "News" Project

A few weeks ago I attended a regional meeting of the Early Learning Leadership Network (ELLN).  At this meeting where preschool and Kindergarten teachers join forces to learn about new standards and best prepare the youngest students for school success, I was inspired by our guest speaker.  Dr. Sallee Beneke of St. Ambrose University in Iowa presented her research on inquiry-based instruction in preschool.  She shared about her own "Car Project," from the late 1990's through which three and four year olds studied cars in-depth, but also gained enduring life skills including collaboration and higher order thinking as well as academic skills including drawing (writing), speaking, listening, and math.  Teachers in our region were challenged to develop our own class "project."  I was so grateful for the "assignment."  It really seemed to open an opportunity for which I have been searching... The chance to develop a play/exploration-based, Common Core aligned, student centered inquiry project.  A tall order to say the least... but I am up for the challenge!
So... my class welcomed "The News Project" this week.  For our focusing event last Friday we visited Murray State's TV studio and explored every inch of it.  (Read about our 21st Century Field Trip Here!) We visited the university Newspaper Office and discussed, "What is news?" with the head editor.  We returned to school ready and eager to explore!
After our focusing event I created a scrapbook of all the photos I snapped while there.  Using this students can refer back to their shared experience to scaffold and inspire play.  All of our "Play & Explore Centers" are now focused on the project. 

At the block centers students are invited to build sound boards, microphones, cameras and other equipment.

Newspaper templates are available at the writing center and aspiring reporters can also "type" stories in Word at the computer center.

The document camera doubles as a video camera at the Smart Board center where students can watch themselves broadcast live on the board!
Finally, our dramatic play center-turned television studio is packed with inspiring "equipment" and supplies. Included at this center are blank weather maps and report planning pages, plastic microphones, old computer keyboards and headphones, an easel for posting worthy news reports, and even a green screen!

My students' play this week has amazed me!  I cannot wait to see what the coming weeks hold and to see how our project continues to unfold!
Grab all our printables here!


Yes, we can!

To close our unit on 21st Century Students today my kinders and I reviewed 6 characteristics of 21st Century Learners:
Link to TPT
Click to check out the entire unit!
After discussing each, students were given time to think of one area they would like to improve upon this school year.  After sharing and helping each other choose just the right characteristic, students were given time to write and draw their own 21st Century learning target.  The result was astonishing!  Phrases like, "I can create new artwork," "I will collaborate with my friends," "I want to solve problems," and "My goals are to learn to read and play the piano!" floated around the classroom while students worked. Wow! 
I can create!
I can solve problems!
I can set goals!
I can work independently!
I can collaborate!

This is proof it's NEVER TOO EARLY to let students in on our little secret...
It is our hope they reach their fullest potential!


Oh, the sights we saw!

Our field trip to Murray State was a great success!  Our students saw so many more 21st Century sights than we could have offered in the classroom.  At Waterfield Library we learned about how information and books are kept along with ways students can CREATE stories online.  At the MSU TV-11 studio we saw firsthand how technology and COLLABORATION combine to produce a television show.
Kinder "B' became invisible when she put on her green jacket in front of the Green Screen.
Radio broadcasters at WKMS shared how they COMMUNICATE with the public as well as entertain.  The newspaper editor spoke of COMMUNICATION in all forms and the importance of
sharing news.
At the Industry and Technology building we were amazed by the robotics lab and the
Wow!  This printer is creating a 3D shape using plastics.
Above all, I hope my students learned that ANY of them can walk this path as a college student one day and ANY dream is within their reach!
 I cannot wait to finish our unit on Monday when students will write their own 21st Century Learning Targets!
Link to Unit on TPT
Click to see the entire unit on TPT!


21st Century Learners

Tomorrow is our first Kindergarten Field Trip day of the year!  We will be walking two blocks over to our local college - Murray State University.  MSU is a wonderful school! (And my Alma Mater!)  University professionals are involved community members who readily offer SO many options for free field trips and experiences for students in our region of the state... and we are close enough to walk which means no busing expense!
Murray State University
We are calling our field trip the "21st Century Learners" experience.  Using the Framework for 21st Century Learning Student Outcomes, our resident "field-trip-planner" and my awesome teammate, Mr. "B" has worked with university professors and community liaisons to put together an amazing line up of activities.  We will visit the school newspaper offices, school TV and radio stations, the robotics lab, the "Cyber Cave," and many other things.  The peak of the visit will be the opportunity to watch the university's 3D Printer in action!  WOW!  When I was in Kindergarten I remember the record player and the amazing film strip projector as our main sources of technology.
And there in lies one of my BIG professional goals... to help my 21st Century Learners reach their potential by giving them the tools they need and then getting out of their way! 
SO, since I am my teams resident "ambitious-curriculum-developer" I set to work on a new unitI used the 21st Century Framework to create reading, handwriting, vocabulary, and writing activities that introduce the major concepts for 21st Century Learning: problem solving, independent work, creativity, communication, goal-setting, and collaboration.  Take a look at my new unit!
Link to TPT
Link to TPT
I know what you are thinking - "That's WAY TOO out there for my kinders!"  But remember, these kinders are 21st Century Learners.  5-year-olds are not the same today as they were as recent as ten years ago.  They have the world at their fingertips and I firmly believe it's up to us to teach them how to take advantage of that in order to achieve any dream they can imagine.
I have had a fun time this week telling my students what school was like way back in the 20th Century when I was in Kindergarten.  Today when my small group discussed "communication" the conversation that unfolded was SO eye-opening!  It went something like this:
Mrs. S - So, what is communication?
Kinder T - It's when we talk to each other.
Kinder J - Like sometimes when I try to tell "Kinder A" what to do I have to show him with my hands.
Mrs. S - Right!  Because "Kinder A" is learning English so we can even use our bodies to communicate.  Can we use anything else to communicate?  Are there ways to communicate now, in the 21st Century, that we didn't use when I was younger?
Kinder J - Well, if you needed to tell somebody something you could send them a little email.
Kinder C - Or you could text them on your phone.  Because our phones are small and flat now and you can use the Internet.
Kinder M - You can Facetime, too!  Like when my parents were on vacation and they Facetimed me and my sister!
Kinder I - Or you could type on a blog!
THIS conversation really happened TODAY in my KINDERGARTEN classroom!  Students today are different and therefore have different needs, background experiences, and preferences.  I can't wait to see what else they have to teach me!  I can already tell this is going to be a wonderful school year!


Book Talk Tuesday

I'm SO excited to Link Up with Mrs. Jump's Class!  For her Book Talk Tuesday I'm sharing an all-time favorite... Officer Buckle and Gloria.  In my Kindergarten class we read this book during our units on Citizenship and Community Helpers.
In this cute story Officer Buckle works to help students and teachers make safe choices in school. 
His presentations gain popularity when his dog Gloria (unbeknownst to him) performs tricks in the background. 
 Officer Buckle is embarrassed when he discovers Gloria's antics. 
In the end he and Gloria learn that working together is the best choice. 
Among his fan mail Officer Buckle receives messages from a sweet girl named Claire. 
Right Click and Save
With this FREEBIE students can add their own message about being a good citizen just like Claire.
Mrs. Jump's Book Talk Tuesday
Click to Link to Mrs. Jump's Class


Old Dog, New Tricks

Reading and writing have always been my favorites!  At the end of a school day I feel most successful when we have had focused time in flexible guided reading groups, quality core reading experiences, and productive writing sessions.  With five years as a first grade teacher and five years as a reading intervention teacher under my belt I came amply prepared to teach Kindergarten reading.  I quickly developed a daily schedule that involved guided reading groups with my assistant, skills-specific reading groups with myself, and time for word work and/or independent reading for my students.  When my students' needs necessitate it, I have also found a way to provide independent or small group literature groups for my well above average readers.  I felt confident in my abilities to plan for reading instruction, but I wasn't always successful at the execution. 
It was with great anticipation that I participated in a book study over Boushay and Moser's (or the 2 Sisters') The Daily Five this summer.  As a result of my study this old dog learned some new tricks.
I LOVE the "3 Ways to Read" concept and designed a well-coordinated poster set for my classroom and taught the concepts within the first two days of school.  For the first time I do NOT hear students say that they cannot read, because they understand there are different ways to read and they BELIEVE they CAN!
3 Ways to Read a Book on TPT FREE

Additionally, I designed a PowerPoint to help my time management and organization.  Each slide shows which students participate in which activity during every rotation.  These slides are set to change with a chime after twelve minutes.  Alternating slides provide time for transition between activities and change with a drum roll after one minute.  Playing the PowerPoint on the Smart Board helps me stay on track with time without posting a timer by which students could be distracted.  It has been a wonderful addition to our daily reader's workshop!
Reading Group PowerPoint on TPT FREE

If you want to know more about The Daily Five visit the 2 Sisters' website at


Mission Complete!

My college education is finally "in the books" - Bachelor's in Elementary Education, Masters in Reading and Writing, Gifted-Talented Endorsement, and Rank I in Library Media... Mission complete!
Last month I began my thirteenth year of teaching and my third year in Kindergarten.  The third year in a position or grade level is really when everything comes together.  My classroom is finally organized, every container has a well-coordinated label, and I am embracing the new school year feeling efficient and effective! 

This summer I worked on my classroom library, studied The Daily Five by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and helped my team by developing a new Kindergarten writing curriculum based on the concepts in Marcia Freeman's Teaching the Youngest Writers.  For my final graduate course I developed a 21st Century Standards-Based Unit of Study on Consumerism and Economics and researched the need for "play" in Kindergarten.
 My TPT store is growing as I work to add units, activities, assessments, and calendars that are aligned to the Common Core Standards.
All of that work brings me here... to this blog and the culminating moment I get to share my work with more than my awesome team of Kindergarten teachers in Kentucky.  I am eager to network with teachers beyond my small town and share my experiences, ideas, and resources with YOU!