Whole Class Games on Zoom

Thursday, January 14, 2021 No comments
It's really hard to believe I'm 80+ days into teaching kindergarten on Zoom. When my principal called to tell me I wouldn't have a class in the building this year, I went on a roller coaster of emotions. First there was the incredible high, realizing I wouldn't have to worry about the virus in the same way so many have had to do. Then, panic set in. Zoom Kindergarten. I mean, just saying it out loud sends shivers up my spine sometimes. When I tell people what I do, I'm always met with the same "deer in the headlights" look. BUT, I'm very glad to quickly say "but it's way better than it sounds!"

And it is.

Really, I'm loving it. It has its ups and downs, just like being in the classroom does. But there's something special about making those connections with their little faces on my screen. 

One thing that we've LOVED that I wanted to share, are these simple little games I've made to play with them. I mean it, they're not complicated, and ANYONE could do this. I'm a PowerPoint guy, through and through. I know, I know... Google, Google, Google, Bahumbug I don't like it and I'm sticking with what I'm good at. #DontJudgeMe

Here's a few of the games we've been playing. The concept is the same for all of them. Create a series of boxes in PowerPoint (or Google Slides for you techno-savvy friends). Hide something behind them. That's it. The possibilities are endless.
Kindergarten Game Distance Learning Zoom
Kindergarten Game Distance Learning Zoom
For these two, I turned off screen share and hid the moose/turkey behind one of the letters/numbers. Turned screen share back on, and they took turns guessing letters/numbers, and I would delete that box. We played until we found the picture, and then we played again. And again and again and again.
Kindergarten Game Distance Learning Zoom

This one we just played today and it was awesome. I hid pairs of rhyming words behind the numbers, and we played "memory." They took turns guessing numbers, and I would delete the boxes they guessed. If they got a match, we moved on to the next turn. If it wasn't a match, I just hit ctrl+z to undo and put the boxes right back. 

The possibilities for this kind of digital game are endless. Hide something behind math facts. Hide them behind shapes. You name it. AND, for reading this far, I'm giving you the rhyming memory game (with 3 slides and 15 pairs of rhyming words) FOR FREE. Click here to add a copy of the game to your Google Drive.


I'm Not Going Back

Saturday, July 18, 2020 No comments
Okay, so maybe the title is a little dramatic, but it's kind of true.

I'm not going back to my classroom this year.

Let's backtrack a little.

Like many (all?) of you, I was thrown into the world of distance learning last year with no training or preparation. I made the best of it. I actually think I did a pretty great job, all things considered. I had a large, challenging class last year, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little relieved when summer came.

As I started to think about next school year, I became filled with anxiety. What will it look like? Will we be in the classroom? How often? How many students will I have? Will we be able to safely social distance? Will my kindergarten students be able to keep their masks on? Will they be scared? Will I be scared? The list goes on and on, and I was literally losing sleep over it.

Texted my principal, said I was feeling apprehensive, and she called me later that day. She started saying something about how there were so many families that had opted to keep their children at home, and the kindergarten numbers were low, and they were looking for a full-time e-learning teacher... I SCREAMED YES BEFORE SHE FINISHED PITCHING THE IDEA.

Immediate relief. For so many reasons. My wife and I have a 16 month old daughter. I didn't want to have to change my clothes and fully disinfect before I hugged her when I got home.

So, here I am, mentally preparing for teaching kindergarten fully online this year. Will it present its own unique set of challenges? Obviously. But, I'm excited as hell to make this the best damn year those kids will ever know.

Also, did I mention that I'm teaching ALL of the kindergarten students in my district that opted to stay home, so I'm literally in this by myself?

Stay tuned for tips, tricks, plans, activities, meltdowns, victories, and lots of bourbon.

Teaching From Home with Flipgrid

Sunday, March 22, 2020 No comments
It's been an interesting few weeks, that's for sure... Last week, we were talking about washing our hands a little more than normal, and this week we find ourselves at home, sort of in limbo. Last week, my darling daughter celebrated her first birthday, and the very next day was the last time I saw my kindergarten students. It all happened so fast, and I miss them more than they could ever know.
The district I teach at has not officially switched to online instruction, due to legal concerns of not meeting the needs of all learners, which is a decision I understand and respect. It does, however, put a teacher in an interesting position. I want my students to be have a sense of routine. I want my students to feel safe. I want them to know that I haven't forgotten about them.

One way that I've found to keep my students active and engaged is through Flipgrid. My students are already familiar with the platform, as we used it occasionally in the classroom. I am, though, starting to explore more aspects of the program, and I must say that I'm hooked. I've only scratched the surface of all that it's got to offer, but I thought I'd share some ideas that I've posted so far.

For Beginners:
You'll need to create a free account, and create a grid. If you teach multiple classes, you can create a grid for each class. When setting up a grid, I chose the "Student ID" option, because my kindergarten students do not have email addresses. It's super easy to add students. I used their first name as their identifier so that they don't have to remember complicated usernames or passwords.

Right now I have 3 topics created.
Normally, I have a topic set to "Active," like the Read to Someone example. For that topic, I recorded an instruction video asking the students to pick a book to read to their friends. We've done this in class, and they LOVE doing it. I created another reading topic called Storytime With Mr. Vinton, but I don't want the kids to be able to add videos to that section. In the dropdown menu, I set that topic to "Frozen," so that I could add videos of me reading picture books, but they could not add anything. You also have the ability to set a topic to "Hidden" if you're not ready for your students to have access to that topic yet, like my Make 10 example.

Do you use Flipgrid with your class? What kinds of activities have you done?

Teaching Plot with Mo Willems!

Thursday, January 24, 2019 No comments
Let's be real for a minute. Mo Willems is pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread. My kinders BEG for me to read more and more of his books. They make for great read-aloud books, the characters are always getting into trouble, and they're also GREAT for teaching plot!

Knuffle Bunny is and has always been a Mo favorite of mine. I love the way Mo used cartoon on top of photographs, and the way that Trixie talks always makes for lots of giggles in the classroom! What I love most about Knuffle Bunny, though, is how simple the plot is at its core. When I teach plot, I love to keep it as simple as possible, without too many steps. 

I am OBSESSED with Lyndsey Kuster's Reading Comprehension Organizers and Posters. I bought the 1st grade set when I was still teaching up there, but SO many of the organizers are still relevant in kindergarten land. 

How adorable are these...

Do you have a favorite author or book for teaching plot?