Sunday, March 29, 2015

Backyard Birding

This beautiful American Goldfinch was at my mom's feeder.
This is the perfect time of year for you and your child to watch birds in your backyard with spring migration beginning!   Attracting birds to your yard is a  way for your child to see what is in his/her habitat and it is a great way for these kindergarten birders to put all of that bird knowledge to use.  Backyard birding is fairly inexpensive and its an educational activity that triggers discussion and research for the child and family.  Here are some pointers:

  • Put the bird feeder in the yard where you can view it from a window.
  • It sometimes takes a week or so for the birds to find your feeder.
  • Remember to keep the feeders full and clean.
  • Adding a bird bath will attract even more birds, especially during this very dry year.
  • Have a camera ready to take a photo of the different birds.
  • Your child could get a notebook or journal to place the photo in.  Then they could write the birds name and the first time that they saw it and anything else they'd like. They could share their bird journal with family and friends. Its a great way to work on writing skills during the summer.
  • Cut up pieces of yarn - 7" long or so. Have your child hang the yarn on the bushes or trees.  Then watch the birds carry it off as nesting material.  During the spring you will notice nests in the area with the yarn intertwined in the nest.
  • Make a bird blind by building a stick fort or putting out a toy tent for your child to spy on the birds.
  • Keep a yard list.  Birders often keep a list of all of the birds that they see or hear in or near their yard - including fly-overs.  I keep my list taped to the inside of my cupboard door and I add to it as I go.  This yard list is kind of fun to view.  
  • Your child will probably be able to identify most of the birds, but if they are unsure you could look up birds at "All About Birds".

Visit our local business, "Fairway Seeds" and they could help you get set up with the kind of bird feeder and seed that you would like.  There are finch feeders that you fill with Nyjer thistle seeds.  These feeders will attract American Goldfinches.  Many other birds don't have the correct bill for eating out of these feeders.

Black oil sunflower seeds work in most other feeders.  There are other seeds you could use too.
Seed that falls to the ground will not go to waste.  Some birds do their feeding off of the ground.

You may feel frustrated with squirrels or Common Grackles that come and seem to eat too much, but the squirrels are entertaining and they are just doing what squirrels do.  The Common Grackles are only here in large groups for a short time and then most of them will move on.

Watching bird behavior is both entertaining and relaxing.  I hope that you will consider attracting birds to your yard.  I'm sure your child would love it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Visit to the Taxidermist

A national award winning taxidermist has a shop two blocks from the school.  I had told him that when he has some bird mounts, I'd like to bring my class in to check them out.  My students know many birds, but they have only seen photos or drawing of them, so this was a chance to see some birds in 3-D and have a chance to get an idea of the size of the birds.

The shop was filled with some animals such as deer, bears, a wolverine, a wolf, a sailfish, etc.  It also had many birds.  Larry carefully quizzed the kindergartners on the birds and showed the field marks to watch for.  The kids did quite well on identifying their birds.  There were a few that I have not taught them because they are not seen in our state.

The most impressive thing to me was how they behaved.  I had told them how they were not to touch any of the animals and they obeyed that very well.  They stood still and were very attentive the whole time that Larry was talking to them.  I was so proud of them and how they have matured throughout the school year.

There was a lot to see at his shop. The kids were surprised 
to hear about how tough a Wolverine was.  One boy 
said, "That's because he is a superhero!"
Larry taught them about several of the animals.
Some birds they got to see were the Snow Goose, Ross's Goose,
Greater White-fronted Goose, Northern Pintail, Mallard, 
Greater Prairie-Chicken, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ring-necked 
Pheasant, Sooty Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Wild Turkey, 
and an Oscillated Turkey from Mexico.
The kids were surprised at how huge the flying 
Wild Turkey was.
He told them that he mostly works on Ring-necked 
Pheasants.  Here they are looking at a Blue {Snow}Goose.

Bird Artists

The other day I'd read a children's book to my kindergartners about John James Audubon.  It was titled, "The Boy Who Drew Birds".  Today I decided to discuss bird artists with them since so many of the students love to draw birds.  We looked at John James Audubon's paintings on the smart board and the kids enjoyed guessing the birds.  I explained how Audubon did these paintings a long time ago and that there are other bird artist now. 

I told them a bit about David Sibley and we watched a video of him doing a step-by-step drawing lesson for some children.  The kindergartners were intrigued and then one girl said, " "Wow-w-w!  He's about as good as Gabriel!" He is a boy in the class that loves to draw birds and he was so happy when she said that.  Tomorrow I will bring my Sibley guide and they can check it out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leprechauns on the Loose!

The leprechauns came to our classroom and made a huge mess!  They left a note saying that they were looking for treasure in our room, but they couldn't find any gold.  Instead they sent us on a treasure hunt to find a different treasure.  We followed the clues throughout the school.  Teachers said they saw something green that flew through like the March wind!  At the end of the hunt, the last clue told us to look somewhere where we like to play.  We searched the toy area and finally found a treasure of gold-wrapped candy!  It was a lot of fun!  Those silly leprechauns!

When we came back from music class, there was a big mess!
The kids were very excited!
The search is on!
They followed the directions on each clue.  Running through 
the school asking teachers, if they saw any 
leprechauns or clues.
Their faces say it all!
"I found another clue, Teach!"
The older students remember this day well.  The leprechauns 
have been visiting the kindergartners for around 22 years!
Here's the gang with the treasure in hand!  Now it is 
time to help clean up this big mess!
At playtime today, some kids built a leprechaun trap and 
left it up for the night.  I wonder what will happen.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kindergarten Birders at the Lake

We went birding at the lake and on our way we stopped to get Michael, the teacher's son.  He walked with us and helped us find birds.  It was a warm and windy day.  When we got to the lake, we quietly crept up the side of the hill and peeked at the lake to see if there were any ducks.  Sara spotted one and exclaimed, "There's a Redhead". 

This boy is scanning the lake for ducks.
Then we kept hiking and we got a really close look at the Redhead.  We watched it swim and eat.  One time they saw it roll over on its side, so they saw its belly.  They thought that was so funny!

The lone duck on the lake.
Then Grant yelled, "Bald Eagles!"  Sure enough.  Very high in the sky we watched three Bald Eagles soar around and around.  

Three Bald Eagles soaring above the small lake.
Then we headed to {what they call} the "spooky forest".  One boy asked if there would be bears in there, but I assured him that there were no bears in our town.  The kids noticed that the trees did not have leaves like they did last time we were there.  They also wondered if the poison ivy would still be there, but of course it wasn't.  We scared up a Ring-necked Pheasant out of the fence line and Michael saw a Red-tailed Hawk.

While we were hiking through the trees, we saw two piles of feathers and they were sad when they realized that they were dead birds.  We discussed what bird might have been the predator.  We narrowed it down to a Merlin, a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk.  I also reminded them that those birds have to eat too and that they can't go to McDonald's or the grocery store when they're hungry.  

The spooky forest didn't seem as scary this time!
I taught them how the old log will decompose and become soil.  
Then they lifted it up to investigate what was under it.
"Maybe we can see in there with the binoculars?"
We went on the bridge and they thought that it seemed like the bridge was moving when in reality it was the strong wind making waves and it felt like they were moving.  Other birds we saw on this windy day were: American Robins, European Starlings, and American Tree Sparrows.

"Hey!  We're moving!"

We started to walk back to school.  Gabe wanted to name the Redhead and after some thought he came up with one.  He said that we should call him, "Fishy Guinot"!  That was sure cute!  We had a great time birding at the lake!
The kids are getting better at using the binoculars.
Here they are soaring like Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures.
That Redhead was a life bird for 11 of the kindergartners!
"Its my turn!"
"Maybe we can look through them at the same time."

Here we are with the sun in our eyes and acting a bit silly!

When we returned, we had recess and then we cooled off with 
a big glass of water while we put our bird sightings on eBird, which
is a way that the kids can participate in citizen science.  We also 
wrote this up together as a class story to share with you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Writing About Birds

Today we wrote about the Snow Goose, since we have 
been seeing flocks of them fly over the school.
During this last nine weeks of school I will have the students focusing on reading books and doing more writing.  First, I teach the lesson and then they take turns going to four different centers/activities.  This week I have them writing four sentences about a bird using mostly the Reading words that they have to know.  

I chose a bird that is in our area now or will be showing up soon in migration.  They copy the sentences, draw the bird and then practice reading what they wrote.  They really like this activity!  The next step will be for them to come up with sentences on their own. Being able to be a good writer is very important for the Common Core Standards and for testing when the students are in third grade and above, so it is important that they practice writing their thoughts or write stories as much as possible.  This would be a good thing to work on over the long summer break as well.

Here is a nice example.  Yesterday at playtime the kids had snuck some drawings into my bookbag.  They asked me if I saw them.  I commented that Mr. Preheim jokingly said that he never gets any cards from his students {high school}.  This is what was snuck into my book bag today.  I love how she sounded out the words.  It is how they might say.  The idea is to get the kids to write what they think in "kid" writing.  Then as they grow they will learn how to spell and we will show them.  This is very good for a kindergartner!

Our Own Published Bird Book

Writing all of this information is a big job for a 
kindergartner, but it is about birds, so 
they don't mind at all.
Their drawings really surprised me!  Very nice!
We are just beginning work on our very own published bird book!  The size of book that we can afford is twenty pages.  It is quite a lot of work, but very educational.  

First we chose which twenty backyard birds we wanted to have in our book.  Then we researched them at the smart board and came up with a few facts about each bird.  Then I typed them up for each child to copy onto their page.  Then they drew the bird, but he first draft of the drawn birds seemed a little rushed, so the second try had them meeting with me first to discuss which field marks are important to show.  Then they had step-by-step drawing lesson.  I don't draw on their paper at all, but I show them how on my paper.  They loved it and keep begging me to show them how to draw more birds!  Here are a few of the finished pages.  They will be available for sale online next month!  Their bird book will be a nice keepsake from their year in kindergarten.

March Art

Here are some small kites and giant shamrocks that the kindergartners designed with crayon and then painted over with watercolor paints.
We all love art time and they seem so happy!
They would like to run around the room and try to fly these small kites!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Journal Pages and Other Creations

Pretty funny!  I always tell the kids, "Raptors can't eat at 
McDonald's or go to the store, so they have to eat 
other animals."  I had to laugh when I saw this journal page.
This class loves Bald Eagles!

I love the drawings of these birds!

He is doing a great job at trying to sound out his words.  
That is the goal!

The kids loved that day!
The five girls have gotten together quite well this year!
This guy was at "Bald Eagle Days" this winter.  He knows 
a lot about Bald Eagles and birds in general!

Ha-ha!  That is pretty funny!  I wish I could fly like a bird!
Pretty sweet!
We loved this story!
Aww...that was so nice!
The kids make me feel special!  That is 
another reason why I love my job!

Guest Reader

As part of "Read Across America", the 1st grade teacher invited the principal/superintendent in to read to her class.  She was nice enough to invite us over to listen.  He read a funny story about the value of money and it made the kids think.  They enjoyed it!
The children enjoyed listening to their principal read to them.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Read Across America Day

Each year the nation celebrates "Read Across America Day".  Elementary students across the United States focused on the joys of reading by reading extra books, being read to, and doing other language arts activities.  The kindergartners were so proud of themselves for reading 100 books today!  It was a fun learning day!

Today we did the following fun activities:
  • students wore pajamas to school
  • made fun headbands telling people to read
  • watched a short video of The Cat in the Hat
  • read 100 books
  • colored in a stripe on the Cat's hat for each book read
  • had two tasty snacks
  • the 4th graders came in and we read to them 
  • made a "Cat in the Hat" with rhyming words on his hat
Here they are working on the artwork for the day.

What a silly girl!

Understanding rhyming words is a very important
strategy in learning how to read.

The 4th graders were so great at helping the
kindergartners with reading books!

The school cooks stopped by with three gifts for the kids:
a Dr. Seuss pencil, eraser pen and a magnetic bookmark.
The kids loved them!

The Finished Product

These girls enjoyed reading to each other.

It also was pajama day, so you can see that this
kindergartner has on his Grinch p.j.s.

Some students felt a little shy, but soon
warmed up to their partner.

Big brother was a great partner!
I made cupcakes to mark the day!  Oh my!
Did we ever have a mess afterwards!
I wonder why???

Here is how we displayed our learning.  It was a great day!