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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Swap and Hop

Greetings everyone.  I'm Marsha from A Differentiated Kindergarten and I am so excited to be paired up with Mandy from  A Special Kind of Class  for this Blog Swap and Hop event. 

 It's kind of like visitng another teacher's classroom and taking over her class for the day.  I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous. I mean, yeah, I teach kindergarten and everything, but Mandy is a pro at making accomodations and finding ways for her kinders to succeed.  It's like preaching to the choir when I step into her blog and start talking about differentiating, but I hope you'll humor me. Many of you may already know about differentiated instruction, but I'd like to give a quick refresher just in case.

When we talk about differentiated instruction, many teachers focus only on tiering and responding only to the readiness levels of students, but DI (differentiated instruction) really asks instructors to consider so much more about their students.  In addition to readiness, it asks us to respond to a students learning profiles or how they learn best and their interests as well. 

I know what you might be thinking, "wait, I can differentiate my instruction merely by responding to my students' interests? But that's so . . . easy!"  You're right! It is one fairly easy way to differentiate, but here's why it's so important. 

Brain research tells us that when we respond to a student's interest, we are setting the hook . . . When we feed our students' interest, we give learning meaning and when learning  is meaningful, it has a tendancy to stick.  So in my own class, I take a lot of time to get to know my students.  One way I do this is by sending home an interest inventory to my students' parents before school gets started in the fall.  They know your students best and can really give you a heads start on getting to know what makes your kiddos tick.  If you'd like a copy of mine, feel free to click on the picture below to get it.

If you have ever read my own blog, you know that I have a tendancy to acquire very  "boy heavy" classes.  Call it luck of the draw or divine intervention, either way, it happens quite a bit.  One of my first years teaching kindergarten, I had three girls in a class of 25.  After about the first three weeks of teaching, I discovered I had a large population of students who where attracted to anything and everything with wheels.  This was the kind of class that, even if there weren't cars available to play with, they would turn other things into a car and pretend it had wheels . . . pencils, crayons, markers, pencil boxes, chairs even their hands.  They were 'driven' (no pun intended) by vehicles.

What do you do when you have a classroom full of gearhead?  Get real darn serious about cars, real quick that's what.

I have come to the conclusion, you can teach just about anything in kindergarten by using cars.

Of course, there are tons of books that you can offer your students.  Make sure you include some non-fiction and fiction.  The one below is a favorite because is a 'familiar' story line and I have the cd that accompanies it so my students with musical intelligences are especially fond of it.

Other simple ways are to use cars to sort

 and make patterns.

Need your own 'I can' poster for math stations and cars?  Just grab a copy of mine by clicking on the poster pick.

Of course, you can  also count cars. I never visit anyone's blog without bringing along a little gift and so here's one for you.  This activity addresses common core standards, is self-correcting AND tiered to meet the readiness levels of your various students . . . differentiation done for you!

You can play it with little toy cars or with the car cards I provide.

Cars are also a great way to let kinesthetic learners do what they do best . . . MOVE. If you use a little a little FROG brand painters tape on your floor you can practice writing your letters by 'driving' the cars over the letters.

It's a guarenteed 'ask for it again and again' activity.
And for those students who may have difficulty with mobility and getting on the floor, how about downloading a set of these FABULOUS highway letter cards from Making Learning Fun to use at a table or desk.  Click on the picture below to take you to the link.

They're absolutely FREE!!!

Of course, if you take that same tape (it's my favorite) and place a small piece with a letter written on the back, you can sort letters in your name, capital and lowercase letters or even short and tall letters.

If you'd like a set of these fun sorting mats just click on the picture to get your set.  Don't worry if you don't have enough 'real' match box cars for this activity.  I included a set of car playing cards that can be used for this activity as well. 

For your students who are beyond letter naming, how about working on a letter sound activity.

This one is tiered with self-correcting beginning letter sound cards and, for students ready to move on, there is are additional cards that will let them work on the sounds they hear at the end of the word.

Hey! Now we're differentiating in response to interest AND readiness levels. 

I've even used cars to help my students with nonsense word fluency.  When I drew some roads on a big piece of paper, wrote some nonsense words down, handed my kiddos a toy car and a timer, this literacy center became an instant favorite.

Sometimes, just spending a little time getting to know your students can lead to valuable insight and activities that will engage them, motivate them, allow them to enjoy learning and find success!   

I sure did enjoy visiting and hope you were able to get a little 'something' from my visit.  If you like what you see and would like to know more about how I differentiate instruction in my own kindergarten classroom, please stop on over, check it out and  follow my blog.  You'll get all the latest notices about freebies and resources for differentiating your own classroom.

Thanks again.


Jennifer said...

Thanks for the Parent Interest Survey Form. I think I am going to make something similar for my son Alex to give out to his new 3rd grade teacher and intervention specialist this year. Alex had some behavior problems last school year. I tried to help his Intervention Specialist understand that he would be much more interested in learning if she could find a way to include his interests (he is an animal freak) in the classroom. It would have been a win for everyone. She was unwilling to try anything new, the behavior didn't improve, and she retired at the end of the year. I'm hopefully that things will go better next year with his new Intervention Specialist. Love the ten frame parking lot. I think it will be a good addition to the transportation unit at preschool.

Lisa R. said...

What a great post! I like how you incorporate cars into a lot of your activities. My students always seem to be instantaneously engaged when you bring cars into the picture. Thanks for sharing!
Learning Is Something to Treasure

test said...

Marsha! I love absolutely everything about this post! I think I ended up pinning most all of the pictures. :) You are fabulous!

Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives

Marsha McGuire said...

I believe the letter sorting link may have gotten lost in blogger land. If you're looking for it you can click on this link to get it. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B27LcHAvnIC3bnhWSzRMclBlaDg/edit

Sorry for the incovenience everyone.
A Differentiated Kindergarten

Unknown said...

Wow. I don't even teach Kindergarten but I am incredibly impressed with this post. Excellent ideas!

Lori said...

Great post full of wonderful ideas! The boys (and girls too) do love anything with wheels!
Conversations in Literacy

Grade School Giggles said...

I loved this post! You have such awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing them.

Grade School Giggles

Lori Rosenberg said...

I walked away with tons of great ideas for the new school year. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

ΡΌ Lori
Teaching With Love and Laughter

dbednars said...

I can't wait to use these. Thank you! When I click on the Hot Rod 10 Frame Parking Lot I get the letter sorting activity. I would love to have the 10 frame activity. I am focusing on revamping my math instruction & this looks perfect.

Stacy said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas. I'm pinning your post right now so that I can use your ideas at the beginning of the year.
✰ Stacy

Simpson Superstars