Using QR Codes in a Kindergarten Class...and making your own!

There's a big push for technology in the classroom today.
And although I am a big believer in keeping up with the current ways of teaching and learning, I'm also one who believes technology cannot be the only thing that we rely on and expose our students to in our classrooms.  By that I mean that the technology given to us (iPads, Chrome Books, Smart Board, etc.) are wonderful tools for students to learn with (and educators to teach with!) but I also believe that we can't abandon the good 'ole pencil and hands-on learning materials!

So how do we introduce and use technology in our classroom?

Let's start with iPads
Many of us may have one or two iPads in our classroom or have access to them from the Library Learning Commons.  
In our class, we don't allow our students to download any apps they want.  We guide them to choose apps that have either already been introduced to them by an educator or are simple enough to navigate independently (many are already uploaded to the device itself).
I created this QR Code scan paper this past school year and placed it close to both the Book Nook (classroom library) and computer station.  Students simply scan the QR code and it takes them to the website that has been approved by our Board (and us!).  These websites are awesome!  They have lots of fun activities, books, games and interesting facts that our students can manoeuvre on their own.  
*Just in case anyone is wondering - we often set up a timer close to the iPad station to assist students with turn taking.*

So what exactly IS a QR Code?
Don't worry - many people aren't that familiar with what these are...but when I tell you that more and more companies are using them just about everywhere (I found one on my shampoo bottle!) you will start to notice them more in our world!
QR stands for Quick Response - basically meaning that when you scan the QR Code, it will instantly take you to a website.

So here's what you need to know...

1)  You will need to download a FREE QR Reader app on your device (iPhone, iPad, etc.)
There are lots of them but my favourite is this one.  Look for it in the App Store.
*You will probably need to allow the app access to the camera on your device so be sure to click "yes" if this pops up before continuing.*

2)  Look for a QR Code to scan.  (Try the one found below to practice!)

3)  Voila!  You are on a website for that product/activity!

Here are some other ways our students use QR Codes in our classroom during "Thinking and Learning Time".

We print and place QR Codes around our classroom.  Using the iPad, students go on a hunt around the room to find the QR Codes and check them off their lists, complete the spelling of a word, write a sight word, colour the rhyming word, etc.

Most educators that are new to QR Codes are a little hesitant to try these but I am telling you, children as young as kindergarten are so quick to learn!  They catch on fast and absolutely LOVE these activities.
You can find these in my QR Codes - Bundle on TpT. 

Listening Center
I don't have the typical Listening Centre in my classroom anymore.  By typical I mean stereo system with cassette tapes or CDs.  The problem was, our CD player kept breaking year after year and we all know they are very very expensive to fix and/or replace.  So I thought of using the iPad as a Listening Centre.  All you need to add is a pair of headphones (unless you have a quieter room LOL!).
Here are a few pictures of our Book Nook.
I print the Listening Center QR Code Read-Aloud that I want for the month (which includes 24 books so there's a great selection) and put them in a binder.
Students take the iPad and scan the QR Code of the book that interests them.  It takes them right to a website of a read aloud of that book!  Instant Listening Center without the hefty price tag!

Nearly every morning for the last 13 years (yes, I have been teaching that long!) our students sing the Alphabet Song Book together.  I was introduced to this book and song my first year teaching by Mrs. Powers, a hearing specialist in our Board, and I can't believe how amazing it is at reinforcing letters/sounds.
I have a hard copy printed in colour and bound which we use during our morning carpet time.
I also print a copy in black and white and send it home with students to practice with their families.
Students scan the QR Code on the front of the book and it takes them to a website of my singing the song (not video, luckily, but I also don't have the best singing voice!)

Ready to try it?  Scan this QR should take you to my TpT store in case you are interested in trying some of the QR Code activities in your classroom!

I've had lots of requests from teachers wanting to learn how to make their own QR Codes.

Using Google Drive to upload your own video
Do you take videos in your classroom of student learning as part of your documentation?
Ever wonder how you can actually save these videos for parents to see?  I like creating Student Portfolios (read all about that here) and inserting student work samples, photos, and now even videos through the use of QR Codes!

Decide where you want to store your videos.  If you use an iPhone/iPad or other device, be sure to download the Google Drive app.  I love using this app because it's FREE and our Board has so much storage I know I won't have any issues saving student videos.
* I like creating individual folders for each of my students.  There are many other ways you can save the videos (i.e. folders for each of the 4 kindergarten frames, themes, a project/inquiry)...think about what works best for you and create those folders! *

Here's an example I took a video of some students using the BeeBot (coding robot) which I wanted to add to my documentation.  I followed these steps below to upload it to Google Drive and turn it into a QR Code.

Follow these easy steps to make your own QR Codes!

With this QR Code image, you can now insert it into a Google Doc, Power Point, Pic Collage or any program that you use for documenting.  Save it and print it if you wish to include it in your student's portfolio.

Here's a FREE DOWNLOAD of the QR Code website sheet you can put up in your own classroom for your students to use!
Just click the picture to download.


Teaching Religion in Full Day Kindergarten

As many of you know, I teach at a Catholic school in York Region (about 20 minutes north of Toronto).  Religion is the foundation for our school board so of course we integrate lessons around our faith throughout the day.

We gather formally on the carpet at least once a week for a Religion Circle.  I originally got this idea from my good friend and colleague, Mrs. Linigari, who teaches grade 1.
We post the Religion Circle picture on our Daily Schedule so students know what is planned for the day.  
You can read all about our Daily Schedule here.

We all gather on the carpet in a large circle.  We start by passing around a rosary and saying intentions (i.e. "I pray for my sister who is not feeling well today.").  Once everyone has had a turn, we read a story from the Children's Bible.  There are many versions of the Children's Bible available to purchase. This is the one I use in my classroom and I find it's simple enough for even the youngest children to follow along.

I discovered a You Tube channel, The Beginner's Bible, that offers amazing videos of many of the stories found in the Children's Bible. 
Here's an example of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments:

We have great discussions around the story in the Bible as well as the video we watch.  I also like to post it to our class D2L (website) for parents to see and continue those discussions at home.

"Teaching Religion" is not simply a subject though - we often refer back to stories we have read in the Children's Bible or ask how Jesus would feel to our students when we see conflict arise in the classroom. 

Of course, when special holidays are close (such as Christmas or Easter), it's a great opportunity to also combine art and drama in our lessons.
Here are a few examples:

After reading about the birth of Jesus, students were invited to retell the story using the felt board.  I made these props myself - and it's really easy to do!  You can read all about how to make your own felt board pieces here.

Leaving out loose parts for students to retell or make up their own story is also fun!

There's a beautiful song we sing (found on the In God's Image CD which is our Board's Religious Ed. program). 
Here's the song with the lyrics if you don't use this program.

I made these printable pieces of the Nativity this past winter that go along with the song.  Students choose different roles and hold the props while they walk around the carpet.
You can find these props as a FREE download here.

We also make a card and several crafts (which vary each year).  Here's what we did this past Christmas.

I've started making Religious educational materials on my TpT site.  This is one of our class favourites - a write the room activity based on the Nativity.
You can find this activity here if you are interested.

At Easter, we also make a card and craft.  We tend to focus on the stories leading up to Easter also, such as Palm Sunday.  Each student also made this palm branch to take home.

After reading stories from the Bible, we invite children to draw and paint their favourite part.

Using various materials, students are invited to retell the Easter story.

One of our favourite apps is called Chatterpix Kid, where students can "cut" part of the picture they have taken of their work and record their own voice.

We place the Easter Write the Room activity around our class for those interested in doing this fun centre.

We left out a provocation after reading the book The Giving Tree, at the beginning of the Lenten season.  It's a great book to introduce the idea of giving up so much for others, even though it's not religious.  Every time students did something for others they were invited to write/draw it on a leaf and place it on our classroom door.

We all know Christmas and Easter are the two biggest celebrations, but what about religion the rest of the year?

During the month of May, our school prays the Hail Mary regularly.  So we teach it to our children too.  We also read and discuss who Mary was and how she is very important.  We did a directed drawing of Mary too and left out these pictures of beautiful and famous paintings of Mary from around the world for students to draw.

Provocations can be left out at any time of the year that focus on feelings, inclusion, and treating others like Jesus preaches.

At the beginning of the year, when we focus on "All About Me", we invite students to look closely in the mirror and draw themselves.  We discuss how God made each of us unique and special, as well as what we love most about ourselves.

You can make these self portraits in any size and certainly extend this activity in many ways.  We hung ours up in the hallway outside our classroom on a branch and on the reverse the children told us what makes them special.

During the month of February, our emphasis is more on treating others with kindness and respect, since it ties in so well with Valentine's Day.  Students choose a name from the bowl and, for one week ("Friendship Week") they have to do kind things for that friend (i.e. help them log into computer, paint a picture together, etc.)  We also invite them to make a bracelet as a sign of friendship.

We spend a large chunk of time during the week outdoors, where we search for items in nature and observe seasonal changes.  We discuss how God made our beautiful Earth and how we can be stewards of the Earth.  There are even times when we (or our students!) bring in special guests to our classroom, such as these snails.  We learn that God made all living creatures and it's our responsibility to take care of them and show respect.

After many daily discussions about "loving our neighbours" (or friends) and reading lots of books, such as How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, there are lots of provocations you can create.  Here our students are encouraged to write/draw how they can be kind to their peers.  Afterwards we turned these pages into a class book.

How do you incorporate religion in your classroom? 

Setting up a Writing Centre in a Play-Based Kindergarten Class

Writing is so very important - at any age - yes, even the little ones in Kindergarten are encouraged to write everyday!

Our classroom is a full day, play-based kindergarten class in Ontario, designed to meet all learners needs.  We know that students come to us as young as 3 and might not even recognize their name, others begin school knowing all their letters and sounds and might even be reading!  That's why it's important to guide and encourage all children to write daily - and knowing that we have set up a fun and interactive Writing Centre means students will actually want to write!

As a side note, our Writing Centre changes all the time!  We start small at the beginning of the year, usually just putting out a few magnetic words (which we use as our word wall), blank paper, a flip book of students in our class, an alphabet flip book, stencils, vocabulary flip books and picture dictionaries.

The picture below shows what our Writing Centre (shelf) looks like by the end of the second month of school or so.

As we teach lessons on writing, we include new things to the Writing Centre.
At the beginning of the year, we tend to focus on name printing with those students that need the extra support.  We do this in a variety of ways - using Playdough to form and roll out letters, identifying our name around the room, searching for and building our name using magnetic letters, writing our name using a variety of tools (chalkboard, whiteboard) and finally using a pencil to practice.

We take pictures of the children during the first week of school (sometimes the first day can be a little hectic!).  We use these pictures in a variety of places around the room so that the students not only begin to identify their own name but names of peers.  We also print them on cue cards and attach them on a ring.  We leave this at our Writing Centre to encourage students to write peers names on a list, in a letter, etc.

We also print these Alphabet cards and attach them onto a ring.
Students can use these to search for beginning sounds or review letter/sound identification.

The topic of word walls always comes up in conversation with our kindergarten teachers.  Over the years, we have tried creating a word wall in many ways and places around the room.
We have had students write the words and place them on a bulletin board but the problem we found was the bulletin board was too high for students to read the words.
We found this option the best - this is a magnetic board (I used my Scholastic bonus coupons to buy it but you can find it on Amazon also - see picture below).
Students are able to remove the word that they want to use and take it to their seat.  When they are done they simply put it back!
*You can find the Magnetic Tabletop Learning Easel by clicking on the picture below*

If you don't want to buy the big pack of magnetic words I included ready-to-print words (which are editable so you can add your own if they are not already included).  Just add a magnet to the back (you can buy these at Dollarama).

This is about how many sight words I would start with for the first few weeks of school.

We also like giving students to option of using the same sight word cards as above but displaying them on Popsicle sticks.

I love playing games in small groups with students who need extra practice with sight words.  I have also included larger sight word cards that you can use to play "Roll-Say-Keep".

Here is what our baskets look like in the centre of the table.  We keep pencils and erasers inside and leave a ring with sentence starters there to prompt students to add writing to their pictures.

As the year goes on, we change the paper offered - it's important to introduce ways for students to use some of the paper (i.e. letter writing) before leaving it out.  You can do this either whole group or in small group mini lessons.

 At the beginning of the year, I like to start with showing students how to draw.  I find that many of the young students come to school and scribble - so we want to take time to simplify drawing.  We use these shape stencils to show students how drawing people or objects can be done by using shapes (i.e. face is a circle, house is a square, etc.)

*You can also find many free printable "how-to-draw" instructions for children on the internet.  We print these and insert them into a binder kept on the Writing Centre shelf.*
Click here for an example.

Students are also shown how to label their picture (we start by asking them to write the beginning sound they hear).

We also set up a provocation inviting students to choose stickers (who doesn't love stickers?!?!) and write the sounds they hear beside to practice labelling.

As the year progresses, so do our students!  By the end of Year 2 many of them are able to use the tools we set out (magnetic sight words, stencils, etc.) to draw and form a simple sentence.

Another lesson I like to teach early on in the school year is about making lists.  We brainstorm the many lists our parents and teachers write (i.e. grocery lists, birthday lists, our favourite toys, etc.).  An easy and fun activity is to leave out grocery flyers and have student cut their favourite things.  They can try and sound out how to spell the words.

Students can also copy thematic words (i.e. animals) from our Vocabulary Flip Books.

Here is an example of the Community Helpers Flip Book.

These are 2 of my favourite books when discussing making lists (the Max and Ruby book is perfect for Kindergarten as many students can identify with the characters).

As part of the Full Day Kindergarten program in Ontario, we are encouraged to have our students think and wonder about the world around us.  We use "I see...I think...I wonder..." often.
I am always taking pictures (when we go on Nature Walks, driving to school, animals and creatures I find in my backyard, etc.) and I like to share these pictures with my students.  I project them onto the Bright Links board and together we complete the phrases "I see...I think...I wonder..."  We do this so often that students are used to what is expected.  So when we leave out provocations, such as the one below with the flowers, students understand what to do.  Now not all of my students are writing so then what happens?  Well, they know they can draw a picture of what they see, think and wonder or ask a friend for help.

I like to challenge those students who are strong writers and ready for it.  My students love playing with different materials in the class (like the BeeBot) and I have them tell the class, step-by-step, how to use it (create instructions or procedural writing).  They get so excited to do this!!!
If your students bring in toys from home (we went through a Pokemon card phase a couple of years ago), you can have them write about how to play step-by-step.

Another lesson we teach as the year progresses is how to write letters to our peers (this is a great lesson to do around Valentine's Day!).  We introduce the words "To" and "From" and explain how a letter can be words or pictures and it communicates a message.

Since we read many stories (at least one a day!), it's no surprise that students are naturally drawn to writing their own story.  Again, not all students are able to write sentences or even words, but the children know they can draw a picture and we can transcribe it on the bottom.
Have students create their own story using loose parts!

I like to leave out a felt board with the story we read and have students retell the book.  They can also draw it on their My Story paper.  You can read all about how to make your own felt board pieces here.

We have even used the app My Story and created digital stories!
You can read all about that here and here.
We use this template with the students first so that they could plan their story.

I kept my very favourite piece of writing last - postcards!!!  We did a whole bunch of post card writing before school let out a few weeks ago.  We discussed how you often send postcards when you travel to places around the world.  We also talked about how it feels good to receive mail from our family and friends and if any children were travelling this summer, they could purchase a post card and mail it to Mrs. Albanese (or just write one like the example below!)

You can find all this (and SO MUCH MORE!) in my new Get Your Students to Write! pack on TpT.