Wednesday, February 5, 2014

 Habitat Sensory Bins

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about something I did at school. Yesterday for the first time I introduced sensory bins to my first graders. Too some they might look like fluff or a waste of time. No, no, no! My children were engaged, they were learning, they were talking, they were experimenting, they were acting out field trips and things they've learned this year. They were exploring, sharing, cooperating and collaborating. The room was a buzz with activity. Even if you feel you can't take away from your teaching time, I encourage you try them as an indoor recess activity - something we are having way too much of this year.

Speaking of indoor recess. It is snowing and sleeting again in PA. So once again we have a snow/ice day. I guess our dear groundhog was right this year. It sure is looking like six more weeks of winter. We have used all our snow days and makeup days - so beginning today all future days will be added onto the end of the year :( It has made getting up and running after Christmas break hard, but it has also given me time to explore and prepare some new things for my classroom.

Sensory bins are something I've been wanting to try for quite some time. I have read about them on Sandi's blog rubber boots and elf shoes. She has created some really amazing bins. On her sidebar she has a link to the bins she's made for her class. I also have to thank Sandi for answering all my questions and providing me with good suggestions as I was making my first bins.

I wanted my bins to fit in with our classroom studies of animals and their habitats. Last week (when we were lucky enough to have school) we learned all about the groundhog. This week (well we had off Monday for snow, yesterday was a late start, and today we are off again, and its only Wednesday) we will dig deep into our study of Australian habitats and animals. The plan was to begin with one bin - but Mother Nature has given me extra time - so I created two bins.

Introducing the Groundhog Bin and The Australian Bin
Here is some rice I colored blue, with shells and some stuffed animals.
These are all things I found laying around my house, except for the map of Australia I printed and laminated. When two grown daughters leave the house, they leave you with some awesome treasures.
At first the students were very tentative and unsure of what to do, but then they dug right in.
Many of my students have never held a real shell.This little guy discovered it makes noise when you hold it to your ear.
Every child approached the bin in a different way. This guy went right for the map. As he pulled it out, he said, "I've got to see this!"
The guy in the red shirt was fascinated by the sea star. He studied it for a very long time. Then he had questions -"Where are its eyes? How does it eat? What are these lines for?" 
This is the groundhog bin. Some shiny, smooth rocks, fluff, flowers, sun/flashlight, clouds and of course some groundhogs.
Love the cooperation and working together!

Most children experimented with the flashlight. I overheard, "Oh, little groundhog you saw your shadow, back into your burrow you go. Six more weeks of winter."
Interesting experiment happening here.
Some imaginative play, feeding the groundhog. I love the garden of flowers she created.
This was our first day with the bins. Everyone wanted a turn, so I set out 6 stations and put the kids in groups of 2 or 3, they rotated through each station and spent about 10 minutes.
These guys were building the farm show - our last field trip.
Smiles and friendships were the order of the day!
The children were excited about school!
Here are some of my thoughts and observations after our first day of using sensory bins:
* the children practiced what they had learned without being told to, this was especially true when they were in the groundhog bin. Second language learners need to practice academic talk and here it happened naturally.
* excitement is now very high to learn about Australia. The children asked many good questions as they were exploring that bin, things I would have never thought to cover.
* it is important to be present and listen closely as children explore the bins, it is also important to stay quiet. Let them talk and listen to one another.
* upon finishing using the bins allow children to share what they discovered or did in their bin. I know next time the Australia bin is out ALL my children will be placing the big shell on their ear and listening.
* if we give children time and materials after a field trip or learning experience they will talk and act it out, thus making the learning more permanent.
* the bins appealed to all my students, but they were especially good for my movers and shakers. 
I LOVE sensory bins. There will always be at least one in my classroom from now on. As I reflect on them, the possibilities are endless.

Is this something you'd like to try in your room??????????
What kind of bin will you make? 
               animal? holiday? arctic? math? beach? birthday?
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

 Dipping into Math Tubs

Well who am I kidding? I don't dip into anything. This is how I operate: read about something I find interesting, mule it over in my mind, research everything I can about it, gather materials, and then dive full in and go for it.

Just a little over a year ago I found this amazing land of teacher blogs. They have opened my world and renewed my love for teaching. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to write posts and develop teaching materials.

The idea of using math tubs to gain time for guided math and small group teaching has been nudging at me for some time. I've been doing guided reading for years in order to teach reading in small groups - why wouldn't teaching math that way work? So I read EVERY blog post I could find on math tubs/stations/bins/centers. I even purchased Debbie Diller's book Math Work Stations. I will be honest here, I haven't finished reading it yet.

Then I gathered. Oh ~ that Teachers Pay Teachers is an addiction ~ I'll tell you. I bought some Winter Math Packs and filled in the gaps with some wonderful freebies. Next, I drug my poor husband to Walmart and we bought 10 of those beautiful bins below.

The following weekend was spent printing, laminating, cutting, and loading up the bins. Finally, I was all ready to go.

These awesome editable tags are free here. Made by Play, Learn and Grow in Kindergarden. To get them small enough to fit on the bins I just printed several pages on one page.
This is the chart I use to rotate the children through the centers. Some days we do one rotation, other days we do more than one. It uses the same labels above just printed full size. There are also cards for bins nine, ten, and meet with the teacher. The names stay put and I simply move the bin numbers.
This Snowman Place Value game was made by Primary Palace and is available here.
These make 10 cards come from Linda Martin's Winter Math Tubs Pack available here.
These penguin cards also are part of the Winter Math Tubs Pack.
So how did it go you might ask? Each bin was introduced and taught over several days. Then we jumped in. During the first two weeks I did not meet with any groups, but rather helped the students with their bin activities. I was amazed at how well they worked with just one partner. When a partner is absent the child works independently. The children were ALL so engaged with math. Once they had the hang of it I began working with small groups. Wow! Just Wow! Time to help those who needed it, time to nudge those who needed it, and time to enrich! I can tell you I will always have math bins in my classroom. No looking back.

I do not use paper recording sheets, but rather laminated them so the children can use dry erase markers. Before clean up I do a quick walk around and look at their work before its erased, making notes of who understands and who needs more help. Such joy - less papers to copy and grade.

The math bins fit into my day nicely. Math starts with calendar activities, a large group lesson on the current topic, and then math bin/small group time.
I've also found that early finishers love to dip into a bin.

After I dive in and swim around for awhile. I stop and think very carefully about how things went. Here are my next steps:

Plan more carefully for exactly what I want in each bin. I must be careful that it is something I want my children to practice, but they can do it with little or no help. Now I know why teachers create their own materials - so they can get exactly what their students need. My computer skills aren't quite there yet. Maybe this summer I'll dapple with some creating. For now its off to careful searching on TPT.

I'd like to add a computer center to the rotation. I have 4 laptops in my room and have just begun using computer sheets for my animal themes. Sharing Kindergarden makes and sells these on TPT. If you have never heard of these go to her blog and read about them. I promise you won't be sorry.

Next up, I'd like to add a sensory bin. Nobody makes these better than Sandi at Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes. These bins give children a sensory experience while sorting, patterning, counting, and speaking. If you read through Sandi's blog you will find she's created a huge variety of these bins.

Last, I would like to include a habitat bin. This bin would be along the lines of Sandi's sensory bins, but would include items that pertain to the habitat and animals we are currently studying in class. It would also include a list of rigorous questions to consider while using the bin. This idea comes from Miss Trayers at Not Just Child's Play. She finds the most amazing ways to add rigor to her kindergardeners' learning daily! Be sure to read her post on Groundhog Rigor.

There you have it a new way - for me - to teach math. Thank you one and all for leading me down this path.

Last, but not least HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear granddaughter ~ Roo, who has just turned one!

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