Shape Trains (K)

Ohhhhh beginning of the year kindergarten... there is no amount of preparedness that I can be for you. ;)
I am so thankful for those few (and I mean FEW) kindergarten students that come in having already gone to pre-k - they're used to a structured school setting and help to create the illusion of some control and order in my classroom. I'm going to be honest with you.. beginning of the year kindergarten is CHAOS. Fortunately for me no one has peed in my classroom yet.. though some of my specials teacher colleagues have not been so lucky.
Many times it is the issue of students not having experience in a structured setting and/or not being able to adequately communicate their thoughts/needs because of limited English-proficiency (and with that cannot understand what I am asking of them). There is also the issue of class size; whoever said that class size does not impact the teaching abilities of quality teachers must have been inebriated because it ABSOLUTELY does. Every single student that is added to a class means the teacher must spread him/herself that much thinner. As class sizes go up, the ability to provide individualized attention and differentiation goes down. Case in point - I had 31 kindergarteners (with all the qualities listed above) in my classroom last week with no additional support (i.e. no parapros). Because of the size of my school, not enough specials classes, and split classes during specials - this is the norm for kindergarten.
Perhaps this would be more manageable if most of my kinders had gone to pre-k and could understand what I'm saying.. but alas - that is not my situation. Okay.. done with that little rant.
Basically what I'm getting at is that I needed some lessons that I could do with my kinders that would be manageable for the first rotation in art (remember.. I see the same group for a week straight).
So I was so excited when I saw this lesson on 'Shine Brite Zamorano'. "I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean" by Kevin Sherry is a book that I already use to start of the year with kindergarten.. so it was great finding a project that I could use along with the book!
After reading the book on the carpet with my kinders we talked about how the illustrator of the book is an artist. Then we looked at the expressions of the characters in the book and talked about what mood they were expressing and how the artist was able to make the character express that mood (happy, sad, angry, etc.). We mostly talked about the shape of the eyes and the lines used on the mouth.
Then students set out to draw their own giant squids with whatever expression they'd like. For this first drawing we drew together step-by-step - students told me what shape I needed to draw to create certain features on my squid, then they recreated it on their papers as well. The next day we either used watercolor paints to paint their squids in or if I didn't think the class could handle painting yet... we just moved on to the next project.

For this next bit we began by reading "Mouse Shapes" by Ellen Stoll Walsh and talked about how the images were created by arranging simple shapes together. From this idea we moved onto creating shape trains. Students were given a tub full of different colored and sized shapes from which they could create their own shape trains on a long sheet of blue paper. This project helped to reinforce student's color and shape vocabulary and was also a perfect opportunity for me to show them how to properly use a glue stick AND share! :)
I'm hoping that the next time I see each group of kinders, we'll be able to move onto using scissors.. but I just didn't feel like we were there yet.
I only have two eyes to patrol my classroom; they have 62 hands collectively capable of scissor catastrophes - not particularly enticing odds.
How adorable is this train?!


  1. 31 Kinders at one time ?! by yourself?! Wowza! I compare corralling September Kinders to herding cats or goldfish... :) Last year my Kinder classes averaged 17 and I thought I had died and gone to heaven! The year before I had an average of 24 in each class and it was a little nutty at times! I saw a quote once that made me giggle it was something like, " Teaching Kindergarten is like being pecked to death by chickens! " ( ha! ha! ) Have a great school year! :)

    1. Exactly like herding goldfish. hahah :)
      Hope you have a great school year as well!

    2. OMG...31??? That is nuts! I get my kinders twice a week and have a grandpa helper. He has been with me for 2 years now and LOVES kindergarteners! He also helps with one 2nd grade class that his grandson attends. I don't know what I would do without him. My mom has offered to help on occasion too. I try to find parent helpers that will come in regularly but it's tough. Just another set of eyes and hands is amazing! I love your train lesson... did you provide them with pre-cut circles for the wheels or did they cut them? I know my kinders have a really hard time cutting circles!

    3. I had to cut them. There was no way they were going to. Haha circles are a tricky shape! My first graders still have issues cutting them!

  2. Glad to hear that my Squid lesson helped you out:) Beginning of the year kinder classes are insane! I don't have to see them until the 4th week of school, which is such a blessing. It allows them to get just a little accustomed to the routine of school. We usually have 10 kinder classes, so when I do get around to seeing them, it's with a bang;)

    1. I wish our school did the same! I feel like they really need time to adjust to their classroom setting first!
      My school has 18 kindergarten classes now.. but fortunately I only see half of them (the other half go to the other art teacher). I see each class for a week straight.. then don't see them again for another 2 months. The changes you can see over those periods of time are crazy!

  3. We are having to do a class and a half this year too! I had my 31 kinders today and it was craaazyyy! I have now painted with them twice but I am also on the lookout for safe and successful lessons to do with them. I feel your pain, dude!

  4. Hello, I have 36 kindergarteners at one time on my own. I feel like I am at such a loss especially since this is my first year teaching kinders!