Digital Literacy in Kindergarten: Penguin Movie Magic

Every year in Kindergarten Christy and I like to do one digital literacy project with our children.  We always enter into this process with mixed feelings.  We know our children already spend some time using apps and games on iPads and iPhones and more games on computers:  Do they really need more tech time?  However, we are also of the mind that creatingwith technology, rather than consumingtechnology, is something we can teach our children in their school setting.  We have the resources to do so and so this year we’ve made something very special:  Penguin Movie Magic.

We Love Penguins

In Kindergarten, one of our Science Big ideas is plants and animals have observable features.  The penguin is our animal of choice to discuss habitat, appearance, young, behaviour and life cycle. 

Digital Literacy and Technology Support

For all things digital, we draw upon the experience and expertise of our District Innovation Support Leader (Technology), Ridgeview Grade 7 teacher and BFF Ms. Cari Wilson; Grade 7 teacher Mr. Russ Paterson and our Grade 7 Big Buddies.  Cari was instrumental in helping us to establish an internet and social media presence with this website.  Mr. Paterson is our Big Buddy teacher and our Big Buddies…well, they were once our Kinders in the former half-day program, and now they are Grades 7s who are very much loved by their Little Buddies.

Our goal for each Buddy group was to create a documentary movie about penguins using the Green Screen by Do Ink app.  Big and Little Buddies collected information from the internet, and images from Google, for each area of our Penguin Planning Framework.  Our framework helps our Big and Little Buddies to be organised in their research, stay focused on specific topics, read for information and practise the skill of note-taking. 

We wanted the children to tell the story logically so we supported them with a group plan for reference as to how each movie should play out.  We discussed our objectives as a large group and wrote up the group plan together. This was also a good time for the Big Buddies to clarify any questions they might have, and a really valuable opportunity for the Little Buddies to see direct instruction in another learning context:  how teachers, and students of all ages, can collaborate together as a community of learners. 

The fun really begins following completion of our research.  Each of our Big Buddies, with tremendous patience, encouragement and humour, taught their Little Buddies what to say during filming.  

The Green Screen by Do Ink app allowed us to superimpose the computer graphics behind the actors.  Being of the make do with what you’ve gotmanner of thinking, we used the green paper off of our paper rolls for our green screen.  We had several setsdown the Primary hallway so four groups could film simultaneously.  Even better, since the completion of this project, our Principal, Mrs. Brady, has bought us a real green screen!  Thank you, Mrs. Brady!

A great deal of rehearsal preceded the actual filming.  Cari acted as gatekeeperto ensure the Kindergarten children knew their lines before going in studio.  The Big Buddies would count their Little Buddy in with 3, 2, 1, actionbefore filming or the words would be lost.  

Needless to say amongst the laughter, repeated takes and endless heaps of praise, this was a learning process that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.   We all realized that while showbiz might look easy, it is actually a lot of very hard work.

Mystery Box Inquiry

In Kindergarten, we use the guided inquiry process.  For us, guided inquiry is about play, discovery, exploration and oral language developmentin questioning skills.  The Kindergarten plays a lot, as they should, because that is the Kindergarten child’s work at school:  to play.  We believe that all learning for Kindergarten should be child-centred, hands-on and play focused where their natural intuition for play leads them to discover and explore their world in their own time.  Imaginary play, block play, puzzles, dress-up dolls, Lego, playing with language at the Imagination Station, the Dollhouse –it’s all in a day’s play for Kindergarten.

Now admittedly, to teach questioning skills, we have to do so by direct instruction but we still make it playful for the children.  We begin by placing an object in the Mystery Box.  Then we have the children ask up to 10 questions about what might be in the Mystery Box.  In the beginning, there is a lot of guessing.  But over the 4-5 Mystery Box Inquiries we complete, we notice real change in the sophistication of the children’s questions.  

Our focus is on the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why and how) and we help the children re-frame their guesses and beginning questions (is it a….?)to questions they can start with the 5Ws (what does it feel like?where does it live? how does it move?)  We also teach them to ask checking questionsto confirm their theory, based on the information we’ve revealed in our answers, about what’s in the Mystery Box.  Our focus is for the children to ask questions that require us to answer with more than just yesor no.  After 10 questions, the children are allowed to make a guess and amid much clapping and fanfare, the Mystery Box is opened when a correct guess is finally made!

Final Cut

At publication time, our Penguin Movie Magic projects are now completed.  We debuted our movies to our Kindergarten families during Student-Led Conferences on April 26, 2018.  Our Big Buddies helped us to upload their Little Buddies movie to FreshGrade so each family was able to access their child’s account during the Conferences.  

We wanted to note that in addition to their movie, our children also completed response pages for each Mystery Box Inquiry to make their own Penguin Research Booklets.   As our children move onto Grade One in a few short weeks, printing their names, colouring and completing frame sentences are important and necessary skills we need to not only have taught, but practised in a meaningful way.  Our integrated learning process of building relationships, digital literacy, guided inquiry, writing and presenting is multi-layered and complex, as all good teaching and learning should be to meet a variety of student needs. 


Count On: Counting Picture Books for Kindergarten

We’ve come to the end of our Numeracy Lessons; the last response page has been stapled into our Math books.  It’s been a really busy time.  We’ve focused on exploring numbers from 1-10 by counting sets, creating ways to show a specific number, looking for smaller numbers in the larger number, subitizing, matching sets to numerals and printing numerals correctly.  You can read more about what we do to explore number


We’ve used the teaching of number as another opportunity to integrate more children’s literature into our units of instruction.  We’re definitely of the “so many books, so little time” way of thinking, and we want to provide as many oral language experiences through stories, rhymes and songs as we can, in every subject area.  For our students, a good picture book is an amazing provocation: it’s a chance to connect our thinking and build common language around what we’re learningand it’s an experience we can all share and relate to no matter what our home language and cultural background may be.


There are so many wonderful books available today and the children are really the ones who benefit.  As their teachers, we try to read aloud only the best of what we can find.  It’s our habit to read the entire book before purchasing if we can.  We’re huge fans of Scholastic Books so of course it’s not always possible (we might have to buy sight unseen) unless we’re acquiring a book we’ve already read from the library.

Today’s Counting Picture Books booklist includes classics new and old.  It is the tiniest of booklists compared to what is available for our children today.  How lucky is that?!

What Comes in 2’s, 3’s, & 4’s?(Suzanne Aker and Bernie Karlin)

Gray Rabbit’s 1, 2, 3(Alan Baker)

1-2-3- peas(Keith Baker)

Canada 123(Kim Bellefontaine and Per-Henrik Gurth)

One Grey Mouse(Katherine Burton and Kim Fernandes)

Ten Black Dots(Donald Crews)

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On(Lois Ehlert)

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree(Betsy Franco and Shino Arihara)

How Many Snails? A counting book(Paul Giganti, Jr. and Donald Crews)

Four Black Puppies(Sally Grindley and Clive Scruton)

Hello Kitty Hello Numbers(illustrated by Higashi Glaser)

The Gummy Candy Counting Book(Amy and Richard Hutchings; photographs by Richard Hutchings)

Pete the Cat and His four Groovy Buttons(Eric Litwin and James Dean)

One Watermelon Seed(Celia Barker Lottridge and Karen Patkau)

A Pod of Orcas:  A Seaside Counting Book(Sheryl McFarlane and Kirsti Anne Wakelin

The M&M Counting Book(Barbara Barbieri McGrath)

Chicka Chicka 1-2-3(Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson and Lois Ehlert)

PJ Bear’s New Year’s Party(Paul Owen Lewis)

One is a Snail Ten is a Crab:  A Counting by Feet Book(April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre; illustrated by Randy Cecil)

1 is One(Tasha Tudor)

Over in the Meadow: A Counting-Out Rhyme(Olive A. Wadsworth; pictures by Mary Maki Rae)

Mouse Count(Ellen Stoll Walsh)

Bunny Party(Rosemary Wells)

Max Counts His Chickens 1 2 3(Rosemary Wells)

Bear Counts(Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman)


Literacy, Language and Story:  What’s Ahead for Kindergarten in Term Three

sweet stories for Spring

The final term is always an exciting one for any grade because our students are quite a bit more mature than the start of school, they have greater independence and more developed skills.  

By the third term in Kindergarten, the children’s development is rapid and vast:

-their bodies are bigger, taller and stronger

-their fine motor skills (printing, drawing, painting) and gross motor skills (running, skipping, throwing) have really increased and improved

-their sense of humour is developing (until lately, only Mrs. Campbell and I were laughing at each other’s jokes)

-they are beginning to understand stories at an inferential level (reading between the lines)

-they can follow a classroom discussion and contribute on-topic comments

-they can demonstrate an understanding of school life and classroom culture through their self-regulation (calm, focused, ready to learn) and social awareness (understanding that everybody, children and adults have feelings; and realizing they are one of many students in the class)

Of course, there’s much more than what we listed but these are some of the constants that we have noticed over the course of our teaching careers.

From last week’s newsletter, you’ll know that we are now in the Final Four…finishing the last four letters of our Alphabet.  We’ve been working really hard on teaching letter names and sounds, correct letter formation when writing, and developing the children’s phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness is important because it is an indicator of the children’s readiness for reading.

When children have strong phonological awareness, that means they have an understanding that language is made up of sounds (phonemic awareness), syllables, rhymes and words.

In class, we directly teach phonemic awareness (the ability to think about and manipulate speech sounds) and its accompanying skills of blending (c-a-t = cat); segmenting (cat = c-a-t); deleting (children repeat a word without the initial or final sound) (cat/ca- or -at) and substituting (children substitute different sounds in a word) (c-an/f-an/r-an/ra-t/s-at).  This forms a large part of our Alphabet instruction.  

Although we will soon be finished this direct Alphabet teaching, we will continue to review the letters (particularly sound production).  Our regular classroom activities such as Sharing, class discussions and Mystery Box Inquiry, all contribute to developing the children’s oral language (speaking and listening), a necessary part of a balanced approach to reading instruction, and are on-going for the rest of the school year.

In addition, we will support the children in refining the children’s printing skills during their daily work, focusing on correct letter formation, shape and space between letters and words, and writing on the line.

It’s also a time for us to explore literary themes.  Our big literary theme in Kindergarten is Fairy Tales.  We choose Fairy Tales as we believe it to be one of the most important genres of childhood literature, along with Nursery Rhymes and Folk Tales.  In our daily lives, through our speech (idioms), books we read and pop culture eg., “If the shoe fits, wear it” (Cinderella), many references are made to Fairy Tales; and a firm understanding of these familiar tales is essential when discussing literary archetypes and characterizations, plot patterns and common themes to fully understand the subtle nuances in current literature.  We’ve written more about Fairy Tales here.

The next big literary event in our classrooms will be our Home Reading Program.  This is a very fun and wonderful opportunity for our children to take home beginning readers three times a week, and read the books with you.  We have home readers at a variety of reading levels. We will have the children read books at a couple of different levels, and report back which is “best” for them.  We have been revamping our Home Reading Library and buying new books for the children with our Scholastic Bonus Money we earn from your purchases. So thank you to everybody who’s made a book buy this year!  Home Reading will start at the beginning of May, following Student-Led Conferences on Thursday, April 26.

As in all childhood development milestones, our children will achieve the reading and writing milestones in their own time, when they are ready and with interest, modeling, experience and exposure from the adults in their lives at home and school.  Although most children will know most of their letter names, sounds and printing formations by the end of Kindergarten, not all children will. As parents and teachers, we want to support our children as best as we can.

Although it is not a direct cause for concern at this time, it’s important to keep providing literary and language opportunities at home.  For now, modeling reading and writing, read-alouds every night, taking the time to answer your child’s questions and reading environmental print are some manageable strategies which you can incorporate into your day.

We will talk about more specific ways you can support your child’s literacy and language at home in the upcoming weeks.