Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Pattern Books

At our Kindergarten Teacher Meeting today, teachers once again shared some of the pattern books their children are writing. Below are a few samples:
From Karen Meissner's class, this repeating line pattern book:
The Playground
by Kiana
I like the swings. I like to swing on the swings.
I like the slide. I like to slide on the slide.
I like the monkey bars. I like to climb on the monkey bars.
I like the grass. I like to run on the grass.
I don't like the climbing rock wall.
Cheryl Dillard shared this repeating line pattern book.
Pug Dogs
by Roxanne
What do pugs do? They sit on your lap to watch TV.
What do pugs do? They follow you.
What do pugs do? They love you.
Do you want a pug too?
From Mrs. Dillard's classroom, a repeating line book. The interesting thing about this book is that Kristina used some of the vocabulary words that she has been learning through our Star Vocabulary Unit!
The Pets
by Kristina
I like pets.
I do not like big black cats.
I do not like imitating peacocks.
I do not like curious monkeys.
I do not like mischievous bunnies at all.
I do like beautiful butterflies.
From the Mackarados, this repeating line pattern book was written after their Earth Day study .
Please Save the Earth
by Francesca
Please save the Earth. Pick up the trash if you see it.
Please save the Earth. Plant flowers and trees.
Please save the Earth. Save the water when you brush your teeth.
Please save the Earth. Turn off the electricity.
Please save the Earth. Recycle.
That's what I do to help the Earth.
From Ms. Stresen-Reuter and Mrs. Harbour's class, this repeating line pattern book:
In My Backyard
by Zachary
Do kangaroos live in my backyard? No, but grass lives in my backyard.
Do deers live in my backyard? No, but worms do.
Do lions live in my backyard? No, but crickets do.
Do dinosaurs live in my backyard? No, but grasshoppers do.
I see crickets, worms, grasshoppers in my backyard!
From Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Mallon's class, this repeating line book.
by Carter
I started to read a book and the nurse came in.
I started to watch TV and the nurse came in.
I started to talk to Jackson and the nurse came in.
I started to play my PSP and the nurse came in.
I don't like when the nurse comes in.
Another from Mrs. Johnson/Mallon's class.
by Carson
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
where everyone was learning.
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
and in that school room were kids.
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
and in that school room there was a teacher.
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
and in that school room there were books.
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
and in that school room there was caterpillars.
There was a schoolroom, a learning school room,
and in that school room was everything!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pattern Books

After reading First Grade Writers, Kindergarten and first grade teachers decided to use the chapter on Pattern Books as a unit in the spring of kindergarten and also in the fall of first grade. The author, Stephanie Parsons, is a part of Lucy Calkins Teachers' College in New York City at Columbia University so these additional units were developed with Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Unit (K-2) in mind. The units in First Grade Writers are meant to be additions specifically for first grade. Philosophically the units fit right in with what we were already doing.
Kindergarten teachers generally chose labels, repeating line, and question and answer patterns to begin. Some teachers have also moved into before and after patterns and days of the week patterns.
Below are some of the pattern books that kindergartners have written that were shared during Teacher Meeting today. Spelling has been corrected to make the patterns easier to read.
From the Mackarado's, a starting place, a book of labels:
My Lunch
by Cole
My lunchbox
My sandwich
My chips
My drink
My dessert
My napkin
I like lunch.
From Mrs. Harbour and Ms. Stresen-Reuter's class after their field trip to the hospital,  repeating lines
My Hospital Kit
by Emily
I give my puppy a wristband because he knows names.
I give my puppy band aids because he might be hurt.
I give my puppy shots because that gives him medicine.
I give my puppy a treat bag because he is good.
From Ms. Lewis' class, this very sad repeating line pattern book:
I Used to Have Favorites
by Sophia
I used to have a hamster but we sold him.
I used to have a fish but he died.
I used to have a dog but he died.
I used to have a best friend but she moved.
From Mrs. Harbour and Ms. Stresen-Reuter's class, a question and answer pattern book:
What Lives at the Zoo?
by Dylan
What lives at the zoo?
Does a dog live at the zoo?
No, but a snake lives at the zoo.

What lives at the zoo?
Does a cat live at the zoo?
No, but a giraffe lives at the zoo.

What lives at the zoo?
Does an octopus live at the zoo?
No, but an elephant lives at the zoo.

What lives at the zoo?
Do ducks live at the zoo?
No, but buffaloes lives at the zoo.
I know that giraffes, snakes, and elephant all live at the zoo.
From Ms. Lewis' Kindergarten, a question and answer pattern book:
Where is My Family?
by Julia
Katherine, where are you?
Are you under the bed? No.
Are you under the couch? No.
Are you behind the shelf? Yes.
I found you!
Katherine, do you know where mom is?
Is she in the kitchen? No.
Is she in the dining room? No
Is she in the backyard? Yes!
Mom, do you know where dad is? No.
Is he upstairs? No.
Is he in his car? No.
Is he in the garage? Yes.
Hey dad, wanna go golfing?
Ready. Set. Putt!
From Ms. Sasso's class, a before and after pattern book:
Before I Came to Kindergarten
by Julianna
Before I came to kindergarten I was nervous.
Now I love kindergarten.
Before I came to kindergarten I could love on my sister all day.
Now I can love on my sister before and after school.
Before I came to kindergarten I ate lunch at home.
Now I eat lunch at school.
Before I came to kindergarten I played all day.
Now I work instead of playing.
This is from Mrs. Harbour and Ms. Stresen-Reuter's class after they noticed the pattern of days of the week in Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar:
My Backyard
by Payton
On Monday I swim in the backyard with my sister.
On Tuesday I play kickball in the backyard with my sister.
On Wednesday I play hide and seek in my backyard with my sister.
On Thursday I play freeze tag in the backyard with my sister.
On Friday I play nothing with my sister.
The end
These simple pattern illustrations show the types of books that children are being read as they notice the patterns that they see and the ways that they can adapt those patterns in their own writings of books. Can't wait until next week to see what the children produce.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Field Trip Shirts

Each Kindergarten class orders its own field trip shirts. Each class is a different color so that a teacher can easily identify her class on a trip. The tee-shirts are kept at school to make sure they are worn on field trip days and then sent home after the last field trip to keep. What I love about the shirts is that on the back are 100 sight words! As children are waiting in line they can look on the shirt of the child in front of them as the teachers play games - Find the word that rhymes with fan (can). Find a word that means look (see). Find a word that is the opposite of before (after). When the shirts go home for the summer, parents have a mini-Skills block - a great list of words to practice over the summer to get ready for first grade! Now this is a GREAT idea!

Teacher of the Year Celebration

Chets Creek has always celebrated it's Teacher of the Year in the way that I think all teachers should be celebrated.
On the morning of the Duval County's Eddy Awards the school came together by grade level. The grade level of the Teacher of the Year decides on a theme for the celebration and decorates for the event. The theme for this year's Kindergarten Teacher of the Year Haley Alvarado was Super Heroes. The table decorations featured Haley's head on the top of a curvy Wonder Woman - too too cute! Each grade level brought something for breakfast that we enjoyed as the festivities began. Haley really is one of those special people that is a Super Hero to us all.

The festivities began, as they always do, with a PowerPoint salute to the Teacher of the Year which is a "This is Your Life," presenting the teacher from the time she is a child to present in pictures with music. There are always a few "ahhhs" and whistles. This year's video was even more special because during the PowerPoint Haley announced for the first time that she is expecting her second child!

Next, each grade level presented a skit about the special teacher. The skits are usually irreverent and so much fun! This year was no exception! We laughed uncontrollably. We cried. We just enjoyed being teachers! Each grade level traditionally presents the teacher with a gift but this year all the grade levels got together and presented a monetary donation to Children and Family Services Foster Care program to honor Haley for being a foster mom. It brought tears to us all. The Kindergarten Team also honored Haley with a brick that will be part of the flag walk celebrating our tenth year anniversary.

The day ended with the Eddy Awards where we dressed up, enjoyed dinner and a new Duval County Teacher of the Year was crowned. It's a wonderful celebration for our most deserving teacher.

Haley's class honored her on Friday in her classroom where all of the children dressed as their favorite super hero. Melanie Holtsman taught the children to sign "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler because the chorus is, "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" Lahna Benson, now a fourth grader, who had Haley for Kindergarten and 1st grade, signed the verses while Haley's kindergartners signed the chorus. They entertained at a morning breakfast. I understand they sang to a very tearful teacher!

Teacher of the Year is really not about a single teacher. It's about celebrating the vocation that we have each chosen. It is a reminder to us of all of the characteristics that make exceptional teachers and it reminds us of all the reasons we wanted to become a teacher. Actually it's quite a humbling experience for most Teachers of the Year. For the rest of us, it just makes us proud to have chosen this profession! Congratulations Haley! You are a role model to us all! Let us raise our Jello shots to you - To Haley!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Visitors from Around the World

It's not unusual to have visitors in our Kindergarten classrooms several times a week. Last year alone we hosted over 450 visitors, not including the hundreds of teachers that visited us virtually by peeking into our classrooms during live video lessons every week! Visitors come from in county, from other places in the state, from other states and occasionally from outside the United States. Sometimes we see administrators and sometimes teachers and occasionally parents.

For instance, next week we have teachers and administrators scheduled from Texas and New Mexico. But last Friday we once again hosted a very distinguished early childhood educator from China, Ge Yang. She has a daughter, Betty Fang S. Bienert, living in Jacksonville and spent an entire day at the school earlier in the month. However, she was back on Friday to spend the morning in our Kindergarten inclusion class to see how we deal so successfully with children that have unique challenges. Her daughter speaks fluent English and Chinese but Ms. Yang only speaks Chinese. It was so interesting to watch her interact with the children. Smiles and laughter are the same in any language! She took pages of notes (in Chinese, of course!) and through her daughter asked many interesting, thought provoking questions.  There is no question that having so many visitors makes us better!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kindergarten PLC April 2008

Kindergarten teachers met this week for their fourth full day of professional development. They began the day with a demonstration lesson in Math with a twist. Instead of watching one of their peers, they watched a 2nd grade teacher's lesson, Brook Brown, so that they could see where the pieces they are teaching now are going to fit as the children move forward. Michelle Ellis, Kindergarten Math Coach, debriefed with the group.

Teachers each brought a class set of response-to-literature final pieces. They read some of their higher pieces to each other so they could benchmark off each other's work and then were given time to analyze using a rubic to score their entire set of papers. As they had questions they read their papers to peers for a second opinion. This collegial conversation helped all teachers make sure they understand the rubric language.
Teachers also discussed students to be included in a special safety net for the remainder of the year taught by Maria Mallon. Teachers chose 12 students who are on the line between passing and failing for this last push.

The day continued with Randi Timmons, Elizabeth Conte and Rachael Happ sharing the work they have done with pattern books. Based on the work of First Grade Writers, this threesome completed this unit before the rest of the grade level. That put them in a position to share what they have learned. They shared the sequence of lessons that they taught, showed artifacts made with the children, read books that they used for specific patterns, discussed which patterns they taught and why, and shared student work. Front loading this information for the rest of the grade level relieved stress as teachers prepare for the "sprint to the end."
The final component of the day was professional development around poetry which is the last unit we will teach. To provide more structure we looked at the Poetry Unit (Kindergarten Unit #4) from the Denver Project which dovetails easily into our standards-based design. Teachers shared some of their favorite poetry books and some of the lessons they have used to successfully promote poetry. Several teachers talked about the poetry cafes that they used at the end of their poetry unit last year as a celebration.
All in all this day was about wrapping up lessons and previewing curriculum for the final nine weeks. It was a packed day but left teachers with a good idea of what is to come for the remainder of the year. Get ready, get set - GO!

Rain Makes Applesauce, April 2009 Book-of-the-Month

We walked into the Media Center this morning with each table decorated with applesauce and apples as a teaser for this month's principal pick. April's Book of the Month was Principal Susan Phillips' favorite childhood book. It was actually published in 1964 and was a Caldecott Honor Book. Susan said that she checked it out of the library so often as a child that when the book was retired from her local library, the librarian actually gave it to her! Susan dedicated this book to her mother, her first teacher, and also to our own Art teacher, Jen Snead. The illustrations in this book are intricate and fun. Jen is President of the Duval County Art Council and led a group at the School Board meeting this week in support of keeping the arts at a time when the budget is tight. She made us all so proud! Rain Makes Applesauce is the perfect poem to introduce Poetry to kindergarten students. It whimsical and imaginative! And that's not just silly talk!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring Break?

We are out this week for Spring Break! Yiipppeeee! Well...maybe I'm not so-o-o-o excited -because every day this week I have been in my office at school writing IEPs. Yuck! It's not that I mind meeting with parents or writing about their child or even taking the time to look at everything I have on a particular child and reflect on how our year has been and where I need to go. In fact, I love all of those parts of my job - but it's these pesky IEPs!

Early in my career I had a chance to meet parents in NC who lobbied in Washington for Public Law 94:142 - the law that guaranteed all children the right to a public school education. Many of these parents had children that had been refused a public school education for a variety of reason - usually because they weren't toilet trained. I listened as they passionately told the stories of their individual children. I understood that they wanted the same thing for their child that I wanted for mine - a chance to live the best life they could. I listened - and I cried - as they talked about their dream to have a group of professionals sit down at a table with them to discuss how best - together - we could make a difference and make dreams come true. In those early days, we struggled with this idea that children with such significant needs would be part of our educational system and I'm sure parents had many sleepless nights and bitter battles with school personnel, but they persevered and children began to do things we never thought possible. Miracles happened!

However, we must have done a really poor job of meeting the "letter" of the law because as the years have gone by requirements and mandates and new interpretations have been stacked on every year.  Parents have sued and counties have gotten a little paranoid until now I feel buried by all of the "dot your i's and cross your t's". I just want to sit down with parents and celebrate and plan and dream, but instead I am shackled to a set of paperwork that has become a nightmare. As long as I fill in every little blank with a drop down (don't write anything of your own because it might not be compliant), then no one seems to care about the quality of the IEP - Is my plan even one that makes sense? Those first parents that I met so many years ago must be turning over in their graves, because, by insisting on meeting the letter of the law, we have forgotten the intent.

This year I am working with -oh yet another new IEP program - always "new and improved" - yeah, maybe, but I'm writing short quips from the drop down menu instead of letting the parents know that Unique's smile lights up the room or that Shaun's hugs make me smile even on rainy days or that Dominic makes me laugh every single day. I was just thinking that maybe I need to get someone else to discuss my IEPs so I can man the computer and make sure I've done everything correctly (if that is even possible!) What am I thinking?!! Forget that! Regardless of the extreme mountain of paperwork (that almost makes me want to jump ship to general education like so many of my peers), I promise that I will use this time with parents to let them know how much I value them and their child in my life. I WILL listen to them instead of being obsessed that they have sign and initial each item of the 20 page IEP (I signed less when I bought my last house!) Maybe the IEPs won't be perfect and maybe we'll get audited and someone will fuss at me because I didn't check the third box on the right, but I'll sleep at night knowing that Mikayla's grandma leaves knowing that I adore her little red headed whirlwind and that grandma's sacrifices have been so well worth it.

I know the pendulum swings, so for many years I have been waiting for someone to realize the the pendulum is stuck and is so far out of whack, that it's really absurd. There's really nowhere - further out there - for the pendulum to swing (how many more lawsuits can be threatened?) except back in the direction of caring honestly and sincerely and making sense. When will the insanity stop? Probably not before the end of my Spring Break... so... back to writing...