Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
The fire fighters talked to the students about when to call 911, how to stay close to the ground when they see smoke, how to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothes ketch fire and then it was out to the fire engine. The fire fighters patiently answered a million kinder questions.
Most of the teachers also read a stack of books today about fire safety and some invited children to join their 911 Club by adding their name to the list of children in the class that know their phone number and address from memory. I couldn't help but wonder how many future fire fighters were in the audience today and if this simple assembly program might truly save a life!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I fed the
animals by putting
my hand in the
gate. I did
it lots of times.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
...and I went on the bounce house.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Each year our school celebrates Fall by having each K-5 homeroom choose a favorite book. Then each class uses pumpkins to bring that book to life. The book presentations are set up in the lobby the last week of the month for all the students to enjoy. For 15 years I have watched homeroom teachers go through this ritual in a variety of ways. Sometimes they simply give the project over to the homeroom mom and just ohhh and ahh when she brings in the perfect pumpkin presentation. Sometimes the teacher lets the children choose a book and then she or homeroom volunteer moms design the pumpkin. They might let the children help paint the pumpkin but the finished product is something unbelievable and almost wholly completed by the adults. However, today I was in Haley Alvarado's kindergarten class and her idea for this project blew me away and was unlike any I have ever seen!
The children had voted to bring the book The Three Billy Goats Gruff to life with their pumpkins which is truly one of their favorites. Each table group had chosen one of the characters to own. Haley invited in four moms - one for each table group. I'm not sure what the moms were expecting, but they were given the instructions to let the children help them decide what color to paint their pumpkin and then to brainstorm with their group how to make the ears, horns, nose, eyes or whatever they decided that the children wanted. I have always been a Special Education teacher and so the idea of giving that much control to the children made me shake in my shoes! I guess I am somewhat of a control freak and I was always the homeroom teacher who liked very calm, organized plans - most often where I knew exactly what the outcomes would be-especially with behavior. However, as Haley explained what the class would be doing the children were so-o-o-o excited. The moms took suggestions and discussed options until each team agreed on how to decorate their character. Some even took a vote when they couldn't come to consensus. What an incredible experience! The children were engaged and could hardly wait their turn to share their incredible suggestions. When the kids came back to the carpet, they couldn't stop talking about their great ideas! The children owned this project!
I applaud a teacher who really trusts children and who believes that they can far exceed any ordinary expectation we may set for them. Haley is that kind of teacher. She believes that children can make decisions and solve their own problems... and it shows.
Our Principal, Susan Phillips, chose an oldie, but goodie, to read to the faculty as we settled down with our delicious breakfast snacks. To activate our schema she asked us to recall our first day at Chets Creek. Teachers told funny and poignant stories of their first days. She then dedicated this book-of-the-month to our new students to Chets Creek this year.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is a beautiful book for this time of year about a little bat who is separated from her mother before she is old enough to fly. While Stellaluna adapts to her new bird family, she is pretty excited to be reunited with her bat family. When she realizes that she really is a bat, she also finds out that she doesn't have to eat any more bugs, that hanging by her feet is really okay, and that she really can see at night. The bigger lesson, of course, is that different is not always bad. It's just different.
Each classroom got a copy of this traditional book. Paired with this delightful text was a revisit to a strategy that we learned early in our America's Choice training - accountable talk. It's a strategy used in many classrooms on a daily basis but probably new to some of the teachers who have joined us in the last few years at the Creek. It will be interesting to see if seasoned teachers revisit this standard and use this book experience to find ways to deepen their discussion of books. It is an opportunity for kinder teachers to revisit how they introduce book discussions to our youngest learners. As the Principal talked about the book she drew us back to those stories of first days that the faculty had shared at the beginning of her presentation, took us through those same "new" experiences that Stellaluna felt and then asked us to think about the new students in our classrooms. Enjoy the Principal's presentation which will be shared with the children below.
Oct. 2009 Book of the Month - Stellaluna from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.
At the end of the day our Principal spent some time talking to a kindergartner about her book-of-the-month choice. They decided to try hanging upside down just like Stellaluna - just to see how it feels! Wonder what they decided!!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Mini-lesson. During the mini-lesson of Readers' Workshop the teachers use visual cues to support their second language students as they introduce comprehension. The poster on the left is a typical kindergarten poster that shows students the story elements of some of our "Star Books." In this case the teachers have intentionally used visual aids instead of words to support, not only their second language students, but all of their young non-readers.
Work Session: Independent Reading - As children leave the mini-lesson to practice their new skills during independent reading, the teachers understand that although reading is difficult for any five year old, it is even more difficult for the student learning English as a second language. One of the things that these teachers have done is to pair children who speak the same language together so that they can use both their native language and their new language to support their learning. The teachers have noticed that the second language learners are able to discuss the stories in much more detail when they are able to speak with someone in their native language. They have seen the students' confidence soar. The teachers have also created story webs as a visual representation of what they want the students to do. In this case, they have even written the directions in the student's native language to help parents understand the expectation when the sheet goes home later in the week.
Work Session: Literacy Centers - Students practice the retelling skills they are learning in Literacy Centers. In this classroom the teachers make sure to have puppets, flannel board characters, costumes and sequencing pictures for each of the stories that they are studying to support the second language students as they learn to comprehend and sequence new stories. While this is good practice for all young learners, these props are intentionally added to make sure that second language students have optimal opportunity to participate in oral storytelling.
About 18% of the population at Chets Creek includes students whose parents speak a second language at home. Although we have many, many languages spoken the highest percentage of families speak Spanish. Second language learners are the largest growing population at our school. One of our School Improvement goals addresses our need to make sure that these families and students are supported throughout their time at the Creek. It is obvious that these kinder teachers are thoughtfully considering accommodations to make these students successful in their class. To help parents, they have even provided the commentary for this board in two languages!
Rhyming - Children practice rhyming many words early during this unit. They rhyme the words in the poems. They think of other words that rhyme with words in the poem. They can be seen playing Rhyming Bingo and Rhyming Lotto, matching puzzle picture couplets that rhyme, sorting pictures into rhyming groups and singing songs with rhyming words. As demonstrated on the left, children can be assessed by giving them a word and having them draw pictures of words that rhyme with the given picture.
Clapping Syllables - The Mall-ards show other work of students on this bulletin board around phonological awareness such as an assessment of the children showing that they can identify the number of syllables in a word. The children have done this activity using a variety of words many times orally. They have clapped their names and their classmates' names. They have clapped and sorted pictures as a group into the number of syllables for each word.
Beginning Phoneme Identity- In this activity children practice writing their name by putting it into a rhyme and then thinking of another word or picture that begins with the same sound as their name. There is nothing as powerful as using a child's own name!
Vocabulary - Because the words from the rhyme are used for many of the phonological activities, it is important that the student knows what each word means. We want words to have meaning from the very beginning and not be just a group of sounds that have no meaning. This activity of drawing some of the words in the rhyme especially supports our second language learners who may not be as familiar with these traditional American rhymes. As the teacher makes sure students know the words, she is also teaching the child one-to-one correspondence as she encourages each child to put one finger under one word as she says the poem to figure out what the word is that is to be drawn. The teacher reinforces looking at the first sound to help figure out the word - all reading strategies that are being taught simultaneously in Readers' Workshop.
Beginning, Middle, End and Sequencing - At the same time that students are learning about the beginning, middle and end of stories in more complex "Star Books" during Readers' Workshop, the students are practicing this same skill in a simpler way during Skills Block. Many of the Nursery Rhymes are actually short stories and by sequencing the events of the story and drawing the beginning, middle and end of these very short stories, the children are practicing the same skill that we will be asking of them in Readers' Workshop. We are asking them to identify the beginning of the story with its characters and setting. We are asking them to retell the middle of the story, identify the problem and then to remember the events in order. Finally we ask our children to retell the end of the story by explaining the solution to the problem. Because the Nursery rhyme is short and simple, it is easy for the teacher to use the rhyme to reinforce these retelling strategies and also the reading strategies that she is teaching such as using your finger to point to each word, using the first letter of a word to help you guess the word, and looking at the pictures. It is while reading nursery rhymes, which are in the child's independent reading bag and are going home each night as a book-in-the-bag, that most children begin to believe that they are really readers!The Mall-ard Team is also known for its humor so no board would be complete without something that just makes you laugh out loud. This month that little something extra is pictures or Mrs. Mallon and Mrs. Dillard dressed up like little black sheep. No adult or child can look at those adorable pictures without knowing that this is a team where children laugh every day and simply enjoy the thrill of learning.