Monday, November 23, 2009
We have never doubted that we needed to use the standards daily or to introduce each lesson with a standard, but we just couldn't seem to work through a way to do that with the children - until now. First grade teacher, Debbie Cothern, decided to use pictures and to divide her day into the activities that the children were actually doing. Then she introduced the three major areas of the Reading Standards to the children (Print-Sound Code, Getting the Meaning, Reading Habits and Processes) and helped the children sort the pictures under the correct standards. Check out the video below.
For access to the video and the pictures that Debby used, check the first grade wiki.
Now this is standards we can live with!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
As the children were beginning to write about their tribes, they had many experiences to build their background knowledge. Each class studied the types of houses the Natives lived in and then built replicas of those houses with their families during Family Night. They learned about what their tribes wore and then helped to dress a cardboard cutout in tribal gear. They also made many of the pieces that they wore during the Pow Wow. The Nootkas learned, for instance, that the spears that they made were used to spear whales. The Seminoles learned that the ribbons they made were used for ceremonial dances. The children learned what the Natives ate and then tasted some of the foods during the Pow Wow activities. Throughout the activities, the stories that they read and the research that they did, each child learned so much that they could write about!
Below is just one example of a kindergartner's writing from Miss Sasso's Hopi tribe. Nate has a title for his book, Nate's The Hopi Book.
Miss Sasso gave each child a form to help them organize a Table of Contents. Nate's Table of Contents includes:
1. What did the Hopi eat? 1
2. What did the Hopi wear? 2
3. Where did the Hopi (live)? 3
4. How did the Hopi travel? 4
5. Snake Dances 5
Nate begins each chapter with a question title. Notice also how he uses labels and in this chapter, a list.
What did the Hopi eat?
Friday, November 20, 2009
Ten years later a new school was built in our area and Chets Creek opened its doors with many Alimacani students and teachers. Susan Phillips was one of the Creeks first kindergarten teachers and she brought the Pow Wow tradition with her to her new school. She, of course, is now the Principal at Chets Creek and still uses her original native name, Chief Jumping Frog, named for the frogs that dominated her kinder classroom. During the years that she has led Chets Creek there has been quite a transformation in our Pow Wow ceremony. We have spent quite some time researching Native American tribes and in hopes of presenting our children with an authentic picture of life back then, we have tried to recreate the clothing that the tribes might have worn then. Each of our eight kindergarten classes represents a different tribe from a different part of the country. We have chosen to learn about native dances, authentic songs and to celebrate native music. The unit now is one in which we celebrate diversity.
This morning the sun shone through the trees as eight tribes entered the Pow Wow arena. The tribes danced and sang as their families snapped away, catching each precious moment on film. Today our children and their families created memories. It doesn't get any better than that.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Most of the Kindergarten classes begin with an "All About Me" report, because this is the land of "it's all about me!" As students finish this first non-fiction text, they begin writing about the Native American tribe the class has been studying. By this time of the month the children have learned many interesting facts about their tribe that they can include in their report such as what they wear, what they eat, how they travel... Last night many of the children came in to build a Native American house with their family such as a teepee, wigwam, longhouse or chickee so many of them wrote about the housing of their Native American tribe today. Teachers are providing lots of share experiences and new information for students to use in their writing this week!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tonight the parents came in mass for dinner and then to help their child build a Native American home for the annual Pow Wow Make 'n' Take. The Seminoles built chickees. The Sioux and Nez Perce made tipis. Adobe huts came from the Hopi and igloos from the Inuits. Long houses were erected by the great Iroquis Nation and plank houses with totem poles for the Northwest Nootkas. The peaceful Lenape people made wigwams. Parents enjoyed the fun of doing something together as a family. The homes will be displayed for the rest of the week outside each classroom.
What was different this year is the fifth grade parents and students joining us for the fun. Each of the nine fifth grade classes had prepared a diorama depicting a Native American village - representing the same tribes as the Kindergarten classes. They were stationed throughout the bottom floor, prepared to tell about their tribes as their friends and family along with Kindergartners and their families listened carefully to each presentation. Each child was given a program that was stamped at each station. When the program was full, the children had an opportunity to see Chief Jumping Frog (Principal Susan Phillips) and trade their card in for a Native bracelet. As she tied each bracelet, she asked, "And what did you learn tonight?"
I remember standing with Dr. Stahlman - oh, so many moons ago - and dreaming about the possibility of a Kindergarten to fifth grade connection for our Chets Creek natives. She would be very proud to see that vision tonight as it has come into focus!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Each child also worked on his/her own small leather bag which would have been made from animal skin and decorated with shells and beads. The mighty Nootkas gathered medicines from the forest to keep in the little medicine bags.
The girls especially enjoyed making necklaces. They loved the wooden beads with the fall colors, so like Nootka girls might have strung.
The girls also worked on weaving baskets. A couple complained because it was just "so hard!" As they worked they talked about the Nootkas also gathering turtle shells to use as larger bowls and shells to use for spoons. Some of the children wondered how hard it must have been to fix food when the First Americans couldn't even go to Publix! It must be so hard for our little ones to imagine what those early days must have been like. Gosh, it's hard for us to imagine!
The girls made shell head bands earlier in the week, but today the boys added shells to their loin cloths. Then they modeled the leather pieces and even danced around. enjoying the moment!
These same activities are going on in each Kindergarten classroom although the clothing for each tribe is different. One of the best parts of Pow Wow is what the children learn as they work on their costumes. We count on parents to make much of the costume but it's the part that the children make themselves that is the most fun and where they learn the most about people of long ago. What a fun, fun, FUN Friday the 13th!
Friday, November 13, 2009
For reprentations of the peaceful Lenape tribe, take a look at the natives from the Mall-ard's tribe.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Although we are very intentional about the interview process and are very particular about the people that we hire (after all we want them to be as happy with us as we want to be with them), we do look for diversity in style, talent and experience. We would never grow if we all came with the same set of skills. I think what we have figured out over time is that teams that work well together don't just happen and aren't always just magically compatible. It takes WORK and the key ingredient is finding people who are honestly willing to do the work and who understand that building relationships is the foundation!
So is the story of this year's Kindergarten Team. This is a highly talented group of 13 women! They each came with their own talents and strengths but it was not love at first sight for this group. Some of this team had worked together before - cliquish? Not exactly... They perceived themselves as a well oiled machine who easily shared responsibility. They were used to jumping in, getting right to work, and getting it done. They had built a mutual trust and respect for each other. They had accomplished amazing things together. Add to that some new players - a mix of interesting personalities, budding leaders, both perfectionists and those with laid back styles. Most came from other grade levels and experiences. Most had had great experiences in the past and felt they had lots to offer to this group, but really floundered to find their place in this unusual mix of teammates. As rumors swirled about a split team, drama and discontent, this group could have turned on itself and imploded, but instead they honestly addressed their concerns and frustrations. They decided to build rather than destroy. Last night those that were available got together over good food - laughed, played games, and just enjoyed being together. Some came early before other engagements. Some had to leave early, but the feeling of comradarie was there.
I'd like to say that now they all love each other unconditionally and will live happily every after. The truth is that they are doing the work that makes teams successful. They are finished with the "storming" process (common to many new teams) and have moved on to building bridges. They are investing in relationships and are recognizing and respecting each other's talents and abilities. I'm very proud of this team. I am sure there will be other bumps in the road, but I am also confident that this team will weather the storms. Stay tuned... I'll let you know how it goes!
There is something solid about knowing that our children begin their time at Chets Creek studying our First Americans and then end their last year revisiting that same theme. Next week these same 5th graders will have yet another authentic audience for their work as they present to the Kindergarten and 5th grade parents as a living museum at our Pow Wow Family Night. Each visual representation of a Native American village will be on display in our Lobby throughout the rest of this unit. Stay tuned for a visual display of both the Family Night and lobby displays on this blog as they happen! This unit is one of many where vertical collaboration is making a difference to the planning, depth and quality of work at Chets Creek.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The second chapter of the book delves into teaching children to write non-fiction by building on that sense of wonder. The teachers ask the children to name their three wonders and then teach them to keep their wonderings in wonder boxes. Next they teach children to write books about heart wonders (as opposed to research wonders) such as, Where does magic come from? Why do we have families? Why do I love my dog?
The final section of the book teaches children the nuts and bolts of Nonfiction Research Wonder Writing. Some of the chapters include Trying on Topics, Writing Leads/ Beginnings, Wow Words, Using a Question-answer structure, Diagrams, etc. Although there is not a lot of new information in this book if you have read the four books in the opening paragraph, it's the way that the authors capture wonder and curiosity and teach the children to use it in their writing that is a breath of fresh air. This is an amazing addition to the primary teachers' bag of tricks as they teach non-fiction writing.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Below is the lesson as it was presented to the kindergartners. Take a look. It's pretty cool!
And this is the glog created in class by Kindergartners and their teachers.