Saturday, November 5, 2016

Feelings and Conflict Resolution

To build a classroom community kindergartners need to learn how to work together and resolve conflicts that may arise. For this to happen they must learn to recognize emotions and understand the perspective of others. Understanding how others feel is often a challenge for young children.  However, once kindergartners begin to recognize the emotions of other people around them, they can start to recognize how their actions affect others as well.  Once they can understand what another person feels and why they feel a certain way due to something that happened, both children can come up with solutions to conflicts that satisfy them both, or what we call “Win-Win” solutions. Being able to recognize facial expressions and name emotions is a first step. 

Throughout the year we read books whose characters exhibit different emotions in various situations. We discuss why a character feels a particular emotion and the actions that occurred to cause the character to feel that way.  We look at how one character’s actions and emotions affect other character’s emotions and actions.  In our study we have discovered that a person can feel a range of emotions, especially when they are hurt or angry. Our discussions related to characters have been a springboard to real life experiences.  These conversations have given children the opportunity to express how they have felt in a similar situations and what emotions they have experienced.

Several years ago a child said to me that a person's eyes tell you what they are thinking and how they feel.  This insightful comment has stuck with me and influenced my teaching;  if children have not noticed this I teach it explicitly because it leads to truly understanding how one's actions affect other people.  We have discovered that a person’s eyebrows can also reveal how a person is feeling.  For example, someone may have a smiling mouth, but “crinkled” eyebrows, which may signal a feeling of uncertainty or confusion. 

We made feeling puppets with interchangeable facial expressions and role-played different emotions.  We made a list of ideas describing what Partners do and experienced several partner lessons in which each partner had to give over control to the other.  This often took some negotiation and practice listening to and following what their partner said to do!  Our partner work extends into our math and literacy work as we remember to follow the guidelines of what a good partner does when working together. We have met the famous Penny and Danny, a.k.a. The Problem Puppets, too!   Penny and Danny have a knack for getting into conflicts with one another.  In several play scenarios, the puppets were able to work out their conflict with some easy solutions.  However, like real life, some problems become more complex and require more thinking to come up with Win-Win Solutions that they BOTH agree to follow.  My scenarios for Penny and Danny problems come from actual conflicts I have witnessed in our class so that children can begin to make the connection between practicing the steps to Conflict Resolution with Penny and Danny to their very own lives here in school and beyond.  Our conflict resolution steps include:

1. Please Stop
2. State the Problem: Both children state what they feel is the problem
3. Brainstorm several Win-Win Solutions or Ways to Solve the Problem
4. Agree on One Solution to follow
5. Follow through on the agreement. 
6. Gain adult support if needed

For several weeks we read about a character named David in the book, David Goes To School who seems to stir up many emotions within himself and others.  We have linked his actions with his own emotions and what others around him feel due to his actions.  We even explored what David might do next to resolve a conflict and thereby change how others might feel.  We will cycle back to David in the coming weeks as we add new layers to learning about being a member of a community.  We will read about two Dr. Seuss characters, The Zax, who actually never agree on a solution and discuss how that affects their lives and those around them!  Next we will learn strategies for mindfully calming our own selves when we are in conflict situations.  In the first frame below you will see that we met our school police resource person, Office Mellen.





Building Confident Writers

I am always amazed at how skilled young children can be at writing once they know that their words mean something to other people.  In our early days of daily Writing Workshop we worked on building each child's stamina and confidence in putting pencil to paper and conveying meaning through their drawing and writing of words to match.  The most thrilling part is to read in front of peers and receive their support.  Many days we use the document camera to project their writing to read.  They even know how to take a moment to ensure their paper is properly aligned on the screen at the computer as seen in the last set of images here.  This early work has led to writers now working on one piece for days, using different strategies and elements taught each day until they have their own story book ready to read to an audience.  Can you tell how proud I am of them?!  It shows in their faces, too!



Early Math Experiences Support Counting and Geometry

What a joy it is to see how this class loves math and mathematical thinking throughout their day. Whether it is counting, working with shapes and understanding patterns, we are striving to understand how these concepts and numbers are used in everyday life.  We started early with exploring numbers and shapes in our school and how they are used... numbers on doors help us know where to find teachers, numbers on the printer help us make the right number of copies.   We practiced how to count large groups of objects with the "doorbell" and "pull away" strategies. Matching amounts of objects to numerical symbols led to ordering numbers and understanding concepts of more than and less than.  And more...

Using ten frames to count and add smaller numbers to make a ten.

Explaining our thinking when we have one number and add one more...what happens and why?

Describing and comparing attributes of shapes.  Creating, extending patterns and describing patterns.

Knowing how to write numbers correctly and with smooth strokes will increase their accuracy with computation.  Understanding what makes a "ten" and what is a "one" in two digit numbers.

Early Alphabet Work Supports Early Readers

At the beginning of a new school year it is not uncommon to hear kindergarteners exclaim, " I want to learn to read!"  They are eager to move from from being read to by an adult to unlocking the code themselves and reading exactly what is on the page.  The start to this school year was no different; I could see the desire in their eyes and so began our reading work with letters and sounds.  Reading is more than knowing the names of the letters and their sounds; it is knowing how to play with sounds, match sounds to pictures, and write letter characters to match sounds they hear and produce orally.   Developing a firm foundation with letter work was key the work we are doing now with rhyming, syllable segmentation and site words in guided reading groups.  The key was also having fun with reading to strive for life long lovers of reading.



Friday, October 7, 2016

Three Ways to Read A Book

Kindergartners want to learn to read. I begin by teaching them that there are three ways to read a book: read the pictures, read the words, and retell the story. I model these three ways in whole group shared reading time over three successive days. Over the course of our first three days of school we used the book Hairy Bear, reading it in each of the three ways. On the first day we read the pictures, using the illustrations to figure out what the characters are experiencing and predicting what may happen from page to page. On the second day I read the text, and to their delight many of the events they described through the pictures were very close to the text words. On the third day we retold the story in our own words, adding more details and elaborating on the plot. In this way children begin to learn the power in using the illustrations to support their reading and that reading the words is not the only way to read a book.

Shared reading is a powerful learning time as I introduce many reading strategies and skills. As you will see in this collage, on the last page the children added their own text to the story which I wrote with a wipe off marker. They were curious about the "word bubble" in the text showing what a character was saying. They also noticed the "thinking bubbles" to better understand what the character is thinking in that moment and predict what might happen next.  I used this teachable moment to show them that when they write their own narrative stories during Writing Workshop, that they, too, can use word and thinking bubbles in their stories.  I was thrilled to see their excitement and thirst for learning reading skills.

We have read In a Dark Dark Wood, The Carrot Seed and The Three Billy Goats Gruff in a similar fashion, focusing on new reading strategies, building their repertoire of ways to solve problems when reading.  I pair this with reading lessons from Lucy Calkins and use the cues: We can look. We can think. We can read.  We can learn.