Saturday, January 28, 2017

Family Breakfast

The most fulfilling way to celebrate learning and community in school is with family. In December we had a morning filled with breakfast foods and several arts and crafts activities.  It was heartwarming to see parents and children covered with glitter!  I just may be the luckiest teacher there is to have parents who support their child's educational growth.  Thanks again for all you do to help your child succeed in school. We have so mouth more ahead of us... can't wait!


Check out the movie I made with Magisto: Searching For The Runawy Gingerbread Man

After finding an empty oven and lots of candy clues throughout the school building we found our runaway gingerbread man in the library reading many versions of the gingerbread man!

Gingerbread Man Fun

What would the holidays be without a bit of magic?!  As some serious reading work to compare and contrast story features in several version of the tale of the gingerbread man, we set out to cook our own.  We followed a recipe to measure and mix then molded and decorated our own little man.  Since he was so large, we had to put him in the oven to cook for a long time.  When we returned to take him out of the oven the next day, we were shocked to discover only crumbs and candy pieces left on the cookie sheet!  After a day or two of searching and finding clues, Mrs. Bochansky, our librarian had a strange experience... she had candy pieces stuck in her shoe!  This led us to search the library and lo and behold, there he was sitting in a chair among the many versions of the gingerbread stories!  We still think Mr. Shepherd and Miss LaRose were somehow involved, as we found lots of crumbs and candy pieces in their classrooms!

Evidence on Mr. Shepherd's laptop and candy pieces in Miss LaRose's classroom!

Book Projects: Holiday Focus

It is fun to look back upon projects we have done this year to watch the growth and progression of skills students have gained over time.  With all the technological tools we use from day to day, nothing replaces giving kids construction paper, scissors, markers and glue... you can see it here in their eyes.  Our book creation projects foster creativity and independence as kids are given a brief model and then guided to create by gathering the supplies and thinking about their own steps toward completion.

Thanksgiving provided us with a natural learning opportunity for studying holiday traditions, especially the history that forms holiday traditions and how such holidays are celebrated by different people in our present day time.  In our room, a favorite activity this year was the making of a Thanksgiving book titled Turkey, Turkey What Do You See? based on the familiar text structure in Eric Carle's book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?  Our book recounts the main historical events that define how Thanksgiving began.  Each page in the book was a culminating activity to a history lesson explaining the actions of people who lived many years ago, but whose actions affect how we celebrate the holiday today



The December holiday season gave us the opportunity to learn about different traditions in December with a main focus on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwansaa.  We compared and contrasted facts about each holiday as we gathered information about each through books and videos.  This class immediately determined that the central theme they all shared was FAMILY, WINTER, HAPPINESS, GIVING, FUN, THANKS and LOVE!  I was amazed!  In a post to come soon I will show the Venn Diagram they created with these central ideas.

As all of the students in our class celebrate Christmas, each child made a Christmas holiday book similar in structure to the Thanksgiving book.  The book gave them an opportunity to practice reading a repetitive text and look for sight words, too.  Best of all they loved gluing!!


Fiction and Non-Fiction Text Work

Throughout this year we are learning to distinguish the difference between fiction and non-fiction books as well as how to read each genre for its intended purpose.  Common Core instruction places an emphasis on using non-fiction texts for research and informational writing and children's ability to cite sources to support what they learn.  You will find children in our classroom regularly stopping mid-sentence, reaching for a book and saying, "Wait, I want to show you what page I know that from."  They will do this with both fiction and non-fiction, but it is non-fiction text for which we want children using to support their opinion.

In a fiction book we look for the beginning, middle and end of the story structure.  We make predictions about the characters and events during our reading.  A non-fiction text is organized around a specific topic and teaches us something where we gain new learning.  It is organized with a table of contents, an index and sometimes a glossary or headings on pages that guide us to learning the big idea.  We ask ourselves, "What did we learn? and How can we use that information?" after reading the text and cite pages on which we find information.

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!