Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Check out the movie I made with Magisto: First Full Day of Kindergarten 2019

What a great first full day of school we had!  I was thrilled to see students engaged, listening to new information, following through on new directions and celebrating what they were learning.   We even earned our first Granny's Wacky Prize dance party for showing safe, respectable and ready to learn behavior with a large collection of warm fuzzies. 

In this video you will see that we read the pictures to our first shared reading book, Harry Bear.  Students learned to examine each page of the story and decipher actions, motions and possible feelings and infer what might be happening in the story.  In two small groups students worked with alphabet letters; molding wikki sticks on letter cards and sorting upper and lowercase foam letters. 

Mrs. Thibodeau taught our first guidance lesson by teaching rules and safety guidelines at the playground for recess.  After lunch and recess we had quiet mindfulness time and  read a book about Franklin the turtle and his first day of school. 

For math students engaged in their first math talk which we call "Mini Math".  In mini math we look at an image or collection of items and discuss what we observe.  By engaging in this practice each day we grow our skills at describing what we see and applying mathematical concepts, leading to rich  community discussions.  For our math lesson we compared lengths of paper to identify longer and shorter lengths and those that were the same.  Students used glass chips to measure out an amount that was the same length as their strip of paper. 

Probably the best part of the day was the Choice Time in the morning and in the afternoon when students were able to play in centers of the, blocks, playhouse and in the maker space where a group of budding engineers worked together to form structures that made a chain reaction. 

It was an amazing first day!

Simply click below to watch my movie.
First Full Day of Kindergarten 2019

Kindergarten Smart Start 2019

Kindergarten Smart Start at PPS gave new students the opportunity to meet all their new teachers, tour the school and have school lunch together in the cafeteria.  Students listened to The Kissing Hand and created their own kissing hand project.  What a great way to start their new school career at PPS!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

End of the Year Learning June 2019

Here's some photos from the last days of school to showcase amazing learners.  Looking forward to the new year ahead!

Reading Workshop: The progression from learning alphabet letters in the fall to end of year reading strategies and spelling patterns: Using Extra Strength Reading Powers, spelling new words by only changing the middle vowel sound, finding sight words to help decode an entire sentence and read for meaning and blend sounds at the beginning of words.

Writing Workshop: In our last trimester we focused on writing "all about" various subjects.  Students used a list of success criteria to check their work and analyze what they might add to complete their piece.

Mathematics: We ended the year with a math celebration complete with writing equations in chalk on the playground blacktop.  Some students posed problems for others to solve.  

Science and Engineering: Studying the properties of materials (wood, paper and fabric) and how they are used for different purposes led us to solving motion problems.  Recording their thinking in science notebooks required precision and clarity of thought.

PBL: Project Based Learning: Our kindergarten PBL work included applying what we learned about the three R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) with wood, paper and fabric.  When students worked in our room they made journals using recycled paper in the school, cardboard collected from families and fabric samples.  

End of Year Memories: Reflecting on learning and celebrating the joy of learning.

Learning News From the End of 2018-2019 School Year

Mrs. Belaski’s Kindergarten News May 3, 2019 

Dear Families,
Just as the flowers are blooming so are your children as they further their academic skills. May is a time to push just a little bit further and a time celebrate everything they have learned all year. I am being careful in the next few weeks to address the skills needed for your child, giving them that last burst of instruction and send them off to grade one as a confident kindergarten graduate. Keep working hard to be sure they are eating well and getting plenty of sleep along with the many afterschool and weekend activities that we do with our families. It is hard to believe that a year has gone by since you all came to Kindergarten registration. Now it is time for next year’s students to register. Next week all of the kindergarten teachers will be working at registration on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I will greet our class and get the day started then Miss Burgess will teach with Miss Katherine, Mrs. Echo and Mr. Coleman in the afternoon. I will check in on our class during my breaks and be in the room at the end of those days as well.

The first of our two main new learning objectives in reading this week revolved around recognizing and producing blends at the beginning of words. Educators often refer to these as “consonant clusters” When children can recognize not just the first letter in a word, but also the first two or three which can be blended together, it gives them another strong reading strategy when reading unknown words in challenging books. We began by listing blends and practicing how to blend those two letter sounds together. Being able to blend sounds together, whether at the beginning or in the middle of words helps read multisyllabic words. This week we listed words with the blends gl (as in glove), fl (as in flower) and several “S” blends such as Sk, Sn, St. We will explore many others next week now that we have the concept of recognizing a blend.

The second big idea we learned centered on creating simple plurals by adding an “s” to nouns such as book to books. Again, this strategy helps new readers learn more about word structure in English when talking about, writing about or reading about concrete objects. This also guides children to look at the word endings which can change the meaning of a word and the overall meaning in a story. For example, a character might encounter one dog, but encountering one hundred dogs would change the meaning of what happens for that character in a story. We started with listing names of animals, writing the single word form and the plural with an “s” added (pig/pigs, cat, cats, and then objects pencil/pencils.) For writing workshop we returned to our All About writing. We used a graphic organizer to write two pieces… all about penguins and all about dolphins. We read a book on each and added several elements including an opening sentence, three facts, a personal “pinch of me” sentence with is really an opinion, and finally a closing. We used the same success criteria without the graphic organizer and wrote on lined paper to write all about the properties of water after reading a book called Amazing Water.

This week we…
Found combinations of a particular number and wrote all of the addition sentences for that number using a string with a set number of beads on it. For example, if a child had a bead string with 8 beads on it, they wrote all of the possible combinations that add up to 8. Each child had a different amount of beads. We did the same for combinations of 12 on another day. We brainstormed strategies for making sure we found each and every combination. One of our favorite strategies was starting with 12+0=12, then moving only one bead at a time over to create the next combination, 11+1=12, then another moved over to create 10+2=12 etc.

Learned that the equal sign means that whatever is on both sides must match. We used this as a way to teach that we can write number sentences like this: 14=10+4 or 18=10+8. Seeing this flexibly is an important skill in understanding that 10+4 and 14 are the same amount. Played monster squeeze with the numbers 1-30. Today each child will bring home their monsters squeeze with directions to play at home.

Dove into place value by practicing how to count tens and ones to create two digit amounts and writing the numbers. For example, we counted a group of two tens and three ones for 23 and wrote that number… remembering that the two represents two tens. Played a game called Ten Frame Path for several days. Each child is bringing this game home as well. Your child can practice counting the place value combinations on the game board and writing those numbers on another sheet… their recording sheets can be an answer sheet to check their work.

Used digiblocks to build two digit numbers with tens and ones.

Dove back into teen numbers again with the focus being on “ten and some more” when we describe an amount for a teen number.

Made teen number books, recording the number sentence with the equal sign reversed. 19=10+9. 

Built teen numbers on Rekenreck tools the kids makde earlier in the year with beads.

Next Week: 
Monday May 6: PE

Tuesday May 7: Music; Kindergarten Registration

Wednesday May 8: PE: Kindergarten Registration 

Thursday May 9: Art; Kindergarten Registration

Friday May 10: Library; Star Student of the Week

Important Dates Ahead: 
May is a very busy month… the weather (hopefully more so) is getting warmer, T ball and soccer have started and for some kids there is an anticipation that summer vacation is coming soon. Academically kids are now putting together all they have learned and at the end of the month I will be assessing student progress. Please be sure your child gets as much rest and stays on their routine as much as possible. I, too, struggle with this as a parent and I know we all do our best, so Bravo to you for making it all the way to MAY!

May 7, 8, and 9 : Kindergarten Registration for 2019-2020. There will be substitutes for all K classes. I will check in periodically to see how the class is doing.

May 27: Monday Memorial Day, No School

Ask Your Child: … about the Proud Proud Panda project they started before vacation and finished today. To welcome the new Kindergarten parents we worked with our reading partners in Miss Donnelly’s class to write a sentence about what made us feel proud to be a panda… like the PPS school mascot. This was my take on combining the meaning in the musical “Panda and the Moon” with having pride in being oneself as a member of the school community. Today we we finished making the panda face masks complete with a new head shot photo of each child. I took these photos this week and could not believe how much each child changed since the photos I took in the fall! We hung the proud proud panda writings in the hall for parents to read and will send them home with the panda masks in a few weeks.

Mrs. Belaski’s Kindergarten News May 17, 2019 

Dear Families,

Thank you for helping your children be ready for school and well rested during this busy month. This was a great learning week… just what we needed as we close this trimester. Next week I will start formal end of the year assessments; many of which will be one on one with your children so that I can confirm their amazing learning curve this year. Keep your good routines after school, in the evenings and in the mornings and be sure your children get plenty of rest! In June we will continue learning through Project Based Learning activities and we will complete our final NGSS Science Unit focused on Materials and Motion with special emphasis on motion. We have a few messy projects to do so if anyone has an extra package of unopened baby wipes they wish to donate, we will can use them! I also need one or two packages of brown lunch bags, similar to the ones we wrapped Mother’s Day gifts in last week. Enjoy the sun!


This week we... 
Learned to use a tool called a Story Hand to hone our skills at retelling a story. Everyone got a large paper hand with cues on each finger for retelling elements to keep in their book bin. The fingers and palm remind them to retell what they read by including the characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, problem and feelings that occurred amongst the characters.

Our main theme for all of our longer focused reading lessons this week centered on the concept of EXTRA STRENGTH. By this we mean we now have to add “extra strength” to all of the reading strategies we have learned thus far this year, and really stretch each super power as our books become more and more challenging. We practiced extra strength picture power, sight word power and sound power. Each day I had an example of what to do to increase their strength… for example, for extra strength sight word power we are now reading books without a familiar pattern on each page. When we come to a page with lots of text and the pattern is no longer there, we don’t give up, rather we search for the sight words we know, practice reading those words aloud first with inflection, then go back to read the sentences.

Reviewed the concept of blends at the beginning of a word, adding more intricate blends to our repertoire of practice for S, L, H, and R blends such as Sc, Sk, Sn, Sp, Sm, Br, Cr, Dr, Tr, Bl, Fl, Pl, Sl, Ph, Wh, etc.

Reviewed words that can end in an “s” with a root word… changes to books… to make simple plural words.

Practiced spelling words within the same word family such as _ig, _ip, _ill, and _ell words.

Glued several word sorts into out reading notebooks centered on blends, simple “s” plurals.

Practiced spelling three letter CVC words moving quickly by changing the first letter, vowel or last letter to hone our ability to sound out words quickly, and recognizing the change in letter sounds. For example, we practiced changing words like: can, etc.

Practiced all of the digraph and vowel team songs learned thus far...about 9… and added two more that apply to higher level words kids are now reading in their books. We added a song for the sound made by “au/aw” and “ai/ay” in words.

Learned how to read words that have an “ _ed” ending. We learned when we read those types of words it often sounds like a “t” at the end and not and “_ed” sound like it looks. For example, when we change play to played, there is a “d” sound at the end but looked and liked sound like a “t” at the end.

We practiced reading the endings of words… especially plurals and _ed endings with inflection to stress how the meaning of those words change with the new ending like an “s” or an “ed”..

For Writing Workshop we finished a piece All About Penguins and also wrote a second piece over several days titled All About Seahorses after reading nonfiction books about these topics to help us support our ideas. We used success criteria checklists to ensure we had an opening sentence, three facts, a personal pinch sentence and a closing sentence.


This week we… Played “Addition Top-It” with two decks of cards in partnerships. The winner of the cards played was the person with the highest sum of two numbers.

Played “Dice Subtraction” with two dice in partnerships. We rolled two dice, subtracted the lower number from the higher and wrote the subtraction algorithm or number sentence to match it on whiteboards.

Played a game that included adding and subtracting called Racing Cars… or in our version, Racing Bugs on two, then later in the week three race tracks. In this game we rolled a die, split that number into combinations and moved each of two bugs the corresponding spaces. The cooperative partnership won when both or three bugs got to ten at the end of the race track. The game pushed kids to be able to think what two numbers (moves) would add to the number on the die, but be split between two or three tracks to move the bugs optimally toward ten without wasting hops. They could not win until they rolled a number that landed them exactly on ten. For example, if one bug was on 8 and the other was on 9 but they rolled a two, they could only move the 8 bug forward two spaces since 2+0=2 and the 9 bug could not move. Another option would have been to move the 8 bug one space and the 9 bug one space because 1+1=2. The game would not end until they found an exact move to ten for both bugs.

Practiced putting together and pulling apart teen numbers by anchoring the strategy that teens are a ten combined with some more, or what we call “one ten and some ones”. We did this with popsicle stick bundles of ten and ones and also on a tool called a Reckenreck with beads. Students wrote the addition algorithm on whiteboards, too.

Played a game called “Clear the Deck” that taxed kids to think about addition and subtraction within ten… combinations of ten are key to kindergarten math!

Practiced telling and solving number stories and explicitly learning about how to use two colored chips. Two colored chips are a common math tool in early childhood classrooms. The two colors can be used to show how many were added to or taken away from a group. For example, if a math story like “I had 4 cats and 2 ran away, I could show how I solved that by using 4 chips turned to one color, then turning two over to the other color and sliding them away from the 4 group to show those were the two that ran away, leaving the first color as the number left to solve the number story.

Introduced the concept of “Function Machines” which have a “rule” or “function” that is applied to all numbers going “into” the machine and changing it to reveal a new number. For example, if the rule is +3, then every number going in would change by +3. We practiced learning the concept on an electronic function machine then transferred to using the student version with a chart giving the rule and input numbers. Students had to give the output number according to the rule. We also added some twists, asking kids to use the opposite operation by giving them the output number and they had to apply the rule to find the input number! Many kids made up function machine rules. Their favorite was inputting three digit numbers and predicting (with accuracy I will say!) the output. Function Machines help kids “do” and “undo” math problems… in that we can use addition and subtraction interchangeably to solve the same problem…. Addition and subtraction as opposites of one another. Holding these in their head can be tricky but students are beginning to solve math problems both ways! Played “Missing Addend” with fish on Friday… similar to function machines, we used the number cards 1-10 and fish counters to pose problems to figure out the number missing in a number sentence. For example: 2+ ___ = 7 and 6+ ____= 10

Next Week: 

Monday May 20: PE

Tuesday May 21: Music

Wednesday May 22: PE

Thursday May 23: Art

Friday May 24: Library; Star Student of the Week

Important Dates Ahead: 

Thursday May 24 : Our class date for all students to do an individual reading assessment. Please get plenty of rest the night before!

May 27: Monday Memorial Day, No School On Thursday of this week we had Four Winds, too!

Ask Your Child: … about the project we did based on the book I read to them titled Leo and the Lightning Bug. This may be one of my top 10 all time books for children. The two big messages in it are perseverance and being able to laugh at oneself and not get made if someone is laughing at you when in fact something you did was actually funny (and never hurtful)… let it go, let it roll off your shoulders and be able to admit, yes, it was hard, but I persevered and did my best even when I could not do it the first or even tenth time!

Mrs. Belaski’s Kindergarten News May 31, 2019 

Dear Families,
Again I thank each of you for helping keep a normal routine (as much as possible) as we near the end of the school year. Over these past two weeks your children ROCKED end of the year assessments! I have been overwhelmed with the progress each and every child has made and how we learned as a class. I will have fun recording all of this learning into report cards in the coming days… and then sharing that information with grade one teachers. This way your child’s new teacher knows their current learning levels and will start off first grade with the “just right” academic challenge your child needs to keep them excited about learning and wanting more.

So far we have done a pretty good job maintaining attention and routine for the most part. My secret is to keep our morning routine the same with reading instruction and rotating groups in Daily Five. This has been our routine all year and by starting the day off with a “normal” routine, we can change things up for the afternoon without too much over excitement. Next week we start a series of reading lessons targeting “Avid Readers” and what that means.

This week we kept math instruction in place Monday through Thursday. Today we celebrated math learning with a Math Party! Our class and Miss Donnelly’s class are in a unique position in that we co-teach math with Mrs. Santarcangelo… with three teachers leading instruction we can get creative and design deep instruction all year. To celebrate that learning our classes got together this afternoon to have fun with math tools, games and concepts we learned all year. We set up stations and children moved among activities in small groups. The four stations included: equations on the playground blacktop with chalk, math game center (Go Fish, Garbage, Frog Hop, etc.), Math Party Hats, and Make your own mini-math image. There was lots of excitement in the air… and that didn’t both any teachers because they were actually excited to do Math!!!! I feel so honored to work collaboratively with Miss Donnelly and Mrs. Santarcangelo… for math and literacy...what a gift in my career it is to have like-minded and growth-mindset colleagues who love… and I mean we LOVE talking about making instruction meaningful, fun, and challenging for our youngest students. It’s been another rewarding year teaching your children!

Project Based Learning: “Amazing Innovators at PPS” 

You may have heard about this initiative through the PPS Family Newsletter. Today I explained it to our class so hopefully your child is mentioning it and getting excited for it. Starting on Monday and running for the afternoons for the final two weeks of school we are putting mixed groups of kindergarten classes together. All students will work with each of the four kindergarten teachers for two-day projects. The groups will rotate with one another until they have done all four projects with all four teachers. That means our class will be broken up into four groups as will all of the other classes. We have done this for three years and found it to be successful and productive as we embark on four projects together under a common theme.

We are using our learning through the NGSS experiments we did in April/May on paper, wood, fabric and the three R’s of Recycling, Reuse and Reduce. Each teacher has designed a two day project centered on one of the R’s in an effort to apply what they learned about the materials. For example, Mr. Allbee is collecting plastic grocery bags to reuse them for another purpose, Miss Moore will explore recycling of art center materials in the school and I am targeting the concepts of Reduce and Recycling by collecting recycled paper within the school and creating journals complete with recycled cardboard, paper. Kids will even get to add a pencil to their journal from recycled art centers!

For my project can you please send in as much of the following as you can starting on Monday and running for two weeks:
“Boutique” styled tissue boxes (square shaped)
Cereal, cracker, snack boxes
Recycled Paper with at least one clean side
Larger fabric pieces (so that we can make fabric covers over the cardboard for the journals)
Plastic grocery bags

In my project we will learn about the enormous amount of trees that are cut down to make paper for our world and how we can apply the three R’s to save our beautiful earth. I already started reading earth-related and recycling books to our class. We will collect recycled paper from each classroom and examine it to determine how it can be repurposed. We will make a personalized journal with the materials we collect. Thanks for your help! Email me with questions!

Next Week: 
Monday June 3: PE
Tuesday June 4: Music; PBL in PM (see note on page 2 for supplies we need.)
Wednesday June 5: PE; PBL in PM (see note on page 2 for supplies we need.)
Thursday June 6: Art; PBL in PM (see note on page 2 for supplies we need.)
Friday June 7: Library; PBL in PM (see note on page 2 for supplies we need.)

Important Dates Ahead: 
Friday, June 14 PBL Celebration: 1:45pm
Monday, June 17, Last Day of School

 Ask Your Child:… about the Beach Party we had today outside to celebrate with the whole school good behavior earned through PBiS.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

When I asked students how video games are made, they had offered ideas such a someone took a photo with their phone photos or made the game a movie.  After some discussion, they were surprised to find out that someone actually writes the instructions in a programming language that run them... along with apps, websites and computer software.  Their interest peeked when I told them that they could learn to write computer code for others to enjoy, just like video game programmers.

Coding practice provides a wide range of benefits for young learners.  It gives them the opportunity to embrace their creativity while practicing problem solving, mathematics, critical thinking and persistence.  As we say in reading workshop, we never give up when we use our persistence power.  The same goes for coding.  In our classroom we presented kids with coding challenges using the app Scratch Jr.  We studied the various codes and connected the process to work we were doing in EveryDay Mathematics centered on ordering.  By choosing various directions and putting them in a particular order, we discovered how to solve a challenge problem with a programming code.

Next, we partnered with Mr. Shepherd's second grade class for several coding challenges.  With a second grade partner students created several coding projects.  But the fun did not end there... we now have second grade reading partners to grow our reading skills.  Check out the video with our second grade buddies.

Check out the movie I made with Magisto: Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

Simply click below to watch my movie.

Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

p.s. automatically turn your videos and photos into beautiful edited movies. Try it out, it's free!

Sent from my iPad

Family Breakfast

Back in December we held our annual Family Breakfast...lots of fun and time with family!

Simply click below to watch my movie.
Family Breakfast