Friday, January 24, 2014

So many ideas to share!

Hello Kindergarten Families,

This week was exciting in many ways.  We welcomed two new students, Evelynne and Landon, so in addition to Noah, we have three new students who have joined us!  In order to get to know our new friends, and to celebrate how special each of us are in our learning journey, we had morning share topics for Tuesday and Wednesday that worked together.  The first was to share something you feel you are good at, and the second was to share something you want to get better at or continue practicing so that you can sharpen that skill.  This is an important conversation to have at home too.  It helps these children to know that this is a lifetime process, and even though you may think that everyone around you has "it all together", that truly each of us has things we think we are accomplished at, and things we wish we were able to do.

Another human element in this is the fact that for some reason it can be hard for us to say what we are good at.  Depending on our personality type, one of the two (what you are good at or what you need to work on) are hard to admit!  Making these types of discussions feel like part of life helps the students see that it is important work, and that everyone is learning and growing in different ways, even though they may seem "so together".

It can be neat, too, when your answer for one question is actually your answer for the second question, too!  Are we ever done getting better at something?

This week we discussed and designed an experiment to test different materials to use with inclined planes.  More on this soon!  If you would like, set up a situation where you could shoot something down an inclined plane.  I have used a board, a wipe board, a gutter, a tube,rope,  with balls, cars, rocks, s-hooks, carabiners, anything that will slide down.  
What does your family notice?  
What changes can you make and were there different outcomes?  
What forces are at work?

Has your child shared one of our January Songs and Poems?  We have been noticing patters and sounds and teams of letters in all the words.  What do you notice in this collection?

Thank you to all the families who have sent in photos and artifacts from the homework and for our "Where did you go in 2013?" wall!  It has been so fun to watch the students share about their trips.  Keep it coming!

For each presentation we take time with Google Maps to zoom in and out of our city to the place we are "going to".  This week we "went" to Paris, Costa Rica, Wisconsin and New York City.  The students are working on the concepts of city, state, country and continent as well as the cardinal directions, and being able to use this vocab in their language.

Next week we will "go to" Isreal, Sacramento and Longbeach.  And maybe more places, if you send us in more photos of where you went.  Remember it doesn't matter how far you went, it is fun for the students to share and it gives us a genuine chance to check out the map to look for driving routes, landmarks and other interesting features on a map!  

I hope you can find the time to come in and check out our wall!  There is often more going up!

Our story wall inspired by photos is growing.  I find it so beautiful to see how each student has a different perspective.  Two students may choose the same image, but come up with a totally different possibility for what is happening in the image.  You can do this together as a family, by choosing images off the internet, by googling images from 50-100 years ago, or by turning the sound off on a television program or movie that you have not seen. 
 What could be happening?  
What are the characters saying, feeling and thinking?

Well I will sign off for now.  I hope you enjoy reading this with your child.  Have a lovely weekend, Jennifer

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Can You Do At Home To Help Our Class?

Hello Families,

This week was full of amazing thinking, discussion and work.  Truly the best way for you to get a glimpse is to ask your child to give you a tour of the room next week.  Make sure you: Read the discussion notes in the binder on the information table by the door, you cask your child to share about the rock we cracked open this week and check their journal entries about this, you ask your child what types of creations they have tried to make on the yard, in the Loose Parts Station.  If you haven't checked out their portfolio in a while, do so!

This week we spent a little more time than usual in the garden, helping out.  So if you haven't been there yet, have your child take you back there and tell you all about the steps they had to do to get the plants going.  Next Thursday is the day we will be sending out report cards, which I have to hand to an adult ONLY, so it could be the perfect day to take the time for your child to give their "tour"!

Since it is a three day weekend, I thought it was especially important for me to share the class' "homework".  I give "homework" or "brain-work" often to your students.  This is more an invitation to extend ideas from school to home and to have them share their thinking and discoveries with you.  So here are the ideas we mentioned this week:

Home Fun
1) The class' curiosity and research about the Eiffel Tower inspired two possibilities:
a) Look at images of the stages of Eiffel Tower being built and draw or write what you noticed.  What structural concepts can you deduce from looking at these images?
b) What shapes and designs are in the structure that you could incorporate in your artistic creativity, or even the illustrations you create for a story?  This week we began looking at how these shapes fit into each other, how the shapes may be oriented differently, and how repeating a shape or a pattern of shapes effects the impact of the design, or the structural integrity.

2) ******Where did you go in 2013?  We have had the map wall up for two weeks and one family has added to this!  I know more of you have photos of where you went, or postcards or artifacts you found  (I know because you told me of the cool stuff you ware going to bring in!).  This may be a far-away trip or a local trip: that unique rock or shell from that hike, or beach trip or park is as fun to investigate as a trip to Paris, believe me!  Every time you send something in it gives us practice to utilize our map-reading skills and internalize the cardinal directions.  PLEASE SEND IN ABOUT A PLACE YOUR FAMILY VISITED!  :)   You can email me photos or send physical items in!

3) I also challenged the students to spread the love that they have been sharing with their appreciations to your home life.  Today I asked them to think about something that is done for you, maybe even when you are asleep, that makes your life easier or more special.  I challenged the students to acknowledge that someone who does that something!  As a parent you could help us by genuinely modeling the appreciation energy.  You could also have a secret discussion with your child about how to acknowledge someone in your household for the things they do each day, each week, or for that extra special something they did recently.

4) Play 'Grasshopper' with your child.  You will need index cards or pieces of paper cut into smaller sizes with numbers written on them.  1-15 is a good starting place, and go up or down to make it harder or easier.  You can do either: less or more (ex: Jump on the number that is one less than 8, jump on the number that is one more than 10)  or addition and subtraction practice (ex: call out equations and have them jump to the answer)  This is great practice for memorizing and internalizing the 10 friends (numbers that make up 10), the numbers that the same number doubled makes (ex: 2+2) and being quick about recognizing the number symbols.  It is also fun!  How fast will the adults at home be, if they take a turn, and the child becomes the caller?

5) Here is one we discussed a little in class, but I was thinking it might be more meaningful to discuss as a family.  Find an appropriate quote of Martin Luther King Jr and share with your child what this means to you, then discuss this together.  These students are practicing acting like the kind of human being they want to become, and this might go well with their journey.  I also thought this is a great jumping off point to discuss your family values and what kinds of things your family is trying to become and do for others.  In our class discussion I shared that we were focusing more on King's message and ideas, instead of how he died, thought a student did share that he was shot, so your child may be curious about this.  There are so many quotes of his that I like, but here is one:  The time is always right to do what is right.

Alright, GO!  I hope you have fun with this "homework" and it gives you ideas of the kinds of things the students have been working out.    EMAIL ME with your experiences and ideas that this homework generated, other websites you checked out from your discussions, or SEND IN work that your child did so they can share it with the group!

Have a lovely three-day weekend!  Love, Jennifer

Some Appreciations From This Week

Hello Kindergarten Families,

Since we consistently practice appreciations as a part of the Positive Disciple concepts, the students have gotten so that they are able to think of appreciations on the spot.  This week was also the first week where I didn't have to suggest friends give appreciations to the family reader, but they seamlessly went into sharing their acknowledgments for Cate.  That was very exciting to see for me as a teacher, that the students are internalizing these elements of what makes for a kind, caring, thoughtful human being!

Here are appreciations from this morning.  Enjoy your three-day weekend!

Love, Jennifer

Rachel: I appreciate Lucy for picking lemons.
Liam: I appreciate Kirana for not being silly over meeting to me.
Brett: I appreciate Gabby for going with me at work time.  She told me that a crystal fell out of one of the rock halfs.
William:I appreciate Lucy for giving me friendly reminders at meetings.
Demetri: I appreciate Bridey for helping me not talk over people's words.
Bridey: I appreciate Demetri for reminding me that I have to sit next to him.
Kirana: I appreciate Bayley for sometimes helping me with doing hard stuff- she helped me keep teepee up.
Patrick: Who I appreciate is Saul for being my partner.  He was holding my hand.
Jack: I appreciate Rachel for letting me be her partner at  Relax and Read.  She helps me read words.
Clare: I appreciate William for not being silly when his Mom was the Family Reader.
Lucy: I appreciate Brett for speaking up now, and sharing his ideas.
Gabby: Who I appreciate is I appreciate Liam for being my Relax and Read partner when Mykenah wasn't here.  So he actually let me go first, and that's what I liked.
Bayley: Who I appreciate is Noah for working harder at work time.
Noah: I appreciate William for working hard.
Saul: Who I appreciate is Clare and Noah for being my partner at Relax and Read time and they helped me sound out words.
Jennifer: I appreciate the class for being so patient with friends who are still learning to be in charge of their behavior and I appreciate how you continue to give really friendly reminders instead of being frustrated.
Lucy: I appreciate Patrick for not being silly anymore and really listening and not sitting in the chairs and couch when he really wants to, because it's helping him because he's not falling asleep.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Our First Week Back Together

Hello Families,

This was such a nice time back together. The students were very caring and seemed to remember so many of our routines.  I was impressed and amazed at their memory level, and the way they came back together as if they didn't have much time apart.  It is really a special group of people!

***I wanted to share lots of things that came up and ways you can help in class, so please read all of this!

Back To School Brainstorms!
We spent the first day taking down ideas to create and investigate.  These lists will helps us organize what we are curious about and identify themes and questions to research.  The students have already begun interesting work for us to continue next week!

Writing about what might be happening in photos.

We began practicing spelling words we want to learn.  Today Lucy was the first to try her word.  She was successful with "window"!

Last week, the students began sharing an interest in Paris and the Eiffel Tower.  The facts about its height and that it has a restaurant on it intrigued them!

 This interest came from making our scenery for the class story. They want to pound down natural materials to turn them into powders to use in their art. Now the students are testing more and discussing which items are easier to deconstruct and why.  Please bring in any natural items for our powder collages.

Math concepts: Researching coin use and their history
Students are grouping the coins and practicing skip counting to try to discover how much they are worth.

 See a reflection page, coming soon on this topic!

Info for you:
Our fish have died, so this might be a topic that is coming up more at home.  The students have theories about it, but were pretty okay when it happened.

This week our journal prompt was, "This year I will... " The students identified a goal for themselves that they would like to achieve or become for 2014!  I wonder what their home goal might be for 2014?

The versatile items for the yard called "Loose Parts" is beginning.  You will see more of this in the coming weeks.  The students are welcome to bring in items that could be used outdoors for mosaics, constructing and pretend play at recess and lunch.  This will require lots of communication and problem solving and creativity!

There is so much to write about in one week.  All of these ideas are just beginning to unfold, so we will continue to explore them in the coming weeks and or months!  I hope you can take a chance to have your child walk you through the classroom soon!

Have a great night, Jennifer