Friday, January 29, 2016

Exploring Our Growth (Both academic and emotional!)

Hello families!  

We had another special moment that I wanted to share as fully with you as possible.  So, instead of fitting this in to a reflection page, I will share the experience as it unfolded.

Since each member of our class is their own person, we have many abilities, strengths and places to grow.  In the spirit of fostering a growth mindset (vs a fixed mindset)  I wanted to bring up a discussion about some patterns I have seen friends try out or fall into that could be making life harder for them.  I also wanted to honor the perseverance I have seen, especially in students who are trying their best while their memory and fine motor muscles grow.  So here is the mini story I shared:

Three Kindergarten friends: Sam, Chrystal and Sylvia.  Sam can have a hard time getting his pencil to do what he expects.  When he writes and draws, it doesn't end up looking as he had wanted, since his hand muscles are still growing.  (Then I drew a line next to him that went up about a third of the board to show how hard that makes journaling for him.)

Crystal can draw really well and is able to get her pencil to do what she wants.  She also knows all her letter sounds, but each time the class is about to journal she says she isn't good at journaling, the can't write and she hates journaling.  (For each of these three comments, I drew a line going up, so that in the end the hardness level was about two thirds of the way up the board.)

Sylvia's hands can get her pencil to do what she planned, but she sometimes has a hard time remembering the letter sounds.  He memory part of her brain still needs more experiences with letters in order to remember the sounds more often.  (I drew a line up about a third of the way, to show how hard journaling feels for her.)

After this, I asked if friends could raise their hand to answer this question:  
What is making journaling hard for each of these friends?
Gabriel shared an answer for Sam: His hand is not ready yet.
Reese shared an answer for Chrystal: Her choices are stopping her.
Grace shared an answer for Sylvia: She hasn't had enough practice with letters.

Here we talked a bit about how memory and choice are different things connected to your brain, and that the choices are something you can be in charge of. Next I asked the students to be brave to do our morning share in partnerships, and to speak to their partner about whether any of this has ever been something you have felt, and if they connected with any of these students' stories.

Next I asked if there were a few friends who might feel comfortable sharing what they had just said with the whole group.  I was excited and surprised at how many friends wanted to share.  Below are the words of the children who volunteered, and my questions.  It became a neat moment of friends sharing their thought process and reasoning, which has been a helpful model for all of the class members.

Gabriel:  My hand kinda slides the wrong way when I’m trying to draw, and I can’t remember the sounds.  I know my hand is still practicing.
Jennifer: So you don’t have the problem of being mad at yourself so much?
Gabriel: No.
Jennifer: Why not?
Gabriel: I don’t say it to myself- since I don’t need it.  I don’t need to say it to myself, since it would just make things worse.
Olivia: I kind of forget the sounds when I’m trying to write sometimes.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Olivia: No
Jennifer: Why not?
Olivia: Because I keep on trying to get the right sound.
Kale: I‘m forgetting and my hand forgets to be in control.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Kale: Unh-unh.  I‘ll just try again.
Reese: My hand sometimes forgets which way the letters go and sometimes it forgets and slips and forgets which way the letters go so I have a problem with my writing.
Jennifer: Is that the only thing that’s making journaling hard for you?
Reese: Well, sometimes I make- say bad words to myself. 
Jennifer: So then how does that add to your hand problem?
Reese: It makes it harder for me- because I’m like saying I can’t journal well.  And I say it lots of times in my head and then I just realized that I shouldn’t say those words and then I just have the hand problem.  And then I just start writing, and if it comes back, like each time, and sometimes my hand gets better and then it forgets again. 
Jennifer: So will the 'mad at yourself' come back?
Reese: Sometimes it does come back.
Jennifer: What will you do then?
Reese: Then I realize I shouldn’t do those words again and it starts all over.
Jennifer: This make think that we might need some Encouragement Buddies.  What could an Encouragement Buddy do for you?
Gabriel: Have them be brave.  Like encourage them means you be brave and then they’ll be brave.
Brian: It’s like telling them, “You could do it.”  Just so they can, well, so that the thing will go away.  You know when they say, “You can’t do it" to theirself.
Jennifer: Reese, would you want an encouragement buddy for journaling?
Reese: Yes. 
Jennifer: Who could be his encouragement buddy?
(Almost the whole class raised hands.  Then Reese asked Mason.)
Kellan: I sometimes feel that’s my hand's not working when I’m trying to draw and they usually make a bunch of squiggly lines. 
Jennifer:  Do you sometimes get mad at yourself?
Kellan: Not really, I just keep on trying to make it- what I’m trying to make.
Leah: My feels were that I want to stop saying that I can’t be a good writer to myself.
Jennifer: Do you have ideas on how you’re gonna stop?
Leah: Stop thinking about it. 
Grace: I’m having the problem with my hand because every time that I draw a eye, it keeps getting squished together.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Grace: No because I know I’m trying my best.

So many brave people to share!  As a final step, I asked if the class felt brave, and when they did, I asked some students to go get their journals.  For each friend, I opened it to their first page.  Many of them were not writers on that first journaling day way back in September, and then we looked at their most recent work and saw what a change that has taken place.  For each of the journals, I asked if the student had grown in their abilities. YES!  Each person has, in many ways! 

You can see that the larger lesson for this is to help the students realize the power that they can take on, even when there are factors that they cannot control, like fine motor readiness, or experience connecting to letter sounds. We are in charge of our choices, reactions and attitude! (And this is the tough work, isn't it!?)  Because so many students shared, it ended up helping the class see that so many friends are on their own journey, and to realize that even others, who seem "good at writing" also feel unsure, at times.  

We hope to continue to highlight that the larger goal in our work (and what is important to be able to continue learning) is to ask if you are trying your best each day, and if you are progressing in your journey to become better at each skill. ( I also mentioned that many people go to school for decades to become a "good writer" and that each of these students are just at the beginning of those decades!)

A final step that I hadn't planned, but that came out of the discussion naturally, was that many students requested encouragement buddies for various parts of our day that challenge them personally- journaling, math activities or for when they make a "mistake".  Almost the whole class was raising their hand to volunteer to be an Encouragement Buddy, which was so special to see.  We will look forward to see how that relationship helps.

I hope this gives you a little bit of understanding and helps add to your own family discussions.  These people who don't have many years under their belts, are already showing such wisdom, perseverance and care.  It's inspiring to be around!

Wishing you a lovely weekend!  Love, Jennifer

So many interesting things to share with our families!

Hello Families!

This week's blog includes many links and videos to share with your child!  I hope you can find moments throughout the weekend and next week to enjoy them together.  They are learning so much and share an excitement for the wonders of the world.  It is so much fun to share this with them!

Monday's Experiment:
Sienna's parents lead our experiment on Monday this week, and the group created vehicles to explore simple machines and energy. Thank you for planning our fun building experience!  I wonder if the students have tinkered with them at home to get them to work or change their direction...
 This is a fun one to do and tinker with at home, so here's the link they sent me:

This is the board from the discussion that we had after the experiment- please see the Reflection Page on this, attached to your weekly email!

Tuesday- Germany Presentation!
Joshua's family joined us to present photos of their time with their family in Germany over the holidays.  This included lots of information about the region and traditions of their family. The kids were so interested in many aspect, I wonder what your child remembered most...

Wednesday's Buddies in the Garden:
The four jobs we worked on to keep the garden running were:
Weeding, picking the harvest, working on the rock path and watering

This week's Journal Topics:
How do scales work?
Germany presentation
Swift Things Are Beautiful videos (see below)

Language Arts, Science and Social Studies!
This week we researched the various things in the poem Swift Things Are Beautiful, by Elizabeth Coatsworth.  We also looked a photos of things that the students wanted more connection to, such as an ox.  This was a great opportunity to talk about animals, scientific phenomena and also to look at the map and look up all the places these mention (the places where lightning strike most often in the world, and in the US, and where the swallows migrate to and from, and where the wheat video was filmed...)

Here are some of the videos we looked at:
Lightning:  (we stopped at 2:10...)
Wind in the wheat:
An opening flower:

What did your family enjoy the most?  Feel free to write in the comments below!

Math topics:
Our calendar ritual continues and we are now past 80 days!  The kids are excited that we are getting close to 100. (see the reflection page about this...)  They are becoming more confident to be able to explain the place value and know what numbers need to change to reflect the new amount.

Also, the math talks notes are always put up on the wall in class (before copies go into your child's portfolio) so feel free to stop in and ask your child to explain this week's experience!

Ten friends:
These are numbers that work together to make 10.  I noticed that the class wasn't remembering as fluently, so we did some more activities with this to help them connect to these number relationships.  This time we used pie graphs to see the representation of the numbers.

(We are also always practicing doing our best effort the first time with everything, especially checking for the numbers to go the right way!)

Friday's Experiment:  Magnets!

We got to learn from Joshua's family two times this week!  Thank you!  We learned about various types of metal and how not all of them can work with magnets.  Joshua's dad brought items from his work so that the kids could experience high powered magnets and see the poles and force field, using metal shavings on an aluminum pan.  He also showed how magnetic energy can be combined with electricity by using a battery.  (These types of experiments are fun and simple things you can test out at home as a family!)  Finally, we saw a totally different type of force when Andre used a closed cardboard box with a hole at one end to create force by clapping it on it's sides.  The kids were amazed to see the stack of cups fall down across the meeting space!

This week we got to see force all over the place- in Monday's experiment (potential energy) and through magnets and air.  Lots to think about and test out in our future!

If you and your family do any more of these type of extensions at home, please write in the comments below, and share any links, if  you used the internet to find activities to do!  

Thank you to all the families who have signed up to share a fun experiment.  The new sign-ups are out and we have more months of school left, so if you are interested in planning an experiment, come in or email me for a day of your own!

I also want to share an extra thank you to Clara this week, since she is always so steady and helpful.  She does so much for us to keep the week flowing and support the students to become their best. I appreciate being able to have small moments with each child for their report card answers, and Clara made this possible by being so capable of running the class while I meet with kids!  I am so lucky to have her with us!

Have a beautiful weekend!  Love, Jennifer