Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Vacation!

Hello Families!

In my rush and excitement to get off to see my family, I realize I didn't publish this, and it's been sitting as a draft all these days.  Sorry!  I was having a lovely visit with my family and have not been on the Internet for over a week.  This is what a vacation is to me!  And I found out one of my oldest friends is pregnant, so I get to be an Auntie once again.  So special!  I hope all of you are enjoying your vacation and having some nice times together.  And here is the latest blog...

The building party was a fun day, so much fun, the kids still want to work on it!  Thank you to all the families who cooked and brought in our special snacks and for the families who came to help out.  There were many problems to be solved this day, and I think these will be some threads we will continue in the new year.  For example, how can you use paper to make three dimensional objects like trees?  Also, what are some key things a city planner has to think about?  And how do you build a sky scraper so that it is stable, doesn't keep falling down, but still has windows?  So many interesting possibilities.  And I think our budding writing skills are going to come in handy as we think of street names and create more signs for our city and country scapes.

On the last day of school before the break, as a little surprise, I cut out many snowflakes and made a snowstorm in our classroom.  (How many is still to be found out, since friends began to count, but we do not have an official tally)  With an extreme weather advisory on the door, we looked at images of what other places look like that have snow as a part of their winter experience.  I showed pictures that my girlfriend took in Paris, and we talked about how my other friend, a teacher, has snow days, because there is so much snow that they can't leave the house.  At first the children were intrigued by the images of the mopeds covered in snow and they came up with many ideas of what they would do if they woke up in the morning and found their moto like this, but still had to get to work.  A creative idea was to use a fireman's ax to clear the snow.  But as we looked at more images of houses and cars covered in snow, many friends said they wouldn't want to deal with that.  As our friends finished this conversation, many began relating stories of their experiences in snow.  We found out that a few of them plan to encounter snow in this vacation.  We look forward to hearing back from them and continuing this discussion.  The children loved the snow storm so much, that they asked for it to be left up for a little longer.  So when we return, we will have a few more "snow days"!  Bundle up!

Here are some options if your child is wishing to have some holiday "homework".  Just some fun options to connect home and school.  We love all that you share!

1)Keep a journal of things you did over the break.  Use writing, drawings and or photos to show your friends what you and your family did while we were not at school.
2)Draw a map of all the places you went to over the break.  Or, draw a map of how to get from your house to one of the destinations you went to over the break.
3)  Take photos, make drawings or write about what you and your family celebrate and what you do together.  What traditions are special to your family?  Sometimes writing words under photos work well for this!
4) Math problem: How many doors are in your house?  how many door knobs?  How can you show the relationship between these numbers?  Can you draw us a diagram?
And how about tables and table legs?  Sometimes it helps to make the problem smaller and to do one room instead of your whole house...
5)Draw how something works in your house.  It helps to break down the steps and draw what happens in each step.  For example how does a blender work?  Or you can do this with your favorite family recipe!
6) Write and draw signs that you think should go in our city or country that we are creating in class.  You can investigate signs in your neighborhood, or on drives you take with your family as references to inspire your ideas.  What signs do we need in our city to keep people and drivers safe?  What signs do we need so that people who don't live here or who aren't from our country can understand the rules of our city?
7) Write a poem or song.  Write out the words so that we can read it back in the classroom.  What themes and topics do you like best when you are writing a poem or song?

Just a few options, but really there are endless possibilities and the key is for the children to be excited to share their thinking, creativity and discoveries with each other and with you families.  I hope you are all safe and healthy and are enjoying being able to stay in your PJ's a bit longer in the morning!  I am!  Love to you all, Jennifer

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Connections from Home to School- Thank you for all your support!

Hello Families,

Here is another little update about what has been happening in our class this week. 

Two families shared some home info and the friends enjoyed sharing this with their peers.  One was images of the mushrooms that were outside Connor's house.  The children were very interested in the fact that they seemed to be springing forth from rocks and dirt and came from no where.  The friends were thinking about how they might have grown if Connor didn't plant them there.  We may research this more, and if anyone has more to add on this discussion, bring in your ideas and findings!

Another exciting extension of school at home is that Yama decided to create a life sized rendition of our December poem.  Each month we have been doing a poem from Maurice Sendak's book, Chicken Soup With Rice, and here is this month's:
In December
I will be
a baubled bangled
Christmas tree
with soup bowls
draped all over me.
Merry once
Merry twice
merry chicken soup
with rice.

And here is Yama's tribute to this poem!

It is so exciting to see how the children are inspired to take what we talk about at school and make it their own.  Also, the connection between home and school has been so lovely.  I really think it is a tribute to you as parents that you are staying so connected to what we are discussing and to what is happening in our class and making special moments continue at home.  Thank you!

I also wanted to speak to the holidays and how the children have been sharing their excitement with each other.  They have been very thoughtful about making things work for all children, and they even edited the poem above to make it so that others who do not celebrate Christmas, could say the poem in the way they wanted to, by exchanging some of the words.  We even journaled one day drawing soup bowls on many types of trees, looking at the magnolia and palm trees in our area as inspiration!

We have also had many discussions about what each of our families do and believe. Here are some questions we have thought about:
What does your family believe and celebrate?
What family traditions do you have that you always do?

The common thread is that we all believe in LOVE.  The children are excited about the vacation because they have been sharing what they do with their family, and for some of them, with their extended family, when they are away from school.  They have been talking a lot about how long it takes to get to places and what mode of transport they are taking.  I think this will be interesting for the children when they get back.  They'll have to compare notes!

On a similar note, the friends made stone soup with Stephanie in another of her cooking sessions.  Thank you to Henry for sharing her mum, because she is so organized and giving to share her abilities with us!  And this time, I also have to thank each of you families!  For donating such yummy vegetables to make it such a hit.  The part that seemed especially exciting was the act of cutting our soup veggies up.  The friends did a great job practicing their knife skills!

I hope you enjoy these images, and are enjoying your week!  Love to you all, Jennifer

What a Lovely Field Trip!


There are so many great things to talk about that I don't want to lose track of any of them! I will try to catch you up, now that I can post images again. 

Our field trip to the Mission Valley Library's orchestra session was lovely.  We had a great time listening to music by a professional violin player. 

Some of it was:
Spring by Vivaldi
Beautiful blue Danube Waltz
Water Music by Handel
Scheherazade by Rimsky Koraskov
Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
(the last is close to my heart because I danced the Nutcracker for 11 years with my ballet company, long, long ago!)

I think we will explore the concept of how music can tell a story. Last Friday when we had our dancing time, we did a little of this.  The friends were excited to try to dance out a battle.  What actions best portray this while an orchestra is playing and so that it remains pretend?  We will do more with this, and I would love a copy of the music and the story of Peter and the Wolf if anyone has it!

Each child got to try out a violin that was just their size and they really seemed interested in how it worked.  Some of them seemed very comfortable holding this instrument!

After the show, we had lunch outside and enjoyed their water feature immensely!  I hope your child told you all about it!

Thank you to each of the families who took time in their day to drive us. We couldn't have gone without you! And personally, for me, it was really nice to have some time together to talk and catch up a little at lunch! Thank you for sharing the fun of watching the children's wonder and enjoyment. They do love life!

Enjoy your night! Love, Jennifer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Looking Forward To A Fieldtrip

Hello Families!

We are going on a Musical Field Trip on Friday!  We would love you to come and join us and WE NEED DRIVERS!  Please check your email for more info, and let me know if you can come and drive some kids!

As we end this year of 2010 and head out to our holiday in eight days, our class is looking at getting work we have in progress finished. The friends are so into their work, and are raising the quality of their work, so this is so exciting for them. They are realizing that they have a lot to share with others and are getting good at looking to a peer for support or mentoring.

Today we had a safety drill so your child may be talking about this. We stressed the fact that this was PRACTICE and not truly a fire. We talked about how a safety drill is a time where it’s not an option- everybody does it. And then we found out where our class meets during an emergency. This practice stimulated a lively discussion about many natural disasters. They were especially interested in why we don’t have tornadoes in San Diego very often. I imagine we will talk more about these topics. And we will be having an earthquake drill in the new year.

Today we looked at a video of how they make crayons. We expanded this experience by brainstorming possible ways crayons could be made- focusing on the ingredients and the order of the steps in this process. The friends came up with some interesting possibilities. (See the list at school)  And then, the friends took time after each possibility to ask that person questions to make their theory more realistic. The children are getting so adept at asking real questions. Their questions helped the person to see where the flaws in their theory were, or where they didn’t explain themselves clearly enough. We have been trying to do this for many different topics.  Then we watched the video twice, discussion it in between viewings. Finally, the friends made a list of questions they now have after watching the process. The main one was what ingredients went the vat. They were also very excited about the machines that were used in this process. Check it out!

Finally, the children have been so excited to own their learning with out daily calendar experience. Each day we represent that day with a straw and we are counting the days by tens. Lately, the friends have been predicting and noticing what numbers are coming up next. At 57 the other day they felt close to another ten bundle. At 59 yesterday they were VERY excited. And today we got to "50-ten" (which is what many of them called it the first time we counted it). But is that what the number after 59 is called? The friends thought and remembered 60! This prompted a few friends to begin trying to calculate exactly how close we are to having 100 days at school… We will keep you posted as the friends continue to work this out.

Thanks for reading this weekly and for the feedback you have been sending.  It helps me and also makes me feel like I'm doing something for you.  (Not just the viewers from Croatia, Russia and other countries!)
Love, Jennifer

PS for some reason I cannot add photos to this post, I'm not sure if there is a glitch in the new way blogger is trying to have us add them...  Hopefully I can edit and add them later...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Come do your Groceries and help our school and have fun all in one night!

Hello Families and Friends,

Monday night is the night!  We are having a fund raiser on December 13th with Fresh and Easy and hope that many families can come!  It's at the Fresh & Easy on University and 32nd.  We get 5% of all proceeds that our community members bring in (that includes parents, friends, neighbors), plus we get $1 for each receipt of $20 or more.  I will be volunteering there that night with many of the other teachers to drum up as many people as can come.  It sounds like it'll be a festive and fun evening.  If you think you can make it, swing by!

Recent topics of interest:

On Thursday we looked at the work of Alexander Calder, mostly his pieces that had wire as the main material of use.  (If you google him and his work, you can see more images!) 
As we looked at this slide show, we used two questions as our lens:
What materials do you think he used to create this work?
What did he have to do to make it? (What techniques did he use?)
We did a partner share style discussion, and the children were animated and excited to find what he created using this new medium.  At first it was difficult for the children to believe that it wasn't line and paper.  These images are of three dimensional objects, but as often is the case, photographs don't do them justice. 

Another first guess about the media was yarn.  It is neat to see how children first guess what they know best. And that is another reason that I chose this.  I would love to continue to offer other media for children to express their ideas- the more you are capable with, the better you can convey specific ideas.  An example others have used is if you always offer someone blocks to try to describe the concept of Love, will this person ever come up with the descriptive word entwined?  So the materials we use can limit our possibilities as well as our understanding of the world.

And thus, we begin wire.  Here's an image of our first cracks at testing this material and what it can and can't do for us.  For instance, will glue work well as a connecting element, as it does with yarn and paper?  we'll see...

The walk we took on Monday morning really stimulated a lot of thinking. Isn't it amazing how one ordinary moment can blossom if you take the time to wait, breath a little and give it a chance to light? Just as we were walking in to the building (right after finding the famous magnolia seed from my last post), the children saw the moon out and they were wondering what it was doing out at the same time as the sun. The many discussions we had were very full of possibilities. And as the friends shared what they know and took some days to try to draw their ideas, we saw that this is something that can be hard to explain. Here is another instance where your choice of what you use to explain something helps in your effectiveness!

The drawings weren't quite showing what they wanted, and then when children used their hands to show the trajectory of the sun, earth and moon, it was tricky, because we only have two hands! So I offered a yellow block and two glass gems as props that hopefully would help, since they are three dimensional and can be manipulated. Seeing the children explain this dynamic between the three orbs was very cool indeed.
*Please ask to see the video of the end of this discussion the next time you stop into the classroom!

Also if we were to chose a "word of the week", this week's could be "ridiculous"! (This word had some interesting versions, too, as the children tested it on their tongues for the first time)  We have been reading books that make us use this word a lot.  Two protagonists we have been reading about are Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Amelia Bedelia.  The friends have had great discussions about their antics.  Mrs, Piggle-Wiggle has stimulated conversations about the unorthodox way she gets things done.  Even thought the friends agree that parts of the story would work and are interesting ways to solve problems, they still say they can't believe the story would be true because she lives in a house that is upside down.  Ridiculous! 

And with Amelia Bedelia, her ideas are funny, but it made the students think about perception and the way one phrase can be taken in many ways and understood differently by separate people.  It was fun hearing how the children incorporated this fun word into their daily vocabulary.  And so, let's take a moment to say it all together: Ridiculous!!! 

If you would like something to continue at home to connect home and school, here are two options
(Although I image you could think of more than this after reading this whole post):
Have you had any funny stories from you life lately that would cause someone to say, "Ridiculous!"?
Do you have any other books you could bring to class that also have a funny or ridiculous element to them?

Thank you as always for all your great ideas and for your contributions to our class!  Enjoy your day, Jennifer

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back to School!

Welcome back!  I hope you enjoyed the time off!  The photo above is from my holiday of getting out and about in SD.

We have had a nice start to this week back after the holiday.    The friends have been so interested in their work lately and I feel that they are keeping track of the ideas that are on going and doing a great job reminding us of all the things they want to get to.

On Monday we went on a walk around the block for exercise and saw one of the Magnolia trees that had a pod that was bursting with bright red seeds.  The friends launched into a discussion on what makes the seeds be ready to fall or pop out of it's pod (gravity- but then why are only some on the ground?), and on how it might germinate.  We brought one back to class and the friends formed a group that planed the seed.  We are having many discussions about this and friends are bringing their prior knowledge to the table.  Friends wonder if we planted it at the right depth.  Also if it's the right time of year to plant the seed.  And then there was the debate about how often to water it.  The Western Garden Book that I keep in our class gave some ideas, but left us with more questions we plan to look up on the Internet or maybe to ask an expert, too.

The planting discussions are swirling around and stimulating many thoughts.  Henry shared some photos of his home garden's recent story.  He was excited to tell us about the frost event that happened over the holiday.  The children were very curious to ask about the differences in the two photos and were interested in the different names for the types of pumpkins and squash he had planted.  This also helped  to drive home the concept that sometimes it may not be the right conditions to plant!

I hope to see you all this Thursday night at 6pm for our Family Favorites Potluck! 
 I can't wait to eat all the yummy food.  It all sounds so delicious. 
Looking forward to chatting and seeing all of you!  Love, Jennifer

Friday, November 19, 2010

Molting, "homework" and Lots of Love LOVE LOVE!

Hello families!

The Love Party was a nice time.  We had many great discussions about how we would like to treat each other, and we had some great treats!  Even with the best intentions, there wasn't love all day.  We did have feelings hurt, and we are still, as with most humans, trying our best to give out as much love as we can.  The friends really enjoyed the special snacks the families prepared.  Thank you for signing up and making such lovely home made items at the last minute.  Thank you for pouring your love into our class!

Thursday we watched a video on Giraffes.  This was inspired by the Enzy stories.  The children have been adding different animals to interact with their ant main character, the most recent being a giraffe.  Isn't it interesting that they mention the acacia tree again?  That was in the ant video a while ago, too!


Remember that next week our school is closed.  The friends were noticing we have nine home days!  If you would like some "home work" please feel free to take photos, collect natural items and do anything to bring to school your memories and stories of the special home time with your family.

Speaking of home work...  I know our school doesn't believe in homework, and I do not either because it usually turns into something that is stressful and not fun which is the exact opposite of what meaningful learning experiences should be.  That said, our class has a game called 3 Clues Mystery box.  (see below)

The friends would like to take turns taking the mystery box home and writing up three clues for the mystery item they put in the box.  My wish is for this to be FUN!  Please let me know if this will put a strain on your home evenings.  Feel free to have it home for a few days if rushing this activity will make it not fun.  It seems that each friend is excited to have a turn at keeping the secret!

Last, I wanted to show you the video we watched that Gretchen, Tayler's mum, brought in of the actual lobster molting, who's previous shell we have in our class.  This has sparked much interest.  So many people who come through our class have asked, "Is that a real lobster?"  It's hard to get your brain around the idea that it's real, but the animal is done with this shell.  Thank you for bringing in such interesting and inspiring specimens!

I hope you enjoy looking at these things together and continuing the conversation at home.  Enjoy your time off!  Love, Jennifer

Thank you!

Hello families,

A parent had a great suggestion that I thought I'd follow through with.  Coco's mum suggested that I put up an updated wish list because many families might want to donate something to the class around the holidays.  You families have been so generous, everything you are bringing in has been so helpful.

Thank you!

Here are some things we can really use right now- we would like to start using more materials, like watercolor and magnets so we'll need some other items:

magnets sets of all types ex: geomag brand
unifix cubes
cuisenaire rods
pattern blocks
Keva, City or Kappla blocks
narrow planters for outside our classroom
Color and black Ink cartridges for our class printer: Brother DCP-110C

Here's the link to our wish list, too if this helps for more ideas.

Possibly found around the house:
empty baby food jars
small random metal objects
fabric napkins
rags for clean up jobs

And last but NOT least, unique natural items and specimines.  Keep them coming, they have been such inspiration for the children and their explorations! 

Enjoy your break.  Love to you all,  Jennifer

Monday, November 15, 2010

What are you thankful for?

Hello families,

As we look at the calendar and see so many home days, the friends have begun talking about what these holidays mean.  Last week we generated a beginning list of what we are thankful for.  You can find this on our door.   The friends are adding more to this list and still thinking about what the meaning of Thanksgiving is for them.  Here are some thoughts from our discussions.

What is Thanksgiving about? (In their own words)

It's about giving love.

It's about caring.

It's not just about turkeys.  It's like when someone gives something to someone and they thank you.

It's helping each other, working things out and if someone gets hurt, first you ask if they're okay and if they need anything.  You don't want anyone hurt on Thanksgiving.

How could we celebrate what we are thankful for?

To eat food

To play together and help each other

We could say, "I love you".

We could give some hugs.

After this, the friends didn't seem to want a lot of fanfare, but to plan a day of being nice to each other.  They decided that having a Love Party was how they want to celebrate.

Here are their plans for the Love Party:

Eat cookies that say "Love" or heart shaped cookies.

Cut out the word love (for decorations) and hearts or hearts with wings and "I love you" for the walls (why wings?  So love can fly to you)

Give loving messages to people who you never gave a message to.  (the class agreed to generate a message for each child during this week)

So the jobs the friends plan to get done for the party are:
1) Someone will count how many children are in our class so they can decide how many cookies to ask for (their first estimate of ten was thought to be too much when people thought that it meant ten each, and too little when the friends realized that they meant only ten cookies in all!)

2) Someone or some friends will create a sign up for milk, and the two types of cookies.  (we still have the juice from the last party)

3) Friends plan to make the decorations for the walls

4) Create a sign that says "Welcome to the Love Party"

5) Make friends messages all week

They are getting the hang of organizing themselves for celebrations.  It seems that they have the truth in what matters here. It is nice to see this.  (If I really think about it, these are my own personal priorities, too: Dessert, Togetherness and Love, in any order)

I wish you a week full of LOVE!  And thank you for sharing such sweet friends!  Love, Jennifer

PS there are many other amazing things happening here in our room, so please keep watching the interesting topics that arise during open choice time.  You can always find this in our planned possibilities binder!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fun and Exciting Times!

Hello Families!

Tuesday the friends prepared hummus with Stephanie.  We thought it was funny because it was cooking class, but there wasn't any actual cooking.  But lots to learn!  For a few days before this, we talked a bit about hummus and made some predictions.  Here are two lists they created:

Thinking about what it tastes like from our prior experiences:
Minty, salty, tastes like cheese, spicy, watery

Predicting what ingredients might be in hummus:

Mint, salt, french fries, cheese, pepper, a little water, something yellow-ish or white-ish.

Then the friends looked at the recipe that Stephanie so diligently created and found what goes in hummus. After preparing this treat, they used bagels and vegetables to make Bagel Faces.  Stephanie shared that there were many friends who said they didn't like the vegetables offered, but then she also noticed that a lot of friends ended up eating their creation!  So it seems it was a success.  It's fun to mix, test, taste and discover new things to eat.  Below you see the recipe.  Sometimes this blog doesn't like images and even though I have already rotated them, it wants them to be sideways.  Sorry that it's odd!

We have also been exploring with the Kappla a lot lately.  The friends are on a mission to build to the ceiling.  This has been tricky.  The latest work has been in testing what patterns will be best to be able to meet this challenge.  The friends have built as high as they can standing on a chair, and need your help.
 If you can bring a 8 or 10 ft ladder please do!  The friends are super excited to reach the ceiling. 
Also, if you have any Kappla type blocks, and could lend them, we may need them!

Happy Veteran's day!  Love, Jennifer

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What an exciting discovery!

Today's assignment: Researching the trash and recycle truck from above.  After a lot of patience, and many theorizing drawings and discussions (What is inside, a crusher, fire, what???!!!)  to help us think about what to do to find out this info, here's what we saw this morning.  Below are the photos for any friends who had to stay home today.  Or for friends who want a closer look! 

Now the friends have so many more questions that we plan to ask an expert: the trash truck driver!
Stay tuned to see how their research unfolds!
Enjoy your night!  Love, Jennifer