Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who are we?

Hello Kindergarten Families,

So much happened this week, as usual in an active and exciting classroom.  I feel like I won't do it justice here, but hopefully you all received the documentation pages I emailed, too.  I am putting a lot of the children's work up, so please make sure to come in to see it.

This week we talked about ourselves as a class and brainstormed a list of words that would describe who we are.  It was neat to see that words like "Readers", "Discoverers" and "Pleasant People" were on the list.  Interesting to think about our identity as a group and the words that we would like others to use about us.  The list is up on our door.  Soon we will revisit this and see what type of name we shall chose.  As I told the kids, "Jennifer's class" isn't exactly correct, since our class belongs to all of us.

We are continuing to interview a friend a day.  You can find all the interviews in our class binder for now.  This process has helped us to think of more in-depth questions.  The children are beginning to realize that some questions have assumptions attached to them.  For example if you ask, "What do you want for Christmas?", it assumes that you celebrate Christmas. Not all our friends do. These discussions are supporting the children to think of questions that don't assume that the other person thinks, acts and believes just like you do.  It has been neat to see how open the children are, both in being willing to answer these types of questions, and in listening to another's different answers.

This week we watched on video on a Giant Elephant Shrew.  This was so funny because it made us think about names again, and why we chose them.  Why would a 6-inch animal be called a "Giant Elephant Shrew"?  The children were tickled, at first, but then they did find possible reasons for this name to have been chosen.  Here's the link if you want to watch it again:

And finally, we had our first "Silly Meeting" this week.  I have done this in the past and found it was an important part of a classroom's life.  I do it to support the children to see that there is a time and a place for silliness.  By knowing when we ARE being silly, they can begin to see when we are NOT being silly.  We are talking regularly about what clues we can see at every moment to tell what others are doing, expecting and trying to communicate.  Facial features are a large part of this, but this requires getting into the practice of looking!

In a silly meeting, each friend can take a chance to go in front of the class to do something that they think will be silly.  It is also a great outlet for humor, as well as a means to study how humor works.  This week we already saw forms of slapstick, heard jokes (that did and didn't make sense, but all made others laugh) as well as silly noises.    As we do this periodically, the children will begin to see what does and doesn't make others laugh.  And, (and for me this is a big one) they will begin to see that if you repeat the same "funny" antic many times, it loses its ability to be funny.  And don't we all know an adult that may not have learned this yet...?  :)

I would like to share a sunset that I enjoyed this weekend.  Reading (and taking photos) on the beach at sunset is one of my favorite ways to unwind.  I hope you enjoyed a moment with a few of your favorite things this weekend, too!  Love, Jennifer

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's all in the details!


September 21st, 2010

Today was another lovely moment in the life of our class.  It is so nice to watch friends become excited to share their ideas in discussion and now through other means of expression. 

This afternoon we had another journaling session.  In the future we will be looking closely at something we all agree on or on a topic we are trying to explain.  But today we spent time drawing and sharing ideas that are meaningful to us.  It is so interesting to see their take on life and to hear what is most interesting to them.

The act of journaling, and of others asking questions about your work, is helping us to take another look and to add more details that will help us better represent the ideas we are trying to get across.  Friends found they didn't need to be in a hurry, but could slow down and continue to add more and more and more!

Below is an example of a first and second try.  We were pointing out that the friend's arms were coming out of their head.  She changed it to show the shoulders connected to the head, and said she was shrugging!  (Another friend was drawing a stomach at the time, so you can see her second attempt includes this detail as she was influenced by that work)   What do you notice in looking at the two tries?

Have a relaxing evening, Jennifer

Sunday, September 19, 2010

All in the life of a classroom...


It's Sunday and I'm writing.  I'm still trying to take care of myself and whip this cold!  I have had a lot of rest this weekend- and vitamin C and tea.  I hope I'll have more energy next week!  There are a few things going around, so take care. I really appreciate the families who have taken a precausionary day at home when they can so the sicknesses don't spread and also the children who are not feeling their best are at home resting, where we all want to be when we feel like that!

I wanted to let you know that one of our fish died on Friday.  The children were mostly curious about this and came up with many ideas on what could have caused it's death.  There were suggestions that it got into some cold water, it hit it's head on a rock, it ate too much and it drank too much.  (That last one tickled me a bit!)  We agreed we may never know how it died and we talked about how we are feeling.  Many friends took the opportunity to share their thoughts on death, what happends after death, and others in their lives that have died in the past. 

This topic is very interesting to children and may be something that they will be talking about for a while.  I think at this age, what seems so fantastic is that the dead don't come back.  Friends were suggesting that maybe if I just put it back in the water, the fish would come back alive.  This is a hard concept for this age: the idea that something is truely done, and there isn't a way to change this situation.  I just wanted to let you know so that you may support your child and share your family's beliefs on how all this works.

We didn't look at many internet sites this week, instead we continued our investigation of letters found in nature.  The children are using this opportunity to talk about the shapes that make up letters- connecting to them more.  I think describing the shapes help them when they want to begin writing these.  The children are also talking a lot about the differences we are seeing between the lower case and the upper case of each letter. 

We also had some interesting discussions about the differences between a narwal and a swordfish.  The practice of sharing our ideas and also describing nuances has really empowered the children to use more descriptive words to explain what they mean.  They are seeing that they have the power to share verbally what sometimes they want to just show someone.  It is neat to hear how they each describe something.  It shows more of their own personal perspective on the world. 

I will plan to get all the new emails typed into the computer this week so I can send out the latest pages to you.  I hope you all are enjoying the weekend and are staying healthy.  Love to you all, Jennifer

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creating Community

Hello Families!

Many of you met our new assistant Gabi.  She will be with us now and I am so glad to have her.  She brings such a pleasant energy and has already been connecting with the children in meaningful ways.  If you haven't met her yet, please introduce yourselves!

Today I was noticing the connections that the children are already forming.  They are so willing to be partners and work with new friends.  And our discussion times were feeling like a discussion with many friends sharing ideas.  This is a big deal!  We are working with them to move from needed to tell me, to telling everyone, which includes everyone, and essentially asks all present to be active listeners.  Another element the children are working on is when they are speaking with friends to make eye contact and look for facial cues to learn what others are thinking and if they are speaking to you.  These are big and important steps!

I am so excited to get to know these children.  I can already see that each of them are excited to learn and share their ideas.  I look forward to documenting and sharing what I have learned from them!

After such a great day of togetherness, I am going to make a cup of tea.  Enjoy your evening, Jennifer

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thank you!

What a nice day to begin fresh with our larger group of friends.  Soon we will be deciding who will join DeeDee in the K-1 class.  Today many friends were under the weather and didn't come in, so we did not have a lot of children.  Instead the friends connected and began to make our new learning community. It was nice to see how excited the children are to be together to learn.  I feel very lucky to be able to get to know all you families. 

Again, I want to thank you all so much for bringing in your supplies and also for making special purchases of books and items off the class wish list.  It feels so nice to see friends bringing in new things to offer to the class.  Thank you so much for your generosity.

Today was also the first day of our Camps activity day.  The class is divided into two groups.  One group went to Woodworking and PE while the other group went to Mural class and Hiphop.  With the many sessions that we will go through, I feel confident that everyone will get a turn to be a part of all the special classes that our class has.  So don't worry, for the next session, your child will get a taste of the other great fun .

Finally, thank you again for all your suggestions, questions and support.  I feel so great to be working with such connected and involved parents.  Can't wait to see you at the event on Thursday!  Enjoy your evening, Jennifer

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where Do We Find Letters?

Hello Families!  I know change is coming and it feels different, so I hope you will be able to make this afternoon's meeting and we can answer any questions you will have. 

Here are this week's Insprirational internet discussion topics:

Tuesday we looked at a dance from China.  This has a lot of "How are they doing it!?" involved!  The friends really thought about it and realized it had to be many people working together.  They even practiced how you could do this.  Also, some friends were trying to disect the lighting set up to make the costume seem like it was changing.  It was facinating.

Thursday we looked at a video of a bee.  We have been talking about these lately, and we realized this was a safe way to look closely at a bee's business.  The friends are still trying to discuss and break down their ideas of what the bee's jobs are.  They were trying to figure out how nectar, pollen, honey, flower growth and baby bee growth works with all these factors.  The kids still want to discuss this more, maybe looking at it again will help?

And today we looked at some interesting alphabet images that I have collected off the internet.  We were noticing that letters can be found in many ways.  The friends were thinking about where they might find letters in their neighborhood and in their daily travels.

Thank you for sharing your children with me~!  Love, Jennifer

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Do You Feel About Your First Try?

Each time I write here, I am feeling so happy and excited to be working with your children.  There is so much to say each day, so I hope you can make it work to find time each week to have your child give you "a tour" of their latest work in progress.

Something to know about our work is that I am asking the children for the most part to leave their work at school for at least a day.  (Messages are an exception, usually)  We leave work out as a display for other children and parents to see as an example of all of the thinking that is happening in our class.  Basically the group is so connected that the work feels to all the kids as a part of their learning, even when they weren't directly involved.  Sometimes the greatest thing is to see children excitedly showing thier parent the work that another child did.

Today for example, there were many children who made multiple tries in their work.  We are beginning our class culture to include the feeling that making practices, rough drafts and many attempts is key.  The children are already realizing that meaningful, beautiful and special work doesn't usually happen in the blink of an eye.  My goal is for all the children to feel that this process is okay, rather than being hard on themselves in their learning and saying after one try "I can't" or "I'm not good at this".  Instead, They will begin saying, "This is the part that works for me, and this, next time I will try to..."  Truely, how often are we perfect at something from the first try anyway? 

Thank you already for taking this time with your children!  I love seeing  you with the kids at the end of the day and the excitement you share in seeing eachother and connecting.  And thank you for coming to me with all your questions and concerns. 

*** Next Thursday is our Open House night! *** I will be sharing images of each part of our day so that you may see the flow of the day, as well as what we are doing together.  I hope this will help, as well as the time together with other families to ask questions, clarify and connect.    There is a dinner beforehand at 5pm, and the Open house part will be at both 6 and 6:30.  Please try to come for one of these two times! 

Thank you and see you soon.  Love, Jennifer

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Do Whales Lay Eggs?

Hello Kindergarten Families!  Happy Three Day Weekend!  I hope you are enjoying your time together.

I had a nice first week with your amazing kids.  There were already so many great ideas being exchanged and connections being made. 

Each day in the afternoon we look at something on the world wide web to stimulate discussion and to allow us to research things that we probably couldn't have in our classroom.  I like sharing it with you each week so you can look at it again together if you'd like, and also so that you can know what they are talking about!

Thursday's site was:
I chose this because friends on Wednesday were talking about how they like horses.  I thought these were interesting in that they looked real, but were a special form of art, and take a lot of thought to put together.  The children were very impressed that these were not real.  We had a neat conversation that came out of the fact that one child kept saying, "Bad!" and some friends were mad that they weren't "bad".  This gave us a chance to practice asking questions instead of jumping to conclusions and getting upset.  Once we asked the friend what "bad" meant to them, they said, "cool".  Then all the friends began saying, "Bad!" as we looked at more of the images.  As a result we brainstormed many synonymes that we used when we were exclaiming about this work, and added to our collective vocabulary. (You can find this list up in our classroom)

Friday's site was a short video on the National Geographic website:
I dreamt about this last night!  What a rich and interesting conversation!  I tried to write as much of what was being said as possible, so you can read it at school in our discussion and observation note binder.   Essentially I chose this video because many of the children already expressed how interesting animals are to them.  And this video in particular I thought might bring up a nice conversation about team work and how we can work together, like these humpback whales did to catch their fish. 

At first the children did talk a bit about this element, but then one friend asked why they are dangerous.  I asked what made them think this, and another friend said that the man said they were "endangered".  When I explained that endangered means that there aren't many of these animals living, and mentioned how the man who was interviewed was wishing that there would be more humpbacks, the friends began brainstorming how there could be more.  One friend said that the whales could lay more eggs.  Many friends agreed.  This sparked a debate of whether whales laid eggs. 

It was interesting to see how the chidlren described their theories and also how they repaired them when I questioned how this works.  For example, when I shared that whales have to keep swimming and have a long migration, to get to cold water to eat, and to warm water in the summer (we looked on the globe), I asked how can they keep a nest with eggs?  I loved watching the wheels in their brain turn as they took in new information, processed it and then thought how all this could work. 

Many friends began wondering if whales could have babies like humans, but a few didn't want to let go of the notion that whales have eggs and nests.  One friend even came up with an elaborate way for the whales to use their tails to tow their nest of eggs behind them as they migrate.  This was a great discussion for only being our third day together as a collaborative group.  As adults we struggle with the worry that children are "learning" theories that are not true.  My question here is, "Is it better for these children of such a young age to continue to see themselves as people who have great ideas and who can break down parts of our world and try to make sense of it all, or is it better for them to know, today, that whales do not lay eggs?" 

In this case I was hoping they would know that all ideas are welcome here in our growing learning community.  I felt if I told them they are wrong so often, they wouldn't have sharpened their skills of processing new information, seeing how it works or doesn't work in their theory and then coming up with many new possibilities.  We finished our deep discussion because some friends weren't used to sitting for so long, even though others were still theorizing.  The two questions I wrote down to remember that we are still thinking about, to discuss further are: If whales lay eggs, how do they keep a nest and take care of it?   and Could whales have babies in the same way that humans do?

Heady stuff for the first week.  I hope this gives you a context for any comments that came home.  I can see what an inquisitive group of children we have!  They are very excited to learn, and that in itself is my true goal as a teacher: to foster and not squelch their passion for learning!

I hope you are enjoying your weekend!  Thank you for sharing such inquisitive people with me!
Love, Jennifer

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Calling all Parents!

This afternoon the staff got together to talk about how today went and all the other things to make a school great, and one of the reminders was to find someone who is interested in being our room parent.  This can be one person per job, or the jobs can be shared by two people, also.

Here is what was posted on IA's parent site :

1) Room Parent who helps in the classroom and works with other classroom volunteers

2) Fundraising Parent to help organize “family night” fundraisers and yearly Scavenger Hunt fundraiser

3) Fieldtrip Parent to help organize regular rides and chaperones for your child's off-campus events.
I would love to know if you are interested in taking on one of these jobs.  Please contact me for more informaiton.  Thank you so much for all your support and contributions to the school already!  Love, Jennifer
PS Below are some other Volunteer options in our classroom.  This is posted outside our door, as well.
Parent Volunteer Opportunities

Here are just a few options I wrote up so that you could get some ideas. Please feel free to check in with me and let’s talk more!

Thanks, Jennifer

Note taking in class- taking down the ideas and words children have
Time commitment: 20+ minutes, as you can offer
Let Jennifer know when is a good time for you!

Reading to the class
Time commitment 20-30 minutes
Sign up is available outside our class

Sharing your passion or expertise with the class
Time commitment: 20-40 minutes
Check in with Jennifer to find out how this connects with the children's curriculum and experiences

Classroom Care Group support
Time 30-1 hour in open choice time OR before and after school
Supporting children to care for the recycle, and watering of class plants.

Room care support- dusting, wiping down surfaces, etc.
Time commitment before or after school 15-30 minutes
Sign up available outside the room

Field Trip Support
Time Commitment: varies
Coming to join us on trips off campus or volunteering to drive children.

Our First Day!

What a lovely morning!

It was so nice to see your children together and getting to know each other.  I had a great time with them, and can already see that they each have so many ideas and are very excited to share them with us. 

Today was a very different day in that we were getting to know the space and the day was short, so tomorrow we really begin!  Please make sure your child has a solid snack and lunch and a good night's sleep. 

I took many photos today and some of you got to see them.  This isn't something I am going to do each day, but it will be something I do periodically.  Please feel free to ask to see the latest photo show if you come on a different day to pick up and missed it.  We created the afternoon pick up time to be for you to get a chance to have your children show you their work, so I hope you will be able to take advantage of this!

As of right now I am not posting any images on the blog because I need to wait until all the info comes into the office about everyone's preferences.  But I will be sending out periodical emails with documentation pieces attached so that you can see the learning unfolding and see their faces as they discover.

I wish all of you families a nice evening.  Thank you for sharing your children with me!  Love, Jennifer