Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Friday!

Dear Families,  Happy Friday!

Thank you so much for all the donations that are flowing into our class!  It was so nice to hear that the children are thinking about this.  They mentioned the generosity in their end of the day class journal entry the other day.  They were so excited to have more cool stuff to use.  I really appreciate the response and the lovely things that are coming in.  We can use them!

Today we had a visiting friend who is interested in joining our class.  It was so neat to see how friendly and welcoming our group was.  These children are beginning to realize that there are many responsibilities as part of being in a community.  It is nice to think about these children taking these skills on with them as they grow and become responsible members of our community.

Yesterday we watched part of a video I found called, "Big Submarine".  There has been an interest in submarines lately.  The video also helped further our discussion of different genres, in literature and performance.  The friends decided this dvd was a documentary.  They were very interested in all the training a submariner goes through to be prepared for any eventuality that might happen at sea.  They even practice with real fire for fire drills and real pipes shooting out water to fix a leak!

Have you asked your child about their club experience?  They are in either leadership, storytelling, dance party or open atelier (art studio).  I am having so much fun working with children of all ages.  The big kids and the little kids are mentoring each other. 

We have been creating messages to say goodbye to our friend Bella who has decided to have a much shorter commute and go to a neighborhood school.  She will be missed!  It has been a nice moment to reflect on how far the friends have gotten with their writing and messages.  They are practicing remembering all the parts of a message to make it complete.  Here are some examples of ones that are finished!  (Others are still in progress because friends are taking the time needed to make each message special and meaningful!)

I hope you enjoy your weekend!  Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do You See It?

Hello Families!

We had many lively discussions today.  Sometimes the children amaze me when it's a Monday and they are on fire with fabulous ideas!

We also went on a walk in our building area to get a little excersize before lunch.  We ended up looking for quite a while at some birds.  Thyra noticed a dove in the leafless maple trees.  We stopped and watched- it was hard to find at first!  The feathers and the branches seemed to be the same color.
Friends were wondering what the bird was doing in the tree, and why it was staying there and staying so still.  Is it sleeping?  Is it going to make a nest there?  As we watched it, some smaller birds came and they landed on the small pokey pods and balanced there swinging and picking at the pods.  This was really neat to watch.

Sometimes the power of an ordinary moment inspires so much.  We could have kept walking when Thyra pointed out the dove, but watching, commenting and formulating possibilities and questions allowed us to have a sweet and special experience.  Some friends said they want to keep investigating and to see if the dove is still there after school.  Did anyone check? 

We will look into this more as our interest deepens.  As a teacher I wonder what interests them the most.  Our further discussions will help me see.  And if you speak at home with your kids, will you please email if any clear thread comes from this?

Thank you, Jennifer

PS the server is rejecting my photos for some reason.  It has been finicky before and then passed.  Meanwhile I will post this without the images.  Ug.  Please stop by tomorrow morning and I will have a slide show running outside of our classroom!  I will include the dove and our lemonade making images!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Math and Music in our Day

Hello Families!

Yesterday we looked into our estimation jar.  I love offering these little activities because I hope families enjoy finding time before or after school to do these together. I hope you are enjoying the discussions you have while you do the activity with your child.

Our last jar held small wooden dominoes.  The friends had a range of estimates.  As we count the days we have been in school and represent this with straws each afternoon, I feel the kids are stretching their number sense with this practice.  We looked again at the amount and friends were sure that there were less than 100.  Then as we counted the friends began to realize they might need to rethink their estimates and then they would say their next guess.  This happened a few times when we passed the friend's guess as we counted and then we would stop and look at how many were left, how many we counted and then make a new estimate.  This process fosters great skills!

So in the end we found there were 28 dominos in the jar.  And we counted these by tens and by fives, two other concepts the children are getting.  Fun stuff!

Today we continued our investigation of music that has a story in it.  We listened to the sounds that go with the characters in "Peter and the Wolf".    Here are some reflections the friends had.

Yama: It was kind of scary.  Some of us thought it was sneaky music. The part when it sounded like the wolf was breaking into a house.
Ocean: The hunters' music was short.  It sounded like the side drum.  I was not sure if it sounded suprised, scary or happy.
Tayler: Peter, it sounded like he was trying to find a girl.  It sounded a little pretty to me.
Paz: I know he is walking and that's what the music sounds like.
Ocean: It sounds like he was skipping.
Logan: The wolf kind of sounded scary because he was kind of stomping.
Tayler: the bird sounded like the bird was whistling.
Thyra: It kinda sounded like a flute.
Cecelia: The grandfather kind of sounded scary to me.
Liam: The wolf kind of was a little scary for me 'cuz it sounded like he broke into the house and he was trying to get someone.
Tennacee: (thinking about Peter) It sounds happy.
Paz: It sounds like he is happy about catching the wolf.
Thyra: But what about if the wolf eats him?
Abdullah: It sounded kind of happy- the bird one.  It sounded like the bird was flying.
Ocean: The wolf was really scary because it sounded like he was thinking about eating something.
Jenna: The duck sounded like it went under something and it went into a house to eat.

After listening to the sounds of the characters, we read the story and acted it out with the music.  (It was especially funny because we realized that sometimes our "wolf" has to go to the bathroom and we have to have an intermission until our actor return! This created a lot of suspense while we waited!).  The kids did a great job for their first try.  We will continue this again soon!

I hope you enjoy listening and talking about how the music works with the story.  It is interesting to think about how the sounds and instruments effect what we think about that character!

Enjoy your evening, Jennifer

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Was He A King?

Today, as we often do when we come back to school for the week,  we had a discussion about the home days.  This lead us to think about why we had an extra day off.  Paz had some ideas about this to share with the group, one of which being that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't lie.  Other friends shared what they knew or had seen on TV about this.  You may have more discussion about death and dying because a friend also  brought up that Martin Luther King, Jr shot and was dead.  This brought up the question that many friends at this age are still grappling with which is, can people come back alive after being dead?

We talked about how Martin Luther King, Jr was given a holiday in his honor and what his work was to deserve this. Cecelia asked if he was a king, which makes sense when that's your last name, doesn't it?

As a part of our discussion about this great leader, I shared one of my favourite Martin Luther King, Jr quotes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

We related this a bit to us in our class and how we deal with others who are mean or doing things we don't like.  Do we respond with more meanness?  How do we stop the negative energy?  As we talked and acted out how adding hate to hate or using love to fend off hate would work, Thyra said that it reminded her of our poem from December's songs and poems.  Here it is:


The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

By Robert Frost

Thyra was thinking about having a change of heart and how this is similar to opening your heart to others to let them have rights that they were denied.  It was a lovely moment for me, to think about how the friends are making connections and scaffolding their knowledge to create a caring sense of the world around them.  The children were very sure about spreading love instead of hate.  This is a nice reminder!
I hope you are enjoying your evening!  Love, Jennifer

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are You Almost Six?

When is your birthday? 
The children have been interested in this lately.  This interest came from the children talking about time and our calendar.  Jenna was telling us that she is almost six, and then she told us their birthday is in October.  After a little time and discussion, all of a sudden Yama was like, "Wait a minute..." He pointed out that if Jenna's birthday was in October, then he didn't think that meant "almost six".  This sparked an investigation into how many months it would be until that Jenna will turn six.  We got our old calendar out, and our new 2011 calendar and we counted.  Woah!  The friends are really beginning to put this cyclical concept together.  It was interesting too, because after looking at all the months we will need to go through before we will be back in October, Jenna still said that she is almost six.  I guess it's all relative, right?  Maybe she's almost six in comparison to how long it will be until she's old enough to drive?  Or maybe if you want something hard enough, you CAN be almost six, no matter what the facts are!

These types of discussions have stimulated the friends to want to investigate and collect the data of our class.  A group is putting together a poll to find out when each of us were born.  It was interesting because when it comes down to it, not everyone knew when they were born.  So if you would like to extend this discussion at home, maybe share the story of your childn's birth.  What time of year was it, what was the weather like outside?  Were there any special parts of this already special story?  We will continue to talk about this more.

We are really beginning to collect data and assemble the knowledge that we have.  We are also adding many more entries into our "Words we know" binder.  The friends are now collecting these words in an alphabetic order to be a resource for when they are writing their stories and creating titles for their other work.  If your child sees a word they know in their outside life and wants to write it down, please bring it in for our collection!!!

Here are some videos we discussed lately:

Each morning I drink tea and the children have gotten into the habit of asking to see the leaves and smelling it.
They have been asking about this for a while, so we looked into it.  The two vocab word concepts that came up was what is "withering" and also the concept of "loose tea" was intriguing.  Did it "get loose"?  The children are expanding the meanings that they are attaching to words they already know.  These are often subtle and take some time to think about how the term can work in a new setting.

Thanks for all your conversations and connections in coming into the classroom.  There are a thousand things to share each week, so coming in helps me point you in the right direction.  I try to share lots here, but am usually forgetting many great things when I sit down to type.  More soon, as usual.

Enjoy your evening, Jennifer

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Special Pair Share

I am taking a class on Tuesdays that asks me to do a lot of reflections about my teaching.  I was thinking this one would be especially interesting to you as parents, so here it is with images attached!

What did you try?

I set the class up in pairs (thoughtfully chosen so that the groups were balanced and each peer brought different talents to the table...) and each friend was able to choose their own image from images I have collected over the years to stimulate discussion and storytelling. Some images are black and white, some are of animals interacting, but most were of people interacting with others or were of a person within a situation, for instance a child wearing a backpack in the foreground, with a bus driving away in the background. Since I have used most of these images before, I knew that they have meaning/connection to children of this age.

The situation was for each student to take a turn at "reading" their photo and then telling a story about it. The emphasis was on the act of speaking to your photo, not whether you were right or wrong in your “analysis”. Each student took a turn to tell the story of their image. Then after each student gave feedback about their friend's story and what they were thinking as they listened (an example is, "I thought you were going to say that she got lost, but then you didn't say that and the story ended differently than I was thinking it would"), then they exchange photos and do the process again.

After the experience we came back together to talk about what it was like to hand over your photo and hear a different story.

What did you hope to accomplish?

The answer is many fold, but initially I was thinking about perspective and fostering that feeling that there isn't a "wrong" answer. This helps to bolster the confidence necessary in attacking any new problem. And reading is a big bag of new problems to attack! And in reading you are often looking at contextual clues within the reading to help you gain more understanding, and I feel this is what these friends were doing with their photo.

I was also hoping they would gain storytelling practice and feel the power of creativity. As well as giving feedback and reflecting on their personal experience as they were listening to a story.

What happened?

Many friends were excited by what new ideas their peer came up with, while others had a hard time hearing that someone had a different story connected to the same image.

The thing I wasn't expecting, but which was interesting, was that the biggest complaint friends had: that their friend's story wasn't long. I hope that this means they liked the activity and that they would like their peers to gain this skill so that they can hear longer stories in the future.

What do you make of it?

Next time it would be different if I ask the children to bring in their own image. This might be more meaningful. We have had this request, but it's not coming from home yet. Some friends were jazzed to go home and bring in more images for us to use!

I would also like to add the element of journaling while your friend speaks. At this age, this is tricky, because they do not have the ability (across the whole class) to multi-task, and also to produce drawings on topic while a friend is speaking. But maybe the change I would make is to have the friends tell their stories and then each one draw quietly for a bit, and maybe even think of a title for their friend's story. This would be a good challenge because many friends' tendencies are still to draw and title their own work, instead of someone else's.

As parents, what do YOU make of this? 
Please share your thoughts and comments!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The first school day of 2011!

Hello, here are some images from my relaxing and lovely vacation in Mexico.

Hello everyone, Happy New Year!   It is 2011 now and the children are excited that we have a new calendar.  The photo of a polar bear really interested them and when they realized that a polar bear is SO much bigger than even our tallest dads, they were boggled! 

It was really lovely to see how the children came back to each other.  Javon had many spontaneous comments like, "I missed you guys!"  They are such a sweet group of friends.  And the morning discussion was as if we have never been away from each other, friends were working out who would talk next and giving each other the floor so graciously.  It was beautiful and because they were solving all their own problems, I got to just sit back, listen and smile at their reflections and ideas.

We worked a little more on the building work that was started and inspired by the building party.  Then we had a short discussion about what we learned from this experience.  The notes that Gaby so carefully took are in the discussion binder on the welcoming table by the door.  It was interesting to hear in their own words how they think they see balance and structures in new ways after so much problem solving!

Our wire work is growing, take a moment to come in and see what we've been up to. And tomorrow we begin exploring watercolor.  Thank you to Ocean's family for getting us the supplies we needed for this!  I think it will be a medium that really lends itself to helping these friends explain their many and great ideas.

Just a quick note today, more soon.  It's nice to be back with your fabulous kids! 
Have a nice evening, Jennifer