Thursday, March 31, 2011

Enjoy your Break!

Hello Families!

I am relaxing here before the fun Family night at 5:30!  And I'm relfecting on possible "homework" or "homefun" you can have over the break if you are looking for things to investigate.  Here are some things that the kids have been interested in lately:

Cause and Effect:  How do things relate and what causes make different outcomes?
This was inspired by many discussions of wind, water currents and cloud and smoke movement.  I searched for images on the internet to use as a jumping off point.  Then the friends drew, described and wrote about what they think is happening in the image. 

Also, today we looked at a simple cause and effect and discussed gravity, wind currents, speed and weight when looking at how my skirt moves.  We discussed this outside, but I reinacted it inside and asked friends to take photos so we could investigate and explain this more.  Here they are. 

What do you think is happening here?  Can you explain this phenomenon?

Also lately the friends have been so into their journal time!  They have been choosing a topic, drawing their ideas and then writing at least a key word or two, or a sentence to go with their topic.  Our recent topics have been how trains are made, volcanos, and the orchestra.  They have a long list of future topics and many of them are types of animals, so any animal investigation could be great!

Another possibility that the kids are getting into is the dictionary.  Many friends have used this resource lately and this week I asked Coco and Bridget W to show us how to use it.  The friend noticed strategies that children's dictionaries include to make it easy to find your word.  They were also realizing that one way that is written is the pronunciation and the other is the spelling.  This was important to know since if you write the wrong one then your whole goal of looking up a word can be unrealized!  :)  Many friends have been enjoying looking up words in the dictionary and reading the definitions.  We also play a game using the dictionary, which I'm sure your child can teach you!

And our next number we are thinking about is 4.  Friends are realizing this quantity and how it works.  Creating an addition or subtraction equation using 4 can be great practice.  The kids also are making up creative and funny stories to go with these.  For example, Logan's cat that took three out of five mice,  leaving two lucky mice.

Also any chance to try to count things by twos, fives or tens has been fun for us.  These are big concepts.  This goes with our investigation of coins and their value.  The kids are starting to realize that although a nickle is larger than a dime, it's not worth more...  Sometimes the friends get a handful of nickles, dimes and pennies and try to figure out how many cents they have.  Counting by tens and fives helps when dealing with these coins.

Well, I hope that helps if you were looking for something to inspire an investigation.    And I hope you have a lovely week off!  Love, Jennifer

Friday, March 25, 2011

What a day!

The trip to the theater was lovely!  I was so proud of our kids.  They were able to sit and wait for the performance and were respectful and engaged throughout.  Then we took our walk to lunch and were able to see some cool downtown type things.  For instance the kids spotted many cranes, workers going up the outside of a building to repair the siding and different trees that were growing new leaves.  What a special day. 

Thank you so much to all our drivers for making this adventure possible!  And for sharing the moment with us!  I was struck yesterday by what a nice group of families we have.  Thank you for making my day.

I am also going to put a few things up from yesterday.  Your children are getting to be so aware of documenting their experience.  Often in our day, as we finish something cool the kids will say, "You should put this on our blog!"  I try to update it as much as I can.  Here are a few things they have asked to share with you.

In many parts of our work lately we have been talking about descriptive words and how to give more information to your reader.  This comes up in story writing, when explaining a concept to a friend, in our math equations and so much more.  We do lots of different games and activities to highlight this concept and strengthen our vocabulary awareness.  In this game I wrote out a simple sentence with spaces for adjectives.  We looked at the sentence and agreed that it could stand alone: The dog was eating food.  But then when we began to think of descriptive words the friends could see how much more you could change things with just two more words added to the sentence.  Here are the sentences after they gave possible words:

We talk a lot about painting a picture in your reader's mind.  Here, as you read these four different sentences, you can see how the story in your mind changes with the different word choices.  This is the power of our language.  I think the children are beginning to feel this power.  Each day as we edit our class journal the friends have been pointing out discrepancies more and more.  They are offering new ways to say things so that they are more clear and better represent what we want to convey.  These kids amaze me every day!

Another exciting new possibility is the fact that many friends are feeling their ability to read!  Friends have been taking time in the day to read to a peer.  And this is different to other times in our year, where friends are storytelling while they hold the book.  In this case the friends are sounding out words and reading what is really on the page!  We do this in partnerships or groups so that the children can scaffold each other.  They learn from seeing the words as their friend reads, and they also can help sound out words that someone gets stuck on.  They are so amazed at their new found abilities.  And this is so empowering for them!

Well, there's always more coming in our class!  These children are just so full of wonder, exuberance and life.  More soon!  Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Off to the Orchestra!

Good afternoon Families!

Today we continued our discussion about orchestras and Vivaldi to get ready for our field trip on Thursday.  So exciting!  Here is the video that we watched most of: (we stopped towards the end when the teacher began speaking)

The kids were excited to share their prior experiences with these instruments.  And they were interested to note that the musicians were kids!  The other thing that they brought up many times was how many musicians there are in an orchestra.  They were curious about how some of the instruments actually work.  (as they often are, they want to know the ins and outs of things!)
I hope you enjoy watching this video with your kids and would love to hear what new things they noticed as well as what types of discussions this inspired for you at home. 

Please feel free to write you comments in to share with everyone!

Have a nice evening!  Love, Jennifer

Monday, March 21, 2011

Got Spirit?

Hello families!

Here are the three days of our school spirit week that are coming up. 

Wednesday: Crazy Hat or Hair Day
Thursday: Fancy Dress Day (we are going to the theater that day!)
Friday: Pajama Day

I hope it's a fun week.  For me this made me think about what elements of the spirit of Innovations that I love.  Here are my top few:

Our spirit of quest: seeking new ideas and ways to communicate and interact and form community
Our spirit of adventure: the kids are always up to try new things (example today's hail storm, they were super excited to experience it out on our back walk!)
Our spirit of friendship and collaboration: The kids love to work together and are at times so caring about others.
Our spirit of wonder: The kids love to wonder how things are made, how people do things, and how, how, how!

Thank you to all the families who could make it out to the bay park this weekend.  It was such a lovely day to connect and catch up.  Let's do this again!

Love, Jennifer

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Does Air Move?

Hello Kindergarten Families!

Today we had an interesting discussion at our Internet Investigation time.  Many friends have been trying to make illustrations that show wind, air or smoke.  The kids were thinking about how air and the wind effect these things so that they do not always flow upward.  I was also thinking about the journal topic friends chose yesterday: how are trains made?  So we watched these two simple videos.

The second video brought up the element of dissipation.  They were talking about what happens to the smoke and how it looks lighter the farther it gets from the two pipes that the smoke is flowing from.  They made the correlation with dissolving sugar into water.  They also pointed out that the other air is mixing with the smoky air and that is why it is getting lighter. 

I am always excited to hear how the kids explain how things work.  They love the process of analyzing something and coming to their own new understandings.  The kids teach each other so much!

I hope you had a lovely Friday, like we did!  Thank you for sharing your children with me.

Love, Jennifer

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What do holidays mean to you?

Hello Families!

Today was St. Patrick's day and the excitement was in the air.  Yesterday many of the kids brought up the problem that they didn't want to be pinched today.  It was so neat to see the kids planning ahead to make the day fun and successful for themselves.    And I love that they know to bring these type of issues to their class to work out together.  Six friends put their names on the list that meant they were playing and planned the rules for the pinching game.

The day dawned and most friends wore green and friends were buzzing about the outfits.  Many friends agreed that Bridget W. looked like a leprechaun.  No one who said they were playing the pinching game forgot to wear green, so no kids were pinched! :)

We continued our discussion about this holiday, which the kids began yesterday.  The kids are intrigued by the idea of leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.  They said they have seen these on TV and in films. And one friend even told a story of seeing one at night.  The kids asked lots of questions. 

As far as why we celebrate and what the green, the shamrock and the pinching symbolize or come from, the children really weren't sure.  The kids weren't sure if St. Patrick was a leprechaun himself, but they did know that he lived a long time ago.  It can be hard for a five year old to connect with the meaning of holidays by looking at how people celebrate.  I feel that this was a great time for friends to discuss with their families.   

What does this holiday mean to your family?
Can you make researching this holiday something fun for the family to do together?

I would love to hear about any further conversations you have and how the kids translate into their own reality!

Here are the three questions that your children asked me to post here for you.

Why do we Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?
Where do leprechauns live?
Where's the golden path?

I hope you have fun researching together and also, maybe, embellishing a bit too.  The elements of the unknown are fun.  The kids, even though some are skeptical of the reality of some elements of the gold and leprechaun part, enjoyed the idea of this tantalizing possibility.  The kids so enjoy storytelling.  Don't we all like to listen and suspend our realities when someone is telling a good yarn?

Here's my question:

Do you know anyone who has found the pot of gold?

I hope you are enjoying a nice evening.  I can't wait to see you at the park on Saturday!

Fanuel Park 11 am in Pacific Beach.  Come enjoy the togetherness and the outdoors!

Love, Jennifer

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Do You Make Learning Permanent?

Hello families!

What an inspiring week.  Sometimes just being with your children is so inspiring.  Gaby and I have noticed that a lot of work is happening, and the level of work is becoming so amazing.  The children are really challenging themselves and are turning finishing work that they have spent much time perfecting.  Here are some of the finished illustrations for our songs and poems book:

 Illustration by Tennacee for One Green Jelly Bean

Illustration by Henry for Here Comes the Sun

Illustration by Ocean for September

Illustration by Connor for October

Also, start looking for the equations they have been writing and solving about the number 3.  This has been very fun.  Some friends are challenging themselves with addition and others are challenging themselves with subtraction.  For many friends this means getting the symbols (- + =)connected to their correct meaning so that the equation does in fact say what they mean.  And they have been using their creativity to show the math involved.  This makes them rather humorous. What, math, fun???

This week I had the privilege of attending the annual California Charter School Conference.  I went to a few seminars that were inspiring!  I wanted to share some information from one that was given by Kristen Mitchell from Coastal Academy.  Her presentation was called Making Learning Permanent: Simple Strategies for Dynamic Results. 

One of the key pieces of knowledge that she offered from her experience as a teacher were her 5 ways to make learning permanent.  She was talking about the importance for children to be in charge of their own learning and actively engage with the information they are learning about. 

Her 5 ways to make learning permanent are:
1.  Children explaining things in their own words.
2.  Children writing about it in their own words.
3.  For children to "do" or "draw"- meaning use other modalities to show what they know.
4.  To teach the topic to someone else.
5.  To sing the knowledge in song form, especially one that they have created themselves.

I could go on and on about other elements she spoke about, but I wanted to give you these simple steps as food for thought.  She had found that when children interact with learning in these five specific ways they will retain it.  This was important for her because she was explaining how she had had years where children did well in class and "got all the answers right" but then did not really remember much after this.  And if they did, they would parrot it back to the teacher, but not be able to use it or make it their own. 

One of the biggest indicators she spoke of was the ability to state your opinion, back it up and then debate or defend an idea with your reasoning.  If children show that they can do that about a given topic, it is probably because they have their knowledge in their brain, rather than regurgitating it.

Interesting stuff, eh?  Please feel free to come to me if you want to talk more about my experiences at the conference!  It was great to be there with so many people who are working to make schools better!

I hope your week is going well.  Have a nice evening, Jennifer

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Wild Parrots!

Happy Friday!

I told the kids I would post the parrots that keep coming to the palm across the street from my balcony.  Their little flock is growing.  Last year it was two, now it's four!

Enjoy your weekend!  Love, Jennifer

P.S.  Can you find all four in each photo?  (I believe if you click on the photo it will enlarge)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Field Trips and Journals!

Hello Families!

Here are three exciting dates. 

1)  Our new park date will be at 11am on March 19th at the Fanuel Park in Pacific Beach.  Bring your family, your bike, your scooter, snacks, lunch, what ever you wish.  This park is near the boardwalk, is across from the bay and has lovely views.  It should be a fun time for all!  Stay as long as you like. 

2)  Also, our next Field trip will be to a special concert in Balboa theater on thursday March 24th.  It is put on by Classics for Kids.  The concert time available is the 11:30 show.  We will have a good snack before we leave and then have lunch after the concert at the park.  I love going on these adventures and enriching our experience and we truly rely on your generosity of time to be able to go.  Please let me know if you can join us and be a driver!

3)  The field trip after that will be on April 26th, a Tuesday.  This will be to a dairy farm.  This one is a bigger day, as the farm is 30 minutes away.  I feel it will be a valuable experience to see where milk comes from and how a farm works.  This is something we don't often see, living in the city.  We plan to try to get there to have snack before the tour, and we were invited to stay after to eat lunch on the farm.  This means we would leave school at 9:30 and return to school at around 2pm.    I am thinking that if families can donate money to a gas fund, we can support the drivers so that they aren't too extended.  What a big and exiting day, I can't wait!

Finally,  I wanted to share some images from our journaling afternoons.  These have  been so calm, reflective and special.  As I sit out with your children, sometimes I'm struck by how connected they are and how willing to support each other.  The last topic was an open choice day where friends came up with what they wanted to draw and write about.  Some of the topics were: climbing a tree, aliens, little red riding hood, building or construction ideas, giraffes, a house in the sun, outer space, trees, pyramids, gardens and soldiers and jets.

Today's topic was inspired by the mail carrier we saw today. 

At this time of year my expectation is that they write at least one or a few key words. The reason, I tell them, is that when they are 20 and look back at their journal, having words might help them to better remember their ideas.  The friends are sounding out and working together to remember teams of letters and the order of letters to make a best try.  Some friends are even writing sentences in their journals!

Please make a point, when  you drop off or pick up, to ask your child to show you and explain their recent journal entries.

Thank you for sharing your amazing, funny, friendly children!  Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Songs and Poems Make our Life Lovely

Hello Families!

When I asked the kids what I should mention in our blog they were pointing out how we've been rhyming a lot lately.  Some friends have been wanting to write their own poems.  With this, friends have been looking for words that help them keep the tempo and flow of their work.  We then brainstorm lists of words for that friend.  Here are some:

Today is the beginning of March and with this means new songs and poems.  We are doing some haiku again.  The friends were amazed to hear the 5-7-5 syllables.  They seemed amazed that someone could work out the math for it and make the poem make sense! 

This has been such a great time for friends to connect with words and feel confident sounding them out.  It is such a joy to see their face when they realized they just read a word or sentence.  At this time of year, many are reading the words as they sing or recite, as well as memorizing sight words.  Reading can be so much fun and music and rhythm go a long way when you are trying to remember new things.

I will post the videos of the three songs we are doing this month.  They are rather fun!  "Dancing in the Moonlight" really makes it clear how the "ght" team sounds.  Why does our language have so many silent letters?  The kids think this is pretty crazy.

The last one is  from last month- it was nice watching them sing this.  They really are a special group of people.  And hearing them sing together is beautiful.  I hope you enjoy listening and singing to these with your child! 

Love, Jennifer