Tuesday, April 15, 2014

World's Toughest Job

The world's toughest job isn't teaching kindergarten.

It's this:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ella brought in an imaginative story about crayons. We all liked it.

At PE today, Mrs. Campbell had the class working on tennis skills.

Ms. Guthrie read the class a story in the library. She provides a box of hand-picked library books for us to look at each week.

Be well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rainbow Loom

One of the centers we are running this week is the Rainbow Loom. I'm told that this thing is growing quickly in popularity. The kindergartners seem quite interested in it. A good number of the kinders can weave them independently, with skill and sureness I have yet to develop.

We will see these in our next round of centers that begin on Thursday. Next time around we'll have enough looms so that every kid can have one.

Many of the kids weave the bands in patterns of their own invention. Applying what they've learned in new situations is called a "higher-order thinking skill" by educators. Yes, they happen down here in kindergarten, too.

Be well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Newsbits

The class photo went well and we got back in time to do centers as usual.

One of the centers this week is making "Eggs in a Basket" one of those tried-and-true classroom recipes that is probably cooked more at school than anywhere else. It's sort of like French Toast, but different. More like a egg fried in a slice of bread. In any event, it gives kids a chance to see the transformations of food that cooking involves and it sure makes the room smell good. Amy's been running this center.

That's our new boy, Ivan, on his second day with us at the lower left.

We got to enjoy the very spring like weather today on bikes. Mrs. M even brought her bike.

Jax practiced his skidding skills.

The boys bonded.

Activities like these promote the healthy development of social skills.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Class Group Photo First Thing Tomorrow

Today a kindergartner's grandma told me that her grandson was happy to ride on training wheels until the day his younger cousin got going on two wheels. At that moment the desire and determination to shed the training wheels took over and he's been riding ever since.

In the same way, playing Bingo at school is great for the kids who were happy not to read two-digit numbers. At school when they play with friends, they quickly see that others can read them. The determination to learn this skill is born.

In this second round of Bingo I'm seeing a whole lot more kids learn how to read two-digit numbers because they want to know how, and they know they can learn. It's fun to watch it happen.

Mrs. Zell's Bingo cage makes the second time round more interesting.

And, two reminders:

Tomorrow is Classroom Group photo day. We'll get to that first thing in the morning and I expect we will be able to do centers.

Tomorrow is also a bike and garden day.

Be well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spirit Day Tomorrow: Wear BLUE shirts

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 9, is April's spirit day. The student council is calling it "Color Day" meaning that they want people to show their school spirit by wearing a class color.

Kindergarten's color is blue. We talked a bit about it just before dismissal today. We hope that everyone can find a blue shirt to wear to school. The more solid blue it is the better. Your child will count as participating if their shirt is blue or at least mostly blue. A shirt of another color with a little blue on it does not count.

Any shade of blue is fine....


Also, just a reminder that on Thursday, April 10 Class Group Photos will be taken first thing in the morning. Please try to arrive on time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

One More.... Four Year Old BMX Riders

Okay, you know we ride bikes Mondays and Thursdays. We even jump 'em.

Not like these guys, though.

Show this one to the Dunham kindergarten riders...

I think these guys would like to come to kindergarten at Dunham!

Sort of Off-Topic:Jellybeans...

Lotsa teachers—some at Dunham—hand out jellybeans as rewards. Here's another use for jellybeans.

Check out this short video using jellybeans to show how we choose to use our time.

New Center Start Tomorrow

We'll start a new round of centers tomorrow.

The class learned how to play dominoes this morning. If you've got a set of dominoes at home, play a game tonight.

Be well.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Same Snack Calendar & Other News


Wednesday's unexpected school closure may have caused some uncertainty about the snack calendar. Please follow the existing calendar—the April Snack Calendar that was sent home last Friday. (I'm aware of a few tweaks parents have arranged among themselves to celebrate birthdays, and those exchanges are fine.)


For those of you who might be interested in some at-home fun, Mrs. Zell enclosed her recipe for "Gack" or "Slime" that interesting blue stuff the kids made in Mrs. Zell's center last time around. I'm guessing that you might enjoy making a batch at home.


We'll be playing another round of Bingo in the coming round of centers. If your child needs some practice instantly recognizing two-digit numbers, I commend to you the traditional game of Bingo. At school I've seen about a dozen of the kindergarten class become much more familiar with reading and recognizing these numbers as a result of playing. And the good thing is, they don't have much sense of "working at learning" this skill. I can assure you that direct lessons on this topic do feel like work.

If you don't have a traditional Bingo game to play at home, consider going out this weekend and bringing one home. You can get a good basic game for less than $20.


We won't have centers on Monday morning. But if you're a parent volunteer, please feel free to stay while we introduce the game of dominoes to the kindergarten class.

Also on Monday we will welcome a new boy to our class, Ivan (pronouced EE' bvon). Ivan will be learning to speak English as he gets acquainted with his new classmates.


The weather forecast for the coming weekend calls for warming and sunnier days ahead. I hope everyone will have a chance to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Be well.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bingo & Bikes

After the unexpected day off yesterday, this morning felt a bit like a Monday.

At centers in my group we're playing Bingo, a great game for teaching two-digit numbers to kindergarten schoolchildren. Quite a few have improved their abilities to tell a 37 from a 73. We'll repeat this center next time around.

Today Dario got the winning card.


It was also a bike day, and unlike on Monday earlier this week, we were able to get out there and ride. It was great. The boys enjoy the challenge of jumping their bikes over a small hillock on the southeast corner of the track.

Dario getting some air under that front wheel

Kaden too

And Wyatt

I was especially pleased that the girls, who previously seemed to prefer watching this BMX action, decided to join the fun. Addie got things going for the girls, what with her horseback riding experience coming in to play....

Here is Addie getting some air as Kaden offers an encouraging word.
Some other girls had a go, too.

Aubrie gave it a go. Getting air awaits another day.

Lexi rode through the bike jump, too. Yay for the girls.
I wasn't able to photograph all the kids riding through the jumps. A lot of kids had a go at it.

Have a good afternoon.

Be well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

School's Closed & Blog Worth Reading

When I arrived at school this morning to find Roblar Road closed and the power off, I had the feeling we might not have school today, and that feeling was right.

I hope you all were not unduly inconvenienced by the unexpected closure of school.

The extra time allowed me to catch up on the bills to pay, forms to complete, exercise to get, and a nap to make up for lost sleep.

I even had time to catch up on blogs I like to read. One of my favorite blogs is written by Peter Greene, a Pennsylvania high school teacher who writes about excellence in education on his blog Curmudgucation. (There is a link to his blog on the sidebar.)

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's post which talks about why the coming regime of testing may have the unintended consequences. You can read the whole post at his well-worth-reading blog.

There's ... the problem of letting go of The Answer. If your belief is that there's really only one way to see "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," you're going to stink at open-ended exploration. I know people who think they do this, who really believe that their students are free to explore any ideas about literature "as long as the students can rationally support them." But their measure of rational support is whether or not it leads to the conclusion they've already settled on. 

Biggest problem? Standardization. If we are going to be able to measure and tag and compare across the country the responses and reactions to the literature, we can't have 143,257 responses scattered across the landscape. True open-ended answers are too diffuse to quantify. 

So to make our lives easier, we leash the students. We build a trail and command them to stay on it. We drive them through the forest on a tour bus we won't let them leave. We build a big pavillion and tell them that's the only destination they are allowed to reach. We eliminate options, reduce their choices, reign in their ability to explore and discover. 
For standardized testing, we do even worse. We lie. We say, "You can open-endedly explore this forest (well, on most tests, a small garden)." And then we judge their constructed response on whether they arrived at the one "correct" destination; a multiple choice question for which they have to write their own answers. Or we ignore the destination they reached and judge them on something simple that we can quantify. We don't care if they land on gold or in a pile of poop, as long as their boots are properly laced. On a "Give three reasons for..." question, we don't care if the reasons are brilliant or stupid; we just want them to have three of them. What pretends to be a reading question is really only testing compliance and counting. 

The continued push to create teacher-proof programs, programs that can be taught by any content delivery specialist, ignores a crucial facet of this approach-- it lives or dies, rests completely upon the degree to which we limit the intellectual freedom of students. The best teachers are wiser and more knowledgeable than their students. The only system in which that is not true is a system in which students are not allowed to be smart, curious or knowledgeable. 

Drones can only teach other drones. Intelligent human beings can only be taught by other intelligent human beings. When you create a system that tries to turn intelligent human beings into drones, everybody suffers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slimed in Centers

Toward the end of center time the group making the slime discovered its stretchiness.

It's interesting stuff, not quite like most things we encounter. 

Just hold up a piece of slime and let some of it hang down and it will stretch longer and longer before it eventually snaps.

Slime is more solid most liquids and more liquid than most solids.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Last Day of March

Today, Monday, was the last day of March.

That said, we had our "first"-of-the-month-Monday School Assembly this morning. The first grade edged out the kindergarten for the spirit day pennant that we won last month. Several of the teachers talked about trying to cut down on classroom interruptions and blurting last month with varying success. We still have a long ways to go on that score here in kindergarten, there's no doubt about it. I talked about our efforts while riding bikes to pick litter up off the playing field. Last month we picked up 228 pieces of litter.

When we got back to class we used the pattern tiles to make some hexagon-based designs. I was particularly taken with Lexi's.

Waylon brought in a cute snack with an element of spring—hard-boiled chicks. The eyes were made of little pieces of black olives and the beaks are carved from raw carrot.

At the end of the day we went out briefly under threatening skies for our usual Monday morning bike ride. It wasn't long before the clouds opened up and washed out that plan.

We came inside before it came to this.
Mrs. Zell worked with Mackie who's now a Soundabet master who knows all 41 sounds, even the tough ones.

The microphone can add extra pressure, making it harder to recall the sounds.
She did it, and her dad was there to see it happen. Way to go, Mackie.

Stay dry.

Be well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Assembly Monday

No centers for Monday due to the monthly school assembly. I am going to slot a math lesson into the schedule right there.

Speaking of math, we'll be talking at the assembly about the kindergarten's on-going (for years, really) effort to pick up litter from the playground. Over the years as kindergarten kids have grown up they have become much better about not littering. Years ago we would pick up hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of litter every day we went out which back then was twice a week.

These days the litter is harder to find because the pieces are smaller and they are more spread out. Still, over the month of March we picked up a total of 228 pieces of litter. We counted it and kept track.

Here is a display using one linking cube to represent each piece of litter we collected. Evan was able to see that there were 228 linking cubes without actually counting them.

Sophia's day today, so she wanted to pose for the picture after the lesson.

I asked him to explain how he knew this. He took the microphone and did a splendid job.

After Evan's explanation, we went on to talk about "take away from 10" problems using fingers. We'd start out with two handfuls of fingers out and then "take away" some of the fingers to see what was left. A lot of the kids were delighted to learn this way of doing "take away" problems.

Have a good weekend. Enjoy the rain that's forecast to come in on Saturday.

Be well.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ridin' Through this Life....

The weather stayed cloudy all morning, but not rainy or even misty. We were able to get outside for recess and for our usual Thursday on bikes.

The boys self-organized into a group ride, circling around the playground and using the side of the ramp up to the storage shed as a little ramp.

Mr. Hansen was on hand to lend a hand when needed.
The best part was when they decided they needed to work together better. They'd call a huddle to figure out how to make the ride work better.

The cyclists' huddle
Years ago I used to take long group bike rides with friends. Riding together (whether on bicycles or motorcycles) is a good way for guys to connect.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday, Fifth Grade Buddy Day

On Wednesdays we usually see Andrew our music teacher, but he was not able to come in this morning, so we did some extra singing in class.

During Fifth Grade Buddy time the half of the class that stayed in with me worked on the three hardest pages in the handwriting book. It was great to see the fifth graders help their buddies with these pages.

There was a quiet buzz going on in the room.
Like magic, the cloudy skies opened up to some sunshine giving us the chance (much needed) to get outdoors and ride bikes at the end of the day. We're working on picking up the playground. The class picked up 37 pieces of litter, mostly little pieces, this afternoon.

Be well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Late March Centers

Nick's brother Anthony is studying, too.

After Nicholas P.'s demonstration of his self-defense skills we brought up a new set of centers to finish out the month of March.

Mrs. Zell's center making "slime" or "gack" definitely drew a lot of attention as the one to look forward to.

Love those safety goggles

In my center we're playing Bingo, the original form of the game. I've found that it helps youngsters learn to recognize two-digit numbers without realizing they're learning them.

Nicholas P., who was the person of the day also happened to be the first to score five in a row.

Nick's winning card
In another center, kids made characters out of thumbprints. Cash's mom, Katrina Hupfeld, is leading this center all week.

These thumbprint guys end up having lots of character.

 Link to Nicholas's  Martial Arts USA school.

Be well.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Three New Bike Riders

We had three new bike riders in kindergarten today. The credit goes to Mrs. Zell, though she'd be the first to say that Cash learned on his own terms.

Three in one day is a record for me in kindergarten.

As we reviewed the day, one little girl commented that it made her want to cry.  Tears of joy.

Let's see if I can get the movies Mrs. Zell took up here on the blog.




It was a good day back from spring break.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Notes

Noah became a big brother to his new baby sister who was born on Wednesday. Congratulations to Noah and his mom and dad.

You should find the second trimester progress report among the things your child brought home today. There is no need to return it.

Parent volunteers do not need to come in when we resume kindergarten on Monday, March 24. We will begin the next round of centers the next day, Tuesday, March 25.

We're back to a twice-weekly "plus" schedule for bikes. Weather permitting we will ride bikes every Monday, every Thursday from here on out. In addition to those two days we will also ride on second and fourth Wednesdays. Those every-other Wednesdays are the "plus" part of the weekly schedule.

So unless it's raining jellyfish and gummy bears, bring those bikes in next Monday.

My camp trailer, where I plan to be for a good part of the coming week.

Between now and then, please enjoy the spring weather in the nine days we have to enjoy it.

Be well.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday News Bits

Tomorrow is a PE day. Look for Kindergarten Progress Reports in your Friday folder.

Today we finished off a round of centers.

I grabbed my camera as the last waffle came off the waffle iron.

Yum's up!
The puzzle crew was the quickest of the group. I gave them the regular ones and they were done soon.

This new puzzle was done really quickly.

Kaden and Waylon got the fire truck put together.

The four  students from table 5 got this done fast...
I gotta run!

Be well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cash's Big Day

Today Cash turned 6 years old. So it was a big day for Cash to begin with.

He decided to take on the Soundabet Master Challenge.

Even the stuffed animals were rooting for Cash.

And he was successful. His success meant we could have some extra bike time in the morning.

Sophia became a Soundabet Grandmaster this morning so we could have some extra bike time this afternoon. (The Handwriting lesson can wait.)

During the second bike riding session after lunch, Cash hopped on board our "boneshaker" bike which is in reality harder to ride than an ordinary bike. But some kids like it for its resemblance to our tricycle fleet and the feelings of familiarity and safety that go along with that look.

He's in for a revelation when he rides his "Tomater" bike—it'll be easier to ride than he imagines.
Enjoy this beautful spring weather.

Be well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spirit Day Tomorrow

In centers today we continued with our sink/float investigation, adding plywood and ice cream sticks to the mix.

Kaden discovered that wet blocks stick together. He even stuck a paper clip. The water acts like a thin glue.

These blocks act as if they were glued together with a weak glue. They are just wet.

Mrs. Zell is working in a science center of her own initiative.  She first did it as a parent volunteer last year. It is making Lava Lamps.

ExZELLent work!
I haven't taken a photo of the waffle cooking project yet. Will try to get one soon.



Tomorrow we'll be on bikes after lunch.

Tomorrow is a spirit day. It's Bring-in-a-stuffed-animal day.
The stuffed animal should be small enough to fit easily inside their cubby.

Be well!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kids Teaching Kids

Much earlier in my career, I wish I had figured out that kids learn from other kids. Sometimes when I seem unable to get an idea across, I just ask a classmate to teach the lesson in my place.

Today I asked Sophia to help Keila with her Soundabet cards. What a pleasure it was to see Sophia explain them to Keila. All my "expertise" as a teacher puts me at a distinct disadvantage compared to someone who's just recently learned the Soundabet and can get across some strategies for learning that they themselves found useful.

Later on Lexi and Aubrie wanted to see if they could rattle off the Soundabet within the time it takes for one cycle of the sandglass. Neither of them thought they could do it. Both were surprised and proud to find out that they could.

Aubrie and Lexi standing tall

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Five Soft Skills. Three Questions

Below is a summary of a column by Thomas L. Friedman published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 2014.

“G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.” so says Lazlo Bock, the guy in charge of hiring at Google, in an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times. 
This is not to say that most jobs at Google don’t require hard skills like math, computing, and coding skills. They do. But these hard skills by themselves are useless unless the person who has them can work collaboratively on a team. 
Bock lists the 5 qualities that Google looks for when finding talent. These 5 qualities are soft skills that are increasingly important today when innovation is increasingly achieved by groups of people working collaboratively.
  1. Learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information and make use of them.
  2. Leadership. Not traditional leadership, like being the president of your student body. What Google cares about is this. When your team is faced with a problem, do you step in and lead when your leadership skills are the ones needed? And, just as important, can you step back to let someone else lead when they could do it better?
  3. Ownership. Being responsible and stepping up to try to solve problems when they arise even when they’re not “your” problem.
  4. Intellectual Humility. Google wants you to be fiercely argue for your positions and ideas while at the same time being ready to step back when presented with better ideas. Successful people at Google have a big ego and a small ego at the same time.
  5. Expertise. This is the least important attribute. Because if someone has the four qualities listed above, they will likely come up with the same solutions as an “expert” would.

Questions for readers: 

If companies think that test scores are worthless in making hiring decisions, why are educational policy makers focusing so narrowly on improving test scores? 

Can we design schools to develop the 5 soft skills described above? 

For young children, wouldn’t the kindergartens of yesteryear do a better job teaching soft skills than what we commonly see in kindergarten today?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday in Kindergarten

Today was Jax's day. Jax's mom, Wendy helped out at centers time and helped the kids to a couple of puzzles on the green mat. The castle puzzle hadn't been completed yet this year. 

With Wendy Kellerman's help, the castle puzzle finally got made.

Jax brought in a story to read the class called "Snug House Bug House." It's a great beginning reader I had not seen before Jax brought it to my attention. It rhymes and mostly keeps to two-word sentences that end in "it" like "Plan it." "Ink it."
Jax did a great job reading it.

Jax read this beginning beginning reading book to the class.
In centers we floated pennies and paper clips with bits of wood and with rafts we made from craft sticks earlier this year. 
Our investigation extended to rafts we built earlier this year.

Ella became a Soundabet Grandmaster this morning, easily breezing through the Queens Cards. Way to go Ella!

Have a good weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jacob's Guitar & Addison's Triumph

Jacob came in with his guitar today and we found places throughout the morning when he could strum it for the class. He even took it out to the garden under showery skies. Jacob was good about sharing his guitar with classmates who wanted to have a go at strumming. Here he is sharing it with Sophia.

Addison showed us all how fully she's mastered the Soundabet. To celebrate we went outside a bit earlier than usual for bikes.

Another happy master of the Soundabet

Just as soon as we got outside to ride, a raincloud opened up and really rained hard. We took shelter under the eaves of the classroom and I asked the class to count in unison until the rain stopped, I thought we might have to count as far as 100, (or maybe longer) but by the time we reached 47 the rain ceased as suddenly as it had begun.

Happily, the garden program started up again this week. That means we'll be riding bikes Mondays, Thursdays and on second and fourth Wednesdays. Students freely choose to ride bikes or dig in the garden. Sometimes they leave their helmets on while gardening, which probably makes sense with all the shovels and rakes around.

Jax and Julie doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?

We made sure to pick up every last little piece of trash on the playground. Cash was the custodian of the trash bucket. Here Lexi helps him fill it. At the end of each bike day we'll count the trash we collect and report on the results at the April assembly.

Add caption
I think we collected 43 pieces today.

A peek inside the bucket
Be well.