Thursday, September 25, 2008

Math Homework: Number Hunt

Tonight your child should come home with a page with columns of numbers like the one you see in the photo above.

The homework is to go on a walk in your neighborhood hunting for numbers in the environment. (See page 10 "Number Search" in the book I sent home for ideas where to look.)

Each time you find a number, ask your child to circle it. When you've circled all eight of ONE of the numbers, stop. That's your winner. We'll compile the results Friday to see which number was found most often.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Educators from the Ukraine Visit Dunham

Educators from Sebastopol's sister city in the Ukraine visited Dunham to learn about schooling in the United States.

I was privileged to offer my thoughts to these international travelers this afternoon. We met after school from 4:00 until 5:30.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Soundabet VoiceBox Books

At table time the kindergartners are making their first Soundabet VoiceBox books.

Here's Luke checking his page against the model page I display for self correction.

The first one features words ending with the "AT" sound. All words are glued using uppercase letters. These books offer no illustrations: the only clue to the words are the sounds glued down.

Each book will feature ONLY ONE VOWEL SOUND, and this feature makes all the difference. (It's the vowels in English that are particularly challenging to learn because vowels don't behave themselves very well.) The words in this week's books are: BAT, CAT, FAT, HAT, RAT, SAT, and THAT. Future books will not hold the word ending stable as these first books do. That is, they will become harder than "word family" books. But not too much harder.

Because we're gluing, not writing, the letters, students don't need good fine-motor control to do a very good job.

I send the books home the same day they're put together. The idea is that you can use them to practice at home. Many students can read most of the words by the time they're putting the glue away. But between the time they get finished gluing at school and the time they read the book to the family after dinner, they're likely to forget what they knew in the morning. Please offer enough assistance in reading these books that there's no chance of failure.

Jack B has just finished gluing page 2 of his book.
Later, when we finished the books Jack read his book to his mom who stayed to this morning in our class. So did Ziyad whose hand appear on the left side of this picture.
Sounding out words 23 days into kindergarten.
I'd have said it was impossible twenty years ago!

Please collect these books. We'll make more than a dozen of them. They provide good practice with the Soundabet, especially later as we get into the actual Soundabet sounds like "ou" and "sh" and so on.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Classroom Shopper Fund

Just a reminder:

If you would like to contribute to the classroom shopper fund, please write a check made out to our classroom shopper, Gayle Chamberlain.

Suggested donation is $30, but any amount you can afford is fine.

These funds will be used to purchase odds-and-ends for classroom activites, ingredients for cooking projects, for example, that cannot be gotten through normal school supply channels.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Time It -- Homework

Please do the "Time It" activity suggested on page 4 in the Math at Home booklet we sent home last Friday's folder.

On Friday morning we'll discuss the activities you've done at home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mathmatics at Home

In tomorrow's Friday folder you will find Book 1 of our math program's "Mathematics at Home" series.

This is the first of 4 books in a series. The remaining books will be sent home at intervals spaced more or less evenly during the rest of the year.

Please read it and enjoy the activities it suggests.

Early each week I will select an activity from the book to do as homework. We will discuss the week's selected activity in class at the end of the week.

I think you will find these books to be a very useful resource for doing family math together.

2 Miracles in 20 minutes

We got to go out on the bikes today.

Two kindergarteners figured out how to ride a two-wheeler for the first time!

I was able to get this snapshot of one of them, Jack S.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


For the past four years or so I haven't had chairs around the tables. I got the idea from Bev Bos at the California Kindergarten Association Conference. Taking chairs away had several plusses:

• no tripping over chairs for me as I move around the classroom,

• no putting chairs up at the end of the day,

• no frustration for ADHD kids who simply can't sit,

• no students tipping back on their chairs and falling over, and

• no more students getting reminders to sit "back to back, seat to seat."

Bev likes to point out that active creative people tend to stand up to do their work: dentists, barbers, chefs, mechanics, artists, rock musicians, and so on. If we want children to be creative, her thinking goes, we should stand up, not sit down.


This year's kindergarten class seems especially well suited to handling chairs. We had a class meeting where I raised the idea of voting for the return of the chairs and the majority rules.

The first day was a success. Here's a picture taken at snack.

Sixth graders Sarah and Kara volunteered at their recess to serve.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If a Mouse Can Write

Racky is about to write the number 14 to add to our number line.
Today was the 14th day of kindergarten.

Early in kindergarten I model writing using puppets.

So far I've been showing the classs how to write numerals with the help of my puppet friends. Archy usually does this work, but he felt bad because he didn't get to have his picture taken by the school photographer. His friend, Racky, pictured, filled in for him.

The puppets GO SLOWLY AND PAY ATTENTION so that their work is satisfying to them. They always do a fine job since they're not hurrying. It might take a puppet 60 seconds or more to write 14. This gives us plenty of time to talk about how the numbers are written and to predict each stroke of the pen before he's done it. There is an added bonus, too, in pressing puppets into service of teaching. They teach an implied lesson: If a mouse can write, so can a five year old kid. Just go slowly and pay attention.

Nate's Zoob Robot

While waiting to have his picture taken next door (it was school picture day today), Nate built this impressive robot using Zoobs. Zoobs are a perennial favorite building medium in my classroom.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yellow Jacket School

Eric from Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Abatement came to our class this morning to teach us about yellow jackets.

Eric arrived in his bee keeper's suit.
He showed us how it protects him from being stung.

He's explaining the foods that attract yellow jackets.

Eric was a skillful and obviously experienced presenter to young children. He imparted quite a lot of information, but not too much and was able to get it across to the five year old mind.

He brought this wasps' nest in a plexiglass display box.

I learned a lot, too. I did not know, for example, that the yellow jackets that cause people problems are only the kind that nest in the ground.

Wasps that make aerial nests (off the ground in trees and under eaves
and so on) are not aggressive towards humans. Aerial nesting wasps feed on insects, not picnics. The Marin-Sonoma abatement agency does not remove these nests because they actually benefit us by eating mosquitos and other pesky flying critters. As long as they don't next too close places where people pass by, we should let them be. I've got a few nests like this in my back yard. I'm glad to know I can leave them alone.

Another thing I learned is that the class has not really learned the difference between raising hands with questions versus raising hands to tell a story. We worked on that distinction a good bit the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picture Day is Tuesday

On Tuesday, a professional photographer will come to Dunham to take your child's school photo.

Mercifully, he photographs the kindergarten class first as we are the most likely class to muss our hair or get paint or playdoh on our clothes.

Make sure that you're all caught up on your weekend laundry chores so that the shirt, blouse, or dress that you want your child to wear on that day is ready to go for Tuesday morning.

Parent volunteers please plan on coming, though we won't do our regular round of centers that day.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Monday Parent Volunteers

Monday volunteers need not stay on Monday morning as we will take part in a special program on Yellow jackets put on for us by (if memory serves) Sonoma County Mosquito Abatement. In any event, their program, which is tailored to students in kindergarten, will preempt our usual center time activities.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back to School Night tomorrow

Please come to Back to School Night tomorrow at 6:30. I will open the doors at 6:25 and start promptly at 6:30.

I'll briefly go over the kindergarten curriculum and procedures and try to leave time to answer your questions. The kindergarten part of the meeting ends at 7:00 so that we can gather with parents from all the other grades in the western quad area.

The principal and the PTO president will make a presentation for you at that time.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.

Mr. Gurney

P.S. As this may be your first Back to School Night, please bear in mind two things:

1. This is an occasion for adults. Please make arrangements for child care so you don't have a little one along.

2. The temptation to ask, "How's my child doing?" will be strong. There simply isn't time for conferencing, not even a micro conference. At our meeting tomorrow night I'll talk about how you can arrange to schedule a "check-in" conference with me if you wish to have one.

Steel Drum

One of the many great pleasures of my job is introducing students to the pleasures of making music, the homemade kind.

Just as food tastes better when it's made with love by someone you know, the best music is made live—not because it sounds professional, but because it has a most important ingredient: the pleasure of making it yourself.

No recorded music, no matter how good a performance that is captured on a CD, cassette, LP, or MP3 file has the magic of being live.

The steel drum I'm holding for Dash is a special one, tuned in the key of G using a pentatonic scale. This means there's not a "sour" note to hit. They're sold on the internet. I got mine from a place called Lark in the Morning, here: LINK.

This photo was taken at the end of the day. In the morning Dash felt too shy to have take the sticks and play the drum. A few hours later he gave it a try and made some music for his classmates.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not really about kindergarten...

This summer I decided to start a new blog about my life and interests outside of the classroom.

When posting to this blog, Misterkindergarten, I will attempt to restrict my posts to the immediate interests to the classroom.

Over on the related Mindful Heart blog, I'll talk about topics mostly unrelated to my life as a kindergarten teacher. There's a link over on the side there, or, use this one: Link.

September Snack Calendar

Here is September's snack calendar online in case you misplace the one we sent home on Friday. If you click on it, you'll get in close enough to read it.

We take turns in alphabetical order by first name, so if you're child's name starts with a "Z" your day comes at the end of this month.