Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Best Indicator of Reading Success

By far the MOST reliable early indicator of reading success is the ability to quickly say all the sounds in the Soundabet.

Other tests (DIBELS comes to mind) may have a lot more data behind them, but in an opinion formed over 28 years in the classroom and watching students go on from kindergarten into the grades to come, there is simply no other indicator that is as predictive of reading success as knowing all the sounds in the Soundabet.

It always makes my day when someone adds this accomplishment to their kindergarten credentials.

Today was Luke's day. Here he is:

Luke is the second student this year to reach this milestone.
There's a whole posse of students right behind him.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch Photos

To begin with, thank you to our room mother, Tonya Bello, who suggested this trip, to all the drivers who made this trip possible and to Mrs. Frech who did a lot of the legwork.

Soon after we got there the kids ran through an elaborate hay maze.

We settled down at the base of a pyramid for an orientation.

And we climbed to the top of a nearby pyramid.

Baby animals were on display at the farm.

Why I pass on bacon.

We got to ride on a cart pulled by a tractor to the pumpkin field.

We dug for potatoes.

Each farmer bagged four potatoes.

Kids milked Jessie, a Jersey cow whose milk makes good cheese.

Scaling the highest pyramid on the farm.

Pumpkin ice cream awaited us at the end of our day on the farm.

And how could we resist? One last run through the maze.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Field trip tomorrow

Tomorrow's the field trip.

Please remember to leave a car seat at school if your child uses one. I'll post about it over the weekend.

Setting Up the Slates

I was asked to show the process we use to set up the slates.

Here's how we do it.

We begin by setting out 3 tubs. The red tub holds the slates; the green holds bits of towel that serve as erasers; the white tub holds bits of chalk.

First we set out the slates.

"Erasers" are spread out like blankets on the slates.

And a bit of chalk is placed on the erasers. All set.

We put the materials away in groups, each group trying to get their materials put away within 10 seconds.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Principal's in Japan!

For all you Dunham folk, you might enjoy visiting Mrs. Wilding's blog about her trip to Japan. She's posting frequently. (Thank you, Kim!)

Her posts bring back fond memories of a similar trip I took there 4 years ago.

Jump over by clicking HERE.

Opening Your Heart--For Teachers

Here's an at-home exercise that I do to open my heart. It takes less than a minute but provide me with big payoffs.

Here's what I do:

1. I get a piece of paper from the recycling bin. Turn it over. Then I grab a pencil.

2. I list all the students in my class.

3. I pay attention to the students whose names appear last on my list and make sure to get to know those children a little better the next day.

4. Repeat daily.

P.S. If at first you try this exercise and find there are some students in your class whose names you cannot remember, get to know those kids tomorrow.

Handwriting and Slates

This story featured a frog that turned into a prince.

This year I've found that students are able to write quite legibly without the formal instruction (Handwriting Without Tears) I've provided over the past half dozen years.

Instead of putting a great deal of emphasis on letter formation, I trust students to find their own way to form the letters. With a bit of help from a friend or from me or my assistant, they can write quite legibly. No tears, either.

Using these slates, (which, yes, are part of the Handwriting Without Tears materials) we refocus attention on spelling words and sounding them out. This way students get practice applying writing skills in the meaningful context of a story.

I begint the lesson by telling a story, improvised on the spot. I pause from time to time and ask the students to write down a word used in the story. The words I ask them to write exemplify the spelling principles I've taught.

This early in the year, I'm helping students both hear the phonemes and segment them. Then we talk about the letter names and spell the word.

P.S. There are at least three great benefit of using slates and chalk:

(1) Little stubs of chalk force kids to use the conventional three-fingertip grip.

(2) The nature of the materials lends itself well to promoting responsibility and being careful. Slates break if dropped. We use a lovely process in distributing and collecting the slates the bits of chalk and the towel remnant erasers;

(3) There's less waste than using workbooks, pencils, and paper. These lessons are eco-friendly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Wife, the Mayor

With Sarah Palin in the #2 spot on the GOP ticket, some people have suggested that my wife (who's been mayor of my town and is on the City Council) is qualified to run for higher office.

Others seem to have run with this idea:

Click on this link, and you'll see what I mean.

Sarah Gurney '08

Sunday, October 12, 2008


One of my long-ago students, now a mom, left her daughter with dad.

They made cookies, and a music video to go with them. It's pretty cute:

Field Trip

We will be taking a field trip to the Spring Hill Pumpkin Farm a week from Friday. (It's been a long while since we've done a field trip in kindergarten, but let's give it a try.

Here's a link to see the farm's website: Link.

We'll need drivers, so please mark you calendar.

Madeline on 2 wheels

Madeline's learning to ride one of our 2 wheelers. She's quite determined to learn how and she does not want much assistance. Thursday her persistence began to pay off.

Here she is on Thursday morning.

The two-wheeler she's riding is made by a tricycle manufacturer that uses the same handlebars, seat, pedals, and wheels (except there are only 2 of them) that they use in the tricycles.

This machine makes it easy and safe for children to learn how to balance and steer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mathmatics at Home: Shapes and Patterns

From page 14 of the book we sent home:

Shape and Pattern Search

Look at patterns on spider webs. Find the shapes within the web.

Draw a picture of one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fire Fighting

Olivia's dad, Billy Horne, who serves on the Skywalker Fire Department, visited kinderagarten today to teach us about his firefighting tools and garments. His presentation is part of this week's fire prevention week.

Among the important things he wanted to teach is that when he's inside a burning building he's not going to look like a regular dad or be able to talk to the people in the house. He'll actually look and sound more like someone dreamed up by George Lucas himself: Darth Vader

Olivia's dad in full regalia. His breathing sounded like Darth Vader.

No presentation of this kind is complete without a review of what number to call in a true emergency (911) and a run through of what to do if your clothes catch on fire.

Practicing "Stop. Drop. Roll!"

Room Parent Update

Tonya Bello, Rylee's mom, has stepped forward to be our room parent.

Thank you Tonya.

Everyone else: when she asks for assistance, please offer what you can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our Bike Club Grows

This week we added two more riders to the pack, Jack B. and Kiley.

Look at students learn this new skill. Concentration leading to smiles.

Jack's concentration is complete.

Then, as the skill becomes more familiar, relaxation comes, and with that, smiles.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Room Parent

Is there anyone who would like to be the kindergarten room parent this year?

Room parents help organize the classroom parties (low key affairs in my room) in celebration of the following events:

1. Halloween

2. Winter holiday

3. Valentines Day

4. Spring Egg Hunt

Please let me know if you'd like to help out in this way.

Thank you.

Math Homework for Friday, October 3

During math on Friday part of the activities will be discussing the activity shown above from page 12 of the Mathematics at Home book sent home earlier.

I encourage you to use coins as counters for this activity. You can ask your child to sort the coins so that only one kind of coin goes into an egg carton cup. At this point in kindergarten, we're mainly interested in helping students learn to correctly identify the most common coins reliably: penny, nickel, dime, quarter. We'll talk about their relative values later in the year.

Having said that, be sure also to use other items as suggested in the book: macaroni noodles, beans, buttons, paper clips, etc. We want them to understand the "fourness of four" and doing this activity with many different objects will help your child understand the idea of number (number sense) from their specific experiences with number.

Finally, I hope you'll also do the activities on page 13. If you follow baseball, the playoffs that are happening this month are a good opportunity to talk about numbers.

October Snack Calendar

Here, for your convenience, is the snack calendar for October: