Saturday, January 31, 2009

I have an internet teacher friend in New Zealand, Alden, who, like me likes to teach, sail, and write about life.

He put up a post today of reflections on the meaning of teaching. It's a post I wish I could say I had written because it sounds just exactly like the thoughts that echo around in my head. I'm proud to share it with you.

Alden's thoughts on teaching.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teacher Training at SCOE

I spent the day at a teacher workshop learning about how to implement the "Response to Intervention" model.

It's a regime that emphasizes assessing student progress in reading and making adjustments. It's all good, but the presenter is fresh off a career in military.

They way he talked about the kids who struggle in school made it seem as if they wear targets on the chests.

He used phrases like:

"You've got to target the kids.."

"Throw interventions at them."

His rapid, clipped manner of speaking gave me a splitting headache.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Luke's T-Rex

Here's what Luke brought for sharing today:

Kendall Deay

That's Ms. Deay during our mid-morning snack.

We have two student teachers in kindergarten this spring, fulltimer Amanda Brice, whom I've already introduced here on Mr. Kindergarten, and also part-timer, Kendall Deay. Kendall spent her first day in kindergarten this morning and got acquainted with some of the students.

Guest Blogger: Tonia Bello, Room Mom

Hi All -

The class basket has been decided......

"Let the Force Be With You"

A basket that will include a tour at Lucas Film given by Olivia Horne's dad - Billy Horne (Firefighter w/Lucas Film) and other Lucas Film/Star Wars related things....The Horne family has generously offered to help out in the creation of this basket. In order for our basket to be the most incredible basket, we need everyone to pitch in and help out. PLEASE send a donation with your Kindergarten student to class. We are asking for a $15.00 donation from each family. This can be in a check form or cash. I will have a donation box in class when you walk in.

Again, THANKS to all of you for your great ideas and willingness to help. May the force be with you all.....and as Yoda said, "You either do or do not, there is no try."


Also, a huge THANKS to the Horne Family!

Your class mom -

Tonia Bello

Regarding the Delights of Being a Teacher

If you're thinking about a career in education, why not jump over to my Mindful Heart Blog of January 26? It might offer you a taste of encouragement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ms. Brice's First Full Day

The students listened intently to hear her story.

Today was Ms. Brice's first full day of her student teaching placement in the kindergarten. For the first part of the morning she observed the old guy with gray hair teach the class. But before the morning was done she was running a part of the morning. She read the students a story masterfully, as she's worked for Copperfield's Books and has read stories in that job. After story time, Ms. Brice involved a large group of children stringing beads.

Stringing beads. Lots of boys were interested.

While she was doing that, I took a group of students outside to patrol the playground for bits of garbage. Ziyad and Luke helped the most. Their concentration and commitment to the work lasted for 25 minutes and resulted in the removal of the littlest scrap of litter.

More than 100 pieces were collected.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Budding Artists #2

So it was Jack's day to share today, and this is what he brought:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Budding Artists

Jack's been going through Ed Emberley's Green Drawing Book.
Look at his fantastic work!

I am always delighted to witness the budding of a future artist in kindergarten.

I sometimes see remarkable efforts, as I did when Jack S. (above) showed me what he had been up to during choice time today. These moments recall a time beginning about 45 years ago when I enjoyed the special privilege of witnessing my brother, James Gurney's, artistic talents blossom throughout his childhood.

You can enter into the world of my brother's work by clicking the Gurney Journey link on the sidebar.

It is a special thrill to see the world of art open to my students.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Telecast

When I was a boy I remember seeing the Presidential Inauguration of John F. Kennedy at a school assembly. I recall him saying "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." I was 9 years old on that day, a good deal older than the kindergarten students I now teach. That moment has stuck with me, and today I am glad my teacher took my class to see the telecast.

I wanted my class to witness this moment in history, so we gathered in the room next door to watch television coverage of the swearing in ceremony and President Obama's speech.

My students sat with their fifth grade buddies.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heidi Sings

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of seeing another of Heidi Butkus’s presentations at the California Kindergarten Association Conference held this weekend in Santa Clara.

Sunday’s seminar focussed on teaching the letters of the alphabet in a multi-sensory way. As with the spelling DVDs with which my classroom is already familiar, Heidi has taken the melodies from familiar songs and has written new lyrics to teach content young children must learn in school. This new DVD teaches the names, sounds, and describe the shape of the letters A to Z.

As she discusses at the opening of her seminars, Heidi’s multi-sensory approach helps her lessons “get through” even if a learning disability might block one or another of the sensory/neural pathways. With Heidi, children sing with their voices, move their bodies, see the image on the DVD, and hear the song.

Heidi’s presentations are captivating, fast-paced, and chock full of useful and usable information that will help even gray-haired teachers like me notch it up a bit.

I bought her new DVD and will use it with students who need to learn the last of the letters in the alphabet.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Generous, Kind, and Thoughtful Parents

A while back Kelly Bengs, a preschool teacher and volunteer parent in kindergarten, watched me struggle through a math lesson using a balance scale ill-suited to the lesson I was trying to teach. To so it right I needed a balance scale with transparent pans so that the students could observe the items being weighed.

At dismissal today, Kelly presented me with a gift, exactly the tool I needed to teach this lesson properly.

It's a fine scale, just the thing:

Random acts of kindness and generosity really make my day.

Thanks, Kelly!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roller Skating in Kindergarten

I'll bet there's a rule somewhere: No skating in the classroom!

But roller skates were Dash's sharing for today and he really wanted to show the class how he could skate. So we bent the rules to state: No skating in the classroom UNLESS the teacher tells you to.

Dash skated across the room at a good clip.

Mia and Danny

There are as of today two more inductees into the Soundabet crowd: Mia and Danny. Way to go!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God's Eye Weavings

God's Eye weavings are a perfect project for kids in the middle of kindergarten. They're quite a challenge right at first, but once they get going, they can do it.

We've been making them in one of our centers this week and the children are very proud of their work. With additional practice they'll get much better. We will revisit this project later in the year.

Here's some homework -- never required, just suggested. Turn off the TV and follow this link to God's Eye Weaving Instructions and make some at home.

Beckie Kullberg's group would have made them all morning, it seemed.


I was very glad to welcome Ms. Brice, our student teacher for the Spring semester, to kindergarten this morning. She spent the day getting acquainted with us before she officially begins to serve us January 26.

I am really looking forward to having her in my class in the months ahead. She's a gem.

She was so nervous on this first morning in kindergarten that she came to school in shoes that didn't quite match (same style, but different colors). She was nice enough to pose for the photo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday's Doings

We were a bit short-handed Friday, so the VoiceBox center ran as a semi-independent learning station. It went so well, I'm planning a way to make it almost fully independent. This is called learning from experience. After 28 years, I'm still finding better ways to do what I do.

A useful application of counting. How many blocks in Rylee's stack? 22. She counted them.

With fifth grade buddies, we went down to the creek and found this mysterious heap of sticks.

Dash got the idea of jumping off a cliff. This is the sort of thing I would have permitted early in my career (Why not? Looks like fun.); not allowed in my middle career (too dangerous!); and now, late in my career, permit but monitor (not too dangerous if supervised a little and lots of fun).

There were probably 100 jumps. Fifth graders took the leap, too. No one got hurt.

Trey's Got It

Trey's got the Soundabet King's Cards down. He's worked really hard for this achievement and everyone who knows Trey shares in his excitement at achieving this milestone. Special thanks to Cindy in daycare who took time to help him practice.

Here's a photo of Trey and his good friend in daycare, Cindy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Soundabet Song

I realized that I can make a video for the blog with the same camera I use to take pictures for the blog.

Here's a little clip showing the singing of the Soundabet song this morning. It's nothing too special, a little unrehearsed clip.

Let me know if you'd like to see more video clips.

Clayton's Got the Soundabet! And other doings

Today Clayton went home with a deck of Queen's Cards to learn. He showed Cindy in the daycare that he knew all the Soundabet and so he's "in the club" as we say.

After learning centers this morning we had about 15 minutes of time to play with Zoobs, blocks, and puzzles, like kindergartens of yesteryear.

Some photos of kids doing their own kid play:

Luke and Jack B.'s tower.

Zoobs as handfree mics.

Aye! Aye! Sir!

Miguel's mansion.

Chris made a robot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nicky on 2 wheels

Got an email from Nicky's mom with this picture and the text below. I like to spread good news around.

Nicky learned how to ride solo over vacation. Sami was showing him how (he credits her with this miraculous feat!) on the front driveway. Afterwards he ran inside beaming with excitement and yelled out "I can ride a 2 wheeler...Sami showed me how...I gots to tell Mr. Gurney!".

Ben, Jack B., Jack S., Nicky, Rebecca, S.B, & Ziyad.

The students pictured below achieved a new milestone along the path to reading today, January 6, 2009. In addition to those pictured here on the blog, another student, S.B., also achieved an important milestone. I guess the stars are aligned. Does the earth being at perihelion last Sunday have something to do with it?

I cannot remember ever seeing seven students pass seven milestones on the same day. I don't think it's ever happened before. Cindy in daycare helped. She was going over the Soundabet with students during their lunch break. Cindy's working the daycare. She wants to be a teacher someday. She helped Trey along like magic, too. He's almost there.

Ben's got his King's cards down.

Jack B. know all the King's and Queen's cards and can read the 41 Soundabet sight words, too.

Jack S. knows his King's cards.

Nicky, too!

Rebecca knows her Queen's cards.

Ziyad knows his Queen's cards.

This is the sort of day you dream about having when you're thinking about becoming a teacher. Days of this much success don't come all that often, but when they do, man, teaching can be a real joy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Spellbinding Power of the Tube

Rain interrupted our recess and the class had to come in to escape a shower. We had to get snack ready and didn't have anything planned for the class to do in case of rain.

We happened to have a Magic School Bus video handy and so I put it on. The class became completely quiet for the rest of the recess time.

I am always astounded by the strong hypnotic effect of television. It's actually kind of creepy.

Two New Soundabet Masters: Henry and Zaria

Over the winter holiday both Henry and Zaria must have been working on the Soundabet because they both wanted to show me that they had mastered the King's Cards. I am so pleased. They went home with a deck of the Queen's Cards to work on.

Ben is within two cards of knowing the whole thing and Mia's almost there, too.

Henry's smiles for the camera!

Zaria was eager to show her talents!

January 2009 Snack Calendar

Here's the snack calendar for January. Click in for a closer view:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

Our full time student teacher-to-be, Ms. Amanda Brice.

I hope you've all had a wonderful winter holiday.

I spent the last few hours of the afternoon at school getting the classroom ready for the first day of school in the year 2009.

A little of the furniture has been moved around. The big old white couch will be taken to Central Landfill. (If there's anyone with a strong back who would like to help me load it into my van after school, I'd appreciate the help!)

Our student teacher, Ms. Schuhmacher is moving on to a full-time assignment in first grade. We will have Ms. Amanda Brice when student teachers resume their assignments later in the month.

See you soon!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's in Peace Town, USA

We beat some pots and pans to bang out the old, bang in the new!

My friend, Jim Corbett (AKA "Mr. Music") likes to throw peace parties.

Peace parties are where people get together to experience peace, joy, love, and happiness. Like a lot of us in Sebastopol, Jim doesn't like war. But he feels that protesting against war doesn't create peace. Only peace begets peace. So he throws peace party.

He even wants the Sebastopol City Council to declare itself "Peace Town, USA" and has drafted a resolution to that effect.

Three of the Council members came to his party tonight. They'll take up his proposal at the next City Council meeting in January. It has a good chance of passing, I think.

Here's a photo of the part of the party where the proposed declaration was announced.

Larry Robinson, Kathleen Shafer, and Sarah Gurney, Mayor.
The Love Choir stands behind them.

Jim's "Love Choir" performed and then it was time for the drumming circle, which, for my money was the best part of the evening. I whipped out my camera and took a short video clip of the Drum-unity activity so you can get a feel for what it was like:

(With apologies for the darkness. It's my first video on youtube!)