Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Day's Doings

Yesterday I talked about how some God's Eye weavings are really carefully done. Here's an example of what I was talking about. Mia made this one by herself.

Blocks are among the best toys available. Every day some new idea is built.

I was "arrested" for speeding while riding (slowly, I swear!) around the playground on litter patrol. I went along when they told me that I would need to pay a fine of 10 hundred dollars.

"10 hundred dollars!" that's a lot of money. "I don't have 10 hundred dollars, but I have a thousand dollars. Would you take that?" I said.

They thought it over. "O.K. We'll take a thousand."

"Great! Let me pay you," I said.

And I produced a pretend wallet and doled out 10 one-hundred dollar bills, counting, "one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, one thousand! One thousand is 10 hundred."

They shrugged their shoulders, and we rode off.

Jack B. rides a bike!

Jack B. learned to ride a bicycle today, and I was able to catch it on video:

Yeah, Jack!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drama and Dance Workshop for Kindergarten Kids and up.

Sonoma State University's
Center for Performing Arts
Press Release

Drama and Dance Workshop For Children
Offered At Sonoma State University

ROHNERT PARK -- Children from 4 to 10 years-old will have the opportunity to participate in a five week Theatre or Dance Workshop for Children at Sonoma State University designed to have them experimenting in storytelling, improvisation, movement and dance. This is the 30th year of this wonderful program for children. Under the guidance of Theatre Professor Judy Navas and Dance Professor Nancy Lyons, youngsters will be taught by Sonoma State University theatre and dance majors.

The cost for the five week class is $10. If a second child in the family participates in the workshop, the cost is $5 for that child, or $15 for both of them. If a child takes both the dance and drama class, the fee is $15. If a second child in the family does the same thing, the cost for the two children is $20.

The theatre classes will be broken down into two sessions. Classes begin on Thursday, April 23, and meet for consecutive Thursdays through May 21. Youngsters ages 5 and 6 will meet from 4:15 to 4:45pm. The older group, ages 7 to 10, will meet from 5:00 to 5:45pm.

The dance classes will also be broken down into two sessions. Classes begin on Wednesday, April 22, and meet on consecutive Wednesdays through May 20. Youngsters ages 4 and 5 will meet from 4:15 to 4:45pm. The older group, ages 6 to 9, will meet from 5:00pm to 5:45pm.

All the classes are held in Ives Hall at Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue in Rohnert Park, CA.

Dance for Children, according to Lyons, is a creative rhythmic movement class with live music. Children are encouraged to jump, gallop, twirl and dance with each other in a large open dance studio. The accompanying musician will play piano and percussion instruments, giving the children a vibrant experience of live music and dance. Children that participate need not have prior dance background. The Dance Workshop will be held in room 80 in Ives Hall. Dress for the class is casual.

The purpose of the Theatre for Children class is to have fun, says Navas, but to also introduce youngsters to the art of storytelling, the creativity of improvisation, the enjoyment of puppets and artistry of masks. The instructors have established an environment where all the young students will be free to express themselves in a caring and nurturing way. The Theatre Workshop will be held in room 76 in Ives Hall.

Parents are encouraged to participate in the last class with their children, viewing their performance and progress.

To register your children for the classes, contact the Center For Performing Arts at 707-664-2235. Class enrollment is limited, so don't delay. Checks can be made payable to Sonoma State University, care of Theatre Arts, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928.

Improving God's Eyes

We've reopened the God's Eye weaving center. Going back to projects like this is well worth doing.

Student teachers and new teachers take note: don't make the mistake I made for years and years. Revisit lessons and activities. Your students will improve dramatically. These kid-made God's Eye weavings are a vast improvement over the first efforts made last month:

A few of my students can weave them with as much skill as I can. I'll try to grab a photo of one of those and put it up here on the blog soon.


Some years ago while on a West Coast book tour, my brother Jim stopped by my school to do a presentation on the life of the artist. He captivated that audience of young children (now all grown up) with a demonstration of his sketching skills. I don't know anything that holds an audience of young children more firmly than a drawing emerging from the pen of a skilled artist.

I ran across the drawing the other day and push-pinned it to the wall.

A day or so later, kindergartner Jack S. left this drawing on my desk:

I'm encouraging Jack to draw, draw, draw. I let the principal know about Jack's work, and she has joined me in celebrating his work and his talent. And his mom and grandma are part of his cheering squad, too.

Jack's work shows enormous promise. I should know. My memory stretches back 45 years to a time when Jim Gurney discovered his talent for drawing in kindergarten.

Jack's got similar ability.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pajama Day Wednesday

I keep forgetting to bring my camera home from school to post some pictures for the blog.

Oh well! I hope I remember tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is Pajama Day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trey's Best Day

The seasonal creek behind our school had been dry all winter. I'm not sure the students believed me when I told them that water runs in it after a good rain. Finally, about two and a half months behind schedule, a wet storm has passed over California and the stream behind the school has come to life.

We in KIDS club finished up our DIBELS assessments in time to pay the creek a quick visit this afternoon.

Just as I did when I was a boy, kindergartners enjoy tossing a stick or a pine cone into the stream and watching it float downstream. Sticks running rapids is a source of real interest and satisfaction for boys.

Recent rains in Northern California have finally put some brown running water in our creeks.

There's also a vernal pool up the hill that fills with water after a heavy rain. We visited it, dragging sticks and carrying pine cones along with us.

The boys were delighted to see water in a pool that just last week had been so dry that we could stood on its floor.

One by one, they all threw their pine cones and sticks in.

The first pine cone is in the water.

Poor Trey! As soon as he saw his stick float in the center of the pond, he wanted it back.

It was well out of reach. Chris had thrown his stick where I could retrieve it from shore. We used Chris's stick to retrieve David's stick, the longest we had. With David's stick we were able to snag Trey's stick and coax it back to shore. The boys were pleased with our teamwork. Trey got his stick back.

Trey was clearly delighted. The chain of favors seemed endlessly long to him. He shuddered at the thought of it. So many of his friends worked to get his stick back for him.

His face flushed with pleasure and he said, with conviction, "This is the best day of my life!"

Daily News

Well, maybe not quite daily news, as we don't do daily news on weekends, holidays, or days that scurry along so quickly that we can't keep up, like last Friday, Feb 13.

But we captured the news today. Here it is:

We did lots of other things, of course. P.E. indoors, Zaria shared an interesting doll, we sang some songs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daily News

We pretended to be monkeys... as I read aloud "Caps for Sale" by Esphyr Slobodkina (say that name three times fast). I'm not sure the verb "read" is quite accurate, it's more of a performance.
Anyway, the students had a good time dramatizing the monkey lines. I even got my hat to throw down.

We had "choice time" today for the first time in quite a while. The students who went outside with me rode bikes around the playground and picked up all the litter we could find.

In KIDS club we took a few minutes out of our reading/writing/DIBELS/routines to stretch our legs on the acreage behind the creek. I happened to take my camera along and snapped a photo.

Such a lovely setting our school is in!

Chris mastered the Soundabet!

Chris has mastered the Soundabet. I forgot to give him the Queen's cards in honor of this achievement. I think I was hypnotized by his stare.

My student teacher, Ms. Brice, told me that in the writing center he informed her that he was now in the know. "I can write down anything. I just look at the Soundabet to figure out the sounds."

We did a writing sample today. It was fun to see the Soundabet show up in their writing. I forgot to take pictures of their work, but it was pretty impressive, especially since we started writing in earnest only a short time ago.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Daily News

Our full-time student teacher Ms. Brice is ending each day with a "Daily News" report to sum up the day. She asks the class to confer about the most important events of the day and help her write them down.

The Daily News is part writing lesson, part reflection, part parent news. My hope is to capture an image each day of her news and put it up here on the blog.

If you want, you can click on it to make it easier to read. The Daily News can serve as conversation starters for classroom parents.

Brandon showed me he's mastered the Soundabet King Cards. He's going home tonight with the Queen's Cards to study. My guess is he will master those in pretty short order. Yeah, Brandon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Innocence, Joy, and Wonder

I hope you're all enjoying the 3 day weekend. I certainly am. The rain has been so welcome!

The time off school has provided time for reading, reflection, and learning. I've come across Catherine Ingram and her work. She's an unaffiliated teacher of adults whose work interests me. She leads silent retreats to help adults rediscover luminous awareness, joy, and innocence.

I offer here a quote from one of her books, Passionate Presence, that has to do with child-like innocence.

Supporting innocence, awareness, wonder, and joy was—not so long ago—the main aim of the kindergarten curriculum.

Some of us "old" teachers strive to keep joy alive in our schools gone mad with standards and timed tests. We resist the needless urgency coming from "on high" in regard to early literacy and numeracy. Nothing–absolutely nothing—should be allowed to elbow out the joy and wonder that is proper the heart of kindergarten.

Anyway, let me move offstage here and let Catherine speak:


"Except ye become as little children

Ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven."


On the last day of one of our silent retreats a man spoke about the parting words he had heard from his girlfriend before leaving her the week before. "Now, don't you go and fall in love with someone there," she told him. The man looked around at the group of sixty and said, "How am I going to explain that I fell in love with everyone?" I assured him that his girlfriend probably wouldn't mind that as much.

One of the great gifts of my life comes from witnessing what happens in silent retreats. Participants, many of them strangers to each other, come together and, with the exception of two hour-long group sessions per day, are silent for a week. They are given no spiritual practice or instructions but are encouraged instead to rest as much as needed and to notice throughout the day the clear awareness to which no thought ever sticks.

Day by day, joyousness and surprising bursts of energy infect the participants as they feel the naturalness of being awake and sharing companionship without the stories and ego presentations that usually make up society. People will frequently describe feelings that are familiar from childhood such as waking up in the day and feeling excited for no particular reason. We refer to this as causeless joy or the pure joy of existence. It is sometimes experienced as a current that flows inside, like champagne bubbles of well-being.

The feeling of well-being emerges from our natural condition of innocence. In awakened awareness, the clear perception through which we regard the world is renewed each moment. We are no longer mentally dragging around the hardened crust of history about ourselves or having to wear the weighty armoring of self-importance.

I once spent a couple days on the island of Lanai in Hawaii at an exclusive resort that often attracts guests who are titans of industry. One day I was walking on a path down to the ocean and an older man passed me. I immediately sensed an imperious attitude in his purposeful march and his cheerless determined face that seemed carved out of stone. We looked each other in the eye, and a chill wind blew through my soul. I was reminded once again of the burden of thinking of oneself as somebody in the world, someone with power over others. I felt compassion for the man because, despite whatever wealth he had accumulated, I sensed only his impoverishment at missing what I consider the best of life. If one is not in touch with one's innocence, there is no heaven to be found, even in the most beautiful places on earth.

The most consistent characteristic of awakened teachers and people I have met is a childlike nature. They laugh, cry, twinkle, and joke, all with a spontaneity born of freedom. Their faces are fluid and reflect a timeless sweetness, even into old age. Poonjaji, a model of dignity into his eighties, could be at times downright goofy--and we loved it. He also exhibited a free-flowing range of emotions. On my first visit to meet him I noticed that almost every day he would laugh and cry several times during gatherings with students. Sometimes his tears would come from the happiness of seeing a person release a long held burden; sometimes he would cry with someone who had suffered a loss. As with a child, feelings would pass through him and be gone as quickly as they had come, leaving no lingering mood behind.

We all love the innocence we see in children. We delight in watching them learn new things and play in wild abandon. We love to hear their questions and reflections about the world because they spring from original awareness and the brilliance that obtains. We wistfully watch them sleeping and remember that feeling of perfect peace. We delight in the company of children because they remind us of our own innocence.

But in awakened awareness, innocence is no longer the special province of children. We, too, delight in learning new things and playing in abandon; our original awareness questions and reflects in brilliance; and we, too, sleep in deep peace. Innocence is a condition not dependent on age but on attitude. It lives in continual surprise, not knowing how things are supposed to go, not needing them to go a certain way.

--Catherine Ingram

from her book Passionate Presence

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Month from today

A month from today is the Dunham PTO pasta feed. The theme is life at the beach, something like that. Reggae music will be in evidence. We're practicing already.

For the auction, I'll be donating a member of the class for the past several years, Jamal.

He's our class giraffe, a big one, too. I like giraffes because of all land animals they have the largest heart. Jamal and his big heart have been watching over us in kindergarten for a long time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February's Snack Calendar

Here is the snack calendar for February for your convenience should you lose the paper version sent home earlier this week. Click on it to zoom in for a legible view.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


If you're not careful, any toy in kindergarten will, in the hands of boys, become a firearm.

They may stick a sidearm under a belt and tell you it's a flashlight, but I used to be a boy, and I know better.

Danny's dinosaur/giraffe

But if you're vigilant, you can encourage imaginations to venture in other directions. My strategy has long been to confiscate toys that become weapons, making it clear I'll withhold them again and again (with longer periods of confiscation) until the impulse to arm themselves can be resisted.

Danny building

David's truss

100s Day

Monday was the 100th day of kindergarten. We've been methodically keeping track of each day's passing.

As do many classrooms in America, we celebrated the 100th day of school with a special activity.

In our case, it was "saving" 100 bears from a bucket and ferrying them across a blue "pond" (our mat, actually) to a happy bear playground. The mode of transport was a collection of ice cream stick rafts made by hand in kindergarten.

To save 100 bears, we first had to count out 100 bears. We counted 10 bears and then used the balance scale to count out 9 more groups of 10 bears. Counting by 10 we knew we had 100 bears to save.

Ms. Brice using the balance scale to count out 100 bears.

The raft game comes from the math program we use, Everyday Math.

The game gives students practice rolling dice, collecting beans and exchanging 5 loose beans for a stick with 5 beans glued to it. Another exchange is made when 5 sticks are collected--the 5 sticks can be turned in for a raft.

Ms. Brice, Ms. Deay, and I made workmats to help with the exchanges.

All this resulted in about 30 minutes of rolling dice, counting beans, making exchanges and working together to save the 100 bears.

The Happy Bear Playground!

Counting out 100 M&Ms.

When, finally, all 100 bears were saved, we celebrated by giving each table of 4 students 100 chocolate candies to divide among themselves, 25 each. We used rafts without beans glued on them to help with counting out 5 X 5 beans.

Using empty rafts to count out 25 M&Ms

The kids had a good time. They sure were active, engaged, and loud!

I went home with a headache, probably brought on by eating too many M&Ms. Something in those things must be toxic; they certainly are addictive!