Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ms. Brice's Lesson

Today Ms. Brice took the class from 10:35 to about 11:25 for a lesson on rhyming words. She did a masterful job in planning the lesson and preparing the materials. She displayed great control of the class.

Teaching kindergarten is not as easy as it may appear to be. There are ten million ways to lose your way and descend into chaos. Ms. Brice navigated the waters like a harbor pilot. Cool, collected, smiling. It isn't as easy as she made it look.

While she taught a half dozen of her student teacher peers, the principal, the university professor overseeing the student teacher program, the regular teacher (me) and Mrs. Frech looked on. That's an audience of adults large enough to put butterflies in the stomach of all but the most confident of teachers!

At lunch we met to debrief her lesson and offer our praises and suggestions to improve.

She did a fabulous job, and I felt happy for her success.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Doings

This is the first day of STAR testing at Dunham. We don't do STAR tests in kindergarten, but we are affected by them because the morning schedule changes to accommodate the testing schedule. Our mid morning recess is pushed back until 10:15.

A longer schedule gives us more time to delve into interests. The kids in the writing center made newspapers. Here, have a look:

In the block center, students built refuges large enough to crawl inside.

We also went outside to admire the improvements to our garden area.

May/June Snack Calendar

This calendar will be coming home tomorrow or the next day.

Here it is online for your reference should it get lost. Click on photo for a closer look.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friend to Friend Conspiracy

As I was carrying the bag of recycling to the big blue bin outside first grade where it's collected, I passed by Sophia's mom, Tonia B. and greeted her as she passed by me. She was headed home her two daughters.

I dumped my bag out into the recycling and headed back to the classroom. Looking up, I saw Tonia coming back looking as if she had something to say to me.

"Mr. Gurney, I've been wanting to talk to you for some time," she began.

"What about?"

"About how you inspired me about six months ago to get rid of our TV. We've got no cable, no satellite. All we can watch is DVDs."

"Sounds like me: I use a computer to watch the DVDs," I said. "I've got the minimum Netflix account: two a month."

"Well, the surprising thing, Mr. Gurney, the most surprising thing is this: my girls don't miss TV at all. They don't ask to get it back. They play outside. They have fantasy play again. They read. They draw. Our house is so much more peaceful and happy. I don't even miss the news. I can get the internet news on my iPhone." Tonia went on for some time like this. She was a fountain of happy stories about their lives free of TV. When I had a chance to respond, I said,

"It's funny, Tonia, that you're telling me this. Just yesterday a mother of a first grader told me the same thing. Practically word for word. When they moved, they didn't automatically hook up a cable or satellite dish. They discovered a much happier family life when free of TV. I am so happy for you. Your kids will grow up from the inside out, happy, whole people. Our national nightmares won't be brought into your house. Katrina. 9/11. Columbine."

"I know, I remember my kids begging me to shut off the news reports about Katrina." she said. "Thank you for inspiring us."

"You're welcome. Now do something for me. Pass the free of TV favor on. Find one friend and inspire them to get free of TV. And when they thank you for inspiring them to become free of TV, ask them to pass the free of TV favor along to one of their friends. We'll start a movement."

"I will, Mr. Gurney, I will do that," she smiled.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Luke's Good Answer

It takes a watchful eye to manage 28 kindergartners. For everyone to be happy, the teacher needs to know when and how to intervene when students need help getting along.

This morning Zaria and Sophia were playing in the Lego area. Zaria had a little Lego monkey, but she did not want to share it with Sophia. Sophia clearly wanted it and explained that it had been her monkey first. I could see they needed help. I explained to Zaria that having a friend is better than having a toy. I suggested that she share the monkey with Sophia with the request that when Sophia was done that she would return it to her. This worked and they played amicably the rest of the play time.

Later, I used the incident as a simple math lesson.

"If Zaria had five toy monkeys and she gave three of them to Sophia, how many monkeys would Zaria have?"

"Two," came the answer everyone knew.

"And" raise your hand if you know this answer, "How many friends would she have?" I asked. A sea of hands went up for this easy answer. I called on Luke.

"Twenty eight," he said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cutie, Isabelle's Pet Goat

Isabelle shared her pet goat Cutie at the end of kindergarten this morning. Everyone had a chance to pet her.

Brandon's first tooth

Brandon came in from recess telling me he thought his tooth might come out. He said it was bleeding. I asked him if he wanted me to pull it out. "No," he said, "I'll do it." And with that, he gave his tooth a tug and out it came.

We put it in an envelope for safe keeping till he gets home, and then he posed for this photo.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Building Blocks

Give kindergarten students a set of wooden blocks and some time and they'll build things. Amazing things.

This is the proper work for five year old children. We're developing literacy in the building blocks of building trades. The best part is students have a natural interest in this work. No force-feeding, coercion, or discipline applied from outside is necessary.

Provide a set of wooden blocks and enough time to do something.

Too bad this sort of work is overlooked by No Child Left Behind reformers. (I hate that name. As if schools were deliberately leaving children behind!) To my knowledge, no one is giving students multiple choice computer scored fill-in-the-bubble tests on building freestanding towers six feet high, so achievements like this go unnoticed and unappreciated by the powers that be.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Henry made a Zoob creature Wednesday.

Weaponized Toys

Toy manufacturers seem to have a penchant for building dystopian nightmares and calling them toys. This remote controlled car arrived last week for sharing time. It had an army look to it and, against my better judgment, I allowed it to be demonstrated.

The car drove around the rug forward, reverse, and able to make turns. Nothing new.

Then, suddenly, it stopped and transformed into something altogether different. Its top lifted and it began firing rubber-tipped rockets from a launcher concealed in the cockpit.

Oops! End of sharing for that day.