Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rewards Don't Work

About thirty years ago I opened a school to teach people windsurfing. You see, I LOVED to windsurf. My idea was to turn my passion for windsurfing into a summer business that would bring me some extra income.

I didn't expect that my windsurfing business would kill my interest in windsurfing. But that's exactly what happened. My hobby became my job, and I was soon hating it.

What I experienced is not a bit unusual. If you do what you do for pay, you probably will not enjoy your work. If you go to work because you love what you do, well, you'll probably love what you do.

I ran across an interesting article online that discusses an experiment that demonstrated that rewards don't work. Rewards actually are counter-productive. The experiment this article describes was done with preschool children who liked to draw. If children were given rewards for drawing, they began to draw less than other children who were not rewarded for drawing.

You can read that article here: Rewards.

Why do I mention this here on Mr. Kindergarten? To suggest that you avoid rewarding your child (or student, if you're a teacher) and trust the stronger and much more reliable motivator: intrinsic motivation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Halloween Parade

These students returned to school to join the Halloween Parade this afternoon.

Thanks to the room parents for a great Halloween snack and party this morning. I'd like to pass along Michelle Lorenz's thank you's here:

I wanted to send a thank you to everyone for all your help today.
Thank you to Tracey and Kerri Petersen for the yummy snacks.
Thank you to Hunter's Family for providing delicious and beautifully decorated cupcakes.
Thank you to Maddison's Family for the great goodie bag.
Thank you to April, Shelley, Tracey, Jennifer, Mrs.Frech and Mr.Gurney for the fun games. 
The kids had so much fun because of you.
Michelle Lorenz

Have a great weekend.

Rolling Dice in Kindergarten

Today in math the students rolled dice and recorded the result to see which number came up most often. We'll do this activity again and also for homework next week. Some inaccuracies occurred (at 38 seconds) on this first time through. As we do it again, the process of rolling and recording will become well established and the students will have enough brain power left over to think about the results of the dice rolling.

With enough rolls, they'll hopefully see that the odds of rolling any particular number is about the same as rolling any other number, a fact that is not necessarily obvious or intuitive to them right now.

I was pleased by how engaged they were in this simple activity, especially on the day of the Halloween Party and Parade.

Have a safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wear Red Wednesday

Tomorrow's one of our spirit days. Folks from "Red Ribbon Week" will be by to look at our doors and see who's wearing red.

Frankly, I think anti-drug programs don't have a place in kindergarten. Using drugs illegally just isn't on most kindergartners minds. So programs like Red Ribbon Week whose basic message is "Don't Do Drugs" don't work very well. It's because the human mind just doesn't work that way.

If I say, "Don't think of a green elephant in a tutu," guess what shows up in your mind?

Yes, a green elephant in a tutu.

So we play it really low key in kindergarten.

Other news:

Shelby mastered the Soundabet in Uppercase today. Yeah, Shelby. I forgot to give her the prize: her own deck of Soundabet Queen's cards. Please remind me.

Corinne, see my comment on the Green Mat post.

Bye for now....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A First Grade Blog

I just discovered a first grade teacher's blog that I like.

It's by Kathy Cassidy, Blogmeister.

I put a link for it over there on the right.

Check it out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Green Mat

The new green mat, with room for our 29th student, Trisha, arrived and I installed it Friday.

Students will be able to self-select a place to sit on Monday and we'll see how it goes.

I painted a stripe on the playground to help the students line up far enough from the door so that it can be opened without danger of banging into their noses.

And, oh, looky here at the patterns we're seeing. Man, I'm impressed.

Last, but not least, I put the finishing touches on the vortex generator which will see service in kindergarten. Anyone got some smoke bombs they could donate?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Math Activities

Most of the students have got the idea of the teens down quite well. They drew a card with a teen on it and built a structure using that many wooden cubes.

Here are photos from some of them.

At the end are two photos of wooden bead patterns. Some students are moving beyond the simple ABAB pattern and exploring more complex patterns. Sam shows an ABC pattern. I'm seeing students come up with lots of AABB patterns. It's enjoyable to observe the students as they progress naturally to increasingly complex patterns.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scholastic Book Orders

Book orders have arrived. Your books will be distributed tomorrow. If you paid for your order with a check, please see me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week in Review

It's been a busy week in kindergarten.

I'm always amazed at how much better kids do when their own genius is allowed to unfold. Alissa made this design with the pattern blocks all by herself.

The photo of the empty tables there was taken Thursday. If you wonder why I took it, look under the tables. See the kids huddled there? Thursday was our first "Duck and Cover" drill as part of a statewide earthquake preparedness exercise. Our class performed well. The drill went according to plan.

It's been a busy week. As I indicated in the last post, math activities emphasized teens. We've still got a number of students who don't really understand them. This activity involved drawing a card with a number on it and making something out of the linking cubes with that many cubes. Justin got it right. So did Gavin.

Parents, can your child count objects up to 20?

Can your child read this list of numbers accurately?

18,   12,   15,   19,   11,   17,   13,   16,   14,   10

If your child cannot read these numbers with confidence, please offer your child some additional practice at home. You can make up some at-home flash cards and go for it. We'll be moving along, mathwise, and we don't want to leave anyone behind....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Tricky Teens

After a lifetime of helping young children count past 10, I've seen many many many children get confused and stay confused by the teens. I feel for them!

 If I had the power, I would invent nine new English words to replace nine standard English words.

I'd invent

  • Oneten-one to replace the word, "eleven"
  • Oneten-two to replace the word, "twelve"
  • Oneten-three to replace the word, "thirteen"
  • Oneten-four to replace the word, "fourteen"
  • Oneten-five to replace the word, "fifteen"
  • Oneten-six to replace the word, "sixteen"
  • Oneten-seven to replace the word, "seventeen"
  • Oneten-eight to replace the word, "eighteen"
  • One-ten-nine to replace the word, "nineteen"

(If I were allowed to banish only four number words, they would be "eleven," "twelve," "thirteen," and "fifteen."  That is to say, I could live with fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen. Those words don't obscure the underlying numerical meaning as much as the others do.)

Next week's focus in math will be teaching the teens. We'll play games with teens, build block buildings with a 15 blocks, do some arts and crafts projects involving the teens. And sadly, still, at the end of the week, some students will be confused about the teens.

Right now about a third of the class cannot count from 1 to 20 without making errors. It's very very common to hear kids skip 15. That's because once they arrive at FOURteen they think they're home free. They hear that "four" in fourteen and go straight to SIXteen, SEVENteen, EIGHTteen, and NINEteen. I suppose this would not happen if fifteen were given its natural name, FIVEteen.

By the way, the word, "teen" means ten. So, you know, seventeen is trying to say "seven and ten"—with a weird accent.


Parents, please, please help your child. Help your child learn to count out loud (by rote) to 20 without making a mistake. For many children this takes lots of practice. If they're skipping 15, help them. Fill in the fifteen if they're skipping it. Encouragement in the key. Remember, INDIVIDUAL practice is how your child will get from here to there. I've got 28 students in class, so it's difficult for me to provide your child the individual practice he or she may really need.

Also help your child learn to recognize the teens by sight. The activities we're doing next week will be stressful for the students who look at 16 and have no idea what it is and what it means.

When you point to 13, can your child say, "thirteen"? Students who can count aloud to 20 and who can recognize the teens by sight will get a whole lot more understanding out of next week's activities than the students who cannot.

Thanks in advance for your help...and remember, keep it fun. Frustration and tears interfere with learning.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Writing the Letter H

Today we practiced writing the uppercase letter H using our slate chalkboards.

We began with the standard, classical letter form, as called for in the handwriting program:

And, as usual, we did 100 of these ordinary H's. It's my way of letting the class hear the numbers 1 through 100 on a daily basis, plus getting everyone to write the letter four times or so.

After the ordinary H's, we made some "ghost" H's by using the eraser to form the letter on a board covered in chalk:

And then the fun began. We imagined other sorts of H's. Happy ones, spooky ones,


When we added emotion to the letters, the students enjoyment of handwriting increased exponentially. We spent twice as long (and had more than twice the fun) in our handwriting lessons compared to most days. It actually made us late for our meeting with the fifth grade buddies, and despite rushing through snack time, our buddies had to wait patiently for us to be ready for them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How Many Classmates Can You Name?

How many classmates' names do you know? Part of tomorrow's (Wednesday's) homework will include looking at this picture and naming all the faces you can. There are 31. Have a parent help you keep track of how many you know. There will be a place to write down the number that shows how many people you can name.

Here's the picture. Click on it to make it bigger. (If you ordered school photos, you probably have this photo on actual paper which would be much easier to use—so do it that way if you can.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Humble Pie Restaurant

Josh Norwitt and Dan McCann in the kitchen

Looking for a great place to eat?

Check out Humble Pie Restaurant in Penngrove.

Humble Pie has tons of Dunham School connections. Most of the food is organically grown on a 160 acre ranch just down Roblar Road from the school.

Sam's dad, Dan Mc Cann, is one of the chefs. Sam's mom went to Dunham, too! I remember her from kindergarten.

The head waiter, Josh Norwitt, is a veteran of Mr. Gurney's kindergarten (and sixth grade, back in the day).

But the food! The food! The food!

The food! It's simply the best. My wife Sarah and I went to Humble Pie for brunch this morning. We began by splitting the best—and freshest—cinnamon roll I've ever tasted. It was sooo good.

After the cinnamon roll came breakfast. I had Shepard's Hash made with lamb from the Roblar ranch. It came with fresh organic scrambled eggs, hot buttered toast with a small bowl of homemade berry jam (you can taste the homemade difference) and fruit. Every bite was scrumptious.

You can feel good about eating food that is so local, so organic, and so made with love and care.

We can't wait to go back for dinner.

Here's a link to their website: Humble Pie. Check out that link.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Counting Seeds

One of our centers this round is to open up a gourd (locally grown in the school's garden) to see how many seeds it contains.

To count of such large numbers, the students place 10 seeds in cups and we count the cups filled this way.

A few of my scholars seem to grasp the idea of counting the total number of seeds by skip counting (by 10's) as we count the cups. But I can see that this concept sails well over the heads of most of the students. Oh, well. It's in the standards.

Today's team of seed counters found 150 seeds in the gourd. A few days ago a gourd yielded 320 seeds.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reading 30 Names

Three kindergartners can read the names of all their classmates as well as the names of Mrs. Frech and Mr. Gurney. The purpose of this post is to give your child the opportunity to practice this skill at home until he or she can do this trick as well. Learning to read the names of all the classmates is a good exercise of early reading skills as well as pro-social: learning the names of people who share your life is just good manners.

So, here are the names of all the kids in class:

There. All 30!