Monday, August 31, 2009

Potato Heads and Bikes

We started the day off with an assembly. After the assembly we worked on learning the Pledge of Allegiance a bit better, though I was surprised how many kindergartners already know it. Back in the day when Spanish was offered to kindergartners they learned it in Spanish, too. My hunch is we could teach it to them in Urdu and it would have about as much meaning for them. But many of them have it down in English. I guess they say the Pledge in preschools....

After the assembly we went back to the room for a drawing lesson. I showed the class a print of one of my brother's paintings, a fantasy image of a boy flying over New York City on a book.

My brother says I was his first art teacher. So, if your child would like to grow up to be an artist, you've got him or her in the right kindergarten.

We drew pictures of turtles. They're up on the wall in front of the room. One scholar decided to see if he could get away with an unmarked paper for his turtle, and when we reminded him that not trying won't work, he produced a drawing. We have some skillful artists in the class. Justin, Jacob, and Shelby's work stand out as I remember what they drew.

There was time to play inside and the potato heads you see below caught my fancy.

Clean up went really well. We finished with seconds to spare. Closing the cardboard blocks for a day was definitely motivating the class to try much harder.

What else? Shelby brought in bagels cream cheese and oranges. A few kindergartners tried sliced orange for what seemed to be the first time, if not in their whole lives, well, then, in a very long time. And they liked them.

And we went out riding. I caught four riders of two-wheeler machines on camera.





Saturday, August 29, 2009

Recruiting a Teacher

Building high towers out of the cardboard blocks is fun for kindergartners. The only problem is...their ambitions are taller than their bodies. I allow them to carefully use stools or chairs to get their building taller.

However a well-constructed tower isn't wobbly even at those heights. They know they could get their building taller, if only they could reach higher. It's fun to watch them problem-solve this and see the idea appear in their minds that they could recruit a taller person to help.

I'm always happy to oblige if asked to add a few blocks to the top of a tower they've created. Here's one that went up Friday.

Sad to say, they didn't work quickly enough to put the blocks away before time ran out—more than a few students continued to play when it was time to clean up—so these blocks shall stay on the shelves on Monday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27, 2009

A few scenes from kindergarten today....

Hunter uses the step stool to help build a lofty block tower.

Quite a few students experimented with colored water

Jacob worked with the balance scale. He found several different ways to make the pans balance.

Alissa looked through colored lenses. These make the world a bright pink.

Breagan and Stephen strummed some tunes.
Teacher note: child-sized guitars sound great when tuned to an open chord.
They're fairly quiet and the harmony is pre-installed.

We got out the "4-wheelers" as well as several two wheelers.
(Parent note: we ride bikes Mondays and Thursdays and alternate Wednesdays.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Question Mark

We've begun to glue letters for our names made with pinto beans. Several past students have told me that they've hung on to their "bean names" for years.

Your students are working with care and precision.

Before beginning on our actual names, we practiced by making a question mark, because good questions are at the very heart of education.

It is fitting and proper that our first project was to make a question mark.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reminder: School Dress Monday

Monday we will have our first whole school assembly. If you can, please dress your child in Dunham clothing. Common school dress, or the PTO's Dunham logo wear. (If you don't have Dunham clothing yet, see the office. They can help.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday--P.E. & Group Photo

Ms. Campbell led us in three physical education activities: an obstacle course which she led; a tumbling activity led by Mrs. Frech; and soccer drills led by yours truly.

We started off with stretching and warm-ups, as all good P.E. lessons do.

I snapped this photo of Colton and Justin who were soccer stand-outs.

But everyone took part!

Later there was some fancy work with the parquetry blocks. Sam was proud of his work!

Just before dismissal we gathered for a group photo.
I took this one in large format,
so if you click on it you'll see it up close.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This morning I rewarded the class for their awesome cleaning up by getting out the tricyles. They're proving themselves to be responsible and cooperative with regard to using and putting away materials.

I rode the bike pictured above on the playground as went outside to play on the bars. See if they can describe the trick I did on this bike for them.

Cheers! See you tomorrow.

Volunteering in the Kindergarten

I hope to get more classroom volunteers to serve in the kindergarten. The more volunteers I get the better the activities we can offer. I can use as many as 5 people each day.

I seek people who can be relied upon to regularly work one (or more) mornings per week until 8:45 AM. You would lead a small instructional group, usually a table with four children. Directions are provided. Your task will be to assist students as they work on an art, science, cooking, math, or language arts activity. To sign up, add your name to the chart by the door.

Volunteers will start on Tuesday, September 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Snack Calendar and First Day

Here's the snack calendar for August. On the day your child's name appears in the calendar, please bring a small, healthy snack for 28 children. If you click on the image, a larger image will appear that is easier to read. Thanks!

There is a paper copy of this calendar in your child's cubby waiting to be taken home on Thursday.

On this first day of kindergarten, we practiced lining up to go outside.

We learned the rules for the bars and got to play on them some.

We had recess indoors. The class got all the blocks out and built a variety of buildings.

When it was time to put things away everyone worked together. The room was neat as a pin in less than three minutes.

We will have a good year.

Tomorrow will be a lot like today, with some new things happening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Day Reminders

Hello, and Welcome to Dunham School’s Kindergarten.

Three items of note:

1. Dismissal at 1:00
Tomorrow is the first day of school. Because school starts on a Wednesday, dismissal will be after lunch—at 1:00. (On other days, kindergarten dismisses at 11:45.)

2. Pack a Lunch
Please be sure to pack a lunch for your child to enjoy on the first day of school. Include a healthy snack to be eaten in the middle of the morning.

3. Pick up is Inside the Room
For their safety, kindergarten students will be dismissed only from inside the kindergarten room on this potentially confusing first day of school. I encourage you to arrive a little bit earlier than 1:00 and park your car before the lot fills up, Come as early as 12:45 to avoid the rush. You must come inside the room to get your child.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Kindergarten has a way of going haywire. No photos, and if you read on, you'll understand why.

My son's kindergarten was taught by a saint named Mr. Butler. There were many things we admired about Mr. Butler, but chief among them was that he was completely unflappable. When things went haywire, Mr. Butler never ruffled a feather; he adjusted and kept on going.

Early this afternoon, two days before we actually get underway, the PTO held an ice cream social as a way of easing gently into the new school year. The kindergarten class was invited to come early at 12:30 to meet me and my assistant and tour the room. I had come in over the summer to get the classroom ready for the year, but I left plenty of the work to do this morning because I wanted to keep myself and my instructional assistant busy with last-minute tasks.

What I hadn't planned on was my assistant calling in sick on the first day of the year. Her almost 10 year old dog is actively dying, and she had to be with her husband, daughter, and son. These things happen. They happened to me just two years ago.

I tried to channel Mr. Butler. "Okay," I said to myself, "I can get the classroom ready by myself. I'll just leave this and this and this and this till later."

Kindergartners and their families began to arrive for the ice cream social. I got them settled, as best I could, on the freshly washed mat and launched into my talk about being safe, happy, and kind. Thirty seconds into my talk, as I was emphasizing how important it is to me that kindergarten be a safe place, a mom with a long and serious face arrived at the door and asked, "Do you have a pillow? We need a pillow out here."

I was trying to imagine why a pillow was needed outside my door. It's all cement sidewalk out there and the first thing you pass is a boy's bathroom that smells. I could not imagine wanting to lie down outside my kindergarten's front door. My imagination couldn't come up with a benign explanation.

Soon there was some arm-waving giving me the general idea that I should not have any of my students walk out the door they had entered.

A fire truck arrived, parked outside my window. The firemen first responders carried a yellow strecher off in the direction of my front door.

I channeled Mr. Butler a little more actively. "Okay. We'll change plans, go with the flow here."

With the help of seasoned parents, we exited out my back door and walked the long way around the kindergarten room to the ice cream social. I think we managed to avoid seeing what caused the commotion just outside my door: a new kindergarten student's grandmother had fallen and sustained injuries that involved a bloody head wound and possible some broken bones.

Please offer some get-well wishes to this grandmother.

And to Spencer, Amy, and all the others: thanks for helping me get through the first moments of the year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gettin' Ready

I visited the school yesterday to finish cleaning up the room in preparation for school beginning next Wednesday. The janitor had just finished cleaning the carpets and flooring. That's my green light to move the furniture back in place.

I noticed that the mats were a bit grungy after the party on the last day of school in June.

So I took them outside and gave them a good scrubbing. As I scrubbed off the old names, stains, and gunk I thought about how all those kids will be first graders next year and their memories of kindergarten will begin to fade.

I thought about how it would feel to be five years old on the first day of school and see a blotch of juice or something on the mat where you were sitting. Thoughts like that got me scrubbing extra hard to get the squares as clean as I could, given their age.

The sun was warm. The squares dried quickly in the sun.

And I put the pieces together like a puzzle ready for the new year.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Feel-Good Teacher Movie

The real deal: Erin Gruwell

Last night my wife and I watched Freedom Writers, (<- that link has a trailer) the movie based on Erin Gruwell's high school English classroom in Long Beach, California.

I'm not going to review the movie except to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it especially to teachers at the end of summer. It gave me a boost to see a story of another member of this noble profession who built a caring connection with her students.

Hillary Swank did a great job in the lead role and I was enchanted by the unknown actors who play the students in her class. They were great.

As with most Hollywood movies, it would be possible to find all sorts of faults and shortcomings. Her colleagues were not presented in the best light, that's for sure, but to be a critic of a movie like this would be counter-productively grumpy.

This is a movie to enjoy and make you feel good about being a teacher.

If you haven't seen it, go out and rent a copy. You might need a handkerchief.