Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Writing Road to Reading

The value of writing in learning to read could hardly be overstated.

Reading and writing are learned best when learned simultaneously. They go together like north and south.

Think of reading as traveling north:
Reading asks us to see symbols, hear the sounds those symbols represent, connect those sounds into words, and understand what the writer was trying to convey.

Writing takes us along the same path but in the opposite direction, south:
Writing asks us to understand what we want to say, break that statement into words, break those words down into the sounds we hear, write down the symbols that stand for those sounds.

The neural pathways for reading and writing in the brain are the same pathways

Here's another way to think of it:

In reading we go from eyes to ears to mouth. 

In writing we go from mouth to ears to eyes.
(Writing adds the challenge of fine-motor control, especially difficult for some five year olds, especially—dare I say this?—Boys.)

So moms and dads and aunts, uncles and grandparents, if you want to help a beginning reader learn to become a better reader, go get a pencil and paper and ask your loved one to write something for you.

Here's some work handed to me Friday by two of the students in my room.


Child Prodigy

I sent my brother Jim an article I ran across about a seven year old kid who can paint like a master. He featured it on whis website today.

If you're interested in amazing kids, go over and have a look.

This link here will take you to the specific post >>>>> Gurney Journey Blog.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

100 Toy Cars

Wednesday was the 100th day of the school year. We celebrated it partly by bringing in collections of 100 objects. One of the activities was to count the collections brought in.

Jacob brought in 100 toy cars. To count them, I got out cardboard mats printed with 10 circles on them. Arranging 10 of them in the familiar double 5 domino pattern in the middle of our green mat (to emphasize the tenness of the cards) we proceeded to place the cars, one by one in their circles on the cards.

It came out right. Jacob had brought exactly enough cars to fill each circle on each card with no leftovers.

Here's a picture:

Is it just me, or do the boys look more interested in this activity than the girls?

The cars are all inverted because of their tendency to roll off their parking places.

Now as I write this, I wish I had asked the obvious next question: How many wheels were there? No doubt the first answer to come would be 400. I have more than a few kids who would be able to figure this out. And my deepest thinkers might even go far enough to consider the possibility that there might be a vehicle or two in the collection that has more than 4 wheels.

If your child is in the class, I encourage you to ask the question that didn't come to me until now. I invite you to leave a comment, especially if you get an answer that shows your child's deeper understanding of numbers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Safe, Happy, Kind

Barbra Stephens over at Honorable Mention blog talked a bit about creating classroom culture. She mentioned Michael Parker's work (with which I am not familiar) where he identifies 7 Commitments.

In my personal life, I can handle lists that reach up to seven, but in the whirl of a kindergarten classroom with 31 students in it, paring my list of guiding stars down to 3 works better for me. I guess I'm too simple-minded.

Anyway, I've found my classroom works best if I stick to three very simple values (I call them "rules" when I talk about them to five year olds, but they're really values). I teach these values RELENTLESSLY again and again and again and again......

Today, when I asked the kids to write words they know these words appeared on some of their slates. So they not only know them, they live them, and can read and write them, too.

So, what are my key values?

#1  Be Safe

#2 Be Happy

#3 Be Kind

Amazingly, in the seven or eight years I've been using this particular constellation of guiding principles, they've not yet let me down. They seem to cover every situation that arises (with maybe a little stretching here and there). If my students behave in ways that are safe, happy and kind, we're all good. If they're acting in ways that are unsafe, unhappy, or unkind, well, we need to go back to our guiding stars.

The Important Book: Siena

The Important thing about Siena is that she is full of life, love, and personality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stepping Aside

They say you don't really know something until you've taught it.

That's true, and it applies to kindergarten. Savannah and Isabella demonstrated their knowledge of all 40 of the Soundabet words a couple of days ago. So I asked them to test Katrina who I was pretty sure would breeze through it.

She did, of course. Actually Katrina proved her ability with all the King's Queen's, Boy, and Teacher cards, an unprecedented four milestones passed in just one day. It's an example of getting out of the way as a teacher and allowing competencies to pass from kid to kid, unimpeded by adult interference.

In a similar way, I step aside to allow Wyatt (from 3rd grade) to help serve up the snack. He does this task with an interest, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and satisfaction far beyond my capabilities. He's was away, sick, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I really missed him.

finally, in my section of Kindergarten buddies, I had the fifth graders help the kindergartners find out how many words they could write down in about 20 minutes. They worked so well together. Here's Jordan helping Katrina:

And here you can see what Justin accomplished.

Life is good in kindergarten!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homework for January 20

Here's tonight's homework. Note that it's not really due for a week, January 27, the 100th day of school. You can turn it in that day or any day before.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Important Book: Stephen

We had 12 students out today. Strep throat is going around. Please watch for sore throats, fevers. I got a taste of what teachers in schools with class size reduction have enjoyed all these years: 19 students. I have to say: it's a big difference. Wow. So much more peaceful.

Here is Stephen's Important Book page. The important thing about Stephen is he loves his family and likes all his friends. Click for an enlarged view.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Important Book: Tara

Here is Tara's page in the Important Book
The important thing about Tara is she loves her friends and always has a big smile.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sudoku Homework for January 13

Here is a photo of tonight's Sudoku homework. We'll return to these as time goes on, and they'll get progressively more difficult. (More blank spaces.) Please see that each ROW and each COLUMN has all the digits 1 - 9 in them. Fill in the missing numbers. It's fun!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Important Book: Mrs. Frech

Here is Mrs. Frech's page in The Important Book. Click in for a closer look.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kindergarten Homework: Getting it Home

Hello Kindergarten families,

I know that a few of you have experienced difficulty in getting the Wednesday kindergarten homework assignment pages home on Wednesdays.

Believe it or not, we make a strong effort to make sure the students place their homework safely in their cubbies before going to lunch. (In the shuffle that is inherent to our Tribes activities, I think some homework papers are getting lost.)

Tribes or no tribes, it's actually pretty normal for some kindergartners to lose their homework or forget to bring it home. I know that this can be frustrating to conscientious parents.

Pick up a copy here if you cannot find the original one.

To reduce frustration and increase success rate, here are 3 ideas.

  1. Consider providing your child with a special homework folder of their own choosing—their choosing it is vital to the success of this idea—and send it to school each Wednesday. If your child have their own "cool" homework folder in which to transport homework, he or she is much more likely to keep track of homework papers.
  2. Check with your child before leaving for home on Wednesdays and ask to see the homework paper. If it cannot be found, you can pick up one of the extras I keep by the door.
  3. From now forward, I'll try to post the homework assignment here on the blog on Wednesdays,

Finally, please bear in mind that in kindergarten it's okay to bring homework in a day late, should you forget. At this point in the year, while I do record whether it's been done or not, I don't penalize homework turned in late.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We Welcome Jacqui

Yesterday we welcomed a new student to our kindergarten, a girl named Jacqui.

She's adjusting very well and has already a number of friends.

Here's a picture of her:

I look forward to getting to know her better as she begins to learn English.