Sunday, February 28, 2010


Usually it's the boys who are interested in building things. But Friday a quartet of female architects, Hunter, Mollie, Maddison, and Katrina  got to work on a pyramid built with one-inch wooden cubes. They kept at it until they were all the blocks were gone.

I wonder if my supply had been larger how much larger their construction would have grown.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tonight's Homework...

Tonight's homework is the next page in the homework book about measuring with cut out feet. Sorry such a quick post with no picture... Tonight's a busy night for me and the Mayor of Sebastopol.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lincoln Logs

 Got out the Lincoln Logs today and next thing I know some towers appear. It looks like a RAINY week is in store for us, so I'll be bringing out more and more stuff to build with during our rainy day indoor recesses.

Luckily this class gets along well and knows how to share materials and include other people who want to join in, so rainy day recesses go much more smoothly than they might otherwise. It's been a couple of wonderful days back.

This is the time of year when the kindergarten really hums along. The routines and procedures are ingrained; they know each other and what's expected of them and they're ready to build on the foundations laid down in the fall and early winter months. We're going to see lots of reading and writing in the months ahead.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back at It

One of the moms asked me this morning, "So how did you like Ski Week?' She has older kids at our school and knows that this was the first time in the 139 year history of Dunham School that we took a whole week off in February for skiing.

Well, first of all, I don't ski. I don't actually have fun in the snow, having been born near Syracuse New York where snow is mostly a bother. "I'd much rather have had 5 three day weekends," I replied. "That way I would have had enough time on the weekend to do something fun."

As it turned out, I got a lot of nagging projects done around the house. We got a new disposall in the kitchen. The crabapple is pruned. And I got Soundabet all caught up. I didn't have much fun. No trips to Florida. I never got out of West Sonoma County.

What surprised me most was I actually missed the class. Being away from school at a time when I'm normally ON was new and it felt strange. I felt glad to be a kindergarten teacher.

When I got back to school this morning a bunch of kids said they'd missed school, too, so I guess I'm not the only one. By the time we were singing "Each of us is a flower, growing in life's garden," I was good old happy Mr. Gurney, and feeling grateful to be a kindergarten teacher....

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Important Book: Sabreen

Here is the Important Book page about Sabreen. The important thing about Sabreen is she is kind and loves her friends and family.

Treats for the Staff

We celebrate birthdays at Dunham. Yesterday Mrs. Sheffield had a birthday and so this was the table greeting staff member happening by this morning.

Makes it oh-so-hard to keep those New Year's resolutions.

Danish, M&M's, cupcakes, yogurt, blueberries, muffins, melons.....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mom on a Wire

Here's a post from a mom named Karli L., mom of Zibbit. I really enjoyed reading it, and I hope you will, too.

Karli keeps a blog called mom on a wire that can be found here: Mom on Wire.

1,000 Molecules

On Mondays I spend the morning volunteering in Zibbit’s classroom. Believe me: there is no better way to start your week than to spend two hours in the exuberant company of a couple dozen five-year-olds. If you ever doubt for a moment that you are needed on this earth, spend some time in a Kindergarten classroom.

“KARLI! Karli’s here, guys!”
“Hey, hey, guess what, my goldfish died yesterday!”
“My zipper is stuck, Karli!”
“Can you tie my shoe?”
“My mom said we were going to go to a movie but instead we went to the grocery store because it was getting late!”
“Yesterday I watched ‘Max and Ruby’ ten times!”
“I’m hungry!”
“I have to go to the bathroom!”

Yesterday I spent part of the morning manning the reading table. The children would come five at a time and spend fifteen minutes with me, looking through books and practicing their reading and listening to me read to them. The reading table has a different theme each week, and this week the tub of books on the table were all about snow. They read about a snowman who had lost his nose, a turtle that refused to hibernate so he could play outside during winter, and two penguins named Flip and Flop. There were also a couple of scientific books about snowflakes, one of them particularly beautiful with its close-up photos of hundreds of different kinds of flakes. I was looking through this book with one of the boys in the class when I came across this passage:
“You exhale roughly a liter of water per day into the atmosphere, and most of this water rains or snows back down again within about a week’s time. The total global precipitation is about 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion) times greater than the amount of water you exhale, so your impact on the weather is pretty minor.
But even if you contribute only one quadrillionth of the total water content in a snowflake, that is still about 1,000 molecules. It depends on how well things are mixed in the atmosphere, but there are probably, very roughly, about a thousand of your molecules in every snowflake.”
Naturally, I was momentarily stunned into silence. I shushed the children and read the passage aloud to them.
“You guys,” I said. “This is beautiful.” They stared at me blankly, thoroughly unimpressed. When you are five, you haven’t let learned to feel insignificant in the world because when you are five, the world is still yours.

It isn’t until much later (sometime around 7th or 8th grade) that you discover how terribly, terribly small you are. In middle school, when you learn about solar systems and careers and social hierarchies, you realize that no matter what you do or do not do, the world will continue to turn. You resign yourself to the fact that you are a grain of sand amidst billions of other grains of sand, and you just kind of lose your mind temporarily. You write terrible poems about puberty and God and you cry a lot and you hate your friends and you do weird things with your hair hoping that someone will finally notice you.

Things stay awful for about a decade and then, sometime in your mid-twenties, you finally calm down. You begin to make peace with the world again, either through accepting your seeming insignificance or by creating a life for yourself where you matter.

But, at age five, you don’t know any of these things. You don’t understand why grown-ups tell you all the time how wonderful and beautiful and important you are, because you never thought to believe otherwise. Yesterday morning was so comical; there I was, having some sort of enormous spiritual breakthrough in front of a table full of children who were patiently listening to me teach them something they already knew. Of course there are a thousand molecules of me in every snowflake, they must have thought. Is this woman crazy? Doesn’t she know that I am everything, and everything is me?

I’m learning, my lovelies, I’m learning. Thank you for gently accepting my ignorance and teaching me what it’s like to be so plugged in to it all. Sometimes, dears, the taller you get, the smaller you feel. And if this happens to you as you grow, if you start to wonder one day whether or not you matter, go hang out with some five-year-olds. Let them love you, and tell them about the snow.

Valentine's Day Cards

Friday we'll have a Valentine's Day card exchange.

I invite your child to make (or sign) a Valentine's Card for all the classmates. There are 31 pupils in the class.

Please note: Don't have your child write their classmates' names on their cards.

If the kids had to properly deliver their 30+ cards we'll have about 1,000 correct deliveries to make, and about the same number of tears.

Could you also bring an ordinary grocery store paper bag to be used as "mailboxes" for the Valentine's Cards on Friday? You know, the bag you get when you say "Paper" when asked, "Paper or Plastic?" as you go through the checkout line. (Well, that's assuming you haven't brought along your own reusable canvas bag, as I almost always do which is why I don't have very many paper bags.)

Thank you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dog Meets Giraffe

In past years students mainly built very simple long "trains" of these linking cubes. Sometimes color patterns would emerge in the chains.

This year I'm seeing much more interesting three dimensional objects. First to appear—predictably in our militarized culture—the usual space craft and contraband weaponry: guns, that turn into light sabers; light sabers that turn into lethal "flashlights" and the sort.

But, happily, we're seeing other things, too. Animals, even!

The Important Book: Savannah

Savannah's featured today. The important thing about Savannah is that she likes being safe and kind. And, just as she says, she always follows the rules at school. This may be the effect of having a mom who's a preschool teacher and a father who's in law enforcement. Or it could be it's just who she is.

Another thing that really impresses me about Savannah is how well she can spell. She's a really good speller for a kindergartner. Spelling ability could run in the family; her older sister in sixth grade was runner up in our schoolwide spelling bee.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Important Book: Shelby

Here's the next page in the Important Book, Shelby's page.  Shelby we missed you today; hope you're feeling better soon! Shelby believes in peace. So do I!!

I've noticed the good old peace symbol being worn more and more on the kids coming to school these days. In high school and college back in the sixties I wore one during the Vietnam War. (Did you know the Vietnamese call that war "The American War"?) I don't wear one these days on my clothes, but I try really hard to wear one in my heart all the time.

Horse Shoes

Colton's dad shoes horses for a living. So Colton's word for the word wall is horse shoer. The spelling of that word, if it is a word, gets underlined as misspelled in my spell checker, but that's okay. When we sounded it out, they wanted to spell it "horse shooer" which would be something else altogether, huh? "Farrier" was the word I used for the guy who I paid to put shoes on my daughter's horse, Kirby. Anyway, here's Colton's word:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Brenden's word was liberty. All the kindergartners know that liberty is a word, of course—they say it in the Pledge of Allegiance. Not very many had any idea of what liberty means. Brenden's word offered a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on what liberty means. It means, basically, freedom. Liberty is what you lose when you do things on "Level 4." Sitting out a recess at school is a loss of liberty. Going to jail is a loss of liberty for adults.

Spellingwise, liberty uses the Soundabet "er" sound, so it was a great choice from a phonemic point of view.

Thanks, Brenden!

(P.S. It might be well for all of us adult Americans to reflect a bit on liberty, too, as we are citizens of the country that incarcerates—that is takes away the liberty—of so many many people, more than 2 million in all. That's a lot of people to sit in jail. Thirteen of our states have populations of less than 2 million. No free country outdoes us in locking people up. I, for one, am not proud of that fact.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bean Names

Those bean names that we made last fall
Will, one by one, come off the wall,
To make some space——the room we need 
For fun new words to spell and read.

Starting February, today, we'll be taking down the bean names and replacing them with words of particular interest to the student. Breagan chose HIGHWAY PATROL (he's fond of law enforcement) which happens to be a great word from the Soundabet point of view as "hIGHwAY" employs two "Soundabets." A word like "HIGHWAY" is perfectly easy to read to almost everyone in my room. Nothing new or mysterious at all about it.

As I was writing HIGHWAY PATROL I was thinking about that first word, highway.

It took Patrick to point out that the first four letters of Patrol and Patrick look the same and sound the same.

So we had a little discussion about this. I could practically see the synapses fusing together in about a half a dozen students' minds, something like, 

"Oh, all the letters, even the ones in the middle of words, are really worth paying attention to!" 

And, to top it all off, more than one of my kids knew that 300,000 is less than half of 800,000. This rather odd math problem came up because the principal will dress up like a chicken if the school as a whole reads 800,000 minutes by the spring of this year. So far we've read only 300,000 minutes she says. We're behind schedule. 
Yes, my math whizzes answered correctly when I asked, so what is half of 800,000? {400,000 minutes came their answer without missing a beat.]
So here's the extra credit homework: how many HOURS of reading would that be? 
And why are we counting minutes? If we really must count our time reading, wouldn't it make more sense to count hours and fractions of hours? Just wondering....

Swings and other good Things

I stood beside the swingset
Watching two girls swinging highly—
One of them was Angeline,
The other one was Kailee.*

*Kailee will tell you—just in case you're not sure—that Kailee rhymes with highly.)

Kid's Poetry Rhymes!

What I love about kid's poetry is.... well, it rhymes! Wasn't it Robert Frost who said the writing poetry without rhymes is like playing tennis without a net? The debate among poets in regard to rhyme reminds me, somehow, of the debate among painters about realism. Don't ask me to explain. To try would be a pain.

Anyway, without further ado, here's rhyming poem from a popular children's poet, Kenn Nesbitt:

Today I Wrote This Poem

Today I wrote this poem
but I wonder if it's good.
It doesn't have the things
my teacher says a poem should.

It doesn't share my feelings
I have deep inside of me.
It hasn't any metaphors
and not one simile.

It's missing any narrative
Alliteration, too.
It isn't an acrostic,
diamanté, or haiku.

There's nothing that's personified.
It doesn't have a plot.
I'm pretty sure that rhyming
is the only thing it's got.

It sure was fun to write it,
and I think it's long enough.
It's just too bad it's missing
all that great poetic stuff.

It put it on my teacher's desk
and, wow, she made a fuss.
She handed back my poem
with an A ++++!