Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 10 in Kindergarten/Back to School Night Sept 2

We're just ten days into the school year and we're humming along nicely already. The class routines are pretty well established and we're continuing to make clear what behaviors are okay and which aren't.

We had a math lesson today exploring the pattern blocks.

Students were introduced to some new words we'll use in the math program to describe shapes. You might ask your child to point out the rhombuses (light tan and blue), the trapezoids (they're red), the hexagons (yellow), and the squares and triangles you see in the photos below.

Ask, too, how many side these shapes have.

Besides learning about geometric shapes, we also talked about sharing the blocks and borrowing from your neighbors—pro-social behaviors that we emphasize here. The students did a good job here. To get more blocks, it was necessary to ask for them by name. "Mr. Gurney, could I please have three trapezoids?" would get you three red blocks.

"I need some more yellow blocks." wouldn't get much of a response from me.

It was great to hear the students use the names that they're supposed to learn.

 A little flute music just before beginning snack.

At the end of the day we got out the wood building blocks for the first time. The class did a great job playing with them and cleaning them up well within the three minute clean-up period.

I hope you'll all be able to come Thursday, September 2  for the Dunham School Back to School Night. Remember, students do not come to this event. This is time set aside for teachers and parents to talk about the school year ahead. Readers of this blog have a good head start on some of what I'll say.

The evening will begin at 6:30.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday's News

Here are your conversation starters for tonight.

This is the class letter for Elena's day of sharing—

The student's names in beans are posted around the room now. Thank you Mrs. Gronlund for putting those up. As the note says here, we rode bikes. Today Alyssa and Hannah rode on 2 wheels for the first time at school. See?



It's always a special thrill to see a child learn to ride on two wheels, and today that thrill came twice. Kindergarten teachers get to witness a great many of those special moments in our students lives, whether it's losing a tooth, riding a bike, or figuring out how to read.

And talking about special moments, Jackson became a big brother over the weekend. He has a new baby sister named Sydney who came over the weekend.

We also got started in our Handwriting Without Tears workbook today.

ADDENDUM 7:00 PM or so: I just got an email from Justin who reports that he lost his first tooth this evening while eating carrots. So there you go: another special moment today. I'm telling you it's great to be a kindergarten teacher!!!!

All photos courtesy of Mrs. Gronlund who, unlike me, remembered to bring her camera to school today.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Being Safe Part Two

In an earlier post, I talked about safety as being the first “Rule” of my classroom.

I tend to think first in terms of physical safety, and I discussed that on Tuesday August 17 post entitled “Be Safe.”

Today I want to talk briefly about a second dimension of safety, social safety.

Social safety, at least in my kindergarten, needs attention particularly among the girls simply because five year-old girls tend to be more mature and sophisticated socially than boys.

Boys in conflict tend to ruffle each other’s physical safety. Girls in conflict tend to ruffle each other’s social safety.

I’m sure other early childhood educators hear complaints like, “Teacher, Marcy said she won’t be my friend.”

I see both physical and social ruffles as violations of my primary goal of safety.

When I become aware of a “Marcy won’t be my friend” complaint I treat it with about the same urgency as, say, a punch.

That is to say, when a girl shuns a classmate it deserves my immediate attention and response.

I teach that we are a classroom community. Everyone (except the houseflies) is entitled to feel safe in my classroom all the students—even the bugs.

Our circle of friends includes everyone.

In a future post, I’ll talk about the final dimension of safety, psychological safety.

For my earlier post on this subject, click Being Safe Part One.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Report on Friday

Each day, I try to take a minute and review in writing the day's activities in kindergarten.

This provides an opportunity for the students to see writing in action—old fashioned handwriting, anyway.

If I can remember to snap a photo of the result it can also be an opportunity for me to share a conversation starter with you, the parents in the classroom.

I'll try to post a photo of these records as often as I can.

Here is Friday's summary:

In a future post, I'll talk about our growing collection of eucalyptus buttons and how this activity is helping me to teach your students about several math ideas simultaneously.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mrs. Gronlund and Miss Roach's Classroom Tree

The student teachers led the class through an activity that resulted in this class tree.

I really appreciate the boost to the decor that my student teachers have provided.

Tomorrow we will finish gluing the letters of our names in pinto beans.

It will be a P.E. day. Remember to send your child to school in sturdy shoes for outdoor play.

The Value of Play

George over at Transit Notes put up a post about the value of play with quotes to remind us that play is essential to creativity and happiness.

Here are three of the quotes from his post:

"The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both."

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play." 

"Play is the highest form of research."
"We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential.  Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys."
Albert Einstein
You can read all of his post HERE.

Thanks, George!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Grape Juice

We made grape juice today.
The grapes grew on a vine by my front door. 100% organic!

Kindergarten students freed the grapes from their stems.

This machine separates the juice from skins and pulp.

The juice collected in the square plastic container near the base of the machine.
The bowl contains grape skins and pulp.

Time for building at the end of the day. The towers get higher and higher.

 Rebecca made the longest beaded string I can remember.

Here's the report.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Low Waste Snack

I am pleased when our snacks come without too much packaging. It's usually cheaper for you to provide, healthier, and much easier on Mother Earth.

Today Alyssa brought some apples which we sliced up with our apple slicing tool, rice cakes, and a jar a peanut butter. We finished up the bowl of cantaloupe from Alexis. A good snack!

My it was warm today! The class played soccer for PE late in the morning and came back to class red hot.

Luckily, Elsa's birthday was today and her mom brought strawberry popsicles for the birthday treat. The students found them yummy and refreshing.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Grade Poem Recital

The first grade came by our kindergarten late this morning to recite a poem they've learned.

I snagged my camera, set it to video and asked for a repeat performance so I could share it here. Enjoy!

Other than that, we enjoyed a nice WARM day.  We got out on bikes before the heat really kicked in.

Tomorrow we begin making the bean names.

Bike Day

When it doesn't rain (and it won't rain today!) Mondays and Thursdays are bike days in kindergarten. I have a collection of two, three, and four wheelers that make outside time that much more fun.

If your child has a bike or trike (and a helmet if it's a two wheeler) you may bring it to school on Mondays and Thursdays for some extra outdoor fun.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Melody White's Photo Collage

Melody White, a professional photographer, sent along this collage from the first day of school. Thank you Melody!

Visit her website at Melody White's Studio.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Working Together

My brother artist and author James Gurney shared an interesting thought with me last week during our vacation together in Ireland.

He told me that when he visits the animation departments in movie studios he asks the art directors what skills they wish their employees had learned in art school. He said that a common observation is that art schools fail to teach their graduates how to work together.

Working together is something all of us need to learn to do. These skills need to be taught and practiced from the very beginning of school. Kindergarten is not too early.

I teach these skills directly with mini-lessons that include role playing.

But my lessons must not stop there. For these lessons in teamwork to have any real impact, children must have many opportunities to practice the skills I've taught. Children need time at school to play and practice teamwork on their own terms.

They need, in other words, free time.

I lament the "No Child Left Behind" reforms that have so dramatically reduced play time and recess time in kindergartens across America. Can we not see beyond test scores? Oh, I hope we can.

Here at Dunham our school year is only three days old.  I can already see progress in the ability of the class to work together. Here's just one example.

Look at the buildings the class put together on the first day of school. Notice that the children built three different buildings. They worked together, but in several small groups.

Compare the building they put together at play time on Friday. You can see that they built one larger building that everyone worked together on.

They are also working together much more effectively when clean up time arrives.

It's very satisfying to me to see progress in collaboration so immediately.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Second Day

I left my camera at work today, so no pictures.

Some highlights, with photos tomorrow:

We counted 100 eucalyptus buttons that the class picked up from the playground.

We pulled out the tricycles and the pedal driven go-carts from the storage shed. Elena shot several baskets in the basketball hoop.

We're learning the routines, especially how to work together to clean up the room really quickly.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day with the class. It will be a good year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First Day Photos

The first day of kindergarten is in the books.

It was a fine day. We've got a wonderful class this year and I'm excited to set out on our journey through kindergarten together.

We made a sign for the fundamental rule of my class, BE SAFE, which I hope you'll post somewhere for your child to read. Tomorrow we'll glue together signs that spell out rule #2, BE HAPPY.

Of course, mostly the children wanted some time to play and we had that, both on the bars and indoors. Here's a couple of photos of our brief time to play.

The students worked together to make towers of cardboard blocks...

Hudson put together an impressive pattern block design...

And we got everything cleaned up almost quickly enough to add some more fun play things tomorrow.

Here are photos of all 24 students in the class on the first day of school. You can see first-day jitters on some of the faces. The anxiety will lessen once they know that I really mean it when I say I want them to be safe, happy, and kind at school. You can use this set of photos to help your child learn the names of his or her classmates.


Ivan and Zander

Alexis and Hannah

Reiley and Justin

Mollie and Rebecca

Elena, Cameran, and Gavin

Samantha and Bailey

Makayla and Alyssa

Daniel, Sam, and Jackson

Jaden and Quinn

Elsa, Marley, and Hudson

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Being Safe Part One

In my previous post I said that the fundamental goal of my kindergarten is to establish a child-life refuge. This is my version of a wild life refuge. I simply want everyone who visits kindergarten to feel safe and happy.

I want my room above all for my students to feel safe at school. I also want staff, parents, administrators, colleagues and visitors to feel safe. If I can manage to ensure everyone's safety, I will feel safe too. This is a win-win for everyone, especially me.

Creating a refuge is my fundamental goal, so I developed a fundamental rule to support it. That fundamental rule is:


Everything I do, everything I plan, and everything I review is seen through the perspective of being safe.


Threats to safety come from several different directions. Most of us look in the direction of physical safety. Physical safety as it relates to classroom practice means being keenly aware of anything that might cause injury to the bodies of the people in the kindergarten. I pay attention to ensure furniture and equipment is in good repair and functioning properly.

If there is anything that might cause harm——scissors with sharp blades, cooking utensils or heat sources used in cooking projects, chemicals used in cleaning or science projects, sports equipment like bats or badminton rackets, or anything else that could hurt a child——I store these things away from students. When these items are being used, they are under watchful supervision. I store heavy items on the ground instead of on high shelves where an earthquake might topple them.

Being watchful of physical safety must be balanced with having fun. No one I know would be happy with a kindergarten program so focused on physical safety that students simply worked safely at their desks all day long. The concern for physical safety must be balanced with the need for play, experimentation, and risk.

Therein lies an art of teaching: We must decide what physical injury is acceptable in the pursuit of happiness.

In my kindergarten, for example, many students get to ride two-wheeler bicycles. I have a large collection of two wheelers donated by parents whose kids have grown up.  Kindergarten students enjoy riding their predecessor's steel. I have discovered that bicycles seem to be more dangerous than they actually are. In two decades of riding, far we have had no injuries more serious than a scraped elbow or knee.

Physical safety is just one dimension of safety. Just as important are the social and psychological dimensions of safety. I’ll talk about each of them in future posts.