Friday, March 30, 2012

Snacks in April

I forgot all about the snack calendar for April until Olivia reminded me after school. Time's flying by so quickly I forget that already we're at the end of a month.

So here is the calendar for April. I believe Nathan knows he's on deck for Monday....

Click to enlarge

Kade mastered the Queen's Cards today, so another milestone is passed. Way to go, Kade.

Kade finished with plenty of time in the sand glass in the upper chamber.

Be well, all. 

I hope everyone will enjoy the rainy Saturday and the sunny (I hope) Sunday ahead.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Art & Accountablity in Kindergarten

Please forgive me for climbing up on my soapbox here.

Over the past few days I've been thinking about accountability and schools. We need to think both broadly and deeply about accountability. These days, sadly, most of discussion about accountability in schools seems neither broad nor deep.

Usually when people discuss accountability all they are talking about are the standardized machine-scored test results that are said to measure reading and math skills. Using standardized machine scores to assess the success or quality of a school can be compared to using a person's height to assess their health: both fail to account for tons of vital information.

One reason I'm happy we've adopted Toolbox Project is that it develops the social and emotional health of our school community. This growth and development is unlikely to show up on a standardized test of math or reading skill. But it's vital.

(I often wonder when I hear of incidents of school violence such as happened at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech if these schools had spent too much time raising test scores and not enough time fostering social and emotional well being among their students. The evidence suggests strongly that they hadn't done enough.)

Who is accountable when school violence occurs? Perhaps we all are at least to the extent that we allow our interest in children's achievement to narrow down to only reading and math. We must broaden our interest in the well being of our children and their schools to include the development of their hearts, their minds, their imaginations, their empathy, their creativity, and of course their bodies.


Here in this corner of education, I try to strike a balance between education that sharpens the minds and warms the hearts of the students whom I am given the responsibility to teach.

Art is an important part of that balance. Today we had art (thanks to the PTO) as part of our enrichment program. The class finished up the rabbits they began in the previous lesson by adding googley eyes, pom-pom noses, and cotton ball tails.

Kayla K. brought for sharing one of the acrylic paintings on canvas that she did as a participant at Scribbles and Giggles, an after school art venue in Rohnert Park run by Lisa Russell. Here is a picture of the painting that Kayla did.

You can learn more about Scribbles and Giggles and their WEBSITE. Perhaps someday we'll have Lisa come here to teach the whole class.

from the Scribbles and Giggles website

Be well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kindergartners in Blue Tomorrow/Milestones/Amazing Moments

Yesterday the kindergartners voted unanimously to wear blue tops (shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, etc.) for tomorrow's WEAR THE SAME COLOR Spirit Day. A number of us elected to change our original votes to achieve this consensus, but we all ended up on the same page. Here's what the voting looked like at the end:

All the votes on top were for blue
This morning we began with a look at what pet they would choose to get if given a choice. Dogs were the most popular choice with 16 students selecting dogs.

Hamsters were a strong second.
Several kindergartners reached milestones today with a bunch more on the list for tomorrow:

MacKenzie mastered her Queen's Cards

Nathan read all his classmates' names,

and Kayla K did, too. Way to go!

One fine moment came when I paused in our read aloud book on this page just after I read the words, "He quickly added—"  and turned the book around so the class could see it. "Can anyone read the word Jack added to his journal," I asked.

The class scrunched up their eyes and studied the word I was pointing to.  I could see their lips move as they tried to sound out the word. Caleb's eyes flashed and his hand went up.

"Caleb, do you think you know the word Jack added?" I asked.

"Amazing," he answered.

"Yes, amazing. It's amazing. That's not a kindergarten word, and you just read it. Way to go, Caleb. That's what happens when you learn the Soundabet. After while you can sound out some really big words." Caleb beamed. He glowed. And I wouldn't be surprised if he tingled with happiness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Toolbox's Listening Tool, Sight Words

Wear Blue Shirts Thursday

Note: Thursday, March 29, is a school spirit day. The idea is for each class to wear the same color shirt on that day. The kindergarten class voted to wear BLUE shirts that day. (No worries with regard to the fact that usually we wear green on Thursdays, for bikes. We can ride bikes anyway, weather permitting.)

Wear blue this Thursday. We'll take a picture.

As forecast, the rain came in today. Raindrops are spattering against the south-facing windows of my little office as I write this. Gusts of wind whoosh through the stand of eucalyptus trees outside the north-facing windows. It's stormy.

We listened to a book that is part of the Toolbox curriculum for this week, called Listen and Learn by Cheri Meiners. It tells about what skills a child uses to listen skillfully. It explains clearly that listening requires that we keep hands, body, and mouth quiet and still. It explains, too, how helpful it is to look at the speaker and focus our minds on what the speaker is saying. It explains that listening involves thinking.

It explains how listening can help us learn. Finally, this book talks about the fact that listening well makes it easier for other classmates to learn.

We'll have a puppet show tomorrow that brings some of these ideas to life.

The Toolbox Project teaches that listening requires us to use our ears, our eyes, and our hearts. To this, Mrs. Meiners and I would add our heads—thinking with our brains—as well. The Toolbox Project puts more emphasis on the heart, I am guessing, because here in America we tend to favor our heads over our hearts when it comes to listening. Many of us need to be reminded to actively recruit our hearts as we listen to each other. I know I do. That said, I know listening with my heart alone can get me into trouble, so I keep my brain engaged too.

There is a hand gesture to signal that we are listening. We use two fingers to point to our ears, eyes, hearts, and heads as we listen attentively to the speaker. It's a good way to show we're "tuned in" to the speaker. Here are four photos showing what this series of hand gestures looks like.

I listen with my ears....

my eyes,

my heart,

and my head.


In other news...

KIDS club is on hiatus until a new configuration is set for the spring trimester. You'll be hearing from me soon.

Four students added the Soundabet Boy card to their list of achievements today: Kade, Ian, Olivia, and Stasia. These kindergartners can read everyone's name. More to come tomorrow!

Speaking of reading: tomorrow, for homework, I will send home the first of several sets of "sight" words for practice at home. These words are called "sight" words because students are expected to "read" these words on sight—without sounding them out. The list comes from the district-adopted Houghton Mifflin Reading Series and are aligned with the California state standards for kindergarten. There are 18 of them in all. You'll get six per week to work on. In the course of April, hopefully everyone in here will master all 18 words.

I have acquainted your child with the words I'm sending home, but he or she has probably not mastered them yet. 

Practice at home ought to seal the deal. We're counting on you....


Be well.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012 Listening

It was a thrill to come back to kindergarten and catch up with my roomful of five and six year old friends. Many of them wanted to tell me about their spring vacations. Nathan and Aidan went to Hawaii. A number went to the mountains to play in the snow. Most vacationed close to home, like me. Everyone had a lot to tell me and I enjoyed listening to their reports.

All but one of our usual Monday parent volunteers were unable to stay today, so I opted to skip our instructional centers today in favor of a more relaxed schedule that included the #1 priority item on any kindergartner's agenda: TIME TO PLAY. Instead of centers, students could select the activities they found purposeful. This more relaxed schedule gave me the opportunity to absorb their stories from last week. The class showed its appreciation of having this play time by cleaning up thoroughly and speedily when I played the clean up music. Raegan, Emily, Kayla Sue, and Olivia were particularly helpful about putting things away and cleaning up. We all thanked them.


Listening is the Toolbox Project tool of the week. We will hear stories about listening and learn what it means to listen attentively with ears, eyes, and heart. The Listening Tool is one of the most important tools in the Toolbox, so we will devote some time to learning about attentive listening.

You already know that listening can require quite a lot of effort. Attentive listening is usually hard work—especially hard when we're feeling stressed, frustrated, or angry. When that happens it is good to give yourself a "time-in" or to use the Quiet Place Tool for a little break. That said, I find it useful to remind myself that listening almost always requires less effort than NOT listening. Even though listening can be a lot of work, in the end, listening is less work than having to pick up the pieces after not listening.


It appears that we may in for a spell of welcome wet weather. Luckily for us today it didn't rain on "green shirt" Monday. We were able to put our fleet of bikes and trikes to good use. A number of kindergartners took particular interest in the bars. I was pleased to help Vanessa and Diana learn how to slide down the pole without needing anyone's help. Here's a pair of photos I took:

Jessica helped show them how to slide down the pole.

Emily and Raegan are good at the bars.

Be well!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Last Tuesday's Performance

Pat Higgins brought a video cam along and was able to capture last Tuesday night's performance for the school board. He put it up on Youtube for us to see.

Please enjoy!

Thank you, Pat.  I appreciate you sharing your video with us.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Spring Break!

I hope everyone has a great spring break.

Nathan's in Hawaii. Mom sent me a photo of his Hawaiian souvenir.

There's none better.

Be well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lots going on! Toolbox

With Tuesday night's barbecue and performance, last night's Toolbox Project presentation, and today's ukulele lesson, I've been too busy to post here the way I like to.

But we've been really jammin' in kindergarten. The class is bubbling over with accomplishments. This is the really fun part of the year. For so many students the whole idea of reading and writing begins to become clear to them and off they zoom.

Here are some photos that I took Tuesday, yesterday, and today:

Stasia's symmetrical building

MacKenzie visited KIDS club and nailed the King's cards.

The barbecue spread

Indoors due to the weather, but fun.

Tanner nailed the Queen's cards today.

Raegan has mastered the King's cards.

Rainy indoor recess

Olivia and Stasia enjoy a moment at KIDS club.

Jessica nailed the Queen's cards today.
I sent home today the Homework piece from the Toolbox project for the Quiet/Safe place. I hope that your whole family tries out these activities. I know that even with all my teaching experience I'm finding the skills taught here to be helpful to me personally be who I want to be. Teaching this tool has prompted me to visualize with increased clarity my Quiet/Safe place. It's helped me personally to go there. I have noticed, for example, that I have let go of my frustration, anger, and sadness about my lost rocking chair more quickly than I thought I would. The breathing tool and the Quiet Place Tool have helped.

So, try it, see for yourself if these tools can be of benefit to you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

BBQ is on. Radishes

The kindergarten BBQ goes rain or shine. I'd imagined shine when I thought of it, but it will be fine in the rain. We can barbecue under the eaves and eat in kindergarten. I hope you can come. 5:30 tomorrow. The show for the board will begin at 6:30 and be done by 6:45.

Vanessa's holding up a Soundabet boy card after reading all her classmates names. Way to go, Vanessa!

For snack Emily brought cut veggies including a rare treat—radishes. Not too many kids served themselves radishes until I told them that radishes are a food that most young children don't enjoy. "You can tell you're growing up when you taste radishes and like them," I said.

Well, soon the radishes you see here found their way onto the youngsters' plates. And most of them were eaten up.

A whole bunch of kindergartners discovered they like radishes today! (At least that's what they told me.)

Be well.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Please Help! Missing Rocking Chair

The kindergarten rocking chair that was a prop in the teacher's act at last Saturday's Pasta Night at the Petaluma Veteran's Hall is missing.

The missing rocker is made of maple with a caned back. It looks similar to the photo below, but has a carved solid maple seat.

Similar to this, but with solid maple seat and simpler top rail

It is not at the Veteran's Hall (we've looked). It is not anywhere at school....

The missing rocking chair has great sentimental value to me. I bought it in 1984 for my wife when she was pregnant with our first child. It has seen service in the kindergarten quiet room for the past several years—where I've had many parent conferences.

If you can help get it back to me I will be very grateful.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Four More Success Stories and Art Program Begins

Four more kindergartners passed the Soundabet King Card milestone today in KIDS club.

Makes for happy kids, happy teacher. We'll all celebrate their successes tomorrow.



Olivia and Stasia
Another happy day in Room 2.

I hope you can all come to the BBQ and musical performance Tuesday evening. It's gonna be good!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Four Success Stories/Can't Buy Me Love

The past two days have seen the achievement of FOUR educational milestones! Jake, Phoenix, Rocco, and Kayla K. have demonstrated mastery of the Soundabet. These are the spine-tingling moments that I most enjoy each year—they're up there with seeing a kid ride a bicycle on two wheels, smiling, for the first time ever. So there's a happy teacher in Room 2 these days. Four happy kids, too!

I got a photo of each one holding the timer to show how much time remained in the top chamber. They each have a King's Card proudly up by their names, too. It won't be long before the King's good wife is up in those places, too, I'm thinking.

Look at these happy kids!

On another note, Ian's dad gave me a DVD of Saturday night's performance. We saw it today in kindergarten. It was fun for all of us to see what we looked like from the audience floor. Pat also shared with me a private link to his Youtube video of the class singing "Can't Buy Me Love." When I get home, I'll post it here at the bottom of this post so you can see it.

They were good. But wait till March 13. At that performance for the School Board you will see something better. I hope you can come to see it. There's a barbecue before at 5:30. Michelle Lorenz has helped to organize it and there is a sign up sheet on the classroom door. Please join us for an evening of food and music.

Youtube video to be posted here by nightfall:

Be well.

Friday, March 2, 2012

First and Second Days of March

Pasta Night
Petaluma Veterans Hall
4:45—don't be late!
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Dress: dark pants, white shirt

Okay, to start with, be sure to mark your calendars for the Pasta Night tomorrow and the Kindergarten Barbecue and performance for the school board on March 13. You'll want to be at both events.....

This is the note I sent home today reminding you of these two dates. I am looking forward to tomorrow night because I think the kindergarten will impress you with their performance. I can tell you that our rehearsals have been impressive.

The entertainment is Beatles night. The teachers and principal will close the show. You don't want to miss it.

Second item:

No centers Monday, March 5. 
We have an assembly instead. 

Also the class will be working on the March 13 performance with includes a surprise for the parents. (So Monday parent volunteers, please—go treat yourself with your preferred pampering activity with the time you had planned to spend here.)

And now, the news:

I got a cool ships hourglass for timing the Soundabet mastery sessions. It's more than two minutes, so if your child is in that range, encourage him or her to have a try at mastery.

Kayla Sue got her Queen's Cards as did Vanessa this week.

And that makes their teacher a happy guy.
So we had some "extra" time to play this morning, thanks to Vanessa and Kayla Sue.

I love the connectedness of this structure.

Perennially popular Legos

Our Toolbox Project includes puppet shows to illustrate how the Toolbox tools work.

Here Stasia and Olivia had an opportunity to get to know Rocco the Cat, Grandpa Lempi, and Shelly the Shy Cow. (Racky, there, over Stasia's head, has been a part of the puppet cast for years now.)

Rocco, Racky, Stasia, Olivia, Grandpa Lempi, Shelly

Bella brought a book about a girl named Nancy who likes fancy French things. We all enjoyed it.

Lotsa great vocabulary in this book.

Stasia's book about patience...
We will learn about patience when we study the Patience Tool later this spring.

We finished the fourth book in the Magic Treehouse series.

After the assembly, we'll begin next week with the fifth book in the Magic Treehouse series. Thank you, Ian, for providing the book, and Drew for getting us going on this!