Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Off Topic: Cell Phones

I have yet to encounter a kindergartner with a cell phone, but I have seen cellphones/smartphones carried by kids in upper elementary grades.

For you kindergarten parents—why not start to think about how you'll respond when your child asks to have his or her own smartphone?

My wife and I had it much easier when our children were growing up. Cellphones had not yet come into widespread use. Back then, the hot new technologies were pagers and portable music players—not iPods—but CD Walkmans.

When our middle-school aged kids began to say (with ample evidence) that "everyone has them" we relented and soon they were listening to their music through headphones pretty much all the time.

Talking to our kids got much harder. Even simple exchanges seemed more like interruptions greeted with rolled eyes and the removal of the headphones, and a sigh. Technology put a lot of distance between us and our own children. We have long felt that we made a mistake in caving to the "everyone has them" argument.

I know I'm not alone in feeling that way. I recently ran across this Youtube clip from the Conan O'Brien show with Louis C.K. talking about this very thing. If you haven't already seen it, have a look.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday News & Winter Holiday Party

Today marked Race's last day with us. We looked at each page of the book that we made for him yesterday. We will miss Race and his family and we wish him well in his new school closer to his home.

The book at the right is the one we read for story today.

We made a lot more of the AB patterns and now just about all the class can make them. A lot of kids made the white/black version of the pattern and when we linked them together we found that the chain was longer than the width of the green mat, more than 14 feet long.

You can see other colors arranged in the AB pattern on the table

Yesterday Sophia joined the ranks of the Soundabet Masters. I'm hoping that once the holidays are over, we see another 9 or so kindergartners ready to achieve this milestone.

To date, 9 kindergartners have mastered the Soundabet.

The room parents put on a splendid holiday party that featured two crafts: a melted snowman tree ornament and a decorated edible tree. I took some photos of these crafts projects during the party.

Viviana explains the project

Under the melted snow there's some eyes, stick arms, peppercorn buttons, a scarf, and a hat. The ribbon we had to fish out so the ornament can be hung from the tree.

Almost done

Ready to begin

A good start

Spreading icing takes some patience and practice

Spreading on the icing nice and thick

The finished tree has a real Dr. Seuss quality.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Fine Day for Bikes!

Today was Race's day. He traded with Waylon so he could be the person of the day near the winter break. Race's family moved to Novato. He'll be attending school near his home after the winter holiday. We will miss Race and his family.

Both Mrs. Zell and I have adult children home with us to visit for the holidays. Rachael's daughter Monique visited today to help out around here. Here they are on the playground together during bike time.

Mrs. Zell got a photo of me and my son, Ted, who to the kindergarten kids is "The Other Mr. Gurney." I love it when Ted can come to school with me. He used to come when he was little and it just gets better as he gets older and himself joins the ranks of teachers.

We took a look at another word family this morning, this one the "ack" family. We found these ten words in it:

They know a song that spells BLACK.

Tomorrow there will be a classroom party from about 11:00 to 11:40 to celebrate the winter holidays and the winter solstice which falls on Saturday this year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Word Family, Shoes, 7 Masters

We looked at some of the words that belong to the "ug" family. Here is a picture of 11 of those words.

Can your child read most of these words?

Mrs. Campbell noticed that there are some shoes not so good for PE activities. Here is a photo of those shoes. Please remember to send your child to school in sturdy play shoes on Tuesdays and Fridays when we have PE.

Jacob showed that he has mastered the Soundabet sounds. For me, it's always a good thing to see a student cross that threshold of learning. Congratulations, Jacob!

A quarter of the class has done it so far

Tomorrow we dismiss at 1:30. The kindergarten will have lunch with their fifth grade buddies.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday: Drama Day

Just a reminder that from now on until early in March there will not be bike riding on Mondays. Instead of bike riding, we have our weekly drama lessons on Mondays.

Today Dana came in and reviewed some basic lessons in the dramatic arts and built some rapport with them as well. Here is a photo of our class doing a warm up exercise with Dana late this morning.

Earlier on the students made things with pattern blocks. Wyatt made this model of Optimus Prime. I thought it was pretty neat.

Other students made designs in the conventional way:

Tomorrow we will hang handmade ornaments on the tree in the Community Room.

Be well!

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Blending & Soundabet Masters

We're looking at more word families. In the past couple of days we've looked at the "OP" family of words and the "OT" family as well.

The kindergartners settled on these 10 members of the "OP" family:

That's a solid 10 words in this family.

The "OT" family we studied today is larger than any family we've looked at so far. They found 13 members of the family.

I didn't say a word about the "ough" spelling of the short o sound you find in the words on the left.
Waylon demonstrated that he knows the names of everyone in class today. Way to go, Waylon!

Ella, joined the masters of the Soundabet today. We are all proud of her accomplishment.

That makes 6 now.... and a lot more are on the path.
The weekend is almost here. I hope you enjoy it.

Be well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Day with our Fifth Grade Buddies

Our first day with fifth grade buddies went well. I heard from the fifth grade teacher that everything went well on her watch as it did for me.

The part of the class that was with me began on a project of making the first letter of the kindergartners names in a bean mozaic style.

The buddies in kindergarten this afternoon.=

Fifth grader, Miguel, (left) helps kindergartner, Waylon, (right).
Two other news bits...

  • Aileigh joined the Soundabet Masters today. 
  • We sang with Andrew in the library.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tomorrow: PJ's / 5th Buddies / 1:30 / Today's News / Homework

Tomorrow is Pajama Day. Remember:

Send your child in regular shoes.
Stuffed animals that can fit in cubbies are okay.

It's fun!

We will start up with 5th grade buddies tomorrow. Dismissal will be at 1:30.

Yesterday the KIDS club left containers with water outside overnight in the garden. This morning as we opened school we retrieved them to see whether they froze in the cold nighttime temperatures. Sure enough, they did.

Water froze completely in the gray plastic tray; in the aluminum tray it froze pretty thick.

Maybe 1.5 inches thick
We found 8 words in the "EN" family today

Any ought to be spelled "eny" don't you think? We also found OPEN. Can your child read these words?

For homework, leave a container with water in it outdoors overnight and check it in the morning.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday's News

The internet is really slow this afternoon at Dunham. I'll try to squeeze in a brief post.

We looked at the word family "AN" and found these 7 members.

There are now 2 Soundabet Masters in our room. There are more almost ready to demonstrate their mastery of the uppercase letters.

It was COLD this morning at school! The class found a lot of frost on the playground during morning recess.

photo by Rachael Zell
Be well. Stay warm.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I just want to remind everyone:

Kindergarten Drama lessons begin tomorrow. They are scheduled into the same time slot as bikes—so no bikes tomorrow.

We will begin our Kindergarten/Fifth Grade Buddies on Wednesday. Wednesday's dismissal is now at 1:30 for everyone, including TK'ers.

Go Niners!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Family Drama


It's looking a little wintry outside the classroom as I write this. There's a few sprinkles riding a cold wind out of a gray sky.

It's looking wintry indoors as well. Mrs. Zell brought in her Christmas tree and set it up on the counter under the northern windows.

In our new centers a red/green paper chain was started. One table made the length you see there, so by the end of this set of centers we'll have a lot of paper chain hung in the lights.

The snow flakes we made yesterday are up on the wall in the northeast corner bulletin board. Looks like a cozy quilt to me.


(Word Families that Is)

We've begun a journey through simple word families to see which family is biggest. Yesterday we looked at the "ET" word family and found 10 members in it. Today we looked at the "AT" family and found that it has 10 members as well. (The class decided that VAT is not a word. None of them had ever heard that word before!) Here is a photo of the AT family of words:

Quite a few kids could read "chat" and "that" even though they are not considered kindergarten words.

We will continue this study in the coming weeks.


Starting this Monday Miss Dana will visit our school to teach lessons in the dramatic arts. Drama lessons will preempt bicycle time on Mondays for the next trimester. There is no need to bring bikes or helmets on Mondays for a while. I'm hoping that lots of rainy weather will make missing bicycle time to make room for drama lessons a moot point.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

News Notes

With these frosty cold mornings, Mrs. Zell and I thought it would be good to make some artwork related to cold weather. So this morning in the time we usually run centers we did a whole class art project making snowflakes using sponges and stencils. Here are two examples:

After we cleaned up after making the snow flakes, we met to talk about yesterday's longer day. Overall it went well enough, and it should go even more smoothly in the coming weeks when we get our fifth grade buddy program going.

I'm seeing that many of you are working at home with the Soundabet. We'll soon have our first Soundabet masters demonstrating their proficiency for their classmates.

Bike day was fun. It seems more like news these days to say that no one learned to ride on two wheels today. But Julie's getting close.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TRIBES till 1:30 PM & Science Night at 6:00

For practice blending into words. Some kids can read those lowercase words.

Yes, just as the title suggests—tomorrow's dismissal for everyone [except Transitional Kindergarten], is at 1:30 PM.

The afternoon hour will be spent in TRIBES. On the first Wednesday each month students meet in their "Tribe" which is a stable grouping of students in grades K to 6.

The idea of TRIBES is to provide an opportunity for students to form long-lasting relationships with students from other grades. Students will stay with tribe they join in kindergarten throughout their time at Dunham, each year becoming one year older than before.


Tomorrow at 6:00 to 7:00 is Science Night. The fourth grade classroom and the Community Room will be open and there may be some telescopes out back for star gazing.

There will be free hot pizza while supplies last.

Be well.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December's Here!

I hope you all had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. My wife and I did what countless other families in America did: enjoyed a celebration focused on gratitude and family fellowship. In my case we gathered in Athens, Georgia where my son teaches an undergraduate class at the University of Georgia and is working on his doctorate.

I was glad to arrive here on Monday morning to find a note on my desk from the substitute, Miss White, telling me how much fun she had and how wonderful she thinks this kindergarten class is.

We started off the day with the monthly school wide assembly. One of the things we do is to talk about progress we are making as a whole class. My little talk was about how many kindergartners have learned to ride bikes this year.

When we began kindergarten last August, 12 kindergartners could ride on 2 wheels. Since that time 11 kids, mostly girls—whose names are listed on the above chart in green ink—have learned how to do that trick. In large measure, Mrs. Zell has been the one to work this magic. The rest of the teaching has been done by the students themselves. Of the 5 remaining as yet non-bicyclists, there will soon be only 4: Julie is determined to join the two-wheel brigade.

We went straight to centers after the assembly. In the math center we're building boxes made of popsicle sticks. The idea is to make the walls two linking cubes high. You can see Julie working on hers as Evan (in the background) looks carefully to see if his wall measure up.

Jax chose our newest dance, a line dance called "Listen and Move." The kinders listen to the music in the dance and remember what sort of movement to do. In the photo below, Jax is partially out of frame on the right edge of the picture. He's leading the "RUN!" verse of this song/dance.

Everyone participates in this dance!
A new KIDS club group started today. We did some science, PE, art, and ukulele playing. Here you can see the science part of the afternoon. We had crafted wire from tape and aluminum and I let them play with wire, batteries and flashlight bulbs to see if anyone could get them to light.

Not easy. Several tried without success.

Eventually Ella happened on the solution and was able to get the light to glow by holding the bulb, the battery, and the wire in a special way:

Way to go, Ella!

A little later I showed what happened when batteries are stacked together the way flashlights do it.

Look at the place where the thumb and index fingers pinch to bulb.

It was brighter than this picture makes it seem.

Science done by doing is fun stuff, as you can see in the faces of the kindergarten scholars. More of this coming up!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

News of Kindergarten

News from guest blogger, Mrs. Zell:

Both Monday and Tuesday went very well.

Center time was a breeze with all the wonderful parent volunteers. Monday we had so much help that every table had a parent and I was able to float around to just help out. On Tuesday we again had enough volunteers that every table had an adult. We are very lucky to have such great parents!

Jacob was very proud of the "turkey" fruit tray He brought for snack on Friday. Jax brought sugar cookies for his birthday and we all sang happy birthday.

Julie surprised me by asking to do the names at recess and she nailed it! We made time for her to take the mic on Tuesday and she earned her "heart"! I was very proud of her and she was SO happy! 
Nick G is also ready to give it a try!

Miss White let me know that our kindergarten was the best she's ever had the pleasure to sub for. She was very impressed and happy.


Beginning next week the kindergarten will dismiss at 1:30 each Wednesday. Kindergartners will take part in TRIBES and Class Buddies on the longer Wednesday schedule. The 11:45 dismissal time on Monday,  Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday remains unchanged.

Please note that the Transitional Kindergarten will still dismiss at 11:45 on Wednesday.