Friday, May 31, 2013

Last Friday

Today was the last Friday of the kindergarten year. Next week we will bring the school year to a close with a big Carnival on Thursday, June 6 from 9:30 to 11:30.  The Dunham PTO puts on this event and they do a great job of ending the school year and opening up summer vacation.

On Monday, all the students will take part in an activity we call "Sneak Peek" where each class visits the one above to get a small glimpse of what is to come in the fall. It's fun for me too, though in my case I am paid a visit by the sixth graders were, seven years ago, kindergartners. About half of each sixth grade class were kindergartners here and it's fun for them and for me to remember those long ago (especially for them) days of yore. Typically they want to have Archy say something to them, and he's happy to offer a word of encouragement to the soon-to-be seventh graders. It's a big transition from here to middle school, kind of like the change from kindergarten to first grade and third to fourth grade.

Tuesday there will be an assembly. The kindergarten class will stay for only the first part of it, as a good deal of the assembly is devoted to giving out athletic awards related to the Westside Relays for fourth fifth, and sixth grades. Wednesday will be the occasion of our final Tribes meeting of this year.

We finished up our final round of centers today. One of the centers involved making underwater collages with colored stick-on dots. There were some nice scenes assembled this way.

Today was our second-to-last PE class. Mrs. Campbell has been working on t-ball hitting. I got out to snap a photo of the person of the day, Taea, as she swung the bat at the ball.

I hope you enjoy the warm weekend that is forecast for tomorrow and Sunday.

Be well.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Buddies' Goodbye to Mrs. Everson

The fifth graders came by this morning for our final get together this year. They came bearing many gifts, most of them reflecting Mrs. Everson's well-known liking for sweets. There was a made-from-scratch sheet cake, Skittles, banana bread and other tempting treats to enjoy. There were handmade, homemade cards. Several students from each class expressed their heartfelt appreciation for Mrs. Everson's contributions to their education here at Dunham.

After the expressing our gratitude and appreciation for Mrs. Everson, we adjourned to the garden, a fitting setting for our sweet party.

With all that partying, I thought that the kindergartners would not be too hungry for the snack of cheese, strawberries, and goldfish crackers that Ryder brought for us to enjoy, but I was wrong. Many students claimed to be "starving" by the time we got to snack a little more than an hour later.

Today was the final day of KIDS club for the spring of 2013. We're drawing closer to the beginning of summer vacation.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tonight's Homework

As you now know, Mrs. Everson will be moving on from her position here at Dunham to pursue training to become a respiratory therapist. We will miss her.

The fifth grade buddies and the kindergarten students will enjoy a party tomorrow morning to say goodbye and good luck in her new field.

Please help your child make a picture or a card for Mrs. Everson tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Talent Everywhere!

Last night many of the kindergarten students participated in the Dunham School Talent Show. It was a real treat for me to see the many different ways our students are talented. The kindergarten class took the stage about halfway through the evening to sing "In the Jungle."

Many  thanks to Mrs. Everson, Rachael, and Jennifer for making this thing happen. [Note: if you have a photo to share, please email it to me.]

Today we were visited by Canada's King of the Ukulele, Ralph Shaw. We played and sang for him; he played and sang for us.

Andy Tester joined in with his bass!
It was great.

Have a good Memorial Day weekend.

If you stop by the Sebastopol Ukulele Festival tomorrow, be sure to say hello. I'll be there.

Be well.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


When you come by Open House tonight, be sure to visit the sixth grade's "Wax Museum."

We visited there this morning.

We saw many figures from ancient history who told us brief stories about their lives, among them:
Cat as Pericles

Taea's brother, John, as Hannibal

Noah's brother, Kaelob, as Jason of the Argonauts
There are many others to see and learn about as well.

It may be a bit much to try to do the homework tonight. Feel free to turn it in on Tuesday if you prefer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Reminders...

Open House

Please come by Open House tomorrow night. We're open from 6:00 to 7:30.

You can stop by kindergarten to say hello and then visit the other classrooms and have a peek inside them.

Be sure to visit the sixth grade's Wax Museum of Ancient History. The kindergarten class will visit it tomorrow morning and I'll take some pictures of it to show you in tomorrow's post.

Talent Show

The next night, Thursday is the talent show. It begins at 6:00 as well.

Be well.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday's Happy Post

Remember to come Thursday night starting at 6:00 to the Dunham School Variety Show. The kindergarten will perform. Meanwhile, look at how much fun learning to play the ukulele can be.

See you tomorrow.

Be well.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursdays always seem to go by quickly, especially on Thursdays like today that include time with our fifth grade buddies. A third of the class went out to the garden to spend time with Mr. Hansen out there in ideal weather conditions for garden work. (The rain that had been in the forecast to fall this morning did not materialize here in Petaluma.) A third stayed inside and another third went with Ms. Schmidt to make doodle bugs.

Jaelyn had a very loose tooth this morning. At snack, as she was eating a strawberry, it came out and she brought it over to show me.

The boys were really putting the Stepboard puzzles together quickly this afternoon. I was pleased with how quickly Aidan and Leland could do them. I think I will put them out at Open House Night for you to see.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dress Alike Day

Spirit days are extra spirited around here. If you know kindergartners, you know that just a tiny dash of extra stimulation—like dressing like the teacher—is enough to ignite the afterburners of joy and make the day a loud, fun whirlwind of a day. We had a good one, though. Work through the Sudoku puzzle with care, and hopefully enjoy it.

Here's just one photo taken before the rechargeable batteries in my camera called it a day.

Blue jeans with a blue shirt
Short post today, a staff meeting day.

See you tomorrow.

Be well.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dress Alike Day Tomorrow & Talent Show Next Week

Tomorrow is another "spirit" day at Dunham.

This one is called "Dress Alike" day. The idea is to come to school dressed like a friend, so that you make a match.


You can dress like the teacher and be a part of the group. My outfit will be regular blue jeans and a plain medium-blue short-sleeved shirt with a dark belt and dark shoes.

Mark Your Calendar

On Thursday, May 23 at 6:00 PM there will be a Talent Show here at school. The kindergarten will perform 1 song on stage. Please come... you will have a good time. More on this later.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

I came in over the weekend to reassign the students to table groups and to put names back on the green mat. Students spent first few moments of the morning figuring out where they were sitting and with whom. Most of the boys headed outside to run off a little steam once they saw where their new seat was.

Most of the girls, by contrast, stayed inside. Some of them seemed to be making mental calculations about who was sitting with whom. There was more interest in the social realm indoors.

As we found ourselves between sets of centers today, we had time for freely chosen activities, which the children love. Aidan, Ryder, and William Z. made an impressive structure using the wooden blocks:

Tomorrow we will start up the second-to-last round of centers in kindergarten. By mid week we'll already be in mid-May. Even though I know time flies in late spring, it still surprises me just how quickly it goes.

Be well.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

More with Less

When I told him about my love of ukuleles, a good bicycling friend of mine observed that I seem to be drawn to simplicity. He said, "There's a pattern. You don't ride regular 20 speed bikes like most of us; you ride a single speed or a fixed gear. You don't play a six string guitar; you play a four string ukulele. You don't want a regular RV; you're interested in Teardrop trailers. You don't have boats with motors; you paddle kayaks. You don't teach a grade; you teach kindergarten."

He has a point. My mother and father taught me to look for and choose the simplest solution to a problem. You may remember that during the early days of the "space race" between the Soveit Union (who were the first to achieve manned space flight) and the United States. Our team spent millions of dollars, the story goes to develop a ballpoint pen that would work in zero gravity and the vacuum of space. It was a very difficult problem to solve. The Soviet space engineers supplied their cosmonauts with pencils. (I prefer writing with pencils.)

In any event, in much the same vein, I came across this video by ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro. In it he makes beautiful music using only three of the ukulele's four strings.

See you Monday!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to all the Kindergarten Moms!

We'll go back to our usual routines next week as the STAR testing is mostly complete here at Dunham. The kindergartners missed music and PE lessons that were pre-empted by testing in the rest of the campus. We managed okay. There was a bit more math.

I wanted the class to think about how we might figure out how to find the sum of the tallies I made in my center. The conferred with each other. Many suggested we use a calculator, a sensible solution for sure. Others suggested we count all the marks. (It would work, but be tedious.) A few thought we should count the tallies, counting by 5's as we did so. That seemed sensible to many.

We added the numbers both ways and got the same result: 352.

We also got out the Cusinere rods to investigate equivalencies of 10. Each child did one. Wyatt did all but one of the two block equivalencies (he left out 9 and 1), plus two equivalencies using more than one block: 3 + 3 + 3 + 1. We'll have a few more exposures to these fine math tools.

Of course, like all healthy imaginative five and six year olds, what they really wanted to do was to build with these materials, and I'm all about letting imaginations take the materials in their own directions. Their enthusiasm went up and so did the activity level:

Curtis wanted to give Archy some of the string cheese he brought for snack today.

Look for a brown paper bag coming home with your child this afternoon, but please open it on Sunday.

I send you my best wishes for a Happy Mother's Day on Sunday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Ukulele Festival Performance, and a Silver Lining

Update from the kindergarten: 

Our performance onstage at the opening of the Ukulele Festival on Memorial Day weekend is a no-go. We have fallen way short of a quorum. Sad, because this class can really sing and play the uke. 

There is a silver lining. I'm working on getting a movie—with a GOOD soundtrack—of this class singing and playing "In the Jungle." 

I am hoping we can have it done in time to show at the Ukulele Festival on May 25. 

Right now this notion of making a movie is somewhere between an idea and a possibility. There is still not even a plan, and even less a guarantee. But I do hope it could happen, and I’ll see what develops.

I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here's the poster for the festival:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I'm finding we use the Toolbox tools to solve the little social issues that are coming up in kindergarten. I'm using the "Patience" tool as we get ready to listen to a lesson. It works! The students find that the "Using Words" tool and the "Listening" tool really do help them work out the conflicts they find themselves in.

It is National Teacher Appreciation week. Yesterday the school board treated the whole staff to a breakfast. Today I unwrapped some nice gifts. It's good to feel the love.... Thank you!


The homework I sent home today isn't really for today so much as it is for the first weeks of August when the reading skills we've developed in kindergarten this spring have had a chance to accumulate a layer of cognitive dust and an accumulation of mental rust.

The list of words I sent home will refresh those memories and help bring back the ability to read the sight words and the easy-to-decode words that the first grade staff hopes to see in their fresh new first grade class.

So, no need to send anything back.

Have a good Wednesday.

Be well.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 2 of STAR testing

No, thank goodness, we don't have STAR testing in kindergarten. The week of STAR tests affect us only by removing PE and music from our usual offerings, and by rearranging the morning schedule to accomodate grades 2 through 6 who need a quiet campus for the first half of the morning.

It's all good. The kinders are taking it all in stride.

Tomorrow is our longer Wednesday schedule. We'll get out on bikes if possible, so bring 'em from home if you want.

Be well.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

It was a cloudy, cool Monday morning in kindergarten. I checked the weather forecast early this morning before work. It called for late morning thundershowers right at bike time, but I put on my green shirt anyway with the hope of getting out with the class on bikes.

Our schedule must change this week due to STAR testing in grades 2 through 6. We're minimally impacted—we must advance snack to about 9:40 and delay recess until 10:00. What this means to you is this: if you want to serve a smaller breakfast this week, it will be okay. The class will get to snack earlier than usual.

Although there were plenty of clouds around Dunham, there was no rain. Madilynn learned to ride her two-wheeler today under the expert guidance of Mrs. Everson. Mrs. Everson sent along a photo she took.

Way to go, Madilynn!

Aidan brought a book to share. It was another tale of animal gluttony sort of similar to his well-known and much-admired classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This one was called The Greedy Python and it told the tale of a python who eats ten animals before eating his own tail and disappearing.

After the first reading, we tried to remember all 10 of the animals he ate. It took all of us working together to come up with the list and we eventually succeeded.

Be well.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

No Rich Child Left Behind

Sean F. Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford University wrote an opinion piece that appeared recently in the New York Times titled "No Rich Child Left Behind." In it he makes the case that there is an ever-widening gap between the enriched educational experience provided to rich children in private schools and the paltry fare in public schools stripped of all enrichment by reforms to make good fill-in-the-blank test takers.

In the final paragraphs of his opinion piece, Reardon makes an additional point that children of the rich have enriched preschool experiences. He states that the rich make sure that their children have the best early childhood experiences available.

I have visited some of the schools for the upper classes, and I can attest: schools for the upper classes do not emphasize instruction on numbers or letters. (Some of them actually ban such instruction.) Preschools for the rich are exciting and interesting places filled with music, art, and imaginative play. Their schools do not resemble the preschools run by corporate interests that emphasize early literacy & numeracy.

A good preschool is a place where children are happy—at play in environments that stimulate their curiosity. The teachers in these preschools skillfully encourage the children to investigate the stimulating world around them.

Reardon would like educational reforms that take early childhood education in the opposite direction they've been going in the past thirteen years or so. He writes:

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
He concludes by saying

The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.

You can read Reardon's entire commentary by clicking on this link: No Rich Child Left Behind.

Be well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Do Overs

Over the course of my career, I've come to appreciate the value of do-overs—that is to say, returning to activities (often with some variations) again and again.

For example, in last week's centers the students used the step board puzzles. They had seen them last fall, but last fall was very long ago in their eyes. Many students needed to get reacquainted with the step boards. Now, this week, as we revisit the puzzles again, only a week since the last time, they worked out the puzzles with much more confidence and ease.

This time around I am adding the simple wrinkle of tallying the number of puzzles solved. Together, they did 50 puzzles, which works out to about two minutes a puzzle per kid. When you consider that includes selecting a puzzle to do, working it, and then putting it away, that's fast. In fact, they are working at a little better than twice the rate they did last week.

We launched other centers today. In honor of spring and of the "Fantastic First Grade Spring Hat Parade" this morning, we made some folded paper hats. This project is a part of the kindergarten  FOSS science curriculum that we use here at Dunham.

Here I am trying on the hat Austin made, as she narrates into the microphone.

She gave a thorough description of her hat.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, we did Kindergarten/Fifth Grade buddies. We finished up the "May There Always Be..." customized classroom-created songbook. Here are a few of those pages.

May there always be friends...

May there always be Archy!
Can you spell Chihuahua? Will can.

May there always be dinosaurs.

May there always be dinosaurs? If you thought dinosaurs are extinct, well, just ask the future paleontologist behind that lyric. She will point out to you that chickens are descendants of the dinosaurs.

It was a good Friday. A little warm as we approached noon out there on the PE field. The kids were hot and thirsty when PE was finished. To keep from overheating, we voted to watch an episode of "Word World" from PBS in the relative comfort of the air-conditioned classroom to conclude the day.

Have a warm and wonderful weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Plenty Good Day

I left the classroom camera at school, so no photos of today's activities.

But we had a good day. We began with singing—practice for our opening to the Sebastopol Ukulele Festival on May 25. That's only a little more than 3 weeks away. Look in the Friday folder for a note concerning the festival so that I may procure you a free day pass. (Kindergartners will get in free.) Whenever Andy shows up with his stand-up string bass, we sound better.

We moved on to a class discussion about opening up the seating on the green mat. By a large majority, the kinders voted to try it.

After a quick math lesson it was time for fifth grade buddies.

The day rounded itself out with our usual flow of activity, ending with a nice bike ride in warm (record setting) sunshine.

See you tomorrow.

Be well.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We finished up another round of centers today and will take a day off centers. The next round of centers will start Friday. Those centers will include some art inspired by Rachael Zell. Here are sample pieces done today in a test-drive of the center this afternoon.

The symmetry is achieved by folding the paper.

We finished up the spin art today. There's been some nice color mixing happening around here.

Tonight's homework is a simplified Sudoku (say: Soo-DOH-koo) puzzle. I hope your child enjoys it.

I am very pleased with how the kindergarten is progressing with their musical skills. As you know, our kindergarten class is slated to kick off the Sebastopol Ukulele Festival at 12:00 noon on Saturday, May 25.

I need to know how many free passes I need to get (the kids get in for free; the passes are for a chaperone) so there will be a note home with the Friday folder. I do hope for a good turn out.

Here's a 1-minute long video of eight year old Aidan Powell on stage with his ukulele.  It will show you what can happen when a eight year old kid gets an early start in music and sticks with it. Aidan started to play when he was 4 years old. The guy accompanying him, Jake Shimabukuro, is arguably the very best ukulele player in the world right now. (Thank you, Jen, for the link.) This little guy is really talented. Music will be a big part of his life.

Be well.