Friday, August 30, 2013

Snack Calendar, Revised & Spare Clothing

I sent home a revised snack calendar for the month of September. Please recycle the previous calendar I sent home a week ago and refer to this new, revised  and updated calendar for the coming month.

This is the corrected version and it includes our new student, Leilani

Spare Clothing

Our kindergarten is unusual in not having its own separate bathroom facility. Our kindergarten students must share the same small bathroom that is used by all the other students grades one through six. With one stall for all the girls to share, there can sometimes be a wait.

Given that fact, bathrooming accidents are a fact of life around here. Please send to school a set of spare clothing (underwear, socks, pants, shirt) for the day your child might need a change of clothes. Enclose the spare clothing in a bag labelled with your child's name.

Thank you.

Have a good Labor Day weekend. See you Tuesday.

Be well.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Kinder Thursday

Today was kindergarten's first day in the Dunham School garden. Mr. Hansen, our garden teacher, opened the gates and welcomed the students who came in to see the pumpkins, veggies, flowers, and bug life that's abundant there.

The morning fog burned off while we were out in the garden and Mr. Hansen opened the umbrella to find a whole slew of ladybugs who had sought overnight shelter inside its furls.

The ladybugs were a hit with the kindergartners, as we had just read a book that Ella brought for sharing. It was called Ladybug Girl and was about a girl who liked to dress up as a ladybug.

Mr Hansen & some of the kindergarten gardeners.

Earlier in the day we got in our new table groups and explored a math material called Cuisenaire rods. I took a few photos of what the kinders made on their day using them.

Iris built a solid building.

Kaden stacked them up high

Davey zeroed in on the black and red rods.

Noah made a corral with cows inside. The white cubes are cows.
After class dismissed I got a visit from Kelsey Sprenger, now 21, a SRJC student transferring to SSU in the winter. Kelsey was in kindergarten here in 1998. It's gratifying to visit with grown kindergartners.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another good day in a kinder world

Parent volunteer update. 

Thank you, everyone who has already signed up to lend a hand in kindergarten this year. Here's how the volunteer chart looks right now.

The volunteer chart by the front door is beginning to fill up. Because we have 29 kindergartners we're planning to run seven centers. We could use as many as five parent volunteers each day, Monday through Friday. If we attract that many, we'll be able to run better quality centers. Thursdays still have space for two additional people. Fridays and Wednesdays need five volunteers.

We will begin using parent volunteers shortly after back to school night.

Davey brought a delicious fruit salad for snack today.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Don't Have a Phone

I'm a guy who doesn't have a cell phone, not even a dumb one. I'm thinking of getting a smart phone, but for the reasons this little movie suggests, I may not.

Bike Day Tomorrow

First of all, remember that tomorrow is a bike day. If you wish, bring a bike and a helmet for your child tomorrow.
Dario was the person of the day today. Here is his X-wing fighter.

We opened up the ever-popular "Quiet Room" today. Iris, Lexi, Aubrey and Sophia were first.

Our new student Leilani

We visited the outdoor classroom

We read some books out there.

It is just across Gossage Creek, at the southern end of the school's parcel.

Parent Volunteers

It's time to start thinking about getting a team of parent volunteers lined up for the centers that will commence late next week.

If you can come in to lead a small instructional group (four or five children) on a regular, on-going basis, please sign up. The time slot is from 8:15 to 8:45. You can volunteer every day if you wish. There will be little yellow squares of paper for you to add your name. I'm hoping we can fill this chart.

Add YOUR name to the wall of fame

Monday, August 26, 2013

Remember PE shoes tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday will be a PE day. Be sure to send your child to school with some sturdy playground shoes to keep their feet safe in what will likely be an active lesson on the asphalt.

Reminders about bikes: we ride each Monday and Thursday and on second and fourth Wednesdays. This week we'll have 3 sessions on bikes because this Wednesday is August's fourth Wednesday.

Tomorrow, also, we will welcome a new girl to our class, Leilani. Her's is a Hawaiian name that means "flowers from heaven."

Be well.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tomorrow, Monday August 26 will be a Bike Day!

Bike Days are usually on Mondays, Thursdays, and second and fourth Wednesdays.

Hi all,

I hope you stop by the blog today for the announcement that tomorrow will be a bike day. Bring those bikes and remember to bring a helmet for your child to wear.

I hope you had a good weekend.

See you tomorrow morning. We'll begin with a new song, "My Body Makes Music."

Be well.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday News & Reminders

We're plugging away at gluing beans to form the letters that make our names. Sometime next week, you'll see their names in bean on display around the room. The class is taking care to get the beans in neat lines.

We have P.E. with Mrs. Campbell each Tuesday and Friday. Please remember to send your child to school with safe sturdy athletic shoes suitable for active play each Tuesday and Friday. We had our first lesson with her today.

Mrs. Campbell gives the class direction on playing freeze tag

Off they go!

We are counting aloud to 100 each morning. Students take turns. Here Aubrie ticks off the seventies.

seventy one, seventy TWO, 
 Quite a few of us can count aloud to 100. With practice, most of us will.

We sang the Soundabet for the first time today. We had some time to play inside.


In your Friday folder, look for the snack calendars for August and September. On the day your child's name appears, please bring in a modest snack for 28 children. For suggestions on what you might bring, see yesterday's post.


If your child is going to daycare, please tell Mrs. Zell as you drop your child off in the morning.

Hot Lunch Sign Up Sheet

Just inside the classroom door there is also a clipboard with a sheet to sign your child up for a hot lunch.


Have a good weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Second Day of Kindergarten

Today went very well. The kindergartners are becoming familiar with the classroom procedures and learning to help run their classroom. It is a fun group.

We got out on bikes today. Lots can ride two wheelers. 

Lots can shoot baskets with a full-size basketball. 

Lots of you have questions about snack. On Monday we will begin having students share snack with their whole class. The calendar will go out in tomorrow's Friday folder. 

Please bring a modest, healthy, and balanced snack for 28 students. At snack we serve a modest amount of food, less than a meal. Healthy means not full of sugar. And balanced means try for some fruit or veggie with protein and/or carbohydrate.

Ideas for veggies:

Carrot sticks, celery sticks, "ants on a log," zucchini, cucumber, fresh edamame soybeans in shell

Ideas for fruit:

Apples, oranges, (8 to 10 fruit is plenty), bananas, grapes, peaches, pears, apricots

Ideas for carbohydrates/protein:

8 sandwiches cut in quarters:

PB & J, Salame & cheese, turkey & swiss, egg salad sandwiches. cheese and crackers

Protein sources:

Yogurt, cheese, salame, 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good First Day

We're up and running. We have a great group of learners. There's a handful of kindergartners who are reading quite fluently here on the first day. They'll help the others learn how to read and write.

Tomorrow will be our first bike day. If your child wishes to bring his or her bicycle to school, please do. Remember the helmet.

There were a few minutes of choice time today and a number of students wanted to color. Here's what we've got so far up on the wall.

Rainbows are a popular theme...
Everyone will have his or her own square on the green mat.

Remember that we do a shared snack. On Friday you will receive a snack calendar which tells you which day your child will bring snack to school for the class. Please do not send to school an individual snack for your child.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We're Ready

How the room looks at the end of the day

Mrs. Zell and I have the classroom ready to the first day of school tomorrow.

Mrs. Zell

Mrs. Zell is kindergarten's instructional assistant. Her son, William, starts first grade tomorrow. Mrs. Zell volunteered a lot in last year's kindergarten. She brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the job. She knows what it is like to be new to Dunham. I am delighted to have her on the kindergarten team.


Getting Ready for Tomorrow

At the ice cream social this afternoon several of you asked if there was anything you need to do to help your child be ready for tomorrow.

Let me suggest 4 ideas to help make the first day go well:

1. Bedtime. Help your child get to bed on time. Sleep is important. You'll hear more from me about the importance of good sleep. Five year olds need 11 or 12 hours of sleep at night.

2. Breakfast. Send your child to school with a good breakfast inside. (We'll provide snacks for all the first 3 days of school.)

3. Be on time. School starts at 8:00 and kindergarten dismissal is at 11:45. Bring your child inside the kindergarten room, and come inside the room to pick up your child at 11:45.

4. Rehearse your ideal drop off scenario. Actually act it out as if you were in a play. Include the words, the smiles, & your assurance that you'll be back to pick your child up at the end of the day.

See you tomorrow!
Be well.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Last Day of Summer—for teachers

Ah, the last day of summer. We camped all the way to the end....

I spent this last day, today, with my wife paddling our canoe on the Russian River.

We got up early, paddled from Duncans Mills to Jenner and back in time for lunch.

The best time to paddle is at the edges of day and night.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

To Ryan Davis: a word of thanks

Ryan, just before kindergarten

In March 2011 I found in my inbox one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received. 

It was sent to me from Ryan Davis, a former student of mine. 

In the subject line he wrote: a word of thanks

Ryan took the time to remember—and express his gratitude for—the years we shared in my kindergarten and fifth and sixth grade classrooms when he was a student at Dunham in the ’80’s.

Now it is my turn to remember—and express my gratitude—to him.

Ryan brought out the best in me. I wouldn’t call him an easy kid. Easy kids are hard to remember. They do as they’re told, don’t ask questions, and move along through the school without drawing attention to themselves.

Ryan made sure I noticed him. Ryan was insatiably curious and authentic. His mom and dad talked to him more than most parents do, so he came to kindergarten with lots and lots to say and a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of questions to ask. His curiosity and authenticity didn’t fade as he went through school. Some teachers get annoyed with kids like Ryan. For me, they’re like oxygen.

He was a challenging kid—challenging in the very best sense of that word. He challenged me as his teacher to reach a little deeper and work a little harder to make things interesting and real. Ryan was never satisfied with mediocre; he expected the best. He took the lead role in the school play when he was in sixth grade. Appropriately, he played a detective.

Ryan wanted to know more than how and why things worked. He had an evaluative mind from very early on. If I read a story that he didn’t like, he could tell me why he didn’t like it. Ryan loved computers, even the primitive machines available in his childhood. He especially liked computer games which were still in their infancy in the ’80’s.

Ryan knew how to get noticed.

Upon graduating from an alternative high school, he went to work for a computer gaming magazine. Before long, with some friends, started his own internet-based business called Giant Bomb. Among other things, Giant Bomb reviews computer games. The best in the business, I’m told.

Ryan died unexpectedly last month on July 3. 

News of his passing went viral online. Heavy traffic caused more than one website to crash. Ryan was, I think, a great deal more famous than he knew. Along with many millions of others, I will miss him. 

I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that Ryan Davis was the “Roger Ebert” of computer games.

I was privileged to know Ryan not virtually, but actually. Thank you, Ryan, taking the time letting me know I was your favorite teacher. The feeling was mutual.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Summer Garden

Summer gives me time to garden. Here's a short video I made in the garden this summer.

School starts up in a week. I will be getting geared up for the new school year in the days ahead.

See you all soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ditch the Behavior Cards

This post is for the teachers who read Mr. Kindergarten. If you're a parent, and you see a behavior chart like the one in the photo below in your child's classroom, perhaps you might consider sharing the article linked below with your child's teacher.

There is a common behavior management tool called variously the stoplight or the "card" system. In classrooms where it is used every kid starts out on "green" in the morning indicating everything's good. If the teacher sees misbehavior she will remove the green card to reveal a yellow card as a "warning" (a threat, really) that further misbehavior will result in some form of punishment.  When/if the yellow card is pulled, the red card behind it lets everyone in class knows that a "consequence" will happen. The so-called "consequence" is really some form of tangible punishment, often enlisting the parent to remove some privilege at home. Systems like these are very common.

When I began teaching more than three decades ago, I used similar, but less elaborate systems. In my case, I used to write names on the board and, with each warning, put checkmarks near the name. When two checks appeared, the punishment—whatever I decided it would be—would follow. I'm pretty sure I called my punishments consequences. It took me too long to see how wrong my practice was.

Like the author, I finally looked deeply into what I was doing and saw the harm I was doing.  Here's a quote from the article I recommend:

As a first year teacher, I remember ‘writing names on the board.’  That’s what I was told to do, and that’s what my teachers did when I was in school.  But then I started paying attention to the hurt, the shame, the frustration, and even the apathy in the eyes of those students whose names appeared in chalk day after day.  They were six and seven years old, and I knew they deserved better.

Students who cannot control their behavior need the teacher's support and compassion. They do NOT need public humiliation.

The alternative to behavior cards is simple but not easy. Activate your compassion by putting yourself is his shoes, talk privately with him and offer extra support for children whose behavior is an issue. Be the teacher you'd wish for if you were a kid with trouble controlling your behavior.

Read the whole article GERMANTOWN AVE PARENTS.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Disturbing Shift in Early Childhood Classrooms

In the Washington Post today Valerie Strauss wrote an article about trends in early childhood education titled, The Disturbing Shift Underway in Early Childhood Classrooms. Here is an excerpt:

A Connecticut-based early childhood teacher with over 30 years of experience commented:
Everything that is taught is taught [at] an earlier age. It is frightening to see what is expected of young students. I became a teacher because I loved school. I wanted children to love school as well. When I talk to young children and ask them what they like about school, so many say, ‘I hate school.’ This comes from many kindergarten children. That is very sad. If you are going to love school at any time, you should definitely LOVE being in kindergarten.

The article reports on a survey of early childhood educators done by a group called Defending the Early Years. It's not a scientific study, mind you, but it does give voice to educators who worry about the reforms brought on by current policy.

They report on shifts in early childhood education that result in children hating school. With the increased focus on "academic" skills, children exhibiting more anti-social behavior. Many public schools report large increases in serious negative behavior.

They point out (and I have seen) that privately funded schools for the richest and most privileged classes in the US provide play-based learning for young children.

Here at my kindergarten I try to keep learning as happy and as play-based as possible given the current climate of reform.

I commend the article to you. Here's the link: Disturbing Shift