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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

KIDS Club December 2 - 12

When we return from Thanksgiving break on December 2 a new group of Kinders will rotate into the KIDS Club program. This new KIDS Club session will meet Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for two weeks beginning on Monday, December 2.

The kinders in this new session are:

Nicholas P.

Tomorrow look for a short post about the new Wednesday schedule.

Be well, and enjoy the holiday break.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beck's Day

It was Beck's Day today (he traded with Evan because of his recent trip to Disneyland) and he brought a snack that everyone loved: Annie's Organic Snack mix, rolls of turkey meat from the deli, and Honey Crisp apple slices bathed in fresh lemon juice.

He also brought a treasury of stories. I read "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and half of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" this morning and he was nice enough to leave it with us to read more soon.

Lots of classic stories inside
Friday already! Have a great weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Wizard of Oz etc.

In kindergarten this morning we started off a new set of centers. We thought that we might not have enough parents, but it turned out that we had enough—it's great to have so many people happy to help us out in here.

I worked in one of the several centers working on patterns. We started off by stringing wooden beads into a pattern of their choice.

Then the center I was working with had fun dying noodles. Tomorrow they will string their noodles into keeper necklaces.

The necklaces will be strung into patterns.

We went out early today for some bike riding in the sun.

We have a great scooter to practice balancing.

Fun even if you already know how to ride bikes.

We got to see the Wizard of Oz by the Dunham Drama Department.

The cast included Cash, Evan, Aubrey, and Addie from kindergarten.

The good witch of the north talks to the Munchkins.
After school, Mrs. Zell put up the colorful handprint turkeys the kids made yesterday. Getting ready for Thanksgiving!

More than a handful of turkeys

Stuffed with love

Be well

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Turkey Art & Other Stuff

Today was a "between centers" day so we had an opportunity to make some art. Nicholas's mom, Amy, and Aileigh's mom, Rachel, helped Mrs. Zell and me get these made in the first hour of the morning.

The idea came from Teri Sparks, Dario's mom when Dario made one about one year ago at Training Wheels Preschool in Cotati.

You can see Dario's work from a year ago at the top of the photo
Here are Rachel and Amy toward the end of the art time. I was really grateful that they stayed and they were grateful to stay (each had a younger sibling along) so it was a win/win all the way around.

While not making their handprint turkeys the class got a choice of what to do. They did a crackerjack job cleaning up when it was time to move on to the morning lessons.

At story time we figured out what was going on with the book, A is for Salad. Your child can explain it to you.

How can L be for hair dryer?

Tomorrow we start a new round of centers and new table groups. Should be fun. See you then.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Common Core Standards: 10 Colossal Errors

Anthony Cody spent 24 years teaching in Oakland California and now leads workshops focused on Project Based Learning. He has written a critique of Common Core Standards that I think is well worth reading.

Closest to home here in kindergarten is the one he discusses in Error #2 where he points out that "no experts on early childhood were included in the drafting or internal review of the Common Core."

Elsewhere he states that Common Core was "backmapped from a description of 12th grade college-ready skills." Kind of like designing an automobile starting with the clear coat and working back to the paint, then the sheet metal. It's the wrong approach, folks.

The 10 colossal errors of the Common Core regime:

Error #1: The process by which the Common Core standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic.  

Error #2: The Common Core State Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

Error #3: The Common Core is inspired by a vision of market-driven innovation enabled by standardization of curriculum, tests, and ultimately, our children themselves.  

Error #4: The Common Core creates a rigid set of performance expectations for every grade level, and results in tightly controlled instructional timelines and curriculum.

Error #5: The Common Core was designed to be implemented through an expanding regime of high-stakes tests, which will consume an unhealthy amount of time and money. 

Error #6: Proficiency rates on the new Common Core tests have been dramatically lower—by design.

Error #7: Common Core relies on a narrow conception of the purpose of K-12 education as "career and college readiness."

Error #8: The Common Core is associated with an attempt to collect more student and teacher data than ever before.

Error #9: The Common Core is not based on any external evidence, has no research to support it, has never been tested, and worst of all, has no mechanism for correction.

Error #10: The biggest problem of American education and American society is the growing number of children living in poverty.

Link to Anthony's post in Education Weekly

More Blending Practice

If you want more practice blending words, here are the words we worked with in the pocket chart this morning.

The new words belong to the "OT" family. Look in your sinks for the word, "HOT" written on the hot water tap. The hardest words are the ones in the second column that share the same beginning and ending sounds, T and N, but have different vowels in the middle.

At the end of the day we had students come in front of their classmates and read a word family into the microphone. Congrats to Dario, Mackie, Aileigh, and Evan for being brave enough to step up.

I know there were others who wished to have the chance to show that they could read these words, too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Aileigh Rides a Bike

It seems every day we ride bicycles someone new crosses the threshold. Today it was Aileigh's day to accomplish it.

At the end of the ride, looking a little bit relieved that she landed safely, she tells us it was "Really good."

Video and bicycling instruction by Rachael Zell.

I'm a Word Blender

First thing this morning we were blending words in the pocket chart.

Here's a photo of a dozen of the words we blended.

A few kindergartners (the ones who know the whole Soundabet) can read all of these words. Most kindergartners can read some of these words, with maybe a little help to get them started. Almost everyone can manage to read T-E-N at the bottom of the first and second columns.

Two words are the same and those two words have a brother word that's spelled backwards in the photo. What is that word?

Later today I hope to find a chance to post a video of Aileigh riding a two wheeler this morning for the first time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Caring for the Coast

On my Sunday off, I paddled on Tomales Bay, as I often do.

I usually paddle alone for the solitude and the company of wild animals. I find it renewing. (Unlike kindergarten kids, wild animals prefer you don't want to know what they're up to.)

As I paddled along the western shore a mature harbor seal surfaced within 20 feet of my boat, but he somehow did not see me. He swam very near me on the surface—I froze—for what seemed like a minute, but was probably only a quarter of a minute. He slowly drifted away from my kayak. Something alerted him to my presence and as soon as he realized I was so close to him, he startled, dove, and swam quickly away.

I stopped on Indian Beach for lunch. It's about 4 miles northwest of where I launched 50 minutes earlier.

I had the beach to myself. Just me and my kayak.

I paddled close to the eastern shore on the way back to Alan Sieroty Beach. Along the way I saw a man—Richard James—with a large pile of oyster bags piled high on his kayak. I wondered what he was up to.

It turns out Richard is a true steward of the environment—he is, in fact, the self-appointed coastodian of Tomales Bay. Richard is currently picking up after oyster farming operations in Tomales Bay. I have done work like this myself, though more informally, and on a much smaller scale. (Last weekend I came into kindergarten with a weathered but perfectly serviceable basketball plucked from the lower reaches of the Russian River.)

Richard left the litter he picked up at the Tomales Bay Oyster Farm for them to dispose of it.

Photo copyright 2013 by Richard James
Here is another photo he took of all the plastic bottles he picked up in a single year on a beach at Point Reyes. He (and I) would like to see everyone stop buying beverages in plastic bottles.

Photo copyright 2013 by Richard James, Coastodian

I was glad to make Richard's acquaintance.

Here's a link to his website, The Coastodian. Go see it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blending Words

Conference week is in the books. It was good to meet with you parents again and hear about your children's experiences of kindergarten. I hope you'll all find working with the Soundabet at home a positive learning experience with the biggest frustration being having to practice the known cards more than they want to before being allowed to add new sounds to the practice set.

We're beginning to blend the sounds into words in class. A lot of that practice will occur right off the bat at 8:00, so don't be late to school!

Today we looked at short words that contain the short e sound. Here's a picture of the words in the chart we used this morning. If your child has a pretty good grasp of the consonant letter sounds and knows how to blend them, then he or she should be able to read them. Invite your child to sit with you at the computer and offer to read these words aloud to him or her, pointing to the sounds as you go along.

I wonder if any of your children will tell you that they can read these words too.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Two Kinders Join the Bicycle Posse

It's been a week since we got out on the bikes. Today, Noah let us know that the training wheels had come off his bike. Both Mrs. Zell and I thought that those training wheels came off last weekend and that he had learned how to ride a two wheeler almost a week ago.

Mrs. Zell gave Noah a push and off he went. Here's a video she got of him riding.

We were, of course, pleased to see that he could ride with his friends. Neither she nor I actually knew how many days ago he learned, so neither of us made a huge deal of his new bicycling skills.

When his mom came to pick up Noah at the end of the school day, we learned that those training wheels had been taken off just THIS MORNING. He actually did NOT know how to ride on two wheels—well, he didn't know how until today.

As you may guess, learning is contagious.

Martin decided it was time for him to join the bicycle posse. Like Noah, teaching him was a matter of giving him a bit of a nudge. Soon Martin was riding around the playground literally beaming and proudly telling his friends, "Look, I can ride!"

It's a good day when a kindergartner learns to ride a bike. It's a rare day when two kinders learn on the same day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sneaking Writing Into the Curriculum

Conference time keeps me really occupied in the afternoons when I usually have time to post to this blog.

But I've got a short break so here's some photos I took today.

We realized we had not yet named our pet goldfish, so we took nominations. Here are the ideas for names volunteered by the class.

To vote they had to write the name they wanted on a ballot.

The top two vote-getters were "Goldy" and "Finny."

We decided to have a run-off election. Finny got more votes than Goldy, so our fish is now named Finny Goldy Zell.

The cool part was that the class wrote their choice for the fish's name without one of them saying it was too hard to do. Given that we haven't even started formally working on writing with lowercase letters yet, their ballots look pretty good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wyatt's Domino trick

If you remember yesterday's impressive domino video, you might enjoy this one done this morning in centers by Wyatt.

This video is courtesy of Mrs. Zell who got her iPhone out in time to capture this moment in kindergarten and followed through by sending it along to me.

Thanks, Rachael!


I enjoyed the first conferences this afternoon. Thank you for all the kind words!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Domino Tricks

We've been doing domino tricks in kindergarten during centers time.

This is an inspiration to do more and better tricks!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Come to the Show!

Tonight at 6:00 PM the Dunham School Drama Class will put on its only performance of Dana Davis's Wizard of Oz. The show will be at Liberty School, our next-door neighbor school district to the south.

Liberty School is located at
170 Liberty School Road

You'll see some kindergarten students on the stage. Mrs. Zell and I will be there. I hope you can come, too.

Enjoy the three day weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Iris Rides on Two Wheels

Iris rides on two wheels—

Direct link to video on Youtube:

Way to go, Iris!

It was Addison's day today and she brought a fun fall snack—a turkey made of apples. There was some butterscotch caramel dip to give us some challenging practice in not double-dipping. The kids loved Addie's snack.

You can see the turkey's face made of candy corn and chocolate chips

Today marks the end of the third round of KIDS club. We worked on our containers built from ice cream sticks, had a blast playing down at the creek, and then came up for the traditional KIDS Club tea. It was a great afternoon.

Be well!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Somethings New

Yesterday Noah brought in a book I'd never seen before called "Jingle All the Way."

The book and the stuffed animal come as a package
You turn a switch on in the little stuffed animal to activate a voice recognition device (VRD). When you read aloud passages in the text that are highlighted, the VRD activates an audio file inside the dog appropriate to the text. So as the story reader makes his or her way through the book, the stuffed animal dog barks, whines, and woofs on cue in just the right way and in just the right places.

The book was quite well received by the class. I was left to wonder what the kindergartners made of the experience.

Did they imagine the dog was actually responding to the story?

At the after school teacher meeting today, all the teachers took the computer-based "smarter balanced" assessments for a test drive. I worked on the math test for third grade using my iPad. I had difficulty dragging and dropping lines drawn with the touchscreen interface. The math problems themselves were easy enough to do, but getting the answers to go on the screen in the appropriate boxes was often puzzling.

I'm not sure that anyone walked out of the meeting room feeling smarter or more balanced. I know I didn't.

Mr. Schaible said he was glad to opt for Chromebooks instead of iPads. The other teachers used laptops and seemed to have less difficulty than I.  Mr. Schaible's Chromebook buy probably pleased Larry Page, too, I would guess.

As for me, I find I do my best thinking on paper with a pencil in my hand and an eraser nearby. The change to online testing is almost dizzying.

I'll bet Larry Page feels smarter.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No Centers Tomorrow/Book Fair for Kindergarten

Just a brief post of three announcements—

No Centers tomorrow

We are between center sets tomorrow. There will be an art activity for the whole class slotted in when centers usually happen. A day off for you Wednesday parent volunteers.


Book Fair tomorrow

The PTO Book Fair committee will hold special hours for the kindergarten class tomorrow only:

Wednesday, November 6 from 11:45 to 12:45. Kindergarten only.

And one more thing:

The Wizard of Oz

The Dunham Drama Class will put on its annual show this Friday night. You may have seen the PTO president's announcement in the Dragon Tales. In any event, the key info is: This Friday evening, November 8 starting at 6:00. Where? Liberty School Auditorium. If you're not otherwise booked, come on out. I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Fun at Recess

The leaves are falling from the trees on the schoolyard playground.

Kids are having autumn fun at recess.

Addie and Iris cover Davey in leaves.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves. A flurry of leaves.
Thanks to all who came to see the kindergarten perform for the student body at this morning's assembly.

In KIDS club we finished the afternoon with flyers woven from ice cream sticks. Several of the boys, knowing they would not get them home in one piece asked that I put up a photo that shows how they're made. You'll need five sticks.

Study this and weave away!

First make the corner you see at the right where three sticks come together.
Then weave in the 2 middle sticks (running vertical in this photo).

Be well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Humorous Take on Standardized Tests

Okay, I hope you will forgive me in advance for climbing up on a soapbox.

Not all parents are buying the Common Core testing regime coming online that was largely paid for by Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and their uber wealthy friends.

 In fact, in New York a lot of parents are opting out of this new nationalized regime of standardized testing. They are wishing to go back to LOCAL control of schools.

That's the way it was thirty plus years ago back when I started teaching at Dunham: local control.

Each school reflected the community it served. Schools were not standardized, yes, that's true. And that's good.  What's true for shoes is true for schools: one size and one style of shoe isn't so great. Schools that fit the community the serve can be excellent in their own particular ways. Why should a school in Petaluma be just like a school in Alabama, Alaska, Texas, or Nebraska?

Enjoy the video. Hopefully, you don't speak German. Just read the subtitles....

Assembly Tomorrow

I hope you can stay to see the morning assembly from 8:00 to 8:15 or so. The kindergarten will sing some songs we have been rehearsing for the assembled student body and whatever kindergarten parents can stay. Expect standing room only in the back of the community room.

At the assembly tomorrow I will also talk about the work we've done in kindergarten to shorten the time it takes to line up. Back in September, Mrs. Zell and I noticed that it would take anywhere from three to five minutes each time the kindergartners lined up. I knew we could do better than that.

The class met to talk about lining up and we set for ourselves the goal of lining up faster.

Over the course of October, Mrs. Zell timed us as we lined up and I kept a record of the results. This afternoon on my way home from paddling, I made this chart to show the data we collected. We improved quite a bit.

Now we have to decide what our common goal will be for November.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Word Families

We have just begun introducing word families to the kindergartners.

At this point in the year, many class members have learned many of the Soundabet sounds and are now ready to practice these sounds in combination with each other to form words.

Combining sounds so that they form words is a pretty big leap for most beginning readers. Teachers often call this skill "blending." Learning to blend sounds together into words isn't easy. In fact, it takes a lot of practice for most kids to get how to blend sounds together into words.

Two things can help give some support for learning blending.

First: limit the amount of new information to blend. This is where word families come in. A word family is a bunch of words whose sounds and spellings match, except for the first sound. Think of them as rhyming words that rhyme in both the ear and the eye.

Here is a picture of our first three word families in the pocket chart:

May I introduce the "AT" family, the UG family, and the "OT" family?

Second, invite your child to sing the words instead of saying them. Singing keeps the voice on from start to finish and this REALLY helps the beginning reader hear the word as a whole instead of in three parts.

Have fun with these word families. Bring your child over and read the words in the photo above to your kid. Don't ask them to read the words to you. You read the words in these families to them. Some of the kids may ask to read some of the words to you.

I invite you to leave a comment if your kid can read some of these words to you.

Have a good weekend.

Be well.