Monday, March 31, 2014

Last Day of March

Today, Monday, was the last day of March.

That said, we had our "first"-of-the-month-Monday School Assembly this morning. The first grade edged out the kindergarten for the spirit day pennant that we won last month. Several of the teachers talked about trying to cut down on classroom interruptions and blurting last month with varying success. We still have a long ways to go on that score here in kindergarten, there's no doubt about it. I talked about our efforts while riding bikes to pick litter up off the playing field. Last month we picked up 228 pieces of litter.

When we got back to class we used the pattern tiles to make some hexagon-based designs. I was particularly taken with Lexi's.

Waylon brought in a cute snack with an element of spring—hard-boiled chicks. The eyes were made of little pieces of black olives and the beaks are carved from raw carrot.

At the end of the day we went out briefly under threatening skies for our usual Monday morning bike ride. It wasn't long before the clouds opened up and washed out that plan.

We came inside before it came to this.
Mrs. Zell worked with Mackie who's now a Soundabet master who knows all 41 sounds, even the tough ones.

The microphone can add extra pressure, making it harder to recall the sounds.
She did it, and her dad was there to see it happen. Way to go, Mackie.

Stay dry.

Be well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Assembly Monday

No centers for Monday due to the monthly school assembly. I am going to slot a math lesson into the schedule right there.

Speaking of math, we'll be talking at the assembly about the kindergarten's on-going (for years, really) effort to pick up litter from the playground. Over the years as kindergarten kids have grown up they have become much better about not littering. Years ago we would pick up hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of litter every day we went out which back then was twice a week.

These days the litter is harder to find because the pieces are smaller and they are more spread out. Still, over the month of March we picked up a total of 228 pieces of litter. We counted it and kept track.

Here is a display using one linking cube to represent each piece of litter we collected. Evan was able to see that there were 228 linking cubes without actually counting them.

Sophia's day today, so she wanted to pose for the picture after the lesson.

I asked him to explain how he knew this. He took the microphone and did a splendid job.

After Evan's explanation, we went on to talk about "take away from 10" problems using fingers. We'd start out with two handfuls of fingers out and then "take away" some of the fingers to see what was left. A lot of the kids were delighted to learn this way of doing "take away" problems.

Have a good weekend. Enjoy the rain that's forecast to come in on Saturday.

Be well.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ridin' Through this Life....

The weather stayed cloudy all morning, but not rainy or even misty. We were able to get outside for recess and for our usual Thursday on bikes.

The boys self-organized into a group ride, circling around the playground and using the side of the ramp up to the storage shed as a little ramp.

Mr. Hansen was on hand to lend a hand when needed.
The best part was when they decided they needed to work together better. They'd call a huddle to figure out how to make the ride work better.

The cyclists' huddle
Years ago I used to take long group bike rides with friends. Riding together (whether on bicycles or motorcycles) is a good way for guys to connect.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday, Fifth Grade Buddy Day

On Wednesdays we usually see Andrew our music teacher, but he was not able to come in this morning, so we did some extra singing in class.

During Fifth Grade Buddy time the half of the class that stayed in with me worked on the three hardest pages in the handwriting book. It was great to see the fifth graders help their buddies with these pages.

There was a quiet buzz going on in the room.
Like magic, the cloudy skies opened up to some sunshine giving us the chance (much needed) to get outdoors and ride bikes at the end of the day. We're working on picking up the playground. The class picked up 37 pieces of litter, mostly little pieces, this afternoon.

Be well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Late March Centers

Nick's brother Anthony is studying, too.

After Nicholas P.'s demonstration of his self-defense skills we brought up a new set of centers to finish out the month of March.

Mrs. Zell's center making "slime" or "gack" definitely drew a lot of attention as the one to look forward to.

Love those safety goggles

In my center we're playing Bingo, the original form of the game. I've found that it helps youngsters learn to recognize two-digit numbers without realizing they're learning them.

Nicholas P., who was the person of the day also happened to be the first to score five in a row.

Nick's winning card
In another center, kids made characters out of thumbprints. Cash's mom, Katrina Hupfeld, is leading this center all week.

These thumbprint guys end up having lots of character.

 Link to Nicholas's  Martial Arts USA school.

Be well.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Three New Bike Riders

We had three new bike riders in kindergarten today. The credit goes to Mrs. Zell, though she'd be the first to say that Cash learned on his own terms.

Three in one day is a record for me in kindergarten.

As we reviewed the day, one little girl commented that it made her want to cry.  Tears of joy.

Let's see if I can get the movies Mrs. Zell took up here on the blog.




It was a good day back from spring break.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Notes

Noah became a big brother to his new baby sister who was born on Wednesday. Congratulations to Noah and his mom and dad.

You should find the second trimester progress report among the things your child brought home today. There is no need to return it.

Parent volunteers do not need to come in when we resume kindergarten on Monday, March 24. We will begin the next round of centers the next day, Tuesday, March 25.

We're back to a twice-weekly "plus" schedule for bikes. Weather permitting we will ride bikes every Monday, every Thursday from here on out. In addition to those two days we will also ride on second and fourth Wednesdays. Those every-other Wednesdays are the "plus" part of the weekly schedule.

So unless it's raining jellyfish and gummy bears, bring those bikes in next Monday.

My camp trailer, where I plan to be for a good part of the coming week.

Between now and then, please enjoy the spring weather in the nine days we have to enjoy it.

Be well.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday News Bits

Tomorrow is a PE day. Look for Kindergarten Progress Reports in your Friday folder.

Today we finished off a round of centers.

I grabbed my camera as the last waffle came off the waffle iron.

Yum's up!
The puzzle crew was the quickest of the group. I gave them the regular ones and they were done soon.

This new puzzle was done really quickly.

Kaden and Waylon got the fire truck put together.

The four  students from table 5 got this done fast...
I gotta run!

Be well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cash's Big Day

Today Cash turned 6 years old. So it was a big day for Cash to begin with.

He decided to take on the Soundabet Master Challenge.

Even the stuffed animals were rooting for Cash.

And he was successful. His success meant we could have some extra bike time in the morning.

Sophia became a Soundabet Grandmaster this morning so we could have some extra bike time this afternoon. (The Handwriting lesson can wait.)

During the second bike riding session after lunch, Cash hopped on board our "boneshaker" bike which is in reality harder to ride than an ordinary bike. But some kids like it for its resemblance to our tricycle fleet and the feelings of familiarity and safety that go along with that look.

He's in for a revelation when he rides his "Tomater" bike—it'll be easier to ride than he imagines.
Enjoy this beautful spring weather.

Be well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spirit Day Tomorrow

In centers today we continued with our sink/float investigation, adding plywood and ice cream sticks to the mix.

Kaden discovered that wet blocks stick together. He even stuck a paper clip. The water acts like a thin glue.

These blocks act as if they were glued together with a weak glue. They are just wet.

Mrs. Zell is working in a science center of her own initiative.  She first did it as a parent volunteer last year. It is making Lava Lamps.

ExZELLent work!
I haven't taken a photo of the waffle cooking project yet. Will try to get one soon.



Tomorrow we'll be on bikes after lunch.

Tomorrow is a spirit day. It's Bring-in-a-stuffed-animal day.
The stuffed animal should be small enough to fit easily inside their cubby.

Be well!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kids Teaching Kids

Much earlier in my career, I wish I had figured out that kids learn from other kids. Sometimes when I seem unable to get an idea across, I just ask a classmate to teach the lesson in my place.

Today I asked Sophia to help Keila with her Soundabet cards. What a pleasure it was to see Sophia explain them to Keila. All my "expertise" as a teacher puts me at a distinct disadvantage compared to someone who's just recently learned the Soundabet and can get across some strategies for learning that they themselves found useful.

Later on Lexi and Aubrie wanted to see if they could rattle off the Soundabet within the time it takes for one cycle of the sandglass. Neither of them thought they could do it. Both were surprised and proud to find out that they could.

Aubrie and Lexi standing tall

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Five Soft Skills. Three Questions

Below is a summary of a column by Thomas L. Friedman published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 2014.

“G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.” so says Lazlo Bock, the guy in charge of hiring at Google, in an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times. 
This is not to say that most jobs at Google don’t require hard skills like math, computing, and coding skills. They do. But these hard skills by themselves are useless unless the person who has them can work collaboratively on a team. 
Bock lists the 5 qualities that Google looks for when finding talent. These 5 qualities are soft skills that are increasingly important today when innovation is increasingly achieved by groups of people working collaboratively.
  1. Learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information and make use of them.
  2. Leadership. Not traditional leadership, like being the president of your student body. What Google cares about is this. When your team is faced with a problem, do you step in and lead when your leadership skills are the ones needed? And, just as important, can you step back to let someone else lead when they could do it better?
  3. Ownership. Being responsible and stepping up to try to solve problems when they arise even when they’re not “your” problem.
  4. Intellectual Humility. Google wants you to be fiercely argue for your positions and ideas while at the same time being ready to step back when presented with better ideas. Successful people at Google have a big ego and a small ego at the same time.
  5. Expertise. This is the least important attribute. Because if someone has the four qualities listed above, they will likely come up with the same solutions as an “expert” would.

Questions for readers: 

If companies think that test scores are worthless in making hiring decisions, why are educational policy makers focusing so narrowly on improving test scores? 

Can we design schools to develop the 5 soft skills described above? 

For young children, wouldn’t the kindergartens of yesteryear do a better job teaching soft skills than what we commonly see in kindergarten today?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday in Kindergarten

Today was Jax's day. Jax's mom, Wendy helped out at centers time and helped the kids to a couple of puzzles on the green mat. The castle puzzle hadn't been completed yet this year. 

With Wendy Kellerman's help, the castle puzzle finally got made.

Jax brought in a story to read the class called "Snug House Bug House." It's a great beginning reader I had not seen before Jax brought it to my attention. It rhymes and mostly keeps to two-word sentences that end in "it" like "Plan it." "Ink it."
Jax did a great job reading it.

Jax read this beginning beginning reading book to the class.
In centers we floated pennies and paper clips with bits of wood and with rafts we made from craft sticks earlier this year. 
Our investigation extended to rafts we built earlier this year.

Ella became a Soundabet Grandmaster this morning, easily breezing through the Queens Cards. Way to go Ella!

Have a good weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jacob's Guitar & Addison's Triumph

Jacob came in with his guitar today and we found places throughout the morning when he could strum it for the class. He even took it out to the garden under showery skies. Jacob was good about sharing his guitar with classmates who wanted to have a go at strumming. Here he is sharing it with Sophia.

Addison showed us all how fully she's mastered the Soundabet. To celebrate we went outside a bit earlier than usual for bikes.

Another happy master of the Soundabet

Just as soon as we got outside to ride, a raincloud opened up and really rained hard. We took shelter under the eaves of the classroom and I asked the class to count in unison until the rain stopped, I thought we might have to count as far as 100, (or maybe longer) but by the time we reached 47 the rain ceased as suddenly as it had begun.

Happily, the garden program started up again this week. That means we'll be riding bikes Mondays, Thursdays and on second and fourth Wednesdays. Students freely choose to ride bikes or dig in the garden. Sometimes they leave their helmets on while gardening, which probably makes sense with all the shovels and rakes around.

Jax and Julie doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?

We made sure to pick up every last little piece of trash on the playground. Cash was the custodian of the trash bucket. Here Lexi helps him fill it. At the end of each bike day we'll count the trash we collect and report on the results at the April assembly.

Add caption
I think we collected 43 pieces today.

A peek inside the bucket
Be well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


This post is to inform you of my decision to retire at the end of this school year.

I have enjoyed teaching young children since 1981 here at Dunham. I am grateful for having had the chance to experiment and innovate the kindergarten curriculum. I have tried out new approaches to teaching kindergarten, rediscovered old ones, and I’ve come up with a few original ideas too. 

My work has been meaningful. Developing and refining the Soundabet has been particularly meaningful and important to me because my work extended far beyond my own classroom. 
We’ve had an uncommon core curriculum in kindergarten, a program attractive enough to bring in many students from outside the District. I have long felt that Dunham School is special because of its particularities and uniquenesses. 

I am grateful for the support I have received from Dunham’s parents. Many of my best ideas have come from kindergarten parents and from the children they’ve entrusted to my care. Parent volunteers learn firsthand how challenging and rewarding teaching kindergarten can be. 

I am especially grateful for working with Mrs. Zell this year. Although this is her first year as the kindergarten teaching assistant, she has fulfilled and exceeded every expectation. Truth be told, she has become much more than an assistant; she feels more like a valued colleague. One of the hardest parts about deciding to retire this year was the idea that we would work together for only one year. She’s made this last year of my career especially enjoyable.


Change is in the air. This fall the District will open new classrooms for Kindergarten, Transitional Kindergarten and a playground to go with them. I am glad to see the District invest in kindergarten infrastructure. Inside the new buildings there will be new teachers who will bring new enthusiasm for kindergarten. 

In retirement I look forward to outdoor recreation, travel, reading, making music, volunteering in the community, and fondly remembering my years teaching kindergarten at Dunham.

Meanwhile, we've got about 1/3 of the kindergarten year left to go. I intend to savor each and every moment from here to June 6.

New Centers

In the science center I'm leading we're using little blocks of wood to compare how much buoyancy they have. We tested little blocks made of redwood, pine, bass wood, and particle board.

Particle board floated the fewest paper clips.

Another center introduced Perler beads.

A heart in the making

All done!

One of the independent centers tried to put together some floor puzzles. They got the fire truck puzzle done.

Fire truck is done. The fairy castle is still in pieces.
In addition to this we did Buddy day.

My group got a drawing lesson out of a book that my brother found really helpful when he was a kid. He wrote the introduction to the reissue of this book.

This book got him started on a lifelong career as an illustrator and artist.

I pulled a quick lesson out of the book on drawing a yacht. The fifth graders really enjoyed their lesson.

The book was written long enough ago that yachts looked like this.

Be well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Centers Start Again Tomorrow

Here's what appeared on our activity chart today. Handwriting in two parts of the day.

New table groups began today.

Parent volunteers—please come in tomorrow. We will launch a new set of centers. I'll be leading a science activity investigating the buoyancy of different kinds of wood. It's been awhile since I've led a science oriented center and I am looking forward to it.

Tomorrow also we will have Buddies and Tribes. Dismissal will be at 1:30.

Be well!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Kindergaten Teacher's Weekend

Most weekends I go paddling with friends. One of my paddling buddies is an excellent photographer. Her name is Lyrinda Synderman.

Yesterday we went out on Tomales Bay. She recorded our trip.

Here's a picture of me paddling my kayak along the eastern shore of Tomales Bay yesterday.

Photo by Lyrinda Synderman

Here's a photo of our "clubhouse," a shack at the end of a pier by Nick's Cove Restaurant.

Photo by Lyrinda Synderman

At the end of the day we gather inside and enjoy some conversation.

Photo by Lyrinda Synderman

If you want to see a lot more photos, follow this link to her photo sharing website.


News Bits: Centers Start Wednesday

Thanks to all came to Pasta Night in support of the special PTO-funded programs here: Music, Drama, & Garden.

At the Monthly Monday Assembly this morning the kindergarten class was recognized twice.

  1. First we were awarded the School Spirit Pennant for our prize-winning participation in February's spirit day. 
  2. Second, we won recognition for collection the most money in pennies for patients. That was a stunning come-from-behind performance. There will be a popsicle party soon to celebrate our efforts.

Mrs. Zell and I reconfigured the table groups this afternoon. We will NOT start new centers tomorrow Please disregard other announcements regarding that.

Instead we will start our new set of centers on Wednesday, March 5.

Be well.