Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dunham Drummers

We had buddies after lunch. Some of the buddies wanted to do a drum circle so we took some percussion instruments outside and put out a beat. It was fun for everyone who took part, including me. Fifth graders can really keep a good beat going and the kinders, watching and doing, learn a lot by emulating their older school buddies.

I took this photo as we were putting the instruments away.

After buddies we had the popsicle party that was brought in for our winning of the "Pennies for Patients" campaign. And after that, bikes.

Another bike day tomorrow.

Be well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bikes & New Centers Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the final day of April.

We will start up a new set of centers and we will have buddies and bikes.

Till then,

Be well!

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Plate of GOOD Pasta

One of the nice little benefits of teaching kindergarten is.... having a good breakfast ready at school when you didn't have time for a good breakfast at home.

Mrs. Zell served up the last of her made from scratch pasta this morning as we finished up this round of centers.

(They saved a plate for me!)

I was pleased to see how many of the plates were green (with pesto sauce) in contrast to earlier on when most of the plates were white (with just parmesan cheese or butter).

Many people say—I know because I ask adults who come back to see me—that cooking is what they recall about kindergarten two or three decades down the road.

A nice day, with good weather for bikes.

Tomorrow we are between centers. Parent volunteers may take the day off.

Reminder: tomorrow you can meet the new TK teacher, Ms. Rhoads. Be here at 5:30.

Be well.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

A pleasant Friday. The morning rain shower kept the sidewalk chalk artists inside and they worked large floor puzzles. They finished on the fire engine puzzle, with a little help from me.

We took a photo of them upon completing the puzzle.

Julie, Iris, Kaden, and Waylon
The weekend is here. I hope you enjoy it.

Be well.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Talent Show Coming 5/23

Watch for a yellow flyer announcing the Friday, May 23 Dunham School Talent Show.

It details the dates and guidelines you'll need to know.

Mrs. Zell! Mrs. Zell! Mrs. Zell!

Out on the playground today all I could hear were excited bike riders calling out, "Mrs. Zell! Mrs. Zell! Mrs. Zell!"

They wanted her attention because she had taken a measuring tape out to the playground. She was helping the riders measure how long their skids were.

What a great impromptu lesson in measurement! Their interest and motivation could not have been higher.

Evan's early skid

Kaden points to the endpoint of his curving skid mark.
After while we started to write down the measurements. Jax poses near his 9' 6" skid.
Evan managed a 17 footer. 
Our 12' measuring tape was not long enough for the longest skids so some addition of 2 measurements was required to get the right total length.

This is the kind of math "lesson" that sticks to the ribs.

Hearing the excited cries of "Mrs. Zell" was music to my ears.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pasta in Pictures & Noah's Success

The day got off to a good start when Nicholas and his dad put together some creative linking cube figures. Take a look—

I could see these merited a closer look.
Among them were...

A tiger

A palm tree

And my favorite, this quacker

Mrs. Zell showed the class how to make a pasta dough by hand from scratch. All you need is two cups of flour, three eggs, a pair of clean hands, and some know-how. Look and see....

Soon it becomes a ball of dough to knead until stiff and ready for the pasta machine.
Just before bikes, Noah was ready to show what he knows of the Soundabet. He took the mic and did really well.

A proud kinder
And his happy parents.

Way to go, Noah. You filled some buckets today.

Be well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In this new set of centers Mrs. Zell is making fresh, homemade pasta, served up with pesto sauce for those who enjoy a little authentic Italian flavoring.

These plates were soon clean!
Most of the table went for the plain parmesan cheese, but my pasta was green and oh! so delicious. Tomorrow Mrs. Zell will show the kinders how the pasta dough is made from flour and eggs, right before their eyes.

We had a math lesson called "Guess My Rule" where kids see a rule for sorting the attribute blocks in use without knowing what that rule is. By watching the blocks be sorted they all eventually figure out what the rule is. Can you tell what the rule was for the blocks being put on the gray tray?

Ask your child what the rule was.
Tomorrow is a bike day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crystal Climbers & Parent Volunteers

It was great having so many parent volunteers this morning. It gave me the chance to move around the classroom with a camera during centers time.

I spent some time at the Crystal Climbers table and got a couple of photos there.

These link together in a secure way. The unusual shiny translucent pieces add some interest.
Kaden worked on this rocket ship.
Chas came in to run the "Eggs in a Basket" center. He thoroughly enjoyed helping out, as did both his daughters and the other kids at the table. Their center made our room smell like an old-fashioned morning diner.

Yummy fun
Evan's mom, Kath, ran the Bingo center for which I was grateful. Martin got the first Bingo.


There is no school for students on Monday, April 21. This day is a teacher in-service training day for teachers and classroom instructional assistants. 

Tomorrow and Friday Ms. Hulsey (also known as Ms. H.) will fill in for me. She's a former kindergarten teacher who has filled in for other Dunham teachers this year. This blog will resume on Tuesday, April 22.

Until then,

Happy trails, and

Be well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

World's Toughest Job

The world's toughest job isn't teaching kindergarten.

It's this:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ella brought in an imaginative story about crayons. We all liked it.

At PE today, Mrs. Campbell had the class working on tennis skills.

Ms. Guthrie read the class a story in the library. She provides a box of hand-picked library books for us to look at each week.

Be well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rainbow Loom

One of the centers we are running this week is the Rainbow Loom. I'm told that this thing is growing quickly in popularity. The kindergartners seem quite interested in it. A good number of the kinders can weave them independently, with skill and sureness I have yet to develop.

We will see these in our next round of centers that begin on Thursday. Next time around we'll have enough looms so that every kid can have one.

Many of the kids weave the bands in patterns of their own invention. Applying what they've learned in new situations is called a "higher-order thinking skill" by educators. Yes, they happen down here in kindergarten, too.

Be well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Newsbits

The class photo went well and we got back in time to do centers as usual.

One of the centers this week is making "Eggs in a Basket" one of those tried-and-true classroom recipes that is probably cooked more at school than anywhere else. It's sort of like French Toast, but different. More like a egg fried in a slice of bread. In any event, it gives kids a chance to see the transformations of food that cooking involves and it sure makes the room smell good. Amy's been running this center.

That's our new boy, Ivan, on his second day with us at the lower left.

We got to enjoy the very spring like weather today on bikes. Mrs. M even brought her bike.

Jax practiced his skidding skills.

The boys bonded.

Activities like these promote the healthy development of social skills.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Class Group Photo First Thing Tomorrow

Today a kindergartner's grandma told me that her grandson was happy to ride on training wheels until the day his younger cousin got going on two wheels. At that moment the desire and determination to shed the training wheels took over and he's been riding ever since.

In the same way, playing Bingo at school is great for the kids who were happy not to read two-digit numbers. At school when they play with friends, they quickly see that others can read them. The determination to learn this skill is born.

In this second round of Bingo I'm seeing a whole lot more kids learn how to read two-digit numbers because they want to know how, and they know they can learn. It's fun to watch it happen.

Mrs. Zell's Bingo cage makes the second time round more interesting.

And, two reminders:

Tomorrow is Classroom Group photo day. We'll get to that first thing in the morning and I expect we will be able to do centers.

Tomorrow is also a bike and garden day.

Be well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spirit Day Tomorrow: Wear BLUE shirts

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 9, is April's spirit day. The student council is calling it "Color Day" meaning that they want people to show their school spirit by wearing a class color.

Kindergarten's color is blue. We talked a bit about it just before dismissal today. We hope that everyone can find a blue shirt to wear to school. The more solid blue it is the better. Your child will count as participating if their shirt is blue or at least mostly blue. A shirt of another color with a little blue on it does not count.

Any shade of blue is fine....


Also, just a reminder that on Thursday, April 10 Class Group Photos will be taken first thing in the morning. Please try to arrive on time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

One More.... Four Year Old BMX Riders

Okay, you know we ride bikes Mondays and Thursdays. We even jump 'em.

Not like these guys, though.

Show this one to the Dunham kindergarten riders...

I think these guys would like to come to kindergarten at Dunham!

Sort of Off-Topic:Jellybeans...

Lotsa teachers—some at Dunham—hand out jellybeans as rewards. Here's another use for jellybeans.

Check out this short video using jellybeans to show how we choose to use our time.

New Center Start Tomorrow

We'll start a new round of centers tomorrow.

The class learned how to play dominoes this morning. If you've got a set of dominoes at home, play a game tonight.

Be well.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Same Snack Calendar & Other News


Wednesday's unexpected school closure may have caused some uncertainty about the snack calendar. Please follow the existing calendar—the April Snack Calendar that was sent home last Friday. (I'm aware of a few tweaks parents have arranged among themselves to celebrate birthdays, and those exchanges are fine.)


For those of you who might be interested in some at-home fun, Mrs. Zell enclosed her recipe for "Gack" or "Slime" that interesting blue stuff the kids made in Mrs. Zell's center last time around. I'm guessing that you might enjoy making a batch at home.


We'll be playing another round of Bingo in the coming round of centers. If your child needs some practice instantly recognizing two-digit numbers, I commend to you the traditional game of Bingo. At school I've seen about a dozen of the kindergarten class become much more familiar with reading and recognizing these numbers as a result of playing. And the good thing is, they don't have much sense of "working at learning" this skill. I can assure you that direct lessons on this topic do feel like work.

If you don't have a traditional Bingo game to play at home, consider going out this weekend and bringing one home. You can get a good basic game for less than $20.


We won't have centers on Monday morning. But if you're a parent volunteer, please feel free to stay while we introduce the game of dominoes to the kindergarten class.

Also on Monday we will welcome a new boy to our class, Ivan (pronouced EE' bvon). Ivan will be learning to speak English as he gets acquainted with his new classmates.


The weather forecast for the coming weekend calls for warming and sunnier days ahead. I hope everyone will have a chance to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Be well.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bingo & Bikes

After the unexpected day off yesterday, this morning felt a bit like a Monday.

At centers in my group we're playing Bingo, a great game for teaching two-digit numbers to kindergarten schoolchildren. Quite a few have improved their abilities to tell a 37 from a 73. We'll repeat this center next time around.

Today Dario got the winning card.


It was also a bike day, and unlike on Monday earlier this week, we were able to get out there and ride. It was great. The boys enjoy the challenge of jumping their bikes over a small hillock on the southeast corner of the track.

Dario getting some air under that front wheel

Kaden too

And Wyatt

I was especially pleased that the girls, who previously seemed to prefer watching this BMX action, decided to join the fun. Addie got things going for the girls, what with her horseback riding experience coming in to play....

Here is Addie getting some air as Kaden offers an encouraging word.
Some other girls had a go, too.

Aubrie gave it a go. Getting air awaits another day.

Lexi rode through the bike jump, too. Yay for the girls.
I wasn't able to photograph all the kids riding through the jumps. A lot of kids had a go at it.

Have a good afternoon.

Be well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

School's Closed & Blog Worth Reading

When I arrived at school this morning to find Roblar Road closed and the power off, I had the feeling we might not have school today, and that feeling was right.

I hope you all were not unduly inconvenienced by the unexpected closure of school.

The extra time allowed me to catch up on the bills to pay, forms to complete, exercise to get, and a nap to make up for lost sleep.

I even had time to catch up on blogs I like to read. One of my favorite blogs is written by Peter Greene, a Pennsylvania high school teacher who writes about excellence in education on his blog Curmudgucation. (There is a link to his blog on the sidebar.)

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's post which talks about why the coming regime of testing may have the unintended consequences. You can read the whole post at his well-worth-reading blog.

There's ... the problem of letting go of The Answer. If your belief is that there's really only one way to see "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," you're going to stink at open-ended exploration. I know people who think they do this, who really believe that their students are free to explore any ideas about literature "as long as the students can rationally support them." But their measure of rational support is whether or not it leads to the conclusion they've already settled on. 

Biggest problem? Standardization. If we are going to be able to measure and tag and compare across the country the responses and reactions to the literature, we can't have 143,257 responses scattered across the landscape. True open-ended answers are too diffuse to quantify. 

So to make our lives easier, we leash the students. We build a trail and command them to stay on it. We drive them through the forest on a tour bus we won't let them leave. We build a big pavillion and tell them that's the only destination they are allowed to reach. We eliminate options, reduce their choices, reign in their ability to explore and discover. 
For standardized testing, we do even worse. We lie. We say, "You can open-endedly explore this forest (well, on most tests, a small garden)." And then we judge their constructed response on whether they arrived at the one "correct" destination; a multiple choice question for which they have to write their own answers. Or we ignore the destination they reached and judge them on something simple that we can quantify. We don't care if they land on gold or in a pile of poop, as long as their boots are properly laced. On a "Give three reasons for..." question, we don't care if the reasons are brilliant or stupid; we just want them to have three of them. What pretends to be a reading question is really only testing compliance and counting. 

The continued push to create teacher-proof programs, programs that can be taught by any content delivery specialist, ignores a crucial facet of this approach-- it lives or dies, rests completely upon the degree to which we limit the intellectual freedom of students. The best teachers are wiser and more knowledgeable than their students. The only system in which that is not true is a system in which students are not allowed to be smart, curious or knowledgeable. 

Drones can only teach other drones. Intelligent human beings can only be taught by other intelligent human beings. When you create a system that tries to turn intelligent human beings into drones, everybody suffers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slimed in Centers

Toward the end of center time the group making the slime discovered its stretchiness.

It's interesting stuff, not quite like most things we encounter. 

Just hold up a piece of slime and let some of it hang down and it will stretch longer and longer before it eventually snaps.

Slime is more solid most liquids and more liquid than most solids.