Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017

There's so much to catch up on, since my last post. Lots of BIG goings on in kindergarten! For instance:

We have LOVED learning about life long ago. Although we kicked this study off with our field trip to The Landing back in October, we really dove into this topic during November. Our dramatic play center became an old-fashioned house. We got to practice writing with a real feather quill and "ink" (black tempera paint). And we read many books about life long ago. Our absolute favorites were a beautiful picture book series of the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House" books.

 We loved hearing about "Laura, her Ma, her Pa, her big sister Mary, her baby sister Carrie and their good old bulldog Jack", and comparing her life to ours today. It was fun to overhear children in the dramatic play center re-enacting scenes from the books (and invariably negotiating over who would play Jack the bulldog!) Several titles were standouts among these books. We were fascinated by the Ingalls family's move to the prairie in their covered wagon in the book Going West and how Pa built their new house by hand in Little Prairie House. The children were particularly interested in learning about the chores the family needed to complete each day to survive in Winter Days in the Big Woods. Since there were lots of questions about the butter churn, we decided to make butter ourselves (without a churn!). 

We took turns shaking a container filled with extra-heavy whipping cream. While we shook the container, we chanted a butter-churning song. It took a long time, but we finally made butter! 

Then we baked corn bread muffins. While the Ingalls family was traveling in their covered wagon, Ma cooked corn cakes over a fire. We baked ours in Breck's oven, and enjoyed every bite, slathered with the butter we'd made! Yum!

We ended November with a fun STEAM activity--building a "turkey hideout". Each student (or team) had to think of and write out a plan for their hideout, including what supplies they would use to create it. There were some very interesting ideas, and very proud inventors when they successfully built their structures!

Grandparents' and Special Persons' Day was a wonderful opportunity for your children to be hosts for their beloved guests. We enjoyed getting to meet so many special people, and seeing the kindergartners take on the role of ambassadors. We shared many activities together, enjoyed a snack and chapel and just basked in the joy of being together. It is always a very special day.

We wrapped up the end of the month (well, actually kicked off December) with our first ice skating event of the year. Even though about half of our class had never been on ice skates before, we were all SUPER excited for this outing. With the help of many volunteers, we were out on the ice and attempting to negotiate our way around the arena. It was amazing--by the time we had to go back off the ice, everyone was more confident and comfortable on their skates. Yay, skaters!

As November transitions into December we want to reflect on our many blessings here at Breck. We are thankful for this wonderful school, the support of our families, and most importantly, for these bright, creative, slightly goofy children that light up our classroom and bring joy to our lives. Thank you for the gift of your child! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 11, 2017

It was a nice, normal week in kindergarten...well, as close to normal as we get, anyway! We loved being able to dig deep into our reading, writing and math curriculum.

We began a new unit of study in writing, "Writing for Readers". We began with oral storytelling, focusing on something that has happened to us in our real life. We heard a beautiful book, The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli. The girl in the book wants to tell the best story, and embellishes her story with monkeys, pirates, and rollercoasters. But in the end, she discovers that the best stories come from the heart. The children really embraced this message, and have written wonderful stories from their lives this week. We are learning to stretch out our story across three pages--a beginning, a middle and an end. We got new paper, with lots of lines on each page. We have had no trouble filling up those lines with our stories!

In reading workshop, we met a new reading buddy, "Chunky Monkey". Chunky Monkey reminds us to look for little words we know inside of bigger words. For example, inside the big word scatter, you will find the little word scatter. This is by far our favorite reading buddy to date--we love finding little words--like Wegner and Kuusisto (even though we know those two little words don't help us read those two bigger words--we love it anyway)!
Super Reader Bear also introduced to a new superpower--ways to get ready to read a new book. Taking a "picture walk" through a new text helps prepare us for what happens in the book, what kinds of words we might find in the sentences, and boosts confidence. We've been thrilled to see several children really embrace this strategy--it really is a powerful tool.

Super Reader Bear also told us about a Bad Guy--"The Distractor". The Distractor tries to take our focus away from our reading or writing--or really just about anything we should be keeping our attention on. But--we each have the power within us to defeat The Distractor. This has been a terrific motivator--we love to defeat The Distractor!

On Friday afternoon, we had a fun skeletal system activity--we got to sort, graph and then build and label a skeleton using special Cheetos (Bag o' Bones).  Many of us enjoyed snacking on them after we completed the activity!

Thank you for helping your child be prepared for recess each day! The weather is so unpredictable at this time of year, it really is better to be over-prepared than have a shivering student on the playground! While we do have spare outdoor gear for the occasion time something is forgotten or misplaced, it is a good habit to get into now to have your child pack their backpack in the evening before going to bed, rather than trying to hunt for everything in a panic in the morning (believe me, there were many tearful mornings spent searching for a missing glove in my house!). If you have an extra pair of snowpants or boots, you might want to consider sending them to school so your child doesn't have to haul them back and forth. Or try what I did--my daughter kept her school and gym shoes at school, and just wore her boots back and forth every day--that way we didn't have to worry about forgetting either boots or shoes.

Happy weekend!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November 4, 2017

What a great week to be a kindergartner! There was MUCH excitement for Halloween, of course! We had a fantastic time, parading, singing and partying!

At the party, we played Halloween/Fall bingo...

Created our own "Dirt Dessert" for a snack...

And designed beautiful fall luminaries.

That afternoon, we met with our STEM buddies again! This time, we went to their classroom. We had two challenges--to design a "Bone Bridge" that would be sturdy enough to support some weight and a monster design that needed to have legs strong enough to stand up and support its own weight. It was a great way to cap off an awesome Halloween!

This week we also wrapped up our second writing unit of study, "Looking Closely: Writing Like Scientists". We had been learning about pattern books in both Reading Workshop and our guided reading groups. We know that a pattern can help us to read a book, and now we know it can also help us write a book! We took all of that scientific writing we had been doing and turned it into pattern books! The published pieces turned out so well, we asked Ms. McCool's preschool class if we could come to share them! That turned out to be a very motivating activity--we overheard many students saying they needed to add more details to their illustrations or rehearse their reading aloud "so that the preschoolers would enjoy it more". Before we took our books on tour, we practiced reading to our classmates. We practiced being listeners as well as readers--as listeners, we keep our eyes on the book, listen carefully to the reading and look closely at the illustrations. That way, we can give a thoughtful compliment when the reader is finished. This was adorable!

Then we took our show on the road! The preschoolers were a very receptive audience, and the preschool teachers were impressed with our writing!

Important Reminder!!!

Our week ended with lots of excitement about the snow falling outside of our windows. Families, please make sure your student is coming to school with all of the items needed for winter play--snowpants, boots, mittens or gloves, a hat and a warm coat. We go outside every day (unless the temp drops below -10), and we need to get in the habit of having all of our winter gear at school, even if there's no snow on the ground. At this time of the year, the weather and temperature can change so quickly, and we want the children to be able to participate fully at recess no matter what the weather throws our way. Thank you for your help with this!

Snuggle in this weekend!