Monday, September 30, 2013

Kindergartners Egg-cellent Adventures!

Kindergartners had "egg"-cellent opportunities to explore  the uniqueness in all of us.   Circle Time  began with  a story called Eggbert:  The Slightly Cracked Egg by Tom Ross.   Eggbert is asked to leave his home in the refrigerator after an imperfection in his shell is discovered.  He ventures out and attempts to blend in and hide his flaws but without much success.  After Eggbert discovers that the whole world is full of "cracks" he finally decides to be happy as he is and look for the good (and beauty) in everything.

Shan Scientists attempted to create an indestructible protection system for an "egg drop" experiment.  Scrap box materials,  cotton balls (a whole lot of cotton balls)  and paper cups were included in our resources.  Teams released completed structures  from the top of the climber.  There were a few casualties but a lot of enthusiasm, teamwork, and fun.

With clip boards and charcoal sticks in tow,  we took a walking trip around our school to look for the many "cracks" found in nature.  It didn't take us long to discover that the garden mulch, our building facade  made of stucco, and the bark and leaves of trees made excellent (or shall I say"egg"cellent) examples.  These beautiful and intricate line rubbings  were a great precursor to our Art activity this week.  

Kindergartners began an Art unit on the life and artistic styles of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.   He dabbled in various medium throughout his long life and reached mastery in each.  We read about  several details of Picasso's  very passionate life and even identified with some of his character traits:

He was indulged by several family members as a child
He didn't like to be told what to do
He enjoyed going to bull fights 
He was often unpredictable (a bit of a prankster) so his friends had to always be on their toes
He was gifted at art from a very young age

Out of the Mouths of Babes:  (dictated writing journal entries)

"This is a bull and this is a flamingo which is hard to draw.  Pablo Picasso drew bulls and flamingos."-N.A.

"This is the man holding the bull so he will not run away.  He (Pablo Picasso) used continuing lines and he really liked bull races/fights."-N.O.

"I learned that Pablo Taso liked animals without getting his pen or marker off his paper."-M.S.

"Pablo Picasso had a buffalo and then that bull went somewhere with Pablo Picasso and it was Mackinaw and the moose's name was Albert."-L.C.

   This continuous line drawing technique requires you to draw a figure from start to finish without lifting your pencil or brush off of the paper.  Kindergartners did an amazing job of capturing likenesses while drawing one of Picasso's favorite subjects- "the bull."

While on the subject of bulls, Kindergartners also heard a story about a bull with unlikely characteristics.  This gentile bovine, from the book The Story of Ferdinand the Bull  spent most of his days sitting under a cork tree smelling flowers.  An unlikely event, however, caused Ferdinand to act unseemly which caught the attention of a group of the local bullfighters.  After the story, the children discussed  what "made" us angry.   Surprisingly, some of the responses involved encounters with our siblings (names withheld to protect the innocent.)  We also talked about things we can do when we are angry i.e. walk away, tell others to stop, or ask an adult for help.  We also talked about how we can sometimes actually choose whether or not to be angry . 

 Global Experiences 

Kindergartners are finding out a lot about each other since the school year began.  We are celebrating our unique cultures and our families  in various ways.   What better way to learn about each other's families than to meet them personally.  We had the pleasure of such a meeting this week.  Noa's family has been visiting from Russia and came to see her school and classroom.  They also agreed to  share a story with us!  "Red Riding Hood" came to life as we heard a reading in both Russian and English!   It was  delightful to hear a version in Russian from Grandma while Noa translated!  The modernized ending was redeeming as well as a reformed wolf apologized and made up for his past mistakes!   Noa's Grandpa captured the event on video!    Noa gave a preview of the story earlier in the day to a cozy group of onlookers!  What a treat!

Creating  simple and complex patterning in Math is a great way to problem solve,  visually discriminate,  and apply logic.  Designing patterns can also be applied to creating art, crafting quilts, or inventing computer programs.   Ordering numbers and skip counting  were also skills practiced.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Exploring Bali and Indonesian Art!

Grumpy Gecko by Lily
As part of our Explorers of the World unit,  Kindergartners listened to a folktale  from Bali entitled "Grumpy Gecko"  from The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales.  A disgruntled lizard seeks audience with the king of the jungle (Tiger) to complain about the fireflies that blink their lights continually while gecko is trying to sleep.  The wise tiger painstakingly investigates the situation and finally informs gecko that  through a chain of events, everyone in the jungle is dependent  on each other, even gecko!  During Language Arts, Kindergartners  recalled the story, sequenced events, then created their own story character puppets.  We also discussed what it meant to be nocturnal, the cycle of a food chain, and jungle habitats.

Dung Beetle
Buffalo by Manon

Our current Math unit continues with both simple (ABABAB) and more complex (AABCAABC) patterning.  Various attributes are used to add to each pattern's complexity-  color, shape, size, texture and dimension.  Kindergartners are engaging in lessons on problem solving, logic, sharing and trading materials, and documenting their "pattern story" results. 

 Our  Art Exploration activity included observing a batik print of an Indonesian inspired mask as an extension of our study of Bali.   We noted the use of bright colors,  discussed the technique of "wax resist" used in the batik process, and discovered both simple and complex patterning in its design.  We then set off designing our Grumpy Gecko characters as masks!  We chose to use the same or picked a different story character, used white crayon in some areas to create a "resist" effect and  then painted with bright watercolors to create magical Indonesian inspired masks  of our own. 

Science appeared in many forms this week.    "Shan Science" included dissecting owl pellets and identifying its contents and recreating clouds and rainfall using shaving cream, water, and food coloring!   We also had a chance encounter with a real praying mantis on our cloak room window.  This discovery invoked conversation about characteristics of insects.  We discussed how all insects have 3 distinct parts, use antennae to feel and/or smell, and may or may not have wings.
Thank you to all of the Parents who made it out to Curriculum Night last week.  We appreciate your attendance and hope you found the information helpful.  Just to recap for those who were not able to be here, we are excited most importantly that your child is here for Kindergarten.  We strive to provide a fun, challenging curriculum and a place where your child feels safe, valued, and celebrated. 

 The topic of Reading Readiness was asked and we considered some points.
 1) Being able to read is not necessarily an outcome  for Kindergarten.  2) Reading exercises (i.e. identifying sight words and phonemic and phonetic awareness) are introduced in the context of the Language Arts curriculum vs. as a separate subject. 3) Pre, sight and/or advanced readers are supported at their level. They are welcomed and encouraged to read to others if they desire to, and we celebrate their achievements.  4) Ample and challenging reading materials are provided in the classroom and school environment, and through book orders, and library trips.  5) Most importantly for Kindergarten, we encourage readers and pre-readers through providing lots of experiences with literature throughout the school year. We find joy in books and reading.  

If your child does not show interest in reading yet, don't panic!  Reading will come when your Kindergartner is ready.  This comes at different times for different people - everyone has their own journey.

We keep careful eyes on children as they develop their reading skills. For those who turn out to need a special helping hand,  SK also has a Reading Specialist. Mary is on site to help 1st-8th grade readers and writers with specific literacy challenges.

Our Music Teacher Josh invited us on our first Kindergarten field trip of the year to the Downtown Ann Arbor Library!  We were able to witness the lovely Kinder Concert "Sensational Saxophone" with members of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra featuring recording artist Gary Stein.  Children grooved  to various genres of music and danced using colorful scarves and fluttering fall leaves.  We even listened to  a jazzy book of Charlie Parker's style of Bee Bop!  What fun!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kindergarten Explorers

Kindergartners are quite astute at being "Explorers of the World."  Their natural curiosity and gift of collecting tiny and textured objects makes them experts in the explorer field!  They have had a bounty of treasures to share and presented finds that included pressed flowers, bamboo poles, and even fools gold!  Our discoveries came from as close as our backyards and as far away as France! Presenting in a group setting allows children to express their thoughts and interests, practice speaking skills, gain confidence in their own abilities, and to show tremendous leadership skills.  Kindergartners are also practicing how to be an attentive audience as well which is equally as important.

We listened to several stories at Circle Time this week with similar themes- explorers.  After discussing the roles of the "author" and the "illustrator," we found out that two of our stories in particular were both illustrated by Barbara Cooney.   Roxaboxen by Alice Mc Lerran tells of a sweet childhood memory of pretend play.  The children of "Roxaboxen"  inhabit rock houses and ride horses that look a lot like long sticks.  There is a mayor, a  cemetery for a lizard, and even a jail.  The now grown up children return to Roxaboxen years later to witness its changes and lasting charm.  Kindergartners then design their own town called "Kinderboxen."   This place boasts of houses with many windows, three  jails, hearts, a sun and moon, and trees.   It also displays a very welcoming marquee.  Maybe you can visit Kinderboxen sometime.  It is  located on our classroom wall.

Tuesday's Shan Science class involved mixing various ingredients together to make "tooth paste."  This topic was very appropriate because of all of the discussion of Elise loosing our first Kindergarten tooth and a  Lily's trip to the dentist.  Shan   began Thursday's Science activity with a reading of Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr Seuss.  Kindergartners then set to work following a recipe of glue, borax, a little water, and lots of  muscle.  The senses of smell, sight, and touch were awakened as several contradictory properties were discovered.  The children were able to take a small sample of oobleck (sometimes known as  gak or silly putty) home as well.

There was a lot of discussion early one morning about the oddity on our classroom windows.  There was talk of how it "rained last night,"..."clouds that lay on the ground (fog),"... and "condensation"  that caused the glass to appear to be "sweating."  This impromptu conversation was a wonderful  exchange of scientific inquiry.   we also proved a theory (by scribbling names) that the condensation appeared on only the outside of the glass!

The week's beginning temperatures (mid 90s) prompted our splash time in a wade pool. 
 Midweek, however, called for umbrellas and jackets. 

Our art lesson continued with Post Impressionist artist George Seurat.  This artist and creator of the technique "pointillism" laid pure, contrasting or complementary colored dots side by side in strategic ways to form shapes, areas of light and dark (shadow and highlight) and the illusion of lines when seen from a distance.  We discussed how "Impressionist" style paintings give the impression or illusion of looking at something through "squinty" eyes.  Here are a few examples of our own pointillist drawings.

"Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by George Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our First Week of SK Kindergarten 2013-14

Our first week of Kindergarten was packed full of activity! I hope your little one is sharing some of the highlights of their days, but just in case they are not, here are a few conversation starters for you!   I always like to start the school year with a delightful book titled First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.   Kindergartners are always surprised at the end of the story to find that someone else is just as nervous as they are!   We also talked about what "jitters" meant and about some of our wide range of feelings about beginning Kindergarten for the first time.   By the way, the children made an amazing transition this week!    Just so you know, however, and in my experience, the second and third week may appear to be a more difficult transition with signs of not wanting to come to school, complaints of tummy aches, and teariness.  This "Honeymoon's over" phase passes with time.   Also, increased appetites and a need for an earlier bedtime are also signs of adjustment.  Some suggestions include keeping home routines consistent, brief drop offs, and lots of reassurance that they will be O.K.  Kindergartners play/work hard at being Kindergartners!

One of our first Math activities involved 10 Black Dots by Donald Crews.  This Art/Math activity (the kids were excited about it being called Art/Math by the way)  included visual discrimination, counting, number recognition, and creativity as we transformed our own ten dots into something new.  

Some of the comments regarding our transformed dot pictures included:

"Doggie balls." -Maya

"That's a monster that eats everyone in one day" -Madeleine

"Color steps."-Aditi

"These are wheels for cars that are way longer than trucks." -Sean

"I don't know what this is supposed to be!" -Max

We continued our dot Art Exploration while observing artwork by Japanese illustrator of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Yayoi Kusama, 2012 (seen left) and Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko.   We will also be studying the "pointillism" technique  of French Post Impressionist Artist, George Seurat.

One Kindergartner, Lily, was particularly interested in what Rothko looked like so we perused the internet to find his image.  We also found one of his self portraits.  We noticed that his eyes in the portrait  looked a lot like-what else? Dots!   Later, Kindergartners  created their own colorful and vibrant masterpieces! 

Another Math activity this week was also "dotted" with dots!  This time, Kindergartners worked in pairs and small  groups to match sums of domino pieces.   Lastly, we attempted (with many trys and compromise) to make a  continuous matching strand with our total amount of dominoes.  Below is our "horseshoe" of success!

Free Choice selections included snuggling with blankets in the little pool, arranging legos and cars in the building area, and playing board games.  Lots of cooperation, strategizing, and even Math adding skills went into rousing games of "Shut the Box"!   The children cheered for each other and shared their number rolling victories!   We also discovered that  arrangements of dots on a game die look a lot like the numbers on a  domino piece.  Drawing, listening to Magic Tree House audios, and a Friday Dance Party also culminated our week.

Bubble play at the playground!

One of our Science activities this week involved "Shan Science."  After reading a non- fiction story, Teacher Shan walked Kindergartners through a lesson of molding individual  clay covered structures, adding ingredients, and observing as their "volcanoes" erupted right before their eyes.   Afterward, Ks jotted their observations in
Science Journals

Global Experiences included several children sharing their "How to Be An Explorer of the World" finds (more details about that in an upcoming blog entry.)  Another experience included Zoey sharing her family's Rosh Hashanah celebration with us.  Zoey spoke a bit about this Jewish New Year celebration that includes a family gathering, wishes for a meaningful year to come, and features a special treat of apples drizzled in honey.   We also listened to an excerpt from a book titled Faith that showed how many cultures around the world share commonalities while observing their faiths.  Kindergartners helped Zoey celebrate further with our own honey drizzled apples at snack time!

A special thank you to Maya's family for being our Snack Providers this week!  If you have not been able to sign up yet, no worries, there is plenty of slots still available.  

Nico waved the "1st Day of School" banner to ring in the New School Year!