Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nature's Caps for Sale!

Our school is surrounded by natural areas and sheer beauty!  A budding woods, garden, flower beds, and paths teeming with critters and cool soil; a tree house anxiously awaiting Magic Tree House's Morgan LaFaye and a felled "Yonder Tree" at the ready for conquering.

Every now and again, however, our grounds are further enhanced by abrupt seasonal outbursts that are just waiting to be noticed. The shady north side of  the Middle School wing had such a conversation with the Kindergartners this morning.  While walking to Science class, we spied a cluster of these mushrooms dotting the lawn area.  Teacher Chris (3/4 Grade) said that there was only a single toadstool last evening, which means that the one must have conspired with the grass to awaken all of the rest!

As part of our "Identity" unit, Kindergartners have been talking about ways we can identify ourselves.  Last week we used physical attributes, pets, and measurements. This week we practiced describing and distinguishing ourselves by our clothing choices.  We read Naked Mole Rat Gets  Dressed by Mo Willems and a classic The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm (illustrated by Jim LaMarche).   This morning we read yet another classic, Caps for Sale told and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina.

A spontaneous dictated response idea blossomed, however, from these mushroom discoveries that I thought looked just like CAPS.  I was curious to see if the children did too.  I took these photographs of the fungi then showed each child individually and asked them to reflect on them.  I then asked the question, "If the mushrooms were part of nature's clothes, what would they be?"  Here are their responses.

"They're poisonous?...  I don't know.   I have a book about them...White and red is poisonous and there is other kinds,"  Thomas says,  "A skirt?"  (Maybe a poisonous skirt?)  Thomas nods yes.

"Mushroom clothes.  Mushroom clothes for eating."-Lexi

"What is that stuff on the top?  They look even yuckier than when we saw them (earlier)" Lila says: "A dress...a dancing dress."

Oliver says, "They look like mushrooms.  I think they (nature) would use green clothes because plants are green.  Mushrooms would provide shade for ants."

"There's black and brown on the top and there's brown and there's white on the sides.  They would be like a dress!" says August.

Alex says, "That one looks like it has poison on it.  It looks like it has ants marching on top or on the bottom.  I don't know which one.  It looks like the ants are black. It would be fancy cloth. They look like pretzels.  It looks like a pumpkin."

"That one has nothing of a mushroom.  It has a black thing (traces around ring with her finger.)  What are those called?  (I don't know.)  Not to eat it!   I don't know how it is so wild and 'dee.'  That means you can not eat it. It's almost like a bell but it's not metal.  Mushroom clothes."  says Sophia.

"They look funny.  It is funny. It's grass clothes." Dillon says.

"Do you know what that reminds me of?  This reminds me of a tutu.  It would probably be a tutu of nature's clothes."-Mila

Hmmmmmm, out of all the responses, no caps.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Math Matters! (Part 1)

Math in Kindergarten may seem eclectic,  chaotic and (like our methods) appear to just not add up...but it often does.  For instance, we begin each year with a simple task- draw 10 black dots.  Now, you may think that that task is simple and very mundane, but you can actually find out a lot about how a Kindergartner thinks and approaches a task, how well they can listen and follow directions, and about their opinions about Math in general within just a few short minutes.   The result of that activity ranges from one dot to a multitude of multicolored splatters.

Depending on their prior experience, Math may appear intimidating to a Kindergartner.  Right after even the announcement of an impending Math class you might even hear the Kindergartners' whispers or loud groans of how 'hard' Math is and how they do not like Math because it is hard or that I am on _ math level in a workbook at home."    Also, when asked to describe what Math actually is or when we might use it, the conversation becomes even trickier.  Some children say, "It's numbers" or "It's adding" but rarely do they initially say that It's cooking... or portraits... or playing cards... or it's dots.

Several goals for Kindergarten Math are:

  • counting using one to one correspondence
  • number recognition ("eleven-teen", "three-teen", "five-teen", etc.)
  • number sense (how numbers work and relate to each other)
  • sequencing (patterns, attributes)
  • shape recognition (space, negative space, dimensions)
  • measurements (height, weight, volume)
  • addition & subtraction (more or less) and multiplication and division in some instances
  • fractions (partial numbers or from a Kindergartner's point of view, "Do I  have the bigger half?")
  • Geometry (numbers and shapes relative to space)
  • Algebra (unknown or hidden numbers, formulas, translating symbols)
  • and the ability to recognize and apply Math to almost every facet of their lives

Kindergartners count as they attempt to see how many game pieces they can stack on 7th/8th Grade K-Buddy Nik's head.

Some of the ways we go about achieving our Math goal in Kindergarten is through:

  • providing individual and group lessons and hands-on activities that foster risk taking (giving the task a good try and if at first you don't succeed...)
  • by approaching a concept in different ways (using manipulatives, disciplines, pencil and paper tasks)
  • scaffolding information (building on prior knowledge, overlapping and/or revisiting concepts)
  • exploring, making predictions, investigating and drawing conclusions
  • comparing, contrasting, recording data
  • using logic (if this, than..., and weeding out non applicable info)
  • application of a task in a new context and across disciplines i.e. "The Art of Math"
  • by listening, restating, doing
  • individual and group problem solving

Below are some more examples of Math activities we have participated in so far:

After a teacher-led mini-lesson about the objective of the game,  we collectively problem solved to match  24 domino pieces into a "train." On another day, Kindergartners set out  to answer the question:  Can we successfully attach all twenty six of our domino pieces together during this child-directed group problem solving activity.  Their task involved symbol recognition and matching, conversion of symbols to numbers (Algebra) counting, sequencing, discrimination, cooperation and lots of patience.

On another day, (not pictured) the children transferred their domino reading skills to several games of "Die Up."  We used a bag full of jumbo dice as our math tool. We all simultaneously rolled a die and the Ks attempted to beat my score (the number I rolled on my die.)   If their number was higher than mine the Ks were allowed to have one from my pile of dice.  If my number was higher, I confiscated one of theirs.  The goal was to win all of my dice.  This game became very lively with the thought of possibly cleaning me out.  They succeeded!

Board Games during Choice Time assist us with counting,  addition and subtraction, color recognition, matching, sequencing, one to one correspondence and regrouping.  One example of this is when August decided to regroup game pieces into different configurations to add more suspense to our matching game that is similar to Concentration.   He strategically placed and stated that he was grouping game pieces on the game board by either  twos, threes, and even higher numbers during each round.

As a side note, Kindergartners are keen observers and have a strong sense of fairness (although mostly for themselves:)  They astonishingly discern when they are not winning a game and may often become upset and/or desire to quit or walk away.  We are practicing tenacity and perseverance while doing Math and while playing board games (and during P.E. and other subjects as well.)   We are also practicing game etiquette by telling others that, "I'm choosing to walk away now"  and sportsmanship by stating, "Good game" and sometimes we accompany this gesture with handshakes after the game is done!

Fractions were used to alter this recipe of our classroom's play dough for individual participation.  We read and used measuring cups to measure ingredients.  We calculated and converted amounts for each child's bowl. The mass was combined for later play.  Although fractions is not necessarily a "kindergarten expectation," any concept can be introduced and built upon at a later date.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

October Dates at a Glance!

October's Theme:  Identity

Friday, October 2nd         Trip to the AADL Downtown Library,  9:45 A.M. 
Sunday, October 4th        Admissions Open House for perspective students, 2-4 P.M.
Tuesday, October 6th       School Picture Retake today!
Thursday, October 8th     No School- Professional Development
Friday, October 9th          No School-Professional Development
Monday, October 12th     Kindergartners present at Morning Meeting 8:45 A.M.
                                 EBs (Exploratory Blocks) begin 12:30-1:30 P.M. Also 10/19, 10/26
Tuesday, October 13th      EBs (Exploratory Blocks) 10-11:00 A.M. Also 10/20, 10/27
Thursday, October 15th    Fall SK Community Meeting, 7-8:30 P.M.
Friday, October 16th        Coffee with Joanna, 8:45 A.M.
                                    Trip to Wild Swan Theater-"Once Upon A Time" 9:30
Friday, October 23rd         Trip to Three Cedars Pumpkin Orchard, 8:45 A.M.
M-F October 19th-23rd     Parent Teacher Conferences 
Friday, October 30th         Eco Fair- Wear Costumes of Recyclables 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kandinsky in Kindergarten!

Art in Kindergarten includes observation, exploration and studio time.  Ks observe various works of art by a particular artist, experiment with their style and medium, and celebrate  their lives and accomplishments.  We observe use of scale, shape, balance, and color as well as other elements and principles of design. We discuss how the piece of artwork makes us feel and even predict how the artist might have been feeling while creating it.

We explore the history of known (and sometimes lesser known) artists-their passions, backgrounds, influences and their contemporaries.  We suppose how these factors impact their art.

Studio sessions are ideally a time of self expression, experimentation and risk taking.  The Kindergartners observe techniques i.e. (Seurat's stippling, Calder's kinetics or Pollock's splatter painting) and are sometimes inspired to create using similar hues, materials or subject matter.  Documentation is taken on some occasions to thoughtfully reflect on  finished work and/or the process.
One goal as an art teacher is to never hear, 'I can't do art... I'm not good at art..." nor should that be a part of a Kindergartners' vocabulary.

  • laying  a foundation for an appreciation of the visual arts 
  • demonstrating how 'art" is intertwined with all other subject areas we are learning
  • cultivating a venue for self expression
  • gaining a healthy respect for the efforts of others.

The first artist we are studying this year is Russian born Wassily Kandinsky.  This pioneer of Abstract Expressionism is considered to be one of the first to use nonrepresentational or abstract figures in his paintings.  Kandinsky was inspired by a viewing of "Haystacks" by Post Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.

It is also said that  Kandinsky had a special gift of experiencing  'colors as sounds and sounds as  colors.'  This ability (although unidentified during Kandinsky's lifetime) is now known as "synesthesia."

Our first studio session involved observing the piece titled,  Color Study:  Squares with Concentric Circles (1913).   The children shared comments about the amount and shapes used in the piece and made predictions of the subject matter.   One insightful observer, Oliver,  stated that, "That one with the white (pointing to one of the squares) looks like how water travels through a funnel."

Our follow up Art session included a reading of  a fictional account of the artist's young life titled The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock and the igniting of our own synesthetic senses while listening to music from Russian composer Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin.  This composition was said to be the inspiration for some of Wassily Kandinsky's colorful abstract paintings.

W. Kandinsky.  Color Study:  Squares with Concentric Circles.  1913.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Howell Nature Center as part of our SK Science Classroom

Howell Nature Center houses numerous animals that are indigenous (and migratory) to Michigan.  The beautiful grounds are a safe haven for various critters that are injured, abandoned, or neglected in some way.  Kindergartners were encouraged not to have certain animals as pets  due to their special need for the wild and even to avoid discarding their apple cores and such on the highway. We learned that his tends to be one reason for the amount of road kill found there.

A "one finger stroke" on a certain part of the back of an animal like a box turtle was demonstrated by participants.  Wild animals tend to be unpredictable and a feisty ferret and opossum demonstrated this during our  workshop!

After a yummy lunch of sandwiches, fresh vegetables and salad, Kindergartners joined others in a rousing game of GaGa ball.  This game (similar to dodge ball) means "touch-touch" in  Hebrew  and is the inspiration for our SK playground's Gaga pit!

Our next workshop allowed us the opportunity to assess the health of a pond by studying its inhabitants.  Our awesome parents were responsible for dredging up a net full of muck (mud and gunk) from the pond then Kindergartners used spoons and acted as detectives to find the critters living there  Snails, water skimmers, damsel flies and leeches were some of its expected finds.  A millipede, however,  was a surprise guest that usually lives out of the water.  We were told that the water line of the pond was lower than usual due to the lack of water fall this year.  Kindergartners were also told by our docent, Becky, that unlike the ever changing lake water outside of our lodge, pond water maintains a steady temperature.

After our investigation, pond life were reluctantly returned to the water.  We later warmed ourselves inside and created drawings and rubbings out of gathered leaves,  Lastly, we admired the peaceful lake one last time before returning to school.

Thanks to Lexi's Dad who captured this precious moment below!

Kindergarten Sharing Days are each Tuesday afternoon!

(Above) Alex acted as facilitator for our first impromptu "Sharing Time" and filtered questions and comments regarding just a small sampling of his car collection from home!

While SK generally does not allow toys from home, Kindergartners are invited to bring in an item of their choice each Tuesday.  "Sharing Time" is a great opportunity to find out about each other's interests and practice speaking in from of a group.  It also allows one to  master the art of cooperation and patience.   This historically popular activity in the Kindergarten room is almost completely facilitated by the children!  The Kindergartners practice autonomy in their selections and in their presentations.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Our Wonderful First Day of School 2015-16!

Kindergartners seemed to enjoy cozy conversations and a quiet place to relax. Friendships are created and built through common (and sometimes different) interests.

 Unstructured social times are great opportunities for getting to know others, share common interests, resolve conflict and establish trust.
Several two and three dimensional Lego structures were designed throughout the day and acted as inspirations for other buildings.

A classroom "saving shelf" was established that allows for the revisiting of structures and the editing of ideas.

Match box cars were inspected and sorted.  A request was also made to acquire many more cars. The children grouped  cars by attributes including color, size, style, and condition.

Play is the work of the Kindergartner and toys books, manipulatives,  time, and ideas are their tools.
Parallel and partner play are not uncommon in the early educational settings.

Dot markers were the medium of choice at the paint easels.  Sweeping arm movements created vibrant masterpieces to adorn our classroom walls.  Dot markers were also our tools for a counting activity in Math class as well.

Several of our parents stated that they wished that they were back in Kindergarten!   Do you remember your first day of school?  Positive (and not so positive) school experiences are lasting!

Parent volunteers are in abundance at our school. Many, many families and staff visit our class and share their expertise and passions.

Our newly renovated playground is a big hit for our incoming and returning students.  Landscapes with natural elements and landscapes evoke curiosity, ingenuity. and lots of creativity.

Board games encourage cooperation, patience,  and strategy.  Some children are naturally competitive while others seem to just enjoy the journey.  Sometimes, standard rules are deviated from and a whole new set of possibilities for play arise.
Making play dough  involves a little bit of chemistry, physics and a whole lot of elbow grease.  Altering a recipe involves using fractions, division, addition, and a bit of 'mother wit.'

The "varying textures of ingredients,""use of the senses" and "changing properties" are all good Scientific conversation starters while cooking. The use of corn flour also proposes a new set of cooking challenges for us.

Our Circle Time book,  First Day Jitters,  by Julie Danneberg led to a discussion about the definition of "jitters."   Kindergartners commented that it meant "nervous" or "scared."   The plot offered a funny and unpredictable ending to the story.  Later, our visit from Madame (who is also our Latin and French teacher (1st-8th grades) for  story time revealed a clever use of a 'story within a story' and the combining of classic pieces of literature.  Our first writing activity encouraged Kindergartners to begin writing their own stories this week.

The Kindergartners made many group and individual choices during the day then returned to their loving families to hopefully share all about it.  It was an outstanding first day!  See you tomorrow!