Sunday, December 27, 2015

There is nothing like a good story.

Kindergartners participated in Library Story Time with our guest reader Mom.  We also had time for browsing and selected and checked out books to take home.  Being read to provides an opportunity to hear the sound and cadence of language.  It also assists the new reader with pronunciation, proper inflection and also provides a cozy and pleasurable experience.

Spencer, one of our awesome 3rd/4th Grade Teachers, stopped by and couldn't resist chatting with us about our recent interest in Space exploration.  We were able to find lots of literature about our topic right in our own library and also supplemented some of our learning with books brought in from home. Coincidentally, one Kindergartner, Mila,  also brought in a constellation project she created at the local library the previous weekend.  When Kindergartners are active participants in their own learning,  information becomes 'real' to them and they appear to retain that knowledge for a longer period of time. 

August,  apparently inspired by our recent visit from Spinning Dot Theater, is writing and illustrating his own story using shadow puppets that he created.   Children grasp the necessity for including a beginning, middle and end to a successful storyline.  They also make sure to include a good conflict and resolution to the plot.

Recently, Lexi volunteered to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear to her attentive classmates.   Rhyming, predictable and repetitive text and bold descriptive illustrations successfully aid emergent readers.

The Lower School classes were invited to witness a version of Excalibur rewritten by two of Spencer's students.  They used props and cleverly updated dialog to keep us engaged.  Collaborations between the K-4 classrooms provide so many opportunities for shared learning.  The older children give us ideas about taking risks on projects and demonstrate how to do a particular task and we provide a safe and supportive audience to try out their skills.

Morgana and Arthur match wits.

During our celebration of collecting 39 garments for the annual Pajama Drive, Mrs. Carpenter read us a classic version of The Gingerbread Man.   This was the perfect end of our first semester and beginning of Winter Break.  We were already in our pajamas!

See you all in 2016!!!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December Dates at a Glance Revised!

Photo of our 1st snow by the Hubby during his morning walk at Gallup Park

Theme: "Systems"

Tuesday, December 1st     School Resumes
                                    Every Tuesday is "Sharing Day"
                                    Yoga with Dom 2 P.M.  (also December 15th)
Friday, December 4th       Friday Coffee with Joanna
                                    Trip to Wild Swan Theater-Pooh's Honey Pot, 9:30 A.M.
Monday, December 7th     1st Day of Hanukkah
Tuesday, December 8th     Trip to the Planetarium and Nat. History Museum, 9 A.M.
Friday, Dec. 11 & 12th         SK All School Play "A Sort of Complete U.S. History" 
Friday, December 18th       Last Day of the Semester, dismissal at 11:30 A.M. 
                                     K-2 Pajama Party & New Pajama donation day  
Monday, December 21st-Monday, January  4th  Winter Break.  School closed

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!              

Friday, December 4, 2015

Social Emotional Development in Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a time to figure things out.  I am a Kindergartner for a reason.  I am still trying to figure things out.  One thing that I have discerned is that Kindergarten is an opportunity (along with phonemic awareness, number recognition and honing self help skills) to move away from the realm of ego-centrism to empathy, from parallel to cooperative play, and to make a leap from physical gestures of aggression to actual conversations and active participation in effective conflict resolution.  

Partly due to recent events in the news and in society,  I find it necessary to actively work on building skills so that even our youngest citizens can have tools to draw upon in order to handle and resolve conflict.  I was once asked, 'Do you even teach any conflict resolution lessons in your class?"  When I was done being shocked at the question, I swallowed my pride and tried to thoughtfully reflect on what I was being asked-what i was really being asked.  My conclusion was the question was being asked because the children in my care were apparently still having unresolved conflicts.  I then thought 1) Was my approach or methodology apparent or demonstrated for all to see?  And my sincere answer was, not all the time (but I also decided that that was on purpose.)   I further concluded that 2) Like with any demonstration, you would want to see a result-or in this case, a cease and desist of conflict.  The truth, I decided, was that conflict is not something to get rid of or even something that we can get rid of.   I also realized that sometimes the results are not necessarily apparent until later...  much later.  Some of those rusty tools only come out in the very distant future. 

Now, you might think that these thoughts are heavy for a Friday afternoon.  Or, oh my gosh, what happened today in Kindergarten!?   In all honesty, I was just conflicted about what to write about today.  I looked at a bunch of photographs of an adorable feisty, energetic, bright, creative group of little people who spend their days mostly in bliss (mostly) but at times in conflict. Big conflict!   Here is an example:

"Someone sat in the chair that i wanted to sit in and i was sitting in the chair but I got up to get a pencil and they saw me sitting there and they saw that i got up but then they wanted to sit there and they tried to sit there.. well they were actually sitting there but i wanted to sit there so i pushed them out of the chair so actually they are only trying to sit in their chair that i wanted first."  Conflict.

So, my conclusion is this-we actively work on conflict resolution all day, every day, twice on Mondays and Wacky Wednesdays and after long extended breaks and before Quiet Times and during lunch and at recess and right before we go home.

We attempt to empower Kindergartners with tools for resolving conflict:
 -Use your words to tell others how you feel
 -Walk away if necessary
 -Ask a grownup for assistance if the need arises.

We also apply universal rules of good citizenship:

-Keep your hands to your own body, even if you are angry
-Know that your words can be as hurtful as your actions
-No hitting, spitting, kicking, tackling.........
-Yes it is okay to kick a ball but not on purpose to hurt someone else
-Treat others like you want to be treated
-After your hurt someone, find ways to fix it and make it right

Sometimes we send conflicting messages to resolve conflict:

-Your words matter, your opinion counts (can of worms) and have to follow that with 
-You don't have to say everything that comes to your brain
-Yet, speak your mind...your words count...

This all means that I have to be:

- present (not just physically) but  in the moment with them and not wishing that i had had a cup of coffee in my hand.)  
-I need to actively respect that one or more of the children in conflict might need some space to contemplate what happened and/or
-learn the art of ignoring (they will have made up and i am now fuming) 
-that the perpetrator actually did not know why they did a thing (or that they even did anything at all that they are aware of) 

And so I have to:

-glean truth or unbiased versions from all parties involved
-empathize with injured party
-request  thoughtful ideas about how we can do things differently in the future when in conflict.
-realize that conflict is an opportunity to grow, stretch, and become better human beings.

Okay, I lost my thought on the subject and am conflicted if i should publish.  Have a great weekend.

Ks participate in a lively game of basketball.  Organized and spontaneous contact sports allow opportunities to develop teamwork, sportsmanship, and  a healthy self image.

Yarn was draped from post to post to create a spider-like web.  The children took turns wrapping the ball of yarn and intertwining themselves in its complicated pattern.

Block play is an ideal accessory to any K classroom.  Its basic and weighted shapes provide continuous opportunities to problem solve, compromise,  use the imagination and take collective risks.

Water is that extra element that enhances any sand box play.  Deciding whether or not you would like to be squirted can cause great contention, however.  Purposefully knocked over sand castles can also cause great sadness and even anger.  These conflicts may take a while to resolve. 

Children work together on a common goal of creating a leaf type nature structure.  Sharing thoughts, compromising on ideas, and taking turns can result in pleasing results.

Listening to the thoughts and ideas of others is a vital tool to avoiding conflict.  Understanding each other's likes and interests can develop into respect of differences and lasting friendships.

Shared interests can develop from unlikely pairings.

There is always something we can learn from each other if we listen.

Just spending time in shared space can be even better than words.

A great motivator and rallying together can get a kite flying!

Several children's ideas and expressed frustrations contributed to this menagerie masterpiece.