Monday, September 30, 2013

We Are Authors!

The kindergartners have published their first pieces from Writer's Workshop!  Everyone can take a look at the pieces during conferences this week--they are posted on our "We Are Authors, Fancy It Up" wall.

Their work is the culmination of weeks stretching out sounds, adding details, learning how to label in illustrations, and building stories from their own experiences.  As a result, our papers may look "well-read" and busy--but that is the result of following through on our Writer's Workshop credo:

When we are done, we have just begun!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


If you enter the classroom in the next few weeks, you may see our word families on the back windows! Word families are really about understanding patterns in spelling and sounds.  A powerful tool in our "reader's toolbox" is phonemic awareness, or the understanding and identification of sounds in words.  At every level of reading, children benefit from being more confident decoders and spellers.  For more on the importance of phonemic awareness, Reading Rockets has a great site with a link here.

As the year goes on, we will explore and learn more word families such as words that end in -en, -et, -op, -ug, -ay and more.  We are currently reading nursery rhymes, which are fantastic for thinking about word endings and rhyme.

To help us with our understanding of words (and to reinforce how to make what we call "finger spaces" between words when writing), each child helped make Humpty Dumpty's wall.
We also used our "daily five" time in the afternoon this week to explore independent literacy stations: word work, writing, ipads and independent reading.  It's called "daily five" because by the end of the October we will have five stations up and running.  I hoped to have more children get a turn with the ipads today, but due to the lockdown drill we moved it to tomorrow.
Sorting words by beginning sound

Practicing letter formation

Writing answers to the "What is it" game

Writing answers to the "What is it" game

Spelling environmental print

Classroom word search

Writing beginning sounds for autumn words

Exploring Rhyme Sort on the ipads

A housekeeping note: If you have not already, please return the fall conference sheet for us to use next week.  And please sign up for a conference if you have not yet had a chance.  Have a great weekend!

Emergency Practices

Today we had our first lockdown drill, which many of you probably already know from speaking with your kindergartners.  Yesterday, we discussed how we sometimes practice being safe at school with things called fire drills, lockdown drills and tornado drills.  I showed the children what I would do and how I would act in the case of each, how I use a calm, quiet voice, how we move quietly and quickly in order to hear important directions.

The lockdown drill is usually something that brings questions and worries.  I start by telling the students that there may be a time when we need to stay in the classroom, in a quiet corner with the lights off, and that I will always keep them safe.  I emphasize that when we hear the announcement "this is a lockdown," their teachers will know what to do to keep us together and safe.  When students ask "why" I usually say that somebody around the school may have seen something unsafe or worrying, and to keep us safe we stay put.  When we hear "all-clear" then we take a nice deep breath and continue with our kindergarten day.

Everyone did a great job today in our drill.  Afterwards at choice time, while a few children began talking about lockdowns, they also began to describe their understanding of the events at the Boston Marathon last year.  I steered the conversation more towards understanding how we stay safe, rather than getting into the actual events.  I did post something shortly after the marathon events about "look for the helpers--" look for the blog label news or helpers on the right side to view my post from last spring.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pirates and Heart of the Beast

It was wonderful to see so many families today at Homecoming.  My children particularly liked the clown balloon creations and fishing game!

Some great pictures from the end of the day Thursday as we made the "ar" sound in our pirate hats:

Thank you to our art volunteer--Molly's mom--for helping us navigate the long and festive parade for Heart of the Beast Friday morning!

Each class had a theme for their costume.  Our class was "North American animals."  Look at the hopping bunnies, stomping buffalo and more!

Our fantastic art instructor Carol Grams as she leads the parade ahead:

And last but not least... we watched the coronation pairs proceed through the chapel hall and even got up and close with the coronation crowns.

Conference sign-up will begin soon, so please look out for more information from the school regarding the October 3rd and 4th goal-setting meetings.  I look forward to spending more time with our families, just as much as Ms. Brandl and I look forward to each day with your kindergarten learners.  Have a peaceful and happy weekend!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kevin Henkes, The Heart of the Beast and more

What a busy week we continue to have!  On Tuesday, we joined the rest of the Lower School in the theater for a live webcast by Kevin Henkes.  He is the author/illustrator of wonderful books such as Chrysanthemum and Wemberly Worried, both of which we read the first week of school.  To view Kevin Henkes' website and a list of his works, click here.

It was inspiring to hear a writer talk about his process (since we talk a lot of process in our Writers' Workshop) and his inspiration--things from his childhood, children he knew on his block, even a child he saw in the airport once inspired him to write Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.  Henkes edits his writing by first completing his stories longhand, then revising on a typewriter (wow), then revising again on a computer.  He showed us photographs from his childhood in Wisconsin, including one of him drawing pictures at age 4.

Friday is Coronation Day for Homecoming weekend.  Students are encouraged to wear blue and gold on Friday (some of you may have ordered t-shirts).  We will be part of a "Heart of the Beast" parade first thing in the morning at 8:45.  Each child has painted and created a creature mask to wear in the parade through the Middle School.  After recess, we will have the opportunity to meet "the court--" the king and queen of Homecoming as they come through the lower school.

If you are curious about "Heart of the Beast," click here for some interesting background information on the puppet and performance group.

We concluded our gingerbread study with pop-up settings of our favorite gingerbread stories, with characters included; they are on display outside the classroom.  We began our interest in nursery rhymes with the song "Humpty Dumpty" and a Little Jack Horner math game.  We will be listening and singing the Jack Hartmann nursery rhyme CD "Rhymin' to the Beat--"  the songs are catchy and fun and help us rhyme!  If you are interested in hearing some of the tunes, visit the link here and click on the audio preview (I am not encouraging you to buy it; it's just nice to hear and share these songs with your kindergartner at home, especially if you are like me and trouble holding a tune!).

We continue to explore math patterns and shapes.  Our investigation into graphing and sorting began today with our quick math graph "Do you like rainy days?"  I discovered that seven of our students do prefer rainy days!  We discovered that as we graph, we learn new information and organize our thinking.

Look for pictures to come of our parade and a great class picture on Coronation Day!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Gingerbread Hunt!

We made gingerbread cookies this morning and they... ran... away!!  After music class this afternoon, we discovered outside Mrs. Powers' room that the cookies had left a note for us.    Then we searched all around the school, following clues left by the gingerbread men.  We are whispering so we can surprise our gingerbread men and catch up to them, so you may need to turn up the volume!

And of course we ate our gingerbread men too!

I provided a bibliography below of the gingerbread stories we read, in case you look for some at your local library or bookstore.  Many children checked out gingerbread stories at our school library this week.  There are many versions out there, and often a few more come out around the holidays.

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
The Gingerbread Girl  by Lisa Campbell Ernst
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires
a surprise for next week... Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup--A book with pirates and gingerbread men?  Awesome!

To start thinking about community service, we read A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams.  We discussed how it feels to have something simple but comforting to make ourselves feel good at home. We discussed how some grandmas and grandpas have trouble leaving their homes to buy groceries or go to a restaurant.  After thinking about how it would make someone smile to give them something comforting with their food, like a placemat, several wonderful kindergartners decorated placemats for Meals on Wheels.  We hope to make a few more next week and I will deliver them to Northwest Suburban Dinner at Your Door.


Save the Date for the Animals:

Blessing of the Animals

Sat. Sat. Oct. 5, 10:30 AM
Upper School Entrance, Patio

No pet?  Bring your favorite stuffed animal!

New this year -

Upper School Art Club students and art teacher Kat Corrigan will be on hand to create 10 minute sketches of your pet - donations accepted for the Animal Humane Society. 

Enter the "Pet Owner Look-a-Like" contest.  Submit photos of you and your pet by Thursday, Oct. 3.  Need not be present to win.

Have a great weekend!

First Birthday Celebration!

Happy Birthday this week to William.  We had wonderful time listening to his parents read a Mo Willems story.  We sang the Happy Birthday song and gave his parents hip-hip hoorays and super silent cheers for being our guests!
  If your child has a summer birthday, never fear!  They can look forward to having you as their lunchtime guest and making a crown on their half-birthday.

A few housekeeping things:  Please bring in your purple sheet as soon as you can for volunteering.  A Scholastic form will go home with your child next week to order books if you choose.  The forms are due back Friday, September 20th.  Thank you!

Look for video and photos of our gingerbread hunt later this afternoon... we have to watch out for the fox, though.  He wants to get to those cookies first!
Monday, September 9, 2013

Rainbow Fish Teamwork in Action

Our students worked hard to plan, create and have fun building a beautiful fish after a Friday reading of Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.  This project had multiple steps and everyone thought through each step with their peer.  The fish were still a little gooey with glue and glitter at the day's end, but will be up tomorrow for Back to School Night.  

Our collaborators!

A little request as well:  we will be playing a name game this week and are in need of some environmental print (labels from cereal boxes, magazines, Target brown bags, etc.).  Anything we can take off your hands is much appreciated!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Animal Groups

What a busy week!  We started our friendship fish project Friday afternoon and look forward to finishing it tomorrow, just in time for parents to see on Back to School Night Tuesday.  Also look for our Mouse Town shape collage on the window.

We are studying animal groups this September and just examined the differences between reptiles and amphibians on Friday.  I was excited to find a garter snake (no longer living) on the side of the road while running yesterday, and decided drive back later to collect it to show the students as a great example of a reptile.  However, on the ride home, my son, daughter and I discovered that, after hours in the hot sun, the snake smelled very very bad!  So we don't have a real specimen of a reptile, but it made me think that lots of our families may have photographs from zoos or aquariums.  We would love to have your child bring in and share a snapshot of any animals/insects/fish/etc. that s/he has met for our animal groups study.

We will attend chapel and religion class this week, and start some small-group word study work.  By the end of the week, you can ask your child to share what a "popcorn word" is!
Monday, September 2, 2013

Building Community

As we move into the second week of school, it is a wonderful time to begin thinking more about our classroom community and our community as a whole.  One of our commitments at school is to foster Character Always and Respect Everyone (C.A.R.E.).  In kindergarten, that often begins with listening to one another, taking turns and using positive talk.

We already saw many occurrences of joyful connections in our room this week!

Serving tea and taking care of the baby

Making phone calls and getting ready for hockey

Making prints and textures with animals from different animal groups

Building a monthly calendar

                    Moving so fast as buildings come together

A wonderful mermaid castle!

Creating more portraits after our self-portrait study

Creating life-size portraits

As we think about community, we will begin with a collaborative project called "Friendship Fish" this week.   My goal is that every other Friday, we will actively engage in a team project.  On the Fridays off, we will be participating in a "kitchen table" community service project that helps a needy group around us.  The organization Doing Good Together, which came to Breck School for an in-service teacher workshop, inspired us to begin conversations about service and has some developmentally appropriate activities we can do as a class.  We will be using some of their ideas to help organizations like Meals on Wheels, shelters and local animal shelters (without the animals, since there are allergies!). We know that even small gestures, pieces of art, cards and more make a difference to the many people in need around us!  Visit and to learn more about this local organization and more ideas, books and resources for service.