Saturday, May 31, 2008

Photographic Album 7

We still have a few days left until graduation. I have been delighted by the sudden and almost dramatic declarations some of my young five year olds have recently made, "I can read!" And sure enough, they can! All of the children have made enormous leaps this year both academically and socially. As the year comes to an end, we are outside more (the weather has been so gorgeous) and we have been doing more arts and crafts. I try to find projects that incorporate much of what we have been learning throughout the year. An example of this is the beach scene project that I put together using geometric shapes. We are also working on an assemblage project that involves color mixing. Here are a few photos of this past weeks work in the classroom:

A child independently found a ruler and drew, then painted, an Irish flag.


Three of my younger students "planted" twigs in the graveled landscape on the playground.

Next, they took handfuls of gravel and poured them slowly over their forest referring to the stones as "rain."


Students "explored" the sensorial materials.

Using the geometry cabinet, I introduced fractions to the class.


An older student made their own silence card and taped it to their table expressing their desire not to be disturbed while they worked.


Using the geometry cabinet, I assembled this beach scene. I prepared one sheet for each student with the sand colored brown and a strip of blue for the sea. Then I invited them to construct their own seaside scenes. Their work is still in progress. I will post pictures when they are completed.

The above was the final lesson of the week. It was a beginning presentation on graphing and on predictablility - the ability to predict outcome. I got this idea from a conference I attended this year. Each time a child uses either the red rods, the pink tower or color box II, they put a button into the designated box. When I presented this to my students, I asked each one of them which material they thought would prove to be the one most choosen for work. Each of my students was eager to predict the outcome. Next week, during group time, the older students will gather the boxes and bring them to circle. Each quantity will be individually recorded on graph paper. This will be the first time that they will make such notations. When I explained how a graph looks, one of my students quickly responded, "Oh, you mean like skyscrapers; like a city." I am looking forward to the counting and recording myself. This work will be out in the fall and I will occassionally change the materials being used.
A very important event happens near the end of the year at my school: the Kindergarten Art Show. One of the other lead teachers gives lessons throughout the year on art focusing on various art periods and artistic styles that range from pointilism to Picasso's blue period, from Van Gogh to O'Keefe. The children maintain their own sketch books and every week learn both the methods of these various artists and the vocabulary associated with art. I have included a few pictures of the show and the children's work. The classroom was transformed into a gallery where cheese and crackers were provided for the parents while they enjoyed the display. The Kindergarten Art Show was, as always, an amazing success!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creative Writing - It Is In The Details

The child spells with the moveable alphabet their first phonetic words.

The next step - the child writes the words with the moveable alphabet (cursive or print) and then writes the same words on a chalkboard placed besides the initial work. These are the very first words written by a young three year old.

Even though a child has worked again and again with the sandpaper letters, if they tell me, "I forgot how to make a t," I send them back to trace that sandpaper letter and to make it in the sand tray. They usually return to their writing immediately with a comment like, "Oh yeah, now I remember how."

After a month or two of writing with chalkboards, and generally when a child is at least 4 years old, I introduce them to the images and the paper. The majority of the children write only one word, which is appropriate, but this child wanted to write short sentences such as her poetic statement, "A leaf falls down." When I tried to signal to her to move to a new image, she said, "No, not yet. I have more to write." This young four year old must have been waiting for this moment and it was hers to hold on to for as long as she wanted. Let me note that I did assist her in sounding out the sounds of the letters to construct the words. However, I never gave them to her or corrected her spelling. Also, when selecting an image, if a child says that they wanted a picture of a cat but there are none left I ask them to try and draw one themselves.

This writing was done by the same student. The one on the left was one of her first creative writing pieces. She titled it "Babi Trtlds." Obviously, this is "Baby Turtles." Next she wrote, "Trtl goin in th wodr." Translation: "Turtle going in the water." Four months later she was writing a story about her dog named, "Dookey." We had just had a lesson about using oo. (*Note: children often trace over their writing)

Here an older five year old was working on the first of what ultimately became a several paged story. He no longer uses a picture as now he generally illustrates his stories with his own drawings.



Not that long ago one of this blog's readers left a post asking me how I got the children to do so much writing. I, myself, am often impressed by the amount of writing done by the children in the classroom. Besides all the lessons in Practical Life, with the Sensorial materials and in the Language area, I rely on a lesson from my album to initiate creative writing.

One of the great lessons I learned during my AMI training was a work that I often did as an adult in creative writing workshops. That is using cut out images to promote writing. For the very young child, after he has done much work with the chalk board, metal insets, sound boxes, etc., I give him a picture of a cat, dog, hat etc. I glue a selected, single picture onto a small piece of writing paper. The child then writes the word below the image.

After a child has done this work for a period of time and has been given lessons on several of the grammar materials including the phonetic object box, the phonogram box, the article and the verb, I introduce them to pictures that have similiarly spelled subjects like cat or dog but the subjects are in the midst of an action. Examples: a picture of a dog barking or a cat jumping.

As the grammar lessons: adverb, adjective, conjunction and preposition continue the images grow in complexity (and don't forgot the sight/puzzle words). This is the path outlined in my album. Often children simply start to write longer stories. I study these documents carefully looking for clues as to lessons needed to be given or re-presented to the various authors. My most common finding is the spelling wnz for once. I generally don't point out the mis-spelling to the child. I give a lesson with the sight words and they usually say, "I will be right back." Fifteen minutes later, after I have discreetly watched them retrieve a recently tucked-into-folder story and erased and corrected the word, they return and tell me they just needed to do something. I continue with the presentation or re-presentation.

A three year writes "hat" across from an older five year old writing about a "medicine man." The first sentence reads, "I want to tell you what I know."

For older children, I use pictures from magazines like the Smithsonian that I see as poetic scenes or animals which peak the children's interest. These I place on a table - displayed carefully for viewing and selecting - near the entrance area to our classroom. These images have already gone through my mental sorting - What story does the picture tell? Where is it? What kind of animal is that? I select ones with wonderful color and details - like trees in the background or something else happening other than the main image. When a child selects a picture I ask him to answer these questions. So if he comes up to me with one line - ex. Boy with a bike. I ask him where he thinks the boy is going to ride his bike to. What color are the boys eyes? Does he think the boy has any brothers or sisters? How old is the boy? Then I tell the child "If your photograph fell off of your paper I wouldn't know these things. The author has to tell me these things in their writing so that I can see the picture in my mind without the photo." Then I send him back to his desk to continue writing his story.

What they also LOVE!!!! is to read their stories during circle time to the other children. Sometimes a young child will sit in a chair at circle time and simply read: "Butterfly." But the other lesson here is how to read a simple word or a story. This includes articulating clearly, speaking slowly, dramatizing specific words and making subtle facial expressions to convey meaning.

Older children will read an entire page or more. And then the other students are either are asked questions about the story by the writer or ask the writer questions themselves. This also promotes a more complete written story as children are harsh critics. I remember one student asked a writer/student who had just read a story that he had written earlier that morning - "But where is he?" "You forgot to write that!" The writer said, "Oh, I forgot." The next day he wrote half a page about where he thought the person in the photo was.

Teacher Note: Cut lots of wonderful images over weekends and such and keep them in envelopes labeled - phonetic images, phonogram images, beginning story images and creative writing.This is extremely popular work in my classroom and I rotate or change the images frequently so that they are fresh and inviting. Images not selected are put back into my folders and put out in a new mix another day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Photographic Album 6

As I said last week, it is a very busy time of year. I have not even had time to post on my blog as my evenings are filled with end of the year reports and putting together end of the year class projects. Luckily, my assistant Jill is wonderful about running to the store and finding this or that so as to make proposed lessons possible.

She came to class last Thursday with several bags of marshmallows and boxes of toothpicks. We had discussed having the children make constructions from gum drops or sugar cubes as a means of continuing our ongoing work regarding the geometry of place. "Mini marshmallows were on sale at "Stop and Shop" so I bought enough for both classes!" This is her personal magic. She home bakes the cookies for cookie work and she raids her own pantry when we are out of carrots or pickles. I am always thankful for her willingness. Today she cleaned the staff refrigerator. She is going back to be a full time mother next year and I will truly miss her and her yogic mind set.

So here is a sampling of the work done in the class last week. Besides their normal classwork the children were preparing gifts for Parent Night and were busy helping with Planting Day. Yet, as always they gave their best and accomplished so much.

The children worked alongside their parents planting flowers on the school grounds.


I gave a new Practical Life lesson on grating dried lemons for use in soup.


A child brought to school for show and tell a plastic bottle he found at the beach that had a message enclosed inside it. This is truly evidence of coastal living.

Another student brought in a bird's nest for show and tell.


A child designed this cubed wrapping paper and enclosed their parent's Parent Night gift within it.

I used the child's cubed wrapping paper as a spring board into the lesson on constructing shapes with the marshmallows and toothpicks.

Each child was given a sheet of construction paper to work on and a replinishable supply of toothpicks and mini- marshmallows. All of the children were so quiet while they completed their individual projects that it spoke of their enjoyment with and concentration on the work. Interestingly, not one child created a house or made a flower. All of the work was conceptual or abstract in design. Many located geometric shapes embedded within their designs. I thought they looked alot like constellations.


Birthday cupcakes were confectionery sugar dusted by a birthday child.


The head of my school designed this material. He has a home on the Cape and often collects beach stones there. He made three cards: one illustrates a stone with lines, another with spots and a third that is simply smooth without spots or lines. He put several beach stones with these characteristics in a draw string bag. A child removes one stone at a time and places it with the looped string beneath the correct card. This is a sorting material designed around our geographic location - the New England Coast.


A student inspired by an illustration included in Discovery magazine done by a child makes his own using the geometry cabinet's tray of circles.


I gave a lesson on using the geometry cabinet's large circle with the math sticks to create hexagons.

A student asked to give a presentation at circle time. She showed the other students that the fifth cube in the pink tower was identical in size to the cube in the geometric solids.

And one final lesson at the end of the week: labeling the environment. Two of my 5 year-old, afternoon students thought this was so much fun. I was amazed at how well they could read.

There are only twelve more school days. Wow! This year flew by!