Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give It Your All

"Give it your all, give it your all. At Christmas we give, so give it your all." by Pete the Cat and Eric Litwin.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Technology Lab

Every Thursday afternoon we take the long walk to the other wing so that we can all log on to computers at the same time in the technology lab. This process is quite involved and requires knowing your way around a keyboard, knowing how to spell your first and last name as well as the password, finding software that is on the schools drive (this can be several steps), using a mouse accurately, and using the internet. We have recently learned the difference between various internet browsers and how one of our favorite authors web sites responds or doesn't respond depending upon which browser we choose.

Being native citizens to technology sure speeds up the learning curve! These children are doing all of the above and more. They are beginning to learn how to save files, name them, and keep them in a folder structure. Amazing! Before too long I'll be introducing email and they will begin communicating with each other and the outside world via the written word.
Sometimes we stand at our workstation. Helps when jumping for joy!

That is some very intense focus going on there.

Working together . . . love this one so much.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Upon entering the classroom today the children were met with a voter registration table.  Everyone registered to vote by finding their name on the list and signed their name using first and last names . . . very official! They were all excited and just about ready for their first ever election day.

For the past several days we have been studying the presidential, gubernatorial, and lieutenant governor candidates. We practiced saying their names, learned about their families, where they live and what their jobs are right now.  Along with that we read several really great children's books about the presidency, all the jobs that a president has to attend to, and what qualities we all possess that would be necessary for a really great president; hard working, honest, caring, reliable, friendly, and smart.

The children all shared "why" they were choosing their candidates without naming them. Some liked the way their names sounded (we do spend a lot of time listening to sounds in words), the one female on our ballet was popular because some wanted to see what a woman could do, and one child chose all the candidates who currently hold the office because he felt they would know what to do.

After lunch we made the voyage down the long hall to the library that had been transformed into a polling station. The children told the volunteer their first and last names, were given a ballot, and proceeded to the mock booths. Everyone had already made up their minds before entering the booths and were quick to fill in the 3 boxes necessary to make their votes count. They dropped their ballots into a red, white, and blue box and received their official I VOTED sticker!

There was much celebration as we were lining up for the buses and the news was delivered that Barack Obama, Peter Shumlin, and Cassandra Gekas had won their prospective offices at Allen Brook School 2012.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Math is Everywhere!

Many of our workplaces in math are designed for pattern replication . . . and boy oh boy do they love to replicate patterns! It's to the point now that they use patterns in their free play with blocks, toy food in the kitchen area, drawing and coloring, etc. They are beginning to notice patterns around them in nature, on the playground, walking in the halls, and in everything we do in math. This is an easy one to continue at home or on the road as math is everywhere!

Once a week we have a guest in our classroom who loves math almost as much as the children . . . Sophie the Therapy Dog. Sophie has been visiting my classrooms for the past 2 years and always listened to children read aloud. This year our schedules didn't work out so Sophie (and her owner Nancy) decided to give math a try. So far the children have taken turns sequencing number cards in counting order and then reading them back to Sophie. 

For children that may be shy to participate in front of others or hesitant to try something new, Sophie's quiet presence encourages them to keep trying. They want to be successful for Sophie and are willing to put themselves out on the line in front of her as she never judges. We love Sophie!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to your child can be one of your best parenting experiences! I hope that you and your child create many loving memories as you explore children's books together.

  Don't wait until you think your child is "old enough" to be read to. You both can enjoy this experience sooner than you think--well before your child's first birthday.

  Make reading aloud a daily habit! It's a wonderful routine to help your child prepare for bedtime. Like all habits, this one may take a while to get established, but hang in there until it's a daily (or nightly) routine.

  Try to select an enjoyable core of books your child can choose from. Do they have bright, colorful pictures? Does the language flow in an enjoyable way as you read it, or does it sound unnatural and halting? Are the stories about topics your child might be interested in?

  Remember to keep it fun! Try to allow your child to select the books to be read. Yes, it's hard to read a book for the umpteenth time (We've been there!) but your child will gain a lot from these repeated readings--both emotionally and in preparation for his or her own reading development.

  Previewing books with your children is part of the fun! Look at the pictures and talk about them. As you chat about the pictures, you prepare your children to enjoy the book, and you can explain some words or names they will hear when you begin reading.

  This is an experience that you can really "get into." Roar like a lion, squeak like a mouse, and read your stories with great feeling!

  You'll want to be physically close to your child as you share books together. One of the best parts about reading aloud is having your child sit on your lap, or snuggled up to you.

  An enjoyable alternative to reading aloud can be the stories that you tell yourself! Your children will enjoy the tall tales you make up, or the family stories that you remember. But be sure to read books or tell a story EVERY DAY!

  Your children will probably want you to continue reading to them long after they are capable of doing it independently--because reading aloud isn't just about reading. It's a warm, loving experience that I hope that you'll continue for as long as your child desires.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Types of Play

There are different types of play, and they often overlap in rich play scenarios. Knowing and watching for the broad types helps sensitize adults to the shifting landscapes children create. It also provides a tool for assessing whether or not I am providing adequate opportunities and materials for all types of play. This post will focus on large-motor play and small-motor play.

Children love to climb, run, slide, swing, jump, and engage in every type of movement possible. Such play develops coordination, balance, and a sense of one's body in the space around it. In the classroom we have scheduled movement breaks, sometimes they are in the shape of music and dance (thank you youtube), yoga, or simply taking a couple of laps around the room while counting off. During choice times the children often pull out the balance beam and practice various routines. Imaginative play often results in laps around the room as the characters they have assumed work through various scenarios. Getting up and getting active creates a chemical change in ones brain which allows for growth of brain cells, activity activates learning!

Play with small toys and activities like stringing beads, playing with puzzles, and sorting objects into types develops dexterity. Every day we practice our pencil grip and handwriting in a variety of different ways. Correct pencil grip begins with sitting on the whole chair, pinching thumb and pointer finger, and resting the writing tool on the middle and ring finger. We do this with pencils, markers, white board crayons, SMART board stylus, and pens. Different tools glide differently on different surfaces making it quite a challenge to master a skill we consider second nature. Practicing letters and numbers with Doodle Buddy on an iPad is worth its weight in gold. The children are able to use a pointer finger to help master the strokes and directionality prior to taking it to paper, and its so motivating! As well we engage in a variety of art projects each and every day that have the children cutting, gluing, painting, drawing, and generally manipulating small objects. Choice time gives the children an opportunity to play with loads of small toys all of which require snapping together in one way or another. The latest choice activity involves sewing!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Publishing to a Larger Audience

Here in the Williston Schools, we believe it is important for our students to publish to a larger audience. By that, we mean creating work that is to be seen by more than just their classroom teacher.
Here are thoughts about why we are striving to do this for and with our students:

  1. They have an actual audience to write or create for.  The writing/work is no longer just for us but the whole world. A student’s work will quickly improve with a real audience. With comments from a real audience providing proper feedback, the student gets a better sense of impact on the audience as well as recognition for accuracy and focus. Of course it is also on the teacher to teach students how to responsibly comment and respond on other’s posts. Our students need to interact and communicate with others - peers, educators, and experts within or outside school - and build the feedback received into their work. It also makes students aware that someone else (other than their teacher) is reading or viewing, and cares
  2. It opens a dialogue.  Students have a direct line to their teacher and to anyone else they are connected with.  
  3. It establishes their Internet identity in safe manner.  Students are getting on the Internet earlier and earlier so as teachers and parents it is vital we embrace this opportunity to teach them safety.  In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world.
  4. They teach each other.  That says it all!
  5. They are global citizens and global collaborators.  We speak of creating global citizens but then forget to actually connect kids with kids.  Our hope is that this year there will be even more connecting and collaborating within and beyond our school walls.
  6. Transparency.  Let’s share the amazing things we concoct. Sharing and collaborating opens up the door and shows the whole world what is happening. Our students have an opportunity to inspire others.
  7. We give them a voice.  Students need a way to express themselves to take ownership of their learning. Through our work students will tell the world their thoughts on education, their learning and their needs.
  8. Critical Thinking   Publishing our work opens doors and increases the concept of being a critical reader. Students will examine their own work more critically before publishing it, knowing that they have a larger audience.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Structured Math Talk

Morning Meeting is one of the most power packed 20 minutes of our day. It's as socially interactive as it is academic which is why it's such a powerful part of our day. One of the features that the children have been practicing is called "structured math talk". When a question is posed to the group they are first asked for "private think time", no hands raised, no one is called upon for an answer, and most difficult . . . no one can call out what they are thinking. We all think at different rates and this allows those who need more time just that. After a moment the children are then instructed to "turn and talk" with their partner in the circle. Now is the time they can share their thinking with each other and compare answers. A moment or two later I tell them to "finish their thoughts" and we come together to share as a whole group. The twist here is that they don't share their own thoughts but rather the thoughts of their partner. Not only does this method of structured math talk insure that everyone is participating but they have to listen carefully to their partner as well. A skill that is difficult for people of all ages to be sure!

Each morning when the children enter the classroom their first job is to sign in on the Smart board. The questions vary each day, they are always related to something we are working on, and give us information about how others think and feel. The children respond by moving their name into a "tens frame". We will be using tens frames all year, and in 1st grade as well, to help us think about numbers, count groups of numbers, add and subtract numbers, and just about anything else you can think of with numbers! Here is an example of one of our recent sign in questions.

The children can easily see which apple had the most responses and which had the least. That's old hat for us now. What this kind of tens frame allows them to do is to count how many children like red apples easily and efficiently. This particular tens frame was the perfect vehicle for me to teach the children the skill of counting on. An invaluable skill that will prove to be worth its weight in gold. We can also look at how many more a certain group has than another by counting the negative spaces, all in good time!

How can you help at home? I'm so glad you asked . . . pennies! Pennies are great for counting and sorting in a number of different and fun ways (shiny vs dull, heads & tails, dates). They also stack nicely in towers of ten and even better they lay down side by side in 2 rows of 5 to make a super 10's frame.
I bet you can already see where I'm going with this one . . . counting by 10's! We've been working on counting by 10's to 100 in the classroom with plastic bugs. You may need to count along with them, allowing for some echoing of counts if they are not sure what comes next. The visual and being able to touch the pennies really helps. If your child is ready to move on by all means take them further by adding more rows of pennies. If they are already beyond 100 slap a dollar bill down in front of the rows, teach them that its worth 100 pennies and count on from there. When they reach 200 slap down another dollar bill and go on and on and on. Want to really motivate your child . . . let them keep all the money they can count. By the end of kindergarten they may have enough for their first year in college. Or at least enough to pay for their books and resources! 

Real world math is so much fun and without a doubt the most meaningful. And to think that some people want to do away with the penny.  Have a blast counting with your little one!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shapes in Our World

The children have learned various ways to identify 4 basic shapes (curved lines, straight lines, 3 corners, 4 corners, and basic names). They have used the shapes for sorting, graphing, counting, comparing & contrasting, and geometry. Today they worked in partnerships to find shapes in their world and photograph them. Each pair then had to choose their top 4 photos, one of each shape, to share with the rest of the class. They were very motivated and easily used the technology. It's interesting to view our classroom from their vantage point too!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I'm quite sure iPads are one of the most engaging tools that educators of young children have available! This past week we worked on fine motor skills by practicing our Fundations letters using Doodle Buddy and iWriteWords. The children practiced over and over and over. All the while they were changing backgrounds, width of lines, experimenting with color and texture, and stamping out patterns. While using iWriteWords they had to accurately follow a path to successfully complete each letter. They quickly found that speed was not on their side and were able to self correct with ease. Their natural ability to use technology never ceases to amaze me.
Next week the children will work with a partner to use the camera on the iPads. The goal will be to find things in their world that are the shapes we have been studying in math. Each group will then present their findings via the SMART board and a document camera. They do love to share!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coming Together

Our classroom has been a very busy place as we all learn the routines and expectations of kindergarten.  Every day introducing more and more structure while maintaining everything from the days before.  This group of children really enjoy working and playing together.  Not once have I heard the words "What do I do now?" or "I'm bored".  I feel fortunate that they all listen well to directions, ask great questions, and seem to love school!  Yeah!!!
A very important part of our day is choice time.  The children have a variety of choices within the classroom, learn new options daily, have to figure out how to share materials, work through difficult situations, and clean up after themselves.  We are currently working on making a choice and staying with that choice, becoming involved in play with others, as opposed to flitting around the room like Tasmanian Devils!  The greatest outcome from this has been that the children have really gotten to know each other.
Another important social time during our day is math work places.  Throughout the year the children will practice math skills through a variety of games and activities set up as work places that they rotate through in small groups.  At times they can choose what work place they would like to go to while other times they will be assigned to work places, depending upon the skills they need to work on at that time.  Sharing the math tools,using them responsibly, and following routines has been a big focus over the past 11 days.
Our first monarch caterpillar made it's way through the cycle of life and we were able to watch it unfold it's wet wings and learn to fly.  The children were inspired by the colors and after reading a book about symmetry tried their hands at symmetrically coloring their own butterflies on the final page of their Very Hungry Caterpillar books.  I was so pleased by their efforts and as you can see on their faces they were quite proud as well.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Think Smart

School has finally started and we are all together at last! The children have eagerly gobbled up every activity presented to them and many have become fast friends. On the first day of school the children were given a sentence strip with their name printed on it and were asked to cut apart each letter and then glue them on a long strip of paper in order. Their pictures were taken and the letters were counted. On the second day of school they had to locate the corresponding number, their picture, and glue them on the paper. There were loads of directions for where to glue each item, listening skills are so very important! When everyone was finished we discussed just how we should display our completed papers in an order that made sense . . . and . . . voila, an ascending graph came to life before our very eyes. As each child added their own name card they began noticing different things. 
We noticed that . . .
1.         They are in number order.
2.        They are in a rainbow but in in order.
3.        It looks like an alligator with feet and a tail.
4.        It looks like a big letter F if you take away the top one.
5.        There are 5 number 4’s and the next number is 5!
6.        The numbers are 3 – 9.
7.        The first one has 1 and the last one has 1.
8.        The 4’s have the most.
9.        The 6’s have the 2nd most.
10.      Our graph looks like steps.
11.       It looks like buildings with windows and curtains and our faces are in the windows.
Our 1st graph created using the letters in our names.
 We are going to bind our pages together, in order of course, so that we have a classroom book with all of our names with pictures.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I just love the feeling of the sand sinking beneath my feet.
We really enjoy the beaches in Maine, the smell of the ocean marshes, and the salty breezes that are always blowing.  This year we spent time on the large open beaches at Wells, Ogunquit, and York.  They aren't great for finding treasures from the ocean but the beaches are huge, sandy, and super for playing games.  The sand is so soft and really great for sculpting creatures too!

 Our last day in Maine was spent on a beach that was filled with people.  When we first arrived the tide was rolling in and wasn't quite at it's highest point.  Everyone was crowded at the top of the beach just beyond the waters edge.  We had to keep moving back as the waves moved closer and closer.  It was really fun to try and guess where the next wave would crash . . . would it reach our chairs or beach blanket?  When the tide went out the beach was huge!
This gull could catch a grape in mid air or even when bounced on the ground first. We thought it was better than a frisbee catching dog! It was king of the beach and all the other gulls ran away when this one swooped down.

Can you see the colorful stripe on the rainbow trout?

 One morning was a bit rainy so we headed to the LL Bean store where they have loads of cool stuffed animals and live fish.  The trout in one tank were really big and they had a bubble that you could step into that made you feel as if you were right in the tank with the fish.   

This little guy was really soft!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eleanor & Ginger

Eleanor often sticks her tongue out!
We have 2 very silly cats named Eleanor and Ginger.  Eleanor is 15 years old and lets us dress her up in just about anything.  She loves to be held and snuggled all the time . . . it takes all of us constantly giving her attention to keep her happy!  She even has her own chair at the kitchen table.  Wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to get patted.  Eleanor is quite talkative too, meowing and hissing to let us know exactly what she wants.

One of Eleanor's many hats.
Ginger is very sweet but a little camera shy.
Ginger is 14 years old and was a feral cat when we found her in Richmond, VT.  In the summer she packs up her kitty bags and moves outside.  Once in awhile she'll come inside and grab a bite to eat.  Most of the time we see her prowling the back field in search of rodents to snack on.  When the weather gets cold she moves back inside and sits quietly in the house barely making a sound (unlike Eleanor who is constantly meowing).  Ginger is very grateful to have been rescued all those years ago.

Alita is holding Ginger. She is a very tiny and super soft cat. I just love her orange coat.
 We love our pets and can't imagine a day without them.  Do you have any pets?

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Can you see a wing on the lower left side?
This morning there were some big changes to the chrysalis. The outer color is beginning to blacken. This is a good sign and lets me know that the developing butterfly inside is probably somewhere around day 9 in it's life cycle. It won't be long now before it emerges and we get to see a beautiful monarch butterfly.

Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed plants. When you are outside playing keep your eyes open for milkweed and then look under the leaves for a monarch caterpillar. If you have a container to put it in make sure to put lots of milkweed in with it, it eats a lot of leaves as it gets ready to change. I'll be looking too!
This picture was found on Flickr