Monday, December 10, 2012


We have been thinking about patterns for a month. This is the first unit of many in the Investigations curriculum that scaffolds the children's exploration of the foundations of Algebra. The children begin sorting and describing patterns constructed from repeating units. As the years at Sabot continue, the children connect these patterns to numbers and then finally describe the functions based on the sequences.....Algebra.

As the Kindergarten  sort, classify and describe repeating patterns the children are building a foundation to analyze regularities  in math.

We are wide eyed and alert to the patterns that surround us.

N: There are patterns in lightening. and in numbers like even, odd, even and odd.

T: 123,123 and then 123. This is a pattern

T: Doggies squirrel, doggies, squirrels...I did it by animals.

A: I know that patterns can be anything like nature, words, animals and even color patterns but it has to repeat.

We notice the patterns on clothing worn by our friends each day.

ES: Patterns repeat. You have to think what comes next in the pattern.
 When you start a pattern you have to think about what you are going to do. The pattern is in your head but when you write it sometimes it gets mixed up.

We begin with an analogy that the children will understand. A pattern train repeats the same car more than once. 
The children are asked to build onto the pattern train.
Describe the repetitive car? What color cubes are used to build the car and does the order of the color cubes matter?
How many cars are on a particular train?

We then play many games that involve the same concepts.

Finally we ask the children to build trains and record the pattern train, circling the cars in the train.

E: Yeah, if you use a white pop cube it gets messed up (when you record a pattern)

As a way of stretching the children's thinking we set up several provocations. We ask the children to photograph their work so we might notice the progression of their understanding of the materials throughout the weeks.

The children constructed and added color to tessellations 
any regular pattern that consists of identical areas, which repeat without overlaps or gaps). 

It appears after several weeks of documenting that the opportunity to observe the possibilities for the materials slowly promotes a visual propensity and organization that propels the sophistication of the images created and designed.

Relationships with Trees

G and E visited New York City with their parents last weekend. When they returned they brought a book  to share with their classmates. The book told the story of a pear tree found alive at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 tragedy. The tree was unearthed and driven to a nursery outside of the city.The story is told through the eyes of the tree. The personification of the tree is appealing to the children. Children perceive all living things as being capable of having feelings, sensations and thoughts.

This year our Umbrella Project is Relationships. Learning is initiated, established and executed through relationship so the possibilities are endless. A child comes to this Earth with a natural curiosity for all that is living.   It seems as if our responsibility as parents and adults is to accept with reverence their approach to the living world and not begin to dissect it into facts or preempt the personification.

 As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” -Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

We explained very little regarding the 9/11 event that occurred before the children's birth but changed the world as we knew it.  It was a story of hope not history. A story that emphasized the restorative powers of nature.

These are some of the thoughts that the children voiced as they listened to this very poignant book.

M: My Mom was alive when 9/11 happened and my brother Tristan was just a little baby.

N: I am surprised that the tree survived after a building feel on it. 

ES: It was interesting that the tree kept remembering NYC and its life there.

T: I'm surprised that so many people took care of it like water, fertilizer and soil.  And then the bird nested it in

N: Its funny that the tree has feelings.

P: Do you think that the tree talks? Or do you think it can think?

N: When they moved the tree they were very careful to take the tree out and wrap her toots in burlap.

AC: The burlap has holes and  lets the tree breathe

DC: I like how they call the tree the survivor tree.

A: Why didn't they show the bad guys in the book?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Samples

The marks on the pages, the "squiggles" as Merlot referred to them arranged themselves into shapes. The shapes arranged themselves into words and the words spelled out a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once upon a time. 

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

 The Key for the Writing Samples
The first line is the child's writing. Mary and I rewrite the child's sentence as the child wrote it, honoring their phonetic spelling. The author is then asked to rewrite the sentence. This is an authentic way to practice handwriting.

I have collected many quotes throughout the years that relate to children's writing. The  quote at the start of this  blog entry is from a beloved read-aloud. It conveys the magical transformation that occurs as a child's scribble evolves into words and then sentences  conveying meaning.   It is a thing of great beauty and yet the process behind one sentence written by the child is often layered and fraught with apprehension. I have another quote but unfortunately am unsure of the author....Learning to write is not brain surgery. It is harder.

The beginning weeks of school involve convincing the children that writing is "talk written down".  We agree that their writing will not be perfect and that risk is involved. We ask the children to write the letters that they hear as they stretch each word.  

What will happen if I spell it wrong?

But I don't know how to write! (said with a confused look that seems to say "but you seemed so nice and sane a few minutes ago".)

We slowly move through this anxiety, insisting that each child is a writer. Challenging them to choose the best word to depict their thoughts rather than choosing the easiest word to spell.

Meanwhile we practice stretching words. We consider that most words begin with consonants and use glue in the middle (the vowel sound). We assure them that there are schemas in our language----a method to the madness.

We suggest that they use illustration to provide additional background to their writing. These young authors receive feedback from the readers.

I notice that you are not using vowels.

Your sentence doesn't match your illustration.

I also have made a snowman.

The children begin to understand that the written word can be used to express the ideas and stories that fill their minds. Writing is a chance to be still and create but also a way to connect to others as the children share and react to each other's words.

Note to parents: I could not include all of the children's writing BUT all of the work is beautiful. Please stop by whenever you have a moment and take a peak.


I am going shopping.


Me I am counting.


Santa's reindeer

Cat going for a walk

Dinosaur is running.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Perfect Symmetry

A Culture of Literacy

One of the best parts of our Kindergarten year is the time spent with our eighth grade reading buddies on Friday afternoons. It is  a reciprocal relationship of mutual benefits.

We watch the Kindergartner's faces as they gaze upwards with  awe, respect and affection. The eighth grade for their part take the responsibility for sharing a story and connecting with a five or six year old very seriously.

As the year continues, there is a familiarity between the classes. The Kindergarten will rush the eighth graders as they walk across the garden for a hug or a high five. The children look to the big kids for social cues and the eighth graders know that they are being watched.

Last week, Renee shared that the eighth graders will join the Kindergarten during their PE  class on Tuesdays. This was met with many happy exclamations. 

It feels like  perfect symmetry for the youngest class in the lower school to cherish the graduating class. A circle beginning and ending at the same place.

 “We make a living by what we get, we make a life  by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sit Back and Enjoy

A glimpse of child-generated hypothesis explaining the change of color in leaves throughout the seasons expressed through that is a mouthful and rightfully so....could you express a complex and innovative idea  through dance with your peers giving instant yet constructive feedback?

Consider the following as you watch the video clip:
Why is A changing the silks on the top of our now horizontal "bear block"?
What do P an N represent as they dance in the foreground?
Why does M tuck herself into the "bear block"?
What is the significance of the sound orchestrated by the remainder of the class?

An earlier blog, Switching Representational Modes, will provide more insight if needed.;postID=3509228423679506274

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Provocation Shifts Thinking

Mary and I offered the children a provocation at the table we set each day for observational drawing. We placed a yellow carnation in a small vase of water with three drops of black liquid. The children recognized that this experiment was similar to our thinking about color and leaves.

During the course of several days the children sketched the carnation as it absorbed the black water. Later we discussed what we noticed.

J: The flowers turned green and the petals started turning smaller and crinkled.
A: I think they are getting dark.
AL: I think the liquid is really dark blue and when you take blue and yellow and mix it together it makes green.
I: The water turned black because of the black liquid just like in my theory.
L: This plant is trying to suck up the black liquid and it doesn’t look yellow any more it looks green.
N: I am wondering if this bud will turn into a black flower.
J: I see a little bit of green color in the lower stem.
C: It makes good sense black liquid makes leaves color.

As we listened to this discussion we realized that the children had moved forward in their thinking. There was a shift in the understanding of roots and their role sustaining a tree.

Some of the earlier thinking:

There are pipes way lower than the roots.

The water from the rain goes into the roots and then into the soil.

Rain goes into the tree then pipes take it through the tree to the roots.

I think there are pipes and a water elevator. 

Maybe the rats carry the water up.

Shifting thinking requires much reflection on the part of teachers. What provocations do we offer? What questions do we ask to prompt the children to consider many variables? It also requires a trust and belief in the ability of children to think, collaborate and construct meaning.

Letting go is always difficult. There is a need to control, verify, test and guarantee understanding. The culture of adulthood is results orientated with the need for instant gratification. However, if take children and place them in this culture and insist that they leave their understandings and perspectives behind are children really learning? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stewardship within our Garden

Our Umbrella Project this year revolves around one word "relationships". 
The heart of our collaboration and community is the relationships we have with each other.
Relationship is the primary connecting dimension of our system, howeve, understood not merely as a warm protective envelope but rather as a dynamic conjunction of forces and elements interacting toward a common purpose"
Loris Malaguzzi
In Kindergarten, we  rely on imagery to clarify vocabulary.
 We compare a relationship as a piece of string that connects us together. Some decisions and actions stregthn the string and others cut the string.  
As a class and a group of individauls, we are also in relationship with the nature, grounds and woods that surround our school.
 The children play in the garden several times a day and walk the Forest connected to our campus on Fridays. They are intuned to the changing scenery, the paths and landmarkds and the affordances of the forest and the many opportunites provided by our outdoor space.
One day several students found a brach from one of the tall cedar trees laying on the ground in the garden.

L: We are trying to save this branch from dying.
E: We really want it to be ok.
L: Everyone pull your steering wheel.
P: We are trying to move this tree but we want to show it around to everyone and get good ideas.
E: We want them to help us and we are a community and we really want it to live.
D: We found it lying sideways like it was sleeping.
R: It is a branch not a tree. It is from our cedar trees.
J: My mom put a branch in some water and it lived.
This was offered as a solution to the problem. It would be a way to stop the branch from hurting and resurrect it.


Children have an affinity for animals and nature. They are

interested in observing and experiencing the biology of

living creatures but they have an innate sense of respect and

stewardship for the natural world around them.

  Nature and creatures are often personified.

The children enter into relationship with them….caring for

the natural world, protecting from dangers and administering

care when damage occurs.

Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living."

Grant Lichtman writes about our School Sabot at Stonypoint

Grant Lichtman an educator, administrator and now an educational blogger,  visited our school a few weeks ago.
He was very excited by what he saw and wrote a post in his blog regarding our mission, focus and development throughout the years. It is  definitely worth reading.
As he toured he was curious, engaged in the discussion and obviously impressed. Please take a look at this post.

This is the first paragraph of his biography as posted in his blog called Learning Pond.
For almost 14 years, I have been involved with independent school education, as trustee, chief of finance and operations, teacher, parent, and volunteer at Francis Parker School in San Diego, one of the largest independent schools in the United States.

I have been either directly responsible for, or intimately involved in, strategic planning, program design, global education, development, marketing, educational technology, admissions and financial aid, benchmarking and trend analyses, and risk management.

 I have consulted on 21st Century curriculum development, written, and given talks to educational and industry groups, and had the honor of teaching a version of my Falconer seminar in strategic and creational thinking to West Point cadets.

Each year I lead a two-week trip in experiential immersion for students to the Philippines where our goal is to understand and experience the fact that 4 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day.


Switching Representational Modes


The Hypothesis for Color: Tablets and Cabinets

A and M developed a hypothesis regarding color change in leaves. The thinking also  involves the absorption of water by the roots of the tree. 

M: The water from the rain goes to the roots and this changes the color in the tablets. They are in cabinets in the trees. The color leaves the cabinets and they kinda melt. The ground makes more coloring tablets when they are gone.

A: Yeah, the tablets dissolve and then the color goes up to the leaves. It takes about 100 days for the tablets to fully dissolve. At Smith Mountain Lake I saw one tree that was yellow. This is how I thought of my theory.

M: We don’t use machines. It is all natural.

We asked the girls to consider expressing the color hypothesis using dance and silk. P was intrigued and wanted to join the process---all three were eager to explore the idea using movement.  

Over the course of several days, the girls played and collaborated using the fabric and dance to convey the science of their hypothesis.

What is the thinking behind this request?

What are the implications for the understanding of the proposed hypothesis if the children move from sketching to dancing their theories?

"Allowing children opportunities to represent a single concept in a variety of media creates more meaning for the concept.

This happens as children reflect on their own symbolization.

By diversifying media, teachers can help children discover multiple ways to symbolize their knowing and return to earlier symbol to gain a deeper understanding. These strategies support the life of a project,"

This quote is taken from a chapter of the Second Edition of the Hundred Languages of Children written by Mary Jane Moran.

We watched the girls think deeply about the movement that would concisely convey their thinking.
What silk scarf would exemplify their role in the process of changing the color of the leaf?

 M. portrayed  the  color tablet in  the cabinet of the tree.  A's movement reveals the flow of the water and its role changing the color. P. is an orange leaf, having experienced the process of color change, she now flutters to the Forest floor during the season of fall.


The girls shared their dance with some of their classmates and then asked for some feedback.
It was a magical moment as we watched the audience (without prompting) move their bodies to create the sounds of a rainstorm (an experience that they recently had during music circle).  
The children understood the importance of water in the hypothesis represented in the dance and  reacted . Their reaction to the dance was spontaneous and quick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our Cedar Trees

We play under the cedar trees each day in the garden but today it felt as if we looked at them in a new way. We observed the roots of the cedars diving into the ground and reappearing on the surface at a distance from the tree. 

The tree's gnarly roots emerge spontaneously from the ground. 

Why do our cedars do this? 
What are these roots doing?

TK: The roots drink the water.

C: There are pipes way lower than the roots. The water from the rain goes into the roots and then into the soil.

R: Rain goes into the tree then pipes take it through the tree to the roots.

A: I think there are pipes and a water elevator. 

TK: Maybe the rats carry the water up.

I: The roots go through the tree.

E: Does that mean that the roots grow from the top of the tree down?

A:If you plant a tree you need water. Water is plant food.

N: Roots suck up water. They capture the water.

E: Water helps the tree change colors.

N: The roots bring the water to the cords that are the veins in the tree and that is how it gets water.

We observed and felt the roots of the cedar tree. 
We offered our hypothesis and constructed our knowledge regarding roots. 
Did you notice the questions that emerged?

  • What are the role of the roots?
  • Is water  necessary for a tree and if it is why is it necessary? 
  • How is water is transported throughout the tree?
  • Which way does the water flow through a tree? (from the top of the tree to the bottom of the tree or is it the other way around?)

One of the most powerful ways to work through the process of inquiry is to represent.

As the children represented, new questions were raised regarding our understanding of roots.  What else surrounds the roots of a tree in soil? 

The following are some of the children's ideas:
Water must be in the soil so that the tree can drink. There must be air so the tree can breathe. We know that squirrels bury their nuts in the Fall. Animals and insects live underground near the roots. The children wondered about rock layers.