Sunday, October 27, 2013


 River City Taiko drumming in Founders Hall

Music Circle at Sabot has evolved. It began as a circle of song. Singing is such a metaphor for community. Individual voices united in verse and music to create one sound. As time passed, questions were raised about rhythm, percussion, environmental sounds and music created with environmental artifacts. Our one music circle has morphed into two cross-grade circles (sometimes three in the case of these photographs).  Pippin and Mauren lead our circles responding to the work and ideas of the children documented in prior weeks. 
The third and K use rhythm sticks together.
As I documented music circle this particular week one word  was resonating with me.

The music in each setting was accessible.  Each child had opportunities to create sound, rhythm and music. There was not a code to be broken or a feeling that music was a gift given to some and not others. Music was right there in the room, ready to be grabbed by anyone who was interested.  The teachers were scaffolding the nuances and the skills of drumming and rhythm but the message was loud and clear: Together we can make
 beautiful sounds. 

"A language is more than a set of symbols. A language contains rules of combining these symbols to convey meaning. Thus, a panel where each child's photograph contains a little animal stamp for that child's identity is not a language. But a child's stamp followed by an arrow and another child's stamp could mean, "Amy likes Zoie." A simple syntax is born and with it a new language for children to invent and explore relations."
The Hundred Languages of Children the third edition

Playing the game: Name that Sound
The music in each location that Wednesday was developed as the need for syntax become evident. The music we created required a shared understanding to ignite communication and move forward together. This is work that the children recognize. This is work they do everyday in all areas of study. How do we create ideas and meaning together? They feel empowered to express their thinking using the language of music.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Early Reading :The Magical Connection

Lois Lowry has an essay published in the book, A Family of Readers.  The essay describes an experience she has with her daughter exploring letters and print as they walk through the streets of their neighborhood. Ms. Lowry pointed to the Os in the word LOOK and described the letter as the eyes of the word.

"Then--a miracle!--one evening she glanced at the print in a picture book I was reading to her and happened upon the same word. She saw it on the paper looked up at me, saw that I was reading the print, heard me say the word look---and made the magical connection in her mind that propelled her, like a little tow-headed rocket, into reading."

Reading is a process of discreet skills. Children scan left to right, discriminate between letters and words,  match letters to sound, hold the sounds in short term memory while segmenting and blending the sounds...the list is extensive.  The process is usually similar for most children but the moment that the "magical connection" is made varies from child to child.  Sometime children are so busy telling stories and inventing stories that the task of reading a story does not hold value to the child.  Often these children arrive to reading through the backdoor. They break the sound symbol code as they learn to write their imaginative stories. If you slip into this child's shoes for a moment it makes perfect sense.

As a Kindergarten teacher, I fear only one thing----anxiety. If a child feels pressured, pushed or perceives the process as beyond his or her reach  emotion  may shut the process down.  It is a balance between motivating, inspiring and encouraging reading and avoiding feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless.

Parents often ask for advice as to how to  support their child at home in a way that is fun, empowering and without judgement. I have created  a cheat sheet as they begin the reading journey with their child (and avoid the  "show stoppers" ).

Reading with my child: A cheat sheet

Guided Reading
  •  Preview the book and ask: What do you think this book is about?
  • Look at the picture clues together. What is happening on each page?
  •  Rephrase matching word choice. “The cat is chasing mice.” “Yes it looks like the cat is a chasing a rat.
  •  Read a page together in chorus and then model reading a page and ask the child to read a page.
  •  Stop for comprehension checks.
  • “What occurred that allowed the rat to escape.”

Reading Strategies for Unknown Words
  1. Use pictures clues
  2. Link to prior knowledge
  3. Use the words around the unknown word to predict.
  4. Substitute a word that fits the context.
  5. “This word fits in the sentence but does that word begin with a “p” sound?”
  6. Look at the beginning and ending sounds
  7. Break the word into word parts
  8. Segment the word into letters and then blend the sounds
  9.  Cross check

It is important for early readers to use their finger as they scan from left to right. This supports matching symbols to sound and discriminating between words and letters.
Children may memorize the text of early readers! This is perfectly fine and reaffirming

Sunday, October 6, 2013


 The Potentiality of a Child

The child, his peers, teacher and environment
I was discussing the role of a teacher in a constructivist classroom this week with several colleagues.  How do we as teachers and parents hold students to their potential but yet respect each child's individual path?  The child exists, learns and journeys in context to his or her peers, teacher and family and environment. 

The word potentiality carries much weight for me. 
It conveys fluidity, process, evolution and most importantly hope. Does a child or even an adult ever reach their final potential? Are we able to predict potentiality or is it a variable that is in flux for the duration of our lives as human beings?

My oldest child transitioned this year from high school into community college. We learned when he entered Kindergarten that his journey might involve a different path than we had hoped. It was often a struggle to tuck away the fear and instead be guided by our love for him and hope in his future. We found that we had to focus on his potentiality and yet remain willing and open to the path that was his to take.  As his parents, my husband and I often suffered through the realization that by protecting our son we were stripping him of his  independence and encouraging learned helplessness.  We tried to listen, console and empathize but then gently place the ownership of the problem or decision back into his hands. Our experience taught us that his potentiality would be evident through the interactions with his peers, teachers and environment BUT it was never easy to  let go and trust. 

Childhood and even adulthood for that matter is a journey not a race. 

Is there ever a finishing line? 
Perhaps there are just milestones to be celebrated along the way? 

Of course, early bloomers should be nurtured. There's no value to squandering ability. But nor should we dismiss the tortoise. At any given time, it's impossible to predict the extent to which a person will eventually blossom—and disastrously naive for "experts" (or parents or teachers) to decree limits on what that person can achieve. This is reason enough to treat everyone as if they have the potential to reach full bloom.
Scott Barry Kaufman is an American psychologist, author, and popular science writer known for his research and writing on intelligence and creativity.  This article appeared in Psychology Today.