Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 100th Day in Kindergarten

Image result for 100   in Sabot at Stony Point                  Kindergarten

The number 100 is a landmark number and deserves its own day.

We counted each day that we went to school with the knowledge that when we reached the number 100 we would celebrate.

Our math system was formed using base ten numeration. This means that all digits find their place on the number line using one rule. The value of a digit is 10 times the place to its right (the 3 in 63 is worth just 3 but the 3 in 36 is worth ten times as much).

In Kindergarten, the children notice the sequence of the numbers and the patterns that exist on number lines and grids to 100. As the children become familiar with the concepts of digits they begin to lay the groundwork for understanding place value in first grade.

We have discovered that:

  • The numbers in a column all end with the same number.
  • In each row, as we count left to right the right, the digit goes up by one number but the first digit (the ten) stays the same.
  • In each column. the first digit (the ten) goes up by one as we descend. 
  • We practice counting by tens as we descend the far left column on the hundreds chart.

We have also  considered the neighbors of each number on the number chart. We complete one hundred charts with numbers missing and use our knowledge to identify the missing number.

We use the hundreds chart to practice skip counting by twos and five and tens.
Our celebration began with a story.

As we planned the celebration,  a group of children expressed interest in dressing as a Super Hero 100. Our day included an opportunity to adorn our Super Hero (or princess) capes with 100 designs.

C. counts the flowers that she has carefully sketched on her cape.

T. and T. are the first to attempt to build a structure with 100 red plastic cups. It was challenging from a building perspective. The weight of the cup added to the difficulty.

L is deep in thought customizing her super hero cape.

A super Hero is spinning their web of cold ice cream with the hopes of entrapping the spider. This customized insignia is closing the gap between 0 and 100.
It took some time but the structure is tall, sturdy and erect.

Lira uses a strategy to reach 100 designs...ten circles with ten designs in each circle.

Another partnership forms with the goal of using all of the cups in a standing structure.

L. assembles a 100 piece puzzle.

This partnership is building in the round and is fueled by much debate.

In the afternoon we tested the strength of our body and our endurance.
Are we able to complete 100 exercises?

The Grand Finale! Thanks to some lovely moms we counted 100 muffins and answered the following question.

How do we divide the muffins so each child has an equal amount of muffins?

We used skip counting to discover that  each child  receives five muffins. 

Yet another structure is erected.

Super Heroes and Royalty assemble for a group shot commemorating day 100.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Ritual and rhythm provides stability, predictability and reassurance for children. With ritual, children know what to expect and when to expect it and feel secure in the consistency that it provides. Mindfulness is a practice that embraces these sensibilities.

Mindfulness in children

Mary and I have initiated a very small ritual in our classroom to encourage mindfulness in the transition during recess to our afternoon work and play. The children gather in a circle and are asked to close their eyes. We ring a Tibetan Singing Bowl. The children open their eyes when they no longer hear a ringing tone. We ring the bowl three times but on the third ring we ask the children to let one word float to the surface describing the feelings they experienced during  recess. We limit the palate and give the children  four words to choose from including sad, happy, mad or scared.

Each child shares a feeling and attaches it to a story. For example, "I felt mad because I wanted to play Star Wars but was left out." Often these feelings and stories have been discussed on the playground with teachers but sometimes they are explained for the first time and so we stop and mend strings that have been cut. Sometimes the stories prompt others to share similar stories. The ritual requires that each community member shares without the option of declining  participation. This helps some in our Kindergarten community to find their voice and feel empowered to share their feelings.

As we listen and respond, we practice and model some of the basic tenets of this work. We use these words throughout the ritual. Presence is remaining open and curious to the moment. Understanding includes active listening  and compassion towards others as well as ourselves. Finally, the  tenant of acceptance creates a risk-free environment void of judgement and seeking  truth over perfection.

Is it ok to feel mad? Does everyone need to feel happy all the time?

 "It is ok to be mad sometimes but then you need to talk to someone." Evan

The Happiness Trap is a part of our culture that  makes sitting with discomfort something to avoid. We work hard to protect our children from feelings that bring disappointment or tears but it is through these hard feelings that change is brought about and important social-emotional learning occurs. Happiness feels good but sadness, anger and fear bring reflection.

As Mary and I sit at the end of recess and listen to each child state a feeling we hope to hear the word happy more often than sad, scared or mad but we recognize that it is the hard feelings that offer our community opportunities to learn strategies, resiliency and compassion for each other. In the weeks to come we anticipate children returning home with more questions and concerns about recess. The pot will be stirred but the hope is that with presence, understanding and acceptance students will trust that these moments of discomfort will pass. They will begin to learn the practice of mindfulness and consider it a tool that can be used now and in the years to come.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A City Created by Children for Children

This is a kid city that looks like New York City. It is very busy. There are apartment buildings and twenty houses. This is me walking on the bridge. It is going to the train track. We would need to have water. What if the water dried up with the sun? We need to drink water or we will die. We have to have electricity. Sometimes a stick falls on the electricity and the lights go out. 

We should have grown ups in a kid city because what would happen if kids did not know how to be a grown
 up. Some one has to teach you how to be a grown up.            Evan

We asked the children to design a city that would be created by children for children. We thought it might give some insight as to the parts of a city that the children identify as being important or interesting. The provocation was offered earlier by Anna to understand the children's perspective of the city.  What landmarks, features or considerations would make an urban area more appealing to children? What might they include in their designs?

There is a rock park in my story. The arrow shows where I should go. The double arrows means you can go both ways. There is a candy truck. It goes to the candy store to deliver candy. There are stop signs and a house. There is a man who parachuted out of the plane into the water. He has a bathing suit on. The airplane is landing on a platform that goes up and down. There is a little old fashion truck. There is a box in it and it has candy canes in it. 
We would need adults to take care of us. They would get us food maybe. They would help us build stuff like a house. Luke

One of the big discussions generated from this question is whether a city for children should include adults. Many of the children feel that it would be hard for them to live in a world without adults. The reasons varied from the practical to the emotional.

One day we debated this dilemma with the entire Kindergarten and recorded the following thoughts that were expressed. 

If the kids are in charge of the world, they have the right to do what they want to do.

We could ride our bike to find food.

We would need a police men if people wanted to steal things from the store.

Kids should have the right to keep your money safe.

You would need kid size restaurants.

You could have kids serve you.

Kids have the right to have doctors.

We might need an adult to be a doctor.

We might need kid sized carts in the kid sized grocery store.

If you were very thirsty and there was not any water in the city kids would get dehydrated.

If there was not a place to live then there would be no place to go to after they are at work.

We don’t need grownups in a kid city because kids would be the doctors.

If kids go to the restaurant and they don’t like the food because you don’t have to order it.
You can order whatever you want.

You need a grown up in a city because kids don’t know how to do anything.

Kids know how to do a lot of things. I know how to cook.

You could eat anything you want.

Kids should eat healthy things and not eat too much candy. They can eat sweet stuff for dessert.

If there is no grownups than they could not take care of the kids.

Kids do not know how to drive cars and who would drive them places.

I said that we would make cars for kids.

We could make cars out of junk.

Maybe we could have kids that are grown ups. What age should the kids leave the kid city?

When you are eighteen you are a grown up.

Before you are a teenager you are adult.

You can stop when you are eight.

You are a little kid, teenager, then you are a grown up.

There is no such thing as kid city.

We should leave when you are nine.

Sixteen because if you wanted to live in a certain city or older.

I ask what size they are and what age they are and then I build a car for them. Then I give them a 
driver’s license. You must be seven or up and how much you weigh.The steering wheel that they can reach and a double wheel car. So more people could drive the car.

This conversation was fascinating for so many reasons. It is hard to imagine a world without adults for many of the children. Perhaps the disconnect from the reality of the situation is too great. Others do not have a perception of children as being able to do the things that adults do for them like cook, grocery shop, keep them safe and care for them when they are sick. For some children it is a pragmatic problem. The shopping carts are too big and there are not cars their size. 

Only a few children are able to suspend reality and imagine a city that might be inhabited by children.without adults. These children perceive themselves as capable and able to do the things that adults do each day for them.

There is a rock climbing place an a rainbow in our kid city. There is a candy shop and some trees which are important in a kid city. There is a pet store and a circus that comes to town in the city. The road and the river and two houses are important, 

I think there should be adults to take care of babies.

Sabine draws a city with whimsical fun experiences. Rainbows, rock climbing, candy store, trees, a pet store and a circus are all included in her city. What would our downtown look like with a climbing wall in the midst of it?  We do have a candy store in Carytown but is it designed with children in mind? Sabine felt that she would be able to navigate a city that was designed with children in mind but she did not think that she could take care of her little brother and would need her mom and dad to be present to do that work.

There is an airplane and the airplane is running into a bird. There are three houses in my kid city. There is a slide, a swing, a skateboarder and two guys playing tennis. It is important to have the law in our city like no blowing up people's houses. You need to have to look both ways when you cross the road and stop at the stop sign.

 I want adults in the kid city so they can could take care of us. I have adults in my picture.  

Cole's design is  very similar to the city that he lives in currently.  Cole is emphatic that the city needs to have adults to keep the children safe. Rules are a fundamental part of a city and children obey these rules with the help of adults.

This work is very nuanced. We thought we were asking questions with the intention of discovering each child's interpretation of their experiences in Richmond. However, as we peeled back the layers we are discovering how each child stands in their world. What do they see as their anchors? What do they feel is necessary in their world? How do they fit into the world they see around them?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Nuances of Literacy in Kindergarten

Dolphins swim in low water. Lira

Kindergarten is a year to continue to investigate the many languages of expression. These languages release creativity and promote collaboration and include painting, dance, drama, sketching and collage. These experiences begin at home or in the preschool. 

How do I connect to others?
 How do I share my ideas and find the intersection between my understanding and the understanding of others?

Many students arrive understanding that letters can be placed  together to create messages that have meaning and convey ideas or information to others.  Kindergartners  have an appreciation for letters and have spent time using letters in their play and creating alternative codes of correspondence or symbol making. 

The firefighters are saving someone from the fire. Harper

 This is the great white shark. Gabriel   

This is my house in Spring. Sabine

Kindergartners  assemble letters into their understanding of words. Words, sentences and and letters do not often have a separate identity for children at the beginning of their literacy journey.

Matching the letter symbols to the letter sounds is part of the work of a kindergartner. It is essential that they have the resources to break the code when ready but as educators we also need to empower children to rely on the skills as they  develop so children do not see adults as the expert. Kindergartners  realize that the sequence of the letters in the written word matches the sequence of the  sounds heard in the word. They then begin the process of segmenting and blending sounds, holding sounds in their head as they consider the matching symbol. 

Using the code means taking risks and making mistakes. 

 Children also do not always see letters as stable consistent symbols. For example, many children see   the letter "c" in a letter "g" or perhaps a letter "n" in the letter "h". The letters b, d, p and q are often transposed and confused. Young brains are versatile and do not look at our world through a fixed lens. These symbols are broken apart, reassembled, flipped, flopped and turned upside down. Add this piece to the nuances of holding a pencil and writing letters with developing motor skills and one begins to wonder how any of us ever learn to read and write.

Another component of reading and writing that is sometimes overlooked is training the eye to scan left to right and from top to bottom. This skills is essential for both reading and writing and is an intentional part of our work. 

We describe our classroom as being full of word sleuths stealthily examining all of the clues to uncover the meaning of each written word. The sleuths consider the words around the unknown word, picture clues, beginning sounds and what word would make sense (context). 

Many children are attracted to reading and the desire to hear  stories or gather facts and details. Other students are drawn to sharing their own stories through illustration or writing. This diversity and excitement generates a culture of literacy. Students are eager and excited to share their latest journal entry or the humor in a book read. 

Jail is not a good place.  Evan

I am having a snowball fight. Oliver

The journal entries capture the fun of a snow day, the memories of a field trip or the facts of a Kindergarten obsession, Star Wars. The journal is a private retreat for some and for others a way to connect to their friends. As the year progresses, the journal becomes a valued possession worn and tattered with use and love.

I am having a dream. Tucker

Satellite in the sky. Carter

I had a playdate with Brian. Luke

The Nutcracker is fighting the rat king. Cole

I slid down my hill. Sadie

I had fun in the snow snow boarding. Reed

I am throwing snowballs at my car. Tavish

The death star is blocking the good guys. Nathan