Boho Birds

As you know, all Ridgeview students participate in the RPAC (Ridgeview Parents Advisory Council) fundraiser, “theCardProject.”  Each student creates a piece of art work, which is then used as cards, journals and other stationery items. You’ll be able to purchase these items with your child’s art in the next few weeks.  Right now, we’re in the process of completing our project.

For the Kindergarten, we are making these delightful boho birds, based on Pattern Birds from DeepSpaceSparkle, an outstanding website and resource of art ideas for educators.  We belong to the “Sparklers Club” (of course we do) which gives us further access to amazing projects we can make with your children. These projects are multi-step, complex and incorporate the fine motor skills not all children have had the opportunity to develop.  We do a lot of tracing, cutting, pasting, drawing and painting in class. The activities also require the children to use the “big” skills of focusing on a task, listening carefully to instructions and following teacher directions. It also requires the children to “peer reference” which means look to others if you’re not certain of what you’re doing, or to confirm that you are on the right track!

These spectacular birds took us two full art classes and two small group sessions to complete.  On Day One each child drew a large “U” or smile shape with pastel on their ½ sheet of construction paper for the bird body.  Then they drew a stitching line on the inside of the smile line and cut the body out independently.

We had painted paper earlier in the week.  One of the many great things about working with Christy is we like to divide and conquer so can get twice the benefit for our children.  We each painted paper for two colours, cut the strips and shared them between our classes. We’ve been working on patterns in Math so the children created an AB pattern with the open space and painted paper (any opportunity to integrate and layer the learning, we will do). The children glued on the painted paper strips, turned the bird over and trimmed off the extras.  The final step was teaching a variety of lines (stitched, wavy, zig zag) and dots to make the pastel pattern lines in the open spaces.

After we had finished our first session, one of the children asked, “Were we in the green zone?”  And our answer? A hearty “YES!” because we know the depth of self-regulation this art project required, and we were so pleased the children were concentrating diligently to follow the steps in sequence.

Day Two saw us working as a class on the bird heads.  After choosing their pre-cut head, we gave each child a small black construction paper dot to glue onto white construction paper to cut and make an eye.  They each chose five diamond shapes we pre-cut from scrapbook paper to form the crown and beak. We asked the children to put gluestick on half the diamond and place it on their bird.  After we glued the head onto the bodies we felt our birds were really taking flight.

We worked in small, teacher-led groups during Activity Time to finish our birds.  We asked the children to select, fold and cut scrapbook paper for the legs, cut out construction paper claws and glue on the paper feathers for the tail.

On our last day we had some fun layering in feathers on top of the paper feathers and let the white liquid glue dry overnight.  

We weren’t sure we were going to make the deadline of October 11 to finish our sweet birdies. But make it we did, although we never like to rush in Kindergarten.  The children are learning that time and patience are necessary requirements to make something they take can pride in, and want to say, “I made it myself!” We’ve said several times we like projects that take several days to complete so our children can learn about pacing themselves, anticipation and enjoyment of the process.  Nothing is worse than rushing and feeling that completion of an assignment is a competition, where everyone must be first.

In thinking back on our boho birds, creating and expressing themselves by making great art is another excellent self-regulation strategy for the children.  While we may choose to walk, run or deep breathe, Christy and I also know (as long time crafters) that the sight, smell and textures of paint, coloured paper, pastels and scissors goes a long way in helping us to down-regulate after a tough situation or long day.  Our hands are busy, our minds focus on the task at hand and the possibility of “what might be” after our efforts hovers over us.

One of the things we love as teachers is being to share our love of fun and creative activities with our children, so they can use them to help lift their mood, or simply relax.  So when we get to work on a fun mixed media project such as this, we think we’re headed in the right direction. We’ll be making another big project soon, so check back with us to see how it’s going.

Thank you again to Patti Palmer of Deep Space Sparkle for her inspiration!

 

Literacy, Language and Story:  What’s Ahead for Kindergarten in Term Three

sweet stories for Spring

The final term is always an exciting one for any grade because our students are quite a bit more mature than the start of school, they have greater independence and more developed skills.  

By the third term in Kindergarten, the children’s development is rapid and vast:

-their bodies are bigger, taller and stronger

-their fine motor skills (printing, drawing, painting) and gross motor skills (running, skipping, throwing) have really increased and improved

-their sense of humour is developing (until lately, only Mrs. Campbell and I were laughing at each other’s jokes)

-they are beginning to understand stories at an inferential level (reading between the lines)

-they can follow a classroom discussion and contribute on-topic comments

-they can demonstrate an understanding of school life and classroom culture through their self-regulation (calm, focused, ready to learn) and social awareness (understanding that everybody, children and adults have feelings; and realizing they are one of many students in the class)

Of course, there’s much more than what we listed but these are some of the constants that we have noticed over the course of our teaching careers.

From last week’s newsletter, you’ll know that we are now in the Final Four…finishing the last four letters of our Alphabet.  We’ve been working really hard on teaching letter names and sounds, correct letter formation when writing, and developing the children’s phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness is important because it is an indicator of the children’s readiness for reading.

When children have strong phonological awareness, that means they have an understanding that language is made up of sounds (phonemic awareness), syllables, rhymes and words.

In class, we directly teach phonemic awareness (the ability to think about and manipulate speech sounds) and its accompanying skills of blending (c-a-t = cat); segmenting (cat = c-a-t); deleting (children repeat a word without the initial or final sound) (cat/ca- or -at) and substituting (children substitute different sounds in a word) (c-an/f-an/r-an/ra-t/s-at).  This forms a large part of our Alphabet instruction.  

Although we will soon be finished this direct Alphabet teaching, we will continue to review the letters (particularly sound production).  Our regular classroom activities such as Sharing, class discussions and Mystery Box Inquiry, all contribute to developing the children’s oral language (speaking and listening), a necessary part of a balanced approach to reading instruction, and are on-going for the rest of the school year.

In addition, we will support the children in refining the children’s printing skills during their daily work, focusing on correct letter formation, shape and space between letters and words, and writing on the line.

It’s also a time for us to explore literary themes.  Our big literary theme in Kindergarten is Fairy Tales.  We choose Fairy Tales as we believe it to be one of the most important genres of childhood literature, along with Nursery Rhymes and Folk Tales.  In our daily lives, through our speech (idioms), books we read and pop culture eg., “If the shoe fits, wear it” (Cinderella), many references are made to Fairy Tales; and a firm understanding of these familiar tales is essential when discussing literary archetypes and characterizations, plot patterns and common themes to fully understand the subtle nuances in current literature.  We’ve written more about Fairy Tales here.

The next big literary event in our classrooms will be our Home Reading Program.  This is a very fun and wonderful opportunity for our children to take home beginning readers three times a week, and read the books with you.  We have home readers at a variety of reading levels. We will have the children read books at a couple of different levels, and report back which is “best” for them.  We have been revamping our Home Reading Library and buying new books for the children with our Scholastic Bonus Money we earn from your purchases. So thank you to everybody who’s made a book buy this year!  Home Reading will start at the beginning of May, following Student-Led Conferences on Thursday, April 26.

As in all childhood development milestones, our children will achieve the reading and writing milestones in their own time, when they are ready and with interest, modeling, experience and exposure from the adults in their lives at home and school.  Although most children will know most of their letter names, sounds and printing formations by the end of Kindergarten, not all children will. As parents and teachers, we want to support our children as best as we can.

Although it is not a direct cause for concern at this time, it’s important to keep providing literary and language opportunities at home.  For now, modeling reading and writing, read-alouds every night, taking the time to answer your child’s questions and reading environmental print are some manageable strategies which you can incorporate into your day.

We will talk about more specific ways you can support your child’s literacy and language at home in the upcoming weeks.

 

Up for Auction Tonight!

This Friday, May 26, is Ridgeview Elementary’s Parent Gala in support of our Library Modernization Project. Each class was asked to create a piece of art to be put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder.

Christy and I have had a lot of experience teaching art and one thing we know for sure: children’s artwork is highly developmental and extremely personal. It’s one of those opportunities where we can teach a variety of skills (using scissors; holding a paintbrush; cutting with a template) and techniques (printmaking; wax crayon paint resist) but how the children interpret the task is really their own, as it should be.

However, when we are commissioned, as it were, to create something specific to be sold, we need to find a balance between teaching our children skills and techniques, allowing them to express themselves at a personal level and yet make a product attractive enough to get parents to bid and spend their money.

We might be your child’s Kindergarten teacher, but we’re also realists who understand we’re creating art for a fundraiser and we want it to look good.

We were working on a very tight timeline this spring between Easter, Student-Led Conferences, Mother’s Day and Welcome to Kindergarten and the preparations that each of those major events in our Kindergarten calendar entailed.

So with a lot help from our parent helpers, our friends at Bella Ceramica, and our Grade 7/District Innovation Teacher (Technology) Ms.Wilson, up for auction are two gorgeous platters made by this year’s Kindergarten children with great skill and precision.

We used another printmaking technique, our fingerprints, to create the delightful little flowers scattered on these serving dishes. The centres of each flower was made with the eraser end of a pencil. Ms. Wilson painted in the vines to show how each of us is connected to one another with love (the leaves). On the back are the fingerprints of your child’s teachers and Educational Assistants with a few words to commemorate the place and year.

We hope you have an opportunity to bid on these wonderful pieces of art.

Sold!

Earth Month 2017

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, we can smell the flowers in the air…finally. Although we’re a little late, April was a month with many special events for our Kindergarten. We celebrated the Persian New Year Norooz, Easter, our students with Student-Led Conferences and then our planet Earth, for Earth Month.

We’ve been waiting to post this blog for you…you’ll see why at the end.

We invited 365GIVE founder Jacqueline Way (and a parent in Andrea’s classroom) to help us celebrate Earth Month by giving something special to the Earth, Kindergarten style.

Jacqueline shared with us how she began a year’s worth of giving with her oldest son, Nic, when he turned three years old. Starting on his birthday, Jacqueline and Nic committed to 365 giving acts to the world. On the 365th day, Nic’s brother Tyler (and our Kindergarten student) entered their lives–the last give in a remarkable year.

We started with a discussion about who helps our planet. The children knew the firefighters and policemen keep them safe, and that the SPCA helps to look after animals.

But the children didn’t realise that they, too, can help the planet. They can give back to the Earth in just as powerful ways as our community helpers.

So as part of our celebration of Earth Day and Earth Month, our Kindergarten would think about what they could do to give back to the Earth. How could they help the planet?

Well, thanks to the high profile of recycling programs at home and school, our children knew right away that recycling is a significant act of giving.

Jacqueline explained that when we don’t recycle, all the garbage goes to the landfill, sits there and makes the planet sick.

The children suggested using both sides of the paper is an important way to reduce paper consumption, and the cutting down of trees. We get oxygen from trees and food from the trees, and those same trees provide shelter for a variety of animals.

When we recycle bottles, cans, metals and plastic, new bottles, clothing and toys are made from these products. The metals we recycle today are tomorrow’s scooters and bikes.

When we recycle food scraps or organic waste and put them into the compost, it decomposes into soil, goes back into the Earth and makes our planet healthy.

Keeping our school grounds litter free is a daily give we can easily do. Our children eat their snacks and lunch in class and so with our school waste management program, the Kindergarten manages quite well in not contributing to garbage on the playground. However, we are all aware that animals do come to eat the garbage, evident by the number of crows we see after recess and lunch. Just as serious is the garbage left at the beach; garbage which flows into the ocean can be eaten by the local fish, and then if we end up eating those same fish…their understanding was evident as our children were very wide-eyed, quiet and thoughtful.

Another way to give back to the Earth is to plant a garden. If you grow a garden, you can just walk to your garden to get your fruits and vegetables. You can’t get any more local than that!

Our children had quite a bit to say about gardens. Besides fruits and vegetables, we can also plant flowers. Jacqueline explained how important flowers are for bees. Bees drink the nectar so they can make honey. As the bees fly from flower to flower, they are also gathering pollen on their bodies and spreading the pollen around which fertilizes more flowers and trees.

Bees fly from tree to tree and pollinate the flowers which will grow into fruit. Without bees, we do not get flowers, honey or fruit. Jaqueline also explained that the bees are in trouble, many are dying, and they need our help! Some of the children said they were afraid of bees but we were quick to explain that honey bees do not actually like to sting people. If they sting, they will die. If you stepped on a bee, it might sting you, but that’s because it’s scared.

We need flowers to help the bees stay alive so for our Kindergarten give, our way to help our planet, we planted sunflowers!

Jacqueline and Nick had flower pots, soil and seeds all ready for us. The children labeled their plant pots and carefully took turns scooping out the soil and planting their seed. Here they are at the time of planting:

And why we’ve waited until today:

We knew you’d be anticipating what our plants looked like, just as much as the children did every single day. Watching our children check their wee plant pots every morning just warms our gardening hearts. Gardening certainly fosters patience, acceptance and faith that your tiny seed will grow…does this sound a lot like teaching Kindergarten?

Today was an important day for our children to understand the impact one person can have on the Earth. We’d like to thank Jacqueline, Nic and Tyler for all their help in celebrating our planet.

You can read more about 365GIVE here.

Digital Literacy in Kindergarten: Next Step

In the past few years we’ve had an exciting time integrating and focusing on two of the pillars of the West Vancouver School District: digital literacy and inquiry. The third pillar is self-regulation which for us, in Kindergarten, is not only a pillar but our foundation and the arch (or rainbow, depending upon your perspective) which reaches over and encompasses everything we do. (Rainbows have reached almost cult status this year in the Kindergarten…we pattern “in rainbow,” we colour “in rainbow,” we organise our blocks “in rainbow.” All true….you cannot make this stuff up.)

Each year we choose one digital literacy project for the Kindergarten, under the guidance of our West Vancouver District Support and Innovation (Technology) Teacher, Ms. Cari Wilson (@kayakcari). We have always completed these projects with the assistance of our Grade 7 Big Buddies. For the Kindergarten, it means we can raise the bar a little higher by creating a complex, multi-step assignment; and for the Grade 7 students, it’s an opportunity to mentor and be a positive role-model to younger students. Both grades benefit from a special connection across the years; the Grade 7s are also our recess and lunch monitors and help us out on the playground.

This year, Mr. Russ Patterson is our Grade 7 Buddy Teacher. He teaches both Grade 7 classes during Buddy Time and meets with my class (Division 2 Big Buddies) and Christy’s class (Division 1 Big Buddies) in back to back blocks on Wednesday.

Big Buddies are a vital part of Kindergarten Life.

From the Kindergarten Science Big Idea “Plants and animals have observable features,” we decided to focus on animals (we’ll study Plants in Third Term) and we selected the beloved penguin as our animal of choice. A full-grown Emperor penguin is about the size of a Kindergarten child and for that reason alone, we’ve always had great affection for the penguin.

In the past few years we’ve used the app Book Creator on the iPad to create digital books about penguins, their habitat, young, appearance and food sources. Our Big Buddies would work with us to gather images from Google, write a brief descriptive sentence using a sentence frame and the Little Buddies would do a voiceover, reading the text aloud. This year we decided to take the same topic but use the app iMovie as our presentation platform. In her role as Technology Support Teacher, Cari also joined us on our first day of movie-making.

Our Penguin iMovies were a five week project. Christy and I completed a Mystery Box Inquiry before each Buddy class. The Mystery Box allowed us to teach questioning skills using the 5Ws in an interesting, game-like format and to introduce the penguins topics we were going to investigate.

Weeks 1 and 2: Research

The Big and Little Buddies used this graphic organiser to record their research in specific categories. From pictures and text, students would read and discuss their findings; and all information was duly noted.

Week 3: Image Collection

The Buddies searched through Google Images to collect a minimum of three images for each fact. They would not necessarily use every image they found but they needed a bank of pictures to draw from for their movie.

Each Buddy pair was assigned an iPad which they needed to use for the duration of the project.

Weeks 4 and 5: iMovie creation
Each Buddy pair had specific criteria to fulfill: an opening image with a title; images of the specific topics (habitat, appearance, young, food); Kindergarten voiceover describing the images; end photo of the Buddies with Kindergarten voiceover naming the Buddies and credit to Google Images.

This was a really fun project for our children. We love that they are using technology to create something, starting with the planning sheet to help organise thinking and then using it as a stepping off point to make an iMovie. We did have a few technical glitches, including iPads which refused to power on and movies which wouldn’t run. Fortunately, students demonstrated a can-do “the show must go on” attitude (grit and perseverance), pulled out another iPad…and started again. Ah…show biz.

We’re going to premiere our iMovies at Student Led Conferences on April 20, 2017. Families will have an opportunity to sign-up for a Conference led by their Kindergarten child and viewing your child’s iMovie will be one of the Centres you’ll visit.

If the Shoe Fits…..

IMG_1171It was Cinderella’s turn to make an appearance last week in the Kindergarten….She left a little glass slipper amidst a flurry of fairy dust on the Special Helper chair in the meeting area.

 

FullSizeRender-3The children entered the classroom and walked to the meeting area as is their usual routine.  We believe that establishing, maintaining and reinforcing classroom routines is an essential part of the children’s self-regulation as routines create predictability about what might happen next, and reduces anxiety about the unknown.

 

As they settled themselves on the carpet with a book and quietly greeted their classmates, there was a beautiful silence as the children happened upon this provocation in a moment of sparkle.  Truly, you could hear the children’s brains trying to make sense what they were seeing with what they know about magic.  And then came the flood of questions.

Who did this?

Is that Cinderella’s slipper?

Did you (the teachers) do this?

How did this get here?

We could not have asked for a better reaction.  The children were buzzing with excitement, trying to logically figure out how this occurred (we had left tiny trails of glitter around the classroom the day before and denied our involvement), verbalising what they already knew about the story and some were very much convinced we had been visited by fairies.

We finally did explain we had created that little scenario as a special surprise for the children to get them to start thinking and talking about what they knew about Cinderella.  And they most certainly did.

We read three different versions of Cinderella.  The first was beautifully written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock.  We loved this story because it is very traditional, explains how Cinderella got her name and has a very happy ending for all the characters.

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Next, we read Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant with paintings by Mary Blair.  Mary Blair’s original paintings were for the “Cinderella” animated movie by Walt Disney Studios.  This is a lovely and romantic retelling of the story Cinderella, probably unlike other versions the children have heard.

“Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world?”

Now, if those words do not set your heart aflutter, we don’t know what will….

As for the children, who felt the pictures were not at all like the movie, they still did very much enjoy our reading of the story.

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Our final Cinderella story was a bit of a twist, similar to The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugenios Trivizas and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.  We read Cinderella Penguin or The Little Glass Flipper by Janet Perlman.  The laughter when we read aloud the title was almost hysterical.  After all, we had already completed our Penguin Inquiry, so the penguin references made complete sense to the children.  The children’s knowledge from learning about penguins made a very tidy integration with this book.

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We’ve spent some time discussing story structure (beginning, middle, end), characterization and setting.  Now, we’re getting into some of the interesting elements about fairy tales, specifically the pattern of 3 and magical objects and people.

The children have a lot of knowledge to draw upon; even if they were not really familiar with fairy tales previously, we’ve read a wealth of them at Storytime (the Sharing item every student had to bring in for the past four weeks was a fairy tale and we thoroughly enjoyed a wide range of books), and used some specific books to teach about the story elements.

We brainstormed all the magical people, objects and words we could think of from all the fairy tales we’ve read so far, and selected a few objects from Cinderella to draw and label for our literary response.

We also decorated some gorgeous shoes for our story craft and made our Fairy Tales folders during Art.

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All in all, it was a magical week at school, and not just because of Cinderella.

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There’s a change in the air.  We’ve noticed in the past two weeks the change in our students.  They’ve become more self-assured and self-confident.  Many children are showing an independence that was not observable even a month ago.  Self-regulation strategies, which we have diligently worked on all year, are being used by the children as they are mindful of themselves and their social context.

Suddenly, everyone has fallen into the routines.  They’ve developed a social awareness of, and flexibility for, the constant changes that happen at this time of the year.  There’s an indescribable ease with which they move around the class, talking, negotiating and sharing with their classmates.  The children are getting ready to move on.  But for now, we can only think of our classes as our Kindergarten children…we’re not quite ready to let go.

 

Fairy Tale Fun with Jack, Hansel and Gretel

FullSizeRender-23We’re still having lots of fun with Fairy Tales in our classes. One of the great things we get to do as teachers is share with our students some of the lovely books that have been read aloud to us, or that we’ve acquired over the years as parents to our own children and teachers of our students.

A couple of classic Fairy Tale books we wanted to read were ones that we were given as children.  The Treasury of Fairy Tales is my book that I received when I was five years old.  The Hansel and Gretel pop-up book was a Christmas gift when I was six.  We’ve read Hansel and Gretel to our classes and they just loved the vibrant colours of the pictures and a different version of a familiar story.

IMG_2857A new Fairy Tale classic is The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman.  This sweet story is told in the traditional manner of a young princess whose mean uncle wishes to take over the throne from her Dad, the King.  When the King is away at a tournament, a plan is hatched by Princess Leora’s uncle to destroy all of the balloons of the Kingdom so the princess has no way to communicate with her father.  Princess Leora is locked in her room, but with the help of a wise wizard and a young friend, she is able to find a single balloon and then the magic happens.

We’ve been learning about the story elements (plot, character, setting, theme) and using Fairy Tales as our primary literature source to teach these important concepts.  We’ve talked about a story’s structure, beginning, middle and end (as a prelude to discussing plot) with Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.  

This week we focused on good and bad characters in Jack and the Beanstalk.  We compared the qualities of what makes good and bad characters, and the differences between main and secondary characters.

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We decided to focus on setting in Hansel and Gretel as it’s an excellent example of the literature theme, “Home is Best.”  Although we’ve typically taught this theme with Grade One and Grade Two, we thought that our children would be able to make the connection between the story and how they feel about home in their own lives.  We recall all of the places Hansel and Gretel visit in the story and list them in the correct sequence.  Then, we create a story map by drawing in those locations.  Revisiting the story, talking about the sequence of events and what happened at each of those places enriches the children’s understanding of the story.  They love to look at the pictures for clues and recall the details of each place.  

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After we’ve created the map, we label the locations and then orally retell the story again.  The children have multiple engagements with a familiar story, which in turns enhances their understanding and appreciation of this important genre.

As part of our integration of the subject areas, we decided to create the Royal Kinder Portraits, another fabulous art idea from the website, Deep Space Sparkle.  We give the children a template for the crown which they trace in pencil, then outline in pastel.  With guidance, we demonstrate how to draw the face in pastel and then complete it in watercolour.  The oil pastels help to “hold” the watercolour paints from mixing together.

Presenting their Royal Highnesses….

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This Week in Our Room:  May 31-June 3, 2016

Thank you, everyone, for coming out to support us on Sports Day!  The children had a marvelous time, enjoying their mini teams and participating in the fun relays.  We saw many children love carrying the balloons with their foam chopsticks, jumping in the potato sacks, and pulling with all their might in the Tug of War.  They couldn’t wait to show us their tongues after eating their freezies!

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We had a good snack afterwards, Activity Time and many children also got a little bit of face paint (or arm paint) done as well.  All in all, we had a super successful first Sports Day, and the children can look forward to many more!

Upcoming Events and Reminders

It’s Home Reading Book exchange on Monday so please remember to return your home reading books.

On Wednesday, Elmer the Safety Elephant returns to talk to us further about bike safety.