Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's All About Family

For many working parents, it becomes a challenge to find time to come to the classroom. In an effort to bring families together in our class, we have a holiday lunch each year in Dec. This is a pot luck lunch where everyone is welcome (including extended family). There is nothing better than families getting to know eachother. This year we had 20 our of 26 families able to join us for our grand celebration. Here are some highlights from our lunch:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's a Busy Time of Year

For Kindergarten teachers at Chets Creek, the time between Oct. and winter break seems to fly by. Between our Pumpkin unit, Pow Wow, holiday celebrations, and assessments we are continuing to find a way to keep an academic focus and still enjoy the season. At our school, the PTA sponsors a silent auction for holiday items that are made from each class. This auction is held in our lobby and takes place for about a week and a half. This year, our class decided to make ornaments and use them to decorate wreaths. In an effort to involve the kids as much as possible, we decided to make dough ornaments, allow kids to decorate them, and then have them do a functional piece of writing (How to...) to describe the procedures for making the ornamants. What fun this turned out to be! While we were making the dough, we had one child taking the pictures and another child writing the steps on the board with the help from the class. Here is a glimpse into this fun activity!

First we put two cups of flour into a bowl.

Next we added 1/2cup salt to 3/4 cup water and stirred it until it dissolved.

Then we mix it all together with our hands and make it into a ball.

Roll out the dough.

Then cut it out with a cookie cutter.

Make sure you have someone who is writing down the steps as you are doing it. That way you don't forget.


Paint your ornament and let it dry.

Then you are done.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pow Wow was a Success!

If you ask the kids about the best part of the day - it was dancing and singing. How great it is to know that they enjoy showing their families and friends how hard they have practiced over the last couple weeks. As they come out in their costumes, the teachers are proud, the kids are excited, and the parents are amazed. Pow Wow is just not about costumes and dancing. We have proven that through all our hard academic work. But the costumes and dancing are the celebration of tribes just as it has always been for Native Americans. They dress in their best. They sing. They dance. They celebrate life and food. And that is what Chets Creek Pow Wow is all about. Check out our student blog to see how much the kids have learned!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who were the Nez Perce?

Each year the Kindergarten team at Chets Creeks completes a Native American Study. Each class is assigned to a tribe to study over a 3 week period. Our culminating event is a Pow Wow where each class participates in dance and song while dressed in their Native American attire. To describe this unit in its entirety is almost impossible. Every detail is taken care of from decorating the outside of the room, learning a wealth of information, making costumes, having a parent night, to the Pow Wow event itself. The academic unit focuses on many areas such as vocabulary, shared readings, elements of non-fiction for reading, functional writing, report writing, and sound through vibrations. The vocabulary focuses on words that describe the Native Americans or were specific to their tribe such as parfleche (a satchel used by the Nez Perce to carry their items.) Shared readings include poems written about the tribe. Reader's Workshop teaches students how to read non-fiction from different elements (headings, captions, glossary, gaining meaning from the pictures). Writer's Workshop focuses on writing functional pieces about the items they make in class such as a parfleche or medicine bag and ending with students writing reports which include non-fiction elements learned in reading. We also discuss sound and vibrations for science as we learn that the drums make different sounds by the size and content in the drum. This truly is a unit of study in all curriculum areas. While the students are learning about their tribe, we are also busy making our costumes. We try our best to make them authentic in look. We study what they wore and how they made their daily clothing and best dress for Pow Wow's. Of course we couldn't make this work without the great help from parents throughout the unit. The Pow Wow itself is a big day. We begin our morning with the song and dance celebration for all the tribes. Parents and some grade levels are invited to join. Once that is done, we rotate through stations run with our resource team. We complete activities such as food tasting, Native American tribal games, symbol writing, make clay pieces, look at artifacts, etc. By the end of the day, and the end of the unit, we are all exhausted. Though this may seem to be an immense amount of work, and it is, this becomes a lifelong memory for most of our students. Each year, students come back and remind us how much they learned about their tribe. Most students even remember their Native American names. My own children, who are now 14 and 12, participated in Chets Creek Pow Wow in Kindergarten. Although it was still new then and a lot has grown out of the unit over the years, it is still a memory for both of them that they love to talk about. That truly is what learning is all about!

Watch this week to learn about our tribe and see highlights from Pow Wow on our class blog at http://hkidshighlights.blogspot.com or look under favorite links!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Literacy Connection

Each year at Chets Creek we have our Literacy Parade and Carnival. This is a week long celebration of Fall and Literacy. We begin the week as each class submits a pumpkin (s) that resemble a book. This year our class submitted "It's a Small World" to go along with our class theme. The students painted a large pumpkin that resembled the world and then each child decorated an small pumpkin at home that resembled him/her.

The last two weeks in Oct.the Kindergarten classes begin working on a Pumpkin Unit. During this time the students are learning facts about pumpkins, writing about pumpkins, making food with pumpkins, using pumpkins for math, and being scientists as they investigate pumpkins.

The culminating event for us is the day of the Literacy Parade and Carnival. Each Kindergarten and First Grade child dresses up as a literary character and parades around the school with his/her book for the older students. This is an exciting day for them as they all feel like a star!

After we finish the parade, the students return to their room for fun stations throughout the day. That evening our school has their big carnival. This includes a trick or treat around the bottom floor of the school and then carnival food and activities outside. This is a great family night as well as a good time for parents to get to know other parents in the class.

Although the day is long, our Literacy Parade and Carnival are what makes our school different than most. It is apparent that our teachers and children embrace the opportunity to celebrate with all the families that make up our "family" at Chets Creek. It really is a place where dreams do come true!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It Really is a Small World After All...

This week our class will begin a year-long experience of communication with 5 other schools around the country. Throughout the year, our class will be meeting other children from different states and learn what school is like where they live. We begin by creating a journal about our class, what our day is like, include pictures of things that happen in our class, and write letters to the students. We will send our journal along with our "travel buddy" (which of course is a jaguar beanie baby named Jag) along on the journey for other classes to enjoy and take pictures with as well. Our first school will be with Marlene Srock's class from Minot N.D. What is amazing is that I lived in Minot N.D. for 4 1/2 years and both of my children were born there. After learning that this was my first class to journal with, I knew that this was going to be a wonderful experience for my kids. Our travel buddy Jag will visit the following places from Oct. through the end of April. Here are the great places we will get to know:
Minot, N.D.
Midvale, Utah
Craig, Alaska
Farmington, MN
Brooklyn, NY

I look forward to keeping posts about this new experience. Stay tuned for further details as the year goes on! It really is a small world after all!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Technology in our class

If you walk into our classroom today you would realize that it is nothing like school was when we were children. Technology is everywhere. Over the last couple weeks, our classroom has become a place where learning is taking place through many different types of technology. Here are some examples of how we are using new strategies and tools to teach our children:
* We no longer need the TV in our room as our morning broadcast is sent through the VCR and the projector.
* Read alouds can be share easily with the whole class when it is projected from the Elmo through the projector. Here is an example of us reading "Caps for Sale".

* Skills Block can be taught using websites projected for the whole class to see and participate or to share a document that the whole class is working on together. This is an example from our nursery rhyme unit where students are sounding out the words and we are labeling the items in the Little Miss Muffet rhyme. There is no longer a need for an overhead.

* Our closing in Writer's Workshop is able to be seen by the whole class when it is shared through the Elmo.
* Student work can be saved from the Elmo to the laptop. This work can then be sent to parents, posted on a blog or website, or saved for future use. What a great way to put together a portfolio of a child's work at the end of the year for parents to see what type of growth has taken place.

* Math strategies can be taught with the Elmo and saved into the laptop. What a great way for parents to see the type of work that is taking place. Here is a sample of work from our pattern unit in math. Students are able to share the patterns in the closing of our workshop.

* In Science we are able to show websites that have video clips, see pictures at a closer look, and even do activities such as sorting objects and making observable properties. Here all students are able to help sort objects by the number of sides each piece has.

* On top of all that we still have our stand alone computers where students are able to work on academic websites to provide reinforcement for individual skills he/she may need.

As you can tell, learning in our class is full of content and fun at the same time.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Morning of Literacy

At Chets Creek, our primary school devotes their morning to a 2 1/2 hour literacy block. This includes a Skills Block, Reader's Workshop, and a Writer's Workshop. Our Skills Block is usually around 30 minutes but at the beginning of Kindergarten it is closer to 45 minutes. During this time we work on phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary. This year a group of teachers worked collaboratively to write our own vocabulary unit based on the research of Beck and McKeown (Bringing Words to Life) that deepens the “Star” books (which are narrative books read to every kindergartner). In order to help deepen our understanding we love to act the words out such as "frightened".

In Reader's Workshop we have a 7 - 10 minute mini-lesson which focuses on a reading strategy. During this time of the year, we are working on learning new literacy stations and retellings of our favorite "Star" books that we are reading for our vocabulary unit. This is where children learn the elements of retelling and enjoy acting them out. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is one of our favorite stories to retell.

After we are done with our mini-lesson, we have about 10 minutes of silent reading from our individual book bins. During this time, students practice what has been taught in the mini-lesson.

For the last 30 minutes of work time, we work with a group in Literacy Stations. We end our Reader's Workshop with a closing where the students are able to share what strategies he/she used during our work time. The last hour of our morning is spend in Writer's workshop. Once again we have a 7-10 minute mini-lesson followed by independent writing time. At this time of the year, students are learning how to write their own "small moments" from the Lucy Caulkins Writing Series.

When we are finished, we close with our "share chair" which provides an opportunity for students to showcase work that included the writing strategy that was discussed in the mini-lesson. What a great time for the others to learn.

To learn more about our morning of literacy, check out our class blog at http://hkidshighlights.blogspot.com

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Day in the Life of a Kindergartener

Each day in our small world we have a very structured routine. We begin with a 2 1/2 hour Literacy Block. This includes a 30 minute Skills Block, a 1 hour Reader's Workshop, and a 1 hour Writer's Workshop. It is the morning where reading and writing become part of eachother. After lunch we have a 1 hour Math Workshop which includes our new Math Counts and Math Investigations. Here at Chets Creek we are fortunate to have a resource 4 out of 5 days during the week (every day except Wed). This includes Art, Music, PE, Media, Character Education, and Science. After resource we have a 15 minutes Science Workshop. Every other Wednesday we have an extra 40 minutes where we are able to complete hands-on activities for Science. At the end of the day, our little ones are tired and are ready for some play. They love our 30 minutes of recess. Before we know it, it is time to pack up and go home. For us as teachers, another day is done and we begin thinking about tomorrow.

This week I will be discussing each part of our day on our class blog. Check it out to learn more about each part of our day.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Chets Creek Way

If you have never experienced a Kindergarten class at Chets Creek Elementary then you have never experienced teaching at its best. I love to be in an environment where the teachers are excited and truly love working with children. Yes, it is only the second week of school but this group of teachers are this way all year. Each day we take our kids out for car rider dismissal and get an opportunity to chat while we are there. Each day we get to share the great things we did in our class with each other. Each day we get new ideas from one another. Each day we get to share the funniest things our kids did in class. In Kindergarten something funny happens every day. It is here that we close our day on a positive note no matter what type of chaotic day is was with the children (as it is with all Kindergarteners in the second week).We too live by the thought that each day you start as a new day. Sometimes we forget how important support amongst our colleagues is. I am blessed to be a part of this community of teachers and live THE CHETS CREEK WAY!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Our Magical Week

It was first week of Kindergarten and what a busy week it was. Twenty-six little prince and princess begin their life long journey as learners as they walk into our castle every day. How fortunate are we as educators to help determine the fate of these little ones. This week we began to set the rituals and routines of our class. By the third day of school they were already working on phonemic awareness with our Star Students, learning during Reader's and Writer's Workshop, completing our new Math Counts in our Math Workshop, and hearing lots of great new stories. Check out our class blog under favorite links to see what each child thought about the first week of school. I can tell that the magic is just beginning!

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's A Small World After All....

The first day of school has come and gone with 25 new little smiling faces. How exciting it must be to come to your first day of school where everything is decorated as a magic kingdom.

Our students were enchanted as they watched a magic show, had pictures taken around the school, and wore themselves out on the bounce house. In the morning we read A Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It is one of my favorite stories. During lunch, Chester Raccoon snuck into our room and left us a note with a list of clues. We used these clues to find important places around the school such as the office, the music room, and art. At the end of the hunt, we found a box of popsicles left for us by Chester. The kids had a wonderful time as they learned about all the great things at our school and had fun at the same time. For 25 little prince and princesses of Chets Creek - dreams really do come true.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Trip To Hawaii

Hawaii...a vacation in paradise. After two weeks we have come back exhausted and loaded with memories (just in time to prepare for school). The weather was perfect, the scenery was beautiful, and the people were welcoming. We were able to visit the whole island of Ohau and almost all of The Big Island. What fun we had getting to see famous places such as The North Shore, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Volcano National Park. Here is a glimpse into trip...


Friday, July 13, 2007

A Tribute to Teachers!

If you ever walk into my classroom you will see that I love children's books. Not only do I love to read them but I love to give them as gifts as well. This week I found a great book for a principal friend whose theme is centered around gardening - Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou. I couldn't wait to share this book with everyone and anyone. This is a wonderful story about Mrs. Spitzer's metaphorical garden to her Kindergarten classroom. Year after year she is given a new pack of "seeds" that she will plant and nurture. This wise teacher recognizes that some will grow faster and stronger than others, yet they will all flourish if given enough love and tender care. At the end of the year, her little "seeds" have grown strong and her job is done. She closes up her classroom, puts away her "tools", and begins to plan for the next year. This book is a tribute to all teachers and their dedication to their "gardens". I hope you will share this book with a friend, a teacher, a colleague, or just buy it for yourself!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Off We Go...

We are now in the middle of summer. This week my kids and I are leaving to visit family and spend a couple days at the beach with some friends. Then we head home and all of us pack for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. I think I am more excited than the kids. I am really looking forward to sharing pictures with my upcoming class and posting them here as well. I have finally finished working on a new vocabulary unit with some colleagues for next year which we are very excited about. We will be using it with our Kindergarteners. So now we are off to relax, do some reading ( can never get enough time for that), and spend quality time with the kids. Before we know it, it will be just in time for school!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Our Favorite Zoo Animals

In an attempt to learn more about blogging, I decided to add our favorite photos from our zoo trip last year in First Grade. We loved going to the zoo and learning about all the different animals.

Check out my Slide Show!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Fun

Summer is here and I am busy trying to relax and have fun। Heading to the beach, playing with my kids, and looking forward to vacations. I just finished a book I started in April and didn't have time to read in May - 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It was great. Summer for me also means getting prepared for next year which includes this blog. I look forward to a great year in Kindergarten!