Welcome back from Spring Break! We hope everyone had a chance to rest and to enjoy some fun in the sun before our rains returned. It's hard to believe that we only have 11 weeks of school left. We have a lot still to accomplish, but here is a look at what we have been doing over the past month:
Math: We spent a lot of time preparing for our 100th Day of School, especially focusing on counting to 100 by groups of ten. We used this time to work more with our gold bead materials to further supplement place value concepts. We had a great party, with treats, counting activities and games. Check out the new photos in the photo gallery!
Literacy: Reading, reading, reading! There is so much independent reading happening now in the classroom for our older students, and the younger ones are eagerly enjoying stories and songs to further their pre-reading and language skills. The children are continually surprising us with all they are learning!
Science: As we (anxiously) await changes in our tadpoles, we are leaving amphibians and reptiles behind and moving on to a study of fish. As luck would have it, we will also be receiving a couple of new platies from the Wong family to introduce to the classroom fish tank. We are also now well into our study of the solar system, working on learning the order of the planets (in spite of my mistakes) along with plenty of new vocabulary. The Kindergarten children are now beginning a unit on magnets, rocks and minerals, including a trip on April 28th to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. This is always a favorite!
Social Studies: This month we will be studying communities and community helpers, as well as children and communities around the world. We will use stories, songs, puzzles and crafts to celebrate these topics, ending with Hat Day on April 30th. Children are invited to wear hats to school that represent different cultures/communities...or just silly hats to wear for fun!
Read Aloud Time Shouldn’t Stop
For many of us, when our children arrived in this world, we diligently began reading to them. Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Harold and The Purple Crayon…we eagerly read both the classics and the newcomers to our little ones. After all, the long-term research is clear and persuasive: reading to young children has enormous benefits as we prepare them for school.
But what happens as our children get older and, hopefully, become proficient readers on their own? What happens when they have homework and required reading? Is it time to stop reading out loud to our kids? In a word, no. Although it may not remain a daily part of your routine, don’t let this carefully established habit fall completely by the wayside. Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook, has discussed numerous benefits of reading aloud to older children. Reading aloud to your children will help them become better…
…speakers. You can choose books that are up to two grade levels above your child’s independent reading level, exposing him or her to a vast amount of new vocabulary. The more they hear, the more they can incorporate into their own daily use.
…readers. Listening to someone read out loud is, as Trelease puts it, like hearing an advertisement for books. Research shows that by about 6th grade, many children stop reading for pleasure; it is strictly utilitarian to get through required assignments. Reading out loud to children can “advertise” the enjoyment they can get from books.
…writers. Our spoken conversations typically consist of short sentences, often without a great deal of elevated vocabulary. Reading out loud to children exposes them to proper grammar and syntax and allows them to hear longer, more complicated sentence structures. This, in turn, allows them to develop their own more sophisticated writing.
…learners. Research is clear that students with bigger vocabularies do better in school. Most instruction, especially up to third grade, is verbal, so having a vast vocabulary helps children to understand and follow teacher directions, right from the very beginning of Kindergarten. Reading aloud to your children, regardless of their age, benefits their total learning experience.
As our kids get older, and other activities seem to fill up all available hours, reading aloud to them can get trickier, but it is worth the time to make it happen, even if it is just once a week. Maybe evenings don’t work as well for your family anymore, but a Saturday morning is available. Maybe you can’t find 20 solid minutes to read together, but you can keep a book in the car to read for five minutes while you wait for swim lessons to start. If your children are restless while you read to them because the books no longer have as many pictures, perhaps they can color or doodle or work on a puzzle while you read. Here are a few great titles to consider:
*Toys Go Out, by Emily Jenkins: This is a funny, energetic book about the adventures of friends…who happen to be toys. Follow it up with her other books, Toy Dance Party and Toys Come Home. Good read-aloud books for ages 5-10.
*The Poppy series by Avi: Avi’s rich vocabulary in these books gives young listeners excellent examples of how to use interesting and precise language in their own writing. Good read-aloud books for ages 7-14
*Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach, Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden are all good choices to read and then enjoy the movie version.
Admittedly, keeping up the read-aloud habit is an investment of time and energy, but the benefits are worth every minute!
100th Day Celebration: We will celebrate the 100th day of school on Wednesday, March 19th, with games and craft projects. The children are welcome to bring 100 of something to show to the class on that day. It could be four groups of 25 or two groups of 50 or ten groups of ten or 100 different things...whatever gets to 100! It is totally optional to bring something in to school for this, and please don’t go shopping for anything. If your child would like to participate in this activity, you could help him or her look around the house for items to bring and show. Or perhaps your child would like to make 100 polka dots/x’s/hearts/etc. on a piece of paper. That counts, too!
Spring Break – March 24th – March 28th: We will be closed for Spring Break.
Classroom Notes: Here are some of the things we have been working on:
Literacy/language: We have spent several weeks working on the concept of rhyming. This can be a very difficult concept to grasp, but the children are making good progress with it. We have used many songs, books and puzzles to help develop this literacy skill.
Math: We have continued developing concepts introduced earlier in the year, such as place value, odd/even and ordinal numbers. Many of the children have also been working on the idea of “counting on” in addition using a number line. This is used to reinforce the process used in addition, not memorization. The Kindergarten students have been introduced to the concept of regrouping, or exchanging, with our gold bead materials. This is in preparation for higher-level addition and subtraction. All of the students have been introduced to our solid geometric shapes and have looked at how they relate to the plane geometric shapes. They are getting good at spotting spheres, cubes, cylinders and prisms!
Science: We are well into our reptile study, enjoying many books about snakes, lizards, alligators and crocodiles. It’s an amazing group of animals! The Kindergarten group is finishing up their world maps, as well as a study of the water cycle. Soon we will move into our study of space. To infinity and beyond!
Social Studies: The children have been studying various forms of transportation. Can your child tell you the difference between passengers and cargo/freight? Soon they will be creating their own transportation artwork to add to the bulletin board. We are continuing our look at people and cultures around the world as we prepare for the spring performance.
Music: We are about half way through Mozart’s opera Magic Flute. We are using this time to learn some more music terminology: opera, soprano and tenor. The children have enjoyed identifying the instruments they know, as well.
AVOIDING THE “PERFECT” CHILD
As parents, we look forward to seeing what our children will master next, which milestone will be achieved, what talents will surface. It’s thrilling to discover where there passions lie and to see them work hard to learn a new skill. In the classroom recently, we have witnessed an “explosion” of new skills developing as every day another child begins to read, grasps a new math concept, controls a pencil or gets a challenging puzzle put together. It’s so exciting!
Along with all these successes, however, we are also seeing some signs of anxiety in quite a few of the children, mostly centered on the notion of being “perfect.” As they are striving to learn new skills, unlike in previous years, many of the children are hesitant, afraid of making a mistake. We are working really hard in the classroom to foster an atmosphere of confidence and capability so that each child feels successful in his or her effort, without worrying about a perfect result. This is the age for children to learn with joyful abandon, without hesitation or fear. This is the time to lay the foundation for confident acquisition of knowledge, without anxiety about performance.
As parents and as teachers, we can help build a child’s intrinsic confidence by using the following steps:
1) Praise the effort, not the child. For example, “Wow! You worked hard to finish that!” Try to avoid using “Good boy” or “Good girl.”
2) Make our praise specific and honest. For example, rather than “That’s the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen,” try “I love all the colors you used. They make me feel happy!”
3) Model an appropriate response when we make mistakes or when something doesn’t turn out as planned. Allow your child to see you handle a mistake or a disappointment without stress. It’s good for our children to watch us work through a problem and either accept the result we have, or try again.
Simple habits like these can help tremendously to foster confident, competent children who are ready to learn with eagerness and excitement.