Thursday, January 15, 2015

Martin Luther King Day

Hello families!  Today we read the book Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, in honor of MLK Day, coming up on Monday.  It's a book about the life of Martin Luther King.  It is a great story that talks a bit about the history of segregation.  We stopped several times to talk about what segregation might have looked like.  The book gave examples of having black and white drinking fountains or different races being required to sit in different areas of a bus.  At the end of the book, it talks about how Martin Luther King was shot and killed.  We talked a bit about this and kids were very curious about why someone would kill such a nice man who only wanted peace in the world.

I hope your kids enjoy their day off from school and have a bit of an understanding of where this holiday originated.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Exploring with Drawing and Coloring

We have had a GREAT return back to the classroom!  I long break was definitely needed to renew (and get us all healthy again)!  I have to tell you, Friends, that the week after a long break is usually very challenging in the classroom.  It's almost like starting way back in September again.  Kids usually forget the rules and behavior can be challenging at times.  Well... not this year!  I have been pleasantly surprised at the smooth transition back into the classroom!  Kids were so happy to see each other, ready to learn, and started their hard work right away.  Honestly, this is the smoothest transition back into the classroom that I can remember (and that's a long time because I've been teaching for 20 years now!) So, please give your kids an extra hug from me and let them know how fabulous they are!!!

You may have noticed that the kids have been bringing home random pictures with no writing lately.  These papers are not part of our Writer's Workshop assignments, but they are simply pictures that kids have had fun drawing and coloring.  Now, many of you may be thinking that this is a waste of good instructional time, but I'm here to tell you why it's a valued time during our week.

Each day, during Writer's Workshop, kids are asked to draw a specific picture that they are going to tell a story about.  They get to choose their own topics, but the picture and story they are telling need to be about themselves, show somewhere they are in the illustration, and show some sort of action.  It's hard work and takes a lot of small motor coordination to create their plans for the writing.  Then, students write about their pictures.  

I've been noticing that many of the kids in the class struggle with illustrating, which is actually the pre-writing stage of our written pieces.  Many kids simply need more time to develop their hand muscles, explore with crayons and markers, and just "play" with illustrating.  The kids love to draw "roller coasters" which is where they take several crayons in their hands and go around and around and around and around.  While this is a great developmental step, it's not exactly what we are looking for in Writer's Workshop time. Kids need time to do this and need to experience what this feels like, which is why we spend a few minutes during our week to let kids draw and color anything they'd like.  We make roller coasters, rainbows, volcanoes, and monsters... all of those things that kids want to explore but might not fit into the Writer's Workshop model.

Please keep in mind that this type of free drawing and coloring, whether it is with markers, pencils, crayons, or paint is one of the best opportunities you can give to your child at home.  It's great for small motor development, hand-eye coordination, imaginative story telling, and provides kids the opportunity to "play" with illustrating and writing.

Happy drawing, scribbling, swirling, and coloring!

Exploring Shapes

We've been doing some work with shapes this week in Math. We will be working with 2-D and 3-D shapes, learning the names for different shapes, and also working on position words (below, beside,  next to, etc).  The beginning of this new unit brought us a fun new math tool to try out.  We started working with Geoboards!

Kids started by exploring with Geoboards and creating any type of shape they liked.  Then, we moved into more specifics, which were three sided shapes.  Kids made big triangle, little triangles, skinny triangles, and fat triangles.  

Next, we made triangles out of straws. Each child had three long straws to use to make their triangle.

Then, I asked them to trade one long straw in for a short straw and see if they could made a triangle.  Many kids placed their straw on their table and said they couldn't make a triangle that way because one side was too small.  

We pointed out that a few of our friends in the class had figured out a way to make a triangle, using the short straw and the two long straws, by squishing things together a bit more.  For many kids, this was a "a-ha" moment, realizing that not all triangles are equilateral.  

This week, we will continue our work with triangles, but also add in squares, rectangles, and 3-D shapes.  Be sure to have your child tell you about different shapes they see around your house.  Many kids in the class know their basic shapes, but there are still lots of us who need more practice with naming those shapes.

Happy shape hunting!