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A New Year: A New Beginning

What a great year of teaching ideas! New for the 2009-2010 school year, be sure to check out Megan Power and all the teacher advisors at Classroom Solutions for more tips and teaching strategies from real teachers.

You’ll find lots of videos, photo slideshows, and quick-to-implement teaching ideas. Come check it out and leave a comment. We’ll be glad to see you there.

So Long, Farewell....

What a year!!!

We can not believe that the year is over.  We have six more days of school and then we say good-be to our classroom, our students and all of you.  We are at the end of our journey as the Scholastic Pre-K/K advising team.  We have learned so much this year and know that we are better teachers as a result. 

As we look upon our students and think about their futures, we can only wish them the best.  This year, we focused on helping them understand what it means to be part of a community. We encouraged them to respect themselves, their families, our classroom and our school.  We worked on guiding them to interact with love and compassion.  We believe that we were able to achieve that and teach them some academics. at the same time.  I intend to spend the summer with my daughter and Alexandra will head for Greece to spend time with her beloved family.   In the fall, Alexandra and I will be back in KB teaching the next batch of K students. 

Neither of us have any special projects planned for the summer but next year Alexandra and I will be working with our K team on some curricular changes.  We are so proud of our efforts this year and know that we have worked hard to give you a look inside the heart of our classroom.  As we look back on the years blogs, lesson and unit plans, we are amazed at the content and in awe of the amount of work we have accomplished over the course of a school year.  Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing with us through this experience.  Your loyalty to our blog has helped inspire us over the course of
the year.

Young artists creating in the style of famous artists 2

We love doing art in our classroom and we try to integrate it in our thematic curriculum as much as possible.  However, two years ago, thanks to our colleague Amy Kim, we decided to explore the artwork of particular artists.  Although we don't agree with copying art, we do think that exposing our students to artists' styles helps them expand the way they think about art and the way they create art.  Each year we pick about seven artists to study depending on our curriculum, museum exhibits, and personal favorites.  We do make sure to include male and female artists, living artists, and artists of a diverse background.  Each month we study a different artist and then create a piece in his/her style.  The children love going home to teach their families about what they've learned.  
 

Here are some of the artists we've studied:  

Vincent Van Gogh

We usually talk about Van Gogh in the spring when we learn about flowers in our science curriculum.  We show the children a Smartboard slide show of him and his work and give them basic information about his life and style.  Next lesson is a review of the main elements of the artist's work.  Last, the children create a piece based on the Van Gogh's style.

Project materials:

  • painting paper

  • bins of colors for each table

  • thick and thin paintbrushes

  • a bouquet of sunflowers on each table

Procedure:

Van Gogh 1 Van Gogh 2The children decide which flower/s they want to paint and if it will be the whole flower or part of it.  Then they start to paint using individual strokes in Van Gogh's style.  Obviously some children just paint in the way they are used to, but we don't have a problem with that.

 

 

 

 

Romare Bearden

 

We usually talk about Bearden during our unit on jazz.  We show the children a Smartboard slide show of him and his work and give them basic information about his life and style.  Next lesson is a review of the main elements of the artist's work.  Last, the children create a piece based on th Bearden's style.  Needless to say that we listen to jazz while we create.  At the end of this unit we usually go to a performance at "Jazz at Lincoln Center" where they have copies of some of Bearden's work.

 

Project materials:

  • watercolor paper

  • pencils, thin sharpies, watercolors

  • scissors

  • different types of paper and materials

Procedure:

This project takes multiple days.  When we started talking about Bearden we were in between our study of school and neighborhood community.  So we decided to have the children draw our school.  We took them outside and had them draw the building using pencil.  At the same time, a teacher took pictures of the building that the children later were able to use as collage material.  Next the students went over their drawing with sharpie and watecolors.  Then they cut and glued on any of the collage materials we had available: pictures, many different types of paper, material scraps, photos of themselves and classmates.

 

 

                    Bearden 1                         Bearden 2      Bearden 3       

 

 

 

 

Andy Warhol

 

We usually talk about Warhol at the end of the year.  We show the children a Smartboard slide show of him and his work and give them basic information about his life and style.  Next lesson is a review of the main elements of the artist's work.  Last, the children create a piece based on th Warhol's style. 

 

Project materials:

  • children's photos, frame of six

  • colored pencils

Procedure:

 

We take a picture of each student.  We make the pictures black and white and create a frame of six with each one.  Then the children use colored pencils to color in their individual frame of six photos.  This project was conceived by our assistant Marisa Rose.

 

Warhol 1                Warhol 2      Warhol 3      Warhol 4

 

 

 

 

Museum Visit

 

Museum 1 Museum 2 At the end of the year we visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (we are in New York City) to see some of the artists' work that we've studied.  It is amazing to walk through the halls and have the children spot a Mondrian or a Pollock and watch their faces light up with excitement!  

 

 

 

To learn more about how we launch our artists' unit and see some of the other artists we've studied please visit our previous post "Young artists creating in the style of famous artists 1."

 

Please share your ideas with us if you have done similar projects.

Learning Websites

Hi Everyone,

I can feel it in my bones...summer is right around the corner and I can't wait.
Alexandra and I have been trying to figure out what our summer work recommendations should be and decided that we ought to recommend some fun and appropriate learning websites for parents to use with their kids.  There are so many children that will find themselves parked in front of the computer....we might as well try to inform the parents of some good options.  We would like to believe that they have time to research but many of them do not.  Hope these help!!!

Learning Websites

  1. Scholastic Learning Arcade - The fun part of the Scholastic learning arcade is letting the kids choose the character that they want to navigate with.  The learning games are fun. Ex: Concentration, Making Words, Patterns, Mazes and more.                              
  2. I SPY - Scholastic.com brings I SPY to life.  Ex: Make a picture, Make a riddle, Play I SPY bingo
  3. Learning Planet - The site features a great game called ABC Order. If you have a child heading into K or 1 who is still struggling then offer the parents this game to play with their children. 
  4. Brainpop Jr. - The website that features a little bit of everything.  No matter what subject a child may be studying, brainpop addresses it.  For family subscriptions, have your families click on the link: https://www.brainpop.com/store/step1.weml. Free trials are available!!
  5. Noggin - We are all familiar with the channel but some parents have yet to discover the website that always features a game of the month.
  6. Build-a-Saurus - Build a Dinosaur online starting with the footprint.  They will love it!
  7. Dance Mat Typing - This website will do just that..teach a child to type with rock and roll.  Not all children are interested but I, for one, am tired of having to wait hours as a child tries to find the letter 'a'. 

If you have any websites that you would like us to add to this blog, please send it to us at [email protected]

What's Your Name?

Why a Name Study?
As K teachers, we recognize that the one thing the kids can read and write when entering K is their names.  We put their names on bulletin boards, on their cubbies, in the meeting area and class chart.  From the very first day of school, we sing songs to learn each others names.  A name study unit encompasses the entire individual and helps us focus on bringing the children out of their shells.  By using their names, we may find that they are more focused and less distracted.  The main language / literacy goal is to learn letter names/sounds, rhymes, sentence segmentation, syllabification and initial/end sounds. 

The Name Game
The name game examines one child’s name at a time. We use the smart board and dissect a child’s name on it.  The smart board allows us to save and compare later. Initially, the students names are written on large cardstock and placed on the floor in front of the class. We count the letters, vowels and consonants.  Then we talk about how to cut the name into its syllables or parts.  Example: Na-o-mi.  The first cut would happen after the a, the second after the o.  Then we cut up the entire thing and look at each of the letters.  We then move the letters around and make words. We find rhymes, both nonsensical and real. To complete the experience, we ask each child three interview questions in order to find out more about them.  It is our hope that those children that are weak with some of these skills will get stronger as the weeks go on, we choose their names last so as to give them time to process and learn.
Star name game image_10  















Box o' Memories

This activity is tied to our name game.  We schedule each parent to come and talk about the origins of their child's name and share their fondest memories.  Our parents readily enter the classroom excited and ready to share about their child. Parents bring everything: swatches of hair, umbilical cords, bronzed shoes, digital slide shows, clothing, worn blankets, old rattles, stuffed animals and even diapers (clean). The final component of the share is the question and answer session between the child and their classmates. Our kids this year asked some of the funniest questions...What was your first candy? When did you stop wearing diapers?, What was your first/favorite food? We manage to do our box o' memories in twenty minutes at the start of the day. We try our best to get our parents off to work by 9 am in the morning.  Occasionally, we have afternoon shares.  These tend to work great as they are scheduled close to dismissal which allows our parents to take the kids home with you at the end of the day.







Creating inclusive communities: Any ideas?

Since September, a few of us in our school have been trying to share with colleagues and administration the importance of truly valuing diversity and creating a more inclusive community.  We have attended various conferences and workshops and recently brought in Gene Batiste, NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Vice President of Leadership Education and Diversity, to speak to the faculty.  As with any such effort, it is not easy to make a true change until the the top of the institution decides to embrace the idea.  As someone once said to me "diversity is a journey not a destination."  Gene Batiste said  that it is a process, you move from diversity to a multicultural school to equity and justice.  It is also a process on a personal level as each member of the school community becomes more aware and hopefully takes more responsibility in assuring an inclusive community.

 

I have been at our school for seven years and I believe that it is a wonderful place.  There is a real sense of community.  I feel it is my responsibility, along with everyone else's, to make sure that all students, parents, and faculty feel welcomed and the same sense of belonging.

 

I also  think that to educate our students successfully it is really important to expose and immerse them in diversity.  It can help them learn more about themselves, their family and the cultures of the people around them.  This can help them develop a positive sense of self and others and support a healthy development.  In addition, it can cultivate an environment in the classroom and the school where hopefully open conversations can take place.  It provides opportunities for the students to develop skills that make them more effective in their interactions and communication with people from diverse backgrounds. 

 

I also think that it is important to develop awareness among the staff and faculty of our school for the benefit of our students, our families, and ourselves.  It is essential that we build a community that allows and helps each teacher reach his/her full potential if we aspire to help all students reach their full potential.

 

 

 

I know that there are many schools that are ahead of us in their efforts.  I would like to invite anyone who knows of a model that has worked, a good workshop, a speaker, a book, an activity or anything else that could be helpful to us moving forward to please share it with us here or at [email protected]

 

 

Kindergarten in Crisis?

Kindergarten programs across the country seem to be changing – and not for the better. NYC recently changed its kindergarten admissions process and the kids have been placed on waiting lists. This is not unheard of when applying to independent schools, but most parents made real estate decisions so that their children could attend local neighborhood public schools. Parents’ want a positive outcome from this crisis, but their emotions are running the gamut – from anxious, to furious to desperate. Read more about it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/nyregion/01kindergarten.html?_r=3&hp

According to educator, Deborah Meier, and a new report by The Alliance for Childhood, another change causing a crisis in kindergarten is the absence of open-ended, imaginative play, and children making their own art work in kindergarten (vs. teacher made turkeys, snowman, etc.). This, along with increasing class size and changing admissions policies, has many people wondering, what's happening to kindergarten?  http://www.forumforeducation.org/blog/new-report-chronicles-crisis-kindergarten.

We love teaching our kindergartners and feel fortunate to work in an independent school that values art, play and has the financial resources to keep class sizes small. Are you experiencing similar changes and challenges in your community? What do you think? Lets keep the conversation going and maybe we can help affect positive change.

Habitat art: rainforest, desert

Our class has always enjoyed every habitat that we have studied.  We usually incorporate a slideshow, puzzles, games, field trips  and anything else we can into our studies.  However, we find that the art activities that we do related to each habitat are always some of the students' favorites and most memorable.  Here are some that we have done for our study of the rainforest and the desert. 



Rainforest habitat model:  We explain to the class that we will be making a model of the rainforest.  The children brainstorm what should be included in the model and we made a list.  First we made the background on butcher paper.  This was done by student volunteers and a teacher to make sure that all levels of the rainforest were depicted.  Then each child made an animal.  They looked through pictures and books to find out what their animal looked like.  Over the years, I have collected many pictures of animals and landscapes from friends' old calendars.  Next volunteer writers made labels by copying the names found in books.  We added a desk, some writing materials, magnifying glasses, binoculars and a few other things to make a scientists' center.  Then the children played in the area.  It was a great success!

Rain back1   Rain back2    Rain back3   Rain back4                 Painting animals1   Painting animals2  Painting animals3  Painting animals4

Rain final1-09   Rain final2              Scientist1   Scientist2  Scientist4  Scientist5


Desert paintings:  At the end of our desert unit we asked the children to make a picture depicting the desert.  First they closed their eyes and thought of what they wanted to include in their pictrures.  Then they used craypas and watercolors do create their pictures.  We provided pictures and books if they wanted to use them as reference.  At the end we gave them the option of glueing on real sand. 

IMG_9402      IMG_9404      IMG_9403      IMG_9405      IMG_9406     

Desert animals:  This is another project that we have done at the end of our desert unit.  The children picked an desert animal that they then created using clay.  We provided pictures and books if they wanted to use them as reference.  We baked and painted the clay.  Some children made a background for tehir animal.

IMG_6597      IMG_6598     IMG_6599     IMG_6600


IMG_6625 IMG_6626 Georgia O'Keefe:  We studied Georgia O'Keefe as the artist of the month since she was inspired by desert landscapes.  Then the children created a piece inspired her art.  They used craypas and watercolor.  They had the choice of painting bones, flowers, shells or a combination of those elements. 

To see an example of other activities that we do for a habitat unit please visit our post on the polar habitat.   

Please share with us any other art projects or ideas you have for these habitats or any other.  Thanks!

Green Ideas

We try to be green in many ways in our classroom.  Here are a few ideas of projects you can do with your students that are also fun.

  • Plants for seniors:  Every year around Earth Day we work with one of the school's parent committees that supports community service projects.  Each kindergartner dedorates a clay pot and plants a plant.  Then a few parents and children take the plants to a senior citizens home.  We talk to the students about the importance of planting and preserving green.  We talk about giving back to the community by bringing nature to people who may not be able to go out to enjoy it. 

  • Taking care of the park:  Every year, in the fall and in the spring, we do community service in Central Park.  Depending on what is need we either rake leaves or do mulching.  We feel that this is a great way for them to learn about nature in the park and also give back to the community.  It is hard work and the kids are always exhausted at the end of it.  However, they always feel like they have accomplished something great and it's one of the experiences they remember. 

  • Recycling paper: Early in the year we create a paper recycling bin in the classroom in order to recycle paper.  The children not only practice recycling but they also learn to reuse by going to that bin for paper when they need scraps of paper for various projects.              

  • Junk art:  We ask parents to send in boxes, newspaper and other paper, paper rolls, plastic containers, packing material anything they have at home that we could use to make art.  The students create sculptures with the materials and glue or tape.  Then they paint them.  Some also do paper mache.  In the end we set up an area fo the classroom as a museum to showcase all the sculptures.

         Recycled art 1      Recycled art 3      Recycled art 5      Recycled art 4

  • Recycling Game:  This year there is a recycling game on the school's website for the children to use.  The goal of the game is to collect all the trash and place it in the correct recycling bin in a certain amount of time.

Please share with us some of your green ideas... The greener we are the better!

Save a tree - email them!!

I remember when I first realized that we were really going to go all the way and just do it. The week before school started, Alexandra and I decided to communicate with our parents via email. We stressed over the implications..too informal...too risky?  What if they do not get the email reminder about the items to bring on the first day of school? We took a deep breath, pressed send and have not looked back once.

Alexandra, Marisa and I share a mailbox that is solely used for parent emails.  We each check it multiple times throughout the day and each reply to emails that come in.  The ease with which parents can now send and receive emails via mobileme, blackberries and iphones is evident in the number of emails that we receive throughout the week.  We have had some unfortunate incidents where information has been lost or not received but these instances are rare and the spam mailbox is usually at fault.  

We send everything from save-the-dates, monthly newsletters, invitations, general requests, assignment information, observations/issues/concerns/praise about the kids and more.  The parents have gotten in the groove of looking out for our messages and do respond in kind.  We have asked them to follow-up with a phone call, if their email is about that day's dismissal.

If you have not gone paperless, I strongly urge you to do so even if your school has not.  It is incredibly efficient and a great way to communicate with your parents.

If you are like me, you may have to write your messages on Microsoft word and attach or paste them into the message. The first time that I tried to write a message directly in the message box, my time ran out and the server logged me out automatically.   But Alexandra and Marisa are good at shooting off a quick email and getting right to the point.

 Of course there are major rules that you should consider following regarding email etiquette. 

Here are a few:

1. Get to the point and avoid long sentences.

2. Use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and keep your language gender neutral.

3. Answer all questions and answer swiftly.
4. Do not write in CAPITALS!!

5. Do not leave out the message thread.

6. Read the email before you send it.

7. Do not overuse REPLY TO ALL.

8. Do not use abbreviations and emoticons.
9. Do not request delivery and read receipts.

10. Do not use email to discuss CONFIDENTIAL information.

Good Luck and Happy Earth Day!!!!



Keep on rocking!

We LOVE music in KB!  We sing every day and seem to have a song for everything.  We often listen to soothing music when we rest, classical music when we write, and jazz when we do art.  We also love to snap, sway, bop, and dance any chance we get! 

Having said all that, I would like to share with you two artists whose music our students (and we!) have REALLY enjoyed.  We have been lucky enough to see them perform live as they have been invited to our school every year.  We even have their autograph which we have framed and displayed in our classroom!

Brady Rhymer                                                                                                                             Real lyrics, catchy tunes, and a rock-n-roll feeling are what you get with every song from Brady Rhymer and The Little Band That Could.  Accompanied by an electric guitar, a fiddle, and a mandolin this veteran rocker manages to bring us to our feet every time.  He has won numerous awards and I have yet to meet a child or parent who does not like his work.  Make sure you listen to his newest cd and visit Brady's official site.   

Lou Gallo                                                                                                                                        This is another artist that our children ask us to play over and over again.  He often sings the words of a favorite book like "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" or tells a story from his life.    His songs are fun, funny and catchy.  His music grabs you and inevitably makes you want to move.  Make sure you visit Lou's official site for more information about him and his work.  

Please let us know if you have any music that you and your students enjoy so that we can keep on rocking in KB.  I hope you'll enjoy Brady and Lou's music as much as we have.  Actually, I know you will! 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Naomi & Alexandra's Kindergarten Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.