Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do Not Underestimate Our Youngest Students

I came across a post tonight by Angela Maiers titled: Basics Before Big Ideas? NOT! While I was reading her post I remembered two things. First, I began thinking about our observation of Susan Kempton when she told us about the research showing that kids as young as 2 years old can infer.

The other thing that I remembered, was this graph that I came across in a blog post (Sorry, I can't remember who's blog in order to give proper credit).

While kindergarteners may not be able to read or write at first, they are more than capable of thinking critically and divergently. In fact, they may be better at it than we are!

There has been a big push in early childhood for "developmentally appropriate practice (DAP)". That push has helped more than it has hurt. It has kept standardized testing out of kindergarten and helped to keep the balance from leaning too heavily toward academics. However, some people have taken its meaning too far and made broad position statements that children under the age of 6 should not blah, blah, blah. To me DAP simply means differentiation - every child progresses at their own pace and usually going through the same stages.

While some students (probably very few in actuality) may not be ready for big idea thinking, many are. It is a crime not to provide the opportunity for big idea thinking when many are developmentally ready. Some children (I was one) are whole to part learners. They need to see the big ideas and see how they fit, before they can begin to focus on the individual skills that go into it.

Please do not confuse the inability to read or write with the inability to think!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Professional Development - A Request

Often we go to a training, we take notes, we think on it, and we implement pieces of it. I would like for the readers and contributors of this blog to think about adding one more step. I would like you to post your notes, reflections, concerns, ect. as a result of your training to this blog for several reasons. 1) Writing about what you are learning crystallizes the learning in the writers mind. It helps the writer to organize and understand more deeply what they learned. 2) It shares with others the content and value of various trainings so that their interest may be sparked and they can choose to go to said training when it is available in their area. 3) What one person took from a training, may have been overlooked by another who took the same training. It is helpful to read other peoples reflections - as they can extend our own understanding. Not that we all have to see things the same way, but the dialogue that can arise can help us to understand our own thinking better and be more intentional in the way we use what we learned.

Locally - our kindergarten teachers (and contributors to this blog) just attended an Orton-Gillingham training. I wish there were enough slots for me to attend as well, but I didn't want to take the slot of a teacher. I am curious to find out what your biggest take aways were from this training. What will you bring back to your classroom? What will you do differently as a result this year? We will also soon be receiving training in "Every Child a Writer" and web 2.0 tools. I would like to know the answers to these same big questions for these trainings as well.

Globally - What have you learned recently? What were your big Ah-has? How have you/do you plan to use that learning to increase your effectiveness with students?

Friday, June 12, 2009


Wonderful video about play from TED Talks.

How will you incorporate play into your classrooms?
How will YOU play with your students and colleagues?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kindergarten Quotes

My favorite quotes that frame my philosophy about kindergarten (no particular order):
  • Imagination is more important than knowledge. -Albert Einstein
  • Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. - Albert Einstein
  • Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. - Albert Einstein
  • Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. - Albert Einstein
  • As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it. - Albert Einstein
  • Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. - Albert Einstein
  • If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. - Albert Einstein
  • I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts. - Albert Einstein
  • The search for truth is more precious than its possession. - Albert Einstein
  • The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. - Albert Einstein
  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • We cannot be speakers who do not listen. But neither can we be listeners who do not speak. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • Find purpose, the means will follow. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • Satisfaction does not come with achievement, but with effort. Full effort is full victory. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • Speak only if it improves upon the silence. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. - Socrates
  • I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. - Socrates
  • The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing. - Isaac Asimov
  • Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise — even in their own field. - Isaac Asimov
  • All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. - Galileo Galilei
  • You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him to find it for himself. - Galileo Galilei
  • Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. - Plato
  • I would teach the children music, physics and philosophy, but the most important is music, for in the patterns of the arts are the keys to all learning. - Plato
  • When you make the finding yourself — even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light — you never forget it. - Carl Sagan
  • The aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education ... (and) the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth. - John Dewey
  • Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. - Thomas H. Huxley
  • Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain. - John F. Kennedy
  • Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. ~ Malcolm S. Forbes
  • Think wrongly if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. -- Doris Lessing
  • Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting. — Edmund Burke
  • When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge. -- Albert Einstein
  • A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimension. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations. - George Santayana
  • All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. - Pablo Picasso
1) What are the main philosophical themes that run through these quotes?
2) If you had to pare this list down to the 5 quotes most reflective of your philosophy, what would they be?
3) What quotes would you add to the list?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Too-Dee-Tah

A Too-Dee-Tah
Dr. Jean

A too-dee-tah, a too-dee-tah, a too-dee-tah-tah
A too-dee-tah, a too-dee-tah, a too-dee-tah-tah

Thumbs up, elbows back, feet apart, knees together, bottoms up, tongue out, eyes shut, turn around.

Sing the too-dee-tah chorus after you add on an action.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tony Chestnut

Tony Chestnut
Tony Chestnut knows I love you.
Tony knows. (Tony knows.)
Tony Chestnut know I love you.
That's what Tony knows.
Tony, Tony and his sister Eileen.
And Eileen loves Neil and Neil loves Pat,
but Pat still loves Bob.
And there's Russell and Skip.
This song is silly, but it's hip.
How it ends, just one man knows.
And guess what, it's Tony Chestnut.

Songs from Training

Here are the lyrics for "The Grand Old Duke of York" sung to the tune of "A Hunting We Will Go":

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up;
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Here is a link to Dr. Jean's web-site: http://drjean.org/
There is an alphabetical table of songs matched to the CD they are on that site. I could not find her songs available on iTunes :(

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reflecting at the end of the year

The last week of school usually finds me reflecting on the previous year and asking myself what changes I can make for the following year to better my instruction. As I begin packing up my classroom for the big move to Moffat County, I find myself organizing books in a fashion inspired by Susan Kempton. I am pulling all of the non fiction books out of my units to make them accessible for the children to use as discovery tools during morning opening. I am hoping it will spark excitement and curiosity that will set an enthusiastic tone of learning for the day.

I am also anxious to begin the year focusing my read alouds around schema, visualization, questioning and schema. I was hoping Susan could bring a list of her favorite titles for each area when she comes to Craig this summer. I really believe the discovery of nonfiction paired with the power of good read alouds will set a positive tone in which children will be excited to learn how to read.

I was so happy to hear my new teammate state the need for leveled readers. We have used Rigby PM books for the first time this year and the children's reading levels surpassed our expectations.

I am very excited for the possibilities of next year. Thank you to Susan for inspiring us all to be better teachers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another sick day....

With two weeks to go, no more sick days of course I had to get the flu! In return I have sat in bed for three days sipping on Pedialight and reading two extremely empowering books about kindergarten instruction.

Three fourths of the way through Susan's phenomenal book, and Pat Lusche's No More Letter of the Week arrives. Had to dig into it too! I hope that Zach ordered some more books for me to read or it's going to be a long summer ;) I ordered Pat's book after Kathy's visit to another kindergarten school in Denver, and also reading that it is listed under Susan's professional books and articles. It gave great ideas on introducing letters and sounds, incorporating parents, and a ton of ideas for writing and reading centers. I really hope that my fellow colleagues will get their hands on this book :)

Pat Lusche, much like Susan really emphasized leveled readers. From her references and suggestions I see that she uses a lot of Rigby material, maybe the entire series? I saw that Susan also suggested some leveled readers in her book to. Hopefully you are reading this Susan and you could give me a direction to head. We are looking into leveled readers and knowing that all 9-10 kindergarten classes have very, very limited leveled readers where should we start? I have looked into a few reading programs that you can get leveled readers from, but I would like to order non-fiction texts that my kids could get more meaning from. Any suggestions?

I thought that I would throw out one idea I looked into and would like to hear what others think, or what else they have found I could look into....Scholastic: You can get a variety non-fiction leveled readers to go along with our units of study, (insects, our earth, ocean, animals, ect....)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blogs - How to

What are blogs? This is a helpful video to introduce you to this technology.

So... you've read the blog posts here - now what?

Was there something you had a question about or a thought you had in relation to the post you just read? Or, do you want to read the comments others have left. To do that, you will need to click on the "comments" link at the bottom of the post. If there is a number in front of the comments link that means there are that many comments to that post. -------------------------->

Do you have your own question or reflection that you want to post? Click on "New Post" (in the upper right hand corner of the screen), type your post, and click on "Publish Post". ------------------------->

Do you want to see the original post and the comments to that post at the same time? Click on the title of the post.

Give it a shot and post a test comment to this blog post. Happy blogging...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why Do You Read?

I had two ah-ha moments this morning. One about teaching reading and the other about blogging.

I just spent two days watching some full day kindergarten programs. Both programs were pretty different in terms of their curricular programming and instructional delivery, but both had their kids reading at high levels. I saw a lot and took many notes. As I was rereading my notes and reflecting on what I saw, I took a break to catch up on some of the blogs that I follow. On Stephanie Sandifer's blog Change Agency, she wrote a post titled Love of Reading… and my fear…. In her post, she was actually reflecting on another blog post by Angela Maiers. In her post, Angela describes a scenario of watching her son “get through” his weekly reading assignment, after which he tells her:
“Mom, I hate reading. I did not want to tell you that, ’cause I know that it’s your job and reading is a big deal to you, but I really really hate it. I dream of the day when I will never have to do reading again. If I was on a dessert island, I would rather die of starvation, than read a book. And, if you think I am weird or something, you gotta know, all my friends feel exactly the same way.”
Stephanie reflected on this quote and wrote:

My beautiful 15 month old twins are voracious “readers” right now. They LOVE their books and will spend a great deal of time every day “reading” as many of their books as they can. Not only do they love to crawl into my lap with a book and demand that I read it to them, they also sit by themselves, flipping pages, and babbling as they stop on each page. They point to the pictures and tell me the story in their own words. Of course they aren’t reading the words on the page — but they get the concept and most importantly, they LOVE the concept of reading a book.

My biggest fear is that someday, somewhere, some teacher will destroy their love of reading by giving them “reading assignments” that make reading feel more like a chore rather than a pleasurable activity.

I have never met Stephanie or Angela. Neither of them know who I am or that I am currently trying to digest my observations of two full day kindergarten programs. Nevertheless, their reflections based on their own experiences help me to crystallize my first ah-ha on what I had experienced.

Although both programs we visited had their students reading at high levels, I am not sure that the levels of intrinsic interest to read were the same. I think if you asked the students from both classes "Why do you read?", the answers would be different. How would you want your students to respond to that question? Would you want your students to say "to discover new things" or "because Mrs. So-and-so thinks it is important". The boy in this picture is my son Evan at age 4. He already loves reading. I would be devastated if he came home and told me what Angela's boy told her.

In education, because of the length of time it takes to achieve our final product (13 years) and student motivation being an integral part of achieving a quality result, the processes we employ to achieve each step along the way are critical to achieving our long term goals. I wrote a post titled Long Road Trips & Education: An Analogy on my other blog "blogkhead" back in August where I take this issue into more depth.

The other ah-ha about blogging... I'll leave for you to "infer" from what I've already written.

...Cross posted at blogkhead.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

My notes from 4/30 visit to observe Susan Kempton

The following were the notes I took from our visit on 4/30 to Sue Kempton's classroom. I have not organized or checked them for mistakes or even if they make sense. They were line of thought things that hit me while visiting. I am still digesting.
  • Keep AM in tact. No specials in morning.
  • Book check out is daily homework. This means parent or other person reading to child not the child reading.
  • Nonfiction is really important.
  • Inference is huge right now. 2 year olds can infer. Use word clues and picture clues.
  • Don't pick the book apart the first time you read it.
  • Song and movement throughout the day.
  • No chairs.
  • Workshop model - Mini lesson, guided instruction, independent work.
  • Pay attention to questioning.
  • Hugs and talks individually to every child as they enter the classroom.
  • Who's absent chart.
  • Book check out
  • Math board- twelve is the answer. What is the story (inferring)
  • A lot of choice to start with free exploration
  • Shape cards hung from ceiling
  • IA helping student with sight words on the go.
  • Beautiful bird art work displayed. All displayed work is art – no writing or other curricular work displayed.
  • Transitioned to all students reading independently, with partners, and with teacher
  • Lights off signal to get quiet
  • Teacher gives directions very quietly
  • Whole nonfiction shelf animal theme
  • No staff name badges
  • No visitors badges required
  • Turns off lights to transition.
  • Slow transitions
  • Each child gently urged to join transition
  • Can you help him? With spelling on crown
  • Does anyone have anything to share?
  • Shared stuff they discovered in the books they read.
  • Asked inferring questions
  • Pointed out vocabulary
  • A lot of white noise competing
  • Connect to previous learning
  • Bunny roams around freely
  • None of the kids raise their hands during some discussion times – they are allowed to popcorn out with their responses
  • “Rich” words
  • Connected learning to previous learning again.
  • Say it in a loud voice because I know you know this. -empowering
  • I want you to look at these pictures because I am going to ask some of you to do this.
  • No teacher desk
  • I want you to do some thinking about why poachers would want to kill a cheetah.
  • What do they want from the cheetah?
  • Kids identify kids who are absent
  • Not full participation when given direction
  • 9:00 How do we know it is Thursday
  • Because it starts with th
  • I am glad you said th and not just t because that would be tursday
  • Picture of twin towers displayed and labeled
  • Morning message-
  • I want to see the first part of the year – how dis these kindergarteners get to this point?
  • Discipline handled very publicly sometimes.
  • What clues did you see that said we are having cupcakes and juice today?
  • 9:25 first movement break - song played on CD player
  • Finished with a sit down movement song
  • I have a new book to read to you.
  • Pay attention to the word and picture clues
  • The author does not tell you who Charlie Anderson is and how they got her name. Can you infer who Charlie Anderson is before we start reading?
  • Stopped top discuss and practice purring
  • 9:40 shared student writing from yesterday
  • Would you refocus please - student left to tape spot - raise your hand when you are ready to come back
  • Go ahead and get your writing
  • Reread your piece first.
  • Plays music softly during writing
  • What do you want the reader to infer from your writing?
  • IA stayed at back table the whole time – Sue roamed around other tables
  • Does not focus on case, buy does work on punctuation and spacing but mostly on content.
  • Reread your writing and listen for your stops
  • You're going to show with your words that you are going to have fun but you are not going to come right out and say that
  • Always starts with - will you read your writing to me?
  • Can you infer how he is feeling- during I message?
  • Back table with IA needed more help with sound spelling
  • 10:20 We need to stop now.
  • I am going to have Jade share.
  • Sue is OK with transitions taking longer and urging them over quietly and individually.
  • What can you infer from her writing
  • Nursery rhymes are very important
  • Public handling of disagreements builds confidence to speak up for themselves.
  • Her and here - what do you notice about the difference between these words.
  • Rearranged the words and asked what letter is missing.
  • MCSD teachers tell me we need more books - lots more nonfiction.
  • Use inference to decide words at word level not just concept level.
  • Uses metacognitive vocab with students- even major units of study (schema, inference, visualizing, questioning
  • Did break into leveled groups
  • Sight word work, partner reading or independent reading with others
  • Sue individually conferences with students reading like writing.
  • Independent readers were very actively engaged.
  • Used song to transition from reading to lunch.
  • Many song books read independently and shared.
  • 12:30 shared read from song book
  • Mathematicians job is to answer shared math problem
  • Math consists of building numbers in all the ways they can. Starts with the hand game. All about number sense/ concept. She calls it numeration?
  • A lot of independent work is done worth teacher doing lots of conferencing in all curricula.
  • I have not seen any of the students do the I messages on their own.
  • Workshop process is the same for all subjects (reading, writing, math)
  • Not much in the way of labeling evident in the classroom
Questions that I had (many were answered later in our conversation):
  • What would be most effective - 2 IAs in the morning or 1 all day?
  • Where is the word wall?
  • Where is the alphabet chart?
  • Do you have other book tubs not out?
  • Respect and caring only character/ rules displayed?
  • What is the purpose of the tape on the floor?- I want to learn more about "refocusing"
  • Did any of your kids start with no English?- they all seem quite fluent now
  • What is the reasoning behind no erasers?
  • What did the boy do to get his word cards picked out?
  • Do you do leveled groups for lit block?
  • What resources do you recommend in terms of helping us with inferring? (List of books, philosophy, lesson plans/ing)
  • Do you get a classroom budget (how much)? How do you spend it?
  • No nap time- do you do nap time earlier in the year?
  • Is it this way all year? How do you get them to this point?
Question Sue asked us:
  • What will you do away with?