Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adults and Books we LOVE!

It's been another BUSY week here in the Learning Garden! Our intern, Mr. Mihajlovic, joined us Monday through Wednesday. He worked with some small groups. The kids are enjoying having yet another adult in the room. On Tuesday, we were really rocking and rolling as Mr. M. and Grandma and Grandpa Nations came in to work with us!

Here are some of the kids playing an alphabet mitten game with Mr. M.

And speaking of people we LOVE coming to see us....Chitra and Lindsey are back!  We are preparing to complete a FUN mural project here at Southside this semester.  The artists are working with the kids on filling space and adding details to their art work.

You can see we are also learning to work on something that is "tile sized" so that we can get "dimensions" in our pictures.

And, just as important to our Learning Garden FUN are you wonderful parents!  The "Mystery Readers" are back...Here's our first Mystery Reader of 2012 coming in to share a VERY FUN book with us.

This book is called "Finklehopper Frog" by Irene Livingston and it is a FUN read with a great message about being kind to others and understanding differences.  I'll be looking for it REAL soon on "half.com" (my favorite online bookstore).  

The sweet audience enjoyed every moment of this story as much as their teacher.
Here are some of the sweet illustrations. 

And speaking of great books...we read another "new favorite read" of mine this week called "One Winter's Day"...also a book of kindness and friendship.  I love this one too because it has a TON of great vocabulary in it and blends so nicely with our Storytown series this week.  We decided to try our hand at a new activity...making B,M,E flip books.  These kids did a GREAT job illustrating (and writing about) the beginning, middle and end of this story.  

Can you see how this artist depicted the wind in the first illustration?  I love how they are mimicking what they see in other illustrations!  

Here's the front cover of the flip books:  

And check out some of the others:

I love this one "Woo" (for the blustery wind) then "We need help" for the friends who needed to get out of the storm.  And "home' for the home the animals built for hedgehog because he showed so much kindness.

And this one:  "He is blowing away" (B), "He is giving the mice his hat" (M) and "Badger is showing the hedgehog the house." (E).  

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Last weekend I was supposed to run a 12 mile long run in preparation for the half marathon in February.  I've never run 12 miles before.  But I've been training for this and felt I was ready.  I set out on the run with a good attitude and ready to go.  The first six miles went quite well for me.  I stopped to get a drink and then continued.  Somewhere in the seventh mile I knew I simply could not go on.  I had hit a wall.  There was no way I was going to make another mile much less FIVE more miles during that run.  I know runners have to push past walls, but I was also dealing with some severe knee pain.  I had no stamina to continue.  

That was the last time I have run for a week as I've been dealing with some sort of sinus congestion.  

This past week in the classroom I was working with small groups and again reminded just how similar learning is in any setting and how similar my learning to run is to these young children learning to read and write.  The learner must have the stamina for whatever the task is...large or small.  And some days our stamina shifts and doesn't allow us to complete something we thought we could.  

You and I might look at a simple sentence like "The _____ went in."  and think "any early reader should be able to fill in the blank and write those four words.  It's not THAT hard".  Still, I had some of my best readers and writers struggling with just that task.  Their stamina was low.  Their wall was up and we weren't going to be able to continue.  

Just like the readers, there are great runners who would look at my slow running and say, "C'mon 12 miles is NOTHING...especially at the pace you're doing."  As I've told many of you, I couldn't run 30 seconds last March.  And if someone had told me then that I'd even consider running 12 miles all at once-- on purpose--I would have LAUGHED and said, "There's NO WAY!"  I simply didn't have the stamina for it.  

The truth of the matter is this...sometimes what we don't have stamina for one day, we can build up to for another day. It's a gradual thing.  And it takes time.  The readers in our classroom will be fine. And, for that matter, so will their runner teacher!   In no time four words will seem like nothing at all.  While I don't think you'll hear me say that "12 miles is nothing at all".  I know it's getting easier to do.  We all just need to keep pressing on and building our stamina. 

Inch by inch, word by word, lesson by lesson, practice session by practice session...we'll get there.  

Happy Learning!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penguins, Mittens, Centers and Book Buddies OH MY!

By way of follow-up, I wanted to share our Penguin schema chart AND our recorded observations about what Penguins "are" "can" and "have".  I love this activity as it really pushes kids to think about the learning we've done by reading so many books and watching clips online and synthesize it into smaller chunks of information.  

As usual, I like to allow the kids to use their "kid writing," but we're ramping that up as well.  My expectation is that those who can really stretch those words out to add all the sounds they think they hear and/or use the resources in the classroom to help figure out how to spell something.  It's obvious if you make it big, that we're all across the board in this skill...but EVERYONE is making progress and I LOVE that!
 For the past two days we've read two different versions of "The Mitten".  We read the one by Jan Brett and then the one by Jim Ayelsworth.  We talked about what it means when an author 'retells' and/or 'adapts' a story.  Then, each student created his or her own version of the mitten.  The only parameters were:  each mitten could have no fewer than five animals and no more than ten and students had to label their animals.  As usual, I am NOT disappointed in their creativity!  The juices were FLOWING in our classroom today:

 And, the kids are SO excited that we've begun using our easel!  Here are some of their amazing creations so far.  I just cannot look at these pieces of art and help but wonder WHY some people want to cut the arts out of schools!  Children need to learn how to express themselves.  AND what stories are behind each of these creations?  I'd venture to say there are pages and pages just waiting to be written in most of their heads!
Check out some of the center work that we did today...

We LOVE to listen to stories

 And we're learning to play with the ActivBoard more.

We rounded out our day with a visit from our 4th Grade Book Buddies.  What a GREAT visit we had while we shared a snack and books together!

Do you know what I REALLY love about our buddies?  They are like an extension of our Learning Garden family!  Whenever we see them in the hall, our K kids get SO excited.  And when we hear their names on the morning news celebrating line behavior and/or lunchroom behavior, the kids in the Learning Garden CLAP and CELEBRATE too.  And I'm told the reverse is true with the fourth graders as well.  If there's one lesson the whole human race could stand to be reminded of, I believe it's the power of community!  We must learn to reach out to one another and celebrate who we are together--and these kids are simply catching a glimpse of that.  And it brings us pure joy to watch it.

Happy Friday and Happy LEARNING!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

These KIDS....

ROCK!  My Learning Garden kids don't let anything throw them.  We had visitors in today (six to be exact) to watch us learn together and they did a GREAT job!  I love how they just keep on keeping on when things change in our world.  Our teacher friends got to see the kids thinking, learning, and growing together.  They also got to see some of the deep thinking we do about text in our classroom.  The fact that it was the first day back after a long weekend didn't throw them.  The fact that we were out of our regular program (due to the short week) didn't throw them.  The fact that it took a bit longer on the rug today because of the LONNNGGG calendar catch up we had to do didn't throw them.  Nothing threw them.  And I couldn't be PROUDER!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Penguins on Parade...

 One thing that's really difficult in a state like Florida, it's hard to teach concepts like Winter.  If kids haven't really been in snow, then they don't really have a true schema for it.  Still, we do our best to teach some of the concepts to our tropically raised students.  I love to do this by talking about winter animals---and my favorite is the penguin.

We started this week by making a schema chart for penguins.  I love the schema that our thinkers already had!  (We've added to our learning this week and I'll take a picture of the whole chart next week sometime.)
 To create the chart, each student wrote about his or her schema for penguins.  I have tried multiple times to get these to line up the way I want them to, but Blogger has a mind of its own and is turning my photos again!  So, please turn your head (or your screen) for the next few pictures!

We also got creative and completed this penguin glyph in Math.  Here's the key for the penguins and then you'll see the display of penguins gracing our walls as you read this!

I had to laugh because our kids know that the Learning Garden is steeped in creativity.  Suddenly after finishing the regular directions I started seeing penguins get clothed and decorated in true artistic fashion.  Enjoy some of their amazing work!

Happy January!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hopes and Dreams...

I just LOVE kid writing! Their approximations are so CUTE...and when they start to get the idea that print carries the message...well, let's just say that's better than the most scrumptious dessert for this K teacher!  
We've been working hard since we came back from Winter break creating a book that tells about our hopes and dreams for 2012 and helps us take a look back at 2011.  We had a couple of parents help us complete these books, so writers were not totally on their own to approximate, but I LOVE the result.  I am TERRIBLY sorry that some of these photos rotated when I put them into blogger, so I'm going to translate...but I wanted to leave them so that you could blow them up and take a peek at some very creative writers from our Learning Garden:  

When I grow up I want to be a Marine Biologist.  

 When I grow up I want to be a rock star.  (Don't you just LOVE IT?)

 In 2012, I hope I get to learn how to play my guitar.  A place I want to go in 2012 is Adventure Island.

 Best thing that happened in 2011 is seeing friends.  When I grow up I want to be an Astronaut.

 When I grow up I want to be an ice cream seller.

 When I grow up I want to be six or ten.  (Now THAT'S an interesting idea of "grown up"!)

When I grow up I want to be a writer.  

When I grow up I want to be in the NHL on Tampa Bay Lightning Team.  

 When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian.  A place I want to go in 2012 is I want to swim with dolphins.

When I grow up I want to be a big boy!