After our first full week of school, everyone is truly settling in. It's great seeing how the returning students help to teach our new students about everything from cleaning up applesauce spills to the dance for Down in the Valley. Our new students bring all sorts of enthusiasm and opportunities for new friendships. It's a joy to watch.
Free Choice Time
Every day starts with a chunk of free choice time. The children build complex block structures and populate them with little people or horses. They make up plays and perform them for friends. They create piles of play dough cookies and then sell them to their classmates. I watch for moments to practice math, writing, and reading skills. Do you need a menu for the restaurant? Here's a nickel for my cookie, but you told me it cost 3 cents. Do you want to write the title of your play on the puppet theater? Even without my suggestions, the children point out the value of different coins, create signs for their zoo, and engage in the challenging work of negotiation that happens when you play with others. They are learning not because I am standing in front of them talking but because they are actively engaged in doing.
Each morning Theresa and I gather everyone together for a our morning circle. We do some sort of movement activity with a song that is in English or Spanish. We model literacy skills as we write a letter about our day. The children help us to sound out words, add punctuation, and predict what word might come next in a sentence. It also gives us a jumping off point for class discussions.
A Good Story
Every day we read books in class both individually and as a whole group. This week many of our books focused on learning more about each other and making sure that our school is a safe place to be for all of us. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox gave us a great jumping off point for a discussion about how people are the same and different, in our class, and in the world. Each child made a page for our class book Things We Love, and we added this book to our class library after reading it to each other. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann inspired another book. This time we created safety tips inspired by Officer Buckle. I traced each child on block paper for some self portraits, and after reading The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, we tried to mix up paint the same color as our skin. This lesson in patience and color will continue next week as we keep trying to get a shade that matches with our skin.
The first and second graders spent this week investigating geometry and fractions using pattern blocks. We figured out how many of a certain shape we need to fill a hexagon, composed larger shapes out of smaller shapes, and began to explore fractions. We emphasized the importance of equal parts, wrote fractions, and started to experiment with the idea of equivalent fractions.
The Number Gnome has been visiting Theresa and inspiring her with ideas for the Pre-K, K math class. This week, the kids worked to make order out of chaos by organizing manipulatives. The practiced counting, sorting and organizing rods, beads, stones and string. We talked about the word "strategies" and how we can use many different strategies to arrange materials in a logical way.
I love the way all of these parts of our day build our class into a learning community. We question, challenge ourselves, and figure things out together.