It's been cold. The sort of weather where you step outside and it feels like your nostril hairs are instantly frozen. But with lots of gear, we still went out. All sorts of activities become instantly new and exciting in the icy snow. The slide is faster than ever before. You can drag shapes in the snow while swinging on your belly. Bubbles freeze into globes you can hold, then shatter in new ways. There was ice to crack, snow for shoveling pathways, and sled rides with an impressive team of "sled dogs." We reveled in the feel of the sun on our faces, in the moments when we had sun, and looked at the length of our shadows in these shortest of days.
We did our best these last weeks to kindle some light and celebrate the holidays. From making cinnamon ornaments to reading stories about the solstice, our classroom embraced lots of different holiday traditions. Each child gathered greens and other beautiful finds in our woods to make a bundle for a friend and wrote a note to that friend celebrating something special. Nancy told us a story about how Pegasus discovered Christmas, then told us about Mrs. Glitten's Mittens. You can ask your child to help tell these stories to you.
Our morning meetings this last week focused on getting everyone ready for our performance. The children became experts in our Spanish song, "Hot Cross Buns" on the recorder, and our round of "We Are Thankful."
Both Theresa and I did a series of activities around the Twelve Days of Christmas. The younger children made a book of the song. They wrote their numbers, learned ordinal numbers (first, second, etc.), and made the connection between representing a number and a numeral by drawing "five golden rings." The older children tackled my question, "Just how many gifts did your true love give to you?" We made an estimate, used a chart to organize the information, made new estimates halfway through the process, and used lots of strategies to add all of those numbers together.
Our Theme: Maps
How do you give directions using east, west, north, and south? The children practiced navigating through maps using the compass rose and counting city blocks. They also built a map of an imaginary world using salt dough. We made a key to help identify the volcanoes, mountain ranges, grasslands, deserts, lakes, rivers, and forests that made up their countries. Then we color coded each country. The children used their writing skills to share some of the rich details they created, naming each country and detailing each aspect of their world. And of course we read more books about maps, including a class favorite Mapping Penny's World, a dog's world through maps.
In this time of technology, Common Core does not put a big emphasis on handwriting, and I understand why. However, twelve years of observing young children work on forming their letters has made me value this process. Their is a deep concentration at work here. Each morning the children come in, greet friends, hang up their backpacks, sign in, and then grab their workbooks. Some of them want to keep going after they have finished their page for the morning. The New York Times helped me feel good about the time I spend on handwriting in the classroom with the following article:
Our performance and bonfire on Friday were a highlight of my December, and I hope that everyone finds some time to be joyful with your children in the days to come. Enjoy your time away, and I look forward to welcoming everyone back in January!