It felt so nice to be back at school this last week. After a lovely time away with lots of family and friend time, we could all just slip back into our rhythms of school life. The children wanted to share their adventures with me and each other, but they also seemed eager to sign in, grab their handwriting books, and settle in. I always feel like January and February are some of my best months for really delving into the academic work of school. While we continue to work on the social curriculum, the children are pretty good at solving their own problems. They know my expectations. They know how to clean up the classroom. We can truly dive into some learning!
Theme: Schoharie County History and Our Play
Before we jump fully into making a play about the colonists who lived in Schoharie County, we are gathering information and creating history books. We started our study by talking about the hunter gatherers who lived in New York 13,000 - 12,000 years ago. We imagined what their day to day life would be like as they followed herds of white-tailed deer and gathered roots, seeds, and berries. Then the children wrote and drew about this time. Then we jumped forward to the Mohawks and drew on the classes knowledge of the Haudenosaunee (or "People of the Longhouse"). Again the children took our discussion and synthesized it into a page to add to their books. Next week, we'll be moving into more "modern" times as we look at how the Dutch, English, and German settlers came to live in New York a few hundred years ago.
Preparing for a play means getting all of our acting muscles in shape as well. We've been practicing tongue twisters, facial expressions, clear diction, and using our bodies to tell a story. From passing around imaginary presents in a game I like to call "Thank You!" to playing charades, the children are working to share their rich creativity with each other and an audience.
Nancy is taking all of the children through the art and craft of telling a story. Everyone has become quite skilled at identifying the characters (main and supporting), setting, and plot of a story. This week she had one child come sit in front of the class. With careful questions, some encouragement, and a little support from the whole class, that child made up a great story about a zebra who really didn't want to leave the zoo and the penguins who helped to provide a distraction. It was great fun to watch, and as each child has this chance, they all learn more about how to develop and tell a story. She then rewarded all of that hard work with a re-telling of the story of Rabbit and the Will-o-the-Wisp.
Reading and Writing
In graduate school, my professors were big on creating a literacy rich environment. That's a classroom where children have lots of opportunities for meaningful reading and writing. We have different kinds of paper, easy access to the stapler or hole puncher for story making, and clipboards for carrying secret maps or doctor's prescriptions. We take attendance, check the jobs chart, and find out about the day in our morning message.
Lately, it's been fun to watch as more and more children claim their role as authors. Many of the stories they write during free choice time end up in our class library, and then the authors are frequently called on to read the stories to their peers. All of our class books are also fan favorites. Children happily read them over and over again. We talk about how the more we practice this skill of writing, the easier it gets for all of us.