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February is a month of celebration at Country Classroom! We have a whole gaggle of birthdays. For each one, we sit down in our community circle and think of a special wish for the birthday child. Everyone whispers or thinks the wish into a little stone or shell that is passed around the group. The ritual is carefully followed and honored. Celebrating Valentine's Day this week brought our classroom community closer as well, and again we have traditions that are maintained. Everyone takes the time to write and deliver cards for all of the other children. Finally, we spent some time this month looking at the 4th of July and learning why we celebrate that holiday.

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day at Country Classroom was a lesson in love. Everyone helped to distribute cards to our whole community with our older students taking the younger ones under wing. We had everything from glittery painted hearts to sticky bug cards, and everyone made a point of thanking their friends. Tara read Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell about a cat who wants to give the whole world a hug. Our guest reader this week, retired librarian extraordinaire Diane, continued the love theme with A Book of Hugs by Dave Ross and

ASL with Tara

We have been working hard in Sign Language class and have mastered how to fingerspell our names and introduce ourselves..."My name is..." followed by "nice to meet you". All of the students made beautiful ASL name tags to decorate the classroom and use as a guide. We jumped right in to learning family signs like mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, boy, girl, cousin, aunt and uncle. Next we moved on to learning signs for feelings like happy, sad, bored, excited, surprised, scared and tired. We also talked about how important our facial expressions are with signing and that we not only use our hands but our faces to communicate. This week we reviewed animal signs and had fun acting all of those out and talking about how a lot of the signs really look like the animals. The entire school has also been working on learning "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in sign language (look at the picture in the middle) and have had fun practicing that at circle time all together. It has been so much fun watching so many students "signing" to each other at snack time and asking me how to sign this and that throughout the day. We even learned how to sign "Happy Valentine's Day" (picture on the right).

Cheryl's PreK Reflections

There was a lot of love given and talked about this week with our theme of 'families'. All the World is a personal favorite children's book that the children read and then re-read throughout the week pointing out pictures of our 'community' or 'human' family. They noticed how we can share food with others at a farmer's market and a meal at a restaurant, or play and enjoy music with one another to share love. "We are a human family because we share the sunset," one friend noticed. Scissors cut out heart 'leaves' for our school family trees which proudly display the pictures/names of our students in our classroom. We stretched this idea by creating our own family trees, drawing pictures and writing names of those in our own immediate families on heart leaves and attaching to sticks in a paper towel roll. The youngest really reveled in the love given to them by the entire school as they delicately took out each valentine in their bag and smiled. The letter "U' was practiced with paintbrushes in the air, in play dough, on chalkboards and with watercolors. We used our sense of sight to be detectives and spy for signs of Spring outside - then collaged some spring things to look out for. An egg carton and tiny wooden beads lent themselves to a fun number identification game and pincer grasp work. The warmth both outside (collecting water in drainpipes into cones! excitement and play with streams flowing!) and inside (hugs between 3 year olds/ so many of our students sharing that they are grateful for their friends at school during lunch/ saying "I will miss you" to one another) warmed this teacher's heart as we leave for a winter break.

Theme: Turning the Revolutionary War Into a Play?!

I admit that when I started planning this theme last month I was a little daunted about how to keep this developmentally appropriate for all of our students. I decided to focus on building a full picture of the American colonies in the late 18th century, and then look at the reasons why the colonists (at least some of them) were getting frustrated. "So King George was really bad?" asked one student this week. It was a great opportunity to bring in the idea of a world of grays. "What do you think? Why did he need extra money?" The children and I talked about the French and Indian War and how the colonists welcomed King George's interference then, but now when he was trying to pay for the expense of that war, they didn't want to help pay. "So the colonists were bad?" "Well, they didn't have anyone representing their needs in England's government. They had no say in the laws that they were supposed to follow."

We talked about why we celebrate the Fourth of July and how lots of us don't really think about the Declaration of Independence while we're barbecuing and eating our watermelon. We read The 4th of July Story and When Mr. Jefferson Came to Philadelphia. The children are helping me to put all of this learning into a play.

We're not digging quite deep enough to get a true understanding of all the women and people of color who played roles in the revolution (on both sides), but we have talked about them a little and read Mumbet's Declaration of Independence. It's an inspiring story of how one slave took the messages of freedom that spurred the American revolution and applied those ideas of freedom to herself. She challenged the legality of slavery in Massachusetts in 1781 and won her freedom. Ask your child to tell you a little bit about her story.

One final celebration note: perfect packing snow and the melting of snow that is making our spring come to bubbling life!

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