Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cyr Wheel

People practicing their cyr wheel tricks is an only-in-Santa-Monica thing. The cyr wheel is an extra-large wheel made of three to five plastic-coated metal pieces that fit together with Allen screws. It spins like a penny, and circus performers do stunts with it.
Only in Santa Monica... :)


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ballet Class


Today's Breakfast in the Classroom

School started at 8:20, and we weren't done with breakfast until after 9:00. Two unopened milks and two perfect apples were put on the "common table" (food kids don't want, but that other kids can eat second helpings) and not consumed, so they had to go into the trash. (There were also coffee cake muffins, string cheese, and apples - five of each I think - that were never taken out of the insulated bag that had to be returned to the cafeteria to be counted and then go into the trash.) No milk was spilled, but before breakfast had even been passed out, one student spilled his full water bottle on his desk, and on the table with all of my equipment (laptop, projector, document reader) as well as a thesaurus, and onto the floor and onto a - thankfully - unplugged surge protector.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Birdies in Progress...

Here are 4 of my students' bird drawings (Lesson 1 from Drawing With Children) in progress. You can see how they chose to make each of their drawings special. (I love this book!)



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday: Books, Breakfast in the Classroom, and a Goose

I've been so busy with the beginning of school, I haven't had time to blog. But here's what is going on:
  1. Our current read aloud is Winnie the Pooh. It's magnificent, and so different from the Disneyfied Winnie the Pooh. For example, after Christopher Robin nails on Eeyore's tail, Eeyore is joyful.
  2. A twaddle book my daughter checked out from the library: Nate the Great Talks Turkey. I liked the original Nate the Great because it was written like film noir detective voice over, so it was humorous. But Talks Turkey was just awful. First of all, it was way too long. One of the things that made the original so enjoyable was that it was short enough to read in a single sitting. Second, the character of Olivia is a stereotype - a spoiled rich girl - unlikable and unadmirable. Third, it doesn't make sense. I don't know how I got lost reading a book for 2nd graders, but I did, and I don't want to waste my time re-reading it to see if (and that's a big if) there was something I missed.
  3. We start breakfast in the classroom on Thursday. I don't like this idea. I think that part of being a parent is feeding your child. I am all for feeding children who don't get fed at home. But I am opposed to encouraging students whose parents can feed them at home to eat school breakfast so the school can earn a monetary incentive. (70% participation = 20 cents per child per day for the school to do with as they choose.)  I am opposed to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in waste this program creates. (Uneaten hot food MUST be thrown away. ANY food removed from the insulated bags must be eaten within the 15 minute breakfast or thrown away or donated to a nonprofit organization - but there are all sorts of stipulations on donations.  Each student MUST take a full meal - example: granola bar, string cheese, apple, milk - from the bag, even if they only want the apple. Students can NOT take ANY of the food home.) Most importantly, I am opposed to diminishing the role of the parent.
    Breakfast in the classroom insulated coolers
    Dystopian fantasy: This program will lead to many students eating at school because their friends are eating. Students will develop the belief that they are entitled to no charge meals, and this will become a district-wide culture. These students will grow to be adults who believe that their children are entitled to no charge meals, and that they are not responsible for feeding their children. Their reliance on the government to parent their offspring further diminishes their role, and the members of this society are stripped of a part of what it means to be human - making whatever sacrifices necessary to feed one's child. It's a society in which people can no longer relate to Jean Valjean stealing bread. 
  4. On a lighter note... My four year old made this:
    It's a goose riding a skateboard.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I Survived the First Week Back at School


  1. I started IEW on Wednesday with my fourth graders. I'm using the Grammar Fix-Ups ("The Nose Tree") as part of my ELD time because, as the new principal stated at our meeting the day before school started, "The only two subjects mandated in California are ELD and P.E." I guess that means I don't have to teach your kids math or history or anything else this year.
  2. My students are loving IEW. Wednesday, we read "Sea Snakes" and made key word outlines. Thursday, we did public speaking with "Sea Snakes." And today, we read and did a KWO for "The Boy and The Nuts."
  3. Our math program is new this year, so I feel like I'm one page ahead of the students (in some ways). It's pretty nuts. Each kid has two fat consumable math books. Volume 1 has 474 pages! I don't understand how we can possibly get through almost 1,000 pages of math in one year. Also, the books are so busy. They're lime green. And they have flash cards that can be torn out for every chapter, and foldables that can be torn out for every chapter, and everything is full color. We did the pre-test, made the flash cards, and started Lesson 1, but we still haven't gotten to the guided practice! Then there is independent practice, and finally a homework page! There are only 14 chapters, but at this rate, I'm not going to get to Chapters 10 through 14!!!
  4. My students have gotten two compliments from the principal, one for how they were walking in the hall, and one when she walked in during math and everyone was participating in the lesson on place value. I told my students that when the class reaches 5 compliments, they will get a treat. This is the first time I've done this, but I want them to earn her compliments. It will make my year so much nicer.
  5. I taught my students how to play National Number Knockout. Some of my students LOVED this game. One of my students even got up and taught the class about factorials! :)
  6. I started the first art lesson in Drawing With Children, so we drew most of a bird. We will finish the legs and the tree next week.
  7. I taught my students how to have a class meeting at the end of the day, and my students have been so sweet to each other (and to me). It's a big change from last year and I am so grateful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The First Day of School

  1. I let the Teletubbies babysit my child for an hour so I could grade reading diagnostic tests.
  2. 73% of my class is reading on level! :)
  3. I only have 22 students, which means that one of our (eight) 4th grade classes will most likely be collapsed, and the students in that class will be dispersed to the remaining seven classes. I have more seniority than a couple of the teachers at my grade level, so it will not be my class that is collapsed.
  4. None of my students were disrespectful toward me. None of my students were violent toward anyone. No one tattled on anyone after recess or lunch. YAY!!! (This is the opposite of how last year started off.)
  5. My principal (new to our school) complimented my class on how nicely they walked through the hallway. YAY!!!
  6. I "clocked out" (stopped grading papers, making heterogeneous groups, making homogeneous reading groups for phonics instruction, making a painstakingly-thought-out seating chart) at  7:45 p.m. People who think that teachers only work 8 to 3 - you are so so wrong.
  7. My legs hurt. I walked 6.34 miles yesterday (including 14 flights of stairs) walking back and forth across campus, setting up my classroom. Today, while teaching, I "only" walked 4 miles. ;)
  8. My daughter is enjoying Art Camp this week. Today, she made chocolate chip pancakes and painted a cardboard castle. :)
  9. While I was at work, my husband went grocery shopping - without me having to make a list! :) :) :)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cherub Choir

     At church, learning two songs to sing next month ("The Lord is My Shepherd" and "We are the Church").

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Last Tadpole Swim Lesson

Today was my four year old's last Tadpole swim lesson. She graduated to Guppy.
It was also the end of summer Family Splash Day, which meant that there were Wibit races (we came in 2nd), snow cones, root beer floats, and crafts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's Tuesday, I think...

We went to my classroom again today. My husband installed eyelet hooks in my walls (not District approved) and ran twine "clotheslines" across the room, so that I can hang student work using clothespins.

I started out as a middle school teacher, so decorating an elementary classroom is not something that I find easy or enjoyable. I like chalkboards and handicrafts, not whiteboards and arts-and-crafts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

School Starts Next Week

My head is swimming. I went to my classroom for the first time since packing it up in June, and with my husband's help, I put butcher paper on my bulletin boards. I'm going back tomorrow to check more items off the endless list of Things To Do...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Charlotte Mason Composition: Preparing for the Precis

How do we prepare for the precis?

In Form III (~7th grade), the first step is summarizing.

If we're following the Charlotte Mason method of teaching composition, we don't need to require our students to summarize until Form III. Prior to Form III, we're allowing our students to become fully immersed in the world of the story. We're not imposing constraints as to how our students can interact with the text.

But in Form III, we begin requiring our students to get critical, to look for the main idea, to decide what is most and more important. This is what students must do to write a summary. But what must we, the teachers, do to facilitate this?

We have to limit. If a student usually writes a 3 page narration, limit the student to fewer than 2 pages for a summary. This is a hypothetical starting place, not a rule. If a student usually writes n pages, limit the student's summary to < n pages. It's as simple as that. Have the student to talk through the summary before they put it on paper, giving them the opportunity to remember relevant information and decide where to put it, or to "delete" less important information. The limitation will force the student to decide what they really want to include.

But this is just the beginning of preparing to write the precis.

In Forms I and II, we're not explicitly teaching things like text structure or genre or author's purpose. That doesn't mean we can't gently teach it, pointing things out as they come up. ("So, do you think Alice in Wonderland is realistic or fantastic?") We can do this, or we can not.

However, in Form III, we are teaching author's craft (narrative elements and literary devices).

Another way of thinking about it is like this:
  • In Form I, the student learns how to form letters & practices writing by copying other people's words.
  • In Form II, the student adds to what they know about writing by learning how to use the rules of our language (grammar) & practicing those rules in their written narrations.
  • In Form III, the student adds to what they know about writing by learning about author's craft & practicing author's craft in their own writing.
Learning and practicing.

The student must know about narrative elements and literary devices before writing a precis, because the precis weaves together a summary of a work and an analysis of the author's craft. This is not to say that a student must learn each and every last literary device before attempting a precis. In the same way that a student learns a grammar rule, and practices that grammar rule in their own writing, adding to their rule list, the student learns an author's tool, and practices using that tool in their own writing, adding to their "tool box." Rules and tools.

And that's how we prepare for the precis.


Your thoughts on this? I'd love to hear them. :)

Nature Study at Temescal Gateway Park

My daughter volunteered to carry the coyote pelt around for people in last night's Temescal Campfire audience to pet.
The topic of last night's campfire was Diversity. The lesson was about how the area where we live is home to a lot of different animals including mountain lions, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and skunks.

The campfire leader told a story about a mountain lion named P-22, and whenever he said the words mountain lion, coyote, or skunk, we had to make animal noises. Then he told us what to do if we ever saw a mountain lion (face the mountain lion and back away slowly, making yourself look as big as possible); I don't ever want to have to try that out. Some of the children, like my daughter, got to carry pelts around the audience, and then we played animal charades. It was all very fun.

After the lesson, the leader led everyone in singing silly songs like Boom Chicka Boom, and we roasted marshmallows for s'mores.

Some of my friends and our kids ventured off in the dark to "look for Batman's cave," and wound up hiking around for half an hour on a narrow and sometimes treacherous trail. Though we didn't find Batman, we did find the parking lot, so we considered it a success. A good time was had by all. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Busy Living Life

The past two days have been filled with swimming at the pool, ballet class, splashing at the ocean, and campfire at Temescal Canyon (including a 30 minute hike in the dark!). Trying to pack as much as we can into the last days of summer vacation...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Quite Possibly The Best Tuesday Ever

Today, our day was jam-packed with fun.

First, we spent the morning at our friend's house for home(pre)school co-op.

Second, we spent the afternoon at the public library. There was a free showing of The Wizard of Oz on the big screen - with the sing-a-long subtitles. There were more adults than children in the audience, many of them retirees, and it was so sweet to hear everyone singing.

Third, my four year old earned her 10 hour independent reading prize at the library - an inflatable guitar and a gift certificate for a meal at a restaurant called Rosti.

Fourth, we walked home from the library to discover people setting up for National Night Out in the Santa Monica Civic Center parking lot.

(If you're unfamiliar with National Night Out, it's a free event designed to promote neighborhood spirit, a positive police-community relationship, and crime and drug prevention.)

We dropped our newly-chosen library books at home, and then headed over. To top it all off, we ran into friends and got to hang out with them all evening!

There was a bouncy slide, a bouncy obstacle course, an inflatable rock climbing wall, bungee trampolines, a fire truck, a paddy wagon, police motor cycles, police horses, hot dogs, cheese pizza, snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn, a craft table, booths for everything from the Big Blue Bus to D.A.R.E. to the police forensics doing finger printing, carnival games with prizes like glow-stick bracelets and balloon punching bags, free stuff from all the booths like pencils and key chains and temporary tattoos, loud music, and a raffle.

And guess who won the very first raffle prize?

It was me! And I never win anything.

My prize was a $50 gift certificate to a gastro pub called Ashland Hill. I've never been there, but after winning the gift certificate, I googled the menu. Their signature hamburger is described like this: red onion bacon jam, sharp white cheddar, paprika aioli, watercress, & herb Parmesan fries. I love food, so I'm looking forward to trying something new.

Could we possibly have packed more fun into a single day?

Preschool Road Safety Craft

Today our home(pre)school co-op kicked off our safety month with a lesson about road safety.

Our host mom showed a cartoon about road safety, and we talked about holding parents' hands when crossing the street and not running after balls that roll into the road. She also made traffic light cookies (rectangular sugar cookies on popsicle sticks, decorated with green, yellow, and red M&Ms). So cute! (One thing we didn't do is to have the kids play the game Red Light Green Light, but they were having so much fun playing other things that it wasn't missed.)

I wish I could have taken a better photo of the craft, but my phone is currently out of commission, and this is the best I could do with my webcam. Had I been able to take a panoramic shot, you would have seen there are four cars in total.

Our host mom cut black poster board length-wise (so the poster board strips were each 2'4" by 5 1/2"). Then she pre-painted a white dashed line down the middle of each. I think she probably used White-Out for the dashed line.

First, our preschoolers drove toy cars with paint on their wheels down their streets. My daughter chose blue and fluorescent pink paint. They loved doing this. (Fluorescent colors are great choices for this craft.)

Next, they got to glue on cars, and a traffic light (made from construction paper circles and a popsicle stick). Some of the little ones used markers to draw stick people driving the cars.

Finally, they glued on stickers of balls (footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs) as a reminder not to go into the road when their balls roll into the street.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Miniature Golf

One of the fun things we did this summer was play miniature golf with Poppa. Since it was my daughter's first time playing and she didn't know that the objective was to get a low score, she was determined to get her ball in each hole, no matter how many strokes it took.

I won, but in Poppa's defense, he did play one-handed. ;)


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Little Bo Peep and Eeyores

In an effort to get into the habit of reading poetry, I've been choosing a couple of nursery rhyme books each time we visit the library.

Today, while we were reading from Lavender's Blue (published in 1954, compiled by Kathleen Lines and illustrated by Harold Jones - I love these illustrations), we read all five stanzas of Little Bo Peep. Did you know this part of the poem? (If I've heard or read it before, I sure didn't remember it.)

It happened one day as Bo-Peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.

She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
Then went o'er hill and dale,
And tried what she could, as a shepherdess should,
To tack to each sheep its tail. 

I told my daughter it was like how Christopher Robin has to attach Eeyore's tail. And she said, yes, that Christopher Robin uses a hammer and a nail, and then she added, "But real sheep and real Eeyores don't need their tails attached."
 


 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Through the Eyes of a Preschooler

My four year old likes to cook, and now that she can read quite a bit, she enjoyed reading a recipe for French omelettes. She cracked the eggs, beat the eggs, added salt, spooned the butter into the hot pan, and watched it melt. I added some of the melted butter to the beaten eggs because this part is a mommy-job. She poured the eggs into the pan, pricked the omelette with a fork, helped me slice cheese, and added it to her omelette.

She ate the whole thing.
This painting started out as a green letter "n." Then it became a pair of green goggles. Then land. Then she told me she was making "the waters above and the waters below" (we've been doing Grapevine stick-figuring), and she painted the vertical blue line and declared it a waterfall. Next, she painted a very, very long "canoe with a yellow sail" (about to go over the waterfall, which didn't seem to bother her). She painted nine purple people in the canoe, and then giggled and told me it was raining. She decided the people needed red raincoats.
Here's where we are in reading (The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington).
A couple of minutes of piano practice. Merrily we roll along...
Time to play baseball!

Linked up at ihomeschoolnetwork's 7th Annual Not Back to School Blog Hop.