Sunday, September 18, 2016


Our long summer days get shorter.
The nights get crisper.

And then one fine September day, our beautiful school building--busy all summer with campers--sees the yellow buses pull up again, delivering bright, shining faces to our front door. The parking lot is once again crowded with parents and their children.

Another school year begins.

Every school year provides us all with a fresh start. What I love so much about teaching is that it continually taps into and renews my hopes, aspirations, nurturing, and wonder. Every year, we have new dynamics, friendships, academic needs and goals, and social agendas that must be addressed. Every year, I get to know my 2nd graders as scholars and social beings. Although I can hit the ground running with my 3rd graders, I get to see them in a new light: this year's mentors and leaders, and the learners I know so well and for whom I have the very clearest of goals on all fronts.

Right now, my class of 2nd and 3rd graders is transitioning. Out of summer. From their long days with you, moms and dads. Separating from the bounty of those picnics and family gatherings. Maybe adjusting to having more structure again in their daily lives. There's a letting go of those delicious summer days that needs to happen. For us all.

Sometimes in these early days, you may notice your child is more tired, cranky, or clingy. Your child is doing a whole lot of work right now. Gearing up for the challenges and joys ahead and adjusting to being in the company of scores of other humans. As the adults in their lives, we can provide comfort and ease through this transition by setting up clear routines, certainty about what happens where and when, and resetting expectations about their responsibilities to us.

In school this week, we will craft our classroom rules together. We will establish classroom jobs. Keep strengthening our response to the signal for quiet. At Morning Meeting, we will greet each other each day with strong eye contact and a kind and respectful tone. We will notice and share the kindness we see in our classmates, and discuss what it means to be a good friend. We will re-start our Power of Flexibility curriculum and work on bending and altering course when the situation requires it.

And we will read, discovering and reinforcing what a "just right" book means for each child. We will write, moving from drafts they have completed into a second go at revision, a task quite challenging to most 7, 8, and 9 year olds. We will continue reviewing and strengthening concepts in math, such as place value, automaticity with basic facts, reading word problems with care, and taking the time to share thinking on the page.

And we will laugh together. Often.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day 1

Here are the 2-3s on day 1 in music, finding their inner dance stars. 

We shared the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, one of my favorite picture books about a teeny tiny girl loving herself in spite of being clumsy, buck-toothed, and having a voice "like a bullfrog being strangled by a boa constrictor." While others might find this cumbersome to getting along in the world, Molly has always heard from her grandmother that she should believe in herself. And so she does. 

Molly's confidence is put to the test at a new school with a boy who belittles her. Repeatedly. Molly stands tall, proves herself, and wins everyone over, including that boy. 
This book provides a great jumping off point for us as we form friendships, work on our friendships, and build a strong community. It helps us talk about how we should treat each other. And it reminds the children to stand tall and believe in themselves. 

It was a fantastic first day with your thoughtful and talented children!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Classroom Life in Pictures--Part 4 Sciencing

Parker students "do" science. They observe and record findings from our land. They utilize tools to expand their observations. They move. They think. They share. Science class is active.

As we begin our spring unit on China, science learning is circling around inventions as so many were created in ancient China. Activities right now are all about kid-created inventions.

Our Hudson Valley Community College student teacher, Hannah, led a lesson on inventions. Each child was given a collection of items, from puff balls, nuts, and washers to googly eyes, plastic utensils, tape, and glue. The children were tasked with creating devices, tools, or creative renderings from these humble materials. The group was completely absorbed and with such an open-ended assignment, their imaginations took over!

Right before spring break, Kate took the group down to the creek. Their task: creating inventions from only sticks and stones for use by forest creatures. There were bird houses, bird gyms, fairy houses, and the like. The children worked in teams and then explained to us what they had designed.

Here they were earlier in the year, learning the basics of pH testing in the science lab:

Exploring the pond's turbidity:

Using microscopes to look closely at wooly bear caterpillars, the Isabella tiger moth, and other moths.

Observing wooly bears and measuring their segments:

There is still so much sciencing ahead!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Classroom Life in Pictures--Part 3 Making Our Learning Visible

This is a group of makers. Over the course of this year, the 2-3s have created countless things to both discover and share new knowledge.

In art class, the 2-3s drew dinosaur skeletons and are now making paper mache models of their dinosaurs. This work deepens their learning and makes their understanding visible.

While working on last semester's theme--How Our Land Changed Over Time--these creatives never tired of building their model landscapes and structures to complement their research on Native Americans, colonial settlers, or cities.



Their life-size paintings also demonstrated a connection to period clothing styles. 

To complement her exploration of water turbines during our theme study, one 2nd grader worked at home with her dad to construct a miniature water wheel that actually powered a light. She presented her work to us and we all got so much out of that fantastic extension of learning.

The 2-3s also make things as an expression of artistry. Here the 3rd graders kicked off our unit on 2-D geometry by celebrating their talents with geo-boards and pattern blocks. Yes, they went 3-D with the pattern blocks. They couldn't help themselves. :-)

If you offer these makers a chance to make mini-apple pies, they are immediately on board. ;-)
Sarah, last semester's fantastic Hudson Valley Community College student teacher, closed out her time in the 2-3s with this baking experience.

Give a 2-3 a piece of paper and you never know what might emerge. 

Origami and paper airplanes, for sure...

...and also one fine day, signs to advocate for endangered animals.

Followed by an impromptu rally in the hallway to raise awareness among middle schoolers.