Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You can't dampen these spirits!

Although these girls are clearly happy to be back, the rainy days were a fitting start to the school year that came on the heel of a sudden change in our administration. After a frantic August dealing with business related surprises, with the help of devoted parents and friends, the school days, now, are sunny, inside and outside.
Mrs. T used the opportunity to introduce cloud types to the class. This is a good site for planning a lesson on cloud types.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

waves of whales!

We've been reading about the whales in the sea and using our whale models that are to scale with each other. The children painted these whale cutouts to look like their corresponding models. With the help of their teacher, several children figured out the size of a person next to the whales. That inspired some to improve upon the scene by drawing and cutting out people to swim among the friendly giants. And hearing about the practice of whaling for blubber and whale meat prompted the addition of "no whaling" signs to be posted in the ocean!

And whenever I teach about whales (especially the blue whale) who swim in the northern ocean hunting for plankton to sweep into their baleen-filled mouths, we talk of the blubber that insulates the whales from the coldness. I always have this little demonstration ready for them :
Put a lot of vegetable shortening in a heavy plastic quart bag. This will be the whale's blubber. With your hand inside another heavy plastic sandwich bag, push into the shortening-filled bag to form the shortening into a 1 1/2 inch wall under and on all sides of your hand. Make sure no shortening oozes out of the top of the bag or gets on your hand. Remove your hand, leaving the bag inside the bag holding the shortening.
Have a large bowl of ice cubes and water ready. Each child puts a hand inside the clean bag stuck into the shortening bag. You place their hand in the bag in the "blubber" inside a half gallon plastic bag (to make sure no water gets inside their hand or the "blubber"). Now push their hand in the bag in the "blubber" in the large plastic bag down into the ice water. Surprise!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Every year at this time, it's exciting to see the 6 and almost 6 year olds discover that they really can write. For some it takes a bit of nudging. To those who are intimidated by the task of writing about something, I tell them to just write whatever they are thinking at the moment. Likewise, to those daunted by the request to write a sentence, I say that any thought that is in their head is likely to be a sentence. This relaxes them from the initial panic we often see upon suggesting this activity. The result is empowering. Suddenly there are little authors everywhere avidly writing story after story.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring fun

Another great idea from Play Based Learning. The children can also make their own garden supports with the plastic pipes and connectors.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

paper bag basket

Your children can make this simple paper bag basket for spring. Use plain brown lunch bags. This is a clean Panera bag, hence the design on it.
  1. Start by cutting from the top to just above the bottom of the bag at 1/2 inch intervals.
  2. Using a dull knife, pull it along the bottom of each strip to curl them. Or the children can roll the strips on a pencil to curl them.
  3. Voila! A basket (or nest) ready for filling. Also~ two opposite strips could be left uncurled, then joined at the top for a handle. It probably should be reinforced, though, with a heavier strip glued underneath from the inside of the basket, under the handle to the other side.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


We have present and past Japanese students. Their contribution to the culture of our school is priceless. Our hearts and thoughts go out to them and their families during this dreadful time in Japan.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy birthday

Mrs. D., our founder, celebrated her 90th birthday this past weekend. Dozens and dozens of former students and parents of former students converged upon the school to greet her. She was surprised and delighted to be so honored. Over the years she has touched the lives of well over a thousand children and their parents. She still enjoys being in the school to see the children's work and listen to them read.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Fraction Game

I use this game to introduce fractions to kindergarten age children and higher. Through it, they learn that when the denominator number is smaller, the fraction piece is larger. It also helps them to visualize how fractions can be added together.
Our fraction circles range from 1 whole to a circle of ten tenths. For the game, I made up 3/4 by 3/4 inch squares with all of the fractions printed on them. There is one "1" and two "1/2" squares, three "1/3" squares, etc. To begin the game, the children place each of the fraction labels on the corresponding red fraction piece.
I cut label stickers to fit each side of two dice. On the sides I wrote fractions up to 1/10, since that is how far our fraction circles go. Each player (usually two) takes the base circle from the whole and the half fraction pieces. A child can play alone or with a friend. the object of the game is to see who can fill up their base circle first. The circle must be filled up exactly. Sometimes no one wins. They are eager to play again until there is a winner.
I begin by explaining that one half is one of two parts, one third is one of three parts, etc.
A player rolls the two dice, however, he can only use one of the fractions shown. He must choose the one that will best fill his circle. If neither fraction shown will fit into what remains of his circle, he must try again on the next turn. Although there often is no winner, this is a popular game.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Practicing making Chinese characters with these little overlay booklets. Each one shows the strokes for making a single Chinese character for a word. The pages are transparent to show how to build the character. Since each character fits into a square, plain paper divided into squares is used for practice. We use individual small squares of paper.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiger Moms

I'm sure you've heard the growl about "Tiger Mom" parenting. For the last 30 years, our school has attracted Asian families. Typically, these parents do expect excellence from their children. The children that I've known are well loved by both parents. Recognizing the potential and ability of each child to learn is part of the expression of that love. This was also part of Dr. Montessori's philosophy. She expected more of the children in her charge than any other educator of her day. And just as Dr. Montessori provided the children with materials and experiences to meet her expectations, Asian parents often use their free time to instruct and monitor their children.

While many of these children may spend their free time at home doing math problems at the kitchen table or diligently practicing an instrument, they are proud of their achievements. As a teacher, it is a joy to work with them. They are eager and not afraid to learn new materials and processes. They show respect for their teacher and other adults. Yet, these same children, appropriately and happily have fun, laugh and enjoy friends in school throughout the year.

Amy Chua's "Tiger Mom" is a bit extreme. However, the message that when you expect more you get more and that the child will benefit from the experience with self confidence that could not have been achieved any other way, is true.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To encourage or not ...

This young boy enjoys using the moveable alphabet and is capable of reading the words but reluctant to reading them on lists or in short books. When asked to read, he declined but Mrs. T paid no attention, sitting with him, coaxing him to read a simple book. He plodded through, and upon completion of the last page, he gushed, "Mrs. T, I'm glad you ignored my complaints!"

We find that many children need a bit of nudging, in reading as well as math. These are important areas and areas where the children themselves are happy to make strides. I imagine that is because their parents value progress in those areas. In this way, we still "follow the child" while helping those who need it, to make the right choices.