Helping Kids Flourish in Kindergarten and Beyond
Our 100th Day of school is Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010! We need your help in 2 important ways. On Thursday, your child  brought home a template to make a 100th day project. Please read the directions and help your child complete the project and return it to school by Tuesday, February 2, 2010.  We will display our projects and talk about them. Since this project will take some time, we did not send red book bags home this week.
Also, on the 100th day we will have many fun activities to celebrate and learn about the number 100.  Please stop by the classroom to sign up to bring one of our important items. We appreciate your help. If you would like to help in class on our special day, please let us know. There will be many opportunities to assist us in our exciting day.
Thank you so much ☺

First off, I must say that Miss Harrington and I fully appreciate all of your support in helping our kids feel happy, safe and engaged in our class.  When an issue arises, it's very important that our students know that we will communicate with you, the parents, who can help us achieve our goals.
This week, on Thursday, many factors contributed to a very difficult day, where many of the students became disrespectful of each other and adults, namely Miss Harrington, actively disregarding the classroom expectations. There was a prospective kindergarten parent walk-through, which definitely impacted the kids as 20 adults walked into the classroom staring and observing their actions. Then, after recess, there was a fire drill, which undoubtedly caused stress for their little minds.  We understand that these events can cause some reactions for kids, and thus give them some leeway on days like this.
On Thursday, however, during literacy center time, some kids( not all of course!) were jumping off chairs, throwing pencils, running to the front of the room and ringing the teacher chime. In the afternoon, things improved somewhat, though some students were still influenced by those around them making poor choices.
It might seem unusual for teachers to be so candid about a situation that we "should be able to control," but we truly believe in a team approach to school success. So what did we do to hopefully ensure that this will not happen again?
We had a class meeting on Friday where we discussed the events that took place and named the positive behaviors we should have displayed. We discussed each student's responsibility for taking charge of himself and not following others' poor choices. Everyone seemed to understand that they cannot blame others for their choices; we all have a choice whether to follow a bad example or ignore someone acting out for attention. We also gave the logical consequence of taking away Friday morning literacy "choice" time as students had lots of work to finish from the prior day!
So, what can you do to help? Please talk to your child about how they must follow classroom expectations no matter which teacher is in charge that day.  It's our responsibility to communicate and ensure that learning time is not lost to behavioral issues. Miss Harrington is a valued teaching partner and the students must see us as equal authorities in the class. We work hard to be consistent in our messages and expectations..Thanks so much for your support. We appreciate you.
Sometimes it's very easy to underestimate the capabilities of young children. I am guilty of occasionally opening something when a child asks instead of scaffolding or supporting their ability to perform the task. When I can, I try to show kids where to place their hands, show them the pulling motion, and watch in delight as their face glows in pride as they perform a task they didn't think they could do.
  When children come to school, we put them in many situations that require independence, and actually, at their stage of development, they crave it! With first grade on the horizon, it seems a good time to talk about some simple ways to build independence and efficacy in your child. 
One easy way to help your child overcome hurdles to independence is to help your child with the first part of a task only to the point where they can continue on their own. For example, if a child is trying to write a new word, play a game where you both pretend you are pulling something stretchy like gum, out of your mouth. If your child can isolate the first sound and identify it, great. If not, give a few choices before you say the answer. Some kids expect that we will just give the answer because, in trying to be helpful, we have given them answers before.  It might sound a bit harsh to deny help right away, but as long as kids expect adults to "do for them" they are not getting the opportunity to build confidence and efficacy.
Another way you can help is at school. If you are a parent helper or just helping your child get started on morning work, ask your child how he/she can figure out what to do before asking for help. Morning work is usually at a level where independent work is possible, so with a little bit of focus, your child should be able to decide where to start. We encourage kids to ask questions if they are not sure, of course, but we also try to build their "thinking skills" by trying to figure out the task first. As kids do their morning work, we walk around and check for understanding. We offer help when needed and try not to get in the way of kids building their independence and efficacy.
Finally, give your child an opportunity to help with jobs and chores at home. In our classroom, every child has a job every day. They LOVE to do their jobs and get upset when a day passes and they didn't get a chance to do their jobs. Give kids jobs and praise them for their hard work and dedication to completing the task well.
We want our students to leave our classroom knowing that they are capable of anything they set their minds to. "How" we offer help greatly impacts their confidence and independence. 

As is often the case when I have "free" time, I spent some time on this rainy day exploring resources recommended to me by teachers in my PLN ( professional learning network.) I have made friends with teachers across the globe through Twitter ( believe it or not!) and they have led me to some wonderful learning tools, such as the one I am about to tell you about.
Glogster is a fun website where anyone can build an online poster using pictures, video clips, audio, text to tell about themselves or to demonstrate learning of a subject. As I learn more about the site I will invite you to let your children help me build a "glog" on something of interest to them. The great thing is that the tool is free and allows kids to sign in and contribute under the teacher's account. I will let you know more as I learn to navigate the site better. For now, here is a glog I created entitled, "Who is Mrs. Young?"

As I mentioned in our newsletter, we had two lively lessons and discussions about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday this week. In the next couple days I  will attempt to upload the brief video clips where I filmed the kids' answers to the question: Why was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. important? For now, listed below are the pearls of wisdom shared by your children. If your child does not have a response listed, this means that he/she didn't want to share with me as I interviewed and filmed each child. Also, the kids were not able to hear their peers' answers so I could get their own ideas. They enjoyed watching their videos on Friday.
David:  “He was responsible.”

Aidan: “He said no fighting.”

Reeya: “He told people to not fight.”

Maverick: “He wanted things to change.”

Roberto:  “He didn’t want people to fight.”
Jaden: “He wanted change.”

Cameran: “He changed the law by talking.”

Christian: “He changed the laws.”

Aynsley: “He helped people.”
Rosemary: “ He was important because he told them not to fight and people helped him change  the laws.”

Samantha: “He wanted to change the rules.”

Justin:  “He wanted to change the rules because things weren’t happening good.”

Ryan: “ He wanted to be the boss.”
Olivia :“ He changed the rules of the white people and the black people.”

Vanya:    “He was nice and he wanted everyone to be nice. He was special. He was famous.”
Zayn: “He wanted it to be fair for everyone.”

Madeline: “He wanted peace for everyone.”

Maria: “He helped.”

We are easing back into our routines and doing quite well this week! Please take a moment to remind your child of the importance of respect in class; not just respectful listening to the teachers, but to each other. In addition, we have had to discuss keeping our bodies safely away from each other as their have been a few instances of "accidental" bumping into each other or hitting. 
I have been meeting individually with students this week, to assess their CAP ( letter identification and concepts of print) and reading levels; I am thrilled to see the dramatic growth among our students!  Within the next week, I will send home a letter reporting the letters that your child still needs to master. Although many of the students have mastered letter identification, it's still important to practice proper letter formation, handwriting, and identifying letter sounds. Blending short consonant vowel consonant words such as "cat" "top" "dog" will help your child practice important skills as we get ready to move into leveled reading groups over the next week. Meeting in these small groups on a daily basis will allow us to challenge each student at their reading level. 
This week, with the help of one of our awesome parent helpers, we compiled, stapled and passed out student picture dictionaries to keep in student desks to help with writing. We learned a fun game where students give each other clues while looking at a picture in the dictionary. Ask your child questions like these: What animal begins with letter "T" and has stripes? They love to play guessing games like this and build their letter sound skills in the process.
It's great to be back in class with your bright-eyed, enthusiastic children. As always, we appreciate your support !