Helping Kids Flourish in Kindergarten and Beyond
Each week, as you know, we learn a sight word, also called a "high" frequency word. We use music and a variety of hands on strategies, from making words with magnetic letters to making collages and puzzles with the words.  Many kids who are shy about speaking in front of peers will sing openly, giving us an "in" where we can teach those tricky words that usually can't be sounded out!
Just click here"Sight Word Songs for You to Sing and Learn." to hear the songs! Have your child teach you the lyrics! You can use the mini-books your child brings home for the lyrics or you can go to and download them.  
I often hear people saying, " I ask my kids how their day was, or what they learned in school and all I get is a shrug of the shoulders and a " I don't know." I think it's very helpful to realize that right after school, many kids are tired. Emotionally tired from interacting with others all day, physically tired from thinking and playing all day, and just plain tired! Kids do want to tell us about their lives; just come into Kindergarten for an hour and count how many times a child wants to tell me a story about something going on in his or her life.
I think that having regular modes of fun communication with your child can help bridge this gap between what you want to know and what they tell you! Here are some ideas to make communicating and connecting with your child fun and meaningful.
  • Interactive Journal: If you are a teacher, you can probably talk about the wonderful benefits to literacy when kids write to you in an interactive journal. At home parents and kids can write in a journal as a way of connecting without talking aloud. You could draw a picture, doodle a message, tell a funny joke, or ask a fun question like, " What was one exciting or interesting thing that happened today?" Your child will have a chance to respond to you, ( without you reading over his/her shoulder) with a written answer, a picture, or simply a question back to you. The goal is to continue a conversation, and the conversation is about your child's world. It's not a place to correct spelling, but a place to celebrate the wonderful relationship you have with this amazing thoughtful young person.
  • Model the Way: Model how to share important events of the day by sharing with your spouse or another adult in your child's presence. Many times we don't talk about ourselves with other adults in front of our children because we think they are too young or aren't interested in our stories. Of course it is important to share stories that are appropriate, but the key is that if you want kids to learn to share, you must model the way :-)
  • Magic Message: Kids love magic and fun! At the beach, write a message to your child in the sand. Let him answer and then continue the conversation. At home, write a message with kid shower gel/foam on the bathtub wall. Kids love to write in shaving cream, supervised of course!
  • Family Gratitude Board:Hang a dry erase or bulletin board where everyone will see it at some point each day. It could be a small board in the laundry room, kitchen, even bathroom! Each member of the family writes about something they appreciate about someone in the family. Parents can model their appreciation for each other as well to show children that sometimes people can have a conflict, but still appreciate and thank each other. Let each child choose his color to write with. The key is: be consistent and demonstrate the power of gratitude. Many studies prove that expressing gratitude makes people experience well-being.
  • Surprise them with Sticky Notes: Kids of all ages enjoy notes cheering them on or supporting them through a new challenge. Help your child take on a new challenge by celebrating their little wins. Communicate that you are so thankful to have them in your family. Writing is a powerful way of communicating that leaves something behind for the child to read, again and again. Give them sticky notes to write their own for you :-)
  • There are many ways to connect and build a trusting relationship with your child. Feel free to share your stories and hints.
Today was such a great day in our class!! As we always do on Thursdays after lunch, we set out to clean out our desks and complete any remaining work.  We had begun a fun book, "Monster Colors" during literacy centers but this book was definitely a longer project than the allotted 20 minute center time. As a special privilege, because students were following classroom expectations, :-)  I allowed the kids to use markers to write the color word and to outline the different colored monsters. In the background I played the music from the Curious George soundtrack, particularly focusing on the songs that mentioned sharing and friendship. As many of the kids recognized the songs, I enthusiastically shared how the music makes me feel calm and happy. "It makes me happy too," chimed several little voices.  Kids began singing along as they worked, staying focused and on task for much longer than I had ever seen them before. As they found and completed papers in their desks, they energetically popped over to ask me a question or hand me a paper to put in their Thursday envelopes. Each and every student was committed, engaged, and fully present, doing their best to take their time and do their highest quality work.  I gave them updates on how much time they had until "calendar time", yet when I announced the ending of our work time, they begged for me to reset the timer so that all of their work could be done and sent home. I smiled to myself as I put 10 more minutes on the timer. Kids were begging to work! Who would have imagined that just a few weeks ago?
Book bags are due on Tuesday each week!!
I am so sorry about any confusion about the time frame for returning the weekly red book bags.  Evidently the papers inside the book bag journal say something about returning the book bags on Friday which is not correct! Sorry about that :-( As I tell the students, "even teachers make mistakes!"  The activities listed on those sheets are excellent ways to help your child get the most out of the books. The daily suggestions are just ideas to help you engage with your child and read the book more than one time.
As I have been doing my assessments I am realizing that many students do not know that the word "title" means "name" of the book. Many know what a title page is, but when a book does not have a title page they are confused and don't seem to realize that the title is on the front cover. As you read the book each week, be sure to ask your child about where to find the title, author and illustrator. We discuss these "concepts of print" regularly, but some kids are just not incorporating them yet.
Thanks for your support. Kids thrive when parents and teachers work together to support learning. 
It's fun in Kindergarten where assessments are all one- on -one. Seriously it is actually enjoyable except for the part where we have to keep the 19 other students engaged in work as we assess one student at a time.
 As I assessed students this week in preparation for upcoming parent teacher goal setting conferences, kids were constantly coming up to say "test me! test me!" How often do you hear kids at school begging for tests? Young kids are eager to learn; we just have to find ways to make learning accessible for different types of learners.
Our class is diverse, with kids at varying developmental stages in reading, writing, social skills and math. Although some students are more mature and able to focus, they are still very cautious and do not like to make mistakes!  The goal for the entire year is to create a safe environment where kids will be willing to take risks and make mistakes on their path to learning. You can help develop your child's literacy skills in many simple ways:
1) Work on letter identification, letter formation, and letter sounds ( phonics) so that your child is able to blend words while reading and slowly break down words into sounds for writing.
2) Reinforce the message that we give in the classroom that students are responsible for their learning. Each week we focus on a new sight word as well as a new letter. Let your child know that he/she is responsible for mastering all of the material.
3) Practice reading whenever possible in the environment. It can be fun to play "I Spy" games while driving or shopping. Kids often learn to read environmental print, such as the writing on signs, cereal boxes and more.
4) Review the weekly work that comes home in the Thursday envelope. When your child has written a simple sentence, ask him/her to read it to you. We are working on a key strategy of 1:1 correspondence; students are to point to each word as they read so they understand that each written word means you can only say one word. Many early readers have not yet mastered this skill and read several words where there was one word when I tested them.
5) Help your child to know that pictures in books provide clues to the words. If a book text has a picture of a baby for instance, and your child  "guesses" the word baby by looking at the picture and the initial "b" sound, he/she is actually using an important early reading skill.
Most importantly, talk with your child about how he/she is working hard in class. Each day we have a class meeting where students share about a time they put forth their best effort.  We believe that it's critical to recognize effort and commitment to learning.  Thank you for sharing your precious children with us. We are well on our way to a very productive school year of learning!