Monday, August 7, 2017

Welcome to Kindergarten 2017-2018!

August 2017
Dear Kindergarten Families,


I am thrilled to welcome you and your family to Porters Point School! If we have not had a chance to meet yet, my name is Allison Donnelly. I will be your child’s kindergarten teacher this year. This is my sixth year teaching at Porters Point School. I have taught in special education, first grade and this is my fourth year teaching Kindergarten. Kindergarten is such an amazing year for a child. I am always impressed to see the growth that every student experiences. Students are involved in so many new opportunities to learn and play! I am so excited to start this school year and am honored to be a part of your child’s educational journey!
August  is our Kindergarten Smart Start. This will be a day where just kindergarteners can acclimate themselves to Porters Point School. Your child will be able to meet me, their classmates, other teachers in our building and practice things like, eating lunch and riding a school bus. Smart Start begins at 10am on August 29th and the kids are here until 1pm. We serve lunch to students, too.  There will be a time for parents to sit and meet me, as well as ask any questions.  You will need to provide transportation because there are no buses running that day. August 30th is our first full day of school.
The only thing I need from home is a short letter introducing me to your child. I have always found it helpful to hear your thoughts about your child’s strengths and what you hope for them in the upcoming year. It will be greatly appreciated if you bring that with you to Smart Start. Also, if you have a photograph of your family for a class collage please include that with your letter. I will provide folders and other classroom supplies for your child. If you are interested in donating any items from my wish list please consider:
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Tissues
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Colored Pencils
  • Glue Sticks
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Post-Its
  • White Cardstock Paper
  • Classroom snacks to share (i.e. Goldfish,granola bars,cheese sticks)
These items we use frequently and we often run out. Anything you would like to donate would be greatly appreciated!!


My goal is to have a weekly blogpost informing you of the happenings in Room 14. Stay tuned to missdonnellykinders.blogspot.com for updates! I also love posting photos throughout the school day on my Twitter account: @missdroom2.


In the coming weeks if you have any questions e-mail me at allison.donnelly@colchestersd.org or call me at school, 264-5920. I can't wait to meet you and begin our learning adventure together!


Sincerely,

Allison Donnelly

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Week in Review 5/30

News and Announcements:

For a short week, we sure have packed a lot in! Mighty Makers kicked off this week and kids got to work on making our playground a more beautiful and fun place to be! Thank you to volunteers who have joined us! Here are those links again if you would like to volunteer you time or donate materials:

Materials Donation
Supervision Volunteers
Behind the Scenes

Check out the Mighty Makers SeeSaw blog for breaking news from our Community Unity projects!

Make sure you send in Last Day of School BBQ forms by Monday :)

Reading:

This week was a heavy assessment week for Ms. Lawrence and I. We spent our reading time going through snap words, phonological awareness, and the reading inventory with every student. Our students proceeded with their independent work as we focused on our assessments.
Students are doing wonderful! They are demonstrating all the skills and strategies they worked so hard to learn this year.

Science:

We continued our work with the five senses this week. We finished our last 2 diagrams that show how the body parts send messages to our brains.
We also performed two activities this week to see the connection to our brains in action. We talked about how our senses are connected and often times to learn and understand our world, two senses work together. We talked about how our sense of hearing and sight work together. I challenged students to see if when they heard a sound, they could name what they were hearing without seeing it. Most students proposed that their sense of hearing was strong and that their brain could remember sounds and name what they were hearing. I used a sound effect app on my ipad and played various sounds. Students then recorded when they hear a siren, a dog bark, or a phone ring.
We also did another activity that challenged the brain's memory. Students were shown a tray with several objects on it, then students would only get a few seconds to see what was on the tray. Afterwards, they would draw from memory what they saw.

Math:

With Mighty Makers, we only had 1 math class this week! We used the time to reflect on our year as mathematicians. We looked over old pictures that stretched through the year. Then, we made a list of the things we learned to do in math this year.
As a follow up activity, students were then asked to create two word problems. The first word problem was to a problem for a kindergartener to solve at the very beginning of the year.
Students wrote problems like "I had 1 cookie and then my friend gave me 2 more. How many do I have all together?"
The second problem was to be a challenge problem for a kindergartener to solve at the end of the year. One student wrote this problem, "I had 151 pizzas. Then, I bought 23 more pizzas. How many do I have now?"
It was a great math class to have in the middle of our week to celebrate all that we have accomplished.

That's all for this week!
Best,
Allison

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Week in Review 5/22

News and Announcements:

I hope you all had a chance to read over Carolyn's newsletter explaining Project Based Learning(PBL). The kids were introduced to PBL this morning at Whole School Morning Meeting. We are calling the school-wide project "Mighty Makers". The kindergarten team will specifically be working on the Community Unity project. Here are the links to sign-up to volunteer your time or materials:
Materials Donation
Volunteer to Supervise Students
Volunteer to assemble projects "Behind the Scenes"

Next week, we will get to decorate our team hats and get started with our projects! It is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and get creative with the whole school.

If you have any questions about PBL or any other end of the year events, send me an e-mail! I know I am very dependent on my calendar right now and trying to keep all the dates and times straight!

Reading

This week Ms. Lawrence and I started end of the year literacy assessments. We are assessing snap words, letters and sounds and phonological awareness. Next week, I will assess students reading as a whole using the Fountas and Pinell Reading Inventory. This will give us a picture of your student as a reader, their ability to read with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. I am confident in all of our super readers!
We started a new unit in our reading this week that is really about bringing our year as readers full circle. We started the year with a unit focused around students seeing themselves as readers. We role-played our way into behaving like readers then dug in and did the work to learn how to read. Now, we are becoming avid readers. We spent the week exploring the question, "What is an avid reader?" I want students to leave kindergarten with a love of reading strong enough to push them through the summer straight into first grade. This unit is not about new skills but rather making sure students really understand that the learning they have done actually belongs to them. They have the strategies to read in new settings, be flexible, and transfer what they have learned anywhere. Here is the list our class brainstormed about what an avid read is:
1. Avid readers sometimes want to read alone or with someone else
2. Avid readers want to read books again, and again, and again, and again...
3. Avid readers read night and day
4. Avid readers read everywhere!!
5.Avid readers read all different types of books
6.Avid readers like to listen to books
7 Avid readers LOVE to read!
8 Avid readers never stop reading!
9.Avid readers read for their whole life
10. Avid readers read to relax
11. Avid readers never give up

The energy in our room was fantastic when we made this list! You could see the pride that every student had. It was so joyous to watch the students scurry off to grab their books and settle in.

Science and Writing

We are finishing the year with our stacked unit of writing and researching the Five Senses. This week we read several books about the senses, We are concentrating on several Big Ideas or learning objectives in this unit.
We want students to understand that every sense is associated with a body part. Students can name the five senses and the body part used with that sense. We also are working to understand that your sense help you learn about your world. Each sense sends messages to your brain.
This week our focus was learning the structure of each body part. We made diagrams to show the parts of an eye, the parts of the ear, and today the parts of the tongue. We will make a page for each sense and then create a book. After we learn the vocabulary and structure of the body parts, we will begin to conduct experiments to learn about how our senses work together, help us understand the world.

Math:

This week our focus was on place value. We played a game called Craft Stick bundles to represent two-digit numbers. Children were given a bag of craft sticks and needed to estimate how many were in the bag then count how many sticks were in the bag. We talked about using bundles of ten to make counting easier. We extended the activity by using ten frame recording sheets to represent the number in 10 frames as well.
Then, the challenge was to roll a dice with a 2-digit number on it and build the number using bundles of 10 and leaving the ones place out of the bundle. For example, students would roll the dice and get a number like 32. They would then have to visualize building 3 bundles of 10 and 2 ones, or 2 popsicle sticks on their own.
On the final day of this activity, students rolled 2 double digit dice and try to add the numbers together. Some students were solving the problem mentally and then asked to prove it using the bundles of craft sticks. The challenge problems came when regrouping was involved in the addition of the two dice. For example, what happens when you add 19+22. It was a great way for students to visualize making a new 10 when you add.
Ms. Lawrence spent the week teaching concepts around capacity. Students used their backpacks to measure the length, compare weights, and compare the width of backpacks. She also reviewed addition and subtraction games to always be practicing our fluency!

That is all for this week!

Best,

Allison

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Week in Review 5/15

News and Announcements:

We are back! I have had a crazy past two weeks, I apologize for not updating our blog! Between illness, Kindergarten Registration and Screening, and just the month of May I have really been rushing to get everything done.

I always feel like after April Break the rest of the year just flies by! Here are some end of the year dates for you to keep in mind as you are planning for the next couple weeks:
5/29- No School (Memorial Day)
5/26- 6/14 Project Based Learning
6/9 Step-up Day
6/16 Last Day of School

Project Based-Learning is a initiative for students to think deeply, creatively, and collaboratively about their world. Kindergarteners this year will work to answer the question, How can we make our playground a more kind an beautiful place. Next week, I will have more information about volunteer needs if you are interested in getting involved.

Step-up Day is a day were students will meet their first grade teacher and their classmates. In the morning, students will be given their name tag and teacher assignment. They will head to their new classroom, with a few friends from our room, and get to participate in some activities for about an hour.

The last day of school is a ton of fun! Starting at 9am the whole school will play bingo, have a dance party, and celebrate the amazing year we have had! Families are welcome to join us for any or all of our celebration. We will have a BBQ lunch and dismissal is at 12:45. When our final schedule is approved I will let you know. We are lucky to have some time as a class to have closure. I will be handing out certificates and having a little kindergarten "graduation". That is the part I encourage you to join us for!

Reading:
Our reading work has been focused around three major topics:Boosting vocabulary around prepositions, making predictions about our books, and reading Snap Words with inflected endings. We kicked off the big shift in this learning by talking about how our reading powers needed to be boosted to have "Extra Strength!" This set the tone that as we tackle more challenging books, we have the tools we need to read. The kids have really taken off with their reading. This learning coupled with the sense of First Grade coming has motivated our students to be more independent and even more confident when they read.
Boosting vocabulary around prepositions was an important focus for our reading. Prepositions are central to books with patterns. As books get more challening, the prepositions shift from "on" or "in" to "near" "behind" or "over". It is important to explicitly highlight prepositions becuase they can be read using the first letter sound and the picture. We used books and poems over the past two weeks to notice different prepositions.
Making predictions about our books is another important skill to bolster as books get more difficult. When starting a new book it is important to notice what is happening on the cover. We made predictions based on the illustration and title of the book. A simple conversation like this gets a student's mind working. It has their brains already thinking about the types of words they may encounter as they are reading. The great thing about reading higher level books is the need for accuracy decreases and a focus on comprehension comes to the forefront. As students are reading along they are thinking more about what words will come next to make a story, rather than focusing on a letter by letter, word by word. Students are now able to read texts with richer content, allowing us to discuss books more than before.
Reading Snap Words with inflected endings allows readers to be on the lookout for words they already know. In first grade, students will spend a lot of time "chunking" words. This means students will read unknown words by looking for known words. Compound words are great examples of words students will "chunk". In kindergarten, we encounter this concept when snap words have inflected endings. We discovered words like plays, comes, looking, looked, that's in our books. We talked about how snap words can "hide" and be "snap words in disguise".
We have a lot to celebrate in reading! Ms. Millham even came down and took a picture of us flexing our EXTRA STRENGTH reading muscles!

Writing

The improvement in our student's writing has been dramatic! I was walking around the room today looking over students shoulders and was so impressed with what I saw!
I have spent some time working with our class in handwriting. The idea production, research, organization, and even spelling is exceeding my expectations! However, all of this fabulous work is getting lost in their letters! We have had a few lessons this past week talking about what makes our writing easy to read. We went over the need for spaces, proper case, punctuation, and letter formation. You may have seen a few more handwriting practice sheets floating home. The students have taken the work seriously and am happy to report improvements in all students work!

We have focused our writing topics on informational writing since we have returned from break. The students have been using the term "all about books" to describe the genre they are working. Students used an online resource called Readworks to select a text to have read to them. Students listened to texts about sports, the rainforest, clouds, even one about bandaids to inform their writing. Then, students were able to write their own informational topic based on their research. The procedure students use is:
1. Read a book
2. Listen for facts
3. Think
4. Write an introduction
5. Write your own facts and pictures
6. Write an end

Each step was introduced bit by bit. In steps one and two my lessons were about how to access the digital resource, deciding which book I was most interested in, and to listen to the books many times. We spent time discussing why it is a good idea to listen to a book more than once. We also discussed the difference between a fact and an opinion.
Step 3 was about taking the information we heard in our research and turning it into our own book. This is a tricky concept, there are always a few kids who copy exactly what is in their resource. We spent time talking about how I could "add a pinch of me" to my story. This allowed students to elaborate on their topics based on their own prior knowledge.
As students gained strength in how to get started on the all about books, steps 4-6 came as second nature to them. Students are labeling detailed illustrations, being creative in their sentence structure, and even starting to develop their voices as writers.
I knew it was going to be a good workshop today when I was met with a loud cheer from our class when I announced it was time for writing!
We finished our writing assessment today and I am completely blown away! Our class is full of super writers.

Math

We have been working around three major themes since we returned from break, number pairs that add to ten, 3-Dimensional shapes, and fact fluency.
Some activities we completed to practice number pairs, or combinations as we sometimes call them, we did an activity called birds on a wire. I posed the problem, "I was walking to school and I saw a telephone pole with two wires. Then, I noticed 10 birds flying near the wires. Some birds landed on the top wire and some landed on the bottom wire. How many different ways could the birds land on the wires?" Most students in class gravitated to using pencil and paper to solve this problem. It was a great exercise not only discovering many ways to make 10, but also organization and precision. In an open response problem such as this, kindergarteners had to think about how big to draw the combinations to fit them on the page, and efficient way to represent the birds, and a way to keep track of the combinations they found. During our closure discussion, some students shared with us their thinking and the different ways they each approached the problem.
Ms. Lawrence worked with our students to practice modeling 3-dimensional shapes and learning the names of the shapes. There is a lot of new vocabulary associated with geometry for kindergarteners. Words to reinforce at home are cone, cube, cylinder, curve, round, edge, face, side, flat, straight, pyramid, rectangular prism, sphere, and vertex.
We have spent a great deal of time this year building conceptual understanding of addition and subtraction. We played games to provide engaging but repetitive practice of facts within 10. This is working towards the end of year expectation that students will be able to add and subtract within 5 fluently (or from memory).
We also worked this week on function machines. Function machines are a very basic form of algebra. Students are given an input and rule and need to determine the output.
We used this website to learn about the concept of a function machine. We then practiced independently with worksheets. Of course this classroom of mathematicians were not stumped by simple rules like +1 or -2 and inputs like 4 and 6. We quickly moved into double digit inputs, some double digit rules, and even having unknown  inputs with known outputs and known rules. We organized our work into t-charts, with inputs on one side and outputs on the other.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A week in Review 4/17

News and Announcements:

School Vacation is next week. I hope you have some time to spend with your kiddos or maybe are lucky enough to go somewhere warm! I really thought spring had sprung... Hoping this rain ends soon!

Reading:

This week were focused on reading words until the end. Readers have been solving words by looking at the beginning of words and this week we practiced looking all the way to the end to check our reading. My lessons were focused around explicit instruction to use visual information. I would cover up ends of words with sticky notes in shared reading. We would predict if the words would say "house" or "home" and as I uncovered the end we would justify our choice. "I know it is 'home' because it has an 'm' at the end" This is an important strategy as kids move into more challenging books. Plurals are an important part for students to attend to while they are building their reading accuracy.
The prompt I use when we are in reading groups to encourage reading the whole word is "Say the beginning sound and move your eyes to the ending" This connects directionality of text for students. As they move further along in their reading we can start to discuss the internal parts of words.
We also spent time to remember what we learned about blends. We were on the lookout for blends at the end of words. Blends like ch, th, or sh are often found at the end of words. It is important for readers to be aware of this possibility as they are still building their mastery of blends.
Mrs. Belaski's class came down this morning for reading buddies! They brought their entire book boxes this week! We went back to our lessons around Book Talk and let students practice their introduction and retelling skills this morning. The room was BUZZING with the voices of 38 readers!
We also spent time in reading this week reading non-fiction texts about dragonflies. I was using the dragonfly books to talk about text features specific to non-fiction texts such as headings, table of contents, glossary, and index. This class also got wrapped up in the facts they were learning about dragonflies. We asked a lot of questions and sought books and YouTube videos to answer our questions.

Writing and Science

We were writing non-stop this week! Check your students' folders tonight for their completed "How to Make Maple Syrup" Books.
The growth in students writing has been absolutely wonderful to watch. Students are so independent! I have noticed students including finger spaces, beginning, middle, and endings in their words!
My favorite part of writing the maple sugaring books is that every student had the experience of our field trip to draw on. With such a concrete experience, every child was able to discuss and write about the process of maple sugaring using appropriate vocabulary. It was great seeing kids use our word wall to write "evaporator" and "hydrometer" in their books.
After break we will continue writing informative books, we just will have open ended topics. Students will be able to select what they want to write about and we will continue to research the topics they are interested in.

Math:

The cap collection took over our math focus this week! Our routine this week was to start math class with an estimation of how many bottle caps were brought in that day. Then, we would try and figure out how many we had all together.  This led us to many interesting discussions about place value and how to solve 2 digit addition problems. Our final count was 283 caps in all! Thanks for sending all those caps in!! We spent our afternoon today organizing, sorting and counting our collection in different ways. Then, we got some free time to create anything we wanted with our caps-rocket ships, flowers, black widow spiders, and magic wands were all made our of our cap collection!
In our math rotations we continued to reinforce estimation. We would create collections of 10 and then compare it to an unknown amount. Estimation is very tricky. It requires strong visual reasoning as well as an understanding of the magnitude and cardinatlity of numbers. We really focused on defining "estimate" and justifying what makes a good estimate.
Ms. Lawrence reviewed teen numbers. She played familiar teen number games. We were finding students were forgetting what the 1 in front of a teen number means. We really focused on our mantra- "a teen number is 10 and some more!"

That is all the news for this week!

Allison




Monday, April 17, 2017

A week in review 4/10

News and Announcements:

The big happening at PPS this week was Taiko. I thoroughly enjoyed last nights performance. I really enjoyed watching the progression of kinders to second graders and the excitement on every child's face.

Ready, Set, Run starts next week! The first practice is Thursday April 20th from 3:00-4:00. I have always been a coach for this program and am so excited to get started. It is always fun to get outside and run! There are four teams and each team has two coaches. I will let you know next week what team your child is on. This is important to note because you will need to pick-up your child from the classroom their team is assigned, which is not necessarily our room.

Reading:
 This week we continued our work with blends and building snap words. We were on the hunt for blends in our books and even in Writer's Workshop! We continue to devote our book club time to practicing what strategy to use when. We are constantly reinforcing each reading strategy they have learned so far and coaching readers to be conscious of their strategy choices.

We also spent time reading and discussing Japanese literature. I went to our school library and picked out a few folktales to illustrate Japanese culture. We took a vote at the end of the week and the favorite among our class was The Drums Noto Hanto  by J. Alison James. This story was about a small village that used Taiko to trick attacking samurai into thinking they had a large army of monsters defending their crops. I think the kids really enjoyed having such a connection to the power of Taiko!

The theme of harmony was set for our Taiko work. We discussed the word harmony and the beginning of the week and tried to write a definition. Then, after our week of study, Mrs. B's class came down this morning to write another definition. At the beginning of the week most students thought harmony  was about kindness or celebrations, at the the end of the week students wrote about being together. One of my favorites was "Harmony means dancing to the beat!"

Writing and Science:

This week we started our study of informational writing. We used "How to Make Maple Syrup" as our topic. We talked about how there are different kinds of writing, just as there are different types of dogs or different types of flowers. In this unit, students will learn what makes informational writing different than the other types of writing we have studied this year.

In connection with our study of maple sugaring, we performed an evaporation experiment today. We have been talking a lot about the process of boiling sap into syrup. Students observed the machine used to boil sap, the evaporator, and the steam that is produced when water evaporates. Students were asked the question "Where does steam go?" The hypothesis our class came up with was, "Steam goes into the clouds." We set outside to test our hypothesis. Students were given cups of water and paintbrushes. Students painted on the sidewalk and watched as their paintings disappeared. We brought chalk outside to outline our water paintings and see what happened. We tested if water evaporated faster in the shade or in the sun. We also tested if water evaporated faster on metal or on the sidewalk. Our final experiment was to paint two pieces of construction paper and put one in a plastic bag. Students could see that the water vapor was getting trapped in the bag and was unable to get to the air. We concluded that when water evaporates it goes into the air.

Math:

We studied estimation and surveying this week. Our class collection was also an exciting focus in our math mini-lesson. Thank you for sending in bottle caps! We will keep collecting until Thursday next week!

We have studied surveys as a whole class. This week, the students were able to create their own survey question, conduct the survey and then represent the survey data. Students were very interested in creating their own survey question. We discussed how a survey should have choices. Some students wrote "Yes and No" questions other students conducted surveys that had three choices.
When it came to representing survey data, many students had difficulty with the concept of having the same unit to represent a vote. When students tried to draw a bar graph of their data, often their graph for 7 votes would be taller than 9 votes. To build understanding of this concept, next week we will use different sized blocks to show a bar graph needs to have the same unit to make the information on the graph easier to interpret. We will also discuss other ways to show data besides a bar graph. We will also present our survey data to each other and critique each other's work. We want to highlight what makes a representation easy to read and understand.

Estimation is tricky for young students! They want to be right in their estimation and often don't feel like they have made a good estimation unless they get the exact amount. This of course is not what we are aiming for when we estimate. We have talked about that an estimattion is a "quick guess, but a good guess" We used a control amount that we would compare a group to. For example, I put a bag of 10 macaroni out and then students would have to estimate how many pieces of macaroni were in their bag. It helped to have a visual comparison.


That is all for this week!

Allison


Friday, April 7, 2017

A Week in Review 4/3

News and Announcements:

I think I can officially say, Happy Spring! April showers bring May flowers, right? This has been another busy, action packed week for us Kindergartners!

Our Artist in Residency, Stuart Paton, led our whole school meeting this morning to kick off his week of teaching us how to play taiko. After playing a few songs,  Paton Sensei (this is how students address teachers in Japan and will be what the kids call him) engaged the students with facts about his types of drums, the history of Japanese drumming and taught some Japanese words. During UA classes next week, with the exception of our Guidance class on Wednesday, students will go down to the cafeteria to learn how to play the taiko drum. The entire floor of our multipurpose room is covered in drums! The sounds are rumbling down the hallways and the students are very excited to have this unique experience. I am looking forward to seeing them perform!

We also had good luck on our trip to the Audubon Sugarhouse on Wednesday. The rain held off and we got to tromp around the mud to learn how maple syrup is made! My favorite part is when we all get off the bus and the smell of syrup hung in the air!

Reading:

This week we extended and reinforced our learning around blends. We used a list of -l blends, -h blends,-r blends, and -s blends to write other words that started with the same blend. I would say a word and students would write the blend, indicating what blend matched. For example, I would say, "smoothie" and the students would look to our list to see if "smoothie" sounds like "star, swing, slide, or smile" after they decided which word was a match they would stretch and write the word on a whiteboard. When Mrs. Belaski’s class came down this morning, we used our lists to write words with a partner.
We have been working diligently in our book clubs as well. I am feeling very proud of the growth I am seeing in students. We have been practicing in our leveled readers, daily, building fluency, building our snap word recognition, as well as our comprehension. I am seeing the confidence grow in every student.

Writing and Science

Our study of Maple Sugaring will be the theme of our writing projects this week. We read non-fiction texts to inform our learning about how to make maple syrup. We practiced sequencing activities and illustrating a sugarbush. This week my goal was to expose students to the vocabulary required to understand how to make maple syrup. Check my Twitter for a picture of the word wall so you have an idea of the words we are trying to master this unit!

Next week, we will begin our study of writing informational texts. The goals for students are the same as they were for the animal research- understanding how to use texts, videos, and other media to write an informational piece. We shift our writing style this time from an “all about” research piece to a “how-to” research piece.     

Math
Only three math classes this week! I am excited for next week to have a full week of math learning. I know our mathematicians are starving for more math!
We focused on the equals sign this week. As I mentioned last week, there were some misconceptions around the meaning of an equal sign. We modeled equations using ten frames and practiced saying “this side...is the same as...this side”
Ms. Lawrence taught a new game this week called dice addition. She was asking students to compare the sum of two numbers to a partner’s sum on their dice. The partner with the higher sum won and got to color in a square of a ten frame. The partner who reached 10 first was the winner of the game!

That is all for this week!

Best,

Allison