The day we were all waiting for was just on the door. That morning we all came to school full of excitement! The weather was great and made it for a wonderful experience. We walked to the park of the Sierra Village Compound, and had a picnic under the trees.
We played on the playground.
We sat under a tree, and read two of our favorite rhyming books: "Peanut Butter and Jelly", and "Silly Sally". We had popcorn, fresh-made lemonade and projice (proitse) for treats.
Next, it was time for playing. We played with a huge parachute ...
... and relay race with balloons!
Then we visited the Nursery where we saw a few animals and plants.
Before we leave, we made sure to observe the trees with binoculars and look for animals that live in them.
What a great day!!!
From the beginning of the year we have tried to get to know our new friends better, and help them learn more about ourselves. In a PK classroom, that means lots of opportunities to interact, play, and socialize (Social-Emotional Development) while exploring self, friends, and families (Social Studies, Science). It also means lots of opportunities to think about who we are, and gain important insights about our own selves. Our self-exploration journey was inspired by character traits in the books we read (Literacy) and real portraits (Art).
“What is a portrait?” was the first question we asked when we heard the teacher saying that strange word. “A portrait is a picture of a person that helps us see what he looks like and learn a few things about him”. Well… in order to understand it better, we needed to experience it. So, we looked in books for photos of persons (main characters). We found Olivia, David, Chrysanthemum, Elmer and Jeff. We looked at the pictures and described with words what they look like. We also read the stories, and wrote down all the new information about them. The more we were getting to know them, the more we felt familiar with their characters, and the more we related their stories to our own lives and experiences, the more we learned about ourselves and friends!
In more detail:
Elmer taught us a new word, “patchwork”. We decorated the first letter in our names with tissue papers, to make it look like him. Elmer likes to spend time with his friends and to make jokes. We all agreed that this is something we enjoy doing as well.
Chrysanthemum was the character with the longest name! She motivated us to count how many letters we have in our names, and talk about short and long names. We also distinguished the letters we have in our names from those we don’t have. We got inspired to learn who or what we were named after. Our parents were great helpers in this investigation.
David is the very well-known naughty boy, who always gets in trouble. However, he is not the only one… We have to admit that sometimes we also get in trouble. In the classroom we discussed those times and drew pictures about them.
Jeff is a very capable boy, who does a million things on his own (or he thinks he does). Well, we are very proud to say that there are a million things that we can do on our own as well. We discussed it in the classroom, and drew a picture so everyone can see and learn what we are capable of.
Olivia helped us focus on our names, families, and different kinds of art. What letters do we need to write our names? What are the first letters in our name? How many members do we have in our family? Who are they? We were involved in a variety of activities about our names and families. We drew our families, molded them out of play-dough, and brought real photos to share with our friends. Olivia loves going to museums and looking at famous paintings. She also has a famous portrait on her bedroom wall. Olivia’s passion inspired us to look at famous portraits and see which one we like the most. We looked at them through the projector, as if we were visiting a gallery. . From Leonardo’s iconic Mona Lisa to Andy Warhol’s equally iconic Marilyn, from Picasso’s Weeping Woman to Zack Freeman’s junk portraits, we were exposed to and inspired by different kinds of art. Some of them seemed nice to us, some others strange, funny, or even a little scary., but each of them was unique! We also brought art books in the classroom and went through them looking for portraits. We found a lot!
After all this investigation, we were ready to create an actual portrait of ourselves. A self-portrait involves learning about different parts of our faces and bodies. First, we focused on learning words for as many different parts of our faces as we could. We described our faces in details and played games such as “Simon Says” and “Draw & Erase a Face”.
We also sketched out our faces by tracing our characteristics with chalk markers on transparent, plastic pockets. The results were very interesting and funny! We loved looking at them on the board, trying to guess whose sketch each of them is, and flipping them over, to find out if our guess was correct.
Can you guess who is who?
Now that we knew what our faces look like, it was the time to make the real portraits. Each of us chose the kind of art he/she wanted to try for his/her portrait. We sought our parents’ help in gathering materials we could use. Very soon we had a rich library of various materials to choose from. Before we start creating, we traced our heads to make the portraits life-size.
That way we created these unique self-portraits!
Junk Art Portraits
Pop Art Portraits
Picasso Style Portraits
Join us as we celebrate our individuality and uniqueness. these self-portraits provide you a special glimpse into just this. They will remind all of us that it is each child, along with his/her strengths, successes and accomplishments, which creates the formation of a true classroom community. It is our hope to build a community of unique individuals who will learn to soar and succeed as a community and as individuals to great heights!
Trees fascinate children and help them spark their curiosity and wonder. Our Tree study built upon our students’ interest in trees to help them explore science and social studies. We focused on helping the children develop an understanding of the characteristics of trees and their role in our natural and man-made worlds. With this study the children were introduced to inquiry process, which involves reflecting on previous knowledge, developing questions, planning, making observations, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. One of the best aspects of our inquiry-based study about trees was that the children had the time, the space and the resources to become deeply involved to their investigations.
Just like it happens with all the inquiry projects, we started our study on trees by exploring everything we already knew about them. We reflected on our prior experiences while discussing as a whole group all we know about trees:
Of course it is always important to see and touch everything we talk about. That’s why we found it a good idea to go on a tree hunt around the school where we have seen lots of trees, and look at what these trees look like.
Before going back to the classroom, we sat on picnic tables and recorded our observations. Each of us drew a picture of what he/she noticed.
Back to the classroom, we discussed about our observations. Many of us mentioned the sizes of the trees we had seen and tree parts. We connected our observations to our collection of tree parts in class. We created rotation centers and took some time to observe all the items we had collected through magnifiers.
Group 1: Maren, Margaux, Cynthia, Perla
Group 2: Aya, Evlampia, Ramez, Yiming
Group 3: Zaid, Yahya, Afroditi, Tatziana
Group 4: Jana, Lily, Yusuf, Hussein, Ege
Slowly slowly we started getting interested in learning more and more about trees. We were ready for another exploration. This time we went on a tree hunt to look up close at what there is under the trees. We investigated the ground and collected items that we found underneath the trees.
We sorted the items in groups: rocks, sticks, leaves, roots, and soil.
Then we strained the soil to clean it, and we mixed it with water. What do you think that we got?
If you guessed “soil paint”, then you are correct. Working with natural materials can add to the fun of making art. We used leaves from our collection and with those leaves and the soil paint we created a picture of a tree.
We were everyday observing the tree parts we had collected in many ways. We had found some leaves and branches, but we also had some parts that we were not sure what exactly they are called. That was a great opportunity to pose our first question that led our investigation on trees. Gradually, we added more questions:
That’s how we began to explore trees.
In our classroom we have a regular Community Meeting to start the day. Everyone who wishes to share news with us, has the chance to do so. Sometimes it’s something like “I went swimming yesterday” or “My mommy has a baby in her tummy”. While other times it is quite serious. Community Meeting is an essential part of our routine because it enables students to speak, listen, exchange ideas, and settle in differences. And this shows our Busy Bees what it means to be a part of a community that respects, and accepts one another and their opinions.
As a community we have routines and rules to follow. Both help us stay safe in school, be respectful and kind with our friends, and responsible for our work. In the classroom we discussed what the word "rules" means, what kind of rules we have at home and at school, and why it is important to follow them. Mrs. Amy Perdigone, our counselor, has given as a poster with all the School-wide rules we need to follow. These are the 4 B's: Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible. We looked at the poster and thought of ways we can be safe, kind, respectful, and responsible in our classroom. Here is what we came up with:
In order to be safe in class we need to sit properly, keep hands and feet in our personal space, and walk.
In order to be kind we need to use kind words, take turns, and share.
We can be respectful by simply raising a quiet hand and waiting for our turn if we have something to say, using our listening ears, and staying quiet while others are still working.
We show we are responsible when we stay focused on task, and keep our classroom tidy and clean.
We were all great at following the rules, but there was something we couldn't really understand: "What exactly is our personal space?" we asked. We talked a lot about it and played several games, however some of us really needed to see what someone's personal space looks like. Well... that was a challenge but we found our way to go over it! We created our Spirograph! Each of us sat crisscross and traced with markers the limits of his/her personal space.
There will be times, however, when we will need to sit a little bit squeezed, and our personal space will be much smaller than usually. We played a game in order to understand it better. We danced on our personal space. Well, as fun as that was, it was just getting started. Next, we stepped off our personal space, folded it in half, and stepped on again. After a while we really needed to be very careful and move in very creative ways in order to stay in our personal space. That way we learned about our personal space and had so much fun at the same time!
Everything was great in the beginning, but… as it usually happens in all classrooms, we sometimes forget. So, we needed to do something to help us remember the rules. The teacher took us photos practicing the rules, and printed them, but where could we put those photos?
At that time we were learning about bees, and we saw pictures of honeycombs. As Busy Bees that we are, we worked all together to make a honeycomb in the classroom. Each of us made his own cell, and then we put all the cells together and created the prettiest honeycomb!
After we finished, we agreed to stick the photos on the honeycomb, as they will remind us of rules. That would be our contract, and we all signed up that we’ll follow the rules by giving a high 5!
Here it is!
Just like what happens with everything new we learn, we need to practice in order to learn to follow the rules. It will take time, and we will often need reminders… but if we have you by our side to help us remember, then everything is going to be easier.
The time had come to say goodbye to September and welcome October, the new month. Since the Busy Bees saw the picture of October on our calendar, they got very excited and started talking about Halloween. When the day to begin working about this special holiday came, they were full of spooky ideas, and ready for a lot of fun.
For one more time, books, stories and songs served as inspiration for our activities. We listened to our favorite song “5 Little Pumpkins” and made a very nice craft to help us learn and remember the lyrics. We also brought pumpkin lights and candles, and a Jack o' lantern in class. We loved turning the lights off, lighting up the candles and singing the song!
But how could we celebrate Halloween without pumpkins? Well… once it was difficult to find pumpkins here, we brought in class squashes to decorate and cook. First, we observed the squashes, and measured their heights and circumferences using non standard measuring tools.
Then, we brainstormed recipes with pumpkins/squashes that we could make in class. After voting, we decided to make pumpkin soup. We all sat around a big table where we placed all the ingredients. We listened to the recipe, measured the ingredients, and made a yummy, creamy, velvety-smooth soup. While the soup was boiling, its aroma permeated the air, and crept into everyone’s noses who came to us wondering what we were cooking.
We served the soup forming a Jack o’ lantern face on it with whipped cream. It looked fantastic! Some of us loved its taste and came back for seconds, some just liked it, while some others didn’t. However, we all enjoyed the process.
After reading the story “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” by Linda Williams, we came up with the idea to decorate our door with a big scarecrow and scare everyone away.
Of course we couldn’t ignore the traditions of the season, so we celebrated Character day at school by dressing up in our costumes. We were all excited to present in class what our costumes were. So we played the game “Knock! Knock! Trick or Treat? Who are you?”
The PK3 students came trick or treating to our classroom. We all sang and played together the story “We Are Going on a Ghost Hunt”. Then it was out time to go Trick-or-Treating to their classroom. They sang a wonderful Halloween song and gave us a candy.
The big surprise was when we watched Mrs. Ipek carving a big pumpkin!
After a big parade all around the school, we went back to our classroom and played the game "Who Took the Candy from the Trick-or-Treat Bag?", a game we love and had played a few days earlier as well.
The day closed with a birthday party for our friend Ege who turned 5. What a wonderful day!!!
Our morning Community Meeting is the time we share news with our friends to help them learn more about ourselves. Many of us usually talk about travelling or spending holidays in a country other than Saudi Arabia. We heard friends talking about Lebanon, the USA, Canada… Well, as we were getting to know each other better, we realized that most of us come from different countries and we speak different languages at home. However, not all of us knew where we come from. This question opened the door to a new investigation about the countries and therefore the cultures that are represented in our classroom community. Our parents played a significant role in gathering and sending to school all the information we needed. Here is what we did:
First we asked mommies and daddies to send to school photos and/or traditional items from our countries. We collected all these items in the classroom and presented them to our friends during Show & Tell.
All of us brought in flags from home. As a whole group we discussed what the flags are for, looked at them closely, and wrote down what we noticed.
We agreed to work in teams and make big flags to decorate our classroom with and hold during the big parade. Once again we worked in small groups.
We may come from different countries, but all of these countries are parts of the world we all live in. We listened to the very nice song, “Hello to all the children of the world”, which inspired us to learn how to say “Good morning” in all the languages that our Busy Bees friends speak at home. Since that day, we open our Community Meeting by greeting everyone in English, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, Romanian, Greek, Serbian, and Chinese. We also started listening to traditional lullabies in all these languages during nap time.
Our work on cultural identities culminated in a big celebration where all the PK3 and PK4 students (dressed in their traditional costumes) met. We paraded national flags, listened to national anthems, and tasted traditional dishes from all the countries we come from.
Well… this is how everyone else's story ends, but not ours. We read the story “I Need My Own Country” by Rick Walton. The story follows a girl who decides to build her own country in her bedroom and live there on her own. We found it a very interesting idea, and we decided to make our own country too.
Once again we put our heads and hands together in order to make one more dream come true. First we used all the information we had learned about countries and brainstormed about how we would like our country to look.
We decided our country should be located in our classroom. Then we talked about the citizens. After a long debate, we agreed that both students and teachers will be in residence. After that we moved on to another hot topic. We knew that most countries have their own currency. We wanted our country to have its own too. After observing bills from various countries all over the world, we created our own unique Beelars. We made 1, 5, and 10 Beelar bills.
We also worked in small groups according to what each of us chose to help with. One group was responsible for the town planning of our country. They created the transport facilities (streets, highways, and bridges)...
... as well as the architecture (houses, hospitals, schools, and an airport).
Two other groups created the geographical features of our country. Some Busy Bees made a wonderful beach with golden sand and a few rocky spots. The sea was shallow, salty and full of wonderful creatures.
Some others decorated mountains with snowy tops,
while the rest worked hard in order to make our country green, full of flowers and trees.
Some volunteers worked on the flag. They used the information they had gathered about flags, and decided the colors, the shapes, and the symbols they wanted their flag to have. In this country everyone is friends with everyone else, so the symbol couldn't be anything but a heart!
After each of the groups finished their work, we stood around our own country and looked at it. It was wonderful! We had everything we wanted … but a name for it. After some modifications we agreed by consensus to name it “Cloomania”. So, here is our very own country in all of its glory!
Then, just like magic our imagination took us up several notches to where we can make great things happen. And we did … we brought this paper-made country into life! We added more citizens, animals and vehicles, and we all together lived happily ever after… till it rained! The rain was a signal that it was time for recess. Most dreams last for just a few minutes. So did our dream, but the memory of it will be something we will carry with us for a looooong time!
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As we saw in another post, our names give us a sense of personal identity and uniqueness, and serve as bonds with our families. Additionally, our names are a great "resource" for extended learning of letters and words. "The most powerful and effective way for children to begin learning the complex process of learning about letters is by writing their own names", says Carol Lyons. In our classroom we provided our students with many opportunities to explore and recognize their names in many ways.. As we said before, first things first, so we started with the first letters in our names.
Well, we had worked a lot on the first letters of our names. It was time now to move on and start noticing the rest of the letters in our names.
Chrysanthemum's name is really long. How long is your name? Is there a name in the classroom that is longer or shorter than yours? In order to answer these questions, we took our counting cubes and compared the lengths of our names.
Our work on our names hasn't finished yet. It is a long journey that will keep us busy for a long time. However, if someone asks us now "What is a name?", we are ready to answer "A lot of stuff, apparently..."
It is the beginning of a new year, in a new classroom with a new teacher and some new classmates. We all feel the need to become part of this new environment, and help make it our own, help create a community with a shared group identity, shared beliefs, shared rules, and shared dreams. But how can we do it?
Mark Twain had said once "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one".
So, first things first. In order to feel part of a community, we first need to get to know each other. And what could be more important than learning our names? Our names are the most comfortable and familiar part of our identity. It is what we use to present ourselves to the others, and what the others use in order to refer to us.
In the classroom we created many opportunities for the students to present and introduce themselves to the group. We said our names in different ways: with a quiet or loud voice, we wiggled them, clapped them, and jumped them. We also introduced ourselves to our new friends by shaking hands and saying our names.
In order to get more familiar with each other's name we played a game. We read the story "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" by Bill Martin and Eric Carle, which inspired us to play the game "Busy Bee, Busy Bee, Who do you See?"
We really enjoyed that game and created a small book to go along with it.
Here we are playing our favorite name games with Mrs. Tara. It was the first week she came to our classroom, so we helped her learn our names.
Our names also connect us to our families. It is a special gift that our parents gave to us and only us, no one else. After reading the story "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes, we went back home and asked our parents how they chose the name they gave us. We collected that information and presented it in class.
Once we talked about families, we grasped the opportunity and brought in family photos. We used those photos as a vehicle to open conversations with our friends about our families, and get to know each other a little bit better.
First each of us made a note as a reminder to ask mommy or daddy for a family photo.
Then, our parents printed family photos and sent them to school. Each of us took his own, and we played a game. We moved in a rhythm, and after the music stopped we found a friend, showed him/her the photo, and talked about our families. We then listened to that friend talk about his/her family. We played this game a couple of times and had the opportunity to talk and listen to a lot of friends.
Finally, each of us molded his/her family members out of salt dough.
We love the way they look on our board!
We started learning our friends' names in order to know them better and be able to create relationships with them. We also learned about each other's family and became a little bit closer. Is this all we have to say about names? Of course not; there is much more to tell you, and soon we will let you know about it. Stay tuned!
The very first day of school we put our heads together and we all dreamed the same dream. It was a beautiful dream: we were bees building our new home in a small forest. We loved that dream and when we woke up, we decided to work all together and make it come true. First, we exchanged our ideas and experiences about bees.
Then we made a plan with everything we would like to have in our forest.
Now we were ready to start working on our plan. First each of us made our own bee. Our classroom filled with bees buzzing in the air!
We worked all together to make our beehive. We took turns in small groups and covered a balloon with small pieces of yellow paper. Then we twisted yellow yarn around the balloon to decorate it. Our home was ready!
Some students worked on making birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Another small group of students made the sun, while a second group made two fluffy clouds.
We worked all together one more time to make a rainbow. First we found out that a rainbow has 7 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Then we cut small pieces of colored paper and used them to create the most beautiful collage!
The rainbow was something that captured our interest. "Are we going to see a real one?" someone asked. "Let's try to make a real one and see it" was the answer. We read that a real rainbow is made out of light and water. So, we decided to experiment first with just light, and then with both light and water.
First, we created a rainbow with a CD and flash light. It was so nice to see the reflection on our wall! We even touched that rainbow. It was cold!
Then we experimented with water and sunlight. It was so interesting to see a real rainbow, but at the same time so tricky; the rainbow kept appearing and disappearing!
We could see our classroom turning slowly slowly into the bee-forest we had dreamed about. There are still a few more things to work on, but we are happy to know that dreams do come true!
Building a community looks at the beginning like getting to know each other, and then slowly slowly turns into creating a team identity. Since the very first day of school we introduced ourselves in many playful ways, and welcomed our new friends with open hugs.
In the classroom we will spend lots of time together sharing experiences, thoughts, space and materials. The poem “Together” by George Ella Lyon that we read, helped us build and share the same dream as well.
"Let's put our heads together and dream the same dream" was written in the poem, and that’s exactly what we did. We put our heads together on our “magic” carpet and we dreamed that we were bees flying all around in an effort to find just the right place to build our home.
Can dreams come true? Well... in our classroom they can. We proved that when all of us work together, we can make our dreams come true. Believe it or not, after we woke up from that dream, we still were bees. And we were very busy making our classroom the right place to live in. Do you want to learn how we did it? Check the next post, and you will understand.