One Sunflower

I gotta remember to do this next year….

On Wednesday, the second to last day of our school year, my aide turned to me at some point and said, “This has been one of the best endings of the year we’ve ever had.”  I agreed and together we discussed some reasons why we thought this.

We decided one factor was that we had our end-of-the-year parent event on Tuesday rather than waiting until Thursday.  Our school year ends 3 weeks earlier than the rest of the students K-5 but there are all-school events that happen in the last few weeks.  One of them was the Jog-a-thon and even though it was scheduled on Tuesday, we decided to piggy back onto that event with our own celebratory experience.  Most of my students have working parents but if there is a special school event, they try to schedule a visit to school during their lunch breaks.  So I invited them to come for some or all of the day, and bring their lunch.  Of course they love to potluck so we had lots of food.  I passed out student portfolios and we sang “You are Special” to each child and had a wonderful time.

This meant Wednesday and Thursday were low key and fun without being stressful for the children or me.

Another reason I think this year felt different was because of the projects we did over the last few weeks.  We took a wonderful field trip to a grocery store and a park with an amazing playground and we made gifts for some of our favorite people.
Mother’s Day was the occasion of our first gift making – drawing and painting portraits of our mothers – and then we continued by making portraits of our favorite bus driver and cook.  I wrote verses to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider and we sang to them.  The cook posted all their portraits above the serving counter.

The kids felt good about themselves and the pacing of the last few days felt normal, not fast and stressful.

Here are the songs if you need one for someone special:

Kurt is our bus driver
and we love him so.
Every day at half past noon
it’s off for home we go.
This way and that way,
the bus goes to and fro.
Kurt is our bus driver
and we love him so.

Gini is our cook;
we love her, yes we do.
Every day she makes us
our delicious food.
Pizza, veggies, fruit,
and (sometimes!) chocolate moo.
Gini is our cook;
we love her, yes we do!


all kinds of “kindergarten readiness”

Her mom sat across from me for our last parent conference of the year. Our first chat took place in her home last August when all I knew about her daughter was a name and a birth date.  The talkative 4 year old showed me her bedroom and her most prized possession: a large roll of butcher paper her aunt had given her – ah, my first insight,  this child loved to draw.

Our second visit took place at school during the regular November conference schedule.  All my initial assessments had been done on this child and I was able to tell the mom her daughter was a typically developing child who was highly engaged with her classmates and school environment. I asked her mom to name the goals she had for her daughter’s year in preschool.  “I want her to be ready for kindergarten.” What a loaded phrase that is.

At our third conference in February, I was pleased to report her daughter was making good progress on her academic goals.  But her social emotional goals were more challenging to support.  This little girl is what many have come to describe as “a highly sensitive” child.  It is like her senses are on steroids.  Sounds and touch are especially provocative stimuli.  “She’s in my bubble!” or “They won’t be quiet”  were often the wails I would hear from this child during circle and small group activities.

I described the supports I was putting in place to help her daughter be successful in situations that were the most challenging.  I had found that seating her on the end of a table instead of the middle helped limit side contact with her peers. Giving her a choice to walk at the back of the line or to hold my hand to narrow the fields demanding her attention were also helpful supports.  (Just a few weeks ago I discovered that instead of putting her name on the rug for seating at circle time, it worked wonderfully to give her a carpet square she could move to “make her bubble bigger.”)

The mom winced a bit as I talked.  “But is she going to be ready for kindergarten?” she asked.

“Yes,” I could answer with confidence, knowing  time in preschool is one of the best guarantees.

So here we were at this fourth conference, a time to summarize a child’s preschool experience and look forward to the transition to kindergarten in the fall.  This year I’ve been asking parents to write a note to the kindergarten teacher about their child, describing the relationship they hope the teacher will have with their 5 year old.

Of course I always pass on a few tips to the teacher as well but I think this mom wrote a wonderful note: “She is a sensitive girl with strong emotions.  I find a quiet chat can calm her down and help her focus.”

I am especially thankful  this mom and daughter have had a year of preschool.  It has been a time to “work the bugs out.”  Other children like this little girl will come to kindergarten without the benefit of a teacher with some inside information about their needs. Months may pass as child, parent and teacher get things sorted out.

Mom and daughter are at least on their way to being kindergarten ready.


what’s a club?

It’s late spring, very late –  there are only a few weeks of school left. Once again I’m writing about card games. I love introducing playing cards to my preschoolers.  I have 4 games I usually teach preschoolers: “Concentration,” “Fish,” “War” (or Everlasting as my grandmother called it,) and “Crazy Eights.”   But I don’t really play pure versions of any of these games – as I alluded to in my entry last year.   In fact, I often invent versions on the spot – as was the case today.

I was reminded of this when my husband asked me about my day and I ended up telling him about playing cards with a small group of students.  Leopoldo was putting away the blocks and glancing over at Salomon and Valeriano playing in “the box. ”  (Lately “the box” has become a place to play “doctor” and I’ve had to keep a close eye on the students who head there during free choice time.)  I decided to help these boys shift direction in a proactive way by inviting them to play cards.  I know from previous experience that my students will rarely resist an invitation to play cards; it was a sure-fire distraction.

I asked them if they wanted to play War or Crazy Eights; Leopoldo piped up and named the latter – probably because it was the last thing he heard. He told me he had never played cards before.

Dealing five cards to each boy, I showed them how to hold them in a fan.  I turned over the top card and we began playing the familiar game.   The difference is this, there were no crazy 8’s.  I just taught them how to make a decision about what to play based on whether they had a matching number or suit.  If they didn’t, they got 2 chances to choose a card before we moved on.  When we ran out of cards, we just kept going around to see who could play.  At some point Lila joined in and I just dealt her in with 5 cards.

It was fun and we played for a long time.  After about 3 rounds, the students were able to explain why they could or couldn’t play a particular card and I could prompt them to coach me about what I should play – which is the whole reason I love teaching and playing cards with kids.  There are so many hidden skills and I learned a lot about my 4 card-playing buddies today.

The “crazy” part of Crazy Eights can come later, these kids learned plenty today.