Sarah's Update 11-22-21
"You'll sing a song & I'll sing a song.
We'll all sing a song together.
You'll sing a song & I'll sing a song in warm or wintry weather."
What fun it was to share the music of Ella Jenkins with our class last week. She's been a favorite of mine for many years, and her catchy tunes and call & response songs were instant hits with our musical, rhythm-loving group. Her version of "Skip to My Lou" is silly enough to get the whole group laughing. The soothing sounds of Elizabeth Mitchell's music are now a part of our classroom community too, and friends have been enjoying her album "Sunny Day" in the quiet corner.
A highlight of last week was our Wednesday Walk, which centered around exploring a new part of our trail, waving hello to many cute dogs, and stopping to marvel at the flowing water underneath the bridge we crossed. Before returning to campus we carefully selected one fallen leaf each to contribute to a leaf rubbing project in the classroom. Our word web work to follow will be inspired by the many leaves we found, and we'll explore the concept of "adjectives," a component of Function of Words, one of the most advanced parts of our language curriculum. We'll ask ourselves "what descriptive words could we use to tell someone about the leaves we collected?"
Another exciting development for our community has been the shift to PE in our gym! Friends came back from their first adventure to this part of our school with extra enthusiasm for their time with Dan. We've also made our way through the final pages of our current chapter book, The Storm, and this sweet and cozy story of bravery and friendship was loved by all. Our work cycle has friends busy playing math games (the sound of rolling dice and equation comparisons could be heard quite a bit the past few days), creating paper and yarn leaf garlands for at home decorating, steadfastly working on continent maps, completing sewing projects and, for some, working with Roya's mom, Nasim, who joined our class for some 1:1 reading focused instruction. Our Artist Spotlight on Kandinsky kicked off on Friday, and we'll spend the next few days reconnecting with our art cart and some new supplies, which will support our group's love of creating!
Your children are happy and busy bees, and it's been a delight to observe friends settling into their relationships with one another and to see them taking on new leadership roles. I get a kick out of asking a child "are you available to show your friend how to hang up their jacket, because you're so good at that?" or "could you give a presentation on the Binomial Cube to this friend now that you're an expert on that work?" or "do you think you could show the group what it looks like to peacefully move through a crowded space? I've noticed you do that so well!" What a joy to watch their chests puff up with pride as they agree excitedly and seriously and then set about that task. All of your children are displaying heartwarming moments of leadership in our classroom, and we will continue to present them with those opportunities for growth!
-Thank you to Nasim, Roya's mom, who will join us weekly for language support in the classroom. For now her work will include Sandpaper Letter work, sound games and listening to readers at various skill levels. She has volunteered in this capacity in previous years and brings along a wide range of experience and a love for working with young children.
-Thank you to so many of our families who are letting us borrow Hanukkah materials for our ongoing classroom display. Children who have contributed materials have had a chance to share a bit about their meaning, and we will enjoy exploring them more in the coming days. If you need any of these items back within a certain time frame, please do not hesitate to email me directly and I'll make sure to arrange that.
-Thank you to Liora's family for providing our outdoor environment with a new, beautiful door mat. It freshened up that space so nicely.
-Thank you to Charlie's family for supplying our developing continent/geography folders with colorful images from around the world. What conversations and movable alphabet stories these will inspire!
-Work and pillowcases will be sent home on Tuesday, 11/23 prior to the upcoming holiday, and we will see you back at school on 11/29. We wish you a peaceful and restorative time with people you love.
Sarah's Update 11-6-21
"Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail (x 2)
Wrinkle up your little nose
Hold a nut between your toes
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail."
Families, this week will be short and sweet, as there will be no school Wednesday through Friday. Conferences will be held via Zoom on Wednesday 11/10 and Friday 11/12 (look for an emailed link and a few other details to come by Tuesday afternoon). Kristin and I are eager to connect with you about your child's growth, both academic and social, during the first part of this school year. Please bring any questions or concerns you have to our meeting, and know that these conferences are for adults only and children should not be within earshot, so that we can communicate freely about their progress.
Last week we embarked on our second Wednesday Walk, and this time we featured our sense of sight. We wondered aloud, before leaving our classroom, what sights we might take in while on the trail. We agreed to use our looking eyes to "capture" as many signs of Fall as we could before returning to campus to create our word web about our "looking walk." Friends reported seeing brightly colored leaves, Halloween decorations, bicyclists and bare tree branches along the way. One friend noticed the change in water level in the creek and another noticed that the berries we saw last week are now a darker color than they were. What fun it's been to see many children fetching a clipboard, pencil and paper to do copy work using the word webs we've created. They are enjoying adding their own words as well as writing down ones their friends contributed.
When we return to school post-conferences, Kristin will introduce the group to our first artist of our year-long Artist Spotlight series. Kandisnsky will be our class focus for the remainder of the month, and the children will have hands-on-materials provided to them as a provocation to create their own Kandinsky inspired piece. I am excited to see what our artists whip up during the work cycles to follow.
Sarah's Update 10-28-21
"This is the squirrel that lives in a tree.
This is the tree that he climbs.
This is the nut that he takes from me
When I sit still sometimes."
It is unmistakably Fall in Eugene. You can observe signs of it in our indoor and outdoor environments. In our classroom, brightly colored leaves have been transformed into art supplies for rubbings. Art teacher Rena brough this classic childhood activity to us, and it was a hit! Pumpkin pillows are being stitched by small groups led by Kristin. She patiently helps tiny, capable hands work with a needle and thread while concentrating amidst a bustling classroom full of movement. Most recently, each student in our classroom community contributed to the creation of a weaving. On a large table-top loom, children took turns weaving with orange and black yarn, stopping when they felt satisfied by the rows they'd added and revisiting it over the course of a few weeks. It is now complete and hung near our light table and art cart for all to admire. A new project with harvest inspired colors has already begun.
Math Meetings, a small group approach to progressing through our math curriculum, are well underway. Some friends are spending time solidifying their knowledge of numbers through 10, while others have embarked on the world of the decimal system. All of us are getting our hands on manipulatives that call to the young child because of their beauty and their orderly and well defined purpose. Math journals, which some of us have begun to dive into, will provide an individualized spot for each child to practice whichever math skill they're currently working on. They also provide another way for the adults in the environment to informally assess their work.
Writers and Readers Workshops have centered around Sandpaper Letters and/or Movable Alphabet and journaling work. We continue to create word webs as a whole group, and our reading of Listening Walk was our anchor for our most recent web and our very first Wednesday Walk. What a joy to see our class taking in the trail together, using their senses to explore and challenging themselves to remain quiet enough to hear the faintest sounds. We celebrated, upon arrival back to campus, this opportunity to work together as a team. Then we took the abstractions of the sounds we heard and poured them out onto word web paper. Friends heard the thump of basketballs being dribbled by the middle schoolers, the whir of a lawnmower, the rustling of leaves, the shuffle of a jogger's feet as they struck the bark mulch, a nest of birds chirping, and the rumble of the 4j school bus that went by.
Please keep an eye out for upcoming details regarding parent teacher conferences (week of November 8th) and stay tuned for continued ways you can contribute to our classroom, either by volunteering your skills and time in off-school hours or, in the near future, through during school-hours opportunities. I know some of you feel you have the space in your schedule to contribute, and we are eager to put you to work! We appreciate being in community with all of you and we are grateful to spend our days with your Kindergarteners.
Sarah's Update 10-14-21
“Autumn leaves are turning, turning, turning.
Autumn fires are burning, burning, burning.
Days of in between.
See the changing scenes.
Autumn time is all around.”
Our community's return to the classroom after distance learning has been packed with exploration and learning. Our morning work cycle is filled with the productive hum of children in various states of concentration as they complete the three part work cycle. Along the way I am observing friends using our grace and courtesy skills to check in with each other when paths collide, or to ask kindly for someone to give them space.
Our morning gatherings now include some Autumn themed songs, new poems, and the creation of word webs full of brainstorming and opportunities for children to see written language in action while practicing the art of raising one's hand and waiting patiently to make a contribution. Earlier this week I told the brief true story of Maria Montessori, who enjoyed playing "silence games" with her students. We wondered aloud if it would be possible for us to pass around a bell and make it all the way from me to the last friend in our circle without creating even the tiniest sound. We knew we had a big challenge ahead, and so with a deep breath and a reminder to calm our bodies, we played our first silence game. You should have seen those steady hands, furrowed brows of concentration and faces of joy as we completed the task with success two times in a row! We will revisit many variations of this silence game in the days and months to come.
Easy CBM assessment (language focused for Fall) is winding down, and I am already beginning to use that data to create small group activities and plan future presentations. An informal math assessment began this week as well, and these results will determine the official entry point each child will have in our math curriculum.
We finished our first chapter book of the year, Cynthia Rylant's In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen, and the children seemed to enjoy this sweet and cozy story from the Cobble Street Cousins series. Today we began our second chapter book of the year, Pippi Longstocking. I told the children that Pippi's adventures inspired me as a young girl, and that I have read her stories to many classes over the years. Today we had to stop a time or two to let fits of giggles subside before I could continue reading. Pippi is just that funny!
Please remember that Friday, October 15th is a PD day for Ridgeline staff. We will see your bright eyed children back for more learning on Monday, October 18th. Be on the lookout for work to be sent home tomorrow/Thursday in our new "take home folders." Please marvel at your child's work and then send the empty folder back with them on Monday to be stored in their work cubbies. This will be a new weekly routine and one of many ways we support functional independence through care of the environment routines. Thank you for partnering with us on this!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 10-1-21
"Love grows one by one
Two by two and four by four
Love grows round like a circle
And comes back knocking at your front door"
I hope that one bright side of our recent shift to online learning has been getting to hear your child singing some of our beloved Kindergarten songs. "Love Grows" is a true favorite! Though Kristin and I are really missing our friends here in the classroom, we are so happy to be able to see their smiling faces on the other side of the screen, to continue our established routines and rituals of morning songs and calendar work, and to have casual conversations in our small groups. A big thank you to families who have provided tech support (muting and unmuting can be so tricky) and a big thumbs up to everyone for completing Seesaw assignments with enthusiasm. We love seeing the children's creative responses.
When our friends return to the classroom on Friday 10/8 we will welcome our new friend Ben. He has been able to join us for morning gathering, which has been wonderful, and we look forward to helping him integrate into our established community. This will be one of many opportunities for children to take on a leadership role as they help our new friend orient. I am excited to see it all unfold, and I anticipate grace and courtesy lessons will keep us very busy along the way as we remember how to share classroom materials, how to provide and advocate for space and how to peacefully exist together.
While the children are away, Kristin and I have been working hard to get new materials on the shelves, moving away from many of the transitional activities we began the year with and increasing our overall amount of traditional Montessori and presentation based work. Our lesson plans include a lot of practical life activities like floor scrubbing and leaf washing. We will also begin to focus on journaling through what we'll call our Writer's Workshop. Math will kick off with some friends working on number recognition, others focusing on one to one correspondence, and all of us will be doing a bit of math journaling. This will take on many different forms throughout the year including number writing, equation recording and eventually word problem work.
Our benchmark assessment, EasyCBM, will begin once we return to in person learning, and those results will inform the language instruction entry point each child will have based on skills they've brought to Kindergarten with them. Our days will be busy with our morning work cycle, afternoon specials and a lot of time outdoors in between all of that learning. Please remember to send your child to school with a morning and afternoon snack (the latter won't be necessary on Fridays, when our days are a bit shorter with our 1:05 dismissal). Please also remember to tuck into your child's backpack a pillow case labeled with their name, so that we can begin to make quiet reflection time extra cozy. I'm looking forward to sharing a chapter book with the group at that time, and their pillowcases will help us define our spaces for focused listening.
Thank you again for your support during these distance learning days! See you in person soon and on Zoom in the meantime.
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 9-17-21
"At the beginning is a good place to be.
What will each day bring for you and me?
New life, new friends, new things to do.
At the beginning is a good place to be."
Our Kindergarten classroom is a bustling place filled with laughter, music and learning. We've begun our year together establishing rituals and routines, most important work for children of this age. Dr. Montessori's research, based on years of observation, determined that there are four distinct planes of development one moves through in the first twenty-four years of life. Our Kindergarteners are considered first plane, concrete learners. They understand the world by experiencing it, and they do this through exploration and use of their senses. They possess the gift of an absorbent mind, which allows them to take in all that they are surrounded by and then do the big work of categorizing and sorting and making sense of it all. If your children are returning home exhausted, this is why! We are doing so much together as a community, and this is happy but tiring work as they settle into the school year.
We begin each day together by connecting as a whole group in our outdoor environment. Friends are able to work on social skills here, practice the grace and courtesies we have focused on in small groups and enjoy some fresh air. Some of our day is spent as a whole group in our classroom, receiving presentations/lessons and practicing the three part work cycle, which includes finding a spot to work, choosing a table mat or floor mat, exploring the chosen materials and finally returning them to their home in the classroom readied for the next friend to use. Our grace and courtesy lessons highlight points of interest based on observations Kristin, our classroom assistant, and I make throughout the day. Are we noticing friends moving a bit too quickly through our space? There's a grace and courtesy for that, and we can turn it into a little game where we role play how to move peacefully through the classroom, noticing what it looks like to walk mindfully around floor mats, listening for the soft sound our indoor shoes make as we move. Many friends enjoy taking a turn demonstrating these skills, often taking a bow while friends applaud their efforts.
A large part of my role in the classroom is to match children to meaningful work that calls to them to be creative and to concentrate. In these first weeks of school we will continue to focus on the area of our classroom called practical life, focusing particularly on two aspects of practical life, care of ourselves and care of the environment, both of which speak to our Kindergartener's innate drive for order and movement. We are already reaping the rewards of this work, which began on the first day of school, as we see a group of children who confidently know where to place their personal items in the classroom, how to wash their hands, where work to go home is stored and how to self advocate and ask for help along the way. Practice, practice, practice! Our days are filled with practice of these life skills!
This week will bring new excitement for our group, as our specials of physical education and art will begin! We are looking forward to the learning these experiences will add to our days for our curious and eager Kindergarten class. Kristin and I are most grateful for our supportive community of parents and caregivers who are cheering us on along the way. Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us!
Gentle Reminders and Important Housekeeping:
-Please check backpacks nightly for paperwork or other important items we may send home. All work created by the children will go home weekly on Friday.
-Please send children to school in appropriate layers including rain gear on wet days. If you'd like rain boots to be kept at school, just email me a quick note to let me know.
-If your family is participating in the UO weekly Covid testing, you will find a kit in your child's backpack every week on Tuesday to be returned to our bin at arrival the next day.
-Please tuck a clean pillow case into your child's backpack. We would appreciate it if you would label it with their name and bring it to school by next Monday 9/27 for use during reflection time. We will soon begin reading a chapter book during this time, and we want the children to be extra cozy and able to well define their reflection space while they listen. We'll take care of storing them in individual bags between use and send them home to you in backpacks on Friday to be laundered over the weekend and returned the next week.
8-33-21 Sarah's Welcome Letter
Hi, families! I am so excited to work together this year and to get to know your children. Kristin Warner, our Kindergarten classroom assistant, and I have big plans for the year ahead. We'd like to help welcome you to campus and orient your children to the indoor environment by having you join us on campus for one of two half hour Kindergarten Welcome Meetings next week.
Please use this SignUp link to choose ONE of two Welcome Meetings to attend. On the day of your visit please park along Amazon Drive in front of the school and join us (masks required for all) to gather in the grassy area near the parking lot. After quick introductions at 3:30pm with Kristin, me and Principal Michelle, we will guide the group to our outdoor environment. Here we will ask parents/caregivers to remain outdoors while we explore our classroom with the children. Please use this opportunity to visit at a distance with one another, and know that if a child is having a particularly difficult time separating from you, you are welcome to stand together outside and simply peek in the windows.
Kristin and I will orient the children to the parts of the classroom, and we will show them where they will store their:
-indoor shoes (slippers with rubber soles)
-water bottle marked with their name
-snack in an easy to open container, packed separately from lunch (practicing at home is helpful!)
-lunch in easy to open containers (if bringing one from home/not participating in the school's lunch program)
-1 extra set of clothes in a Ziploc bag marked with their name (this will remain in their backpack)
-1 extra mask in a Ziploc bag marked with their name (this will remain in their backpack)
We ask, if possible, that you bring the items above to the first day of school, so we can begin fostering the children's functional independence and helping them feel settled into the space from the very start. Look for more information to come from the front office soon re: arrival and departure procedures and other details about the school year.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly via email if you have any questions or concerns about our upcoming Welcome Meetings. Kristin and I look so forward to getting to know your children, and we feel honored you are sharing them with us!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School