A Bit of History: Our Very First Weeks as a School, Laying a Foundation of What is to Unfold

Our first week was incredible! We grounded ourselves in agreements, organized our math tool-kits, and took assessments for math placement, applied the concepts of symmetry to beading our ID necklaces, adopted and studied daily numbers, chose and read favorite books, shared name stories, practiced a thank you note format and wrote thank you notes to many people, learned a strategy for reflective writing, began a group expository writing about the designs we made for our writing journals, selected a word for the week, gathered up information to set our goals, investigated our new microscope and marble roll system, embellished our tub-totes, worked with materials in the studio, greeted neighbors along the street as we walked to the park for lunch, toured our new building space and met the NWCT staff, explored a new playground, and began reading the play format of Winnie the Pooh. We were diverted by a mischievous fairy on Thursday, began to collect evidence of her whereabouts, and wrote pleading letters and sweet notes to coax her out of hiding. Several of us went on a nature walk to collect bits for building fairy houses next week. And we welcomed three new classmates on Friday! No wonder the time passed quickly and we were happily exhausted by the end of the week!

In addition:

  • Abby and Zack donated a microscope to the class. It has become a well-consulted tool!
  • Our library collection is growing daily as we get to know the children and their interests.
  • Lexi often offers to read to the others, practicing her expressive reading and sharing her love of stories.
  • We are constantly writing. We learned how to write thank you notes with the date and a greeting. We brainstormed words to use in the body of the letter to show our gratitude and we made a list of closings from which to choose. We post needed thank you notes on sticky papers until someone has time to write. Everybody has written thank you notes and some of us choose to write more when we can. The list keeps growing!!
  • When we write, we make a sloppy copy first and just get our ideas on paper. Then we use the light table and lined paper under clean plain paper to write our final copy in our best handwriting. We add decoration to letters and illustrations to stories to make them more interesting.
  • Lux helped Sally make the job chart!
  • We take notes in math. Our class studies one number a day and we all get a chance to add to the list of things we notice and know about the number. We are pretty clever about consulting the dictionary and other books to find dates, translations, number characteristics, number sentences, and symbols.
  • When we had a question about which planet was the second planet in order from the sun, Lux immediately jumped up to find and offer Jordan a book on the solar system. “Here you go!”
  • Book talks reveal potential connections to new books!
  • We have created agreements about being community members and learners. We will sign a special community charter when we are done making it.
  • Zack reminded us that “if you start with 6 and count 4 more you get 10 and it’s quicker” (than counting all of the spots on the dice). “And if you always start with the higher number, it will be the quickest way to do it.”
  • A light table is great for color mixing, design work, and exploring transparent and translucent materials.
  • Reading for pleasure… a favorite past-time! We will need to decide how to organize our books! The children are voracious, strong readers!
  • Abby and Johnson made a silly sentence out of our word collection. Zack was intrigued with the length of it! Johnson wrote it out and Abby illustrated it. It was our first piece of writing in the school (Tuesday morning!) Johnson read it to many people in the building.
  • ”Have you ever seen a lizard?” asked Thomas as he shook his backpack at lunchtime. He told us he put a little lizard in his bag to bring to school. He indicated it was a very small one with the space between his thumb and finger, about an inch and a half apart… While he seemed to lose interest and shrugged, zipping up his pack and getting ready for lunch, some of us continued to search for the poor creature who must have escaped and might need water to survive. The next day, his mother explained that Thomas has a great imagination! What a convincing lad! Mischievous. He is our kind of player!!!!
  • Johnson got a note from home in his lunch bag!
  • Zuzu noticed that when we greet the people walking in our neighborhood on the way to and from the park, “they all smile back at us.”
  • We explored the concepts of “pattern” and “symmetry,” and put them into action when we designed and beaded our new ID necklaces. Jordan said, “That’s symmetry! What you do one one side you do on the other… like in a mirror.” And Lux added the next morning, “Now I know why the beads on our necklaces are symmetrical. They are reflecting each other, one side and the other!”
  • A marble raceway is a hit for building early in the morning time and for testing during studio time. “Slope” “stability” “balance” “angle” (so far!)
  • Journal time is a space for our own thoughts.
  • Threading a needle is hard when the eye isn’t very big! Thomas added buttons and bells to the side of his tub-tote and began a wave of new embellishments for the other children!
  • No observation or question is too small!
  • Children collect and post evidence, make observations, create theories and hypotheses, test ideas, and make plan for and share the information they generate. They are also encouraged to take leadership and ask questions. We are all learners and teachers.
  • Storytime is an opportunity to build listening and oral comprehension skills, vocabulary, create text-to-text and text-to-life connections, entertain a variety of interpretations, unpack story elements, develop and appreciation for author-craft and imagery, and be left on the edge of our seats for the next chapter!
  • Johnson taught Susan how to play Skipbo, a card game, in the park at lunch time.
  • Johnson remembered and reminded us from the day before that we “don’t fight with the drawer because it will win every time.” When something is resistant to us, whether the chest of drawers or an emerging idea, we have enough time to stop, breathe, think, and try again gently…
  • A lesson in reflective writing tested a useful strategy as we wrote our first expository pieces.
  • Sharing and caring about each other seems to come naturally for this group of children. In the words of a woman in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland, watching the village children in their first fall dance class together (boys and girls), “The children wouldn’t even know how to be unkind with one another, no.” Same here!
  • Johnson asked to learn how to use our digital camera during studio time. He stayed “in role” as the photographer even when the police on horseback stopped by our back door. And then he moved on to architecture. Snap! He photographed his papa at pick-up time. He already has a budding portfolio of photos and two movies to his credit on our computer! Editing is next on his list of interests for studio time.
  • Abby adjusted the batteries in the light of the microscope.
  • Johnson and Abby explored the possibility of taking photographs of microscopic subjects.
  • Lexi practices math facts with a twist… and demanding logic!
  • Zack drew a “big cat” for his pop-up book. He said he couldn’t do it. But as we talked through it, it became apparent that he could!!! He took his time and was very careful. His pride was puffed as older children commented several times about his ability! “I really can!!”
  • We explored pop-up page technology!
  • Johnson began to apply filters, effects, and adjustments in iPhoto to his collection of digital photographs. His first piece was a portrait of Zuzu. She was very pleased with the result! Several children joined in to congratulate Johnson and admire his work. “Will you show me how to do that, Johnson?”
  • Winnie-the-Pooh is this term’s NWCT production. On Fridays we will connect our work to that of the theater. We got a copy of the script from Sarah Jane (NWCT). John (Pooh and NWCT staff member) chose a portion he especially liked and thought we would enjoy. The children read the script three times, changing character assignments each time. Characters were assigned in the afternoon. Reader’s theater was a hit. We even performed for Melody, and a City Commissioner stopped by during our first run-through.

That was our first week, four days of delicious exploration… the adventure has sprouted wings! Thank you to the families… and to our children.