Wednesday, June 30, 2010


As stated in the last post, fairy tales were very popular with my kindergarten students this year. I give a great deal of credit to our skilled ASL storytellers who were kind enough to contribute 7 different fairy tales for our enjoyment (interesting to note that the number 7, along with the number 3, is itself connected with fairy tales).

The most popular was Whitney's dramatic reenactment of Rumpelstiltskin - both the overall story and her portrayal of the little guy himself.

Our investigation of fairy tales focused not only on "Once Upon a Time" and "Happily Ever After" but those necessary elements that take place between those words. Things like characters (good/bad, which is ultimately subjective as was noticed by the kids when they stated that Goldilocks was wrong or when they began to see things from the point of view of the wolf in The Three Little Pigs), conflict/resolution and perspective.

The video below is shown without sound, captions or voice interpreting. This is a conscious choice based on the belief that they would distract from the rich interpretation and impact of Whitney's performance. This is also a pretty well known story so these elements may prove unnecessary. I would be interested in feedback as to whether or not this is the case.

Thank you Whitney and all of our fantastic storytellers!

Please note that in order for this video to upload to fit the 10 minute limit imposed by YouTube it was necessary to edit 6 minutes from the story.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Ten 2009 - 2010

Drum roll please,

My kindergarten children voted and their Top Ten favorite books for the past school year are...

Coming out on top - at Number One! - is Otto Goes To The Beach by Todd Parr! This book also made the Top Ten three years ago and I am happy to see it included once again. Otto was an overall favorite character this year. We read Otto Has a Birthday at every birthday celebration but I think what pushed this book to the top is Otto's bathing suit mishap. Poor Otto!

Todd Parr was also represented in the Number Five position with The Peace Book. This book continues the generous message found in all of Todd's work which is that of acceptance, love and celebrating differences.

His illustrations are colorful, welcoming and irresistible. This past week my students created a literacy center based on his artwork. Each student wanted to draw like Todd Parr using thick black dry erase markers on white boards.

They did a pretty fantastic job too.

Fairy Tales were also well represented. I give credit for this to the stupendous ASL storytellers who visited our classroom to retell the classic fairy tales in American Sign Language.

These were all recorded so the students could watch them over and over again. It improved not only their sense of story but their signing as well.

The hands-down favorite - and Number Two on our list - was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Our storyteller, Whitney, based her character on the illustrations found in Paul O. Zelinsky's book. In his hands (and subsequently hers) Rumpelstiltskin is all bug-eyed, small, INTENSE and hilarious.

Other fairy tales on the Top Ten included The Gingerbread Man by Karen Schmidt (Number Four) and Little Red Riding Hood by James Marshall (Number Nine).

I would love to post some of the ASL fairy tales here but need to get permission from our storytellers. Stay tuned...

Of course, no Top Ten list would be complete (at least in my eyes) without that mischievous little monkey Curious George. This book was voted Number Eight.

Here is the complete list of Top Ten Children's Books according to my kindergarten class for 2009-2010.
  1. Otto Goes to the Beach by Todd Parr
  2. Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky
  3. Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino
  4. The Gingerbread Man by Karen Schmidt
  5. The Peace Book by Todd Parr
  6. Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
  7. Good Night, Mr. Night by Dan Yaccarino
  8. Curious George by H.A. Rey
  9. Little Red Riding Hood by James Marshall
  10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
It is only because this post is getting rather long that I neglected to properly sing the praises of author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino.

He has two books in the Top Ten. His books are sensational so look for an upcoming post dedicated to them this summer.

Happy Reading!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All The Colors We Are

The well-oiled machinery of social injustice and smoldering hegemony underpin our everyday lives in America whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. It is so subtle that we have willingly accepted it, mainly without question, as simply the way of things.

Those in power keep the power through the well-established order of things. The mentality of 'this is the way we have always done things' coupled with the overwhelming prospect of how would we change the rules even if we wanted to keeps us chugging along in the status quo.

This is evident in our school systems as well. The best education is doled out to those children whose parents have experienced success while those from less wealthy or privileged backgrounds are not afforded equal opportunities.

One component of stratification is based on skin color. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote in South Pacific that hatred and prejudice towards those who look/act differently from us must be "carefully taught" and I agree.

And yet, children notice that they look different from one another. I have had conversations with other teachers about this and we have debated how to approach it; openly discuss it or ignore it. One view is to let children be children, but more and more we find that it seems we are doing the students a disservice if we sweep their noticings and questions under the rug.

They sometimes say hurtful things to one another because they don't realize the power of their words. These innocent statements have sometimes caused worry for a child and their parents.

Therefore we thought it best to at least touch upon the fact that we have many shades of skin color in our classroom and to celebrate those differences.

We began in art class with each student creating a self portrait (see above). We also read two books, All The Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger and Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney.

Together these books provide an explanation as to how we get our skin color (family ancestry, amount of melanin, exposure to the sun) and celebrate the differences.

A suggested extension activity is to have each student try to match their skin color by mixing paint and then naming it (pancake syrup, mocha, etc.). With the help of Margaret, our art teacher, we gave it a go. (Margaret's tip: When creating skin tones, which is a challenge, it is best to start by making orange and then adding either black or white as necessary.)

Each child made three swatches - one for themselves and one for each person to their left and right - and these were tied together to make a beautiful "Colors of Us" quilt.

For more about how children view skin color click here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hotel Kindergarten

Joseph Campbell coined the phrase Follow Your Bliss stating that "when you do doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors".

I guess my kids were on to something when they voted to learn about hotels. Once the word was out we were invited to tour the Marcel at Gramercy due to our high ranking connections (Thank you Cindy and Lou!).

We arranged a visit with the Hotel Manager Mark Houston with a focus on answering the big question our students wanted to know "where do the people sleep?". Mark guided us to two rooms; one with two double beds and another with a king-sized bed. Both rooms had fantastic views of the NYC skyline, including the Empire State Building.

They were able to use the room key card to enter each room and once that door opened it was a bit of every man for himself! Thank goodness Mark was patient and seemingly unfazed by the bing-bing-bing blur of movement their excitement engendered. At least they refrained from bouncing on the bed(s).

This was the first time many of them had been in a hotel room and they were fascinated and full of questions regarding the safe, ironing board, toilet paper (with the fancy "M" seal), large mirrors, amenities and the LG flat screen television set.

Mark also took us up to the rooftop lounge area where the kids 'ooh'ed and 'ahh'ed over the view before settling into their lounge chairs as if they did this everyday after school.

Before we left Mark gave each student their own room key (to play with in our classroom Hotel Kindergarten) and more information about NYC hotels.

When we got back to class each child wrote about the experience. It was amazing to see the learning through their writing and detailed pictures.

It goes to show ya that kids are paying close attention even when they appear not to be. As Martha would say "It's a good thing".


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