Author Visit with Jason Chin

Today, our students traveled to the City Campus to meet Jason Chin, an author/illustrator of non-fiction pictures books. He read his book Gravity and talked about how he came up with the idea for the story and how it evolved over time. We also got a chance to see him do a quick drawing of some of the items from the book. After we spent some time with our visiting author, the Pre-K students got to meet up with their city counterparts for some exploring of their playground and playing with old and new friends.


Letter Builders

In the past week, the students have been playing a game during center time called “Letter Builders” where they work with various wooden shapes to build a given letter. At the beginning of the game, the students are given a card with a letter displayed on it and they are asked to figure out which pieces they will need to make their letter. They then take the wooden pieces and place them right on top of the letter card. In most cases, the students exclaim how easy the task is and that they are ready for more of a challenge.

Once the students are comfortable with their abilities to manipulate the shapes, the letter card is then placed on a stand that sits in the middle of the table. The students must now create the letter shape while looking at the letter card from afar rather than directly in front of them. While this seems like it should be an easy task, the children actually must now use their executive functioning skills and working memory to hold the shape of the letter in their minds while searching for the appropriate pieces. Then they must create the shape of the letter in front of them without the help of the card underneath as a guide. The letters that use more straight pieces tend to be the easiest for the students to create, while the letters that use curvy pieces or letter that requires the students to cross the midline prove to be the most challenging. Some of the letters require the students to overlap the pieces, which created an extra challenge for them to tackle.


The last step in the game is when the students must create the letters completely on their own. The letter cards are put away and the student are asked to create the letter completely from memory. This is obviously the most challenging as the students must think about what shapes they will need without an example in front of them to use as a resource. Some students quickly problem solved this issue by looking around the room for the letter they were working on or even looking at a neighbor’s completed letter. The more the students work with the letters and their shapes, the easier the task becomes.


Today, we focused on creating uppercase letters as they are easier to form. Next time we play, the students will be challenged with creating lowercase letters with the wooden shapes. This makes the task slightly more difficult as the students will have to make sure their letter shapes are facing the correct direction. When shifted, even slightly, it can be easy to accidentally create the wrong letter. Letters such as b, d, p, and q look remarkably alike and the students will have to stay focused in order to create the correct letter. We know that our Pre-k Letter Builders will be up for the challenge!

Introducing: Book Buddies


We met with our fourth grade book buddies for the first time today.  This year, Mrs. Ferguson (the Fourth Grade teacher) and I are hoping to get together at least once every six day cycle.  Right now, we’re are scheduled to meet on Day 2.

This tradition is held very dear here at WTN.  All of our grades have reading buddies.  The elder children get the opportunity to model literacy and be a mentor for the little ones.  The younger buddies love having the one-on-one attention.


Questions from the heart

As many of you have noticed, our students have been challenged each morning with answering various questions about the human body for our Morning Message. These questions were created and answered by the students. So far, the questions have mostly revolved around our hearts, blood, and veins. Once the children have a chance to use their prior knowledge to take a guess, we spend some time doing research to hopefully find the answer to their inquiries. Yesterday, we had the students write in their journals about one thing they had learned about our bodies this week.

Side note: take a look at that amazing kid-writing!


We introduced our listening center last week.  It’s an antiquated, child-friendly, audio-tape player.  The children love the independence of being able to listen to a story by themselves.  After a ten minute explanation about the “play” and “stop” button and how to care for the headphones, we sent a small group off to listen to “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”


None of the buttons worked!  The power was on, the tape was happily in the machine, but the wheels wouldn’t turn.  No playing, no fast forward, no story. Well, as they say, when life give you lemons….

We found the same book read-aloud on YouTube, but we wanted to make the experience special since they’d lost the use of the headphones.  Enter the mini-theater.

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It’s not so quaint as an audio-tape player, but they seemed to like it.
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Book Buddies!

This week our students had a chance to meet their fourth grade buddies today! Each child was paired up with either one or two fourth grade students and they had some time to look at books and read together. We will get together with our buddies several times throughout the year to read stories, play games, and interact on the playground. We also will be sitting with our buddies during the Thanksgiving Feast next Tuesday. The bonds that are created during this time last throughout each child’s WT school career and become some of their fondest memories.

After our buddies returned to their classroom, the Pre-K wrote about their favorite part of the experience in their journals. These were their responses.



The Paper Bag Princess


Recently, we read a story called The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch; the well-loved author of Love You Forever and many other wonderful stories. In the story, Princess Elizabeth is described as a beautiful young princess who lives in a lovely castle, has beautiful hair, and expensive clothes. She is betrothed to her perfect match, Prince Ronald. Until one day when a dragon comes along and smashes her castle, burns up all her fancy clothes with his fiery breath, and captures Prince Ronald. Princess Elizabeth decided to put on the only thing that survived the fire (a paper bag) and sets off to save her prince.

When Elizabeth finally meets the dragon, she uses several very sneaky tactics to trick the dragon into exhaustion. Once the dragon is out cold, she rushes in to save Prince Ronald, but he scoffs at her appearance and choice of clothing. He tells her to go away and not to come back until she looks like a “real” princess. Elizabeth smiles and says, “Ronald, your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum,” and Princess Elizabeth decides not to marry him after all.

After the story, we discussed why Princess Elizabeth decided not to marry Prince Ronald. Many of the students concluded that Ronald was not very nice to her and that she should be allowed to wear/look however she wants. Others decided that sometimes, the princess gets dirty and saves the prince. One child even stated that it doesn’t matter what clothes a person wears, what matters is that they are a nice person. We decided as a class that it’s fun to imagine and tell lots of different stories. Boys can pretend to be princesses and fairies.  Girls can pretend to be princes and dragons or maybe just a princess who likes to get dirty every once in a while. When we play, we can be anything our minds can dream up and the true moral of the story is that life isn’t much different. Regardless of our age or gender, we can be anything we wish to be if we just spend a little bit of time imagining.



Big Body Letters

This morning, our students got excited about trying to figure out how to make various letters using only their bodies. Not only did the students have to access their knowledge about letters and the shapes we use to represent them, but they had to work cooperatively to move their bodies to make the correct formation. Using directional language, the students (and sometimes the teacher) guided each other to twist, curve, or straighten their bodies so the letter could take shape.

What’s the problem?

One of my favorite parts of our day is story time. We read a variety of stories with silly voices and animated expressions. We take the students along in the adventure of reading a good book. But what makes a story great? What needs to be present in order for the story to make sense? This week, we have started discussing how many stories have a problem and a solution. Sometimes stories have one problem that needs to solved, while others have multiple problems.


Yesterday, we read a book called Mine-o-saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen which tells the story of a dinosaur takes toys from all the other dinosaurs. The students decided that the problem was that the Mine-o-saur does not know how to share his toys. He continually takes them from the other dinosaurs, and as a result, no one wants to play with him. He solved his problem by giving back the toys he stole and apologizing to the other dinosaurs. In this story, there is only one problem, but the problem repeats itself until he realizes how to solve it.


Today, we read a story called Pigsty by Mark Teague. The story follows a boy name Wendell and his very messy room. His room is SO messy, that pigs start to show up! The students decided that the main problem of this book is that his room is too messy, but there were several smaller problems as well. Each of the smaller problems happen because of the main problem. His basketball gets squished by one of the pigs, his baseball cards get chewed up, and his mom gets upset. The class felt that the solution was pretty simple. Wendell needed to clean up that pigsty!

While both of these stories have problems, they are presented very differently in the way they are written. For the rest of the week, we will investigate other stories with problems and how those problems are solved. What stories do you know of that have a problem and a solution?