Thank you for visiting our website! I hope that you find it to be a helpful resource and I'm so glad you made your way to this blog. In my capacity as Director of Lower Elementary Programs here at The Center, I have the good fortune of working with an outstanding faculty and staff, a dedicated board and administrative team, and 240 of the most amazing children you will ever meet. I hope to use this space to highlight their good work, to reflect on teaching and learning, and to pose questions aimed at helping me to improve the experience of all of our students.
BIG SUNDAY is coming up - and there are 2 ways you can get involved.
Click here for SOVA's list of non-perishable food and toiletries that are needed this year. We will be collecting items on campus from Monday, April 29th through Monday, May 6th. CEE is the largest single-day donor to SOVA and our help is needed more than ever.
In addition to the food drive,we also wanted to offer our families a different opportunity to give their time, so we've partnered with Kelso Elementary in Inglewood, a K-6 school of 720 students located across the street from the Forum. Comprised entirely of Title 1 families, Kelso faces the challenges of so many older schools in lower-income neighborhoods--many projects and no budget.
Our general plan: * We'll be there from 10 am-3 pm on SUNDAY, MAY 5, in 2 hour shifts. Here's an easy link to sign up for a shift: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090A4DADAF29A64-bigsunday/9022798 * Our projects: rejuvenating their garden, painting designs on the vast asphalt and possibly a mural, reorganizing their lost and found area. How you can help: * Come dressed and ready to paint and garden on May 5! Feel free to include non-CEE friends and family.
BIG SUNDAY is a great way to get together with friends and family for a day of serving others!
I have been hosting student book clubs this year and it has been such a joyful experience. Students at a particular grade level have the chance to read between one and six picture books by a given author (so far, Allen Say and Patricia Polacco for 3rd grade, Angela Johnson with 2nd graders and Mem Fox with 1st graders) over the course of several weeks. They are then invited to join me with classmates from both rooms in the storybook room for a lunchtime discussion. I start by reading another selection by that month's author aloud (mainly so kids can eat in peace and frankly, not talk with their mouths full!) and then we chat - about things they notice, connections they make, and questions they have about the author. It's a wonderful way for me to get to know them as readers and to share my love for books and stories with them. This picture is from yesterday's meeting with third graders, who were in the midst of exploring the huge collection of Patricia Polacco books we have at the CEE library.
Oh, and the shoe question? Right in the midst of the magical moment you see above, my shoe completely broke. So much for blog entries about shoes fitting...I guess it should have been about them not falling apart!
We spend a great deal of time talking about "Good Fit" books in grades K-3. Students learn about how to choose books themselves, thinking about purpose, interest, and understanding. Teachers talk about how we read some books for specific reasons, and how we read others just for the sheer pleasure of escaping into a story. Kids who learn to recognize what a "Good Fit" book feels like can also tell what it feels like when a story isn't quite right for them, and are empowered to choose another book in its place.
When we first introduce this topic, especially with our younger students, we use the concrete example of a shoe fitting vs. being too loose or too tight; this visual works well because there are also certainly different shoes for different occasions, and kids love thinking about playing a football game wearing ballet slippers, or wearing ice skates to bed.
Little did I know this analogy would carry over into real life for me...
I bought 2 pairs of springy shoes over the break, identical in style, one bright pink pair and one black with white polka dots. According to the price tags ($12.95, I love a bargain!) they were both size 10, and although I usually wear a 10 1/2 I was so excited about the colors (and the price!) that I quickly tried one pair on and decided they'd be fine.
Yesterday I wore the pink ones, and before long, I was in agony. They were way too small and my feet were aching by the end of the day to the point that I drove home barefoot. I was disappointed but I knew that I couldn't possibly spend another minute in them. That's why this morning, when I slipped on the other pair with ease, I was confused. I snuck a glance at the bottom of the shoe and saw the European size 42, which is the same as an American 10. Curious, I picked up the (rejected) pink shoe from my closet, flipped it over, and laughed out loud when I saw the 41 on the bottom. I had spent the day yesterday wearing shoes that were a full size too small for me. No wonder I had been in pain! And yet I believed what the (incorrect) price tag had indicated - that they should have been the right size for me.
I share this not as a cautionary tale about checking both the price tag as well as the item itself to confirm that you have the right size, but as a reminder about the perils of relying on labels. I should have done what CEE students do when they know something is not a good fit - they make a change and seek something that is right for them. If I had done the same I would have had a much better day yesterday. When our students do so with the texts they're choosing, they have much better reading experiences - the kind that keep them coming back for more.
As the parent of a rising Kindergartener, this is a question that keeps me up at night!
Well, not really, but today it certainly hit me that in one short year, I will be visiting my daughter as she participates in one of my favorite CEE traditions - the Kindergarten Hundreds Day Museum.
Students have been preparing for this special occasion - which always coincides with our 100th day of school - by putting together collections of 100 objects that are currently on display in the Board Room. From hair clips to pasta, from Legos to seashells, the collections are creative and varied, and student docents have spent the day proudly explaning the exhibit and welcoming visitors from fellow students who all fondly remember their 100's day display.
Our Kindergarteners worked hard and we are all so proud of them!
As a mom, a teacher, and someone who works at a school surrounded by and charged with the care of over 500 children, the unfathomably tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier today hit extremely close to home. Parents at pickup today walked onto the yard with tears in their eyes and hugged their children tighter than ever. They left squeezing their kids' hands, feeling what I'm sure is a combination of relief and a new kind of fear. I feel completely inadequate when faced with the idea of providing advice, answers, or comfort in moments like these, and so instead I will offer this image:
Today the third graders earned their first reading party of the year. Each class has read over 1,000 hours in total and to celebrate, kids wore PJ's to school and enjoyed an afternoon of reading, hot chocolate, and the company of good friends and good books. I caught these boys in a moment of shared joy that I intend to keep with me this weekend as questions, doubts, and moments of hopelessness inevitably arise. This visual of togetherness, joy, and love will sustain me in the face of the endless media images I know await me on my phone, computer, and television. I invite you to find a peaceful image or words of comfort to hold onto - in addition to your own child's hand - during this confusing and difficult time.
I was reminded of all the service learning and community outreach that Center students have been involved with during our very busy Monday Morning Assembly today. After starting off with a colorful and vivid presentation about Diwali, we heard about our UNICEF collection results, the fourth grade service club's beach cleanup that they're hosting this weekend, a quarters for caring campaign to help our east coast friends in need in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and a reminder about bringing in dry and canned goods for the Blind Children's Center Thanksgiving food drive. Phew! It was a great snapshot of all the good work being done on a kid-appropriate scale to serve our neighborhood, our country, and our world.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take my 4 1/2 year old daughter Lucy to the polls in our neighborhood early this morning to cast my (our!) vote. She proudly helped me ink my ballot up and was allowed to put it in the box herself, earning an "I voted" sticker that she strategically placed in the middle of the pink heart on her t-shirt, exclaiming, "I love voting!" It was a special moment and one I hope she remembers.
I was equally thrilled to come to school and find another long line - one that looked like this:
Second graders are shown here waiting patiently in line while Matt explains the electronic ballots on the iPad. Once they were in the storybook room, a.k.a Election Headquarters, students had the chance to vote for President:
They took this very seriously and were very respectful of one another's privacy as they made their choice. Because students voted on iPads, they were able to get real-time results throughout the day in their classrooms from their teachers. Polls will be closing here at CEE soon - be sure to ask your child who won!
My question for this entry is in quotes because it's not my question - it's a question that a third grader recently asked me out on the yard with some degree of urgency.
In an effort to spend more time in classrooms and to get to know the lower elementary students as readers, I am going to be having two book clubs a year with each grade level. The book club will have an author study focus, and this month I started by introducing third graders to Allen Say. I read his book "The Bicycle Man" with both classes and then left a collection of his other works with them to read at their leisure over the next month or so. At the end of October, anyone in third grade who would like to can come to the book club meeting, whether he or she has read all of the books I left or just heard the read-aloud and is interested in discussing the author and his style. I am hoping to be part of a rich and interesting lunchtime conversation with third graders and to duplicate this experience with Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades as well. Needless to say I was thrilled to hear this particular third grader's question and to of course point her in the direction of the CEE library, home to many more Allen Say books. She came up with the idea of re-reading her favorite of the books in her class, "Emma's Rug" - another wonderful option. I look forward to chatting with her and with her classmates when we meet at the end of the month!
For me it’s a toss-up. I love the first time Kindergarteners come to Monday morning assembly. Reveta makes a big deal about their presence and the rest of the students welcome them with open arms to our weekly elementary school-wide meeting. We celebrate birthdays, hear about community service efforts, and highlight the dynamic and diverse goings-on in our many programmatic areas. And this year, we are ending our morning gathering in a mindful way – a peaceful moment of shared stillness to bring a sense of calm before we begin the always-busy and sometimes-hectic school week. That front row of Kindergarteners, backpacks sometimes peeking from behind smiling faces, is a terrific sight to inspire anyone on a Monday morning!
Another first of the year just happened yesterday – it was our first day of Families, the multi-age groups that gather during community time. This is another rite of passage for Kindergarteners, as Families are made up of K-6 students, 2 or 3 from each grade in over 25 groups. Just under an hour before the end of the school day, Bette makes her announcement and then for a few minutes, all 420 elementary students are in motion. Upper elementary students pick up buddies in the lower elementary and escort them to rooms all over campus where Families gather to chat, play, reconnect, and at this first meeting, make friendly wishes or write letters to the current 7th graders who were in their Families last year. 6th graders play a leadership role, and faculty and staff members facilitate as kids take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get to know fellow Center students in a unique setting.