School is On!

Due to the extended teacher strike in our province, we got the jump on the public school students this year by launching into our programs while they are still out of the classroom. Our co-op was up and running this Monday and we started off with a strong emphasis on routine. At our co-op time M spent time refamiliarzing the children with our rules and organization. She then led them in a thoughtful discussion of how they can manifest the fruit of the spirit in our co-op time. They had a large fabric tree and felt apples that they wrote different character traits on. They took turns placing the apples on the tree and then also discussed the “bad fruit” that we don’t want to see at co-op.

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After M’s lovely introduction to our year together I introduced an re-enforcement activity that I found on pinterest called Recipe for Success: http://travelingtogether.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/teachers-talk-first-day-of-school/ The lesson plan was to make individual bags of trail mix using a recipe. The catch is that the recipe includes things like 2 cups of kindness or 1 cup of effort. I had already set up a bakery area and labelled all of our trail mix items with the labels provided in the free download from the link. Using a whiteboard I walked the kids through the vocab of the “ingredients” in our recipe. I wanted to make sure our whole group ranging from kindergarten to grade 4 understood what we meant when we said effort or curiosity. After we brainstormed and discussed the definition of each word I explained how the activity would work and we then got the kids in an assembly line with older ones helping the younger and made up the bags of trail mix. I laminated the recipe cards to place in their binders and will refer to it throughout the year as we aim to develop the character of each child in our circle.

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Finally, K read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes and facilitated a think-pair-share reading exercise as they read the picture book. The children were encouraged to infer, reflect and connect with the story in a variety of ways then they did a vocabulary exercise using tier 2 or slightly challenging vocab words. The words of the week were: possession, envious, scarcely, and precious.

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After co-op we had a fabulous time doing “forest school” at one of our family’s homes. They have a new property that includes all kinds of natural vegetation and a creek running through it. The children explored to their hearts content while the moms debriefed and planned a bit for the coming weeks.

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The rest of the week was about setting our new routine. During breakfast we practise our bible memory work and do our devotions. After breakfast is over we are extending responsibilities and taking turns at the clean up and setting up for our school time. E and D get out their journals and are expected to do one page each. So far E is choosing a reporting plan in her journal and simply retells the previous day’s activities. She is discovering her author’s voice and using good details to add interest to the recount. D on the other hand is only in grade 1 and is still in a pre-writing stage. He has been drawing a picture and then he copies the date at the top of the page and traces over my writing to write 3 or 4 sentences about his drawing. We have been using a simple format that goes like this: This is a ________. It has __ eyes. It has __ arms. It can ______. I have been drawing circles for the numbers and getting him to write them in without tracing. I am also trying to use this format to help build his skill and confidence, (scaffolding), into being able to write these simple sentences without tracing. So far he is enjoying the freedom to draw whatever he wants and just describing it for his entry. Journal time takes about 40 minutes then I give the kids an active break to go on the trampoline if it’s dry or run around the house for 15 minutes. I keep it fairly short then bring them back to our work area to get into our day’s math. They are both doing Singapore and E has jumped forward into book 3A while D is doing 1A. He has a lot of reversals when writing his numbers, but he recognizes all the numbers from 1-50 without difficulty and is able to do the exercises so far without difficulty. We may jump forward in the book but for now are treating it as review and reinforcement.

After math is done we are usually at lunch so we pack up our school work eat and head out to our afternoon activities. Tuesday afternoon his we rode our bikes to a park where we met with a couple of new families to help broaden D’s circle of friends. Wednesday afternoon we met up with friends for an afternoon of cycling around the zoo. Thursday afternoon we went to Chuck-E-Cheese for a final school hours get together with public school friends and Friday afternoon we went to ice-skating with the local home learners group. Next week we start more of our formal learning activities so it was nice to get in some social time this week.

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