Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kindergarten Crybaby

We shed no tears on the first day of Kindergarten. The whole Roderique family (except Colby- it was raining) took Fran to school. We took pictures. We lingered. Then we left him there. We came home. We all sat at home the whole day; Blaine even took the day off. Then we went back to pick him up. We took more pictures. We came home. Fran was exhausted, but he loved it.

I saw some mothers crying at Kindergarten drop-off. (And after it, walking down the tree-lined streets toward parked minivans.) I shook my head and thought things like "Wow, I'll bet she's doing a number on her kid." A few days in, I saw a mother who was still crying. (Granted, she could have stubbed her toe...) But my eyes were dry. Kindergarten is a joy; what was wrong with these people?

Fran loved Kindergarten. He still was quick to tears at times, but we heard he was a social butterfly. Kindergarten was going well. And it seemed like it would go on like this for quite some time.

But really, Kindergarten was flying by like calendar pages in an old-timey cartoon. Suddenly, there were about 30 school days left. I started to panic. How could Kindergarten be ending? How could Fran possibly be big enough for first grade? And then I realized that come summer, Kindergarten would be over. New class. New teacher. New grade.

And then I started crying, just like the other mothers. Just a little late.

Also, I think it's fair to say that I am pretty sure I am doing a number on my kid...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Smooth Operator

Some of my favorite classroom activities for practicing reading fluently are shared reading, reader's theater, and partner reading. Another big component for teaching fluency is having it modeled with frequent, well-read read-alouds and also direct teaching in minilessons and conferences. It always amazes me how a simple demonstration comparing a "robot read" with a "fluent read" turns on light bulbs for readers. Additionally, studying how punctuation shapes reading is a huge help (phrasing, making it sound like talking, using end marks and commas to guide our voices).

But what does home support look like? I have noticed Fran's reading level has progressed nicely this year. When he is reading something with very high accuracy or familiarity, his intonation and phrasing are spot on. If the text is new (even with high accuracy), he does a great job reading with meaning about three-quarters of the way through the text and then reads more in short phrases to finish. That being said, our reading time is right before bedtime and he is exhausted from a busy day in full-day K and playing outside until dinner. Still, I have been thinking a lot about a home-support plan.

Basically, I think partner reading would be a good way to address this for a few reasons. Most importantly, Fran likes reading with me as a partner. I read a page, then he reads a page. Also, when we read as partners, I can subtly help with tricky spots and also cycle in-and-out modeling good phrasing. Fran and I have also talked about reading "quick enough so it sounds like talking." The Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books are a great read for this- the books are all dialogue and one person can read the Elephant talk bubbles and the other person can read the Piggie part. I think Fran would also enjoy writing and performing puppet shows (or having Elephant and Piggie Puppet shows.)

Reading fluently- or smoothly, with expression - will also elevate comprehension. I think these activities will be a fun for Fran and will make him feel very proud. Hopefully Claudia will outgrow her puppet fear so we have an audience!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kindergarten "Home-work"

This past weekend was our second Freckles weekend. (Freckles is a stuffed jaguar that travels from house to house from the kindergarten in a little blue backpack.) I got pretty wild and crazy. "Frecks" rode the bus home for Fran's playdate at Carlos's house, dined at Bennie's- just like MIchael Phelps, and went to a Tiger's soccer game. Freckles hosted a crazy playdate with Luke after soccer and hosted Claudia's Birthday Brunch. Fran even read the funnies to him on Sunday. Many events were documented by photographs.

Then we had to fill in the journal page (on school nights after long school days.) We trimmed a couple pictures and Fran picked his "layout". And then it was time for the captions. Fran was doing fine work, but Blaine and I were getting cranky. It was like a kindergartner was doing this writing. (Wait- he is in kindergarten...)

As a classroom teacher, I remember those points in the year where I would panic a bit about making sure I was guiding kids firmly enough. And looking over our year at home, I am having the same worries. I feel like there are a lot of times I have dropped the literacy ball at home. Fran has only written one story at home this year. We do a great job reading aloud to him, but after full day kindergarten, he often plays instead of reading independently (except for March is Reading month... he was a lean, mean reading machine.) But looking at his progress over the year is reassuring and inspiring. The difference in his writing from October was incredible: confidence in stretching and approximating new words, getting ideas on his own, neatness, spelling (kindergarten) high frequency words conventionally,... Most importantly, he works so much more independently now.

Maybe having a reading and writing house is not just about reading and writing. Maybe it's also about puppet shows, playing outside, and just sitting in the backyard in beach chairs under the Snoopy flag, thinking. But now, I think about how a little stuffed jaguar showed me how hard my Kindergartner has worked.