Lindie Keaton

Lindie Keaton

Sunday, 14 April 2024 15:51

How math in Kindergarten happens

Every once in awhile a Kindergartner will ask, "Why don't we do math?" What they are usually wondering is why subjects aren't segregated, with me the teacher announcing the subject and then giving paper and pencil problems to solve. The mainstream idea is that this is how people learn. While there is value and need to learn paper and pencil calculations, this isn't how children this age learn best. I usually answer with something like, "Oh, I thought we were doing math every day. What kind of math are you wanting to do?" On a couple occasions children will ask for me to generate problems, usually addition, on paper for them to write solutions. No one has ever asked more than once. So, how does math happen in Kindergarten? This, from the Kindergarten goals document, gives the foundation. "The children always arrive in Kindergarten with a large math vocabulary. They talk about hundreds, thousands, millions, a google and infinity. Many of them can count to 100. The gap between what they can say and what they understand is enormous. We keep the vocabulary and play with it (e.g. How long would we all have to stay at school if they really could have infinity crackers for snack?). But the experiences that I try to build into the day for the kids are concrete, functional, useful ways to use numbers when living together with other people. Math is used at snack. The kids will ask, 'How many people are here today?' I try to answer with a math problem. 'Usually we have twelve, but two children aren’t here today.' They may ask, 'How many apples do we need?' I’ll answer, 'We have ten people and we cut each apple into four pieces.' I vary the cups we use to measure with. Sometimes the one cup measure stays in the cabinet, and we cook with ½ and ¼ measures. How many will we need to measure one cup of flour? The room job chart changes every day. At the beginning of the year, I hear, 'Tomorrow I’ll be sand toy helper.' In the spring I hear, 'I can’t wait for next Tuesday. I’ll be day-offer.' The calendar, clock and timer also help the children place themselves in time. 'When the real clock looks like the pretend clock, it will be time for snack.' Many of the ways we use math come the children’s questions. 'How high is our ceiling?' We estimate and answers run from 15’1” to 'about as high as a kite when you first start to fly it.' We measure it then. We also use our bodies, hands, and feet to measure. 'How far can a jack rabbit jump?' We research the question and measure. Then we see how many times we would have to jump before we could go as far as the jack rabbit does in one hop. Sometimes math grows out of the children’s activities. When the children run across the golf course I ask, 'How big did I look when you were over there?' 'About as big as an ant standing on its hind legs.' 'Can you make me look smaller?' They take off across the golf course again and run back yelling, 'We did it! You were just the dot above an I.' Sometimes the children need math to bring a plan to fruition." This year's Kindergarten group decided to plan an egg hunt for Ee days. One child remembered the plan from last year and suggested I bring 36 eggs again. In this way they worked backwards to figure out how many eggs each child could find to make it fair. I filled half the eggs with items I had at my house. How many eggs still needed filled? How many could each Kindergartner fill to make it come out even? After the final 18 eggs were filled by Kindergarten made surprises, the children received their instructions for finding their four eggs, so that each person would find a fair amount of the fillings--one egg should be two colors, one egg should be yellow, and two eggs should be any other solid colors. This was a lot of categorizing, counting, and keeping track! They did it, but one solid colored egg (not yellow) remained elusive--either that or I miscounted to begin with we decided. No matter, one of the previously found eggs was filled again and re-hidden, so that everyone had their fair share. Though there have only been a few egg hunts planned in the 18 years I've been with Kindergarten, it has periodically happened over our history here at Antioch School. The Kindergarten goals math section concludes with this story of a Kindergarten long ago. "On a particularly in-and-out spring day we sat in a circle on the rug to plan an egg hunt. The kids decided to count to see if everyone was there. Counting in a circle was just too funny and soon we had 109 Kindergartners in the room. 'We couldn’t stop,' one child said. 'Numbers are really fun!'"
Sunday, 03 March 2024 19:57

Leaving the nest

     A parent asked me a very good question the other day--"How do you know when to sit back and allow your child to determine their own timeline to try something new and when to encourage or insist they do?"  As a teacher of young children, I am refining this art of knowing how best to support children's growth every day. 

     I start by getting to know the children.  Each child will have their own learning style and set of needs for support.  Years of experience with children this age has taught me some things to watch for--does this person need time to observe or do they like to jump right in; does this person need a confidence boost or help managing risk reasonably; does this person crave direct input from others or would they rather avoid scrutiny?  Sometimes children need a bit of a push, but I also know a push or insist can backfire, and I never want to take a child's focus from a new task at hand and put it on a power struggle with me.  

     Here's how this played out once with a Kindergartner and an ice skating field trip.  On the morning of the day we were going ice skating, a Kindergartner announced, "I'm not going to ice skate."

     "That's okay," I answered, "You can just go and watch."

     This same conversation occurred a couple times before we went to The Chiller in Springfield.  Once we arrived and stood at the counter to get ice skates, this child declared, "I don't want ice skates."

     Again I has a similar reply, "Okay, but would you like to see what a pair in your size looks like?"  The answer was yes.

     We proceeded in this way, me asking if they wanted to engage at each step and them answering affirmatively. 

     "Do you want to try them on?"  "Yes!"

     "Do you want to see what it's like to walk on the floor in them?"  "Yes!"

     "Do you want to go see what the children who are on the ice are doing?"  "Yes!"

     After we were stationed in front of the viewing window and near the door to enter the ice rink, I stopped asking questions and just observed.  What I saw was this child, who had been unsure of trying to ice skate, go out on the ice several times, holding the rail on the edge, holding the hand of an adult or a friend.  This child kept those ice skates on until after our snack break and until nearly the end of the time to skate.  Just putting the skates on was a great success, so for them this was an excellent first outing.

     This worked for this particular child because we knew each other very well.  I knew that the rejection of the activity was an expression of ambivalence.  The Kindergartner knew that my communication was honest--it was their choice how far to go--and that I would hold them in positive regard no matter what level of engagement they chose.  As the teacher, my role is to see the big picture, and know that it's not nearly as important how quickly someone learns a new skill or even how skilled someone becomes in any particular activity, but the most important thing is knowing yourself and finding the way to inner courage.  Once you know that you're already flying!

Sunday, 07 January 2024 21:35

A Show Goes On!

     Most Kindergarten groups explore play production at some point(s) during the school year.  The inspiration most often comes from seeing the Younger Group (YG) or Older Group (OG) put on plays, which can happen spontaneously anytime, but reliably happen at the end of October with the YG Halloween play and the OG Enchanted Forest skits and with the OG spring musical each year. 

     This year's Kindergartners were already thinking about doing a play--several of them had been in the group the previous year and remembered the play that group put on near the end of the school year.  After seeing the YG and OG October performances, they were determined they would do a play, too.

     November and December brought both set backs and progress in their plans.  The group was rarely all present together.  I had an extended absence in November, and December brought a cascade of illnesses for the children.  By winter break, though, the children had a play mostly dictated with just one character and an ending needing to be written in still.

     Their preparation for performing a play had been happening all fall on the stage during many art/science times.  Completely independently the children led themselves through attempts of play performances through a combination of negotiation and improv.  Not one was fully completed, though, as negotiations, attention, or both, broke down.

     Our first day back from winter break was a Tuesday--an art/science day for Kindergarten.  Something in their time away from each other had allowed them to shift--they completed several spontaneous performances on the stage in art/science that afternoon.  In the process they developed their own form for introducing their plays--the cast sitting along the edge of the stage saying their character names and pertinent information one by one, until all had been introduced, and the action would begin.

     Elaina and I noted this leap to each other.  I said nothing to the children about their almost finished play from December.  Would they return to it, or would they move on to something else? Would they create a new play later in the year, or would their success that day in art/science be enough for this year?  Any of those outcomes would be excellent for a group of five and six year old children.  If a play is performed in Kindergarten, it's important that the desire for that comes intrinsically from the children to preserve their budding self-image as "independent, strong, capable individuals, . . . learners, and teachers", as well as to give them opportunities to develop as a group the ability to "listen to each each other. . . , include many ideas. . ., and to show respect for each other" (Antioch School Kindergarten goals).

     At the end of the next day a child asked, "Aren't we going to do our play?", and it flowed from there.  On Thursday morning the last Kindergartner wrote in her part and helped create the ending.  She also created a program with me taking dictation.  That afternoon they did a run through and determined that the afternoon Nursery group would be an audience everyone was comfortable with, and we would ask Elaina to video tape it for anyone who wasn't in the audience.  The children collected props, made scenery, and planned to bring any desired costumes to school the next day for the dress rehearsal and performance following a bit later the very same day!

    At snack time Thursday afternoon there was some discussion about stage fright.  An experienced Kindergarten performer suggested bringing a favorite stuffed animal to carry on stage.  Several children agreed that this would help.  The next day the children dictated a note to the Nursery children to invite them to the performance.  The Kindergartners made it through their dress rehearsal with just a few stops.  As the performance time neared, they sat on the edge of the stage, prepared for their introductions, waiting for their audience to arrive.  Several children expressed feeling nervous. 

     A Kindergartner, who had announced to their parent on the way to school, "I'm going to rock this play!" earnestly addressed the group, "Look guys, we can do this.  Just listen for your cues.  We know this!"  The Nursery schoolers came at just that moment, and the show went on without a hitch!  The children were full of smiles during and after the performance with one child musing, "I wonder if we'll do another."

     I sure hope so.  Please enjoy the Antioch School Kindergarten Winter Play below:)

Summer Play

Characters:  Ballerina unicorn princess, Super princess, fairy angel, magical neon purple unicorn cat, Spidercat's son, Magic queen, Princess unicorn fairy, a Wolf, and a Mermaid

     Once upon a time at the magical zoo there was a princess unicorn fairy.  The magic wolf gets its power from the Fairy angel.  Next to the wolf was a mermaid.  Next to the mermaid is the Ballerina unicorn princess. 

     Spidercat's son lit the zoo on fire, and the animals ran away to the National Park.  The unicorn turns into a firefighter and saves the zoo.  The neon cat was at the park and trying to find a place to hide out.  The magic queen and super princess go to the magic zoo to look at the animals.  They didn't see any of the animals. 

     The magic queen and the super princess find the animals at the park and bring them back to the palace to be the palace pets.  Spidercat's son steals the emerald gem.  Super princess and the wolf chase him.  They get the emerald back and put it in its place after midnight and before morning dawn--otherwise it will lose all of its powers and will have to go back to being just an emerald not a gem. 

     The neon cat and the ballerina unicorn princess give Spidercat's son a potion that makes him eat a poisonous marker.

The End

Sunday, 10 December 2023 19:07

Finding a Tree Together

     The Antioch School Kindergarten has a long tradition of getting a tree in December.  Many years ago Kindergartners would cut a Christmas tree to decorate for school.  Since not all families and children celebrated Christmas, though, eventually they decided to make it more inclusive.  After all, the tradition of bringing greenery and evergreen trees in during this dark time of year dates back to the earliest solstice celebrations, long before Christians began celebrating Christmas.  The tree was renamed a giving tree.  Kindergartners would choose a cause for families to donate to, and the tree would be decorated with items for that cause.  Some years it was hats, mittens, and scarves.  Other years items for hurricane relief, food for local food banks and soup kitchens, and even items for the birds at the Raptor Center were placed on and under the tree. 

     This year's Kindergarten group has been quite cohesive, and after our Thanksgiving break, they've been particularly consolidated.  Yet it was still surprising to me how quickly they selected this year's giving tree.  At the Yellow Springs High School Forest, they stopped at the first group of trees we came to and had circled their selected tree, before I had even caught up from the back of the group. 

     "This one!  This one!" they chanted together. 

     Several children helped saw it down, and several more pitched in to carry it to a parent's waiting car.  We then hiked back to school through the Glen, arriving before lunch.  It was record time!

     Since then, the children have decorated the tree with lights, paper snowflakes, and strings of popcorn and cranberries.  They decided that they would ask families to donate money to help people who are unhoused.  After asking around a bit--thanks, Chloe--we called Florence Randolph, a social worker with the Yellow Springs Police Department to see how to help.  The children's letter to school families is below.

Dear Parents,


If people don't have homes, soon they will need money to buy a home.  They might need food, water, and clothing.  Florence Randolph, Community Outreach Specialist in Yellow Springs, will give them food, water, and clothing, and help them find homes.


There's going to be a box by the giving tree near the front and OG doors.  Please put money and checks (made out to YS PD Community Outreach) in it.


We are going to give it to Florence.  Thank you, parents.





Update:  Thank you to all who helped the children raise $530.01 for the Community Outreach program.  The children were very excited, as we counted the money together.  One child shared, "I didn't even know it would be one hundred!"  They were very proud of their effort and grateful for your support. 


Saturday, 30 September 2023 11:26

Finding Fred, Creating Culture

     Each Kindergarten group creates its own customs, art, and achievements--the group's own unique culture every year.  Observing this process is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role as teacher.  This year's group began this process right away with their creation of stuffy news--a news time where their stuffed animals get to share.  Finding Fred also became an early bonding activity.

     It began when one Kindergartner caught a stink bug and put it in a bug catcher.  In a short amount of time the stink bug, named Fred, made an escape, as stink bugs are prone to do.  Fred's captor spent several subsequent activity times recruiting friends to help find Fred.  It became a connection point for new friendships.  Over the course of the weeks, the children have come across stink bugs with some regularity.  "There's Fred!" they'll declare.  They'll gather and admire the stink bug--capturing it is no longer part of the process.  One day in art/science, a Kindergartner pointed to the upper windows, "There's two Freds!", as two stink bugs made their way across the window.  Fred and stink bug have become synonymous.

     In addition to zoologists, this is a also group of authors.  A Kindergartner has crafted the first Kindergarten poem of the year and many little books have been created and shared at story time.  I write the words children dictate for their poems and stories, but several children are exploring the words they can write on their own.  Writers' groups often form at the circle table during quiet toys, when I am assisting snack helpers in preparing our snack.  Here is one conversation I overhead from a small group of Kindergarten writers.

"I wrote /a/.  Why did I write /a/?  I wrote 'I love /a/.'" shared one Kindergarten writer.

"Who is /a/?" asked another.

"This is /a/," declared a third, pointing to their drawing.  "/A/ is always sad."

"Well /a/," the first child chimed back in, now looking at the drawing with a smile.  "I'm sorry.  I don't love you.  We've just met."

     They are having so much fun with words and phonemes!  And I am having so much fun seeing the culture they are creating together!


Sunday, 10 September 2023 14:42

New news

     The Kindergartners are enjoying getting to know each other and our routines and building stamina for processing all the learning that happens throughout our days together.  So many stuffies wanted a turn to speak at our first news meeting that we created stuffy news for Thursdays when we aren't going to swim.  In stuffy news each Kindergartner can bring a stuffy from home or borrow one from school.  Each stuffy then gets a turn to "speak" and share something.  This week one stuffy, whose Kindergartner had shared them for Wednesday's news, shared two other stuffy friends on stuffy news day:)  This is the first Kindergarten during my time teaching here to have stuffy news.  It's one of the many rewarding aspects of this job--getting to see each unique group and what they will create together.

Thursday, 01 June 2023 01:06

The Kindergarten Play

     Every spring each Kindergarten group has, unprompted, decided to do some big, whole group project together.  This year's group, like several who have gone before, got inspired by the Older Group's spring musical and decided to write and perform a play.  They were exceptionally motivated and self-driven.  They chose parts and decided on a general plot, dictating to me, so I could capture it on paper for them to finish and practice later.  They then proceeded to work on the details of the story and lines completely on their own on the playground.  They created a set and ran through the plot over and over, stopping to listen to each other as they added lines and refined the story.  They did this for an entire afternoon.  They knew the story so well that after only a few practices on the stage in the art/science room, they performed a dress rehearsal for the Nursery children.  They were then ready to present the show to parents and families.  It was a great success and the children fairly glowed with pride afterwards! 

The Kindergarten Play

By Antioch School Kindergarten 2022-23


Glitter Amana--a superhero

Aleena--flying horse superhero pet

Glitter Lucky--a superhero


Super Dog--superhero flying dog

Heather--a unicat with magic from her horn

Uni--pegasus unicorn superhero pet

Spidercat--bad guy

Sparkle Gabby--a superhero

Spike--a kid superhero

Flower Girl--superhero

Animal Girl--superhero

     Once upon a time there were superheroes, The Glitter Force, and their Glitter pets in their headquarters.  And then a bad guy, Spidercat, set a fire on Eleena's home base, the tree.  

"Spiderman go! Spiderman go!"

     Spiderman and the others put out the fire.  Heather guards Eleena's tree.

     Spidercat went over to Spike's house and made an explosion fire at Spike's house.  

"Punch through the door!"

"Spiderman go!  Spiderman go!"

     They put out the fire.  Then Eleena flies back to her tree when Glitter Force isn't watching and has babies.  Then Ellena comes down with her babies behind her. 

"Awww!  So cute!"

And they notice she has wings.

"What the wings!"

The End




Wednesday, 29 March 2023 18:16

Kindergarten reading--getting ready to be code breakers

     Recently we teachers have been taking a close look at reading instruction and what brain research suggests.  For me this is bringing new clarity into the hows and whys of reading instruction here at Antioch School.  How does that look in Kindergarten?

     Almost every year there are children who enter Kindergarten already reading.  They have picked up the needed skills mainly through observation.  About 40% of children will learn to read this way, though most of them will do so during their Younger Group years.  For most children, though, the transition to reading occurs with formal instruction.

     In Kindergarten this includes letter names and sounds (phonemes), along with exploration of rhymes and syllables.  We have a job chart that includes each Kindergartner's name.  Most children enter the group able to recognize their own name and over time learn to recognize the names of their classmates.  "Who are snack helpers today?" is a question Kindergartners generally answer with ease by spring.  This is the first stage of reading--pictorial.  Children are using their visual system to identify words in the same way they identify faces.  It's not real reading yet, but difficulty at this point indicates a need for a thorough evaluation of a child's visual system.

     After winter break, Kindergarten starts letter days.  This is a review in identification for most children, though many are still solidifying their familiarity of lower case letters.  Knowledge of letter names forms the categories, or hooks, if you will, in the brain where children will store all the forms and fonts of the letters as well as their sounds and combinations.  Along with letter name identification, letter day instruction in Kindergarten focuses on beginning phonemic awareness--what sounds the letters stand for--starting with the simplest, most common phonemes and progressing from there.  As a group we generate a list of words that start with the letter sound of the day.  Some children readily think of words.  Others need a clue or two--an opposite, a rhyme, a context, or definition clue.  Some children begin to generate clues for additional words they've thought of for other children to guess.  Some children go from weeks of needing clues to thinking of their own words. 

     For one Kindergartner this year, that break through came during Pp days on a walk to swimming.  After needing clues and often not using the phoneme to narrow guesses during word list time, her face lit up as she announced out of the blue, "Pizza is a /p/ word!"  As we continued walking, she periodically named more /p/ words--play, path, pond--a light bulb had gone off!

     We also play with phoneme substitution.  What would your name be if it started with /t/? for example.  This is a favorite activity of the current group.  Some of the children ask me to review all the Kindergarten names with them individually, if they miss the group activity for any reason.  I overheard one child sharing with a friend recently, "I can't wait until /k/ days. . . "  He then shared he was looking forward to one of the names that substitution would generate.

     Every once in awhile I get to witness a child breaking the code in real time.  A few weeks ago two Kindergartners were looking at a book together.  The dog in the story was howling.  "Aaaawooooo" was written across the page.  One of the children pointed to and named each letter, "ay-ay-ay-ay-double u-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh".  The second child said, "No, it's easier if you go ahhh-wuh-oh.  Oh!  Aaaawooooo!" she howled with recognition!

     Reading is a recent cultural invention.  English is the most difficult of all the alphabetic writing systems to learn to read and spell.  At this early stage in Kindergarten, repetition, stretching out and stressing the sounds, and proceeding slowly are helpful, and even key for some children.  It takes most children several years of instruction and practice to master the phonemic reading stage and to move on to expertise in reading English.  Some will do this faster and some slower.  A small subset will need much more time, repetition, and expert support.  The good news is that with instruction and support almost all children can break the code and become readers.  I feel privileged to help Kindergartners begin the journey. 

Monday, 27 February 2023 01:29

Kindergarten Authors and Poets

     Every year there are story tellers in Kindergarten.  They tell their stories by acting them out in imaginary play or telling them orally to the group.  Some children dictate their stories for an adult to write or do some writing themselves.  Recently, some Kindergartners have been creating their own books to share with the group, and last week the first Kindergarten poem of the year was written down by a Kindergartner to be shared at story time.

     Just as hearing published authors' works read aloud boosts children's motivation to learn to read and write, hearing their own work or that of their peers makes it all the more inviting.  And motivation needs to be high, because learning to read and write is hard work for most children.  We fluent adult readers consistently underestimate just how hard it is.  Writing and reading are relatively new cultural inventions that we must rewire parts of our brains to accomplish. 

     Nothing is more motivating than fun, and hearing a good story, poem, or joke read aloud is just plain fun.  Kindergartners have been enjoying hearing their own work and that of others shared during our read aloud time.  They have laughed uproariously together.  One author literally fell to the floor laughing and was obviously delighted that the other Kindergartners felt the same about her work.  Another Kindergartner has created a series of stories, so far three, with the same set of characters.  

     Here is a sample of their work:

Kindergarten poem (translated from sound spelling)

I I love

You are love

I I love

You are

Kindergarten story (numbers indicate pages)

1-The mommy butterfly and the baby butterfly

2-100 days later

3-The butterfly and the ladybug

4-The butterfly and the ladybug were in a big flood.

5-1000 days later

6-100 million days later

7-The End


Sunday, 11 December 2022 21:12

Befriending a Tree

     The Antioch School Kindergarten has a long tradition of getting a tree in December.  Many years ago Kindergartners would cut a Christmas tree to decorate for school.  Since not all families and children celebrated Christmas, they decided to make it more inclusive.  After all, the tradition of bringing greenery and evergreen trees in during this dark time of year dates back to the earliest solstice celebrations, long before Christmas was celebrated.  The tree was renamed a giving tree.  Kindergartners would choose a cause for families to donate to, and the tree would be decorated with items for that cause.  Some years it was hats, mittens, and scarves.  Other years items for hurricane relief, food for local food banks, and even items for the birds at the Raptor Center were placed on and under the tree. 

     This year's Kindergarten had the challenge of selecting a tree during a nationwide live tree shortage.  The Yellow Springs High School forest where we most frequently get our tree had sold twice as many trees as usual last year.  This year's selection was limited.  I let the children know that the tree had to be at least as tall as a Kindergartner, and it had to be one on which they all agreed.  After looking at several possibilities with a few children exploring veto power, the group agreed they wanted the tallest tree they could find. 

     At that point we were in a group of trees.  Some children pointed out one that seemed like the tallest.  One observant Kindergartner pointed out an old bird's nest in its branches.  The children decided they didn't want to take a tree that was so recently a bird's home.  They moved to a nearby tree of similar height.  One Kindergarten wasn't satisfied with this selection and pointed out a tree of similar height all by itself in the middle of the field.  We all walked over.  I asked the children to compare the two trees.

"There's no bird nests," one child noted about both trees.

"They're both tall," another added.

"Is there any difference?" I asked.

"This one doesn't have any friends, and that one does," one Kindergartner announced,  pointing back at the tree in the cluster of trees.

"So which tree do you want?" I asked.

"This one!  The one with no friends!" came the reply.

     So the children helped cut the lone tree and carried it all the way back to the access road, where Elaina would pick it up with her truck to take it back to school.  The Kindergarten hiked back to school, stopping for snack and lunch along the way.  They carried the tree into the building themselves, did the majority of the work to secure it in the stand, and watered it.  Later in the week, they strung popcorn to hang on the tree and several children worked together to put lights on it.  Together the children decided to ask families to help the Springfield Soup Kitchen with donations of items they need to help provide food for people who may not have a kitchen or a home. 

     Before winter break, we took a trip to Springfield to deliver the donated items to the Springfield Soup Kitchen in person.  It was a lovely culmination of the children's giving tree project.  The children got a tour of the soup kitchen.  They and the donations were very well received.  Thanks to all who donated.  A Kindergarten parent gave us some ideas of additional things to see in downtown Springfield--including many murals and a bakery stop.  The children so enjoyed the trip that they would like to plan a return visit in the spring.  Springfield is a child-sized city perfect for Kindergartens to explore on foot.


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