Lindie's Blog
Lindie Keaton

Lindie Keaton

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.


Sunday, 13 November 2022 18:37

Coming together for Gaga Ball

     Early last week the Kindergartners noticed some of their Older Group partners playing a game in the gaga ball pit.  The pit has been in disuse over the past few years, so this is the first time they had seen anyone play gaga ball.  An interested group of Kindergartners gathered around the outside of the pit to watch.  In a short time, some of them asked if they could play and were welcomed into the game.  Quickly the Older Groupers decided that some of the rules should be altered to accommodate their Kindergarten friends.  For example, Kindergartners didn't have to sit out until they were hit with the ball three times instead of just once. 

     When the OG went inside, the Kindergartners continued the game pretty much without a hitch.  This is quite an accomplishment for children this age, as you might know, if you've ever played a game with a six year old.  Such games generally involve an every shifting set of rules that always result in the six year old winning.  Yet here they were taking turns, sitting out, and waiting for the next round to join again.  

     The bigger challenge came when the Kindergartners decided to join the Younger Group in a game of gaga ball a few days later.  The Younger Groupers, being closer in age, expected the Kindergartners to compete as equals and follow the same rules.  This took a bit of adjustment for some Kindergartners, but they did it.  

     Now gaga ball has replaced freeze tag as the Kindergartners favorite game.  The call of "Gaga ball!" results in most, if not all, Kindergartners running to the pit to join.  Some Nursery children have even begun to join in as well.  And a big cheer from Kindergartners always goes up when the OG arrives--their friends who introduced the game in such a supportive way.

Sunday, 23 October 2022 17:13

Kindergarten Cooks

     Last week Kindergarten made soup for the 100 year reunion harvest soup supper.  When we harvested the pumpkins from the school garden, some of the children had expressed interest in cooking something with the pumpkins.  I had a recipe for pumpkin corn chowder that seemed perfect for making soup with pumpkin, while we were celebrating gold and orange days.  

     We started with the smaller pumpkin.  A few interested children watched me cut it in half.  Then they scooped out the pulp and seeds into a bowl.  Another couple children picked the seeds out from pulp, setting them aside.  I took the pumpkin home to roast (our school stove having an untimely malfunction) and the seeds were cleaned and left to dry.  The next day, some Kindergartners brushed the seeds with oil and salted them.  We roasted them (in the toaster oven) for a snack that was tried and enjoyed by most Kindergartners. 

     Some Kindergartners had a knife use lesson and helped chopped red peppers and onions to be ready for sauteing the following day.  The children liked cutting the peppers, but decided the onions were a bit too strong.  Some of the same children and a few newly interested vegetable choppers cut the potatoes the day we put the soup together to cook in the crock pot.  The sauteed peppers and onions made the room smell delicious, and as the soup simmered and cooked over the school day, the smell made us very hungry for our afternoon snack of soup and crackers!

     We took our time and made the soup over several day, and not unlike the soup, the Kindergarten group, over time, is blending together into something new, too.  As the individuals change and season, together the group is becoming more than the sum of its parts.  Sometimes, like when cutting onions, there are tears, but they're on their way to being warm and comfortable together, like a bowl of good soup.

Sunday, 11 September 2022 16:45

Kindergarten Beginnings

     This was our first week of Kindergarten.  The group was busy getting acquainted and reacquainted with each other, exploring our spaces, and subjects in which they have interest.  They were learning which friends like to join in rich imaginative play, which friends like to practice on the monkey bars, and which friends like to dig in the sand.  They were finding out who is a ready partner to accompany someone on a walk up to school and who likes to help out when needed on jobs or when packing up at the end of the day.

     They were learning which trees are for climbing in the forest classroom, where to get the key for the trike shed and how to unlock it, and how many apples we need for eight Kindergartners, when we cut the apples into fourths for snack.  They were figuring out which books go in the fiction section and which go in the non-fiction section.  They were very interested in our field guides, especially the one for reptiles.  We read books together about the moon and about the history of life on earth--the moon is several billion years older than the oldest life on earth we discovered.  They enjoyed finger plays and songs--The Monkeys and the Crocodile and Five Green and Speckled Frogs.  The Hungry Thing and The Hungry Thing Returns were fiction read aloud favorites that got the children exploring word play with rhymes. 

     Several children liked to count using the dates on the calendar.  Two children worked together to put up the numbers for our September calendar.  After deciding to take turns putting each successive number in place, one of them observed, "I'm counting by two's!" 

Afterward the same child said, "Let's have a contest of who can find the most things."  The other child agreed and began picking up sticks. 

The first child grabbed a handful of leaves from the ground and said, "Time to count!  How many do you have?" 

"One, two, three, four. . . four!" declared the child with sticks, who then asked, "How many do you have?" 

"I have 122," said the child with leaves.  The child with sticks laughed and said, "Let's do it again!"

     On Thursday the children came up with a set of agreements that they all felt was important to follow.  Here is what they are:

1.  Listen to each other.

2.  Stop where the trees are right there--all around.

3.  Don't hit each other with sticks or throw sticks at each other.  Find space with a stick.

4.  Don't run with bare feet, only in a hammock or in the sand.

5.  At group time, stay with the group, unless you have a plan with Lindie.  Don't walk with strangers.  Stay with Lindie and the teachers and the school people.


Monday, 30 May 2022 17:42

Children's words for Brian

Brian Brogan, our beloved art/science teacher, retired at the end of this school year after serving at The Antioch School for 21 years.  Below are some of the children's words of appreciation for Brian.

Kindergarten Remembers Brian

I remember the pretend explosions we'd do with him.

I remember painting and doing the explosions and drawing Valentine's Day things with him and dressing up and when we stealed Brian's glasses and hid them.

I remember painting.

I remember this time we used this poison to make black and when Brian used the little light as a memory eraser, and when Brian set up his alien guy and I took away the box, and the drawing robots.

I remember when we made the spy glasses.

I remember when we did volcanoes.

I remember when we made slime, and when we made the spy glasses, painting, and when we did a puppet show and Brian came and watched, and when we were the last ones sometimes we'd eat lunch in the art/science and played with Brian while we were eating, and when Brian showed us the sap from the tree that he was going to make into syrup.

I remember glazing and robots.

I remember dancing in the art/science room.

Antioch School Kindergarten 2021-22

Monday, 30 May 2022 17:32

Kindergarten Remembers

Each year during our last week of school, Kindergarten composes a poem together.  Here is the poem the group wrote about this year's experience.

Kindergarten Remembers

We remember the first day of school.

We remember going in the forest classroom.

We remember going on hikes--all the hikes--to the rocks, to Meatball Rock, and to The Raptor Center.

We remember doing plays.

We remember when we all went to the ice skating rink.

We remember going to the zoo.

We remember the week the Kindergarten visited the Younger Group.

We remember going to Strawberry Nook.

We remember going to the Younger Group outdoor classroom.

We remember playing--playing Harry Potter with Carrigg and Marley, playing with Baker and Camo--playing.

Antioch School Kindergarten 2021-22

May 24, 2022

Sunday, 01 May 2022 17:08

Looking Forward

     It's hard to believe that Kindergartners are moving into their last month together.  A traditional part of this transition is to join in some activities with the Younger Group (YG) during the week that the third year Younger Groupers are with the Older Group at the theater preparing for the performance of their musical.  So last week the Kindergartners joined the Younger Group each morning for their morning meeting with many Kindergartners sharing.  On Monday they took a joint hike together with the YG showing the Kindergartners a new hiking destination in the Glen.  Already Kindergartners are asking to return.  Each group hosted the other in the forest Kindergarten and YG outdoor classroom on Tuesday.  Kindergartners loved seeing the tree house that's under construction, the hollow stump, and the swinging vines in the YG's outdoor space.  On Wednesday, joined by Christine, the Kindergarten and YG children picked dandelions together for the traditional spring dandelion count.  In pairs and trios, they picked dandelions in the field by the prairie for five minutes.  Then everyone moved to the porch to count how many they had picked.  Elaina helped each group record their number, and then together they completed the long addition problem to get the grand total--1244! On Thursday Kindergarten children had the option of joining YG for folder work after morning meeting.  All the Kindergartners selected some pencil and paper activities and set right to work throughout the YG room.  We ended the week by traveling to the theater to watch the amazing performance of Annie by the OG and YG thespians.  It was an inspiring, tiring, and full week!

Monday, 17 January 2022 17:57

Stuffies Get Stuck--Real World Work

     Over the course of this school year, three distinct, yet similar dramas have played out.  Here's what happened. 

     I.  The first time it happened, Kindergarten had spent the day at Agraria.  We set up our circle area on clay benches that sit under a flat roof held up by four posts.  As we were packing up for the day, some Kindergartners were playing with a stuffed cat--tossing it in the air and catching it, when it landed on the roof.  The children let the rest of us know.  Many ideas were suggested.  Could Lexi or I reach it?  We couldn't.  How about a ladder?  We didn't have one.  A stick?  As we were searching for an appropriately long stick, Lexi went to the barn and returned with a long butterfly net.  The children cheered and commenced taking turns using the net to rescue the cat.  No Kindergartner could reach it.  I took a turn, while the Kindergartners backed up far enough to see the cat and direct me to move the net toward the cat.  I was able to almost, but not quite reach the cat.  "Lexi!" the children suggested.  And she did it--using the net, she pushed the stuffed cat off the roof.  The children cheered again!  Success!  A Kindergartner and his stuffy were reunited!

    II.  A month or more later, some Kindergartners were attempting to toss their stuffed animals through the basketball hoop on the cycle side of the playground.  They cheered each animal that made it through.  When a large stuffed dog got stuck, a Kindergartner tossed a basketball at it from below, until it was dislodged and fell to the ground.  A short time later, against all odds, a small stuffed dog, who had made several successful trips through the hoop, got its collar hooked on the metal upon which the net hangs.  There it stuck.  Basketballs repeatedly thrown, bumping it, failed to bring it down.  A hobby horse was retrieved from inside, and Kindergartners took turns trying to get it loose using the horse to no avail.  A couple of Younger Groupers stopped nearby and observed.  The Kindergarten children asked me to try to get the dog down.  I turned to the Younger Groupers, "Would you like to try?" I invited.  Without a word, one of them approached with a small smile, neatly jumped up, grabbing the hoop first with his hands and then with one hand and his feet.  With his free hand, he unhooked the dog's collar.  He jumped back down with the stuffed dog in his hand and was surrounded by a cheering cluster of Kindergartners.  Another heroic rescue!

III.  After winter break, Kindergartners were spectators to another stuffy rescue.  This time, while Kindergarten and Nursery children were on the porch eating snack, a few Younger Group children, at the far end of the porch, were playing a game of throwing a stuffed cat, attempting to get it high enough to touch the underside of the porch roof.  In a demonstration of physics and force, on one throw the cat ricocheted off the underside of the porch roof and onto the roof of the building and out of sight (from our perspective).  The Younger Group children quickly conferred.  They needed a ladder and a grown up to get on the ladder and get the cat.  Off they went and returned a short time later with Nathan, who looked at the roof where the cat had disappeared.  He wasn't sure the ladder would be high enough, but he would bring it and see.  More Younger Group children gathered waiting.  Elaina joined them.  They began backing out onto the grass, until they could see the stuffed cat's position.  Nathan brought the ladder, climbed as high as he safely could, but couldn't quite reach.  He disappeared into his office and emerged with a grabber.  With directions from the Younger Groupers, he used the grabber to knock the cat down to the porch.  The Younger Group, Kindergarten, Nursery--everyone present--erupted into cheers and applause.  Yet another successful stuffy rescue!

     "Real world problems", generally meaning an assignment that has implications in the real (as in adult) world, is currently an en vogue term in some educational circles.  It includes projects like raising funds for relief work, collecting data for scientific studies, and studying and proposing solutions for societal problems.  This type of work has its place at The Antioch School, though the impetus for it comes from the children.  Stuffies getting stuck, however is an actual real world problem for children.  They created it and are most invested in solving it.  As an adult, I avoid tossing items I value towards high roofs.  I observed each of these incidents as they developed and made a conscious choice not to interfere.  My work as a teacher is to support children in doing and learning from hard things, not to prevent them from experiencing them (serious safety issues aside, of course).  Figuring out what to do when stuffies get stuck can help children know they can do hard things--together with their community.  I choose and love to be a teacher here, because it's a place where children scrap their knees learning to roller blade and have conflicts with their peers.  And yes, it's a place where stuffies get stuck.

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