Friday, March 29, 2013

Ready, Aim...FOCUS!

Sometimes so much is happening all around you that it is hard to concentrate upon one thing--even if you are supposed to.  It's true for adults, and it can be especially true for kids.  

So, how can you help them?  

You can click on any photo to make it larger.

One way is to remind them about places in their lives and their minds that are calm and quiet. Some times, we can learn to go to our real life places (like a closet or a bed) in our minds.  It's a great way to relax and be able to focus on what's important wherever you are.

It's not always so easy.  Practice, however, can help.  A lot. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. let us introduce you to some of the kids who have made it into our Focus Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pitch, Rhythm, and Tempo

Many people remarked that the kids sang so well when they performed our school play, Evacuation Day The Musical.  Why not, we have naturally talented kids attending the Perkins School.

Actually, there's another reason as well.  This is the second year that we've had our music teacher, Ms. Lynch.  That means that the kids have had two years to learn about rhythm, tempo, and pitch as well as how to use them while singing.

Here's a sample class that Ms. Lynch might (and did) do with some first graders:

First come warm ups...


loosening your muscles including the jaw, 

loosening your vocal chords and clapping out some rhythms to get in the mood.

Then since the kids were clapping, they ended up incorporating those movements into a game.  Or, into a song.  Actually, into a game that includes a song.  Have you ever sang a hand-clapping game called "Mary Mack?"

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt'ns]
All down her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn't come back, back, back
Till the the 4th of July, ly, ly!
Clapping is a natural accompaniment to singing.  Ms. Lynch has shown the kids that reading can be too.  

She had read this class a book called Ming Lo Moves the Mountain before.  She had also taught them where and when to chime in by singing choruses that go along with the story.
Now, it's time for the kids' part!

 "Go to the wise man.  Listen very carefully.  He will tell you what to do.  So, go Ming Lo."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Another Place to Learn about Boston's Role in the Revolution

Due to Evacuation Day, The Musical, just about all the kids at the Perkins--even the kindergarteners--know that the American colonists were unhappy about their treatment by the British Empire.  Ms. Bishop's third grade class knows a bit more.

Remember, you can click on any picture to make it larger.

These kids are learning about the events leading up to the American Revolution.  Want to know something about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, two major incidents that happened in our hometown?  Just ask Ms. Bishop's students.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Play is the Thing...

Did you every hear of a victory with no blood?
Did you think it could happen--
Did you ever think it really would?

Don't you know that it happened right here?
1776  was the year!
Let's all give a rousing cheer:


Remember, you can click any picture to make it larger.

The kids had been practicing hard: Going over their lines and how they should say them.  Memorizing the lyrics to all the original songs and rehearsing the dance moves that accompany them.  All the while, they were learning the amazing historical events that happened right near the Perkins School, and one of the most unusual battles of the American Revolution.

As Principal Brawer explained while welcoming friends and parents to the production, "History is filled with many battles, in which many people were killed, and yet they accomplished nothing.  What happened here at Dorchester Heights was a battle where no one was killed and it forced the British to leave Boston.  That's something important to celebrate.  This play also proves Evaculation Day is a real holiday."

So the story began, explaining that the British had created many laws and taxes the colonists felt were unfair.  As they said in this song:

We are in charge!
We make the best decisions.
We just want your provisions.
So bite your tongue and drink some tea for...
We are in charge!

The colonialists were angry, but confused about what to do.  Fighting a giant empire with many ships, soldiers, and weapons is not the easiest thing to do.  Luckily Henry Knox (right) came up with a daring plan and George Washington (left) was smart and daring enough to agree to put it into place.

The Americans had just taken Fort Ticonderoga away from the British.  There were 50 cannons at the fort.  They were 300 miles away, but if the colonialists could bring those cannons to Boston, they would have a chance.



Walking 300 miles to Fort Ticonderoga was bad enough, dragging 119,000 pounds of cannons across snow and mountains, Lake George, and the Hudson River was a very, very, very hard job.

Finally, one night, they snuck all the cannons up to the top of Dorchester Heights.

The next morning, the British saw the colonists ready for battle.  British cannons couldn't shoot uphill, but the colonists' cannons were aimed, ready, and able to fight. The British understand their predicament and left Boston.  A victory with no blood.

Yes, the British left Boston and they weren't happy about it.  In our school play, they were happy to come back for the grand finale, a song called "One Clever Idea."

One clever idea--can change the course of history!
One clever idea--and a lot of hard work set us free.

First you have a dream.
Then you make it come true.
Join together with thousands of hands.
It can happen to YOU! 

Dreams come in all sizes.  Many teachers and adult volunteers came together to write this play, compose and practice its songs, gather costumes, lead rehearsals.  Many kids tried out to be part of the cast, came after school for rehearsals (even during vacation!), struggled to memorize lines, fought nervousness to perform on stage.  

It can happen to YOU!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two Perspectives Upon One View

Kids at the Perkins are busy with math and history and reading.  We shouldn't forget, however, what greets them every time they look out the window:

February 2013

  1. A construction site
  2. Change 
  3. Progress
Building is like learning, in a way: many different skills and materials come together and create something strong and new.  

That's an interesting idea, but when kids compare the different views they saw in February and what they can now see in March, they may have less lofty thoughts.

March 2013

As one student remarked, "Wow, now we can see Angelo's (a popular sub shop) from here!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Compare and Contrast, One Year Later

If you scroll down to the previous post, you will see our report on Ms. Leverett-King's first grade class and their adventures with Common Core State Standard Ri.1.9: Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

A note: For those who don't know, Common Core State Standards are the new guidelines for what students should learn and when.  These standards will go into effect in most states of our nation in 2014.

Well, first graders aren't the only kids who must learn to compare and contrast.  Second graders are learning the same lesson, but with more complexity.  Ri.2.9, the second grade version, asks students to "Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic."  

That's what Ms. Murphy's class did when looking at two of our most famous presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Remember, you can click on any picture to make it larger.

First they were presented with different written materials.  Their job was to read them carefully and sort them into similarities and differences.  They were supposed to pick the most important points.  Sometimes what's more important is a matter of opinion, though.

The kids learned to present their findings by making their own Ven diagrams.  Even knowing what a Ven diagram is and being able to use it yourself is a big step forward.  That's what a year can do. 

Here are some of the students' examples: 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

We Can, Common Core

Today, it's time to report on Ms. Leverett-King's first grade class and its adventures with Common Core.  For those who don't know, Common Core State Standards are the new guidelines for what students should learn and when.  

Ms. Leverett-King's class has tackled Standard RI.1.9: Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).  This standard is for nonfiction or informational texts and the subject they chose was a first grade favorite--dinosaurs.

Remember, you can click on any picture to enlarge it.
After reading about two dinos, the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Triceratops, the class started brainstorming about how the two animals were different and what they shared in common.

Ms. Leverett-King got them ready to write up their findings by writing helpful compare-and-contrast words on the board, such as, "but," and "and" along with phrases like, "Although they are different, in many ways they are the same.  

What ways?  Let's see some examples:

Eliana preferred to stress the two dinosaurs' differences on one page and...

their similarities on another.

Jaylen took the same two-page approach, but organized it differently.


While Jasmine managed to get a little bit of both on one page.  

There are many ways to compare and contrast!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Look at Morning Message

Our blog periodically checks in on Ms. Smith's Morning Message.  Even in the early days of the school year when her kindergarteners are learning their letters, they also learn to use those letters in writing down whole sentences. 

How do they make this leap?  Take a look at a post from last October that explains the process.  While you're looking at that post, notice what the kids' writing looks like compared to the compositions below.  What a difference a few months make!

Arianni might want to "write her letters better," but they are much better than they used to be.  In listing their goals, these kindergarteners are meeting other ones.  They are learning to express themselves beautifully.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Do You Learn?

The answer is: Be curious; ask questions. That is how the kindergarten started their science unit on animals.    

Remember, you can click on any picture to make it larger.

So what do inquiring young minds want to learn about animals and their behavior?  Here are just a few examples: