Seeing As If For The First Time

Last week I had the opportunity to read to students and families at our annual Pages and PJs event. I read two of my favorite picture books and want to share them here:

Imagine A Day, written by Sarah L Thomson and illustrated by Rob Gonsalves, is full of  poetic prose and beautiful acrylic paintings that highly engage the imagination. At Pages and PJs our students initially paused in silence and then spontaneously debated what they saw happening in each painting, as the magic in every day life came alive. I always love seeing something familiar as if for the very first time and this book allows us to do just that!

If. . . by Sarah Perry has been one of my favorites since I was a classroom teacher. The magical watercolors and simple text invite us into a world where anything is possible. Even our youngest students were laughing (and sometimes shrieking and squirming) with joy as I turned each page. One parent emailed me immediately after Pages and PJs asking for the title because her son was so in love with the illustrations that she decided to buy the book for him. It’s one that you will come back to time and time again because it’s fun, strange, and magical.

Book Review: Mindful Games

This weekend I took my son and daughter to Mar Vista and attempted to work out with some friends. After about 45 minutes of carrying Connor across the field on my back (not the original plan), he had a complete meltdown because I poked his juice with a straw and he wanted to poke it. I had to dig deep and find my calm as he screamed for the rest of our play date and the entirety of the car ride home. Thankfully, I recently read Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland and, while it is written for parents and educators to support kids, I was able to tap into a few of the exercises myself. The author suggests doing just this- practice first and then introduce practices to our children.

Here is my absolute favorite:

One of my big take-aways from this book is that meditation does not have to be about sitting still, especially when it comes to children. Walking, stretching, and shaking followed by a period of rest or settling releases excess energy and helps quiet the nervous system. Adding a slight emphasis on the out breath also decreases the heart rate.

I am planning to purchase a few copies of this book to grow our school library for parents and teachers. Come by and check out a copy!

Math Strategies

One of the beauties of pushing into our second grade, as a support to our 2/3 combo, is that I witness students inventing, learning, and applying new math strategies every day. A strategy that works for one student might not be the right fit for another. Yet, without a doubt, each and every student has at least one strategy that works for them as a learner!

When students invent strategies it shows that they know what they are doing to manipulate numbers and can fluidly go between mental math and paper and pencil. If you think about a time you needed to estimate a grocery bill, make sure you received the correct change, or calculate a tip, you probably weren’t thinking of the traditional algorithm. Rather, I bet you were using a strategy you invented or someone taught you. Strategies are not traditional algorithms. Yet, both strategies and algorithms are part of our state standards.

One strategy a 2nd grader used when subtracting multi-digit numbers:The work of a single student practicing a multitude of strategies with addition:We give students time to invent and discuss strategies and we teach multiple strategies more explicitly because it:

  • helps students become efficient as they become adept at changing problems into easy to solve equivalent problems (For example: 40-12 changes to 40-10-2)
  • provides scaffolding so that students can find an entry place and problem solving options such as manipulative, drawings, written words or symbols
  • motivates students to solve problems due to autonomy created by choice rather than rote procedure
  • develops true number sense and the meaning of operations
  • Develops grit and confidence

Here are some more examples of how students gain number sense at Mar Vista:

Third graders did a directed drawing of a panda 🐼 then used them to create a multiplication and division resource: .Work places in first grade:

TK students building and counting:

Volunteering as a Working Parent

Recently a parent reached out to me wondering how to volunteer at Mar Vista as a mom who works from 9-5 each week day. This question struck me not only because I am a working, single mom who has yet to volunteer at my own child’s preschool in 2018, but also because I didn’t have a quick and easy answer. The most important thing to remember, in my thinking, is that there are so many different ways to contribute that look different than working in your child’s classroom during the school day. And, at the same time, Mar Vista wouldn’t be the same without our many parents who are able to contribute during the school day. We encourage all types of participation!

When thinking about volunteering, here are some things to remember:

  • Everyone has something to contribute
  • Find your niche
  • Be realistic with your time to find something that fits your schedule
  • Talk to your child’s teacher directly about what they might need
  • Remember School Site Council, ELAC, and MVP meetings occur later in the day or in the evening
  • Many of our bigger family fun and fundraising events occur on the weekends: Fall Carnival, Auction, Move for Mar Vista 5K
  • Don’t replicate your 9-5. For example, if your day job has you constantly making mental decisions, think about something more physical you could do on campus like tend to the garden. 

Thank you to our many volunteers. Over the last two weeks alone, I have seen parents, grandparents, and even some adult siblings heading up the auction, creating sets for the amazing third and forth grade plays, leading Kindergarten center time, practicing yoga with second graders, supervising the yard, attending field trips, participating in the MVP meetings, attending School Site Council, and organizing 21 Days of Kindness for the entire school.

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This also got me thinking that we need a resource that we can point families to where all volunteering opportunities, policies, and procedures are laid out clearly. We are in the process of updating our school website and including this information there all under the link that says “Donate/Volunteer.” Keep an eye out for this.

Baby Wyatt Teaches Me A Lesson

On February 23rd, my sister gave birth to her first child. Meeting my niece this weekend was such a joyful experience, especially since it was the first time I felt comfortable with an infant and wasn’t completely exhausted. Watching my sister and brother-in-law talk to each other and with the nurses about their questions, concerns, and plan to meet the baby’s needs, got me thinking about how in life, literally from day one, we cannot survive in isolation but rather must be supported through the work of a village.

Bringing this to the school setting, it means that an essential part of preparing our students to be active members of this village includes preparing them to be communicative and collaborative, which is highlighted as a key feature of our Common Core State Standards:

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Here are some recent examples of our students learning how to work collaboratively with a common purpose that reaches beyond a single subject area. 

  • 1st graders work on an engineering unit where they build physical replicas to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function.
  • 4th Graders plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
  • First Graders work together to make a salad from our garden and share it with students at other grade levels.