Posts from the ‘Curriculum’ Category

How to go from a Nature Walk to Being a Rebel by not listening…

Our entire class + Jaala, the studio teacher + Jen, the handwriting teacher, and I have decided, from Chase’s idea, to go on a nature walk, collected sticks and rocks and petals.

We then begin to look at the pieces and what types of letters we see in them. Then we construct the alphabet from our finds.

Jaala has laid out the materials and given us instructions for the project.

Apparently Jaala said: “It’s really important that you don’t touch the tips of the hot glue guns because it could burn you.”

I pick up a hot glue gun to help the kids and instinctively touch the tip to see if it’s hot enough.

Jake: “Michelle, you’re breaking the rules.”

Me: “I am?”

The room goes silent.  Sixteen ears at attention.

Jake (with a smile on his face): “Jaala just said not to touch the tip of the hot glue gun or it will burn you.”

I continue to glue and tell Jake: “Well, I guess I’m a rebel.”

Jake: “What’s a rebel?”

Me: (in perfect teacher pitch): “What do you think a rebel is?”

Jake: “A good guy?”

Me: “Starwars much? Well, sort of, rebel’s break the rules sometimes for good reasons. What do you think would happen if we didn’t have any rebels?”

Jake: “No one would break the rules?”

Me: “What if no one broke the rules?

Jake: “Everything would stay the same?”

Me: “Would that be very interesting?”

Jaala: “What would our world be like?”

Jake: “Boring?”

We become silent.

I reach across the table with my glue gun to help someone who’s  mostly out of my reach.

Jake: “Oh, Michelle, you’re such a rebel!”


You can also read about this project on Jaala’s blog here.

and just for fun: Autumn, four years ago with our, since departed, dog, Rosa.  (I guess it runs in the family.)

Learning Stories to Share

Since I posted The Learning Story that I wrote, many readers that are teachers have been asking about them.  Here is the document I worked from.  It was very useful.  I had my own take on it of course and it is my philosophy to take what you need from all things.

Try it out.  Share it with your co-workers.  Send them to me or link me.  I could post them or link to your site.  It will be fun.  We can commune even though we may be continents apart.

Here is the link to download the format:  Learning Stories.


(Thanks Rob for the link help!)

And to answer a much asked question:  My photos are taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi 10.1 MP Digital SLR Camera.  I usually use a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens or a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens

Other lenses I use:  EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens, Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, Fish Eye & Macro Lens

I don’t usually alter the classroom photos in any way.


Balance and Trust

Guided reading / Shared reading / Independent reading

Dictated writing / Journaling

Grammar / Storytelling

Handwriting / Free Writing

Spelling Correction / Inventive Spelling

Art / Music

Social Studies / Math

Science / Woodworking

Sewing / Cooking

Indoors / Outdoors

The Schedule / Spontaneity

Set Curriculum / Emergent Curriculum

One-on-one work/ Group work / All class work

Rules / Flexibility

Work / Play

Parents / Teachers / Director / Students

Special needs / Mainstream

Community / Individuality

Kindergarten / First Grade / Second Grade

Home / School


It’s like walking around with a board on my head with opposing subjects/interests/needs/possibilities/obligations/questions on the ends of the board.

I just want to say that it takes a village, a community of committed parents and teachers to meet the needs of everyone.  When I go home at night, I take all of these thoughts with me.  Did I fit it all in today?  Did I finally get through today?  Will I get through tomorrow?  Does this kid need something that I cannot give them? I always have a plan, a plan that includes all of the above.  This plan changes moment by moment to account for all of the needs/moods/wants of the kids/parents/teachers.

Like all things, this classroom, this group of kids is constantly evolving.  New things come in, new things go out, ideas change, schedules change, kids have different needs, a storm brews, and our attention is turned to negotiation and friendship.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about trust.  Trust that my mind is always on the class, the kids,  and in learning in the most organic and fun way.  Are we focusing enough on all the “right” things?  Are we driving too hard, are we being too lax?  There are no answers to these questions.  There is no prescription because there are no two classrooms the same; no two kids the same.

As I have said before, take school home with you.  Make learning a part of home as well.  Read stories, write letters, count money for the store, and check the clock for dinner time and bed time.  Explore.  Care take. Love.

Trust.  We are learning everyday.

(I’m extending my vacation one more day.  I’ll see everyone on Tuesday.)

A Week in the Life…

Reading and writing our own comics (especially for those who find writing and journaling grueling.)

Asher found Calvin all too familiar and laughed hysterically for the hour he spent reading all about their adventures:

If you have any (non-violent type) comics, bring them in for our comic table.

A page from Harriette’s comic book:

Lookie, lookie, peas:

Onions and nasturtium:

Dice math problems (a huge hit) :

In pairs, each partner rolls a die and then they add the amount rolled on one die with the amount rolled on the other die and then they write down the math problem they created with each roll.


Puzzle making:


“Michelle, I’m TOTALLY into sewing!” ~Asher

Sophia’s lovely 1030’s wool material bag for her mama for mother’s day:

Violet’s pillow:

Asher’s bag for his dad:

All of our beautiful sewing projects:

Cooking with Kathleen:

Cheddar Cheese Crackers (recipe below):

This past week we’ve been reading to each other at circle time as well as reading to other classes and to the seniors at Daystar:

Remaking the wheel:

The tadpoles are gigantic but too fast to photograph:





¼ cup Cornmeal

¾ cup All purpose flour

1 Tbsp Poppy seeds

¼ tsp Cayenne pepper or ground black pepper (optional)

¼ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Baking powder
½ stick Butter, cold, cut into small pieces

1 cup Sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

5-6 Tbsp Cold water


  1. In medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, poppy seeds, salt, baking powder and cayenne (if using.)
  1. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  1. Add cheese and 4 Tbsp water, stir to blend with fork. Add additional water if needed to bring dough together. (Dough should be soft but not sticky.)
  1. Turn out onto floured work surface and knead gently 4-5 times to combine.
  1. Form dough into two balls. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball into a 12” circle.
  1. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters or biscuit cutters. Gather scraps and reroll as necessary to use up dough.
  1. Place shapes onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Prick each cracker a couple of times with a fork.
  1. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, rotating racks halfway through, until crackes are a pale golden brown. Immediately remove crackers from pan and cool on wire racks.
  1. Once cooled, crackers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. If they get chewy, you can recrisp them in a warm oven.

Playing Catch-Up

I was gone for four days at a funeral and while we were away we adopted a battered Australian Shepherd – so my evenings/blog time has been taken up with catching up from my trip and our new dog, Rosa.

We’ve been making math problems with unifix cubes and writing math sentences on the board.

Asher concentrates:

Jackson said; “This is the only reason I come to school.” – YEAH RIGHT!

We tried using motion and inertia to get a marble to stay in a cup without a bottom:

We made mosaics with our glass from Village Green Nursery:

Harriette painted a portrait of me:

We studied Sea Plant Life:

We’ve been playing hang man build a woman/cat/dog/baby etc – we LOVE this game:

We went ice fishing with ice, water, salt and a string:

We’ve been reading “Ask the Bones” and some have been a bit scared so we broke the group in two but some of us are LOVING IT so much!

We’ve also been reading the “Miss Nelson” books, “Henry and the Underground Railroad,” and “A picture book of Harriet Tubman.”

Me made Oatmeal Soda Bread:


                              Yield:  1 loaf
2 ½ cups Oats

1 ¾ cups Buttermilk
2 cups  All purpose flour

½ cup  Cake flour

½ cup  Whole wheat flour

¼ cup  Brown sugar

1 ½ tsp  Baking soda

1 ½ tsp  Cream of tartar

1 ½ tsp  Salt

2 Tbsp  Butter, softened
1 Tbsp  Butter, melted (for the crust)


  1. Put 2 cups of oats in a bowl.  Add buttermilk and mix well.  Allow to soak for one hour before proceeding.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Whisk flours, the remaining ½ cup oats, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together in a large bowl. 
  4. Cut in the softened butter with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
  5. Add the soaked oats and stir with a fork until the dough comes together. 
  6. Turn dough out onto flour-coated work surface.  Knead for about 12 turns, just until dough is cohesive.  (Do not overwork the dough – it shouldn’t be smooth.)
  7. Pat the dough into a 6 inch round.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the loaf in an “X” shape, about ¾ inch deep.
  9. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. 
  10. Immediately upon removing the loaf from the oven, brush the top with the melted butter.
  11. Cool to room temperature before slicing (about 45 minutes.)

10×10=100. 100×10=1000. If we have 10 kids in our class but only 6 are here, four are missing thus 10-6=4 or 6+4=10. Anyway, 10’s the magic number!

Quote of the day from Monday via Amy:

“This is ridiculous – where is Michelle?” ~Asher

This however plays no part in how wonderful Kathleen was when she helped yesterday morning. All I heard about was donuts, donuts, donuts. At morning meeting I asked it they wanted Kathleen back and they all started chanting Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathleen – traitors!

And we had a visitor. Ms. Ramona paid us a visit. She was in my class two years ago and then was in Julie L.’s class last year. She’s now off to public school but wanted to pop in for the afternoon. I think she was hugged out by the end of class.

Yo, yo, it’s math and from the mouth of James; “I LOVE this Michelle!” We built ten rods of ten cubes to make a block of 100! And when we’re completely finished since we have 10 kids, we’ll have a block of 1000! Whew! It’s so handy that we have 10 kids in our class and our number system is based on 10. Every morning at circle, we organically add and subtract from 10 while everyone trickles in. I say; “How many kids are here.” And someone will count and say; “Six (or whatever it may be that day) and then I’ll say; “How many do we need to make 10” and they’ll answer. We also do this with the number of the day. We are counting our days of school, we are going to have a party on day 100, we’re at 29 today, and they can always figure out how many days we have left until 100 in about one second. You can see the wheels spinning while they’re figuring it out (because while some remember – others figure it out again each day) – the wonder of real life math.

We also worked on a winter wonderland!

The Cha Cha Cha…

Harriette Tells a Story & We All Get Into “Trouble” – YEAH!!!

During math today, we built onto yesterdays project and everyone made their own cards 0-10 and added the correlating circles to the back. This was also a great way for me to assess their math understanding and they were so into it – focused and loving the number play.

During science we made mini volcanoes out of baking soda, vinegar and food coloring – it was explosive and we were loud (so loud in fact, the teacher next door got after us – HA! – we LOVE trouble – well, as long as learning is involved!)

At story time, Harriette shared a book with the class that she had made at home. She sat, on the couch, and turned the pages while telling the story of “Mimi the Cat” and her many adventures. She was proud and articulate and filled with story. She beamed as she turned the pages and the entire class was mesmerized and asked to hear/see it again. It is the happiest I’ve ever seen Harriette (well, outside of being Ms. Silly.) Everyone kept saying; “How do you draw like that Harriette?” So sweet this little school family (well, for the moment – you know how families go!)

Zavier, Justin and Jackson make up a song “Three boys on a bench – all from the same class.” – repeat…


Tomorrow we head for Pier 66 and the Maritime Museum for Pirate Day via bus #22!!!

For the love of math, literature and voting…

One of my favorite memories from when I was a kid was when my grandpa (pa – who raised me in my early years) would take me to the polls with him on election night to vote. He talked about the candidates with me for weeks before hand and taught me about how our government is set up and how it’s up to us to make a difference and to vote for someone who will represent how we feel and what we want to see happen in our country.

The first thing I did when I turned 18 was to register to vote and the first candidate I voted for was Ross Perot (Don’t laugh – I even went to see him on the capital steps in Olympia when I was attending The Evergreen State College.)

Tonight I took Autumn to vote with me just as I did the last time I voted. We have seen our ideals as a voting public take a nasty turn in the past few years but I’m proud tonight to say (no matter what party you may be) that we have our first female speaker of the house!

As I spoke to the students today about election day and how voting gives power to the people, I got a little choked up and said; “have your parents take you with them so that you can see what it means to vote and how people leave their houses, work places, in the rain and in my hometown the snow, to raise their voices and make a statement.

And as much as I fear for our country at the moment, I still love what we can do and what we must do – set the example for our kids and our future by showing the responsibility it takes to be a citizen.

On to other subjects:

Today in math, I made math cards that had 0-10 on them and then made the amount of circles on the cards to match the number. I was noticing that while everyone can count almost to 100, not everyone can identify the number symbols.

I laid these cards out on the table out of order during open classroom time. I had planned to show these to the kids during math and then give them 0-10 cards that I made that didn’t include the circles and have them use cut out dots to represent the number symbol (they did this in pairs.)

Before I could even turn around Sophia had used anything she could find from the math shelf (which is quite a bit) to put on the cards representing the numbers. Haven’t I said before; “Do these kids really need a teacher – but I guess someone has to make the cards!)

It was really fun and exciting (you could hear the wheels turning) especially since they were working together and I was really able to observe and see who was able to make the connection right away and who needed help from their partner. The collaborating really made it successful for everyone – YEAH. This is how I do assessment and they don’t even know it.

We also have some Jackson Pollacks among us – Jackson thought it was funny that a famous painter had his name.

These kids LOVE to read – I really mean LOVE to read. They amaze me. All I have to do is say; “You guys want to do some reading” and they pile together like puppies and devour books like kibble. Ah, are they after my own heart or what?

I am totally in love with my job!

Taking a deep breath feels so good…


Today I eased back into my old-time, usual, relaxed mode. There is so much pressure when you get to the elementary years and we’ve all been feeling it – kids, parents, teachers, directors etc. But today, while we were out in the big yard, I totally lost track of time. We were using a rope, making angles, tying knots and having a great time figuring out the world with our bodies and our minds all at once.

Then all the preschool classes started running out of the school – we had rope and all our equipment that we just use for our class, all over the place. We quickly hurried in because we were late, late, late for MATH – which was super-fun. We built two, three and four-dimensional shapes using toothpicks and marshmallows. I asked what shape had five sides and without a breath, Neve piped up – a pentagon – do these kids really need a teacher???

They loved the project so much that we didn’t have time for journaling or independent reading – so we did this after lunch. This is usually how I run – just a little off, diving in headfirst and with a giant dose of wonderment. It’s nice to be back – we’ll all be better for it.

Breathe in, breathe out – we’re learning, leaving time on the playground and savoring (not rushing to catch the clock) each moment as it comes.

An Intro to Sewing, da Vinci Inventions & Dance Class

Today we learned how to handle, thread and work a sewing needle.

Harriette made a couple of pouches and Brigit is working on a scarf which she made a template and pattern for before starting.

Today was the first day of dance class. We will have dance every Tuesday from 3:00-3:45.

Dancing in my old classroom – Blake Island. My partner and I painted that beautiful tree.

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Museum of Flight’s da Vinci exhibit. Most of the exhibit was da Vinci’s inventions and drawings built into two, three and four dementional objects. I found the book, “Amazing da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself.” So we are embarking on a 15th century exploration into the art, math and science of Leonardo da Vinci. If the class gets as excited as I am and if it’s financially and time-wise feasable, I want to take the class to the exhibit as well. Today we started our exploration by making webbed hands that enable you to move water like a water fowl. It was hard work – we’ll keep you posted on our da Vinci adventures.

We are sooooooooooo busy – whew I’m beat!!!

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