What did you do today?

How many times have you asked your child about their day and the answer was NOTHING , or I DON'T KNOW. I often ask parents to be specific with their questions, you might ask these following questions-- Did you use the glue today?  Did you use the scissors today?  Did you paint today? The school day is full of adventure and it is hard for a young child to explain their busy day to a parent. This blog is going to inform you of our school day.

The day begins with activities at the table. I might have play-doh ,  or puzzles on the table  to strengthen those little hands and exercise their fine motor skills. Our learning games and lessons will revolve around our unit of study.  The past few weeks our unit of study was on clothing. Our topics for the clothing unit  were ...   What are the features of our clothes? , How do we take care of our clothes?, How do people make clothes?, Where do we get our clothes?, What special clothes do people wear for work?

During the clothing unit I put out lacing cards on the table. The lacing cards helped strengthen your child's fine motor skills and the children used their imagination as they pretended to sew.

 The school day is full of excitement , and we never know what might crawl or jump into our class. A turtle and a frog had us jumping for joy as we joined Mrs. Sarah's class to observe these creatures on a wonderful school morning.  After we have our early morning fun , it is time for circle. 

We begin our first circle time at 8:30. We start with our bible lesson of the day. I read from a children's bible. We discuss the lesson and sing one or two songs. I ask the children for any prayer needs and we pray together. We say the Lord's prayer and I pull out a leader card and we discuss the letters in the leader's name. The leader will hold the flag as we say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing My Country Tis of Thee.  We will play a learning game that pertains to our unit. It might be busy bee , or jumping beans, both of these games help with letter recognition. Busy Bee also helps with comparing and measuring.  In the picture below you will see one of our favorite memory games. Each child has to tell me what item I have taken away as we play WHAT'S MISSING.

I used our school uniforms to help your child with a math lesson . We used a number and operations lesson. Your child had to verbally count and compare groups of children. We had groups of red and blue shirts . We also had a group of dresses.  One child was picked to call up children into a blue shirt or red shirt group. We estimate by looking and then we counted how many children were in that group. We compared and determined that the smallest group was our dress group. We learned that we had a equal amount of red and blue shirts. 

 When our game is over it is time for morning snack. As we have morning snack I read a book that is from our unit. The past few weeks we have enjoyed Uncle Nacho's Hat, this book is about a family that lives in Mexico. The Girl Who Wore Too Much  is a book about a family in Thailand. We love to explore other countries!!!

After snack we move into our choice time and table time. I work with two to four children at the table while the other children are in centers.  During this clothing unit we worked at the table with items that would reinforce our unit. The children dyed paper towels, and they dyed t-shirts that they will wear our last day of school.  This lesson helps your child understand that the clothes we wear are dyed with beautiful colors.  I put out a math activity for a table lesson, your child had to match the numbers on the clothes. We can pattern with our clothes too. Our fine motor skills were being used as each child clipped the clothes to the line.  

 Our centers let your child explore and be creative. I used boxes for a washing machine and drier in our home living center. Children love to pretend and act like adults. The class could hardly wait until in was their turn to use the washing machine.  During center time your child learns to share and take a turn. They also use their language skills to communicate with each other. 

 The clothing unit was a great way to try on our dress up clothes. We looked at the tags and talked about the materials used to make our clothes . We discussed that some of our clothes are made of cotton , silk or satin. We loved putting on our raincoats for this lesson. We discussed jobs for adults and learned that some people wear special uniforms to work.

The sensory bin is full of action. I put soap and water in our sensory table . The children washed clothes from our home living unit.  After we washed clothes the children clipped them outside and we let the sun dry our clothes. Everyone was trying their best to use the clothespins. Your child is having fun , and strengthening those little fingers. 

Time flies by and before I know it , it is time for outside play. We often play outside with Mrs. Sarah's older three year olds. It is helpful to each child's social skills to play with other children that are not in their class. We may take a nature walk together or stay on our playground. St. James has two beautiful walking trails that we have enjoyed this spring.

 At St. James each class is required to have a community service project. We chose to help with a organization named, FOR THE SAKE OF ONE.  For the Sake of One , helps families and children in our community with foster care.  We donated a beautiful piece of art and several books. Each child mixed primary colors on watercolor paper.  After each child had a turn we let the paper dry outside. Each child's hand was traced,  cut out, and glued on the canvas to form a spectacular flower.  A special thank you to all our parents that brought books to this wonderful cause.  Mrs. Bowen donated her time and talent to our project by writing our scripture on the canvas for us. Thank you Mrs. Bowen. 

Outside play is over and we come back to our class. We get a drink of water and wash our hands. It is time for second circle. During second circle we discuss the months of the year, the days of the week, and the number of the day. We will count the days in our month. I will talk about the season we are in and the type of weather we are having. There will be time for a learning game , everyone likes JACK IN THE BOX. JACK IN THE BOX   is a game that explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes. It also involves listening skills. Your child has to jump when they hear a special sound.  One of our games that helps with number concepts and operations is HIPPITY, HOPPITY. These activities help make learning fun. I sing HIPPIPY, HOPPITY , HIPPITY HOPPITY HOW MANY?,  and I shake my fists and when I stop your child has to count how many fingers I am holding up. 

We must get ready for P.E. Everyday your child is in P. E. from 10:45 - 11:15. Physical education is fun , but your child is learning as they play.  We take turns during a tag game, and we use hand eye co-ordination as each child practices throwing a ball into a goal.  Your child learns how to follow a direction,  and work with a group,  Each game is used to help with a skill. We may be throwing a ball, kicking a ball or playing a tag game. If we play zoo keeper, your child has to pretend to be a animal and run from the tagger , the tagger is the zoo keeper and he tags the animals to get them back into their cage. -- when your child is tagged he or she has to remember what group they are in and get back into their cage. Your child might be a lion, tiger or bear. At the end of the game you child is asked to count animals. We include math in almost all aspects of our day. In the pictures below your child is listening to directions and in the next picture the children are about to play LION KING OR QUEEN. The children with the yellow tags will tag children as they run and they will be frozen, the child holding the yellow wand will set them free as he gently touches them. We love P.E.!

We are ready for lunch . At lunchtime we learn how to use good table manners. Each child is expected to eat and talk quietly with their friends. The cafeteria is a busy place. Our class loves to see big kids come into the cafeteria. After lunch we walk back to our room at a slow pace, we may see a mother bird feeding her babies . We have several nests near our building. We come back to the room and I pull up a u tube video that will go along with our unit. 

After a short video I will read a book as we settle down for rest time. Each child needs some rest time. Crucial physical and mental development occurs in early childhood. A nap provides downtime for growth and will help your child from becoming over tired. Most parents underestimate of the amount of sleep their child needs. Your child might have problems with behavior or fatigue. A three year old to five year old child will need 11 to 12 hours a night , with a nap during the day. Each child is different a some may not need as much sleep. Most children will stop napping by age five. 

Time to get up and finish the day. We pop up and have a small afternoon snack and recap the special day. If we have time we might get in a little outside play or I might bring out a few musical instruments. The next time you ask your child about their day remember the school day is full of adventure and it might be difficult for your child to tell you everything that happened during the day. Remember to be specific with your questions. 

Our school year has come to a close. I am always sad to see the class go , but I am happy for them to grow and flourish. In the pictures below we celebrated our last day together. Our last day was a celebration of all our units and our games pertained to each unit. It has been my joy to have each of my students in my class. A special thank you to all of our parents that helped with our FUN FAIR!  Have a great summer!

diane johnston
Buildings

The building unit is full of excitement!! We are learning that buildings give us shelter. Your child is learning about the different materials that buildings are made of and what happens inside a building. One of our books for this unit was The Three Little Pigs. The story of The Three Little Pigs was a hit! Your child learned about math, and construction materials during this story. It was fun to count the houses and discover what materials the pigs would use to build their houses. We learned about order of events as we listened to this story. As we learn about the order of events each child is grasping the importance of timelines, comprehension of the story, and how one event is related to another. We used magnetic cards to retell the story of the Three Little Pigs. 

 I love puzzles! I brought out puzzles of buildings for this unit. I put the children in pairs as they work these large puzzles. As your child works a puzzle they are developing their hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. Puzzles also help develop attention, concentration and thinking skills. Children will recognize , remember , match, sort, and problem solve as they work a puzzle. 

 Listed below are the topics for this unit . Each of these topics helps our class to explore social studies and strengthens their skills in literacy. 

What do we know about buildings?   What do the buildings in our area and other places look like?   Who builds buildings?   What are buildings made of?  What is special about our building?  What happens inside buildings?

Our block center was full of action as the children created hospitals, schools, and a library. We used large wooden blocks, large legos and small cubes for construction materials. The block center helps your child learn the basic concepts of architecture. Our center time also helps children learn to work with others and lets each child expand on their creativity. 

We practiced our rhyming skills as we learned about Mary and her little lamb.  We learned that Mary went to school in a building, and our school is in a building. Mary might have used a chalk board , but we use a dry erase board. The dry erase board is one of my favorite tools. I will draw people or write letters , and words on our board. Each child is able to use the board during center time. During one of our lessons each child was asked to circle a letter before we lined up for our P. E. class. Sometimes children will confuse a number with a letter.  This exercise helps each child with letter recognition as they circle the letter and announce it to the class.  

Math and science can be taught together! One of our special science activities happened during this unit. We learned about the lifecycle of a butterfly. I ordered our caterpillars weeks ago. I know your child has told you about the wonderful metamorphosis that took place in our classroom. This science activity helped your child learn about ordinal numbers. We practiced using ordinal numbers by putting things in order. The class learned the events that happened 1st- egg , 2nd - caterpillar , 3rd -chrysalis ,  and 4th- butterfly,  during this lifecycle activity.  We watched this great change occur before our eyes. 

 I love to use dramatic play with our activities.  We pretended to be a caterpillar and we took turns spinning a chrysalis and coming out a beautiful butterfly. The children were very kind to use their blankets as a chrysalis. The highlight of this science lesson was letting each child get into our butterfly pavilion. Everyone that wanted a turn was able to get inside with our butterflies. . We discussed the parts of a butterfly as we admired the symmetry of God's beautiful creation. 

April was full of joy. We learned about the joy of Easter and I used resurrection eggs to help your child learn about the meaning of Easter. The set of resurrection eggs gives your child a hands on illustration of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Each child took a turn opening a egg and telling the class what was inside their egg. The eggs are filled with items dealing with the story of Easter.  A donkey, praying hands, and coins are just a few of our items. I explained what each symbol represented as the children opened their eggs. The last egg was empty. The empty egg reminds us of the empty tomb and Jesus' resurrection from the dead. 

Eggs of all types were in this room. I used large and small eggs to help us learn to put things in order by size. The children put them in order from the smallest to the largest. Ordering by size prepares children for complex math such as putting numbers in order and problem solving. We also used these foam eggs for matching size and color, and we counted our eggs. 

We had a special visitor stop by our class right before our egg hunt. The Easter Bunny stopped by and stayed for a little while. It was a joy to have him in our class! He did not stay long, because it was time to hunt for eggs. It was raining for our egg hunt, but we still hunted eggs. We used the after school room for a wonderful egg hunt! A special thank you to all the parents for making this a special event for our class. 

diane johnston
Junk and Trash

How can we reuse junk? How can we create less trash ? Junk and trash were two topics of discussion during the past few weeks. Many items we throw in the trash can be used as a instrument of your child's imagination.  Instead of throwing away a box , we used them to make robots. Your child picked out a recycled box and painted it the color of their choice. After we painted the box, it was time to find our eyes, and a nose. We looked through our recycled items to find the perfect pieces. A box that would have been thrown in the trash helped your child exercise their fine motor skills. We found a great use for our large boxes in our recycle area. A large box in our home living center became a dog house as your child pretended to be a dog. Our ability to balance and stand on one foot was amazing as the children climbed in and out of their dog house. 

Our music time was filled with a special beat as we used milk cartons for drums and water bottles for drum sticks. We took turns using our items and we learned that we could make sound from almost any of our items. This activity let your child explore musical concepts and gave them the freedom to express their feelings.  

The letter T is for truck and trash. Children love big trucks and they noticed that we have a large trash truck that visits our school every Tuesday and Friday. We took a walk to find out what happens to our trash after it leaves our class. We found a large , green dumpster on our campus. The number six was spotted on our large dumpster. We are learning to look for numbers and shapes everywhere.  I must say the highlight of that discussion was watching the trash truck pick up our huge dumpster and take our trash away. All of our trash is taken to our city dump .  We also found some liter on our walk , we are learning to keep our earth clean and put items that we can't recycle into a trash can. 

Lets recycle our items. I used our computer time to let this class take a virtual tour of a recycling center. After watching the tour, we created our own recycling center in the classroom. Your child pretended to be at work , using their sorting skills to determine what items were made of plastic or paper. 

Physical Education is flourishing as your child is learning to use their gross motor skills and math skills together. We played a game called junkyard. The object of this physical education lesson is to clean up the junkyard. The children were divided into two groups during last weeks class. Each group tries to keep their side of the junkyard clean as they throw the junk cubes and junk spheres over the net until the music stops. This class knows when the music stops they stop moving, then it is time to count.  Mrs. Nicole had each group count their cubes and spheres, and then determine which group had more items.  Lets clean up the junkyard! This game is fun, but it also helps your child with spatial awareness, and math skills. Your child is using their ability to be aware of their body in space. They are learning how hard they will have to throw their cube or sphere to get it over the net.     

Valentine's Day was full of love!  We had a great time with a name recognition exercise. The children had a blast passing out valentines and searching for names. A great big thank you to all our parents for helping with this event. 

Grandparent's Day was a joy and a blessing. I know every grandparent was proud of their grandchild on this special day. I know I was very proud of this class , it is amazing to watch these children sing on stage for their family. We enjoyed all of our visitors and I know everyone enjoyed visiting the classroom and looking at all of the children's work.   

diane johnston
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

We started a new unit and we are having a blast!! Children are fascinated by what is in the trash and by items that we throw away. Your child is learning that some items can be reused and recycled. I am helping the children understand that our trash can affect our community. We are exploring and finding out what happens to our trash after it is thrown away. It is our duty to help recycle. We must keep our earth clean, our oceans and landfills are not the place for all of our trash. Many items we carelessly throw away can be recycled or used again. 

During this unit we are reusing items. A paper towel roll can be a tunnel for our cars in the block center. We can also use a empty gallon milk container for a drum. We are using our math skills to sort and classify our recycled items. Your child is learning to compare objects and identify similarities and differences, which leads to the ability to classify objects. When your child classifies / sorts she is finding things that are the same, and grouping them by specific traits.  Our objects are then counted and we determine which group has more items. Our math skills are taking off as we sort, count and pattern everyday. Recognizing and creating patterns helps your child to make predictions based on observations. One of the favorite activities this week was making AB patterns with cubes of color. We love our math activities!! 

 February is National Children's Dental Heath Month. We must learn how to take care of our teeth. I could not think of a better person to help your child with their dental heath than the tooth fairy. Dr. Glass and Dr. Bunch were able to locate the tooth fairy and they sent her our way.  Twinkles the tooth fairy came to our class!  She gave your child important information about their teeth.  We learned that we should brush our teeth two times a day , and don't forget your tongue. One of our children was chosen to be a dental assistant! She learned how to preform the duties of a dental assistant.  A few other children were chosen to be teeth. We discussed the foods that are good or bad for our teeth.   

February also involves Valentine's Day! We are preparing the room for our Valentine exchange.   I let the children make hearts with shades of pink and red paint. Hearts of red and pink will be all over our room. As your child holds the paintbrush, their fine motor skills are getting a workout . Painting and using scissors are preparing your child to hold a pencil and form letters. 

One of our important events in February is  Grandparent's Day. The children are practicing two very special songs. We can't wait to sing for our grandparents! I know every child will be glad to show their grandparent our classroom. This year we have a special item up for auction. One of our favorite books is Goldilocks and The Three Bears. I have decided to put baby bear's chair up for auction. Everyone loves this chair!! I painted it and I put each child's fingerprint on the chair. I made ladybugs out of each child's fingerprint. Someone will be taking this chair home! February is a very busy month!

We love dramatic play in this classroom. I found a large rectangle box and brought it to class. I let the children use their imagination and our box became a boat. This is just one example of how we can reuse items. The children have a great time pretending and working together. As children participate with others in drama-related play, they develop social -emotional reasoning and problem solving skills. Your child is playing , but also learning to express their feelings and expand their language skills.  A special thank you to all of our parents for bringing their recyclable items, keep them coming. Lets all remember to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

diane johnston
Touchdown

This class made a touchdown!!! The ball unit is finished , and we have a group of happy, bouncing children !! At the ending of our unit we welcomed two new children to our class. We are thrilled to have new friends at St. James!  These little girls know how to use their imagination and they are right at home in this class! It looks like we have a future athlete and a mother to be, pretending to care for her sick baby.                                                                                                        

I ended the ball unit with a discussion of people that use balls on a daily basis.  We talked about constructions workers, basketball players and people that use balls for fun.  The children loved watching a construction worker use a wrecking ball to demolish a old building.  We also explored the types of materials used to make balls. Balls can be made from rubber, plastic or glass. Cotton balls and balls of yarn were a hot topic.                                                                   

 I love to bring in a activity that will include children bringing items from home.  Each child was asked to bring a ball of their choice to class. Our language skills are improving and this lesson was a wonderful way to help each child expand on their vocabulary. We used descriptive language to talk about our balls.   

 

Balls and math go together!! I  used ping pong balls to teach a math lesson. The class took turns opening sack one and sack two. Inside each sack were ping pong balls. The children had to take out the balls and count them , then determine which child had the greater amount. We are learning that numbers have meaning. Your child may not bring home a large amount of worksheets but we are learning with hands on activities!

Science for young children is a must!! The children watched a chemical reaction as we made our own snow!! I had a blast as we measured, poured and mixed. We learned that we needed to mix two ounces of water with every teaspoon of snow. If we don't have snow this year , we can make our own! The snow is also a great sensory activity, it stimulates our critical thinking skills along with our sense of touch.  I put our snow in the sensory table for each child to enjoy. 

Rolling on to P.E., class we spent the last couple of weeks working on our gross motor skills and improving on our hand and eye coordination skills. It is very important for your child to listen to instruction and participate in this class. The children had fun, but also leaned as they played. Balloons and paddles were used , as each child had to try to hit their balloon with their paddle. Balloons were also used for hitting up, down, throwing and catching during this class.  Scooters were used for gross motor skills . Your child had to move forward , backward and learn to spin!

Stay tuned for a wonderful new unit , this class will be leaning about Recycling!  I love using these units to teach your child. Our units are full of hands on math activities.  Please read the following information below ,it will give you important details about our math curriculum at St. James. 

MATHEMATICS AT ST. JAMES DAY SCHOOL

There is an old saying that if you get two educators in a room, you will have three opinions about which curriculum is best!  And likely a dozen textbook companies willing to sell the latest and shiniest course.

Mathematics has been a particular flash point in these different outlooks on curriculum.  In the 1990s, most public schools shifted to Reform Mathematics, which was itself a reform of the New Math of the 1960s and onwards.  

The predominant reform approach to math has not been a great success.  In the period of 2012-2015, the United States has slipped 12 points in the PISA assessment administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an assessment that includes students from nearly 70 countries throughout the world.

Many private schools, St. James included, stayed the course by teaching Classical Mathematics, with one significant change being that traditional concepts are taught at earlier ages than they were in past generations.    

At St. James, we continue to use a classical curriculum because it has been our experience, honed over many years, that the traditional structure is best for laying a developmentally-appropriate and solid foundation leading to long-term mastery of content skills for success in higher math in middle school and beyond.  

St. James uses the Saxon Math curriculum across grades 1 through 6.  Its pedagogical underpinnings include the following:

  • An incremental development of concepts with understanding its parts before trying to work with the whole concept
  • Continual review with required homework that has 85% of problems from previous lessons (no skipping of lessons unless student shows 80% mastery of problems from that lesson; no working “every other” problem)
  • De-emphasis of transitory test-taking tricks in favor of permanent mastery of concepts
  • Frequent cumulative assessments
  • No “hunk swallowing” of topics
  • Practice with new problems of repetition for learning, not for drilling
  • No use of calculators.

With minor adjustments which we make, our curriculum correlates to Common Core and TEKS (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for math.   

Each year, we use the Stanford Achievement Test Series (SAT10), to measure our educational achievement.  The Stanford, used by many private schools, rates our students’ achievement not against a district norm, nor even a state norm, but against a national cadre.  We analyze these results closely at the end of each academic year.  

Instead of an approach to education based on “the average student”, we tailor our educational experience for each particular student.  As you would expect, different students have different skills and move at different paces.  For those students who need a “bump up” in a particular core subject, we provide it.  We do the same for those students who need extra support.   

Because St. James provides this individualized education, our yearly analysis of the SAT10 is for each student.  This way we can differentiate the educational experience so that each child learns at his own pace and in her own way.  We understand that this personal attention is one of the reasons that you send your child to St. James.

Needless to say, there will be students who excel in subjects when they leave us, math included, and those who will need extra support, but a firm foundation of skills and comprehension will have been laid at St. James in either case.

As a whole, St. James graduates regularly and consistently 

  • finish high school in the top ten percent of their class
  • receive significant college scholarship awards
  • are admitted to many of the most selective colleges to which they apply.   To give but one example, this year one of our 2011 graduates was admitted to Harvard.

Since 2000, thirteen St. James graduates have been either the valedictorian or salutatorian of local public high schools.  In eight of those years, St. James grads have seen both valedictorians and salutatorians amongst the several local schools.  This is hardly a statistical anomaly, but a remarkable accomplishment given that our graduates comprise only the tiniest percentage of the thousands of students who attend these educational institutions.

St. James Day School consults regularly with wider educational leaders to ensure that we are preparing our students for their next educational placement.  To keep current, we confer with local educators at public middle school, high school and university levels.  We also have the benefit of the collective wisdom of a community of Episcopal Schools through our accrediting body.  This consultation means that we provide the best and most up-to-date educational experience possible.  

As always, the Administration of the School welcomes and encourage ongoing feedback from parents, knowing as we do that we are partners in your child’s education.  For seventy years now, St. James has been the educational leader in Texarkana.  We are thankful that your family is part of this tradition of educational excellence.

diane johnston