Thursday, January 30, 2020

New Books for Our Classroom

Yes, folks, it is book award season again!

Those who know me know that I always eagerly look forward to the ALA Book Awards for young people. In particular, we focus on the Newbery and Caldecott medal winning books. This year we also purchased winner and honor books for the Theodor Seuss Geisel award and the Robert Sibert award. Newbery is best-written book of 2019. Caldecott is best illustrated picture book. Geisel is best early reader. Sibert is best informational book.

As you're probably already aware, this year was the first-ever time the winner of the Newbery medal has been a graphic novel! This is the oldest American children's book award, having begun in 1922.

Here's the press release from the ALA. Here is what we purchased this week, hitting the internet as soon as we arrived back at the school from the firehouse field trip. Boxes of books have been arriving at my door ever since.

John Newbery Medal
for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

New Kid,” written by Jerry Craft, is the 2020 Newbery Medal winner. The book is illustrated by the author and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. We got two copies!

We also bought all four Newbery Honor Books:

The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander

Scary Stories for Young Foxes

by Christian McKay Heidicker

Other Words for Home

by Jasmine Warga

Genesis Begins Again

by Alicia Williams

Randolph Caldecott Medal
for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

The Undefeated,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson is the 2020 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Kwame Alexander and published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Undefeated

illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Kwame Alexander

We also bought all three Caldecott Honor Books:

Bear Came Along

illustrated by LeUyen Pham, written by Richard T. Morris

Double Bass Blues

illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, written by Andrea J. Loney

Going Down Home with Daddy

illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
for the most distinguished informational book for children:

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story,” written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, is the Sibert Award winner. The book is published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

by Kevin Noble Maillard

We also bought one of the four Sibert Honor Books:

All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World

by Lori Alexander

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
for the most distinguished beginning reader book:

Stop! Bot!” written and illustrated by James Yang. The book is published by Viking, Penguin Young Readers.

Stop! Bot!

by James Yang

We also bought all three of the Geisel Honor Books:

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!

by Cece Bell

Flubby is Not a Good Pet!

by J.E. Morris

The Book Hog

by Greg Pizzoli

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Classroom Agreements and Job Chart

It may sound strange that we are just starting our classroom Job Chart in February! Here's why. I've had several parents request more explicit social-emotional learning and social skills lessons, so we are using the wonderful book The No-Fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson.

In Lesson 1, which we did last week, we wrote our Vision Statement.

    Our vision is a welcoming, calm & productive learning environment where people feel safe & happy. Everyone can communicate respectfully. Each person’s needs are met in a way that is kind & fair.

In Lesson 2, which we did on Monday (a great tie-in to the Protector Archetype), we wrote the first draft of our Classroom Agreements. This is meant to be a living document, which we can revisit and revise as needed.

After brainstorming things in a classroom environment that would make us feel physically or emotionally unsafe, and a review of the primitive/reptilian brain and the frontal lobe, etc. and how the brain works in stress (ie. when you do not feel safe YOU CAN NOT LEARN), we decided on a set of classroom Agreements that we all were comfortable following. This was a long meeting and took our entire afternoon work time. However, it was the favorite activity of many of the children, and most of them wrote it in their gratitude journals as the best thing of the day... better than the field trip to the Fire Station!

    Little Bluestem Agreements
    2019 - 2020

    Stop and listen when others are talking. Stay present.

    Don’t interrupt.

    Think before you speak or act.

    Use respectful language that is comfortable for everyone.

    Be honest and keep your word.

    Do no harm.

    Be kind and thoughtful.

    Try to notice if other people are being excluded.

    Respect another person’s privacy.

    Take good care of your physical and emotional needs.

    Take good care of shared space and shared property.

    Apologize for your mistakes and try to make amends.

    Speak up calmly when something isn’t fair.

    Treat people the way you would want them to treat you.

We also decided on the various tasks in our new classroom Job Chart.

    Materials Managers
    Plan Book / Colored Pencil / Clipboard
    Pencil / Paper / Eraser
    Gratitude Journal / Handwork Bag

    Animal Care Experts
    Rabbit Water & Food
    Rabbit Bedding
    Dog Water & Walk

    Cleanliness Crew
    Lunchbox / Water Bottle / Backpack
    Mop / Sweep / Vacuum
    Trash / Recycling / Art Sink

Most of these jobs function as a part of the end of the day routine, with a person assigned to double check that each classroom material or area has been tidied up. The animal care jobs take place in the middle of the day.

On Tuesday, students wrote me their job application letters!

In these letters, they were to explain which job they were applying for and why specifically they thought they would be a good fit for that job. Each child was also asked to include two additional classroom jobs they would be willing to have. The children will have these jobs for a month and, at the end of the month, they will train their replacements. This is how master teacher Jan Szymaszek at the Smith College Lab School (I was extremely fortunate to student teach under Jan in her third grade classroom when I had my teacher training at Smith) did her job chart and it worked exceptionally well.

Here are their letters:

    I feel that I would do well on bunny duty because I have two cats and a dog and I take my dog out, and feed him and water him once a week. And I keep him company when he is scared. I feed my chickens and peacocks! I can volunteer for plan books and colored pencils.


    I would love to walk the dog and give him water. Because I have three dogs but one of them needs walking. Lunchbox. Rabbit.


    Bunny Food & Water
    I think I should give the bunny food and water because I like bunnies and I think I would be good at it.

    Bunny Bedding
    I would like to do the bunny's bedding. I just like animals! I think that I would be good at it because I have a guinea pig and I have to change his bedding so I have experience.

    Dog Walk & Water
    I think I should give the dog water and walk because I walk my dog.


    Rabbit Water & Food
    I want to have the job of feeding and watering the rabbit. I would be good at this because I always take care of pets. I have experience with cats, dog, hamster, guinea pig, lizard, and a mudpuppy.

    Dog Walk & Water

    Sweeping & Mopping


    Pencil / Paper / Eraser
    I always find pencils.

    Mop / Sweep / Vacuum
    I sweep and vacuum all the time at home.

    Planbook / Colored Pencil / Clipboard
    I find planbooks and colored pencils on the ground a lot.


    Dog Walk & Water - #1 Choice
    I think I should help take care of Archie because I have taken care of Archie over the summer and I like taking him on walks.

    Lunchbox / Water Bottle / Backpack - #2 Choice
    I could also do this job because it appeals to me. Ummmmmmmm. I could hand out / make sure everyone has their stuff.

    Rabbit Food & Water - #2 1/2 Choice
    This job would also be fun because I like to help take care of animals. It would be fun to feed Chia every day.


    Planbook / Colored Pencil / Clipboard
    I remember to feed my dogs so I think that I can remember to do this job. I think that I can be careful with the supplies.


    I have applied for the job Materials Manager because my mom usually comes late and I have extra time.

In the next few lessons the book has us make our IOS Power Panels (to help us monitor our Feeling Thermometers), learn about Energy Shifters (how to get back to Calm Alert), and start to practice exactly how to use the appropriate steps and language from Non-Violent Communication to handle a frustrating situation. I'm eager to see how these explicit lessons on SEL and social skills make a difference in how the children talk to one another!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Norse Mythology I: Week Three

Some helpful links:

Monday, January 20

Tuesday, January 21

Thursday, January 23

  • rough draft, edit, add to MLB "Sif's Golden Hair"
  • read "Loki's Monstrous Brood"

Friday, January 24

  • rough draft, edit, add to MLB "Loki's Monstrous Brood"
  • read "Balder, the God of Light" and "Heimdall, the Watchman of Asgard"

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Science Club Updates

January 10 - Science Club Special Guest

January 17 - Science Club Field Trip

January 24 - Prove It!

    Based on student interests, we began to explore Physics. I love the Science I CAN READ book Prove It! by Rose Wyler and Gerald Ames.

    We began with the properties of water and a look at surface tension:

    "Why Drops are Round," pages 6-7

      look at our water droplets through jeweler's loupes

      extra exploration: how many drops of water fit on a penny?

    "Make a Needle Float," pages 8-9

      explain how plants use surface tension in their vascular tissue

    "Chase the Pepper," pages 10-11

      extra exploration: add sugar to water/pepper without the soap first... does the pepper draw towards the sugar?

        soapy water - weakest

        plain water - strong

        sugar water - strongest

    "A Boat that Runs with Soap," pages 12-13

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Blacksmith, Healer, Merchant, Woodcutter

Naturally, I can only choose a few favorite professions to do from the many.

For more on Steiner's 12 Archetypal Professions, I highly recommend the important work of Suzanne Down!

Women's Writes of Passage December 24 - January 6, 2020
A Course for the Holy Nights Inspired by Steiner's 12 Professions and the Soul Powers They Represent. Online

The Annual Puppet Boot Camp: A Five Day Intensive
The 2019 topic was Steiner's 12 Professions: The Moral Value and Artistry of the Worker Archetype in Story, Puppetry, and Fairy Tales. Boulder CO

Each Archetype has other professions which fall under it; the Archetypes can also work together. Each has a series of gestures which embody its work, and she is the expert at using these gestures and puppetry in a therapeutic way to bring the essence of these ancient professions to children, helping them to feel a sense of stability and purpose in an ever-changing world.

Monday, January 20 - Blacksmith


  • recall Goatherder
  • read chapter 3 of Heidi by Joanna Spyri
  • hear from Natalie about taking care of sheep and lambs at her dad's hobby farm, Fresh Pastures Neighborhood Farm in Milltown WI
  • hear from Ms. Anna about taking care of alpacas as a volunteer at Shambalah Alpaca Ranch in Franktown CO
  • give students who live on a farm time to talk about their responsibilities taking care of the animals
  • finish TASTINGS!


  • add Goatherder to MLB
  • discuss the Blacksmith
  • listen to Norse Myth "Sif's Golden Hair" with the older group and join in the watercolor painting of the dwarves at the forge

Tuesday, January 21 - Healer


  • discuss the Healer
  • work with Ms. Aliya to make a half gallon of Elderberry Syrup


  • recall Blacksmith
  • read "The Forging of Thor's Hammer" by S.M. Ryan from The Waldorf Book of Poetry, page 167
  • participate in table read with the older group of the script for "Loki - the Mischief Maker" by John Miles
  • finish watercolor paintings
  • look at and try to solve some metal blacksmith's puzzles

Thursday, January 23 - Merchant



Friday, January 24 - Woodcutter

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!