Ms. LaTocha’s Kindergarten

June 1, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Our nation is grieving  for the unjust loss of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, countless other black men and women, and the systemic racism in our society today.  Our kindergarteners are at a tender age and it may or may not be a challenge  to know how to have a conversation with your child about race.  It is important to let children express their feelings and frustrations surrounding recent events.  A conversation starter might be to ask the questions:  Is this fair?  How does this make you feel?

As an educator I feel it is important to address issues of race and racism.  Below are some resources to sift through and decide as a parent what is developmentally appropriate and fitting for you to use as a teachable moment with your child.  

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

May 3, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and happy May!  I had such a wonderful time driving through your neighborhood and saying hello to you from a distance.  I so appreciated all of the greetings, signs, and especially your smiling faces.  I heard we may have missed a street.  If you were waiting and didn’t see me, please do let me know!

I am sorry that the 100’s math lesson had a glitch last week.  Thank you for bringing that to my attention.  I have been busy preparing my lessons for next week.  Please partake in lessons that you find useful and feel free to adjust the lessons to better align with your child’s individual needs.  It is always a pleasure viewing student work and videos.  

It is my hope to reach out to you this week with a day and time that our class can “meet” on Google Meet to check in and say hello to each other.  Stay tuned as I am still working out the details.  I do anticipate that we will have some technological issues to sort out as we make this attempt.  Please view the attached image for best practices during our live Google Meet session to prepare your child.

Screenshot 2020-05-01 at 10.54.30 AM.png

Have a great week!

~ Ms. LaTocha

April 27, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  I am sorry about the Seesaw glitches last week.  I do appreciate both your grace and kindness as we navigate this new way of learning together.  It certainly isn’t easy any way you look at it.  What makes it easier is that we are in it together.  

I would like to reiterate that my lessons are offered as a tool for learning at home.  If you don’t find a particular lesson useful there is no expectation that you should complete the task with your family.  Ms. Gardner and I met via Seesaw and phone last week.  We archived the lessons that were troublesome and hope that we have resolved the problem.  If you continue to receive duplicate lessons, please reach out to Ms. Gardner directly at:  egardner@pps.net

Did you have the opportunity to drive through FPE and check out all of the fabulous art projects on Friday?  This year’s auction was like none other, but with any luck we will have done some good fundraising for our school.  I hope to see you this Wednesday starting at 2:15 for our rescheduled teacher parade.  I plan to be there with Amara, Nina, and Dusty!

I celebrated my daughter Amara’s 12th birthday this weekend.  My daughter Nina turned 9 on March 30th.  It was certainly unique celebrating birthdays isolated at home with no friends or family.  We tried to make the best of it and planned some festive activities and delicious treats.  I would like to give a shoutout to all of our March and April birthdays.  I wish we were at school making you a birthday book!

March birthdays:  Kamron (20th), Henry (22nd), Evan (23rd), Allison (26th), Emmie & Elena (28th), 

April birthdays:  Nathan (2nd)

A couple of families reached out for additional guidance regarding first grade readiness.  I will provide a few resources below. 

Sight words:

There are many different word lists but they are all very similar.  I thought this one was great. 

https://marcy.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/wwk-1wordwall_copy.pdf

Kindergarten Standards:

http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/K/

As we continue on this journey together I am exploring additional ways to stay connected with students and families in a developmentally appropriate way.  Thanks for your patience.

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

 

April 18, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

I know we have only officially been doing this homeschool learning thing for two weeks, but for some reason it feels like an eternity.  Maybe it is because the last official day of school I had taken a sick day with no knowledge that school would be canceled for the remainder of the school year.  As a result, I was unable to say goodbye to all of your incredible children. I miss all of their smiling faces.

Regardless of it feeling like an eternity, we are still in the very beginning of this adventure together.  In that regard, it feels as if it is September – the start of a new school year. My days continue to revolve around videotaping and preparing upcoming lessons, checking email, online trainings, several hours of viewing and responding to student work samples, trouble-shooting, and trying to manage my daughter’s routines at home.  

I will continue to send two lessons a day, one with a literacy/integrated focus, the other math.  Please do supplement these lessons with all of the wonderful online learning opportunities available to your children through Clever and through PPS Library.  I have been hearing from families that certain devices work better than others for Seesaw. If you have any helpful tips you can pass along for me to share with other families, I would greatly appreciate it.

I want to offer a few tips for completing assignments.  If it is a writing assignment, I would prefer that children write using pencil and paper.  Students really need this fine motor practice as well as the practice of sounding out their words phonetically – a skill that helps with both reading and writing.  I would also suggest ordering some kinder-friendly stationery for your child to support their handwriting. I purchased the journals we use in class from lakeshorelearning.com.  Search for “Draw & Write Journal”. There are also many other wonderful learning materials you may want to explore.

I know there are certain tasks where children will need to write within the Seesaw program – such as the numeral writing assignment on Friday.  One family purchased a stylus for this purpose and said it was very helpful. I have heard that some people are having problems with their mics not working.  I am also hearing that certain internet servers and devises work better than others.  One family reported trouble logging into DreamBox on a Samsung device. If you are having similar troubles logging in through Clever, try the class code 64757 with the school code axfp/6g73.

Please take care, be well, and reach out to me at anytime.  I want to make this experience as meaningful as possible for you and your children.  If you haven’t heard, we will have a teacher parade on Wednesday starting around 2:15.  I will be participating with my daughters Amara and Nina and my dog Dusty. I hope to see you from a safe distance!

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

 

April 1, 2020 

Dear Kindergarten Families, 

I hope you were able to find some joy in your extended Spring Break at home.  Please know that I miss school and the class just as much as, I am sure, your children.  I miss seeing their smiling faces, hearing their funny stories, and teaching and learning together.  I am confident that we will continue to make connections in our home school learning.  

This week teachers are busy (frantically) learning all sorts of different forms of online tools for learning.  The main way that I will continue to communicate with students and families is through email and Seesaw. Teachers are also finding new ways of communicating with one another.  We have been having virtual staff meetings through google meet. There is a lot of information to sift through as well regarding curriculum, social emotional learning, technology,etc.

Next week you can expect a soft start as we roll out our lessons.  Lessons will be in ELA and Math, and the content will be familiar to students. As Mr. Wade and I become more proficient in instructing from home, you may begin to receive lessons created by Mr. Wade in addition to lessons I have created.  This will help us be more efficient with our time.  

I created a video/lesson for next week today.  It looks so simple, but it took me all afternoon to get it right before making the final video!  I must have tried at least 10 times. 

I have been so happy to hear from so many of you on Seesaw.  I am sorry that there are still some students/families that I haven’t heard from.  Please let me know if you are finding some roadblocks to learning from home. 

Here are some best practices for learning at home provided by Seesaw:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wo1D1FRVAf_JpTAPwFx6Cou3aet3o9ID9HJ33XVdVqU/edit

Below you will find a link from Miss Lizzie if you would like to request counseling for your child.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd0iE2uaUnqCcBJy-oW9kQkv3ZUjPsvl6iN2H-sfMQQOXQE5g/viewform?usp=sf_link 

Please stay safe and continue to practice social distancing.

Sincerely, 

Ms. LaTocha

March 6, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Happy March!  It was nice to have several sunny days at school recently.  The children really enjoy playing outside when the weather is so nice.  As we gear up for Spring Break, here is the latest in kindergarten news:

In Reading Workshop children are practicing checking their reading and fixing parts that don’t make sense.  They can ask, “Does it look right?  Does it sound right?  Does it make sense?”  We will be concluding our reading unit as we head into Spring Break.  Students will learn to rely on new kinds of picture power.  They will also depend on sight words when books become less patterned.  Readers will practice reading snap words with inflected endings.  In addition, students will practice comprehension skills such as making predictions.  We continue to integrate Technology to support our reading skills with the use of LEXIA for phonics skills and MyOn for reading fluency and comprehension.

We recently read the story The Big Orange Splot.  This is a story about Mr. Plumbean.  He lives in a house on a street where all the houses are the same.  Everyone is happy.  Then one day a seagull flies over Mr. Plumbean’s house and drops a bucket of bright orange paint on it.  Nobody on the street is pleased.  However, it inspires Mr. Plumbean to make his house like his dreams.  One by one all of his neighbors are eventually persuaded to do the same.  This inspired us to design our own dream houses.  Student work will be displayed in our classroom.

For the month of March students will continue to build their stamina for writing.  Students will practice rereading their work and adding more sentences.  We have been talking about putting our best effort into our writing, and printing neatly.  Additionally, we will remain focused on the proper use of upper and lowercase letters and punctuation.   As students write they can practice using their short vowel sounds properly.  Students will continue to attempt writing stories that have a beginning, middle, and end.  Students have been enjoying sharing their writing with peers.  This practice helps them write to read and to strive to do their best work.

During the last week of school before Spring Break we will be participating in an artist residency during our literacy block.  Students will be auditioning for a part in a folktale.  Everyone gets a part!  They will then design a puppet to represent their character.  Students will perform in the classroom on Friday, March 20th (I will provide the time soon).  We hope you will join us!

Last month students had a visit from Friends of Trees.  They learned all about the different trees and animals in our local forests.  The class then made their own paper.  We will continue with our study of the interdependence of living things in the month of March.

In February students created their own sea creature story problems.  They came out really nice and we have been working our way through solving all of their problems gradually.  We use the whiteboards and dry erase markers at the carpet area.  Students are able to share strategies and solutions.  In addition to solving story problems, students will be working on the following skills:

~ Coin identification and value

~ Growing patterns

~ Addition/Subtraction

~ Workplaces/Completing Tasks

~ Estimating

~ Numeral identification

~ Numeral Writing

 

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

February 11, 2020

Dear Kindergarten Families,

January felt like a very long month, spending much time working to complete student assessments and report cards.  I am pleased to see the progress your children have made since the start of the school year.

We have enjoyed welcoming two new students to our class and now have 28 students.  This is a lot of five and six year olds to pack into one classroom.  The more focused students can be on learning, the better for all students.  If you could speak to your child regularly about what they can do to better improve their focus on learning at school, it will benefit our learning environment.  I tell the students that they receive many brain breaks during the day (recesses, snacks, lunch, GoNoodle, choice time) and that when it is a learning time, it is important to stay focused.

Here’s your latest round of kindergarten quotes:

  • “Sorry for being a bad boy yesterday.”
  • “Why are all the girls super pretty, but the boys aren’t?”
  • “I missed you so much (hug). It was like I had a step-teacher.”
  • “Ms. LaTocha, the cold never bothers me.” (Frozen reference)
  • “Man, I’ve grown a lot. When I was first here, I was to here, but now I’m up to 60”!”
  • “My hands are sweaty because I texted today.”
  • Student 1: “Don’t roll your eyes, that isn’t kind.

Student 2:  “I didn’t.”

Student 1:  “Well, my parents say I can’t do it.”

In the month of January students created gigantic snowflakes, cute little symmetrical mittens, and fabulous snowmen.  We turned our classroom into a winter wonderland!

Students just received a variety of new leveled books in their reading bags to start fresh in third quarter.  We are also back into the swing of using LEXIA and MyOn in the classroom a couple times a week.  In reading, students continue to focus on using their letter-sound knowledge to help them read the words on the page.  At this point in the school year students should be working on blending and reading consonant-vowel-consonant words.  If your child isn’t doing this yet, please practice at home.  If you are reading your child a book and you come across a CVC word, you can ask them to read it to you.  You could also ask your child to scan the text and tell you any sight words that they can read.  Students can notice consonant clusters to help solve unknown words.

Kindergarten writers continue to focus on strengthening their writing skills.  By the middle of kindergarten students should be forming most letters legibly, and attempting to use mostly lowercase letters.  Children should be transitioning to using finger spaces between their words if they aren’t already.  Students should be able to spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships.  We have also begun to experiment with punctuation.  Students continue to build their stamina for writing, writing more and for longer periods of time.

Here are some of the math skills we are focusing on this month:

  • 3-D shapes (cubes, cones, cylinders, spheres)
  • Repeating patterns
  • Coin identification
  • Creating and solving math story problems (addition within 10)
  • Students were introduced to a math program called Freckle. You will receive information on how to use this program at home tomorrow.

We are looking forward to our Valentine’s Day celebration on Friday!  Remember, your child should only sign their name on the card.  Treats are fine.  Thank you in advance for your donation of time, supplies, and food!  We look forward to celebrating the 100th day of school (a few days late) on Friday the 21st!

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

December 20, 2019

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Our class had a wonderful time during our class celebration today.  Thank you parents for the contributions that made our party a success!  Here is the latest in kindergarten quotes, and let me just say, some of the best kindergarten quotes I just can’t bear to repeat :-):

~ “Ms. LaTocha, guess what?  I just did something about learning.  I sounded out the pictures!”

~ “Oh boys, they’re so weird.  Oh wait, I’m a boy.”

~ Student:  “Ms. LaTocha.”

Ms. LaTocha “Yes?”

Student:  “I like you.”

~ “Ms. LaTocha, you sound like an actor because my drama teacher is an actor and she sounds like that.”

~ “For Wacky Wednesday I wore my underwear backwards.  I still have them backwards today!”

~ Student 1:  “I can’t even drink wine yet.”

Student 2:  “I can.”

Student 3:  “I can.”

Student 4:  “I can, and beers.”

I am looking for some parent volunteers to run small group literacy activities on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30-9:30.  Please let me know if you are interested!

We will pick up our reading curriculum in Unit 3:  Bigger Books, Bigger Reading Muscles after the break.  Children will tackle more challenging books by learning various strategies such as using patterns to help them read almost every page.  They will figure out the challenging word in patterns.  Students will use patterns and endings to understand their books.  Students will also zoom in on letters and sounds.  They will begin to notice consonant clusters to help solve unknown words.

In writing students will plan what they’ll draw and write.  They will challenge themselves to sound out words phonetically, use their sight words, use mostly lowercase letters, use spaces between words, and write their names with the proper upper and lowercase letters.  Students will talk about and share their writing.

We will focus on the following math skills in the month of January:  2-D shapes, repeated and growing relationships in patterns, counting, sorting, measuring, and story problems.  If your child needs practice counting fluently to 100, identifying basic 2-D shape names, or reading and writing numbers 0-20, it would prove very beneficial to practice over the winter break!

Thank you for all of your kindness and support.  I look forward to seeing everyone in the New Year!

Happy Holidays!

~ Ms. LaTocha

November 26, 2019

Dear Kindergarten Families,

I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for the joy that your children bring me each day.  Your children bring me happiness and laughter and it is an honor to be their teacher.  Here are just some of the quotes I have written down since the start of the school year:

  • “My dad is 60’ 7…my dad is 6’ 100.”
  • “OMG __________, this early in the morning? I just woke up.”
  • “Ms. LaTocha, every day I get owies on me, and I have pimples too.”
  • (one student to another) “It’s okay, you’re still learning.”
  • “Guess what? Sometimes ya’ gotta’ do what ya’ gotta’ do.”
  • “But I wanna’ stay here, but not give Ms. LaTocha a headache.”
  • “Oh gosh, this is rough. This is a dark book.”
  • “She said I’m a liar and I have fire in my pants.”
  • “Like my mom said, have courage and be kind.”
  • (Pointing to a boy)”That guy, I think he’s handsome.”
  • “I like your eyelashes.”
  • “I have an apple, but I’m allergic to apples.”

Now for some academics, here is what we have been up to lately:

READING

This month we have focused on our Super Powers:  Reading with Print Strategies and Sight Word Power unit of study.  In this unit of study students learned about all of the different “super powers’ that they have to make them strong readers.  Students learned to point to each word as they read, tackle hard-to-read words, and how to bring a story to life.  Students learned to look out for sight words, punctuation, word patterns, and how to read with expression.

WRITING

In writing students have been building confidence with their “Kid Writing” and sight word knowledge.  We continue to focus on printing neatly, using lowercase letters, and leaving spaces between words.  As we progress, students will continue to build their stamina for writing.  We will focus on writing stories with more words, and a beginning, middle, and ending.  Students will learn to create stories that they can share and friends can read.

MATH

Students have been exploring some new math work places recently.  The work places focus on the following skills:  more than, less than, probability, 2D shapes, exploring relationships between shapes, and addition within 10.

* For the month of December we will be taking a break from our regular literacy curriculum to focus on a variety of winter holidays and traditions.  We will also read many different versions of The Gingerbread Man. Students will complete some associated activities such as comparing and contrasting different versions of the story, retelling the story, and sequencing.

*We are hoping to reach our goal of 150 Hot Cocoa Kits for our annual food drive!  Please bring any donations to me directly (see informational sheet in purple folder).  The kindergarten classes will be keeping track of our goal on a bulletin board in the kinder hallway.  We will use ten frames and tally marks to keep track of how close we are to reaching our goal.  Please let me know if you would like to volunteer to assemble our kits on December 10th at 1:00 pm in our classroom!

Lastly, thank you for taking the time to meet with me for parent teacher conferences.  It is a wonderful opportunity for us to work together to support your child.  Have a great week!

Sincerely,

Ms. LaTocha

October 18, 2019

Dear Kindergarten Families,

We are enjoying the beauty of fall in kindergarten.  The children made gorgeous watercolor pumpkins with Ms. Nelson when she subbed for me recently (hanging in our classroom).  We have also read many books about pumpkins such as Pumpkins, Pumpkin Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Jack.  Children read and colored booklets to learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin in anticipation of our October 31st field trip.

Our class just started a new unit of study in reading.  It is called Super Powers and focuses on reading with print strategies and sight word power.  Children will use their “superpowers” to look and point, and then read text.  As we progress through the unit students will be asked to take on more challenging words.  In the final bend of the unit children will practice bringing books to life by using their voice, paying close attention to punctuation, and retelling stories.  We continue to work our way through daily phonics instruction to practice blending, segmenting, and isolating beginning and ending sounds in words.  We are lucky to have Mr. Scott, Educational Assistant, to support our learning during Reading Workshop three days a week.  I have assembled a basket of fun, interactive literacy activities for students to work with him in small groups during this time.  The children really enjoy the hands-on learning.  Activities rotate periodically and eventually students will be able to use these materials independently during choice time.

We are working on concluding our first unit of study in writing.  You may have seen your child’s work come home recently.  Students are working on stretching out the sounds in words, and hearing and recording sounds in sequence.  The sight words that have been introduced in class so far are:  I, am, the, and, no, to, and a.  If your child does not know how to read and write these sight words, please give them an “extra scoop” of instruction at home.  We have a range of abilities in our classroom and I work to meet each child at their individual rate and level of learning.

In math children continue to learn through hands-on activities and games.  As we conclude our unit of study for the remainder of October, we will focus on the numbers 0-10, counting by 1’s, instant recognition of quantities to 5, matching sets and numerals, recognizing and naming shapes, understanding how some of the common shapes are formed, adding 1’s, subtracting 1’s, counting forward and backward, tally marks, and making predictions.  We recently read the book The Shape of Things.  Students then chose a shape to transform into something new.  You can see their work displayed on the bulletin board outside our classroom.

I know a few parents have expressed interest in volunteering in the classroom.  We are not quite ready for volunteers yet!  There are a lot of ongoing student behaviors that need work.  Many students continue to use unkind words or “tattle” on classmates for small problems instead of using Kelso’s Choices to solve small problems.  The class is also very chatty during work times, even after several reminders.  All of this can be very disruptive to learning.  I am sure you can imagine the challenges that come with getting a group of 26 five and six year-old children to all settle into learning :-).  I would appreciate it if you could talk to your child about something they think they could improve on to make learning times run smoothly each day and to help get along with others.  It is most helpful to focus on how your child can react in certain situations, rather than to focus on the behavior of other students.  I am hoping we will be ready for volunteers soon.  In the meantime, I do not have a room parent at this time.  Room parents help me organize and plan for special events in the classroom as needed.  Please let me know if you are interested in being a room parent.

Enjoy your weekend!

~ Ms. LaTocha

 

September 20, 2019

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Happy Friday!  Your children have been busy little bees in kindergarten and I wanted to take a moment to let you know what we have been working on in class.  We have been spending a considerable amount of time working on classroom routines and expectations.  Our class talked about our class rules:  Be Kind, Be Responsible, Be Safe, Be Respectful.  We then made class books for each rule, in which each child contributed a page.  Another area of focus has been that of Kelso’s Choices.  Children are learning how to solve small problems independently and come to an adult with big problems.  Furthermore, we have talked about filling each other’s buckets with kindness.

In Reading Workshop children are learning to build stamina for both independent and partner reading.  Students have learned that when they partner read they should sit side-by-side, put one book in the middle, see-saw read, reread to learn more, and that they should read the pictures and the words.  We are also working on appropriate voice volume for Reading Workshop.

During Writing Workshop we have talked about how “when you’re done, you’ve just begun”.  Students should add to their pictures, and to their words, or start a new piece.  Students are learning to use sound charts to help them find the sounds they need to write their words phonetically, or, “the kid way”.  Students were introduced to the sight words I, and am.  Once a sight word is introduced students are expected to spell it “the adult way”.  In addition to Kid Writing, we have begun our work with Interactive Writing.  Once child holds the pen and writes on a shared piece of writing at the front of the carpet area.  All other students work with a clipboard and paper at the carpet.  The expectation during Interactive Writing is that words are spelled and printed correctly.  If we make a mistake, we fix it.  Finally, students started their Handwriting Without Tears workbooks today!  Children will keep their Writer’s Workshop writing at school and I will send it home all at once during the end of each unit.

In math children have been exploring the math manipulatives that we will use throughout the school year for our math workplaces.  They have been practicing the routine of cleaning up one activity before they go to a new math workplace.  Math is very hands on and therefore you won’t see a lot of papers coming home.  In calendar math we have focused on shapes, patterns, colors, days of the week, how many school days we have had this month, and how many days until the 100th day of school celebration.

During choice time children are exploring their friendships and how to share and problem-solve together.  Children are working on using kind words and indoor voices as well.  This is a time for creativity, making choices, and making friends.

Have a wonderful weekend!

~ Ms. LaTocha