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Garden Patch Guidelines  
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In the Garden Patch, our number one goal is to have a learning environment where achievement is maximized due to an effort by all adults and students to respect ourselves, respect others, and respect property.  In so doing, we honor Coosada Elementary's overarching procedures and goals. 

The four Garden Patch Guidelines are as follows:

1.  We follow directions the FIRST time given.

2.  We raise a QUIET hand for a speaking turn.

3.  We keep our hands, feet and objects to ourselves, wherever we are.

4.  We treat others with kindness.

Each child has a personalized clothespin which starts off each day on top of a string of "tomato faces".  The faces, in order from top to bottom, are happy, straight, and sad.  A fresh start is possible each day.

Our positive and negative consequences are as follows:

* All rules kept:  ROLE MODEL BEHAVIOR!  Clothespin stays on "happy tomato face", and a week of such behavior earns a trip to the Friday Garden Grab Bag.

*One rule broken:  Warning.  Clothespin moves to bottom of "happy face", but the Friday Garden Grab Bag is still achievable with a week of "top" or "bottom" happy face behavior.

*Two rules broken:  Clothespin moves to "straight tomato face".  Half of free/center time is lost.  Friday Garden Grab Bag is missed for the week.

*Three rules broken:  Clothespin moves to bottom of "straight face".  ALL of free/center time is lost, plus Grab Bag, as well.

*Four rules broken:  Clothespin moves to "sad tomato face".  Consequences for three broken rules apply, as does a parent contact.

*Five rules broken:  Clothespin moves to bottom of sad face.  Consequences for four broken rules apply, as does an office referral. 

IF the entire Garden Patch stays on HAPPY, then a special visit from our Garden Goat ("Mr. Goat") is enjoyed by everyone.  In the Patch, we like to keep it positive, and praise is plentiful.  We take boundaries seriously in order that all may learn to their highest potential in a safe, secure, and supportive environment.

Once a clothespin "arrives" at its final destination, it cannot be "moved back up" for good behavior that same day.  However, Mrs. Beale is always seeking to spot top-notch behavior and notice positive changes by awarding GOTCHAS. Coosada Elementary sets GOTCHA goals each grading period, and students who meet those goals are awarded many exciting opportunities to honor their great behavior!

Look for your child's "daily face" on his take-home folder each afternoon.  Please initial this face and return the folder each morning with your child.

How Can I Help My Kindergartener Learn to Read?  
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Whether or not we realize it, we are all teachers as well as learners, regardless of our age.  When we look back upon our own journeys as emerging readers, we probably do not realize the miracle involved in learning to string letter sounds together to make words, words together to make sentences, sentences together to make paragraphs, and paragraphs together to make books....all with the purpose of conveying information or providing enjoyment!  Reading is LIFE.  Some of it is a mystery, but many components are little "locks" which we can open with just a twist of the right "keys".  In our weekly newsletters, I share specific tricks of the trade that correspond with special themes we're exploring in the Garden Patch.  However, here are some general tips that can make all the difference in watching your Garden Patch Kid bloom into an independent reader right before your eyes!

1.  Let your child "catch" YOU enjoying reading.  Children have more need of models than critics.  Read when you could choose other activities, and you will be surprised at the values that are "caught".

2.  READ, READ, READ to and with your child.  Highlight a special time of the day to cuddle and laugh--or cry--over a great book.  When time is scarce, carve just a few moments for part of the story...and leave your child hanging with suspense for the ending during your next time together.  There cannot be enough good words said about helping our children experience "delayed gratification".

3.  Capture your child's imagination whenever you go anywhere.  Pay close attention to environmental print.  Children develop a sense of success at being able to read words like "Dollar Tree", "McDonald's", and "City Hall".  Praise them.  Challenge them to become walking and riding commercials for every sign they see!

4.  Take the time to understand the assessments that document reading progress in the Elmore County School System...and state and nationwide.  At Coosada, we use the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and the Reading Renaissance Program's STAR Early Literacy and STAR Tests three times per year, August, January, and May, in order to determine progress throughout the year.  All of these are timed tests, designed to measure letter identification, phonemic awareness (mapping sound to letters), accuracy, fluency, and eventual vocabulary development and comprehension.  While many believe "how many words you can read quickly" is the main goal of DIBELS, truly we are emphasizing "slow, steady, smooth, accurate" when reading aloud...with the most important goal being, "What can you tell me about what you just read?"  Otherwise, children are just "calling words".  Comprehension is the goal, but children must be able to connect words fluently and rhythmically in order to get any meaning from what is read. 

5.  Be sure your child is reading nightly and is working toward his/her "100 Book Goal".  The foundation for Accelerated Reader, an individualized computer-assisted reading program which extends into the middle school years, is laid after Christmas break in Kindergarten.  Group tests are the emphasis at first, but many will be ready to individually test on AR books you've read with them or we've read in class, assisted by an older elementary helper.  Children are asked five to ten questions (depending upon book level) designed to test their comprehension of books they check out at the media center.  All AR books are coded with appropriate reading levels, point values, and quiz numbers.  Children gain competence in technological skills as they key in their names and passwords in preparation for testing.  Your child's AR folder is the home/school communication tool where test readiness is concerned.

6.  Above all, please realize that learning to read is both a process and a lifelong skill.  AR will accompany them throughout their school to get off to a prepared start.  The beauty of emphasizing reading in early childhood is that we have a window of motivation that tends to decelerate as children grow older and more peer-focused.  We must capture this opportunity while children's fires are so easily stoked and praise every baby step made on the road to reading.  I truly believe that if children can read, then the entire world is closer to their fingertips than they might ever dream possible.

It's Raining Math---Awakening Your Kindergartener's Number Sense  
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Math is everywhere.  While it is true that a major complaint among educators everywhere is "My children don't know their basic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) facts!", it is equally true that a great and unique responsibility lies among early childhood educators to help their students understand the WHYS of math...for the processes are the true foundation to the products.  In the Garden Patch, in addition to our regular math topics of study, we do the following daily routines that could easily be mirrored at home in order to make math come alive:

1.  Daily Data:  each day, children answer a question by expressing a personal "vote" on a post-it which is applied to a VENN-style diagram or Yes/No chart on the board.  For example, "What is your favorite color?" might accompany three interlocking circles that give room for "orange", "purple", "green", and the overlapping space between any two, or possibly all three.  We then count each "vote", set the notes up in bar graph style (horizontally or vertically), give the graph a title, and compare information.  "Which color is the most popular?"  "How many more students prefer orange to purple?" , "Who can give me some information about the color green, according to our graph/chart?"  The sky is the limit with Daily Data.  This discipline carries over to reading and science beautifully as children are exposed to organizing, collecting, interpreting, and reporting information.

2.  Counting Jar/Estimation Jar:  In order to develop a strong sense of one-to-one correspondence in math, children need to count often a wide variety of objects.  Our K classrooms use a Counting Jar, where children open a jar and count the specific number of objects inside.  As the year progresses, like my 1st graders, Kindergarteners can learn to predict a reasonable estimate of objects, record it on their Daily Data post-its along with their names, and discuss their findings with their classmates.  As an extension, we can expose Kindergarteners early to not only counting by ones, but also by twos, then fives, and then tens (provided the number is high enough!).  We can as well determine whether the number is even/odd, if estimates were "more or less" than specific numbers, and how far over/under the estimates were by counting on. 

3.  Calendar Math:  allows us to do any number of mathematical, scientific, and literary skills by naming/singing the Days of the Week in English and Spanish, seeing how many "Thursdays" a specific month has, how many days must pass before a certain holiday/date approaches, and more.  Children develop a sense of time, order, parts, and wholes through this approach.  We compare coin and paper money values as well as explore the history of the people engraved upon them.  We track lost teeth and the weather conditions, and we also teach place value through tracking the number of days spent in school and making bundles every ten days, and of course, on the 100th Day of School.  (Our particular highlight of the Hundredth Day was determining how long 100 seconds of SILENCE endured, followed by 100 jumping jacks!) 

To develop number sense at home, encourage your children to make collections of common household items, counting the items one by one to start with.  Can your child show a given number from one to five?  How about five to ten?  Eventually, try to work up to collections of twenty.  You can use dried beans, pennies, etc.  For extra enrichment, try grouping in 2's, 5's, 10's.   Have your children make their rooms clean by setting a timer and seeing how many books can be put on a shelf, how many Legos can be returned to a box, etc.  Make it relevant!

Cook with your children.  Measure items.  Divide items in halves or fourths to be shared with others.  About how much shampoo is left in the bottle?  Can you equally divide a cup of juice for three people?  Parts and wholes are everywhere! 

Even when watching TV, how long does it take to get to one channel from another?  Count and see.

On the road, watch for numbers and signs.  Read license plates.  Clock miles.  Count the number of restaurants or cars you pass when going from point A to point B.

Make the most of every minute.  We can never retrieve them once they're gone.  We must invest wisely!

Parent Communication  
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A child's educational experience blossoms when teachers, administrators, parents, and students work hand-in-hand to share ideas and problem solve for the ultimate good of the child.   Please look for our weekly newsletter ("Garden Patch Gazette") to come home on Fridays to let you know what we are up to in the Patch and in the Pod as a whole!  The Garden Patch Kids know to be prepared for specific questions you will ask them! 

As well, I welcome questions, concerns, and definitely positive feedback!  You can reach me at or

or by calling Coosada Elementary at 285-0273 and leaving me a message.  I will get back to you as soon as possible.

In addition, I am available for conferences during my planning period (8:45-9:25) each day except on rare occasions--such as monthly data meetings/technology inservices).  Thank you for working with these times and methods of communication in order to insure the maximum learning and family time possible. 

Most importantly, you are WELCOME in the Garden Patch, and there are always ways to help, be it reading to children, assisting with support tasks (duplicating, making educational materials, etc.), or sharing with the children a favorite love or hobby of your own!

World Wide Window of Wisdom!  
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Many parents have expressed an interest in educational websites for reading, math, and other curricular reinforcement.  Lots of these have learning games, coloring sheets, and other activities as well as links to other educational resources.  Here are just a few.  Enjoy!


Author/Illustrator Websites:

Berenstain Bears

Jan Brett star means quality

Eve Bunting

Eric Carle star means quality

Kevin Henkes

Eric Hill (Fun with Spot)

Pat Hutchins

William Joyce

Ezra Jack Keats star means quality

Robert Munsch star means quality

Patricia Polacco star means quality

Rosemary Wells star means quality

Audrey Wood star means quality

Charlotte Zolotow