February 13, 2018

Dear Families,

This is a very exciting week and we are all getting ready for two of the biggest days in Kindergarten: Friendship Day and the 100th Day of School. Please read carefully below to help you plan out your week.

Here are some important bits to remember for this week:

Friendship Day: Each student has made a handwritten friendship card for each member of the class. This was quite a task and we are SO proud of the hardwork and love that was poured into each and every one. We will deliver our handmade notes to the buildings we created as part of the community we are building in our classroom. If your child chose to make an additional ‘something’ at home, I kindly ask that you bring these items to school in the morning as we will be ‘delivering’ throughout the day. Please note that not everyone will be bringing something from home as this was optional. Our notes will be going home at the end of the day for you to enjoy at home! So sweet!

100th Day: We will celebrate the 100th day of school on Thursday. Students will bring in their 100th day collections to school to share with the class. Please be sure to deliver your collections by Thursday morning so they can be shared throughout the day. Be sure to ask your student all about the special happenings that happened that day!

We are continuing to become very comfortable using a great math tool that helps promote our early number sense. This frame (looks more like a grid) helps us solidify our understanding of number relationships by giving students a very clear visual of numbers, specifically focusing on what I often refer to as number benchmarks (5 and 10).

For example, when students are using ten frames, they can quickly see that 6 is one more than 5, or the number 7 is 5 and two more. While students will continue to develop their early number sense throughout the entire year, we cherish all of our ‘a-ha’ moments. We had a big one this week when we tried to build a tricky teen number (12) on our ten frame and quickly realized it didn’t fit! We saw that we had two ‘left over’ which helped us understand that 12 is simple two more than ten. Beautiful! For more information on ten frames, check out this quick little YouTube Video on Ten Frames for more information.



  • Sight (aka “snap”) Words: the, are, to, have, a, from, was, you, of
  • Mood Meter
  • Specials: Music, PE, Life Lab, and Art
  • Friendship Notes & Writing Workshop
  • Differentiated Language Arts Instruction with Sarah, Becky and Hannah
  • Numbers 1-20
  • Counting On and Ways to make 10
  • Handwriting: Lowercase Letters! Yay!!
  • Community Building

February Events

February 14th: Friendship Day! We celebrate our friends on this commercialized day. We ask that you DO NOT make Valentine’s Day cards, but rather, if your student would like to make something special (a card, a drawing, a key chain creation etc.) for all their classmates, we do welcome that. However, we will be celebrating in our own way here at school as well.

February 15th: 100th Day of School!! 100th Day Project Due.

February 19th: NO SCHOOL- Presidents Day

February 21st: Scholastic Book Order Due

February 28th: Inservice Day- No School

February 28th: Speaker Series @ Crocker Theater at Cabrillo 7pm, ‘The Power of Sleep: Enhancing Performance, Safety, and Health.’ By

Important Notice of the Week:

Thank you so much for bringing in all of the recycling! We are good to go with cardboard boxes but could always use paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls.

I will be opening the door starting at 8:40am starting next Tuesday. In first grade students will line up at 8:45am to go inside and this time of year we like to start practicing the routines to get them ready for next year. Please feel free to drop your backpack by the door, play on the big yard, or read a book outside the classroom. At 8:40am I will open the door and students can come in, get settled, and start our day at 8:45am. Thank you again for always being on time.


See you tomorrow!



Class Update

Dear Families,

Last week, the class used their Discovery Center intensive week with Krissie creating a shareable project based on what they learned from our California Studies project. The total time spent on the project from initial research to final piece was about three weeks. Over this time, I (Kurt) observed the students grow as researchers and writers. I saw students step up as leaders when their group needed direction and focus, and it was heartwarming to watch one particular student help a team member as he learned how to guide with patience and kindness. Some lessons that come with small group projects cannot be learned from books.

Click on the images below to see the projects.





Below you can see photos from our friendship project in writing class. These were on display during our Friendship Lunch.















For this project, students were asked to think about qualities of a good friend. They each made a list of what a good friend is or does. Then, either on their own or joining forces with others, fourth graders were asked to make a visual representation of their thoughts on friendship. I (Kaia) was amazed by the variety of unique ways that your children chose to represent their ideas.

Thank you again to all who sent in food contributions on Wednesday. We had a wonderful time eating and talking together. Many children also chose to bring in Valentines to distribute to each other during this time.


This week, the class was introduced to two-by-two digit multiplication. We will continue to practice this skill over the next week. Because a mastery of basic addition and multiplication facts ensures accuracy, I recommend that you ask your child basic addition and multiplication facts during the car ride to and from school and elsewhere.


Kaia and Kurt






February 12 Family Letter

February 12, 2018

Dear Families,

Our Friendship Lunch was super sweet today! The children appreciated handing their special lunch to a friend and all waited for this to happen individually. We also really enjoyed the delicious food and care that was put into making the lunches and lovely boxes! Please refer to my email for directions about a brief “thank you” regarding the lunch.

We officially have pen pals in Shanghai China! I have been waiting for the letters to come and they arrived last week. Your children got to read letters from students in second grade who attend Soong Ching Ling School. This school has instruction in American and Chinese. It is a wonderful opportunity for to us to learn about another culture and to practice our writing at the same time. It’s also good for us to understand that our pen pals are learning to write in English and that some of their writing skills are still developing as ours is!

Each day we are taking part in the Winter Olympian Workout Challenge. This is similar to the October Fitness and Planksgiving challenges we have done in the past. It’s a way for us to wake up our bodies and brains in the classroom.

Krissie came in to teach us some fancy skills to dress up our Keynote presentations today. We learned about how to change font, text size and also how to add some animation with slides and text. These will be a work in progress until we are ready to add our animal poems and another picture to each presentation.

I assessed the students in math today (Unit 4). We start Unit 5 tomorrow. Please visit the Everyday website to read all about Unit 5. http://everydaymath.uchicago.edu/parents/2nd-grade/em4-at-home/

Take care and enjoy your week!



February 12th Newsletter

Dear Families,

We are excited about today’s Friendship Lunch! It was really sweet this morning to experience the excitement as the students brought in their secret lunches. The class was happy to tell us all about how to pass out the lunches. They also informed us that they want to keep the boxes and bags here at school, and use them to hold any Valentines that they might receive on Wednesday. Bringing in Valentines is completely optional, but please remember to include all class members. We explained to the class that today is our main special celebration and that we will keep it simple when we pass out Valentines at the end of the day on Wednesday. We will also be bringing special Friendship Cards to our first grade buddies that day!

Please look for the February Word Wall list going home in today’s folder. The list represents all the Word Wall Words that we have studied and placed on the classroom Word Wall since September. If learning to spell third grade sight words and patterns is a goal this year, it is important for your child to study these words. I would be happy to discuss methods for home study at the conference. One idea is to play a game using the words. We’ve been doing this in class lately. Ask your child to tell you about the “Mind Reader” game, and be prepared to be a mind reader! We have also played “Make a Flower”, which is just like Hangman. There has been a great deal of growth in spelling this year, and it’s been a pleasure to watch the students set spelling goals and reach them.

Thank you to all who have signed up for our March Parent-Teacher Conference sign-ups. There are still some slots left, so please don’t hesitate to email Julie with times that work for you, or to sign up outside the classroom door. The conferences will be held on March 16th, 19th and 20th. There will be no school on March 16th and 19th, and daycare at the usual rates will be provided. On March 20th, the students will have school, with teacher Wendy Robinson substituting, while Julie holds conferences in the extra room (Sari’s old room).

In our study of poetry, we are studying the works of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. We have learned that Neruda wrote in his native language, Spanish. Last week, Ana and I recited the Neruda poem titled La Poesia/Poetry to the students, with its beautiful opening lines: Y fue a esa edad…Llego la poesia a buscarme/ And it was at that age…poetry arrived in search of me. Ana and I read stanza by stanza in both Spanish and English. Our study has included the excellent poetry illustrations of Julie Paschkis. She illustrated a children’s book about Neruda that I read to the class. The students wrote and illustrated poems inspired by Neruda’s work and Paschkis’s illustations. I’ve been impressed with the poetry the students are writing this year and look forward to helping them put together their own books at the end of the year.

We have completed our place value unit in math. You will see that tonight’s homework is the first in our new unit: geometry. Today we reviewed precise geometric terms such as line, line segment, and ray. The class was fascinated to learn that a geometric line goes on forever in both directions — that is a very abstract concept! We talked about how the arrow on each end is a symbol which indicates this. If your child does not seem comfortable with the geometry on tonight’s homework sheet, please don’t worry. Just remind them to do their best and I (Kaia) will check in and we’ll review all of this much more in the days to come. This is just our first day of geometry.

Our study of crayfish and wetlands continues to be fascinating. For the past several weeks, we will be asking questions about crayfish and grouping our questions into different categories. You can see a sample of some of the questions and categories in our third grade hall. We will also begin to answer some of our many questions we have about crayfish. In the coming weeks, we will sort through scientific research material and write down some of the information that we find. This is a new and challenging activity. We will also begin discussing what our investigation questions might be. Investigation questions are those that can be answered in the classroom setting, following a set of guidelines and working in small groups. These questions will be answered through careful observation of the crayfish. As we study crayfish and wetlands, our small group format provides opportunities to learn about the importance of being effective group members; furthering the skills of listening, articulation and flexibility.

Reminder: Kaia will be away at the conference on Learning & the Brain (in San Francisco) with a group of Gateway teachers this Thursday and Friday. Wendy Robinson will be her sub.

Have a great week,

Julie and Kaia

February 8, 2018

Dear Families,

Another week has flown by, and we’re already into February! It’s been so great sitting down with several of you over the past couple of weeks, and talking about your lives, and your children’s lives in and out of school. It’s an exciting time of year for them- They’re writing! They’re reading! They’re so into school now, and it’s a really fun shift to watch from my perspective. It’s also a shift as they start to turn 6, and as their peers are getting older, you will notice (and some of you have already noticed), that they’re pushing boundaries a little more.

I’ve spoken with many of you lately about setting limits, creating boundaries, how to give natural consequences, and tomorrow I will send home a simple little essay written about setting limits. It resonated with me as a teacher, and reminds me daily of the importance of follow through. Maybe you can glean something from it, and if you’re already rocking it, pass it along! I feel like I can never read too much about a new strategy, or another perspective.

Alright… Onto some nuts and bolts:


Important Note about SNACK AND LUNCH

Families, we need your help! Please, please, please remember to cut fruit prior to sending it to school. It is also important that you send food that does not have to be microwaved. Thermos containers help a lot, or you can remind your student that they can have warm food when they get home. We are unable to leave the playground while supervising, and will make it clear that from this point on we will NOT be warming up or cutting food.


Important Note about Morning Drop- Off

  • Please try and get here before 8:45! It is very disruptive to have students join in the middle of our morning circle. IF you need to be late (I understand that mornings can sometimes be rough), please make sure you remind your child to come in silently, and find their spot at the rug.
  • NEW! On Monday, we will start opening our doors at 8:40 instead of 8:30. In First Grade, students will line up to go inside at 8:45, and this time of year, we like to start “practicing” some of the routines to get them ready for next year. If students arrive early, they will be able to put their backpacks by the door, and go play on the big playground. Then they will be welcomed inside to put their things away, do their job and read a book. Then we will start our morning circle.


  • Sight (aka “snap”) Words: the, of, a, to, you, was, are, they, from, have
    • Mood Meter & Charter-Meta moment- what to do when you feel yourself experiencing a strong emotion.
    • Specials: Music, PE, Life Lab, and Art
    • Writing Workshop: Opinion Books: Using our written words to help make the world better.
    • Differentiated Language Arts Instruction with Sarah, Becky and Hannah
    • Numbers 1-20
    • Number talks- what are some ways to represent different amounts?
    • Handwriting: S, A, I
    • Community

February Events

February 14th: Friendship Day! We celebrate our friends on this commercialized day. We ask that you DO NOT make Valentine’s Day cards, but rather, if (not at all required) your student would like to make something special (a card, a drawing, a key chain creation etc.) for all their classmates, we do welcome that. However, we will be celebrating in our own way here at school as well, AND making cards for friends during our school day as part of our writing curriculum.

February 15th: 100th Day of School!! 100th Day Project Due. Information about this special day of Kindergarten was sent home in your child’s Friday Folder. If you didn’t get it, please let me know.

February 19th: NO SCHOOL- Presidents Day

February 21st: Scholastic Book Order Due

February 28th: In-service Day- No School

February 28th: Speaker Series @ Crocker Theater at Cabrillo 7pm, ‘The Power of Sleep: Enhancing Performance, Safety, and Health.’


Camp News and Afternoon Math

We’ve received the dates for our spring camp at Marin Headlands– Wednesday through Friday, May 2nd-4th. We’ll depart about 8:30 on Wednesday and be back around 3 PM on Friday. Sari and I are looking forward to the trip; it’ll be one of the highlights of the year for our students. We’ll have a parent info meeting on Wednesday, March 7th at 6 PM in Sari’s room. In the meantime, we’ll be looking for some parent chaperones to help us during the trip or with the driving. Look for a chaperone application coming home in the near future. We’ll need a mix of moms and dads since the students will be sleeping in gender-segregated dorms. The indefatigable Karen Hovekamp returns as our camp wrangler and will be helping us get everything prepared for the trip.

Many students are doing their nightly oral reading but in case your daughter or son has been avoiding it lately, please give them a nudge to keep it going. It really makes a difference in their overall reading ability.

Next Wednesday is Valentines Day and our class will celebrate friendships with a simple card exchange and a few treats at the end of the day. Some of our classmates have volunteered to bring in treats or drinks and may need some help from you to be ready for that next week. Drinks: Luke, Grace. Healthy Treats: Dylan, Sarah, Emmet.

Speaking of next week, I’ll be away from class for five days. I’m getting some foot surgery on Monday and need to be off my feet for a while. The students agreed that me trying to teach while keeping my foot elevated above my heart might be fun to watch but probably not the best thing for me in the long run… anyway, I’ll be back on Tuesday the 20th, after the President’s Day holiday on Monday the 19th.

Also next week, we’ll begin our “be a math teacher,” wherein each student will teach or review a math concept each day in the afternoon. Students will sign up tomorrow and will mark their homework planner book when they will be in the spotlight. It is always a fun part of the year as you see the children get a chance to lead their classmates in learning. There isn’t anything you need to do at home, aside from giving some encouragement as their day approaches.



Marin Headlands, here we come!

Dear Families,

I hope this update finds you well. The last couple of weeks have been difficult for my family and I as we’ve been busy strengthening and building our immune systems. Yay! In an effort to stay healthy in the classroom, we’ve worked hard to keep our desk surfaces clean as well as our hands.

Math has been so much fun! Along with our weekly skills in computation practice, we’ve also explored the attributes of polygons, measuring their angles and discovering which polygons tessellate, and which don’t. We’ve created some pretty amazing regular and semi regular polygons in the classroom. Below are examples of semi regular polygons. If you’re curious about the difference, ask your munchkin.


Regarding skills practice, as a means of turning mistakes into learning opportunities, I’ve directed children to use a calculator to check their computations before handing any work in. If a computational error occurred, I’ve asked the children to locate their errors, and correct them. My hope is that in doing this, children will begin to notice the errors they are making, and thus, through awareness, slow down and correct the error.

There are a couple of changes that are taking place, both in the classroom and with the schedule:

  • In order to provide more time to interact with Wordly Wise Words, lessons will be due every other Friday, opposed to every Friday. Quizzes will be every other Friday as well.
  • Literature Circles will take place on Tuesday and Friday opposed to Monday and Tuesday. I enjoy sitting in on literature circles and engaging in discussions with the children. This is allowing the time for that.
  • As many of you probably know, I’ve created an appointment book for all of the children in fifth grade. Each child has been asked to make 2-3 lunchtime appointments per week. I’ve noted a division among groups during play and eating time. That is, children generally group with the same children everyday, which sometimes results in certain children feeling left out or divided. In order for children to get to know each other, and make new connections, they are making appointments and eating with different people a few times a week. Most of the children have responded well and already have full appointment books.

A couple of weeks ago, a parent asked about the purpose of the “P. Sig” in your child’s binder. I assume if one parent is curious, there may well be a few more. The purpose of the “P.Sig” is to ensure that you the parent has a way to interact with the binder. Also, if children aren’t regularly completing homework, and regularly don’t have you sign off their binder, I may require a P. Sig. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Marin Headland dates have been confirmed. Yay! May 2nd, 3rd, and 4th the fifth grades will be exploring Marin Headlands. Aside from the beautiful hiking, I am looking forward to traveling with this group for a second time. Some important notes are as follows.

  • On Wednesday March 7th from 6-7pm, a parent information meeting will be held in Sari’s room.
  • Be on the look out for an email from Karen Hovekamp with lots of important information and paperwork.
  • In the mean time we’ll be looking for parent chaperones and drivers. If you are interested, please shoot me an email.

Aside from the sweet little video below, that’s all folks!






February 5 Family Letter

February 5, 2018

Dear Families,

Our masks have their second coat of paper mache and are all transformed into beautiful, Native California animals! Now we will paint a base coat, let that dry, and paint details. Thank you to Val, Suzanne, Chris and Lorena for all of your help today!

Our place value focus in math has been going quite well! First grade teachers gave the students a strong base for understanding this tricky concept. We are moving into trading ones, tens and hundreds so that the children learn to understand multi-digit numbers. We also talk about how our brains work differently to explain place value. This week we will also move on the measurement in feet, inches and centimeters.

Speaking of math…….Look what’s happening this week!

Instilling a Love of Math in Grades K-5:  6:00 p.m. in the West Cliff Room

Join Assistant Head of School Sherri Helvie and Gateway teachers Kurt Almendras (4th grade) and Jennifer Woodruff (1st grade) as we discuss math teaching and learning, and how to encourage students to be mathematical thinkers who collaborate with their peers to solve big problems and articulate creative solutions. Learn more about our math program philosophy, pre-view some of the materials from the new curriculum we’ll be adopting for 2018-19, and participate in hands-on math lessons that are fun, collaborative, and challenging. Please R.S.V.P. so that we can plan for room set up for the evening. Childcare is available for school-age children ($5 each).

This week our spelling focus begins with the sound /ow/ as in cow and brown. Students will have six words that include our last sound pattern, /aw/, and six words that include the /ow/ spelling pattern. The study of the “mixed” set of sounds helps students distinguish between these two spellings.

Writer’s Workshop has been productive! Your children have been writing amazing poetry. They are using their imaginations and creativity to turn ideas into flowing, descriptive poems. We will begin writing Haiku poetry soon, using syllable counts 5,7,5. This is challenging and structured, taking a break from free-flowing form. Eventually, we will write Haikus about our Native California animals.

We continue to end each day with noticing classmates who have done something during the day to make a friend feel good inside. We also talk each morning about the fact that if we are looking for those kind actions we also need to be doing them! Marbles are being added to our “Kindness” Jar each day. Inclusion, empathy and compassion are a big focus for us!

Keynote presentation preparations are underway. First we start with a written outline that contains information about each child’s totem animal. Our fifth grade buddies helped us to research and find a lot of facts about our animals. Transferring that information to outline form and then to a Keynote presentation is our goal! When these are finished, we will be inviting you in to present them.

Take care and enjoy your week.


January 2018- ‘The Learning Zone’- Weeks 19, 20, & 21

 We Are A Team and We Are Connected

We are working as a team and are realizing just how much we are connected. Everyday we spend time building skills to help us collaborate and to resolve ‘kerfuffles’ with love and compassion. These skills are some of the necessary foundations for children’s successful navigation throughout their educational journey.

As spring approaches we will continue to build upon these skills. We will see new cognitive development and some social emotional ‘roller-coastering’, as well. The children are becoming more aware of their friendships and are becoming more passionate about hurtful behaviors. They are utilizing the tools that they have been taught and are advocating for themselves and others, trying to calm their bodies, using their words, and finding an adult. These are all great signs.

Spring is a time to delve deeper into our social emotional learning, so along with our second semester academics, we will delve into our RULER program:

R- recognizing emotions

U- understanding causes & consequences of emotions

L- labeling emotions

E- expressing emotions

R- regulate emotions

The Meta-Moment

  1. Something happens
  2. Sense
  3. Stop
  4. See your best self
  5. Strategize
  6. Succeed


A Captured Moment….

Molly had taken a tumble and her friends stopped to check-in. When I arrived I saw this happening. 

I stood there observing and felt pure joy!

In other news….this past week concluded our Family Culture Shares and I can say with complete confidence that these shares have been a highlight of our 1st grade experience. They brought our community together in all of the ways that we hoped…the children have a better understanding of their friends and families and have learned things about each other that they never knew. This has deepened their empathy towards one another and has helped them see that our world is a small beautiful planet with many wonderful people in it.

Thank you families for taking the time out of your days to participate in these shares. They were valuable beyond belief.

Report cards will be going out tomorrow and the children have worked very hard. They are all developing towards the end of year 1st grade bench marks. Congratulations students and families!

Next week is Valentines Day and the 100th day of school.

On Tuesday, February 13th, you can have your child bring in a bag of 100 things and have them dress up as a detective. Shhhhhh……

TOP SECRET:  There is going to be a mystery to solve- our beloved ‘Zero the Hero’ is going to go missing (which the children will find out on Monday). We will spend the day receiving & reading clues & solving mathematical problems to find our friend. 

On Wednesday, February 14th, we will have our ‘Friendship Lunch’ which entails packing a lunch for a ‘mystery’ friend. Your child will randomly pick the name of another child in this class and receive a menu of this friends favorite healthy foods (and one healthy treat).  You will have your child decorate a box at home to put the lunch in and then bring it to school on Wednesday morning. There will be a table out with all of these special lunch boxes and at lunch time we will reveal to whom they belong. Keep an eye out for this special form. I will send a reminder email.

On another note: the ‘super blood blue moon’ was epic and the children told stories of what they witnessed. Molly even brought in a picture of it, which was used to paint a huge replica and which is now hanging on our seasonal branch!

Groundhogs Day was fun and it looks like ‘Phil’ saw his shadow-6 more weeks of Winter.  (Big eyes insert here)

All in all this new year has stated off strong and I am so happy with this class and with all of the growth they have demonstrated.

Here is a quick blip on other learning…..

Growth Mindset, Mindfulness, & Social Emotional Learning:

  • Growth Mindset – We completed our 3rd installment of our Growth Mindset Book set: Flexibility. Stop by our library to see your child’s self-authored book. We have been focusing on ‘Optimism’ and the children are welcoming challenges with a positive attitude. They are remembering to be hopeful and confident and are believing that good things will happen. Our Growth Mindset motto this month is   “I will embrace any challenge!”
  • Mindfulness – We are going back to the beginning and reviewing all of they ways to be mindful. The children love mindfulness.
    • mindful breathing
    • anchoring our breath
    • scanning our body
    • mindful bodies
    • mindful eating
    • mindful walking
  • Social- Emotional – Our VOICES social-emotional ‘reads’ for this month are focusing on ‘Love & Friendship’. 

This is a nice tie into our RULER focus.

Also, as it is Black History Month we will be reading many books on strong, courageous african american role models; such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, and some select narratives by various African American authors.

(I just love this picture and may keep it up for the rest of the school year)



Unit 5 is about place value and we will be using base 10 blocks, pennies, and dimes to deepen children’s understanding about this concept. We will demonstrate different ways to write number models and continue to scaffold various strategies to use to solve number problems.

Reading Chunk:

Our upcoming chunk will be: ob

Prior chunk families have been:


at, et, ot, & ug


ip, ig, in, op, & am


ap, un, ed,


og, ill, ack, & ash


ad, ing,




We are continuing our Writers Workshop and are writing non-fiction books. This has been quite a fun challenge for the children. They are enjoying learning about a winter animal and writing chapters about what they know.

Word of the Week:

This week will be: Canoodle

(words so far have been: shenanigans, rapscallion, hornswoggle, bamboozle, lollygag,  bumfuzzle, jargogle, befuddled, doppleganger, collywobbles, gobbledygook, balderdash, skulduggery, hullabaloo, huggermuggery, discombobulate, slangwhanger, gongoozle, & flibbertigibbet).

Author of the Month: Jonathan London.

Artist of the Month: Auther Gularte

Continent of the Month: South America

Reminders & Updates:

Important Dates:

Tuesday, February 13- 100th Day of School

Wednesday, February 14- Secret Lunch (more details to come)

Monday, March 16 & March 19 – Spring Conferences

April 2 – April 6 – Spring Break

Have a great week.