Welcome, Ms. Donovan!

With a new week brings our new instructional assistant, Kate Donovan. I am very excited to be working closely with Ms. Donovan to continue to make our kindergarten classroom an exciting, loving, and learning-filled space. Here’s everything you need (or want) to know about Ms. Donovan!

She is originally from Los Angeles, CA and moved to Santa Barbara two years ago.

She graduated from Cal State Northridge and then got her teaching credential.

Ms. Donovan did her student teaching in a kindergarten classroom and fell in love with this age group and classroom setting.

Before joining Laguna Blanca, she worked in a K-6 setting as a behavioral specialist.

Ms. Donovan spends every summer at the Kern River and recently got engaged there.

She loves being outdoors and going to the beach.

Please help me in extending a warm welcome to Ms. Donovan!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

We celebrated Ms. Stark today with a thank you party! The students shared what they are thankful for and how Ms. Stark has helped them over these past few months.

And every party is not complete until we have had cake!

Best of luck with your new adventure, and thank you for all your help in kindergarten!

Dinosaur Sensory Table

I rolled out the sensory table today. Thank you, Mr. Surber, for loading it on the U-haul truck and bringing it to our temporary classroom! I filled the table with a new item and thought it would be fun to have the students guess what that item was….

Beans! 50 pounds of beans! What better to dig in for our dinosaur unit, then beans! Today, the students dug in the beans to uncover double tens frames.

They counted the number of squares that were colored in and found the corresponding number on the worksheet.

Morning Exploring

The January Morning Exploring bins are ready for action! Nine fine motor activities that focus on high-frequency words, math skills, and reading skills…ready, set, go! I am loving the winter theme.

1. Snowball spelling: Students spell high-frequency words using snowballs. (ping pong balls and golf tees!)


2. Snowman sticker: Students use their thumb and index finger to peel and press stickers around the outline of a snowman. They then count up the number of stickers they used.


3. Melted snowman graph: Students dig snowman pieces (top hats, carrot noses, coal buttons, snowflakes) out of play dough. They sort the items into like piles and then count and graph their results.


4. Salt writing: Students use a silver icicle to write high-frequency words in salt.


5. Snowball counting: Students count the number of snowballs in each container and record the two digit number.



6.Ice dice roll: Students roll two dice and add them together. Using tongs, they place that number of ice cubes into their bucket. The student with the most ice cubes at the end of the game wins.


7. Catch a snowball: Students use tongs to choose a snowball. High-frequency words are written on some of the snowballs. They match those snowballs to the mitten.


8. CVC Spelling: Students look at the picture on the card. They hang the mittens with the letters to spell the CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word. Students write the word below.


9. Build a high-frequency word: Students use icy blue gems to spell high-frequency words.

The students were very excited to explore the new activities. I love seeing their happy faces.


New Beginnings

I can’t seem to get the lyrics to Home by Phillip Phillips out of my head. “Just know you’re not alone. ‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home.” As of last Wednesday, we were fortunate enough to have a place to temporarily relocate our school while the clean up continues from the disaster in Montecito. Originally, we thought we would be starting from scratch, and then came word on Thursday that Mr. Surber would be allowed into the Montecito campus to collect some furniture, curriculum, books, etc. What wonderful news that was! Here are some before pictures of the kindergarten learning space at Girls Inc.



And here are some after pictures. I asked Mr. Surber to grab items that I thought the students would recognize and consider to be part of our classroom, thus making it easier to create a “homier” environment.

We have our reading strategies, Home Reading Books, Dinosaur Notebooks, Math Journals, reading group bins, and my weekly activity cart!

We have the white board easel and pocket chart that students use almost daily during reading centers, our calendar, our reading center chart, and my chair.

We even have our tables, chairs, and nametags!

We will be focusing on kindess from now until the end of February. I will share more about this bulletin board in a future post.

Number Stories

The kindergarteners explored number stories today. Building on our math lesson from yesterday that integrated Jan Brett’s story The Mitten,  we had a little fun with a mitten of our own. I had the student sit in a circle on the carpet and began to tell them a story, using a white mitten and some math manipulatives to help illustrate.

“Once there were six bears who were very cold. They found a place to keep warm inside a white mitten. Soon three cats heard a lot of commotion and wanted to see what was happening inside the mitten. The bears were having a party! The cats joined the three bears. How many animals were there all together in the mitten?”

The students right away shouted, “There are nine animals!” I asked them if the words in the number story were telling us to add animals or to take animals away. They agreed that we were adding. I asked the students which words in my story gave them a clue as to whether to add or subtract. They said that the word joined was their clue. Correct!

Next, I gave the students a different scenario….”There were seven bears snuggling in the mitten to stay warm. Suddenly, the big bear coughed and POP! Out flew three bears! How many bears were left?” I again asked the students whether we were adding or subtracting….they recognized that the story I had told was indeed a subtraction story and that the words were left were the clues that told them so.

Time for independent practice! Each student had the opportunity to write and illustrate both an addition and subtraction number story. Look at how they came out!

Aren’t these great?!


Today students were introduced to the concept of estimation. We discussed how the word estimate means to take your best guess. This means….no counting!!! This also means that there is only a small chance that we will pick the correct answer. What a challenge!

To help illustrate the concept more clearly, I showed students this Sesame Stree video clip. I saw lots of smiles, even though they said they were too old to watch Sesame Street. (One boy even said, “My mom doesn’t let me watch this show anymore!”)

Next, I showed the students several jars with different amounts of candies and had them estimate how many they thought were in each using the vocabulary more or less.

To extend the students’ learning, I read the classic book, The Mitten by Jan Brett, aloud.

In this book, many animals squish into a handknit mitten until there is no more room. Finally, the bear sneezes and the animals go flying! I had the students then put their estimating skills to the test. Using bear counters, students had to estimate how many bears would fit into a small mitten and how many bears would fit into a large mitten. (Violet King)

I encouraged students to use markers when writing their estimates so that there was no temptation of erasing their answers later. 🙂

They were good sports!

We will continue to work on this very difficult concept as the year progresses.


Today, on our first day back to school after the winter break and evacuation orders, we learned about the very important character trait of generosity.  We talked with the children about the season of giving and ways that we can give. Students discussed buying presents for others and making cards. We also talked about passing on items that we no longer need that are in good shape. Generosity can be more than buying things….take a look at this video:

My favorite quote from this video is, “If you do good things, good things will happen to you.” On the heels of this, I read the book Boxes for Katje aloud.

After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box – a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks – beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.

This inspiring story, with strikingly original art, is based on the author’s mother’s childhood and will show young readers that they, too, can make a difference. (Amazon)

The students were very moved by the book. It was incomprehensible to them that Katje didn’t have a bar of soap, and she hadn’t had chocolate for several years! I reminded the students of the Tecolote Tuesday we had right before school was closed. At that Tecolote Tuesday, two students visited from the Upper School. They came to ask us for donations of socks and jackets for local homeless people. In the spirit of the season of giving and to practice the character trait of generosity, I encourage students to bring in new socks and gently used or new jackets to donate.