Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mother's Day Gathering

After preparing for the past few weeks, LTIS students and teachers were delighted to invite mothers, grandmothers and family to the school for a special Mother's Day Gathering (which falls on May 26th in The Dominican Republic). It is great to have families come to school and see what their children have been working on, especially for a holiday that is so important here. After Annette welcomed the families and thanked them for their support this year each class had time for a small presentation. Enjoy the pictures from our special day...
Students excited after all their work preparing...
Beautiful LTIS families and friends
Annette welcoming friends in families- in Spanish and English
First Preschoolers sang four beautiful songs- "On Mother's Day," "Caterpillars," "I'm a little Kitten," and "Skidamarink." They did great in front of the big audience!
Parents applauding
Kindergarteners sang "You are my Sunshine," and read a Mother's Day poem in English
First and Second Graders had a lot of work to do, reading Mother's Day poems in Spanish and English
And playing a song on the recorder
After the performances students shared a small gift and card with their special someone and it was time to eat and catch up! In the front of the library building a presentation of photos from the year put together by Mercedes was playing and families and students went to watch it and could take a copy home. It is hard to believe that we have been here since September and that the year is wrapping up, but looking at the pictures made us see how much the students have grown this year.
It was great to chat with families and watch the proud faces of students. We hope to have another gathering for families from LTIS on June 2nd at Playa Bonita to celebrate the end of the year.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Ginny, our school pet and expert rat catcher (gotta love it when she leaves them in the middle of the classroom for us to find in the morning) had kittens! It was so exciting to watch Ginny's pregnency. We could even feel the kittens moving when we touched her stomach. Luckily at LTIS we are free to follow the interests of the children and worked Ginny's pregnancy into the curriculum, learning about cats and reading stories about kittens.
We were so excited to go visit Ginny and her kittens after they were born. This was a great opportunity to talk about how we should treat animals and to discuss the appropriate way to act when we went to visit Ginny and the kittens. Kindergarteners made a countdown to the first day that they would visit.
As the students are very interested in the exciting natural process that occurred, they really wanted to observe Ginny. We followed her outside to watch.

Pondering where Ginny will go and what she is doing away from her kittens

Drawing Ginny with our science observation clipboards

Kimberly shares her drawing- she did a great job observing, drawing where Ginny's spots are and even adding little details like whiskers and nails.

It was a challenge to keep drawing as Ginny was on the move...

Wow Rosangela, great observations

Following Ginny

Ginny was curious about our drawings and came to investigate.

Watching Ginny groom

Sisa and Dileni observing and drawing from close range

Then the class wanted to observe and draw the kittens so we went for a visit

We were able to use the vocabulary we have learned to talk about the kittens: "there are three kittens," "the kittens are soft," "the kittens are sleepy."

Teachable moments where we can observe life processes like this first hand are a really memorable way to learn. We will keep on watching the kittens as they grow and are already growing so attached to them.

First and Second Graders Working on Vocabulary

Mercedes and Erica have been hard at work on their English Curriculum and lesson plans for their daily English section with the First and Second Graders. They come up with inventive and concrete ways for their students to apply all of the vocabulary that they are leaning and connect it to the subjects the class is learning about with Milenia.
Here First and Second Graders trace and fill in life size versions of themselves with all of the vocabulary for body parts that they have learned.
Juan Luis hard at work thinking about where everything goes
Jaciel and Sea
Adding hair- look at the eyes, nose and ears!
So much focus and concentration
Sea getting comfortable as she draws her hair
Making things life size is a great way to keep the students interested and making connections. They need to observe themselves and conceptualize where everything is located as they recall vocabulary. Documenting words and ideas that they have learned about in this way helps to commit everything to memory. We love projects like this at LTIS!

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

Caterpillars and butterflies are pretty popular at LTIS and observing their life cycle is so exciting. Thanks to Annette's son Kieran, each of the preschoolers got their own caterpillar to follow as it transformed into a chrysalis and later a butterfly- what a magical process to watch and a great way to work on language, hone observation skills and learn about living things.
Lea and Carla with their caterpillars
Learning about the needs of living things- watching the caterpillars eat and drawing observations. We could actually see the caterpillars' little mouths chewing on the leaves! 
Nessyl proudly displaying her caterpillar drawing
Looking at each other's work
It is so great to have living things in the classroom! Lea and Annette carefully holding their caterpillars.
When the butterflies emerged from their chrysalis' the preschoolers went outside to open up the jars and watch them fly away.


We have been using many hands on activities to learn about space and the planets these past few weeks. Aside from reading many stories about space including "A Trip to the Moon," and "The Berenstein Bears go to the Moon," we have been learning space vocabulary and exploring non-fiction books about the moon, sun, stars, earth and planets as well. Learning about astronauts really interested the class so we decided to have a rocket ship dramatic play. We also really enjoyed looking at the famous photographs of the first astronaut walking on the moon and the earth rise from the moon.
Here are Miguel and Sisa counting down and manning the ship.
We learned that you have to have special foods and packaging in space because everything floats around- including people!

Here we are working on space vocabulary using our beautiful space puzzle.

All of our learning culminated in the planet project. We worked hard learning the names of each planet and how they look. We then selected balloon colors and blew them up to the sizes we thought they should be for each planet. After we had them in order we mixed up a batch of paper mache and spent a lot of time covering each balloon carefully.
After the planets dried out over the weekend we painted them. The Kindergarteners were so enthusiastic that even after the first layer of paint dried they added details with our special acrylic paints.
Esther working on Jupiter.

Miguel and Dileni painting Neptune and Mars.

We used our space book as a guide to hang the planets in the correct order.

Then each student chose to write the name of one or two planets and we added them.

It is so great to have the solar system in our room and the best part is that the Kindergarteners were able to complete all of the steps of the project on their own! It really gives us an idea about our solar system and is a concrete way for us to learn about the planets. We have had so much fun learning about space.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kindergarten Literacy

One of the most amazing things that I have seen in my life, both from the perspective of a human and a teacher is a child learning how to read. At this point in the year a few of the Kindergarteners are putting the pieces together and starting to sound out words. As lifelong book lover this is a gift to see.
 My teaching philosophy is that the teacher is a guide. I provide resources, a literacy rich environment and support for the children to explore their interest in letters. It is my hope that they will learn to read because they want to. The relationship of a child to reading lasts a lifetime and their introduction to literacy is very important. It makes sense that they will not enjoy reading as much if they are forced to learn how before they are ready (as is being pushed more and more today in the states with standardized testing and "drilling," young children). Most children have a natural inclination to explore and learn and when the child is developmentally ready to start reading and writing they often will, as long as they are in a supportive and literacy rich environment and there are not other issues present. Luckily at LTIS the natural learning progression in children is respected and we have the freedom to teach in this organic way.
Here are some aspects of literacy that we have been working on throughout the year:
Reading is one of the best things you can do with a child. Awareness of books and the written word as well as interest in stories is a hallmark of the pre-literacy stage of learning and lays the foundation for future reading, writing and oral communication skills. Each morning at group time we read and discuss a story formally and later in the day we read more stories, often related to the curriculum or an activity. 
During morning and afternoon free play students can read independently in the cozy reading corner, exploring texts on their own or with the help of a teacher. We change the book selection to correspond with the curriculum and stories that we read at group.
During pre-literacy stages the children often look at pictures, recognize letters or tell their own stories, using context clues like pictures- all skills they employ later when they begin to read.

Since the beginning of the year many of the objects in the classroom have been labelled so that students begin to notice letters and the relationships between words, objects and meaning. We incorporate literacy rich materials such as magazines, menus, books, vocabulary flashcards, keyboards and writing materials into dramatic play scenarios as well. This motivates children to explore reading and writing in a context that they can relate to while giving them experience reading and writing for a purpose.

Since the beginning of the year we have been familiarizing the class with the alphabet, letters and the sounds of letters with songs, rhymes and games. The class is very interested in practicing writing their letters and came up with the idea to make their own alphabets.

After making our alphabets the class decided we should hang them on the wall next to our writing center so that we could refer to them while we were writing or "if we got confused about what a letter looked like."

We write sentences about the different subjects and vocabulary we are learning about. In terms of second language acquisition it is best to use the sentence structure to model the language and word order. Below, when we were learning about times of the day we wrote "the sun is in the sky in the day," and "the moon is in the sky at night." During group once a week we introduce new sight words (short word like a, I, in, and the) to our wall and try to recognize them when we read books and write sentences. Sometimes the students sound out the words themselves and sometimes they copy a sentence that they came up with that the teacher wrote out.

The class loves to be "profesora," teaching the other students how to read and write words. When the children are writing on their own we use invented spelling. This meand that they write the letters that they hear when they are saying the word and we don't tell them that what they wrote is spelled wrong. Especially when learning a language where there are complicated spellings like English, it is best for students to come up with their own framework of sounds (phonemes) for each letter so that they can problem solve to work out how they think words are spelled. Think about it- if you are operating on letter sounds then hair could actually be spelled "hayr" and face, "fays." As the children learn more  they will incorporate new sounds (th, ai, ce and ch for instance) and later words (know) into their framework. It is beneficial for them to continue to experiment and enjoy working with words and letters.

A new project we started recently is our word and letter folders. Each child has a special clear folder that they created during group activity time with their name. During activity or free time they can add letters, letter sounds and words that they have learned to their folder. It gives them a sense of ownership over their learning and allows them (and their teacher) to see how much they are learning, what they know and what they need to work on.

The folders are always available to add to.

The children can add letters and words independently and determine what they would like to learn so that they can add it to their folder.

If one student knows a letter, word or sound they feel proud and often teach what they have learned to their classmates.
The class really enjoys "reading," to the group. Here we are pretending to be teachers and taking turns reading to the class.

Asking each other questions about the text. "What is your favorite animal?"

It is so much fun to see the class taking their own initiative and exploring literature and writing during independent time, free play and teacher led activities. I am constantly impressed by the knowledge of letters, sounds and words that they display and cannot wait to see the progress we make in the last few months of the schoolyear.