Tales from Lower School

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How to Talk to Kids About Tragedies

A message from Lower School Director Alison Rothschild

In the Lower School, teachers have begun to discuss disaster relief projects with students.  As an institution committed to developing empathy and social consciousness in all of our students, conversations about collection efforts provide a developmentally appropriate avenue for this area of our work.

The focus of our conversations has been around loss and damage to material things, and our desire to help children replace those lost and damaged things.  Age appropriate conversations begin and end with reassurance that children are safe. As kids get older (7-, 8-, 9-years-old) they are able to extrapolate that there was also loss of life, but that has not been the focus of our conversations in school.

The responses to the conversations have varied tremendously, with some children enthusiastically offering to give away their toys and books while our youngest students, who are not yet able to understand another perspective, listen to the discussions and follow up with their own experiences with rain, water, toys or electricity.

I trust our teachers implicitly to provide safe and comfortable dialogue around these topics, but wanted to provide parents with some guidelines and some helpful resources to help navigate these and (sadly) future tragic events.

First and foremost, it is best to limit exposure to these events. Graphic images on the news or in photographs can be traumatic for young children. Children should have varying degrees of information, depending on age and maturity. 

It's been my experience that in times of trouble, young children seem to hold it together during the school day and then process fears, sadness and other emotions at home with their family, often at bedtime.  It's important to give children the opportunity to express their fears, ask questions, and then provide them with the reassurance that they are safe.

Here are two resources that may be of interest. 

As I think about all of the events transpiring around the world, I am increasingly appreciative of our Calhoun family.  We are all so fortunate to be part of such a kind and compassionate community. And I'm encouraged and thankful that our children are learning, right from the start, that they have the ability to help others in need.

Posted by Anonymous in kindergarten, 3's, 1st grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 2nd grade, community on Thursday October 26 at 02:01PM
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Little Calhouners Rally for Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico

by Priscilla Marrero, Lower School Spanish teacher

In an effort to respond to hurricane victims, the Lower School community rallied together in an amazing showing of support for the children of Puerto Rico. Over the course of a week, we collected donations of books, pens, crayons, new pajamas and stuffed animals for the Bel Esprit Cultural Institute’s Rise and Read project, which unites with teachers on the ground to restore a sense of normalcy for children while the adults focus on rebuilding.

It was a wonderful, magical week full of so much community support at Little Calhoun: from coordinating ideas and talking with the children about the hurricanes in Puerto Rico to creating bookmarks and sorting the boxes full of donations. It was a real communal effort, and it was incredible to witness and be a part of it all!

Our bookmarks made by 3's –2nd graders, teachers and staff

We had a special donation from our local Stationary and Toy World on 72nd Street. Donna, the owner, gave us pens, crayons, and boxes of composition books – she even sent over her staff to deliver in person!

Some of our students were so eager to participate that they joined me in the theater to help sort and receive collections. Thank you Daisy and Javier!

Emerson was so eager to support that he told his mom that he wanted to make 100 more bookmarks for the children in Puerto Rico! He really enjoyed learning about the process of creating for others.

Thanks to Avy (Calhoun parent) and Elyna (Calhoun kindergarten student), the donations are headed to Brooklyn to meet Kafayat Alli-Balogun, founder of the Bel Esprit Cultural Institute, and go to Puerto Rico!

Thank you to everyone for their kindness and generosity in contributing to this project! What an awesome week!

Posted by Anonymous in kindergarten, 3's, 4's, collaboration, 1st grade, 2nd grade, social justice, community on Thursday October 26
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Painting a Picture with Words: 2nd Graders Embark on Writer’s Workshop

by Giovanni Pucci

 

Papers are strewn about as if on a literary battlefield … tables are covered with copies of rough and final drafts; blank pages hang upon the lips of tables … are we in the pressroom of The New York Times? No, we’re in my second grade classroom, where students are working on transforming the edited drafts of their personal narratives into a finished manuscript.

In second grade, Calhoun students learn to go through the formal writing process as part of Writer’s Workshop. Though all writers approach their craft differently, as a cluster we have been working on five key steps: pre-writing, or thinking of an idea; writing a first draft; reading and revising the first draft; editing the work for spelling, punctuation and other mistakes; and publishing, which could either mean turning it into a book, or simply reading the piece aloud to the other students in our cluster.

In addition to focusing on the different steps of the writing process, we have spent a lot of time learning about story structure. Stories, we discussed, can be broken down into three major parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. We took a closer look at books we had read in class to understand the role of each of these parts in telling the story. Then, students put this new understanding to work as they created short, focused pieces that intentionally touched on the essential three parts of a story.

We’ve also explored the importance of adding detail to our writing. Our goal in writing is to capture the experience on the page as if painting a picture with words. One day we drew a house together that started out as a basic pentagon shape. Little by little we added lines to make windows, then window frames, and other small details that make the drawing look like a real house. We talked about how writing is like that, too – the more details you can add, the more you can make your lived experience come to life.

Lately we have been applying these lessons to write our own personal narratives. We use what we learned about story structure as a roadmap through the writing process, and do our best to add descriptive details to our sentences that will draw a reader into the world of our narratives. Writing these narratives is an individual journey, but the small class size allows for a lot of one-on-one time with each child. At Calhoun, we are always personalizing how we teach writing so that a child feels that the work he or she is being asked to do is both possible and exciting to them.

Writing is a long process, and it can be easy for young writers to tire of it. But an interesting phenomenon can be observed in our classroom: the more time and energy that children have invested in their pieces, the more excited they feel to work on them. These second graders are seeing just how fruitful all their effort can be, and as they near the finish line, they are beginning to sense that they have created something special and beautiful. It won’t be long before it’s time for a publishing party!

Posted by Anonymous in 2nd grade, writing, language arts on Tuesday May 2 at 03:44PM
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