The Block Island Times

School Scoop: Robust vocabulary

By Gloria S. Redlich | Dec 18, 2012
Source: File photo

A drop-in visit to Deborah Hart’s kindergarten classroom this week permitted this reporter to meet six energetic kindergarteners. One by one the six future scholars — Daniel Kole Gann, Gwenneth Patricia Coviello, Emily Victoria Helterline, Haley Anne Conant, Thorin Shade and Dakota Kathleen Littlefield — stood to introduce themselves and shake hands. In an aside, Hart confided with great delight that she’d taught the parents of half her class.

Introductions are soon followed by a review of “Robust Vocabulary,” with “class experts” as Mrs. Hart characterizes her students defining their current list of “very grown-uppy” words. Thorin explains that “cantankerous” means “crankier than cranky!” Thorin identifies a cantankerous character they met in one of their books as Great Uncle Frederick in “The Whales’ Song.” When asked to imitate Uncle Frederick, Mrs. Hart puts on a great big, loud and cranky voice, which everyone agrees captures Uncle Frederick exactly.

Haley then defines invertebrate as a “creature that doesn’t have a back-bone” and gives octopi as examples. Daniel’s word is nocturnal, which he says refers to animals who “sleep during the day and are active at night.” Octopi are examples of nocturnal animals, as well. A little discussion of the habits of octopi reveals that they like to collect things like shells and rocks and such, with which Mrs. Hart points out, “They decorate their houses.”

Emily is an expert on a bivalve, which she defines as a “creature living in two shells hinged together, such as mussels and scallops.” Dakota explains that a univalve creature lives in one shell, and she gives the illustration of a hermit crab. Finally Gwenneth defines expeditiously as “doing something very quickly.”

After working in their word group, they point to a follow-up exercise they’ve done in their study of vocabulary. On construction paper, they have created Frayer models (graphic strategies for helping to build vocabulary, used in grades kindergarten to twelve).

In each corner of their four-square models the students put a word’s definition, describe some characteristics of the word, give some examples and in the last corner provide opposites or non-examples. The kindergarteners illustrate their models with interesting sketches.

Sitting down to a communal project, the students draw pictures for individual thank you notes the class owes to many people in the community who’ve helped or done something wonderful for them. While working on their cards, they discuss the receipt of a gift by Mrs. Hart, who was selected last year as teacher of the year. She and this year’s teacher of the year, John Tarbox, each received $250 from the Rhode Island Foundation, and the students make suggestions to Mrs. Hart on how to spend her gift.

They decide the money should be divided for three separate projects: first, something for inside the classroom; second, something “nature-full” for outside and third, to “donate some of the money to kids who are not as lucky as we are.” Though they haven’t decided on which group to select, Mrs. Hart says they’ve been thinking of the Food Bank. For their outdoor project the class is discussing a butterfly and moth garden.

Third and fourth graders see “A Christmas Carol”

Last week, Judy Durden’s third grade class and Stacy Henshaw’s fourth attended a Trinity Repertory production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” According to Durden, the students “all loved it!” She said they particularly enjoyed the actors entering down the aisles of the theatre and passing very close to where they were seated. In fact, Durden said the local classes enjoyed seeing youngsters their own age with parts in the play. As they passed through, when students in the audience asked them questions, the young actors maintained their accents and “stayed in character,” which Durden said “amazed our kids.”

She added that the Block Island School students were the only ones, of many schools which attended, allowed to stay and engage in a question-and-answer session with the actors and production staff. She thought the students had “a nice variety of questions to ask: one about Scrooge’s character and what it was like to play him; another about special effects.”

Durden and Henshaw felt their students were respectful and mature. Durden wanted to thank the many parents for chipping in for the Trinity trip and also the Block Island School Friends who also underwrote expenses for the cultural event. She also expressed gratitude to Interstate Navigation, which picked up the ferry tickets for the classes. After the play, the students made an interactive stop at POW-Science in Wakefield where they built aerodynamic bridges and towers.

Upcoming events

Thursday, December 13: Pot Latch, which is the ceremonial feast among certain Native American peoples of the Northwest Pacitic coast, held by the second grade to mark the end of their Native American unit of study.

Thursday, December 13: Unbelieve-a-BELLS, Block Island School hand bell players performing at the Rhode Island State House in Providence.

Tuesday, December 18: Holiday Concert at 1 p.m. in the school gym.

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