Austin ISD Kindergarten Newsletter

February 2016

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From the Director

Jacquie Porter, Director of Early Childhood

Happy February Everyone

I hope you had a Joyful January and are excited to welcome Fantastic February. February is so much fun. There are so many special days in February that it is like a month long celebration. With the 100th day of school, Groundhogs Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Conference Day, and President's Day - this month is pretty busy! This does look like it will be a great month.

Just a reminder the TPRI/TEJAS Lee and DRA window closes on February 12. There will not be a EOY DRA required window. You can still use the DRA, but it is optional and does not have to be logged into ATVS.

This month contains our Conference day with parents. If you are looking for ways to enhance your parent/teacher conferences, check out this tip sheet from the Harvard Family Research Project.

Kindergarten Orientation is coming up in April. It will be held April 5, 2016. This is early due to conflicts in May with STAAR testing. Please begin early advertising for the change in date. We will send you Kindergarten Orientation packets on March 1 to assist with your planning.

With Dr. Seuss’s birthday coming soon, we have also included some ideas for celebrating.

So many awesome things are happening in our Kindergarten classrooms because of you. Thanks so much for all you do for our students. You are amazing!


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News & Information

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Blocks Update

Sylina Valdez, EC Admin. Supervisor

If you ordered blocks back in December, the order has been placed. Since this was a very large order, it will take longer than normal to receive the shipment. Please be patient and we will do our best to keep you updated as much as possible.

The blocks will be shipped to each campus with the name of each teacher who placed an order.

Speech-Language Services

Julie L. Miller, M. Ed., CCC-SLP, ATP

Special Education Administrative Supervisor for Speech-Language Services, Occupational Therapy Services, Physical Therapy Services and Assistive Technology

Did you know.....

  • Your campus SLP can provide classroom strategies to encourage communication and language development in general?
  • Your campus SLP can provide information for parents on language development and developmental milestones?
  • Your campus SLP can answer questions about speech sounds and speech fluency related to 3 & 4 year olds?
  • Your campus SLP is open to conversations with you?

Feel free to contact your campus SLP if you have questions and concerns about speech and language development in your classroom.

Thanks for your dedication to our students!

The Thinkery!

The Thinkery has asked us to tell you about their upcoming programming!

These specially designed programs are developmentally appropriate for pre- K, ages 2-5 years.

· Thinkery’s Early Learners staff will travel offsite to a pre-k site to deliver these interactive programs.

· Format: 1 hour program for up to 20 children OR Two, 30 minutes sessions for up to 20 children (10 each session); includes 1-2 Thinkery Early Learner Educators; activities and materials for hands-on exploration; one topic option per program/session.

· Registration: contact Heather Singh, Gallery Education Manager (registration & more information) to reserve a program today.

· *Restrictions: Must be located within 30 miles of Thinkery (1830 Simond Ave, 78723).

· Program Offerings:

o Little Thinkers: Blast Off! (Ages 2-5 years)

§ Children will clap, whack and stomp their way to the sky with an interactive exploration of rockets! Thinkery STEAM Educators will provide materials for children to build and launch their own models, while guiding them through an investigation of the forces that put them into motion.

o Little Thinkers: Make it Go! (Ages 2-5 years)

§ Children will build a mega track to put to the test! Together, they’ll tinker and make a LEGO® car to explore ideas about energy. Thinkery STEAM Educators will guide them through a hands-on investigation about ramps, angles, friction and more!

o Little Thinkers: Storytelling wit Dash and Dot! (Ages 4-5 years)

§ Dash and Dot love going on adventures! Children will collaborate to retell a familiar story using robots to share their favorite parts! Thinkery STEAM Educators will guide children through steps to bring these characters to life.

· Pricing:

o $350 (up to 20 students for 60 minutes)

o $100 (each consecutive 60 minute session)

· Dates & Times:

o Tuesdays and Thursdays.

o 9:30a, 11:30a or 1:30p start times

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Literacy Corner!

Thinking Ahead to Dr. Seuss Day in March

Jacquie Porter, Director of EC

Many of you celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2 every year. This year I found a fun game I wanted to link you to because it is easy, fun, and a great way to practice mathematics skills.

The free download can be found at Dr. Seuss' Busy Bag on the Second Story Window site.

The game can be played two ways. Pair the children to play this game. Each child will need their own Cat in the Hat's hat. Choose whether the high number or the low number will be the criteria for winning today. Then allow the first child to roll the dice and add that number of stripes to his hat. The second child then rolls the dice and adds stripes to her hat. After both have had a chance to put their strips on the hat, they compare hats to see who has more or less stripes. If the criteria for winning today is least, the child with the least number of stripes wins. If the criteria for winning today is most, the child with the most stripes wins.

The game is also available and easy to play with just adding stripes to go along with the number on the dice or for using stripes with numerals instead of blank stripes.

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Gail's Gardening Gazette: Properties of Matter in the Garden

Gail Laubenthal, Early Childhood Consultant

Is it rough? Is it smooth? or Is it hard? Is it soft? I will never forget the moment in my PreK classroom when I realized that my young children were using the terms, smooth and soft interchangeably. We had been learning about the properties of matter throughout the year, but hearing them use the word "soft" when rubbing there fingers over a smooth rock really shocked me. Think about all of the smooth things around your classroom and outside in the garden. What about things that might be soft? The purpose of this article is to encourage you to begin using these 4 words (any other descriptive words) everyday. Instead of telling the child to go get a brown block; ask them to bring you a smooth, brown, long block, unless you are wanting him/her to bring you a rough, red, small block (bristle block).

In the garden or on your playscape, you can find rough textures, such as tree bark. Of course, if you have trees with smooth bark, you might ask them to compare the textures. I have been doing this with my young grandchildren, and now when we go outside, they run to the trees in the yard, proclaiming, "Rough!" or "Smooth!" Of course, you could encourage them to use more descriptive words like, "The tall, brown tree has hard, rough bark...Wow - 4 descriptive words! Don't miss these teachable moments. What about how the herbs smell? What does the dirt feel like...what does it look like...what does it smell like? How does the worm feel?

To see what you can be planting and doing in your February garden, go to :

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Sensory Play!

Irene Campos, EC TLI Specialist

The Sensory Table is a great place for your students to participate in hands on exploration. It is an area that allows children to become calm, focused and engaged and use the senses to experiment and learn. Allow your children to explore new textures and materials in your sensory bin. February is the perfect month to add bright colors and valentine themed items. Try adding some Oobleck and watch as your students have fun exploring this new texture. The recipe can be found at the link below. You may want to make the Oobleck with your students as a class science activity then place it in your sensory bin for sensory play.

Another idea is to add valentine words and objects to your sensory bin along with colored rice or another filler. Students can match the valentine word to the object. Add tongs and valentine themed items so that children can strengthen fine motor skills. Another option is to add student pictures and names or sight words to your bin. Students will have fun matching their friend's pictures and names or finding matching sight words. Be sure to add containers and tools for pouring and scooping. Playing at the sensory bin is twice the fun with a friend so encourage multiple students to play there together.

Take it with a Grain of Sand: Speech and Language Development

Crystal Young, Pre-K Teacher, Sunset Valley Elementary

Sensory play with kinetic sand appeals to children of all ages and provides many opportunities for language acquisition and enrichment. Of course, the sand doesn’t do this by itself, YOU will need to stop by occasionally during play and interact with the children.

Expanding and extending student’s language should be your goal during these conversations. Expansions are when you repeat what the student is saying but adding in missing words or correcting grammar. For example, a student might say “It fall.” You could then say, “Yes, it’s falling.” Extensions are similar to expansions, but go one step further. In the above example you could extend the sentence by saying, “Yes, it’s falling in slow motion.”

These conversations should also include asking such open ended questions as “What do you think about…”, What do you think will happen if…”, “How do we make…”, or “Why does this…” These types of questions encourage children to use critical thinking skills while requiring them to use more language to explain themselves.

Here are some examples of the vocabulary you might use or hear your students use as they play with the sand; slow motion, stretchy, flowing, sticks together, fluid, sticky, mold-able, crumbles, crumbly, crumbling and cracking.

Following these tips, along with slowing down, being present, getting down to the child’s level and making eye contact while following their lead will help your students’ language develop as you engage with them.

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Dramatic Play!

Welcome to the Zoo - Mrs. Ashley Ryan, Baldwin Kinder Teacher

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I cannot take 100% credit for the creative structures in my classroom centers. The Baldwin teachers are blessed to have amazing parents that support efforts, such as our themed centers. The theme of the center is determined by the unit of study that is being taught. With January’s unit being animals I selected the zoo as our inspiration for the centers. This is a fun and exciting way for the kids to learn and use vocabulary that we have introduced throughout our unit. The center typically remains the same theme for about one month and then a parent volunteer and myself take everything down, and create our next imaginative space for students to enjoy. A month provides students enough time to play and explore with every aspect of the center. I never tell my students what is coming next, this keeps them excited and engaged. The students love to try to guess what’s coming next after they see parts of the next theme going up. Once the center is done I introduce it providing students with guidelines for appropriate ways to discover the new materials and then they are free to delve in.

For the Zoo Center I have Palm trees that are created from wrapping paper tubes. The actual tree is just brown paper lunch bags stacked tightly over the tube to make it look like a tree trunk. Then the leaves are cut out of green butcher paper with brown butcher paper crumbled up to make paper coconuts. We took toilet paper rolls and hot glued them to a clothes pin to make several pair of binoculars. Brown grocery bags were cut to make safari vests, and paper bowls were spray painted brown on the back side to make safari hats. The actual cages for the animals are just boxes in various sizes covered in butcher paper, with rubber bands used as the bars for the cages so that the kids can take the animals out. My extremely crafty Room Mom, printed and laminated different zoo animals, and several animal habitats were created using butcher paper. We also have “animal feed” for sale which is just a couple of different types of beans in a small baggie taped closed so they cannot open them. I also have my cash register out so they can buy tickets to the zoo and pay for their “animal feed”. They can also grab a map of the zoo to take with them on their trip.
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Classroom Management Tips


Robbie Polan, EC Childcare Liason


  1. GoNoodle is easy to set up and most importantly, fun for children! Go to
  2. GoNoodle gets kids moving with short interactive activities.
  3. GoNoodle activities can improve moods.
  4. You can connect GoNoodle with your curriculum through Gonoodle plus, which has content-aligned activities.
  5. AISD teachers have free access to GoNoodle Plus.
  6. GoNoodle activities are differentiated based on grade level.
  7. Teachers can make GoNoodle classes and save favorite activities.
  8. GoNoodle has brain breaks for any and every part of the day.
  9. Some of the GoNoodle brain break activities energize while other activities calm, focus, or even instruct students.
  10. GoNoodle has blog support with ideas and articles written by classroom teachers.

Meet Maximo!

Maximo is a blue monkey in a tux who leads children in yoga poses and breathing.

The Maximo GoNoodle Channel is filled with stretches and calming activity break breaks within the instructional day to reenergize and refocus students.

A favorite Maximo activity is The Tight Rope. Your kindergarten students will enjoy this calming activity while they build their core and self-regulation!

Try the Hungry Flamingo activity lead by Maximo!

SEL: Scripted Stories for Social Situations- TIP for Teachers

Becky Flynn, AISD SEL Specialist

The rules or expectations of social interactions are typically learned by example. Children with communication difficulties and /or behavior challenges often do not learn these interactions incidentally, but may need more explicit instructions through a scripted description of the social interaction.

Scripted stories for social situations help children understand social interactions, situations, expectations, and social cues. Scripted stories provide information regarding a social situation. When children are given information that helps them understand expectations of a situation, their problem behavior within that situation is reduced or minimized. Teachers can use these simple stories as a tool to prepare the child for a new situation, or to teach new skills. The following is an example of a scripted story explaining when it’s appropriate to run.

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There are 3 types of sentences used in writing a Scripted Story:

1. Descriptive sentences: objectively defined anticipated events where a situation occurs, who is involved, what they are doing and why. (e.g., When people are inside, they walk.)

2. Prescriptive sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons involved, their thoughts, feelings, or moods. (e.g., Running inside could hurt me or other people.)

3. Directive sentences: are individualized statements of desired responses stated in a positive manner. They may begin “I can try…” or “I will work on…” Try to avoid sentences starting with “Do not” or definitive statements.

A Scripted Story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. (e.g., I will try to walk inside.)

Write in first person and on the child’s developmental skill. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.

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Professional Development Offerings

CANCELED: Early Childhood Language Arts: Literacy in Kindergarten Part 1 (Section #80273)

Wednesday, Feb. 10th, 3:30-5:30pm

5200 Freidrich Lane

Austin, TX

Location: Uphaus EC Center

Register on HCP- Section #80273

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About Us

Jacquie Porter, Director

Debra Caldwell, Administrative Assistant

Diane Smith, Data Processing Assistant

Marlene Beldin, Clerk

Irene Campos, EC TLI Specialist

Brian Mowry, EC Specialist

Robbie Polan, Childcare Liaison

Melinda Servantez, EC Specialist

Sylina Valdez, Administrative Supervisor

Liana Young, EC TLI Specialist