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Bucket Fillers

This group will focus on more conversations about EMPATHY, SELF-CONTROL, and SOCIAL PROBLEM SOLVING using photos and discussion from the Second Step Curriculum along with picture books.


May 16 and 23: Harry and the Terrible Whatzit investigates how we deal with fear by facing it, and making it smaller. When his mother goes to the cellar and doesn't return right away, Harry shoves aside his fears to search for her and confronts the terrible two-headed whatzit.

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April 25 and May 9: The Most Magnificent Thing investigates how we get frustrated, and what can happen if we keep trying. Making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and  manages to get it just right. 

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April 11 and 18: Lying Up a Storm investigates how we sometimes don't want to tell the truth.  Whenever Levi doesn't like the truth, he kinda, sorta makes up other stuff to say. One day his mother explains to him that telling lies will damage the trust of his friends and make him very sad. "Whenever you tell a lie, your inside sun goes away. Then a lying cloud forms, and glooms up your day. Each time you tell a lie, another cloud starts to form, and before you can stop it from happening, your insides start to storm."

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March 21 and 28: But it's Not My Fault! investigates blaming others and taking responsiblity. It just isn't Noodle's fault that his brother's game ran late and he didn't finish his homework. Or that his mom forgot to remind him to turn in his library book. Or that Mary Gold got in his airspace and hit his arm with her head... Join Noodle on his journey as he learns not to blame others or try to find fault; but instead practices accepting responsibility, and turns his very rough day into a very good NEW day!

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March 7 and 14: Zach Apologizes investigates how we get frustrated, make a mistake that hurts someone else in some way, and what we can do to feel better, and to help the other person feel better as well.  

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March 7 and 14: Zach Gets Frustrated investigates how we get frustrated and what to do about it. Screenshot 2016-03-29 at 12.05.40 PM.png

February 22 and 29: Ricky Sticky Fingers investigates the problem of taking things that don't belong to you, and the lies that go with it. When Ricky's bike goes missing, he realizes that it's awful to have your stuff taken. He decides to apologize and make things right, even though people get mad at him. 


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January 25 and February 1: What do you do with an Idea? shows that sometimes we don't think our ideas are good enough, and we worry what others will think of them, but if we stay with them and let them grow, they can change the world. 

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December 14 and January 4: Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having The Courage to Be Who You Are shows that everyone is human and has feelings, even bullies, and explores what happens when we treat people the way we want to be treated even when we are mad or they've been mean. 

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November 30 and December 7: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes shows that everyone is human and that we all make mistakes. As both children and adults, sometimes certain people in our environment may seem to be “perfect” and “free of problems” but this cannot be true. We are all humans. It is not the mistakes we make, but how we learn from them that is the important thing. And, we learn the most when we struggle to figure out something new. Our mistakes GROW our brains. Beatrice finds this out at the end of the story and learns to have a lot more fun as just Beatrice, versus The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes!

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We also enjoyed The Beautiful Oops! This book explores the ways that mistakes in art can lead to wonderful opportunities.

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November 9 and 16: We'll look at what happens when your BEST friend starts hanging out with someone new. It's also about exclusion and name calling and taking sides. This is another book by Kathryn Otoshi: Two. Two is best friends with One. Whenever they'd get the chance, they'd dance! She'd sing and snap. He'd tappity-tap. What a pair they made! At the end of each day, they'd always say, "ONE, TWO, I'll count on you, 'til the end, we'll be best friends." Until Three jumps in between them . . . Suddenly One only wants to play with Three. 

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October 26 and November 2: We'll look at fitting in and being content with who we are. This is in another book by Kathryn Otoshi: Zero. Zero is a big round number. When she looks at herself, she just sees a hole right in her center. Every day she watches the other numbers line up to count: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 . . . !" "Those numbers have value. That's why they count," she thinks. But how could a number worth nothing become something? Zero feels empty inside. 

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October 12 and 19: We'll look at bullies and how they can make us feel small, how one person standing up to a bully can make a difference, how much we all want to count, even the bullies, and how anger can make you blow a fuse. All this in the book One by Kathryn Otoshi.


September 28 and October 5: We'll begin with Have you Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. This book is about helping everyone fill his or her invisible bucket. The buckets carry our good feelings and thoughts about ourselves. 

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We'll meet in the Office/Library and alternate with Messy Camp each week. We will continue to share strategies to “fill people’s buckets” and help them to feel good about themselves. We will follow this idea through stories, and we will sing and do a small circle time each week.

Some ideas for parents!

FREE! Need some exciting fresh writing prompts? shares live webcams of animals in their natural habitat from all over the globe for you to watch with students. The children find these fascinating; we watch, we discuss and then we brainstorm the key words we can use in our writing. It is easy to use, has great images and children are enthralled!

FREE! Looking for something to supplement your phonics program? Alphablocks is a great way to make learning the alphabet fun. Children watch as the letters in the alphabet tell stories and make words using phonics. Available to watch free on YouTube, each mini-program lasts five minutes and focuses on a particular letter, word or sound. The children remember the lively letters of the alphabet when it comes to their own reading. For example, when P and H hold hands, they make the sounds "F." 

FREE! The Mr. R's Songs for Teaching YouTube channel has been great for my kids and their learning. There are hundreds songs on a variety of topics. The songs are delivered in such a catchy way that the children sing them throughout the day. Math and Science Focus.

FREEMIUM: Our reluctant readers and writers have made great progress using the Reading Eggs apps, where kids (age 3-13) learn how to read with interactive online reading lessons and phonics game. "I really love the stories in Reading Eggs when we click on the little arrow it tells me the next page. All the activities are fun and none of them are boring," said one of my students. Technically, the app is free for a two week trial, and then you have to pay a fee for further log-ins.





SQUIRTS 2015-2016


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Second Semester Inquiry Group:

Code Breakers and Story Makers!

We will explore different ways that words can be disguised by secret codes. We'll begin with Rosicrucian Cipher and Caeser Cipher. We did loads of post-it note scavenger hunts with clues and codes. We played with reading names when the letters were mixed up.


We've worked lately on telling stories together. We took the illustrations from a dragon book and created our own story. When the illustrations included the death of the dragon, we took the power of authorship into our own hands and changed the story!





First Semester Inquiry Group:

Design, Engineering and Story

We will explore ideas of design, of solving problems, of tinkering, and of how spectacular it is to get it wrong and to keep improving the design and engineering through iterative efforts. We'll read books and tell stories as we go. 


Week 7: February 22

We investigated some instruments, and then began a design challenge to make some instruments from a box of recycled and new "junk." We'll continue next week!

Week 6: February 1

We read School Picture Day about Josephina Caroleena Wattasheena who always wonders how things work. After her tinkering gets everyone covered in grease, soot, and ashes, it looks as though the class picture is going to be a disaster. Then a twist of fate allows Josephina to put her talents to good use. Then, we built and designed some more things! Screenshot 2016-02-24 at 10.15.27 PM.png


Week 5: January 25

We'll build many things (current ideas: houses, castles, cars, bridges, catapults, castle) from an abundance of recycled materials..No book this week, as we got started a bit late. Things built: A coffee factory and cafe, with a pool. A robot factory. A castle. A secret container to hide things in. A spaceship.

Week 4: January 11

We'll build many things (current ideas: houses, castles, cars, bridges, catapults) from an abundance of recycled materials..We'll readScreenshot 2016-01-05 at 11.35.10 AM.png


Week 3: January 4

We built many things from an abundance of recycled materials..We read

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Week 2: December 14

We made houses from a Raft kit.We read

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Week 1: December 7

We'll begin by creating and testing and re-designing paper airplanes made from post-its. We'll read this book:
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First Semester Math Inquiry Group:

Teach Math to Your Stuffies

We will begin by thinking about what math is, and what learners need. We'll practice a problem, share the ways we solve it or think about it, what we do, and we'll practice teaching it. We might film our lessons! Starting next week, the kids will bring in a "stuffie student" (if they want), and we'll investigate our different learners and what they need.

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November 30, Day 8 : Today we played with Rekenreks.The kids each got a turn to be the teacher, and then they made one of their own to take home. This was our last day!

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Here's my favorite video on using this amazing math tool:



November 23, Day 7

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November 16 No Class (Monterey Bay Aquarium Homeschool Day)


November 9, Day 6:

We'll play with skip counting today, first on the 100's chart, and then with a game. We'll also construct some word problems with a game called Tic Tac Trouble.


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November 2, Day 5:

We used our brains and eyes with dot cards today. The kids looked but didn't have time to count one-by-one. "What did you see? How did you see it?"

Then we played How close to 100?. One person rolled the big die to find the number we'd make, and would come to the 100 chart and mark that number of boxes off. The next kid would roll the die to see how many times we could mark off that number of boxes, and come to make the rectangle and block out the numbers. We got shut out with a roll of six (we didn't have any place to play it) so we counted the numbers we didn't cross off. We got within 15 of 100!

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October 19, Day 4:

We investigated making squares and rectangles with square tiles. 

One tile had only one square.

Two tiles had only one rectangle, though we could put it lying down or standing up.

Three tiles had only one rectangle also. We could put it lying down or standing up. 

Four tiles had one rectangle. We could put it lying down or standing up. It also had a square!


After that we made patterns and designs with more square tiles. We made HUGE squares and rectangles!

October 12, Day 3:

We worked with our stuffies and a partner to explore the following problem:



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We didn't get further than the first two guests and their four guests each! We took turns showing our solutions, modeling them with different manipulatives and drawings.

October 5, Day 2:
We looked at ten frames to practice talking about what we saw, how we saw it. Kids came up to MODEL (architect) what they saw on a ten frame.
We had someone make up a WORD PROBLEM (storyteller) for what they saw.
We had someone write a MATH PROBLEM (mathematician) for what they saw.
We’ll did this first with only one number. Then, using a second number, we did an addition story. This time we started with the WORD PROBLEM (storyteller).

September 28, Day 1:

We tried counting things, telling math stories, but mostly we talked about how some people feel shy or nervous, some feel bouncy and distracted, some feel bored. We checked in with our stuffies to see how they felt.


Through a rotation of all the students—so that they get to know all the teachers and one another and so that we get to know them—I collected a sample of where each child is as a burgeoning writer and storyteller.

I helped the kids get to know one another through their stories, while teaching them a simple way to plan, share, and write (in whatever way they currently write) the story down. It's fun! For more information, see DEB'S WRITING RESOURCES to learn more about Small Moment Stories.