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So far Andrea Patel has created 117 blog entries.

SL?? Yes, SL!

I’m a list maker. And I tend to abbreviate a lot. Over the summer I found myself writing “SL” over and over. That made sense; I had just completed an online course offered by Nellie Edge that incorporated phonics, handwriting, and sign language. The SL on my lists was a reminder to me to practice the sign language alphabet before school started. This past month, however, a new “SL” started creeping in. This time it stood for Service Learning. Interestingly, the two SL’s have considerable overlap with one another this year.

Let me give a little background. Under the direction of history teacher Sarah Pitcher, eighth-grade students participate in a national project called the IWitness video challenge. According to Sarah, this challenge was “inspired by the 20th anniversary of the movie Schindler’s List and is presented jointly by the SHOAH foundations and the University of Southern California. This project allows for introspection, proactive work in the community, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and its far-reaching effects on world history.” Last year Shayna, an eighth-grader (and one that I had taught in Kindergarten!), asked if she could come weekly with her ASL tutor and teach the kindergartners sign language. I was delighted with her offer, and the students loved learning with her. Shayna also asked if she could film the class and use it in her iWitness video. To make a long story short, her video placed third nationally – a huge achievement and honor!

Fast forward to this year: Shayna’s video caught the eye of the director of Riverbrook, which is a home for developmentally-disabled women in Stockbridge. Riverbrook contacted BCD to see if one of their residents, a young woman both deaf and developmentally-disabled, could meet with Shayna and her tutor. As Shayna had graduated, the tutor no longer came to BCD, so the contact was passed to me. Over the summer I met the young woman, Carlina, who now comes twice monthly to our classroom, along with her interpreter, to teach us signs, sing stories, and sign/read books to us. It’s a learning experience for all of us, starting with bigger questions like, “What is communication? How do people communicate with each other? What are challenges that some people face?” And then more specific questions: “How do we “talk” to Carlina? How do we make her feel comfortable with us? How do we become friends?”

I wish you could see the class: the children have been so welcoming to her, and they’re so enthusiastic to learn new signs. I’m feeling my way through this very unusual project, but one thing is certain – in our classroom, SL and SL go hand in hand!


By |2017-10-15T18:28:09-04:00October 15th, 2017|

How do individual children become a class?

Easy! By playing, talking, working, and sharing together. Morning Meeting, part of Responsive Classroom, is a such great time to connect. Who has a brother or a sister? Who has no siblings at all? How many teeth have you lost? What pets do you have? Throughout the day, we look for connections to one another, and notice and celebrate our differences. By now, our ninth day together, everyone’s initial shyness and hesitation has worn off and the children are engaged and fully participating.

Our days are busy – we’re busy learning each other’s names, observing and learning about monarch caterpillars, excitedly finding newly hatched snapping turtles (there are seven now living in an aquarium in the Preschool!). We’re busy counting forwards and backwards and creating patterns with wooden blocks. The children have had Spanish, Music, Library, PE, and Art. Paintings adorn our walls, as do the children’s more scientific life drawings of monarch caterpillars. Singing, poetry, and stories round out our day.

This particular class of children is considerate and kind; I’m lucky to have them. They’re taking good care of themselves, of each other, and of our things. We’re going to have a great year together!


By |2017-09-15T15:30:35-04:00September 15th, 2017|

February – short in days, full of activities!

News in brief: Valentine’s Day was great fun. The class enjoyed delivering and reading their cards and hearing Valentine’s Day stories. Our food treats were a huge success – thank you to all for sending those goodies in!

Wow, what a great job the PreK did  to creating their Pizzeria! The tables had real cloth tablecloths, with candles softly lighting the room and Italian music in the background. And the pizza was delicious! Everyone brought their best “restaurant manners.” We had a wonderful time, and thank Vicky and the PreK class for inviting us to be their honored guests!

In math, we’re now sorting by two attributes using Venn diagrams. In the classroom we have lots and lots of manipulatives that the children use to practice. These various sets of dinosaurs/insects/vehicles/animals are also spotted during free choice, and it’s fun for me to see how differently they’re used there. We’ll continue working with Venn diagrams for the next couple of weeks.

The penguins have all returned to Antarctica, and this week we dove in (literally!) to our new unit  – the ocean and its creatures! Enthusiasm is high for this unit. Stay tuned for more info as the month goes by.

Upcoming events: Next Friday is Alaska Day, and we’ll spend a couple of days next week learning about that northernmost state.

Barring any more snow days, the 100th Day of School is now Tuesday, Feb. 28. Please remember to send in a collection of 100 things. This is also the day that we’ll help move the books into the new library space – it will be an exciting day!

Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up on Thursday, March 9 from 3:15-7 and Friday, March 10 from 8-12. The link to sign-up will go live soon (you’ll receive an email notification about it). Please let me know if you have any trouble with it.

A few photos from the recent past:


Enjoy the long weekend!


By |2017-02-17T14:41:42-05:00February 17th, 2017|

It’s all happening in Kindergarten!

Wow, where to begin?? We have been soooo busy! Let’s start with the present:

January is Penguin Month. It’s also the time of year when we learn about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and talk a lot about diversity and also courage. Today we shared our thoughts and drawings and poetry at the Courage assembly with our PS-LS friends. Each class made a brief presentation. In ours, I explained that the class came to the agreement that courage meant “knowing right from wrong, and choosing to do the right thing, even if it was hard or scary.” The class did a great job!

We are in the middle of our study of penguins, and all are enjoying hearing Mr. Popper’s Penguins read aloud at rest time. On Thursday, photographer Sally Mead came to share her photos of Antarctica. Although I’ve seen these photos for many years now, they never fail to inspire me with their beauty. The children were captivated by them, and by the stories Sally had to tell. At the end, we had a surprise visitor – a real Antarctic explorer (Sally’s husband Dan Mead, dressed in furs, himself another incredible photographer!). The class had lots of questions which Sally patiently answered. We then recited “Emperor Penguins” by Barry Louis Polisar for them, a poem that perfectly encapsulates the life of an Emperor penguin in Antarctica. It was a great morning and we are so grateful to Sally and Dan for their generosity in coming year after year.

The class continues to make great progress learning new sounds and most are beginning to blend those sounds together to read two and there letter words – an amazing accomplishment! In math, the children have been verbalizing, figuring out, and then writing simple addition number sentences. This combine lots of skills, including 1:1 correspondence, accuracy in addition, remembering how to use + and = signs, etc. They’re doing a great job. Next month we’ll be starting a math unit on sorting by attributes using Venn diagrams. This is a very hands-on unit that incorporates lots of manipulative. Stay tuned!

Magnus turned six this month! Jennifer joined us in the classroom to read two of Magnus’ favorites books, and we enjoyed delicious brownies together. Thank you Jennifer, for helping to make Magnus’ day a special one!

In past news:

We finished reading our last chapter book, The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell. An odd little story, it was enjoyed by all.

Along with PS and all of LS, we made fruit salad as the culminating event of our Cooperation Unit. All had fun chopping – and even more fun eating!

Pajama Day was a big hit! Staying cozy all day in PJ’s and slippers was a lot of fun. The class listened to many bedtime stories, and playing with flashlights in the darkened rooms added an nice element. All in all, a fun day!

We celebrated Vivienne’s birthday in early December. As a special surprise gift for Vivienne, the class knotted her a fleece blanket which we then presented to her on the last day before Winter Break. Vivienne and her family seem to be settling in well in their new home in Prague, but the class misses Vivienne deeply. Last week Milana and I finally mastered the technology and were able to set up a FaceTime call so that we could all see Vivienne (and Milana and Julien!) gain. It was great and we’ll do it soon again.

On Wednesdays, we have the opportunity for a wonderful experience for the class. One of our 8th graders, Shayna, has been learning ASL (American Sign Language) and she comes to teach the class for 15 minutes each week. The children are learning the alphabet, different signs for animals, and (soon) songs. It’s great because it combines aural, visual, and kinesthetic learning together.

In December, we had a Lunch Bunch courtesy of Nicolette and her family. There were LOTS of delicious foods to eat, and  everyone enjoyed it. Thank you to Tereza and Chris for providing us with a very wonderful meal!

Here are lots of slides!

Have a great weekend!


By |2017-01-20T10:46:03-05:00January 20th, 2017|

November Happenings in K!

This month is flying by!

We had an All-School Assembly last Friday on the topic of Kindness. To prepare, we first read and then discussed A Sick Day for Amos McGee, as well as Dr. Seuss’ fabulous Horton Hears A Who. The class brainstormed ideas on what kindness looked like, and we role-played different scenarios, using different sorts of words. A recurring theme was that you should be kind and considerate. I tried to explore with them the idea that kindness is not the same as helpfulness (for example, carrying dishes from the table to the kitchen is helpful but not necessarily kind), but am afraid this distinction went over their heads. At least all agreed that, when asked, carrying dishes was a good thing!  😉

Friendship Lunch was a lovely experience for both the PreK and the K. The table was beautifully set with a cloth tablecloth and their own individual placemats. Corn muffins and homemade butter had been prepared the day before. All enjoyed spaghetti, with their preferred toppings. Carrots and cucumbers provided a healthy crunch, and apple slices dipped in honey rounded out the meal. Many, many thanks to Temple, Jennifer, and Chris, who were able to help set up, serve, or clean. Thanks also to the PreK parents who were there!

On Election Day, we practiced democracy in our classroom, holding a mock election, chasing between 15 minutes of extra INDOOR recess vs. 15 minutes of extra OUTDOOR recess. We discussed why “one person=one vote” matters. The children voted, 5-2, in favor of outdoor recess over indoor. Here in our classroom, the majority rules. ‘Nuff said.

Here are photos from Halloween (how long ago that already seems!) as well as Friendship Lunch.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!


PS  It was great to see everyone at Parent-Teacher conferences a few weeks ago. I love talking about your children (could you tell??) Everyone is off to such a solid start this year!

By |2016-11-21T22:50:54-05:00November 21st, 2016|

Busy times in Kindergarten!

Our classroom has been filled with non-stop activity since I last wrote. We successfully hatched and released all 21 monarch butterflies. Cries of “Buen viaje!” and “Hasta luego!” filled the air as the butterflies took flight on these warm and sunny October days. In addition, each student has now completed their life cycle poster, which are hanging in our rooms. It was amazing to see their concentration as they studied the live butterfly on the table, trying to paint it with accuracy. You will see these posters, and much more student work, at parent-teacher conferences next week. I’m looking forward to spending time with each of you to discuss the wonderful progress that your child is making!

Phonics and handwriting instruction continues, and the class is becoming skilled at hearing initial consonant sounds and learning which letters correspond to them. We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Who Do You See?  together, and the class is having great fun writing and illustrating their own Halloween version of this (“Ghost, Ghost, who  do you see? I see Skeleton looking at me!”). In other LA news, we’ve now finished Charlotte’s Web (which I’ve been reading at rest time), and each as written about their favorite part of the book. We’ve also shared books about Fall, taken some fall walks using all our senses to notice the changes, and begun our books on the four seasons.

Math has been fun! Creating with pattern blocks remains a very popular choice. The children are also learning to recognize, extend, and create their own patterns using unifix cubes. Patterns we’ve focused upon this week included AB, AAB, and AABB. Next week we’ll get more complex with ABC, AABC, and perhaps even ABAC!

You’ll see in the slideshow that my son Toby, a BCD alum, stopped by to read stories to the class. A few of the children were a bit mystified as to how I could be his mother, since he’s a good 6″ taller than me. I think they all believed me eventually!

Enjoy the following slideshow. This one includes the promised photos from Grandparents Day. (If this doesn’t open automatically as a slide show, try clicking on the top photo and it should open the album up. You might then have to use the cursor buttons to see all the photos. If so, sorry! I’m still getting this technology down!)


Kindergarten butterflies and grandparents

By |2016-10-25T15:02:07-04:00October 21st, 2016|

Kindergarten Happenings!

Busy times!

On Tuesday of this week, Jessica visited our classroom to talk about Rosh Hashanah with the class. She first read a book about the holiday, and then everyone had fun making apple centerpieces out of construction paper. Jessica also bought in a delicious snack of challah and apples, which we dipped into honey as we all wished each other a “Sweet” New Year!  I want to thank Jessica for coming and sharing this holiday with us, and I also want to extend an invitation to all parents that if there is a holiday or family custom or book or activity you’d like to do with the class, I’d love to find a time for you to do that. Just send me an email and we can make it happen.

We had our first Lunch Bunch last week, courtesy of Vivienne’s family. All enjoyed a delicious meal of penne with pesto, fresh fruit, and a divine carrot cake for dessert. Appetites were great and the class really enjoyed the meal! Thank you, Milana and Vivienne, for starting our Lunch Bunch meals off so successfully!

Grandparents Day was a great success! The All-School Assembly was terrific, and PreK-3 did a wonderful job reciting their original A-Z poem for all their visitors. Earlier in the week in the classroom, the children created beautiful hearts out of Sculpey (plastic clay). These were attacked to strings, and together, grandparents and grandkids created beaded necklaces for each other. We had also written a book, What We Like to Do with Our Grandparents, that was read aloud.  The class also recited poems and sang songs. I loved the opportunity to get to know your families a little better. A great time was had by all!

Here, below, another slideshow. This one includes shots of my daughter Monica leading movement classes with the PreK and K kids, our trip to Magic Wings, our Rosh Hashanah celebration, as well some of our in-class happenings. Photos of Grandparents Day will be in the next blog. Enjoy!

By |2016-10-25T15:02:09-04:00October 7th, 2016|

K September doings!

Such busy days! Since I last wrote, we’ve had 19 little caterpillars become 19 huge caterpillars – and now each is starting to make a chrysalis! And on Friday, we were lucky enough to actually see them change (once they begin, it happens quite quickly, so we had to start alert). By Monday, all should be beginning their amazing transformation!

We’ve also finalized our classroom rules. They’re written up on chart paper with a sparkly gold border, and each child got to choose a silver, gold, or bronze marker to sign their name. Their final rules are as follow:

  1. Make smart decisions.
  2. Be really nice to everyone.
  3. Take good care of our stuff.

Each child is working on acquiring a relaxed and comfortable pencil grip. We’ve started handwriting, and they’re learning to write numbers first. The children are excited to be using their handwriting books!

On Friday afternoon, my daughter Monica, a dancer and choreographer, led the PreK and K kids in some fun movement activities. It was a treat to have her in the classroom, and the children enjoyed moving as butterflies, cats, puppies, cheetahs, jaguars, and even cows 🙂   I will post pictures of that event soon.

It was great to see you all at BTS night.  It’s going to be such a fun year!

Enjoy the slide show below, and have a good weekend.


K caterpillars 2016-17


By |2016-10-25T15:02:09-04:00September 23rd, 2016|

Wonderful first week in Kindergarten!

What a great – and busy – first week we’ve had together. The children were friendly, happy, engaged, and excited to be in school! In four days, we’ve started to “gel” as a class by talking together about the kind of year we want to have together and the way we should treat each other to get there. At the end of the week each child told me their school “hopes and dreams”. Next they’ll draw a picture of them and share them with one another. From that, we’ll begin to develop our classroom rules.

When our monarch eggs arrived, they were no bigger than a pinprick, but, literally, overnight most of them hatched! These baby caterpillars were 1/32″ long – almost impossible to see. But we know they’re eating because we can see the holes in the milkweed leaves.  Who knows how big they’ll be in another day or two!

In math, the children have had lots of fun creating with pattern blocks. While the first day’s designs were all flat, further experimentation included pieces standing on end or tall stacks carefully built. Below are some of their spontaneous comments:

“Nothing is easy. You just have to build what’s in your mind.”

“I’m building a rocket, a very big rocket.”

“I’m not saying what I’m building, I’m just building.”

“I need some green.”  “Here.”  “Thank you!”

“Whoa, that’s cool!  Neha, that’s one beautiful thing!”

“I made butterflies hanging from a tree branch.” (Vivienne)

“This is the empire’s death star.” (Rhys)

“My flower took hard work.” (Neha)

“This is like the whole playground and see that? It’s pointing to the junk yard.” (Magnus)

“I don’t even know. I was just making a design.” (Lily)

“This is a snowman and this is an abstract and this is a rocket ship and this was an alien ship.”  (Nicolette)

“This is a rocket ship and that’s Han Solo’s ship that has the big hole and the big monster and their ship fell in by accident. And then Darth Vadar came.” (Chase)

Creative minds...

Creative minds…

Hard at work!

Hard at work!

We’ve enjoyed seeing everyone’s family photographs, and had fun listening to everyone’s books from home. In addition, we’ve had Music with Mr. Martin, Spanish with Sr. Silva, Art with Ms. Sicurella, Library with Ms. Tone, and PE with Mr. Storti ( (I told you it was a busy week!)  And on Friday, we had a fun picnic lunch and hike on Mike’s Trail with our friends in PreK and grades 1, 2, and 3.

We’re off to a great start!


By |2016-10-25T15:02:10-04:00September 12th, 2016|

Kindergarten’s month of special events

This month has flown by!  Why? Well, in addition to our regular curriculum, we’ve had the following special events: Pajama Day, Valentine’s Day, Alaska Day, the 100th Day of School, and a presentation by an award-winning photographer!  Some of these were specific to our classroom (Valentine’s Day, 100th Day, and photo show) while others were shared with PK friends (Pajama Day) or the greater PK-Grade 3 world (Alaska Day).  Most of these special days have curriculum pieces attached.  In particular, the 100th Day of School is filled with Language Arts, math, and craft activities that make for a very fun day.  At parent-teacher conferences next week, I’ll show you your student’s work. You’ll also get to see examples of our latest math unit, sorting by attributes using Venn diagrams.  In the classroom we have all manner of things to use as sorting materials:  collections of animals, dinosaurs, dogs, shapes, buttons, etc.  The children are having lots of fun with this!

Next week we’re going to the Berkshire Museum to see the ArtZoo exhibit.   Sally Eagle will meet us there and go through the exhibit with us. We’ll also spend time in the Spark Lab and we’ll have a presentation on reptiles.  It should be a fun trip.  Next week also brings a Lunch Bunch, courtesy of Neha’s family, as well as Parent-Teacher conferences. (The sign-up sheets are live now, so please make sure to reserve your time.)

Here are LOTS of photos.  Enjoy!



Pajama Day fun at the light table


Warm and cozy!


Making Valentine’s cards


Completed cards


Working on totem poles on Alaska Day


With Alaska Day buddies



With Alaska Day buddies


With Alaska Day buddies


With Alaska Day buddies


With Alaska Day buddies


100 Legos!


100 toys!


A great puzzle!


100 tiny snacks


Everyone helped assemble Ronan’s puzzle!

By |2016-10-25T15:02:17-04:00February 25th, 2016|