Special Start Update: June 2015

Special Start Update: June 2015
Posted on 06/08/2015
Greetings from Special Start Room 156

It is hard to believe that the last time we wrote in the Peabody Planet, preschoolers and teachers were wishing for a little bit of snow to play in. Wow, did we get what we wished for! As Moira McNabb O’Connell told in her update from Special Start/room 155, we certainly had plenty of snow to play with, both outside and in the classroom. Moira also gave a nice update on some program events we’ve shared together during this 2nd half of the school year. We, too, have enjoyed the snowy winter and the coming of spring.

Besides observing and exploring seasonal spring changes, we have dedicated the past few weeks to focusing on literacy learning through a curriculum unit on the alphabet. Though literacy learning happens in our classroom all year long, we traditionally spend a concentrated period of time on literacy learning during the 2nd half of the school year. Since our class is a mixed-age group of 3-year olds, 4-year olds, and now some children turning 5, it makes sense to focus on literacy learning during the 2nd half of the year as our 4’s and 5’s approach kindergarten and our 3’s are well-adjusted to school and ready to engage in more abstract, early academic curriculum. As we do every year, we began our unit by reading the beloved alphabet book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, with illustrations by Lois Ehlert. For those that don’t know, this is a simple story about little letters (lower case) racing to the top of a coconut tree. The tree bends from the weight of the letters and all the letters fall down. Big letters (upper case) come to help the little letters. This rhythmic story with its bright, colorful illustrations is engaging for children and adults alike. As we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom over and over again each day, alphabet letters are embedded throughout our classroom and throughout our day as we work and play. There are alphabet blocks in the block corner, oversized magnetic letters in the house corner, alphabet cookie cutters at the playdough table, foam letters to fish for in the water table and alphabet songs (traditional and rock ’n’ roll versions) at circle-time. All the while, children are learning to identify and label letters, words, names, etc., as everyone makes these initial steps towards reading.

In the midst of these many playful, engaging experiences, we are also learning the mechanics of forming letters and writing. In the last Peabody Planet, our occupational therapists Cathi Marqusee and Christine Parks wrote about the handwriting program they use called Handwriting Without Tears (HWT). Throughout the year, but especially during our alphabet unit, we incorporate many components of the HWT program. In particular, we practice forming uppercase letters by using simple strokes (big lines, little lines, big curves, little curves) or a combination of those. The HWT program also teaches children to “start your letters at the top,” making the necessary letter strokes from top to bottom. For example, the letter A is formed by making 2 big lines from the top and one little line across the middle.

One additional and essential part of our alphabet/literacy theme is the building of a classroom name chart. This is a chart listing all of the children’s and teacher’s names in alphabetical order. Though many of our preschoolers learn to recognize their own name and the names of their peers early on, the creation of the name chart helps children to develop emerging literacy skills, like phonemic awareness and letter-sound correspondence, through the close examination of each classmate’s and teacher’s name. Each day, only 1 to 3 names are added to the list until the chart is complete.

As we add each name, we take time to learn about the name in a slow and methodical way. We spell the name onto a strip of paper, count out how many letters are in that name, and clap the parts (the syllables) in the name. We also stop to notice things about each name, and we look for similarities or differences between names. As we go through this process, we continue to use the names of peers and teachers as a vehicle for learning many things about letters, sounds, syllables, etc. It is also wonderful to see how much the children learn from each other’s names and how that learning spreads throughout the curriculum.

During the course of the alphabet unit, our bookshelves and baskets are filled with all sorts of alphabet books. One of our favorites is The Z Was Zapped, by Chris Van Allsburg. In this book, alphabet letters are presented with some misfortune in their own separate act in a play. (e.g. “The A was in an avalanche, The B was badly bitten,” etc.). However, even though we read several alphabet books, our focus always comes back to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Children enjoy listening to it in our classroom listening center and dancing to a jazzy, somewhat silly Raffi song called “Coconut.” Another tradition is to create a large, paper coconut tree for our classroom. This year, the children voted to make a bending one, rather than a straight one. When finished, our tree will be complete with climbing alphabet letters and paper mache coconuts! Hopefully our letters (or coconuts) won’t fall down!

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the school year!

Greetings from Special Start Room 155

Hello Peabody Planet! Special Start room 155 has been very busy since we last checked in with you in early winter. The record snowfall provided for a rich winter curriculum. We read many books about winter like Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day, Lois Ehlert’s Snowballs, and Nancy Van Laan’s When Winter Comes. When temperatures allowed, we ventured outside to play in the snow. We could not believe how much snow was on our playground. It reached the bottom of the bouncy bridge on our playground structure. When it was too cold to go outside we brought the snow inside to our water table complete with food coloring filled spray bottles, and shovels and hand rakes. We made lots of snow crafts using cotton balls, white tissue paper, white yarn, and white buttons. You may have noticed the warm winter mittens displayed outside our classroom. We also made snow globes using recycled baby food jars, white and iridescent beads, and silver glitter. If you can believe it, there was actually too much snow for sledding. We typically sled at the Haskell Street playground but the snow was piled high above the gates preventing our access. We hope for more snow next winter but maybe not quite as much!  

Like most people we were thinking of an early spring. To celebrate the coming of spring we had a ceremony celebrating the Hindu holiday Holi. Holi is referred to as the festival of color and celebrates the end of winter and coming of spring. Two of our families practice Hinduism and one of our parents came to lead us through a Holi ceremony that involved taking turns laying flowers on a platter, listening to a traditional Hindu prayer, and being donned with powder color. We ended by enjoying each other’s company and eating some traditional Indian food for lunch!

In April we held our annual Special Start potluck dinner with Janet Forte’s classroom. Families brought delicious food and we had activities set out for children like drawing paper on the floor, a basketball hoop, board books and cozy chairs, and scarfs for dancing. Families ate, talked, laughed, and danced together. It was a very special night! We also visited the Boston Children’s Museum. We along with Janet’s classrooms were awarded a sponsored visit. We took the T into Boston, visited exhibits, and had pizza from Pizzeria Regina.

After the long winter, we have been embracing the onset of spring. We took many walks around the neighborhood and observed trees blooming, grass growing, and flowers sprouting around the Peabody School grounds and in gardens around the neighborhood. We have been creating flowers, decorating pots for our Mother’s, and playing tee-ball with Margie Carlman, our physical therapist. We have also started helping our City Sprouts coordinator, Michelle, water the flowers, plants, and vegetables in the Peabody garden.

We have a lot of great activities planned for the rest of the year. Next week we along with Janet’s classroom and the DHS preschool are visiting Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. We are also making plans to observe the lifecycle of butterflies with live caterpillar garden kits. We have also scheduled a visit with Curious Creatures a mobile, hands on, interactive animal program. We need to give special thanks for the Friends of Peabody who generously provided the funds for both the Drumlin Farm trip and Curious Creatures. We are so appreciative of their support!

Keep Learning all Summer with Fun Apps
By: The Peabody School Special Education Team

All Curriculum

Brain Pop and Brain Pop Junior- Animated Science, Health, 
Technology, Math, Social Studies, Arts & Music and English movies, quizzes, activity pages and school homework help for K-12 kids, aligned to the common core

Raz Kids- Interactive e-books for kids in grades K-5

Word Wizard- Spelling practice 

Letter Reflex –Overcome letter and number reversals

Popplet – Graphic Organizers 

Book Creator- Create your own books 

Handwriting without Tears- Handwriting Practice 

TimeLine- Make your own timeline graphic organizer

Math Regrouping-Practice addition and subtraction standard algorithm with regrouping 

Oh no Fractions- Practice comparing fractions using visual models 

Quick Math Plus- Timed math fact practice, time, fractions, and math vocabulary 

Reflex Math- Common core focused fast paced games to build math fact fluency skills 

Sushi Monster- Fact practice 

School Kit Math- Math tools 

My Piggy Bank- Money practice

Social Studies
Stack the States- Interactive games to learn states, capitals, and geography trivia

For more info on linking to these websites, please email:

Ms. Serrao,
Michele Lippens,
Kerri Clifford,
Maryann Londino,