Daisy Makes a Pizza…YUM!

A small girl with a BIG personality is featured in Juniper Tree’s first online classroom video.

It’s nine seconds long so be sure to hear what she has to say!

View here


Kindergarten Math: Another Go Round of Rubber Bands

On a sunny Thursday afternoon we took a few more minutes toying around with black rubber bands from our I Love Math bags. Every Juniper berry has this bag which includes a set of 20 something stretchy bands that help them recreate the designs displayed in their Math workbooks.

During our Math lessons, students are exposed to a range of activities like matching, counting, and following patterns on page maps. On this exact page students’ are expected to repeat the same designs from their page to the grid board. (See pictures above).

Juniper students were free to create ANY design on their blue boards. I did not monitor them. I did not draw up any ideas on the board. I did not tell them how to do it. Everything pictured here is from the student’s imagination.

I see a clock.

I see the letter “Y”.

I see a sunflower.

What do you see on the students’ boards?


The Crush and Crumble: A Stress Relief Method Using Newspaper

During the week of classroom observations at Oak Tree Kindergarten in Zhubei located in Taiwan’s Hsinchu County, I had less control over my students’ behavior than usual. All week parents were invited to visit their child’s classroom to get a glimpse of their daily life in school.
Though all foreign teachers were told this ahead of time I don’t think I had expected nor prepared to deal with changes in my students’ behaviors who were mostly energetic and hyperactive when their parent (or anyone’s parent) came.
 The reason why some children acted differently, was because their parent(s) provided a safety net for them to feel comfortable. Students’ seemed more relaxed about following standard classroom behavior.
  1. Listen
  2. Raise your hand if you want to say or ask me (or others) a question
  3. Pick up any trash you see on the floor
  4. Wash your hands with *soap* and water
  5. Smile 🙂

Unofficial classroom rule: Sit on the yellow line.

One student cried out loud during an English lesson because another student had reached over and wrote her name on a different line than the student had. Another berry did not want to sit on the yellow line legs folded. We have always practiced doing this together since the first day of school in September.
“WAHH!” cried one student.
Others crouched down and spun their small bodies around in a circle instead.
If I had it my way students’ would focus on the lesson. I wanted to help them release their jitters and refocus. On the afternoon of that Friday, we managed to do just that.
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The aftermath of the “Crush and Crumble” exercise displayed on our classroom board. Photo credit: Teacher Alula

Typically, in the small circle fashion, I pass one item to either of the students sitting next to me. The student follows and passes that item to his neighbor. This technique helps every student use some of their senses (touch, sight, and smell) and practice key vocabulary words or phrases.
With a single page pulled out from a Chinese Mandarin newspaper, I folded the long page into the smallest ball that.  Students’ were also encouraged to use muscles in both of their hands to fold the newspaper into a ball.
With every crush and crumble the newspaper began to alter in size and appearance. “Squeeze, SQUEEZEEEEE,” I said. One student, who will remain anonymous on the blog, (even though I love her and would like to give her credit for this brilliant technique) began stomping on the paper ball. She used her feet as much as her hands to crumble the paper. We enjoyed the activity.
It was a great way to release excitement and for me to regain control of the class.
P.S. We thank everyone who visited our classroom and school!
-Tr. Alula

Letter of the Week: Wh, Wh, Wh, W!

Down, up, down, up.

All students’ had been instructed to put one finger in the air and follow this motion: down, up, down, and up. I encourage learners who are new speakers of the English language to use this method to help practice recognition, memorization, and pronunciation of all 26 English alphabet letters.


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A berry traces the letter of the week during our Phonics lesson in the Juniper Tree classroom at Oak Tree Kindergarten. photo credit: Teacher Alula 


In my K3 (Kindergarten, level 3) class, we average around three Phonics lessons per week. Two of the materials I used that are supplied by the school include Big Phonics Book and Finger Phonics Book. One book is big. The other is small. Which means the size is an advantage and dictates how we use them during our lessons. If you have noticed the picture above then you can infer our letter of the week is ”

If you have noticed the picture above then you can infer our letter of the week is “Ww.”

“A W is written like this…”, I say, “down and up and again.”

This exercise works well with learners’ who gain several benefits from revisiting the sound and shape of the letter of the week several times throughout the week.

Our Big Phonics Book (not pictured here) contains two-sentence stories, visuals, and a hand motion exercise for every letter and letter blend (two letters together that make one sound) in the English language. The pages are large enough to be displayed in front of everyone which makes Read Aloud sessions capable for me and all teachers. The Finger Phonics Book is more personal because the students’ are encouraged to trace their finger over the letter in a repetitive motion.

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Another reason why I prefer to implement this component into our lessons is because students’ are able to practice the *sound* of the letter, not just how to write it on paper or with fabric. photo credit: Teacher Alula

Here are the top five common words used by Juniper students’ that start with the letter “W”:
1. water
2. windy
3. watermelon
4. water bottle
5. window 
Can you think of any word that your little one knows or is learning in school?

Roll, Roll, Roll the Mat: Why I Embrace This Fine Motor Skill Exercise

To most people five months isn’t a very long time. To me, it’s enough to learn how to roll a mat. In 2016, I worked with children ages 3 to 6 years old in a private school that specialized in Montessori education.

In 2016, I worked with children ages 3 to 6 years old in a private Montessori school.

Montessori — what’s that? Google can tell you more, but I’ll take a stab first: Montessori education encourages learning through playThis specialized learning style focuses more on the learner, what s/he wants to work with, and the freedom to work with said object however way possible.  I am a proponent and firm believer of individualized learning because it boldly encourages the learner to gain autonomy over his/her learning and allows creative expression. Learning to embrace your environment is important because children develop habits early on which brings me to an important item mentioned in the first paragraph of this post: the mat.
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A few students’ took turns rolling up the mat in the center of the circle. Photo Credit: Teacher Alula 

Before we go further in depth about the benefits of working in a Montessori atmosphere or learning through play, here’s one takeaway: learn to roll a mat because every learner must use one while exploring an item, or as it is called “work”. So when a student volunteered to roll a mat in a manner that was neat and precise, she (the student) was following basic Montessori-style learning protocol. Patience, persistence, and detail are key components of this exercise. Please consider trying this with your child if you haven’t already.
-Tr. Alula

Rubber Band Names


The students’ bedazzled their square nail boards in an impromptu craft lesson on Wednesday, December 28, 2016.

Using rubber bands supplied in their “I Love Math” tool box, they were able to spell their names all on their own! One student started and others quickly followed. Prior to this, the students’ had been using popsicle sticks borrowed from the Montessori corner to spell their name. That exercise inspired them to take on a more hands-on, self-led class project.

Not only have the students mastered spelling their names this semester, but they are able to read and call out the names of their peers each week while distributing classroom materials. Each week we have a new set of helpers, or “little teachers” as I like to call them.

It has been an honor to work with fourteen creative minds in Oak Tree’s newest K3 classroom, Juniper Tree.