The FUNd Stuff at PNA!
"All children start their school careers with sparkling imaginations, fertile minds, and a willingness to take risks with what they think."
- Ken Robinson
So, How WAS School Today?
How was school today? has got to be one of the most repeatedly asked questions by parents in the modern history of parenting. That, and "Did you brush your teeth? With toothpaste?"
The school day is pretty interesting and PNA kids are pretty talkative and yet, more of our students than you would expect answer with one word as they walk out with their moms and dads: Good.
Good? Well, it's a word. (and it is a lot better than "bad".) And it's almost immediately followed by I'm hungry, where are we going now, do I have a lesson, I have homework. Kids are busy (and the younger they are the more they live in the moment) and the reality is their day was full and pretty complex; where would they even begin to explain it to you? So they say "Good" and sometimes "I don't remember" and promptly wait to see if you are going to produce a Cliff Bar or piece of fruit to squelch their sudden-onset extreme hunger.
But we actually do want to know how school was. Sometimes because we saw pictures of vibrant portraits on the school's Instagram account and we want to know if our kid drew one. Or we know that today was Friday and we want to hear about their ride during their mountain bike elective. So how do we get the conversation we want? The secret is how we ask. Asking about particulars makes it easier for kids to answer. Next time you are wondering how their day was, try one of these:
1. What was the best (weirdest, funniest, you get the idea) thing that happened at school today?
2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
3. Who did you sit with at lunch today?
4. Where is the coolest place at the school?
5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)
6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?
7. How did you help somebody today?
8. How did somebody help you today?
9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
10. When were you the happiest today?
11. When were you bored today?
12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?
14. Tell me something good that happened today.
15. What word did your teacher say most today?
16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?
18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
19. Where do you play the most at recess?
20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
21. What was your favorite part of lunch?
22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?
24. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.
25. If you could read minds, which teacher’s mind would you read? Which classmate’s mind would you read? Whose mind would you NOT want to read?
Tips for Asking Questions
How and when we ask these questions makes a big difference. First, you don’t want to ask all of these questions on the same day. You might ask one or two. After a while, you’ll figure out which ones elicit the most meaningful responses. You’ll want to ask during a time when you have the ability to focus so that your child feels they have your full attention. Most likely, dinner and driving in the car are optimal times for these conversations.
Read your classroom newsletters! The teachers are writing each week about what's happening in the classroom and often knowing a little bit about what the kids are doing and bringing it up in your conversation is going to garner you a more in-depth and engaged answer. And don't forget the Specialists' news: Señor Santos puts out new Spanish phrases each week that are fun to say and give your kids a chance to be the more knowledgeable person in your conversation. Trust us, they love it!
Ask the teacher when something doesn't make sense. That's not advice for the kids, that's advice for you! If your student describes something that makes you go hmmmm or makes you uncomfortable, please talk with your teacher. They are happy to listen and help clear up confusion. Having an open dialogue is one of the advantages of PNA - the teachers know your children and they know what's happening in the classroom. The best trust relationships are built when students feel like their parents and teachers are on the same team.
The following can help your conversations be positive and powerful:
Don’t interrupt. This is a good rule for any conversation, but especially if you want to get a lot of information out of a kid.
Ask for more. Simply say, “I’d love to hear more about that...” Or, “Can you expand on that a little?”
Ask about feelings. After a child describes an experience, ask, “How did you feel in that moment? What did you notice about your feelings?”
Validate feelings. Whatever your kid feels is normal and okay. Let them know that.
Thank them for sharing with you. Always appreciate their honesty and willingness to share the highlights and bright spots, as well as the difficult moments. This will fuel their confidence in telling you more.
Thanks to the Huffington Post for their article that inspired us this week, and for their excellent lists of questions. Also, check out this article at thespruce.com for more ways to have a meaningful and rewarding conversation about school with your kids.
What Did You Do Today?
When children come home at the end of the day,
The question they're asked as they scurry to play,
Is, "Tell me, what did you do in school today?"
"NOTHING! I did NOTHING in school today!"
Maybe nothing means that I played with blocks,
Tied my own shoes, or found precious rocks.
Maybe our monarchs hatched today,
Or maybe I learned a new game to play.
Maybe today was the very first time
My scissors followed a really straight line!
Maybe I sang our song from beginning to end,
Or maybe I made a brand new friend!
When you're only five, and your heart has wings,
NOTHING can mean so many things!
― Author Unknown
Postcards from the Classroom
Click any picture to jump into the slideshow.
Excerpted from Out Of the Dust - 6th Grade News
Charlotte Woodside, 6th Grade Teacher
This week 6th Grade finished Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. It was a book they really enjoyed as a class and that led to a lot of great discussions. One of the most engaging parts of reading a novel together is that I can never fully predict where the conversations about it will head because of how differently each student connects to the same text. This week the conversation turned to apple pandowdy. Towards the end of the book, the sheriff donates sugar to the school so that they kids in the area could have sweet things to eat. Since this takes place during The Dust Bowl, our main character was very excited and we talked about how her enthusiasm was shown through the author's use of imagery.
However, we didn't know what apple pandowdy was or why it was such a luxury, so we looked it up. That is when I got the privilege of learning that I have a class full of people that love to cook. I heard wonderful stories about things they have made and we even discussed different ways of making different desserts. It was great. We decided to spend some time Thursday making this dessert as a class to see if it is worth all the fuss. It definitely took some team work and I'm extremely proud of how they pulled it together. Students brought in the ingredients, peeled the apples, did the conversions to double the recipe, and put it all together. It looked great and I'm anxious to try it.
After complete our baking assignment, students also spent some time reflecting on their reading with a One Pager. The assignments use a variety of different ways for students to connect individually with what they have read and to reflect on things that were important to them. This particular One Pager included an important visual, two quotes that were important from the reading, a personal response to the text, and two critical thinking questions with answers that they thought accurately fit the text. I was instantly impressed with student insight, and from experience, know that these only get better as the year goes on.
Like What You See?
Aksell checks out the texture on a dried sea star in Early Kindergarten on Wednesday, or Zooday, as it was known this week!
You Can Support It!
Your gift benefits today's students and everyone's future. Spread the word,
and don't let PNA be Anchorage's best kept secret. Let your friends know!
To make a donation or refer a family to PNA, Call (907) 333-1080 and speak
with Jennie Tschappat, Director of Admissions and Communications.
Coming Right Up
Be a PNA Superhero!
Annual Fund Drive
September 18 - October 20
Parent Association Meeting
Tuesday, October 3
8:30 am - 9:30 am in the Library
FUNdraising with H3!
Friday, October 20
Fall cocktail party featuring the musical stylings of H3,
Dinner, dancing, games, and tons of fun!
This is a 21+ event.
Purchase your tickets online now!
Coffee & Chat with the Head
Thursdays, October 5 and 19
8:15 am to 8:45am
Wednesday, October 25
Time to be Determined
Thursday, October 26
Professional Development Day
Friday, October 27 - NO SCHOOL
Tuesday, October 31
For a full listing of events, please visit
the Calendar page on our website!
Dear Friends and Families of PNA,
Thanks to teaching methods that engaged my kids, I didn't get the "Good" answer in our years at PNA. Our "How was school?" conversation would go something more like this:
"So, how was Mrs. Hoefer today?"
"Oh, geez she was so funny. Today we made these peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and well, Mrs. Hoefer did anyway, and she just took the peanut butter jar and put it on the loaf bread and rolled it all out flat!"
"Mom, she rolled the jar back and forth on the bread but never took it out of the bag. It was so funny because the directions said, "Spread peanut butter on the bread" and that was it, so she did."
"Well, we had to write directions about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then she made the sandwich just like our directions said. Guess what? If you forgot to tell her to take two slices of bread out of the bag and lay them on a plate, then screw the lid off a full jar of peanut butter and use a butterknife to take out two globs the size of a walnut and wipe them around on one of the pieces of bread, she'll just roll the unopened jar on the bread while its all still in the bag."
"Was this at lunch?"
"What? No. Why would we make sandwiches at lunch? It was in Writer's Workshop."
The class newsletter at the end of the week helped it all come clear. Fifth grade was learning the art of technical writing, and what it meant to be taken literally.
My daughters had a story for every question I asked, even in Middle School, when the whole parent/child conversation thing was more of a challenge. There was usually something funny/weird/cool enough that would get them to break out of the cone of silence and clue me in on their day.
Now that they're in college?
"So, how was class?"
Fortunately all those years of talking, of being a part of each other's day through conversation, helped my girls and I built solid relationships. They share what engages them; we talk. Their college class may not be noteworthy, but the guy at work, a story in the news, or that thing with a friend that's funny/weird/cool will find it's way into a conversation about their day. PNA was awesome for many things and giving my kids a slew of things to talk about is at the top of my gratitude list.
Director of Communications
Just One More...
Kindergarten Spanish with foods: Me gusta, no me gusta.
El señor Santos no le gustan los pimientos verdes!
Who's Behind this FUNd Stuff madness, anyway? The FUNd Stuff Editorial Staff
is Kathy Heinlein and Jennie Tschappat.
The FUNd Stuff is a bi-monthly (or so) publication from the staff, students, parents, and teachers of PNA.
Want to know more about anything we've highlighted here?
Get in touch! (907) 333-1080 or email@example.com