Saturday, September 13, 2014

Working Together and Helping Each Other: Week 2

This was our second week of working together and helping each other. The preschoolers are really starting to settle into the routine and we are having a lot of fun. Here is a recap of our daily activities. These activities are just one portion of our day. Most of the morning is spent making free choices around the classroom. These activities are to encourage the new group to become a community and to get to know the classroom. We have also been spending a lot of time outside enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. 

Monday: We played the Cooperation Island Game, which turned more into the Cooperation Boat Game (Islands seemed a little abstract for two year olds). They had so much fun dancing while the music was playing. When the music stopped they were a little hesitant to share a "boat" with friends, especially since some of them are newer friends. With a little inviting (and hugging) from each other, they found ways to make it work. A few friends decided that they were not quite comfortable to participate yet, but they seem to sit a little closer to the group each time. :)

Tuesday: We broke into two groups at the "circle" and "rectangle" tables. There was lots of materials available for loose parts exploration. These were newer materials and they were mostly exploring them by themselves. Maybe next time they will be interested in more collaboration. For now they at least practiced sharing materials and work space. The table time was also filled with a lot of rich language and conversations. 

Wednesday: We divided into three small groups. Each group had a different type of building blocks and a different teacher. The groups rotated through the three areas and were able to experiment and add to what the other groups had been working on. 

Thursday: We split into two groups to work together to make playdough. We all took turns adding the ingredients and mixing and stirring. After that they spent quite awhile at the table working with the new dough and talking with their friends. 

Friday: We sat together on the rug and sorted out all the counters by color! I was really surprised that everybody there that day new exactly what to do! After they were sorted by color we scrambled them back up and sorted out the pet counters from the bug counters, which was a little more tricky. One group took the pets to the table to build homes with the foam blocks. The other group stayed on the rug with the bug counters and the tree blocks. In their small groups they built homes and sorted out the bugs and pets by families (species). 

What a great week! I can't wait to see how everybody continues to fall into the rhythm this week. I am definitely seeing friendships budding and confidence growing! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Getting Started

For the month of September, I like to spend some time introducing the children to the materials, the classroom and each other. We will spend a lot of time working in groups of two, three, four and even as a whole group. This gives us a chance to practice sharing space and materials, as well as reinforcing the idea of cooperation and teamwork. 

For the first week, most of our activities were whole group activities. It was a short, but busy week.

On Tuesday we started "Working Together and Helping Each Other," by gathering in the block area. Everyone was invited to build onto a group structure. The children stayed for almost an hour. The main purpose of this activity was to share space, promote language, introduce block play and cleaning up. It probably looked like we were just playing.

On Wednesday, we gathered at the table to practice using glue sticks and creating collage. Most of the children were quick to join us. Some of the older children who have had plenty of practice, decided it was old news and went off to play elsewhere.

On Thursday, we worked together to build an enormous railroad. We used every piece we could find! A few of our friends, old and new have serious interest in trains, so there was a lot of time spent here after the track was complete.

Friday we gathered in the Dress up Area to explore all the materials there. We had so much fun dressing up in all the costumes that we didn't have any time for pictures. :) 

This week we are going to give our Cooperation Island Game another try. I am very interested to see the difference between this group and last year's group. This year the children are much younger and less familiar with each other. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't Be a Crab Apple.

As a preschool teacher I feel it is very important to remember to ask myself

"Why not?"

It took me several years to feel confident in stretching my thinking and questioning the rules that sometimes seem necessary. 

One of my first mentors taught me to question the "down the slide" rule. Why? or Why not go up the down slide? In my opinion every situation is unique with different children, different teachers, different equipment and all of this needs to be taken into consideration when exploring rules. 

Part of being a teacher is learning. It is not uncommon that I make up a rule that I instantly regret. I start second guessing. It is important for us as teachers (and parents) to question ourselves. We need to talk with other teachers and also with the children to figure out WHY?

A Crab Apple.

We have three apple trees on our property. One grows big yummy apples that we use to make applesauce. There are two other trees that grow crab apples. 

There was a problem this year with picking the apples. I'm not sure whose problem it was. Mostly mine I guess. 

I was trying to help them understand that the apples wouldn't be able to grow big and juicy if we kept picking them. We needed to let them grow so that we could eat them later. 

I was conflicted between:

"This is their space, let them explore."
"These trees work hard to produce these apples and we need to respect nature and not be wasteful."

It is always feels like the old cartoons with the mini-characters on each shoulder. 
You know the ones.

After two weeks of constant reminders and questioning myself, I decided to have a meeting with them about the apples. Now that the apples had grown bigger I showed them how one tree had bigger apples and the other two had small apples. 

I told them that since we would never be able eat the little apples they could pick them to play with, but not to eat. After a little bit of groaning I let them all take a bite of the tiny sour apples and they agreed to the deal. Finally everybody was happy.

Why not.

Getting Our Feet Wet.

This morning a giant puddle had appeared on our playground that 
we hadn't seen since "Crocodile River."

Off came the shoes. Why not?

Many of the kids were wearing pants. I helped them roll them up, but it was obvious everybody was going to need to change when we got inside. 

The next thing I knew they were adding the apples to puddle. 

I couldn't help but smile and once again I was confident that this was their playground not mine. 

Here is another post that I just dug up about asking myself  

Check out the Outdoor Play Party at Mud Mud Marvellous Mud for more posts about outdoor fun. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Light and Shadow Week

Lights and shadows! (and silhouettes)
How mysterious and magical to a preschooler... to anybody really.

We had a lot of activities available to try out this week. The most popular was our Shadow Theater, a last minute throw together sort of idea. The local children's festival this past winter featured a shadow puppet screen. It was a huge hit and I've been wanting to create something like it since then. I knew I needed some sort of frame and a screen. I thought about our doll bed that was in the basement. The bottom had been broken out and it had been set aside until it could get repaired. 
From there I just used some thin white paper and packing tape. 

The children and I had to do a lot of trial and error experimenting to figure out where to put the light and how close the objects had to be. We used a box to hold the flashlight steady, but the next day was so sunny that window worked just fine!

The preschoolers really enjoyed trying out different scenes.

We found quite a few books on our shelf that were related to dark, light and silhouettes (our new favorite word). 

Some of the older kids created clay sculptures and 
then traced the shadows.

Our Light Table
A couple years ago I purchased a pieces of clear Plexiglas (I left the white protective film on) and occasionally I turn our train table into a light table. I use blocks around the inside edges as a lip to hold the surface up. This year I bought a rope light after seeing some beautiful pictures of transient art from "Stimulating Learning with Rachel". The lighting worked much better and we were able to experiment with different materials throughout the week. 

At some point I hope to purchase a Light Table from Reflections Light Boxes. They have beautiful quality tables and the couple who owns the company and builds them are so sweet! I returned to their booth many times at the NAEYC conference last year and still regret not taking one home with me without the shipping costs. :) 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bug Camp 2014

Bug camp was a huge success. The little scientists got to do all sorts of bug play and investigating. The playground was wild with grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, "dragonflies," and spiders too. We had lots of conversations about "how many legs?" and "what is that buzzing sound?"

My favorite quote of the week was, "LOOK Jessica, I caught a bee!"

And so she had.... quite securely between two cups. Those who dared, came and had a peak and then it was released. Of course I had to be the one to release it, which resulted in me sneaking behind the school and flinging the top and bottom cup and their contents as hard as I could without the children seeing me. 

"A lovely little home for bugs."

There were lots of bugs inside as well.

It is not very often that I prepare a craft for the preschoolers. They always love it when I do. The materials were laid out on the table during free play as an option. 
I pre-cut the circles and the heads and also put out black paint with corks, glue, markers and googly eyes. They chose how they wanted to make their ladybugs. There was quite a bit of variation. A couple older kids even asked for additional supplies to create their own baby ladybugs or to add details to their bug that I hadn't thought of. One child stapled two white wings to a fan and then attached it to the underside of the ladybug so the wings could open and shut. 

I think it is important that IF you are offering a craft that results in a product, that children are always allowed to create it with their own ideas and in their own ways. I cringe at the thought of a parent or teacher rearranging art work or suggesting to a child where to put certain pieces. I always leave similar supplies on the art shelf for a week or so after, to see what they come up with on their own.