Sunday, April 19, 2015

Woven Preschool Philosophy: Reflection and Intention

Several years ago I read the phrase "Woven Philosophy" and fell in love. 



I have grown to embrace the phrase and pride in the fact that our preschool isn't labelled under any specific curriculum or philosophy. The children and program are continuously growing and changing. This means that our approach, environment, and opportunities should be changing along with them. Instead of saying we are Montessori, Waldorf, Play-based, High Scope, Reggio Inspired or any other system of teaching, we belong to a Woven Philosophy. A method that takes pieces and parts from any philosophy to fit with the children's changing goals and growth.



I love aspects of all of these philosophies and many schools do follow them exclusively and that works for them! I don't feel there is a need in our community (or for myself) to create a focus or label for our preschool.

If you put two adults and twelve children into a room together, you are going to have so many different learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and interests. People say variety is the spice of life and I think this is true in the classroom. If I only offer activities in a certain way, then I am possibly excluding certain children who need me to present it in a different way. Some children are going to miss out on certain skills if they are not interested in the activities offered, unless I encourage them through multiple approaches.



Intention and Reflection are the most important pieces to making my work successful. If I am not constantly reflecting on my day, conversations, interactions and activities, then I will never know what is working for my current group. I then need to intentionally plan the environment and routines based on the children's personalities, learning styles, personal goals, and relationships with their classmates.


Know the children and their backgrounds.
Know the families and community.
Be thoughtful about the environment.
Be thoughtful about the materials.

Find a balance that meets the needs of the group you are with.



Here are three of my favorite blog posts that demonstrate further how being intentional and reflecting make a difference in working with children.


Not Just Cute: Intentional Deficit Disorder
"Consider what you really hope for and turn that into intention.  Use your intentions and purposes as filters.  We can simplify our classrooms and our homes by knowing our intentions and living and teaching by them.    Begin to recognize that we don’t have to do everything.  We just have to do what matters most." -Amanda Morgan (Not Just Cute)

Interaction Imagination: Do Templates Kill Creativity?

"Can templates be a skeleton for children to hang their own creative skins on? Or do templates kill creativity?" -Suzanne Axelson  (Interaction Imagination)

Child Central Station: Sometimes We Craft.

"I have spent a lot of time in my journey has an early childhood educator exploring, growing, and learning, coming to conclusions of what I believe to be true, and the best path for the children I work with."  -Amy Ahola (Child Central Station)




Sunday, March 22, 2015

Storytelling: Who? What? Where?

This week we have been focusing on the parts of a story. This includes both storytelling and also investigating the books that we are reading.

We have been focusing on the Who? What? and Where? of the story. 
When we create the story, we start with "where?" and create  a scene. This can be as basic as setting out a piece of fabric to stand on. 
Then we move to who. Who is going to be there? We choose fabric or costumes to show our characters. 

And then finally, what are they doing there and what props do we need? 


One of the stories we worked on was our own version of "The Big Turnip."

Each child got to choose their character and the costume they needed to represent that character. We also practiced taking turns being in the audience and clapping at the end of the show.


Group One

A bear planting the seeds in the garden.

Bear's friend Chicken watering
the seeds.
The sun shining on the seeds.











Bear pulling on the vine of the giant berry, but it was TOO BIG!


Bear, Chicken and another Bear trying to pick the berry.


Two chickens, two bears, and a blue monster all working together.  And the sun up in the sky.
"And the pulled, and they pulled, and they pulled..."

Group Two

Blue Monster planting seeds in his garden.

The sun shining on the seeds. 

Blue monster, a bear, a duck and a red monster trying to pick the watermelon.

Along came a tiny green chicken. They pulled. And they pulled. And they pulled.
Until FINALLY! Pop!


The children continued the storytelling after I stepped away. A couple of the children took turns being the narrator/director of the play. I can't wait to see if the same story line appears again during free play. This has been just as much of a learning process for me as it is for them and I look forward to taking it further with them.






Sunday, March 15, 2015

I can do it myself.


Never help a child with a task at 
which he feels he can succeed.
-Maria Montessori



One of our major goals is to help build self-confidence in the children and provide time for them to practice important life skills. 

Here are just a few of the daily routines, where the children have a chance to gain independence.




Getting dressed

The children are reminded and encouraged to do as much of their own dressing and undressing for outdoor play as possible. We give reminders to the children to guide them to remove their own shoes and jackets. Sometimes they need help with the velcro, laces or zippers, but then they can actually remove the item and put it away themselves. When getting ready to go outside, they are asked to put on as much as they can and then approach us to be zipped, buttoned, tucked etc. Often we will hook their zipper and have them pull it up themselves.


.


Toileting

In the bathroom children are encouraged to be as independent as possible. If the child is still in pull ups (or diapers), they are expected to pull everything down and then back up after they have been changed. These are the beginning steps to helping themselves in the bathroom. In order for children to feel successful they need to have stretchy clothing on. Things that discourage independence in the bathroom: tight fitting pants, buttons, snaps, belts and overalls. These can also be a problem if a child is rushing to the bathroom in an emergency and can’t get onto the potty in time.





At the table.

Children pour their own water and pass the water pitcher to their friends. They ask to “clear” or to be excused when they are finished. They sometimes have to make two trips to the kitchen, but they scrape their plates and put them in the sink. As the year goes on children are provided with more opportunity to serve themselves. We have recently started experimenting with occasional buffet style meals.






Outside

There are lots of different experiences for the children on the playgrounds. Some of the elements are simple and some requires a bit more balance and physical ability. The general rule at Inch By Inch is once they can safely get on and off by themselves, than they are ready to use it. If a child climbs onto something and needs assistance to get back down, than they are redirected to something easier that can strengthen those same skills. Teachers act more as observers on the playground, allowing the children the time and space to explore and problem solve on their own.





I think that being in a social environment is a great place for children to practice these skills. There is often more time for practice at preschool than there is at home. The children are usually more willing to try for another adult besides their parents. And of course, most importantly, they are learning from and watching each other succeed. Self-motivation is the best motivation.






Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Seuss 2015



Here is some of the fun we had last week to celebrate Dr. Seuss.
 (Of course we read lots of Dr. Seuss books too!)


Silly Socks Day. The art table had lots of materials to choose from to collage some silly socks!






For Hat Day there were hats cut out of lined paper. The children were invited to color stripes on them like the Cat in the Hat. I loved seeing all the different techniques they used.





 

On Wacky Wednesday there were paper strips for making arches and stairway sculptures, like Dr. Seuss uses in many of his architectural drawings.



For the last day of our Seuss Week, the children had the chance to paint their own faces like cats. 









Friday, February 27, 2015

Welcome to Our Preschool





We are fortunate to have such a big space for our small group of twelve children. We have divided the classroom into several areas to encourage different types of play. You can read more about the system we use in the classroom here "Making Choices: Where are you playing?"


I thought I would give a tour of the different play spaces in the classroom.




Imagination Station:

Imagination Station is a new area we created from combing our dress up and block area. It currently has  baby dolls, Fafu dress up clothes, wooden play food and table on one side and blocks, tubes, loose parts, small cars, people, and occasionally ride-on cars.  There are two different floor surfaces and it is common for the children to dress up on the "home side" and travel to work, camping or the ocean on the other side.










The Art Table: 
There are always open ended art materials available for the children to explore on their own. We paint, cut, glue, color, collage and use playdough.




Small World Play: 
This a cozy area where children have access to loose parts, natural materials and small dolls or animals to create worlds and use their imaginations. 






Quiet Reading Area: 
This is a space that is limited to one or two children. A quiet nook with books, blankets, pillows and a small place to "escape"  to



Octagon Table: 
A large table that is used for standing activities such as trains, lego, small building blocks or other manipulatives.



Sensory Table: 
I have recently heard another educator refer to it as the "touch table." I love that. The contents of this table usually shifts every week or two, depending on how long the children stay interested. Sometimes we put the cover on it and use the surface for other activities.





Gathering Rug: 
Is our place to have meetings and circle time. It is also a place where the children know they can go to get out some extra energy. There is always some sort of big muscle supplies (bean bags for throwing, weights for lifting, carpet squares for hopping on.)



Here is a blog post about it what one day looked like on the Gathering Rug: Balancing Act.






Hope you enjoyed the tour! Our classroom is forever evolving and moving to meet the needs of the children throughout the year and from group to group.