A Place to Connect Teachers and Support Children

Reflections

Many times, I am asked by students who do practicum hours in my classroom (for those of you who do not know we are a lab school and I have students join the room who are freshman to seniors to experience life in a preschool room.  Depending on the class, the students may observe, teach lesson or facilitate a project.) what is my favorite part about project work.  I felt  like this was  perfect time to share with you my thoughts.  Please feel free to add your own to the comments.

*The individual learning of each child!

-Some children may write a word for the first time.

-During this project, a little guy who is slow to warm has started the project work activity (whether it be my idea or his) every morning for three weeks (and counting!!)!

-Another of my little ones has remembered the origin of the ukulele and shares that with others.

-One of my older ones created his first three dimension representations and dealt with some frustrations along the way appropriately!

*The things that I learn as a teacher!!

- I learn about my own teaching such as how to engage children effectively with a project, what items I need to transform my room, and different ways to document the children’s learning.

-I also am able to see how amazing three, four and five-year olds are and always will be!  I see them grow in their own learning, begin to learn to represent, set goals for themselves, and work together as  a team.

-I learn details about specific items such as I now know all the parts of the ukulele!

*How caring our community  (both classroom and beyond) are to our children!

-We had the opportunity to meet with a local weather man who was more than gracious to our classroom!

-Families have been an outpouring support whether in my classroom or the community in our building.  This is also a wonderful way to get to know others and help teach the children about kindness, caring, and giving.

 

What’s your favorite part?

 

Winter Blues

Cold! Frigid! Freezing! No matter how you put it, if you live in the Midwest, you can probably add more words to this list.  If you live in the Midwest, you are probably thinking are we EVER going to make it out of this cold weather funk!  As I look at the forecast, I feel there is no end in sight and if I believe the groundhog six weeks of winter are here to stay.

So….What can you do with your child or families to beat this weather?!

 

  1. Family Game/Movie Night
  2. Create a bowling alley in your home.  Get the whole family involved encouraging children to create the pins.  Children can decorate paper towel tubes, milk jugs, or pop bottles.
  3. Create an obstacle course in your house.  Children can help set it up and the children can practice running, jumping, climbing over, under, tiptoeing or walking heel to toe.
  4. Visit the local store’s craft department.  Many local stores have picture frames, puzzles, wooden blocks, trinkets that can be painted and given as gifts.
  5. Cook/Bake! Bake a batch of cookies and take it to the local police and fire department.  Make pizza for dinner that evening.
  6. Take up a hobby!
  7. Bring the winter weather in! Put snow in your tub.  Put younger children in snow pants and put them in.  Older children can build just bending in the tub.
  8. Become crafty with materials in your home! Use a highlighter to find letters or words in old newspapers.  Cut up old magazines, papers, and find materials around the house to make collages.
  9. In your area or neighboring areas visit the library, museum, or discovery centers!
  10. Make play dough.

No-Cook Play Clay

¼ cup salt

1 cup flour
¼ cup water
Food coloring

Mix the salt and flour in a bowl. Add water and food coloring. Knead dough to make a clay consistency. Note: This dough doesn’t last as long as the cooked recipe.

Oatmeal Play Dough

1 cup flour
1 cup water
2 cups oatmeal
Mix everything together in a large bowl. Then knead for a few minutes. This play dough has a nice lumpy texture.

Homemade Silly Putty

2 cups white school glue
1 cup liquid starch
Mix together and set aside until dry. Store in an airtight container.

Long Lasting Play dough

Gathering Materials from kitchen: pitcher, spoon, measuring cups, tablespoon, teaspoon

2 cups flour

2 cups water

1 cup salt

4 teaspoons cream of tartar

4 tablespoon oil

Kool aid

Mix and cook

What are your favorite things to do during the Winter Season?

Cozy areas at home

One of the most common questions I have from parents during conferences is the topic of guidance. Often times, I share with families various techniques and ways for families to adopt these new techniques at home. I not only use these techniques with families and in my classroom, but I also use these same techniques at home. I have the pleasure of being a mom to a one and a half-year old. As my daughter started nearing her first birthday I knew I wanted to use all of the techniques I had learned over my teaching career with her. One of the most important ideas I knew I wanted to recreate at home was a cozy area.

When a child is older we encourage the child to be a part of setting this whole process up as much as possible. I began to reflect about how could my daughter be a part of this process at such a young age. I completely believe that I am building her a foundation for self-regulation and understanding of her own feelings, but also knew that I would have to present the materials and techniques in  a different manner than I would with older children.  I began the process of creating a cozy area at home by purchasing frames that she could paint on that wood.  She decorated four frames. Two frames have sign language (we are teaching her sign language) stop and help.  The other two have two house rules we made. We then added soft items to the area including a large stuffed animal, a small pillow, and a large pillow covered in a soft blanket.  Beside the pictures are emotion faces. When an incident occurs, we point out the emotion and sign the emotion word as well. Under all of this is a basket with feelings books , two stuffed animals, and my daughters “blankie”.

As we began to set up the area we added a few items at a time so that our daughter could explore each of the items before it was all ready. We then did a lot of teaching about the items as they were added. We also did some role-playing as well. Once it was officially set up we began to use it. Any time our daughter was upset we would offer the opportunity to go into that area to as we call it “calm your body”. We continued this for several weeks and she would start to use it even when she was scared of loud sounds. We have now had our area up for about four months. She uses it often and also encourages her stuffed animals and me and my husband to use it as well.  When she comes out from calming her body we ask her if she is ready sometimes she will say no and returning by herself to her cozy area. When she is ready she returns and we talk about whatever the reason that sent her to the cozy area.  We might be talking about scary noises, feeling over excited, feeling mad, and/or sad.  Below are pictures of ours cozy area.

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20140101-094434.jpg If you have created a cozy area at home, tell us about it.  What worked? Didn’t work? What questions do you have?

Cozy Area

One of the options to help children who are feeling over stimulated, sad, angry, or just need some quiet time is a cozy area.  In our classroom, the cozy area is tucked under the stairs of our classroom loft.  The children can bring a blanket or stuffed animal here if they need that to help  calm their bodies.  The area is in an area which is in a spot that does not have a lot of traffic.  The area is protected by staff and other children for children to have the opportunity to have this time.  Often times, when I am having a long day/week, I set time aside for myself to relax.  This may be taking time for me by reading a book, taking a warm shower/bath, or going to bed early.  This space is designed for children to be able to take time for themselves as an adult would and relax and/or calm before returning to their room and peers.

In my classroom (a three, four, and five-year old room), we use a tool called ECERS-R which stands for the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised.  The rating scale is composed of 43 parts and two of the 43 parts is a discussion about space and private areas for children.  The section labeled “space for privacy” reads that a “high quality program would have more than one space” available for children. Spaces for privacy include areas where children have the opportunity to work alone or with one other person.  In our classroom, we have spaces like this around the room including the computer, the provocation (a table designed to spark children’s interest about an item and sketching, scientific inquiry, and conversations can occur) table, the reading area, and a large adult sized chair by the children’s cubbies.  These are all spaces our children can gravitate to if they need some time to themselves or with only one other friend. According to ECERS-R, “the soft furnishings in the cozy area must allow a child to completely escape the hardness of a typical early childhood classroom.”  Our cozy area is equipped with a bean bag, stuffed animals that are nearby, a chart developed by Dr. Becky Bailey which offers children an opportunity to identify their emotions and which technique they will use to calm their bodies, and books nearby if a child needs those to calm their body.

As new children come to our room, we model and teach about the areas available to the children.  Children who have been in our program before also teach the new children how to use the areas as well as checking on them as they begin to feel better.

Do you have one in your classroom? If so, what is in this area and how do the children use it?

Stay tuned as I will share how to make a cozy area at home next time I blog!

Until next time,

AIH

Space

Last week, I posted about space.  If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here.  With that post, I was hoping for all of our followers to think about their spaces whether it be their classroom, their child’s room, or even their own room and begin to think about what space does to a child, an adult, or you as an individual.

As adults we can remove ourselves or prep ourselves for situations that are over stimulating or overwhelming. As an adult, if I am overwhelmed in a situation I can do many things.  First and foremost, I can recognize that is how I feel. As soon as I am able to do that, I can begin to find ways to help cope during this situation.  I can take some clutter away, dim the lights, work through some of the clutter and take a break, or even take my work to a less cluttered space if needed.

Let’s think about children.  How do children tell us they are overstimulated?  What does it look like as a one year old, two-year old, preschooler? What opportunities are we giving them to cope? If not, how can we offer them opportunities to handle the over stimulation?

Please comment below answering any or all of the above questions. I will continue to post on space over the next weeks.  Stay tuned!

-AIH

Close your eyes.  Think about a room where at least five things are going on at the same time.  The noise level may be at various levels including levels of loud and soft, sounds of music, and other conversations fill the air.  Now think about your body in this space.  How do you feel? What might you do if more activities happened? You were not feeling well? You had something exciting happening in a week? Your tired? Open your eyes.

Begin to reflect think about these ideas before you go any further.  Feel free to post your ideas on our blog!

Now after you have reflected think about your children whether they be your own children or those in your classroom.  How do you think they are feeling in the same scenarios described above?  Keep in mind, some of these children have never been to school before, might not have the language or exposure to calming their body and they have only been on this earth for one to five years (or older depending on where you work/live with)?

Keep this post in your thoughts and reflections on your drive home tonight.  I want you all to be able to have some reflection time before I begin to offer ideas for you and your children!

My three part series will come to a conclusion with a post about flannel board stories.  Flannel board stories are a great way to take your standard children’s book and make them a hands-on learning experience.  This is a great way for children to tell and retell their favorite stories.  Flannel stories are great for reading, listening, retelling, sequencing, language, turn taking, fine motor skills, math, and beyond.

Flannel stories can be done in several different ways.  I made my own flannel story for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and used it last year with the Ladybugs (2 year old classroom) and this past week with the Leapfrogs (3-5 year old classroom).  With both classes, I did the story in different ways.  One way you can do it would be to hand out the pieces to the children to hold on to and they can put them on the board when they hear that event or character appear in the story.  With my particular flannel story, I made a caterpillar that the children would feed the food as he ate it in the story.  The first time through I gave the children pieces to hold and when I read a particular food, they would have to search their pile to see if they had that piece and then they were able to feed it to the caterpillar.  photo 2-3

photo 4

Another time when I did it, I placed all the pieces on the flannel board to begin with and had the children take turns taking the pieces off the flannel board and into the caterpillar’s mouth.

photo-5

For retelling, I had a child place all the pieces on the flannel board and he wanted to feed the caterpillar without looking at the book.  He retold Monday through Friday by figuring out which pieces had multiples and making the connection that one piece would be the first day, two pieces would be the second day, etc.  I was impressed with his technique.

I had an amazing experience when I did this flannel story with the preschoolers.  After going through the story a few times, I had a child ask me, “Where’s your butterfly?”  I told him I did not have one, but maybe we could make one.  He agreed and we went to the table and I opened the book for him as a guide and he got out a paper towel roll, construction paper, markers, glue, and pipe cleaners.  Once other children saw what he was doing I had others join to make butterflies and caterpillars.  They were all so proud of their work.

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photo 1

If you are looking to make your own flannel story, they are actually quite simple.  I have provided photos of the one I made, along with the pieces for The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a canvas and felt.  I simply laid the felt over the canvas, wrapped it over onto the back and little bit and stapled it.  For the pieces, I looked up real-life photographs of the food.  I feel like the children are able to relate real-life photographs to their lives versus cartoon photographs.  I then laminated them and put a piece of circle velcro on the back.  You can also make the pieces out of felt.  If you are not going to use real-life photographs, I suggest using pieces that match the images in the book; that way children can simply match.  Another route to take would be to copy pages out of the book to use as your pieces (if doing so, the photos must be used for educational, personal, and nonprofit uses due to copyright laws).

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(Note: For the pieces that are multiples, I made them all.  Two pears, three plums, etc.)

For popular children’s book, the internet is a great resource to use for flannel story pieces.  Many of them are free printables that you can either color yourself or print out in color and use.  I have provided a few websites that contain pieces for popular stories that you might find of interest.  It is pretty easy to find printables if you have a specific story in mind that you would like to use.  Flannel board stories are such a simple lesson to do with children and they love being able to interact with their favorite books.  This is something that contains no age limit; all children are able to participate and enjoy flannel stories in different ways.

http://www.dltk-kids.com/type/felt_board.htm

http://www.preschoolprintables.com/felt/felt.shtml

Stay tuned for more,

~ Chelsea

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