Several years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a training called Engaging Young Minds which was taught by the WONDERFUL Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard. This conference taught me many things that I use on a daily basis in my classroom. One of the ideas that we were taught at the conference was the idea of having a treasure chest. A treasure chest is a container with materials for the children to represent with anytime. At the conference, we were broken into groups and each had a project of our own that we started and finished. We had to fully engage in each of the three phases of the projectOne of the items that I used when I represented for the project I did during the training was aluminum foil. Prior to this conference, the only time I would have used aluminum foil would have been to cover my food up at home! This morning, I set out the treasure chest for the children to represent several bird’s nests that we had been talking about over the course of the last few days. I had recently added aluminum foil as one of the items to the chest.
One of our children worked with the aluminum foil for an hour and a half. After he was done, he encouraged his friends to join him to see his accomplishment. The friends gathered and began to clap for him sharing comments such as, “I knew you could do it! You worked so hard!” “That is amazing!” and “Wow! Can you teach me?”
The beauty of project work is the collaboration we have from the children and the families. The children are so invested in the project that they continue to add, ask questions, and tell families what they have done with the current project.
On Monday, a child brought in a book that had a classic children’s song in it. She shows it off to her friends. She then says, “Look! This is the coolest part!!” She then turns to the back page and shows off the staff filled with musical notes. She encourages a friend to join and the two girls re-create a staff based on the staff from the book. They then take their work over to the xylophone and play the keys.
This group of children sits together and creates representation of stages from what they have learned so far during our musical/theater project. One of our students did his first representation using three dimensional materials! Often times I am asked how our children are able to do a specific task and I always respond by exposure, exposure, exposure! This little guy was exposed to these materials for some time and then he created a three dimensional model, labeled the materials, and shared his work. All new skills for him!
The children had been wondering about the musical notes that they have been seeing in several of our books that we have been using for our project work. Meghan, our curriculum student, spent several weeks introducing the beats, musical notes, and various types of music. On this particular day, the children identified the notes on a staff by playing a bean bag game. Meghan set up the game by using painters tape on our carpet, she introduced the staff and the notes on a staff and then began to play the game. The children threw a bean bag on the staff and would then identify the notes. Later Meghan used the staff to teach the children about how to play the notes on an instrument using a xylophone and the marimba outside.
Our SAU students have been in full swing this last month and have been finishing their hours this last week. Stay tuned for some posts about the lessons that the girls presented to the children that coincided with our project work and the children’s questions. For those of you tuning into our blog for the first time, we are a lab school for the University and receive students in all grade levels to observe, teach lessons, and learn about Early Childhood. Each class has a different set of expectations that we help the student follow when they are with us.
As a lab school for the University we have students come and go. Each group of students has a different “job” when they are in our classrooms. As they get further into their studies, they begin to teach lessons and try out new materials in the classroom. This semester, we have a group of six girls who are coming in our classroom two days a week. During this time they are learning how to implement project work. For those of you who are new to project work, project work is an in-depth investigation on a topic. This topic can be uncovered for as little as six weeks and as long as months.
This group of girls has already made a web (we call an anticipatory web) of where they think the children will go which is complete with our curriculum objectives and dimensions. They then completed a knowledge web with the children. They also started and will continue to add-on to the children’s question web over the course of the next few weeks. Thus ending Phase One of the project. We are starting Phase Two of the project which is investigation including hands on learning! Our favorite part!
We have already gathered several resources (Thanks to anyone who has already let us borrow items) but are still in need of the following items:
- sheet music
- music stands
- stage make up
- pictures of musicals
- props from a musical
- tickets/ticket stubs
- costumes from a musical
The girls brought in their first item this week for the children to investigate which was a light from a real musical!! The children spent time sketching, predicating (and dictating to the students), and experimenting with the light. They have also been trying to figure out how and what items are needed to change the color of the lighting when needed. We will continue to explore the light over the course of the next few days learning the names of the pieces and buttons and learning more about how it works.
This morning as I was on my way to school I decided to run by the local Starbucks to grab a coffee. As I put my hand out the window to pay, the barista informed me that my drink had been paid for by the person in front of me. That made my day and motivated me to do some thinking on my way back to school. I began to think of the concept and why I hadn’t shared that concept with my preschoolers before. Every year, I introduce them to Dr. Becky Bailey and her four icons to help children calm their bodies. This year, I learned about a book called, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and we implemented an “invisible” bucket in our classroom. So I thought to myself, why not begin to teach “Paying it Forward.”
I really did not want the children to feel like they “had” to Pay it Forward as that is not the reason to be doing it at all! I reflected all the way to school and decided that they best ideas come from the children so why not just introduce the topic and see what the children do with it. I began by telling the children about my experience this morning and how it made me feel. The children began to ask questions such as: Did you know the person? Do you have to buy people stuff all the time? and What does Pay it Forward mean? The small conversation with my friends at snack (only about four) motivated and excited one of my little guys. He asked me to bring a piece of paper over and begin to document his ideas. I started writing as the two children began to talk back and forth. The boy shared that we should do something for the classroom next door. The girl decided that we should use the extra money we raised to buy the classroom next door a gift. The two children talked back and forth until they finally decided they needed to bring it to the attention of their peers.
The boy shared what we talked about at snack in entirety and then asked for a piece of paper. He started asking friends to give him ideas of ways to pay it forward to the other children, families, and teachers in our building. The children began to shout out their ideas and the boy would sound out the words or ask a friend (or teacher) for help. Some children asked to think on it and added more ideas later. The children decided they would like to spend that extra money to Pay it Forward to the classroom next door. We secretly found an item off their wishing tree and can not wait to surprise them with their new gift.
During the morning, the children spent time Paying it Forward in other ways. They created pictures for each other, added notes to coat pockets for children to see when they were getting ready to go outside, helped pick up items that had fallen, and shared with others their next idea. One child said, “I like watching their face. They were surprised but did not know it was me!”
We plan on continuing to add to our list. Do you have a great way to pay it forward? Please share with us!
A child decided to lead a small group before nap today. They read a story and then gave any child who wanted an I Love You Ritual before bed time. Now that is what I call classroom community! Click on the words classroom community to learn more about I Love You Rituals.
To do this one at home:
- Ask your child to put their hand in front of you showing all of their five fingers and having them spread them apart.
- Point to each finger and say the child’s name or as our child enjoy each person in their family (sometimes pets too!)
- finish the rhyme by squeezing their hand and saying a positive remark such as, I love you! Good Night! I’m so glad your you (or here today!)!
The beauty of the I Love You Rituals is they can be tailored to you, your family, and your classroom!
TRY ONE TODAY!
Our day was filled with games, games, and more games! Why do I love games so much you ask? There are so many things that can be taught with a game and so many ways to incorporate games in your classroom and at your home. We were lucky enough to be invited to the University to participate in a college class called Games and Rhythms. In this class, university students majoring in education (early childhood and elementary) prepare an hour of games for us. This year, we had five stations including an obstacle course, a parachute, a relay race, a game involving throwing, catching, and hoping, and a dancing and following directions station. At the end, they provide us with a small puppet show. Upon arrival, we spent some time relaxing after our trip. As we engaged in play for the little time we had left before lunch the eleven children we had all engaged in more ……(you guessed it)GAMES! Children broke themselves up in groups and we had three different games going on at the same time! At lunch we spent time reflecting about our day and the children were talking about how we can recreate the games we saw at the University at our school.
Games can help children with the following skills:
- turn taking
- following directions
- interacting and building relationships with adults and children
- gross motor and fine motor skills
How can you incorporate a “game” night at your house? What might you need to make this happen? Do you have a game your family has made up you’d like to share? If you already have a game night, what are your favorite games? For teachers: What games are you classes favorites? Currently some of our classroom favorites include Apples to Apples (Jr), Sorry, Trouble, Monopoly (Jr), and card games (Go Fish, Garbage, Phase Ten, Slap Jack, War)!
Until next time!