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Archive for the ‘Observation’ Category

The Benefits of the Outdoor Classroom

How do you teach living and non-living? How do you teach the growth cycle? How do you teach about shadows? insects?

I hear these questions from parents, training teachers and SAU students as they try to learn more about our program and our classrooms.  We are lucky enough to have a wonderful outdoor space we call the Beehive.  This environment is my third and best teacher! It allows me to support and foster learning, curriculum goals, a love for nature, living things and the world around us.

As I was touring a family last week, the parent told me that they love our “playground.”  He then said, “This area is not a playground! This is an outdoor learning space! Learning is found everywhere.” As he looked around, he looked at each of the activities being facilitated at that time.  I looked around with him and couldn’t help but think the same thing.

Photo Jul 30, 11 11 02 AM

Here is a picture to capture the beauty of outdoor learning.  If you look really closely on the child’s hand you can see our discovery! (I’ll give you a hint, it’s green!) Happy learning!

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A season of change

Change.  It happens to all of us.  This time of year always brings so much change.

  • The change of the seasons from Spring to Summer.
  • The sun is up so much longer.
  • Our lives seem to get so busy with sports.
  • Our children transition from one year of school, to home, and then eventually back to school again.

In our preschool room, we are beginning to talk about change as we are losing more than half of our class to Kindergarten this year!  We are discussing the changes of routines for our old children and then the new routines for our new children.  A quote our children say frequently during this time of year is, “our new friend is learning!”

I often times hear from families what can I do to support my child as they prepare this transition from their current school to their new school.  Some ideas can include:

  • Reading books about Kindergarten
    • The Night Before Kindergarten
    • Kindergarten Rocks
    • Kindergarten, Here I come!
    • The Kissing Hand
    • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
    • Welcome to Kindergarten
  • Visiting the new school (if possible–inside and outside)
  • creating a picture book of new and old to support the child
  • have discussions with your child about the new routine
  • each night as your child comes home discuss things that went well or didn’t go well
    • how can you change the didn’t go well

What great ideas do you use at your home? How do you help support your child with these changes?

 

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

Reflections as an adult about space

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!

Reading Aloud to Children Part 3 – Flannel Stories

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

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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.

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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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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

Evergreen Trees

With any project, we immerse ourselves in the project and provide the children with as many opportunities as possible to explore items, sketch, represent, discuss, and learn new vocabulary.  The Tree project was no different.  We are fortunate to have an outdoor place space, which the children and families have named the Beehive,  be a certified Nature Explore classroom (for more information check out arborday.org).  After the holidays, we ask families to donate their evergreen trees so that we can add them to our playground.  We had the opportunity to explore these trees both in and outdoors. 

While indoors, we spent time using magnifying glasses and looking at the pine needles up close.  We created lists of our observations several days before even begin to sketch.  Some of the children added words such as:

  • prickly
  • rough
  • smelly
  • pine
  • green

We then began to sketch what we were noticing.  Since we have been spending time creating lists about the characteristics of the item we are sketching we have noticed more detailed sketches.  The first time we tried this technique, our children wanted to sketch right away.  We talked about the importance of observing and that sometimes you notice things you did not know if you continue to observe.  The second time we tried the activity, the children asked to sketch on the second day of observation.  After continuing the technique for several weeks, some of our older children are beginning to create their own lists of characteristics with friends!

You can create observation lists with the children in your classroom!  Begin with an item of interest (preferably project or nature based).  Set the item out and tell children you would like to create a list of items.  Model by making the first statement and encourage children to share.  The very first time may not turn out as anticipated but have faith!  Once you try it, share with us!   We’d love to hear your success and what we can do to help!

Continue observing…

-AIH

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