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Opa! Learning to Greek Dance

A few mornings ago, a child handed me a scarf and told me all of the things that they can do with a scarf including wearing them in the winter, putting on your head, dancing rhythmically with it and wearing it as part of your outfit. I mentioned that sometimes I will use a scarf if I am dancing (For those of you who do not know, I am first generation born in America.  I was raised and taught all of the traditions of our Greek culture). I then explained to the children that many of the dances we dance include the use of a scarf.  The children started to ask questions and we then brought up a few videos of several different dances.  After watching the videos the children wanted to learn to dance!


A CD was located in the classroom that I had made.  I then taught the children three traditional dances.  We would start by labeling the dance and then watching it on YouTube.  We then would try out each dance without music and then adding music to it when we felt we had learned the steps.  After teaching each of the dances, I had to walk away to help a child.  When I returned,  a child was teaching other children each of the four dances I had taught with complete accuracy.

After sharing this anecdote with mom later that day, she shared her daughter taught her how to do it as well!

Please share any experiences you have from teaching your children things that are important to you!

Building our family

As we begin to build our new classroom family, we begin by getting to know each other. We share our photo books (each child is given one at a home visit prior to them starting in our classroom), talk about our families, compare our likes and dislikes, and talk about how we can create this bond. Yesterday, we talked about ways to care for each other. The children created a list of ways that showed caring towards each other.

At nap, I heard a voice saying, “We are a Leapfrog family here. So I am saying Good Night. I love you and I will rub your back until the lights go out.”


Community Building

This time of year is always sad for us as we are saying goodbye to our kindergartners (several of them whom we have had for two to three years or had their families for years!). We have built such strong relationships with those families and children we feel as if we are losing a part of our family. This year is especially sad as our assistant of five years left our program to pursue her degree. Although we wish her well and are thrilled to have the newest addition, Christy, in our classroom, we are all dealing with several transitions and our emotions are high.

As all of us are going through the many transitions that this time of year brings, we are beginning to reinvent our classroom community. We will continue to do this over the course of the next few months as we bring in new faces, families, and friends into our room. Today, as a classroom community builder, we worked together to solve the problem of the Human Knot. In the Human Knot, children are to cross their hands in front of them and hold their peer’s hands and try to get out of the “knot” by not dropping their peers hands.

Several children were able to master this task quickly and decided that the fewer children that play the easier it is to get out. So far, the children have been able to make it out of the “knot” with seven children. We will continue adding on as the children are interested.


Paying it Forward

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.”  photo 3

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!


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
  • listening
  • counting
  • analyzing
  • interacting and building relationships with adults and children
  • reading
  • 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!





Preparing for an event through play

As most of you know, our school is lab school for the University in our area, Saint Ambrose University. This last few week, we have been preparing for the play that we were going to be able to 20121130-152233.jpggo see at the Fine Art’s building on Campus. Several children had been to the play in years past and began to explain their experiences at this play. This then continued with conversations and experiences that children had in their home life as well as their school experiences. The children watched and followed along with a book on the IPad which shared the story of Alice in Wonderland. After reading the story several times, the children began to retell the story. After retelling the story on several occasions, the children began to talk about how they could represent this story in a play like form.

We spent several days creating stages and acting out the story. On one day, all of the children’s ideas thoughts and retelling’s became a play. All participated in the event in various ways and for various time periods from 10 minutes to two hours. We had each part that we believed or knew would be at the play including a person to give out tickets, a stage, curtains, costumes, actors/actresses, and seats. The children then invited us for their production. During this time, we also talked about what we would see at the “big campus” as dubbed by the children when we went. The answers to these questions then became embedded in their play.

We had the opportunity to see the play yesterday and we had so many new experiences! In the afternoon, we had a group just devoted to what surprised us! The children shared not only what surprised them but then moved on to what interested them, what they wondered about, and what they would like to learn more about. Today, we had more in-depth play from our visit. The children used a bigger more curtain like fabric to use as their curtain. More chairs were used as seats then before and they were in more visible rows then before. The costumes were more elaborate and they now had a sound that would let you know the play was beginning. At lunch, talk turned to the different kinds of plays and places plays are held.20121130-151931.jpg

The children learned so much through this experience and are still learning. Play is a wonderful way to help introduce a new, unknown topic and this helps the children feel more comfortable about the situation as well! As many early childhood teachers, professors, and specialists will say, “play is work for the young child!”

Until next time,


Election Day

We find it very important to talk and base our play around meaningful experiences for the children.  With election day being on Tuesday, the children came in on Monday with so much to share!  They shared the news reports they had been seeing, who the candidates were for president, and how you needed to cast you vote.  This began our two-day voting sessions! Two children sky-rocketed this event by creating their own polling stations.  They used small pieces of paper and had children write their names on these and then as the voting continued children then wrote their candidates names.

On Tuesday, children were voting all morning.  Polling stations were prepared and children voted for their favorite candidate.  We kept our computer and Ipad turned to CNN and Fox news for any information about the voting!  Some children were curious about who exactly were Mitt Romney and Barak Obama so we found information about the two of them.  The children were surprised to find out that they were parents too!  We than discussed how adults can have many different “roles” and “jobs.”

Some objectives we were able to document in the Creative Curriculum for included:

  • Social Emotional: 2a.Establishes and sustains positive relationships through peer interactions
  • Language: 10a Uses appropriate conversational and other communication skills: Engages in conversations
  • Cognitive: 11a Demonstrates positive approaches to learning: attends and engages
  • Cognitive: 11b Demonstrates positive approaches to learning: persist
  • Literacy: 19a Demonstrates emergent writing skills: writes name and writes to convey meaning
  • Social Studies:30 Shows basic understanding of people and how they live

How can you make an experience meaningful for children?  Have you already?  If so, how? We’d love to hear it!

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