A Place to Connect Teachers and Support Children

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

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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

My previous post gave information regarding the importance of reading aloud to children of all ages.  The article by NAEYC breaks down the ages of these children into infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners and primary-aged children.  Keep reading to find out what they have to say!

Infants:

Even though infants may not be able to form sentences to discuss books with you, you are playing a large role in their development by reading aloud to them.  You are encouraging them to use their senses by listening to the story, seeing the words and pictures, and touching the pages.  If you let them get involved and point to pictures, take that as an opportunity to tell them what they are pointing at; that will become beneficial in expanding their vocabulary.  Infants pointing to pictures also represents that they are beginning to understand that pictures represent objects.  By reading aloud to infants, they will eventually grasp onto concepts about print, such as book orientation (knowing which way a book is held) and directionality (knowing which way to turn the pages).

When looking at what types of books will be the most enjoyable and developmentally appropriate for infants, the first two words that come to my mind would be interactive and durable.  Board books will be your saving grace with infants.  Not only are they durable, they are also much easier for infants to grasp.  Cloth and vinyl books would also be appropriate for this age.   Books that infants will find interesting are those that include rhyming, bright pictures, familiar objects, sounds, lift the flap, and ones that include various textures.  Engage your infant as much as possible by letting them repeat words, turn pages, and describe to them what is happening in the pictures.

Toddlers:

Toddlers are beginning to be able to make connections between books and real life.  Reading aloud with toddlers increases their vocabulary and listening skills.  Toddlers love when they are able to participate and this also helps keep them engaged.  They love books with rhyming, predictable words they can remember, and flannel stories.  Children at this age are becoming more and more curious.  Support this by reading books that they are interested in.  Books about emotions and self-help skills are beneficial for toddlers.  They are able to connect these books to what is currently happening in their development.  They are growing enough that they are able to discuss these elements with you and love to tell you what they are thinking.

Preschoolers:

Preschool-age children are beginning to develop higher-order thinking skills.  With that, they will begin to be able to talk about characters, settings, and plot, and be able to relate them to their own lives.  They are building their vocabularies and noticing that book language differs from spoken language.  Their understanding of print concepts becomes increasingly more advanced as well.  Children at this age are beginning to understand that the words in a book are spoken words written down, letters in words are written in a specific order, and that words are separated by spaces.

When reading books, start by choosing books that are relatable to what is happening in their development and lives.  These books should promote their curiosity; read books about topics they are interested in as well as introducing new topics.  I see this so often with project work.  The children are reading and examining books that are about their topic of choice.  Phonemic awareness is a big part of development for children at this age, so find books that include poems, rhymes, and alliterations.  Begin to expand with them by explaining all the parts of the book to them (title, author, illustrator, etc), have them make predictions and ask questions that make them think (“Why do you think she did that?”).

Kindergarteners and Primary School Children:

I feel that I too often hear that once children learn how to read, it becomes unnecessary for them to be read to.  That statement is false and here is why.  Not only are they growing from the three previous stages, but they are also becoming exposed to various writing styles and structures and determining what and whom they prefer.  We can now begin to read them more difficult texts, such as chapter books.  I observed in a third grade classroom where the teacher would read a chapter aloud to her students everyday.  I thought this was great because the children were so engulfed in the book and it was evident they were still enjoying it.  Another great aspect of books for older children is that many of them are series.  Children have the ability to become more motivated to read and see what happens between the characters throughout the different books.  Once again, discussion should be a prominent component of reading.  This can be done to check for comprehension as well as getting the children to think deeper about the plot, their own opinions and reactions, and compare and contrast other books they have read.

Children are constantly developing and by reading aloud to them, we are supporting those areas.  There is so much that children can learn through books; from as simple as touching the pages to reflecting on what they might do if they were ever in the same position as a certain character.  Their language is growing tremendously, as well as their interests.  Read, read, read, and let your child’s imagination soar.

Interested in more information, tips, and strategies about reading aloud to children?  Follow the link to check out the full article!

http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200303/ReadingAloud.pdf

Stay tuned for more,

~ Chelsea

Reading Aloud to Children

I recently came across an article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) about reading aloud to children of all ages that I felt was important to share.

Why is reading aloud to our children so important?  I think the opening statement of this article lays out the importance of reading aloud to children in one sentence.  It says, “The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”  Motivation becomes noticeable when children are read aloud to.  When you show your children that reading is enjoyable, they will become more motivated and enthusiastic about reading as well.  This goes for all aspects of learning for all ages.  If you are showing interest and enthusiasm, children are going to do the same.

Another aspect of reading aloud that is so important to learning is that of background knowledge.  The beginning of any lesson should begin with finding out what your children already know about the topic.  Background knowledge correlates with reading aloud because children are able to use what they know and make sense of what they are seeing, hearing, and reading.  Their vocabulary is expanding with books, especially due to the fact that the language in books differs from your typical language used in daily conversations.  Books are much more descriptive and use more formal grammar.

I think one of the best, most important components of reading aloud to your children is it encourages their imagination to run wild.  In one of our 3-5 year old classrooms at Children’s Campus, we have what the children call our “Friday book” that we read to them every week.  It has popular folktales in it, but almost no pictures.  With that, the children are forced to use their imagination in order to interpret the story.

The best part about reading aloud is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere, anytime.  We naturally think of parents reading to their children, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc could be included in the mix as well.  Do you have older children at home?  This would be a wonderful opportunity for them to work on their reading skills, while helping their younger siblings and forming a special relationship with them as well.  I see parents come into the classroom quite often and I love when they stick around to read a book to the children.  I think it is important for the children because it is showing them that their parents think reading is interesting and enjoyable.

Discuss.  Discuss.  Discuss.  I cannot stress that enough.  The article describes, “It is the talk that surrounds the storybook reading that gives it power, helping children to bridge what is in the story and their own lives.”  This can be done before, during, or after reading.  Involve your child while reading.  Get their opinions, predictions, thoughts, and reflections.  You might be surprised at how they relate stories to their own experiences.

Be on the lookout in the upcoming days when I break down the importance and provide tips and strategies for infants through primary-aged children.

Stay tuned for more,

~ Chelsea

A visit to Happy Joe’s

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You guessed it! We made it to Happy Joe’s! The children have been working over the course of the last few months learning about Happy Joe’s, the types of Pizza they make, what they need to make their pizza’s, what they might wear, what materials they might need to do their jobs, and the routine of a Happy Joe’s store.  We still had some unanswered questions, so we toured the building.  We learned so much while there!  Each of the children had the opportunity to make their own pizza’s.

We were able to answer several of our questions but now are beginning to wonder some more things which we will begin to investigate. Stay tuned for more updates from our trip!

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Good Teaching

It’s official, Chelsea Rakuc has finished her first blog post.  I couldn’t stop reading it!   We can not wait to hear from her more!  Enjoy! -Andromahi

After teaching a plethora of lessons throughout my methods courses, I have always reflected upon the question of, “Am I being the best teacher that I can be?”  I always thought good teaching depended upon the assessment of the students and the self-reflection I did about myself.  While both these concepts are equally important, good teaching is all about how you implement the lesson to and with the students.

I am currently enrolled in a course entitled History and Philosophy of Education.  I entered the course thinking it was going to be centered around popular theorists and their viewpoints on education.  Where as we have touch based on these important figures, we have also expanded into a direction that has caught my interest.  We have dove into article readings, current events, and research of various topics.

One of the first days of class, we received an article to read and reflect upon.  The article was entitled The Source of Good Teaching by Daniel A. Lindley, Jr.  The first time I read the article, I was so engulfed and intrigued that I had to keep reading even after our time was up.  It answered every question I ever had about myself as a teacher.

I think the most important characteristic a teacher should possess is that of devotion to becoming a life-long learner.  This goes beyond keeping up with current events and the newest research.  This extends to learning alongside our students.  Lindley says, “Good teaching is not done to students.  It is done with them.”  There is always something to be learned and if we have the ability to do this with our students, it could be a huge motivating factor for them.  We are working with the students in what they are learning and that has the potential for students to feel as if they have a colleague with them along for the ride.  “The source of the energy that drives good teaching – is the child in the teacher.”  Now this does not mean we have to act like a child.  I interpret it as being interested in what the students are learning, having the feeling of being a student, and joining in on the learning that is happening inside the classroom.

Children surprise us on a daily basis with their knowledge, questions, and realizations.  Just as they learn from us, we learn from them.  Lindley speaks about this in this article by saying, “A good teacher must stimulate the knowing adult in each child.”  Children are capable and absorb more than we could ever imagine.  I think this is something we, as teachers, can use as ‘teachable moments.’  One thing I see often is how the teachers are learning with the students.  If the students proposed a question that you did not know the accurate answer to, be honest with them.  This could be an answer that you and your students could look up together.

I remember one of my first times ever being in a preschool classroom.  I walked in and could not find the teachers.  I thought to myself, “There is no way the children are in here unsupervised.”  To my pleasant surprise, I walked deeper into the room and there were the teachers, fully engaged with what the children were doing.  I specifically remember one teacher who was playing restaurant with a small group of children.  The children offered her a variety of items off their menu, in which she selected chocolate cake.  One child said, “I’m going to put it in here,” while placing the cake in the oven.  The teacher took this as a teachable moment and responded by saying, “Oh. That’s an oven.  You’re going to bake my cake.”  After her cake was finished baking, she ate it and told the students how delicious it tasted.  I felt this was so crucial in the student’s learning because they were actively engaged in what they were learning, the teacher was essentially one of them, and she was providing them with vocabulary that was scaffolding what they were role-playing.

This article is a great reminder to students, teachers, and parents that we must never lose sight of our inner child, for it has the ability to motivate our students in a way that could change the learning environment in a positive way.  This really made me think about how I interact with children in all environments.  Always keep in mind that we must pretend with them, talk with them, and most importantly, learn with them.  “One of the great gifts teaching gives us is the privilege of sharing our own journey with those who are given into our care.”

Stay tuned for more,

~ Chelsea

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