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Posts tagged ‘teachable moments’

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

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!

Creating a Dinner Theatre

This morning as I entered the room, the children were already in full swing of creating a dinner theatre. Our classroom is a long rectangular shape and the block center is across from our family living area. Next to our family living area is a loft. Addison (4.10), Lydia (5.3), and Drake (5.3) had already moved a small table to block center, covered it with a table cloth, added a vase, and four chairs. They moved the couch to face the area where they were going to do their production. As I walked in the children said, “Mahi, we need a stage! We can’t make a dinner theatre without one.” Lydia shares, “I know I’ve seen one out there. No one is using it and we NEED (large emphasis on this word from her) it to continue our work. We can’t learn about theatres without one!” As a teacher, How can you turn this phenomenal moment down? I couldn’t!

A couple boys helped Kara, our assistant, bring the block of wood we dubbed as stage. We rearranged the block area and family living area to make this possible. The children decided the stage needed to be placed near the loft so that they could use the area under the loft as the costume room. Children began assigning roles to other children and/or encouraging them to sign up for specific jobs. In a matter o f minutes, each child who was at school had a role and was preparing for their job. As more friends entered the classroom, they were given a duty and play continued. This play continued for one to two hours depending on the time children arrived at school. The production turned into a musical which was acted out several times so children could take turns with various roles.

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,


Using a book to create

At our center, each of our staff members has a goal or two which they study over the course of a year.  We also have a program goal that all of our staff studies and  a team goal that is studied by the lead teacher and the assistant teacher.  Kara (my assistant) and I have been studying ramps over the course of the last year.  We read the book, Ramps and Pathways: A Constructivist Approach to Physics with Young Children  (click the link for more information or to order!). We have decided that after reading the text that we would use the ten principles of teaching indicated in the book. Over the next ten months, we plan to use each of the ten principles and prepare lesson plans to support these principles.  We plan to follow the children’s lead but our lesson plan will offer us ideas to help support the children and ways to bring all children in to the block area to learn more about ramps and physics.

The children began to experiment with the items.  Kara and I decided that maybe the text would help facilitate some ideas.  So, we brought the book in and offered it to the children. This book sky-rocketed an extreme excitement for building structures in the block center.  This past week was our first week of investigations where we let the children explore the given materials. The children will be given the opportunity to explore the items over the course of this month.

Pictures include the children creating a structure (found in the book) to hold their ramp work.  The children spent an hour and a half creating the structure, sketching their work before clean-up so that we could recreate in the afternoon, and discussing what would make the tower work better next time.

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