Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What about wire?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

The Big Cats are creating wire sculptures for our Phillips art project.
First, we need to investigate the wire -
How does it feel? 
What can it do? 
How does it bend and move?
We looked at a video of one of Alexander Calder's moving mobiles.
Could we create sculptures that move?
Yes, let's try this!

I have set the wire supplies up as an exploratory center, so that the children will learn more about how the materials work before they create their wire sculptures.

We have three different gauges of wire, and all three types are flexible enough for the preschoolers to manipulate. They quickly figured out that the thicker the wire, the more difficult it is to bend. I love that there are three types of wire - multi-colored fine wire, silver medium wire, and bluish thick wire. As they practice making loops, bends, knots, connections, and more, preschoolers are also reinforcing their understanding of small, medium, large.

We spent a couple days simply wrapping objects, to see what shape the wire would be once we pulled the wire out. So many questions arise,
What shape will the wire have if we bend it around a block?
What happens if we attach two wires together?
How can we make the wire curvy?

We are also working with a variety of beads.  The preschools love to finger these, picking out their favorites. They practice how to connect the beads to the wire.
How might we attach the bead so that it wiggles? 
How can we make it roll up and down the wire?
How can we make it stay in a more fixed?

It is a kind of slowing down.
Slow learning.
Investigating requires focus. And fine motor skills.
We become better and better at it.

I hear,
Can I play with the wire?
Look, I make a balloon!
Chains are made out of wire!
You can spin it.
I want to tie it.
I make it move.
This is hanging on it!
It's like candy.

Moving slowly like an artist,
an engineer,
a mathematician,
a scientist. 
It is language,
it is storytelling,
it is everything at once.
It is the best kind of learning.

My husband cut up some scrap wood to make simple wood bases for their sculptures. Tomorrow, the open-ended investigation of wire will end, and we will take our first steps at creating the sculptures themselves. The goal is to make a sculpture that shows 'freedom' -
Maybe it will move, bend, wiggle? 
Maybe it will reach high or flow to the side? 
What does freedom look like?  

The children will have the flexibility to go any direction they want with the remaining supplies. I will encourage the preschoolers to use the heaviest wire at the base and to add lighter wires as they move up. But, preschoolers always amaze me with their ideas and innovations, and I am ready to be surprised and enlightened. I feel certain that their sculptures will have a lot of individuality, that no two will look alike. 

The children are fascinated by the wire. I am, too. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Our kindness parade

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

The preschool Big Cats celebrated the completion of their fabulous kindness signs by parading through our school. We shared love with everyone along the way!

Let me share a few photos from today's fun.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How did this happen?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

"Ms. Ingram! Jack's opened something he's not supposed to!"

Try as I might, lunch in my classroom is a loud, lively, unsettling part of my day. 22 preschoolers, four tables, innumerable containers to be opened by hands that are just developing the skills...with three teachers, it can feel as if you are never in the right place at the right time. Lunch is an unending pattern of wiggly bodies moving in their seats, chairs scraping the floor, lunch boxes refusing to open or close properly, children calling out for help in opening things, items falling on the floor, spills that need wiping up, some food getting trashed before it is tasted, children rushing to the bathroom, on and on.

In the midst of this fray, here's what I hear:
"Ms. Ingram! Jack's opened something he's not supposed to!"

I walk over towards that lunch table of preschoolers and what do I find? Jack looking at me wide-eyed and a packet of silica gel sprinkled all over the table - silica gel that was inside the package of one of his lunch foods [seaweed]. Jack said indignantly, "It is part of my lunch but she says it is not!" Jack thought the silica gel was a condiment - it certainly was packaged like a condiment. In very small letters, you can see the words "do not eat" but, guess what, most preschoolers are not readers.

Thankfully, his classmate had called out to me in alarm;
thankfully, the silica gel missed his food and was emptied onto the table and floor; most thankfully, Jack had not eaten any of it.

How's a child supposed to know not to eat something like that?
How's a teacher supposed to know that this will be included in lunches?
Why is it packaged in this inviting way, much like a sugar or a salt?

One more gray hair on my head.

In recent days, in my local area, one three year old choked to death while eating meatballs at a daycare and one three year old wandered out of her school during nap and was found (and safely returned to school) by a stranger down the street from the school. The outcry is - How did this happen? Where is the supervision? What is wrong with those teachers?

My response is,
I know I am listening, watching, aware,
I know my teaching team is strong, present, vigilant,
I know our routines are sound, tested, considered,
I know my community is connected, supportive, communicative,
I know my school is safe, alert, caring.
My response is,
but for the grace of God.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to make the world better?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

At closing circle, a three year old calls out,
"Ms. Ingram, President Trump does not like people who wear scarves."

My heart aches. Where has she heard this? Has my student Farid, whose mother wears hijab, heard what she said? Why must this be something a preschooler knows? How would you ever begin to discuss this with preschoolers?

Ugh. These are ugly, ugly times.

Petula Dvorak, in today's Washington Post,  "We have become a nation that detains a 5-year-old with dual citizenship, keeping him from his Iranian-born mother for hours to ensure that he isn't a terrorist threat."

My heart aches.

Senator Kamala Harris at the Women's March in Washington, D.C. just ten days ago entreated us to answer this question about America, about our country -

Who are we?

I refuse to believe this mean-spirited executive order is us. I refuse to approach the world so fearfully. I refuse.

And, I am so lucky to spend my days in the company of young children, who exude hope, love, joy, and kindness.

In the Big Cats, we are hard at work making huge signs about love and kindness. Each child is creating their own sign, cutting out one enormous shape and then adding all sorts of process art layers. This will be the backdrop for our special messages - which we will write over the next several days.


At gathering, we brainstormed messages for our signs. What's important? What do we want our friends to know? How do we make our community better? What is our message of love and kindness? We repeated each message together, aloud - first, in a whisper, then in a shout, and then we clapped each syllable.

"I love you."


"Pick up your toys."

"Build together."

"Make a rainbow."

"Don't get sick."

"Be nice."

"Make a loving card."

"Eat together."

"Go to a sleepover with each other."

"Paint a picture."

"Thank you!"

"Be kind and you need to be good to your friends."

"Make a heart sign."

Perhaps we'll march through the school and share our love and kindness with all...maybe we should march out the door and down the streets...the White House is less than two miles away.

A young child protesting at the White House this past Sunday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The rallying cry

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Here's the call for our education system -

How do we cultivate students who love, care, respect? Who think, reflect, advocate? Who seek to know more?

Fresh off the extraordinary Women's March on Washington, I am so invigorated...

Consider Sophie Cruz, all of six years old, and inspiring the masses at the Women's March; she gave an inspirational speech in both English and Spanish. Imagine -  she is an immigration activist at only 6 years of age!! Her energy, charisma, eloquence, compassion, and conviction were palpable. These two lines reduced me to tears:
"I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love."
Imagine if our education system could tap into this sense of purpose in every child. What would our classrooms look like?

This week, my goal is to be in deep conversation with each of my students, listening for their messages of hope. They are our beautiful future!

That's me, in the middle of my loving family, at the Women's March in Washington

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New year, renewed expectations

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

I received a very special book this past Christmas: The Book of Joy, wherein the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share their insights on how to find joy in the midst of adversity. The book is powerfully uplifting, filled with nuggets of wisdom. Here's one from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one's chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.

This simple blog of mine, focusing primarily on preschoolers, has given me much joy over the past few years. And yet, somehow, over the past few months, I have had a writer's block, an inability to figure out what to say or do with it next.

But I have joyful news! Here, in the new year, after much reflection - in large part, instigated by this sweet Christmas gift -  I am feeling very hopeful about my early childhood blog again. I realize my writing matters to me. I like it, I love it. I want to 'keep on keeping on' about this one small piece of the world, to shine light on our youngest students, and share this joy.

Right now, it is what really matters to me. 

To kick off this new year of feeling inspired in my writing, let me share some sweet photos of our new year in the classroom. The preschoolers have returned from winter break delighted to be together, ravenous for new experiences, and full of joy! Just like me!

We continue to build detailed structures in the block center.

We have added balls and ramps to the block center, and the children are working like engineers to discover all sorts of unique ways to make the balls roll. They are creating tunnels, sharp inclines, flat roads, jumps, and much more.

There is always something different going on in the Art area! Our first day back, we used simple scratchboards to draw and write about our winter break. An on-going project is to create paper puppets, in order to share a story. We are fully immersed in folktales, reading a wonderful variety of books, and we are beginning to create our own stories.

Over in the dramatic play, we have created a new business: Hair by the Big Cats. It is both a beauty parlor and a barbershop. Each day brings more questions, curiosity, and pure fun!

Of course, we are writing in so many different ways. Here is our haircut schedule, prepared by a preschool receptionist. We think of ourselves as writers!

We also write our own original books in the writing center. One of the biggest joys is to share these books aloud at the end of the day, with all our classmates. 

So, there you have it! I am recommitted to writing this early childhood blog in 2017 - and to slice on Tuesdays with Two Writing Teachers! I hope you will wander by to read. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What if we got together for learning?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.


  1. 1.
    an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.

The Preschool Big Cats were getting ready to visit Ms. Ash's seventh-grade science class, to learn about watersheds. How to explain this phenomenon to preschoolers before heading out on our in-house field trip? Let's hand the problem back to the preschoolers and ask them if they knew the meaning. 
It never ceases to amaze us how fearless our preschoolers are with their explanations and wonders. Here's what the first five volunteers discerned, simply by hearing the word watershed:
  “It means water floating.” (Jada)
  “It’s floating in the street.” (Esther)
  “Spraying on your clothes and get wet.” (Asanda) 
 “Water is stuck up a tree.” (Fhinn) 

 “When water is in a museum.” (Audrey)

We were on to something...but what?

To help clarify our understanding of watershed, we read a book that was recommended to us by the middle schoolers: All the Way to the Ocean by Joel Harper. In this book, two young friends are headed home from school when one tosses his candy wrapper down a storm drain, leading his friend to tell the harrowing story of what happens to our oceans when we toss trash on the ground. 

The preschoolers were excited to hear that we would see working models of watersheds in the middle school science lab. Now we were ready to head upstairs for the demonstration!

Unlike the preschoolers, who had read one book and then walked up two flights of stairs for the demonstration, Ms. Ash’s seventh-grade scientists had been focusing on watersheds for many weeks, doing considerable research to create working models of our local Anacostia watershed. Ms. Ash shared with me privately that this scientific process had many setbacks, with students at one point throwing their hands up in defeat, unable to imagine how to effectively create the watershed for demonstration purposes. "This isn't something you can give up on," Ms. Ash explained. "You have preschool visitors coming to see the demonstration. You must persevere."  

And persevere, they did!

The middle-schoolers shared a model of the Anacostia watershed with roads, homes, cars, more. They showed how the rainwater runs off across the land into the river, taking debris and trash with it. Then these middle school scientists invited the children to pour different types of liquids (regular water, “oil,” “chemicals,” other) down onto the model and watch how it moves the debris into the river. It was a real pleasure to see how kind and thought-provoking the middle schoolers were with our young ones – and a real delight to see our children so engaged. The middle schoolers seemed so mature and professional!

This is one of several watershed models created 

There were many powerful moments -

  • the children were super eager to participate and investigate, looking at the middle-schoolers with respect and awe. When the middle schoolers asked for six volunteers, ten children jumped up! 
  • one preschooler, often off-task, somewhat wild and unexpected in her movements,  had an entirely different spirit in this setting - she was so focused, careful, and controlled as she poured  pouring "oil" onto the watershed, following the guidance of the middle-schoolers. 
  • several of my more independent students sat back during this demonstration, clinging to the teaching team, content to observe the older experts...much more cautious in this new setting than in our classroom. 
  • one preschooler opened her eyes big and wide when one middle-schooler started conversing in Spanish with her, describing the watershed in her native language. The preschooler had a huge smile, seemingly delighted to fully understand. Another middle-schooler, lamenting being unable to communicate with the preschooler, noted "Gee, I should have worked harder in Spanish!"

Back in our classroom, several preschoolers worked to recreate the watershed model in our block area, recreating where the water and debris had funneled across the land with a series of wood arches turned upside down. Another child reflected - "don't throw trash on the ground."
I happened upon one student at the sink, stuffing paper towels into a cup and letting water run and overflow (thankfully, within the sink). "What are you investigating?," I asked. "I'm making a watershed. See! These paper towels stay stuck here, making a mess, and I need more water, and more water." "What if you also had messy paint in the watershed?", I suggested - and handed him our paintbrushes from the easel, which needed to be clean. "Oh yeah!" He cried and busied himself with the excitement of the dirty brushes along with the paper towels and lots of water. "These are the chemicals!" he said excitedly. "Yes, you are right. We will have to do more of this investigating ...perhaps tomorrow? Unfortunately, we are getting ready for clean up - but your watershed experiment can help with that."

That evening, I received a text from one family, reporting, "We heard a lot about your middle school field trip! Our daughter took the lessons to heart about no trash in the water! Very special day."

Yes, it really was a very special day! 

My school includes preschoolers through eighth grade (ages 3-14).  Something I love about my school is that we see this age range as an asset and we work to find ways for these ages to intersect. We know we have a unique opportunity to blend age groups and learn from one another. 

Which brings us back to the second meaning of watershed:
  1. 2.
    an event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

7th graders as the experts, instigating thought in preschoolers - in and of itself, this is