Sunday, August 28, 2011

What do you mean, "Use your words!"?

Here's the scene:

Three year old children, playing alongside each other at the same activity; one child grabs something from another, and both children start squawking. There is a swift hit or maybe a quick scratch by one child. The child runs quickly from the other, clutching the desired toy.

It all happens so quickly. Children hurting one another.

And there's the adult voice:

Use your words!

I think all of us have done this.

It can be so exhausting at the beginning of a school year, when Threes are thrown in together, forming a completely foreign entity called a class.

Wasn't it just yesterday that they were self-centered, "all about me" two year olds, playing alongside classmates, but separately?
Playing with their own stuff (as long as we had enough of everything!), leaving one another alone?
Why aren't they leaving one another alone?
We just told them to stop behaving this way!

It seems as if Threes go looking for conflict, purposely engaging with their classmates in willful ways - grabbing, dominating, demanding.

Yes, it is true.
Threes are leaving parallel play behind - and seeking to interact.

They see their classmates,
they want what their classmates have,
they want to do what their classmates are doing,
they want to play together.

But they don't have a clue how to do it.

They do not know what words to use.

This interaction - friend to friend, classmate to classmate, child to child - is all very, very new to them.

It is our job as adults to GIVE them the words.

Rather than say "Use your words!," give them the words that are appropriate to the situation. For example:

"We don't take toys from one another."

"Did you want her to take that toy? Tell her, 'I am using this! I will give it to you when I am done.' "

"He is using that now; say, 'May I use that when you are through?' "

"We are safe in this class. I cannot let you hit her. I see you are angry - let's breathe in and out together, until you feel better."

"Ask her, 'May I play, too?' "

"Hands are gentle with one another. People are not for hurting."

"Your face tells me you are really frustrated - it is hard to wait. Would you like to play with this, while you wait?"

"Ask him, 'May I use that now?' "

"Tell him, 'You may not hit me.'

"Your face tells me you are really sad; let's write a letter to Mommy together, telling her how sad you are."

"In this class, we are all safe. Was that a safe thing to do? What are some safe things we can do while we wait to use that toy?"

There is no specific script for helping preschoolers say the right thing in a conflict. How great it would be to be able to succinctly say, "Use your words!" - however, we must remember,

Using words for social, cooperative, interactive, conversational reasons is an all new skill for Threes. They simply do not know the words to use, however able they might be to speak.

My friend and Threes teacher Janise tells the story of a child who was directed to "Use your words!":

The child immediately shouted "WORDS!!"

There you have it.

What are the words?

We need to teach these words to preschoolers as if we were teaching math to a fourth grader,

breaking it into learnable chunks,

until they are able to run with this knowledge on their own.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More from Bev

My three days at the "Good Stuff for Kids" conference (co-led by Bev Bos, Michael Leeman, and Dan Hodgins) in late July were filled with insight and reflection - and yet I never shared any of this with you, except for photos!

Well, it's the night before the first day of school. I am filled with excitement and anticipation, wondering what the day and the week will bring. I've decided to "decompress" a little by sharing a little more from the conference.

Roseville Community School in Roseville, California is a delightful place for children, filled with lots of incredible exploratory opportunities and a real sense of joy.

Bev noted several times how discipline problems are rare at the school - the children have so much to do, so much freedom of choice. For me, this point really resonated:

the more "powerful" experiences that you give to children, the more self-regulation they acquire, and the less discipline issues that arise.

What does it mean to support or provide power for a preschooler? Here are some thoughts from Bev, Michael, and Dan:

Hammering and sawing (using real tools - with adult guidance)
Provide lots of physical space
A variety of movable objects
Climbing walls
Allow children to raise their voices, to be louder than you want
Have a loud space (not just a calm down space)
Visual guidance (rather than adult voice)
Allow children to take things back and forth between centers/areas of the room
Give children choices; be flexible with them
Sword fighting with rolled-up newspapers
Ignore healthy "bullying" between children- such as - "Hey, go get that block for me" (retire the teacher's voice re: bossiness - especially if it's not an issue for the receiver)
Put out pretend fires
Construction - in as big space as possible (most workbenches are too small)
Crates for pulling and filling
Rough-housing and tumble play
Clay pounding
Dressups - especially capes
Tug of war
Arm wrestling
"London Bridge"
"Red Rover, Red Rover"
Boxes for kicking

In your classroom, put yourself in the child's place and consider:

"Can I keep it as long as I want?" [Yes!]
"Do I get one?" [Yes! There multiples of the same thing!]
"If I don't share, am I still good?" [Yes!]
"Do I have something to do while I am waiting?" [Yes!]

Bev Bos is a passionate advocate of classroom learning that begins with children's voices, children's interests, children's engagement. We shouldn't be spoon-feeding curriculum, but instead watching and expanding on their play. In real play, children decide:

- what to play,
- where to play,
- how to play, and
- with whom to play.

Are we providing early childhood settings that allow these choices?

Preschool environments must be child-centered, not adult-driven. Regarding books for read alouds, Bev notes - "If a kid doesn't say something on the first page, than I don't read it, I slip it away and choose another book."

Clue in! Be aware of activities that are not relevant to young children. They will tell you with their bodies, with their voices, with their movements.

The Rosewood Community School is clearly a place that has clued in to children.

Well, now I'll get back to my excitement and anticipation about tomorrow...
Here's to a new school year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where has the time gone?

I have set a somewhat arbitrary goal for myself of blogging at least once a week. This is really "blogging - lite," if one compares this to the regular and prolific posts of so many other bloggers...but, for me, blogging is a sideline, an outlet, a quiet release of my thoughts.

That said...I am truly being challenged in my blogging right now!
No time for sidelines.
No time for outlets.
No time for a quiet release of my thoughts.

The reason is simple: a new school year underway in a brand new school.

Where has the time gone?

The children arrive this Monday!
Our first day of school is August 22nd.
Oh my!

Where has the time gone?

We had a delightful "Meet Your Teacher Day" this past Friday - I met about half of my sweet 3 year olds and their lovely families. I am so jazzed!

But that glimpse of the wonderful children set off a frenzy of all the remaining "to do's" and the work continues non-stop.

Where has the time gone?

You'll hear from me again when ?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bev Bos conference

I had the good fortune to attend Bev Bos' "Good Stuff for Kids" conference at Roseville Community School in Roseville, California this past week...I have no doubt that there are several blog posts that I need to write/share with you. Until I can sit with these thoughts a bit, let me share some photographs of art and science fun. Bev believes the best experiences for young children have no instructions - just set out the materials and let the children play!

Enjoy these!