Monday, October 29, 2012

A picture book about the power going out

No school today or tomorrow, due to Hurricane Sandy.
We've had a day of serious wind gusts and rain here in Silver Spring, Maryland, but as of yet our power remains on.

Let me share my latest library find....

On Saturday, browsing through the stacks at the library - in continual pursuit of picture books about city life for my preschoolers - the following book jumped out at me:

written and illustrated by John Rocco

...a delightful book about the power going out in a downtown area, and the wonderful effect this has on a young child's family as they play games and spend time together.  Very sweet!  A book that will be "spot on" when (?)  I return to school this week.

Pretty exciting find.

Here's hoping that everyone who is affected by Hurricane Sandy is having special moments of family togetherness!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What are you doing with found objects?

We have begun a "found objects" exploration...straight out of the book Beautiful Stuff: Learning With Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini.

We sent home special bags asking families to send in extra items...

Then, we poured out our bags on the carpet,
and looked at and touched 
all the amazing, beautiful, varied stuff.  

Lots and lots of different materials.  
So many questions, so many thoughts...
What was this? What might it be used for? 
What could we make with it? Why is it shaped like this? 
What does it feel like?  
on and on....

The possibilities are endless... 

What do we notice when we put them on paper?  
Which pieces do we choose?  

What do we make?  

Do we sort out specific materials? 

What happens if we draw around them?
Do different things appear?

What do we imagine?
Does it lead to another picture?
Do we have a story to tell?

We have sorted the found materials into clear containers,
creating a beautiful 'museum of found objects,'
which will grow and expand throughout the year,
and provide rich materials for our creative explorations ...

Ms. Balboni, our Art Teacher, helped extend our found object exploration by bringing in additional materials and encouraging the children to create collages using glue and a small cardboard base, exploring the variety of textures in these materials.

We are now in the midst of sink and float exploration...

...and we scientists have to write our own data!

The found objects fun has just begun!
Much, much more to add later...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How do three year olds write?

Since this post is about writing, I knew it was perfect for the Tuesday Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers!  Check out the Two Writing Teachers blog for lots more reflection about teaching...

At the beginning of each school year, I gather "baseline data" on my preschoolers' writing skills - their ability to use a writing tool, to write alphabet letters, and their overall interest or curiosity about writing. For preschoolers, these skills can be discovered through drawing.  

I invite each of them to draw a self-portrait. I work with them one-on-one, enticing them with a "teacher pen" (one of my black thin felt tip markers) and a personal mirror propped to catch their reflections.  

I give simple directions, "Draw a picture of your face; here's a mirror so that you can check all the details.  See if you can draw your face just as large as it is in the mirror.  How should you begin?

I am continually amazed how every child throws themselves right into this endeavor, without a pause; there is no concern about ability, there is simply excitement about the mirror and the pen.  (How many of us adults would willingly attempt a self-portrait?)

When they pronounce the picture, "Done!", I double-check - "Did you get all the details? Your eyes? Your nose? What else do you see in the mirror?" And then, when they are really, truly done, I ask them to sign their name to this masterpiece.

This self-portrait work provides me a delightful opportunity to observe many details. Let me share some of the questions I consider and also some of the children's work, in hopes of illustrating how this simple exercise - drawing a self-portrait - can reveal so much about how a child is learning and developing.

How long do they attend? Do they show curiosity and eagerness? 

Do they work to make their drawing more detailed? Do they use the mirror or ignore it? Are they focused and studious? Or 'quick to escape'? Are they able to ignore most distractions and interruptions?

How familiar are they with drawing? How are they holding the pen? Do they hold it purposefully? Or do they jab at the paper?  As preschoolers develop their writing ability, they move from grabbing the pen with a blunt, full fist to more precise finger and hand movements, leading to a three-point grip.


How many details do they add to their picture?  How well do they plan the space on the page?  

How skilled are they at writing their name? As preschoolers develop their ability to print letters in the alphabet, they move from scribbles, to more controlled "mock letters," then letter strings, and, finally,  an accurate name.

Self-portraits have proven to be a playful, enjoyable, yet informative ritual at the start of each school year, providing me a window into my children's writing skills, and informing my teaching.  

We do lots of drawing all year long - and we work with mirrors a great deal more, as well.  

We will draw self-portraits again at the end of the school year.  At year end conferences, I show families both the beginning and end-of-year drawings. It is always breathtaking to see the growth in preschoolers' development, how much more detailed and polished their self-portraits look at year's end.  Almost all have learned to write a very clear signature! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

What is love?

Our beloved Principal got married this past weekend.  All the classes wrote cards to help her celebrate.  

The Big Cats created a large heart using markers, tissue paper, sequins, glue, and paint.  Each of the children signed the card around the periphery of the heart.  

They also wrote a sweet poem, in response to my open-ended question, "What is love?"

Let me share!

What is Love?

Love is Mommy.
Baby pandas are love.
Toys are love.
Love is surprise.
Love is families coming.
Love is Clifford, the big red dog.
Love is heart.
Love is kisses.
And hugs.
And Daddies are love.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wanna play a game?

[I've been a little inconsistent in recent weeks with my participation in Two Writing Teachers' Tuesday Slice of Life...but, today I have one to goes!]


This afternoon, I observed such a delightful interaction.

It was just about "going home time," a restless, uneven time of day when some children are in a post-nap fog and others are loud and wiggly.  I was wrestling some school newsletters into children's 'take home' folders when I overheard Ms. McConnell, our Teaching Assistant, say,

"Oh, sure, we could play a game of 'Duck, Duck, Goose' "

I looked over at her quickly; she had been reading a book aloud and now these seven or so children were positioned in a small circle on the gathering carpet.

Yikes, I thought, 'Duck, Duck, Goose?' - we can't possibly do that kind of running around in here...we don't have the space and these preschoolers don't have the will end in mayhem...

But, as always, Ms. McConnell was thinking along the same lines as me...

She continued, "But, we're going to play it by some very special 'Big Cats' rules.  Here's how it works, when you tap a friend on the head for 'Goose,' you then gently lean down and offer that friend your hand, and then the two of you walk hand-in-hand around the circle until you get back to the place that your friend got up from...then you sit down in that spot, and your friend gets to say 'Duck, Duck, Goose'; here, let me demonstrate..."

What?, I thought, Would they play like this?

Time for some argument. "That's not the way you play  'Duck, Duck, Goose'," said Lukas.

"Well, it's not the typical way.  It's a new way, it's the 'Big Cats' way," explained Ms. McConnell.

"Why do we have to play like that?," asked Charlie.

"Because we are learning self-regulation," said Ms. McConnell.  By her voice, "self-regulation" sounded both exciting and desirous - this was definitely something the children wanted!

And so began the most delightful game of Duck, Duck, Goose that I have ever witnessed!  Over and over the children played, taking turns, tapping one another on the head, walking hand-in-hand around the circle with their new partner, big huge smiles on their faces.

Ah, the honest and simple enthusiasm of preschoolers - give us rules and we will follow, as long as we think it is a game.


The Big Cats are sleeping!

This post is just an update - the curtains are hung and our classroom is dark during nap!   Mozart plays in the background, all the children are quiet and resting, most fall asleep.   It is a lovely change from the first part of the school year!

Everyone is in better moods, especially the teachers!

Today, it is rainy outside and I can hardly believe how beautifully dark it is inside here.