Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are they using saws?

A tiny "slice of life' from this morning at school...please check out Two Writing Teachers for lots of great writing by other teachers and writers. 

Eight children, ages three to six.
One willing parent, skilled in carpentry.
One happy teacher.

Put on safety goggles.
Feel the power!

Measure the wood.
Mark the length in pencil.
Saw the wood.
Feel the power!

Drill holes in wood.
Feel the power!

Hammer those nails.
Hammer those nails.
Hammer those nails!
Feel the power!

Awesome first morning of "intersession" week - a special week on our school calendar, which we do twice a year, where children work in mixed-age small groups on a particular theme.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What is it about Mondays?

It is Tuesday and this is a "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for  "slices of life" by other teachers and writers.


Monday follows
the unknown.

Monday proclaims
frequent tears,
classroom routines forgotten,
angry words with friends,
knocking down another's blocks,
confusion about how to do things for oneself,
not looking up when the teacher calls your name,
new, sarcastic expressions,

Monday follows
the unknown.

Monday reflects
late nights?
house guests, visitors, company?
irregular routines?
few expectations and responsibilities?
doing as told, having no voice?
lots of errands, chores, adults at work?
being the center of attention?
the beginning of a virus?

Monday follows
the unknown.

Monday needs
a soft and kind welcome,
a sensory table, to sift, pour, touch,
gentle reminders,
predictable routine,
books to read-aloud,
lots and lots of hugs,
extra time in the teacher's lap,
soothing voices,
meditative moments,

Monday follows
the unknown.

Monday requires

     knowledge that Tuesday will come,
     rhythm will return.

Monday requires

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What about drama?

The preschoolers, all at once, are freezing cold, shivering, moaning, shaking from the extraordinary snowstorm and its ferocious wind, struggling to hold onto their packages.  Their faces are grimaced and their footsteps are heavy, as they stomp through snow which is now up to their knees.

 "Whooooooo!,"  shrieks the wind, "Go back! Go back!"

"No!," they all yell bravely at the wind, "No! I'm not turning back!  I must carry this dress to the duchess!"

The Big Cats were enjoying "drama," the book Brave Irene by William Steig, brought to life through their re-enactment of its basic plot.

To the outside, untrained eye - my room is noisy, children moving every which way, clutching sheets of strangely folded paper.  However, I am, once again, amazed at the total focus of these preschoolers - how each and every child is on task, enjoying the acting, following the script.  All eyes and ears are on me and my directions, as I guide them through the story line...the first time I have ever shared this book with them.

This acute focus - it's not me.  It's the dramatic play.

Preschoolers need to live and breathe their learning, to feel it in their core.

Why not act out great stories together?

We only dramatized the first part of the story, up until the wind whips open the package that Irene is carrying and sends the beautiful dress floating up and away.  (A large electric fan sent the lightweight dancing scarves sailing through our classroom.)

The actors are working hard to pack up their dresses for the duchess.

At this exciting "intermission," I ask the children to predict what will happen next in the story and to use pastels and paint to create the image of this prediction.


Here are the preschoolers' predictions about what happens next, interspersed with some samples of their beautiful artwork about Brave Irene.

"She is wet, the scarf falls out, and she is brave, and me and my Mom dug her out in the snow and we go inside and we eat."

"The dress goes away and monsters eat her. They make a scary face."

"She just goes back to her Mom and tells her 'I dropped it.' And this is her house."

"She goes to the palace.  I don’t know about the dress!"

"The fan blows my thing."

"There is a rocket and a girl.  It flies with her to get the dress and it goes with the girl to the ball."

"The wind gets Irene.  The snowstorm."

"That’s Irene.  That’s the sky and the package."

"Irene gets to the palace.  The dress waits at a tree there for her."

"These are hands and eyes in the snow."

"I think a ghost comes to it."

"A picture of her Mom sick."

"There is wind and snow."

"A picture of the snow falling down on the ground and she has the empty package.  These are snow."

"I think she is going to cry."

"The girl is happy.  She is all the way under the snow, but she climbs under the road and sneaks into a witch’s house and fights off the witch, kicking her out and putting her in jail."
Sarah Lydia

"She is happy because she is not scared of anything."

"The fan is blowing up up up and down.  And Irene has a new box."

"A pretty scarf with pink and black and white and the wind takes it off.  It’s going to blow her away, too."

"She’s making her own dress with the snow."

"The wind is blowing so hard it blows the package all the way to the palace."


Several years ago, I attended a fabulous training workshop at The Lucy School with Sarah Pleydell and Victoria Brown and about the use of dramatic play in the classroom.  This lesson about Brave Irene is taken from their book, The Dramatic Difference: Drama in the Preschool and Kindergarten Classroom (2000).

Yes, we had a lot of fun "playing" with this story together.
But, what is the learning?

The Lucy School training participants collectively brainstormed just a few of the things that children learn from drama:

• it is a great pre-literacy tool; becoming good readers requires entering the story and acting lets children do that,
• drama teaches the structure of stories – beginning, middle, and end,
• it is a great way to engage active learners and, conversely, shy children,
• drama helps children learn to self – regulate, as seen by speaking in varied tones of voices, moving in unique ways, and
• it provides a fun starting point for talking and exploring subjects and exploring feelings, such as disappointment, anger, bravery, kindness.

My fabulous Teaching Resident, Laura McCarthy, noted a lot of the learning is social emotional, perhaps even encouraging empathy, because the children are actually turning into the character.

What did the children think?

 "That was awesome!" Jack exclaimed. 

 “That was really cool!” said Charlie.

Later, during choice time, Soren said he was "playing brave."  I asked him how this game is played and he said, "Well, scary things are going to come and we are not going to get scared."

Thank you, Brave Irene!  Thank you, dramatic play!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why not explore the wind?

It is Tuesday and this is a "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


As I headed up the escalator from the metro station to the street,
I was greeted by a strong, cold wind.
The wind pushed me all the way to school.
How happy I was that the wind was going my way!
I wondered what the children would think of this, 
as they made their way into school.

I thought, 
Oh my, we have to celebrate the day's wind.


How might I engage the children about this wind?

Impulsively, instinctively, inadequately

I set up a very simple table project to create "wind sticks" to take with us on our daily walk- 
bright orange streamers cut into long strips, 
attached to simple craft sticks, 
with small jewels and markers to bedazzle the sticks.

Several children found this "morning arrival" project to be fun and engaging, and, together, we created enough "wind sticks" for every child in the class.

Later, after centers, it was time for our daily walk.

Off we went, every child excitedly carrying this simple stick in their hand.

As we stepped outside, 
dare I say, 
I was blown away by their sheer delight?

Smiles. Laughter. Shrieks. 
Joy. Delight. Marvel.


I had not anticipated how surprised they'd be to see
their streamers 
take off into the air,
all pointing in the same direction,

"Look! Look! Look at the wind!"
"Look! Look! Look at my stick!"

Such a simple idea,
such enormous amazement by the children.

Great fun for their teacher, too!