Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SOLS January days

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

Due primarily to the fickle January weather, the Big Cats have been spending a lot longer time in centers and going on shorter walks. It is a great time of year to have longer centers. Since winter break, the children are beginning to truly play together, and this emerging cooperative play needs much time, space, and guidance. Centers are just the structure!

During centers, children work in small groups on a variety of activities, playing alongside one another. Often, the task needs to be done "together" - requiring children to talk, share, and work together.

For me, the main purpose of centers is for fostering healthy, friendly social-emotional interactions. Oh sure, I can name the specifics of math, literacy, science, engineering, or other learning that is happening in my classroom; I can even cite the particular learning standard that is being worked on in any given center. But, what excites me and drives me is helping children work with one another.  Since winter break, and the children's renewed and accelerated interest in being together, I've been on overdrive....

The children are in constant motion, moving readily from one interest to the next...learning to share, learning to take turns, learning to be aware of others, learning to have fun together. I'm their "guide on the side," noticing...

[   ] looks sad - is there a way that she can play, too? Have you asked her if she would like to play? 

Is that a safe way to use that?

Does [  ] have enough materials? Look at how much he has and how much you have - which is more? 

I see you really want to play with this, but [ ] had it first. Ask her if you can use it when she is through.

You bumped into [ ] - have you checked in with him, to see if he is okay?

How might you two play this together and have fun?

Slow your engine down. You are moving very fast! 

Did you build that? Remember our classroom rule - you build it, you may knock it down. You should help her rebuild that. Next time, ask if you can knock that block structure down.

Tell him you didn't like it when he did that. 

In board games, we take turns with the dice. Have you finished your turn? Who is next? Hand the dice to [ ].

I saw you cover your ears; was his voice too loud? Tell him that his voice is hurting your ears.  

You want to play with a toy cell phone, too? Let's ask if [ ] if you can play with one of the two he has. 

Do you want to use that next? 

Ooops. [ ] is hurting. Let's go together to get ice.

Even the children seem to know that social-emotional learning is the most important work in the room.
Example, many preschoolers were exploring ice and salt; I asked one student,
"What happens when you add salt to the ice?"
and she immediately responded,
"[  ] bumps my arm."
My laugh for the day!

Today, we had one real sign that it was a rainy day and we were trapped inside - an impromptu game of ball began in the classroom, using a very lightweight, soft, fuzzy ball [we had used this same ball to throw to one another at Gathering, to say good morning to each other].  I'm not sure if the children were playing soccer or basketball...it was a spontaneous, fast-paced, motion-filled game played by Micaela, Evan, Zuren, Alyja, Ada, and Hughie – but only briefly. Jasmine, dressed in an apron and tutu, and playing "family" was surprised and disturbed by this impulsive game and yelled in her most authoritative voice, “Boys! I am angry! Don’t play basketball in the house!” [Of course, the list of players assures you that this was not a boys' game!] Before I could even respond - to either the game or her upset - the ball went soaring through the air and became trapped in the ductwork of our classroom ceiling, some 12 feet above us. Silence came over the room.

We now have an on-going inquiry – How to get the ball down? Today’s suggestions: A tow hook (Hughie); a ladder (Zuren); I’ll fly up there and get it (Seymour); a lasso (Shaan).

January days, January learning, January fun.
Rich and varied moments together.


  1. I love that you have them working in centers and that you are mainly focused on them learning to work together. That is a great idea to start them at such a young age because it only benefits them in the future! The ball story.... too funny!

  2. I love this post! I am a currently studying to become a teacher, so I love hearing the stories of others. We used centers in one of my practicum classrooms and I thought they were great. It is neat for me to see teaching from the eyes of a preschool teacher because it is so much different than elementary. :)

  3. Always love your stories of what's happening, Maureen. Your words are delightful to hear, teaching, teaching. It is an ease that must help the children move into their work (play) with authority. They are safe, they know the expectations, and love the play. Thanks!