Monday, February 28, 2011

Watercolor fun with 2s

Two year old artists with different approaches...

Beautiful results...

Monday, February 21, 2011

What to do about squabbling?

The setting:

I am observing a first year teacher, in a classroom full of three and four year olds.

Children are playing in centers.
There is a post office set up in dramatic play, and there are rules:

- Only three children allowed to play in this center.
- Two children are customers, one is the post office employee.
- Only one costume, the post office employee, with hat, jacket, and mailbag.

Do you predict there will be some squabbling?

First off, more than three children wanted into this dramatic play. The teacher patiently reminded them to look at the center "sign in" and count how many students had already signed in.
Was there room for another person?
No, there was not.

Meanwhile, at the post office -

All three children wanted to carry the mail bag.
All three children wanted to wear the jacket.
All three wanted the hat.
They seemed to know instinctively that the best role was that of the post office employee.
What fun it was to stand behind the counter, selling stamps, envelopes, boxes.
What fun it was to walk around the classroom and deliver mail.

My initial reaction - why aren't there costumes for every child? You can make a very strong case for having multiples of everything - so that all the children in the center can have the choice of dressing up, being in character. Three and four year olds love to dress up! And they are wonderful actors, throwing themselves into dramatic roles. If you don't want to have 3 post office employees, how about special signature costumes for customers - special hats, coats, perhaps a briefcase or purse?

On the other hand, if you - the adult - are ready to provide guidance, you can make a very strong case for having less costumes and helping children with the negotiations. Yes, squabbles over who gets what are life with preschoolers. But, an important part of their learning is about how to get along.
How do you actually learn how to get along if you never have conflict?
How to say "I'm sorry."
How to say "May I have that when you are through?"
Learning to speak up when someone takes something from you without asking.

I watched this new teacher perform beautifully with this situation....

She throws herself into the role of customer, alongside the three children.
She turns to Child #1 behind the counter, who is dressed in the jacket,
"I have a letter to be mailed, I need to buy some stamps."

[And turning to Child #2, potential customer, added,
"I'll let him ring up my stamps, first." ]

Back to Child One, the post office employee,
"May I buy a box from you?"

[And turning back to the customer, Child #2,
"Hmm, who should I send this letter to?

Child #3 is wearing both the hat and the mailbag, and is getting ready to leave the center with a fistful of envelopes, for delivery.
I think to myself, Have the children "organically" decided to have more than one post office employee? I love this!

Not for long. Child #1 marches over to Child #3 and grabs the mail bag and quickly puts it on his friend, Child #2, transforming him from customer to employee.

Teacher sees the instantaneous long face of Child #3 and also observes him walk away, dejected.

"Whoa," she says to Child #3, scurrying to his side, putting her arm around him, "Did you want to give him that mail bag?" He shakes his head "No." "Well, let's go tell him. You don't have to give away something you are still playing with. Let's talk to [Child #1], you and me together."

She helps the two children talk together, and, simultaneously, Child #2 (the one who is now wearing the mail bag because his friend gave it to him) is listening to the discussion and gives the mail bag back to its original owner - "You can have this. I don't need it."

Two of the three children are very happy - but Child #1 had another script in mind for his play - he angrily takes the mail bag again and returns it to his friend, Child #2.

Teacher's interjects, arms around all three now sad children - and says pointedly to Child #1, "Now, your friends have talked about this. [Child #3] is using the mail bag. I see you have on the jacket. What if we took the jacket and gave it to someone else without asking? Would that make you feel good or sad?"

"Sad," he whispers. He is safe and comforted by his teacher's arm around him.

She continues, "If you had the mail bag on you shoulder, would you want someone to take it?"

It is as if a lightbulb goes off - Child #1 exclaims, "No, no, I don't want them to take from me!"

And then the teacher reframed the play for the children - pointing out a new opportunity, "So, you might all work in the post office, delivering letters or selling stamps. It works out nicely."

Yes, it really does work out nicely. Such nice modeling and intervention by this teacher, patiently and painstakingly delivered.

These are small but important moments in children's lives. It matters that children are heard - it matters that we take the time to help them use their voices, to be in community with one another - to not simply demand friends to do things your way, to not simply give up and walk away.

Honestly, when you see the growth and understand the possibilities - the evidence of empathy, the movement away from hitting, you may find yourself intentionally setting up centers with only a few things - forcing the sharing. Think of the learning possibilities!

"You can do no great things, only small things with great love."
- Mother Theresa.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What do you love?

Another wonderful day with two year olds - and Valentine's Day, to boot! So, I did all my "requireds" - created special "love" cards for their parents, made from their handprints and a sweet poem; let them explore creating their own pictures, using fingerpaints, cut out hearts, and any other materials of their choosing. They enjoyed this work very much.

But then, I got a little cocky. I attempted to have them share at circle time. In the interest of full disclosure, may I remind everyone that I have taught 3s and 4s for years? Two year olds are completely different beings....

I introduced a small heart container - letting them hold it, one at a time, and then, while holding it, I encouraged them to announce "what they love." Instead, these sweet twos were fascinated that the heart container opened up - what might be inside it? So, thinking it might help them focus - here's where I took leave of my senses! - I put some Cheerios in it and said

"Watch this - Ms. Maureen will announce what she loves, and then she will open the container and take a Cheerio."

Then I role-played it, saying, "Ms. Maureen loves playing with you at school" and I ate a Cheerio. Well, these little friends were so very, very excited by this! I had them close their eyes and I stuck the container in one child's hand and said, "Surprise! You have the heart, tell us what you love!" and one by one, over and over, they announced -

"I love Cheerios!"

This was hysterical. The other teacher and I could not stop laughing.

Here's evidence that I have forgotten lots that I know about two year olds developmentally: they are literal; they cannot think in abstract terms. They could not think past what was in the container.

Great chuckle of the day! Cheerios! Cheerios! Cheerios!

And I have learned again! Still loving my twos....

Happy Valentine's Day!! Here's the sweet little handprint poem:

Ten tiny fingers,
that always want to play,

That never stop exploring
the wonder of today,

Ten tiny fingers,
that from the very start,

Reach out for tomorrow
yet always hold your heart.

- Author unknown

Monday, February 7, 2011

What to do with 2s?

Recipe for fun:

Start with
at least one willing teacher,
dressed to be messed,
a half dozen 2 year olds,
adorned in smocks, and
some bright blue construction paper...

In a tub,
stir together shaving cream and glue,
mixed half and half.

Be sure to add a bin of warm water for rinsing,
and some towels at the ready.

What do you get?

A whole lot of active, fun, tactile "snowy" pictures...and discovery, to boot -

Oh, I had so much fun this morning, watching these 2s touch and explore this mushy mixture. Older children will create some fabulous almost 3-D snow scenes with this stuff, shaping it into snowmen and snowballs, for example. But 2s are on the early side of that artistic control and purpose - they simply want to wallow in it. And they have so much fun doing it!

They first mashed and manipulated it only with their hands.

"Did you hear that? It squeaks! Look!," exclaimed one child, laughing.

"It's not snow, it is soap," one child explained to me.

Then, they got curious - couldn't we use something besides our hands?

What kind of designs could you make with that paint stick?
Couldn't I use that spoon you scooped it out with?
Hey, what about a paintbrush?

And what about that bin of water? Back and forth they went, from the shaving cream/glue picture to the water tub, back to the shaving cream/glue picture, and back again to the water tub...creating an all new concoction on their art papers.

Then - one child's lightbulb moment:
"We need paint!!"
In went pink paint and then some blue.
It was fascinating to watch this child's precision with where the paint should be placed on the paper.

And, of course, the tub of water was transformed.

"Hey, the water is blue now!"

We soon had a big exploratory mess...and still more fun, wiping up the floor with towels, wiping down the table.

Two year olds want in on all the action. When we let them help, they become more and more competent. It is exciting to watch.

Somehow, I think this was one of those endeavors that parents are thrilled we do at school (and is not expected at home).

Here's to two year olds!