Thursday, April 26, 2012

What about those pill bugs?

We had a very informative read-aloud,
I'm A Pill Bug by Yukihisa Tokuda,
and some delightful time, digging in the garden.

Here's what I overheard the children say:

Let's look for pill bugs.
Let's pull this brick.
It is really stuck.
Let's do it together.
You help me.
You got it!
Pill bugs, I see some!
Look, how many!
One, two, three, four, a hundred!

They ate the brick!
Look, they are eating the brick!
Look, there is a hole.
They make that hole, I know it!
They really ate it, just like the book says.

I see one right there.
That is a mommy.
She is bigger.
There is a baby one.
I got one on my shovel, look.
I found a couple!
Oh, oh, one is on top of the other - aaaack!

Let's make a pill bug house.
Let's turn all the bricks over.
We are finding a lot of pill bugs under 2000 bricks.
Hey look, there's one right there.
Oh, hohohohohohoho! He's getting dirty!
Oh, hohoho! I made a trick.
Look, he went in one way and came out the other.

I lifted up this brick and I made pill bugs!

[Pill bug brigade:  Beryl, Estee, Liam C., Naia, Oscar, and Salma]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday SOL - How to handle this?

Jack brings a special toy to school, against his mother's wishes.
He is picked up early and can't find his toy at the end of the day.
His mother is upset,
"This is why we don't bring special toys from home."
They search and search the classroom.
To no avail.
It is curious to me.
Yes, the room is large,
and the toy is small.
However, hmmm,
this toy should be here.

His mother adds,
"Well, you've learned your lesson now. You won't bring toys from home anymore."
I let this comment slide.
But I disagree.
It is a rare three year old that learns the lesson of not bringing toys from home.
That is an adult notion, to leave special things at home.
Threes need their special things with them.

The child goes home.
I sit for a minute, still thinking,
How odd.

Yes, the room is large,
and the toy is small.
However, hmmm,
this toy should be here.

I think of three children who love this toy and I go through their cubbies.  
Shame on me, I was suspicious.
Carefully sequestered inside a lunchbox is the special toy.

I go right over to the lunchbox owner.
"Look at this," I say, as calmly as I can muster, and I show him the contents.
"Oh, yes.  I am going to play trains now."
"You get to play trains after you talk to me. Why is this toy in here?"
"I put it in there.  It is Jack's."
"I appreciate your honesty; you are right, this is Jack's.  Did you hear Jack and his mother looking for this?  Did you see how sad Jack was when he couldn't find it?"
"I just don't understand, sweetie.  This isn't yours.  You don't have the right to take home toys of other people without asking them, first."
"Let's go over to the writing table and write Jack an 'I'm sorry' card, let's tell him that you are sorry you took his toy without asking."

He draws a picture and I write the words and we put the letter in Jack's cubby.  Later, I rethink the situation and decide to tear the apology up.  I am uncomfortable with Jack's mother thinking poorly of  this child, thinking "this is a child who steals."  
I wonder if most three year olds are children who steal?
I wonder if it isn't perfectly natural to imagine a new special something as yours?
To take it?

I will simply tell Jack's family that I "found" the toy and give it back tomorrow.  I won't mention how it was found.

This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night!
How do you teach the lessons about
respecting one another, respecting one another's property
with the right amount of seriousness, yet the right enough understanding for their developmental age?

Developmentally, this "taker" is right on with his succinct and open "I put it in there. It is Jack's."
It makes perfect sense to a three year old - I want it, I take it.

This little friend, who is hiding things in his lunchbox, is learning
it is not all about him. 
If he was learning his ABC's, I'd give him a little more time and space,
I'd let him slip up and forget,  I'd help him "do over."

Why should social-emotional learning be any different?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday SOLSC - Term of endearment

As he worked at the art table,
he began to tell me an impassioned tale.
thinking he did not have my attention,
he called out,

I looked up in surprise,
and he was delighted that I was listening,
so he proceeded to tell me his story.

I smiled,
and studied him,
and feigned listening,

but I could not hear him,
because of the loud echo in my ears,

Can it be?

I am used to hearing,
when a child is busy and focused,
and needing the adult at hand.

I have always loved this.

My hair is salt and pepper, 
well on its way to gray.
My preschoolers' parents are now
closer in age to my sons
than to me.
I am changing.

This is a first.

It, too, is a term of endearment.

I will learn to love this.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's happening in the garden?

One of our Teacher Residents (Anna) has organized a vegetable garden for the preschool and Pre-K classrooms - what a fantastic idea!  

It never ceases to amaze me how much fun and learning we can do outdoors.

Every day of the week, during centers, a small group of children heads outside to work in the garden.  

This past week, our first week, has been all about digging up and working the soil.  We are using real tools - and the children are being so careful and responsible.  

Other excitement from week one:
  • discovering roots
  • distinguishing between clumps of dirt and rocks
  • learning how to shovel
  • banging on a tree stump
  • finding bugs
  • using a shovel to find bugs
  • making bug homes
We have found lots of grubs, pill bugs, spiders...and not enough worms.  I love how no one flinches at any of these finds.  Young children are all about discovery - holding the grubs in their hands, exploring its legs and antennae.  They had many questions about the grubs - 

What is this shiny gold thing with a tail? 
Why is this in the garden?  
Is it good or bad?  
What is it doing?  
Why is it curling up? 

Here, I don't know the answers...but I'm excited to help them in finding answers, to discover more.

What to do with all the non-living things we find in the soil?  Well, start a windowsill display, of course!  We love exhibits.  Here, we have been treasuring rocks, parts of bricks, small plastic toys, all of our finds.  

Each day, the time has just flown one has asked to leave the garden, no one has been "bored."  I hear the children creating respectful rules for working alongside one another:

You are getting dirt on me.  You are moving the shovel too fast.
Look, dirt on the sidewalk!  Dirt stays in the garden.
Can you throw dirt?  No! 

Another unplanned, unexpected, but treasured tangent of this gardening has been the mixed-age group experience.  Not only are three, four, and five year olds working together, but several elementary students have joined us.  During their playground time, our elementary students have seen the preschoolers working and have asked to help.  We have welcomed their assistance (they are so proficient at loosening and turning over the soil!).  It is so great for our youngest students to have this fervent interest by the older ones.

As the children work, the conversation just flows...

We are growing flowers at my house. 
First we looked at bugs, and then we grew flowers.
My daddy is doing that.  He jumps on the shovel, too, making big clumps of dirt.
My mommy gave me gardening gloves.  I got big gloves.
We have a new shovel.
We are growing carrots and peas.
In my garden, we saw a big insect. It was this big, as big as a grasshopper.

This week, we are planting the vegetables.  

However, because this open-ended exploration has been so fantastic, we have decided to reserve one small area, deep in the shade, just for digging.

Here's to gardening!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday SOLSC - Together again

[A slice that needed to be revised!!  I tried my hand at an early morning poem, only to confuse.]

The children
had so many

"Florida," "California," "Boston," 
"New York," "South Carolina," 
"Kenya," (truly!)
"car trip."


"our house,"
"Washington, D.C.,"


"riding bikes,"
"egg hunts,"

We spent ten days apart, everyone in different directions.

I hope,

dress ups,
hello song."

Our community.
Together again.

P.S. Today's return to school was delightful!  There was a lovely hum in the classroom, children getting along fabulously, enjoying one another's company and all the things to do, and giving Ms. Ingram lots of hugs!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to learn something new?

How to stretch a kid? 
How to get them out of their "stuck" position and move them into learning?

     On my mind, actively, this spring break, is my son who is a junior in high school.  A year from now, we hope he is opening up college acceptances....  We know he is interested in college, but in a very passive, third child, calm way.  He is an easy-going, happy kid.  Not particularly charged about any one topic – likes building and creating (engineering?), enjoys his high school law and forensic science classes (criminology?)  He is young, a late June birth, meaning he has always been one of the youngest in his class...truly I wonder if he just needs a year off, a “gap”  year...he is uncertain. He watched and listened to the "buzz" around the his older brothers going to college, going to law school; my new job; Dad’s new job; and he just slips away, to play games, use the computer, hang with friends.  He is happy being in the background, perfectly content to let his family dig deep into their pursuits.

How to introduce some forward thinking?  
How to take him further is his pursuits, in his interests?

     On my mind, passively, this spring break, are my preschool "race car drivers."  I have several students who race cars every day, every day, every day.  They are easy-going, happy kids.  Sure, with their classmates, they read great books, create exciting engineering projects, explore puppets, nature, math, on and on.  But, every day, as soon as they can, they slip away and return to cars - talking about them, building garages and roads for them, and racing them.  They are happy being in the background, perfectly content to let their classmates get deep into other topics. For them, it's all about cars.

How to introduce some literacy, some math, some critical thinking into their play? 
How to take them further in their pursuits, in their interests?

     Here we are, on a spring break college tour with our junior ... we are “putting out a carrot,” trying to whet his appetite, increase his desire, draw him in.   He hasn’t sought to know more about college; as of yet, he’s not owning this pursuit.  We challenged him to name four colleges about 2- 3 hours away, perhaps places we didn’t visit with his older brothers, "let's make it a mini-vacation."   We turned the spotlight on him.  In the end, we chose the four colleges, colleges that we have heard positive things about, and we planned a get-away for spring break, scooping him up, immersing him in the topic of going to college - seeing, doing, hearing.  He visited Admissions Offices, walked campuses, sat in quads, soaked up the college atmosphere.  Saturation, immersion, cultivation.

     And here I am planning a new dramatic play center for my "peripheral" learners – the ones who engage briefly in our projects and then take off to race cars.  Let’s turn the spotlight on them. I’m thinking “Auto Repair,” a center where I might have lots and lots of old, broken toy cars for painting and detailing (every car will need a race number!).  Maybe we could have a car washing area, with rags for scrubbing or waxing? Perhaps we could build a “race course” – a place to test out our repaired cars?  (Maybe one of the older elementary students could help us.)  We could have small writing pads for writing up repair bills.  We could have mechanics tools.  It would be fun to decorate the area with old license plates, maybe a hub cap or two? Could we create one large cardboard box car, for children to go in and out of? Perhaps we could create a ramp for cars (not balls) and do timed runs?  Measure distances?  

     Our family keeps talking about college. We built a trip to cultivate interest in college.

      I think the college trip has made our junior feel very special.  More importantly, it has made college more "real" for him.  He sees that his parents are interested.  He is excited about possibilities.  He is making comments, asking questions: 

I’m not sure I want to be at some place so small.
This place is cool – the downtown is fun, the campus – I like it.
Mom, did you hear that they have a major that combines Engineering with Liberal Arts – you can get two B.A.s in the 5 year plan?
Where is the main part of this campus?  It is so big.
I wonder how diverse this campus is?

     His process of discernment begins.  If, over time, it is becomes apparent that he isn’t interested in - or ready for - college right now, we’ll regroup, refine, re-plan.

     The preschoolers keep talking about cars.  Let's build a dramatic play corner to cultivate this topic.

     I think this dramatic play corner will make these preschoolers feel very special.  Using their own interests as a starting point, they will be working on literacy and math.  If it turns out that the children aren’t really interested in the new "auto repair" area, we’ll know it soon – when we see them spend time elsewhere.  And we’ll refine, regroup, re-plan.

     This is "emergent" learning...the topic is "of" them; our role as teachers (parents) is to nurture and encourage the topic; the children must participate for the subject to grow...and it may all fizzle out and we'll move on to something else.

With children of all ages, 
we simply:

need to provoke,
need to stimulate,
catch them thinking,
get ‘em thinking!

It can seem light, cursory, even extravagant.
Why put a child’s interests above your own?

To see where it leads,
see if there is a spark.

How do you learn more about something?
How do you learn something new?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring break SOLSC



Action words for an inactive week.