Saturday, June 29, 2013

What do we learn from self-portraits?

In both September and June - the beginning and end of the school year - I ask my preschoolers to make a self-portrait. I set them up with a mirror and a special pen (thin, black felt tip marker) and a simple piece of white cardstock.

I love comparing the two drawings each June.

These simple drawings are extraordinary windows into how much the children have grown and developed over the school year. What a wonder it is to go from being a three year old to a four year old! I am amazed.

Let me share a few of these self-portraits here, so that you might see this growth, too. For each of these,  last September's is displayed on the left and this June's is on the right.

the growth in fine motor control,
the ability to make specific shapes - such as an oval face;

Consider, how many more details the child observes -
hair, teeth, eyelashes, eyebrows.

Consider the risks the child takes in representing these new observations on paper - it is as if the preschooler artist is unfettered, soaring with ideas, determined to share them all.

I can't help but think about the many experiences that have led to these June self-portraits...

daily opportunities for using all sorts of tools,
working those fine motor muscles, 
through drawing, painting, beading, cooking, hammering, other.

Fun and silly ways that we "looked for details,"
whether walking the block and counting trucks,
or hiding our classroom rock somewhere in the school and hunting for it,
or searching for tiny gems and beads in the midst of a pile of sand in the sensory table.

The children think, draw, and write all the time, 
because the paper is there at the ready and 
the challenge is there -
to create a recipe for a cooking project, 
to develop a plan for an engineering solution, or
to make a sign for a block project.

The preschoolers played with mirrors all the time, too, 
because I keep these at the ready in the science and dramatic play areas. 
The children loved to look at their reflections, and 
to turn the mirrors in different ways, 
to see light reflected on the ceiling or wall.

All these experiences plus
the simple beauty of growing bigger, older, wiser,
lead to these June self-portraits.

Do you see what I see?
Isn't it amazing how much preschoolers grow in one year,
from being three years old to being four?

Truly, these self-portraits are a gift for my eyes.
I feel a lot of joy when I study them.
They make me smile!

They tell me that the preschoolers are
observant, and
What great academic skills!

Yes, we had a very good year together.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday SOL We are from - A Poem to Celebrate Our Year

Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers

[The children's last day was last Friday, however, I have a full week of professional development this week, as we try to capture everything we have learned during this second year of our new school...and make new plans for year three. Then, summer comes! Yes! I can taste it already!!] 

I always like to create a poem with the children to commemorate the school year, one that highlights their memories from our time together. 

When the children shared their favorite memories aloud, I grouped their responses into categories of like items and I added a few thoughts of my own. [I continue to think of more fun things that we forgot to include - for example, how did everyone forget the Phillips Art projects?] Next, I decided to borrow from a poem experience I learned about last summer in professional development and insert the phrase "We are from..." throughout the poem, as an anchor, to remind us that we did these things together. 

I love that the children's memories are - by and large - things we did over and over - truly, these were integral to our year, what it means to be "a preschool Big Cat."

I think this poem is pretty sweet! We have had a delightful year!

    We are from . . .
The Kissing Hand,
Sensory table,
Blocks and ramps,
Making gak,
How does your story begin?

   We are from . . .
Dancing to “Freeze Dance,
“Airplane Song,”
“We are the Dinosaurs,”
“Animal Action,”
“Ram Sam Sam.”

We are from . . .
The Three Little Pigs,
Counting trucks,
Question of the day,
Gems in the kindness jar,
Making hero capes.   

                    We are from . . .                                         
Walking the block,
Running the baseball field,
Meridian Hill Park,
Singing “Little Red Wagon,”
“Acorn Song”

We are from ...
Paper airplanes,
Baby dolls and dress up,
“The Beaver Song”
Building forts,

We are from ...
The sharing box,
Chef Goop,
Cooking omelets,
“The Moose Song,”
The food truck.

We are from ...
“The Goodbye Song”


About that professional development poem writing -
During last summer's professional development, my colleagues and I wrote "I am from" poems, where we listed a few simple, immediate answers to broad questions called out in rapid succession by our trainer -
What was your neighborhood like? 
What were your favorite foods?
What foods did you hate?
Who was there?
What did you wear?
Who did you love?
What scared you?
What were your favorite activities?
What did you/your family honor?
What did you desire?
What did people say to you?

We were only given a moment or two to write responses to each question. Then, we read our lists aloud to one another, inserting the phrase "I am from..." before each answer. This simple, instantaneous poem was surprisingly tender and meaningful.  Here's mine:

I am from
crabapple trees

I am from 
ice cream
chocolate chip cookies

I am from
hot dogs

I am from 

I am from 
boys' shirts
tennis shoes

I am from
my brother Ralph
my friend Mike

I am from 
Mom being sick

I am from
playing house

I am from
what Dad says goes

I am from
a room of my own
a sister

I am from
you are a pretty girl
behave yourself
blessed are the peacemakers
peacemakers are women

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday SOL End of year

Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou

So many emotions, end of school year.
The children are well aware that their time in our dear classroom is short,
ending this Friday.

They are, perhaps, not so well aware what that means.

What comes next?
A big unknown, for a preschooler.

They are feeling very emotional.

I am feeling very emotional.

Today, I received the biggest hug from one of my preschoolers, upon arrival at school.
Truly, he leapt at me.
I said, surprised, "Oh, wow, you are giving me a very big hug!"
He said, "I can't stop hugging you, Ms. Ingram! I can't stop!"

Have I ever heard more precious words?
I can't stop hugging you, Ms. Ingram! I can't stop!

Made my day.
Made my week.
Made my year.

What a delight, preschoolers!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday SOL My laughs during assessments

Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers

It is the end of the school year and I am awash in doing final assessments of my preschoolers.
I am always amazed at how time-consuming it is, and
how delightful I find the one-on-ones with these little ones.
They say the most adorable things.

Three examples -

gathering data on children's ability to recognize shapes,
showing a preschooler pictures of
rectangle, triangle, circle;
she's recognizing them right away.

I show her a square, and
she declares,

"SQUARE! SQUIRREL! Oh, that reminds me, I saw a dead squirrel in a trash can on the way to school this morning, and my Mommy said she didn't like it, that she doesn't like squirrels, because they hurt our garden, they take our seeds and the plants don't grow, and this one was dead and it was in the trash can with flies, too."

Yes, the square meant very little to her,
but the morning walk meant all the world...

(Hey, maybe I can enter her words in my alliteration data...great connection, square to squirrel!)

now I am gathering data on spatial relationships,
students' ability to follow simple directions related to position and proximity -
in, on, under, beside, between...
I have some small blocks out and a couple counting bears...
I say,
"Move the bear ON a block..."

He moves the counting bear to the appropriate place.
But then he begins to build with the blocks.
He builds a simple set of stairs, and moves the counting bear up these, saying,

"Here's the bear, 
bear goes up the stairs. 
Daddy says he's gotta go to bed, 
'gotta go to sleep, bear.  
I love you, bear.' "

What a dear! Suddenly this spatial relationship data seems rather trivial...I'd rather hear this child's stories....

I am gathering data on number sense -
How high can a child count?
Do they associate the number with a quantity?
Let's look at their one-on-one correspondence.

I have a large container filled with counting bears and another large container filled with small blocks.

She begs to explore the materials  -
"No questions, Ms. Ingram...let me fix this, first!"

She begins to build the longest line of blocks, using every single one of the cubes.

"Now, let me give each bear a chair!,"
and she puts one small bear on each small block, painstakingly, unhurried.

It is just she and I, with, seemingly,
all the time in the world.

"Wow, that is a lot of bears and a lot of blocks...would you like to count them?"

"Oh, sure! Watch!" and

she dances her pointed finger from the beginning to the row to the end,

"One - two - three- four - five - six - seven - eight! 
That is FAST counting! 
I am good at this!!"

Too funny.

How can I argue about her mathematical prowess when she has shown me such focus and precision in the creation of her line of bears?

These assessments are too narrow in their focus!
Children have so much more to share.