Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday SOL The paper chain

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

Today, I worked with a reticent few preschoolers
to create a paper chain
each link denotes a different day,
each link is inscribed with the day of the week and its date,
and the total chain shows
how many more days we have left in the Big Cats.
This morning, the total was 25,
including weekends.

To a preschooler,
25 is huge,
and therefore this is delightful news -
25 more days!

Preschoolers don't want school to end.
This year, in particular,
next year - Pre-k - is the big unknown.

We are not going to be at the same school?!

Our school is moving to a new location.

This delights me and terrifies the preschoolers.

We are not going to be at the same school?!
Things are going to change?

In recent days,
I have fielded so many questions -

Will you be going to the new school, Ms. Ingram?
Will Ms. Duskin (our principal) be at the new school?
Will there be Zebras and Elephants [our Pre-k classes] at the new school?
Ms. Ingram, did you hear there is going to be a new school?
Ms. Ingram, why do there have to be new schools? 

Thus, the paper chain.
A visual.
We will watch it decrease in size.
We will breathe in, breathe out.
We will visit the current classrooms of Pre-k Zebras and Elephants.
We will trust that all will be well.

Change is a comin'!

At closing, the Gathering Helper [Alyja] broke the first link,
Tuesday, May 27th.
24 days left.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday SOL What can you learn from a sharing ritual?

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


One of our favorite pastimes in the Big Cats is the afternoon "sharing" at our closing ritual. I have a special container that rotates alphabetically through the class; each child uses it to hide a  prized possession and the rest of the class asks questions to discover what is inside. Preschoolers love sharing their treasures with one another! Once we make rotate the container through the alphabet, I begin at the top again with another container. Our first share was in an old heart-shaped candy box - "sharing from the heart" and now we have moved onto a special bag. There's also a shoebox, a coffee tin...the containers go on and on!

This simple ritual has long been a fun way to

  • encourage children to speak up in front of an audience, 
  • foster their question-asking skills,
  • build their math skills as they measure items for a particular size container (it must fit inside!) 
  • help them with their concentration and focus as they select one dear item to go inside, and,
  • cultivate their understanding of one another - what do their classmates like?
Recently, I discovered that this sharing ritual also teaches the alphabet - who knew?!

When Charlie discovered that the box rotated from child to child alphabetically by first name, he had a vested interest in knowing the alphabet. He loves that I add a new container when one has completed its rotation through the class; he knows that his letter "C" will come up again and again...and he has figured out our class pattern.

"There are FIVE A's in our class, Ms. Ingram - Ada, Akhil, Alyja, Amelie, and Ashley. 
There is one B - Bernie.
Next, it's me, C - but first Caroline and then me, Charlie."

Me - "Wow, Charlie - that is great! Who comes next, after you?"

Charlie - "Well, there are no D's."

Me - "How many E's?"

Charlie - "Three - Ellie, Eloise, and Evan."

On and on, he worked his way through our class alphabet...amazing me all the way through to Z, Zuren.

Very sweet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday SOL How many more walks do I have this year?

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


Three things immediately excite me when I think about our move to a new, permanent school location next year:

- Playground and green space at our school.
- Bathrooms in close proximity.
- A much larger classroom.

When I see the plans for the new school, it is as if a weight is being lifted from my shoulders. I'm not really sure which of these matters most - their importance varies with each week, day, or hour.

Right now, I find myself obsessing about next year's playground and green space.

Our daily walks on the walking rope have been very difficult.

Won't it be so awesome to throw open a door and let the children play?
To let the children get their wiggles out, at a moment's notice?

Yes, my mind wanders and I begin imagining - things to climb, room to run, places to dig and explore...


the reality is, we still have six more weeks of school.

There are still many more daily walks.
This year.
With these preschoolers.

This is how we get to the local playground, several blocks away,
this is how we get to the national park,
several blocks away,
this is what we do each day,
after centers,
before story time,
for fresh air.
Twenty-three preschoolers
on a walking rope.

It has been the best solution for a difficult environment.

Keeping them safe,
moving through the city blocks,
all together,
one community.

It is our routine.

Our routine has reached
a painful crescendo.

How to describe the recent walk that did me in?

A blur of shoes, falling off feet,
new summer shoes - "larger, to grow into,"
ballet flats that slip off when you think about them,
big preschool feet stepping on the heels of the child in front of them, forcing that shoe off,
incessant "shoe problems!" (as the children cry out) that
stop the entire process,
forcing the walking rope to a halt,
as we tend to the missing shoe.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together.
A blur of voices, disturbingly loud,
in each other's ears,
singing, "Let It Go!"
calling, "Ms. Ingram! Ms. Ingram! Ms. Ingram!"
shouting, "STOP! That's hurting my ears!"
making our movement together
so painful.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together. 
A blur of hands, full of motion,
pulling on landscaping and flowers,
bending over to pick things up from the ground,
pushing classmates,
jerking the entire rope to a stop.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together.
Shoes, voices, hands
tears, whines, hurt.

Yes, this was the walk that did me in.

Back in the classroom,
as the children settled down for story time,
I explained that we had to talk about today's walk.

First, we did some deep breathing together.

Then, a show of hands,
"Who felt sad on today's walk?"
[Everyone's hands shoot up - and lots of voices, with corroborating stories...]

"What makes us sad on walks?"
This question resulted in four specifics:
- when someone walks on another's heel
- when someone uses a very loud voice
- when someone hurts another with their hands
- when someone keeps singing even when their partner says "Stop!"

[I was struck by how no one mentioned the "individual" wrong-doings, such as - pulling a flower from the landscape, or kicking one's own shoes off...everyone focused on the "injustices" that had been done to them by another classmate. I see this as growth - preschoolers who want friendships. These preschoolers are no longer playing parallel, alongside one another, but desire cooperative togetherness. I decided not to interject my own voice on this list, not to have it include all the challenging behaviors that I noticed. Instead, let's build those friendship skills!]

Me - "What might we do to prevent each of these? Let's take them one at a time and think about them. How can we get along in the community of our walking rope?"

We talked about how physically close everyone is on the walking rope, with
no one able to move to a further location...
how this is different from other parts of our day, when
everyone is allowed to move freely.
Maybe we have to behave differently on the walking rope?

With that, there was a sea change -
preschoolers began thinking about actions they could each do that would help us all.

We made

"Our Walking Rules"

- Watch our feet as we walk
- Use calm voices
- Take deep breaths and keep our hands to ourselves
- "Stop" when asked

The next day,
just before leaving on our walk,
I reviewed their ideas from the day before and
asked each child to sign the rules,
indicating that they would try their very best on our walk.

I love how these preschoolers were able to reflect and suggest changes.

Now, when walking,
the children are noticing helpful behaviors.

We are making the best of it.
Accenting the positive.
Working together.

[But I am still counting...
How many more walks do I have this year?]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I love my Mommy

I love my Mommy because . . .

Julian - my mommy loves me

Zuren – she gave me a cookie

Ada – she does my hair sometimes

Helen – she takes care of me and she loves me

Charlie – it’s Mother’s Day!

Lavinia – she has short hair like me

Evan – she plays soccer with me

Hughie – I always do things all the time with her

Alyja – she gives special treats to me

Micaela – she’s my brother’s Mom

Amelie – she loves me and I love her

Lily – I want to go to work with her

Akhil – Mommy, please!

Shaan - I love every Mommy!

Caroline – she is sweet and she’s kind and she loves me

Ashley – she use the jack in the box at home

Ellie – she saves penguins!

Eloise – she’s coming here, she’s picking me up

Ian – I love her so much!