Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kindness, Fairness, Manners and More - Teacher Jean

I was recently invited to attend a play group/social hour for preschoolers and their moms. It was sponsored by my neighborhood’s recreation association, and I was there a resource for the parents. Upon arriving, a few two-year-olds made a beeline for the train set, but alas! there was only one Thomas. There were more than a few tears shed as the adults tried to help the children give up Thomas for a few moments to allow others to play with him. As we were cleaning up, one of the facilitators wisely pointed out that the way children learn to function successfully in group settings is by actually participating in groups. Play groups are a wonderful opportunity, not only for parents to enjoy some adult company and support, but also for children to learn and grow together with the help of their parents. Social skills are also a major part of any preschool program.

We are often asked about our approach to discipline at Small Friends. Here are a few of the ways that we promote positive interactions at school:
  • Parents and teachers model and talk openly about the skill: (using good table manners, being kind to others, taking turns, etc.)

  • Children have ample opportunities to practice the skill, and adults provide feedback to steer them in the direction of kindness and fairness. (And those who need it receive encouragement, support, and words to use when standing up for themselves.)

  • When there is a problem between two children, adults offer words they can use to negotiate with one another, and stay with them to help them follow through.

Here one friend was encouraged to ask if she could use some shapes that another friend was using, but her friend wasn’t finished with them yet. The first child waited quite a while for her turn, but it was worth the wait! She was very proud of her creation, and the adults praised her for her patience and perseverance.

  • When issues arise in a group, adults often read books that address the issues through stories. It’s amazing how quickly we see the lessons in the stories being applied by the children.

Here are some of the titles we have used recently:
I’m The Best, by Lucy Cousins
Sorry! by Norbert Landa
Help! A Story of Friendship, by Holly Keller
I’m Sorry, by Sam McBratney
Panda and Polar Bear, by Matthew Baek

One of the great rewards of working with young children is watching our Small Friends gain the confidence, cooperation and communication skills they need to become truly good friends, both to one another and to their future school-mates.


Friday, January 25, 2013

We Have Fun With Tinkertoys - Teacher Sue

Tinkertoys have been around since the early 1900s and most of us can remember playing with them in our own childhoods. It is still one of our most popular toys that we put out in our classrooms for play and exploration. There is something about the shapes, colors and possibilities that create interest in most children for hours of fun and divergent play. As the children manipulate and experiment with these toys there is an abundance of learning that goes on as well. They must use their imaginations to create. There is planning and problem solving going on as they begin to work through their ideas. They must think creatively and even cooperate and communicate if they are working with friends. The children may not completely understand these skills but they are set in motion as they build. We love to just sit and observe and listen to what the children have to say as they create:

"Mine is exploding!"

"Look how tall this is - it's taller than me!"

"When I make that so tall, it falls over. That's so awesome!"

"This has a spinner."

"I think I need a taller chair."

"Let me help you add on to make it longer."

"I used so many it goes all the way across the room."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Valuing Relationships - Teacher Sydney

It was wonderful coming back from Winter Break and watching as the children came happily and confidently into the classroom. I found myself thinking back to the beginning of the year and, especially with the Younger Class, was amazed by the difference a few months can make in the children's sense of security and comfort in their surroundings. Even those children who had a little anxiety in saying good-bye (after all it had been two whole weeks since they had last been at school) transitioned quickly as they became engaged with their teachers and with their friends in the classroom. This change is wonderful to watch and it happens each year but as I reflected on it, I realized it does not “just happen”, it happens because of the relationships we value at Small Friends and because of all the things we intentionally do to try to establish and nurture those connections.
Friendships between children
We intentionally set-up the classroom with different activity areas. Some are smaller, quieter spaces just right for visiting with a friend or two. Others, like the Block Area, are larger (and by their nature a little noisier), great for learning to work with a group.


Relationships between the children, the teachers and other trusted adults.
We are so lucky at Small Friends to have two teachers and usually two parents working in the preschool classrooms each day. The wonderful adult to child ratio gives us time to build relationships with the children, to encourage discussions and conversations and to be there to extend the learning at the many different activity centers throughout the classroom.

Even relationships with our class pets!
It is not by accident that we have the pet cages right near the door to the classroom. We put them there intentionally since we realize that often, for some children (especially at the beginning of their time at Small Friends) it is coming to see the pets that entices them into the room in the first place.

To partially paraphrase a statement at the beginning of the Small Friends School handbook, we recognize the importance of all of these relationships in our classrooms and, “seek avenues for building these connections, knowing that the quality of these relationships strongly influences the learning potential for all.” It is through the growth of these friendships and connections that we hope to establish the joy of coming to school each day!
Hope you are all having a good beginning to 2013 – it's nice to be back!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Run Run As fast As You Can! You Can't Catch Me - I'm the Gingerbread Man!

One of our December themes in Kindergarten involves that favorite character, the Gingerbread Man!  We read many stories about Gingerbread men - a traditional version, a pirate version, a cajun version and The Gingerbread Baby.  We introduced the children to a story circle - each person in the story circle tells the next part of the story.  It was challenging for the children to learn to summarize a part of a story in their own words.  We will keep practicing this skill using different stories throughout the course of the year.  This gives the children an ability to learn how stories have a beginning, middle and end and eventually this will translate into their own story writing ability.

The gingerbread poem was read in the pocket chart and games were played with sight words.  Below, the children try to find the gift behind the gingerbread man - but need to cue into the sight word first.

In math, we cut out gingerbread men and then decorated them using a pattern.  Each part of the gingerbread man needed to have a different one!

The Gingerbread People are now on the run in the hallway...
Then came a more sensory experience.  The children were asked to describe a gingerbread cookie using all their senses.  Everyone looked at the cookie before it was shared to eat.

Here are their observations!  This was a terrific activity to encourage the children to use "juicy" words - adjectives that can make their writing more descriptive.
Another activity involved coloring the cookie with particular colors to show the sequence in which you like to eat a gingerbread cookie. We found that in our class, the heads and feet of a gingerbread person were in danger first!

One of our math objectives this month is to introduce the children to various 3-D shapes.  The children learned that a gingerbread house is actually made of a triangular prism on top of a rectangular prism  - and oh so much fun to decorate (using patterns of course) !

We were able to celebrate all that is fun about the holidays and still get lots of learning in!