Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blast Off! Teacher Sydney

Around the middle of February we noticed several children in our Older Class turning our loft area into a space-ship for trips to the moon. We decided to follow their lead and do an exploration of Space and Rocket-ships. During the course of the next month, we did all kinds of art, science and math activities related to the topic, read many wonderful books at Group Time and learned songs related to the moon and stars. The activity I want to focus on for this Blog entry is the process of each child making their own rocket-ship. Within this activity the children got practice with many different kinds of learning, from literacy to life-skills.

To begin, we read a book called Imagination I by Erza Jack Keats. It is a story about a little boy who uses his imagination to help solve some problems he has been having with his friends. He builds a rocket-ship and, with imagination as his fuel, blasts off for adventures in outer space – soon, of course, all of his friends want to join in the adventure, too. The book is a good introduction to space because it shows different things the boy sees on his imaginary travel to space and makes a strong point that “all it takes is a little imagination”. Then we told the children that on the next school day we would begin making our own rocket-ships. We made sure to explain that our version would be smaller than the one in the book and that we wouldn't really have any fire (for blasting off, of course), just imagination! We also explained that this was a project that would take many days for everyone to complete. Even with those stipulations, we could tell they were excited about the prospect.

The next day, the planning began. We had some books about space out on the table for the children to look at and talk about. Then they drew their plans for what they wanted their rocket-ship to look like. We had them dictate description where needed and we asked them to list the materials they would need when it was time to build.


After everyone had made their plans, we began the construction part of the project. Before starting to build each child referred back to their original plan to refresh their memory - a good way to demonstrate the importance of both drawing and the written word! Then they began building. We had glue, colored tape, regular tape, all kinds of cardboard tubes and boxes, plain pieces of cardboard, aluminum foil. etc. We tried to be sure we had most of the things the children had listed they would need although we did make some substitues such as clear plastic instead of real glass and, again, no real fire.

This part of the project took a couple of days for each child to get their turn at building since the plans were quite detailed and the children all seemed to have a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like in the end. The parent-helpers did a great job of helping the children turn their plans into a reality!

The final stage of rocket building was getting to decorate the rocket-ship. We again referred to the original plans to see what materials to have available. We included crepe paper in shades of red, yellow and orange (for pretend fire), paint, glow-in-the-dark star stickers, chenille stems and astronaut stickers. After they finished their rocket-ships, we took a photo of them holding it and had them dictate a story about where their rocket would go and what it would see in Outer Space. Again, this step took a couple of days to complete but as you can see from the photos, everyone seemed quite pleased with the end result.


The rocket-ships are hanging up in our classroom now where we can all enjoy them before sending them home. It is amazing to see all the different styles, shapes and colors. It is safe to say that no two are alike. Within a fun and creative project the children also got lots of practice in literacy by making their plans and referring to them each step of the way and by telling the story of their rocket's adventures in space. Along the way they also got practice in some important life skills such as perseverance, patience, creativity, resourcefulness and flexible thinking (how can it look like fire without being the real thing?). All of that and lots of imagination!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Preschool Friendships - Teacher Elaine

Parents often ask us if their child is making friends.  For preschoolers, developing friendships is a process that requires certain social skills.  Some of these include sufficient mastery of language, regulating emotions, negotiation skills, controlling frustration and resolving conflicts.

Some parents expect their preschoolers to make friends quickly.  Typically, most three year olds spend their time in parallel or solitary play.  They often observe other children and adults for long periods of time.  A child might be considered “a friend” simply because he/she knows his/her name.  Young children have “friends of convenience” or momentary playmates.  Playmates may be chosen because they are the children who have the toys that they want to play with at that time.

Our role as teachers is to set up an environment that encourages the use of social skills.  For example, we have a group project that requires cooperation to achieve a common goal.  We also recognize the importance of a positive and safe environment where children’s relationships are important.

As teachers and parents, we can guide them along the way.  We can model appropriate behaviors and acknowledge them when they occur.  We can help children learn each other’s names and assist them in developing their conversation skills.  Unless there is some physical danger that should be dealt with, we let the children try to solve some conflicts on their own.

One thing to remember is that not everyone likes each other all the time.  Children may vary tremendously at this age.  Some may have multiple friends and others may have one friend by the end of their preschool experience. 
It is not the number of friends that is important, but the “satisfaction and rewards” that result from your child’s social journey.

Kindergarten Readiness - Teacher Jean

Just as surely as winter leads into spring, about this time of year we notice that the children in our older classes develop a restlessness, a readiness to take on new challenges. This is an excellent sign, even though the restlessness can be a challenge for their teachers! It means they have gained skills and confidence from their experiences in preschool:

They enjoy books, having been read to both at group time and in small groups or individually on the couch.

Here are two children reading with "Pete the Cat".
They have had lots of experience working and playing together...

sharing materials,
helping one another with projects,

...and collaborating to make things happen

They’ve experimented with letters and grown comfortable using writing for a purpose.

Letter writing in a tray of insta-snow:

Writing their names on their art projects and when checking in for the day:

Using the writing center to write and send letters to friends and family members:

They have worked with a variety of adults, including two teachers and all of the parents who help in the classroom.

They have gained experience speaking and performing in front of their peers.

They've experienced the success of finishing multi-step projects.

But most importantly, they have learned to love school.

If you are interested in reading more about what to look for in a kindergarten and how to help prepare your child for the transition, below is a link to a wonderful resource for parents of preschool children. The section on 54-60 months is particularly useful for parents of children headed for kindergarten.

Friday, April 5, 2013

We Love Pizza in Preschool! Teacher Sue

It is great fun for teachers to bring a topic into the classroom that excites the children as much as PIZZA does! We think of many ways to incorporate PIZZA into our curriculum which is even more fun.

We like to incorporate cooking into our days whenever we can. Making pizza is always a favorite. We begin with simple instructions that the children can follow along with the help of a parent.
They just love the idea of creating their own personal pizza. They practice measuring, scooping, spreading and sprinkling.


After all the creating, the pizzas are popped in the oven and the children can see how delicious they look when they are all cooked.

At story time that same day we continue on with the pizza theme and read a few pizza stories. One story called Pete’s a Pizza  by William Steig is about a family who pretends to make their little boy into a pizza. Another story called Hi Pizza Man! by Virginia Walter is about a young girl who decides what she will say when the idea of various animals might deliver her pizza. Finally, a third story is Huggly’s Pizza by Ted Arnold about Huggly (a character who is familiar to the children) who takes his pals in search of a pizza.

To wrap up our pizza time before enjoying what we cooked, we sang a song that the children have been learning called “The Silly Pizza Song”. This is a wonderful action song that teaches the children simple sign language. They have picked up the signs and repetition of the song so quickly.

Taking one idea and incorporating it throughout many different areas of our day gives the children a connection and an enthusiasm for learning.