Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Music - Teacher Rebekah

I would assume many of you reading this have a playlist or two with Raffi, Disney Princess songs or The Wiggles. Most preschoolers LOVE to sing and move to rhythms and beats. And most have a favorite song or two. Have you ever watched a child who loves to sing? It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face! I have been asked many times by parents, “What songs have you been singing this week? My child loves them!” Each day we incorporate music at Small Friends. When your child enters the room, there may be music playing to welcome them and set a mood. It could be anything from classical to African drum beats. Each transition has a song so that the kids know what we are doing next, “Everybody it’s clean up time” and “It’s time to sing a song or two” are sung in Classroom B to help us move from free choice time to cleaning up and snack time to group/story time. As most of you know by now, our last song of the day “Goodbye Small Friends” is a way for us to signal the end of our day together and send them off to you! Since preschoolers can’t tell time, I think of these songs as part of their preschool toolbox. The songs are just another tool for them to be able to navigate what will be happening next in the school day.

Music in early education is incredibly important. The opportunities for growth through music are numerous and it can provide a rich sensory environment for our young ones. Want to get technical about it? Research suggests that music helps form neural pathways in the brain for future learning. Cognitive Development is greatly affected by music and the link it has to life- long learning. Areas such as problem solving, critical thinking, math, spatial skills and creativity can be enhanced by the presence of music education. Sound fancy enough? I believe those things to be true, but I also believe music is just plain fun!

In the pictures below we set out a couple of different types of instruments for the children to explore during free choice time. We also incorporated shakers into our group time.

As teachers, we find many other reasons to provide music. Singing songs can provide opportunity for literacy through rhyming, sign language, phonetic skills and vocabulary. Social Skills are developed through self-esteem, self-expression and confidence. Math is part of music in the patterning of notes and rhythms. Having children follow a rhythm using claps or stomps is a great way to help them feel the music and beat.

What happens when you add dancing? Well usually some giggling first, but it also allows for a little more preschool energy to be expended. Balance, coordination and impulse control are learned through movement too. Learning physical control of our bodies is an important step and again can build upon the skill of concentration and of spatial awareness.

Some of the songs we sing in class become instant hits with our kids. In this picture a group of girls got together at free choice time, formed a circle and chose a friend to lead the song with the others followed along. “Tooty-Ta” was the song of choice here.

Allowing for music to be a part of your preschoolers daily routine will help build upon their development. Remember to sing songs when you are in the car, listen to music at home and join in on your help days at Small Friends. Not only will you be modeling the ability to sing or dance but they will enjoy watching you have fun!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrating Chinese New Year - Teacher Elaine

Chinese New Year is always a fun time to celebrate and welcome the coming of spring.  This is an excellent opportunity to expose children to the Chinese culture.  We read stories that explain the different customs and traditions that go along with this celebration.

The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar year.  Each new year is given the name of a Chinese zodiac animal, this one being the year of the ram. There are many stories that explain this.  One that we like to read is Why Cats Chase Mice.  It tells of an emperor who needs help with his kingdom. He invites his animals to take part in a race.  The first twelve to arrive will be his special helpers.  He names a year after each one in the order that they arrive.

Houses are often decorated with lanterns and banners.  We have the children print designs on colorful tissue paper banners that hang in our classroom. 

Another tradition is to give children gifts of red (the color of joy and luck) envelopes containing brand new shiny pennies to take home.

Playing math games with Chinese candies and chopsticks provides the opportunity to practice adding and subtracting along with fine motor skills needed to manipulate the chopsticks.  

Puzzles are often part of the festivities.  We read the book, Grandfather Tang, which tells a story using tangram puzzles.  The children then have the opportunity to revisit the story and reproduce the pictures by placing the correct tangram puzzle pieces on top to cover the shapes on the cards.  

Lion and dragon dances are an important part of the celebrations.  The Chinese dragon is a most sacred animal, a symbol of strength and goodness.  We have our own dragon dance at group time. Teacher Elaine is the dragon’s head and the children are covered with scarves to be the long body.  

We also make shiny shakers and beautiful fans.  It was amazing to see how quickly the children learned the folding technique.  

Lastly, the seed table is transformed into a Chinese restaurant as the children mix up bowls of rice and noodle dishes such as chop suey and yakisoba. 

We hope you had the chance to take part in some of the Chinese New Year festivities around town.  Gung Hay Fat Choy - best wishes and congratulations.  Have a prosperous and good year!