All I ever needed to know I learned while TEACHING PreK…

Being part of the mentor program where I have student teachers in my classroom setting daily and participating in the graduate program has me reflecting on all the positive networking that happens in college and with other like minded individuals. I am proud to say I have stepped up my social media presence both in offering my blog musings but also in sharing my daily activities in Instagram and Facebook. However, I have also been reflecting on the missing pieces of college instruction in relation to actually working with young children. 

I have decided to offer the top 5 reflections I have had over the years – those that college doesn’t teach you. I am a life long student- I have been teaching PreK for over 20 years and have been taking classes and workshops for just as long. Never have I attended a seminar that lays it all out there- I am here to tell you your first year will be rough (you’ll want to quit) and rewarding (you won’t be able to sleep from all of the amazing ideas running through your head) and no amount of textbook reading will prepare you for the actual experience. So buckle up- be prepared to laugh and cry at a moments notice and continue to be professional while doing it! 

Caffeine keeps me going! That and a decent breakfast. PreK is a busy age group, be ready; mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

1. How to keep order when the lesson is interrupted.

This could be for any number of reasons but the one they fail to mention in structured courses is when a child vomits/gets a bloody nose that won’t stop/has a bathroom accident/etc. My advice is put one of your children in charge for the moment. You know the one- they are constantly organizing the games on the playground- natural born leaders-outspoken- always keeping you on track during the day- use them. Have them begin a game of duck duck goose or start the hokey pokey. It will give you a few needed minutes to make a phone call to the office/mom-dad/or whoever is your back up adult. It may not be ideal but it will save your sanity! 

2. When wildlife happens into the educational day you need to be prepared- with knowledge and quick reflexes. 

We have had baby skunks- baby bunnies- birds- bees-creepy looking spiders- and mice venture into my classroom (we live in a rural area with agricultural fields near us and major home developments going in all around). Having wildlife services on speed dial has proven a positive experience for me. I also arm myself with knowledge before school starts. Top 5 poisonous spiders in my area- I know them by sight. Top 3 reasons skunks will be out in daylight- I know them. Rules for What to do if you find baby animals without a parent- I know them. Knowledge is power and having peace of mind that the skunks out in daylight are probably not rabid and merely in breeding season (February) will give you a discussion topic for the next inquiry based project while you wait for wildlife rehab to show up. 

Writing the paint colors on the tops of the jars saves time- no more rummaging through the cabinet in the morning!

3. How to handle not so pleasant facility issues. 

Bathroom toilets get clogged- sinks begin to run slow- garbage cans can have gunk in/on/around them- water faucets leak. I work in a program where parents and myself are the janitorial staff and if the toilet gets clogged during class you can bet it’s me fixing that issue. Again knowledge is power. I took a handyman class at my local Home Depot (seriously) when I first started living on my own and it has paid for itself a million times over. I know where the water shut off is to my sinks and toilets. I practice turning them on and off before school starts and keep the necessary tools on hand to help me just in case. I know how to remove the sink trap to save paint brushes – and I have been known to replace vacuum parts while organizing small group tables. I also have a basic understanding of electrical breakers and know when one is tripped and how to fix it without electrocuting myself. Each of these is preventative in the short term- but it allows time so that I can make that phone call to the professionals and I can get back to educating little people. 

4. Know the ingredients in your paint/playdoh/and sensory materials. 

This helps you to know if a child has developed a nasty rash on their hands or if the purple paint sometimes just stains fingers a blotchy pink. Have a basic understanding of how many marbles you let the children use so that they can all be returned and not go home hidden away in body parts- and what to do and where to look if the beads are disappearing. I know that we all think that non-toxic and washable items should be safe, and in a perfect world we would never have a single item in the room that is smaller than a child’s fist- but this step just cements peace of mind when you have 18 children doing their own thing and the eyes in the back of your head have not yet fully developed. Don’t worry you will earn those extra eyes – as well as ears that tell you which child is sneaking/stomping/running/walking down the hall. It just takes time and getting to know your littles. 

5. The real results developed in a classroom setting each year are those that impress upon your heart, not necessarily documented on paper. 

No matter how many classes I teach the one constant that cannot be taught in college or developed on a formal assessment is the satisfaction I have when a child masters a skill or asks a question that shows me they are getting it. Offering inquiry based activities that allows a child to express his/her innermost thoughts is a window to their souls. When I can reach them because I have thrown out the lesson plan for the day and really listened to their hearts I am reaching milestones. I then find creative ways to document how we have reached the developmental stages, objectives and goals of an activity. 

Take the time to get to know the space: take everything out, go through all of your materials, and organize according to your understanding.  You will be living in this room for a majority of the day; so make it yours, make it beautiful, know what’s in it, and have regularly used items at your fingertips. 

I hold my love for this age group on my sleeve (and DEEP in my heart) -my wanting to work with littles is a calling- and although it isn’t for everyone it is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

I hope a few of these tidbits of information help you in your daily interactions. Sound off in the comments about anything I forgot!

Until next time- I am off to shape little minds and make sure no one uses the dirty Q-Tips. 

Always-

Ms. Tina 

Parent Education Power Point- Literacy

Literacy is a huge component of any early year’s classroom. Basing an entire unit off of a single children’s book is a common practice, and one that I feel supports not only the child, but the family as well. When parents are taught how to encourage a love of reading the entire family will benefit. Although the following list is not comprehensive it gives a start for new teachers just beginning to build their library, as well as an age appropriate list for parents as a jumping off point for quality children’s literature.

Children’s Literature List

In my own program I do not purchase media related books (ex: Dora, PJ Masks, etc), but rather try to include books and stories that are supportive of classroom environments (Everybody Needs a Rock, What To Do With An Idea, etc). Our center created a Free Little Library as a sharing space specifically for our parents; I have included a link to the Free Little Library site for more inspiration.

I have also developed a few different parent education meetings over the years. Each of them has been designed for a  parent participation program and offers valuable research-based ideas for development. This power point contains at-home activities that parents can easily do to encourage literacy.

I am including my Literacy power point for classroom use. Subscribers will have access to additional presentations.

Literacy Power Point

Always,

Ms. Tina

 

Inquiry Based Plans…SPACE

Inquiry based plans are those that evolve out of children’s interests. Rather than having a set curriculum plan, based on traditional themes over the course of the year, inquiry programs follow the lead of the child. This does not mean that there is no plan for the day, it just means that the plans cannot be written a year in advance. When I first started this approach I was scared to let go and follow the children’s lead! What of I didn’t know enough about dinosaurs, space, insects, etc? Over the years I have found that it really doesn’t matter because I am learning right alongside the children and I am usually amazed at how much they already know about a topic; ultimately teaching me in the process.

So while I know that space is an abstract concept for preschoolers that is what we have spent the last month learning about! I always start my inquiry with a “WHAT DO WE KNOW” chart. It is a simple sheet of paper where I ask the children to tell me everything they know about a topic. I write down every word they say and then we go back over the words I wrote, crossing out anything that has been repeated (Literacy/Math/Graphing/Language).

Then I spend the next day or so gathering information, scouring Pinterest, and checking out books at my local library. I then begin to present our topic, allowing and encouraging the children to add to the information as necessary. I follow the children’s lead as to how long a topic will continue (Space lasted almost a month). When I observe that interest is waning I start all over with another inquiry chart.

The biggest question I get from parent’s is “ARE THEY LEARNING ACADEMIC CONCEPTS? WILL BE READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?” I will allow the photo documentation to speak for itself!

Making space sand. The children made up their own recipe to create this black concoction of sand, soap, and cornstarch. They added jewels as space rocks. (Science/Math/Sensory)

Building rocket ships with loose parts. Magnatiles and alphabet blocks were used to recreate rockets. If you look closely you can even see the stuffed puppy along for the space flight. (Spatial Understanding/Engineering/Math/Blocks)

Art activities ranged from solar systems to space hats, mainly based on books we read. (Art/Language/Literacy)

Using color paddles to create reflections. We learned that the sun is necessary to break up light in order to show rainbows in water droplets, prisms, and reflective surfaces. (Science/Color Chemistry/Social Sciences)

Using the light table to observe colored rocks, and comparing them to our printed literature. (Literacy/Science/Ordinal Numbers/Math/Patterning)

Dramatic play was enhanced by making our own jet packs and space helmets. Every child was an astronaut for a day. (Art/Small Motor Skills/Creativity)

Building rockets on the light table. We learned that astronauts do a lot of their work in the dark. Turning off the lights and working like an astronaut was a special treat. (3 Dimensional Objects/Math/Size seriation/Dramatic Play)

Taking it outside, the children made rockets with large bricks as well as a cardboard box. They were able to get two children at a time in their box rocket, and made sure everyone took turns being a space guy. (Block Play/Outdoor Activities/Engineering/Cooperation/Team Work)

Once they were finished with the box as a space ship they turned it into a tunnel, showing me they were ready to move on to a new topic. (Inquiry BAsed Lessons)

Now I am off to learn everything I can about Postal Workers and how mail is delivered. We may even learn about the Pony Express!

Always,

Ms. Tina

 

Classroom Management Plan

As we get ready to enroll for the 2017/2018 school year I am reminded each year about parents #1 question for educators in a new program.

****What is your discipline plan?

I always answer with the same thoughts, we do not use discipline in our school, but rather REDIRECT the children and use the ENVIRONMENT as a teaching tool. When the children are engaged, and the staff is following the children’s inquisitive nature the plan comes together in a cohesive unit, where everyone is learning, and the need for discipline is lowered by the moment.

Throughout my graduate courses I have been asked to provide multiple research based plans regarding this topic. I am including the culmination of these findings in a power point presentation located at the bottom of the post.

My hope for each of you is that you will find the spark that motivates you to educate young children, and expand on their innate curiosity. This style of teaching leaves no room for discipline because the children are not causing issues based in boredom or disengagement. Rather children’s minds are engaged on the topics at hand and the learning environment is constantly changing, evolving with the children’s interests and abilities.

Find the teachable moments, use redirection and present a program that challenges every learner at their level for success in the early years!

Always,

Ms. Tina

Classroom Management Plan, Gabel, ECED340

Character Education- More than just being kind…

Young children need multiple opportunities for growth; growth in all areas, not just academic and physical domains, but also in emotional and social domains. Developing moral character is a component that needs to be taught in a visible, concrete manner with the under 5 crowd. Children need to be reminded to be kind, and shown how to accomplish that abstract task. When we offer opportunities for growth, model what we expect, and include all three aspects of a child’s character we are setting the foundation for successful, contributing, performing adults. Using literature and art as a backdrop for our character development curriculum, the following activities can be recreated in a traditional classroom setting or in a one-on-one relationship, such as homeschool, or Sunday school programs.

Moral Character: integrity, courage, honesty, and compassion, kindness

Performance Character: perseverance, diligence, self-discipline, cooperation

Civic Character Traits: tolerance, respect, community (family/classroom)

Using the following visual parents and educators can be reminded of important character traits for children to develop. When we think if the visual as a timeline for development, children can be expected to develop performance character, moral character and civic character as they grow in their relationships within the classroom community.

LITERACY DOMAIN:  We have begun to use a new story and set of dolls that encourages a child’s understanding of random acts of kindness. Using the Kindness Elves as a backdrop for our moral character education, we have increased the children’s willingness to help each other out (because Pop and Sparkle are watching), ultimately creating a classroom of helpers.

Teaching compassion and respect can be done in a few ways. In the Early years’ classroom books and literature are a sure fire way to help children understand key ideas. We have spent a week discussing how to be kind, how to be helpful, how to keep trying even when it is hard, and how to help others when it looks like they are struggling. We have introduced an additional book called Bucket Filling as a follow up activity that covers the moral development aspect of our curriculum.

ART DOMAIN: Concluding the unit by making actual buckets with the children, and encouraging them to fill up each others buckets with cards and words of affirmation uses the art domain to lend a concrete understanding to an otherwise abstract concept.

LITERACY DOMAIN: We read a story called Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, all about being different. The story helped the children understand the idea that when we are kind to ourselves that others will in turn learn to be kind as well. The story is a good one to teach integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Following up with a unit about self, where children begin to see the differences and similarities in classmates and CELEBRATE those differences, will eventually lead to a deeper understanding of all of the cultures and demographics in our schools.

ART DOMAIN: The curriculum plan culminated with a post office of sorts; where every child used the written word and art supplies to create ‘love’ notes for their friends. Each day the children found creative ways to show their kindness; whether through notes, art projects, or including someone in their play. They created mailboxes for one another and have taken to filling them up daily; including the mailbox on the side of the Kindness Elves’ house.

Next week as a follow up we will use an idea from The Imagination Tree, where we make our own Kindness Potion Bottles in order to add a scientific component to our character curriculum. Covering each of the developmental domains helps the children assimilate additional information. Scaffolding what they already know about character development, with new information on how to be kind to one another in every aspect of their lives.

I love tying curriculum to literature and art for the under five crowd, covering the necessity to READ with your children, understanding concepts of print, and developing important character traits along the way.

Always,

Ms. Tina