Networking

Today I had an opportunity to chat with brand new early educators; 12 women who are headed into their first experiences as child care providers. Our local community college no longer offers a lab school, but the professors are always looking for opportunities to share knowledge among the community and its students, and today it was my turn to share about my experiences of the past 20 years in child care, continued education, and the California Mentor Program.

I spoke about professional advocacy groups, my own timeline in education, and how I ended up in my new role designing and implementing a Transitional Kindergarten. I was asked to speak in order to promote education, and help these ladies find their own niche in the field; however, I left refreshed and excited for my own journey to continue to unfold.

It is important that we spend time in the presence of those who will remind us why we chose education, and those that will lift us up in our advocacy efforts. I can only hope that I was able to plant a small seed; for life long learning, advocating for young children’s education, mentor teachers, professionalism, and even the continued ability to network with other like minded individuals.

#teachershelpingteachers should be the cornerstone of our profession, we are a community that should always support one another in our efforts to plant the seeds of learning. I am honored to have been part of child care career day, and even more honored to play a small part of each new teacher’s history, as they move forward in their own education and career path.

Always,

Ms. Tina

Networking

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to host a Nature Explore workshop at my site, and invite attendees from all over our state. We had 60 men and women show up for a day of sharing ideas, promoting children’s growth through natural classrooms, and advocating for young children to connect with the natural world. I was impressed with the level of commitment all of the participants have toward children’s early education. We had attendees from over 6 hours away, in some cases, show up at 9am on a Saturday to gain additional knowledge about how young children learn, and how we as educators can promote hands on exploration of natural items.

I want to thank each of them for attending and helping me to grow my own network of professionals, because I am a firm believer in #teachershelpingteachers! The following photos are of the natural space I have created in my own classroom, both inside and out. Our outdoor classroom space was designed by myself and my talented staff, and has been a work in progress over the last 5 years. We are lucky enough to ALL believe in the power of a well organized environment; to combat behavioral issues, to promote learning in a hands-on atmosphere, and helping children connect to nature, so that they may continue to be stewards of our amazing planet.

Water in the sandbox is a daily occurrence; helping the children overcome sensory issues, develop mathematical concepts like volume (filling containers), pouring skills, spatial awareness, and engineering goals; such as diverting water so it travels toward their creation, creating a bridge to travers the space.

Succulents in the space help beautify our area, and add necessary living components. The children care for the plants by watering, weeding and replanting when necessary.

Indoors we have aesthetically pleasing shelves and containers to hold items. Combatting visual distractions helps the children focus on a single activity. Turning off the overhead fluorescent lighting and opting for soft twinkle lights and natural lighting helps the children feel more connected to the space as well.

Our sensory garden inside the outdoor classroom provides hours of skill building; from cutting herbs to add to our playdoh, to planting and harvesting the crop: children are able to see the life cycle of a plant from start to finish and create an all important connection between farm to table foods.

Creating a visible connection between play-based, natural environments and what the children are learning, is a key component to the success of the program. Parents are the greatest advocate for natural spaces, and when we educate them on best practices, how we are preparing their children for later academics and show case the life skills we are teaching, they are more likely to share that information with others, creating a sought after program in the community.

Encouraging children to interact with nature is something we feel passionate about, and the addition of our espalier apple trees has provided countless curriculum discussions surrounding what is happening to our bushes. When they were first put in, the trees were barren, and over the course of our year the children have been able to watch the transformation and addition of the buds, flowers, and pollinators who have been attracted to the trees. We have learned so much about bees, self-pollinating plants, grafting, and pruning just by watching a single tree bloom.

The following video shows that when we allow children to explore their space, take risks, and encourage their inquisitive nature that we can develop deep thinkers who are reaching their cognitive milestones much faster. This engineering game was developed by a 4 year old who, given time and space, had an entire group of children following his lead, standing in a self-imposed line, and taking turns. Our total involvement, as teachers, was to video the results.

IMG_5093

I encourage each of you that have access to an outdoor space to begin to incorporate more curriculum activities in the area; stop thinking of it as a place for recess and begin to see the outdoor classroom for what it truly is: a remarkable teaching tool.

Always,

Ms. Tina

 

CAEYC Conference

I spent the last few days at an amazing opportunity for networking with other early educators. I am part of the CAEYC and spent three days networking, learning, laughing, and getting inspired to continue offering natural, Reggio inspired content in my classroom.

My colleagues and I got to meet Greg and Steve, attend a workshop presented by them, sing old songs and learn some cool new ones for music time. I also attended a math workshop where we were encouraged to think of math as an integrated piece of the day, not a separate activity. Her mantra was: it’s never math time, its always math time! I was introduced to more great music selections that promote counting and math across the curriculum.

My most favorite and most inspired day of the weekend was when I learned about long-term projects in the preschool classroom. Taking a long term study and covering multiple domains is a key concept for my plans next year. I want the children to drive the curriculum, plan the day’s interests, and enjoy the learning process, long before they move into Kindergarten. There is plenty of time for academics, but play is only considered cool for a short time, and I want to foster the #playmatters ideal with every student in my life.

Until next time: I am off to attend a Mentor meeting, inspire others, and most importantly have fun with my littles.

Always,

Ms. Tina

 

Wordless Wednesday

I haven’t shared in a while: we have been busy hunting for rainbows, recreating wonders of the natural world (Grand Canyon), building squares and pattern towers with our hundreds counters and designing traps to catch those pesky leprechauns. 


Enjoy this time with your children- we won’t get this day back again! 

Always- 

Ms. Tina 

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

Let them be little…

In the last few days there have been many discussions between myself and colleagues about developmentally appropriate activities.

Specifically how do we encourage others to embrace them- how can we encourage parents to live in the moment and not feel the need to push their child past what they are ready for, and most importantly what is it we are trying to accomplish.

I am a firm believer that there does not need to be an end result to every project we provide. I am all about process over product. So how do I explain that to parents looking for an end result and administrators looking to see if we have met the standards? I simply show them the work we are doing and each of the domains we are covering, and let the activity speak for itself.


Duck duck goose- child initiated- taking turns- patience- large motor skills- and learning to win and lose with grace and dignity.


Building models- small muscle coordination- perseverance- a sense of accomplishment- and hand eye coordination. This is about 6 models that do not belong together. The children don’t care- they screw and unscrew parts and create their own masterpiece that changes with their mood.


Blowing bubbles for the sheer joy! We used small coffee stirs and built up our lung capacity while we worked. It’s hard work to blow air through a tiny opening- determination!


Prewriting activities. I have a few friends that still won’t write their names- but when I see that they can control their grip and create snowflakes I’m not worried. When they feel like their names are interesting enough they will write them!


Snack time exploration. I could have stopped this and asked him to eat- instead I followed his lead and he spent 15 minutes telling me about canoes and how they are built. He also explained the apple was the hull and the pretzels were part of the outboard! Finding the teachable moments is what we do- so let’s slow down and embrace them!

I am encouraging you to find those teachable moments- throw out the lesson plan for a day and follow the children’s lead just to see where it will take you.

You may end up on a soapy, canoe in January but there really isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be!

Always-

Ms. Tina

Mostly Wordless Wednesday:

Mostly Wordless Wednesday will become an encouraging weekly post- enjoy! 


Learning about tally marks and 1-1 correspondence. 


Best way to POP bubble wrap- fingers, chins, elbows, and tummies. 


Puzzles help with cooperation and spatial understanding. Almost non-existent in many classrooms since the technology craze, I encourage puzzles daily! 


Using push pins to write names- close work allows me to assess correct grip and hand preferences. 

Always-

Ms. Tina