Change…

I have been away from my blog for a while, mainly because there have been some major changes in my professional life, and it has been difficult to put into words what needed to be said. I have spent the last few weeks saying goodbye to a program, that over the last 12 years, I helped design, restructure, and move into the 21st century, while including the original theories of the child development masters.

While goodbyes are hard on every one involved, and especially so when the staff and families within a program have become extended family, change is necessary in order to grow; both professionally and personally.

So I am on to a new challenge, a new journey, and most importantly on my way to gaining a fresh perspective on Transitional Kindergarten and its appropriateness in Early Childhood Education. I am excited to design this new program, using my own understanding of natural environments, loose parts, and child driven inquiry based lessons, while meeting the goals and objectives within a standards driven program.

I hope that I continue to inspire those around me, specifically when it comes to young children’s education, and that every one will be able to take some small piece with them into their own programs, advocating for young children and how they learn best.

As I embark on this journey I will be sure to include many before and after photos of my new space (because as an educator I always want to see inside someone else’s classroom to keep my creativity alive), as well as my take on how to incorporate provocations and inquiries within a standards based curriculum.

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 

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 

Winter Wonderland

Their ideas are always better than mine…. always…. period…. no question!

Today was set up like any other; winter themed provocations ready and thoughtfully presented.

We have been studying snowflakes and the symmetry of 6 sided figures. Today we planned on advancing into building towers that are symmetrical; covering our engineering, math, and 3 dimensional art components.

This is where our day took on a whole new direction, and following their lead, allowed for critical learning. Before I knew what was happening they had moved the provocation to the floor with the train track, created an ‘avalanche’ and cooperatively removed the snow from their ‘village’.

They used vocabulary that was beyond their typical academic level, asking questions about snow safety, snow removal equipment, and hazardous road conditions.

The most interesting piece of today’s learning is that we live in sunny central California where it NEVER snows, and the coldest it gets is around 30 degrees. I was intrigued by how much the children knew about arctic weather many of them have never even seen or experienced.

They even built a snowman at the end to use up the left overs from the ‘spill’.

This activity lasted over an hour, with a group of about eight 4 year olds. Had I stuck to my original plan, where I required the children to build and erect symmetrical structures the plan would have lasted maybe 15 minutes.

When we allow children to lead, and show us their interests we are able to reflect on our curriculum plans and expand on child led ideas.

Tomorrow we will be learning about snow storms, blizzards, and how to prepare for an avalanche, planning to enhance their learning until they are ready to move on to a new topic.

My hope for each of you is that you would take the time to veer off the lesson plan, follow the children’s lead, and see where it takes you. I promise the standards will still be covered, the children will still learn to write, they will still begin to have a mathematical understanding, and most importantly they will develop a love of inquisitiveness along the way.

Always-

Ms. Tina