Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creative Minds
May 20, 2015
Throughout the year, the class has been showing a rising interest creating items and adding to them over a period of days. To support this ongoing interest, we have added fabric to the playground outside! The children are offered a variety of fabric ranging in sizes, prints, and textures along with scissors, tape, paper clips, and a stapler (with teacher support). At first some children were interested in using the fabric for blankets. Soon, more children joined in and decided they wanted to make clothing as well! The ideas ranged from dresses, to skirts and capes, to blankets.

The creation of individualized clothing had a process that some children were familiar with from building with tools! First they had to decide what they wanted to make and choose the fabric. Then they had to decide how long or wide they wanted/needed it to be. In order to do that they had to measure! Some of the children were able to measure on their own, whereas others needed a little bit of help. This was a great opportunity for some children to work together and verbalize their intentions. When it came time to cut the fabric some children had difficulty, but soon realized that if you lay the fabric flat on the ground it is easier to cut. Once the fabric was cut everyone wanted to wear their creations, but had to figure out how to wear them without it falling off. Malea expressed “We can use tape!” Some children used tape to secure the fabric to their clothing, others decided to make paper straps. The paper straps eventually ripped so we explored with using fabric for straps and stapled them on. Natalia noticed the fabric straps and soon decided she wanted to make some as well.

Quotes from the activity:
Natalia “I made my dress! I cut it and make the straps. I know how long to make them. I just use my imagination.”
Charlotte suggested “Use tape and staplers.”
Anya said she was going to make “a necklace and a crown.”
Malea expressed how she made her dress “I cut some lines.”
While working with fabric Natalia said “I’m making a curtain.”

Blankets were also popular uses for the fabric. The children shared their ideas and decided to use the mat for a bed, took “naps”, and watched movies. Many of the children are now beginning to expand the uses of the fabric and are starting to create forts/tents. As the group continues to show an interest in the fabric, the teachers will continue to support and challenge the children to become more independent with their work.

My intention for this project was to give children the freedom to create whatever they could imagine, but to also challenge the process. I thought they would have difficulty cutting the fabric and assembling it in a way so they could wear it, but I was quickly proven wrong. Some did have difficulty in the beginning, but after observing others, they were able to remain focused and determined and work through the challenges. I also thought this could be a time for children to practice resolving conflicts independently. We had lots of different fabric options and some children wanted to use the same fabric. I used this as an opportunity to encourage the children to come up with solutions. Some children decided to let the other child have the fabric, whereas others had the idea to cut the fabric into smaller pieces. My intention for the project was also for children to recognize and practice sequencing (similar to writing a story). First come up with an idea, then figure out how to transfer their ideas into their work, and ending their work by wearing or using the final product (beginning, middle, end).

Research states “As teachers discover children’s underlying interests and understandings, you can routinely invite children to explore their ideas by representing them in other ways. In the larger educational arena, students represent their learning with a paper, a test score, or a demonstration of mastery. However, representing what children know doesn’t merely demonstrate their learning, it also enhances it. Different mediums such as drama, drawing, or sculpting provider children with additional perspectives to reflect on an idea or understanding and then confront what isn’t yet clear. Each medium helps children practice different skills and recognize different aspects of the ideas they are pursuing. “ 

Citation: Learning Together with Young Children, A Curriculum Framework for the Reflective Teachers, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter Pg. 144

Clay Exploration
May 19, 2015

 In the past few weeks we have provided the children with several colors of play dough as a consistent sensory activity in the classroom. The children revisited the play dough table day after day and started to ask if they could save their play dough creations. Some children created cupcakes, others created snowmen, and other children spent their time exploring play dough through pulling it, pinching it and rolling it. As a result of their continued interest in play dough, and their wishes to save their play dough creations, we decided to introduce them to clay. My intention with adding the clay was to introduce them to a new material, similar to play dough, that would deepen their exploration of sensory materials in the classroom. In addition, I wanted to honor their desire to start “saving” projects and allow them to expand their creativity with a three dimensional material.

For the first week of clay exploration, we provided the children with a large piece of clay and encouraged them to use their hands as tools. We discussed preparing the clay by throwing it on the table and then encouraged them to manipulate the clay with their hands and fingers. There were several children that immediately came to the clay table and seemed very excited to explore this new material! Matthew used his hands to roll out long skinny pieces of clay. Mackenzie discovered that if she pushed the clay across the table, it made the bottom of the clay smooth and flat (other children also started using this technique).  Chloe rolled the clay into balls of varying shapes and then put them in order from largest to smallest. Grace used her fingers to make indentations in the clay. Fynn experimented with punching the clay and using his fingers to make “caves” in the clay. The children at the table also experimented with punching, pinching, scratching, pulling, rolling, and squeezing the clay!

The children have started to use these techniques to create clay sculptures and had the following ideas about using the clay in the coming weeks:

Grace: “I want to make a plate.”

Rachelle: “How will you make a plate?”

Grace: “I flatten it like this (pushed the clay on the table) and then I can do this (made a pinching motion along the outside). Just smoosh it down and do this.”

Gianna: “I’m making a mouse house. I also made a slide for the mouse house.”

Colin: “I make a happy faces. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Fynn: “I’m making a cave! See?”

Mackenzie: “When can we add water?”

Rachelle: “What will you use the water for?”

Mackenzie: “It makes the clay wet.”

Grace: “You can smoosh it down and do this!” (Grace made a flat piece of clay)
Gianna: “Mine looks like a hot dog.”

Paul: “I make a police car! Look at this little gate.”

According to Early Childhood Specialist, Suzanne Gainsley, “We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Think of it as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. For example, as children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. The materials children work with at the sand and water table have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery.”

The children have been actively manipulating the clay and some have mentioned adding water to the clay table (specifically children that have used clay in the past with Linette). In the coming weeks, I plan to add spray bottles with water to the table to encourage the children to experiment with wet and dry clay. I’m curious to see how they react to the water with the clay and I’m wondering if it will create more interest in using clay at the table. As our exploration continues I plan to ask the children what additional tools and materials we should add to the table. I’m excited to see how their understanding of clay develops and hope to encourage them to explore this material over an extended period of time.
FEATURE ARTICLE: Look, Listen, Touch, Feel, Taste: The Importance of Sensory Play By Suzanne Gainsley, Early Childhood Specialist


Thank You Julian!
May 12, 2015
As we come to the end of our mail project, we say a final thank you to our mail carrier Julian!  Throughout our project he visited our class and taught us so much about the mail process.  The children learned about the uniform mail carriers wear, their bags, keys, hats, as well as their routine.  As the class prepared many questions for Julian, he answered each one and even highlighted a few that stuck out, such as “How do you send ducks in the mail?”  He made sure each child understood that their questions are important and can be investigated.  With his final visit coming up, the children wanted to present a special gift to Julian they all had worked together to make.
         In the weeks prior to his visit the children brainstormed ideas of what they could do for Julian.  They came to the conclusion of making him a special book.  Each child recalled what they knew about Julian from his visits and all that he had done for our class.  Many chose to focus on his uniform, drawing details such as his hat, the color of his shirt and pants, his shoes, his mail bag, and even his keys.  This activity gave a lot of insight about what the children observed and took away from just seeing Julian twice.  The children talked to each other about if Julian drove a truck, or walked, or maybe rode a bike.  Lots of ideas went around the table while creating this book.  Each child made a page, and were encouraged to draw or write whatever they wanted to make for Julian.

       While creating their page, many children wanted to write Julian’s name as well as their own name.  Several children even knew how to spell Julian’s name by memory from making him mail during the mail project.  Many children wanted to write a story about their drawing for the book so that Julian would understand what they drew.  The writing that started to emerge during this activity added great detail and interest to the book and encouraged more to do the same.  According to an article called, “Starting Write” by the Center for Early Literacy Learning, we should encourage the children to write their own name on their artwork and can start to write words that are in their drawings, such as “mail” in this case.  “ It is important for children to explore written language this way and talk about their writing with an interested adult. It allows them to gain the important motor and cognitive skills needed for “real” writing skills to develop.”

During group time we asked the children to talk about their favorite things about Julian.  This required that they recall his visits and the activities that they did together.  They remembered his uniform, the mail he sent to them individually, the cranes he made for them, and when he made mail with the class.  We went around the circle and each child had the opportunity to share their favorite thing about Julian.
  On the day of Julian’s last visit, he spent a lot of time with the children in each group making mail, drawing, talking, and playing.  He even brought in origami houses for each child to draw on and take home.  Everyone that wanted to, got to take a picture with Julian.  At snack time, the entire class had snack together with Julian, and Colin presented the book the class had made.  He was very excited to see all their hard work and wonderful pictures and stories.  It was a great way to end our mail project and celebrate all the fun and learning we did along the way.  We are so grateful to have Julian work with our class on this project and enhance their learning through such exciting and heartwarming experiences.

Our intention for Julian’s last visit was to say thank you and goodbye to him for helping us through our mail project and providing such enriching experiences for all the children, and to bring our mail project to a close.  The children learned so much and enjoyed each activity.  This was an incredible ending to a successful project for our class.  They were able to demonstrate their skills and talk about everything they have learned.  Having Julian there for this brought a lot of meaning to the children and the project and created the perfect environment to close our project.

"Starting Write." Http:// CELL Practices (Center for Early Literacy Learning, 2010. Web. 11 May 2015. 
Playing with Nature
May 8, 2015


Outside, a lot of the children have been collecting leaves and wanted to do an art activity with all the leaves they had gathered.  We asked them what some of their ideas were and together they decided they wanted to use paint and glitter.  The children got right to work at decorating about four leaves each, adding lots of color and glitter to each one.  Teacher Nicole put out the smallest paintbrushes so that each child would have to focus carefully on painting and take more time to add details.  The intention behind this was to focus more on fine motor skills and continue to work on their grips.  They talked about the colors of paint they wanted to use as well as colors of glitter.
Including nature into our table activities is important.  It opens up the conversation about where things come from in nature, why they are there, and why they are important.  During this activity the children talked a lot about why we have so many leaves in our yard and where they come from.  We talked about why sometimes there are a lot of leaves on the trees and other times there aren’t very many.  While it can be harder to identify the seasons in San Francisco, we talked about the changing seasons and why they must go through those changes.
The book, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, goes into great detail about how children need to have close relationships with nature.

“Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature—in positive ways.  Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies.  As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”

We are continuing to investigate the nature we have around our school and continue to play with it and talk about it together.  The children are really interested in exploring and sharing their ideas recalling past experiences.  We now have our decorated leaves hanging from our large branch over the block area for the class to see and enjoy.
Our intention behind activities that include leaves, planting, and nature walks are all based on the ideas talked about in this book.  We want the children to have a close relationship with nature and understanding of its wonder.  There is so much to learn and discover.  The next idea that is being talked about is bugs.  This would be a fun transition in our activities!
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. S.l.: Algonquin, 2008. 3. Print.

Making Animals with Shapes
 May 6, 2015
As an afternoon activity, Teacher Andrea put out a wide variety of shapes made out of construction paper along with some toy animals for the children to use in their art.  They were told they could create anything they wanted with the shapes, including animals.  A lot of the children decided to trace the animals that were put out at the table and create them with the shapes as well.
As they were using shapes, they talked about which one they were holding or what shape they needed next.  This activity opened up their conversations to talk more about shapes and identify them by name.  They also would talk about how many sides each one has and which ones have the most.  Natalia identified that some of the shapes looked like clouds because they curve.  She added more detail into her picture by comparing the shapes to things she has seen.  She also made a house in her picture using a square with a triangle on top of it.  Malea traced most of her animals, adding detail after, including faces as well as arms and legs.
We encourage the children to play with the shapes and figure out new ways to create.  "As children draw, paint, and make collages, they are learning about the world (color, shape and size of objects). When they use paints, glue, and markers, children are planning, experimenting, and problem solving. As children mix paint, they learn to understand cause and effect. Art gives children chances to make decisions, and to learn from the experience of making choices about their art work.”  This activity was very open for them to make their own choices and get creative.  When Malea started to trace the animals, she gained a better understanding of what their profile looked like on paper and was better able to match shapes to the animal’s bodies.  This was an excellent example of how they learned to problem solve
Our intention with this activity was to encourage the children to identify and compare shapes.  They can see a variety of sizes, colors, as well as shapes and start to compare and contrast based on what they see.  The challenge was to create an animal out of the shapes which required more planning before they were to start.  They needed to identify the parts of the animal they wanted to create, as well as the shapes they would need and what those shapes would represent.  The idea of tracing the animals came up and quickly circulated the group to help with their planning.  Fine motor skills were put to work as they focused on holding the animal in place with one hand and traced with precision using the other hand.

"Art-An Opportunity to Develop Children's Skills." Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Penn Extension. Penn State, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 May 2015.

Creating our own books!
April 27,2015- May 15, 2015

    Within the last few weeks the children have shown an interest in creating their own books. While the children have created books throughout the school year, they've shown a big interest within the last couple of weeks. The children create their books independently by choosing what kind of paper they want to use, drawing their own pictures, and writing their own words. After drawing the pictures, the teachers then transcribe the words of the story and/or book for them. Some of the children created stories that tell (or retell) events, and others have created books with pictures and a description on each page. There are a few different ways the children wanted to put their books together.

For example:

Ariana created a book called, The Life of Birds. In her book, Ariana drew pictures of various birds, with a description on each page.

Patrick created several books called, The Machine Book. In these books, Patrick draws pictures of different machines and had the teacher write down what each machine was, and what each machine did. While some of the children created books similar to Ariana and Patrick, other children wrote stories.

                                   "A yellow-blue machine. It makes staples."

Chloe created a book called, The Library. In her book, Chloe describes a trip to the library that includes characters such as her mom, her baby brother, and her friend.
"This is the library and me and my mom and my brother, we are buying some books then we buy a book, we go home. Then we read it together.."

In Matthew's book, The Julian Book, he tells a story about Julian (the mailman) and the different things that Julian does.

"A satchel, a big satchel! Julian wears it."

After making their books, the children also expressed interest in reading their books aloud at group time. The children show excitement in sharing their books with their friends, and show equal interest in listening and looking at the other books. This provides the children with an opportunity to share what they've made with their friends and teachers. We've noticed that all of the children are engaged and attentive when listening and look at their friends' books. As time may not always permit, the children can work on their books during their outside time, or in the afternoon. The children can also finish their books at home with family members, which offers the opportunity for the children to take something home and continue working on it.

    Our intention for this activity was to follow the current interest of the children. We noticed that several children were becoming interested in creating their own books. Following this interest allows the children to express their own ideas through the pictures that they draw and the words that they use. This activity promotes several language and literacy skills such as expression of self through language, language in conversation, interest in literacy, concepts about print, letter and word knowledge, and emergent writing. Moving forward, we will continue with the children's interest in creating books, while trying to create a book collaboratively. So far, all the children have worked together to create a book for Julian The Mailman, and we will be working together on creating a book for our P.E. teacher, Sharon!
In the article,The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction, Roskos, Christie, and Richgels (2003, p. 2-3) states some benefits of early literacy practices,
"Children’s early reading and writing learning, in other words, is embedded in a larger developing system of oral communication. Early literacy is an emerging set of relationships between reading and writing.These relationships are situated in a broader communication network of speaking and listening, whose components work together to help the learner negotiate the world and make sense of experience (Thelen & Smith 1995; Lewis 2000; Siegler 2000). Young children need writing to help them learn about reading, they need reading to help them learn about writing; and they need oral language to help them learn about both." This article also offers literacy activities that can be done with children at home or in the classroom!

Roskos,K.A., Christie, J. F. Richgels, D.J., (2003), The Essentials of early literacy instruction. National Association for the Education of Young Children.