Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Exploring the Mail
February 3-February 20, 2015

With the interest in mail growing, we introduced a mailbox brought in by Michelle for the children to examine and actively use in the classroom to send mail to friends and family.  They passed the mailbox around and commented on what they noticed, as well as talked about what their own mailboxes look like.  The children were provided with envelopes to start learning how to address them, and learned about stamps.  They all know now where to write the name of who they are sending their mail to, where to write their own names, and where to place the stamp.  They became very confident in writing their names and started to learn to write names of family members and friends.  A lot of the children helped their friends to spell their names on their envelopes by spelling out each letter.  This was helpful in developing their social, and fine motor skills.  We are seeing great improvement in how the children write and hold their pencils.

Next we provided a guided layout for the children to write mail that would include writing their name, the date, draw a picture, and dictate or write what they drew.  This encouraged them to have more of a purpose in sending their mail as well as to write more.  They often had exciting stories to go along with their drawings with the intention of sending it to a special family member, teacher, or friend.  Along with learning about what we send in the mail, the children learned how to properly fold paper to fit into their envelopes.  This was a difficult task for them but they have expanded their folding skills greatly with lots of practice.

After learning about how to correctly address mail and what we send in the mail, we went on a walking field trip to Teacher Andrea’s Park Merced Apartment and explored her mail room.  The walls were covered with mailboxes with locks and were each labeled with a number and a letter.  The children searched high and low for Teacher Andrea’s label and were excited to watch her open her mailbox with a key and discover mail inside.  They passed around the mail and noticed the stamps on the top right corners as well as her name and address.  On our walk we also explored a blue mailbox that the postal worker uses to gather the mail.  The children learned about where they put their mail and how the mailbox is locked for only the postal worker to open with his or her key.  We will have a visit from a postal worker in the coming weeks to ask him questions and share what we are learning about mail.  

Since our mail project has begun, some children brought in personal mail from home and shared it with their group.  It was exciting to see their name and address on the envelope, a stamp, and mail inside.  Each child will soon be receiving special mail so they can have a similar experience and be able to talk about it as a group at school.  We will have a space on the wall in the House Area where friends can share personal mail they have received if they would like to bring some to school.  According to an article by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), teachers must provide the children with print-rich learning centers to encourage their reading and writing skills.  An example given in the article was “provide mailboxes for children and teachers so they can send and receive messages.”  We are seeing this in action during our mail project as we have a table in the house area dedicated to mail and will expand the area as the project continues.  This is an exciting start to our project and the children are already showing a lot of progress in their reading and writing.

Our intention, through pursuing this interest in mail, is to explore the various opportunities to learn through experience and develop new skills in a unique way.  Providing moments where they can engage in this interest and learn ensures the most impactful results.  Field trips to actual locations where mail is used, experiencing receiving personal mail, writing mail to family, are all ways the children will dive into the topic.  Following the children’s lead, the project will expand into new topics.  

Pool, Juli, and Deborah Carter. "Creating Print-Rich Learning Centers." 1 May 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <>.

Why do we have mail?
Mackenzie: “Because people like to send things.”
Brandon: “Because we need to donate.”
Rorey: “Because we go to someone else’s house.”
Saoirse: “Because the mailman brings us mail and we have to take it out because it’s from somebody.”
Ariana: “Because people love making mail.”                                                                                                                                     

Drawing in the Block Area
       February 12th, 2015 
            On February 12th, several children started to draw some of the toys they were playing with in the block area. The drawings in the block area quickly became popular and more children joined in to draw images of families, and sea life. My intent to set-up drawing in the block area came from my earlier observations of children drawing outside. The children’s interest to draw gave me the idea to see what would happen if I offered drawing materials in the block area. The children were offered large pieces of drawing paper, markers, pastels, rulers, and flat pieces of wood to draw upon. It became evident that their interest to reflect on the important things in their lives came out in their illustrations.
One child really likes sea life and monsters. Another child really likes dinosaurs and trucks and while drawing these images they expressed their knowledge of dinosaur names, the sea life and how trucks work. Families were illustrated and one child practiced drawing circles. Because the drawings were so big and so many, we decided as a group to make a book of all their illustrations. This activity supports creative expression, cognitive skills, thinking skills, shape, symbol, and color recognition and demonstration, fine-motor skills (grip control of markers), which later helps with writing words and sentences to express complete thoughts. For example children are using thinking skills when they draw lines and curves and use shapes to build a more complete image of something they recall from memory. For an example, when one child drew dinosaurs and their characteristics he was remembering and comprehending the information he retained from reading a book about dinosaurs.  While observing the drawing that the children were engaged in, I noticed and recorded a few of their conversations:

“Look at the truck, look how many hooks it has!”—Nathan

“How many hooks?”—Teacher Brittany

(Nathan then counts the hooks one by one on his drawing.) “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. 7.”

“What are the hooks for?”—Teacher Brittany

“For carrying things.”—Nathan


Ayush is writing his name on his drawing. “It’s my name, --a picture of rollercoaster ride.”—Ayush


Ariana is showing her drawing to Chloe. Chloe asks, “Is that a silly sun Ariana?”—Chloe

“Yep.” Ariana responds with a smile. Ariana then comes to show me, “Look teacher, once upon a time a there was a human, a little girl named Ari and she saw a big dinosaur with a lot of teeth. But Hali was trying to save me but the sun crushed down the dinosaur and the end.”—Ariana

“Look Chloe!” Anya is showing Chloe her drawing…Chloe responds, “It looks beautiful.” Anya smiles then says, “Look I made a bridge for the crocodiles to cross.”-Anya (Anya pointing to the long loopy sketch on her drawing.)


Ariana is drawing next to Nathan, she glances over at Nathan’s picture and says, “That’s awesome Nathan.”


According to Zero to Three,,

“Pictures of Objects or People (3 years to 5 years) Many adults think of “pictures” as a picture of something. This ability to hold an image in your mind and then represent it on the page is a thinking skill that takes some time to develop. At first, children name their unplanned creations. This means that they finish the picture and then label their masterpiece with the names of people, animals, or objects they are familiar with. This changes over time.
Once your child has begun to purposefully draw images, she has mastered symbolic thinking. This important milestone in thinking skills means that your child understands that line on a paper can be a symbol of something else, like a horse, a cat, or a person. At this stage, your child also begins to understand the difference between pictures and writing. And later letter and word practice begins.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

            Blueprints & More!
           February 27, 2015

Now that the children have familiarized themselves with a variety of tools, materials, and their purposes, we have started to put the tools to use! Throughout the first stage of our tool project, children were encouraged to explore with a variety of tools and materials including hammers, screwdrivers, a power drill, screws, and nails. After reading the book “I Love TOOLS” by Philemon Sturges (which introduces tools and demonstrates a birdhouse being built) many children decided they too wanted to build a birdhouse. I wanted to support the growing interest of building a specific structure, such as a birdhouse, but also wanted to encourage the children to develop a plan before building, so I introduced blueprints!
We first observed simple blueprints of birdhouses and stairs (this also seemed to be an interest to some children) and discussed what we noticed in the pictures. Once they became familiar with these blueprints, I found real blueprints of our school! During this exploration phase, we took 2 walking fieldtrips in our own school. At our first trip to the library, we had the blueprint of our whole building (preschool, kindergarten, science class, library, and gym). To my surprise most children were able to point out the different rooms and were very interested in the labels and measurements scattered throughout the blueprint! After our group observations the children made their own “blueprint” of the library.

Daniel pointed to his drawing and said “These are the bookshelves!”
Ethan and Daniel noticed that the shape of the library was “A square!”

On our second walking fieldtrip we went to the gym with the same school blueprints. As we looked over the blueprints this time, we discussed what blueprints were used for.

Rosalie shared “It shows you how to build something!”
Ace noticed “It’s like construction!”

Once we were done comparing the blueprints to the gym and the rest of the building, the children were encouraged to make their own blueprints of the gym. This initiated discussions on how many basketball hoops there were, where the windows were, and the shape of the room.
Now that the children are familiar with the purpose of a blueprint, the children are starting to create individual binders of blueprints for things they would like to build.
My intention for introducing the blueprints of the school to the children was for them to make connections between their school and some of the preparation it took to build it. I also wanted to create an activity to directly support the children in literacy development, as well as, a way to strengthen their confidence in their work. We have also created a schedule for children to have 1:1 time with a teacher to build a structure of their choice! In doing so, the children are encouraged to refer to their blueprint binder for the construction process. This gives children a concrete experience to support and build their knowledge of construction. It also is a way for them to understand the purpose of blueprints, establish spatial awareness, and the planning process before construction. As they build using a variety of tools they are encouraged to categorize by recognizing which tool goes with a specific material. After they choose the tools and materials, many times we measure and compare the nail, screw, or drill bit to see if it is long or short enough for the intended job. The comparing, measuring, and categorizing is an important step in the building process that supports children in developing and strengthening their math skills.

Research states, “With growing evidence about children’s math capacities in the early years and the significance of early math experiences, there is a general consensus that “high-quality, challenging and accessible mathematics education for three- to six-year-old children is a vital foundation for future mathematics learning.”(California Preschool Curriculum Framework, P. 232-3)        -Stephanie

The Security Guard, A Visiting Expert
February 23, 2015

Throughout our hotel project, the children have consistently mentioned their desire to keep their buildings safe and protected, specifically from “bad guys”. Recently, Ian mentioned security guards keeping his hotel safe and said, “There are police and security guards. The security guards are everywhere! They bring out them bad guys when the bad guys come.” A few days later, Zayna used a pipe cleaner to create a “camera” to watch for bad guys. As we discussed her ideas about cameras, she also decided to add security guards to her structure. She said, “These guys on the roof watch up high and these guys on the floor guard the door.” The discussions about security guards, cameras, and keeping buildings safe has been ongoing and has engaged several of the children working in the block area. I was surprised by the interest in security guards and cameras and had not originally anticipated this as an area of focus when we started our hotel project. As a result of this ongoing interest, we decided to invite a security guard to our classroom so we could learn more about his job.

Andrea’s friend, Michael, works as a local security guard and agreed to be a visiting expert for our hotel project. I wondered how the children might continue to develop their ideas about security guards and building safety if we invited a security guard to visit our classroom. We started the process of exploring the topic of security guards by asking the children what they know about security guards and what they would like to know. The kids had a wide variety of ideas and questions about security guards and were very excited about the opportunity to meet a real security guard!

According to the book, Young Investigators, “Projects provide contexts in which children’s curiosity can be expressed purposefully, and that enable them to experience the joy of self-motivated learning. Teachers do not always know what direction a project will take or what aspects of a topic will interest a particular group. Well-developed projects engage children’s minds and emotions and become adventures that teachers and children embark on together. Projects also involve the child in making decisions about topic selection, investigation, and how to culminate the project. There are many valuable learning experiences that can and do occur at all points along the continuum. Teachers who use the project approach often also teach single concepts and employ units, themes, and directed inquiry.”

My intention with inviting Michael to visit our class was to highlight the children’s interest in security guards and provide them with an authentic opportunity to ask questions and describe their experiences. Having a real security guard visit the class allowed the children to deepen their understanding about the profession and prompted more questions for investigation! I’m curious to see how the visit will impact the children’s structures and whether or not it will spawn new discussions about their buildings.

As our project evolves, we will continue to look for ways to honor the children’s ideas while deepening their understanding about hotels and other structures. Lately there have been discussions about elevators, stairs, bedrooms, and multi-floor buildings. We will see where the children lead us!    -Rachelle

Constructing Hotels
February 2015

The block area is always full of opportunities to build, explore and work collaboratively with other children and teachers. Recently, while building in the block area, Daisy decided to use a cardboard box to create a structure. She soon discovered that if she put a flashlight inside the box, it would illuminate the space! I asked her about her discovery and inquired about what she was working on. She exclaimed, “It’s a Mexican Hotel!” She went on to inform me that she would be staying at a hotel in Mexico soon. Ian, Matthew, and Gabriel were also very interested in her structure and requested flashlights to explore other boxes. Daisy’s construction of a cardboard box hotel lead to our entire group’s exploration of hotels and other large buildings!

Initially, I wondered what the children found interesting about hotels. Ian was immediately interested in building his own hotel and described his previous experiences at hotels. He had so many interesting ideas and insights about hotels! Initially he was very focused on the people that work in hotels (specifically security guards). Other children were focused on the actual structure of a hotel and the fact that many hotels have multiple floors with elevators. Some children started building hotel structures with flashlights inside, along with beds made out of carpet squares and felt. We continued to provide a variety of materials for the children to add to their structures and observed how and why they used the materials.

Research supports the child-directed approach to learning and highlights how this approach reinforces reading skills, language development and math skills.  The book, Young Investigators, states: “The beneļ¬ts of children’s having substantial control over the work undertaken extend beyond the early years. Marcon (1992, 1995, 2002) found that children from preschool classes that offered ample opportunity for child-initiated, as opposed to teacher-directed, activity showed the greatest mastery of basic reading, language, and mathematics skills. At fourth grade, children who had experienced self-initiated learning also had higher overall grade-point averages and
higher grade-point averages in most individual subject matter areas. Boys especially may fare better in school in the long run when they have experienced a preschool that emphasizes self-initiated learning.”

We will continue to follow the children’s lead and are planning a walking field trip to the Park Merced Apartment Complex, We are hoping that the children will explore this structure and it will spark new ideas about hotels and other multi-level structures. 

My intention with this activity is to explore what the children already know about hotels and to encourage them to build with a variety of materials (boxes, tape, flashlights, etc.) to represent their previous experiences with hotels. As our project progresses, I anticipate the children expanding their understanding of hotels and other structures and adding to their structures.  

“Collaborative Painting” with Marie
Wednesday, February 4, 2015

         Painting, drawing, and other forms of art are always encouraged in our classroom. Our intention for art in the classroom is that children will be able to express their ideas, creatively explain how they view their world, and build self-esteem by physically producing a piece of artwork. Typically, the children paint or draw pictures independently, but this week the children worked together to create something.

On Wednesday, Daisy’s Mom, Marie, was able to share her artistic ability with the children. We set up a table for painting in the corner of our class. Marie brought one large canvas, several colors of acrylic paint, two palettes, and many sizes of paintbrushes to choose from. Marie explained that we would have to respect each other’s space on the canvas, but we would also be painting together. She explained this as “collaborative painting.” Her intention for painting together on the canvas was for the children would be able to cooperate with each other, learn to be able to share space! She also encouraged the children to explore what the acrylic paint felt like, and what would happen to the consistency of the paint when adding water to it.

The first group of children included: Toby, Ethan, Daniel, and Sofia. They each had their own corner to paint on. Marie started painting on the canvas too, but also invited the children sitting around her to collaborate with her, choosing whatever they wanted to add on her painting.

Toby was the first to volunteer to paint with her:

         Toby: I added some white to your painting!
Marie: Wow, I like the colors you chose. Thank you for collaborating with me!
Toby: You’re welcome.

Teacher Andrea was also sitting at the table with the children. She asked Ethan if she could paint with him:

Teacher Andrea: Can I collaborate with you too, Ethan?
Ethan: Yes.

When it was time to switch spots for others to have a turn, the children invited them to add and paint on their spots! Daniel noticed that Charlotte was waiting to have a turn:

Daniel: Charlotte, you can have my spot! I used different colors. (Pointing to his place on the canvas) You can paint here!

Toby left the table to play in another area, but returned to look at what another child, Malena, had added to his space:

Toby: Wow! That looks great!

Working together on their art encouraged children to communicate with each other, instead of focusing on the end result. We also observed through this activity that when given the opportunity, children are willing to share, take turns, and affirm each other using their words all on their own.

Carolyn R. Tomlin, a public school kindergarten and early childhood education teacher, talks about the importance of art in the classroom:

“When children see ‘art’ as ‘play’ they move in the same parallel direction… In adjacent play or social coaction preschoolers may play or work near others but seldom come in contact. Children may sit near others, yet work on their own project. In associative play, they may borrow or lend clay to a child nearby. Then, there is the higher form of play known as cooperative play. In this form children really share ideas and work together on a project. Perhaps they make a collage from clay, use all the pieces to make a road, or create a design with everyone involved.”


Tomlin, C. (2008, January 1). Earlychildhood NEWS - Article Reading Center. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Parten, M (1932). Social participation among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 28 (3): 136–147