Google+ bakers and astronauts: 09.08

30 September 2008

Lisen Adbage

She has finished her book, and the illustrations look amazing -- pay her blog a visit for some real drawing inspiration for children and grown ups alike.

20 September 2008

Standards and Engaged Learning

The world of Early Childhood Education is evolving, but there are still some less-than-ideal situations that we have to face. A new one for me is standards.

But I was poking around the the NAEYC Beyond The Journal website the other day and was thrilled to find not only an article, but also a 10 day discussion forum with the article's author, Judy Harris Helm, on the topic of linking standards and engaged learning.

I love my job so far, and I'd like to be working theer for a while. That means I can either teach standards to the students through lessons and ignore the need to give them situations in which to apply them, or I can embed the standards into child based projects, making the project a priority. I choose the latter.

The discussion starts today, and I know I'll be following it closely for the next 10 as it goes on.

Bon Week-end!

16 September 2008

Another Outing

For me, today is a day for fewer words and more visuals.

School is surrounded by forest, and going for walks through the forest is one thing that all twenty children like to do. And although this is not specifically a project or a unit or a theme or whatever you call your curriculum pieces, it is a wonderful thing to do, walking in the woods. And ours happens to be complete with wild mushrooms, a horse, frequent commuter trains, swans and a "secret playground".

Early Childhood Heaven.

10 September 2008

Block Play

The mother of all open ended materials! I have been thinking about my block area and how it is used over the course of the past two weeks. Who is in there? What are they doing? How engaged are they?

I had the opportunity to observe at City & Country School in Manhattan as a junior in college. The school was founded by Caroline Pratt, a pioneer in the promotion of the use of open-ended materials. She developed what we call unit blocks, a staple in most preschool classrooms. The classroom that I observed had tables and chairs and art supplies and other open ended materials, and then up a few steps and through a door was a completely separate room, larger than the classroom, just for blocks. There were large hollow blocks and unit blocks, and there was an enormous collaborative structure of a market as part of a long project that the children were doing. They incorporated writing and drawing into the blocks as needed, but the blocks really represented everything they needed them to. We do not have a room of blocks, as you can see below, and who really can?

The other preschool teacher and I have ordered more blocks to increase our less than fabulous supply, but the slight lack of blocks has made the clean up easier for those who use every block on the shelf, or at least those who take them all off.

Two boys did use all of the blocks today, and I took as many photos as I could of the process. It involved a layer of horizontal blocks and a layer of vertical ones, some towers and chimneys on top, and in the end there was a structure added to the side of it as well.

They were very proud of their structure, and I hope the documentation allows them to reflect on it tomorrow and perhaps revisit the block area.

As an experiment, I took all of the other items I would normally put in a block area (cars, marble tracks, legos, duplos, lincoln logs) out this time, and there are only unit blocks and animals. Perhaps the animals will leave next week, too, but I had a fear of the children seeing no reason to go in and build. But children are going in every day and building. Where else it will take us, I do not know!

My last note for unit blocks and a little preview of something (that hopefully will not go totally awry) is pictured below. I have no idea where this will lead, either -- I think a group of twenty four- and five-year-olds will determine that. After all, it's their classroom!

05 September 2008


I visited the Early Childhood Center Library here at work after the students left today -- I hadn't been able to make a proper trip any earlier. It is a wonderful library with knowledgeable librarians and thousands of books, which is right up my alley. At any given time last school year, I had about 60 books checked out of the Seattle Public Library. I made trips every two to three weeks, but now I have the luxury of books just one floor up and a few doors over, so I'm a very happy camper!

I had to look at the books a little differently this time, though. I have two students who know no English at all, and stories can be a great tool to teach language, but they have to have the right illustrations and be on the right subjects. These are very capable children, but they are not neccesarily able to understand my words. It is a challenge finding books that are not below a child's interest level. Baby books may have simple words, but is an ESL child going to want to look at that book or hear it over and over again? Chances are, no.

The most popular book in the classroom so far is definitely "No, David" by David Shannon. It is simple and funny, no matter what words you get. There is something universal about a drawing of a naked boy running down the street. And everyone can retell it themselves, and everyone can say "No, David, no!"

I made the following selections to start out our full day schedule. They are mostly my staple books, but I kept my Hebrew speakers in mind!

Things That Make You Feel Good, Things That Make You Feel Bad by Todd Parr
Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Quick As A Cricket by Audrey and Don Wood
Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly by Simms Taback
Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, pictures by Helen Oxenbury
Like Likes Like by Chris Raschka
A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, pictures by Betty Fraser
The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort, pictures by Brian Karas
In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
Today is Monday by Eric Carle
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton

There are other books in the classroom in boxes, and I pulled some out before for our book area. Now it's time to find more shelving...

It is now 4:05 pm on Friday, and the first week is officially finished! I hope you all enjoyed your first week, or feel prepared of you're getting ready to start on Monday. Bon week-end...

04 September 2008


This has been going around for a while now, but it is worth mentioning to all of you. I love it!

01 September 2008

The First Week

What a whirlwind it has been, starting at a new school! There are so many faces, both adult and child, to remember. I'm doing well with the names of my students -- that is always a top priority for me. There is nothing worse than moving to a new country, starting in a new school, and having your teacher call you by the incorrect name.

I have twenty students, and this is the first full week of school. Things have been simple around the room: play dough, watercolors, easel painting with tempera, scarves in dramatic play, familiar classic books in the book area, and a very inviting light table.

The room is arranged pleasantly, and the blank canvas that I had is filling up quickly! I am trying to make it as "homey" as possible, and I'm happy with the result. Homey, yet child centered and simple. Easier said than done, I think!

There is much more to come, with photos of the environment and hopefully emerging projects as well! One student mentioned making a dinosaur movie, quite out of the blue, and it seems to be a fleeting thought. A few of them have mentioned that we need more marbles and more cars; we have turned that into a discussion on money and where it comes from (cash machines) and how cash machines work. If that pans out, you'll be hearing much more.

I am on a beautiful campus that I'd like to have the children take advantage of, so perhaps they will become enamoured with something in the school community and environment. It is impossible to predict what we will begin to study right now -- they have only been a full class for four days! We are creating a classroom community right now, and what we decide to look into is really on the back burner.

I have to mention that I am reading The Hundred Languages of Children again, and it continues to inspire me. It is good to get into the history of the approach and learn about why it works there. I am always looking for inspiration rather than a solution, and Reggio Emilia provides some fantastic inspiration. If you get the change, pick up the book. It is essays that you can read one at a time or you can go straight through the book like I am, because I'm going to read Lillian Katz's Engaging Children's Minds next and I can't wait!

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