Google+ bakers and astronauts: 01.10

29 January 2010

Peter and the Wolf

Our unit of inquiry is on the five senses, and this has been our week about sound.  The children have played instruments in dramatic play; created their own intstruments out of recycled materials; and experimented with playing jars of water to learn about how to change the tones.

Also, each day, we have listened to a few minutes of Peter and the Wolf.  Right now, it is rest time on Friday, and we are listening to the full story for the second day.  We also have a listening center with the story on headphones, with a few versions of the book available for the children to look at.

Everyone is listening: some laying and listening, some conducting, some making arm movements like the animals that each instrument represents.  And others are humming along with each character's theme.

In the past, I have used this story along with shadow theatre: the story played on a radio while the children chose parts to play, and they created the story with their bodies as shadows behind a large sheet with a bright light.  I'm not sure if this group would be as interested in that work, but it may be worth a try.

Next week, we talk about touch, so we will have a week full of great sensory experiences!

(By the way, we are of course listening to the David Bowie version of Peter and the Wolf!)

28 January 2010

Sketchbooks Mid-Year

We are mid-way through the year, and I sat with the sketchbooks this afternoon to reflect.  What are the children doing?  Is it worth it to have the children working in their sketchbooks every day?  What are they doing?  Has it changed?

In my opinion, it has been very positive.  Some children draw for one minute, some prefer to draw for five.  Five minutes is the maximum time we have - but children are welcome to revisit their sketchbooks anytime they want to during the day.  I think it is an especially positive activity for the children who do not choose to draw during the day.  I am thinking of one boy in particular who does not choose to draw, and typically avoids fine motor activity.  This is a time for him to show us something in this drawing medium - no matter how small it is, or what it is.

Some children have filled four books, some are still on their first.  I have not been as good recently about giving them different mediums.  They have many different drawing tools, but I think we should be including more photography, more collage, more paint, and other mediums for expression.  This does take planning ahead.  I realize that more now that I looked at 13 sketchbooks that only have drawing.  I did find one little surprise -  one girl had taped in a drawing that she had made on a long strip of purple construction paper.  It was piece that she independently chose to add to her cumulative work, and I found that refreshing.

Now, I am thinking about next steps for sketchbooks...another thing to add to the list!

Before :
Our Sketchbook Adventure
Sketchbooks and Leaves
Sketchbooks, Six Weeks In...

Infant Classrooms

I'm still thinking about what infant classrooms might look like, and what might happen there.  I have some inspiration from Reggio in my head, but I have a craving for more information.

I have been looking over at Leaves & Branches, Trunk & Roots, from the Alderwood House School in British Columbia.  Their infant teachers are writing about routines and behaviors and what it might look and sound like in the class, and I'm loving it.  I like the recent episode of posessiveness expressed here.  So much drama!

I'll also share a  photo that I should not have taken in Reggio Emilia.  I also purchased the CD of images from the centers and ReMida, but I managed to grab a few of my own photos.

This setting made me think a lot about what materials very young children use as they learn, how their routines fir in their day, and what an infant teacher's priority is when it comes to working with children as a group.

25 January 2010

The Pictorial Webster's

I am thinking of Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities as a beautiful tool for the classroom. In the past, I have used both Zoo - ology and Almost Everything by Joelle Jolivet with children, often as a book that is available for the children to look at independently.  There is no explanation, just a picture.  I imagine this is the same for the Pictoral Dictionary.

The pictures are black and white prints, and, being a dictionary, there is a little bit of everything.

Watching the author's video on the making of the leather-bound, letterpress printed limited edition, I thought about young children and book binding.  We do some simple stapled books, and sometimes sewn books or accordion books.  The idea of making a thick book and stamping on the closed pages is interesting, I think.  I dont know if that would ever come about in the classroom, though!

The video also has me thinking about woodcuts and linocuts.  Have you ever used them in your classroom?  Where do you get your materials?

The video is worth a watch - it is a really interesting project.

21 January 2010

Shoebox Living

I like the concept for this project, Shoebox Living.

"125 Children aged between 8 and 10 were given a shoebox and asked to recreate their bedroom, or a room from their home, and to write a few sentences about it."

This is an interesting medium, and an interesting prompt for young children.  How would four- and five-year-olds deal with the idea of taking something they fit in and minaturizing it?  The use of recycled and reused materials adds an interesting element to the finished product, too.

19 January 2010



The cameras are back in the children's hands.  We're thinking about sight and seeing right now, and we're supplementing that with the view of the world through a camera.  The children were told to "take photos of what you want to remember you saw".

17 January 2010

Attacking the Edible Schoolyard

This piece in The Atlantic is a different view on the edible schoolyard.  This might help to sum up the article:

The cruel trick has been pulled on this benighted child by an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might other wise have spent reading important books or learning higher math (attaining the cultural achievements, in other words, that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt).

How do you feel?  Do you think that we can only advance with "important books" and "higher math", as a departure from our ancestors who scrabbled in the dirt? Or do you feel that we can (gasp!) find a combination of the two?
A few places I like to go :

15 January 2010

Bembo's Zoo

Bembo's Zoo is a mix of typography and animation, and it is simple enought for young children to navigate independently.

We use computers about once a week in the classroom, and I think we'll try this website out.  Has anyone seen the book version of Bembo's Zoo?

Link thanks to Jules from Turtlewings!

14 January 2010

The Aliens

Inspired by this creation, which hangs in on a clothesline across the classroom, one child created three more aliens using the same materials as the original : paper, tape, and black pen.

They may look similar, but I love that I had nothing to do with it.  Instead of a bulletin board full of twenty versions of the same thing that a teacher decided was important to make, I'd rather the children be inspired by each other's work.

13 January 2010

Infants and Education

As is appropriate, my coursework at Erikson in human development is starting with infancy.  Although I took human development courses as an undergraduate, I feel like I am really learning new things here.

One thing that is striking me is how little I have worked with infants.  It never came up in my student teaching; and the youngest children I had the opportunity to work with were one-year-olds at the 65th Street Co-op in Seattle - and that was only 90 minutes per week.

There is something fascinating about how infants discover their world - through sensory experiences and through the objects and people around them - and I hope to find the opportunity to work with infants in the future.  So many of the wonderful teachers who are writing online now are working with three-year-olds and up.  I would love to be reading writing by teachers who are infant teachers.  Is there such a thing happening right now?  Do you know a fabulous infant teacher who would be willing to share, even just with my curious mind?  Send them my way if you do!

Sharing online is such a valuable resource - I hope you agree.

11 January 2010


Back to work in the classroom.

University of Wisconsin Digital Collections

This is a resource I can see myself using on my own and with the children in the classroom.  This is a database of beautiful images from books, designs, furniture, prints, and much more.  I have often thought about putting together books of "inspiring images" for the classroom to add to our book area, or to simply have out on a table.  With this resource, the children could be involved, in small groups, in helping to think of search terms based on our projects and inquiries, choose images, and create the book.

This also makes me think back to The Nature Lab from a few months back.  I like the Wisconsin collection, though, because you are able to look at the pieces online.

07 January 2010

Why There is Less Time to Write

I have always been able to find time to write here at least once per week.  I am hoping that doesn't go down with a big change in my life - I am now a Graduate student.

I am part of the very first Online Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.  I never have to set my foot in a University classroom for this degree, which I think is good and bad.  For me, I am able to get my Masters degree while still working full time.  As long as I can manage my time, I can do my work whenever I please.  But I don't think I'll be able to create the personal relationships with my professors and classmates, and I think that is an important part of making a meaningful connection to my school work.

Four days in, I think I'm going to enjoy it.  But I also want to make sure I am still here, reading and writing and sharing, because this has become an important part of my teaching and reflective practice.  I'll be back to teaching on Monday, and I'll be sure to share the children's work as we start the second half of the year.

Happy Weekend!

02 January 2010

The Languages of Food

With a little extra time on my hands, I am revisiting my experiences in Reggio Emilia from October.  Although we have a wonderful collection of books published by Reggio Children in our school library, I couldn't help but purchase a few for my own collection.   I just read The Languages of Food : Recipes, Experiences, Thoughts, and it has me thinking about children and their relationship to food; and what that means to us as adults.

The book talks about nutrition in terms of what we should be giving our bodies more of.  The recipes, from the kitchens in Reggio schools, show a commitment to eating seasonally, eating grains, and promoting proteins besides chicken and beef.  I find the recipes in the book exciting because they reflect my own diet and food interests, and I'm eager to try a few out.

I was talking to my husband (a chef) about sustainable eating and vegetarianism on our train back from Austria the other day.  He is not a vegetarian, whereas I am, and have been for about ten years.  He had just finished Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and felt there was a lot of information that would be making him think about the impact eating meat has on the environment and one's body.  I thought about my beliefs and preferences, and how I might be influencing the children I teach with my ideas about food, even if I am not saying them aloud.  We only cook vegetarian food in the classroom, even when children suggest meat toppings for pizza.  The children always see vegetarian food in my lunchbox, and when they ask me what I am having for lunch, I tell them honestly, "quinoa and vegetables" or "vegetable soup and bread" - whatever I brought from home.

My parents eat meat - we grew up eating a lot of red meat, pork, and chicken.  My grandparents eat meat - and it is very difficult to speak to people who lived through government rationing during the second world war about vegetarianism.  Meat and milk are health to that generation.  But my personal views on sustainability are about a plant based diet, and I am passing those values on to my students through my actions.  But, perhaps,  because my grandparents don't understand at all, and my parents find vegetarianism a little inconvenient but they accept it, and most of my friends and colleagues are very open to eating vegetarian when they come over for dinner...doesn't that mean that people are becoming more conscious eaters, and the children I teach will be part of a generation that takes more of a stand about what goes into their body?

Despite this post, I am not a preachy vegetarian.  Everyone else at the table can order a steak and I don't worry about it - my decisions are my decisions.  But with young children, what is my responsibility?  I teach them about being kind, respectful, and fair.  Where do eating and nutrition fall into that?
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