Google+ bakers and astronauts: 02.12

29 February 2012

Music and Games

There is something about old books that gets me, and I can't resist taking them home when they only cost 50 cents.

This book, Experiences in Music, came home with me from a thrift store in a very small town in the middle of Washington.  I feel that the preschool teaching repertoire can be a little stunted sometimes: we return to the same songs over and over again.  The classics are classic for good reason, of course.  But shaking things up, at a kid appropriate level, is important.  This book reminded me of a few songs that I had not sung with the children in a while (Frere Jacques, for example) and gave me some quick lessons in the development of singing in harmony.  That is not something we have (nor will likely) attempt, but the information is interesting nonetheless.

I came across a website months ago called Playtimes: A Century of Children's Games and Rhymes, and one song jumped out at me as one that the children might really enjoy called There Was A Lovely Princess.  

Digging a bit deeper, the motions to this playground game seem universal.  It is a circle or ring game, and the motions that the children use in the video are the same as the ones described here.  I can envision singing this song with the children, maybe using some picture cues to help us remember the words, and perhaps exploring the motions with a few children.  I have never been one for choreography with children, but this is more of a game than a performance.

I definitely recommend looking through the Playtimes website, and picking up cheap books whenever you can - you never know what discoveries might ensue.

28 February 2012

Internal Debate

"As in all areas of uncertainty, I vacillate between the evidence continually provided by the children's behavior, and my need to conform to conventional standards and opinions."

(on deciding not to interrupt the girls who are painting their nails under a table)

Paley, Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner, 1984: p. 11.

27 February 2012

Little Paintings

Last Thursday, I cut some painting paper into quarters and took out little pots of paint and thin paintbrushes. I've been feeling a little uninspired at the maker's table lately, and watching the children do little paintings was just what I needed.

I feel like I had forgotten all of the things that I would bring to that table and for a few weeks, it was play dough, crayons, group collage, group painting...I was unable to think of what would really engage children at that table.  I hope this means the rut is over: I've planned truly inviting activities for all of this week.  It can be a challenge to be open-ended and provide novelty with materials and aesthetics that really draw the children in.

This particular way of painting makes children look at the paper differently, I think:  that paper is so small compared to what they would typically work with; same goes for the brush and the paint pots.  Making little changes can result in a big change in engagement, and as I've mentioned too many times to count, engagement is always my goal.

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut with your planning?

24 February 2012

Weekend Links

I am loving teeny tiles.  I can imagine using children's artwork to make these, and also using them throughout the classroom environment (pictures, alphabet, numbers, jobs, schedule...anything!).  They're not too big, not too small...just right.

I bought a new-to-me book, Fortunately by Remy Charlip, a few weeks ago at Village Books.  I loved it, and we had a great time reading it together in class.  The children kept revisiting it and reading it to themselves.  And when we read The Paper Bag Princess later in the week, we definitely knew what "unfortunately" meant.

I found two new blogs that I am really enjoying: Crayons, Wands, and Building Blocks (about a play-based Kindergarten in Ontario), and My Classroom Transformation, from a teacher experiencing work in a school that is Reggio-Inspired.

Happy Weekend!

23 February 2012


Concentration, perseverance, and "crab pincher fingers" will reward you with a beautiful product...just to be turned over for the next person to work on the same shape.  We are using the photos to remember what we made and how hard we worked.

We played the game Perfection a few weeks ago - it doesn't have all of the pieces, but it is a challenge for four year olds to get all of those shapes in, anyhow.  The children took turns racing against time for get all of those shapes into the right place, and when the timer finished and their friends were cheering them on and then all of the pieces go flying into the air...those are the moments when we learn about perseverance.  No one was sad when their turn was over, they simply watched the next child and waited their turn to try again.

This activity with the beads reminds me a bit of Perfection.  It took a minimum of 15 minutes to get all of the beads on, and for the younger children, it took much longer.  Some children chose to stay until the shape was all covered, and others noticed the challenge right from the start with the first bead and went to choose something else to do.  Some children helped each other; others wanted a teacher to do "just one row".  One girl spent 25 minutes covering a heart, just to hold it up to show me and have all of the little beads come tumbling off.

This was a fine motor activity on the surface, but it was also about sticking with it.  And we don't have to do it alone in preschool - there are so many ways to get help - and a few children called on those resources as they worked towards the end goal of covering their shape.  When I was little, we did these in Girl Scouts, and we put an iron over the beads at the end to melt them together and then take them home.  I thought about that with these children, but the idea of a process was jumping out at me for some reason.  The product would be beautiful, but the process is even more rewarding.

17 February 2012

Weekend Links

I came across this video via Takoma Park Nursery School, and it happens to be from their YouTube page.  I loved seeing it because right now, my entire life revolves around the fine line between fantasy and reality in imaginative play...and it is so universal for fours!

If you have any sort of budget available (and a large space for building something huge), you should look into getting a few of these building disks from public workshop - wouldn't they be a wonderful addition to a preschool classroom? Elementary?  Middle?  High School?  My garage?

Lastly, I have discipline on the brain (in a positive way!) and I enjoyed this post from the Community School of West Seattle's Studio Blog.  I'm not incredibly well versed in positive discipline, but I'm interested in learning more.

Happy Weekend!

15 February 2012


I've been thinking a lot about imaginative play - it has a lot to do with my thesis, but imaginative play is at the forefront of my mind most days as I watch children play.  I don't have any pictures to share with you today, but instead, an idea:

How realistic is it for us to tell children to "be quieter" or "slow down" when they are engaged in imaginative play?  If they are pretending to be chased by a tiger, walking is unrealistic, right?  I know that when we are playing inside, we have to be safe, and walking is safer than running.  I guess I should propose this from a different point of view:  can adults really justify being angry when children scream or run after an adult has told them not to do it again?

I have seen children beautifully engrossed in imaginative play, screaming at the top of their lungs when a monster comes near them or sprinting away from a bad guy.  I know it is unsafe, and I have asked children to stop certain actions, but I can't take it personally if they don't.  Because those adult parameters are not what is on their mind first: their role and the roles of others comes first at that time.  A good parallel might be how "don't hit" is a mantra that even children can repeat and a child can tell you that hitting isn't nice; but emotions can boil and hitting is a reaction for some children when they are angry.

I've been thinking a lot about my actions as a teacher, and how I need to step back more often, think of the different perspectives involved in a conflict, and consider how a problem might be solved in the long term rather than immediately.


10 February 2012

Weekend Links

My week started with this impression of Christopher Walken reading Where the Wild Things Are.  I loved it.

I came across an online journal through the University of British Columbia:  Educational Insights.  I'm looking forward to reading a few of the pieces.  The current issue is on Critical Teacher Inquiry.

We're starting a unit on Developmental Discipline in my Master's coursework, and its turning out to be pretty interesting stuff.  I can see the appeal for teachers who follow a constructivist philosophy because it is not about making the children comply, but it takes the stance of compassion and finding out what children need.  I'm reading Learning to Trust by Marilyn Watson...has anyone else worked with Developmental Discipline?  I found an online resource here that covers the basics.

Finally, we are crazy for Anansi the Spider at school - we have read the book three times this week, and there is always someone in the book area reading it aloud to themselves.  I know there are more Anansi stories at my local library, and I'm looking forward to brainstorming some new extensions for these stories over the weekend!

Happy Weekend!

08 February 2012

map embellishments

Pipe cleaners allowed us to add three dimensional aspects to the treasure maps we started yesterday.  By the end of the morning, the maps had bridges, tunnels, slides, giants, and "the Coast Guard thing".

J explained the work he was doing:

Where will maps take us next?  What other materials will we add?  How can we use these maps?

07 February 2012

treasures and pirates

Today at the maker's table, the children worked on a treasure map.  We had the paper strips, tape, crayons, and markers to work with.  When we gathered together in the morning, I told the children that we should try to make a map using those things, and I asked what they knew about maps. Conversation immediately turned to pirates and treasure.  Three children started out helping with the map and they stayed for about 10 minutes, adding the features in the pictures below.  There were also chipmunks, babies, and cords added.  

taping down roads

adding new kinds of roads

more roads, an ocean, and an airport

making pirates

and adding them to the treasure map.

I chose this prompt because of some map-making I've seen here and there online lately, and also because of the interest the children have in using a map during dramatic play.  It has been a challenge for me to document and make connections across days and weeks in this setting, but explorations like this seem really positive because the children engage in something very open-ended, and I learn a lot about them as they talk and work.  Our plan is to add to it tomorrow - the tape was a hit, but we'll also offer more materials, and do more to get conversation started about what this map can be for.

03 February 2012

Weekend Links

You lucky readers get two weeks of links because I didn't get a post up last week!  So lucky!

I loved this video that Mariah of Playful Learning made from a favorite out of print book.  The message of the book is great - I can imagine revisiting this book a few times a year.  And since I can't physically have it, these talented kid readers can share!

I liked this post, Do You Care? by Scott at Brick by Brick.  I've just recently started reading Scott's blog, and something about this post jumped out at me.  I think you'll like it, too.

It's cold out, so I'm in the mood for videos, and I was glad to come across a version of The Dot and the Line via Brainpickings.  It's short and sweet, just like the book, and since I'm not much of a traditional valentine's day person, I love a good alternative love story!

Its the 50th Anniversary of a book that so many people love: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Listen to an All Things Considered (NPR) story on it right here.  (via Reading Rockets)

A facebook friend led me to the Indiana Department of Education's 29 Day Web 2.0 Challenge.  That's a mouthful, but I've added the site to my Google Reader, and I'm looking forward to learning about some new tools I can use as a teacher, and that students might be able to use, too.

This concept of spaces in spaces for early childhood centers is interesting - it seems so natural!  When I saw the photo above, I thought of how my students would look and sound in this space, and I think it would be a perfect fit.  There are many more images on the architecture of early childhood and links to more images and ideas about the concept.

Finally, you know you're curious about the ECE Dialogue we have going on!  You can still join in over at the Dialogue's Wiggio page.

02 February 2012

the creative (classroom)

I recently checked The Creative Family out of the library.  The author, Amanda Blake Soule, is the writer and photographer behind Soule Mama, a wildly popular blog about life and family in Maine.

I enjoyed reading it, and I think that early childhood educators, especially ones who are interested in taking a more holistic approach to education, can find useful inspiration here. A few ideas that resonated with me:

"The things we have around us and the things we see in our daily lives all greatly affect the way in which we create." (p. 29)

When we look around our centers and classrooms and schools and day cares, what do we see?  What do the children see?  What is valued by adults and children?  Its not just about the commercial items versus the natural items: t goes deeper than that.  What we present and suggest for children to use in their explorations will guide those explorations - we cannot forget that.

Soule also shares ideas on imaginative play, which you know have been at the front of my mind lately. I had a bit of a revelation when reading her suggestions for a wonderful "dress-up trunk".  She lists a few key items: scarves, hats, shoes, accessories, and makeup.  Although we might not have the makeup on a regular basis, I pictured the other items she lists presented carefully in the classroom, and I can see how children can use those.  

The kicker is that when I was growing up, we had a dress up trunk with my mother's old dresses and shoes and bags and other second-hand things.  No fancy costumes, just interesting clothes.  That is how it should be.  I feel as if I'm on a bit of a quest for the perfect prompts for imaginative play, and I'm glad to have a few reminders from this book.  

01 February 2012

Sculpting Again

On Tuesday, there was a simple prompt on the Maker's table: two lengths of fishing wire attached to the ceiling and then down to the table, taped into place.  I strung a length of pipe cleaners between the two fishing wires to send the message:  Let's put pipe cleaners on this!

The children were eager to work on the sculpture, and I'm sad that we don't have more pictures (or that we don't have quality pictures, I should say!).  I'm even more sad that we had to move it at the end of the day because of the multi-purpose nature of the space we're in, but the process was a pleasure to watch.

J kept revisiting the sculpture between other things he was working on: he would walk by and thread a pipe cleaner through this particular part of the sculpture, make some movements and pull it taught, like he has probably seen so many big people tie knots.

Some preferred to work with the pipe cleaners independently, creating shapes and structures and tucking them into their cubbies to take home.

I'll even share the temporary display from the end of the morning - this will force me to think about a better way to share this work with the children.  Perhaps we can try to make a sculpture that comes right out of one of the bulletin boards...and then we wouldn't have to move it.

I suppose I'm a little caught up with the idea of making the table the base for the sculpture because of some work we did that was inspired by a Turtlewings session in Brussels last year.  We had a table that was dedicated to the sculpture for at least a week and perhaps longer!  We'll need to think a bit more creatively here, but because of the engagement of the children, I know its worth pursuing.  

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