"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

We celebrate September 19th each year with International Talk Like a Pirate Day. We dress up, make our own treasure maps, view and listen to the story How I Became a Pirate, learn some preschool appropriate piratey phrases, learn about navigational tools like a compass, and go on a treasure hunt.

Me with some of my piratey friends. 

Treasure map provocation

Each child could create their own treasure map.

We began following the master treasure map
in search of buried treasure.

It led to the sandbox where everyone began digging...

...and treasure was unearthed.

This amazing "Jolly Roger" was gifted to us by
a former preschool family.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Preschool: Cutting with Scissors

Often when I ask preschool parents if their child has ever used scissors I get two responses. The first is that they haven’t let them and are afraid of all the things they would cut with them, including their own hair (many parents worst nightmare). The other response is that they haven’t really thought of doing it and/ or thought they were too young to use scissors.

Each year when we begin our preschool year, we don't have scissors out initially. After a few weeks we do a sit down lesson with the scissors. We talk about how to hold the scissors safely, how to carry them safely, how we only cut the paper put out for that purpose in the classroom, etc. Then we do the Mr. Smiley lesson.

Showing how to safely transport the scissors safely

We determine the child's dominant hand (if it's been determined) and draw two dots for eyes and a smile on the dominant hand thumbnail with a washable marker so that when they hold their thumb up they see a smiley face. 

Mr. Smiley is quite magical, no doubt.

We show them where to put their thumb and where their fingers go. I give each child a strip of paper that is about 2 inches tall and 8 1/2 inches wide. It has about 1 inch vertical lines on it, each about an inch apart. The goal is to see how they do with cutting on the line and stopping when the line stops.

Instead of correcting when a child turns their hand over while cutting, which happens a lot, we ask if they can see Mr. Smiley smiling at them. 

They automatically turn their hand back upright. 

This is a beginning of the year baseline so we can see progress from that point forward. After that we put out plastic scissors with the playdough and the children's Fiskars in the art area. We monitor the use to make sure they aren't cutting anything they shouldn't. Sometimes I put out old Scholastic magazines or old household magazines for them to cut on, sometimes we put out ribbons and tape in the art area for them to snip, and we've even put ribbons in our sensory table for them to cut.

We do this assessment at the beginning of the year
and near the end of the year to see the progress
a year makes.

After the introduction and the determination that the child understands the safety issues, the scissors become a permanent part of the art area.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Post-It Personalities

Last fall I had the privilege to go on a trip called Directors on the Move. We went to the Monterey area and visited several locations to find inspiration. We visited the Monterey Peninsula College Lab School and definitely found loads of ideas. You can view the album on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.197037990407742.37877.170943436350531&type=3  One of the things I immediately decided to try in my own classroom was what we've decided to call Post-It Personalities. I knew I wanted to do it at the beginning of the school year and posted it for the first time at our Back to School Night/Parent Information Meeting. The photo below shows the directions given at the lab school. Mine were handwritten as I ran out of time with all the other preparations for the evening. 

After signing-in for the evening, parents were given this assignment:  

This is the full view of the display. I always take a beginning of the year photo of each child on our first full day together. This photo gets used in the child's cubby, in a class memory game, on a namecard in the Writing Area, and in the end of the year slideshow. This time I also used it for this display. I matted the photos on either a dark brown or olive green piece of cardstock that I had measured to leave enough room for the Post-It Note. I adhered kraft paper to the door and matted the photos.

The first thing I love about this is that it caused the parents to pause... and really think about how to describe their child's personality in three words. Some parents did it pretty quickly, which was perfectly fine. Others talked together to try to find out which three words described him or her the best.

Here are close-ups of a couple of the Post-Its.

How they chose to list the words were entirely up to the parents. Some put bullets, some just wrote three words, and some wrote the child's name along with the three words. 

The other thing I love about this activity is the excitement when the children saw their photos on the door the next day and when they heard what their parents had said about them. Joy!!

What special things do you post or set-up for the beginning of the year?