Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Field Trips the emergent way; difficult, but worth it!

One of the most challenging aspects of emergent curriculum’s spontaneous nature is the planning of field trips.  It is much easier to plan a trip months or even weeks in advance.  However, when you do not know the exact path that your learning journey will take you, this is not possible. 

When you are able to find a venue that will support the learning and discoveries of the children, it is well worth the effort and scrambling that will be needed to pull it off.  Here is an example of such an adventure.

My class has been interested in beds.  When we listed our wonderings, several of the children were very interested in hospital beds as they, themselves, had been in the hospital.  When they told the others about the moveable beds with all the buttons, the entire class wanted to see them move.  Thus began my quest for a hospital that would let a group of four year olds visit and would let us see, touch and “play with” a mechanical bed. 

When I tried my local hospital I was informed that they did a standard tour for first graders, and I loved this line, “hopefully they will all make it to first grade, and can come on the tour then.” Nice!

So then, I put my class parents to work.  In fact, I put a call for help out to any parent in the school who was affiliated with a hospital in any way.  People talked to neighbors, friends, etc.  They were really trying for us.  Finally, one day I received a call from a woman who was willing to let us tour the school of nursing associated with the hospital, and they had a slot available the very next day!  When she described the various beds she had to show them and the robot patient, I knew this was the trip for us.

  I didn’t want to risk waiting the three weeks for the next available slot, as by then, our learning may have taken another turn.  So I made several phone calls, gathered parent drivers together, had a few parents switch cars so we could fit more children in and we were at the school of nursing by 10am the next day. 

It was an amazing trip!  We saw many different beds; a bed that weighed patients, a bed that became a chair, a bed on wheels, a bed with weights and pulleys and a baby bed (incubator).  The nurses talked about what nurses do, let the children try many of these jobs and showed them the robot: George Cloney, who talked and breathed.

We came back to class wanting to experiment with weights and pulleys and with many nursing tips to add to the hospital that the children had been creating in the dramatic play center. 

Use your community resources, ask parents for help, be willing to be spontaneous and the learning opportunities are incredible!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Move Over Ugly Dolls!

The class wanted to learn how to sew, so..... we did.  

We started learning stitches with plastic needles, yarn and squares of burlap.  

The following week, we moved onto sewing with real metal needles, thread and fleece.

The children chose a shape from tagboard, traced it onto the color of felt of their choice and an adult cut it out for them. 

Then the children sewed all around the shape.  It is a great activity for spatial awareness as we used a lot of directions such as over, under, up, down, in, out, around.  When it was just about sewn, we turned it inside out, and stuffed it with pollyfill.
Then the children sewed it shut and the embellishment process began. 
The children sewed on buttons, or cut up and sewed on their felted wool from the previous week.  Some of them also chose to draw on the creatures with permanent markers.  

The children worked so hard and diligently and absolutely creatively!  The finished creatures are so adorable and unique, they absolutely rival those Ugly Dolls that sell in the stores for $20 a piece! 

Granny would be so proud!

Felting Wool

Our emergent study of Beds has taken an interesting turn.

After reading What ? Cried Granny! that I wrote about in an earlier post, the children became interested in knitting and sewing as the granny in the story knits Peter a blanket after shearing her sheep and also sews him a gigantic stuffed bear.

So, we began our investigation into these two areas.

First, I called upon any knitters in the parent body who were available to come in a knit with the children.  Most were wary of the children's ability to handle the knitting needles.

Then I remembered a former parent and amazing knitress who had done some wonderful things with yarn and wool in the past. I remembered that we still had some of the sheep's wool that we had ordered when her daughter was in the school.  She reminded me how to color it safely with the children and turn it into felt.  She also showed me a great video about finger knitting on utube
Unfortunately, the knitting proved to be too difficult and frustrating for most of the children, even when we brought in looms and tried to knit with them.

But the mulit-step sewing "creature" project has been a big hit!  Here is the first step:

Felting Wool with Koolaid

1. Put a small amount of fresh wool in a pie plate. (Spend time noticing the texture)

2. Pour contents of one pack of colored koolaid mix on wool.

3. Have child stand back while you pour very HOT water on the wool.

4. Child stirs wool and koolaid very slowly until wool is the color of the cool-aid and the water is clear.

5. Grab wool with tongs, squeeze out excess water and drop into large zip loc baggie

6. Add rocks to baggie(we used smooth river rocks) and about 1 cup cold water.  Seal bag.

7. Children need to smash wool around the rocks for about 20 minutes to turn it into felt.

8. Remove from bag and hang to dry.

You can use the felted wool for sewing embellishments, crowns, or anything the children can come up with.
Check out the next blog to see what we did with ours, and keep playing!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Emergent Curriculum Workshop

Here is a snippet of my workshop

Become a Polar Explorer, Feather a Nest, and Make It Rain Inside;
Emergent Curriculum  It's Not Only Possible in Preschool, It's Incredible!

I presented it at our nursery school last night to a group of teachers and parents.
I will be presenting this again in three weeks in Aneheim, CA at the NAEYC National Convention.
Hope to see you there!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Storytelling-A Missing Art in the Classroom

We had another motivating staff meeting this past week.  I love our staff meetings because, although as  Educational Director part of my responsibilities include leading the team of teachers and assistants, I never leave a meeting without learning something from this group of talented women. 

This week one of our teachers has recently been to a workshop on storytelling and she shared with us what she had learned. 

It truly resonated with me that I do not do enough of that wonderful literary experience with children.  One of the key points she shared with us is that when you are telling a story vs. reading it you are connecting with your audience in a much more direct manor.  Your eye contact is constant.  You can involve your audience with motions; verbal or body or both.  You can see their reactions so clearly and really experience their involvement with you.

So motivated by Lini’s sharing, I pulled out a flannel board story that another one of my talented staff members, Clara, had made to What! Cried Granny-a fabulous story about a child who tries to sleep over at his grandmother’s house, but to her dismay she finds she has nothing for him to sleep in or with, so she must be creative!

 I first read the book to my students in the morning so they would be familiar with the story-this is not always necessary-but I thought it made sense for this story.  At the end of the day, I brought out the flannel board pieces and TOLD the story with their help.  This time we all acted out Gramma, we used hand motions for all the work Gramma had to do, they helped me with the repetitive language of the book and became the story.  It was such a community storytelling event.  We had such fun, and we were all engaged together. 

It was a completely different experience than the morning when we had read the book.
I definitely want to make storytelling a greater part of my literacy repertoire.  Give it a try!

And I will have to post pictures of Clara’s flannel board-it is so adorable-but my camera battery died-stay tunedJ

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Botanical Pillows

Great project this week: Botanical Pillows

We gathered beautiful colored flowers and leaves. 

The children chose the pieces they wanted and laid them down on top of the canvas pillow forms. (purchased from Discount School Supply)

They covered them with two layers of paper towels and then pounded them with a hammer or mallet until they could see the color seep through the paper towel. 

Then they looked at their work and chose where to place more botanicals.

After pounding, they scraped the mashed pieces into the garbage and we let the case dry over night.

The next day, they were able to grind dried lavender using a mortar and pestle, sprinkle this on the polyfill and fill their pillows as soft or as lightly as they wanted, so it was “just right” as Baby Bear would say!

Pillows that look like a garden and smell like one, too!  

Goldilocks Live!

We have been reading a lot of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in our classroom. 

It started off when we read one version (as it has beds it in) when my class first started their fascination with beds.  A child announced that he had that story at home.  Another child chimed in and another, so I encouraged them to bring in their versions.  So many different copies poured in. 

We have been enjoying reading, comparing, contrasting the various illustrations and endings, foods and circumstances that create the basic premise.

This story lends itself so well to acting it out.  It is easy to remember and children love the lines and the various voices.  We did it in a controlled manor in small groups as an activity and now the materials (three bowls of various sizes, three chairs, three blankets for beds) are out for the children to use during free play every day.

I love to watch how they negotiate who will play each role, how they set up their stage, who becomes the director, how they portray the characters, and if the story follows the script or takes on a life of its own.  

I can learn so much about each child by being an audience member, and each child is learning so much by taking part in this kind of play. 

Do you have a story that you have read recently that your students would love to act out?  Give it a try.  

10 Minutes till Bedtime!

I just love this book by Peggy Rathmann

Every time I read it I see something new and so does every child who reads it!

It just brings joy to the reader. 

It also makes children feel like readers as they can remember the simple repetitive text, start to recognize the numbers on the pages and just LOVE to raise their voices as they begin to learn that larger print means the character is yelling!!!

These boys realized that we had more than one copy in our classroom, so they have been finding the copies and each other and reading them together in unison, helping each other if someone seems to be on the wrong page. 

They are having a joyful moment with books.

 I am watching their concepts of print-constantly assessing what they know and thinking about what I can offer them.  Their job is to learn through play, but mine is to continually monitor the environment and make it challenging and engaging.

But while I am doing that, I am laughing and smiling at those adorable hamsters!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Validate their Voices!

Validating the voice of children is an important part of our documentation.  

We often write down what the children say as they play or as they describe their work to us.  We write down exactly what they say, how they say it, grammatical errors and all.  It is their “voice”.  When we read it back to them, their faces light up.  To hear their words read back to them, to know that their words have been translated into print, that what they said was listened to so carefully and recorded word for word gives them such confidence.  Part of our role as early educators is give children confidence as learners-to give their ideas and thoughts acknowledgement.

It is also very useful as an assessment tool.  If you keep a copy for yourself it can be used as a speech sample, to measure a child’s use of sentence use and structure, vocabulary development and understanding. 

I always keep a copy for my records and send a copy home.  This documentation accompanied the bed creations and elaborated on the constructions the children were making.  It showed the thinking the children were doing as they were creating.

  You can see how one child thought through her elaborate bunk bed creation while the other one was thinking of the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, as she was creating her bed. 

Usually, we just walk around with a clipboard and paper and ask the children, “How does your story start?” as we learned from the wonderful educator, Bev Bos, or “what do you have to say today?”   And then we start writing.