duck tales

life on the preschool duck pond

Snow Day

…and by that I mean a day on which it snowed. Don’t be fooled in thinking we might get a day off (which really is okay with me!)

While we did have school, our field trip to the Chicago Children’s Museum was canceled. I was able to practice my skill of flexibility and we had a fun day in preschool room 141. We turned our room into an obstacle course, complete with balls, bean bags, a balance beam, tunnel, sliding, and jumping. I’ll admit it was quite excellent.

We also did a cool art project today. It’s really easy- all you need are styrofoam cups and plates for paint. And paper to paint on. You basically take a styrofoam cup (I am fundamentally against anything made of styrofoam, but other cups don’t work quite as well), dip it into paint, and print it into paper. We used primary colors to create some fabulous pieces. I call it… (drumroll please)… Circle Art (I paid a lot of money to learn how to be this clever).

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This project was a good way to help me remember the importance of process over product. Story of my life!

More from the duck pond tomorrow!!

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Dr. Seuss Week in Review

This was quite a crazy week. I feel like I’m always saying that, but this one was especially nutty. However, our classroom had a great time this week rhyming and making patterns and learning about and from Dr. Seuss.

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I wrote out this Seuss quote and stuck it on the mirror we use for dramatic play and other things around the room. :)

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We worked on creating rhyming hats.

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I had to add this quote to our library.

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An awesome kid made this awesome artwork.

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We ended the week surveying the class to find out who would try green eggs and ham and who would not. We have some daring kids in our class.

This coming Tuesday we are taking a field trip to the Chicago Children’s Museum. Can’t wait!!

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Today is your day…

So, first things first.  This is Dr. Seuss week, which we are very excited about, but before the Seussical events could begin, we had to deal with a certain situation in the block center.  After the morning fire drill (my kids were champs, might I add), we took some time to take care of business. Some of our friends have been constructing guns and pretending to shoot each other.  This scenario sparks a debate with early childhood educators and parents all across the spectrum of opinion and parenting/child raising styles, but here is how we handled the situation in our class.  I have talked with parents who don’t seem too concerned and others who are appalled at the thought of a child making a pretend gun.  Taking all this and the high rate of gun violence in Chicago into consideration, here’s my take: Kids will make guns out of anything and everything.  In preschool we learn that some activities are for school while others are only okay at home, and this seems to fit into that category.  I think we can respond either by setting guidelines or redirecting behavior, or a combination of the two. So, I sat with some of my block center frequents today and  the kids came up with a plan regarding “shooters.”  I told them that some kids and teachers don’t want to be shot at, so we decided that right off the bat, no people should be shot at.  The kids seemed very concerned about the jugglewalkers and jabblewokers (if you know what these are, please inform me, because I literally have no clue), so we decided that we could zap these bad guys, as long as the shooters weren’t pointed at real people.  Next, we talked about what should happen if a student shoot a person.  My kids decided pretty unanimously that the first step would be to use bugs and wishes (YES!), and then ask a teacher for help if needed.  The kids said that if a kid continued to shoot people after bugs and wishes, that he or she should have to leave the block center.  They also determined that we should always use our inside voices.  Can you say higher order thinking and problem solving skills?  I’m a proud teacher today.

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This is a picture of the completed Graffiti Mural we made last week in response to our reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  On the left, the kids indicated whether or not they liked the story by making a smiley or sad face on a post-it and placing it on the mural.  Next, they responded to the prompt: What would you eat if you were a very hungry caterpillar? by drawing on half-sheets of paper, which we also hung on the mural.  I like it!

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Finally, onto the man of the week, Dr. Seuss. Today we introduced the beloved author and in true Seuss fashion, we constructed a rhyming morning message together as a class.  My kids are brilliant!

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We have lots of other cool Seuss stuff in our room, but we will save that for tomorrow. I leave you with this quote:

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!

Happy Monday! :)

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Dr. Seuss Week

Tomorrow begins our Dr. Seuss week.  Historically it has been one of my favorite weeks of the school year.  This is partly because I attempt to speak only in rhyme throughout the duration of the week.  But ultimately, it is because Dr. Seuss is pretty fantastic and his books are great for preschoolers and adults alike.  This week will be full of rhyming, patterns, graphing, reading, singing, and dancing.  Sounds pretty superb to me!

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

His final book.

 

 

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#preschoollife

A friend of mine recently mentioned that my readers might enjoy the things I sometimes post to Facebook rather than in here. So here are some recent stories from the preschool duck pond. Enjoy!

One of my students wore this the day after Valentine’s Day

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A middle school drama student gave me this for V-Day

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In addition to these, over the course of the past few weeks I have had:
–preschool boy tell me the best part of his birthday was getting to wear Lightning McQueen underwear
–different preschool boy take off my shoe and caress my foot during story time
–sweet kids give me very sweet gifts for Valentine’s Day… Including am oversized red teddy bear holding a giant heart

What else could a girl ask for? #preschoollife :)

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Love is…

It is Ms. Caroline’s month for the hallway bulletin board, and what is better than finding out what preschoolers love?

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Some of my personal faves:

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Freezing vs. Melting

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We find out tomorrow morning if our classroom snow has melted or remained frozen.

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hocus pocus, everybody focus

[sidenote: ^ this is a great rhyme to use to grab your kids' attentions...especially if you happen to be a Harry Potter fan...]

This year I have decided to have a monthly focus in my classroom.  Rather than try to implement all of the great ideas that I find all the time, a monthly focus gives me a chance to focus on smaller elements of teaching and to really plug into resources to help improve what we do.  Each month we focus on two elements: one social-emotional skill and one classroom center.  In January we have focused on using the skill of assertiveness and working on our classroom library.  I have each of these elements labeled on the wall where I post lesson plans for the week.  It’s a helpful reminder throughout the day.

Assertive: confidently aggressive or self-assured; positive: aggressive; dogmatic (dictionary.com)

In class, I refer to Becky Bailey, Ph.D, and her Seven Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation as a resource for the power of assertiveness. Ultimately, teaching this provides children with the skill to say “no” (which is a choice [bugs and wishes] on the Choice Wheel). This also helps teachers to focus on what we want rather than what we don’t want.  A child running in the classroom who hears, “Stop running!” Really only hears “Running!”  While a running child who hears, “Walk quietly” can focus on walking in the classroom.  I’m sure you can imagine which child has a higher likelihood of walking in this scenario.

Now for our classroom library, I have developed a simple organizing system for our books.  They are divided into four categories: Seasonal/Library books, books in Spanish, fiction, and non-fiction.  Each book in our classroom has a sticker corresponding with its appropriate category as well as a clearly-marked shelf or container. Woohoo!  I initially introduced this concept to the class as a whole group and followed up in centers and in small groups.  The kids have done pretty well with it!  I’m proud.

While we are on the subject of reading, here is an interesting link that I came across today about children reading.

Can you believe it’s almost February?  Stay tuned to find out what our February focus will be.

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mo willems, mo’ reading

I remember a certain college professor of mine saying that preschool is a time for a lot of celebration.  We celebrate birthdays, holidays, new baby brothers and sisters, lost teeth, zipping up coats, and many more momentous occasions.  This week is no different, as we look forward to celebrating (drumroll please) Groundhog Day!  Living in Pennsylvania for 5 years gave me a chance to experience this particular celebration more thoroughly than I had in Chicago, as Punxsutawney Phil himself wasn’t too far from where I was.  [People in Chicago seemed to not put such emphasis on this poor little guy's special day.]  For more info, check out this site.

I know, you’re asking, “Celebrations?  Parties?  Is that all that preschool is?”  No, of course not…at least not without the right amount of learning involved.  In addition to reading books about the special day, we will also be examining shadows and how they are made.  We will use flashlights and large sheets of butcher paper to make our own shadows.  It shall be fabulous.

Another theme for this week is a focus on books by Mo Willems. We will be reading some great books and talking about making friends, rhyming, reinforcing making healthy choices using the choice wheel, laughing, and overall having a great time.

We Are in a Book!

And you are in a blog!

Happy Sunday.

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Choice Wheel

In preschool this week, we have instituted something called “The Choice Wheel.” Think ‘Wheel of Fortune’ but generally the trend is that we end up with emotional regulation skills rather than money. [And personally, I think that in many/most cases, the value of money is lost for people who have zero emotional regulation skills. Just a thought.]

I wish I could take credit for the brilliance of this idea, but like we teachers always say, why reinvent the wheel? I first heard about this at a seminar I attended before the start of this school year. [This is a great place to insert 1) attend professional development, and 2) you don't always have to implement all the new things you learn the day after you learn them.] So the other night I sat at my dining room table, with a blank $.34 poster board bursting with opportunity and my favorite scented markers [what's better than drawing with a lemon-scented marker? hello!] and came up with The Choice Wheel.

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If you take a look, you will see 4 sections. My class is really young– mostly threes turning four, and so I decided that fewer choices would be easier for these guys.

On the left, we have “Take a balloon breath” and “get a drink of water.” In our class we practice taking balloon breaths often as one of our breathing exercises, so my kids know this ritual. Also, we have a water fountain in our room [which is AWESOME!] so the kids can get water as they need. We have songs for both breathing exercises and drinking water. Naturally.

Moving clockwise to the right, you see “Walk away.” This is a chance for kids to leave a frustrating situation where other students might not be changing their actions or when a child might feel like he needs some space.

Next we have “Share or take turns.” Sharing is a really interesting idea to me. Do we, as adults, always share? Sitting at Starbucks [where I currently am writing this and drinking coffee and watching snowfall... so brilliant...], would I share my coffee with a stranger who might come up to me and demand my drink? No, I probably would not. I bought this coffee and therefore, I think it should be considered my coffee.

Shift your focus and picture this situation. Preschool child 1 comes up to you in tears exclaiming, “Preschool Child 2 will NOT share the play dough with me!!” Your reaction? “Child 2, you must share with Child 1! Give her your play dough.” Well, up to this point in preschool time, poor little Child 2 was just playing with play dough, minding her own business, unaware that Child 1 even wanted play dough. So, as a result, Child 2 was bullied by Child 1 to give up her play dough, and Child 1 manipulated you to get what she wanted.

Hmm. [I know this does not always happen with every teacher. But it's easy to gloss over a situation with "Just share!" and not take advantage of a teachable moment.]

Now, back to the coffee illustration: is all the coffee in Chicago mine? No. All the coffee in this particular Starbucks? Nope. But is my coffee, technically speaking, my coffee? Yeah. So, should children learn the value of sharing? Absolutely! But they should also learn how and when it is appropriate to share. All of that to say: in our class, if there is enough, we share; and if there is only one, we take turns. [Set yourself up for success here-- the first few weeks/months of school, put out things you have plenty of. Don't set out one very cool fire truck on the first day of school and expect 22 3-year-olds to share it. Set out a bunch of similar trucks and teach them.]

Finally is “Bugs and Wishes.” I touched on this before in my post bugs and wishes where you can read more. Essentially, this is a tool we use in our class to teach kids how to stand up for themselves. This provides kids with the words to use to essentially say “No!” and “Stop!” Kids say “It bugs me when you do that, I wish that you would stop.” We use plastic bugs and magic wands to practice this [Target comes through yet again :)].

We are taking time this week to read various books to reinforce the different concepts. And, of course, we are practicing, practicing, practicing!

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