Friday, December 30, 2011

Outside Provocations

We have been all about vehicles and things that go recently, so I set up a provocation that could potentially call to this interest outside.  This emergence into imaginary play is exciting for everyone in our cohort: the children as they play these new games; me for creating new provocations.

In the morning I gathered a few empty tubs and lined them up.  We have some hinged shutters that I arranged on each side of the tubs.  We also have this really great adult sized chair without legs that I placed in 'front'.

In my mind I was building an airplane, but I was excited to see what happened once the boys came outside.  It's always tricky to walk that thin line when setting up and implementing provocations.  You want them to spark and delve deeper into a current interest, while also not interfering in the natural evolution of their play.  I really wanted the boys to use what I set up like a truck, car, train...something!  But I also prepared myself to be ok with them knocking it all down and walking away. 

There was some short lived interest the first day I offered it, and then the shutters were knocked down the rest of the week.  I look forward to maintaining and slightly modifying to entice everyone to use it.  But really everyone was very interested in the tee pee which I recently filled up with leaves.  Maybe that can be a train!  Or plane. Or truck.  Or....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Apple Pancakes

 After nap today we made apple pancakes.  I had come across this idea of dunking rings of apple in pancake batter on Pinterest and thought it was an amazing idea!  SW and GW were the first to wake and so we got to work measuring and stirring. 

We started out with making some sour milk.  Everyone got to help add lemon juice to the milk and then we let it set to add in last.

Then comes the dry ingredients.  "G turn!  S turn!" said GW as they poured the flour.  SW was especially focused on using the "teaspoon" to scoop out the banking powder.  Everyone got a chance to stir up the dry ingredients


Next comes the wet.  I added the oil to the buttermilk.  GW held a spoon for molasses and then let it drizzle into the bowl.  SW thought the vanilla smelled 'sweet!'.    We did the egg together, but GW was very interested in holding it while waiting.  SW poured in the oil and buttermilk.  Then it was time to stir again.


I forgot to take any pictures of the cooking process which I took care of while everyone "play classroom?  trucks?" .


Soon SC woke up and Willa joined us for snack!  Everyone was quite pleased with the end product.  I'm sure we'll have to do more 'cooking' soon!

Here's my recipe:
Gingerbread Apple Pancakes
Note: Any of the spices and molasses can be removed.  I added them for holiday cheer.

1tsp + milk to = 1cup - Set to the side to add last.

1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Mix dry ingredients until incorporated

1 Tbsp Molasses
2Tbsp Oil
1tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
Add to the Milk and incorporate.

Pour wet into dry ingredients until just mixed.  Lumps are ok.   The less pancake batter is stirred the fluffier it will be.  Let stand a few minutes
Slice and core 2 apples.  I did mine to make rounds, but any thin sliced apples would work well.   We used Pink Lady for this recipe and they ended up still a bit crunchy.
Heat pan until drips of water sizzle when dropped on the pan.
Dip apple slices in batter and place on pan.  There should be enough batter to coat them.  Extra batter means more pancake.
Flip when you see bubbles forming, about 2 minutes, then cook for another 1 minute or until the center pops back when you press in the middle with your finger.
Let rest for a few minutes because the apples inside get fairly warm and stay warm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My favorite stories are not found in films or novels. They aren't found on talk radio. My favorite stories? I find them in the preschool classroom and let me tell you, stories are in abundance at TPH. Lately, Bee and I have focused many provocations around literacy. This involves setting out letters, paper with lines for penmanship and one on one time for phonics with the children. However, what has naturally surfaced from our fascination with letters and words is a rekindled love for storytelling.

One evening during a staff meeting I mentioned that we had been reading A TON of books at TPH and that I love this activity but found that it was difficult to remain available for multiple children if I was engulfed in a book. Amy suggested that I take a step back and let the children create their own stories for the pictures on each page. This not only allowed me to observe the children more closely, it put the power of storytelling back in their hands.

As the week progressed I began to ponder how the preschoolers weave stories through every activity we perform at TPH. Painting, building, drawing, free play: whenever I inquire about these creations I am met with an elaborate narrative. A few weeks ago IR, EB and IO painted a this scene on a canvas outside:

When I asked about the house in the center, EB explained, "that is where IR lives" and IO pointed out the blue square beneath the house, "and that is where IR's cat Itchy lives." EB continued, "the blue spot is the sun. It is hot. This house has windows and a door for IR to get out but Itchy doesn't need windows." Thus, the girls had worked together to create an entire world with their paint.

Teachers can be presumptuous. I often set out elaborate provocations and find the PSers simply want to draw and by "simply draw" I do not mean they make simple drawings. In contrast, the drawings are elaborate illustrations. Large pieces of paper work great for this because it gives the PSers lots of space to utilize. The drawings often start small, with a truck for example, and branch out into complex scenes. One day I set out some x rays of insects on white paper for examination. KO asked for crayons and intently focused for a half hour:

He explained as he drew, "this is a fire truck and this is a fire. These are the sirens and the truck is putting out this fire." The scene included a fire that covered the upper 1/4 of the paper, firefighters, a firetruck, a hose and lots of blue water pouring from the hose into the fire. G assisted and KO explained, "he is drawing the ladder." I am amazed by the collaborative nature of storytelling between the PSers. As an adult writer I often become entrenched with the idea of MY story or idea and how to convey it. However, the PSers often see storytelling as a community activity. They enthusiastically add to each others' narratives and we all become excited by the process of creating something together.

Our wonderful sub Lis brought in a collection of images and introduced them to the PSers on day. Now, the organization of these images into narratives has become a favorite morning activity.

The first day I did this activity with the children they would choose a card and explain what the animals were doing in that image. However, the second and third times we used the cards the PSers I noticed that the PSers carefully chose a collection of images. They would then explain these images sequentially. WOW I thought. The kids were actually creating relationships between the images and stringing narratives through them. This influenced how I thought about literacy and phonics. Yes, letters are important but so is storytelling! It allows us to connect images and explain the world around us. Perhaps the PSers aren't transcribing novels but that doesn't stop them from writing some of the most inventive and entertaining stories I have ever heard.

For now, I will continue to listen and encourage. I would love to provide sketchbooks to create cohesive storybooks if the PSers are interested!

How a Branch Became a Christmas Tree

Last week while a few of the preschoolers were outside, I placed a large branch into the soil in one of the barrels. MR came over as I began placing fallen leaves on the tiny twigs sticking out from the branch.
 MR: "Is that a Christmas tree?" 
Bee: "I wonder what you think it is?" 
MR: "It's a Christmas tree!"

I put a few more leaves on the ends of the twigs. TS came over to look at the branch, as MR worked on placing a leaf on the branch. We then talked about decorating the "tree" the following day with all of the preschoolers. 

 We went outside the next day near the end of the day and the branch was no longer in the barrel. I found it and placed it back in the barrel, this time digging a deeper hole to make the branch more stable. Soon after I started placing leaves back on the twigs, EB and IR came over and asked about the branch. I talked about the conversation I had with MR the day before and they agreed, "it is a Christmas tree!" I put a few more leaves on. Then EB quickly walked around the yard, finding various items to put on the "tree" as IR and JH watched.

EB began by placing yellow straw on the branch, exclaiming, "it's gold." She then got a funnel and placed a twig in the end of it and said, "maybe we could put this on top of the tree for the star." So, I placed the funnel on top of the "tree."


Next EB found the jumprope and tangled it around the "tree." She said, "these are lights."
 EB added more "gold" to the branches as more preschoolers came over to observe and explore the "tree." 

I remembered we had bells in the garage and told the preschoolers that I would get them out. As I came out of the garage with the bells, I noticed the preschoolers standing around the "tree," all 
 singing "Jingle Bells."


I began tying the strings on the bells as I talked to the preschoolers about how they may need to share a bell with a friend, because there were not enough for each of them to hang one. Immediately preschoolers started pairing up, getting excited to work as a team putting the bells on the tree. Some offered help to the younger preschoolers and some just watched.

 After all of the bells were put on, we listened to hear if the wind was strong enough to ring the bells. They rang quietly once, then a few of the preschoolers tapped the bells carefully with their fingers to hear the soft ringing.
 Once a few of the preschoolers went to find other activities to do, I noticed a pile of rocks and jewels gathered together in the barrel next to the "tree."
IR: "The tree asked for presents."
IO: "No, the fairies brought the presents and they go back into the little rock. And some fairies stay in the bell. The bell fairies. The boy fairies are inside the bells. Over here are the girl fairies and over here are the boy fairies."
IO talked about how the bells sound differently depending on if there are girl fairies inside of them or boy fairies inside of them.

Most of the preschoolers moved onto other explorations and then IR and EB brought a few large concrete bricks over to the barrel and placed them around the bottom of the "tree." IR explained, "it's something to keep the tree from falling over." EB added a few more strands of straw to the tree, exclaiming, "Look, more gold for the tree!" We then left the decorated "tree" for the afternoon.

 The following day, our "tree" was still standing tall with all of its leaves and decorations intact. IR made her way to the "tree," adding some final touches.

 IR: While digging the end of a funnel into the soil next to the tree, "This was my next idea for the Christmas tree. Adding a different kind of leaf. This is doing it, how funny."

MR came over and exclaimed, "wow Bee, this is really pretty." IR noticed MR and began talking about the items she was adding to the barrel, "special little things, because MR wanted these on the Christmas tree so I said I'd put them on it."

KO came over to see the decorated "tree" and then TS climbed into the barrel to ring a bell at the very top! 

The following day, the branch and all of it's decorations were missing from the barrel. The preschoolers had spent three days exploring how a simple branch can turn into a "Christmas tree" with decorations and presents. Then this provocation was gone and new explorations were occurring. Preschoolers explore and manipulate various objects and provocations for as long as they can learn, share, and find new ways to explore them. They then move on to other explorations to keep their imaginations, curiosity, and natural passion to learn alive and constantly moving!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm a Toddler at Heart

 I find an intense sense of satisfaction in my neat piles of laundry, each in their place.  I get high on showing the boys how we can most orderly and efficiently fit our dishes in the bus tub (stacks of cups, piles of plates).  I have that sense of security when I am able to wash the dishes in the morning before (not after) doing diaper changes, because I know they will be dry in time for lunch.  I find my center in knowing what comes next, just as the boys do.  
They now tell me "inside?  Lunch?"  as we remove shoes.  We share that knowing smile as we work together, preparing for what we know comes next.
One day I moved a favorite activity to a new home on a different shelf that it was being use more frequently at anyways.  Glass spice jars with blue, green cubes that fit perfectly inside.  I set it up so it was so beautiful, beckoning to the children to try new ways to manipulate the smooth glass and rough wood.  And it did call to them!   They carried the jars, cubs and even trays right back to their original homes, resuming their favorite pouring work there.  I invited them to return the jars to the new home when they were finished, only to be greeted with yells of disapproval and general chaos of dumping that only a toddler can master.  
So I let go.

I watched as they to returned the room to the original order, realizing that it is that constant that helps them build their own security while away from their families.
I might be a toddler who takes a love of order to the extreme.  Or maybe they're me, simply trying to figure out this great, big world around us, looking to grasp onto something, anything constant that they know they can rely on.  Even if it's just laundry

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Icy Moment

With the winter weather approaching our mornings outside are full of bright, warm sun and puddles that have captured the leaves from the trees and bushes in our yard.  I have a personal connection and love of ice that stems from my childhood.  I searched through the yard before the children arrived and placed a few slabs of ice on a wicker stool in the middle of the asphalt.  There were different thicknesses, and various pieces that had leaves.

At first everyone simply touched them, but suddenly one fell.  Crash!  It shattered!  Everyone seemed surprised and then SW stomped on a piece.  A very satisfying crunch lit up his face and encouraged everyone else to try.  Soon all of the ice pieces were being thrown on the ground and stomped upon.  I too joined in, relishing that crunch and crumble of the ice and it made me curious what is so satisfying about it.  I thought back to a similar feeling when popping those bubbles in bubble wrap.  Is it the sound?  Or the act of destruction itself?  Is there a need for seemingly destroying things?  Or is this 'destruction' simply exploring the qualities of what ice-ness is?

By watching how we affect the ice the boys have learned a few things:
* Ice breaks easily
*When you stomp on ice it can make smaller pieces, though sometimes it takes a few tries
*Things stick in it
* Ice is cold!

Like many of our mornings outside, this morning ended with the children walking over to me with red hands extended looking for a warm up.  I talked to them about how it's so cold outside that the puddles froze!  Then touching the water made our hands very cold.  "Yeah! Cold!" said SW and we laughed.  I rubbed and blew on anyone's fingers who wanted it before we all decided to go inside.