Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Building Words

Using letter pieces, such as these from 2 scrabble games,  to build words and phonetic awareness is a great tool for children who struggle with writing letters and great practice for talking about the properties of letters and words that surround us.

What we know:

Letters have names

Letters make sounds

Words have letters

There's a first sound to a word

Sometimes they make friends with other letters and create a new sound ("T and H in Theodotia.  It's like magic!")

"Darci"  Letters arranged in reverse.

We are currently working on how to help our friends read what we write or build, so we are talking about things like words are read from left to right and each letter has a direction that it sits.  These scrabble letters are a great tool and manipulative for us to use.  Songs emerge as the children simple handle them.  Names are a favorite to build. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Water Play

Recently we have worked to build on our ice play. First by adding water, then by adding containers and other tools, and most recently by adding color. It's been extremely interesting to watch how the children's play changes with each new addition.

With just water there became a lot more splashing and a lot less engagement compared to when we used ice only. Containers incited a love for scooping and pouring the water but very quickly led to dumping water out onto the floor or bodies. This was expected, though, because it is soooo satisfying to dump! To just turn something over and see it rapidly empty out before your eyes is a very satisfying thing indeed- especially if you are a toddler.

Adding color, though, proved to give us a higher level of engagement than even just ice alone. I wasn't sure how this would go as it was yet another feature to our already very busy work. Setting the colored water up in a certain way helped to engage children rather than overwhelm them. Also having children present during the process of setting up increased their ownership over the colored water play.

First, I took the empty spice jars and rack out of the studio. I squirted various amounts of color into each jar with the children present in the kitchen, talking to them about what I was doing. Some children were very interested while others simply played in the adjoining rooms. I did not ask them to stay in the kitchen or continue to observe me, instead offering them the chance to decide for themselves what worked best for their bodies. Next, I added water to each spice jar until it was full then placed it into the rack. After each spice jar was full, I set them aside while I readied the next pieces of our play.

I filled a blue tub with water and found a few other containers for pouring into and out of. I placed a blanket on the floor of the kitchen to signal to the children what area the water would be used on. I placed the blue tub, smaller containers, and the spice rack filled with color on the ground. The last step was to bring the ice cubes out of the freezer and onto our blanket.

As the children came over to play some were interested in splashing the water. Others were interested in the spice jars and worked on figuring out how to open them. Yet another child wanted to put the ice in his mouth. It seemed to bring him great happiness to simply have an ice cub in his mouth while playing. All of the children were mesmerized when a spice jar was finally open and poured slowly into the blue tub with water. The color slowly mixed into the clear water. I have to admit it was a rather amazing thing to watch. It had been a long time since I had simply observed the mixing of two different fluids together!

As you can see from the pictures, we've repeated this play quite often in the last few weeks. The children have continued to enjoy the water play immensely and have moved into a lot of focused pouring and scooping ever since JK joined our group. JK is big on opening, closing, pouring, and scooping so his passion for these actions has inspired the other children to work on those skills as well.

"I want to tell you a story...."

"Ok everyone!  You have to do a stretch like this!"
 EB, the dance class teacher
This is a phrase I hear quite often at the Preschool House.  I think the children use it, because they know I'm a sucker for their stories.  They know if they say those words there is very little that will stop me from getting down on their level and watching as they walk around, telling their story, or watching their building hands creating a story with blocks, or pitchers filled with water or vinegar pouring and scooping, or any of the other opportunities the children have during the day.
Through offering many venues throughout the day that draws each child into their own voice and way of telling their story.  This is part of the reason that we have various areas at the preschool house.  Areas that s
peak to each child in different ways and call them to tell their stories in the best way possible.  The more available ways, the more stories appear, so I have been challenging myself to notice what the children are asking for, both directly and through their natural play and use of the space.

"Creativity seems to emerge from multiple experiences, coupled with a well-supported development of personal resources, including a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known." Loris Malaguzzi

The concoction station lends itself to cooking stories, but also now stories of explosions now that baking soda and vinegar have been introduced as available ingredients.  By watching what and how the children use the materials offered, I am able to support their natural path of play and interests.  Supporting their creativity in this way, the children are empowered to explore the full potential of their imagination, because their interests are free to develop with in the limits of safety and thoughts of their peers.
"Briana will you take a picture so we can
always remember this city?"  TLC

The travel artifact shelves.  Maraca's as lollypops.  SF
Inside the construction area has been a flurry of activity.  Often one child will begin to build an intricate structure, including a story, which attracts the other children to use the area.  Even though it becomes tight with many interested bodies, everyone finds ways to work together.  The other day KC was sitting on the floor lining up city blocks on top of some window blocks.  "I'm building a space shuttle!" he explained, full of excitement.  SJC was nearby, watching closely and quickly knocked it all down.  He watched his brother's reaction closely.  "Don't do that!  It was my space shuttle!"  Very subtly, I reminded SJC to check in before knocking over blocks, something that is the great work of a 2 year old in the construction area.  "I won't do it!" he said firmly, so we tried again.  And it worked!  "Look how carefully you are all working together!  KC is building and telling us about his space shuttle, " I narrated after everyone returned to playing. 

SM builds letters in the sunlight.  "It spells stop!  See?"

Stories appear constantly through our day.  They are in many forms, involving friends or individual, short and long, intricate and simple.  When a child has any opportunity to tell they're story, not only do the felt seen and heard but know that they are a integral part of the community which is our school.  They contribute and are creators in what it means to play, work and be at Tumbleweed.  Their stories are their voice and we are there to capture and inspire them. 

"Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before." Loris Malaguzzi

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Workshop: Hammering

The last two weeks have given us the opportunity to practice different hammering skills.  I look forward to the day when we can start to build the houses that the children are dreaming of.  Rocket ships too.

We introduced this new tool in a way to maximize safety while allowing for the children to learn how to use a hammer independently and creatively.  To extend our focus on hammering, we began a project to make parts for wind chimes.

Flattening bottle caps is the first step.
The children go through the same process while approaching the hammering:

Is it available?  There are goggles in the drawer

Put the goggles on

Find a hammer

Choose a bottle cap

Find a place to work.  Stumps are available.  Also boards that can be placed exactly the way that works best for you body.

Hammer for as long as you'd like.

Return your tools to the drawer when you're done.

Having these simple steps allow for the children to adapt them to fit what works for them.  Some children worked together, while others made sure no one was near by.  Some children were only interested in sorting the flattened and non flattened caps.  When you have set steps to a process, then it supports the development of a logical sequence of events, the basis for most problem solving.


"Rumble and ramble in blackberry bramble.  Billion of berries for blackberry jamble."  
Bruce Degan

Burying a bumblebee that was squished.  Everyone seemed very concerned and gathered around to create a small grave, complete with marker.   As we left to return to school, everyone gave the bee a fond farewell.


Next: Pies!

"Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits." Unknown