Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Food Introduction!

Here at Tumbleweed, we love to support healthy eating habits from the beginning.

We create rituals around meal times so that children can anticipate what's happening next.

We talk about the food preparation and sources to support understanding and future participation.

We provide whole foods that children can grab on their own.

We create a place setting that supports each child's natural movement (i.e. no propping) and adjust as time goes on and skills change.

We talk about what's happening during the meal (like passing and scooping and pouring), in preparation for the skills children will use with each other in the future.

And we have fun!!! Eating is awesome.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Glue Gun

Provocations are one of the many ways we offer open-ended, guided discovery to the children throughout the day. They can also be a way to build on what children are interested in or currently working on in the classroom. Maybe a child has shown a lot of interest in water play outside. We could incorporate this with indoor provocations by offering an experiment table with water and a few other materials or perhaps a water color table. We could also incorporate it outside by using a large tub and a few objects to manipulate water with. Ideas for provocations are countless. Often, children themselves will set out a provocation for the morning or afternoon tables!

Recently, our classroom has been pretty focused on building in general. This led me to look at how we could offer different types of building on our provocation tables one afternoon. I always like to have at least one table that gives children a chance to fine tune the fine motor movements of holding a pen, pencil, or some other writing utensil so the first thing I put out was a table for building and writing words or letters.

Another building exercise we often use is the curlers. I set them out in a circle pattern and paused- it still looked empty. I didn't feel that the provocation looked very inviting. What else could we use to build with the curlers? Before long I had found a few other small materials- paper shreds and cu-tips- that could easily be incorporated into building with the curlers. We liked to have at least 3-4 provocations set up at once so this still left a few more tables to be put together.

What else could incorporate our love of building, though? I wanted to do something that wasn't necessarily building with small blocks or dominoes- both of which are provocations I often find myself setting up. As I perused our art shelf my eyes fell on the glue guns we had recently bought. We hadn't used them, yet, so I wanted to set up a table where only one child could work at once. This would allow a lot of teacher interaction. I also wanted to make sure we could introduce the glue gun and discuss it's purpose, how it's used, and more before it began being used. This also led me to set out a few other gluing activities- including gluing feathers onto a canvas with our beloved glue sticks.

I had expected to introduce the glue gun before children began using it, but the way that everything unfolded was much more beautiful than anything I could have intended. In our classroom we have a glue gun connoisseur. In fact, TUS is the one who asked us to get the glue guns to begin with. Since TUS was one of the first ones up and ready for tables, he immediately spotted the glue gun and headed to it. I checked in with him to see if he needed any instruction on the use of the gun, but he assured me he knew how to proceed. Within seconds, a small group of children had circled around TUS. They attentively watched as he worked, asking questions about the gun and the different parts.

TB pointed to the glue sticking out the end, "What is that!? Do you push it?" TUS nodded, "Oh that! That's the glue. The gun turns it into a liquid. Watch!" He made a small dot of glue on the canvas. WK was amazed, "How did you do that!?" TUS held the gun up and showed her the lever, "You push right here." He slowly made another dot on the canvas again. This further intrigued WK, "But can you get burned?" I had told TUS earlier that the gun was a cool touch gun but he still remembered how to be extra safe while using a glue gun. He informed WK that she couldn't touch the tip of the glue gun but she could touch the lever and hold the handle in her hand. He pointed to each different part as he explained.

I was amazed at how confident TUS was in his ability to teach the others how to properly use the glue gun. As Rio and I walked by the table, we could hear him explaining different things about the gun and slowly acting out what he was explaining. After TUS was done with the table WK sat down and worked on the canvas for a long time. Every now and then a child would pass by to watch her. WK would animatedly fill them in on all of her new knowledge regarding the glue gun. Having just one child who knew and understood the procedures around the gun allowed our entire classroom to be informed about how to use it safely. TUS's mastery flowed through from one child to the next with very little guidance from either Rio or myself.

Writing Group: Let_ters_Begin

Spring is in the air and so we decided to take a fresh start with writing group. As well as igniting a new interest in writing, it seemed like a great opportunity to review letters. What do they look like? Where do we see them? When do they go in words? How are they connected to sounds we make? Do our lips move differently when we say different letters? The children and I decided the best way to answer these questions would be to explore how letters sound in our mouths and look on paper.

As always, I started group with a song to help us all engage together and get those wiggly movements out.  Next, I set up to start exploring the letter. To keep it simple I stuck with one letter: a solo S. To engage the senses of sight and sound simultaneously, I brought in a large pad of paper. I drew a large letter S on the paper and gave the children a moment to study it. Then I added two arrows- one pointing to each of the two curves found in the letter S. Next I asked a question, what does this look like. "It looks like a squiggle"said T. "It looks like a snake" said W. "It looks like a river" said M.

I replied this shape does look like those things! It is also the letter S. After we all repeated the S sound I asked if anyone noticed their mouth moves when you say S? The class went over that our lips are open and our teeth stay closed. Next A asked what do you think these arrows are for? "They are pointing" A said. I replied these arrows point to the correct way to write the letter S. I then went through the motion of writing an S and asked if anyone would like a chance to write. Everyone's arms seemed to shoot towards the sky.

I positioned the big pad of paper on the floor so everyone could see as each child practiced the letter S. After everyone got at least two tries we I asked if anyone know something that has the S sound in it. V started by saying "Soup". We then went over Sky, Spring, Summer, Sea, Sun and Smells. W found out that almost every words can have an S when we pluralize it. We ended our group by adding to the big piece of paper all the S things we could think of. We looked at each other and began drawing flowers to show summer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Most of our materials outside are found objects or objects from nature. The long, clear tubes are among the many choices of found objects. They are used for a variety of purposes that mostly center around water play- especially for transporting water out of the rain barrel!

The rain had left a small puddle on our outside table overnight. The kids often use the water to fish or float random objects in. Today they brought the tubes over and began fishing. Shortly the tubes began to enter their mouths, suck up water, and spit the water back out through the tube before it reached their mouths.

I felt uncomfortable as I watched them but took a moment to fully formulate why. Finally, once I felt ready, I walked closer to them. MR and TB announced to me, "We're elephants!" They spouted again to drive the point home.

I spoke slowly, "I'm feeling uncomfortable about the tubes being in your mouths." MR took hers out and studied me as WK spoke up, "We're not drinking it. We're just elephants!" Everyone nodded in agreement and continued their game.

I spoke up again, "I hear you. The thing is those tubes are outside all the time and I'm not feeling comfortable with them going in everyone's mouths." I was met with looks of frustration, "I can tell that you really want to play the game... I wonder if there's another way to get water into the tubes?"

This last part peaked their interest. WK, MR, and TB were instantly united in finding a way to get water in the tubes. WK tried to use gravity to her advantage and get water in by lowering the tube, but there wasn't enough water on the table. MR tried sucking air ok near the tube opening but without a seal no water would come up. TB attempted to scrape water tongue side and catch it, but this proved to also not be very fruitful.

In the end, they ended up making the tubes snakes that scraped the water off the table slowly and surely. It was okay for each of them that none of their efforts paid off- the joy was in the discovery of all the things that didn't work.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Log

We spend the majority of our time outside in the back yard. The space is created for the children and much of how it looks or works is created by the children. They take a lot of ownership over the space and often move or adjust what's outside to better fit into their most recent explorations. For example, when we brought rope outside it got tied up all over and turned into a variety of ways to move stuff and people from one area to another- including a zip line! Recently, the attention of one child in particular has turned to our log. The log has mainly been used as a bench or a balancing beam in the past. There's been a huge interest in bug finding lately which often involves the turning over of stumps and rocks.

TUS approached the log and eyed it hungrily then spoke to me, "I bet we can move this log and find some bugs." He immediately hunkered down and began pushing. The log wouldn't budge. TUS gave up and stepped back, "Oh I have an idea!" He found a stump and began pushing it toward the log. Once it was in place he went off to find another log and moved it toward the log as well. This began attracting other children from around the yard. LC, DC, and CE approached TUS and watched him for a moment as he maneuvered the stumps into various positions and attempted to push the stumps in order to move the log.

DC watched for a while, not jumping in to help like the others. Then she jumped up and down excitedly, "I know! I know! I have a plan!" She ran off and was gone a few minutes before coming back with a long stick. With the help of TUS she worked to wedge it under one of the stumps and push. Nothing really happened. They maneuvered the stump away and used the long stick alone to try to move the log- using the same wedging technique from before. DC looked disheartened when she realized it wouldn't work. TUS noticed and paused to talk to her, "Maybe if we try the other side?" DC nodded and they ran to the other side and attempted to wedge the stick under.

As I watched them I started to realize the process of trying to move the log had become what their play consisted of. TUS had long ago abandoned discussing what bugs might be under it as he had been when he was moving the log by himself. I'm sure it was still on his mind, but it was no longer the most important part of what he was doing. With the addition of CE, LC, and DC, TUS's focus shifted to the process of getting the log to move. The scientific inquiry of how they could move something so much bigger than them was much more exciting than what bugs might be found under it in that moment. This made me reflect on my own work and the idea of "flow". Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of "flow" very eloquently, but when working with children we can observe what "flow" looks like firsthand. As TUS worked to move the log, his love, his play, and his work merged into one. He was in the state of "flow".

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Exploring Materials: Foil

Last week I pulled out some foil and set it down on the rug in our classroom, already cut into squares.  I had never used foil with the children before, so I was curious to see how they would engage with it.

Everyone was instantly excited to see what had become available.  Despite their excitement, they moved slowly around the foil, each finding space to sit down and take a moment to look at the pieces. They each picked up a square, almost in unison.

LT felt her square for a moment and then tried tearing the piece.  It tore easily, and she looked at me right away: "You pulled on the foil, and it tore!  You have two pieces in your hands now."  She responded with, "Uh-oh!" and enjoyed saying this every time she made a new tear.  She eventually started scrunching up her pieces, making them into tiny balls.  She felt the resulting texture carefully, running her fingers over the pieces again and again.

LC held her piece of foil up high and then laid it carefully on the ground, stroking it gently from time to time.  She did this several times before noticing LT's method of scrunching up the foil, which prompted her to do the same.  After she made her piece into a ball, she slowly brought her arm back as if to throw it but stopped right before she was going to let go and looked at me:  "You are wondering if you can throw the foil.  Yes, it works!  The foil is very light, so it is a safe choice for throwing."  She nodded, saying "yeah," and released her foil ball.  Everyone watched as it sailed across the room -- LT and AJ giggled appreciatively.

CS almost immediately combined his pieces of foil with a few small, wooden blocks lying nearby.  First he arranged the foil on top of the blocks and then he inverted the materials so that the blocks rested on top of the foil.  He had been clutching a small train for most of the afternoon, which he had placed nearby.  Soon, he was eagerly repeating, "Make train? Make train! Make train!"  I acknowledged the work he was doing, and he said "Yeah!"

AJ was very gentle with her foil, crinkling it softly.  She seemed to enjoy watching the ripples and creases form slowly across the surface as she bent it back and forth.  Eventually, she began ripping hers more forcefully, and crinkling it into balls like LC and LT.  She brought one of the balls to her mouth while looking at me: "Oh!  The foil is not for your mouth.  You can try smelling it!"  I smelled a piece and smiled.  She smelled hers too, and everyone stopped what they were doing to try it out for themselves.  There were a lot of very dramatic sniffing sounds.  I asked everyone if they thought it smelled like anything.  Very enthusiastic "Yeah's" from LC and CS.

Eventually the foil pieces became smaller and smaller after repeated tearing and crinkling, and we worked together to collect them in a basket.  I put them high up on a shelf, and the children moved on to other activities around the room.

I love sharing in these sensory experiences with Cohort 7.  It is especially exciting for us right now as everyone is entering into (or right in the middle of) an extremely rich developmental period linguistically.  Each time a child made eye contact with me, I narrated what was happening:  "It makes a noise when you squish it."  "When you squeeze it, it gets bumpy."  "It feels smooth on your cheek."  Though the children might not understand some of these specific words quite yet, I noticed them taking a moment to appreciate the information I had given them and linking it back to their sensory experiences.  It is exciting to watch these simple activities transform into such powerful learning experiences as everyone explores cause and effect and applies what they already know about similar materials to an unfamiliar manipulative.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What is a flower?

Spring has sprung and we have been focusing on provocations in the backyard which involve flowers and that provoke further investigation into what exactly makes a flower.

We are very lucky to have a large variety of flowers blooming in our yard and I have also brought in some from my house to showcase the variety  of flowers which occur.

 I like to begin with the largest flowers so magnolias and
camellias cover the tables.  Dandelions are collected and added.  The children enjoy harvesting these the self since the rain and sunshine have encouraged vigorous growth. There are spoons and jars and bowls for collecting and manipulating.  

The first thing that happened was that all petals were pulled off, revealing the center. Everyone marveled at the curly and straight lines and the variation if colors and shapes that make up the pistil and stamens. Once the flowers were disassembled, then the large petals were torn into smaller pieces. This is a very satisfying activity. 
C had an idea about adding rainwater and then stirring the mixture.  She used a paintbrush to do the mixing so soon ther petal water was tested out to see how it would work as paint. 

Offering these provocations of the parts of our outdoor environment encourage further study as well as applying there findings on other similar things through the yard. It is also the first step in our life cycle conversation which shows the children just how interconnected we are to each other, the parts in our yard and how things work.