Monday, September 28, 2015

How The Rainbow Was Made - An American/Japanese Folktale

Technically, if read as written for the curriculum, this story has nothing to do with Japan. However, when the main character has the same name (but different gender) as a student in your class, you change the story accordingly. (no disrespect to the authors at Mother Goose Time!) We only changed the pronouns and location. :)

The star of our story, Nana, was a little bit proud and a little bit shy to have a story all about her! Her classmates thought it was great, and giggled every time I read what "Nana" did next. She was a great little helper, holding up the story pieces when I read the story through the 2nd time. 

Those "funny little birds" made an appearance in the block center during free play, diving into the "block flowers" and colored "paint pots". The rainbow theme carried over into the math center, where some very excited kiddos played the rainbow counting/sorting board game. (I added the pinchers for some extra fine motor practice) I was really happy to see that they were able to play this game without much teacher supervision, and without any conflicts. Yay for self-direction! 

He was so excited about choosing a green pom pom, he promptly fell out of his chair 
after taking his turn. No injuries resulted, and the game went on! 
I asked the children at one table to use the colored sticks (I didn't specify which ones - I added colored Popsicle sticks and "planks" to the same container as the skinny sticks provided by MGT) to make a rainbow pattern. Some children made patterns with colored beads on the skinny "candy" sticks (I forgot to take a picture), while others used the planks to make a rainbow house. 

Since I am super passionate about early literacy, one of my favorite parts of the MGT curriculum is the writing journal that goes with the theme of the month. I will write another post with a more in-depth look at journal writing in preschool, but for now I will share today's page from our star, Nana. We talked about the rainbow, the color blue, and how the color blue makes us feel. She was so proud of her writing. :) 

The literacy activity for today involved both the art project and the writing journal. We talked about sharing, like "Nana" shared the colors in the story with the funny little birds, and we did a "timed-share" activity in which I pulled out only one of each color crayon and used the stopwatch on my phone to count up to 20 seconds, at which time they had to stop and share the color with a friend at the table. This was repeated until everyone had colored with all the colors of the rainbow (plus PINK!) It was such a fun activity that my two youngest ones asked to come back and color a 2nd sharing bird.

Nana - the star of the story, with her 2 sharing birds 
It was a fun, unexpected, way to celebrate one of our friends in class and learn about the rainbow, sharing, and feelings...all in the same day! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Paul Bunyan Meets Bethel Music

One of the things I love about being a teacher is seeing what themes and ideas my students gravitate towards, and what music moves them. It is different with every group, often unexpected, entertaining, and on occasion, exasperating (like the months it took me to get the "coconut" song or "5 little ducks" out of my head after singing it dozens of times in a row).

This week has been both amusing and adorable in that regard. We are on our 3rd week of practicing our choreographed class dance for all-school Sports Day, which will be held October 9th. I was brave and ventured away from a preschool-specific movement dance, to one that naturally got my littles moving to the rhythm, especially during praise and worship time: Deep Cries Out by Bethel Music. It has been a favorite since I created a special "Holy Spirit" playlist for Pentecost a few months ago. While learning the choreography, I slowed it way down and talked through each verse so they were not only able to sing the words, but understand what they meant. I've already started fading out my visual prompts when they practice, and they are doing a great job! So stinkin' cute. I can't wait to see their "game day" performance!

So, what does Paul Bunyan have to do with Bethel Music?? In the world of preschool, there is a completely logical correlation! This week's theme in our Mother Goose Time study of fables and folktales, we have been exploring the tales of Paul Bunyan. These "tall" tales have been an endless source of giggles and creative play. Paul Bunyan and the Log Jam was a big hit, in part because in order to not completely confuse them, I made a big deal about the fact that I purposely went out of order so that we could have our *special activity* (cooking) day on Friday. They thought it was hilarious that we counted the story days: 11, 12, 14, 13. They like to check the wall first thing each morning to see the story of the day illustration and count the numbers.

Story of the Day is added to the wall for the week

I set the story pieces out on the carpet during free play and they were making up all kinds of stories with Babe, Bessie, and Paul from earlier stories. When they found the picture of the river, one student exclaimed, "Kairu sensei, river of living waters!" (1st verse lyrics of Deep Cries Out) Later, while building the log jam during centers, I heard them singing parts of the song as they played.

Adventures in the river with "Big Babe" and "Little Babe" 
The (Licoln) Log Jam
Since I told them several days in advance about switching the story numbers, they were already aware of the "pancake" picture, and SUPER excited about having another pancake party. (It's not hard to have a party in preschool, all you need is an "occasion" and some fancy napkins from the dollar store!) We had a pancake party first semester after reading the story In The Rain With Baby Duck, in which they have pancakes every Saturday at Grandpa Duck's house. But last time the pancakes were store bought, so there was added excitement about the idea of cooking our own this time! They requested pineapple, banana, and peaches for toppings. MGT provided an easy-to-follow visual recipe card. 

I bought "hot cake mix" so all the dry ingredients were already together which simplified turn-taking with 9 children
They had fun saying "flap jacks" all day long and making a mini craft version to take home and show parents.
Flipping their flapjacks 
I'm thankful I had a volunteer in class today, who was able to take pictures (until my phone died). I rarely have action shots of me in the classroom, so that was an added treat. As each child added their ingredient, I reminded them to keep the whisk in the bowl and stir all the way at the bottom. One student piped up, "Stirring up the deep, deep wells!" So we "stirred up the deep, deep wells" all the way around the table until we had no more lumps in the batter. It was tough to keep a straight face on that one, but they were stirring like it was serious business!

We made a gigantic flapjack with the last of the batter

Finally, when we sat down at our very own "mile-long" table, "Paul Bunyan", who was seated at the head of the table, thanked Jesus for,"the pancake flapjacks" and we had a most delicious feast! 

And that is how we jumped in the river and stirred things up with Paul Bunyan and Bethel Music in preschool this week! :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Preschool Life Lessons from Zacchaeus

A whole lot of rain (typhoon season) and no park time the first full week of back to school made for some crazy classroom dynamics! We had plenty of opportunities to talk about behavior and treating our friends (and teachers) kindly. :)

We have been reading the story of Zacchaeus from Mother Goose Time's Experience God curriculum. Earlier in the week, I set up the "tax collector" game in the math area earlier this week, and modified it to be used in small group (vs. a 2-player game) with teacher supervision of dice. I was a little unsure how it would be received, since they can be quite dramatic when a peer takes something without permission. Much to my relief, there was no drama to speak of. They were so excited to be rolling the dice and counting out the red "moneys". One particular little girl showed tremendous maturity and clearly has a heart for justice, compassion, and generosity. She volunteered to give away her coins immediately after each person rolled the dice! As you can see below, she was the first person to "lose" all her coins. She didn't appear to count it as a loss though...

 Today, after reading the story, The Milkmaid and Her Pail, the fine motor/sensory/discovery activity was finding small treasure (buttons and pompoms) in mini plastic eggs and using "pinchers" to remove or replace the treasures. This was set up as an independent center, while I sat at the math table supervising another activity. I happened to turn my attention to that table just in time to see one student snatch a blue pompom out of another child's grasp, at which which point he burst into uncontrollable tears. It took several minutes to calm the tears enough to get a verbal explanation for why he was sad. When I called the offending student over, he denied any involvement. This was a perfect opportunity to refer back to our memory verse (Proverbs 12:19) and talk about why it is not OK to steal things from other people, and how it makes them feel. After apologizing to the other child for stealing, and to me for lying, no further tears were shed. They went back to the center without incident and got along just fine the rest of the day. Whew! 

We made it through the first full week back to school after summer break, the sunshine and blue skies have finally returned, and it's FRIDAY! T.G.I.F 

Happy Weekend!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Back To School And Feeling [mostly] Good

There's always a big mix of emotions during the first week of school after summer break: excitement, anticipation, exhaustion, sadness (the summer is gone), happiness at being reunited with friends...and that's just the TEACHER! Ha.

A handful of summer birthdays means there are no more 2 year olds in my class when everyone returned. Man did they all grow! I love watching not only their physical development, but also their emotions, character, and interests grow and expand. If anything, this week, I was surprised by the ease with which they managed all the above emotions, and the fleeting nature of conflict and negative emotions after being home with family for 6 weeks!

I'll admit that the source of most of my negative emotions came from not having enough time to complete all the fabulous daily activities in the Mother Goose Time teacher planning guide. So many ideas, so little time! Hopefully getting back into a full day/full week routine next week will allow us to fit in some of the things we missed.

So far one of my favorite things about about the MGT curriculum is the ability to weave in authentic writing practice. One of the areas of early children educations I am personally super passionate about is early literacy. I am a lover of reading and writing, and I want to instill that in my students in developmentally appropriate ways that are meaningful to them!

First semester I used a self-designed daily "sign-in" sheet for name writing practice. By the end of the semester, all 11 students were able to identify their own name on the sheet. But, it does beg the question: could they really identify it, or did they just memorize the placement on the page where they wrote every day? The name plates provided on Day 1 gave me a much clearer picture on this. I may find myself fading out the daily sign-in sheet because there are so many other ways to measure progress in writing with MGT.

Writing and identifying their names was a source of a wide range of feelings this week. I had a newly-turned-3-year-old write her name (on the unity chain from A Bundle of Sticks - Day 2) without any teacher supervision for the first time. She was so proud! (as was I) With my 4's and 5's I have slowly been transitioning from all caps to title case writing (following the Hand Writing Without Tears process) and I'm starting to see this more in their independent writing.

I displayed the name cards on the wall in the dramatic play area in a "graph" formation. All week they kept going back to it and talking about whose name was at the top, bottom, counting the animals, and spelling their own names with a sense of great accomplishment. Several students even noticed sadly that one name (a student who moved away over summer break) was not displayed. 

All in all, it was it was a good first week back, with mostly happy lions (and mice, and foxes...Oh, my!)