Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Parts of the Whole: Shape Study

Studying parts of the whole encourages flexible thinking by illustrating how larger objects are comprised of smaller objects. The purpose of this activity was to help children to think about perspective, symmetry and the relationship between shapes. 
During breakfast we reviewed the following shapes: semi circle, square, large triangle, small triangle, bridge and rectangle.

I demonstrated how to change the configurations of two or more blocks to create a new larger shape.We discovered that there were at least 5 different ways to use the blocks to make a rectangle. We also looked at how we could make squares, circles and large triangles using the shapes in the unit block collection.

After our morning discussion, I set up a table with tracings of unit blocks in the configurations we discussed and a basket of blocks for the children to experiment with. 
They came up with some interesting structures fueled by what they observed.

S worked on building rectangular towers from all of the rectangle configurations we discussed....

Here the kids are counting, identifing and "cutting" the larger shapes to make smaller shapes.

W and L worked with squares and triangles positioned them to make squares or square towers. W also commented several times on how turning the square on its side would make it into a diamond.....

A practiced matching shapes. She had to try several different ways to get the blocks to match the perspective of the tracings....

J worked on rectangles and squares comprised of the other shapes...

C Stacked towers up and knocked them down. She also worked hard to control her urge knock down other people’s towers and to be patient working with peers in a small space...

Things we learned: shape identification, putting two shapes together to make a new shape, matching skills, noticing size / shape similarities and differences of unit blocks, working together as a group in a small space, respecting the work of peers, 

Later we painted a letter B with smaller wooden blocks and searched for B words on our morning walk.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Glittery Pom Pom Math

Pom pom math was wildly popular with all the children but it was tough for all six children to maintain interest while waiting such a long time for their turn. I did have other activities set out but EVERYONE wanted to play this game first so I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice patience and turn taking skills. 

Materials: A large bowl full of glittery, multicolored pom poms, smaller bowls for each color pom pom and giant die. 

(*I placed all these items on a lazy susan to make it easier to pass the game since we had so many children playing at once.)

Rules: Each player tosses the dice then counts the spots. The child chooses the correct number of glittery pom poms then places them in the matching colored bowl.

Skills: counting, matching colors, fine motor skills, turn taking and one to one correspondence.

The children decided to work together on this project in the way I had set it up until each person had two turns. The entire process took about 15 minutes - not bad for a bunch of two and three year olds!

After the initial novelty of the game wore off, many of the children wandered in and out of the game. This was okay by me since the children who were really focused stayed for a long time and didn’t have the distraction of bored friends doing other things at our table. (The wanderers had plenty of other fun things to work on independently.)

Most of our children are two so they are working on counting correctly. Often when these guys count, they say the numbers in correct sequence but they do not come up with the correct cardinal number at the end. For instance they might have a die showing six dots and they counted to 10. This is because they tend to hop around while counting rather than counting in an orderly sequence. This skill is known as one to one correspondence and is an important math concept. 

We practiced counting s-l-o-w-l-y by placing a finger on each dot so we could figure out the correct number of dots on the dice. 

As the game progressed, the children came up with some creative ways to use the materials to further their understanding.

Some children placed a pom pom on each dot to make the number more concrete...



Some children focused on filling the entire surface of the die with pom poms then we counted the pom poms...

and other children decided to just focus on the color sorting aspect of the game...

   In the end we learned that we can all be creative in making up the "rules" to a game as long as everyone has a turn at having fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letter Links

This morning I made up a game for the kids using some wooden disks and clothes pins inspired by an idea I saw on pinterest. (I would provide you with a link to it but I’m not quite that tech savvy yet.) The original post called for clothes pins and flash cards but I decided to use these wooden disks instead. I love the classic look of the game.

The disks were a donation from a game that one of our daycare families no longer use. We’ve had them for a couple of years and the kids brought them back to life by sorting, counting, building or dropping in them into containers. It was hard to sacrifice the open ended magic of these guys by defining a use for them but I have a feeling this game will be around for a while so it’s worth it.  

The set up was simple: I wrote each letter of the alphabet on the disks then a matching letter on the clothes pins to create a matching game. 

At first I just set the disks and pins on a tray and left it out for the kids to work with, my only instructions were to keep all the pieces at the table so we could find them when we were done. The kids just went to work building trains and stacking towers of disks so I pointed out that the pins and disks had matching letters. The kids got to work putting the matches together but after a while the two year olds gave up. I noticed that while all the children were looking for letters the oldest (3 year old) was the only one with the ability to scan all the pins long enough to find the correct match.

 I decided to make it a little easier by lining up the pins on one side and the disks on the other. Once everything was lined up the kids were much more successful and interested in matching the letters. 

Here Sam is telling Logan how to find the correct match “It has to go down then a bump for the letter D, that’s how you know you got the right one.”

Love it when the kids help each other out!

The surest way to get the boys involved in a literacy project is to add some kind of building element to it, these guys stayed until the whole tray was matched up. After we play the game a few more times I will add lower case letters to the other side of the disks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fun with mosaics on the light table

Fun with mosaics on the light table...

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The invitation to play was simple: I drew shapes on the top of the light table with window crayons and set out some shapes to see what the kids would do with them.

The youngest tots had fun dumping, sorting and looking at colors....

Some children sorted according to shape by filling in the triangles with triangles 

Squares with squares...

They lined them up in random sequence on the shapes that were not represented in the color tiles and counted them

Or they sorted the tiles according to corresponding shapes and positioned them along the lines to make squares and triangles.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All in a day’s work; How preschool curriculum is a natural part of our everyday learning...

I am often asked how kids learn through play and open-ended materials in our daycare environment; after all when people come to visit everyone is having so much rambunctious fun it’s hard to believe they are learning. One reason people may miss the learning experiences as they are unfolding is because young children need to move and make noise in order to learn. “Sit and get” activities are not effective or appropriate with this age group. Also tracking learning up to the age of 5 is challenging, one day your child may know all of her letters but the next time you ask she can only name five. This is a normal part of development. Children are constantly exposed to new information and they need repeated exposure to the same concepts before they stick long term. 

Practice through play makes perfect!

I followed the kids around with my trusty camera and captured some random moments to illustrate the process without all the noise and chaos. Some of these activities lasted 3 minutes others half an hour, as with many things the quality of the play is more important than the quantity of minutes spent doing it. Even though our kids are young we really pack a lot of learning in our day. Some of our projects are planned while others arise spontaneously during free play, my goal as their teacher is to always follow their lead and prepare the environment accordingly. It is my intention to be certain that the lessons I am teaching are relevant and meaningful so that I can influence not only what they learn but how they learn. 

Each morning we have a group discussion around the breakfast table. Sometimes we talk about our families, upcoming projects or emotional events like last night’s boo boo or daddy’s new car. We also make up letter games, look at flash cards, sing silly songs or talk about the weather. Our discussions are loosely planned around observations I make while working with the kids. Everyone is encouraged to participate in these conversations therefore this time together has a tremendous impact on children’s speaking abilities. Listening to each other’s ideas also helps children develop flexible thinking skills and the ability to think / recall / relate to events so that they can expand the way they see the world. 

This morning’s conversation centered around the letter L because one of the children pointed out that LEAF starts with the letter L and today’s project was leaf painting. We thought of other words with the L sound in them, wrote them down and the kids later looked for L’s in the words I wrote as I cleaned up from breakfast. 

 Later we moved on to identifying the colors red, green and yellow. We also strengthened  our hands for writing by pinching eye droppers and carefully working with watercolors. It was tricky for some of the children not to tip the water colors as they worked. We also made a letter L of our very own with bingo dabbers.

      While we were waiting to go outside Logan and Sam organized a table top game where they used paddles to swat balls to each other. Before too long ALL of the other children wanted to play too but we didn’t have enough paddles so we got out plates. We had to do a lot of negotiation. We had to decide how the game should be played, who should go first and what to do if someone was taking too long with the ball. The younger children had the added challenge of getting in and out of their chairs quickly without tipping them; the older children had to be patient while waiting for the younger children to process all that body movement while remembering the rules of the game. 

Once our game was over, we went outside to play with 2x4 s when Sam came up with the idea of positioning them in the shape of a letter T. Some of the kids were not familiar with the letter T so Sam had to figure out how to explain his plan to the other children. He had to use a lot of directional words and the younger children had to watch and listen in order to understand his idea. It took them about 15 minutes and lots of maneuvering to orchestrate his plan but eventually they did it and everyone had a turn walking back and forth across the giant letter T. Talk about full body learning! 
Many of our projects take place in class or do not survive the children’s hands on exploration but rest assured we are learning a lot!

After nap time we had more fine motor fun sorting colors with tiny scoopers. This was a game I saw online and set up for the kids. Will and Sam decided to change the game and make it their own. They added a second cup to each cone and created game where they would fill the clear cup, then scoop the pompoms into the cone and catch it with the colored cup. Imagining two games in one day - pretty creative!

Our second center for the afternoon was one where the children lined up colored tiles on the light table. I set out tiles with a letter L for the children to practice making the letter L, or imagining whatever they wanted to imagine. They took the idea to another level and expanded it by making other letters, rectangles, random designs and dumping / sorting games. 

Our curriculum is very fluid and can change on a dime but if you ask me it’s the only way to teach. Everyone gets to be heard, everyone gets to participate in shaping our days and everyone feels validated for their efforts no matter where they are in their developmental journey. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The building blocks of success

My favorite lessons in daycare land are not ones I had planned; they are lessons that evolve through the children’s interactions with each other when no pesky adults are hovering around mucking things up. They are the moments when everyone in the group has something to give and something to gain based on where they are in their development.

This morning I was working on a math activity with some children, while others were off doing their own thing. Everyone came to visit me for a bit then scampered off to do something else. I was busily recording how the kids were separating items according to size, shape and color when I looked over to see a different kind of math moment unfolding all on it’s own. It came about without any prompting or planning on my part; just some big kids supporting one tiny kid while she worked on her own spatial problem.

This is what I saw.

C was working off to the side with three large blocks trying to stack them up on end so that they were taller than she was. The first few times she tried, they fell over just as she reached up to place the third block on top. After several toppling towers, she figured out she needed to get a little higher to position it correctly; she stretched a little farther and voila! she had her tower. When she was finally successful she wanted everyone to know about it. She grunted excitedly and pointed several times smiling ear to ear, dancing, clapping and marveling at her success. 

L looked up from his cars and smiled, A walked over, rubbed her back and said “Good job C” in the sweetest voice, and S said “Look! C made a tower!” as he grinned ear to ear. J watched. W watched.

We all celebrated her moment  in our own way, then went back to our work.


A few minutes later, C decided she wanted the tower to be taller so she got to work setting the pieces up on top of a milk crate. 
She got the first two bricks set up properly, then she maneuvered her body over to the second milk crate and attempted to set the third block on top. It was a lot of work for her to balance her tiny body on top of the milk crate with a big brick in her hands. She almost fell off a few times maneuvering the uneven crates. 

She had a tough time judging the distance she would need to go to position the block on top of the other unsteady blocks. 

Many times she misjudged and knocked her tower down but each time C patiently set her brick down, climbed off the crate and started the whole process again. 

Then she did it again and again. 

A, W and L all peeked up from their work to watch her from time to time. 

After a few failed attempts, S got up from his work to do it for her. I reminded S that the project was C’s and that she needed to figure it out for herself. I told him that making mistakes is part of learning so it’s important that we respect her space while she’s working. 

S moved off to the side and gave her some verbal feedback on how she could improve her building technique. He said things like, “You’ve got to move it like this C, then you just stack that one there so it won’t fall down.” all the while he positioned his imaginary blocks in the air. L joined in on the advising commity, J and W watched

C looked to her advisors, then to her blocks; then she got back to work. 
We all watched for a while, offering words of encouragement or building advice then we went back to our work.

C kept at it until clean up time. She never was successful in stacking all three bricks on the crate but she did learn that balancing, stacking figuring out distances are tricky work.

More importantly she learned she is surrounded by people who celebrate her successes and that “failure” is just an invitation to try again a different way.