Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Good for Me!"

One of my favorite benefits in working with younger kids is to see how capable they are. Sometimes they surprise themselves. Sometimes they could always do it but did not have much opportunity. Sometimes I just enjoy seeing them do the things they do.

This week we made shakers - clear bottles, rice, masking tape, stickers. As we set up, we realized that we did not have a funnel. Pouring rice into the small opening of the bottles can be a little tricky. And messy. Now, I don't mind mess but try to minimize it whenever possible.

Cindy saw a small scoop in the rice bin. Perfect, she said. We'll just use that over the bin. 

It was great. The kids focused on pouring the rice in. Such concentration. They were very capable.

After getting rice into the bottles, they were ready for the outside. We had stickers but few wanted to use those. They wanted to use the colored tape!

Cutting lengths of tape can be tricky. Especially when using scissors may still be a developing skill.

A couple of times, I would offer to hold the end of the tape, to make a firm cutting line. Once, I said, "Would you like for me to hold the end of the tape?" Just then he snipped the tape off. "Good for you!" I said. "You did it."

Another boy quietly working nearby said, "Good for me!" as he continued to work.

Many eventually adopted the gravity technique. Hold the end of the tape and let the roll fall down; snip across the tape (and hear the roll hit the table!). 

While I would like to think that making a shaker was the activity here, I think cutting sticky tape was the real achievement. Sometimes the tape got folded on itself and was rendered useless. 

Our tabletop trash cans got lots of use. But that's okay.

I can always purchase more tape. I will not always have the opportunity to help kids develop competence and confidence. 

That sounds rather lofty. But I think that's just what was happening. 

And we got some really great shakers to play later with our music!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Room for Learning

I've been thinking a lot this week. Well, for the past several weeks. I've been thinking about what I think is essential in a classroom. I've been pondering my philosophy and what that means to the environment and the things I do. This week in my church class of kindergartners, I watched a new group of kids explore the classroom. My observations reminded me of important things for my classroom.

Flexibility - the room, the activities, the teacher should adjust and change with the interests, abilities, strengths of the kids

As I posted previously, this group of kids loved building. I will certainly look for ways to incorporate construction and blocks in lots of things we do. One boy asked if I had "play guys" (people). Guess what we'll need to have this week in the blocks center?

Adaptability - the activities should adapt to use by individual kids

We almost always have easel painting. I saw 5 kids work at the easel and 5 different ways to approach painting with red and blue paint. One boy enjoyed creating layers - red, then blue, then red - and watching the color adjust from distinct colors to a blended purply swirl. He covered the entire paper with his swirls of color. A girl carefully made alternating stripes of color. She didn't mix the colors but kept the vertical columns distinct. Kids can use the paint at the easel to do what they choose.

Choice - the kids have the power to do something or not do something

This week I saw our writing center, usually a popular place for kids, sit fallow for most of the time. Then one boy ventured over to examine the paper and decided to do something. He drew "a maze." I've sometimes planned something that I thought would be lots of fun - and the kids ignore it. But that's okay. They are making the choice.

How does this translate into a school classroom? Kids often need to do things that they wouldn't choose or that's not their favorite thing to do. But I still see the need to incorporate learning experiences that allow some choice, flexibility, and adaptability. Kids learn more and enjoy it more when they have some say in what they do.

One week with these new kindergartners and I'm already thinking a lot. It's going to be a fun and busy year.