Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What About That 2014 Word?

Each year, for the past few years, I choose one word as my "resolution." For 2014, I chose ENJOY.

I went back and read the post about choosing this word, written those long 12 months ago. Here's the quote that jumped out at me--
I'm going to enjoy this year, no matter what comes along. (Uh, oh.)
This was an interesting year, a year to challenge my joy and my enjoyment. My wife was injured in a car accident; I was not rehired at my school; life continues even when insurance or income doesn't.

This was also a year to find new areas of enjoyment. We have wonderful friends that continue to bless us; I actually enjoy grocery shopping; I can now cook more meals; driving Mrs. Cindy is a lot of fun; I really like to write and I'm good at it.

What have I learned? Joy, true joy, isn't tied to circumstances.

I have been stressed. I didn't like everything that happened to us this year. We are still in a journey of discovery and adventure. Uncertainty isn't my favorite thing.

But in the midst of it all, I see things to enjoy. And I can rest in the joy that God brings each and every day.

When I chose ENJOY in January, I had no idea what the year would hold. But I'm thankful for each experience this year that has helped me to see beyond the immediate circumstances and find the thankfulness and joy within them.

I've been pondering the word for 2015. That post is coming next week.

Other posts about ENJOY:
(I have also enjoyed filling my #EmptyShelf with 36 books I've read this year.) 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you get to spend this day with people whom you love.

This time of year is a time of joy and hope for me as we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough--because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough."

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!"

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.

(from Luke 2:4-16)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Traditions...and Ideas for New Ones

It's Christmastime. We've been doing some of our favorite Christmas activities.

We decorated our tree. Paper strips, staplers, and sparkly chenille stems.

Here are some links for our past tree experiences--
If you are looking for some other easy ornaments for kids to make, check out Easy Snowflake Christmas Ornaments (No Time for Flash Cards)

We made Christmas cards. Stamps, stamp pads, markers, paper. We had all the markers out, but the kids decided to put the red ones on the tray so they could find them easier.

I really like this Christmas Card Making Station (Childhood 101). I think we'll incorporate that next year in our Christmas traditions.

We usually play instruments during Christmas; we've even drawn how instruments sound. I'm in the adult handbell choir at my church; after we played bells in worship service, a kindergartner wanted to play bells, too. We borrowed these bells and had a great time doing it.

Here's a game using jingle bells (Fun a Day). I think we may need to do this soon, too.

This week we will make our craft stick frames using a glue gun, a "dangerous" tradition we do every December. I cannot wait to see how the kids this year will do it. This is our standard gift that kids make to give to parents or others.

I also like this fingerprint frame (Fun-a-Day). If we ever decide to change, I would do this.
(The same idea is used for fingerprint cards at Crafty Morning.)

This week we will also decorate cookies, a fun and messy tradition in our class. Kids can eat them (later at home) or give them to a friend (probably not).

Instead of decorating cookies, we could use gingerbread play dough (Teach Preschool). I think this would be a great tradition to add to our classroom.

We will give gifts to our kids - just fun trinkets like slinkys or yo-yos and stickers. Fun stuff that show our care for them. One year I made a discovery bottle to include; those may be ornaments this year.

I wondered why we do so many of the same things each year. Then I realized - those are our Christmas traditions that we pass along to "our kids." It really seems like Christmas because we are gluing wonky frames or spreading miles of green icing on a paper plate.

Traditions matter. (Check this post about traditions from Not Just Cute.) Not just traditions in your family. But in your classroom community, too.

What traditions do you have in your classroom? What new ones do you want to start?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"What Do We Do Here?"

A question I've been hearing a lot in my church kindergarten class - "What do we do here?"

A child will walk up to a table or to an area on the floor with materials and ask that question.

Tray of yellow paper (Brick by Brick)
My thinking: make a "nighttime" picture

My past answer: "When I put these things out, I thought you might _____, but you may want to do something else."

My new answer: "Look at the materials. What do you think you might do with these?"

Drawing before cutting (Brick by Brick)
Drawing before cutting

I've written before about my agenda vs the kids' agenda or encouraging kids to use their own ideas.

My church kindergarten classroom is a pretty open-ended place. You can choose to use the materials in just about any way you choose - within safety limits and "infringement" limits (not disturbing someone else's work).

Using the pen (Brick by Brick)
The pen (for writing names) becomes part of the experience.

So why do I get this question so often? I think it's an expectation from their school classroom.

Teachers put out materials and tell kids how to use them. (This is just my logical conclusion from my experiences with these kids--and those from past years.)

cutting and gluing (Brick by Brick)
Cutting, gluing, then a plan emerges

I hear a lot about critical thinking and creativity. It seems I need to encourage [some] kids to exercise that creativity or practice thinking about how to use materials.

I'm always amazed at the ideas that kids have. And the way they express their thinking. And the different ways they can use a group of simple materials.

Stop! There's a Shark! (Brick by Brick)
"They put a stop sign because there's a shark."

I'll keep putting out a variety of stuff. And hoping they will show me new ways to use it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Just the Doing of It

I've heard it. I've seen it. And I never ceased to be surprised by it.

Process over product.

I saw it again recently. I pulled out an old favorite for the kids a couple of weeks ago - masking tape roads and cars. Just like always I put out the colored tape, scissors, and small cars. Just like always, the kids began to cut tape and make a network of roads.

But I noticed something as they worked. It has happened a little before but was very clear this time. The kids enjoyed using the tape and making roads, parking lots, and more roads. But the cars stayed in the tub. No one used the cars to drive on the roads.

Now, I'm fine with that. But cars are usually generate a lot of interest. Especially when we have lots of boys in the room, like this year.

But more parking spaces and more roads appeared while the cars stayed put away.

After a little while, one boy began arranging cars on the roads. But the cars were basically props, final touches to the road creation. They didn't really drive them around on the roads or create "car scenarios" like others have done.

They did drive them a little...but mostly just arranged them in meaningful ways around the roadway.

One boy took the tape and did his own thing. He created a house.

This generated a lot of discussion, mostly about the lack of windows.
"How will you get light?"
"Duh, there are lights inside."
"What if there's only one light?"
"What if that light goes out?"
"Dun...dun...duunnnn" (dramatic music)
"What if there were no light bulbs? You must have windows."

One boy explained that windows were needed so you could look outside and see your dog and see if there was bad weather so you could bring the dog in. "You must have windows!"

All in all, I noticed that the doing was the important part. The process of cutting tape, figuring out how to keep it from sticking to itself (and trashing what did do that), creating colorful road designs, and thinking about what to add.

My favorite addition - this device that will punch you back on the road if you fly off.

So often in working with kids, we (adults) are too concerned about what they are making or what the end result will be. Often the kids are learning and discovering and enjoying just the doing of it.

Just the doing of it. I think that's how I will think about my teaching now. I'll just enjoy the doing of it and not try to get too stressed out about the final outcomes. (Those are important - but I don't want to miss the joy.)

Past Tape Road Posts---

We Love Tape
Roads on a Tablecloth
V is for Vehicles