Monday, November 26, 2007

Cranberry Bog

Float a bunch of cranberries in your water table and you have a cranberry bog! Add some funnels, scoops with holes, and nets, and the kids can catch the cranberries. Be sure to include some buckets to store the cranberries in. If you include shovels in the table with the younger kids be prepared for water to be pushed out of the table as they chase the cranberries with their shovels.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lesson Plan for the Week of Nov. 26

Sensory Table: Cardboard tubes, long chenille stems (some are several feet long), clothespins. We may have something different on Wednesday if the other class doesn't care for this.

Gooey: Play foam, possibly Gak on Wednesday

Easel: Shimmer finger paint

Art/Manipulatives: Using toy cars to paint

Saturday, November 24, 2007

NAEYC 2007 Session: Dealing with personal loss

She/he hit me first: Dealing with personal loss and healing the need to get even
Presenter: Becky Bailey, Loving Guidance, Inc.

State dictates behavior. We have been teaching children that getting even works and rids them of their pain. We teach them that the more out of control I feel the more I try to control others.

To help manage your inner states use active calming. Repeat to yourself, I’m Safe, I’m Calm, I Can Handle This. Then relax and solve the problem.

For children, the problem starts when they feel pain. Seeking attention is a defense against seeking connection, but connection wires the brain for willingness and impulse control.

Attunement is to focus on the inner world (state) of another person. Attunement creates the highest neural integration we can measure. Presence is the key. Use empathy: “Your body is going like this. “ Tell and retell from the child’s perspective.

There are three voices that say, “Am I safe?” “Am I loved?” and “What can I learn?” You can’t teach a child which words to use in a situation until that child feels safe and loved.

In a day care setting toddlers suffer loss 9 times an hour. Preschoolers suffer loss 5 times an hour.

NAEYC 2007 Session: Poetry

Poetry in preschool: Learn to support language and literacy in an imaginative way and meet goals and standards
Presenter: Marcie Berul, Boston University

First select a poem and then expose the children to some of the physical objects that might be in the poem. Poems with more than one word to describe the same thing are effective in helping children think about language (for example, “catkins” are the fuzzy parts on a pussy willow tree but are also kittens). It’s important to use poetry that includes concrete objects that can be handled when you start.

Put small poems, with title and author, on poem charts around the room. Read them to and with the preschoolers, discussing the things they’ve already been exposed to and asking them to think about the things they aren’t familiar with. Ask the children to act out a poem, even if you think it isn’t something that can be acted out. Just moving to the words of the poem helps children internalize the rhythm and meaning of the language used.

Read poetry as part of your circle time without announcing that they are listening to poetry. Children do not have the same negative association with poetry that adults do and many find it easier to understand because of the different rhythm from prose.

On your poetry charts keep decorations to a minimum and use your best “teacher handwriting.”

NAEYC 2007 Session: Offering children comfort

Let the light that shines on me shine on the ones I love: Songs and stories to offer comfort to children who need it
Presenters: Bev Bos and Michael Leeman, Turn the Page Press, Tom Hunter, The Song Growing Company

Being Present: indwellingness (her word), hereness (her word), at this time, happening now, at hand

Songs for children should be real and true. They should keep company with kids

Make up songs throughout the day, which demonstrates presentness to the children.

Bad Questions We Ask Children Who are Hurting
1. Probing: don’t ask what’s wrong
2. Identifying: don’t tell them “you must be sad” because you might be inaccurate
3. Assuming: no, you really don’t know exactly how they feel

Instead of questioning children, simply be with them and keep them company. Sometimes a song will help, sometimes they need quiet.

Keep books about loss and death in the classroom all the time so that children are familiar with them before something happens.

NAEYC 2007 Session: Hugh Hanley

Enhancing circle time with active, participatory music experiences, with Hugh Hanley
Presenter: Hugh Hanley, circle of Songs with Hugh Hanley

This session was great fun and it’s clear that I’m one of the few people who went who didn’t know Hugh Hanley’s work. He led us though a circle time and talked about how he makes some of his choices. Since the conference I’ve been listening to his CDs and I have to say he’s a lot more interesting in person than he is in recording.

Internet resource (session handouts):

NAEYC 2007 Session: Stress in children

Recognizing and responding to signs of stress in a preschool child

Presenters: Gerri Smalley, Michelle Salcedo, and Debra Moss, Learning Care Group

There are three kinds of stress:
1. Everyday: occurs on a day or a short series of days due to temporary stresses, such as lack of sleep, change in environment, or not enough breakfast
2. Chronic: occurs over a period of time, such as divorce
3. Traumatic: one-time occurrence that has lasting effects, such as death or moving

For the most part the signs of stress are what you would expect, particularly a change in behavior typical for a particular child. For example, many people talk about children using a lot of black or dark colors when they’re stressed. The presenters validated this observation but also noted that some kids just like the color black and it doesn’t mean anything. The key is to know the child.

For stresses that we can’t control, such as divorce, our job is the make the environment as safe-feeling for the child as possible depending on their needs. Consistent routines and repetition of activities the affected child enjoy are effective and don’t seem to bother other children.

For stresses we can control in our classroom environments it’s important to be creative even when we think we can’t change something. They presenters recommended having a quiet place in each room that the children know about and that they can retreat to at any time. They also urged us to look at our classroom spaces to make sure that it wasn’t so busy at a child’s level that we were causing stress inadvertently.

When dealing with stress we need to pay attention to our attitude. If we just focus on the problem behavior (biting, yelling, grabbing) and not on the underlying stress, nothing will be solved.

NAEYC 2007 Session: Teacher Inquiry

Improving practice through teacher inquiry

Presenters: Gail Perry, Andrew Stremmel, Frances Rust, Barbara Henderson, Daniel Meier, Mary Jane Moran, Vivian Paley

Finding a Research Question—Andy Stremmel
Teacher inquiry is qualitative field research based on curiosity about their teaching or their children’s learning. We ask ourselves what we find puzzling, what we could improve, why are we interested and what we hope to find out. A teacher inquiry should have personal meaning. The questions asked—how and what—will change over time after reflection to uncover what we are really seeking. Questions for inquiry should be periodically shared with colleagues and others who do inquiries in order to help focus them.

Data Collection and Analysis—Barbara Henderson
Sources of data: journals, field notes, work samples, audio, photos, video, interviews, surveys, chart paper, lesson plans, school documents, tallies

Data analysis is ongoing, reflective, organizing, useful for sharing with others. It’s important to handle your material frequently.

Inductive Analysis—working from small to big, looking for big patterns or a new perspective

Discourse Analysis—recording and transcribing conversations of children, whether with other children, adults, or to themselves

Photography—Mary Jane Moran
The communication components of photography are meaning, word order, and interpretation. Photos are encoded with intent and decoded with meaning. They can show a single instant in time or a progression through time and space with a series.

Writing for Publication—Daniel Meier
Where to publish: professional journal, book, journalism, conference, workshop presentation, on-site professional development, professional organization publications, ECE site newsletter or website

Formats: first person account, collaborative account, narrative and stories, memoir, poetry, multilingual, artwork, multimedia. There are usually 5 sections regardless of the format: introduction, methods, literature, findings, discussion.

Audience: me, colleagues and fellow researchers, families, administrators, ECE researchers, ECE policy makers, ECE field in general

Problem of Practice—Frances Rust
Inquiry is a bridge between policy and practice.

My opinion is that individual teacher inquiries would be beneficial to those teachers willing to conduct them as well as to the teaching staff as a whole when the inquiring teacher presents her findings. Teacher inquiry seems to go hand in hand with the intentionality and mindfulness discussed in the intentional teaching session.

Internet resource: (Voices of Practitioners at the NAEYC site)

NAEYC 2007 Session: Project approach

Teaching science through the project approach: How to choose a topic
Presenters: Ann-Marie Clark, Lilian G. Katz

A project is an in-depth investigation conducted by the children. The children do the work, not the teacher. To begin a project, create the Question Table, which is a large sheet of paper with the column headings Questions, Predictions, Findings, and Source. Once the questions are established (for younger children, simply ask them what they want to know and rephrase it in question format), note any reasonable predictions they will make and what their basis is for each prediction. As the project continues additional questions will probably be added. Allow the children to collect the data they think will answer their questions.

Children represent their observations by drawing or creating constructions. Ideally they will have more than one opportunity to make sketches, which allows them to include their broadening understanding of the topic as the project goes on. They will notice and see different things with each observation. Children can take appropriate measures of objects and use a variety of graphic organizers to represent their findings (charts, graphs, etc.). As children discuss and report observations by their subgroups they acquire scientific terms and content.

Criteria for selecting a good project are:
· the topic is directly observable by the children (i.e. children who live in a desert can’t study a lake)
· the topic is within the experience of most of the children (i.e. children who live in a desert can’t study the local fish trade)
· the topic allows for first-hand investigation (they can go to it or it can come to them)
· the children can take the initiative
· the resources for answering questions are available and accessible
· there is representation potential (i.e. very young children can’t do a project on “friendship,” though older children with project experience might be able to)
· topic experts are available to answer questions
· there is parent involvement potential
· the topic is sensitive to the cultures represented in the community
· the topic is potentially interesting and worthy of deepening their interest (i.e. a project on pirates is inadvisable even if you had them around because you don’t want children to deepen their interest in criminals)
· the topic is related to local curriculum goals
· the topic includes opportunities to apply basic skills
· the topic is optimally specific, neither too broad (space) or too narrow (the teacher’s dog)
· the topic will involve children in how other people contribute to their well-being (garbage collection might be a good project)

Important note: project work is never the whole of your curriculum. This point came up when several teachers asked how to do projects when they are required to have a certain number of uninterrupted minutes each week on the various academic areas and integration of those areas was not supported. Lilian commented that if you give a project a better name, like “intentionality intensives” or something similar, administrators are more likely to approve of reinforcing disparate academic areas with projects.

There was some discussion as to the ages of students who are ready for projects. Some teachers have done small projects with children as young as 2, while most teachers seemed to think 3 was a good age to start. My only confusion was with representations, since many 3 year olds in our program are not yet making representational art. As we don’t model for the children, it seemed unlikely that asking them to draw what they see would be productive. Several teachers, and Lilian, responded that teaching them to draw at a young age is beneficial to them in many ways and gives them a method of expressing the explorations in the world.

My opinion is that project work would be beneficial for the 3s and up. The pre-K class already does the basics of project work, omitting the formal reporting of the questions and results.

Internet resource:

NAEYC 2007 Session: Teaching with intentionality

Teaching with intentionality: The classroom art of tact, mindfulness, and thoughtfulness

Presenters: Kate Milne, Alexa Fraley, Trisha Wilburn, and Kate Meyer, Virginia Tech

Intentionality in teaching is being planful (their word) and deliberate, knowing what you’re doing and why. In encompasses staffing, scheduling, and support. Teachers in the newly full-time Virginia Tech child center have time scheduled into their days for planning with their co-teacher and a weekly meeting with all the staff. They do heavy documentation, not just of their plans but of their reflections on each day. Each day is only planned on the day before and not ahead of time. Activities they set up are called “provocations” in the sense that they provoke the children to think. They take pictures of everything and use these photos of the children’s work when extending the children’s provocations. The planning and reflection binders are available every day to interested parents. During their morning meeting with the children they ask the children what they think of what’s been set out for them and what they’d like to do in the future.

They assert that intentionality helps in expanding curriculum because they can make sure all areas (social studies, science, etc.) are being covered. Intentional teachers are less stressed and encourage intentional kids.

Also discussed were factors related to presenting appropriate materials for children and pedagogical documentation. They did not discuss tact.

I appreciate the amount of time they put into their classroom documentation and I’m sure it only benefits their program. While I doubt that their level of documentation is appropriate for our program, their attitude of reflection toward each day and each child is something I could personally do better to emulate.

NAEYC 2007 Session: Give it time

Give it time: Creating a classroom environment that encourages extended experiments with common materials

Presenter: Catherine Loomis, University of Oregon

Catherine’s presentation was primarily a listing of different activities they do at her center in the Pre-K room. Many of these activities extend over several days and require special equipment, outdoor equipment, and bars to hang things from, as well as a lot of space. She emphasized allowing the children to take the activity in the direction they want and to give them as much space and as many materials as they think they need.

We already set things up in a similar fashion at our school but it was nice to see others using the same philosophy towards children’s explorations. I wrote down many ideas to pass along to other teachers and to use in my own classroom.

Lesson Plan Review for the Week of Nov. 19

Wow! Having the gutter at the sensory table was so fun! I think the kids liked having the room moved around just for variety. We did have to keep emptying out the table, but there was someone playing with the water the entire time. I'd love to do this again some time. On Wednesday we did put floating cranberries in the table. We only used one bag because we couldn't find them on sale, but two bags definitely would have been better. In any case, the kids scooped them up with funnels and nets and enjoyed them.

The children are really enjoying plain old crayons and markers. And when we cover the whole table they don't have to be concerned about who is drawing where. It also makes keeping up with the artists a whole lot easier. Now if we could just get the parent helpers to leave the crayons alone!

The blocks we borrowed from the Big Room were great. With the large space and lots of building materials the kids built and moved and added and took away. There was quite a bit of cooperative building and some fixing with our play tools. This is a definite must-do-again activity.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lesson Plan for the Week of Nov. 19

Sensory Table: Monday we're going to run a gutter from the sink to the table so we can have running water at the table. Wednesday we'll just have regular water in the table, maybe with some cranberries.

Gooey: Pumpkin pie play dough.

Easel: Paint

Art/Manipulatives: Monday we'll move our art table to another location, wrap it in paper, and set out markers and crayons. In the large area that remains we're going to bring in heavy, large wooden blocks from the Big Room and some lighter cardboard blocks as well. On Wednesday we'll have the crayons and markers in at the art table in the usual location.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lesson Plan Review for the Week of Nov. 12

The baking activity Monday went pretty well and the kids loved the muffin recipe. After that we set out cornstarch and water (a non-Newtonian fluid, FYI) on trays, but only my co-teacher and I seemed to play with it. I think since toddlers haven't formed their own opinions about how solids and liquids are different they just aren't impressed. So, we did liquid water with droppers color on large and small coffee filters. Most of them needed to have the droppers filled for them even though the color trays were within reach because they haven't figured out the whole dropper thing yet. But boy, can they squirt the color out!

The leaves in the table were used occasionally. Wednesday we had fabulous weather, so we propped open the door so the kids could wander as they liked. We even went to the bigger play yard next door. The breeze was strong on Wednesday, so we had pinwheels and fabric streamers out. On Monday we set out markers and crayons on an outdoor table, and they drew more than I've ever seen them draw. We also did snack outside on Wednesday, and for the first time we didn't have to do much reminding to sit while eating.

The teachers we share the room with added record players on the floor in a corner for Wednesday. The kids loved it. In case you've never seen this, you take an old record player, poke a hole in the middle of a paper plate, and let the kids draw on the plate with marker while it spins. You have to be sure there's no needle in the arm and that the arm is securely taped down. We had one little girl that was more interested in stacking and unstacking the supply of paper plates, so while we usually keep those out of reach we just left them with the markers next to the record players.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Who else went to the NAEYC conference in Chicago last week? I learned so much. Interestingly, one message I heard repeatedly is how we need to have books about loss in our rooms before a child experiences loss. This loss can be death of a pet or family member or just a big change in a child's life. We usually think of preschools as happy places where children play, but often we are the place where kids can work out whatever's grieving them. I'm not really sure what books I'll have in the classroom on this, and it bears some thinking.

Anyway, if I get the time I'll post short notes on the sessions I went to and what they were about.

p.s. I noticed someone searched on what NAEYC is. It's the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Here's the link:

Lesson Plan for the Week of Nov. 12

Sensory Table: Leaves with various objects for manipulating them.

Gooey: Pumpkin pie play dough.

Easel: Paint

Art/Manipulatives: Monday our parent helper is bringing a muffin recipe for the class to make. After that is finished and on Wednesday we will do corn starch and water on trays.

We'll be going to the Big Room this week and doing as much outside time as we can in between rain drops since the temperature will be nice.

Lesson Plan Review for Week of Nov. 5

This week was fun, but not quite what we expected. On Monday the kids used the sensory table to wash the shaving cream off their hands. After the table was full of shaving-creamed water no one wanted to play with it. Our aquaphiles ended up back at the sink. On Wednesday we added droppers with liquid watercolor to the shaving cream table, which was a huge hit. We put a bucket of water near that table for cleanup and the sensory table stayed a bit cleaner so we could clean dishes, toys, and babies. At some point several children noticed all the hand washing that was going on and started to put shaving cream in their hands and then ask to wash their hands at the sink repeatedly. All in all, the shaving cream was enjoyed by most of the children.

The chalk was a bit boring. We had a few takers, but I think it's time to get back to messy stuff at the easel.

We spent some time in our Big Room (large motor) this week, which the kids are slowly getting used to. Our assigned time is right at the beginning of class, which makes it more challenging for parents dropping off all the stuff at the room and then coming to the Big Room after hand washing. Once it becomes routine I think it will be easier.

The kids seem to be a little bored with our small outdoor play area. I think next week we should either take them to one of the larger areas or create some activities outside rather than assuming they'll be able to figure out what to do with themselves. I don't recall another class having this same boredom outside difficulty, but each class is different and kids get less and less outside time at home each year, so they may just not know what to do with it. We have lots of outside toys, climbers, sand toys, riding toys, slides, and building toys to keep them busy.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Soapy Water

Soapy Water with Dishes
Soapy water is a great thing for the sensory table (aka the sand and water table), especially if the dishes in your play kitchen are looking a little scary. Load the table up with warm water, a swirl of dish soap, and all the dish cleaning items you can find. Make sure your center's kitchen won't miss them if you don't have some set aside just for play. Keep plenty of towels on hand, preferably a separate one for each child given the MRSA scare that's in the media right now. Be prepared to allow children to bring other things from around the room to clean. If possible, remove toys that can't be dunked so kids can feel useful in helping to keep their room clean. Let them use towels to dry off clean things if the table gets too full of stuff, showing them that when you remove some toys they can clean others. The dolls in our room generally get a bath, so make sure they are the kind that can get submerged.

Speaking of MRSA, current health guidelines dictate that children with open cuts on their hands are not to share water tables or other substances. Keep a supply of completely sealing bandages on hand, such as the tattoo-type, so you don't have to tell a child they can't play. If a child appears to have MRSA (a boil-type wound with pus), send him/her home and instruct the parents to take the child to their doctor as soon as they can for treatment.

Lesson Plan for the Week of Nov. 5

Sensory Table: Soapy water to wash toys or dishes in. We have a couple of aquaphiles in the class and it would be nice to get them away from the sink.

Gooey: Pumpkin pie play dough with an assortment of dough toys

Easel: Chalk

Art/Manipulatives: Shaving cream on trays with brushes and combs

Music: Robin, our music teacher, will be by in addition to the spontaneous stuff we sing

Books: The kids are really fond of a book along the lines of "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" but with dinosaurs. I think because it has big, googly eyes sticking out the book. I think the thing is a bit scary, but they laugh at it. They also like the repetitive Eric Carle books, so we'll have some small group readings when there seems to be interest.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Everyone has a Gak-like recipe in their repertoire. This makes a gooey white substance that flows slowly or can shatter if hit fast. It can be molded like a play dough but immediately starts to soften and lose its shape. We pass this recipe out to parents all the time and I couldn't find a copyright statement on the web, so I'm assuming this is free. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Some activities for Gak include:

- Place the Gak over things with holes on a table, such as slotted spoons, berry baskets, or other objects you can easily wash.
- Use the Gak with plastic knives and cookie cutters to form slowly "melting" shapes.
- Let the Gak settle in a large, shallow pan and let children write on it with markers.
- Let children write on the Gak with markers and then play with it to see what happens to the colors.
- Suspend a holey basket, like a berry basket, from the ceiling above a table. Let the children cut the Gak with scissors as it slowly droops to the table.
- Have the children help make Gak. You mix the Borax into the warm water and let the children pour small amounts of it in the glue mixture. Give each child the lump they created to play with on a tray.
- Let kids add glitter or small glitter shapes to watch where they go as the Gak is moved around.

2 cups Elmer's glue
1 1/2 cups cool water
1 tbsp Borax
1 cup warm water
food coloring or liquid water color

Mix the glue and cool water in a large bowl. Dissolve the Borax into the warm water in a measuring cup. If you want to color the Gak add the coloring to the Borax mixture. Add the dissolved Borax to the glue mixture 1/3 of a cup at a time. Stir with each addition, pulling out the lumps as they form. Work in the excess liquid with your hands and then knead into a lump. Store in a sealed container.

- Use Elmer's glue. I've made this with other brands and it's a bit stinky. If you plan to make this up a few days before you use it and it sits in a container, the non-Elmer's version really smells. Even some kids won't go near it.
- The color mostly stays with the warm water, so you can get multiple colors out of one batch if you separate the Borax solution into as many parts as you want colors. Do your lightest color first.
- Advise parents to wash Gak-y clothing as soon as possible. While it is possible to get set-in Gak out with muliple washings, or freezing and picking, it's a whole lot easier to clean it up front. Same goes for teachers. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lesson Plan Review for Week of Oct. 28

Wow, what a great week! The dough was a huge hit, as were the coffee grounds.

Monday the kids instantly got into the coffee grounds, which were so fine that I set it up with fake flowers and gardening equipment. After a little while a few wandered over to where we had set up the dough on trays. Each tray had a little cup of flour, a spoon, and a spice. Initially most of what the did was to dump the flour and ask for more without doing any mixing or kneading. One of the children, who obviously had done some bread baking, started rolling the dough around and stretching it to mix the flour in. Then everyone was giving their dough some pounding. Tip: don't stand next to someone who is beating their floury dough--it's tough to breathe!

After a LOT of flour (remember, Bev Bos says that kids need too much!) someone noticed the spice bottles. We sniffed them all and then the spicy dumping began. By snack time most of the kids had flour and/or spices up and down their fronts. Between the spices and the coffee grounds the room smelled like we had been baking holiday cookies with coffee as a drink.

On Wednesday the parent helper had planned with me to let the kids make Monkey Bread. You'll find the recipe in a lot of places, but it amounts to rolling small portions of dough in a light sugar coating and putting all the balls in a large baking pan, usually a Bundt or something similar. An adult pours over a butter topping and then it's baked. Our recipe called for using biscuit dough as the balls. The parent had set up two shallow bowls with the sugar mixture and the kids had a blast rolling the little balls around and putting them in the pan. Some kids just wanted to put the balls in the sugar over and over, but some of the older ones were more careful about rolling them around and placing them in the baking pan.

I love baking in the classroom. This recipe has to bake for 40 minutes, so while we normally would have the kids help us mix the sugar coating portion we elected to do that ahead of time. As it turned out we had to have snack near the end of class because of how long it took to bake. I also prefer to bake healthier things, but this did lay the ground work for having the group focus on a task together. At least for those who were interested.

Anyway, after we put the Monkey Bread in the oven we went back to our dough on trays. Several of the children could have done that happily for the rest of the morning.