Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Carnival of Educators for December 22, 2009

It’s my first time hosting a carnival!  Yeah!  I hope I got enough fairway food for everyone…

First up, a couple of items about brain research.  Always learning, we teachers are.  Joanne Jacobs gets us started with some information about learning styles.  Then Alvaro Fernandez shares “a stimulating interview with brain scientist Michael Merzenich. Who will be the "personal brain trainers" of the future? (perhaps educators can add this to their New Year Resolutions?)”  That comes to us from Sharp Brains.

In the There’s-No-Good-Answer-For-That Department, Siobhan Curious wants to know why Lia is so outraged (though she says she’s not) and what she can do to become a kinder teacher while figuring it out.  Andrea Hermitt wonders on Families.com what it is about homeschooled children that makes people think they can pick them out of a crowd easily.  Maybe we should test it in a lineup, just to make sure (I’m kidding about that, people).

On a happy note, have a little fun with a puppet challenge, sent to the carnival by Pamela Jorrick and the Blah, Blah, Blog.  As an adult I love such challenges, but as a kid, well, I found them challenging!

In the Resources section we’ve got online math games and lessons sent in by TutorFi, the top 45 websites to head for if you want a Christian scholarship sent in by Online University Reviews, and 50 essential blog posts on educational reform sent to us by Online Courses.org.

And finally, from the I-Can’t-Believe-This-Crazy-Weirdness-Happens-In-Our-Public-Schools file, Andrea Hermitt shares with us the story of a teacher driven to distraction by…hair.  Add a pair of scissors and you’ve got a heartbroken kid and a bizarre story to share with your relatives over the winter break.  At least you don’t do stuff like that where you work, right???  Right???

Hopefully you all get some well-deserved rest over the next couple of weeks.  I don’t want to hear any reports of strange teacher behavior when you go back to your classrooms!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas in the Twos Room

By now your school Christmas celebrations are over and all the kids have started their winter break.  Now that you have a chance to breathe, I’ll share with you what we did (or didn’t) do.  I’ll warn you, it’s a little non-traditional!

My nursery school is housed in a church, which considers us a ministry of the church.  They are very generous with our program and many of the things are able to do are because of their generosity.  Luckily, they are also a very inclusive faith community.  We do very little that’s strictly Christian and most classes have one or more students whose families wouldn’t describe themselves as Christian.

In our twos classes we were very low key this year.  I had a ficus tree that I strung with some simple lights and we plugged it in for the last week before break.  Each classroom is supposed to have a nativity set to play with (we don’t instruct about it, we just set it out), but ours somehow lost pieces between last year and this one so we left it packed up.  We used red and green paint, glue, and some glitter the last week and we talked about the upcoming break during snack.  We had a holiday party on the last day where parents brought in healthy snacks, hung out, and let us give them a gift we made with the children’s art work.

And that was it.  (Don’t have a heart attack.)

Now, I love the holiday season as much as the next person, but when it comes to little ones, less is more.  In all other areas of their lives they are bombarded with Christmas decorations, music, advertisements, and the gimmies.  If they don’t celebrate Christmas then they are left out completely.  Their little brains need a rest.  They don’t need more sugar and they don’t need more glitz.  They need their usual routines with just a *little* dazzle added.  Not the whole bag of dazzle, if you get my meaning.  Twos are truly experiencing all the special times of the year for the first time since they don’t usually remember the last time clearly.  It doesn’t help to overdo it.

I will admit that other classrooms in the building worked a little harder at the holiday thing.  And that’s ok.  The threes remember the previous year so it’s not completely foreign.  They get that something’s different than regular times of the year.  The fours know enough to look forward to it.  But for twos it’s a crazy enough time.  Relatives may be visiting or they may be traveling.  Parents are stressed.  We tried our best to make our classroom a haven from the winter holiday crazies that seem to take everyone over at this time.

Whatever your personal winter holiday traditions, enjoy them with love and generosity toward others.  And stay tuned for the Carnival of Educators just a few days from now, right here!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Under (Very Little) Pressure

Drawing on Gak with Markers

It's really difficult to teach something as subtle as “gentle” to a two-year-old.  Last year I had a kid who thought that “gentle” meant he was supposed to give a hug!  Pressure is a difficult concept, particularly when children are still learning what their little bodies can do.  And let’s face it, in preschool we’re always trying to get them to more, not less, so it’s easy to understand why asking for less of something would be confusing.

I like to use gak to let children experience pressure.  I’ve talked about gak before, once with a picture and once without.  It’s a substance that’s fluid when you allow it to move slowly and more solid when you interact quickly with it.

We made gak as a class last week.  This week I set it out on little trays (more about the trays in a sec).  The trick with gak and markers is that the markers only make a nice mark if you use a gentle hand with almost no pressure.  Once you poke it in the marker gets gunked up and doesn’t do much of anything other than make a hole (which is a fine experiment all on its own).  After your gak gets colorful you can fold it or flip it to write some more.More Gak Drawing

Gak will get to a strange purple-y color after awhile when you’re writing on it.  That’s ok.  Before all the colors mush together you can extend the learning a little bit by folding the gak like you would pastry dough each time you want a clean slate.  Then you can cut into the gak to see all the layers of color you’ve made.  If you’re really on top of it you can have some examples of rocks with layers for comparison.

You will have children who either can’t or won’t press lightly.  If the child in question is frustrated, don’t push it.  Just suggest another activity.  If that child is frustrated but still trying to figure it out, offer assistance but don’t do it for him or her without asking.  With permission, take his or her arm in your hand and demonstrate what it feels like to use very little pressure.  For the ones who insist on poking, give them their own gak (it’s hard to write on bumpy gak) and make sure they have markers that are already dead or something else you can clean off easily.

When I pulled out my gak this time I couldn’t find my handy mini crate from the last time but I found something in the supply room that was almost as good: a dishwasher basket!  It was so fun.  Our gak was a little on the firm side so it didn’t flow as fast, but it was still cool. 

Gak in a Dishwasher Basket

Oh yeah, about the trays.  The trays we use for stuff like this come in two different sizes and are FREE.  We live in a town with several biotech firms.  One of them uses these trays to store sterilized parts for medical devices before they are assembled.  Then they leave stacks of these trays at the recycle center.  They are so clean I really would eat off of them without washing them first (I do wash for the children at school though!).  We use the trays to contain a lot of messy things and for drying artwork.  We tend to use them until they are totally gross and can’t be cleaned out anymore and then we recycle them.  I scored some totally new ones for these photos.  They are so slick to the touch it makes me happy.  Yes, I’m weird.