One Sunflower

sound bites


art from Maplewood Parent Cooperative

On Saturday I was a presenter at a conference hosted by the Edmonds School District.  This is the second time I’ve been invited to present at an Early Childhood conference and I have to tell you, it feels very good for 2 reasons: 1) to have someone think I have worthwhile things to say,  and 2) that those things are worth paying for.

There were at least 130 preschool teachers at this conference.  The focus was on becoming acquainted with the Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks especially as they pertain to four topics.  The four topics were kindergarten readiness in literacy, fine motor skills, phonological awareness and social emotional development.  I was invited to speak about supporting social emotional skills in the classroom.  The woman who contacted me about presenting suggested that I do some role modeling and also requested that if possible, I share some ideas about how to use one of the big books that the attendees were receiving in a goody bag.

As much as I don’t like to role model, I do agree that it is a quick way to learn something – because by participating, you’re half way to internalizing the lesson.  I led the group through my average everyday circle time songs stressing the reasons I choose particular songs and why I do them in a particular order.  I have songs I use as “calling songs” to create community and songs or fingerplays I use to reinforce content.  I also try to use songs that I call “energy busters” with motions and varied voice. My goals at circle time are to reinforce our classroom community, strengthen listening skills and produce an enjoyable activity that children choose to be and stay engaged in.  They learn to read non-verbal cues from me and each other.  I don’t assign seating unless a child is really having a difficult time making a good choice so my students learn how to be in a tight space together and take care of their own and their friends needs.

I went on to do two book shares.  The first was with the book Yes by Jez Alborough and the second was with the big book, Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt.  And it all happened in 25 minutes and then a new group came in and I did it again.  4 times.

I have promised to share some suggestions of songs – I guess I’ll try to make some sort of resource page on my blog. An interactive page would be great so others can comment and share ideas.

I also hope to receive feedback from the conference – I can’t learn and grow without it!

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A, B, Z and Company at work

When my preschool moved from our classroom in “The Little House” to our current classroom in an elementary school, there were a few pieces of furniture I made sure came with me: the sensory table, 5 cube chairs, some carpet covered boxes and “the climbing box.”  The climbing box is a wooden structure created with interchangeable panels.  It had originally been purchased by the Evenstart program when we served kids aged 0-5.  Even though it is a great climbing structure for toddlers (and I could have left it in the birth to three classroom), it was the only equipment we had that provided a “hidey” hole space for my preschoolers – and I selfishly kept it. Sometimes it creates discipline issues – kids like to sit up on the corners or noisily jump in it – but for the most part we are able to support some good times with it.  I move it around the room throughout the year and sometimes turn it on its side.

Right now, the box is the center of the classroom and Alpha, Beta, Zed and Company has come to town.   The plastic construction toys are out, kids are wearing goggles and moving about the room like scenes from a  Home Depot commercial. 

The other day I brought in poster paper and showed some of my builders how to measure, mark and cut paper to cover the top of the box.  Since then, the box is the center of a construction zone.  Roles of colored tape are the nails and glue.  At the end of the day I leave some of the work up but since the tape peels off pretty well so I strip and recycle most of the building supplies.

It isn’t surprising then, that when I questioned Zed about the story he wanted to tell the class, he chose to write about the box.  He drew his builder friends, I helped draw the box.  At this point I dismissed the rest of the class to work in their journals because I could tell Zed was going to need more of my attention to get the “rest of the story.”  I helped the other students get settled while Zed finished his character drawing and when I returned he had drawn some lines moving around the picture.  I thought maybe it was the tape – we had used a lot of tape.  But then he took his crayon and demonstrated how the lines were the movements each character made in and around the box.  I was thrilled!  This was Zed’s first demonstration of action in a story – usually his stories are pretty static, and lack details.  He even went ahead and put his own letters below the line and then asked me to write, “I play with my friends.”

This piece of work shows so much progress for Zed.  His people are of a decent proportion and have bodies, his arms are sticks with hands.  Until recently, he’d been drawing heads with a stick for a body and overly long arms with overly long spikey fingers.  In this picture, he was a little concerned about his sideways smiles but I showed him how to wrap the smile around to the right – notice the red person.  Each person is a different color to show different people, each person has their own line of movement.  Pretty cool I think.

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Dear teacher,

Fish bowl reflection:  I tried something new today – and I made some mistakes, but I learned a whole lot – about my practice and about my students.  And that’s the point, right?

 I used a student story as a model story and I had the student help me create the picture and choose the story line.  It was a risky move, luckily it went okay.  I wouldn’t do this on a regular basis and certainly not in the beginning of the year.  But it was kind of a good way to assess what this student knows about story and I think he really enjoyed it.  And no one copied his story when they moved to write in their own journals.  Plus – I had at least 20 teachers hanging out helping my kids in their writing. I decided to ask everyone to confer with my kids while they wrote -as long as they are in my room to learn something, they might as well make the learning a two-way street!   It was pretty neat to see.  By the way, check out the latest entry at my fellow blogger’s site:   A response from The Fish:

Dear Teacher,

Thanks for helping me draw my cool story today.   I was kind of getting tired of telling stories about fighting snakes – but I just didn’t know that stuff I do with my family could be a story!

When mom started telling you my story on Tuesday, I was mad.  I wanted you to know my story, but I wasn’t ready to share it – and then she went and told it.   Oh well, I guess it was a good thing because then you talked to me about it at lunch.  You said you wanted to help me tell the story to the class with a picture.  I thought that might be kind of neat.  It made me feel special that you wanted to tell my story. 

I didn’t know you had been to that park too!  There was a lot of stuff that happened that day.  First of all, my whole family was there – Uncle J.J. and Alexis, and Kai Kai and Tay Tay and Samiah and mom and dad.  We went for walks on a lot of trails.  Mom was pushing a cart and it got stuck in the mud, we laughed.  Then I saw those water falls.  Two waterfalls!  One was really big, the other was littler.  There were some people on a log over the water.  I thought they would fall in.  We saw tons of fish in the ponds, tons!

Today, when I came to school and you weren’t there, I was worried I wouldn’t get to tell my story like you promised.  But then at breakfast Maestra told me that you were going to come to class at the end of the day and tell my story with me.  I started jumping up and down.  What was that word  you told us yesterday?  Incredible?  I felt incredible!

I waited and waited for you to come.  I tried so hard to be good today and not get into fights or say that bad word I said the other day.   I almost forgot you were coming until I saw you.  Then you said “bunches of teachers” were coming in and I didn’t understand what was happening.  Then a whole bunch of grown ups came in the door and I thought maybe I wasn’t going to get to tell my story.

But I did.  I know you wanted me to draw the people.  At least I showed you where to put them and who was there.  I like the way you drew the waterfall.  I copied that idea when I redrew the story in my journal.  I put a lot more water though. Those falls were really big.  I didn’t get to show mom in the mud or those spiky things I saw by the pond.  But I really liked my story and it was cool to get to have my friends Beta and Zed read it to everyone.  I bet they felt special when I picked them.

Anyway, I’ll probably tell that story again and again.  I’ll probably make the waterfalls even bigger and show the mud next time too.  And I could make the fish, maybe a snake in the pond too.  (I’m good at drawing snakes you know.)

I love you, Alpha

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