Dear Sprouts Families-
As I reflect back on the last month in class, I see so many beautiful shared moments! I love reading the quote book and looking through photos, and seeing the spark of new conversations and ideas happening.
I have mentioned in previous updates that curriculum for this age should focus on development of emotional, social and self-help skills. The children have bonded and friendships have been established, and they are working and learning together as they bring their ideas into the classroom. As we continue into spring we will see more conflict (which is healthy and is always an opportunity to learn) and we will begin to problem solve more and more. I am proud of all we are doing to promote positive friendships and individual confidence and independence!
The community we have here at SPP evokes an image of ripples on water. Ripples of inspiration, care and support grow bigger and cross over more and more circles of people. I think this is a very important concept to share with the children. To teach them that they can send good things to people they don’t know, just by how they treat the people they do know. This is a concept we can carry into every part of life. With the children, we can weave conversations about caring for other things into almost every moment. Everything from taking care of our toys and plants, to what we can do at school and home that will fill the metaphorical buckets of all things living near us, and those far away.
Interests and Activities:
Transportation seems to be the theme that will last all year for many of the children. I have observed the children building on this theme in a very natural way. The cars have done many things for us in class. They have sparked many a conversation between friends, inspired sharing, and even brought comfort in a time of worry. When the wooden train was found a little broken, it inspired a teamwork moment to fix it using the tools from the same shelf. The marble track was brought out last week and Carmel had about 6-7 kids at a time surrounding her and the toy. To see so many young children cooperating and sharing in big emotions like excitement (when the marbles went down successfully ) and disappointment (when the tower was too tall to stand safely) was, for me, a moment of great pride.
Bowie has been showing an interest in maps and talks about riding the horse to different places.
We will be taking some maps out and talking about where we live and what traveling is. We will explore the different ways that the children travel to school, and ways in which people all over the world travel.
Adi brought me a laminated photo from the vehicle shelf that shows the light rail station under construction from the sky. (I printed it up years ago when construction started, as our school was directly across the street back then.) In March, Wyatt ‘s family culture day will bring the train theme to a whole ‘nother level! And, I have started talking with Carmel, our field trip coordinator, about a light rail train trip for the entire class. Stay tuned for that!
How one interest leads to another:
After Ashlee set up the block shelf with a guide for different shapes, the children began using the blocks more. Last week August used them to form a long train. The long block train inspired some others to make the wooden train just as long. This play turned into inspiration for an obstacle course as the children began stepping over the blocks and then jumping. In came the log, and the balance toy to create a 3 piece obstacle course that brought more children into this play. We have seen many children outside working on balancing by walking on the curb with a grown-up, and with great focus they make it around the playground several times. It’s fun to see the balancing that started outside become a group activity inside. This kind of cooperation and weaving of different ideas in play is the ideal environment for this age group.
We will start working on more gross motor skill building as we move into spring. Balancing, starting and stopping while running, jumping and hopping are just a few basic moves we will include in more structured outside group play. We have been practicing self-control/body-control by playing the freeze game at circle time while we dance. I see this making an impact on the children when we line-up to head outside. They are recognizing what their body is doing and how to control it, and learning how to be safe. Waiting is a big part of life and a lot can be done to equip them with skills to prepare for those moments:).
Speaking of motor skills, we have been doing a lot of fine motor skill building at the art tables. The children have been using scissors, hole punches, small paint tools, and working with clay, sand, and shaving cream using a variety of tools. Research has concluded that the best activity to prepare children for future writing is to let them manipulate many materials without a desired result from adults. We don’t want to expect their art or sensory play to be anything but discovery and we don’t want to make assumptions about what they are doing without asking them. The only agenda is to let them freely discover many uses for each tool/material and to work on fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and creativity.
Community Helpers: Developing Prosocial Behavior
We have seen several Sprouts using the dress up clothes and accessories that represent community helpers. Firefighters and doctors have been seen the most in the Sprout’s class. I am seeing these props used in ways that align with our mission of social justice. This happens more easily when adults model caregiving, generosity, empathy, and cooperation. We can help develop prosocial behavior by giving positive attention to the children when they display these traits in a group and at home. Following are two stories that display how this works…
While Charlie was working in the kitchen, Augustus was standing next to the office chair and working in the office space. Charlie seemed to want to be in the space that Augustus was using and chose to push on his body to make space for herself. This made Augustus upset, and Salvatore and I both approached to help with the problem. As I helped Augustus with some TLC, Salvatore held Charlie and we all asked if Augustus was ok. I said to Charlie “We’re going to check on Augustus and make sure his body is OK, just like a doctor would. Would you like to check on him?” She seemed uninterested at first and got down to walk towards the kitchen area. One minute later she came over to Augustus with a stethoscope and said “check you?” And she proceeded to put the tool over his heart with the other end in her ears. And, he was okay:)
Last week, after snack, I brought the community helper puppets to the library to play with the children that had finished eating. I decided to do a role-playing story using the mail carrier and the police officer puppet. The mail carrier was sitting in a corner, looking very sad, and the police officer puppet came over to ask what was wrong. As soon as Miri saw this she said Doctor puppet? Then she walked over to the doctor supplies and got the stethoscope, just has Charlie had done, gave the stethoscope to the doctor puppet, and put it up to the heart of the mail carrier puppet. And the puppet was also OK 🙂
Let’s expand on their play by talking about the people in our communities and how they contribute to our lives and help us. When we use the word community in the classroom, (and teamwork, together, help, etc.), we are creating an environment that gives the children a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for one another. This nurtures the growth of empathy and care that we know is so necessary to a healthy life.
We are working on visits to our neighbors at MLK FAME to create a personal connection to the people in our school community.
The beginning of basic math concepts in preschool are taught by using a variety of objects and comparing one to another. This is one of the best ways to investigate the properties of something new and different. We have done several activities in class focusing on size. When we first use comparisons with children while focusing on the concept of size, we want to use objects that are all alike in their properties except for size. We used clay to make balls of different sizes and many snow people were created. We used paper circles at the art table for an open ended activity that produced more snow people, vehicles, and family member’s faces:) We explored rocks of different sizes with paint brushes and water. And, we planted different sizes of evergreen branches in clay balls to create a forest in the sensory table. Language used was “small, medium large, different, similar,” and there was a lot of counting. When we look in the classroom, we can see that we have been “teaching” these concepts every class day. A large part of language development can be attributed to the way adults interact with the child’s play. By describing objects to the child while they are observing them, you are helping to lay the foundation for strong math and science skills.
Cognitive and Social Problem Solving:
If we made a video of one of our class days and added up all of the problems that arise, and all of the problems that are solved, I think the number would surprise all of us. Just one day in preschool has a child’s brain working extremely hard to make connections, come up with solutions, devise plans and explore curiosities with confidence. The sense of “chaos” we feel in class can also be looked at as a very productive time for your children. The more comfortable children become in a classroom, and with their peers, the more conflict we will see, but this translates to learning new skills and approaches that will stay with your child forever!
Our response to these problems/conflicts is key. Our only agenda should be to facilitate the children’s ideas for solutions and to make sure everyone feels safe and included. We name the problem as such, “What’s the problem?”, and ask questions, “What happened?”, “What do you want/need?”, “Do you have an idea?”. It’s important to try out each idea the children have, as long as it is safe, and to act like it may work (even if it seems impossible.) The children will feel proud when they see that their idea was used by peers and teachers, and even more proud when they see that it created a good feeling inside themselves and in their friend!
In January we implemented many of the activities mentioned in the last update.
. We explored seasonal changes and opposites in nature with ice melting activities, sleep and awake games (day and night, light and dark), rain, rain, and more rain play, wind inside with a fan, and we discovered similarities and differences among rocks, sticks, leaves, and dirt. (We weave anti-bias ideas into these conversations. Nature holds many metaphor’s for anti-bias conversations.)
. We made pinecone bird feeders and decorated the bags to hold them. We used caring language by talking about how we are helping the birds. A suggestion was for the children to gift the bird feeders to a neighbor, friend or family member. I’m curious if anyone did this? If requested, we will do this activity again, it was a hit!
. We explored seeds growing into trees doing a teacher directed movement activity at circle with guitar music. And, we started our forest activity by planting trees in clay.
. We took home mushroom kits made by the Seedling’s class. I’m curious how they are doing!
. We will be making bird nest helpers to give the birds supplies for building their homes.
. We will be adding soil to the forest and will begin growing grass in some parts of the soil and adding moss to other parts.
. We will read about seeds, plants and gardening to prepare for an indoor starter garden.
Lunar New Year! Year of the Monkey
Lunar New Year falls on February 8th, and we will be celebrating in a few kid friendly ways. A family from the Seedling’s class will be bringing in items for the celebration for their family culture week, and they have offered to let the Sprouts use their supplies and join in the celebration:) We will listen to classical Chinese music, dance with a dragon puppet, add Yuan to the office area, and read stories about how the Lunar New Year is celebrated in China and around the world.
P. S. Does anyone have the barrel of monkeys game for the class to borrow for a couple weeks?
Thank you all for being such thoughtful and caring individuals. Your contributions to the Sprout’s class and to the school are invaluable.