WHEW! I have spent so much time getting ready for Thanksgiving and doing homework that it seems like time just sped up!! The children and I have had so much fun that it was hard to keep up with our regular curriculum activities. But I did notice that a vast number our activities have been hands on.
Even with the Mother Goose Time activities we have been doing there has not been a concentration as much on just merely sitting reading and writing. Thanks to the curriculum I actually managed to figure out what to do with my class during the Thanksgiving party to encourage healthy eating and using our hands to further our learning outcomes.
Every month I receive about two or three snack cards from Mother Goose Time. These are not simply fillers, the ability for the children to help cook covers so much that a child needs addressed during the learning day.
Fine Motor skills
Health and Safety.
Activities like cooking are simple and complex all at the same time. With this in mind I began to plan our Thanksgiving party.
Green bean casserole
apple dump cake
The children made everything on this list but the turkey. They loved learning about measuring and why it important for them to follow the directions of a recipe. This was also a good time to teach the health and safety by introducing a clean work space and asking them to repeat lists of ingredients needed for cooking. When one of the children connected cooking to being like science, I was so so proud. Because these types of connections and critical thinking skills can be reached without doing work at the table. It can be reached with hands on activities.
4. Gross Motor
4.1 Builds strength and balance
4.2 Coordinates large movements
5. Fine Motor
5.1 Control small movements
5.2 Uses drawing and writing tools
6. Health and Safety
6.1 Make healthy food and exercise choices
6.2 Practices good hygiene
6.3 demonstrates safe practices
All of these skills are not things that need to be learned on their own. I hope you enjoy the pictures of us preparing our Thanksgiving Lunch!
Winter is here people. This means that we have less time outside because of the cold days. Here in the part of California I am located it is very very windy. So while we could go outside and play at least once a day, the wind is blowing so hard that the children will not be able to have a successful outdoor play experience. This means that during the winter we have to beef up our inclement weather plans and provide more things for the children to do that involves Gross Motor Skills inside.
When many educators think of Gross Motor skills they are thinking of things the children do outside that CAN NOT be transferred into the classroom. By that I mean activities that are all about helping children with balance, coordination and running. That is simply not true. Many activities that involve reading can made into games that involve using Gross Motor Skills. For example The Community Helpers game Dentist Visit that was with Mother Goose Time was modified by having the children jump up and down for whatever number they happened to land on. This made the game even more fun for the children and helped to build coordination and balance. It was also helpful for my 2 and new 3's in keeping their attention on the game for a longer period of time.
Another way I ward off excess energy in the classroom is by dancing. I use Dance N' Beats for this type of transitions. I pick a dance from the Dance N' Beats for the week and I use that dance between activities. We may even dance to it more than once. It all depends on the children that are in your program. Sometimes the children have more energy and it is necessary to get their energy levels down so that they can focus. The dances are simple and it is easy for you to learn. Mother Goose time even has a training video in which to help us learn the 21 moves that are used in the songs so that you do not have to go into the dancing transitions blind. I have posted a video at the end of the blog to help understand the dance moves that have been included in the Dance N' Beats program.
Circle time is another way you can add in gross motor activities for children. Mother Goose Time often has finger play songs for circle time that I turn into dances. An example of this would be the song on Day 12. The song is about cooking hot dogs. For this song we get up and dance around and then we lay on the floor pretending to be cooking hot dogs. Doing this five times really makes them tired!
These ideas and suggestions are just a starting point for avoiding cabin fever and helping parents and teachers stay sane during the winter months! If you have any other ideas please leave them in the comments.
Representation in Curriculum.
I was going to do something not as serious this week, but then I got to the second day of the Mother Goose Time Curriculum and I stopped. I stopped because I found something so awesome that I needed to make sure it was written about. This month the theme is Community Helpers. So we are going over all the people in the community who help us and keep us safe. On the second day of the curriculum I pulled out Doctor.
It was a black man.
I am excited. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I saw myself in any of the professions during community helpers theme while I was in school. I am not quoting statistics to you. I am telling you what I personally experienced while learning. I did not see enough professionals that looked like me. I did not have enough teachers who thought it was important to show their students professionals that looked like them. When I went through the very exhausting task of searching for a curriculum I knew that I would have to fill in some gaps myself because a curriculum cannot cover EVERYTHING. I figured that I would need to ensure the children were exposed to diverse images through me. But this has surpassed all my expectations. The best part is that; it is not a fluke. I have noticed that the pictures have been a lot more diverse. The picture for day 3 was of a woman police officer. For the children, it wasn’t a big deal. Because we do have moms in the military in the program they are not a hard sale on the notion of the types of jobs that people do just because of gender.
The other places besides the pictures of the topic for the day where diversity has been introduced would be the sight word books that come every month. The drawings are all diverse and could represent any of the children in the classroom. I have heard the children telling their friends that they are a certain character. This is so exciting! They are identifying with the characters! Which is so important. I know the yoga videos I show the children have all had diverse children in the videos. This made the children feel comfortable with trying and enjoying yoga with their friends.
As a black woman in the early childhood education career field, I have found that making sure children are exposed to diverse cultures and traditions is so important in making sure that we raise the next generation to be kind and generous. As we continue to do this I am hoping that this becomes so normal that we won’t need to point it out. Hopefully the next generation does this better. For now, I am glad I took the time to research what I used in my classroom with such depth. Things like this let me know that I made the right decision.
It was the month of OCTOBER!!! So much fun, the beginning of fall, Halloween, costumes. We have been having so much fun together. Especially during this month because we are doing the theme Down on the Farm. Mother Goose Time didn't just have the children learn about the plants or the animals on the farm they included the equipment. Which I feel sometimes gets left out. The interesting thing about this theme is that we tend to leave out the equipment used and the people that need to work the farm. I was very impressed with this aspect of the curriculum.
I waited until now to post so that I could review the celebration kit. The celebration kit comes in the Mother Goose Time curriculum and is a kit that helps educators and parents plan a party to celebrate more than just the Holiday for the month. The kit is not named after the holiday for the month. Which means that the educator/parent can have it apply or if they do not celebrate do not have to feel pressure to celebrate a holiday. The theme goes along with whatever the children are learning for the month. So more often than not they do not even realize that it applies to a specific holiday unless they are told. This month was Pumpkin Patch. It could be used for preparing for a field trip or to celebrate fall. I did use my kit for the Halloween party and it went wonderfully. The materials that I needed that did not come along in the kit are all found locally without any extra searching on my part. Such as the golf tees to hammer into the pumpkin or the child hammers and pumpkins.
The Kits come with their own lesson plan booklet with circle time suggestions, snack ideas and games. It also comes with an art project that is easy and fun to do. All of this still allows you to relate the day back to all the things that were learned during the month and to review new skills that may have been introduced. I have snapped some pictures of the booklet that I will post at the bottom of the blog. It may seen hard with all of the other things we do to fit this into the month, but I promise this makes the party planning experience painless and the invitations that come with it allow for you to include your parents in the day.
Invitations to create from Mother Goose Time have led many people to wonder about it's benefits. The benefits of the invitations to create are many. But I will talk about how they encourage children to speak to each other.
The picture is hung up in the art area so that they can inspire the child. It helps them to understand what we are talking about. This picture is from the Garden Plant invitation to create. The picture inspired conversations at the art area about what types of plants they wanted to grow, who was growing plants at home and the preschool garden. It helped the children focus on the project at hand. It also inspired the children to talk about how the landscape was different We live in the desert and many of the pictures of farm areas do not look like what we are use to seeing. They are applying what they are learning and seeing to the outside world. They are using the vocabulary they have learned to describe the pictures.
In order to foster creativity, Mother Goose Time provides the teachers with a card that shows an example of set of the center and prompts to help the children think about how they want to design their project. I encourage early childhood educators to use these questions as more of a jumping off point than anything. The questions you ask should be geared toward the children in your program. For myself, the children do not like when I speak with them while they are doing their projects. They become deeply annoyed with me! So at the end of circle time, I introduce the center time activities. We begin to speaking about what is in the picture, the colors and what the picture makes them feel. When we get to the center we talk about how the materials match the picture and what they may want to do with them. After that I leave them to the making of the art.
During this time they speak to their partner about what they are doing. This leads them to using the vocabulary and expanding what they already know. It also helps them to inspire and encourage their partner. For some children it can become competitive, but this is normal. Around this age they want to be better at doing things than others and they want others to acknowledge how good they are. Really there is no way to stop this from happening. When they ask me I tell them I love everybody's art work....and they look at me like I am lying and whisper
"Well, mines is better."
When this happens, don't argue. Just nod and smile. Maybe you can escape without tears and a fight developing :)
Children love to dance! It is a really good way to calm children down before we start Circle Time. Circle time is about consistently introducing calendar, weather, shapes, letters, and the ABC's. But because it is something that happens everyday and it is also asking small children to focus for short periods of time, helping children do something silly and loud before sitting can go a long way in helping to maintain concentration and teaching patience and taking turns.
Now I am not crazy, Circle time does not last a billion years. I mean that would cause the whole rest of the day to descend into chaos. With me crying in time out and the children demanding I bake them more banana-chocolate chip muffins. I am kidding...somewhat. You guys know preschoolers can smell when you are floundering, when the pause is too long. Circle time last about 15 minutes if not shorter. This is how our morning schedule looks:
805am-815- Morning Dance Party/ Pledge
815am-830am- Circle time
As you can see from my schedule, we move pretty fast through our day. I do this so that the children are not bored. We are constantly moving and switching activities. During their free time which is from 900am-10am they see me for small group learning while using anything new they learned during centers with their friends. Before Lunch time the children have their specials of the day. Every day we learn about something new and learn how to apply it to the world around them. Which brings me to what this post is about.
Thursday's!!! We Dance on Thursdays. I would love it if I was graceful and creative enough to create a dance program for my class. But I am not, so that is where Mother Goose Time comes through in a big way for me. They have a dance program called Dance n' beats. They have the 4 45 min dance classes already made out in the lesson plan book. You do not HAVE to follow the lesson plans. You can create one of your own with the way the book is set up. It also comes with a video. I am sad to say that because I am not graceful (see video above), I am not able to confidently teach the children to do the dances from the video with just the aid of the music cd. So I use the video, and it works wonderfully. I think the only downside is that while the rest of curriculum takes time off my prep, The Dance curriculum adds to it. You do need too have certain parts of the lessons prepped ahead of time, especially since some of the lessons have an art project. I will say that the prep is probably no more than 15 minutes of your time if you have everything in the house. This is not a program you can just open up and start using without prep time. Like Batman needs prep time before a fight, we need prep time before Dance class.
So I have a video to show you of my kiddos doing some of the dance from this month! I loved it so much! If you need more information please feel free to ask!
So I have a couple of children in my class that are ready to be introduced to the fine art of reading! With the right tools and attitude children can learn to love reading just as much as we do. I know I love to read a great deal and I take great care when attempting to introduce the children in my class to reading. I want to make sure that they are not overwhelmed with the experience. I do this by introducing reading in several different ways.
For children just being introduced to reading, I use their own names to introduce letters and their sounds. Because we go over the letter sounds during circle time, the children are able to learn most of their letters and sounds with little pressure.
3. Mother Goose Time Readers
Mother Goose Time has sight word books and other materials that can help children ready to learn to read. With these readers the large pictures and words help to teach many different skills needed to become a proficient reader. Many times people break down reading into so many different parts the children are confused about how to put the parts together. With the Mother Goose Time Primers, the children learn how to figure out the words by looking at the pictures. They provide big colorful pictures that help learn how to sound out words and how to remember sight words.
4. Small Groups
Helping children learn to read in small groups and on an individual basis allows the educator/parent to be able to zone in on the individual level of each child. Sometimes a child may seem to understand something while in a group and answering questions together. The best way to make sure that the children are absorbing what they know is to work with them in a way that you can focus on each child and their abilities.
There are many different tools and games that Mother Goose Time includes with its curriculum to help the children learn to read and write. These tools help by making sure to address as many different learning styles as possible throughout the month for the sight words that are given. Games allow children to use their physical sides in order to help them learn the words. Such as the Cube during circle time. And their sight and hearing during circle time when we go over the words. Using sand for the children to trace the words, allows for the children to use touch. These methods combined mean that a child is being approached from several different ways to learn their words. That means there is a greater chance for success.
When talking about reading, making sure the child is ready for the new skill is very important. It is also important to not under estimate the child. Just because a child is 2 years old does not mean they are not absorbing what you are teaching the 4-year-old. I am a big fan of introducing all concepts to all children. It may not sink in at first but that does not mean that they will not pick it up. I have seen some 2-year-old children learn sight words before their other peers, simply because it was presented to them along with the rest of the children.
There is no hard core science in my opinion to creating a lifelong reader. All the things I have named here are just some of the ways that can be used. The biggest key, is that we listen and observe what is working for the children we care for.
As a preschool teacher, I have come across times during our preschool days when the children decided that they just gave up the ghost. The classroom goes from quiet, engaged little workers to the children dangling from their chairs and giggling insanely as they jump up from their chairs and run screaming in circles and then sit down giggling in their seats again. The question on every teacher's mind?
Do I just give up?
YES! No, no hear me out, it's not a bad thing! As a matter of fact it's a very good thing. At this age it is imperative that the children like what they are doing. Being engaged in their projects is the only way to ensure that they are absorbing the new information. Once they have absorbed the information that means they will find ways to apply it. After having them engaged in learning new information, I send the children off to play with their friends. I then take about 10 minutes to clean up and to LISTEN. During my listening time I am able to figure out what has stuck from the things we have spoken about and what I need to go back over or discard.
Last week and this week the focus has been on family and the traits of friends. While they love speaking about the friends and family they have, and can tell me that they live on the continent of North America, the last two weeks have been a struggle in extending their attention spans. The thing that is hard for teachers is giving up and letting them be even when a lesson is not done. But you do not always have to finish work immediately. Sometimes giving the children a break can give them much needed clarity and renewed focus. I have found that working in centers is a great way to help the children gain focus and help them to learn how to work together. More often than not, if their friend is still working on the center project they will stay and speak to their friend and compare their work. Sometimes it becomes a race. Or this week, because we have been talking about Friendly Traits as the theme, they have been attempting to speak nicely to each other about their projects. They have even told me I am beautiful and the best teacher ever. Always good too hear!
One of the big differences in the Mother Goose Time Curriculum this year is the addition of the Invitations to create #invitationtocreate. What I have found is that while the children enjoy them....there may actually be too many. I never in a million years thought I would say this, but the children seem a bit overwhelmed with the amount of projects in the last couple of days. I have shortened the amount of time that we spend at each center and I let them worry about the process more than trying to get them to concentrate on the questions. Once I did this, their attention span returned to normal. I did extend their free play time and the stories recommended by Mother Goose Time especially the story "You Are My Sunshine, Toots and Puddle" by Holly Hobbie. We looked up the song and sang it together after reading the story. We later discovered that Toots and Puddle are a series! The children have asked for more books about the duo and I of course have no ability to say no to buying new books :).
This week our theme was "My Feelings". Each day of the week we are working on learning to identify and listen to our feelings. This is good for children, because often they have a hard time recognizing that some of their actions and words can cause their friends to feel a certain way.
The way I do Mother Goose Time, is by setting up the activities in centers. I have the children work in pairs so that they can learn to have conversation, share and how to work together for a common goal. I have found that centers with children 2-5 are very useful. Very draining for the teacher, but the benefits they exhibit are so rewarding, that it makes the tiredness of having my name called every 20 seconds worth it. I mean I can just mainline coffee and it will be all good!
I noticed that each day we have examined a feeling that the children spent time with their friends during free time asking if they were ok. For example, today we worked on Sad. During free time the children decided I was a baby and they had to take care of me.
I do believe though that the favorite activity of the week had to be the shadow puppets. It was a bit touch and go putting them together. By that I mean it was not very preschool friendly because I had to put it together for them in order for them to have shadow puppets, and they were not excited to color their puppets because they were all black and I have noticed preschoolers are not huge fans of black paper. But once they were able to see the shadows it was a game changer!