I have been in my new classroom, the Squirrelly Monkeys, about 2 or 3 weeks now. I have anywhere from 12-16 2 1/2-3 year olds (though I can have up to 18 – I suspect that will happen soon enough). Yes, there is always another teacher with me, but I don’t officially have a “partner” yet (hoping that happens soon, too). I think this may be one of the most challenging age groups, but not in a bad way…
Most of my teaching career has been in the infant room (about 3 years at AGCLC), and with 4-5 year olds (1 year at Bethel, 1 year at AGCLC, 2 years in the School Readiness Program at Rum River, and 2 years at Monkey Business). I have also taught 3 year old classes in School Readiness, subbed in the toddler rooms at AGCLC, and spent all last summer with 2 year olds. I always thought the 4-5 year olds were my favorite age (when my son is a little older, I may go back to that opinion), but I have been having a lot of fun with this age group!
My classroom is (appropriately) in the “middle section” of our Center. They are kind of in-between the Toddler and Preschool phases. They are learning how to sit for Circle Time, follow directions, share with other children. They are learning how to control their awkward bodies, and they have energy to spare! Busy is an understatement for the group of kids I have! The great thing is, it makes the day fly by!!
I decided when I was offered this classroom, to try to run it pretty much like a preschool. I had no idea how well it would work, but the teacher before me did a pretty good job of it, so why not?? I am using a Visual Schedule, which is very helpful. At the beginning of every Circle Time, we go over the schedule for the morning. Right now, it really only goes through lunch time, because I need the time to get on Boardmaker and create a few items I’m missing. I notice children going up and looking at it throughout the day. We also do calendar, stories, sing songs, do art etc…
What I have found, is that giving very specific directions has been so helpful! When it’s time to clean up, I sing the clean up song, start putting toys away, and children are helping more. If they aren’t, I hand them a toy, and ask them to put it away. When I have been introducing a new item in our room, I give specific directions on how to use it (very Montessori-style, but helpful… not sure why I ever got away from doing it that way). For the most part, it has made a difference in how they play with materials. When they forget, we just remind them of the directions. If they still are not playing appropriately, that item gets put away for a while, and we “try again” later. It’s not a perfect system, but we are working on it! I think it will be helpful when I have a full-time partner – it will be easier to keep a consistent system in place.
One of the biggest challenges right now, is trying to teach the children to pick up what they are playing with before they move on to the next thing… I struggle with that with my own children, but am working on getting better in all areas on that one!
Overall, I am just amazed at what these children are capable of!! They are following directions so well, they are playing really nice… the daily challenges push me to find better ways of doing things, or better ways to help a particular child on whatever his/her needs are… this is a great fit for me right now!!!