Heard in the Classroom – 2015-16 ed.

One of our three year old girls was told by our assistant teacher, “My ears hurt, your voice is too loud.” The little girl said to her, “Well, put your fingers in your ears then.”

One of our 4 year old girls called Miss GayLynn (the assistant) over the to reading corner. She told her to read to herself, and to look at the back, because that’s the end.

I wrote a 5 year old boy’s name. He said it wasn’t his name. I didn’t use the D’Nealian ‘k’. He asked why I used the wrong one. I said I guess I made a mistake. He responded with, “You need to focus your attention!” (This is wording from the Second Step Curriculum we use)

One of our 5 year old girls said “What if Asians were real?” We were a bit confused… we asked her, “Do you mean aliens?” She looked at us in disbelief, “No, aliens are real, I mean Asians!”

When a teacher asked one of our 4 year old boys, “How did you sort that?” He said, “Really fast!”

I asked a 5 year old girl if she knew where her dad grew up. She looked at me as if that was a ridiculous question, and said, “With my uncle.”

One of the random things heard in our classroom: “that is not a weapon, it’s a hot dog.”

One of our 5 year old girls told me one time: “My great aunt Barb is in the hospital. They buried her once. Now they’re trying to dig her up.” I asked why. She said she didn’t know why they buried her in the hospital. I asked if she died, she said no, she was just in the hospital.

We really never know what we are going to hear in the classroom! Sometimes we wonder where kids come up with their stories. Sometimes, they are just plain funny! I’ll post more as the year wraps up (if I remember).  ;-)

A Conversation with a Three Year Old

This was an actual conversation that happened at preschool yesterday with a three year old boy. We were standing in the bathroom in our classroom, he had a little BM in his pull-up. I was helping him get cleaned up. I’ll call him S (for Student)…

S: “Don’t get in my butt cheeks.”

Me: “Well, I have to get it all… when you have to poop, you can just tell the teacher and go to the bathroom…”

S: “No, it’s too hard.”

Me: “Well, maybe you need to drink more water.”

S (after looking at me like I was nuts): “Water makes you pee.”

Me: “But sometimes, if it’s hard to poop, you can drink more water, and it might help soften your poop up so it doesn’t hurt.”

S: “Blasted goldfish make me poop. I don’t like them, ’cause I don’t like to.”

Me: “I don’t like flavor blasted goldfish either.”

S: “You should try the regular ones, they’re really good!”

 

Yes, this conversation is pretty much word for word how it happened. I just have to laugh at the seriousness of this preschooler was in his statements. What also cracked me up, was the complete randomness of the direction of the conversation. I hope it gave you the same chuckle it gave me!

A Fitting Start to the New School Year

Every year, we have our annual “back to school” staff meeting about a week or two before our preschoolers come back. This year, our meeting was at Lord of Life, the church where my career in Early Childhood Education began. It seemed a bit appropriate that the year I have a whole new team, our meeting was at the place where it really all started for me!

My career in Early Childhood Education officially started in 1998. OK, it really probably started when I was 10, and my neighbor and I would tag-team babysit for several families. At age 11 or 12, I was co-nannying with her over the summer for a family that had 3 boys. I babysat until I had a “real job” at McDonald’s when I was 15. No job was quite as satisfying as working with young children (though, admittedly, working as a shift manager at Pizza Hut had some similarities).

In 1998, I was attending Bethel College, now Bethel University, for Early Childhood and Family Education. I had started attending Lord of Life as a church member, and saw they had a job opening for a part time position running the nursery. I was hired as the Associate Director of Nursery Services. My primary job responsibilities were to coordinate nursery volunteers, manage the on-call child care program our church had for parents attending small groups or other events at the church, and writing articles for the church newsletter. Later, I started up the 2 year old Sunday School program. It was a fun job that incorporated all the things I loved – working with children, volunteers (and volunteering), and writing. Even when I left the official position, I continued to volunteer in the nursery.

Since that time, the church has started up its own preschool (which started when I was still working the Nursery Services position, though I was not part of that). It also has allowed the Anoka-Hennepin District to house one of our Kindergarten Readiness classes there.

Today, we had a great class on the importance of music and movement with young children. Did you know that being able to follow simple rhythmic patterns at an early age can predict how well a child will be able to read later on? That was one of many things we learned or were reminded of today. After the class, we had our meeting which mostly consisted of meeting new staff, and being reminded of all the services we have available to us and to the families we serve. The entire day was a great reminder of just why I love working for the school district!!

We have been diligently working over the past couple of weeks to prepare for the children who will be walking through our doors next week. I have met the new Assistant Teacher and Special Education Teacher who I will be working with. We have talked about where we want to start the year, and know things will evolve as our team becomes more cohesive. I am excited about the new school year with a new Team, and new students (though, many are returning, or families we have previously had)…  it just seemed fitting that it officially started where my whole career started!🙂

 

Side note: I ran into two different women I recognized, who were working at the church today. Even though I haven’t even attended the church in over 9 years, they both remembered me. I recognized both of them, but could only recall the name of one. :-( Though it was strange that they both remembered me, it’s nice to be remembered!🙂

Playground Tricks

For the first time, I am co-teaching summer school. I am working with preschoolers in a classroom held in an elementary school. The children ride the bus to school, eat breakfast there, and ride the bus home at the end of our morning. They attend school 4 days a week.

A huge benefit to teaching in a school? We have a playground! We have been able to go outside all but two of the days. This has a noticeable impact on everyone’s moods and energy levels, including the teachers’.

Today, a 5 year old girl was hanging on the bars. She was able to get her feet up on the bar, and hang upside down. Most of the other children who were trying, were not able to hang in this same way. I asked her if she knew how to do pull her legs through and do a flip. She did not say anything (she tends to be very quiet most of the time). I told her I would show her how, and she nodded. I climbed to the higher bar (at my chest level), hung upside down by my knees, flipped my hands around, and pulled my legs through. She thought this was pretty cool, and proceeded to successfully try it. The look on her face was priceless! She got a huge smile, and continued to do it over and over. Each time, she gained more confidence, and soon was even able to pull her legs back through the other way (a trick I tried, but no longer have the core strength to do).

Soon, other children were trying the flip. One boy couldn’t get his legs up over the bar, but he was able to pull up so the bar was at his waist. I could see him trying to figure out how he could do a flip. I again took to the “high bar.” I pulled myself up so the bar was at my waist, and showed him how to lean forward, kick his feet, and flip over. He cautiously tried to flip over the bar, needing a little help. Other children lined up to try to0. Each of the 5 or 6 children needed to be spotted the first time or two, then were able to do it on their own! With each success, their smiles got bigger, their steps more sure…

Without a playground, and a gorgeous morning that had us decide to stay outside longer than usual, these children might not have learned a new way to move their bodies, or developed that little bit of extra confidence today.

Google Drive – A Real Time and Money Saver

At the end of every year of preschool, I put together a compilation of all the pictures I’ve taken throughout the year, and give it to parents. For the past several years, I have burned all these pictures to disc to give to them at Preschool Graduation. The sorting of 4 classes, and the burning of an average of 70 discs per year, takes a LONG time!

Last year, I must have bought a bad batch of discs, because about half of them didn’t even work. I had to reburn several discs of pictures. As a busy mom and teacher, who was already working my summer job by the end of the school year, I was very frustrated at the HOURS it took to do this, and by the extra money it took to purchase a new batch of discs to burn onto.

You may ask why I bother. The answer is two-fold. 1. When my son graduated from preschool several years ago, his teachers gave us a disc with a video they had put together at the end of that year. I so appreciated it, I vowed I would do the same thing every year. While I don’t create a video, I do put all the pictures together. 2. I do it because parents appreciate when I share pictures of their children from the times they cannot be with them.

This year, I thought of a new solution… what if I just sorted all the pictures by class, and put them on my google drive? I could then sort each class into a folder, and share a link to each folder with the parents of the children in those classes. It was as simple on my end (once the pictures were sorted), as clicking a button to get the link, copying it, and pasting it into an email to the entire class parent list (which I already had set up in Outlook). While you need to have a Google+ account to view them, it is free and simple to sign up for an account. I didn’t have any parents complain about me sharing the pictures this way, and had several emails thanking me.

By using Google Drive to share the photos with my preschoolers’ parents, I saved myself probably 20 +/- hours of work, and close to $50 in supplies. I’d say this was a great solution! I will definitely be using it again in the future!

Mat Man

An example of a typical first or second self-portait of the year.

An example of a typical first or second self-portait of the year.

I wrote a post about how much I appreciated the Handwriting Without Tears (HWOT) training I attended this past fall. One of the things we learned about was using “Mat Man” to learn how to draw a person. After watching the Mat Man Video, my initial thought was, “Of course they’re going to make it look that amazing, this is a training.”

We decided to try it in our classroom. First, we had children do a self-portrait. I demonstrated how to draw yourself. We talked about thinking about the different parts of their body, the clothes they were wearing, etc. We had a full length mirror available for children to look at themselves – maybe they didn’t know the color of their eyes, or what their hair looked like that day… they could look at their clothes, the shape of their body, etc. We told them to just “Do their best, and remember as many parts of their body as they can.” The model had all the major body parts, clothes, shoes, etc.

This was two days after the initial self-portrait, and immediately after a Mat Man lesson.

This was two days after the initial self-portrait, and immediately after a Mat Man lesson.

The next class time, the Special Ed Teacher I work with, did the Mat Man lesson with our 4-5 year olds in large group. She must have practiced it several times at home, because seriously, she NAILED it! She could have been the teacher in the above video. The preschoolers enjoyed building Mat Man, and learning the song (available on the HWOT CD).

After the lesson was over, we asked them to do their best to draw Mat Man. Many of our preschoolers were singing the song as they drew. It was very cute! In many cases, there were amazing differences in their pictures! We truly did have results like in the video. Not every child drew Mat Man exactly. Many of them still were missing ears, or a nose, but we saw definite improvements, pretty much across the board!

This picture of one of our preschoolers looks more like his Mat Man person than his self-portrait. I call that victory!

This picture of one of our preschoolers looks more like his Mat Man person than his self-portrait. I call that victory!

I was very curious to see if the lesson learned with the Mat Man activity would carry over in later activities. About a month later, we did a journal activity where we asked children to draw a picture of what they want to be when they grew up. Most preschoolers just drew a person, told us what it was, and we wrote it down. Many of them looked a lot like their Mat Man, though some reverted back to looking more like their self-portrait. Overall, I consider the Mat Man activity successful, and find myself once again thankful for the HWOT training.

*All three of these pictures were drawn by the same child on the dates indicated on the pictures. I guess he likes the color red – haha!

 

Handwriting Without Tears

This past fall, I finally got to go to Handwriting Without Tears (HWOT) training. I LOVED it! I learned a lot about teaching children how to write. It’s a very methodical process; we don’t do all the steps (as we only have two days per week with our preschoolers).

The premise of their system, is that you break down the creation of letters into “lines” and “curves”. There’s a music CD with songs that teach different concepts of letter-making such as, “Where do you start the letters? At the top…” There is also a great workbook that builds the fine motor skills from coloring, to creating lines, to making letters (very preschool appropriate, though there are others available for different age/development levels). We got one copy of the workbook as part of our training, but we are not allowed to copy pages for the kids in our class. At $16+/child, it’s a bit spendy to get them for all of our students. If we were to get them for each of our preschoolers in the 4-5 year old classes, it would be over $500. I have found other printable worksheets, coloring pages, and dry erase books that work on the same skills, but would still prefer to have the HWOT books.

The only downside to HWOT, is that it is not compatible with D’Nealian. Our district still teaches D’Nealian writing. It also really only works with capital letters (at least what we learned about). Since D’Nealian doesn’t really change much for most capitals, we are still able to use their system. It also gives us an opportunity to show preschoolers different ways some letters might look, which will help them as they prepare to read next year.

One thing we learned in the training, that I did not implement, is they suggested children learn to write their names in all capital letters first. This is probably why their system mainly uses capital letters. We have been asked by the Kindergarten teachers to teach children to write their names the proper way – capital letter first, followed by lower case letters.

While we do not used every piece of  their system, we do practice building the letters with wood pieces and a blue mat before we try writing them in our journals. When children build the letters first, they seem to understand it better, and are more successful in trying to recreate it. The blue mat helps children see where their letters start. Another option would be to take a piece of blue construction paper, cut it to slightly larger than the “big wood piece”, put a smiley face or star sticker in the upper left corner, and laminate it. The wood pieces are great! Another product I got with my Scholastic Reading Club bonus points this year, was a plastic letter-building activity. It was free (I love using bonus points), and very compatible with the way we are learning to make our letters.

We also have begun to follow the advice to use crayons first, as opposed to markers or dry erase markers (did you know they make dry erase crayons now?). The friction created by crayons over markers, is good for their fine-motor development. We’ve also learned that children who struggle to have a proper grip, or continue to palm-grip their writing tools, are more successful when they use smaller crayons, pencils (think golf pencils), or markers.

Putting this system into use this year has been more successful than I expected. I’m enjoying teaching it, the children seem to be more successful at writing this year! I am so glad I finally got to take the Handwriting Without Tears training!