Monthly Archives: January 2015

2day-writingtable

Telling Stories and Making Books on the Road to Literacy

When we talk about books and stories with our youngest preschoolers, at times we ask them to share what they know. For many children, stories are in books, pictures help tell stories, grownups read books, and children who are 3 “can’t read books or write stories yet”. It does make sense, but unfortunately for some, this feeling that they must rely on adults to access stories can inhibit a child’s capacity to trust in their own ability to develop literacy skills. We want children to “read” the pictures in picture books and tell their own stories. We want them to trust that their scribbles represent important ideas and to value their own writing – whatever it looks like. So what can we do to help validate each child’s personal relationship to words, story, books, drawing and writing?

Our approach is to find ways to encourage every child, whatever their development or skill, to “make their mark” and tell their story. This might be a process that includes asking children to “tell about their work”. It might include children describing and labeling their creations, while the adults in their lives write down their ideas, ask questions that can clarify their intentions and celebrate their ideas and successes. It might include getting to know which patterns of lines indicate a child’s signature or other early writing, then celebrating that child’s ability to make a mark that has meaning and that can help us all remember something important. It might mean that adults tell children’s stories, including personal ones, that are not in books but are simply shared orally, and that they encourage children to do the same. It might include adults sharing the joy of well-developed pretend play or a puppet show. And it might include offering children paper in book format so that they can make their own books, write their own words and drawings, and tell friends and family their own stories by “reading” from these personal creations.

When children start making books, we talk together about the form of books: where the book starts, the details on the front cover, the title and author. We help children notice that in picture books there is something on every page. We point out that the last page is “The End.” We help children notice that in some picture books there are words and pictures on each page, but in others there are just pictures. And we offer a model for getting started (Is this a ‘once upon a time’ story or does it have facts?), a model for continuing (What happens next?). Along the way we pose questions that we hope will help children add detail and extend their descriptive language as they tell their story. And then we watch and listen.

Unlike other classroom writing experiences like journaling or dictating descriptions of work, teachers don’t write in a child’s book because “each child is the author and they know how the story goes”. If a child is concerned about the quality of their writing, we encourage them to appreciate that “in the chickadee class, children use chickadee writing” and that their writing will change as they change and grow. When the book is finished, we take a video of the author “reading” the book from beginning to end, supporting the author as the process unfolds.

As children make more and more books on their own, their confidence with writing tools, their pretend play, and with picture books grows. We see more children “reading” on their own or with friends at our quiet book times. Puppet shows begin to have dialogue and clear beginnings, middles and ends. Children notice details in picture books more carefully, and retell familiar stories with increasing detail as they take in more clues from the pictures. More children join in the spontaneous word play, rhyming and chanting that occur throughout the day, and more children express a growing interest in letters and words around our classroom. It’s an exciting process to watch unfold!

We are in the process of setting up a page for parents of children currently enrolled at LCP on the website (www.learningcirclepreschool.org) so that you’ll be able to see some sample videos of children reading their books (some use names so these stories are in a privacy protected area). We hope you will look for them soon, and appreciate all the learning taking place!

3daywritingtable

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about shapes

Math Explorations in Art

Follofloorpatternblockswing up on the children’s on-going interest in exploring shapes and patterns with pattern blocks –thinking about how shapes can be combined to form new shapes, and thinking about the patterns that result from careful placement of shapes – teachers decided to present a printing experience that could continue and deepen these conversations and investigations.patternblocks

During an art enrichment afternoon, teachers and children began by comparing a variety of shapes, noting the number of sides on each, and their relative sizes. It’s important as children develop their mathematical thinking to assure that they have the language to express their ideas, and this group conversation clarified what children have already noticed about shapes. The children were fascinated as they thought together at the words they knew. For example, the word triangle, with 3 sides, starts just like the word tricycle, with 3 wheels. Since a bicycle has 2 wheels, does that mean “bi” has something to do with 2?

After this discussion, the children looked together at a variety stencils – one with a variety of triangles, another with a variety of rectangles, and a third with circles. To create prints, each child would choose complementary colors, and see how these shapes would look when laid out on top of each other.

There were problems to be solved as the children began, and new discoveries to be made. One child used very deep colors, and there was a concern that the first colors wouldn’t dry quickly enough for a good second color. Paper towels were used to blot some of the extra paint, and the result was some really interesting textures to explore. In some cases colors looked different than anticipated because the background paper wasn’t white. When colors overlapped mixing occurred, with new colors apparent. When a teacher held up one child’s work so that she could look it over at some distance, she said, “I can see the shadow of the triangles that were there before!” Each placement, the order in which shapes were added, the color choices, all led to new discoveries to talk about together, and this added to the children’s sense of excitement and engagement in the process of creating.

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During the following art enrichment afternoon, the teacher showed children how shapes can look different depending on their placement. Flipping a triangle, or using different colors for the shape or it’s background can lead to very different results. If you think about the patterns and colors in patchwork quilts you’ll have a good sense of what the children and teachers were thinking about together. The children’s creative process followed, when they cut smaller shapes from larger ones, chose their own colors, placed their shapes in relation to each other, and then glued everything down for a finished piece. Every approach was different, so in this experience, just like the first week’s, there was lots to talk about together, many comparisons to make, and problems to solve.

The children haven’t lost interest in these investigations yet. Perhaps children will study one artist’s use of shape placement, and that will offer some inspirations for the children’s own creations. Perhaps they’ll try some mosaics or quilt patterns, both built from combining smaller shapes to create new patterns. Art experiences will continue to offer the children a language through which they can think about, investigate, talk about, and create with, the shapes and patterns they investigate in their environment.

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Trying to Warm the Ice

Beginning Investigations of Ice

With this frigid weather we’ve been having lately, it seemed like a good time to introduce the chickadee children to an investigation of ice.

It’s easy to underestimate the powerful learning that can happen when children are encouraged to wonder more deeply about the properties of something in their everyday experience. All the children have had previous experience with ice and cold. What would they wonder about if we put out a few ice blocks? Would they notice the crystals and bubbles that formed as the ice hardened? Would they notice changes in the ice blocks over time as the ice melted, and would they have the language to describe those changes? Would they be interested in sliding the ice across the galvanized steel tabletop tray we offered, and would they notice the water droplets, and then puddles, that formed paths as the ice moved across the tray?

For most children, their first investigation at the ice table was a tentative one. “What’s this?” “It’s ice!” “It’s cold!” Fingertips touched, pulled away quickly and then touched again. When a teacher suggested rubbing hands and fingers together to keep warm, a game of touching ice and then rubbing hands together, giggling, quickly developed.

A few children returned to the table multiple times through the day, and then through the week. Some brought magnifiers to see crystals more closely. One child noticed that when he tried to push the ice it was stuck to the tray at first. When it melted a bit it was easy to slide. He came to the table often, trying to push the pieces of ice faster and faster across the tray as the ice melted.

As the children noticed the ice melting, many asked, “What happened to the ice?” In these moments teachers repeat the question rather than answering it. It’s the process of exploration and wondering that leads children to their own discoveries, and having an answer is often less important than that process. What did happen to the ice? Children said, “The ice is disappearing!” A few children clarified for others that the ice was melting (they had the word) but many did not. Instead, noticing the disappearing ice, children put their fingers first on the ice, and then on the deepening puddles of water next to the ice. What’s going on here?

It was a surprise to teachers that the most intriguing question that children investigated this week came from one child’s interest in warming the ice. “The ice is too cold – how can we warm it?” Teachers simply said, “I wonder”. She decided that putting a paper towel on the ice should warm it (after all, going under a blanket warms us doesn’t it?) This began a weeklong investigation involving many children as they placed paper towels on ice, found that some got wet, others stuck to the ice, and none really warmed it up. What’s going on here?

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Science and Math

Is my child ready for kindergarten?

That’s a question we hear often. With kindergarten information meetings scheduled and registration for public school programs beginning, many parents of eligible children are thinking about their options, and trying to imagine how their children might fare. There are also families with children who are not “age eligible” for kindergarten. These families may be considering preschool options with the thought that their children might be ready for something different.

In both situations, a transitional kindergarten program can serve as a bridge and offer children the gift of time to develop socially, emotionally, physically or academically. At the Learning Circle, the curriculum is geared to meet the developmental needs of five year olds, but is adapted to meet the unique and individual needs of each child as they grow. Children are challenged in those areas in which they need challenge, and supported in those areas of development in which they are less secure. Class size is small to assure individual attention, and the setting is warm, flexible and nurturing. There are projects and other experiences that support skill development and challenge children academically, as well as extended time for creative use of open-ended materials and play. Having this extra year to grow can make a tremendous difference to children’s confidence in their ability to learn and express themselves fully in a school setting.

A transitional kindergarten program can serve as a bridge and offer children the gift of time to develop socially, emotionally, physically or academically.

Age eligibility for kindergarten may also be worth thinking about well before your child is five. If you have a younger child who will miss the age requirements for kindergarten when the time comes, you may see your almost three year old as ready to start preschool, but may worry about the prospect of three preschool years before kindergarten. If this is the case, consider asking questions about the ways each prospective program you visit can individualize curriculum so that your child is both supported and challenged at each point of their development. Considering these issues early can help reduce the number of transitions in your child’s early school experiences.

The Goldfinch class at the Learning Circle accepts older pre-k children who are not yet eligible for a public school kindergarten but who may benefit developmentally from a transitional class, as well as children who will make the transition to first grade in the following year. It is taught by Barbara Lapal, a certified, nurturing teacher who has taught in both public and private school settings at the pre-k and kindergarten level, and Anne Regnier, an experienced teacher of primary-age children with expertise in teaching, reading and literacy and with a background as a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher for the public schools. The program is highly individualized, the schedule is flexible, and the class can accommodate families that prefer an all day option (8:30-2:45 or longer on four days, with a half day on Friday), as well as those looking for half day and/or kindergarten enrichment options. Extended program options for any child at Learning Circle Preschool can be arranged between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the benefits of transitional kindergartens, we invite you to tour our school and speak directly with our teachers.

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