Sunday, October 28, 2012

Math is Everywhere!

Many of our workplaces in math are designed for pattern replication . . . and boy oh boy do they love to replicate patterns! It's to the point now that they use patterns in their free play with blocks, toy food in the kitchen area, drawing and coloring, etc. They are beginning to notice patterns around them in nature, on the playground, walking in the halls, and in everything we do in math. This is an easy one to continue at home or on the road as math is everywhere!

Once a week we have a guest in our classroom who loves math almost as much as the children . . . Sophie the Therapy Dog. Sophie has been visiting my classrooms for the past 2 years and always listened to children read aloud. This year our schedules didn't work out so Sophie (and her owner Nancy) decided to give math a try. So far the children have taken turns sequencing number cards in counting order and then reading them back to Sophie. 

For children that may be shy to participate in front of others or hesitant to try something new, Sophie's quiet presence encourages them to keep trying. They want to be successful for Sophie and are willing to put themselves out on the line in front of her as she never judges. We love Sophie!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to your child can be one of your best parenting experiences! I hope that you and your child create many loving memories as you explore children's books together.

  Don't wait until you think your child is "old enough" to be read to. You both can enjoy this experience sooner than you think--well before your child's first birthday.

  Make reading aloud a daily habit! It's a wonderful routine to help your child prepare for bedtime. Like all habits, this one may take a while to get established, but hang in there until it's a daily (or nightly) routine.

  Try to select an enjoyable core of books your child can choose from. Do they have bright, colorful pictures? Does the language flow in an enjoyable way as you read it, or does it sound unnatural and halting? Are the stories about topics your child might be interested in?

  Remember to keep it fun! Try to allow your child to select the books to be read. Yes, it's hard to read a book for the umpteenth time (We've been there!) but your child will gain a lot from these repeated readings--both emotionally and in preparation for his or her own reading development.

  Previewing books with your children is part of the fun! Look at the pictures and talk about them. As you chat about the pictures, you prepare your children to enjoy the book, and you can explain some words or names they will hear when you begin reading.

  This is an experience that you can really "get into." Roar like a lion, squeak like a mouse, and read your stories with great feeling!

  You'll want to be physically close to your child as you share books together. One of the best parts about reading aloud is having your child sit on your lap, or snuggled up to you.

  An enjoyable alternative to reading aloud can be the stories that you tell yourself! Your children will enjoy the tall tales you make up, or the family stories that you remember. But be sure to read books or tell a story EVERY DAY!

  Your children will probably want you to continue reading to them long after they are capable of doing it independently--because reading aloud isn't just about reading. It's a warm, loving experience that I hope that you'll continue for as long as your child desires.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Types of Play

There are different types of play, and they often overlap in rich play scenarios. Knowing and watching for the broad types helps sensitize adults to the shifting landscapes children create. It also provides a tool for assessing whether or not I am providing adequate opportunities and materials for all types of play. This post will focus on large-motor play and small-motor play.

Children love to climb, run, slide, swing, jump, and engage in every type of movement possible. Such play develops coordination, balance, and a sense of one's body in the space around it. In the classroom we have scheduled movement breaks, sometimes they are in the shape of music and dance (thank you youtube), yoga, or simply taking a couple of laps around the room while counting off. During choice times the children often pull out the balance beam and practice various routines. Imaginative play often results in laps around the room as the characters they have assumed work through various scenarios. Getting up and getting active creates a chemical change in ones brain which allows for growth of brain cells, activity activates learning!

Play with small toys and activities like stringing beads, playing with puzzles, and sorting objects into types develops dexterity. Every day we practice our pencil grip and handwriting in a variety of different ways. Correct pencil grip begins with sitting on the whole chair, pinching thumb and pointer finger, and resting the writing tool on the middle and ring finger. We do this with pencils, markers, white board crayons, SMART board stylus, and pens. Different tools glide differently on different surfaces making it quite a challenge to master a skill we consider second nature. Practicing letters and numbers with Doodle Buddy on an iPad is worth its weight in gold. The children are able to use a pointer finger to help master the strokes and directionality prior to taking it to paper, and its so motivating! As well we engage in a variety of art projects each and every day that have the children cutting, gluing, painting, drawing, and generally manipulating small objects. Choice time gives the children an opportunity to play with loads of small toys all of which require snapping together in one way or another. The latest choice activity involves sewing!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Publishing to a Larger Audience

Here in the Williston Schools, we believe it is important for our students to publish to a larger audience. By that, we mean creating work that is to be seen by more than just their classroom teacher.
Here are thoughts about why we are striving to do this for and with our students:

  1. They have an actual audience to write or create for.  The writing/work is no longer just for us but the whole world. A student’s work will quickly improve with a real audience. With comments from a real audience providing proper feedback, the student gets a better sense of impact on the audience as well as recognition for accuracy and focus. Of course it is also on the teacher to teach students how to responsibly comment and respond on other’s posts. Our students need to interact and communicate with others - peers, educators, and experts within or outside school - and build the feedback received into their work. It also makes students aware that someone else (other than their teacher) is reading or viewing, and cares
  2. It opens a dialogue.  Students have a direct line to their teacher and to anyone else they are connected with.  
  3. It establishes their Internet identity in safe manner.  Students are getting on the Internet earlier and earlier so as teachers and parents it is vital we embrace this opportunity to teach them safety.  In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world.
  4. They teach each other.  That says it all!
  5. They are global citizens and global collaborators.  We speak of creating global citizens but then forget to actually connect kids with kids.  Our hope is that this year there will be even more connecting and collaborating within and beyond our school walls.
  6. Transparency.  Let’s share the amazing things we concoct. Sharing and collaborating opens up the door and shows the whole world what is happening. Our students have an opportunity to inspire others.
  7. We give them a voice.  Students need a way to express themselves to take ownership of their learning. Through our work students will tell the world their thoughts on education, their learning and their needs.
  8. Critical Thinking   Publishing our work opens doors and increases the concept of being a critical reader. Students will examine their own work more critically before publishing it, knowing that they have a larger audience.