Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Little Cloud

As an extension of our Eric Carle author study and an opportunity for discovery, exploration, and imagination, we took a trip to the art museum! A wonderful employee at the museum read "Little Cloud" and then she and the children worked together to interpret paintings with clouds.  They were really engaged and did a great job determining what kind of day it was, where the sun might be, what it felt like in the painting, just by examining the paintings! Then, they used cotton balls and crayons to make their own cloud pictures. 
After our trip, we revisited "Little Cloud" with our new copy of the book. Then we went outside to make some observations of real clouds! The children had a great time looking at the clouds and discussing what shapes and images they saw. Clouds are so cool, aren't they? They "change" into so many things! We talked about making our very own book about a little cloud.

Making observations is fun!
When we went back into the classroom, each child received a blue piece of paper with the words "The little cloud changed into a ________". I offered the children the option of using paint or glue and white streamer paper for making their clouds. They all had great ideas (unicorn, hermit crabs, me!!) and followed through, taking their time. When they finished making their clouds, they wrote whatever they made their clouds look like and also wrote their names. There was invented spelling and letter strings - what's not to love about emergent literacy?? 
The only problem with the paint/paintbrushes and the streamer paper was that it went on so quickly, and it was so much so quickly! They will still make beautiful pages in our book, but it made me rethink the materials that we used. 

I did the same activity with a different group today - some things were better and some things were not - but this is what's interesting and wonderful about school.... the teachers and students are ALL learning. Today, of course, was a completely clear, blue sky kind of day, so we couldn't really observe clouds. We still revisited the book though and talked about what clouds look like. So it could have been better if we had clouds, but it still worked out. What definitely seemed to work better than the first time around was that I still provided paint, but instead of using paintbrushes, the children used Q-tips. It made for much more detailed illustrating and because it took longer for the paint to get onto the paper, we had more time to hold conversation during our work. 

There are one or two small groups who haven't met with me for this observation/bookmaking, so we will see what changes, works, doesn't work... it's always an experiment isn't it? 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Title Undecided (But a GREAT book!)

I wanted to share another story made by a group of children. The authors of this story are three 3 year olds and a 4 year old. One of the 3 year olds insisted that the story begin with "hello" and end not with "the end", but "goodbye". I thought that was really beautiful because in telling the story, we are communicating with one another, having a conversation - I love it. The students came up with the words of the story during a small group meeting recently, and today we reread it and the children made illustrations to go with the story. I won't say anymore yet, I'll just share the story and illustrations: 

Hello. A huge dinosaur eats a little dinosaur. 
The little monkey plays with the Incredible Hulk hermit crab.
And the huge dinosaur loves the Incredible Hulk. 
The monkey went away. They don't know what to do.
The Incredible Hulk saves the big, huge dinosaur from the museum. 
The Incredible Hulk was still alive and he got all his Incredible Hulk family. Goodbye.

FYI, Incredible Hulk is our pet hermit crab - he's rather large and is famous in our classroom for pinching me - he latched on to me, it was pretty painful! 

It was really wonderful to break this project into different days, rereading the story today with the children and revisiting the experience with them before making illustrations. The students were so excited, remembering what they had said, reciting it with me and exclaiming "Oooh! I said that!" Each child remembered exactly which parts of the story they had contributed - it was just a great day! 

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Pond

We LOVE books. My students are always asking to be read to, in large group and as a cozy, individual activity during center time. We talk about books always, making connections to our own lives and other books that we have read. We are still working loosely on our Eric Carle author study; the children love cuddling up with the stuffed animals and reading to themselves, each other, and me.

About a month ago, we made a book for a loved volunteer and put a copy in our library center. I'm excited to share that we have recently begun meeting in small groups to be authors and illustrators of stories to add to our collection!

The children came up with the words to the story and then I typed them up. Today, I read the story back to the children and they made the illustrations. I really love their story - they included characters, setting, plot, AND predictive text.

"The Pond" 

The animals are walking and they see a big pond. There was a bridge so they can walk across it.

Then they walked on the playground. They slide down the sliding board. They went on the swings.

Then the lion said, "Can I get a cookie?" And his mom said, "No".

The tortoise said, "Can I get ice cream?" And his mom said, "No".
The rabbit said, "Can I have a sandwich?" And his mom said, "Yes".

They ride the bike and the scooter, taking turns. THE END. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Taking Flight

I believe that there is something invaluable about a field trip - each one provides a real life, discovery filled experience - one that cannot be found in the classroom. I work in an area overflowing with information and resources, and I've made a vow to myself and class to take my students on as many field trips as possible. Last week, we went to a museum to watch an interactive puppet show about the Wright brothers and to learn about airplanes. 
The end of the show - the kids were amazed when the big plane came up at the end! 

The actual show was not the only learning experience of the day, not even close. We walked several blocks to a bus stop, and then took our very first bus ride together. 
Everyone did such a great job! 

I was just a little bit nervous that we wouldn't make it to the bus on time, and therefore, would be late for the show. So, we left WAY early and got to the museum early. It worked out wonderfully, though, as we were able to explore a couple of exhibits before we had to settle in for the show. 
Flying through the museum :-)

I had been excited and optimistic about the field trip, but I really had no idea just how engaged and curious the children would be. Each student found interest in the things around him/her, whether it was the touch screen computer, the airplanes hanging from the ceiling, the singing and dancing in the show, and/or the fascinating contraptions that were were allowed and ENCOURAGED to touch! Parents, teachers, and children had the opportunity to come together in wonder and awe; pointing, exclaiming, sharing, smiling, discovering. 
This is the engagement we strive for everyday! 
LOVE this picture - one of our three year olds - he couldn't get close enough! 

Working the gears
Three of our students got to be in the show! 

We leran by DOING, we learn by EXPERIENCING, we learn by GETTING OUT INTO THE WORLD and EXPLORING. So guess what? Field trip next week too! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Light Discovery and Literacy!

I recently posted about our new light table - a world of possibility opened up, although once it was plugged in, I had no idea what to do with it. Thanks to some really great comments here and collaboration at my school, we have many ideas about how to discover and explore using this wonderful material! 
Here, the children are using their fine motor skills poking holes in black paper (placed on top of styrofoam)  with thumb tacks to make pictures - the holes allow the light to peek through, they turn out to be really beautiful!

Today, we received a new light-giving material in our classroom: an overhead projector. It was really exciting to introduce it to the children; we did it right after morning meeting. Each child wanted to put their hand over the projector to see it on the wall, and we did that, but after a couple of children had gotten the chance, others discovered that if they just stood in front of the wall, they could make shadows of their bodies. It was quite the experience! 

Of course, this would be the center that every child would want to go to at center time, and I worried about how we could organize it without fighting and tantrums. 

I had just been reading about ways to meaningfully incorporate writing into the classroom (as in, not having the students writing their letters for the sole sake of learning how to write their letters, but rather, fostering the love of the writing process and development). So, I took some advice and we made a sign up sheet. 

For the first couple minutes, some of the students either didn't understand the concept of the sign up or didn't care - there was still an overcrowded group around the projector. After a couple of breaths, reminding about the sign up sheet ( showing the students the list and where their names appeared on the list in relation to the students currently at the projector), and redirection to another appealing center while they waited, pretty much everyone was content with our new system. 

There were some students who could NOT wait to get involved in light and shadow play, and  spent their waiting time on the carpet playing with some of the objects for the projector and/or making shadows on the wall. 
This friend was using a star, putting it closer and farther away, watching how the image changes on the wall.

All in all, we made huge strides in our class today: we discovered more about light and shadow, we learned more about sharing, AND we incorporated literacy in a developmentally appropriate, play-based, child directed way (which is something that I continue to work on as I learn about Reggio Emilia and play-based learning. Can't wait to see where this brings us! 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eric Carle Part Two

Over the break, I picked up some $5.00 hardcover Eric Carle books and stuffed animals (from Kohls - GREAT buy!) They were a big hit with the kids, who cuddled with them while their friends read the Eric Carle books they took home to read over Christmas. 

It was really interesting and lovely having our friends share the books they read over and over while at home for two weeks. 

It was great - each student shared in their own way. Some students looked at the pictures for clues about the story and told it in their own words, while other children had the book mostly memorized and read the books all of the way through. Others combined what they remembered being read to them and added dialogue and details as they used the pictures and general plot to help them generate their own versions. Everyone had a wonderful time sharing and listening. 

Today, we went further in our study of Eric Carle. We recalled what an author is - "it's someone that writes their book" .... "and the characters too". Then we started to focus on the job of the illustrator. We watched the videos available on Eric Carle's Website that showed HOW he makes illustrations. The children (and I) were fascinated, and it generated a lot of questions and conversation. We talked about the many ways that one could illustrate. 

One of the children asked if we could illustrate (which was the PERFECT segue into our next activity). We came together as a small group to come up with a story. We were able to get the words together, so in the coming days (and let's be realistic, week or two), we are going to be working on a title, title page, and our very own illustrations! 

Here is our story, can't wait to share our book!: 

The animals are walking and they see a big pond. There was a bridge so they can walk across it. Then they walked on the playground. They slide down the sliding board. They went on the swings. Then the lion said, "can I get a cookie?" And his mom said, "no". The tortoise said, can I get ice cream?" And his mom said, "no". The rabbit said, "can I have a sandwich?". And his mom said, "yes". They ride the bike and the scooter, taking turns. The End. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

So What's With The Light Table??

Okay, so everywhere I look for early childhood ideas (books, blogs, etc.), I see light exploration. I was told that it’s such an important thing to explore because it’s a “magical material”; it can make shadows, it can make things glow, it can change the appearance of something, it can be reflected, it just is really cool! 
I decided, I just HAD to have one. I dreamt up great images of children gathering around in wonder, engaging in deep, thoughtful, and scientific conversations, embarking on discovery after discovery - what, did I think I was going to change the world by presenting a light table?  
Our light table - we change where we put it everyday.. this is just where it is put when we are not using it (for now)
I was fortunate enough to have one donated to me through a wonderful organization, Donors Choose, and I received it just before we went on our long winter break. I decided to not break it out before we left; I waited until our return to school (resisting the HUGE temptation of breaking it open and discovering the magic for myself). 
These are the materials for the kids to work with - any ideas? We are not just limited to this, just thought it would be a good starting point
A small group of students were invited to choose the light table as a place to go during center time on Monday, and 3 or 4 children have been visiting at this time every day since. The problem is, I thought that I would have all of these great things for the kids to do and thought provoking questions to ask, and when the time came - I just drew a complete blank! 
One student was particularly interested - he just couldn't get close enough!
It was really “cool” to the children right away, when they first had the opportunity to explore the new material in our classroom. We started just with shapes, and the kids took to them differently. Some wanted to hoard the pretty shapes, holding as many as they could while others sorted by color/shape or pretended that the shapes were cookies that they were going to “eat”. 
There was talk about shapes and colors, but for the most part, the interest died after a little bit, and I certainly didn’t feel much magic. 
I’ve run into this problem before, with introducing things. I know that many teachers have used the light table for awesome discoveries, projects, all sorts of things - I need some help! 
What do I say (or not say????)
What do I do (or not do????)
What’s with the light table?