Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas spirit....

I can smell it in the air. Christmas is upon us! Can you smell it too? The children at preschool surely can.. Here are a few things we have started doing in our classroom in anticipation of the big day!

A countdown to Christmas.. just a cardboard circle with wooden pegs.. We take a peg each day to see how many "sleeps" are left before Santa comes..

I made another batch of play dough and added red food colouring and cinnamon to make it a bit more festive. It also ads to the sensorial teachings in our classroom. I picked a few Christmas cake decorations to the try and voila! Kids loved it.. we have had so many variations of Christmas cakes since I introduced the activity to the shelves!

We started making Christmas decorations too.. cardboard and waving. Nice results! 

This year, we also made paper chain.. I had never done that with the children before but they were well able to do it and worked very hard to make their chain as long as possible. 

Of course, this is only the beginning. So stay tuned to see more...

Pass the bear, 12,3...

This month, we have talked about BEARS, BEARS, BEARS.
First, I integrated a bit of science in the curriculum and I made up a little book showing the children the different types of bears, their body parts, their habitat and what they eat. Circle times have never been as quiet as when we opened up this simple informative DIY book!! Kids were mesmerized and I was amazed at how spongy their little brains were: after just one day, they could remember the names of most bears pictured in the booklet.

The last page of the book pictures a teddy bear. It was a wonderful opportunity to compare real bears vs fantasy/fictional bears.

We then read Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. It's a wonderful tale teaching children about respecting other people's property and  having good manners. But it also gave us the chance to compare real bears with fictional bears. I asked the children to think what real bears could do: hunt, sniff, eat, run, fish, hibernate. They don't have houses, clothes or furniture. they have claws, fur and sharp teeth. What about the 3 bears? They can climb stairs, they can use spoons, chairs, they can talk. They act like real people but they are "pretend".
Each time I read the story, I ask the children to guess what was coming next in the story. By the end of the week, they were able to use the terms of "big/middle-sized/small" with ease. They were able to grade paper bears in their work copy from big to small, allowing us to cover part of our maths curriculum too.
Oh, and did I forget to say that we had a teddy bear picnic? So much fun!!  I asked the kids to bring their favourite bears to school on Friday. What a great selection! The kids really loved it! It was our first time doing it . it was so simple to organise and so popular. I never thought the children would have shown so much joy!
For maths, we also placed our bears from bigger to smaller...

And of course, as we had been learning about hibernation, we made beds for our teddys. Some of you might think it is a bit far stretched but it works well with children. As we studied real bears and pretend bears, the children were well able to explain that these beds were not the real habitat of big scary bears. It was just a bit of fun and imagination mixed to our nature studies... The children provided empty shoe box and decorated them. We then filled it in with shredded paper (I apologised for the mess it may have caused at home afterwards!! ooooppps!) and made little pillows out of socks and old fleecy jumpers. And let's not forget blankets!!

And to finish the day, we played a new game: "pass the teddy bear". The children sat in a circle and passed a stuffed bear around the circle when the music was playing. When it stopped, the child holding the bear went to sit in the middle and stayed there until he/she was replaced by another child once the music had stopped again. We also chanted "pass the bear, pass the bear, 1, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10".. Great little practice for counting..


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Round and round we go...

Emergent writing skills is such an important step for young childre. It's the time when they develop literacy and language-arts abilities. As children move from the toddler and preschool years to bigger classes, they move through stages of colouring, scribbling, mock handwriting, tracing etc... 

Preschoolers should be able to choose from a variety of different "writing" materials and activities. Pencils, wax crayons, paint, chalk etc.. Try using shaving cream and see the fun!! Or finger painting as we often do in our class. During these activities, children develop crucial fine-motor skills and coordination abilities . And the new activity I am about to talk about is one you can use to help children build their confidence. Here is what I have introduced to our classroom: a new pre- tracing exercise. This year, some of the younger children are struggling with any pre-writing activities we have introduced them to. This exercise requires patience and concentration and teaches them to follow a shape or a design very carefully to create a "piece of art". So I drew a few shapes on black paper with a white crayon, laminated them and place them in a tray with a basket of buttons. The children were quite interested in the activity and here are some photos to prove it.

The list of materials that can used here is endless: buttons, shells, pebbles, dry beans, chick peas... anything at all really... As for the design, just let your imagination go wild!!!! So easy to make, and shoe fertile when finished!! And kids love them!!! The children are currently gluing buttons on a black sheet and will be able to bring this craft home to show their parents. I will update this post with a few photos when they are all ready.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gosh, I do love Autum time!

Autumn time is really here. Here are a few self-explanatory pictures to show you what is going on in our classroom at the moment to celebrate Autumn. 
  • Learning about acorns:

using seeds to fill in the template

  • Our Autumn Table interest:

the Root Children

  • Halloween decorations


More ideas to come for Halloween .. Keep in touch! I hope you like it so far..


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Play Dough Fun

I heard one mother the other day talking about how she has never encouraged her children to play with play dough in their house because she said she simply could not cope with MESS!! 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Little Red Hen

If you have read my last post (here), you know how strong I feel about fairy tales. So, two weeks ago, we started reading the Little Red Hen as its moral teaching coincides with what we are working on with the children this September: work ethics, personal initiative, responsibility and cooperation and much much more.

Fairy tales: Montessori versus Waldorf

Last week and this week, we have been working on the Little Red Hen story. I am trying this year to compliment our curriculum by integrating fairy tale - based projects and activities. Why? Because I have come to realise that fairy tales can carry all the important angles of our program. Fairy tales are timeless and they can open the door to many discussion, topics and issues. They work because the children love them and have heard about them already, one way or another.
As I explained before, Montessori doesn't agree with the use of fantasy in books. WHY? Simply because Montessori didn't believe that a young child is able to grasp abstract concepts and that children don't know what is real and what isn't. In the Montessori method of education, the young child (0-5) needs to know and understand the real world before they can appreciate and participate in a made up world of fantasy. Therefore, one of the main reasons why fantasy is not a part of the Montessori curriculum is because it "apparently" disorients young children. This is why Montessori doesn't encourage fantasy play and why in most Montessori preschools, you will not find a play corner or dress ups. This is also why Montessori refers to the activities of the child as “work” rather than play. These reality-based activities (like cutting, polishing, sweeping, cleaning, watering etc..) are important because the children see them as the work of adults (rather than the fantasy play that has no grounding in reality). Materials used in a Montessori classroom are real: there is no pretend kitchen but real plates, pots and utensils. And the children learn how to use them to make a snack for instance.

The most rigid Montessorian will explain to you that dramatic/imaginative play DOES take place in a Montessori classroom as for instance, when a child is preparing food, he/she often takes the role of the mother/the father. When he cuts paper in zigzag, he ends up with a crown he wears proudly as the new King in the classroom. And I do agree with this aspect of the method. Children do enjoy "working" with real apparatus. No plastic please, no fake forks and knives. Let them re-enact what they see at home.

Maria Montessori pushed the theory further by refusing to read fairy tales to the children as she believed that though beautiful stories, they had no place in a classroom at "work". Here is something I really struggle to reconcile with. So, if I was to follow the Montessorian method rigidly, having  children believing in Santa and the Easter bunny would be harmful? Reading them stories about with animals that talk and act like us would be a bad thing to do?  Having a bit of magic in their childhood can damage them? Rubbish!!! This is where I differ from the traditional Montessorisan teaching method.  If the children do find it hard to draw a line between what's real and what 's not, it is only at their sweetest and youngest age and soon, reality sets in and set them straight  (and nowadays, with the help of technology and media) it happens much sooner than before.. Not to my liking! Children do not grow up to believe that Dora the explorer is real. Have you ever heard a child saying that he believed monkeys talked and wore boots? While my son watched Thomas the Tank Engine, or Handy Mandy, he never  expected to climb on a train or use a hammer and heard both of them say "hello" to him!!. These characters are fun and entertaining. Let's not put too much pressure too quick on little mind. And the process of realising what's real and what's not is part of a learning process and intellectual growth. This is why, even though we follow the Montessori method of Education, I do read fairy tales and many of our books have talking animals as main characters. And by incorporating storytelling and fantasy in our curriculum, we do as Waldorf recommended and we nourish the young child’s healthy imagination and creative thinking powers. This way, the children get the best of both worlds/dimensions: imagination through hand-on experiences (Montessori) and role play/dramatic play (Waldorf).  



Saturday, September 14, 2013

Expanding the lessons of the Kissing Hand

One of the books I like to use at the beginning of a school year is the Kissing Hand. It's about a little raccoon Chester who doesn't want to leave his mother to go to school.

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to build a castle...

I am so glad I have developed our new construction area in the classroom. We used to have one before but it was too small and it was shared with the reading corner, the circle time area and the science corner. Too much happening at the same place, too many kids wanting to use the mat at the same time. Less room for creativity and imagination.  I read so much this summer and I came to firmly believe that I couldn't offer my children the learning experiences they needed without having a block corner. Blocks are the epitome of open-ended materials and they are a must if I want to allow children to express their creativity. When they design and build, they are learning, discovering, growing and developing skills essential to their understanding of the world around them. When a child plays with a block, he must think creatively, learn to solve problems, negotiate and invent. Building a tower or a bridge teaches them about balance, stability. They will also learn about symmetry. They make mistakes and learn at the same time. And hey, why don't you add mirror and see how suddenly, you have added a dimension of height and perspective to their learning too.
I was sitting on the mat with a group of children yesterday and asked them if I could look at them and if they could teach me how to build something with the wooden blocks. I sat very silently at the beginning and the children went on explaining to me what they were doing as they went on with their work. It was quite interesting. Look at this:

Using blue fabric to create water under the castle

Adding a bridge over the water, using brown felt for the animals in the field, and green felt for the forest!

And here is a field of hay

The children taught it would be easier for the people living in the castle to use stairs

Pink fabric = field of pink flowers

Adding a slide for the animals

a fence for the farm animals

Here are some animals under the second castle the children built.

Mind blowing!!!