Saturday, March 5, 2011

Collages: What to do about space

One problem that I have often had with collages, specifically collages that involve cutting magazines, etc, in preschool is that there just never seems to be enough room.  The magazines get scattered all over table, they lose the picture they just cut out, and you start hearing "hey, you have your book on MY paper!"  It's a jungle... what's a teacher to do?

Now, I love the collages they make with magazines the best (although I love collages in general),  I love seeing the things that each child picks and the things that each one finds interesting- sometimes I am amazed by these things.  On the other hand, in the past, I have hated these the most for just the reason described above- there wasn't enough room, they couldn't organize their materials, and in the end there were scraps all over the floor.  So, as a solution, I have systematized the magazine collage process, in an easy, comprehensible manner suited (I believe) to preschoolers.

she is cutting on her tray; to the left you can see her collection of pictures

Set up:  Put trays on the table.  On each tray put a pair of child's scissors.  Put two or three piles of magazines on the table (with maybe five magazines in each pile so that they are easy to paw through).  On a shelf or other unit beside the table have glue ready.  For this activity I prefer glue with brushes or paste works really well for magazines.  Have a garbage close by so as the "scrap" pieces from the pictures they cut out accumulate you can toss them.

Instructions to the children:  Tell each child that he or she may use the tray that they are sitting in front of to collect their magazine cuttings for the collage and to let you know when they are ready for their big paper and glue.  (Once they are ready for paper and glue, help them to push the tray back on the table so that it is just behind their collage paper, then put the glue on their tray as well).

using the tray to keep her pictures organized as she pastes them to paper.

The benefits:  Each child uses the tray to put their magazine on and cut and set the collage items on.  Their "pictures" don't get lost, and it creates for them their own space.  It is easy to keep the magazines in order and not all over the table by either reminding them to put the magazine back in the pile or by putting it back yourself, as you are monitoring, once they have finished.  Some might not consider the following a benefit, but I do: they cut out many more pictures than they need and so they end up making two or three or six collages from what they have cut out.  By separating this into steps it takes a lot less time as well because they aren't going back and forth from cutting to gluing to cutting to gluing or losing their precious "pictures."  Because of this they do not tire of the activity; in the past they would "be done" after finding only a few pictures because (it seemed) they tired of going back and forth between the two activities.  Now, as I mentioned, they find dozens of pictures and make multiple collages from them.  For some children this is also an added bonus because it allows them to do spacial planning; putting the pictures on the paper before gluing to see how to make use of the space.

For a post about other types of collages go here!

Happy collage-ing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shaving cream play without the mess!

I am the kind of teacher who is not afraid of getting messy, but sometimes it is nice to have a two- paper- towel- job instead of a five- beach- towel- job; It is especially nice if in many respects it is every bit as fun.


Today we played with shaving cream in a bag- I had to pre- ration the shaving cream first because if there is too much in the bag then the bag will pop and second because I only had a can and a half of shaving cream left.  

The project is simple- set out a few containers of food coloring in primary colors and plastic ziplock bags full of shaving cream.  Allow the children to add food coloring to their bag, squeeze the air out of it, zip it, and allow the children to play with the bag.  Some of them squish it, some roll it around, and some push it around on the table.  This is still a great sensory experience for them, and as an added bonus they learn about mixing colors! 

For other fun shaving cream activities check out these blog entries:
Building Experiences (scroll down to the bottom for a cool building project with shaving cream)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Oh, how I wanted to be at school today!  The kids love Dr. Seuss!  Unfortunately, I have been home sick today.  On a positive note, children don't mind celebrating birthdays a day late so tomorrow we will celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday.
Dr. Seuss has a way of playing with the English language that few others can, in addition to being able to tap into the emotions and sense of humor of children everywhere.  Not only do children love Dr. Seuss but teachers do too! According to literacy research "the roots of phonemic awareness, a powerful predictor of later reading success, are found in traditional rhyming, skipping, and word games." (Susan Neuman, Learning to Read an Write); and Dr. Seuss is the master of this kind of language!

So, as I have nothing else to write about, (since I was home today), I leave you with a story written by one of my kids, borrowing language from Dr. Seuss.

There was a Bingo and there was a tomato.
Tomato, Tomato, I can't find you.
Tomato, Tomato, Tomato.
Tomato I can't find you in a sock or in a block.
I can't find you here or there.  I can't find you anywhere!
Socky, Socky, where are you?  
Make up words, I can't do.  
Socky, Socky, where are you?
Socky, Socky, I can't find you.
You are always lost. Nowhere to be found.
Socky, Socky, Socky, you're my friend!
I can't find you anywhere.
Socky, socky, I want you, you're not no where to be found.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Encouraging Reading Acquisition

As teachers or parents of preschoolers there are so many things we can do to encourage literacy acquisition for our children; Unfortunately, sometimes it is easy to stand in their way and not even know it.  In this entry I would like to address two common practices in preschool classrooms and why they should be modified.  (Yes, I am aware that this will not be an exceedingly popular post and that upon reading the first three sentences many people will navigate away from this page; I implore you to stick with me, and perhaps even leave some feedback- whether agreeable or disagreeable). Often in preschool classrooms there is a tendency to read a book once or maybe twice- usually that book coincides with whatever unit they are teaching.  The other tendency is to keep the "beat up" or "cheap" books in the children's book area and not in the the library area.

According to the book Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children by Susan B. Neuman in collaboration with Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp,  "the single most important activity [in building the skills essential to literacy] appears to be reading to children."  While few would dispute this fact the authors also assert the opinion that "multiple re-readings" in addition to pointing out features of print encourage children to "practice what they've learned about print on their peers and on their own," by "reading,"  which is really "retelling."  Neuman says this on the topic:
"...Children will often pretend to read, using visual cues to remember the words of their favorite stories. Although studies have shown that these pretend readings are just that, such visual readings... demonstrate substantial knowledge about the global features of reading and its purposes." 
As many educators of young children know these same visual "clues" are used for children to aid themselves in reading later on in first, second, and even third grade- something known as "context clues."

These things aside, reading to children the same stories over and over again increases their love for reading or at the very least for literature.  Looking back on ones own childhood anyone who still loves reading (and perhaps people who do not) can remember a few stories that they loved to be read over and over and over again.  My own memories are of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Are You My Mother?, and Where the Wild Things Are.  According to Lisa Murphy in Play: the Foundation of the House of Higher Learning and too many literacy experts to name, including the authors of Learning to Read and Write, reading stories over and over again helps them to both understand the features of stories as well as print it self. They begin to understand the literary elements of stories like how stories begin and end, and central conflict and resolutions (although of course they do not label them as such), and they begin to understand front to back (beginning to end), top to bottom, left to right, when they are read to.
"Hearing a story read again and again, children are better able to put together the relation of the characters and the sequence of key events, which they often do not on a first reading."  (Neuman)  
"When adults read to children regularly, children's familiarity with stories ... begins to evolve well before they are able to read or write.  From such experience children learn to distinguish the language used in books from conversational language and to anticipate certain elements in a story.  Later, these expectations assist children in comprehending what they read and in creating their own compositions."  (Neuman)
Hopefully, what all of this shows is that offering multiple readings of the same book is incredibly important to the acquisition of the written language for children.  I would also add to this that the quality of the book is also incredibly important.  Children do not want to hear stories that are not truly engaging more than once if at all.  According to Mem Fox a book that does not connect with the children is "a waste of our time, our money and our precious trees."

It is for this reason that it is also important for children to have the "good books" available for them to use and not just kept safely away from them.  I have, in the past, been as guilty as any of keeping certain beloved favorites out of the reach of little hands- fearing the damage, however, I have recently seen first hand the fruits of quelling my hesitancy to allow them these books and just put them out in the classroom library.  They read the stories they love to themselves, to their friends, to teachers, and to dolls.  The tenants of these stories make their ways into their own stories and playtime as well.  They examine the words on the page and examine the pictures, trying to better retell it, and decode the patterns of words and letters before them.
From putting out these books I have also seen a new reverence for books- they are more careful with them and often treat them  as prized possessions.  From this we have created a "book hospital" (or "hops-pital" as many of them say), where they demand even the tiniest fray or rip be repaired.  From the words of Lisa Murphy "no one learns how to use books the 'right way' if the 'good books' are kept in the cupboard."

Monday, February 28, 2011

letter sounds game

Today we played with letter sounds at school.  When teaching letters and the beginnings of reading, it can be hard to keep it developmentally appropriate and hard to make it fun and stress free.  After the children are able to recognize letters, and when they begin to stretch out words to recognize the letter sounds in them, they are ready (in my mind) for this game.  For this game I set out a few letters with easily identifiable sounds- today we worked on "L, H, G, C, B, and T," I set out a whole bunch of pictures representing words that start with those letters.  I also set out sheets of paper with those letters on it.

Usually this game is best played by two or three children at a time who have similar phonological abilities.  I start by saying "lets play a game. I wonder if we can work together to figure out what letter these things start with?"  The children go one at a time:  each child picks a picture, says what it is, and puts it on the letter they think that word begins with.  If they pick the "leaf" picture and put it on a paper like "g" I say what the word would be if it started with g - "geaf,"  h- "heaf,"  etc, until they find the right one.  Most children at this point know what letter these things start with at least 75% of the time, but will intentionally put it on the correct letter last so that they can hear all the sounds- they think the wrong words are funny.  Within a few turns they will start saying what the word would be along with me "galloon," "halloon," "lalloon," and so on.  This gives them an environment to play and experiment with letters without worrying about being "wrong,"  but at the same time reviews/teaches letter sounds.
To make sure this isn't just an exercise of memorizing which pictures go where, if we do it again, I change the pictures and/ or the letters.  I am very careful not to do this until they are at a certain level, but if doing it with children who have lesser aptitude, it may be beneficial to do only two or three letters at a time.