Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rainy Day Games

Occasionally during the afternoons we take out a bunch of games and building material for the children to use instead of doing regular classroom work. We have these as a reserve as well for rainy days when we can't go outside to play. I've been collecting games for some years, I can't resist good games or building materials when I see them in garage sales and have found some that really work well with our 3 to 6 year olds.

This afternoon it was too rainy to play outside so we took out the games and I observed the children working with them. I saw so many great learning opportunities! I know that our classroom is the foundation that makes these games successful, but I also see many ways in which the games support the development of our normal classroom activities.

This is the learning I observed:

  • Collaboration- many of the games involve 2,3 or 4 children. (I find that more than 4 children in a game at this age makes it harder for the children to manage well independently.) Games invite collaboration and learning to work together is what it's all about.
  • Taking turns- games are a great place to develop self regulation.
  • Following rules- the games we have are mostly simple and don't have too many rules, but there are always some fundamental rules that need to be followed for the activity to work.
  • Sharing- many of the building works involve sharing space and pieces. Learning to do this successfully is challenging. 
  • Responsibility- the building materials in particular can have many pieces and involve quite a bit of cleanup. In our room whoever takes the rug and work from the shelf is the responsible one for putting the work away even during collaborative work.
  •  Language- there is so much language exchanged during collaborative building. Because there is an element of free play to these works, there is opportunity for pretend play and a lot of language use.
  • Commitment to the work- choosing a game, inviting friends to play, playing the game, finishing it and putting it away is a big job.
  •  Inviting someone to play- learning to identify who is available and asking them if they want to play with you is one of the most exercised skills during afternoon games.
  • Social flexibility. This is probably my favorite aspect of learning during games. Because there is only a certain number of children that can play each game, permutations of social interaction get mixed and children often wind up paired with others that might not normally play with.
  •  Learning to lose graciously/ Learning to win graciously.
  • Organization- setup and group management are required for the games to be successful.
  •  And finally, some games have direct educational value aside from these indirect learning aspects: exercising memory, creativity, visual skills, language skills, counting and other math skills, motor skills just to name a few.


Here is our collection of games which we have curated over the years.

Games:


  • Spot it!

  • Balancing Moon





  • Color tower 



  • Mancala


  • Suspend


  • Castle Climb (with simplified rules)


  •  Jumbolino (with simplified rules)
  • Tic Tac Toe 
  • Domino
  • Memory
Building material:


  • Marble run


  • Magnet blocks  (Magnatiles)

  • Sticky blocks (Sticky Brix)


  • Sticks and cubes 
  • Lego
  • Duplo

If you have games that have worked well with your age group, please share!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I forget.

I was going to write a big long thing about busyness and about helping and then I had a thought. I forget sometimes that it is more important to pay attention to How I am Being than What I am Doing. I get lost sometimes in the helping and doing, in the teaching and yes, the correcting. I forget the listening, the smiling, the breathing and laughing. The deep noticing that comes from connecting. We have two more days before the holiday and I am moving so quickly. There is time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Calling all schools! Anyone interested in a mailing exchange with us?

Since we live in a geographically isolated location (on a rock in the middle of the ocean) we are constantly trying to find ways to make geography come alive in our classroom. 
 
A few years ago we did a cultural items exchange with one school from every continent around the globe. We exchanged boxes with several different schools and it was great fun putting together our packages and taking a field trip to the post office to mail them, AND THEN receiving the lovely packages from our friend schools around the world.
 
 
We would love to do it again this year! We are looking for schools to collaborate with! We would mail you a box from Aruba containing the following:

1 cultural item for decorating the classroom
1 map of the country
1 food item that is mailable and non perishable
1 letter hand written by the students
1 photo of our group of children
1 cd recording of the children singing a song in their language

If it is something that you would be interested in doing with us please comment below! 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Learning to talk and to listen.

“Preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.“

Loved THIS article from the Atlantic because it reminded me that the most important thing we can be focusing on in the classroom is conversation, to talk and listen to each other, to develop understanding of each other and to build our relationships.

My mom had recently sent me a wonderful TED talk about how to have better conversations and it was also exactly about this. Seems that the message is coming in from everywhere at once!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Overheard a parent say

"Is there anything you want me to do differently to help you out? Or am I doing ok?"

And just felt those were the most helpful words I had ever heard an adult say to a child.

Friday, February 5, 2016

It is actually with kindness towards ourselves- rather than condemning ourselves- that we make the most progress.

Sharon Salzberg

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Authenticity

I work with a lot of non-English speakers. Most of the children who come to us initially don't speak any English and one of my main roles as teacher in the environment is to be the main language material. I am also acutely aware of how important developing the language of our school environment is to the new children's expression and socialization. It is a top priority at the beginning of the year.

However, what I feel starts to happen is that in speaking back in complete sentences and putting a lot of emphasis on what I am saying I feel like I lose some of the naturalness to my speaking. I lose myself in proper language modeling. It is amazing how even after all this time, there are moments where I think I'm not really speaking in my voice, but rather using a "teacher voice" instead of my own.

To help with this, I've been keeping the idea of authenticity in my mind lately.  I touch base with not just the words, but my expression and posture. When I think about staying authentic as I talk to the children I relax. Authenticity has to do with ease somehow, opposite of reciting from memory, putting things into my very own words.

Trying to convey to the children through just language, that it's important to not just say the right words, but be truly ourselves through them.