Saturday, September 20, 2008

Classification Cards

We had a short but happy day at school on Friday, with our first group outing to collect shells to the nearby dunes of Barcadera. I love short trips out to the nature with the children. Our weather and the nearness of everything on the island is very conducive to these types of outings. Helping the children become aware of the variety (even in Aruba!) of environments that surround us is of my favorite aspects of my work.

After the children left at 12:30, Sayenne and I got to work making the long overdue sets of classification cards (among other things) that we've been looking forward to working with in the classroom.

Classification cards are picture cards that are used to teach vocabulary. They are used individually by the children, or can be presented as a group. Initially, they are presented verbally, but later on, children who can read match labels to the picture cards.

We've decided that it would be truly spectacular to have a starter set of cards that is directly related to our school environment. Our school environment is so rich and full of vocabulary opportunities that we decided it would be great to "go local" with our classification cards.

We got to work taking photos of different classifications in our classroom such as:
  • The People in our Community (children and teachers)
  • The Plants in our Classroom
  • Our Outdoor Plants in our Garden
  • Our Orchard Plants
  • Cultural Objects in our Room
  • The Furniture in our Room
  • Our Table Setting
  • Objects in our Bathroom
  • Birds in our Garden
  • Materials we use Outdoors
  • Types of Rocks and Minerals we can find in our Garden
  • Animals of our Garden
  • Insects of our Garden (and occasionally classroom)
  • ETC!!!!
Along with these, we plan to make short books related to "the way we do things in the classroom" which will contain pictures of the children tucking in their chairs, putting away work, taking out work, sitting at a table, sitting at a rug, using the bathroom necklace, washing their hands, etc.

This is the "fun" kind of computer work, but it is time consuming!

I will post the materials as we finish them in case they could be useful for anyone else out there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Individual Silence.

I am enamored with the idea of making our group silent sittings available to the children individually in the same style that our materials are for independent work. In a few weeks I will make it available to the children for choosing from the shelf. It consists of placing a special small rug and a tray with a one or three minute sand timer on it. The child may lay out the rug in a designated area of the classroom, take off his shoes and sit on the rug in the "silent sitting position" and turn the timer. No one is allowed to talk to or disturb the person that is doing the independent silent sitting. I think I'd love to use it during the day myself. Sometimes I hurry when I should just "be".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Silent Sitting.

I've been reading an inspiring and practical book titled "Nurturing the Spirit in Non-Sectarian Classrooms" by Aline Wolf. It is helping me understand how to address and inspire the virtues of love, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, truthfulness and kindness in the classroom.

From the book:

"What are the spiritual needs of children? Immediately I think of the need for some periods of quiet and solitude when they can escape the constant noises around them. Children have a right to be nourished spiritually in ways that leave the door open for deeply appropriate responses such as wonder, respect and gratitude. There is the need to find meaning in their lives, the need to question why they are here and why the world exists as it does. Their spirits need reassurance that what they do matters. Their spirits need to know why it is better to act one way and not in the other.

And so we must constantly address the needs of the whole child. If some of the physical needs are neglected, the child's body may become debilitated and functioning may be hampered in one way or another. If the needs of the psyche are grossly neglected, the child could become and insecure or emotionally immature adult. If the spiritual nurturing is neglected the child may become an adult who sees no meaning in life, is bored with life, careless with life, or an adult who is determined to have power, prestige, and possessions, without regard for care of the earth, the animal kingdom or the welfare of other human beings."

In the mornings, during our whole group gathering, we sit together with our legs crossed, put our hands on our knees, and sit silently for a minute or two. We become aware of our breath, and of the sounds outside and far away, or the sounds inside of our bodies. I tell the children they may open their eyes when they hear the sound of the triangle. The exercise is difficult for the children sometimes, and some of them become restless and fidgety. But in those minutes of silence in the morning, I allow myself to relax completely, smiling, grateful for the opportunity to work with the tiny ones.