Monday, June 29, 2009

Progression Lists

At the end of every school year I get very enthusiastic about tweaking my record keeping methods. This year I have two summer projects related to this: one is the creation of lessons progression lists (click here!), and the second is a progressions list of developmental milestones for children ages 3-6 (in the works).

In order to keep a clearer "bigger picture" of all of the lessons and materials encompassed in the 3 years of learning at our school, I typed up a progressions list of the lessons and materials in each area. I have used a different format of this kind of time line during all my years of teaching, and have found it especially useful when creating my weekly work plan. I think the new format, a simplified spreadsheet, will help me keep in mind the relationship between what a child is doing and where that work can be guided to next in each of the areas. It may also help with presenting lessons that are inter-connected within the different areas.

These are my own progressions lists, created with the ages suggested in my training at MINW (for ages 3-6) and in Sweden (for ages 0-3). I merged some of the Practical Life from my A to I course into the Primary because none of the children at my school come from an A to I program. The children that come to our school could surely benefit from as much Practical Life work as possible, and A to I presentations are wonderfully simple and accessible for new children.

The lists are not meant to be followed in a strict sequential order. The materials are not all graded necessarily by difficulty (especially in Practical Life). And they are not meant to be used as a strict template of development. They are just suggestions of possible presentations to be given when a child shows readiness and interest in a material. Language was particularly tricky, because most reading works have written extensions and I tried to format the spreadsheet so that they match up. Also included are some of the extensions materials that we use in our school that are not in my albums, which I added just to remind me that I have those materials and can use them then! And I included as well the following exercises that were given in my training.

As a next step, I am intending on personalizing them as well in order to keep better track of every lesson given to each child.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Music for the Classroom

In my 0-3 training, my trainer stressed that music should not be used as background ambient sound to be ignored in the classroom. That we should teach children to be aware of, and really listen to music. There should be time for quiet, and time for listening.

In my own classroom I have found that music is an excellent tool to help energize or calm the atmosphere of the group. We played music in the classroom throughout the year. At times it was for ambience, for energizing or calming down, and sometimes for sitting and listening to. We had plenty of silence in our class as well, which in our little school is never absolute quiet but rather the sound of the wind coming through our shutters, birds outside, trees rustling, and of course children sounds.

I love to set up the classroom in the morning with music playing, it helps me feel good as the day begins. And at times when I was feeling tense, playing music influenced my mood.

Some children are more aware of the music than others. I have had spontaneous ballet danced on the rug in front of the player, and on a few occasions, one of the children stopping next to the CD player and saying "Hey! I like this music!".

I am compiling a little music library for our class. In order of frequency played this year, here was our music library:

- Bach, "Goldberg Variations" (our favorite, hands down)

- Bach, Piano pieces (best for calming down)"Bach for Book Lovers", and "Bach for Breakfast" compilations

- Django Reinhart (best for energizing)

- Elizabeth Mitchell, "You Are My Little Bird"

- Mozart, Piano Pieces (compiled by my mom)

- Debussy, "La Mer" and various Piano Pieces(great for quiet listening since it is so evocative)

-Chopin, Piano Pieces (compiled by my mom)

-Mendelsson, the quieter piano pieces

- Buenavista Social Club (super energizing)

(Mostly classical.)

And today I shopped for some more music for next year. I really need to give Bach a rest, and I wanted to introduce some more sounds. Here is what I got:

- Scott Joplin (will be so great for the mornings!)
- Benny Goodman (I love listening to Big Band at lunch)
- Vince Guaraldi, "The Charlie Brown Suite"
- Stars of Mali, (I think African beats will be wonderful to listen to)
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo

I can't wait to be influenced!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Last day, first year.

Amidst the tumult of a year ending, during our class meeting this morning we sat in a circle quietly, and I presented a mp3 recorder. I explained to the children that we would record our meeting from today and I would save it, and we will listen to it on our last day of school next year. The children sat so quietly and solemnly- it was wonderful!

Our calendar is complete on the wall over our snack table, and prior to the meeting we looked at all the special events starting from August. This was a secret memory prompt for our meeting.

During our taped meeting, I asked each child for their name and age. And then asked what their favorite day of the school year had been. Trips to the beach were mentioned, popsicles, International Day, and one child touched me the most "The day before school started when I first came here and met you."

I have never recorded on an mp3 player and after our precious meeting I was itching to know whether the file had saved with the right volume and whether it was saved at all! At the end of the day, in the office, I listened to it. It was perfect. I will burn it on a CD and file it for next year. What a great thing to look forward to in 2010.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Circle.

Tomorrow is our last day of the school year. The first year of our little school. The first circle will be closed. Almost all the children will return next year, and almost all the teachers. This afternoon I am taking the time, all by myself, to let go of what has been. Letting go today to make space for what is coming tomorrow.

It was my first year as administrator (and part time custodian) and a return to teaching after a year of hiatus. Things felt new, but comfortably familiar at the same time.

I have been more patient with myself and others than I have ever been in my life.

I was able to balance my work and the rest of my life in a much healthier way than I have in teaching years past.

I have discovered that I love working with parents almost as much (or maybe more?) than I like working with the children.

I did so many things for the first time this year.

I had a great support in my assistant (and friend)- the support necessary (and the sense of humor necessary) to get through the not so good days. Especially that week where we had 5 days in a row that were like that. I will miss you so much Sayenne!

The circle closes this year with everyone in it. What good times.

I am so pleased.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Soap Balls: the Result.

Possibly the easiest project and the highest success rate of the year.

This is the grated soap, with some rosemary and oatmeal added to it. We put a very small amount of water into the dry ingredients before starting to mold it into a ball with our hands.

Little hands molding. Some intense soap flakes on the floor, but oh well.

The soap balls finished and drying for tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Almost there. 3 more days.

This is the thought pattern I've been trying to follow all year long. One cycle is almost done.

"Set goals, but know that the arriving is not all that important. When anything arises out of presence, it means this moment is not a means to an end, the doing is fulfilling in itself every moment. You are no longer reducing your life to a means to an end."

Tolle, Stillness Speaks

Soap Balls

For father's day gifts in our classroom we are making soap balls. I have made these in the past and they've worked really well. Since it's the end of the year, we are using all our leftover soap bars from the classroom for this project.

We have a little hand crank grinder that niftily attaches to the table and today, children had the option to pair up and grate pre-cut soap cubes. This went very well, one child would load up the grater and apply pressure, and the other would turn the crank. Other children used regular graters which are trickier and mistakes so painful. We grated about 10 bars of soap in total, for making about 10 balls.

Each child can choose to add oatmeal, fresh rosemary, or an essential oil to their soap. They may also choose a color for their soap (food coloring- more opportunity for color mixing.) For a soap ball, about 1/3 cup oatmeal would be enough, and a teaspoon of chopped rosemary. The food coloring is used very sparingly and diluted in about 5 tablespoons of water. All the ingredients are mixed together and then the children just begin to press the soap together into a large ball.

It will take about 2 days for the balls to dry. Today we grated the soap, tomorrow we will make the balls.

Tomorrow you will see the result.

Soap Balls:

(per child)
1 bar of soap (pretty much any kind, but the soft milky ones do work best)
5 TBSP water

1/3 C Oatmeal
1 tsp chopped rosemary or other hardy herbs
3 drops of essential oils
1-2 drops food coloring

(soap ball pictured is from Biome)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Update on "Time out"

I was much influenced by the fantastic comments on my last post and we made some changes in our room. We dismantled the notion of time out and in it's place created "The Quiet Place". I love the mystery the name evokes, even if it does sound a tad creepy. In the only available space that was actually quiet, we set up a rug and rocking chair facing the lovely greenery out of the lunch room windows. I gave a grace and courtesy lesson about "the quiet place" inviting anyone, at any time to use it for as long as they need to. I emphasized "This is a good place to be if you are feeling sad, angry, or tired."

The first days, it was frequented often by many different children. I noticed that some of the children that have a tendency to wander/disturb others, spent time rocking in the chair. When a child was getting noticeably frustrated and clearly on a road to no good, I noticed "I can see that you are getting frustrated, do you remember where is a good place to go to when you are feeling like that?"

This new area has given us the opportunity to invite children that need a little time away from the group a place to go to on their own with no shame. Since children choose to be there independently of an invitation, they don't feel like they are being punished.

Aside from this new addition to our room, our extra social responsibilities for those who need them the most have been working very well. The child who has trouble sharing the water pitcher at the snack table, for example, often gets invited to serve water to all the children outside at the end of the day.

(Thank you so much to the people who shared their valuable experience and ideas in the last comments.)