Thursday, March 5, 2015

Genius Tweaks

It takes me a long time to refine the environment or the way we do things so that they work most fluidly and efficiently. Here are a few of my favorite (recent) tweaks:

*Music instruments round.

I love to sing with the children and use instruments. We have all kinds of instruments from around the world that we've collected over the years and it's really fun to take them out and play together as a group. However, in our space and with the amount of children that we have when each child has an instrument the activity becomes a ludicrous cacophony. A few weeks ago I took out only a handful of instruments, and whoever wanted to participate sat with us in a circle and I distributed the five or six instruments to every fifth or so child in the circle. At the end of each song, the instrument got passed along to the next person. In this way, the singing was audible and enjoyable, the instruments were happily played and shared, and the children wanted to sing more and more songs because they were eagerly awaiting turns with all the instruments (that didn't happen). This arrangement changed my life.

*Nonverbal cleanup signs.

We have a sign that goes on the door when the lunchroom is available. We've been practicing what to do when you see the sign on the door (because children LOVE to announce its appearance loudly to everyone else.) We now have one for the afternoon when it's time to clean up to go home. Practicing what to do when you see the sign has helped make the transition to lunch and to going home much smoother, happier and independent.

*Routine booklets.

We've had these for a while but I made one today that is called "Working in the classroom" that tells the story of what we do in the classroom (in very broad terms) and features photos of the children themselves doing those things. I've made it to remind some of the four year olds who are in a kind of work limbo, of all that's available (and therefore what is NOT available to do as well.) These booklets live on the shelf and get chosen often by children (and teachers) and have photos and simple text defining the sequences of how we do certain things (Using the Bathroom, Lunchtime, Using the Library, Eating Snack, etc.) It's like an extension of grace and courtesy lessons that's always available to remind yourself of how to do something. These booklets are super helpful, but this new series and another one I'm working on about living in a community is going to be so great!

*"Quiet as a mouse" and other visual reminder cards.

We have a set of cards that I can't live without. One is a picture of a huge ear (Listen only), another is of a child with a hand raised (Taking turns talking), and the third is of a tiptoeing mouse with a finger on its mouth (Quiet as a mouse). The first two we've used for a long time for when we have large group lessons, or visitors, or other times when it's not so clear whose turn is it to talk and when.  The new card "Quiet as a mouse" is for showing to a person when they are being a little too loud. Since noise makes more noise, shushing or even whispering doesn't work (they can't hear our whispering over the other noise) so, a flash of the card (which is a friendly and kind of funny illustration) helps. I've recently made the cards available to the children as well so that they can also use them if they are giving a lesson, showing a game, or just needing a friend to lower the volume. 


Unknown said...

I am very interested in your routine booklets, both the ones you have listed here and the ones you are planning for living in a community. Would you mind showing an example or two?

Thank you for your lovely blog. I am always happy to read your thoughts. I can always find something helpful here!

Susanne said...

Hi M Clem,

I'd be happy to email you all the ones I've made so far so that you can see what they look like. I'll need your address :)

Unknown said...

Me too please. I love your blog thank you