Friday, July 31, 2015

Graduation The Places You Will Go

Miss A.'s momma put on the most AMAZING graduation party for us. I can't thank her enough. Nor, the other parents and family members who have given of their time and resources so generously to this school over the last 5 years. Miss A.'s daddy, used his production company resources to create a tear-jerking video covering their time here. It was just...WOW! What a wonderful keepsake for the children and me.

The children went through the graduation ceremony to receive their diplomas, received the book Oh the Place You'll Go with a way-too-long note from me, and autograph puppies they enjoyed passing around for signatures. After eating pizza and tasty treats, they put on a showing of their Reader's Theater production of A Princess and the Pea, which they had been studiously practicing.

So sad to say goodbye to these WONDERFUL children. Miss H joined me at 9 months, and Miss A and Mr. G both at 4 months. I never know how the mix of new children will evolve. In this case, fate, destiny, a higher power or just darn good luck, led these three children to me at the same time. Their accomplishments have been astounding, in a huge part due to how they have played off of one another developmentally and educationally.

Focus and curiosity are the key components of rapid educational grown. I've had VERY smart kids here who had no focus and met the minim levels of development and education. I've had not-so-smart kids here whose focus has pushed them far ahead of their higher IQ'd friends. These three, had the perfect blend of intelligence, focus and drive.

This program is child-led learning. In the case of these three, it was child-PUSHED. I have worked like a maniac to try to keep up with their educational demands. They went through my preschool curriculum by the time they were three. Since then, all curriculum has been tailor-made to their interests and capabilities and through their direction.

They leave me for kindergarten all reading 3rd grade chapter books, and that's just one tiny aspect of their knowledge and capabilities. Mr. G was offered a double grade skip immediately, which his parents declined. Each set of parents has been in touch with their child's principle, teacher(s), counselor, and/or gifted coordinator of their respective schools. While each school has plans to meet their social/emotional and advanced educational needs, it has been very interesting to see the differences in how they plan to accomplish this. The responsiveness, though, has me hopeful that they will continue to be challenged.

The most important thing that these children leave me with is that they are good people. While they have their quirks and moments, in general, they are kind, thoughtful, helpful, responsible, hard working, polite, and socially aware and responsible. That's what I'm most happy about.
Tags: preschool, graduation, party, theme, Oh the Places You Will Go, Seuss, pre-k

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Box = Learning

I still say that a box is one of the MOST important elements in early childhood learning. Not only does it promote large motor development, it presents so many additional learning opportunities. 

Mr. L is 11 1/2 months old.
This is a few picture in a single day.

  • Risk Assessment

  • Sometimes he just likes to hang out like this. 

    • Analysis
    • Logic/Reasoning
    • Handling Frustration
    • Thinking Outside of the Box [lol]
    • Perseverance

    It's easier to get in on the low side. 
    He's learning that.

  • Cause/Effect

  • Rocking a little too hard while sitting inside.

    • Dramatic Play
    • Imaginative Resourcing

    Sitting, hiding. Popping up and down.

    • Positional Location
    • Climbing Coordination
    • Volume and Measure
    • Height and Depth Assessment

    Climbing and surfing, sitting and laying on top. 
    He hasn't gotten the nerve to stand on top yet. 
    I'm waiting.
    Notice the dinosaur hidden inside.

    "[L]! Are you ON your box?
    Where's your dino? Is it INSIDE your box?" 

    • Force
    • Offsetting Forces
    • Work
    • Coordination
    • Balance
    • Strength Training

    Carrying it all over.
    Pretty heavy box for such a little guy.
    That doesn't hinder him in ANY way.

    •  Physics

    Putting it off-balance so that he can rock it like a maniac.

    But yes, it's all gross motor. 
    And tiring.

    Tags: box, gross motor, boy, girl, infant, toddler, daycare, child care, learning, education, homeschool, early childhood education, ECE, DAP, Reggio

    Thursday, March 19, 2015

    Easter Sensory Bin with Learning Activities

    Time to change out the sensory bin from March to April. Since we are doing a full-on regarding holidays this year, since the bigs are heading off to kindergarten in the fall, Easter is the theme.

    I wanted to use birdseed as our fill-n-pour, but the girls insisted that we use the red/white/blue rice.

    There are many learning activities available with this sensory bin.

    What's in it?
    1 egg carton
    18 plastic eggs*
    18 colored feathers
    1 set of egg dying baskets*
    1 package of small/medium/large colored pom poms*
    3 bunny plastic eggs*
    1 package pink/green/blue styrofoam glitter eggs*
    8 chick plastic eggs*
    1 package Easter erasers*
    crimped paper shreds
    colored rice
    *From the dollar store

    Additional: tools, baskets, containers

    The Learning Games

    Number Matching 1-18:
    At the bottom of the 18 egg carton, I wrote the numbers in colored Sharpie. The colors give a visual clue of the color of the egg for those children less skilled. For the more advanced, they usually grab an egg then look for a number, often disregarding the color coordination. 

    Color Matching - Eggs:
    For children who don't know their numbers, the egg carton can be used a simple color matching game with the color of the written number to the color of the eggs.

    Color Matching - Feathers:
    18 colored feathers are included in the bin, allowing for the same color matching activity, but with feathers.

    Which Chick Has the Egg?
    One child places a small egg into a chick and puts it back into the "nest." The other child[ren] take turns picking out a chick by number, and looking inside to see if that the one. If not, the chick gets closed and replaced and another turn is taken until the egg is found. Works prediction and number recognition 1-8.

    Color Sorting Bunny Tails:
    Sorting the pom pom "bunny tails" into the egg dying cups. These cups aren't that sturdy, so I've wrapped them in packing tape this year to see if they hold up. If not, I'll be buying small metal buckets for this activity in the future. They count how many are in each cup after sorting. Since they can't usually find all of them, or appropriate them, at every session, the quantities should change every time. 

    The feathers can be sorted into the cups as well, but there are only 3 feathers of each color on purpose for the egg carton, and there isn't an orange cup in this set. So sorting the feathers in this cup set has limited value.

    Sorting Bunny Tails by Size:
    These bunny plastic eggs came as a set of 3. It works, as the pom poms came in small/medium/large and this is a good observation, logic/reasoning, and fine motor activity. They fill up the bunny bottoms then count how many were in each one as they take them back out. A good volume measurement introduction as well.

    Bunny Color Sorting:
    These styrofoam eggs only come in the blue/pink/green, so sorting them in the bunnies works. Again, counting how many once done.

    This set of Easter erasers just happens to have two of each style. Perfect for a simple matching game.

    When I introduce the new sensory bin, I let them go at it for a while, then I introduce the learning games that I don't see them incorporating into their play. I simply do them while we play, and they pick up on any they are interested in and developmentally ready to perform.

    They also make baskets, do fill-n-pour and have fun.

    You may also be interested in our Spring Sensory Bin.

    Follow Connie -'s board Easter Theme on Pinterest.
    Tags: daycare, child care, preschool, pre-k, sensory, sensory bin, math, early math, science, gross motor, fine motor, homeschooling, kids, child, Easter, holiday, spring, egg, eggs, theme, curriculum, unit

    Monday, March 2, 2015

    Dynamic and Interactive Math Worksheets - Preschool/Early Elementary

    Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for children until around age 8. The key word being DEVELOPMENTALLY. Some children, like my current pre-k's, are developmentally advanced. Once we've gone through the first two levels of instructions, and we need to "take it small," then worksheets become a necessity.

    That does not mean that they need to be boring, stagnant and one-dimensional. They can be fully engaging.

    Once the children have a concept down, they need the ability to play with it in their own time. These worksheets are FREE CHOICE activities. The children can grab one at will and do it at their own pace. If they only want to do one or two problems, then they can place the unfinished worksheet in their work drawer to come back to later.

    If they have difficulty, as with all of our endeavors, they have to try to come up with a work-around before bringing the problem to me. At their disposal for these math worksheets they can utilize an abacus, number line, manipulatives, 100's chart, or a peer tutor.

    I have to limit how many worksheets the pre-k's can do in a day. Why? Because they are dynamic and interactive - fun. Every time they do one, it changes. They have no idea what the next draw will be. It's a little mystery, a little adventure, a little magic. Everyone likes surprises, and especially children. 

    It is their choice to do the activity. They make the choices of cards, dominos, or how to roll the die, but chance determines the equations. Everything is within their realm of control and self-direction. Empowered learning.

    Below is more information on the six worksheets we are using. The instructions sound much more mature than for this age group. Remember that the children already KNOW how to do these, so these instructions are for your information, not a child's instruction. Demonstration always works better than verbal instruction for the children.


    This is the first one we utilize.  Since it is the first, I included a writing key at the bottom. If they need a key on the other worksheets, they just grab one of these for reference, because this is evidently easier than turning around and looking at the one on the wall, or pulling the one from the busy bag bin.

    • Roll the die and write down the first number.
    • Roll the die and write down the second number.
    • If the second number is SMALLER than the first, then you have the choice to add OR subtract.
    • If the second number is LARGER than the first, then you have to add.
    • Write the function in the circle.
    • Complete the equation and write the answer.
    • Roll the die and write down the next number.
    • Continue.


    These kiddos have this one down, so I'm revising a new one that will be used with a 10 or 12 sided die. I will also be doing some for skip counting.

    • Roll the die and write down the first number.
    • Roll the die and write down the second number.
    • If the second number is SMALLER than the first, then you have the choice to add OR subtract.
    • If the second number is LARGER than the first, then you have to add.
    • Write the function in the circle. 
    • Place a dot on the number line relevant to the first number.
    • Write the number of leaps relevant to the second number in the correct direction.
    • Complete the equation and write the answer.

    This can also be changed up for multiplication.

    • Pick a domino.
    • Draw the domino in the boxes.
    • Write the numbers that correspond to the domino amount.
    • Complete the equation and write the answer.

    This uses only cards ace through 9. I like the aspect of A=l. Good algebra initiation. The first time they did this, I asked what the answer was to the equation, something like what is 59-37. Miss A looked at me like I was insane and said, "We can't do THAT!" Then I showed them that she just had on her worksheet and they were amazed.

    • Choose 2 cards.
    • Place the highest card above the lowest card.
    • Choose 2 more cards.
    • Place the highest card above the lowest card next to the previous set.
    • Write in the numbers as they are on the cards.
    • Subtract. Write in the answer.

    Since the children aren't allowed to throw inside, this is a special treat and very popular. I have a set of the soft insertable dice. I took one to use for this activity. This week it is has colors on each side. Next week will be shapes. The next, possibly words that go with our theme, or names of the students. Each week will be different to keep that dynamic aspect going and the interest high.

    I could just have all 6 dice out with different things on them, but that takes away from the wonder and anticipation. I could also have a die for each of them, but there is also an element of limited resources being valued more highly than plenty that also keeps the interest higher.

    This is by far their favorite. The discussion, prediction, and analysis they engage in between themselves and me as they go through this one is just awesome. "Oh, wow, now ORANGE is winning!" "Hey, now I have a four tie between green, blue, yellow and PINK!"

    • Referencing the die, mark in your legend on the bottom row of the graph.
    • Answer question 1.
    • Roll the die, marking the appropriate box until one column is filled.
    • Answer the rest of the questions.

    The stated task of this worksheet is skip counting. However, it works odd/even identification, multiplication, one-to-one correspondence counting, number identification, logic/reasoning skills, addition & subtraction...

    I have them work on our red=odd, STOP you can not divide evenly; and even=green, GO you can divide evenly.

    • Roll a die to see what the skip count will be.
    • Choose a random number as the starting number.
    • Skip count forward and backward from that number.
    • If you land on an odd number, color that square red.
    • If you land on an even number, color that square green.
    We can also use the 100 Chart for other math activities, games and mystery pictures.

    One of the wonderful things about a mixed age group, is how much the little ones learn through observation, asking questions, and listening to the older children discuss what they are doing.

    A parent asked why I don't just laminate these. I may.

    But these are new, BIG concepts and skills. I don't want these worksheets to become just another busy bag or time filler. 

    I don't believe in flash cards. These children are performing their addition and subtraction facts multiple times a day, through CHOICE and what they consider to be PLAY. 

    The retention of those facts is amazing, because it is meaningful to them.

    They are identifying mathematical patterns and concepts on their own through exploration, rather than through instruction.

    The children do not have to complete a worksheet. If they do not, it goes into their work drawer for later and they have to complete that one before getting another. I think it is important that they build this work ethic. Laminated sheets do not instill this continuity of performance.

    Once a sheet is finished, they get to take it home. I also think that being able to retain their work and show it to others is an important aspect of taking pride in their work and accomplishments. The feedback and encouragement will support their continued efforts and self-esteem. 

    If you don't want to spend the time making your own worksheets, I have this set available in my TPT store for $1.00.
    Tags: homeschool, homeschooling, unschooling, independent learning, preschool, elementary, math, multiplication, addition, subtraction, graphing, child care, daycare, pre-k, child, care, 

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    3 Sizes of Teaching Big Concepts to Little People

    There is often talk about scaffolding learning along the learning path, but I don't hear about scaffolding the learning EXPERIENCE of a specific concept.

    My philosophy is that young learners learn best when concepts are presented in three levels. It's like a movie. On the big screen in a theatre, it's an experience. You see the details and how everything works together. It's big and loud and holds your attention. 

    If you see it on your big flat screen TV, whether 80 inch or 32 inch, then while it may be entertaining, it's something you watch, rather than experience. You may enjoy it, but if you have to grab a bite, you pause it and don't feel you've lost anything.

    Watching it on the iPad, yeah, you may pause it multiple times. You can't see all the details, and you don't really care. It's not an experience, it's a time filler. It's something entertaining to do and if you pause it multiple times, then you are fine with it.

    Unfortunately, most learning starts and ends at the iPad viewing stage. 

    There's a reason we go back to the theater to watch the good movies. We crave the EXPERIENCE.

    Make it BIG
    Whenever I teach a new concept we always start out BIG. 
    As big as we can get it. 
    As interactive as we can get it. 
    As fun as possible.

    For instance when we began number line work, we laid it out on the floor in tape. The children placed the numbers. Then we stepped it off. Then they hopped it. Then they hopped addition and subtraction. They worked as teams to provide equations to the person jumping. 

    I taught it, they learned it, then they played with it. After about a week of playing with it, they had it pretty much down. Obviously they were simply scaffolding to a higher level and new format of addition and subtraction, but it was vital to their understanding to begin with it BIG.

    Shake it DOWN.
    Once the children have a concept down in BIG format, then we start gradually shaking it down. Just as you get a better movie experience from an 80 inch screen rather than a 32 inch, the size of the learning experience needed depends on the level of detail and interaction necessary to continue the learning path. Each child is different in this requirement. 

    We drew number lines in the sand box and had sand toys jump the equations. We moved it down to drawing number lines on the chalk board and white board. Eventually we moved it down to drawing them on the lap boards and writing equations.

    Mr. G wanted to measure everyone one day, so we did. We graphed it on the number line and worked the less than and more than aspect between their heights, along with graph interpretation stuff.

    Take it SMALL.
    Small is worksheets. Small is independent work. Small is reinforcement of mastery, not learning.

    If learning the concept has been fun, and they have it mastered, then they WANT to "play" with it on worksheets. 

    Even with our worksheets, they are dynamic and interactive. Above all, they are a FREE CHOICE activity, not a requirement. The children roll a die for the two numbers writing them in. If the second number is less than the first, they have the choice of doing addition or subtraction.  

    Since they can do one of these in about two minutes with a 6 sided die, I'm making a new one that will use a 12 sided die.

    So this is how we've done number lines, but we do the same with other math concepts, and it's also how we do reading:

    Big is actions and manipulation as a group.

    Shaking it down with activities, big books, and group reads.

    Taking it small.
    Miss A - 4 years
    BIG hands on exploration in a fun, playful learning experience is a much better introduction to big concepts for little children than going straight to small work. By the time they get to the small work, they should already be very familiar with the plot, characters and setting of the concept. Having seen it as the big picture, the small one will make sense.
    Tags: teaching, daycare, preschool, pre-k, reading, math, classroom, early elementary, homeschooling, homeschool, curriculum