"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Preschool Math: Graphing and Following the Lead of the Child

So, it's the second week of preschool in our classroom and our theme is "I Am Special". This week we've been asking each child a list of their favorite things: toy, book, color, food, movie, etc., making x-ray hand-prints, taking photos of their hands, doing self-portraits after we did skin-tone painting, and more. Near the beginning of the week I would sit down with each child and ask them about their favorite things and document it on a sheet of paper. After I asked one particular little girl about her favorite things, she went to the writing area and promptly returned to me. She asked, "Ms. Barbara, what is your favorite color?" I replied, "Hmmm, I like lots of colors, but right now I'm especially fond of orange." She walked back over to the writing area. As I kept working with other children on their lists, I observed that she would go up to different people in the class, ask the same question, then go back to the writing area. I had to find out what she was doing. 

When I had a break from my documentation, I walked over to where she was working and saw the above image. She had been getting the answer to the question, "What is your favorite color?" and then making a mark on her paper with the matching crayon or marker to correspond with the person's answer. I was impressed.

The next day I thought I'd see if she wanted to pursue the idea further. I called her over and asked her if she'd like to see another way to show the answers and she was very excited about the prospect. I drew the graph you see above and explained to her that it's a bar graph. I colored a patch at the bottom of all the colors and wrote the color word on top of the color. I showed her that since my favorite was orange, she'd color in the first square above the orange block. I sat with her as she called friends over and began documenting her findings. She was especially excited to use the clipboard. Shortly after beginning the activity, another little girl came over and asked, "Can I mark on there when people answer?" I didn't say anything. The first child replied, "Sure. (pulling up a chair) You sit here and I'll show you how. He said his favorite was blue, so you color in this box (pointing to the square)." Oh my gosh!!! She was becoming a peer mentor before my very eyes and I didn't have to say a thing to instigate or direct it. Color me: blown away!!

Children continued coming over and the original child continued coaching the second child. Then a third child asked, "Can I color in some of the boxes?" Once again, I sat in silence. The original child pulls up another chair on her other side and repeated the process of coaching on how to make the activity work. 

We then had a child say his favorite color was black, which was not a color I had put on the chart. The original child stated, "We don't have black on our chart." I asked her, "What do you think we should do?" She thought a moment, then asked me to write the word black on there, so we added a new column.

These are the results of all the children and teachers who were present that day. At one point the little statisticians worried that we had forgotten one of the teachers, but another child reminded them of that teacher's answer. It's kind of hard to see, but pink does have one more than blue. I asked the team which color was the favorite? If that color wasn't a choice, which would have the most? Which color had the least? and more...

I wasn't sure if I had satisfied the original child's desire to ask questions and document answers so I went in search of the next level. We had been singing/reading Pete the Cat's: Rocking in My School Shoes for a few days. I was looking online for resources to go with the story and came across a chart where you could document the colors of the children's school shoes. I printed out a few and was ready when she arrived. We began by coloring each shoe with the color that the word above it indicated. I also gave her and another friend a paper with small photos of every child in the class on it. I told them after they got an answer, they could mark through the child's photo to know they had already asked them. I started her off, but wanted to see how she would work independently, so I moved away from the activity. She did work on it awhile, but when another child showed interest she passed her work items on to her after showing her how to do it. 

I still view this as a success. She attempted the activity. She taught another peer how to do the activity. I believe, but will need more observation to confirm, that she did enjoy each day's activity and each day was scaffolding her to the next level, but also enjoyed having my participation with her.


This is friend #2, whom the first child passed the activity. She is asking her friend what color his school shoes are and since they have more than one color, she is marking the box labeled "multi-colored".

After documenting his results, she's searching for his photo and marking it off.

Honestly, I was/can still be math-phobic. I think it's just the idea of "MATH" that's scary. I want to help the kids in my class, especially the girls (it tends to be more of an issue with girls) NOT be that way. Through activities like this that are very hands-on and interactive, we can combat some of that.

This is just week 2. I can only imagine the strides and successes the children will have in learning and exploring new ideas and concepts. Here we go!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fun Fine Motor Skill Practice: Mini Colanders and Chenille Stems

Looking for another way to have your little one practice their fine motor skills in a fun way. You don't need to sit them down to do writing. There are lots of activities you can do with everyday items. This is one of those. A friend brought these to our preschool class on Sunday mornings and I knew I just HAD to incorporate it into my own preschool class. 

I purchased 4 mini colanders at World Market, but they are available at a variety of locations. I then pulled out a pack of chenille stems, or as they were called when I was a kid, pipe cleaners. I cut them into thirds.

I put them out in a provocation to encourage the children to explore them.

The kids find a variety of ways to work with the chenille stems. Some push them in from the outside of the colander.

When lots of them are placed in the holes on the colander and the kiddos look inside, I hear them proclaim, "Look at all the worms!"

Some chose to push them through from the inside creating a different effect.

They even made them squiggly to find a totally new look.

This has truly been a hit with the kiddos. I love seeing the new ways they have come up with using the materials and the best part is, they are having fun and having great pre-writing skills practice.