Posts Tagged With: emergent curriculum

shouting from my soapbox

I saw an article this morning on Scary Mommy: Our Kids Don’t Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess.
A Kentucky kindergarten teacher got a $12,000.00 grant to install ‘pedal desks’ in her classroom for (wait for it…) “when kindergartners get tired of sitting still.”

I BEG YOUR PARDON!?! (or: WHAT THE EVER-LOVING F**K!?!)
Kindergartners are five and six years old! Five and six! Is there ever a time when they DO sit still? They need to move their bodies! Their brain development relies on that!! How can they be expected to learn anything ‘strapped’ to a desk?
Is this simply another example of the misunderstanding about recess? Recess is about social interactions and imaginative play in addition to movement and exercise. Some of the most important social-emotional development happens when children play together freely.
Recess is a time for unstructured play. Children learn to respect and appreciate each other’s feelings by cooperating and taking turns. They understand that there is a natural give and take to play. If play is designed by one child and doesn’t evolve in a way the all the children like, two things can happen. They’ll either walk away which forces the change in play or they will discuss the changes they’d like to see. More often than not, the entire group will work together to create play that pleases everyone. These children practice negotiation and cooperation without even realizing it.
I’ve focused on social and emotional development and completely ignored the benefits of play to gross and fine motor development. But that seems more obvious to me.

Children need to move their bodies fairly regularly! I’m forty four years old and need to move mine often!
A classroom can and should be a place where you can move about and have different kinds of learning centers.
I know it’s hard to “meet each child where s/he is” but it’s easy to create a safe and authentic learning environment where students and teachers can move their bodies to help the teaching and learning process.

I started kindergarten in our country’s bicentennial year. I realize things have changed since then.
I remember my kindergarten class had a housekeeping area, a “writing center”, dress-ups, blocks and interlocking bricks for math. Sometimes we sat in chairs at big tables and other times we sat in a circle “Indian style” on carpet squares. We got read to and we honed our social skills through play. I could already read and write when I started kindergarten, but that’s just me. I remember loving being at school. It was fun and I actually realized I was learning. I was in half-day kindergarten and there was time for learning, snack, AND recess!

Thing 1 and Thing 2 had individual desks and chairs in their kindergarten classes. But they were grouped into fours in the center of the room to make room for the play based learning centers. Interestingly they were similar to the ones I talked about in my kindergarten classroom. There was a math center with big and little blocks and clocks to play with. I loved that! Little and big hands to move around the numbers. There was a writing center with crayons and markers and colored pencils. (Any scribbling is the beginning of writing.) There was a little kitchen and a mirror and babies.
Thing 1 was in kindergarten twenty three years after I was and there was still learning through play in kindergarten classrooms. Her teacher told me: I need them to walk into my classroom and be able to recognize their name and write it in some way that I can read it, even if it’s not right. I need them to be able to recognize number up to twenty. I need them to know their colors. The rest is up to me and the first grade teachers.
Thing 1 could do all those things, even though she wrote her nine letter name in a mix of capital and lower case letters. She was already reading a little. She was the only white girl in a class of nineteen kids. I was thrilled that she was going to experience that much diversity!
(There were 33 countries represented in our elementary school of 500 students.)

From the pedal desk article:

“Our kids need recess, not pedal desks so they can move while they work like little bots. Seriously, is this real life? Why are kindergartners even sitting in one place long enough to need pedal desks? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves.”

I believe in asking that question. But the people answering it are not educators. They don’t know what’s best for children. Here’s a thought: what if we have educators creating curriculum and education policy? Politicians designing this country’s curriculum can’t see past test scores. Gotta keep up with the Chinese and all that rot.
But in Peter Gray’s article, Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less, he writes:

“Educators in East Asian nations have increasingly been acknowledging the massive failure of their educational systems. According to the scholar and author Yong Zhao, who is an expert on schools in China, a common Chinese term used to refer to the products of their schools is gaofen dineng, which essentially means good at tests but bad at everything else. Because students spend nearly all of their time studying, they have little opportunity to be creative, discover or pursue their own passions, or develop physical and social skills. Moreover, as revealed by a recent large-scale survey conducted by British and Chinese researchers, Chinese schoolchildren suffer from extraordinarily high levels of anxiety, depression and psychosomatic stress disorders, which appear to be linked to academic pressures and lack of play.”

What’s sad is teachers have no real choice. This woman was trying to make the school day better for FIVE and SIX year olds(!!) while accomplishing the unrealistic and inappropriate goal the government set for when these children leave her classroom.
There is something inherently wrong with this country’s education system. How many lives will be negatively impacted before something changes?
Childhood was snatched away from children. They’re forced to learn and do things at ages when their brains aren’t actually developed to do them. This skips natural and necessary building processes in the brain! And they can’t go play!
My heart breaks.
And my hackles go up!

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imagination spools

Two of my little students came to me this morning: Miss Robynbird! Come see what we built! Hurry! You have to see!
(Kinda hard to say no to that!)
Two little blonde heads bouncing with excitement as we walk to the back of the classroom together. And then I see what they built!

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Tell me about it. I say to them.
He says: J and I built it together!
She says: We used all the spools.
I see that. Can you tell me more about it?
She says: They’re all in a line.
He hugs me with joy: We did it!


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I know nothing of their intent.
I don’t know what they think it was.
All I know is that they did it together and their pride was BIG!

You know, when it comes right down to it, I don’t really need to know any more than that.

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storytelling part four (classroom fun)

Friday’s heat advisories kept us indoors so we made our own fun. I got down off my soapbox and let the kids do what they wanted. After expanding our construction zone to somehow encompass the entire back half of the classroom they cleaned up and came together ready the write a story.
I encouraged the worst possible story in the history of all stories and they did not disappoint.

(email title)
total global destruction

Well…sort of.

Miss Robynbird told us how proud she was that we were able to make a story without any bloodshed, so much so that today she challenged us to make the most horrifically terrible story possible! We’re talking fire, flood, famine. We’re talking dragons, dinosaurs, witches and sharks. We’re talking destruction of TOTAL GLOBAL PROPORTION!

During the planning process we shouted out things like:
witches potions
dinosaurs
dragons
sharks
villagers
fire

KR-J asked to begin the story, and it went a little something like this:
Once upon a time there was a scary dinosaur and there was a villager. And the villager found the dinosaur.
AO:
And then there was another dinosaur. A dragon came and he blow fire on the grass where the dinosaur was. A witch came from where the villager was. She said, “NO DRAGONS BREATHING FIRE!”
VS:
Another witch found a villager’s house and saw a cloak and put it on then she went to the dragon and the dragon ate her and she “spelled” out of the dragon and found her body again.
RC:
Then another dragon came and the villager…he saw crocodiles…they are by the water…he was trying to be careful by the bridge, but fell in the pond and the crocodile is gonna eat him. Then the villager got out and runned away from the crocodile.
ZB:
Then what happened, there was a shark, and he was bad and ate some people and there were other people and they went on a bridge and the bridge broke and they fell in the water then what happened, was the dinosaur got the people and stomped on them and they was squished.
JH:
More people ran into the forest and into their house and the dragons blowed their house. Then they run into the bridge and they fell into the water and the shark get ’em.
EY:
The dragon and shark…the dragon saw a knight guard…he tried to fight the dragon and he fired the knight guard and eat him.
Miss Robynbird turned to TK: Bring us home.
TK grinned:
Then there was a bridge that was broken and the shark at the broken pieces and a dragon breathed fire on more people and then stepped on them and they were dead. And then he ate them.

Total global destruction was a SUCCESS!

(Teacher’s Note: YBW asked me if any of the parents found this inappropriate. I laughed. These parents absolutely LOVE this stuff. They think these stories are wonderful. I am blessed to have parents with senses of humor. They are blessed to have teachers who encourage creativity and critical thought.)

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storytelling part three (classroom fun)

Thursday was about educating parents a little bit.
Sometimes I worry that they don’t understand why I don’t seem concerned that some of these kids can’t write their own names. Some of these kids can barely recognize their own names.
Guess what. That is OK!
Know why? It’s developmentally appropriate.
I don’t rush reading and writing.
I have a child in my class who can write her name but doesn’t know any of the letters in her name. Please tell me how that is remotely acceptable?
So I stick to my philosophy. Kids learn best through play, through authentic experience. They learn when their brains are developmentally ready to learn. And three and four year old brains (for the most part) are not designed to read and write.
Some of my kids can do both. Some of them can do neither. This is me explaining to parents why either one is going to be just fine.

(email title)
Do you know what we know?

We wrote a story today and guess what!?! There was no bloodshed! Nobody got eaten! No death! No destruction! No mayhem!
And guess what else? It kind of made Miss Robynbird a little bit sad. She realized she kind of likes it when we create a great story and then destroy it. And here’s why…

She doesn’t think we know this, she’s not sure you know this, but we are learning SO much when we write our own stories. (bloodshed and all)

We’re learning parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
(We mostly use the first four, but we’re big fans of conjunctions too.)
We’re learning basic parts of a sentence: subject, action, and sometimes an object. (Isn’t it great when the action is bloodshed?)
We’re touching on things like adverbs and adjectives, we’re exploring the ideas of conjunctions and prepositions.
We’re doing these things because we know every story has to have “subject” and often times we choose something familiar like a princess or a witch. A pronoun is when we say ‘she’ or ‘her’ or ‘they’ instead of ‘the witch’ or ‘the princess’.
Then we will talk about what that subject is doing which is the action.
Oftentimes there is an object, like a dragon, or shark. These can be subjects too, but we don’t really use them that way.
We use the words ‘then’ and ‘and’ a LOT and those are totally conjunctions. That means they hook the parts of sentences or stories together.
Sometimes then is a preposition too.
We’re not yet super awesome at verb tense, or pronoun perfection. We sometimes don’t quite get it exactly right, but we’re working on it, and we’re having SO much fun!

We’re not being told this is what we’re learning, but when we start a story with a queen and then half way through start saying princess, Miss Robynbird and Miss J remind us that there isn’t a princess in our story. This keeps us on track with our subject.
We sometimes forget where the story is taking place, too. We start out in the woods and then try to say that a shark comes. But we remind each other there isn’t any water in the woods for a shark to be.
This is real literacy!
It doesn’t look like elementary school grammar.
It isn’t us deconstructing sentences.
But it really is us learning.
We weren’t sure if you honestly knew that. We weren’t sure if Miss J and Miss Robynbird understood that we realized that.
We just wanted you to know that we know what’s up.
Now that we explained that cool stuff to you, wanna hear our story?

VS:
Once upon a time, a princess comed and a prince comed and a witch comed and and dragon too! And they loved bread so they ateV bread together.
EY:
The prince, and princess, and witch ride on the dragon to Wegmans to get more bread, chocolate chip bread. And they got grapes, and sushi, and broccoli, and tomatoes, then they went back home and ate all that.
DA:
They went to the baseball game and played with all the kids. Then the witch was flying her broom around. And they went to Target on their way home.
RC:
The witch put the princess in jail and they played basketball and after that, some tennis.
ZB:
Then the princess didn’t go to jail, but…what happened was, a big big monster came and the princess trapped the monster. And then the witch, prince, dragon and princess played some more.
SL:
They locked the monster, but he had a key. So, he got out of the trap and he made they breakfast and left. Then he went to Target and said goodbye to Target and go home.

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storytelling part two (classroom fun)

Wednesday’s story looked a bit like this:

(email title)
we tried really hard…but just couldn’t do it

So we tried REALLY REALLY hard to tell a cohesive (this is a big word Miss Robynbird used that kind of means “stays connected”) story today where there is no bloodshed, and nobody gets eaten…but once it got disconnected, she gave to go-ahead to end the story the way we do it best…so here goes:

Miss Robynbird:
Once upon a time there were some children who went for a super long camping trip in the woods. BUT, they were totally safe because nothing scary EVER happened in these woods. This was because there were two VERY special protectors called Miss J and Miss Robynbird who lived in the woods.
Miss J:
When the children got to their campsite, they realized they left their gear at the pond when they stopped to get water. Oh no! So, they had to come up with a plan to build a place stay safe.
(We can’t wait to see what happens, because these kids have mad problem solving skills.)
KR-J:
They builded a tent. Then found lots of wood to make a house. But first they drawed a picture of what the house wanted to look like.
VS:
Then they painted their house and played at the campsite.
EY:
Then they go and find some fishing stuff.
ZB:
And they went to the pond to fish and found their stuff! And that was good because with no support the wood house broke. And then what happened, he build a proper house with support so that it wouldn’t fall. But then it was leaning so they hold it so it wouldn’t fall. And then what happened was the house still leaned.
DA:
They build a new house with straws and bricks and put a window. They paint it. But the construction broke again so they had to do it again with tress and bricks. That’s how they built a new house. A blue house.
AO:
There was a polar bear, he decided to go to sleep in the house. He woke up and had dinner and a snack. The kids saw the bear and they all went in the house to sleep around him.
EY:
Two more polar bears came in the house. Now it was a baby, a Mommy and a Daddy.
(This is when Miss Robynbird and Miss J realized we’d gotten off topic and Miss Robynbird asked TK to do what he does best…he grinned.)
TK:
The brother came. The brother polar bear. And then the Love Monster came. And ate two of the other polar bears.
Miss Robynbird (who had to stop giggling before she could speak): And then protectors of the woods came and told the children to go home.
TK: Miss J is the Love Monster.

So…bears were eaten…but they shouldn’t really have wandered this far south anyway…so they pretty much had it coming.
See! We TOLD you we’re spectacularly good problem solvers!

(Teacher’s Note: The Love Monster comes from a book we read in the classroom called…well…Love Monster.
We’ve just finished a unit on construction in which we learned that architectural drawings must happen before you can build…see how they retain what they learn? It really is so rewarding!)

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storytelling part one (classroom fun)

At the beginning of the school year I started a “game” of writing our own story with the kids in my class. Kind of like playing “telephone” when I was a kid, someone would start the story with “once upon a time…” and then each person would contribute one or two sentences until we had a story.
It was when we were working on the care and keeping of books. My thought process was that if they understood how much hard work went into creating the books they loved, they would be more inclined to take good care of them. This unit of study began with me literally showing them how to handle books and ended with them writing and illustrating their own books.
Over time, we’ll randomly decide to write our own story when we need a quiet but engaging activity…this can happen when I don’t feel like reading a story, but sometimes one of them will suggest it.

When we first started doing writing our own stories, they were a hot hot mess. They were all over the place. The setting jumped around or subjects changed or story lines were completely rewritten as each child had a turn.
But with practice, we slowly began to get better.
With gentle reminders we kept the story on track.
They began to listen to what the child before them said and built from that. They began to create complex sentences. They used the hell out of the words “and” and “then”, but who cares? It’s their story?

This week, we brought storytelling back.
I’m presenting you with a miniseries of the emails I sent to parents each day this week starting on Tuesday and ending on Friday.

(Note: My classroom kids mixed ages from brand new three year olds to four and a half year olds, you will be able to tell the difference based on their language. I have written down their words exactly as they were spoken.)

(email title)
we’re just cool like that

We did something we haven’t done in a really long time…we wrote our own story!
Check it out:
Miss Robynbird started us out:
Once upon a time a queen lived in a castle at the edge of a beautiful forest.
VS:
A witch came. She blew beautiful flowers in the castle.
DA:
A knight have a horsie in the forest.
EY:
The witch locked the queen in a castle with a horrible dragon standing by it with fire in his mouth.
TK:
The dragon breathed fire on the queen then ate the queen up.
JH:
The dragon flowed away.
KR: The knight comes and saves the witch.

We are spectacularly awesome story tellers, no?
Miss Robynbird wonders why it always seems to lead to bloodshed. We don’t actually know why…we just know that’s how we like it!
Miss Robynbird said she wants us to work on writing more stories in which folks (Ha! We think it’s REALLY funny when she says folks!) don’t always end up as dragon food. We’ll try, just to see the look on her face when she sees what we come up with next!

We also started talking a little bit about summer camp and how it will be different from the regular school year. This got us talking about summer and all the cool things summer brings!
Miss Robynbird asked: What’s your favorite part about summer?
DA:
Wearing costumes.
CS:
Cause you get to be a mermaid!
AG:
Summer clothes.
KR:
Going to the park.
MJ:
Big rocket ships.
JK:
Going to the pool.
AO:
Riding my big wheel and going to the pool.
JH:
Going to the beach!
EY:
Me and Mommy going to the pool with Daddy and my brudder and having pizza.
VS:
Having a picnic with Mommy, Daddy and Licity.
CC: Um…um…pool!
TK:
Playing in the sprinkler!
SL:
Go to the pool and wear my goggles!
Miss L:(substitute teacher this day)
Going to the park with my friends.
Miss Robynbird:
Cookouts with friends and family.

Then we started talking more about summer things…
VS: I like weddings!
AG: Me too!
EY: Me too!
VS: I’m going to a wedding!
CS: Me too!
Miss Robynbird: Me too!
CS: Cause you’re gonna marry YBW, right?
Miss Robynbird: Yes, I am.
TK: But Miss Robynbird, I want to marry you.
Miss Robynbird: TK, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me, thank you.
Then everybody wanted to marry Miss Robynbird, except for CS who wants to marry YBW. And EY who wants to marry (her big brudder) J, and JH who wants to marry T (also her big brother).
We’re just cool like that…we use queens for dragon food and dig all kinds of summer stuff…and as it turns out, we like weddings.

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how I spend my days

My kids decided we needed a hair and nail salon in our classroom. So after about two weeks of hard work creating shampoo chairs, hanging hairdryers, a pedicure station, and asking for donations we’re ready!
Yesterday was the Grand Opening of Sound Stage Salon (The kids chose the name.)

before the ribbon cutting ceremony

before the ribbon cutting ceremony

Some friends decided to take a shave.
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They actually got quite good at this.

One little friend decided it was time for me to stop taking photos and have my hair done.
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He worked really hard to make me ‘fancy’.
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This transformation of our dramatic play area was completely their idea. We designed and built and play in it together and will continue to do so until we’re no longer interested.
The kids enthusiasm and excitement are contagious! Our administrators and other teachers have requested to come have their hair and nails done to the extent that we had to create an appointment book. Mommies and Daddies are beginning to ask for appointments too.
I love teaching and learning with three and four year olds!

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working hard today (not so much)

Because we have so few children at school today all the three year old classes have been combined into my classroom. My co-teacher and I decided it’s going to be a movie day…this is something we NEVER do…but today we’re watching Rudolph and LOVING it!
Frosty is up next and you know, there is a certain magic in the first snow.

20141223_101459
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

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pajama day of deliciousness

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My little friends celebrated a month of hard work studying families and food with “pajama day of deliciousness”.
We all came to school in our jammies, even the two teachers.
We read Cupcake before we iced and decorated (then ate) cupcakes. We read The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres before we made soupe au fromage. (That we will eat when it’s time for our snack this afternoon.) We popped corn and watched Ratatouille (a movie about both food and families) while lying around on the floor on pillows from our Tree House Library.

I’m sick…a cold that has taken up residence in my chest…and left the movie at home this morning when I came to school. (Many thanks to YBW who brought it to school on his way to work!)
Even though I’m feeling puny I’ve had such a wonderfully fun day and couldn’t wait to share!

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it’s the most wonderful time of the year

My three year olds tie-dyed socks to hang in our classroom as stockings.

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We found a huge branch on the playground brought it in and decorated it for our tree.
We are celebrating the holidays (Hanukkah and Christmas, but not Kwanzaa because we don’t have any students who celebrate it at home.) with food and families. We’re reading books about food and families. Books like Cupcake, and The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres. Both these books have recipes in the back to create the yummies we’re reading about in the pages so we’re going to prepare and enjoy them in class.
The kids have been taking about how they love to cook with their parents which lead to us asking for stories and recipes important to the families. These stories and recipes will become a classroom family cookbook.

My home has all the nativities set up and ready, the menorah waiting to be lit, one tree up and lighted (though not yet decorated) and the other to be put up this weekend when Things C and G come home.
YBW and I were standing in the kitchen early yesterday morning and I said: Have I told you today how much I love Christmas?
YBW said: Not today, no.
Me: I SUPER love Christmas!
YBW: I know you do, baby.
Me breaking into song: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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