Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Logging it!

Today at recess, the boys asked me to move a large log to another area of the playground. 
"I can't move that! It is too big for me to move," I replied, assuming they would move on and focus on something else. 
"Okay, then we will move it ourselves," Yehuda said.
Jacob held is hand to his ear as though it was a phone, "Yes, we are going to move the log to the work site. I need a whole crew, but we will move it to the foundation." 
I don't know to whom he placed his call, but a crew quickly materialized in front of the log. 

Jacob stood in front them, directing and making beeping sounds to indicate the danger of a large object moving. 

 And it actually moved! With the effort of children combined, the log began to roll. More students came to assist in the exciting project of log rolling.

Everything about this was impressive. The students were not dissuaded by my inability to move the log and showed great determination. Jacob's creativity is always entertaining. The group work towards achieving a goal was heartwarming. 

The TEN Days of Repentance

The time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is known as the 'Aseret Yemy Teshuva' 'The Ten Days of Repentance'. In this time we work more on our mitzvot, teshuva, and prayer. Easy right? 

Although we are working on these attributes, we always are so I moved the focus to the other part- the 'ten'. 
The class is experiencing numbers in the form of games, puzzles, and group activities. And of course lots of counting. 
Some students are already very familiar with numbers, both in ordering and visual recognition. For others this is an introduction. For everyone it is fun. 

 This is just the beginning, just a sneak peak into numbers.  
 We aren't mathematicians yet, but we are learning and enjoying - you can count on it! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Everything it is chalked up to be

People often ask about differentiated education and how different student's needs can be met at the same time. The answer is a longer discussion, but today I enjoyed watching the children engage in "differentiated play". With the same item, the play which ensued in different areas, individually, in groups, with and without teacher guidance, and with extension of the materials was incredible.

Morah Emily brought sidewalk chalk out to recess today. She led an informal group activity with some of the students about the parts of the body. She started to draw a person, omitting parts and the students prompted her on what to add. It was a lovely group activity, causing the children to observe and think about the picture and the human body.

Then my students branched out.

A group of boys started coloring together, mostly creating a pile of white dust.
"We need a lot of coal," Jacob explained.
"For the train," Yehuda added. 
 On the other side of the playground (where our Found Sound Garden stood until 'the big kids' broke it) Moshe worked with a small pile of chalk. He diligently colored each brick.
"I am making it pretty," he explained. "But making it pretty made me dirty," he added, pointing in frustration to the chalk dust all over his tie and pants. Ahh, the price of being an artist. 

I was pulled away from observing Moshe because the girls were yelling.
I hurried over, "What is wrong?"
"--driving---on ---my Elsa!" were the words I could discern from Naomi's crying. I looked and marveled at this: 
 What I first mistakenly assumed was a map or route, was actually an image of Elsa. And someone had the audacity to drive a trike on her!
"It is a beautiful picture, Naomi. But it is very big-" I started.
"Elsa is big!" Naomi interjected.
"That big?!? It is taller than three Morahs standing on each others shoulders!" Ava giggled at that image.
"Elsa is that big!" Naomi insisted.
"Okay, but it might be hard to not drive a trike on it-" 

At this point Naomi noticed that Ava was inadvertently standing on the great Elsa. Naomi instructed her to move and immediately she obliged. 

  I returned to the first group of boys to see how their coal production was coming along. I was wowed to see their new method of using the chalk as coal for transport (or maybe it was something else).
 They discovered that pieces of chalk fit perfectly in tube on the back of their trike.
 So they fit it in.

And off they went! It was like something out of Looney Toons. 

Alone or in a group, making art or using tools, everyone had fun with the chalk. 
The proof to everyone's enjoyment? At clean-up time we said, "Go bring all the pieces of chalk back so we can play with them another time." The children ran and gathered every scrap of chalk they could find!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tashlich Time!

Tashlich, the casting of ones sins into the water, is not easy to explain to children.  Truthfully, I don't know how many adults really grasp the ceremony and its meaning. But I do have a fun way to teach it and make it relevant.

We have been discussing Teshuva for some time, but not specific things for which we were sorry and want to fix. 
At the table we discussed specific actions we want to change. Then I gave each student a coffee filter (we looked at how it was round, as that is a big Rosh Hashana theme) and the washable markers. I encouraged everyone to draw a picture of something they were sorry for and wanted to stop doing. This was easier for some students than others. 
I started by explaining that my picture was of me yelling at my daughter and how I will try not to get upset next time she loses her glasses. 
Elazar explained that he was going to stop chasing the girls. 
 Elchanan said he was going to share better with Moshe. 
 Ava and Jacob both spoke about their younger siblings. 
Naftali said he wouldn't hit his parents any more. 
Moshe insisted there was nothing for which he was sorry. 
And Audrey and Naomi said something about Elsa. (sigh)
 Jacob spilled some water on his picture and started to get upset, but then I showed everyone the next step of tashlich. 
We took our averot picture coffee filters to a water filled tactile table outside (that is practically Lake Washington, right?)
 We placed out pictures in and swooshed the water around.
 Magically the pictures disappeared!!!

 Our averot were gone!
 Teshuva and Tashlich in action! (Are bread crumbs any better than coffee filters?)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sweet as...

We dip apples in honey for Rosh Hashana for a sweet year. Honey is sweet. So are other things. But is sweetness our favorite and what else do we like?
To test our tastes, everyone who wanted, enjoyed a taste of two different types of honey; wildflower and clover. 
 Everyone agreed they were both sweet, and 'a little different, but mostly the same'. Audrey refused to taste honey.
Next we tried some sugar. "Can I have some more?" was a reoccurring question. In spite of 'pleases' the answer was still 'no'.

We moved on to salt. I thought salt would be liked as well. I was wrong. Jacob turned green and had a coughing fit. We discussed the difference between sweet and salty.

And then finally we moved on to sour. Everyone tried a lemon wedge. This was the first thing Audrey was enthusiastic about trying. 

  I was surprised by how well-received lemons were.  Yehuda was very disappointed there weren't more. Maybe we should dip apples in lemon juice. It wouldn't oxidize and...that's another science lesson. For today we learned about the variety of taste, how it relates to our individual senses, and had a fun community bonding experience. 

Girl's Just Want to Have Fun

Outside the boys are always busy with their fix-it shops, construction work, and bike plans. Meanwhile, the girls have ever-changing adventures, although Elsa and Frozen are reoccurring themes.

Whatever happens, beautiful social bonding and lovely creative development occurs (and gross motor development, connection with nature, emergent... you get the idea).


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Partners in Learning

Play based learning is the bulk of the preschool curriculum. During play, countless skills are developed. Today I looked around the room and noticed the social skills developing. There are four stages of play. The most advanced, as I enjoyed observing,  is cooperative play. 

During cooperative play, children harness their developing social skills for the sake of play. They communicate their ideas, share, listen, and act on a shared vision. 
Instead of seeking safety with one friend or two, the students are gaining confidence in trying different opportunities and working on different friendships.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The importance of giving, sharing, and appreciating cannot be understated. Learning to truly understand and live these core values is a lifelong undertaking that begins early. Connected to 'Teshiva, Tefila, and Tzedaka' we explored the mitzva or Tzedaka this week.

First the students had an opportunity to decorate our classroom Tzedaka box. 

The box is intentionally clear so we can witness the money accumulating. 
Then, from unused tzedaka boxes in storage, the students decorated their own personal pushka. [They used to say TDS on them, so if you want to bring it back when its full...]

Phase one of decorating involved permanent markers. Since the students had proved proficiency with Crayola, there was no apprehension. 
Then they learned the art of gluing (more brush wiping!) and added images to their boxes. 

We also read and discussed this old classic. 

Please send coins to school so we can enjoy doing this mitzvah together!