Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Counting on Thanksgiving

Honestly, Thanksgiving is hard for me to teach. Between my decade away from America, my emotional struggle with the mistreatment of the natives, and the meaning of secular holidays through a Jewish lens, Thanksgiving is not something I am passionate about. 
But the children should know something about the upcoming long weekend. 
I summarized the [false] Thanksgiving story of the friendship between the Pilgrims and Indians and how they celebrated with yummy food, especially turkey.

The project was connected to our on-going study of numeracy, number recognition, and sequencing.  
They colored a turkey that had numbers on each feather.

After cutting out the turkeys, the children received pre-cut paper feathers with numbers on them. 
The children then attempted (or didn't) to glue the numbers onto the corresponding spot on the turkey. I stapled the turkeys onto cups so they could stand.
It is always fascinating to see the differences in effort, creativity, and ability.

Whatever Thanksgiving means to you, have a wonderful day and great long weekend.
Gobble Gobble!

Birthday Bonanza!

In two days we celebrated three birthdays! 
Birthdays are a wonderful time to take stock of our child's year and development.
Each party, just like each child, is unique and exciting.
With or without a birthday, may each day be filled with fun and excitement.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Watching Scaffolding in Action

In the world of education, the word "scaffolding" is often used. Similar to its context in building construction, it involves providing temporary layers of support (information, experiences, guidance) around the student, so the person can strengthen from within. If that isn't clear, you can read a thorough definition here.
To me, it means the pleasure of watching the students apply the information they have to everything around them in new and exciting ways. The retention and reapplication is incredible and constant. Here is an example.

On the table were a selection of recycled goods for 'upcycle art'. This was a completely open-ended opportunity to do whatever the kids wanted. With tape, scissors, and glue, they got to work.
Yehuda announced he was making an airplane.  Remember when they became aviation experts here?
Then Jacob announced he built a mailbox. Remember the mailbox theme we had earlier? I didn't blog it, but families received Rosh Hashana cards in the real mail.
Ori took a milk carton, decorated it, and announced that he had built Noah's Ark. Another area of their newly acquired expertise here.
Others followed suit on this idea and built other ships.
"Let's see if they float!" suggested Audrey. Remember that one? Off they ran to the tactile bin to test it out.

It is thrilling to see how their brains apply information. I love assisting in scaffolding these beauties.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Aviation Expert

Yesterday Elazar finally went on his long-awaited flight to the east coast. Over the last week, every time he mentioned his upcoming trip, everyone would contribute details about their own experiences on airplanes. 

Following their interest in air travel, today we had a special guest! Nechama Poyurs, from the FAA, came to teach us about planes and flight.

It was very informative, on how planes actually fly on invisible roads in the sky. She described the communication needed to ensure planes take turns and give each other enough space. She described her work to make sure the planes were too noisy and bothering people and animals.

And then we made paper airplanes. Because we have a class of budding scientists and engineers, the design pattern of each plane was intentionally different, to see how it affected flight.

Fighting germs with soap!

This week we are discussing noses. The jobs of a noses are smelling and 'snotting'. The latter leads to the big topic of germs.

Within a large discussion on germs, I explained that germs are everywhere. 
"Like Hashem!" Elchanan cheered.
"Is Hashem in the germs?" asked Naomi Bina. Theology and science at their best.

We discussed the best method of keeping germs away and staying healthy, involved washing our hands regularly. 
I regularly have conversations which go something like this: 
"Did you wash your hands?" 
"With soap?" 
Therefore we did a science experiment on germs and how only soap, and not water alone, fights germs. 
(Disclaimer: this experiment is actually about surface tension and not germs, but it illustrates the importance of soap). 

I poured water into a bowl and sprinkled black pepper on top. 
I passed the pepper around for everyone to smell. "This is pepper. We use it to season food. But for this experiment we will pretend it is germs." In turn, the students stick their finger into the bowl, and the germs/pepper sticks to them. 

Then we put a drop of soap on our finger and return it to the bowl. The germs/pepper magically run from soap! (It is really cool! Try it!)


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Experiencing Autumn

If you google 'Autumn Preschool Curriculumn' you will find an enormous amount of information and ideas. Because I follow a Reggio-inspired curriculum, and the children haven't been talking about Autumn, we weren't addressing it in the class. 
Although they weren't talking about it, today at recess, they were truly experimenting and appreciating the joys of a glorious fall day. 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is an experience worth?

Countless Ways to Welcome

Within our unit on parasha Vayera, we looked at Avraham welcoming guests. We talked about the how and why, the children shared their enthusiasm and personal experiences with hosting in their homes. 

Amid all the positive voices Naftali spoke up. "I don't always like having people over. Sometimes they don't want to do what I want. And sometimes I just want to be alone," he articulated. I was thrilled to hear this honest opinion and we discussed how hachnasat orchim isn't an 'easy mitzvah'.

In our classroom we had a tent to welcome our friends, and everyone did enjoy this opportunity to host. 

Then the kindergarten, as part of theri work on the same topic, sent us an invitation to join their class on Friday for a fruit salad party. We hung the invitation on the wall and every day they enthusiastically counted the days until the party. 

We made truffles to bring to the party and discussed the manner we use as a guest. Then we went to kindergarten. 

Sometimes being a host is better than being hosted. At least three of our class were tot scared to sit down in the foreign classroom.  Almost no one would eat the fruit salad. 

It was a learning experience for all. 

 Third grade was also learning this topic and presented a puppet show about Avraham welcoming guests. This was more enjoyable for all, as it was in 'our own space.'

We also created pictures of tents to welcome guests into our space. 
Allowing children their own creative destiny is crucial. But without guidance or a framework, it is hard for them to develop new ideas or direction. This project is one example of the guided, but open-ended projects we do all the time. 

Having already accrued vast amounts of knowledge and experience in hosting and being hosted, we talked about tents, and how they could look all different ways. Everyone was keen to share their tent-related experiences. 

Armed with paper, burlap squares, different popsicle sticks, glue, and scissors, everyone was free to create their own masterpiece. 

As you can imagine, the results were just as varied as the children, each unique and beautiful. 

My daughters asked me which was my favorite, and although there are 'no favorites', it was Elazar's because he said, "Morah, I made a tent for my guests, but I need food for them too! What can I use for food?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hearts with Dr. Tabitha

Today we had a special visit from Dr. Tabitha Werblud because we are learning all about our bodies and staying healthy. This whole unit was initiated because when children were out sick, we discussed what parts of them were sick, how, and what it means. 

Prior to her arrival the children were uncertain of why a doctor would visit school and very concerned they were getting shots. 

Dr. Tabitha came to teach us about our hearts. 

"Do you know what the heart is for?"
"Loving people," Yehuda answered confidently.
"Actually it is to pump blood around your body," she began to explain, demonstrating the pumping motion with her hands.
"And for loving people," Adina added.
"And loving Hashem," Elchanan said. 

Dr. Tabitha explained a lot about the heart. The children looked at their veins and arteries (I learned the pink when you pull down your eye lid is an artery). 

The took their pulses while resting. Then they jumped around and rechecked.

Dr. Tabitha brought in pictures of the heart. Naomi wanted to know why it doesn't look "like a real heart". 

Everyone learned a lot and had a lot of fun. 

Thank you Dr. Tabitha for teaching our Pre-K, Pre-Med. 

Problem Solving From Within

For the last few days, a new recess game of "Annoying the Girls" has developed. It involved many Tiny Tots as well.  I believe the girls are sort of enjoyed this, as they acted very dramatically in response, but I regularly needed to redirect the play, and calm frustrated children.  Naomi Bina was very responsible and would seek a teacher before the situation escalated but a teacher can only do so much.

I didn't see a clear way to remedy the situation and hoped they would bore of it on their own.

But Jacob had a plan!
I wish I caught Jacob on video. He gathered the boys around him, and spoke in a deep and scary voice.  "I am the police man! You will all go to jail if you are mean to the girls. If you chase after the girls or are mean, you are a bad guy. All bad guys will go to jail. If you are good , you will stay with me and we will fight for good! Good guys, this way!" He ran off and they followed.

As you can image, this was far more effective than my, "Naftali, do you see how you upset your friend Audrey? What can we do about this?"

The boys listened and ran after Jacob to be good guys. By then I was filming it, and this is what I captured.

I would like to say that they all listened to Jacob and never thought of returning to bothering the girls, but...