Sunday, October 30, 2011

Giving Parents a "View" Into the Classroom

I decided this weekend to update the template I use for my monthly parent newsletter for the classroom.  While I was doing this, I began thinking about the various ways we, as teachers, help parents understand what the children are doing all day at preschool! 

It has always been a bit tricky to show the parents what the children do daily in my classroom.  Some of the kids in my classroom can be VERY aware of routines and insistent on things staying exactly the same each and every day!  Often this also seems to dictate WHERE people should be! (mom should be at home, Miss Pam should be at school, grandpa belongs at his house etc.)  This can make visits from family members to the classroom tricky as meltdowns are likely to occur!

One of the quick and easy ways I have found to give parents a peek inside the classroom without a parent necessarily needing to BE there, is to add some various anecdotes to our monthly newsletter!  Below is the "News from Around the Classroom" section of our November newsletter to the families in my classroom.  As you can see, it is less about correct sentence structure, and more about keeping the flow of the "snapshot of the classroom" going!  (at least that's what I tell myself :)

News from Around the Classroom!
Last month we enjoyed exploring our apple
pie spice playdough.  Daniela was seen using
rolling pins, cookie cutters and pizza
cutters to make various pretend items with
this playdough!  (This month we will be exploring
pumpkin pie spice playdough- another wonderful
smelling sensory item!)  Christian has been getting
used to our classroom and has enjoyed using just
about any one of our musical instruments, cars,
Duplos or trucks in October!  -While Trevon
continues to enjoy painting with orange and yellow
paint just about every day!  A'ziah has been seen
driving many toy cars down the car ramps and has
enjoyed learning to swing on the big kids swings
while outside!  Colin has been obsessed with listening
to the story "The Spooky Wheels on the Bus".  And
Kayleigha has been thrilled to join us for our outdoor
time and has been enjoying riding bikes and driving
the car!  Ryan has enjoyed Going on many
Bear Hunts with us!  And Jeremiah and Dalton
especially enjoyed our painting with natural autumn
items (leaves, sticks etc.)

I simply mention one or two things that the child has particularly enjoyed during the previous month!  Generally, I focus on items the children have enjoyed doing during center work or outside.  It is a quick and fun way to individualize our newsletter!  Now, of course, adding photos would be even nicer, but our newsletter is short and to the point, so just the quick mention of each child and his or her favorite activity is enough! 

There are so many ways to give parents a view into the classroom (school websites, daily notes home, documentation panels, assessments using collected work and/or photos)!  This is simply one very quick and easy way to provide a bit of that "view" into the classroom!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ring Around The Rosy...Autumn Version!

The last few weeks we have been enjoying a super simple, super fun version of "Ring Around the Rosy"!  We start by putting craft autumn colored leaves (the fabric type) on top of our small parachute. 

We all hold a handle and slowly move around the circle singing Ring Around the Rosy in the normal way...until we get to the end of the song.  We change the last line a bit. Instead of saying..."We all fall down" we sing, "the LEAVES fall down!" 

This is our cue to shake the parachute like crazy and let the leaves fly up and then fall down on top of us!  The kids LOVE this part!  They laugh as all the leaves fly around and down to the ground!  The kids then scramble around collecting all the leaves on the floor and putting them back on the parachute so they can play the game all over again!

Excuse the photos!  This is what you get when you're holding a
parachute handle and trying to take a photo at the same time!!
**Here's a parachute tip that really helps the kids settle down and relax after active parachute play.  Start with an active parachute game, like the Autumn version of Ring Around the Rosy.  When you're ready to slow down, have the children lay or sit down under the parachute.  Have the adults hold the handles and slowly pull the parachute up and down above the children's heads.  We count aloud to 20 while the children look up at the colors and feel the breeze.  Usually the children watch transfixed to the parachute colors above them and quickly calm down and relax!  It's a perfect calm transition and helps to gently end the game, as some children may be reluctant to see the parachute tucked back in it's bag!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nature Paintings

The other week we took a short nature walk.  We pushed our small wooden doll carriage along with us and filled it with all sorts of natural items we found along our walk.  We found twigs, large sticks, twigs with leaves attached, leaves, acorns, rocks and even bark from a tree. (it had fallen off the tree)

When we came back to the classroom we literally just dumped our collection into the empty sensory table to explore.  Several days later one of the little guys in my room brought some leaves inside from the playground and asked to put them "in".  Of course, those leaves were plopped inside the sensory table as well.

The children explored these items a bit, but weren't thrilled with them (I think they may have found them 'out of place' in the classroom).  Over the weekend, I grabbed some tiny pumpkins and gourds to add to the table. 

We decided it was high time we explore painting with our Autumn items.  We pulled out the pumpkins, the gourds, the leaves (some that were by now, quite dry) some twigs with leaves attached, rocks and acorns.

We added orange, red and yellow  paint in shallow containers and began to explore.  The adults modeled how to make pumpkin "prints" by holding the tiny pumpkins by the stem and dipping them in paint. 

We explored dipping leaves and acorns in paint and swirling and tapping them on the paper.  We spent time exploring each object and how it interacted with the paint.  Later we may add some of our colored glue to stick items down.  We may also decide to use paintbrushes to actually paint directly on the pumpkins!  But, for now, we explored using these items as paintbrushes themselves!

We'll be off on another nature adventure later this week.  I can't wait!  Oh, did I tell you.  We found a snake on our first walk!  We were quite excited, though it was too fast to take a picture of!

This blog post is linked to the blog hop on Rainbows Within Reach

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Know You've Found a Good Match for the Classroom When...

You know you've found (or at least someone has found) a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate smiles and says, "oh, he's so cute" to the child with the runny nose and drool who runs to her and wraps his arms around her legs. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate asks to be shown the IEP goal tracking sheets so that she can help with those. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate says she plans to start school in January for....early childhood special education.  :)  (I'm OK with this as long as she plans to keep the job!)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate is unfazed (or at least ACTS unfazed) by the kicking, flailing, screaming child on the floor. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate asks to work with a little guy who needs assistance outside because "he's really starting to get used to me more when I spend time with him outside." :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate tells you how much happier she is in this position than in the larger group classroom she was previously part of. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate makes herself comfortable during center work, follows the children's lead and extends their play without needing a reminder. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate recognizes how much progress a child has made when she exclaims that a child "knows so many signs and uses them so purposefully and in conversation" :)

and in this same conversation...looks appropriately impressed when you explain that this child came into the program 5 months ago with ONE sign and now has over 20 signs that he regularly uses! :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associates' interactions with the children are respectful, engaging, understanding and caring. :)

You know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate is patient and appears to understand that teaching self-help skills, life skills, play skills, social skills and behavioral skills are just as important as teaching academic skills. :)

And, last but certainly not least, you know you've found a good match for the classroom when the new teacher associate shows up each day and isn't currently looking for a new position! :)

(The children are settled down again; comfortable with the fact that there are enough hands in the classroom to assist with all those sensory and art exploration activities that they love!  I'm hopeful that this new teacher associate will stick around long enough for the children to truly get to know her!  I'm hopeful that she will be able to learn from the classroom and apply this to her classes she plans on taking!  I'm hopeful that she will also teach us knew things!  I'm thrilled that we seem to have finally found a great match for the classroom!  And I'm hopeful that she will stay for more than a's been a week and 2 days...we're on the right track!!)

Grab the "How Long is this Hall" Button!

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