Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Hey Mom...I Met Bob Today!"

So, we named him Bob.  The hamster, that is.  His name is Bob.  How that got started I'm not quite sure.  I think it had something to do with the fact that one of my teacher associates said, "I want to name him Bob!"  Soon all the kids were asking to see "Bob", pointing at Bob's cage, asking why Bob was sleeping, gasping as they yelled "Uh oh, Bob!" as he was climbing the side of his house and hanging from the ceiling. 

So, apparently, his name is Bob.  Bob quickly made himself at home in his new environment by climbing up the side of his house and 'begging' to be let out and given treats.  How does a hamster beg for these things?  Well, I wish I had a picture of it.  He literally climbs up the side of his house and across the ceiling and sometimes dangles from the top until someone comes up to his house.  Then he climbs down and out the door if you open it!  Yep, that's our little Bob! 

Bob made a brief appearance after breakfast to be petted since he freaked a few of the kids out with his gymnastics in his house!  He then made two trips to visit other classrooms and did very well!  He was gently petted by almost 40 children today....and lived to tell the story (well, technically, I'M telling the story...but, I'm sure he would if he could!)

When Bob came back from his visit to the other classrooms, one of the little guys in my room, pointed to Bob in his house, looked at me, pointed at the door and said, "No take Bob on walk!, No take Bob on walk."  Clearly they are all very excited that this is THEIR hamster....not the other classroom's hamster!

One of my teacher associates offered to knit Bob a tiny scarf as he may want to ride a tiny motorcycle and have the wind blow through his hair.  She also offered to make him a tiny leash so he can walk down the hall with us.  Perhaps we are taking this a bit too far!  We did, however, have to tell him "night, night" at nap time and wave to him as we were walking out the door at the end of the day.  

I have a feeling I may get a few questioning notes from parents asking who exactly is this new guy Bob?!  Bob?  Well, Bob is a few inches long, is furry, cute little nose, whiskers and likes to do gymnastics! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two Great Blogger Awards! One Big Thanks!

Oh my!  Time really does just fly by.  Ok, that's really not an excuse!  Quite a while ago I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger award by two great people!  I started this post and never quite finished or published it.  So now that I saw that Vanessa from Pre-K Pages nominated me for the Kreative Blogger award, I wanted to make sure to thank all 3 people and pass these along to some of the other great blogs out there! 

So, first, thank you so much Ayn at Little Illuminations and Leeanne at Kreative Resources for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award!  (Yes, I know, this was quite awhile ago!  Yikes!  Better late than never!)

Kreative Blogger Award

And, Vanessa from Pre-K Pages, thank you for nominating me for the Kreative Blogger award! 

All three of these sites are such wonderful sources of ideas and inspiration; I was excited to be nominated by all three of these great people!   Thanks guys :) 

7 things about me:

1.  I tend to procrastinate... (ahem...not unlike what I did with this blog post :) 
2.  I think finding ways to adapt items for use by all children is great fun!  (puts to use those Dollar Store and Goodwill finds!
3.  I have two sons age 18 and 21.
4.  I've recently found that I actually enjoy doing mini-home improvements! Who would have  known!?
5.  We have 2 dogs, a cat and a hamster in our house currently!  (the hamster is heading to school soon)
6.  My husband and I are both teachers.  My mom and dad are retired teachers...and my grandmother was a teacher! :) 
7.  Shh...don't tell anyone, but twitter really drives me a bit crazy!  How can you focus on one thing with all those itty bitty bits of thoughts floating around!?

There are SOOO many blogs out there that are wonderful!  It was REALLY tough to narrow this list of great blogs down!  But, here we go:  A few of my favorite blogs!  (and, yes, my interests are diverse!)

I'm giving the Versatile Blogger Award to:

1. Kate at Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs! 
3. Tom at Sand and Water Tables! 
4. Crystal from Surviving a Teacher's Salary! 

And the Kreative Blogger Award to:

1. MaryLea at Pink and Green Mama!
2. Jenny at Let the Children Play!
4. Rachelle at TinkerLab!
5. Amy at Child Central Station! 
6. Brenda from Early Childhood Education and Common Sense!
7. Karen at Flights of Whimsy!
**Guidelines for passing on the Versatile Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks Ayn and Leeanne!
2. Share 7 things about yourself (see above)
3. Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers. (again, see above)
4. Contact the other bloggers to let them know they have been nominated.

**How the Kreative Blogger Award process works:

List seven things about yourself (see above) and give the award to ten other bloggers (and, yet again, see above!) Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks Vanessa!

Now on to the Edublog awards!  Good to stop procrastinating! :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Supporting Communication Through Simple Exploration

So, what do you do while enjoying simple exploration with young children who don't yet have much (or any) verbal communication?  Do you sit around the table silently?!  Hopefully not!  Do the adults all carry on conversations about their favorite holiday shopping!? Hopefully not often...or at least briefly!  What should adults be doing to support
communication while engaging in simple exploration with children?

We often use communication books and/or voice output devices with the children during the day.  But with very young children, I've found that attempting to use a communication book AND fully explore a new item, painting, cutting or gluing is a bit much to handle!  Therefore, I find that simply naturally and incidentally supporting communication during these explorations allows them to stay focused on their work and keeps their hands free.   (simple Boardmaker pictures or a simple Boardmaker board focused on the activity can be incorporated easily and simply placed on the table.)
The communication during simple exploration often starts off very one sided!  I generally start by simply commenting on something I see or notice: "Wow, looks like you are going to paint the BIG pumpkin!" 

Often, when we're asking children with limited language/understanding or those who need more time to process information to DO something ex. "wash hands", "sit down" etc., it is preferable to limit the unneeded words so the child can focus on what truly needs to be done. 

But, I always want to model natural language as much as possible as well!  Therefore, during our exploration, I use complete sentences and often emphasize words that a child may want to use to 'jump off of' to hold up their end of the communication.  (Ex. BIG)

I also use simple sign language or point to picture supports for important or descriptive words along with verbally saying them. 

As well as providing the communication support, I use my own materials to explore along with the children.  In this way, I can comment on something I'm doing or simply model self-talk.  Ex.  "Hmmm...maybe I should use YELLOW paint now!"  (Caution:  I have a little guy who now says "hmmm" each time he turns the pages of his communication careful what you model!  :)

Here's an example of communication I may support during pumpkin painting: 

ME:  "Wow, looks like you are going to paint the BIG pumpkin!"  another child looks up and says "baby" and points to her pumpkin.  I could continue:  "Yep!  You're painting a baby pumpkin!  It's very SMALL." (I would sign 'baby', 'pumpkin' and 'small' while saying and emphasizing these words) 

Child points to pumpkin and then to the color she is using in her container.  "Oh, you're painting your baby pumpkin PURPLE!"  (I would sign 'purple' as well as say it)  Child signs "purple" and points to her friend who is also using purple paint for his pumpkin.  "Oh my!  TWO PURPLE PUMPKINS?! silly!"  (I would point to each pumpkin as I say two and sign purple and pumpkin)

At this point, the two children may smile at each other, switch paintbrushes, paint each others pumpkins or interact in some other way.  This is usually my clue that the conversational turns have ended and the children want to communicate with each other. 

I may then have to switch to 'translation' mode :) and simply watch the two children to assist them in communicating with each other. 

**Of course, it is important to tailor the talk to the level of understanding the child has.  It's important to know the children very well and simply work on extending and expanding the children's communication.  The above example is of a child with good receptive language and the knowledge of some simple sign langauge.**

I think sometimes we get stuck in the idea that a communication book always needs to be used when a child has very limited verbal language!  Keep in mind all the GLOBAL ways a person can communicate!  (pointing, gesturing, signing, eye contact/eye gaze, grunting, screaming, crying, laughing, single words or parts of words etc.)  We want children to be able to focus on and attend to truly exploring new objects as well as communication!

This is just a very simple and natural way to make the most of those super simple explorations by assisting the children in communicating about their experiences!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

PreK and K Sharing...Have You Checked it Out Yet?

So, have you heard yet?  There are some wonderful early childhood ideas over at the new blog PreK and K Sharing!  If you haven't visited yet, you really should pop on over to read a few of the first posts from people interested in so many different aspects of early childhood! 

PreK + K Sharing

This is truly a site devoted to all sorts of early childhood experiences!  It's also a wonderful place for so many visitors!   Below is just a sampling of what has been posted so far!  These first posts have been introductions from the authors...but definitely have a wealth of information inside each post!  Come check them out!
  1. If you teach Montessori (or would like to know more...or would like to implement Montessori inspired work in your room) you may want to check out THIS!
  2. If you need ideas for music and movement or would like to use visuals with music, you may want to check out THIS!
  3. If your school is implementing data teams and you are looking for quick ways to assess academic learning with your kindergarten students, you may want to check out THIS!
  4. If you're interested in storytelling and story play with young children you may want to check out THIS!
  5. Would you like more literacy ideas?  Check out THIS!
  6. Would you like to learn more about the study of the brain, how young children learn and what young children need in order to grow and develop to their fullest?  Then check THIS out!
  7. Would you like ideas to help children relax and calm their bodies?  (I think I need this sometimes :)  Then check out THIS!
  8. Would you like some ideas for great go-to books for preschool children?  Then head over HERE!
  9. Would you like ideas for working with and activities for mixed age groups?  Then check out THIS!
  10. Would you like some simple and exciting ideas and activities for young children?  Then hop on over HERE!
  11. Oh, and LOL...just in case you haven't seen MY TOP 10 Reasons I love teaching early childhood and my favorite super simple activities from the last year...check THIS out!
  12. And last, but certainly not least, would you like to meet Debbie Clement (who started this great blog) and see some great music and dancing?  Well, check out this POST!
Now, remember, these are just SOME of the first posts!!!  There will be MANY more and SO many more contributors who have NOT YET POSTED an introduction post!  So, don't just take my word for it!  Head on over!  You may find some new favorite blogs, new favorite ideas and inspiration and meet some new people interested in early childhood! Stop back to learn something new!  Implement a new idea you love in your own room!  And then check back for even more blog posts from even MORE early childhood people!! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's All About Trust!

It's tough to trust.  I have been talking and giving treats to our little "Peanut" for the last few weeks at home now.  So... are you wondering who Peanut is?  Peanut is our new little classroom hamster I purchased with a coupon from Pets In The Classroom (I got his cage and toys for free as well)!  I figure when I bring him into the classroom we'll decide between the name "Peanut" and "Pumpkin", as he clearly LOVES to eat peanuts and pumpkin seeds!

Yes, I was taking these photos AND holding Peanut!  He got so brave while I was
snapping photos that he climbed right up to my head!! and down my back!!! 
This afternoon was the FIRST time he climbed right on to my hand...and promptly nibbled on my finger...he clearly was still a bit worried about things!  After I recovered from nearly dropping him, he peeked out from his burrow to see if I was still patiently waiting for him and came right back up to the open door and sniffed!  His curiosity got the better of him! 

Eating a peanut...on my hand! :)
He climbed right out and onto my hand, stood on his back legs and sniffed at me!  Yesterday, he was even brave enough to come and climb on the side of his cage and sniff at my dog's nose!!  Silly hamster...that's pretty dangerous territory!  My hand is clearly safer than the dog's nose!

By the way, Peanut is a "Winter White" hamster.  As it gets colder,
his fur is supposed to start turning white!
Peanut has been hanging out at my house for the past month or so.  Before I trudged to school with a scared little hamster, I wanted to make sure he felt he knew and could trust at least one person!  I think we're just about ready to make the dangerous trip to the classroom!  Of course, people are a lot more complicated than hamsters, but, really, it's still all about trust!

Please don't fall, please don't fall, please don't fall!
I have some children in my classroom who have a tough time trusting.  I have one little guy who often will peek into the room after I've been gone for a day...just to make sure I'm back where I belong in the classroom! 

Run little guy, run!
I witnessed this little guy literally hang on to the doorway screaming as his parent tried to drop him off for school one day (this was when I had a month off during the summer- don't's the schedule we're given).  This was the last day that I was gone on vacation.  I technically was just dropping stuff off, but felt so bad, that I simply sat holding this little guy for about 10 min. until he finally calmed down, looked at me and smiled.  I swear, he was so upset I don't think he even knew who was sitting with him until he calmed down!

 He's climbing on my shoulder!  How DID I get this photo!?

We really do need to look at it though from the point of view of a child with VERY limited language, communication and understanding of the world around them!  With no language to tell anyone that they are scared, worried and upset that their routine is disrupted, they feel a bit lost!  Their equilibrium is clearly off.  They rely on all those very subtle cues throughout the day...that change when someone new is in the room.

To top that off, they are not sure WHO this person is or why I am gone, or why their routine is interrupted, or why their world feels a bit off, or IF this person will KNOW that they need assistance with certain things!  And, good grief, this person isn't able to understand their unspoken communication!  As much as we work on communication in all forms (communication books, sign, voice output etc.) it is so much more difficult when it is someone you don't know well!

Yep, it's tough to trust...especially when you have very limited ways to communicate.  Before assuming that a child's reaction is a BEHAVIOR...remember, that they may simply be attempting to communicate that they are scared, worried, unsure, confused.  They may need reassurance and understanding and lots and lots of patience!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You've Got To Start Somewhere!

I've been helping out a friend recently who is new to teaching; who is new to special education in particular.  Because of this, I started thinking about all the ways teachers can (but often don't) assist new teachers!

I've had quite a few student teachers come through my classroom.  When you think about it, though, student teaching is often very different than that first year of teaching!  Student teachers often HELP with paperwork, assessments, IEP's and conferences; but, they are never completely responsible for this.  It is still up to the cooperating teacher to make sure things go smoothly, that things are written correctly and that things are done on time.

That first year in the classroom can be just a bit overwhelming!  No longer are you responsible only for the children; but for managing multiple things (paperwork, IEP's, assessments, computer work) with little assistance from others.  This can definitely be overwhelming!  Of course, there are mentors and your teaching team to help when needed.  Unfortunately, many times, new teachers feel that asking for assistance may come across in the wrong way! 

Here are a few things I think all of us, no matter how much teaching experience we have, can do to help those who are newer than ourselves!
  1. Offer time to brainstorm ideas and solutions to problems!  Often simply talking out a stressful or challenging situation can bring clarity and several possible solutions!
  2. Offer to help create things.  New teachers are often overwhelmed with the responsibility and paperwork alone!  Creating simple games, props, picture prompts or assessment tools can be a great help! 
  3. If you have previous knowledge or training in an area that may be helpful; offer to provide a quick overview of how things work!  Often just walking through something can ease the burden!
  4. Share!  Share ideas, Internet resources, assessment tools, other resources etc.  Don't be stingy!  Those things are doing very little good if they are only benefiting one person and a few children!  Look at the big picture!  By sharing these resources, you are making an impact on more children than those in your own classroom!
  5. Continue to ask if help is needed!  Most of us would like to think we don't need any help and have things completely under control...until we don't! 
  6. And always, always remember that you were once there as well!  Remember that we are all learning!  Remember that by teaching and assisting others you can continue learning as well!  And, finally, remember that it is always OK to simply suggest asking someone with more expertise or with training in a specific area!  You don't have to be the go-to person for everything!
For some odd reason, it seems that many teachers feel sharing these resources hurts them in some way!  WE'RE TEACHERS for goodness sake!  People learn from each other!  Be a resource to others!  Try not to fall into the complaining sessions that sometimes happen  (and if you do, just make sure something positive is coming from it)! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smiles, Giggles and Belly Laughs!

The kids have a new obsession in my room.  It's called, lets see how many of our friends we can get laughing at one time! 

It goes something like this:  "Jeremiah did it!"....giggle, giggle, giggle.  "Jeremiah did it!"  (a little louder)...giggle, giggle...a few laughs erupt from the friend sitting next to the child exclaiming "Jeremiah did it". 

"Jeremiah did it!"  again, giggle, giggle, smiles from a few more.  "Jeremiah did it!", giggle....BELLY LAUGHS! 

"JEREMIAH DID IT!"  Belly laughs all around! 

The on-going question the adults have in the room is....what exactly did Jeremiah DO?!? :)  Whatever it is, five children find it incredibly funny!  And, apparently you can not be older than five years old to "get" the joke!

Grab the "How Long is this Hall" Button!

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