Saturday, January 26, 2013

It Pays to Play...

There are many aspects about my job that I love and one of the things I like best is that my classroom is a play-based classroom!  My students learn important academic and life skills through play. In today's society, preschool programs that encourage play as a learning tool are often thought of as inferior to those programs that don't. The truth is that neither programs is superior or inferior to the other scientifically, both have good arguments for success. What it comes down to is which philosophy you believe in (you believe in one or the other whether you realize it or not.) I believe in PLAY!  And the really best part of my job...I get paid to do it!! How awesome is that?! I get paid to play!

Maybe its the kid in me or maybe I'm just weird, but I love the fact I get to go to work and play with one of my all-time favorite childhood toys: Play-dough!  I love the feel of it and the smell of it, especially when I add some of my own ingredients such as Kool-Aid, cinnamon, or vanilla extract! (Yes, I make my own play-dough! Its cheaper and I can get creative with the recipe.) If you played with play-dough as a kid you remember all the really cool sculpture you could make. I always enjoyed making "cookies," and other food items.  Like many other play items that fill my classroom, play-dough is a multifaceted learning tool! I love strengthening my student's reading and math skills when I sit down and join them in play-dough play. You are probably wondering how a hunk of dough can teach a child to read and add aren't you?  Well, did you ever roll your play-dough in a long snake-like roll? Did you ever make it into the letter 'S'? I'm pretty sure you did, or else you were robbed of proper play-dough play AND a happy childhood. Anyway, when I roll out really long snakes, which the kids ask me to do quite often because evidently I'm awesome at it, I will often make a letter out of the "snake" and ask the child if they recognize the letter. Most often they do, and when they don't I get help them learn a new letter. This is all pre-reading!! (You can't read if you don't know your letters.) If the child knows the letter I will often continue my teaching opportunity by asking if they know what sound the letter makes and if they can think of a word that begins with that letter. Another way, to reinforce literacy skills using play-dough is by giving the children straws or toothpicks. Kids love straws!! I often flatten out a ball of play-dough into a clean slate and then use the straw or the toothpick to write my name or the child's name or just some letters. The children will often practice writing their own name in their play-dough! They think it is pretty cool to see their name written in play-dough.

Now on to play-dough math fun! This often starts out with the child using cookie cutters to make cut outs. Most of my students also enjoy making "cookies" and they usually make quite a few. Leaving the opportunity reinforce counting skills. If they have have made different types of cookies, there is an excellent opportunity to encourage sorting skills (necessary for math) and even work on patterns. Sometimes I will throw in some early addition skills by asking how many of each cookie and then how many all together.

So in one fifteen minute sitting, my students and I have worked on literacy skills and math skills all the while having fun with play-dough!  Its an easy and inexpensive way to make learning fun through play.

Lesson of the Day: Never underestimate the power of play! (or play-dough)

Kool-Aid Play-dough Recipe:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
2tbs of cream of tartar
1tbs vegetable oil
1 cup of very hot water
1 packet of favorite Kool-Aid (if using Lemonade, have yellow food coloring on hand to enhance color)
*Mix dry ingredients (except Kool-Aid) in bowl. Add Kool-Aid to water and stir well. Then add oil to colored water. Stir until ball forms and all ingredients are absorbed. Lightly flour surface and then knead dough until its no longer sticky and all the flour is absorbed. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lets Talk Boogers!!!

"I'm the real boogieman!!"

Tis the season!!!!  There is nothing I hate more than winter. Not because of the cold and the snow, although those are a thorn in my side, but because it brings the snot!!  Any person who works or has worked or even has children knows what I'm talking about. Its not the clear normal kind. No, we are talking the clumpy and sticky green kind. You know, the kind that hangs in a bubble right between the nostril and the upper lip. The kind of snot that requires ten tissues just to wipe safely away without it seeping through to your hands. The kind of snot that even The Licker (the child that constantly tries to lick the booger away instead of walking that two inches to get a tissue) can't remove with their tongue.

Teaching preschool, I have learned that there is nothing I can do about the booger epidemic. Four and five year olds have this ingrained notion that the tissue is the enemy. Its the boogieman (haha, no pun intended!) that evidently scares the crap out of them because they will use anything, sleeve, blanket, your favorite cardigan, to wipe their noses. Anything and everything EXCEPT for the one thing mechanically designed for the wiping of boogers!

Now, I am sure you must be wondering why I am devoting an entire post to the topic of snot. And although it probably would be a good segue into reminding you of the importance of hand washing, but if you work with kids you don't need the reminder since its probably one of the most repeated phrases of your day.  So, the only reason that I can give for a post on snot is that I wanted to vent a little! Since the title of this blog is Things I Learned in Preschool, I guess I should have learned a lesson and I guess I did. Here it is: As long as there are preschoolers, there will always be boogers! Hey, at least I don't have to deal with poop! Oooooh, wait, actually I do, but that's another post for another time.  Happy Nose Blowing, Preschool Peeps!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lesson of the Day: Sometimes you just need to paint on the floor!!

"There is an artist in all of us...." -Unknown

Yesterday, I got a much needed lesson in flexibility. As a preschool teacher, its imperative that I be flexible. However, me being the control freak, type-A, planner that I am, I struggle with flexibility. As always my co-teacher and I had set plans for the activities of the day, and yesterday we were going to mitten paint as a go-along activity with our reading of the, "The Mitten"by Jan Brett. However, our students had other plans! One of the girls asked if she could start painting on a big piece of paper,  so I pulled out a long piece of butcher paper to cover the table, but it ended up being longer than the table and the end trailed on the floor. So, another little girl asked if we could just put it on the floor and paint it there. Since I couldn't think of one reasonable reason as to why we couldn't, I taped the paper to the floor and started passing out the paint brushes. Soon, other kids wanted to participate in painting on the floor and it quickly became a group activity! I taped another long sheet of butcher paper to the floor connecting it to the original piece since I love the idea of a cumulative team effort. Kids started grabbing things like stencils, roller paints, crayons, etc, from the art shelves began adding their own ideas to the huge mural. Soon we had one of the most beautiful creations that I had seen in a long time. It was a definite proud teacher moment. (after I stopped freaking out about the paint that was accidentally getting on the floor and carpet.) The kids had a blast with all the freedom and learned so much in the process. One child loved the fact that when he mixed yellow and red paint together he got orange. The pride that emanated from him was infectious. I was proud of him, too! They used different size paint brushes, glued pom-poms to the paper, they even painted over the stencils instead of just tracing them. Once the paper was covered I asked the kids what they wanted to do next, and I bet you can guess what their response was? Yup, you guessed it, they wanted to make another one. So we rolled up the mural, tossed in the trash and started a new one! We did this about three more times until the students lost interest! This was a totally child-lead activity and we all enjoyed every minute of it.

Not only did my students take a lot away from that activity, but I did too! I learned that sometimes the best experiences come from the simplest places. And a reminder that the world will still rotate on its axis, even if my daily lesson plans don't get accomplished!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Lesson of the Day: The Preschool Teacher and the Fashionista

A couple of weeks ago I got a cruel reminder of why a preschool teacher cannot be a fashionista, or as I once heard a "teachionista." Lesson learned: Don't look pretty at preschool!
Now anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to get dressed up! I curl my hair, and apply make-up religiously, even if I am only going to the grocery store. (Hey, you will never know who you will run into, and you know if you look like junk you will see everyone you know, so I make it a point to be prepared.) Anyway, one of the reasons I dress up is because I always feel great when I'm in cute and comfy clothes and look nice, and if there is any place you want to feel great its at work, right? In theory yes, in reality its WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

It was Tuesday, I will never forget that day! It started like the rest. I woke up, showered and made my coffee (first cup of the day). I looked at my lesson plans for the day and didn't see any extremely messy activities scheduled for the day, a rarity in our classroom. So I picked out my new gray cardigan that I got a great deal on and that I just knew the girls at work would compliment on it. I was super excited because 1.) Gray is a great color for me  2.) This was a really cute, really expensive cardigan that I got a great deal on! So I throw it on with a white tank (another no-no) and a pair of jeans and start what I am sure is going to be a glorious day! Once at work, I see the choice of a white tank top was, quite frankly, a stupid one because in taking a drink of my coffee (second cup of the day) it drips on me and and leaves lovely light brown spots on my white top. Thankfully, it missed the cardigan from heaven. So the next few hours progress nicely, until I hear the dreaded words I had hoped not to hear today, "Brandy can we paint at the easel?" Now, in my classroom we try to stick to the philosophy, "Say 'Yes' when you can, and 'No' when you have to." Since my wardrobe probably isn't a suitable reason to refuse, I begrudgingly oblige my students and even decide to have some of them to help me get the paints from the art room (third mistake of the day). In the art room I pass out paints to eager helping hands and grab a couple bottles for myself to carry, when all of a sudden I hear the words, "uh oh!" squeak out of the mouth of one of the sweetest and cutest kids ever, and turn in time to see a jug of blue tempra paint splatter the floor, the wall and my beautiful gray, expensive-but-got-a-great-deal-on cardigan. Son of a nutcracker!!! As a human being my first inclination is to freak out and scream, but the mature, adult, teacher in me reminded me, thankfully, that is was an accident. This little boy, who is now looking up at me with fearful eyes, didn't not wake up that morning with a premeditated plan to drop that paint and ruin my new sweater. So, I bit back the frustration and assured the cutie that it wasn't a big deal, and that accidents happen. I quickly wiped up the mess the best I could, and lead the kids back to our classroom. I tried not to be grumpy, but I couldn't help it. I had blue paint on my sweater, and although it is supposed to be washable, my years of working with tempra paint has taught me that blue and red are the least likely to wash out of clothing!! I spend the rest of the day trying to put on my happy pants and remind myself that things, i.e, clothes, don't matter. People matter! If I had reacted the way instinctively wanted to that day, I would have really hurt that child's feelings and ruined my relationship with him (afterall early education is primarily about student-teacher relationships). Especially this child who is very sensitive. So I guess you could say I learned two lessons that day.

*Oh, in case you're wondering I was able to get the paint off. I went home and immediately sprayed it with stain remover and dumped a ton of Tide on it, took it to the laundromat and did a happy dance when I pulled the cardigan out and it was paint free.