Playful Directions

Mrs. Forst's Pre-Kindergarten Blog


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All in Time: A Short Frog Tale

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a little group of curious newly-legged frogs spent every waking minute experimenting with their world.  All of the peepers explored and practiced every possible area of learning.  Most, however, found that the winds directing their studies sent them in a variety of directions. A few practiced jumping until their legs could jump no more.  They leapt high and far, increasing their distance with each bound.  Some ambitious amphibians tried their hand, or rather foot, at creating symbols to represent the stories frequently shared within the family.  Pictures and word symbols were attempted, adjusted, abandoned, and accepted.  One lily pad hosted frogs intent only on perfecting their melodious, throaty tunes.  Many of the frogs often attended and excelled at reptilian etiquette class where they learned the finer points of when to croak and when to listen, how to politely solve problems encountered in leap-frog, and how to build positive relationships among the froggy clan.  Each frog found and explored their passion.

Yet all was not perfect in the land of frog.  For the leapers were not necessarily good croakers.  The symbologists occasionally missed their aimed for lily pad.  The successfully social often found symbols and storytelling completely non-compelling.

The adult frogs wanted to know when their athletic little polliwog would finally begin to see the point of symbols.  When would the socially awkward frog, though an amazing hopper, figure out that croaking in his neighbor’s ears was unmannerly.  Why was the worst singing frog in the history of frogsong allowed to remain in the pond anyway? (Though the parents did acknowledge the tuneless little frog was an amazing diver and adept at bug snatching.)

“Wait,” said the teachers.

“Patience,” said the wind.

“Faith,” said the lily pads.

As the months went by, the polliwogs often began to drift toward new endeavors.  Some who had spent all their spare moments leaping began singing at every opportunity.  Others who had found symbology a chore, now sought out the craft as the most obvious way to record their newfound love of reptilian history.  Though it is true that some of the polliwogs held on to their original strengths as they matured, none of them stopped at one discipline for learning.  All of them gained a bit from each experience and in the end, all became committed to the pond and it’s community, contributing in the manner of their genius.

 


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Inside or Out?

This week on Forest Four, the Pre-kindergarten hiked to the upper field for a visit to the hoop house.  When we first arrived, the children weren’t exactly sure what to expect.  Mr. Cooper and the kindergarten keep the area quite tidy, hiding away all of the usable tools.  It would be most depressing to find that all of our blocks were carted off by an engineering minded raccoon.

Once we opened the interior shed, all hands found an occupation.

There were digging pits for building our large motor skills and providing opportunities for negotiation and sharing:

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One corner boasted a 3D printer designed marble run:

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Mrs. Forst was instructing the children in the use of hammers and nails.  No fingers were injured and only one of the nails flew into the grass when Mrs. Forst pulled it out of the wood.  Check out the looks of focus on these faces.

The most visited section was filled with blocks.  There are actually less blocks than we have in our classroom, but the novelty of them must have proven too tempting for the children.  Almost everyone added to the building below.

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Go Noodle!

When the winter months start to roll around, there are often days at a time when the students are stuck inside due to the extremely cold temperatures. Wiggly bodies and pent up energy can be difficult to manage in our small classroom, but luckily we have a trick up our sleeves and it goes by the name of GoNoodle.com. Go Noodle is a website that provides hundreds of videos that gets kids exercising, practicing brain building activities, and even has a mindfulness section that helps bring students back to a calm, controlled state of being.

When signing up for our account, the class was assigned a little creature (named McPufferson) who grows and get stronger the more we complete the videos. The students relish in seeing “our guy” gain points and level up to become bigger and stronger with each video. In just a few weeks, our students have already memorized several of the silly songs, motions, and breathing exercises and often talk about them throughout the day.

The website has been a great resource for us to help fight off cabin fever and get our bodies moving. Anecdotally, I also have to admit that it has been a great way to get my heart pumping on those drab, wintery days. If you are interested in signing up at home, the sight is completely free and there is an option to sign up as a parent rather than a whole class. We highly recommend it!

 


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Letter Builders

In the past week, the students have been playing a game during center time called “Letter Builders” where they work with various wooden shapes to build a given letter. At the beginning of the game, the students are given a card with a letter displayed on it and they are asked to figure out which pieces they will need to make their letter. They then take the wooden pieces and place them right on top of the letter card. In most cases, the students exclaim how easy the task is and that they are ready for more of a challenge.

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Once the students are comfortable with their abilities to manipulate the shapes, the letter card is then placed on a stand that sits in the middle of the table. The students must now create the letter shape while looking at the letter card from afar rather than directly in front of them. While this seems like it should be an easy task, the children actually must now use their executive functioning skills and working memory to hold the shape of the letter in their minds while searching for the appropriate pieces. Then they must create the shape of the letter in front of them without the help of the card underneath as a guide. The letters that use more straight pieces tend to be the easiest for the students to create, while the letters that use curvy pieces or letter that requires the students to cross the midline prove to be the most challenging. Some of the letters require the students to overlap the pieces, which created an extra challenge for them to tackle.

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The last step in the game is when the students must create the letters completely on their own. The letter cards are put away and the student are asked to create the letter completely from memory. This is obviously the most challenging as the students must think about what shapes they will need without an example in front of them to use as a resource. Some students quickly problem solved this issue by looking around the room for the letter they were working on or even looking at a neighbor’s completed letter. The more the students work with the letters and their shapes, the easier the task becomes.

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Today, we focused on creating uppercase letters as they are easier to form. Next time we play, the students will be challenged with creating lowercase letters with the wooden shapes. This makes the task slightly more difficult as the students will have to make sure their letter shapes are facing the correct direction. When shifted, even slightly, it can be easy to accidentally create the wrong letter. Letters such as b, d, p, and q look remarkably alike and the students will have to stay focused in order to create the correct letter. We know that our Pre-k Letter Builders will be up for the challenge!


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Hour of Code 2016

Today Pre-k participated in our fourth annual “Hour of Code” event.  We didn’t actually spend an hour on the project, but the computer programming that we played with was lots of fun!  The instructors (Mrs. Kate Weber and Dr. Anne Faye, our Director of eLearning) explained that computer programming was as simple as giving someone or something directions.  After a quick practice with paper arrows and maze, the children moved on to Kodable, an iPad app with similar parameters.  For this task, the children directed a fuzzy creature through mazes while practicing planning, problem solving, the Scientific Method and visual-spacial skills.

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If you are more curious about Hour of Code, check out  Computer Science Education Week.  Here is a short introduction found within their site:

We live in a world surrounded by technology. And we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and less students are studying it than a decade ago.

That’s why schools across the nation joined in on the largest education event in history: The Hour of Code. During Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-14), students will be amongst over 2 million worldwide spending one hour learning the basics.

See http://hourofcode.org for details.


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Forest Fours Journals

Today, we introduced the students to a new chapter of Forest Fours by implementing a writing component to our day. Each child received a special journal that travels with us while on the trails. The students are allowed to draw pictures of the games that they are playing, the structures they build, or the specimens they see while out in nature (fungus, birds, rocks, deer, etc.). They also are allowed to collect things like leaves or small pieces of moss and tape them into their journals for safe keeping.

In addition to the journals, we borrowed four Polaroid cameras from Mrs. Weber so that the students can take pictures of items that would be too big to fit in their journals. The pictures are then taped onto a page and the students write about what they observed. The journals will travel with us each time we venture into the woods and the children are allowed to fill their journals to their heart’s content whenever they deem it necessary.

Since it’s inception, our class has used Forest Four days to play in an unstructured setting so that they could explore and create at their will. The addition of the forest journals allows students to extend their learning by giving them the opportunity to write, even while outdoors. Through this activity, the students are practicing skills such as fine motor development, phonemic awareness, self-regulation, observation, categorization, identification, and much more. We look forward to sharing our journal entries with you in the future!