How’s your bucket?

HowFull

This week we read, “How Full is Your Bucket? For kids.”  In this story, we learned that each of us has an invisible bucket we cart along with us everywhere.  With each negative interaction or event drops of “water” drip out.  When your bucket is empty, it can be hard to be kind or helpful.  It can also make you feel sad or irritated.  On the other hand, with every positive interaction or event, our bucket fills up.  We also found out that when we are kind or helpful to others, not only do we refill their bucket, but add new drops to our own, too.

Some days, your bucket seems to be leaking like a sieve.  Your alarm clock didn’t go off.  You burnt the toast.  Your dog stepped in the mud and then jumped on your pants as you walked out the door.  All of these tiny little things take from your bucket.  Children and adults are more quick to anger, irritate, judge,  and outright react without thought when their bucket is empty.

We’ve been noticing when our buckets are losing water and when we can help fill another person’s bucket.  Today on the playground, I saw children filling buckets by sharing binoculars, taking turns on the swing, helping others build once a building had collapsed, and by inviting friends to join them in play. If you notice your bucket is a bit low, try a small act of kindness.  You’d be surprised how quickly it will fill back up.

 

One Little Pigeon and the Big, Bad Spider: The Final Draft

Last night we shared our movie with family and friends.  We rolled out the red carpet, enjoyed pizza and salad, and smiled for the paparazzi.  This project couldn’t have been possible without the children’s creative ideas and the help of Mrs. Haluszczak.  Filming in the past, we discovered that attempting to film the story straight through was a painfully long process.  This year, we tried arranging filming day a bit differently.  While Weird Eric and I worked with current scene actors, Mrs. Haluszczak took the remainder outside.  They spent the morning exploring Spring as it presented itself that day.

For those that are intersted, our final draft follows.  I’ve also attached some of our shot notes and the storyboard if you are curious to see how we organized ourselves for this process.

2018 Pre-K Movie_Final

Scene I: Pigeons’ House, exterior

Narrator:  Once upon a time there was a little pigeon playing basketball.  A Big Bad Spider came along.

BBS: “What are you doing?”  

Pigeon: “I’m playing basketball”

Narrator:  Then the pigeon ran into his house.  The BBS was very hungry and now he was grumpy and lonely.  He knocked on the door.

BBS Knocks

BBS: Pretty please, can I come in and get some food?

Pigeon:  Not by the feathers of our feathers, feathers, feathers!

Narrator: The BBS tries to wrap the house in a web.

BBS tries to throw a web on the house

Narrator:  The police officers came.  

Four police officers and two police dogs enter the scene.

Officer X: Halt in the name of the stars!

Officer R: Halt in the name of the star loft!

Officer N:  You’re going to prison.

Officer F:  I’m going to capture the Big Bad Spider

The BBS is hiding from the police.

Officer N: The police dogs can sniff out the Big Bad Spider.

PD V:  We’ll find him, sir.

Police dogs run back and forth sniffing for the spider.  Eventually, they find him and go get the police officers.

PD Kate: Woof Woof! We found him!

PD Victor:  We found him! Can we have lunch now?

Officer R:  Yes, you may.

Officer X:  Good job, doggies!

Officers F & N:  Good job today!

Police give the PDs dog bones.

PD K:  Woof, woof! Thank you!

Narrator:  They captured the BBS and took him to the police car.  

Police take BBS to car and drive away.


Scene II: Pigeons’ house, interior

Narrator:  The pigeon decides to watch tv.  

Pigeon W: (turning on the tv using remote) I’m going to watch, “The Unicorn Drives the Bus” show.  


Scene III:  On the TV, Unicorn driving a bus

Narrator:  The Sparkly Unicorn decides to drive somewhere.

Sparkly Unicorn:  I’m going to have some mac and cheese and some Brussels sprouts.

Narrator:  Then the Sparkly Unicorn gets dressed in pink stuff.  Then she puts on some make-up. She begins to drive.

Sparkly Unicorn: I have to pick up White Cat on the way.  

Pick up White Cat on the bus.

Sparkly Unicorn:  Come on, let’s go to our meeting.

White Cat: I hope we have fun at our meeting.

Sparkly Unicorn:  Sparkle Butterfly and Rainbow Butterfly are going to be there.

White Cat:  Ok. Well, that sounds fun.

Narrator:  They drive to the meeting.


Scene IV:  An office or meeting place

Narrator:  Rainbow Butterfly and Sparkle Butterfly are at the meeting.  They are all talking about work.

Improv “work talk”, Sparkly Unicorn, White Cat, Rainbow B, and Sparkle B.

Narrator:  Rainbow Butterfly and Sparkle Butterfly accidentally end the meeting by being too silly.  

Rainbow Butterfly and Strawberry leave scene.

Sparkly Unicorn & White Cat: What in the world!!!!


Scene V: The bus

Narrator:  White Cat and Sparkly Unicorn get back on the bus and leave.  After they drive for a while, they stop and go to sleep.


Scene VI:  Pigeons’ House, exterior

Narrator:  The pigeon goes back out to play basketball again.  

Everyone that isn’t BBS or police slowly comes over and says, “Can we play, too?”  All play basketball for a bit.

Order:  Rainbow G, Sparkly B, Sparkly Unicorn, White Cat

Narrator:  Then they all get tired and fall asleep in a heap.


Scene VII:  Police Headquarters, interior

Narrator:  The police officers drive the BBS to jail.  

Police taking BBS through the headquarters.

BBS:  “I just wanted some food!”  

Officer X:  We have some spider webs in the closet.

PD V:  They are really yummy.

PD K:  They are super good for spiders.

Officer N: They are very healthy!

Officer F:   “We have a web cage that can help you with that!”  

Officer R:  You have to keep eating it all day because we have lots.

Narrator:  The cage is made out of webs.

BBS: This cage is GREAT!

The BBS eats the web jail.  

Officer R:  “We’ll drive you back if you say please.”  

BBS:  “Please drive me back.  I want to make new friends.”  

Narrator:  The police drive everyone back to the pigeons’ home.  


Scene VIII:  Pigeons’ House, exterior

Narrator:  Everyone was inside when they arrived.  

Officer F:  Go knock on the door, spider.

The BBS knocks on the pigeons’ door.  

Pigeon:  “Who’s there?”

BBS:  “The Big Bad Spider, can I please have some webs to eat?”  

Pigeon:  “Sure! Here’s a web.”

Pigeon hands BBS some web.

Pigeon:   “You can have as much as you want.”

Rainbow B:  Let’s make a cake for the spider.

Officer X:  We’ll make it banana flavor

Sparkle B:  Let’s have a party.  

Narrator:  Everyone has a party at the pigeon house.

Dancing and partying ensues.


If you are curious about organizing an amateur shooting schedule here is how I did it:

Play2018_Storyboard

2018 Movie_Shots-character

Shooting_Order_2018 Movie_Shot List

Listen

20180418_144228This week I visited Sabot School at Stony Point in Richmond, Virginia.  Sabot is a Pre-K through grade 8 independent school running a program that is Reggio Emilia inspired.  I’ve been a practitioner and learner within the Reggio inspired world since 1996 and I continue to find ways to grow.  This year Sabot’s school-wide Umbrella project is based on the book, Listen by Patty Wipfler.  As I explored the corridors filled with beautiful, child-designed projects, I was reminded of the wonder within the child.

When observing children it can be easy to jump on the first sign of a shared interest.  For instance, this year’s class has been strongly devoted to playing “family” since day one.  In the beginning, I thought, “Oh! I see they are curious about families.  We can dive right into this!”  In past years, this meant quickly gathering supporting materials (books, real-world-objects) to support the development of questions and ideas.  I was worried that if I waited, I would miss the opportunity to build on a shared idea.  This week at Sabot I learned to change my lens a bit.

As teachers, we are encouraged to listen with our whole being to understand a child’s true intent.  First observations regularly point out obvious, surface topics or trajectories.  Upon further observation and questioning, we can draw forward the children’s thinking.  We can help each child bring their theories to light and assist them as they test these ideas through investigation.

When reflecting on this family play, I am beginning to wonder if it is not so much the family unit that they are exploring, but the power of being in charge.  In this game, there is often one member of the family that is “in charge” and directs the others’ actions.  It is not always the same child.  Sometimes “the boss” is more diplomatic, sometimes more autocratic.  Whatever style the family leader tries on, the peers’ reactions to requests (or demands) begin to create an internal rule book for “how to be in charge and still get people to do things with you.”  I’m looking forward to exploring this perspective on “family play” with them in the upcoming weeks.

 

Use Your Noodle: Working Memory

Working Memory.  Sounds like “edu-speak,”, huh?  Maybe it could be referring to a portion of computer processes going on right now within this box of plastics and metals. Could it be the opposite of “Broken Memory?”

Simply stated, it refers to the actions your brain performs when you are “in the moment” and trying to recall and hold onto information to complete a task.  For example, you meet a new co-worker in a 9:00 am meeting.  At 9:15 when you try to introduce her to another employee, you are cursing your memory because you cannot, for the life of you, recall her name.  That is working (or maybe not) memory.

We use working memory for everything from dialing a phone number to knowing which exit to take on the freeway.  Working memory is where we pull up relevant information, analyze how to use it and put it to work.

So how does this effect my preschooler?  Many of the difficulties that young children have fall within the boundaries of working memory.  Is your child “not listening” in class?  Are they seemingly unable to follow directions?  Do they frequently get distracted when they are supposed to be working on a task?  Do they find it difficult to stay on topic when they are part of a discussion?

Young children are growing in this area.  As Pre-kindergarten teachers, we see working memory developing on a continuum.    It is common for new four year olds to have difficulty following 3 step directions.   They have a hard time remembering each part of the direction, holding these in their head and then acting on each in order.

When remembering a string of steps is important, we try to help our students succeed by making our directions as succinct as possible.  We choose to use three or less keywords that represent tasks and routines the children have already had many experiences with.  For instance, when it is time to come inside a commonly overheard chant is, “Boots, coats, carpet!”  This short phrase replaces, “First take off your boots and put them on the tray, then hang up your coat, finally go back to the carpet, have a seat and put on your shoes.”  We have found that using less words makes the directions “stickier” and much easier to recall.

Working memory is visible in kid-writing, too.  Young children generally go through very distinct stages of writing.  When our Pre-K students get to the stage of writing where they begin using letters to represent sounds they hear in our language the first sound in each word is usually all they can hold onto.  With practice, they learn to repeat the word and listen for another sound, maybe a middle or an end.

There are times when the capacity to access working memory goes on the fritz.  Imagine Lucy is sitting in Morning Meeting, watching the teacher, remembering that she needs to look at the speaker, listen with her ears and keep her body safe.  She is holding all of these routines in her working memory while also processing, analyzing and sorting the information spoken aloud in the group.

While she is listening, Lucy thinks she hears one of her peers say her name.  She looks over and sees a couple of friends giggling.  Lucy isn’t sure what is going on, but thinks they must be laughing at her.  She is embarrassed and angry.  Lucy hollers across the room, “Quit laughing at me!”

In this example, Lucy knew that yelling out during Morning Meeting was not the best way to solve her problem, but was unable to pull up other options into her working memory once she began to feel stress.   This can be especially difficult for adults to understand and accept.  Often patience and acknowledging this is development in progress is the best approach.

 

 

 

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.

 

Conferences (Team Family)

There are many ways for teachers to approach conferences.  It could be a time to focus on the academic strengths and weakness of a child.  The social and emotional skills of each student could be the star of the conversation.  We could spend our 20 minutes discussing the activities the children have been involved or their interests in over the past few months.  We could even discuss troubles the child has at home and school, seeing where they meet and work on solutions together.

In the past, I’ve prepared notes for each conference detailing strengths and areas for growth for each student.  I’ve spent the first 15 minutes talking to the parents and then, in the last five asked them if they have any concerns or questions.  I think it worked, but I think we can make our conferences more useful.

This year, I want to try something new. I want to know what you, the parent or caregiver, are most interested in discussing.  We’ve spent two months with your child and are getting to know them pretty well.  You are the members of our team that we don’t know well, yet.

Before you meet with us on Friday, please consider what you’d like to talk about most.  I want our time together to be productive for you, especially since you are taking time out of your busy day to visit with us.  For this reason, one of the first things I’ll ask you on conference day is:

What would you like to talk about today?

 

 

Give it a try.

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I can do things by myself.

Throughout the day, parents, teachers, and children encounter obstacles that present an opportunity for practice and learning.  As parents ourselves, Katie and I realize how much easier it is to simply do some of the quick and easy tasks for our young ones.  I’m sure there have been many occasions where I simply put my child’s shoes on for him so I could get him out the door in a hurry.  We get it.  However, beginning around 2 or three our children are capable of and should be expected to accomplish a lot on their own.

In case  you’re are still a bit sceptical, here is a list of skills we know *3-5 year olds CAN accomplish on their own:

  1. Putting on their own:
    Jacket/coat
    Shoes/boots
    Clothing, including pants/underpants/shirts/skirts/dresses/socks/mittens
    Hats
  2. Opening their own:
    Bag of pretzels/muffins/chips (anything that comes in a chip type bag)
    Bananas
    Clementines
    Juice boxes (except for Honest Kids…I can’t even open those)
    Tupperware
    Applesauce (with the exception of those new squeeze bottle ones…who’s idea were those screw-on tops?)
  3. Personal care:
    Nose wiping
    Bathroom needs (all regular wiping, cleaning routines…unusual accidents understandably require help)
    Hand washing
    Sneeze/cough covering
    Brushing their own teeth

The good news is we see ourselves as a great practice ground for these new independent experiences. It is much easier for children to adopt unaccustomed roles and routines when they are also in a new environment.

I’m sure my own children take advantage of me whenever they get the opportunity because I’m their Mom.  I’ve been there too long and lived through too many routine changes from infanthood to pre-teen.  Yet, they would never consider pulling the “I’m too little” card on one of their teachers. (Well, maybe they would, but thankfully the teacher wouldn’t fall for it.)

We are here to help them grow and become more independent as they mature toward the ripe old age of 6.

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*Children and adults with true physical challenges might find these tasks more difficult.

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