Unboxing a Mystery

P1240712An unusual box arrived today.  Curiosity and excitement are bubbling out the door and down the hall.  What could be inside?

  • A hamster in a cage, because I saw one once.
  • A turtle because ___ put his finger in and he said something bit him.  It must be a turtle.
  • I think it’s a stuffed cat.  Stuffed cats come to your house in a box like that.
  • Glass because you said that it is fragile and can’t get hot or cold.
  • A turtle because that’s what some other people said.
  • A real cat.  When kittens came to my house, they came in a box.

We tried listening to the box for clues.  Unfortunately, we didn’t hear anything that might give us clues.

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Everyone wrote down their ideas using one of our Feely Box Friday forms.  The top says, “I think it is a________.”  We use the bottom to write about what we actually find.

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Finally, we opened the box.  Its contents were not what we expected.  Inside we found bugs! In fact, there were four containers of them.  The bugs are very small and a few of the children were a bit nervous that they might be poisonous.  I quickly assured them that I would never invite a dangerous bug into our school.  The package also contained some white fuzzy things, two little Petri dishes with what appear to be seeds, and some sort of crispy, hard thing that reminded the children of a butterfly “cocoon.”  I’ve set up all of these items in an observable space so we can keep an eye on them.  Our little scientists are looking forward to watching this drama unfold.

 

Road Trip (Part I)

Two of our dear friends moved back to Florida last week.  We are already missing their smiles.  Sigh….

No worries! The children have a plan….

We’re going on a road trip to Florida! Yippee! Oh, fine, it is only imaginary, but we can still make our plans.  To assist in the planning, I photocopied all of the pertinent states from my trusty road atlas and stitched them together with old-fashioned scotch tape.  The class was quite surprised to find such a spaghetti mess of roads between here and there.  Yet undaunted, they began to take action.

First, the children decided we needed a car to get there.  Enter our trusty stand-by, a nice empty box.

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Here are a few bits demonstrating the process and explaining some of the technical details:

I think we’ll need to attack the map next….

Balance Your Joy

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.

 

 

 

“He won’t let me be [do] what I want!”

This is a common complaint in the Pre-K classroom. Sometimes it’s “he”, sometimes “she” and most often “they.”  No matter which pronoun precedes the declaration, it is certainly “not my fault!”.  The Pre-K child’s development of fairness, self and place in the social world drives the logic behind feelings of inequity.

Here is an example of a conversation I overheard recently.  Two children were already engaged in a game of “family” under the loft.  Two other children wanted to join in on the game:
(all names are ridiculously fictitious)

Ivan: Mrs. Forst! Mrs. Forst! She won’t let us play! 

Blessing: But, Mrs. Forst, They aren’t playing right!

Harold: Yeah! She won’t let us play her game!

Mrs. Forst:  Blessing, tell me what happened?

Blessing: Ivan “grrrrrred” at me and he breathed in my face.

Ivan: I was a bear! I was a BAD bear and I was going to eat her.

Blessing: And Harold just yanked all of our food away. He didn’t even ask!

Harold: But I didn’t have any food.

(at this time the words were flying like bats out of a cave, I had to do something to make the discussion more focused…)

Mrs. Forst: Ivan, what do you want?

Ivan: I want to play with them.

Mrs. Forst: Blessing, what do you want?

Blessing: I don’t want them to be bad bears and steal our food.

Mrs. Forst: Ivan, ask her how you can play in their game.

Ivan: What can we do in your game?

Blessing: You can be good family or pets.

Continue reading “He won’t let me be [do] what I want!”

Letter Reversal in Preschool Writing…

Here is an example of why we needn’t worry so much about our little ones’ writing.

Letter Reversal in Preschool Writing….

A Peek Outside (and in)

Here is a peek at what has been going on outside WTN lately.

 

 

We’ve seen:

  • persistence
  • cooperation
  • innovation
  • independent play
  • the scientific method
  • self-regulation
  • problem solving
  • attribute sorting
  • careful observation of classmates and nature
  • social and physical experiments
  • coordination of motor tasks
  • kindness
  • humor
  • compassion

All of these life enriching skills were practiced outside while engaging in student-driven play.