Remote Control

One of the hardest things to learn when you are little is how to modify your behavior to fit the situation you are in. As adults, we know that when we are in an office meeting, we should be quiet and focus on the person who is speaking. We know that we are probably supposed to sit still in our chair and refrain from entertaining ourselves and our co-workers with noises and comical expressions, even if we think the discussion is boring. These are things we have learned about societal expectations along our journey to adulthood. For children, it takes many practices and many mistakes for us to figure out what we are supposed to do.

Today, we talked a bit about how hard it is to come in from playing outside to moving in to the carpet for a quiet whole group lesson. I explained that it is like watching a wild movie with lots of running and loud music and then switching the channel to a quiet stream with only the sound of the water running across the rocks. I told the children that we all have our own remote control inside ourselves that we can turn so we are ready for the quiet moments. However, it’s really not quite that easy, so I asked the children for some suggestions about how they help themselves switch to their quiet selves.

We can sing a song.

We can take deep breathes.

While both of these are great ideas, they are not easy to implement when we are in the heat of the moment. In the spirit of Ross Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions, I believe that “children will do well when they can.” With that in mind, I expect that my students will need lots of coaching and practice to be able to meet this societal expectation by the time they are grown-ups.

Stopping what you are doing and moving to a completely different tempo of activity takes many skills; noticing the change, holding the new expectation in your mind, inhibiting your current tempo, ignoring input from other sources (like your friends….who might just be way more interesting than what the grownups want from you), and moving your focus. These fall under a catagory of thinking called Executive Function Skills.

How can we practice this? Lots and lots and lots of practice. Here are a few of the activities we’ve used to support our learners as they navigate these skills. All of these provide opportunities to practice noticing change, holding the new sets of rules in their minds, inhibiting automatic reactions, and allowing flexibility in thinking.

Rhythm Walk

Using two sticks, I tap out a predictable rhythm. Each tap signifies a step across the room. Fast taps tell a child to walk quickly. Slow taps are for very slow steps. A child must listen to the rhythm and adapt their gait based on the tempo of the sticks.

The Opposite Game

This game starts out as a simple “Copy Me” game. The easiest way to explain it is with a script.

Me: This a a listening game. You’ll need to listen with your whole body, your eyes, your ears, your brain, and your body. When I say, “Head” touch your head. When I say, “Feet” touch your feet.

(I say “head” and “feet” many times in an order, sometimes with two “heads” in a row or the other way around.)

Me: Now we are going to mix it up. Ready? When I say, “Head” you’ll do this (touch feet). When I say, “Feet” you’ll do this (touch head).

(Now when I say either direction, the children have to think to remember which action they are supposed to do. An automatic response doesn’t work anymore.)

You can play this many ways. You can say, “Jump” and “Sit” or give each child a colored piece of paper and have them raise them up when you say, “Blue” and “Yellow.”

Freeze Dancing

Yep. The good ‘ole standby, this game cannot be done without self-control.

Their Perspective

The other day I found something exciting while walking in the woods.

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One of our trees blew down many years ago.  This treasure-trove was easily visible inside.  I had to share it with my class.  I wondered what questions they might ask. “How did those get there?” “Who lives here?”  “Why are there so many?”  I imagined our next research project drifting into animals in winter or animal homes.

I forgot that children bring their own perspectives to all experiences.

Yes, they looked inside this log and said, “Hey, there’s coconuts in there!”  However, that was as far as their interest led them.  Instead, they were very concerned about the “mushrooms” growing on the outside of the log.

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They decided the log provided a great place for some large motor practice, climbing back an forth across the large tree.  A few investigated the jump-worthiness of the stump.P1330354As we were about to leave, without any interest in the stash of nuts, one of the children felt the tree had not been fully explored.  So he went in.

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Obviously, some things are much more interesting than talking about some old nuts.  Reminder to self: trust the children.  They will find what they need.

Forest Building

We spent the morning in the woods on Friday. After a summer of heavy rains, our fort was certainly worse for wear. After removing all of the fallen logs and sorting them by size, we were ready to rebuild.

I put up the first few large logs, building the base, but after that, the children took charge of collecting sticks and deciding on placement. A few of the larger logs were farther from our construction. Team work was required to move these behemoths through the undergrowth.

One of the largest logs provided us with an addition, almost doubling the size of the design. While we built, the children used their forest journals for the first time. Many drew our new fort.

Once the children deemed the building complete, a few chose to add small details to decorate the inside. Flowers were added as well as a phone. Some of the leaves were swept away revealing a carpet of soft moss inside.

Our current forest fort:

Curiosity Breeds More Questions

One of our morning classes was canceled today, leaving us with an opportunity to head outside and enjoy the lovely fall weather. We took a short hike over to The Bear Track Trail, located on the back side of our playground. This was our first excursion to this section of our school grounds.

While exploring, odd spherical shapes fell from above, clunking along the ground. There was some discussion about whether these were coconuts or walnuts. Either way, everyone wanted to know what might be inside. Many experiments were attempted. They were thrown, stomped on, bounced, and even squeezed. One sure-fire way was eventually found.

So now that we had them open, what were we to think of the squiggly mess we found inside? More and more curious we became. Squeamish my students are not. They quickly began picking the “worms” off of the seeds to examine them. The children spent the better part of twenty minutes inspecting these new finds. Many theories came forward.

Concrete and Abstract Thinking

Early each year I set out the dragon tears (flat glass rocks) and some simple line drawings. They are wonderful for fine-motor practice, but more importantly they are lovely, special things to play with. I added them to the art studio last week after observing many of the children placing a variety of toys in rows and lines.

On purpose, I didn’t explain how they might be used. I wanted to see the ideas that the children bring with them.

This year, a few children decided to use them to line the simple drawings. One child used the lines as boundaries and created their own design within the marks. As I walked around the room observing others, some of children took their exploration further.

Moving from concrete materials to abstract representations of those materials is a perfect example of the developmental growth we see in Pre-k. For younger children, it wouldn’t occur to them to re-make the activity on paper. Their learning focus is on the tangible, the feel of the rocks, the swoops and straight lines, the act of moving the stones. While the older children also found this enjoyable, they were driven to represent their experience in another medium.

We will see this in all areas of development throughout the year. Children will move from activities that involve direct manipulation to those that can represent their experiences. We hope to capture as much of this growth as we can to share with you.

Friendship and being little

Friendship can be messy. As grown-ups, we can easily forget how murky the “friendship” lines can be when we are little. Here are a few of the comments I overheard recently and a break-down of what was actually happening:

“I don’t want to play with you. You always play with me.”

Four and five-year-olds are naturally egocentric. They are designed this way on purpose. It helps them adapt to a strange world as they encounter new things every moment of their young life. One must learn to have their own perspective before they can understand that of another. When two children find that they have similar interests at the beginning of the year, they often gravitate to either each other or at least the same sets of spaces and materials. At first, it feels like a comfortable connection. As time goes on, one might decide that they would like to try something new with a different friend. This can cause confusion. The child left behind follows the new pair trying to join in, just like every other day. The child who wanted to play with someone else can’t see the perspective of the other and thinks they are just “copying” or “following them everywhere.” As grown-ups, it’s our job to recognize the feelings of both children. Children have a right to play with a variety of classmates AND they have a right to want to continue to play with the one friend they’ve made a connection with so far.

So, how do we solve this dilemma? Today I spoke to this pair to help them communicate more meaning than just, “I don’t want to play with you.” We found out that the follower simply likes the other child, that’s why they were following them. We also found out that the child who didn’t want to play would be happy to play with the other later. He just wanted to play with someone else right now. Once we had more information and language that explained our feelings better, both parties agreed to move off to other groups.

Fast-forward to later in the afternoon: The “I don’t want to play with you” child was holding the hand of the other, gently tugging and saying, “You are on my team!”

“I want to play alone right now.”

Sometimes, people just want to be alone. This is very hard to understand when you are in Pre-K. If you want to play with someone, it is obvious that they would want to play with you. If someone says they want to be alone, you often jump to the conclusion that they don’t like you anymore. We guide the children through these experiences by having both children talk together about what they want at the moment. Realizing that your classmate wants to be alone for a little while instead of forever helps both parties gain understanding.

“No one wants to play with me.”

We hear this comment very often in the beginning of the year. Digging a bit deeper, we find that the child who is alone is either unsure of how to join another group already in play or they want to play a different story or game. In the case of the latter, usually they have not actually asked anyone to play their game, instead just asking, “Will you play with me?” We teach the children two different strategies in the instances above.

If you see a group you’d like to join, we suggest asking, “How can I play?” This will give the group and the child a way to blend a new person into the game. It is also a question that cannot be answered with a single affirmative or negative response.

When you have an idea of what you’d like to play, we suggest telling others your idea. “Mandy, I want to play cats. Do you want to be a cat?” This opens up the dialogue if your classmate has a different idea or is fully interested in your idea.


Relationships in early childhood can be fraught with ups and downs. The good news is vacillating friendships help build the skills we need as adults to both empathize with others and speak up for our own needs. Everything that happens in childhood is learning. Our job as adults is to create a safe space for mistakes and growth to occur.

A New Year of Wonder

We are almost two weeks into our latest adventure at WT North Pre-K. This class of small scientists has been flowing right into the new routines. We’ve been slowly introducing materials and tools, allowing the children to become comfortable with the use and care of each before adding something new. As they play in this novel setting, we’ve had many opportunities to observe and wonder along with them.

A wandering spider

Open exploration of loose parts

Chalk on the outside

Ramps and cars

Water table science

The Pre-K Movie Premiere

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Last night, we held our seventh annual Movie Premiere where we debuted the masterpiece: The Pre-K Movie. Our stars arrived in their fancy garb, walked the red carpet, had their picture taken by the paparazzi, ate pizza and popcorn, and even received their very own 3D printed Oscars. We could not be more proud of all of the creativity and hard work this class put into this movie!

If you’d like to see the script for this four month long project, you can check it out here.

Thank you to all who were able to join us last night and to all those that made this fabulous evening possible!

The Pre-K Movie Script (2019)

Below is a copy of the script written over four months by our Pre-Kindergarten class. This project began in small groups with each making a shared story. Once all of the stories had been written, we read them as a class to find any common themes. Coincidentally, all of the stories spoke of the characters trying to find a home. This became the central problem in our story. Through discussion, we decided how this problem might be solved. Each group then went back and edited their stories to support both the problem and the solution. Eventually, all of the short stories were edited together near the beginning of March. Final touches were added as we took note of how many lines each child had written for themselves and how many scenes they appeared in. Each child decided when and if they wanted to speak during a scene.

Scene 1: Old House, interior

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Narrator: Shark, Donut, and R. Princess are sitting in their old house.  

R. Princess: I don’t really like any of the activities in our house.”

Donut: I don’t like the fish at our house because it’s rotten!”

R Princess: I don’t wanna watch the movies at our house.”

Shark: We should look for a new house!”  

R Princess and Donut:“That’s fine with me!”

Narrator: Together, they decided to go far away to the woods to look for a new house.

Scene 2: Train Station, exterior

Narrator: Meanwhile, Falcon and Mouse are at a train station.   They want to go to the store.

Train Engine pulls up.

Falcon: Train, will you please take us to the store?

Mouse: I want some cheese.

Train: Absolutely, I’ll take you there!.

Narrator:  They are looking for a house and decided to go to the store to buy new things for the new house that they will find.  They get the store and the Train Engine goes away.  

Scene 3: Store, interior

Narrator:  While at the store, they see their friend Bunny, who is shopping for bunny food.

Bunny: I’m looking for bunny food.

Falcon; Do you want to come with us to get some supplies for our house?

Mouse: I want cheese.

Bunny: I’ll come with you! I need a house, too!

Narrator: Falcon and Mouse invite Bunny to go with them to find a new house.  They pay for their things and leave. They get on the train, who takes them to the forest to look for a house.  

Scene 4:  Pool in a Magic Garden

Narrator:  Meanwhile, Volcano and Pony are cooling down in a pool in a magic garden, drinking yummy drinks.  

Pony: Oh I love this pool!

Volcano: It’s so warm! I just want to stay here forever.

Pony: It’s so nice!

Narrator:  Suddenly, an Alien crash-lands in the water with them!

Alien splashes into the pool.

Alien: AHhhhh!  Cannonball!

Volcano: Are you ok?

Pony: Do you want something to drink?

Alien: Yes please!  I’m ok. Have you seen a space home?

Volcano and Pony: We haven’t seen one.  

Alien: I have an idea!  Let’s build a city.

Pony: I want a rainbow city

Volcano: We can build a rainbow city

Alien: I want a space city!

Volcano: We can build an alien home!

Alien: How about half the city is rainbow and half is space.

Volcano and Pony: Yes!

Alien and Volcano and Pony: Let’s get building!

Scene 5: The Forest

Alien, Volcano, and Pony walking around, searching the forest.  Pantomime picking up items.

Narrator:  Together, they begin looking around in the forest of supplies to build their new homes with.  They find lots of metal and pink cheese and bricks and start building a space station for the alien, a castle for the Pony and Volcano, and a whole giant town!  They are very hard workers.

Scene 6: The Forest

Narrator:  Meanwhile, Snowflake Princess, Tiger, and Baby Shark are walking in the forest, all looking for a home.

Snowflake Princess: “Let’s find a pink house with sparkle cheese!”

Tiger: Yeah!

Snowflake Princess gets distracted and chases a squirrel, getting lost.  

Scene 7: Squirrel Chasing (Forest)

Snowflake is running around in the woods.

Scene 8: The Forest

Shark Robot Alien meets up with Baby Shark and Tiger.

Shark Robot Alien: Where’s Snowflake Princess?

Baby Shark: She got distracted chasing a squirrel.  We don’t know where she is.

Shark Robot Alien: Let’s leave a trail of acorns to lure the squirrel here!  

Narrator:  While Shark Robot Alien, Tiger, and Baby Shark are searching for the Snowflake Princess, they see Shark, Donut, and R. Princess who are looking for a new, fancy house.  

Shark: Hey! We’re looking for a new house.

Tiger: We have to go find a different house, too.

Baby Shark: Let’s go together!

Scene 9: The Forest

Cut scene to Snowflake Princess alone in different part of the woods?

Narrator: While Snowflake Princess is chasing a squirrel, she realizes she is lost and is very sad.

Snowflake Princess: I’m scared!

Narrator: Suddenly, the Train with the Bunny, Mouse, and Falcon on it pulls up.  

Bunny: “Do you need a ride?”

Snowflake Princess: I’ve never been on a train before!  I’m too scared to go anywhere.

Falcon: Bunny will sit next to you on the train!

Train: There’s nothing scary!  I’ll take you to your home.

Scene 10: Magical Town

Narrator: Shark, Donut, and R. Princess stumble upon a magical garden.  They see the beautiful town that Pony, Volcano, and Alien had just built!  Everyone finds an awesome house that is perfect for them.

Characters walk into set and look around amazed.

R. Princess “Wow!  That house is amazing.”

Donut “That shiny pink house is incredible!”

Shark “And a golden roof!”

Donut “We should live here!”

Shark “That’s a good idea.”

R. Princess “Do you think we should add a grill and table so we can cook and eat outside?”

Shark and Donut “Yeah!”

They talk more about how they’re going to decorate their new house.

Scene 11: View of Magical Town

No one else is in shot.

Narrator: The Train pulls up to the brand new town.  There are amazing homes for everyone!  

Mouse, Bunny, Falcon, and Snowflake Princess get off the Train and look around.  

Mouse: I want cheese!

Falcon: We should find a falcon house!

Bunny: I see a house I love it!

Falcon: My house has cheese too!

Mouse: We can be next door neighbors!

Train: Bye-Bye!  I’m going back to my house!  I’m turning into a subway and going underground!

And the train leaves.

Other characters wave goodbye and look around for a cool house.  

Scene 12: View of Magical Town

Baby Shark and Tiger are standing with the town in the background.  Snowflake Princess enters the scene.

Narrator: Snowflake Princess finds Tiger and Baby Shark.  They are so happy they found her!

Baby Shark and Tiger:  We found you!

Narrator:  Everyone is finding a house that is perfect for them

Scene 13: Montage Scenes of Individual Houses

(Orange Peel House) Shark Robot Alien: I see a paper house made out of orange peels!

(Pink Cheese House)Snowflake Princess: Look, Baby Shark!  Look at the pink cheese house.  Let’s go look.

Baby Shark: Sure!

Tiger enters scene.

Tiger: Can I please come in too?

Shark Robot Alien enters scene.

Shark Robot Alien: I’m going to put my house next to yours! Let’s have a giant party!

(Rest of individuals with their houses.)

Scene 14: Magical Town

All characters present and having pretend (quiet) conversations.

Narrator:  After everyone gets settled in their homes in the magical garden, they all have a party with their favorite foods and activities to celebrate!

Party Ensues

THE END.