Playful Directions

Mrs. Forst's Pre-Kindergarten Blog


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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.

 

 

 


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Rainy Day Discoveries

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Noticing the insect trails in this well chewed stump.

Yesterday we experienced many firsts.  Foremost was the weather.  While we expected the rain in the afternoon, we were caught off guard by the on-again-off-again torrential downpour from 8:30 until around 10:30.  Some of us had raincoats, most of us had boots, and none of us melted.  All of us had fun regardless of the persistent precipitation.

In addition, our City Campus Pre-Kindergarten class came out to join us for Forest 4s.  All together, we had 29 four and five year-olds exploring the wet and drippy woods.  Before heading out, our North Hills Campus students made plans for introducing our new friends to the fort, squirrels, sticks, moss and snails.

The weather provided us with added observation opportunities.  The extremely damp conditions encouraged previously hidden wildlife to cross our paths, sometimes quite literally.

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This little creature, a Northern Spring Peeper, was spotted by one of the children as it climbed slowly up a tree.  We had enough time for all of the interested children to stop by and marvel at it’s agile upward movement.

While hiking with Mr. Cooper, this lovely Eastern Box Turtle was spotted by one of our visiting Pre-K students.  It was simply ambling along the trail.

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(I personally thought this one was quite exciting.  I haven’t seen a wild box turtle since I was little.)


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Ellie the Spider

A little while ago, we realized we had a visitor in our class.  This little friend was attempting to pick out a lovey (we think?)  Being kind hosts, we created a special place in our classroom for our visitor to hang out safely.  P1210320

We learned that our new friend needed special food.  Hamburgers were just not going to cut it.  We also found out that it required hiding spots to feel safe and a small capful of water to drink.

Many names were considered including Buggie, Boogie and Spiderman.  After a class vote, “Ellie” became the official name of our new friend.  (Although many still call her “Buggie.”  I’m including a picture at the bottom of this post, but I should warn you, if you are not a fan of spiders…..close this window now.

Ellie inspired us to find out what type of spider she might be.  At first, we thought she was a Grass Spider.  Then we realized that her abdomen is not the right shape.  We’ve also observed that she is not making webs.  Our current thought is that she is a wolf spider.  If you have a different idea, let us know in the comments.  We can always take ideas from “the experts.”

A few times each week, we go foraging for food for her.  We’ve put in ants, mites, pill bugs (isopods) and unidentified teeny tiny bugs.  Soon, we will need to let her free to roam before the cold weather hits.

An now……meet Ellie:

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Sharks, ahoy!

Our boat accidentally coasted into a swarm of sharks!  Oh my!  Luckily, there weren’t any injuries.  When one child decided to make a fin, others quickly followed.

With sharks came questions.

  • What kinds of fish do they eat?
  • How strong are shark teeth?
  • Is a shark’s fin always long?
  • How do sharks swim?
  • How do they breathe underwater?
  • Why do they swim underwater so long?
  • Do they eat fries?
  • Why can’t they go on the beach?

The children decided we could look through books, talk to experts, and check the computer to find our answers.

 

 


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On the day we went to sea….

Our studies have taken a new direction.  The other day, we noticed that some sharks were swimming around our boat.  Luckily, they were nice sharks and didn’t bite anyone.  However, it became apparent that the children maintained an interest in all things ocean.  One child suggested that we needed to make our room into an ocean using paper hanging from the ceiling.blobfish

Beginning our research with some non-fiction seemed like an appropriate idea.  Unfortunately, Blobfish appears to have written all over our Deep Sea Book.  Oh well, nonetheless, we were able to glean some interesting tidbits about the Hadalpelagic Zone.

***Ask your child about the size of the Giant Spider Crab or the light on the front of an anglerfish. See if they can find anything in your house that is bioluminescent. ****

The barnacles of information that stuck:

“I never knew a squid could grow and I never even knew this animal was in the world.”

“[A submersible]…goes under water.”

“That kind of fish can open it’s mouth really wide.  And this octopus glows.”

“I learned that fish light up in the dark”

“I learned that fish can glow.”

“Blobfish swam.”

 


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Loose Parts

I recently added some foam corners, left over from packaging, to the construction zone.  I thought they might make for an interesting addition to buildings.  As is usually the case, the children had much grander plans.  Requesting something to stick into the foam, I provided them with craft sticks.  Delighted, I watched as they proceeded to impale the sticks into the sides, using them to attach pieces together.  Many creations came from these experiments, yet somehow I only managed to capture this one on film.

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The child who made this eagerly explained his design and wished to display it in the class.  He then wrote a label so anyone visiting would understand his sculpture.

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Forest 4s: The Real Woods

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This gallery contains 16 photos