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.

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!

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

Where does the water go?

A while ago, one of the students posed a curious question about what happens to the water after it rains.  We discussed many possibilities, but eventually came to the conclusion that somehow it ended up in the clouds.  One of the most creative methods for this molecular travel was via invisible pipes in the trees that carry the water from the ground to the sky.

This week, we read more information about where water goes and how it travels.  The water cycle made sense, but it was still a bit confusing.  Hmmm…maybe a little music can help?

Enter Tom Chapin’s The Wheel of the Water:

Following the song, we made up our own motions to help us remember the journey of water as it recycle’s across our planet.  This song has now become an oft requested favorite.

Yesterday, I asked the children to write about their favorite part of the water cycle.

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Luckily, the weather has been cooperative, providing lots of direct observation opportunities.  Who knew playing in the rain could garner so much learning?

 

 

Freezenburg Princesses Premiere

Last night, we held our fifth annual Pre-K Movie Premiere where we debuted the masterpiece: The Freezenburg Princesses. Our movie 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!

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