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!

North West City

Last week, a handful of the students transformed into architects and spent several days creating a city landscape in our block center. The city included parking lots, a school, an airport, a zoo, and of course lots of buildings! Each day, the students added more features to the city such as walls (to keep the animals from escaping), bridges, and more road signs.  They also designed maps for their city in case it ever needs to be repaired or remodeled. Then, this week, one of the students proclaimed that it should be called North West City. Each day, the city expands and develops into a more intricate design.

The students have worked together to problem solve when the buildings have fallen apart, where to put new structures, and what to do when they ran out of blocks. The collaboration and synergy has been effortless and is proof that that our once young, wide-eyed students are now confident and ready for kindergarten.

Filming Day

Our class has gone from authors, to actors, and now to movie stars! Today we officially wrapped the filming of our movie and it went off without a hitch. The students delivered their lines, waiting patiently while other’s filmed their scenes, and acted their hearts out. Below, you can see a little sneak peak of our characters in their costumes and how we filmed with a blue screen with the help from Weird Eric (our cinematographer).

As a second treat, I thought you might want to see another glimpse into the students’ writing process. This script was written on January 23rd and largely has the same story line as before. Some of the students have added speaking parts for their characters and they have introduced a problem to the story (the snake). However, no one actually signed on to play the snake, so I guess we had an invisible snake problem. We also had some very imaginative character names that I clearly don’t know how to spell, so bear with me!

Enjoy!

 

S.A. – Mom princess heart

E.C. – Mom princess Bear

C.P. – Princess Butterfly

G.K. – a pot chef

Z.G. – Rainbow the Fairy

G.S. – Gavin the skeleton (with fire hat)

C.S. – Princess Snowflake

N.T. – Izza the fairy

I.M. – Santa

V.J. – a turtle

W.W. – A Prince Zowkoo

F.R. – a princess kitty cat

T.S. – Prince Blaze

 

Once upon a time there was a little home out in the west where Santa lived and it was snowing. In the snow there was a castle where some princesses live. Santa shows up at the castle and he goes down their chimney and he puts some presents under the tree. Then he goes back up the chimney and leaves. Outside the castle there was a moat and in that moat lived a turtle. He looks up at the chimney and he sees Santa coming out. And he says, “Just gimme a present.” And Santa said, “Please ask nicely.” And the turtle says, “Please can I have a present?” And Santa says, “Yes you can,” and then Santa gives him a baby for a present and he then flies away.

Then Prince Zowkoo wakes up early in the morning and comes downstairs to see if Santa came. “Santa came! Santa Came!” Izza the fairy comes out of her room and says, “What’s going on?” and she checks to see if the sun is up and if it’s time for breakfast. The Pot Chef says that “the food is ready!” Princess snowflake looks outside and there was a big snow storm happening outside. There was lighting. The storm happened all day and snows a lot.

Then all the princesses wake up and come downstairs for breakfast. They look under the tree and see some presents. They open their presents. Then they go outside and play for a little bit but then they come inside to take a bath.  Prince Blaze opens the door for the princesses.  But he forgot to close and the door and Mom Princess Heart notices a snake has come inside. “A snake has come inside!” The snake bites her and she gets hurt. Gavin the skeleton comes with his fire hose and he blows the snake away with the water.

Princess Kitty Cat and Rainbow the fairy take their mom to the emergency room so she can get a shot and a glued band aid that she has to keep on for a while and that makes her all better. They also check her eyes to make sure she can see alright.

Gavin the skeleton becomes the protector of the castle so that no more snakes or monsters can come inside.

And they lived happily ever after!

The End!

Author Visit with Jason Chin

Today, our students traveled to the City Campus to meet Jason Chin, an author/illustrator of non-fiction pictures books. He read his book Gravity and talked about how he came up with the idea for the story and how it evolved over time. We also got a chance to see him do a quick drawing of some of the items from the book. After we spent some time with our visiting author, the Pre-K students got to meet up with their city counterparts for some exploring of their playground and playing with old and new friends.

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