Our students are currently conducting an experiment to see what happens to garbage when it gets buried beneath the soil. They have placed a tomato, pepper, leaf, and plastic grocery bag in a clear compost container and covered each item with dirt. The students will be observing and journaling about the decomposing process, or lack there of, over the course of several weeks.
Today, our students started a new morning job in our classroom called “Planning and Reflection” journals. After the students have finished the morning message, they are asked to think about what they might want to do/play while at school today. When they have an idea, they record their idea in their journal. Some students draw a picture, others use their kid-writing to get their ideas down on paper, and some do both. Not only does this activity provide the students with another opportunity to write, but it helps guide the children into meaningful play.
At the end of the day, the students will reflect on what actually happened today. Did they stick to their plan or did they decided to do something different? Perhaps a super exciting activity happened today that they would rather write about instead (i.e. soccer with Mr. Cooper or a haunted Art class with Mrs. Allan).
The journals help the students make conscious decisions about their daily activities and if those ideas are worth playing again. They also become a great example of how the students grow and mature throughout the year. The improvement of the students’ ideas, drawings, and writing become very obvious as the year progresses.
In the spirit of Halloween, we read the story There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro and then did a journal entry about some other Halloween items the little old lady might eat. These were their answers…
Recently, our class started reading a new story entitled, Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White. The story begins with a young woman who does not like pumpkins, based on a childhood memory where she had to eat pumpkins for every meal for two weeks straight. As the woman gets older, she vows never to look at a pumpkin again! Until, she unwillingly finds herself with a whole crop of giant pumpkins in her front yard!
At this point in the story, we decided to pause our reading to ask, “How do you think she will get rid of all the pumpkins?” The students had so many wonderful ideas, we made a journal entry about it! These were their ideas.
You might have noticed that I mentioned Planning and Reflection Journals last week. We introduced these slowly, beginning the 3rd week of January. In fact, my giant version was probably spotted hanging from the front door on the mornings of the first few days. For three days, I wrote my plans for the morning in my journal and shared it with the class. I wanted to make sure that the children were familiar with our expectations before they began their own process. I also shared my reflections at the end of each day during this “intro” period.
Last week, the children began being responsible for their own Planning and Reflection Journals. We have woven the activity into the regular routine of the day. After the children complete the Morning Message and choose a center to play in, they saunter over to the table to record their plans for the morning. Either Mrs. Pless or I are sitting with them to provide support as needed. We expect each child to take their time, draw a picture depicting their plans, and use kid-writing to explain their picture.
The first few entries were predictably lacking detail. For instance, many wanted to write, “play with blocks”. We encouraged each child to focus a bit more on the actual goal they hoped to achieve or story they envisioned telling with their play. With more experience, we are beginning to see much more thoughtful planning and play emerging.
We are also using the same journals to reflect on something that we accomplished today. In the past, this was an activity we did orally. You might have heard the chant, “What did you do today? What did you do in Pre-K?” Some of the children use this opportunity to expand on the same topic they wrote about in the morning. Other children write about unrelated activities. Either way, we are asking the children to focus on their memories of the day and present us with one coherent image. Although we sometimes hear fantastical stories (“Today, my dad was the Hulk and he beat up all of the bad guys.”), this is good practice for reflection. With practice, we hope to see more detailed, intricate plans and accurate memory recall.
Before we left for Spring Break, the children drew our attention to an exciting development outside our window. A pair of mourning doves had begun to build a nest in a nearby pine tree. Although we couldn’t see the actual nest, we could see all of the interesting bits the birds were bringing to construct it. This discovery prompted the children to notice the birds milling around on the rest of the playground. Within two minutes, they had spotted a cardinal and a robin, as well.
With the growing interest, I pulled together my favorite stuffed birds and a bunch of identification guides. You have probably heard the children imitating the sound of the mourning dove. Sadly, this is the only one I am capable of imitating. However, our plush birds do a great job of twittering and tweeting their sweet songs for the children’s listening pleasure.
Yesterday, we identified our favorites from our backyard bird collection. After we read a bit about each, the children turned to their journals to record one thing they had learned about their most beloved bird.