One of our centers had a makeover recently. Due to the sharing of nature collections from both at school and at home, the children have created what they call “The Science Lab.” We have ample acorns, plentiful pinecones, noodle-like nests, and one slightly dead, but way cool, cicada. The children have created their own experiments involving buoyancy, auditory tones, and habitats. Collections are also a great way to practice our math skills.
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.
This week we carried our practice subitizing small sets a bit further. Given a set of four rocks, one child acted as the “teacher” and covered any number of rocks with their hand. The second child, “student”, then deduced how many were hidden. They used their knowledge of “four” and the visual clues showing how many were still uncovered. Subitizing and working memory united to build on the children’s growing understanding of sets.
In the past week, the students have been playing a game during center time called “Letter Builders” where they work with various wooden shapes to build a given letter. At the beginning of the game, the students are given a card with a letter displayed on it and they are asked to figure out which pieces they will need to make their letter. They then take the wooden pieces and place them right on top of the letter card. In most cases, the students exclaim how easy the task is and that they are ready for more of a challenge.
Once the students are comfortable with their abilities to manipulate the shapes, the letter card is then placed on a stand that sits in the middle of the table. The students must now create the letter shape while looking at the letter card from afar rather than directly in front of them. While this seems like it should be an easy task, the children actually must now use their executive functioning skills and working memory to hold the shape of the letter in their minds while searching for the appropriate pieces. Then they must create the shape of the letter in front of them without the help of the card underneath as a guide. The letters that use more straight pieces tend to be the easiest for the students to create, while the letters that use curvy pieces or letter that requires the students to cross the midline prove to be the most challenging. Some of the letters require the students to overlap the pieces, which created an extra challenge for them to tackle.
The last step in the game is when the students must create the letters completely on their own. The letter cards are put away and the student are asked to create the letter completely from memory. This is obviously the most challenging as the students must think about what shapes they will need without an example in front of them to use as a resource. Some students quickly problem solved this issue by looking around the room for the letter they were working on or even looking at a neighbor’s completed letter. The more the students work with the letters and their shapes, the easier the task becomes.
Today, we focused on creating uppercase letters as they are easier to form. Next time we play, the students will be challenged with creating lowercase letters with the wooden shapes. This makes the task slightly more difficult as the students will have to make sure their letter shapes are facing the correct direction. When shifted, even slightly, it can be easy to accidentally create the wrong letter. Letters such as b, d, p, and q look remarkably alike and the students will have to stay focused in order to create the correct letter. We know that our Pre-k Letter Builders will be up for the challenge!
Our families are made of so many different people. Yesterday’s Morning Message asked, “Do you have a sister?” Children who do have a sister put their names inside a circle that was labeled “yes.” Those without put their names outside of the circle. Today repeated the question about brothers. Taking it a step further, we put two circles on the floor and handed each child a doll to represent themselves. If you have a sister or brother, you put your doll in the corresponding circle. If you do not have either, you put your doll on the outside of the circles.
All was well, until someone discovered that they needed more dolls. One of the children realized that they had a brother and a sister and didn’t know what to do with their doll. Mrs. Pless asked for solution suggestions from the group. We had a few ideas percolating.
Put dolls who have brothers and sisters in between the two circles. We tried it, but the children realized that then it looked as though those dolls had “No” siblings.
Place the two circles on top of one another and then place all of the sibling dolls in the new, single circle. Children who have only one sibling quickly realized that this wasn’t going to work.
Pick up the top (now stacked) circle and slide it over so that the two overlap only a small bit in the middle. The overlap is where you put dolls who have both brothers and sisters.
We have certainly had classes figure out the final solution in the past, but we’ve never had so many thoughtful experimental ideas. It was quite exciting to watch their mathematical thinking stretch.
When the students came back from winter break, they noticed that something new was added to the loft. They spent most of the morning studying the contraption and making guesses about how it could be used. The hook seemed to be the most recognizable part of the tool and it quickly was decided that it had to be an anchor. After some exploration, we sat down with the students to explain that the new tool was called a pulley and it was used for carrying various items from the top of the loft to the bottom and vice versa. The students spent a few minutes learning how to use the tool safely and troubleshooting how we could safely attach the rope to the loft. Then it was time to test it out!
When you let them explore in their own ways, children will surprise you with their adroit interpretations of concepts.
We had been focusing on ABA patterns.
This is what one child wished to share with the class.