At Morning Meeting today we were discussing the upcoming change in weather. For those of you not in our locale, it is 56 degrees here today with rain. Tonight, this will change drastically. We are expecting up to a tenth of an inch of ice this evening with 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow and a high of around 17. I posited the question, “Where does the ice come from?” (They weren’t too keen on my idea that the ice came from trays in the sky.)
When they decided that it came from the sky and the rain, I wondered where the rain came from. One of the children offered that it happened because of the water cycle. She then explained to us that the water cycle meant that the water on the ground evaporated, went up into the sky, made clouds, and then fell back to earth. We tried to find an explanation of “evaporate” and only came up with “you need to have something yellow, like the sun” to make it happen. Finally, another child explained that the sun made the water hot and turned it into vapor. The vapor then goes up to become the clouds and the water vapor parts bonk into each other and get heavier, making it rain. (I still think my idea that there is a big watering can sprinkling water on the Earth is more interesting.)
Then I began to wonder where the snow came from. It took a bit of thinking, but it was finally decided that when it is cold, the water “melts” and turns into ice which turns into snow. I foresee some experiments in our future.
In the past few days, the students have started showing a budding interest in keys. It began one day when two students asked to borrow our “teacher keys” to experiment with how they worked on the classroom door. Then they tried the outside door. They began to notice that certain doors only open with certain keys. When they realized that Mrs. Forst had more keys than I did, they wondered what the other keys could be used for.
As the interest started to grow from just two student to almost eight students, we thought that perhaps a morning provocation could expand the students’ knowledge of keys even further. This morning, we put out a giant bowl full of keys, some paper, and some black markers. The students began tracing the keys and noticed that there are many different sizes and shapes of keys. One student exclaimed, “I found a master key. It says ‘MASTER’ on it and this one is for a safe because it has an ‘S’ on it,”. Another student traced the keys and then cut them out so that they could play with them at home.
At morning meeting, we continued our conversation when one of the students mentioned that sometimes you need a locksmith to open doors for you. The students are still unsure of what a locksmith does exactly but are excited to find out! Marie and I are quite interested to see where this new found interest will take us!
As many of you already know, we have only one rule in the Pre-K classroom: be safe! This rule encompasses all that we do and say throughout the year. It means being safe with our bodies but it also involves being safe with our words and our friends’ feelings. Today, during morning meeting, some of the students had questions about how we can be safe with our friends’ feelings. We started a discussion about how we can “pass” happiness from person to person by using kind words and actions. Just a smile can change someone’s entire day around.
Mrs. Forst and I decided to demonstrate this by spreading happiness (glitter) on our hands and then passing it to a student through our morning greeting. The student then greeted their neighbor, passing on the happiness to yet another friend. Once everyone in our class was able to share in the happiness, we decided that we wanted to share it with the whole school! Our class walked up and down the hallways greeting any teacher or students they saw, passing on the happiness even further. Our hope is that our little bits of happiness and sparkle will spread throughout the whole school and possibility even into our families and community. Have you passed some happiness today?
One of the tidbits we learned last week was that ants from the same colony greet each other in a particular way. We were inspired to imitate an ant greeting during our morning message. Notice the sound effects? Those aren’t necessarily accurate, but the children decided to add them anyway.
We have been so busy this week as we practiced our new routines and learned where everything goes in our room. Most of our Morning Meetings consisted of practicing greeting one another in a kind and friendly manner. We also used this time to discuss any issues that have come up during centers and choice time. We talked about what to do if you are ready to move to a new area, but your toys are still all over the floor, how to share an area even if you really want to play alone, and how to include others when they want to play something that might be different from what is already in progress.
During centers, our focus was on using new materials. At the Art Center, the children were exploring “foam dough”. This nifty product molds and squishes a bit like play dough, but it is made out of tiny balls of Styrofoam that are held together by a slightly sticky substance. Amazingly, it generally stays off of our clothes and hands. One of foam dough’s best properties is an ability to stand up when squished in place. Its light composition keeps if from falling down as play dough often does.
On center used counting bears to play a game called “Roll ’em!” Although the bears are not a new manipulative, the use of dice in our classroom was new. The way this game is played, a child rolls a die to find out how many bears to place on the grid. Each successive roll adds more bears until the grid is full. This game encourages one to one correspondence as well as counting. Students also begin to notice the patterns inherent in counting. One child who had three bears on his paper rolled another three and stated, “Hey! That makes six!” Early math experiences that allow children to see, feel, and move manipulatives strengthen their understanding of the underlying concepts needed for more complex problems.
Outside, we saw many experiments in action. One group was trying to find the best place to roll balls. They tried many different areas and were weighing the pros and cons of both. Some spots allowed the balls to roll very quickly, but they only had a short run before they crashed into a barrier. Other tracks were long and unimpeded, but made the balls roll very, very slowly. At this time, the children are still trying to decide what made the difference in ball speed. Some suggested that the balls’ “bumpiness” (texture) was a huge factor, while others thought it more likely to be the size of the ball. No one has yet suggested that it might have something to do with the slant of the ground. We’ll have to keep an eye on this experiment.
Our Morning Meeting yesterday was sponsored by the third grade. Every year, they complete an in-depth study of Pittsburgh. They learn about its architecture, its history, and many of its famous musicians, artists, and innovators. For instance, Mrs. Martin’s class studied photographer Teenie Harris in conjunction with other students and City as Our Campus. The third grade students then tried taking photographs in the same style while touring the city.
One of the connections they made during this year’s Pittsburgh Project was that our local Major League baseball team, The Pittsburgh Pirates, will be turning 125 years old this year. This is especially exciting because Winchester Thurston will also be hitting the 125 year mark soon. Once this connection was made, Mrs. Martin realized that we had another link with the Pirates. Our very own Mrs. Neverett, the Pre-K assistant teacher, is married to Tim Neverett, one of the franchise’s sportscasters.
We could certainly not pass up the opportunity to share Mr. Neverett’s experience with the rest of our school. Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Neverett coordinated the special assembly featuring Tim and another special guest. The topic of the day was “critical thinking” and always trying your best, no matter how many mistakes [read: opportunities for learning] you make. After a short presentation discussing the history of the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Mr. Neverett passed our Pirates hats for all of the WT students. Then, he introduced his guest:
As you can see, it helps to know the Neverett’s personally. The children were certainly happy to have their pictures taken with the incredibly silly Pirate Parrot.
My goodness! I hope you are hungry when you visit our classroom! The dramatic play center has been re-invented with the simple addition of a basket of blank menus. During a morning meeting last week, we talked about creating a dinosaur restaurant and realized we’d need two separate menus, one for carnivores and one for herbivores. This sparked some interest in what other types restaurants we could open. Some of the suggestions included well-known burger joints as well as menus devoted entirely to: tiger food, ice cream, bugs (I’m still unsure whether they meant food FOR bugs, or bugs to EAT), food for pets, fruit only fare, and even menus consisting entirely of candy.
Menu production began immediately and has continued with added gusto each day. Here are the first two menus. One includes prices while the other leaves it up to the customer to decide how much to pay.