Road Trip (Part I)

Two of our dear friends moved back to Florida last week.  We are already missing their smiles.  Sigh….

No worries! The children have a plan….

We’re going on a road trip to Florida! Yippee! Oh, fine, it is only imaginary, but we can still make our plans.  To assist in the planning, I photocopied all of the pertinent states from my trusty road atlas and stitched them together with old-fashioned scotch tape.  The class was quite surprised to find such a spaghetti mess of roads between here and there.  Yet undaunted, they began to take action.

First, the children decided we needed a car to get there.  Enter our trusty stand-by, a nice empty box.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are a few bits demonstrating the process and explaining some of the technical details:

I think we’ll need to attack the map next….

Balance Your Joy

Balance

Welcome back to school! I hope all of you had peaceful holidays filled with rest and joy.  During the vacation, I was reflecting on some of the play I’d noticed appearing repeatedly in various parts of the room.

Many months ago, two children created a “boat” using wooden arches and blocks in the construction area.   I’m sad to say, I can’t seem to find a picture of this creation.  Allow me to explain that the arch was set on the curve so that it would rock sideways if pressure were applied to either end.  The rest of the boat balanced in the center of this waving contraption.  At the time, I didn’t realize that this would become an activity captivating most in the class.

Since, I’ve noticed balancing fanciful creatures, other balanced block structures, and lots of experiments balancing bodies throughout the playground and forest.  I’m looking forward to directions we might take as we play we these mathematical, kinesthetic ideas.

On the Big Blue Sea

Use Your Noodle: Working Memory

Working Memory.  Sounds like “edu-speak,”, huh?  Maybe it could be referring to a portion of computer processes going on right now within this box of plastics and metals. Could it be the opposite of “Broken Memory?”

Simply stated, it refers to the actions your brain performs when you are “in the moment” and trying to recall and hold onto information to complete a task.  For example, you meet a new co-worker in a 9:00 am meeting.  At 9:15 when you try to introduce her to another employee, you are cursing your memory because you cannot, for the life of you, recall her name.  That is working (or maybe not) memory.

We use working memory for everything from dialing a phone number to knowing which exit to take on the freeway.  Working memory is where we pull up relevant information, analyze how to use it and put it to work.

So how does this effect my preschooler?  Many of the difficulties that young children have fall within the boundaries of working memory.  Is your child “not listening” in class?  Are they seemingly unable to follow directions?  Do they frequently get distracted when they are supposed to be working on a task?  Do they find it difficult to stay on topic when they are part of a discussion?

Young children are growing in this area.  As Pre-kindergarten teachers, we see working memory developing on a continuum.    It is common for new four year olds to have difficulty following 3 step directions.   They have a hard time remembering each part of the direction, holding these in their head and then acting on each in order.

When remembering a string of steps is important, we try to help our students succeed by making our directions as succinct as possible.  We choose to use three or less keywords that represent tasks and routines the children have already had many experiences with.  For instance, when it is time to come inside a commonly overheard chant is, “Boots, coats, carpet!”  This short phrase replaces, “First take off your boots and put them on the tray, then hang up your coat, finally go back to the carpet, have a seat and put on your shoes.”  We have found that using less words makes the directions “stickier” and much easier to recall.

Working memory is visible in kid-writing, too.  Young children generally go through very distinct stages of writing.  When our Pre-K students get to the stage of writing where they begin using letters to represent sounds they hear in our language the first sound in each word is usually all they can hold onto.  With practice, they learn to repeat the word and listen for another sound, maybe a middle or an end.

There are times when the capacity to access working memory goes on the fritz.  Imagine Lucy is sitting in Morning Meeting, watching the teacher, remembering that she needs to look at the speaker, listen with her ears and keep her body safe.  She is holding all of these routines in her working memory while also processing, analyzing and sorting the information spoken aloud in the group.

While she is listening, Lucy thinks she hears one of her peers say her name.  She looks over and sees a couple of friends giggling.  Lucy isn’t sure what is going on, but thinks they must be laughing at her.  She is embarrassed and angry.  Lucy hollers across the room, “Quit laughing at me!”

In this example, Lucy knew that yelling out during Morning Meeting was not the best way to solve her problem, but was unable to pull up other options into her working memory once she began to feel stress.   This can be especially difficult for adults to understand and accept.  Often patience and acknowledging this is development in progress is the best approach.

 

 

 

Rainy Day Discoveries

P1210797
Noticing the insect trails in this well chewed stump.

Yesterday we experienced many firsts.  Foremost was the weather.  While we expected the rain in the afternoon, we were caught off guard by the on-again-off-again torrential downpour from 8:30 until around 10:30.  Some of us had raincoats, most of us had boots, and none of us melted.  All of us had fun regardless of the persistent precipitation.

In addition, our City Campus Pre-Kindergarten class came out to join us for Forest 4s.  All together, we had 29 four and five year-olds exploring the wet and drippy woods.  Before heading out, our North Hills Campus students made plans for introducing our new friends to the fort, squirrels, sticks, moss and snails.

The weather provided us with added observation opportunities.  The extremely damp conditions encouraged previously hidden wildlife to cross our paths, sometimes quite literally.

P1210780

This little creature, a Northern Spring Peeper, was spotted by one of the children as it climbed slowly up a tree.  We had enough time for all of the interested children to stop by and marvel at it’s agile upward movement.

While hiking with Mr. Cooper, this lovely Eastern Box Turtle was spotted by one of our visiting Pre-K students.  It was simply ambling along the trail.

P1210811

(I personally thought this one was quite exciting.  I haven’t seen a wild box turtle since I was little.)

Fairy Houses on the Move

Today was a Forest Four day, and what perfect weather we had for it!  Last Forest Four day we decided that it was time to move our Fairy House (the stick lean-to) to a new location.  With this in mind, we headed out on the trail today with moving on our mind.IMG_6299

Above is an image of the old hide-away.  The children spent over 30 minutes moving all of these sticks to the new location.  I apologize for not having any photos of the massive undertaking. I, too, was busy hauling logs of all sizes.

Our new fairy house is much bigger and has the potential for many rooms.  The children began playing in it before it had even been completed.  We are looking forward to future child directed renovations.

P1180374P1180378P1180383