Saturday, August 22, 2009

ECE Science: More Than Dead Leaves and a Magnifying Glass!

Why Science?
Young children are curious learners and therefore, natural scientists. They don’t walk into our classrooms with closed-minds and preconceived set-in-stone ideas. As teachers of young children, we should take the opportunity of these “wonder years” and provide our students with the chance to make discoveries, develop theories, and test their hypotheses. We must give them a safe environment with adequate materials to help them extend their understanding of the world around us. But let’s not be confused: Science isn’t just a set of experiments or a table in a corner that we fill with magnifying glasses and leaves. Science should be happening every day in most areas of the early childhood classroom. In the block area, children are learning about cause and effect, weight, balance, classification, and many other science concepts. The water and sand areas should be filled with items that support discovery: eye droppers, funnels, food coloring, ice cubes, spray bottles, soap bubbles, sink/float objects. In the art center, have students actually help you make play dough and clay and talk about the chemical reactions between wet/dry ingredients. Every cooking activity that you do can be a science activity! Get a class pet or at least a fish aqaruium to learn about animal life cycles. And let’s not forget those teachable moments; you know, those moments that are not planned, but present themselves as a chance to teach something: Outside on the playground, do you help the children notice the wind, a bug, rain droplets, or shadows? Have your students discovered that sometimes static electricity makes your hair stand up when going down the sliding board? Look around your classroom and see what types of science discoveries can be found; I am sure there are plenty!

The Connection Between Science and Literacy
Not surprisingly, science has a direct connection to literacy development. Science helps students with logical thinking, communication skills, making predictions, drawing conclusions, and interpreting information; all of these skills enhance literacy development for students of any age! Science also provides a spring board for reading and writing activities. So this week, I am taking a different turn for the Book of the Day. This week the books are not for children, but for teachers! I’ve listed my some of my favorite Science books for early childhood educators.
Please comment below: What are your favorite Science Resource Books? What are your favorite science/discovery activities in your classroom? Do you have any obstacles that prevent you from doing science in your classroom? If so, how do you overcome them? What are some science activities parents can do at home?

Science Resource Books for Teachers

Mudpies to Magnets Robert Williams, Robert Rockwell, & Elizabeth Sherwood

More Mudpies to Magnets by R. Williams, R. Rockwell, & E. Sherwood

Worms, Shadows, and Whirlpools: Science in the Early Childhood Classroom by Karen Worth and Sharon Grollman

Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences by MaryAnn Kohl

Science is Simple by Peggy Ashbrook

The Giant Encyclopedia of Science Activities by Kathy Charner

More Than Magnets: Exploring the Wonders of Science in Preschool and Kindergarten by Sally Moomaw and Brenda Hieronymus

The Kids' Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences by Susan Milord

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: Your Best Behavior!

So you're prepared for the first day of school and your Back to School Night is all planned…now it’s time to get down to the business of teaching. When I taught Kindergarten and Prekindergarten, I dedicated the whole month of September to “Getting to Know Us.” I didn’t worry about teaching letters, numbers, or shapes because my primary goal was to have my classroom be a happy and functional place. Imagine how tedious our job would be if we had to solve every problem and clean up the classroom on our own! We have to help our students become independent members of our classroom societies. In order to do this, we have to learn the rules and how to treat each other. Here are a few books and activities that are good reads in those first couple of weeks of school!

Hands Are Not For Hitting by Martine Agassi

  • AMA Alliance has a wonderful reading guide for this book.

  • Class Hand Collage: On a large sheet of bulletin board paper or tag board, have children create hand prints in a circle. To do this you have two options: You can trace the children’s hands, cut them out and paste them in circle formation on the paper/tag board. OR you can have the children make hand prints using stamp pads or finger paint. In the middle of the circle of hand prints, have the children draw (or cut from magazines) things you CAN use your hands for. Some examples are: playing ball, baking a cake, giving hugs, learning sign language, etc… Hang it in your classroom with the title, "Hands Are For..."

Words are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick

  • Kind Words Chart: Cut out a large heart and have children think of words that are nice/kind. Write them on the chart paper and hang it in the classroom.

  • Kindness in Action: When you catch children showing kindness, snap a photo, print it out, and post it on a bulletin board titled, “Kindness in Action.” Under the photograph, write a small description of what is happening such as “Carrie is sharing her blocks with Melanie.” Make sure to catch all of the children doing something nice! Remember that praise and positive reinforcement go a long way!

It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni

  • It’s My Turn: Sharing is a skill that preschoolers are just beginning to master, so it will take some time and a great deal of teacher intervention/assistance. One thing that I’ve found helpful is to use a sand timer or kitchen timer (3-5 minutes) so that when children have to take turns, they will have a visual reminder of when their turn is over (or when their turn will begin). After a few days of guidance and modeling by the teacher, students will eventually get the hang of using the timer on their own!

  • Make a Paper Plate Frog. These frogs can be used for a bulletin board display entitled "It's OURS!" (Attach frogs to the bulletin board so that they depict sharing and kindness. Example: arrange 2 of the frogs so that they are sharing a book). The frogs can also be used so that the children can act out scenarios that depict positive behaviors.

  • Visit the Scholastic Lesson Plan site for more ideas on how to use this book.

Manners by Aliki

  • Two Magic Words: I sang this song/chant for so many years that I don't know who wrote it but it goes like this - "There are two magic words that open doors with ease. One of them is thank you and the other one is please."

  • Visit The Manners Lady website.

  • Cover Your Sneeze: This is another one of those projects that kindergarten and prekindergarten teachers have been doing for years. Give each child a paper plate and let them draw their face on it with crayons. Be sure to provide crayons that reflect the children's skin tones like Crayola's Multicultural Crayons. You may want to provide the children with yarn and glue to create "hair" on their plate. Next, trace each child's hand on multicultural construction paper that, again, reflects their skin tone. Have the child (with teacher help if needed) cut out their hand. Attach a tissue to the child's nose (on the plate) and then attach the hand on top of the tissue.

  • Meal Time Manners (Teachable Moments): Meal times are a perfect time to practice manners and polite behavior. If possible, serve your meals (or at least part of your meal) "family style" so that children learn to say, "Please pass the fruit." In addition, a teacher should sit with the children and model polite behavior such as chewing with your mouth closed, saying please and thank-you, and cleaning up after yourself. In some schools, where children eat in a cafeteria or bring their own lunch this may not be possible. But, if you serve snack in your classroom you can apply the same principals to snack time.

How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen

  • Do a Puppet Show and have students act out some of the scenes in the story.

  • Create a Voice Thread called How Do Kindergartners (or Preschoolers) Play with Their Friends? Here is a Voice Thread done by a First Grade Class. This sample will give you an idea of how you can create a similar version for your class. Take pictures of the students with their friends and create a Voice Thread about it!

Know and Follow the Rules by Cheri J. Meiners

  • Play "direction-following" games like Simon Says and Mother May I?

  • Make a Classroom Rule Chart. Also, ask students to discuss some rules that they may have at home. Talk about why we have rules and how rules keep us safe.

  • Center Time: In the beginning of the school year, I did not open all of my learning centers. Each week of September I would introduce two new centers at a time. This way, we could focus on how to use the equipment/toys and how to clean up. We learned about each center in a slow and purposeful way. Throughout the year, if I added new equipment, I would introduce it at Circle Time before allowing the children to play with it.

Remember, the beginning of the year sets the tone for your classroom for the entire year. Do you really want to spend the next nine months with students who don't share, hit each other, don't know how to clean up, and sneeze all over the toys? Set the tone NOW so that you can have a productive year!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Technology Literate Early Childhood Educators

Remember the old Jetson cartoons where George would call home and his image would appear on the “telephone” screen? And Elroy had a computerized homework helper? We may not be living in apartments in outer space and we certainly aren't flying around in space cars (yet), but some of that Jetson technology has become closer to realty than science fiction. These days most people and many businesses are Skyping, Tweeting, Blogging, Instant Messaging, and connecting through Facebook; these words didn’t even exist a few short years ago!

For a variety of reasons, the early childhood community has been slower to catch when it comes to technology. A recent survey of early childhood professionals by Child Care Information Exchange revealed that among child care centers, most that use technology only do so for administrative purposes such as accounting or record-keeping; and classroom use is often limited to educational software. But technology has the potential to positively impact three areas of our profession: 1) classroom practices and curriculum; and 2) communication and marketing; and 3) networking and professional development.

Not only can teachers use the web to find endless lesson plan ideas, recipes, and classroom themes, but technology can also be used in the classroom even by preschool students! We must first get away from the concept that “educational software” is the only way to use technology with our youngest students. Frankly, some of this "educational" software is nothing more than electronic dittos. Some educators use the term "edutainment" to describe things that are promoted as educational, but really are more entertainment than educational. When using educational software, we must choose carefully!

We also have to open our eyes to the fact that there are many other ways of using technology in our classrooms. Children can use photographs that they (or a teacher) have taken and create slideshows or stories. Websites such as Slideshare and Voicethread can be used to enhance literacy in the early childhood classroom. There are e-pal sites where classrooms can communicate with other classrooms across the state, across the country, or even across the world! Teachers can also scan student artwork or work samples and create electronic portfolios. Word-processing and desktop publishing software can be used with students to creates student books, classroom labels, signs, and much more! My kindergartners were able to type "Do not touch" signs, print them out, and label their block creations. They could also type and print "Wet paint" signs to put near their art projects. While traditional methods should not be abandoned, technology can be used to enhance teaching strategies that we already know are effective.

Technology also provides early childhood teachers with unique opportunities to communicate with parents. Imagine a new parent has just dropped their screaming three year old off at your child care center. Now, imagine how relieved that parent will feel if she is at work and gets an email photo with a digital picture of her smiling child playing with blocks! Sending digital pictures is a great way for child care owners and directors to connect with their families! Creating newsletters, emailing parents, publishing information online (such a menus, calendar of events, etc) are other ways technology can enhance your early childhood program! Having a good website can also help market your program. Providing information about your philosophy, themes, classroom schedules, and photographs can go a long way with potential families.

Social networking sites are new and exciting territories for early childhood educators. Networking is a part of our industry where we often thrive! I’ve been to conferences where I walk in not knowing a soul but you connect with others over your common interests in children and families. Now, you don’t have to leave those conferences with a stack of business cards that you’ve exchanged but may never really use. Instead, you can connect with these same professionals on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, Ning, and other discussion groups, advocacy organizations, and professional societies.

In addition to networking with professionals, technology can help us improve our professional development. Many colleges, universities, and training agencies offer classes and/or workshop hours online. In our profession, where the last child may not leave your Center until 6:00 p.m., it is sometimes difficult to take a workshop or continue our college education. Technology can help us overcome that roadblock.

I would love to create a blog or website about how early childhood educators use technology in their programs. So please share with do YOU use technology in your preschool, childcare center, or Kindergarten program?

Early Childhood Technology Resources

Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments

NAEYC Position Statement on Technology and Young Children

NAEYC Social Media

NAEYC Technology and Young Children Interest Forum

Technology in Early Childhood Education- Finding the Balance

Training Opportunities*

Early Childhood Courses at E-Learners (link removed at request of E-Learners)

*There are many online training opportunities. Please check your state/local regulations before taking any workshops to be sure that they meet established guidelines for continued training.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: The First Day of School

Going to school for the first time can be a stressful time for children, their families, and the teachers! Here are a few books, and some related activities, that can help ease the pains of the first day of school:

Will I Have A Friend? by Miriam Cohen

  • It would be great if teachers contact families before school starts and ask parents to email you a photo of their child. Create a little newsletter that includes the names and photos of the children and mail them to each family so that the children can see names and faces of their friends before the first day of school!
  • On the first day of school, send home a note asking parents to send in one piece (or can) of fruit with their child the next day. Make a Friendship Fruit Salad: Have the children wash hands, wash the fruit, and make a fruit salad! (Note: Check for food allergies before doing this activity!). Of course, the teacher may have to cut some of the fruit, but most fruit can be cut with plastic knives. Pampered Chef used to make a knife that was safer for young children.
  • Have each child draw a picture of something that they did on the first day of school. Laminate and bind the pictures together in a book for the classroom library. Save a copy of the book and make a similar book at the end of the school year. Allow students to reminisce and compare the beginning and end of the school year!
  • Re-read this book if you have new students join the class in the middle of the school year!

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten by Joseph Slate

  • Allow the students to introduce themselves by name and tell how they got ready for school (as the characters do in the book). You can also introduce the letters of the alphabet and/or rhyming words with this book!
  • Ahead of time, make a chart that has the letter/animal picture that corresponds to the the first letters of the students in the class... Example: "Emily the Elephant," "Lenny the Lion," etc. Give each student a sentence strip with their name on it and allow them to place their pictures under the correct first letter. In other words, a student named "Lisa" would put her name card under Lenny the Lion's picture. You can use magnets, Velcro, or tape to attach the name cards. This activity can be expanded into a graphing/math activity!
  • Visit the illustrator's website to find out about the characters in the book:
  • Don't forget to read other books in the Miss Bindergarten series: Miss Bindergarten Takes a Field Trip, Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten, Miss Bindergarten Has a Wild Day in Kindergarten, Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten, and Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus With Kindergarten.

My Teacher Sleeps in School by Leatie Weiss
  • Often students don't ever think of the teacher as a person with a home and a family! Think about it, you are there when the children leave each evening, and when they come to school the next day, you are "still" there! Bring in family photographs to show the children. Show them pictures of your pets, your children, your wedding photos, vacation photos, etc.
  • Show the students some photographs of you when you were a child. And don't forget to tell your students your first name! Seems like a no-brainer, but many students have no idea that your first name isn't Miss!!
  • Have children illustrate what would happen if a teacher really slept in school: Where would she cook? How would she brush her teeth? Where would she sleep?
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  • Record yourself reading the story and put it on CDs. Give each family the CD as a "first day of school" present.
  • If you have a Back to School Night or Parent Orientation, this is a good story to read to the Moms and Dads!
  • Have students make sugar cookies (the prepared dough is fine) using heart shaped and hand shaped cookie cutters.
  • Variation: If Back to School Night is held on or shortly after the first day of school, have children make the cookies described above. Save some for snack time so the children can eat them, but make enough for each set of parents too. Have children decorate a heart shaped piece of paper that illustrates something that they did in school that day. At the Back to School Night read the story and then give each family the cookies and illustrations that their child made along with the CD of you reading the story. Those parents will love you for the rest of the school year!

How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen
  • Let children choose other animals to write stories about, like How Do Giraffes Go to School?
  • In Block Area, provide school related props (small desks, chairs, tables, can be found in the dollhouse section of your local craft store), and toy dinosaurs. The children will enjoy reenacting this story!
  • Read the other "How Do Dinosaurs...?" books.
  • This is a good time to make your classroom rules. I always had 3 simple rules: Listen to the teacher. Be kind to your classmates. Take care of our toys and classroom. Almost everything else falls under one of these three rules. But having your students come up with the classroom rules, especially after reading this story, will be fun!
If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • Create flannel pictures of each key element in the story (the mouse, lunchbox, backpack, etc) and make a flannel board story. The class will enjoy retelling it. This will also make a good sequencing activity.
  • Cut stacks of paper into a mouse shaped pattern. Here is one example pattern, but many are available on the web. Staple pages into a book. Place these blank books in your writing area to encourage children to create their own mouse stories!
  • Invest in a mouse puppet. I like the puppets at Folkmanis but there are many others available. The mouse puppet can be used to act out all of the Mouse stories (If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, The Best Mouse Cookie, etc). I suggest creating prop boxes for each of the stories that include the puppet and various other objects/props from the stories.
  • Visit the author's "Teacher Links" for many more ideas and story starters.

I Am Absolutely Too Small To Go to School by Lauren Child

  • Have the children make a list of other things they think they are too small to do.
  • On chart paper have the class list things that they can already do and make a list of things that they want to learn how to do. Keep this list in the classroom throughout the year and check off things as they are learned!
  • Visit Charlie and Lola on the Web!

  • Check out the other books in the Charlie and Lola series. This brother and sister duo are adorable and funny.

Some Twitter Favs:
@katejewave likes The Kissing Hand, Miss Bindgergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, and If You Take a Mouse to School
@PaBast recommends Franklin Goes to School by Paulette Bourgeois and Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: Fishy Tales

Books of the Week for August 2-8

This week's books are all about the FISH. What are your favorite fish books? Please add them below!

Ten Little Fish by Audrey and Bruce Wood
  • Make a file folder counting game (see link below).
  • Make fish "aquarium" for snack using blue jello and gummy fish.
  • Make a class mural using a large sheet of bulletin board paper and blue/white paint. Add fish that the children have made/cut out of construction paper.

Hello Fish: Visiting the Coral Reef, A National Geographic Book by Sylvia Earle
  • View National Geographic Website below to learn about fish facts.
  • Learn about the parts of a fish. Put a large diagram on the bulletin board or Smartboard for students to see.
  • Learn other words that begin with the letter F. Make a fishing game by tying a magnet on the end of a dowel. Gather about 10-15 picture cards where at least half of them depict "F" words like fish, frog, flag, etc. Place magnets on the back of each picture. Put the pictures in a small inflatable pool and let the children fish out each card, one at a time. When they get their card, they have to say if the picture begins with an F or not. You can sort the pictures on a magnetic board.

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert

  • Cut out various fish shapes from construction paper. Give students lots of collage materials and allow them to choose a fish to decorate. Some collage materials might be: beads, buttons, sequins, tissue paper, yarn, confetti, party streamers, stickers, etc...
  • Read other books by Lois Ehlert and study how she creates her illustrations.
  • Do some fish math - find or make some fish counters and do some simple math word problems with a small group of children at a time.

Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni

  • Create water color drawings.
  • Do a painting with tissue paper: give children a white sheet of water color paper and colored tissue squares. Allow the child to dip the tissue paper in a shallow bowl of water (or "paint" water on the paper with a small paint brush; you can also use watered down glue instead of water). Place the colored tissue paper on the white construction paper, rub for a few seconds and then remove the tissue paper. You will be left with the color of the tissue paper! The result will be much like a water color painting but you will have some defined shapes and some deeper colors.
  • Learn about Leo Lionni.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

  • Classic Seuss! Watch the video of this story. It is available online.
  • This is a good book to use introduce number words.
  • This is also a fun introduction to rhyming words.

Fish: A DK Eyewitness Book by Steve Parker

  • Visit an aquarium, or see if your local aquarium has an outreach program, so the children can learn about fish.
  • Give children pictures of various animals (it is best to use real pictures and not outlines/patterns) and have them sort them into two categories: fish or not a fish.
  • Set up a classroom aquarium. Make this a journal activity by having the students document the steps the class had to take to create the aquarium.

Some Fishy Links

EPA Fish Site for Kids

Florida Museum of National History: Ichthyology Site

Fish FAQs - Good background information for adults

Fish File Folder Games

DLTK's Fish Site - Printables, Crafts, Coloring Pages

Fish Songs from Everything Preschool

National Geographic for Kids - Creature Features Fish Page

Preschool Ocean Songs


Blog Design By Sour Apple Studio © All Rights Reserved.