Sunday, January 31, 2010

Playing Games

I love to play games. I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago and after we finished our wonderful meal we moved into the living room to play a game in front of a roaring fire. For this game we all listed people, wrote their names on strips of paper and dropped them into a hat. Then we partnered up and had one minute to describe as many people as we could to our partner to guess. It was a lively game, very engaging and I learned quite a bit. Several of the people were inventors, authors, world leaders, along with the occasional movie or rock star. I was thinking that I wished I had played this type of game in history class, I might have retained a bit more information.

Brain research has shown that when children experience a sense of delight when they learn something, they form permanent connections between the activity and the feelings of delight that it inspires. If the associations are negative, the child's brain can establish permanent negative connections between these activities and the feelings. With this in mind and the fond memories of the dinner party game, I decided to put a little spin on things when a new rhyming puzzle arrived on Thursday.

Instead of putting the rhyming puzzle on the table and having a child or two connect the rhyming pairs while seated at a table as is traditionally done, we had the children spread themselves out all around the room. While they “stood like statues” we handed out 8 pairs of the cards to the children. When each child had a card they had to move around the room to find their rhyming partner.

This way the children were all moving, they had multiple opportunities to hear whether a word rhymed or not; so great phonemic awareness work was being done, and they were all having fun with their friends! When the children found a match, they connected their cards to double check and then moved to our circle time rug together. When everyone had a match, we shared our matches with the whole group. We were able to do this three more times with the class remaining fully engaged. The children really enjoyed the game and felt successful.

Now those of you who read my first post may be thinking what does this have to do with the Polar Regions? Absolutely nothing! Have you ever tried to rhyme penguin!

On a serious note, Emergent Curriculum is different than Theme teaching in a several ways and one of the biggest is that not everything you do is tied to what you are studying. It has to be answering a real and relevant wondering of the children, not just be a cute craft. I will be addressing this more in my next blog. However, rhyming is a very important skill that should have a prominent place in early childhood settings. So this week, find your rhyming puzzle on that shelf or in that back closet and go play a game-you will all have fun!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A "cool" classroom

A friend suggested I start blogging about the cool stuff I've been doing in my classroom.

Its literally cool stuff these days as we are studying the Polar regions. This study started when the children picked up some plastic toys and started playing "north pole".

I casually mentioned to them that polar bears and penguins do not live together. They did not believe me, so we discussed how we could find the answer to this question.

Learning how to learn is even more important than the answers to the questions in this classroom!

We listed that we could read books, we could go to the North Pole, we could talk to an expert-yes, we should talk to Santa Claus, he lives there! After much debate we started with books.

We became very intrigued with both poles, but they were still interested in an expert, so we had to further discuss the difficulties of contacting Santa Claus. It came down to the fact that he doesn't usually respond to mail other than on Christmas Day.

However, I had a solution. Luckily, my father had actually been to the true North Pole on expedition and was willing to come to class and show his equipment, photographs and clothing. He'd also been to several areas in the polar region and was able to compare and contrast the pole to the surrounding areas. We all learned a lot- we were all wrong-neither polar bears nor penguins live at the actual North Pole-nothing does, there is no food, the polar bears are just a bit further south where the seals start swimming.

This is exactly why I love my job so much. I get to learn along with my students.

To coincide with this visit we've been making habitats for polar animals we have made out of clay and painted, experimenting with gloves that simulate polar bear blubber, building with blocks covered in white paper as ice and painting with frozen paint cubes to name a few. And these children are four!! This emergent curriculum came from their wonderings, is answering their questions and following their leads. Perhaps this blog will answer some of yours.