Welcome to my Blog!

Greetings and welcome to my page. My name is Rebbecca, I am a mom of two and a preschool teacher in southwestern Virginia. I have had the blessing of working in a Reggio Emilia inspired center for nearly 10 years, with the Greenies (my students) for 7 of the last 10 years. Our emergent curriculum and play based learning approach has changed the way I think about working with children. I am looking forward to sharing my inspirations, reflections and stories with you. So glad you're here!

“If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!” Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teacher Created Materials- Part One

Teachers are possibly the best resources to each other. We know what works, we know what our students need and we know how to make the best stuff for low to no cost! I am always inspired by others and by pure necessity. Because I have so many fun things I want to share I thought I would break this blog up in to a few parts. Today I want to share some of my favorite materials created for group discussion time (or circle time as we fondly call it.)

"Story Sticks"

A student and I created these today. We used these during circle time to create stories together. I used wooden sticks and markers. There are 4 colors, blue for characters, orange for time, green for setting, and yellow for what happened. I created 5 of each color, front and back for a good variety. The children picked one of each color and we worked as a group to flesh out the story by asking questions: What was the witches name? How did she get to space? How did she fall in the hole? How did she get back out? It was an excellent activity!

Additional ideas for your sticks:
Character- Princess, mouse, fairy, giant...
Setting: Jungle, island, castle, school...
Time- Yesterday, long long ago, in the future...
What happened- had three wishes, disappeared, found a magic stone...

The Mystery Can!

Another favorite activity. Place a random object in the can and let the kids feel it without looking then let them all have a guess at what it could be. I used an old coffee can and some colorful scrapbooking paper to cover it.

 Song Box

Evey classroom should have one of these. We use an index card holder or a recipe box to hold our cards. There is an image the corresponds with the songs (Sally the Camel, Twinkle Twinkle and Itsy Bitsy Spider are featured here) and the song or fingerplay words printed on the back (and laminated so they will last!) I have also seen some classrooms use objects to represent the songs/fingerplays such as a small plastic farmer for Old MacDonald or a bus for The Wheels on the Bus. This is perfect for circle time or any time! 

Need a Turn, Had a Turn

A wonderful way to make sure everyone has had a turn. I use this when the children are taking turns for doing class jobs- feeding fish, turn out the lights, picking a song from the song box, or any other job that we need to keep track of. I actually have three of these sets for various purposes in our classroom.

Other things I may use for circle time:

Wooden clothes pins- write your students names on the side and then use them to clip on the sides of charts or graphs showing preference or to hang up art and keep track of who it belongs to.

Hand drawn expression cards- used to discuss how we are feeling today- sad, happy, frustrated. Also fun to pick a song and then sing it with the chosen emotion- Happy Birthday sung with a sad expression is very funny! 

These are just a few of my favorite ones, I will be sharing my writing center materials in the next entry. I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sing, Sing A Song....

When in doubt, start singing! This is the advice I give any teacher who could use a little help with those stressful times of the day. Singing is universal, we've probably been doing it since the dawn of time. Singing expresses wishes, emotions, excitement, celebrations, and much more. Most importantly, in the land of preschool, it brings us all together. We were recently asked to gather up our favorite songs to be complied into a useful collection for teachers. I focused on the songs I use to transitions because, out of all the songs I could possibly sing throughout the day, these are the most beneficial. I thought I would share them with you. Enjoy!

Songs for Transitions and Rituals

Clean Up Time (to the tune of Shortenin’ Bread)

Green Room friends it’s clean up time,
Clean up time, clean up time.
Green Room friends it’s clean up time-
Let’s put our choices away.

Everybody clean up,
Clean up, clean up.
Everybody clean up,
Clean up time.

Pick up your choices,
Put them away.
Everybody cleans when we’ve
Played, played, played.

I can see that Susie is helpful,
I can see she is picking up toys.
I can see that …..

(We usually switch back and forth between the verses. I am not always fond of calling the choices ‘toys’ but that’s what has worked over all these years. You could substitute the word "toys" for what exactly the child is cleaning up (books, puzzles, blocks, etc.) Of course the most powerful verse is the “I can see...” verse where you get a chance to point out the effort of each child. It also encourages those who are not choosing to be helpful to find a way to lend a hand so their name will be sung. Those who need inspiration to help out are asked, “What are you doing to be helpful?” As soon as they start to help, I sing about them in an effort to keep them motivated. When all else fails I turn clean up time into a race and put on “I Like to Move It, Move It” and challenge the kids to help get the room cleaned before the song is over.)

Gather the Children on the Circle Rug (to the tune of Spider on the Floor by Raffi)

Find a space on the rug by a friend,
Find a space on the rug by a friend,
Find a space on the rug,
Find a space on the rug,
Find a space on the rug by a friend.

Friend Song

Friends, friends, 1,2,3
All my friends are here with me.
Carrie’s my friend, Solomon’s my friend…

(until you’ve sung all the children’s names.
As we sing the kids the children’s names we sign the first letter
of their name in sign language.)

Friends, friends, 1,2,3
All my friends are here with me. 

Weather Song (to the tune of “Oh, My Darling Clementine”)

What’s the weather,
What’s the weather?
What’s the weather like outside?
What’s the weather,
What’s the weather?
What’s the weather like outside?

(as we sing this one child goes to look out the window and return to give us the weather report.)

Days of the Week (to the tune of the Addams Family theme)

There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday
There's Thursday and there's Friday
And then there's Saturday.
Days of the Week (clap clap)
Days of the Week (clap clap)
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week (clap clap)

Welcome Back Song (from Becky Bailey at VAECE 201, sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle)

You we’re gone
And you were missed,
Where would you like your
Welcome back kiss?

(This is sung to children who have been gone for a day, on vacation, etc. They tell us where they want to be kissed and we use a stuffed animal to kiss them. We can talk about where they’ve been before or after the kiss.) 

Magic Finger (move your finger accordingly)

Magic finger in the air,
Magic finger in my hair,
Magic finger on my hips,
Magic finger on my lips. (whisper this line.)

(quiets the children and helps prepare them to listen.)

What’s For Lunch? (to the tune of I Know and Old Lady..)

I know some Greenies
Who wanted some lunch,
So they can munch and munch and crunch,
So what’s for lunch?

(We sing this once all the children are gathered in the hallway from coming indoors from outside or on the gathering rug if we’ve been indoors. After we sing this we can tell the children what’s for lunch, what their portions are, and then dismiss them to go wash their hands a few at a time.)

On Your Cot

It’s time to be on your
Cot, cot, cot,
Cot, cot, cot,
Cot, cot ,cot.
It’s time to be on your cot, cot, cot
With your choices underneath
And your body on top.

(This is sung after all the children have had time to go to the bathroom, brush teeth, and gather cot choices. “Choices” in this song refers to books, journals, puzzles, etc- not blankets and snuggle choices. This song us usually sung softly and as we turn out the lights to promote a time of quiet and rest.)

May There Always Be The Greenies (to the tune of May There Always Be Sunshine by Jim Gill)

May there always be Jimmy,
May there always be Carol,
May there always be Ethan,
May there always be ….
(As we sing this song, we are covering up each child and whispering “have a nice rest” to them. Like this: May there always be Meagan -cover up Meagan, whisper “have a nice rest” or other peaceful message with a smile, then move on to the next child…)

So there you have it, the golden words of my classroom to yours! If you have any favorites I would love to hear them. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Awesome Post By My Hero: Teacher Tom: "Spoiled Brats"

Those who know me know that I love Teacher Tom. This is a great post about how we talk to children. I am always learning something new from Tom or being reminded of something I may have lost or dropped the ball on. Thanks Tom, and may he inspire you as well.

Teacher Tom: "Spoiled Brats"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All You Need is Love

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the world did not seem like much of a scary place. Everything bad that happened did not happen here but somewhere else. No, not in my backyard....

I began working in childcare shortly after 9/11. I remember being surprised at how little the children brought up the topic of what had happened. However, it did come up once in a while. Then a handful of years later our community suffered a great tragedy after a shooting rampage on our local campus. In my backyard. This time we were directly affected as many of our families worked on campus, some lost friends, many knew people who lost friends. It was a topic that was hard to avoid and the children needed to talk about what had happened. My fear was not the discussions but what kind of cultural imprint would be left on the children. We live near a college campus in the South. Our community is very diverse but our corner of the US still has plenty of old ideas. My biggest question in the days after the campus tragedy was how to make sure the children were not left with any impositions of attaching race to violence or hatred. I did not like how the media continued (and still does) to attach a race and culture to the hate. Children are very impressionable and I wanted to make teaching love, respect, and tolerance a top priority in my classroom.

I remember watching a video as I prepared for a workshop on diversity. It was called "*Starting Small." It's a great video that talks about teaching tolerance and respecting differences. These children are watching us, listening to us all the time. They will learn from our example of how to be good, caring citizens of this world. I make it a point to remind my students that they are full of potential to do amazing things as they grow, that we should care for ourselves and each other and strive for a more peaceful world. The more we care for each other the more beautiful a place we will have to live in.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction....
The chain reaction of evil --
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars --
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963
Take the time to teach love, about caring for one another. Love can conquer all, all you need is love. 

**For  FREE copy of the video "Starting Small," paste this link in your browser.



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Connecting With Families- The Heartbeat of The Classroom

I love the families in my classroom. No, really, I adore my classroom parents! One of the things I frequently get comments on is how tight our classroom community is. I feel that the bond between home and school is so important and it has always been one of my top priorities to make sure that the parents feel welcome and that they belong to our room as much as their children do. Children benefit from their parents involvement in many ways. One great article I use often with new teachers or those who could use some help in this area is authored by Katherine Kersey and Marie Masterson (remember the 101's?) whom I also adore. In their article "Teachers Connecting With Families- In the Best Interest of Children" from the Young Children journal, September 2009,  they tell us:

"When parents are involved in school, their children’s achievement improves. Children make friends more easily and are more successful learners (NCPIE 2006). Children whose families participate in school activities stay in school longer and take more advanced classes (Barnard 2004). But the greatest benefit to children of a successful home-school partnership is that children are more motivated to succeed (Hoover-Dempsey et al. 2005)."

And who wouldn't want to support that? Granted, it's not easy connecting with all families, every family is different- different family structures, backgrounds, cultures, personalities, etc. There are some families I had a hard time finding a connection with, but I always gave it my best shot. At the end of one year I received a sweet note from a parent who said something that I had not even thought of and really touched me. She said for me to consider this- I was her child's teacher for 2 years, no other teacher in her whole life will ever have the opportunity to work with her daughter or any other student for so long or so closely. I responded to mom that I was equally thankful to have had such a wonderfully supportive family to work with for 2 years.

We don't just get the kids in our classrooms- parents come with them and deserve equal attention and respect. When doing so we build not only a classroom but a classroom community and in turn an optimum environment for learning. So how do we do that effectively? More form the article-

"With parents, use every opportunity to connect positively: “I can’t wait to see you and tell you all of the wonderful things your child is doing!” When a teacher adopts this attitude in her interactions with parents, they will eagerly join in to support school and classroom activities for their child. Tell parents what the child is learning about himself, new friends, the world, and the outdoors. Parents need to hear what children are learning socially and how they are becoming successful. It is our job as teachers to help each child navigate the world successfully. We can give parents hope and confidence that their child is well on his way to
achieving that goal. It is always in the best interest of the child to connect with parents.

Family connections built when children are young pay off in a lifetime of rich dividends for the child. Teachers can tell families, “I hear about you all the time. I heard what a great thing you all did together last night.” These positive affirmations make a parent feel relaxed and proud. You the teacher are building bridges. You have a lasting impact on parents when you share your values and your goals for their children. You empower parents to be more successful in their parenting role when you connect them positively to their child’s teacher and to school. Once families feel comfortable and understand how important they are to their child’s success, a strong relationship begins. The partnership strengthens as school and teacher become a source for positive information. Through this approach to building connections, teachers create authentic, caring relationships with families, and parents become active participants in their child’s success."

Parents really are the heartbeat of our classroom. Our positive attitudes about families and learning support their positive attitudes about the preschool experience; their positive attitudes in turn influence those of their children and creating enthusiastic learners in our classrooms- and forever.

Share your excitement, love your parents, get connected. (Besides, if it wasn't for parents, we would not have a job :) )

To read the entire article, follow this link:


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Process Art

One of the things I appreciate most about using inspirations from Reggio Emelia is the opportunities to truly appreciate the process of creating art with children. Wiki, what do you have to say about process art?

"Process art is a creative sentiment and view where the end product of art and craft is not the principal focus. The 'process' in process art refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, and patterning. Process art is concerned with the actual doing; seeing the art as pure human expression. Process art often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product."

Why, thank you Wiki. Yes, it's about the journey, enjoying being in the moment of the art process, not necessarily thinking about what it will become. What can I do with this pipe cleaner? What would happen if I pour the blue into the red paint? What if I used a tooth brush instead of a paint brush?

I have come across a TON of art processes I would love to try someday with the kids and a few that I have. Here is one that I loved:

Fly Swatter Painting from Teacher Tom: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/fly-swatter-painting.html

A few I want to try:

Tall Painting (seriously, watch this, you will NOT be dissapointed!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6egUsZvWu4

And of course this beauty below (my auction art idea, nobody steal!) Melted crayon rainbow!