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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Search for Leaf Man

Yesterday was our annual walk to the wooded area near our center to look for “Leaf Man.” Though we follow Emergent Curriculum, the walk to find Leaf Man has become a bit of a Greenie Tradition, something we do every year after the leaves start to fall and before the weather turns too cold for all of the Greenies to enjoy long walks.

The excitement builds as the Greenies see me put the words LEAF MAN on our classroom calendar. Some of the veteran Greenies reminisce about our walk from the previous year, further exciting our younger kids.

The morning of our walk we read the book “Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert. We talk about how Lois carefully collected and preserved her leaves. We talk about the colors and shapes and how she arranged the leaves to make the pictures. The Greenies listen and exclaim with joy as they identify the many animals made out of leaves. We talk about what we might see, how we might find parts of Leaf Man to collect and bring back to our classroom.

We put on our jackets, pick a grocery bag to carry and a buddy to walk with and off we go! The walk to the woods is full of excitement; we walk over a road or two, practicing our stop-look-listen skills. We walk past dying chokeberries, a large skunk cabbage, a pond. One sidewalk is lined with trees bearing bright red leaves, one Greenie looks ahead and points at the ‘red leaf tunnel’ we must go through. They create their own adventure, pointing at the english ivy- “Don’t touch that! It’s poison!”   

Finally we arrive at our destination. Many children start by pointing out the sound of the highway nearby, but the sounds of the highway magically disappear behind the shouts of excitement as the children run over the leaf carpeted ground. They find acorns and proclaim to have found Leaf Man’s belly button. Others pick up leafs and sticks representing arms, bodies, and legs.

A beautiful patch of moss is found, Greenies gather around. “It’s Leaf Man’s carpet!” Leaf Man does live here, in these woods; you just have to have the eyes to see it.     

The time spent in the woods is not all about gathering parts of Leaf Man, we take time to climb a tree, stand on a stump, lift some large sticks, feeling very powerful in our bodies. We look up, down, under and through. We lift and drop. We throw. We smell. We see.

On our way back to our classroom we see a blue heron near a small pond. The Greenies pause in wonder, guessing what it might eat, why it has such long legs. We continue on, talking about what we might do with our leaves. Those who have gone on this adventure talk about how they might use glue and paper to arrange their leaves into Leaf Men and Leaf Girls.

That afternoon we take the children’s suggestions and provide them with what they need. The children sit and arrange their leaves. I work with a parent who went with us and used an IPad to create a video of our adventure. Even I get to learn something new today.

We used our senses, including our sense of adventure. Another search for Leaf Man has come and gone… until next year!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Put the Frosting on the Top

I have been working with a new coteacher the past few months. Before I get ahead of myself let me take a moment to explain what a coteacher is (because you may not be familiar and it makes my Word spell check freak out every time I type it.) The ratio of teachers to children in our classroom is 1 teacher to 9 children. We can have 18 children in our room so that entails the need of two teachers. We do not operate on the lead teacher/teacher’s aide roles. We want both teachers in the room to feel an equal sense of importance and responsibility, much like the children. Therefore we are known as coteachers, equal partners in a room working together.

So… I have been working with a new coteacher for the past few months. My last coteacher I worked with had been with me for 2 years, long enough to get comfortable, get in a groove, become an organic team where neither one of us has to think, we just do and it all works out beautifully, 98% of the time. You are viewed by the children as one team, consistent and predictable. When you get a new coteacher you have to start all over again. It’s been hard, really hard, on both of us. We are almost 2 months into our work together and we are finally coming to a place of understanding both with each other and with the Greenies. After you have been doing this work for years you take for granted how much you had to learn yourself at the beginning.

After some reflection and observation of my new co, I feel that I have pinpointed the most important skill a person new to our profession needs… it’s not discipline… not how to manage a room… but how to talk to children. Plain and simple. Well, not exactly simple, talking to kids is not a simple thing to do. Kids are interesting creatures with priorities, needs and views different from our own.

Our latest focus is how to talk to kids so they will cooperate. The first thing we need to understand is that we cannot make children do anything, we have to deliver the requests in ways that will help the children understand why they need to help out and lead them to making the proper decision. The second thing we need to understand is children need constant assurance. Children thrive on feeling secure, that, like Bob Marley tells us, every little thing is gonna be alright. The need to feel safe and secure is a basic human need and that is a top need for children. With that in mind we come to the third thing to remember- the priorities of children and our sense of priority are two completely different things. If you think that Jimmy is going to pick coming to the bathroom before rest time as requested over looking at his friends new comic book you are w-r-o-n-g. So, how do we help Jimmy make his way to the bathroom before rest time begins and successfully pull him away from the comic book while avoiding a pre-nap meltdown?

Step 1- Make a request in a positive, factual way. “Jimmy, it’s your turn to come to the bathroom before rest time begins.” We will avoid making a declaration or using a destructive request- “Jimmy, I need you to come to the bathroom NOW.” Destructive requests are harsh and usually cater to our needs, not the childrens. If we want Jimmy to cooperate we will put it in a way that is positive and helps him understand that it is a task that belongs to him. He owns this task; we are just guiding him towards making the appropriate choice.

Step Two- Reassigning priority. Jimmy has heard that it is his turn to come to the bathroom however that comic book is holding him fast. This comic book has top priority over the need to take his turn in the bathroom before the two hour quiet time begins. In Jimmy’s mind, him coming to the bathroom means that he is leaving the comic book FOREVER. We often forget how “life or death” these small things are to children. We know the comic book will not go away and he may return to it when he is done, but Jimmy doesn’t know that. He needs a reminder. “Jimmy, when you are done in the bathroom you can return to the comic book.”

Step Three- Sense of Security. With some luck and lots of practice Jimmy will be in the bathroom now. But maybe not. We might need to reassure Jimmy that he will not miss out on anything while he completes his task. “Jimmy, I can see how much you enjoy the comic book. I will take good care of it for you while you are in the bathroom. When you are done taking your turn you can come back to the comic book.” Also, in my experience, children seem to be more compliant if there is a positive end to our requests of them. I encourage my coteacher to “put the frosting on the top.” End each request with the positive outcome of the task, that is what will stick. Think about it, which is more appealing to you:

“You can have your book after you finish going to the bathroom.”


“When you finish going to the bathroom you can come back to your book.”

A minor difference with a big impact! I promise!

Children who are older and more mature may not need as much prompting, but it never hurts to take the time to make thoughtful, respectful requests. Speaking to children is an art form and if done in an intentional way we can create cohesive partnerships and gain cooperation in a positive way. Put the frosting on the top! (After all, who doesn’t like frosting?)     

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The children I work with are amazing. They are so amazing I often wonder if they know how amazing they are.

During a recent Me Book conference a parent brought up how connected their child was to a student that had left our school. They talked about how meaningful it was to him to feel like a mentor to that child, how he enjoyed reading stories and helping this child along through their everyday activities. Being the youngest of his family, this gave him opportunities to be the “big kid” and feel responsibility toward a younger child. It occurred to me that he not only touched that child in a positive and meaningful way but many others, just by being a friend. And you know, I see this not only in this child but in every child in our classroom community.

Just today I observed a similar interaction between peers. A newer friend approached me asking if I could spell the word LOVE for him. Overhearing this, an older child in our classroom offered to help him. They went to the writing center together and later returned; the child was beaming with pride and a list of words.

We often ask these children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That is a powerful question, a stressful question. In that question we are asking many other questions: What will you do to make the world a better place? What contributions will you make? How will you leave your mark? Perhaps the question we should ask is, “Do you know how amazing you are today?”

Inspired by this reflection I am making it a personal goal to make time for affirmations. Perhaps we should all take time to give out meaningful affirmations. We need to build on those positive moments, let the children know that we saw how helpful they were to that friend, and ask them to reflect on that interaction by asking how it made them feel. If we want to guide these children toward a more peaceful future we need to start with today.

“Kind words may be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  Mother Teresa

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sad Truth- Teacher Tom: The Worst Education Money Can Buy

Working at a Reggio inspired school we value play as THE source of learning. Just the other day I had a parent who has worked here longer than I have suggest we start to find ways to meet these growing expectations placed on incoming kindergarteners- top of her list from her experiences as a mom of a kindergartener- how to sit at one choice for an extended amount of time, ie- less freedom of exploration. I hate to see these cracks being created in our foundation. We are shifting from being viewed as the source of kindergarten readiness to being the problem because we want our kids to explore and engage in meaningful learning- not expect them to sit at an activity whether they enjoy it or not. It makes me sad. Thanks for bringing this up, Teacher Tom!
Teacher Tom: The Worst Education Money Can Buy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teacher Created Materials- Part Two

Writing Center Materials

In my classroom I typically have my preschoolers for 1 1/2 to 2 years. When it comes to writing skills, this is a crucial time as they are learning to write their names and understand print as a form of communication, especially in that last year before kindergarten. For these reasons the writing center is a very important and popular part of the classroom. I try to keep as many writing instruments and resources available as is possible. What's the best writing center choice? One could get bogged down with all the learn-to-write programs, do-dads and gadgets out there. My suggestion? Make it fun, make it interesting, make it enticing- make it yourself!!! Here are a few of my teacher created materials for writing inspiration.
Alphabet Rocks

I bought a few bags of rocks from our local Dollar Tree. You can get a good set of 26 from two bags. I used left over acrylic paint and a spray polyurethane to protect the paint from being picked off. The Greenies love arranging them but have pointed out that I may not have enough to spell their names! That's okay, I will just have to make a few more sets! Easy to make in about 2 hours.                                                                                                     

Fabric Wrapped Can

We have a family that has access to these awesome books of fabric samples. You can probably get old ones from your local fabric or upholstery stores for free. I wrapped a soup can with one fabric, secured with Tacky Glue, then used a template to cut out a letter and glue that to the can. The R can holds the rulers, P for pens and pencils, M for markers, and so on. The Greenies learn to correspond the letter with the beginning letter of the items that go in it.

Word Wall

This is a basic feature of most of our preschool rooms. A word wall is great for those beginning writers, an immediate resource of their favorite words. Words can be detailed to the kids interest and level of development. These are for some of my older students who can identify some words by beginning letters. As you can see to the right I had a group that was interested in family. I made a set of cards using photos from magazines- great for getting multicultural images (and an accreditation must have!) That way the Greenies had photos to reference as well as the printed word. 


Each Greenie has their own personal journal. This can be used throughout the classroom, taken wherever they wish to use it. Journals also make a great nap time choice for those who do not sleep but need to have something to keep them entertained. These are simple one subject notebooks and go home after they are filled. I also get plenty of great writing samples for their portfolios from these journals. 

Family Created Word Cards
 These cards have a small story behind them. I had a family who came to our area from Israel because the father had a temporary job at our local university. Their child would be here for his preschool years and then return to Israel to begin grade school. He was showing an interest in writing so we wanted to support that as well as prepare him for school in Israel. I asked the family to help make some word cards in English and Hebrew. This is what they made! We also have rebus words around our classroom representing the languages of our room. I usually ask the families to help us make them, a great way to get families involved and ensure their nationality is represented. 

  Laminated Alphabet Sheets
 I found these in another classroom and have since come to live in mine. I am sure these were created using the table feature in Word. You would be surprised what the children can do with these! I often set them out with dry erase markers or bingo chips. The children will find the letters in their names, circle as many of their favorite letters as they can find, etc. 

 Repurposed Posters

There is no escaping the draw of those huge 'learning posters.' They have their place in the classroom, however I would rather cover my classroom walls with the childrens art instead of posters. In this example I took a color poster and cut it up, laminated the different colors and put them on a binder ring. The children enjoy using these to reference how to write their colors and can also be used for sorting. 

Don't be afraid to make your own classroom resources- and let the kids help!