Aristotle once stated, “who would choose to live, even if possessed with all other things, without friends.”
Many of our students struggle with the basic components of building friendships such as asking to join in play, suggesting play “Let’s…”, sharing, taking turns, changing perspectives, cooperating, and using respectful language.
We, therefore, must directly teach friendship skills through intentional, deliberate discussions and opportunities throughout the day. These opportunities can be embedded into the activities and work that is already occurring in the classroom setting.
One of the most challenging pieces of free choice play for many teachers is how to start without complete chaos. Here are a couple of quick and easy tips for successful free choice play centers…
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE CHILDREN’S OWNERSHIP
OF THE CENTERS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT
Provide the students with ownership of the free choice play centers from the start.
While taking a tour of the building, discuss how every room has a name that allows us to know what happens in that place.
In the classroom, talk about how each center has a purpose and specific activities. Describe some of the options in each center and allow students to brainstorm ideas such as in dramatic play, the students can care for the babies, for the animals, cook dinner, write a recipe, bake cookies, etc.; in the free choice art center, they can build a sculpture, draw or sketch a picture, design a collage picture, etc. Post the ideas that are generated by the students in each center along with a visual.
Allow the students to determine a name for each center such as Construction Site or Creation Station. The students can also create tags to show where items belong for easier cleanup.
Encourage creativity in the drawing and designing of the center signs. Allow students to use found materials to be creative such as pieces of yarn, pictures or letters from magazines, buttons, pipe cleaners, etc. Also show them how they can make objects stand out from the sign with loops, arches and so on
Have the students be detectives to notice how the center looks in a cleaned-up. state- paying attention to the details. Allow students to share how we demonstrate respect for materials.
Allow the students to brainstorm expectations for center time. Generate a list of 3-5 expectations, write them on a poster along with a visual, and have all students sign the class contract for center time.
One of the best ways to help children prepare their minds and bodies to be ready to learn is through deep breathing.
Deep breathing is a quick and efficient strategy for lowering stress in the body. When we breathe deeply, a message is sent to your brain to calm down and relax.
At this time of the year and especially during this up and down year, it is important to remember to teach our students to stop and breath when they are feeling lonely, upset, aggravated, frustrated, bored, irritated, cranky, etc. AND it is important that the adults in their lives model this strategy frequently!
NOTE: Notice the emotion vocabulary words (lonely, upset, aggravated, frustrated, bored, irritated, cranky). Let’s help children to be specific about their feelings- are they sad because they are lonely or because they are frustrated? The greater depth of emotion words that we can assist children in using and be able to discern how they are feeling with more precision, the more specific we can be with providing useful, intentional strategies plus it is teaching our students to have emotionally rich expression.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Spring Themed Deep Breathing and Calming Strategies…
Do the items posted on the walls continue to enhance the children’s learning or have they simply become visual noise?
You decorated your room at the beginning of the year but…
How do you make on-going decisions of what to put on your walls?
How do you decide the image you want to continue to portray through your room environment?
How are you demonstrating your values for how students learn through the displays on your walls?
What image of the child are you projecting through your environment and the items that you make an intentional choice to hang and leave hanging on the walls?
As discussed in the last blog post regarding intentionally designed environments, it is critical that we examine the environment as a place for students and it should be a reflection of them.
Patricia Tarr in the article, Consider the Walls, talks about how commercially made posters, etc. that we hang for educational purposes may actually be limiting children’s sense of who they truly are and true capabilities and stifles their imagination and creativity. She states,
“So too does the mass of commercial stereotyped images silence the actual lived experiences of those individuals learning together. An overload of commercial materials leaves little room for work created by the children—another kind of silencing.” The challenge for early childhood educators is to think beyond decorating to consider how walls can be used effectively as part of an educational environment. In Reggio Emilia the walls display documentation panels of projects that children are engaged in. These become the basis of ongoing research and dialogue between the children, teachers, and families. Panels of photos, artifacts, and text make “learning visible” to participants and to outsiders (Rinaldi 2001).”
Think carefully about what pictures, children’s work, or photos you place on the walls. Students absorb a lot from their environment; so, we want to use the space for demonstrating both the learning and the process toward the learning. When determining what you are going to place on the walls, ponder
is the item is important to your current educational goals and objectives (is it an old objective and now can be removed from the walls? can a picture be taken of an old anchor chart and placed in 8×10 binder for reference as needed? can anchor charts be hung on pants hangers and hung in a corner of the room for reference as needed?)
how can the items be created by the students instead of commercially or by the teacher (co-creating items helps students to have ownership and therefore, they are more likely to look at and use the resource often)
does it demonstrate beauty and is it aesthetically pleasing (note: it does not have to be “pinterest” worthy perfect- if it is created or co-created by the students and meets their needs as a resource for a learning objective- then it is beautiful to them)
We all need to take the time to give ourselves permission to stop and breath. Breath mindfully with Mr. Snowman while tracing his circles. As you breath in, visualize positive images and as you breath out, visualize all negative energy, stress and confusion leaving your body.
Remote learning at home with young children can be a daunting task. However, remember that the best way for children to learn is to play! Let them PLAY!! Research proves that play isessential to a young child’s development. (Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Young Children Need to Play authored by Joan Almon and Edward Miller, published by Alliance for Children)
Play based learning builds emotional resilience and strength in children as well as enhances confidence. Through free choice play, children gain empathy and impulse control. Play is essential to the children’s development to build emotional strength. Therefore, lots of child-directed play is crucial, now more than ever.
Encourage parents to allow their children to play; to not feel pressured to engage their child with worksheets or technology programs thinking that they are preparing their child for school. Lots and lots of play, not worksheets and not technology games that are simply worksheets on a screen, will provide the foundation of creativity, resilience, engagement and persistence required for later academic learning.
Below if a a free download containing slides regarding the importance of play as well as some ideas and tips on play for parents. Feel free to share one a week to encourage parents to allow their children to engage in play.
In the blog post, Social Emotional Learning Remote Style, posted on September 10, I added the SEL definition from CASEL. As a district SEL team, we did a deeper dive into the defintion by pulling out the verbs, nouns and adjectives. It helps to provide a perspective of the key words and the focus, especially when you group together all of the words in one part of speech and ponder each set separately and then together.
We are all in this together for distance learning. Therefore, I am sharing as a FREE DOWNLOAD the second week of social emotional activities for home.
Nature is an incredibly powerful aspect of classroom environment design. It provides an infinite supply of experiences. It also conveys a sense of calmness and a home-like quality to provide a conducive learning environment for children.
Therefore, we decided to make number posters from sticks and pebbles (in 2019). Note: This is a great activity that can be done while still maintaining social distancing between students!! Add to the activity by taking the class outside for a much-needed breather and break to collect the pebbles and sticks. You can then add in additional objectives prior to gluing them such as counting, sorting, placing in length or size order, patterning, etc.
This activity not only brought in some nature to the environment but it was also incorporated multiple learning targets:
Numerals- how they are formed= straight and curved lines
The vocabulary of horizontal, vertical and diagonal
Measurement: measured with cubes to determine the length of the stick needed
Back in February of 2019, we talked about the importance of daily greetings…
TOP 10 Reasons Why to Greet Students at the Door Each and Every Morning
• Provides a smile and a reassurance that the teacher is glad the student came to school today, which sets the tone for a positive day
• Promotes a strong relationship between the teacher and student • Enhances a positive classroom climate
• Provides a moment of connection when you greet them by name- young children love to hear their name – let’s use them in positive statements
• Assists children with letting go of issues that may have occurred on the bus or at home- they are being welcomed to a new start to the day
• Promotes a sense of belonging and trust that the classroom is a safe place
• Provides social and emotional support
• Demonstrates and models of how to greet others, how to use kind words, and how to be respectful
• Provides a proactive, preventive technique to reduce challenging behaviors
• Starts the day for the teacher with LOTS of smiles and positive interactions!
Greeting our students is more important than ever. Students need to feel wanted and welcomed into the classroom. However, for now, we need to modify our greetings to include no touching options- including even no bumping of hips or elbows. ESPECIALLY elbows since we ask students to cough into their elbows!!