Building Friendships through Transitions and Using Names

friendships names journeyintoearlychildhood.com

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.

transitions to build friendships journeyintoearlychildhood.com

using names journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 

Starting Free Choice Play Centers at the Beginning of the Year

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

starting centers

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.

Clean-up is another common concern of teachers. See Clean Up after Play Centers and Student Jobs for Clean-Up Time

What do your walls say?

What Do Your Walls Say to

Your Students and Families?

  • What values do they speak?
  • 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)

Weaving Academics and Nature into the Classroom

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.

number posters

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
  • 10 Frame
  • Measurement: measured with cubes to determine the length of the stick needed
  • One-to-one correspondence
  • Working together collaboratively
  • Sharing and taking turns
  • Negotiating

Building Friendships through Intentional Design of Centers

friendships centers journeyintoearlychildhood.com

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.

Intentional Design of Free Choice Centers and Small Group Learning Centers:

  • To encourage sharing, do not provide materials for each student. For example, if 5 children are working on a project that requires glue sticks, only provide three. Teach the students how to ask for the glue sticks instead of grabbing and model how to share.self reflection form FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com
  • Have students complete a self-reflection sheet on friendship skills following center time. Example of a Self-Reflection form. (FREE DOWNLOAD)
  • Designate students who are the distributors of certain materials. For example, in a small group, Carlos has all of blocks, Juanita has all of the magnetic letters and Ian has all of graphic organizers and pencils. Each student must ask their friend for the materials needed by using the student’s name and by using kind words.

 

 

 

 

 

Vocabulary during Block Play

Expanding Children’s Vocabulary

during Block/Construction Play:

vocab in blocks featured imageState standards require children to explain, describe, define, ask, compare and contrast, respond, and so on.

To accomplish these skills, children need an expanded expressive vocabulary to both describe and tell the use of many familiar objects and to incorporate new, less familiar or technical words in everyday conversations.

Block/Construction Building, Designing and Play offers excellent opportunities for introducing, reinforcing and expanding upon vocabulary while children are engaged in fun, hands-on experiences. While the teacher is interacting with the students during block play expanded vocabulary can be introduced and reinforced through questioning, scaffolding, and “I wonder” or “I notice” statements.

Examples of Vocabulary to Introduce/Reinforce during Block Play:

Tension           Stable                      Wobble                      Solid               Stability

Hard                 Smooth                    Heavy                         Firm                Incremental

Massive           Equal                       Steady                        Fasten            Negotiate

Measure          Several                    Less                            Level              Cooperate

More                 Area                         Length                       Numerous

Taller                Wider                       Three-dimensionalblocks for vocab

Horizontal        Diagonal                 Symmetry                 

Edge                 Connect                  Balance

Structure          Disassemble           Gravity

Vertical             Architecture             Surface

Tremble            Asymmetrical          Perpendicular

Parallel            Attributes                 Construction

 

 

Intentionally Designed Construction Center: Items to Add to Block Center Based for Specific Objectives

Intentionally Designed Block/Construction Center:intentionally designed thumbnail

Block play can be used to challenge, scaffold, and

extend children’s learning through the intentional

placement of additional accessories.

An intentionally designed block center encourages students to construct meaning of their world, to encounter problems and discover multiple solutions, to interact and share with others, to extend their creativity and to reflect on their discoveries.                                                                                                                    -D. Honegger

Examples to intentionally design the block/construction center to incorporate academic standards: (this is just a sample…)

life
Intentionally Designed Block Play for Life Sciences journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Life science:

artificial plants, plastic animals, felt and/or material, and accessories to build habitats for the animals

geography
Intentionally Designed Block Play for Geography journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Geography in Block Play journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Geography Provocations in Construction Play journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 

 

 

Geography: maps, road signs or the materials to make road signs, shower curtain laid out with grids, small wooden buildings or even individual cleaned out milk cartons to become buildings, Familiar signs, such as “One Way,” “School Crossing,” “Bus Stop”, “STOP”, tongue depressors for making fences, door and dresser knobs, small vehicles

natural elements
Intentionally Designed Block Play with Natural Elements journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Earth and environment: natural materials such as acorns, shells, rocks, pinecones, wood cookies, stumps, and twigs. Stumps are great for encouraging vertical building.

Provocations and FARMS Bundle STEAM and Dramatic Play (contains additional pieces including Farmer’s Market documents besides the provocations linked above)

20180927_132440
Intentionally Designed Block Play Incorporating Visual Arts journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 

Visual Arts: clipboard with markers, colored pencils to add designs to the structures and/or to make a “blueprint” or map of the structure.geometry

 

 

 

 

 

Geometry: 3D shapes (which rolls the best on a ramp- a cube, a sphere, a cone, a cylinder, etc.), tin cans, flat pieces such as a ceiling fan blade, long sticks (discuss parallel, perpendicular, diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines), tile or linoleum samples, PCV pipes. canning jar lids

physical
Intentionally Designed Block Center Physical Science journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Physical science: ramps, balance scales, pulleys, mirrors and pipes, buckets, magnets

Engineering: long flat pieces such as ceiling fan blades or pieces of plywood for building bridges, wooden spools, tin cans, hard cardboard toilet paper tubes, small cubes, knobs, candlestick holders

Provocations and STEAM Challenges: BRIDGES

engineering
Intentionally Designed Block Play Wide Range of Cognitive Skills journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 

 

 

 

Wide Range of Cognitive and Developmental Skills: hard hats, food containers, dollhouse people, steering wheel and any other materials that will encourage dramatic play within blocks to move students building, design, and play to a more complex level

Four and five-year-old children are very capable and independent. If manila and colored construction paper, a few crayons, scissors, masking tape, and string are always available in or near the block corner, the children will begin to make their own signs and draw trees, people, and other things they need, thereby using their imagination in a constructive, purposeful way.

  • Note: The above lists are simply suggestions. Obviously, no teacher will ever put out all these accessories at once. However, the larger your supply of odds and ends, the better you will be able to help the children in the block corner when they begin to need accessories for specific purposes.

intentionally designed block play

Provocation in Block Play: SHIPS

Provocations are materials or the way we present materials to create a context where the child can explore. They are an extension or a challenge to our children’s current thinking and theories.

This past year we have been exploring different ways to add provocations within the construction center.

20180913_091728We began by observing and noticed that the students were consistently building ships. We started talking about the different types of ships and added pictures of different ships and started reading books during interactive read aloud time about ships.

SHARING: SHIP and BOAT PROVOCATIONS                             In this document, you will find pictures of different types of ships and boats, open-ended questions to pose and higher-level vocabulary to incorporate while engaging with students, and challenge cards to provoke students thinking.

 

20180822_083707Materials were added as students began to increase their thoughtfulness regarding ship building. For example, we included Duplo Blocks when the students drew their plans to build cargo or freight ships (note: students always made a sketch first of what they were going to build first to add in thoughtful planning. Many times when the students would add details to the construction part, they would return to their drawings to include those same details.)

and we added dowel rods, white paper and fabric, and tape when they stated they wanted to build sailboats and/or pirate ships. The problem solving that occurred to 20180822_090352figure out how to attach the sails was amazing to observe but eventually the students figured it out. Reminder: don’t be too quick to jump in to offer assistance, let the students figure it out for themselves.

Math objectives added included size proportions with the size of different ships. The students decided that they did not have enough blocks to build many of the ships to the correct size but that they could build a rowboat.

Social Studies objectives added included where ships and boats sail- the bodies of water. We discussed which ships would sail where, what would they carry, why some people have to travel by boat or ferry, etc.

Since the students continued to be interested in ships, we turned their interest into a unit long STEAM investigation in which the students first became material engineers to determine what materials were best for shipbuilding (what materials would float).

We next read the book, Circus Ship by Chris VanDusen, stopping after the ship hits a rock and starts to sink. We challenged the students to build a ship that would float and hold the 15 circus animals. The students worked on their ships each day for a week- some continuing to add to their original ship and some starting a new one. We tested the ships and the students added 15 animals. Note: We provided more than 15 animals so that the students were required to count them as they tested each of their ships.

The students continued to explore with ships throughout the year. During an investigation of Farm to Table, the students started making ships and when we inquired as to how the ships relate to the farm, they shared that sometimes food is transported on ships! So to move our food from the farm to the factory to the grocery store, the students built and then play acted with both trucks and ships!

For additional sets of provocations including pictures, challenges, material ideas, open-ended questions and vocabulary, visit https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Journey-Into-Early-Childhood

and/or sign up to receive my weekly blog through your email- more provocations will be shared on through this website.

 

Stages in Block Play- Moving Our Students to Complex Play

stages of play featured imageStages of Block Building:

All children progress through specific stages as they use blocks in play, building, and designing. Knowledge of these stages helps teachers provide the materials and questioning that will nudge children forward in their abilities and lead them to more complex play. 

Stage 1: Carrying blocks: Blocks are carried around but not used for construction. (Generally, very young children or very inexperienced builders.)vertical

Stage 2: Building Begins: Children mostly make rows, either horizontal (on the floor) or vertical (stacked). There is much repetition in this early building pattern, which is basic functional play with blocks. (approximately around age 2-3 years)

bridging

 

Stage 3: Bridging: children create a bridge (or portal) by using two blocks to support a third. (approximately three years of age)

 

 

enclosure

Stage 4: Enclosures: Children place blocks in such a way that they enclose a space. Bridging and enclosures are among the earliest technical problems children solve when playing with blocks, and they occur soon after a child begins to use blocks regularly. These spaces are often called cages in a zoo or pet store. In this stage, children will want to add additional accessories such as figures for dramatic play or gems for food. (approximately four years of age)

20181129_092632

 

complex 5Stage 5: Complex Structures: With age, children become steadily more imaginative in their block building. They use more blocks and create more elaborate designs, incorporating patterns and balance into their constructions. Children may incorporate several different block accessories as their play becomes more involved. (approximately 4 or 5 years of age)

Stage 6: Complex Structures with Elaborate Dramatic Play: Naming of structures for dramatic play begins and engagement in elaborate dramatic play scenarios occur. Before this stage, children may have named their structures, but not necessarily based on the function of the building.

This stage of block building corresponds to the “realistic” stage in art development. Children use blocks to represent things they know, like cities, cars, airplanes, and houses.

 

Stages of Block Building

Resources:

Wardle, Francis. (2002) Introduction to Early Childhood Education: A Multidimensional Approach to Child-Centered Care and Learning. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

The Block Center.  The Institute for Childhood Education, L.L.C.  www.WeEducateTeachers.com

Pictures are of block structures created by K and Pre-K children in Union Public Schools.

journey blog

 

 

Block/Construction Center: What Are Children Learning

 

Building and Designing with Blocks what we are Learning

(document of the above pictures)