Intentionally Designed Environments: Pictures of Classrooms

journeyintoearlychildhood.com Intentionally Designed EnvironmentsWOW! Teachers in the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK are incredible. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of their classrooms. They so graciously allowed me to take pictures to share with you the intentionality of their classroom design.

The environment in which children spend their day at school needs to support developmentally appropriate practices that allow children to freely move, to explore with hands-on opportunities, to engage in dramatic play experiences, to build social/emotional skills, and to develop their symbolic thinking and cognitive flexibility among others.

Learning theories from constructivism to social learningintentional design of environments journeyintoearlychildhood.com
to experiential learning underscore the importance of
active and inquiry-based learning, knowledge construction
through interaction with the environment, social contexts
and meaningful experiences.

-“Most Influential Theories of Learning,” Unesco Education

 

Intentional Design for hands-on exploration while encouraging symbolic thinking, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility.

 

Intentionally Designed Art Centers that encourage the process of art instead of the product,  and free exploration of creative ideas instead of template art.

 

Intentional Design of the Classroom Aesthetics so that the students can live and breathe in a beautiful space. Use of natural colors as we use in our homes for a calming effect.

Intentional Design of Student Contributions, the classroom belongs to the students. It should be a reflection of the students instead of the teachers passions or “cutesy/pinteresty” type themes.

Intentional Design to Include Dramatic Play. Students require dramatic play experiences to build executive functioning skills.

Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: ABC Books Part I

ABC book featureIn a previous blog post, Teaching Letters: Sorting, we discussed the importance of moving away from the old practice of teaching one letter per week to exploring, teaching and integrating letter instruction into through more holistic, meaningful experiences.

One strategy for teaching the names and sounds of the alphabet letters is through frequent, repeated readings of ABC books. However, we need to be intentional about which books we are choosing for the specific objective we want to accomplish.

Aspect to consider when choosing an ABC book….

  • Do the words listed include the sounds that you are teaching?

For example,

    • Some books use blends instead of the single consonant such as bread for B. One book even uses knight for K!
    • Some books use a mixture of long and short sounds for the vowels which might be confusing to children.
    • A couple of books I have examined even use air for A or artist for A.
  • With intentional choosing of books and guidance from the teacher, we can use ABC books effectively to help expose, practice and explore the letters and even all 40 sounds of the alphabet.

CHOOSE with INTENTION based on your objective:

For Example:

  • You are teaching the sounds of the alphabet, what is your current learning target…
    • The most common or frequently used sounds each letter?
    • Exposure to or knowledge of lots of sounds including blends and digraphs?
    • The most common or frequently used vowel sound?
    • Exposure to or knowledge of lots of vowel sounds including diphthongs and r-controlled vowels such as A is for artist?

Intentionally choose the book that best addresses your learning target. Here are some books for beginning teaching of the letters the alphabet and their sounds. (note: next week’s blog post will explore books for teaching the sounds of the alphabet letters)

(Click on each book to link to Amazon.)

The Letters are Lost by Lisa Campbell

This is a good book for beginning learning of the letters of the alphabet and their most commonly used sound (except A which is A is flying in an airplane.)

  • I do wish that the author would have written the word that begins with the letter in lowercase as we want from our students and just highlighted it instead of using uppercase letters. You could use whiteout tape over each letter and have the students help you write the lowercase or simply point out that the author chose to add capitals to show the letter of the alphabet but that is not how we write.
  • Letters are shown in an easy to read font.

 

ABC: What Can She Be? 

ABC girlsAn awesome book for exploring a variety of careers and practicing the names of the letters but not for the most frequently used sound. For example, C is for Chef.

 

 

 

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

One long sentence as the mouse constructs the alphabet.

  • Great book for an extension of action verbs.
  • Displays the uppercase letter large on the page- great for reviewing letter names.
  • Uses airbrushes and air for A with no other words presented for A that includes the long or short sound

 

ABC by Eric Carle

A simple format of one word per letter.

  • Some of the vowel sounds are the long sound and some are the short sound.
  • Some of the letters contain blends such as frog for F.
  • Displays both the upper- and lower-case of each letter.
  • Great extension for counting of the animals on each page.

This IS a good book for beginning learning of the letters of the alphabet and their most commonly used sound (except A which is A is flying in an airplane.) As with the book, Q is for Duck, you will need to point out that the author chose to add capitals to show the letter of the alphabet but that is not how we write.

 

ABC for Me: ABC Yoga by Christina Engel

Love how it adds physical movement to learning the letters of the alphabet. When we include movement, learning sticks.

  • Be very careful about words that the first sound is not clear. For example, in the word “elephant”, students often hear the /L/ sound instead of the /e/ sound. Make sure to overemphasize the /e/ sound.

 

 

51wfzW0QnXL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_Of course, we cannot forget a favorite of many for teaching the names of the letters…

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin

 

 

 

Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

Alphabet Rescue by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

All three of the above books contain a storyline of an adventure for the lowercase letters of the alphabet. Great book for pointing out and naming the letters of the alphabet- both upper- and lowercase letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: Sorting Letters

In a previous blog post, we discussed NO MORE LETTER OF THE WEEK.

Instead of letter of the week, children benefit from exposure to all letters with meaningful experiences. Children need to compare and contrast letters based on formation and sounds. To help students with comparison, we can provide multiple experiences for them to sort letters.

As noted by researches Fountas and Pinnell:Sorting Letters- FREE DOWNLOAD labels to sort in multiple ways journeyintoearlychildhood.com

“Children’s first efforts at matching and sorting may be with letters of different shapes or colors, but they can soon learn to sort letters, match letters, find letters with features in common such as tails, circles, short sticks, tall sticks, tunnels, dots, capitals, and so on. Their time spent sorting letters in a myriad of ways is essential to learning how to look at print in the early levels. They need to develop fast, flexible recognition of letters. Begin with just a few letters rather than all twenty-six, and concentrate on the lowercase letters and get the children to develop speed in matching or sorting.“

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Labels and Ideas for Sorting Letters

Some fun materials to use for sorting:

(link to Amazon or just use found materials!)

 

 

Greeting Students Each and Every Day

TOP 10 Reasons Why to Greet Students at the Door  Each and Every Morning

Daily Greetings- The Importance of Greeting Your Students Each Day journeyintoearlychildhood.com
• 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 school 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!

Tips:

  • Greetings must be delivered with sincerity and genuine care for the students. If you rush through greetings, the students will not feel valued or respected which may lead to challenging behavior.
  • Use the student’s names
  • Provide options that include touching as well as include no touching to meet the needs of all students
  • Use eye contact

FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Click here for two versions of greetings

Click here for additional versions of greetings

(note: If you send me an email stating that you have signed up to receive my blog each week, I will send you the seven different versions for free.)

American Symbols

As President’s Day draws near, we expose young children to the role of the president as well as two of our most honored presidents, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. At this time of the year, we also think about exposing our children to the American Symbols. Our youngest learners are introduced to many universal symbols such as a STOP sign, logos for gender on bathroom doors, a handicap parking only sign, etc. that are required for good citizenship. Some symbols children learn through daily routines and experiences and some require more time along with intentional planning on the part of the teacher, such as the American symbols.

American Symbols Provocations and Challenges journeyintoearlychildhood.comIt is important for young children to begin to explore the American symbols to build patriotism and pride in their country, to provide a sense of belonging to a bigger place, and to communicate the ideals of the United States.

The American Symbols document provides pictures of the American symbols, USA flag, liberty bell, the statue of liberty, and bald eagle as well as other famous USA governmental buildings and memorials to be posted in the block/construction center and/or the art/creation center to encourage children to recreate them. Ideas of materials to include in the construction center, as well as extensions for literacy including two poems and math,  are included.

 

note: Send an email to journeyintoearlychildhood.com letting me know that you have signed up to receive my bi-weekly to weekly blog post and I will send you the American Symbols document for free.

Incorporating Intentional Teaching of SEL throughout the Day

Intentional Teaching of SEL journeyintoearlychildhood.com

To be intentional means to act purposefully with a goal in mind and to have a plan for accomplishing it.

Intentional teachers set up experiences where they present information, model skills, and guide the learning toward a specific developmental standard or learning target.

BELLY BREATHING art:                                                               (teaching how to take deep breaths during a small group art project)

Straw Painting

  • Place a piece of paper in a tin cake pan.
  • Squirt some paint on the paper.
  • The student takes a deep breath in through their nose (pretending to smell a flower).
  • The students blows out through their mouth and the straw blowing around the paint.

Social Studies:                                                                                                                            Sounds Around Us/ RULES FOR LISTENING

  • After completing a lesson on how to sit at circle time- body calm by having a quiet voice, listening ears and eyes that are watching:
    • Take children on a listening walk
    • During the walk, cue children by saying, “Body Calm.”
    • Students stop and hug their bodies.
    • Point to your lips, the corner of your eye and cup your ears.
    • Students remain quiet to listen.
    • Call on a student to tell you what he/she hears.
    • Ask, “Is it a noise made by people? A machine? Or an animal?”

Moving to the music/beat during gross motor/ HOW OUR BODIES FEEL with DIFFERENT EMOTIONS:

Following a lesson on how our bodies feel when we are feeling:

  1. Brainstorm ways our bodies would move to music that is sad (slow, 60bpm music such as Baroque), excited or worried (fast temp, lively), angry (hard beat) and ready to learn (classical, New Age or alphabet or number song)
  2. Play the different types of music in the gross motor room and move to the beat.

Nurture a Community of Kindness

KINDNESS CLASS PROJECT

When children give each other a compliment or perform an act of kindness, they can tie a ribbon, bead, or other objects on a heart, a dream catcher, or a big piece of cross fencing.

KINDNESS CHECK-OUT TICKET

At the end of the day have each student write or draw on a sticky note a compliment to another student. You can have the students give any compliment or have them focus on the specific social skill being taught that week.

gif_120The students can also share the compliment of another student during an end-of-the-day class meeting.

Making Number Posters with Natural Elements

NUMBERS with NATURE

Number Posters with nature FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 Incorporating…

  • Students into design of classroom and visuals on walls
    • Classroom walls are a public statement about the educational values of the teacher.
    • The challenge is to ponder how the walls can be used to enhance the educational objectives while including the students as a part of the learning.
    • If the students are allowed to create or co-create the displays on the walls, they will refer to, look at and engage with them more often making them learning materials instead of visual noise.
  • The walls should invite engagement, wonder and imagination; reflect the student’s learning, have an emotional or meaningful connection to the students and engage children in active interaction with the displays.

 

  • Natural elements
    • Classrooms should be filled with natural elements… not only are natural items great learning tools but they also enhance your space with beauty.
    • Displays should be hung on a simple neutral or natural background with neutral border to decrease visual over-stimulation.

TEMPLATES FOR NUMBERS

                      The students measured the length of the stick needed using cubes.

Maintaining Engaged Learning

Since we know that young children learn best through active engagement-  we must stand firm in our support and implementation of instructional practices that support constructing of knowledge through active experiences. We also need to develop and refine our own beliefs about young children in order to defend and protect best practices.

National Education Association for Young Children supports (based on multitude of research) a constructivist approach to teaching and learning in which young children construct their knowledge and understanding of the world through their experiences.

So the question to you is… how are you melding together the research based constructivist type approaches with the early learning standards to provide activities, questions/probes and  materials that are designed to challenge children’s thinking processes and encourage them to dig deeper into their understandings (based on student interest)?

 

Student Jobs to Assist with Clean Up After Free Choice Play Centers

  • Let the students take control over clean up…Jobs for Clean Up Time journeyintoearlychildhood.com
    • “Shift Manager” This student provides a 5, 3 and 1-minute warning prior to clean up.      (can also signal other transitions throughout the day)
      • Following the 5-minute warning, students are not allowed to retrieve any new items or move centers. They need to remain in the center in which they are currently for the last 5 minutes of play.
    • “Quality Control Inspector” This student inspects all areas and cleans up any remaining items.
    • “Floor Sanitation Monitor” This student picks up scraps from the floor and/or reminds students to throw away their scraps throughout the day, especially after play centers.
    • “Celebration Coach” This student provides an award to another student (a gold slip, a high five, a fist bump) for being the most efficient, yet respectful, during clean up. (respectful clean up = cleaning up quickly while still treating materials and friends with respect, using gentle hands and kind words) This student can also be responsible for finding and celebrating respectful behavior throughout the day.

CLICK HERE: Classroom Jobs that Support Free Choice Play Center Clean Up

  • clean up job cards journeyintoearlychildhood.com
  • Do you have one or two students that clean up time is overstimulating?
    • Allow the student to be a “Clean Up Supervisor.” As soon as he/she cleans up 5-10 items (depending on student’s needs) in the center in which he/she was playing, they get a clipboard with all the students’ names and travels from center to center to find 5 children who are experts at cleaning up for the day. The “Supervisor” can reward those five with a High Five or Fist Bump at the end of clean up time or announce the names for the whole class to give a silent cheer.
    • Allow the student to complete another job that consists of heavy pressure or heavy lifting such as taking a stack of books to a neighbor teacher or wiping all tables with a spray bottle of water and a rag (or just a wet rag).

Clean Up Time after Play Centers

Is clean up time after play centers becoming one of your greatest frustrations throughout the day?

TIPS and TRICKS to keep your blood pressure low during clean up:

·         Time clean up each day and allow the students to predict how long it will take the next day. Graph the results and set challenges.

·         Allow students to take pictures of items and place the picture on the shelf or bin where it belongs. By allowing the students the opportunity to label each of the bins, it provides them with more ownership and develops a sense of care and respect for the materials.

·         Teach clean up rules and procedures during a small group time. Yes, you lose academic instruction during one small group time, but you gain LOTS of time with an entire year of quick clean up times. Plus, of course, you gain fewer frustrations and headaches!

·         Have students take pictures of what the center looks like completely clean, neat and tidy and post those in the center or on the center bin.

·         Have the students help write a book about what they do during play centers including how to clean up. Take pictures of the students to place in the book. Make sure to take pictures of the students who struggle the most with cleaning up during clean up time being amazing cleaners to place in the book. When you read the book over and over, you can point that they everyone cleans up quickly, treating the materials gently and safely just like _______.

What tips and tricks do you use for clean up time? Please share…

clean up featured image