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

Learning at Home: Fine Motor Fun with Creative Expression

Learning at Home: Fine Motor Fun with Creative Expression

Last week, we discussed avoiding worksheets and instead, engage our children in fine motor activities that will prepare them for writing the letters of the alphabet and numbers – which they will be ready for later- not now.

Earlier is not always better when it comes to handwriting and children. Parents can help provide a strong foundation for later writing by having lots of fine motor fun now.

Here are some ideas that also allow children to express their creativity…

  1. Spray non-menthol shaving cream on a cookie pan and draw shapes and designs (add in some vocabulary words such “I noticed you just drew a line that is … horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, straight, wavy, etc.)  Note: If you want your child to practice writing the letters in his/her name- this is a great developmentally appropriate learning tool. Ask your child to write his/her name in the shaving cream.
  2. Allow your child to tear apart pieces of paper (old magazines, junk mail, etc.) and

    journeyintoearlychildhood.com
    Tearing paper for fine motor fun and creating yourself

    make a picture of him/herself. (note: tearing is a GREAT fine motor activity since your child has to use both hands and use them in opposite directions)

 

3. Make a “chandelier” by weaving or tying ribbon onto an old bike wheel, an old tennis racket, chicken wire or empty picture frame.

journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Designing a Woven Creation

 

 

4. Make a cotton ball picture. Pinch the cotton balls and tear them apart to make wispy clouds or designs. Read the book, It Looks Like Spilt Milk by Charles B. Shaw and make your own cloud pictures.

 

5. Tear tissue paper or magazines into small squares. Roll them in your fingers and glue them on paper to make a picture.

 

journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Cutting and designing with paint samples

 

6. Cut apart paint samples and then use the pieces to design a greeting card.

7. Finger-paint or paint with a small square of a sponge (pinching the sponge between your index finger and thumb).

fm8

 

  1. Using an eyedropper, squeeze one drop of colored water at a time on to a coffee filter – watch the colors mix.

    journeyintoearlychildhood.com
    Colored water dropped onto coffee filters

     

    DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE COPY OF THIS POST: LEARNING AT HOME- FINE MOTOR FUN AND CREATIVE EXPRESSION

Learning at Home Fine Motor Fun and Creative Expression journeyintoearlychildhood

NO Worksheets in Early Learning: Test Yourself

NO Worksheets in Early Learning

WHY?

Review the past four blog posts on why we do not use worksheets in Pre-K through 3rd grade and then test yourself.

Which pictures depict activities that are developmentally appropriate?

Which pictures are worksheets that need to be banned from early learning?

journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Test Yourself- Is it a worksheet? Ban the worksheets from Early Learning and use Developmentally Appropriate Hands-on Learning Activities

no worksheets answers

No Worksheets in Early Learning Part III

NO Worksheets in Early Learning:

WHY?

no worksheet part 3Reason Number Four: Worksheets do NOT develop problem-solving or critical thinking

If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). Worksheets do not involve critical thinking or problem-solving. Children instead develop a habit of guessing with passive thinking.

 

Reason Number Five: Worksheets do NOT develop Fine Motor Skills

NAEYC developmentally appropriate practices (Bredekamp and Copple, 3rd Edition) states, “Writing, drawing, and cutting with precision are activities that can be difficult for young children, who are still developing comfort and agility with fine motor work… Young children should have access to many kinds of materials and objects to help them develop and practice fine motor skills, such as small objects to sort and count and pegboards and beads to string… Pushing children too early into precise fine motor activities (as required on worksheets and color in the lines coloring sheets) is likely to be both unsuccessful and frustrating for young children and may leave them feeling incompetent and stressed.”

The clipping clothespins activity above not only accomplishes the same objective as the worksheet pictured but it also serves to strengthen students’ fine motor skills!

No Worksheets in Early Childhood Part I

NO Worksheets in Early Learning (Grades Pre-K through 3rd)

WHY?

Reason Number One: Children learn best through hands-on experiences.

NAEYC shares with us that children learn best through hands-on experiences. In order for learning to stick with them, they need to feel it, touch it, manipulate it, and experience it. Worksheets are a passive activity that does not activate the learning center in young children’s brains.

Reason Number Two: Children need real objects to develop symbolic thinking.

no worksheets part 1Based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, most young children, including Kindergarten and many first grade children, are in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Letters and numerals abstract symbols that hold very little meaning. Children require play-based activities to begin to understand symbolic thinking. A play-based curriculum offers children opportunities throughout the day to develop the ability to think abstractly by experiencing real objects using their senses (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993).

Intentional Design of Play Center: Incorporating MATH

incorporating math into play centers journeyintoearlychildhood

UPDATED POST:

Children learn best through hands-on experiences that are child-driven and authentic. Incorporating math exploration into free choice play centers allows children to explore and apply skills in real-life situations. It is also a great way to link new concepts to ones that the students already understand. When the teachers join in the play with students, they can nudge the students understanding forward and move them to incorporate more complex ideas.

Play also allows children to work and problem solve together. The importance of increasing social development to promote academics is noted in the statement from Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings: NAEYC Position Statement,

“Beyond cognitive development, teachers need to be familiar with young children’s social, emotional, and motor development, all of which are relevant to mathematical development.” 

Incorporating Shapes:

journeyintoearlychildhood number sense in play

 

Incorporating Symmetry:

journeyintoearlychildhood.com symmetry during play

 

Incorporating Patterning:

journeyintoearlychildhood.com patterns during play

 

Incorporating Number Sense

 

journeyintoearlychildhood number sense in play

Changing Calendar Time to Be DAP

UPDATED POST with Link to Pieces for a Linear Calendar

Our youngest learners are concrete thinkers; they live in the now. They are not ready for abstract thought. So, let’s ponder the effectiveness of a traditional calendar time that focuses on days of the week, months of the year, patterns, counting, etc. It is not until children are around the ages of 7 to 10 years of age that they are able to judge the relative time from a past event or until a future event will occur. Teaching the skills of time such as yesterday, today and tomorrow, days of the week and months of the year is not developmentally appropriate and can inhibit a child’s confidence in their skills. They may eventually stop participating and/or lose their confidence in their ability to achieve at school.

DAP Calendar Time journeyintoearlychildhood.comThere is little evidence that calendar activities that mark extended periods of time (week, month) are meaningful for children below first grade (Friedman, 2000). National Education Association for Young Children learn best through hands-on learning experiences and that developmentally appropriate practices include “teachers who “mathematize” children’s everyday experiences. For example, they help children learn and practice math skills and concepts during block building, play with games and manipulatives, and movement activities” (Developmentally Appropriate Practice Third Edition). Children will learn patterns, counting, number relationships, etc. best through individual and small group hands-on, meaningful activities, not through the repetitive calendar activities which do not hold any meaning for them. (see https://journeyintoearlychildhood.com/2018/09/05/math-during-free-choice-play/ for pictures of incorporating math into free choice play centers)

If teachers still want to incorporate some type of short calendar routine into their whole group time, here are some more developmentally appropriate ideas:

  • Build concepts of later, before and after by reviewing the daily schedule.pictures of activities
  • Hold calendar time at the end of the day and include a student job of drawing a picture of one exciting event that occurred during the day such as we read The Hungry Caterpillar, we found a caterpillar on the playground, we built a big car, etc.
  • linear 2  Use a linear calendar (7 days). For very young children, the linear calendar should be vertical, just like the daily schedule, and as they grow in their developmental skills, it can be horizontal. Use pictures of home and school- discuss if it is a home day or a school day. Count how many days we have been at school OR chart the weather and discuss how many rainy, sunny, etc. days.   LINEAR CALENDAR PIECES FOR HOME/SCHOOL and WEATHER
  • Start to build the concept of week and month by documenting the work that is Augustaccomplished in the classroom. At the end of each week and/or each month, have the students choose 3-5 pictures from a group of pictures that you have taken over that period of time. They need to reflect on the learning they have done that week and decide as a group which pictures best represent that learning. Jot down children’s comments on notecards. Place the pictures with the comments in a scrapbook or on a large piece of paper to hang in the hallway or classroom. This is a great way to document and showcase children’s learning as well as to demonstrate growth over time.
Resources:
Beneke, Sally J., Ostrosky, Michailene, and Katz, Lilian G. May 2008. Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry. Young Children.
Coople, Carol and Bredekamp, Sue, editors. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs. Third Edition. National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Friedman, W.J. 2000. The development of children’s knowledge of the times of future events. Child Development 71.

 

Loose Parts

UPDATED POST- includes a link to a letter to send home to families requesting loose parts

Loose ends engage children in thinking critically, creatively and holistically. They encourage students to make connections and their learning is strengthened through the hands-on exploration.
Students count, observe, predict, test ideas, draw conclusions, examine patterns, shapes, and sizes, compare and contrast, ask questions, summarize, and represent findings while playing with loose parts.
Loose parts play taps into students natural curiosity. It also provides a strong foundation for the thinking skills required for strong STEM learning.
Below is a letter that can be revised to meet your needs to send to parents requesting a variety of loose parts. What loose parts would you add to the list?

 

Letter to parents requesting loose parts for play

loose part letter

Authentic Assessment during Play

The Power of Observation:  

   emily with blocks Assessment in early childhood classrooms should occur through observations in a natural, authentic environment.
As we watch, listen and interact with children with the intention of being in the moment with them, we discover not only their understandings but also their learning process, their uniqueness and interests. We begin to value each child’s contributions to the community of learners.

We gain valuable information on how we can promote their success as a learner.

                   NAEYC Recommendations for Assessments:
*teachers’ observations of what children say and do
*other documentation (e.g. photographs)
*collected during their play and daily activities
*used  to refine how teachers plan and implement activities

Key Benefits:

  • Through intentional observation of each individual child, we begin to respect and appreciate each one for his/her uniqueness and for the strengths he/she brings to the community of learners. We value the contributions of each individual child.
  • Gain understanding of child’s skills in their natural environment, how they apply the knowledge in everyday exploration and use instead of in a contrived testing situation
  • Ability to reflect on each child’s skills and developmental growth
  • Increased ability to respond in ways that enable the children to be successful learners; turning the observations into effective instructional invitations
  • Provides differentiated instruction- clearly knowing the next steps for each child
  • Allows for strong relationship building- (which leads to more engaged and risk-taking learners)
  • Beautiful opportunities to wonder and learn about children’s thinking
  • Provides information on child’s approach to learning and their application of the knowledge instead of just ability to label or perform an isolated skill
  • Fuels our desire to learn more about the learning process

Math and DAP Practices

NAEYC Position Statement on Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings

In high-quality mathematics education for three-to-six-year-old children, teachers and other key professionals should …
-enhance children’s natural interest in mathematics and their disposition to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds;…

-provide ample time, materials, and teacher support for children to engage in play, a context in which they explore and manipulate mathematical ideas with keen interest.math

INCORPORATING NUMBER SENSE      INTO PLAY

“Early math is not about the rote learning of discrete facts like how much 5 + 7 equals. Rather, it’s about children actively making sense of the world around them. Unlike drills or worksheets with one correct answer, open-ended, playful exploration encourages children to solve problems in real situations. Because the situations are meaningful, children can gain a deeper understanding of number, quantity, size, patterning, and data management (Grossman 2012).” (Making Math Meaningful for Young Children, published by NAEYC)number sense