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
10 Frames are magical tools to build number sense in our young children instead of just rote counting. A strong sense of “10” will enable children to see relationships between numbers. Children need to first develop this strong understanding of the numbers 1-10 before they begin to work with larger numbers.
They are two identical rectangles stacked on top of each other divided into five equal segments- thus a “10 frame.”
A 10 Frame is a tool to help children be able to visualize the quantity of numbers, compose and decompose numbers. A 10 Frame supports children’s knowledge of 10 by visually seeing patterns and numbers. For example, if the top row of 5 is filled and the bottom row has three, we want children to be able to automatically think of this quantity in relationship to 10 and state that the quantity is 8 because two are missing.
10 Frames can be incorporated into the curriculum throughout the day- not just to use only as a tool during math time.
Allow children to play with 10 frames during free-choice play time…
Allowing children to play with 10 Frames during free-choice play centers
Incorporating 10 Frames into a Behavioral Challenge…
Taking Attendance using a Question of the Day and a 10 Frame…
Allowing students to produce the number posters for the classroom…
We are Teachers provides some great hands-on activities to play using a 10 Frame.
Math practices and instruction need to focus on the children’s understanding of concepts and their ability to explain their thinking.
Young children need to be able to use strategies to work with numbers one through five. They need to develop math fluency to five.
Teaching a math skill once is not enough but we know that children need to do- to have their hands on- to learn.
National Education Association for Young Children states that children learn best through hands-on learning experiences and that developmentally appropriate practices include “teachers who “mathematize” children’s everyday experiences.
I was blessed to visit a couple of amazing Kindergarten classrooms in Tulsa, OK and was impressed by their calendar routine among many, many other experiences they are providing their students.
They are using a 7 day linear calendar to develop fluency with the number five. Also, so impressive that the Kindergarten classrooms use a visual schedule of their day to teach the concept of time- before and after.
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…)
artificial plants, plastic animals, felt and/or material, and accessories to build habitats for the animals
Intentionally Designed Block Play for Geography 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
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.
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: 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
Intentionally Designed Block Center Physical Science journeyintoearlychildhood.com
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.
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.
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
There 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.
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.
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 accomplished 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.
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.
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.
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)