Archive for category Class Environment

Our Classroom is a Zoo

In our classroom we have a zoo. We have an African millipede, salamanders (sorry these cuties will dearly missed) fish, a guinea pig (minus 0ne, plus, a new guinea…we’ll miss you Turkey….welcome MiniMoe), and stick bugs. For about a month we had an ant farm, but our beloved colony rapidly demised. (Can’t always rely on shipping services to get your ants to school safely.) All right, there is some real life costs in raising animals in the classroom as the parallels of life and death become more transparent, but the sense of care, nurturing, and life lessons in mortality can instill much value to kids.

Lately we have had kids coming in with their new pets. It definitely puts a whole new perspective on our traditional morning meeting, but we are certainly willing to take the diversion from the routine. But the energy can become an animalistic frenzy. The younger class at the school has two bunnies in their class, “cuddles and “bun-bun.” (I know, not to original, but certainly adorable.) They have been inside during the winter months do to freezing temperatures during some evenings. They have become like school mascots as the teacher often lets them romp around in the classroom. The kids in her class don’t bother much with them anymore because the bunnies, hopping by have almost become a regular part of the day. However when we introduced the bunnies to our class the game of “chasing bunnies,” began. Constant requests by the teachers to “stay put as they will come to you,” feel on deaf ears. The excitement within the room certainly elevated, but this was a phenomenon worth jumping to. They wanted to build bunny walls for them to leap over and find clever ways to corner the bunny for a closer look.

With the guinea pigs in our class, kids often like to pretend to perform surgery, while miraculously nursing them back to better health. As adults we need to be vigilant because these dramatic times can inadvertently be invasive to the well-being of the animal. But ordinarily they want to lay down towels on the table, put on gloves, use magnify glasses to hone in, or pretend that a container provides medicine. The kids play operation as if it is a veterinarian hospital, with an animal in critical condition. Their imaginary operations can be annoying (especially for the animal) because often the animal can be marginally mistreated. And one hard direct consequence this school year, resulted in a bit finger (nothing major here, just a prick of blood).

Animals in the classroom or in a child’s life do provide a sense of nurturing and responsibility. As all our pets need water, food, and nurturing. Each week a student is assigned a duty to take care of these of providing water and food to the animals. Surely, they need prompting in order to remember but they’re usually thrilled to take care of the animals. The subtle responsibilities of kids taking care of animals, offers moments for identifying and relating to the nurturing qualities of healthy human development. Young people begin to grow and realize the impacts of how the animal becomes dependent on this nurturing care for their own survival. Even when animal dies, the intimacy of connecting is a lost, while this pine time can strengthen a child’s perception of how valuable and precious live can really be.


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Organized Curriculum = Classroom Management

Offer a whirlpool of ideas and materials that spark the continual ingenuity of young minds, and more focus and organization will ensue. Kids in a healthy, supportive environment certainly do not move at a snails pace and as educators or parents we’re constantly challenged to conjure up interesting and engaging projects for them to channel their intentions and energy.

Classroom management in early childhood education begins with organized curriculum. A classroom that has a myriad of materials for young hands to help themselves, complimented by teachers that consciously follow their various needs and emerging interests, will optimize greater opportunities for learning.

One of the main aims of managing a successful classroom, comes with how well materials are presented – are accessible to teachers and students – can be quickly found with the deep layers of a teachers closet – appeal to the interests of the kids – and are developmentally appropriate, however still challenging and fun.

For example, my cohort and I in the classroom have noticed children who are partial to animal figures and are generally attracted by this fantasy play. Aware of this we decided to introduce a whole herd of animals, play trees, artificial greenery and set them up on our loft area, like a pseudo safari.

More recently, several boys and girls have taken more of an interest to playing with dolls, dressing them and carrying them in a warm sun in the play yard. Again, as teachers we decided to include stethoscopes and other medical equipment they may be entice further nurturing through socio-dramatic play.

Our jobs as educators are to pay attention to how materials are being used and to decide at one point to swap out or to present something different. Materials should always be within kid reach along shelves for practicing self-help skills, while projects themes can be presented and set-up at various tables through out the day, and later tucked away for another day. Setting up and displaying supplies for a specific project in an orderly, yet fashionable way will also tempt many little hands. A good rule of thumb is to be creative and think about how you your self would first like to be introduced to a new project.

Materials are to be used interchangeable. Preschoolers are absolutely content and thrive on diversification of materials, however they do have their favorites. And this is the simplicity of applying what educators commonly refer to as an emergent-based curriculum. There is no right or wrong way, this approach to curricula is provided on the individual and group related interests of the classroom, as each day is different.

Another good rule of thumb is to keep track of what activities or curriculum is being provided, how it is being used, who generally uses what, and at times demonstrate some appropriate ways materials can be used, while being careful not encourage any modeling, which may limit their own exploration into the project.

Our classroom layout by subject theme (i.e. art, kitchen center, dress-up, science, writing, math, etc.) is constantly changing, our shelves full of materials and stationary supplies are also weekly being recycled or restocked.

Curriculum emerges from self-directed and cooperative experiences in the classroom – a young person may short objects by color, shape, or texture, stamp alphabet letters onto paper, count beads while threading a necklace, or finding ways to balance a tower of blocks, all of these are organized acts. It was John Dewey, who advocated learning as a deeply rooted function; it is not an activity representative of a standard presented in a closed system of school. Play is then a fact of life; it is crucial to the full development. Dewey would argue for “the continuum of experience,” not for instruction, but where the educator is an intricate part of providing the resource for these diverse experiences to unfold. And the most effective way for continuum of diverse experiences to unravel is through a series of proactive steps towards an organized classroom. This is how we can best manage the classroom, while we entrust the kids take full control over their own learning.

Preschool Punks. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint/publish, please leave a comment.

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Leave Private Space For Kids: And Adults Stay Out!

Rarely in schools to kids have opportunities of space away from teachers breathing down their necks. Coves, nooks, blankets, tapestries, and crannies away from adult line of vision, improves the autonomy for kids in the classroom. After all, how can we ever-built trusting relationships if we don’t honor or provide adequate space for children to find some genuine time alone?

Before moving to Seattle, I worked a few odd jobs at two separate early- childhood centers. At each place staff and the administration insisted that there be scheduled bathroom time, and “run herd” over them as if they would rip out the plumbing in the walls, out of an adults line of sight. At the independent school I now work at, we trust the children to come and go to the bathroom at their own pace and rhythm, and although we may check to reassure a three year old is not stuck on the can, they generally manage to go on their own – when natural calls.

And in the classroom, again the privacy of kids is an important human need we value as teachers who organize the classroom. A corner can be set aside as a comfy spot with a draped tapestry – then there are blankets for creating a fort or provide warmth for snuggling. A cubby that a child can climb in and out of without any materials jammed inside, also acts as a quite space to left with one’s imagination.

If a classroom has a loft, this area can be a prime spot for creating a nesting area with all the necessary pillows and blankets, for “fort building 101.” Areas under stairs can also suite the purpose of tucking away from the foot traffic of other preschoolers or teachers.

Outside a semi-tractor tire, partially anchored into the ground makes a fine portal for privacy. I watched kids nestle inside a semi-trailer tire to stay dry on a rainy day and to stay cool on a sunny day. And since the inside of a tire has a conical shaped walls, spider man or women can climb their selves to the upper rim, and “hang- out.”

On days where the sky does not fall like a waterfall in Seattle, we often build spaces for tucking away. A big tarp along with tires to stack around the edges provides all the material you need for a fort. And if these material are not available dive into your nearest commercial dumpster and pull out the biggest box you can find. An empty box standing outside can accommodate a pack of squirming preschoolers, with the option to paint and to cut out windows and doors for the preschool “box house.”

When it comes to providing private spaces inside and outside the classroom, just take the time to put our big adult heads into those small spaces that would intrigue the imagination of toddler or preschooler. Start by being inventive with the materials around you and incorporate more as your private spaces expand. Trust builds when kids our allowed the private space to act out their interpretation of the world, free from being observed by nagging adults or their over whelming peers at times. They need this time to their selves as any other breathing adult would. Shape the classroom by designating at least one private spot where an adult cannot access, without blowing out a back or straining their knees. And this is the way it should be, if we our creating an environment with kids in mind.

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