COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

September 17, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

Learning Happens from “Can I Help?”

I spent Saturday in the company of a diverse group of professionals and parents that are interested in where early childhood education is heading nationally, but especially in Maine. It was interesting to talk with a Montessori Preschool teacher, public school Pre-K teacher, center director and staff, parent ambassadors, College professor, and Head start teachers, about programs. A good amount of discussion was around structured curriculum with planned activities done on schedule, but wanting to be flexible to go where children lead. Research supports the importance of play in a child’s learning and the value of child directed activities. As teachers we also have options about how we approach our roles to support, encourage, challenge, and expand a child’s learning.

I shared how I’ve got unit/curriculum plans developed that work with the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards, but I see the ultimate learning for young children as coming from involving them in normal daily life activities. Dramatic play is fine, but real life is best. Our dramatic play reinforces the learning experienced in the real activity. I think back to what I experienced as a child. I played outside, exploring my environment and my place in it, all the time. When inside I had free access to art/craft supplies, puzzles and books. Today, I take the experiences of my childhood and add in my teacher skills to reinforce the learning opportunities that occur just as part of our normal day. I do get to pull in some of those planned unit activities that are on file in the reinforcing and expanding.

I believe that children learn best through their play, guiding us in what they need, but they also benefit from having any learning opportunity expanded. It’s having that balance of leaving it up to them to guide and finding the opportunities to expand learning that is always the fun challenge for me.

Here’s the example I shared in the discussion:

I have always hung laundry out to dry in good weather. Not an activity many of today’s children are exposed to, as most families use the dryer today. Whenever we head out back to play and the children see a clothes basket at the clothesline they want to help me. I don’t think about that it will take longer, I immediately think about which child is asking to help and what learning can I support.

  • Do we count clothespins needed to hang clothes – 2 shirts means 4 clothespins, 2 for each item = 2+2 = 4, then it’s counting out the clothespins to me. For some it also means sorting clothespins to find matches, as I have 2 different kinds of clothespins and they want them to be the same. It doesn’t matter to me.
  • One helper always wants to practice clipping pins, so I make sure to hang pants up first. Pants they can reach the bottom of to clip to. There isn’t much better fine motor with some science thrown in than working clip clothespins.

 

  • We sort out socks, sort colors, etc.  I now also hang different types of clothes on different lines for even more sorting.
  • We talk about where you wear what. This leads to expanded story play with what we call the “Ooops” book (Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton which is a daily read within our space and can be retold easily). It’s fun to talk about wearing pants on our head,before I hang them. That always gets an “Ooops” and correction on where to wear them. You never know what will be worn where. Young children are creative and love “silly”.
  • Language expansion with color names, labeling body parts, and when a preschooler tells you the clothes are all “twisted” – expand that – what is meant, how are they, other descriptive words for “twisted”……
  • Science of why hang the clothes?, what dries them?, with it be fast today? – sun and wind
  • Counting the items – in total, by group, by color, on each line
  • Compare number of items hung on each line, why more or less
  • Weight of wet clothing

The children come and go with helping as they want and need. All this learning isn’t forced. It’s chosen by the child. It also includes teamwork, self-esteem, sense of responsibility, sense of accomplishment, self control and aware of abilities that are important developmentally for young learners.

My goal every day is to have this type of learning happening all day long.  A Head Start teacher stated she would so liketo be offering the same type of learning opportunities, but is required to have written plans that are done ahead. We actually did a bit of brainstorming to see if there might be ways to write out skills/standards met by everyday daily life activities that could be linked to on her plans, so she could move her program in this direction.

I appreciate that the families here understand how their young learners are being supported through including the children in what are normal life activities and expanding learning within those activities.

 

May 23, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on 2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

Last year I received a grant from Opportunity Alliance for extending the gardening season. With it we built a seedling grow station, a small hoop house and purchased row covering materials. We also purchased materials for supporting a lot of tomato plants. Everything except the hoop house worked as hoped for last year. The hoop house didn’t take us through the winter as hoped, but it did lengthen the season some. This year I changed up the usage of these materials some to really support growing our own food source and not just experimenting.

Decided to grow only seedlings we had success with last year and ate: cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squashes, kale, lettuce and herbs. I’ll support our local farmers with some seedling purchases of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and early crop of lettuce.

2016Garden

Some seeds were early into the garden and sprouting under row cover. Our warmer weather seedlings are hardening off outside during the day and in at night this week. They’ll make their way into the garden shortly, as frost date is past and warmer regular weather. Also have a good variety of seeds that like the warmer soil and onion sets to get in the ground. The onion sets and larger seeds are very small hand friendly for my young planting helpers. The herbs are into the hoop house this year to see if we can lengthen their harvesting season.

We also have last year’s leaves to mulch the rows with, mixing in newspaper we’ve recycled and been using for scissor practice.

Gardening with children of any age offers so many learning opportunities. At the preschool age the following indicator areas of the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS) are supported:

  • Emotional Development – self concept, self-regulation
  • Social Development – building relationships with adults
  • Approaches to Learning – initiative & curiosity, engagement & persistence
  • Early Language and Litaracy – comprehension & collaboration, presentation of knowledge & ideas, vocabulary acquisition & use, integration of knowledge & ideas, research to build & present knowledge-writing
  • Physical Development and Health – nutrition, fine motor, gross motor,physical health status
  • Math – mathematical practices, counting & cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement & data
  • Science – earth science, life science
  • Social Studies – civics and government, economics, geography, history

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided

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Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.

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Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.

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Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.

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January 28, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on A Snowball Sensory Box

A Snowball Sensory Box

Sensory play is not only fun, but it’s an important learning experience for young children. Today I brought out one of my winter sensory boxes. I think of this one as the “snowball box” because it’s all white and contains mostly round objects. The ribbon lengths add some of the glitter found with new snow.

To take this experience further I added some different tubes to the table. This group enjoys putting items into containers. They like to stack building blocks. They like to count. Knowing this and providing materials to support their interests, as I expected, the play changed.

To expand the learning I was able to direct the exploration into sizes and textures. We used different descriptive words starting from the concept of opposites. While exploring in this direction the children discovered that different sounds were occurring. They directed their learning at this point.

One simple sensory box =

  • cooperative play
  • fine motor
  • descriptive language
  • expressive language
  • self-esteem
  • math – shape, counting, volume
  • opposites/comparisons
  • sound
  • focus/attention span

One full morning of fun!

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As part of ongoing authentic assessment the videos here and additional ones taken will be used in planning future learning experiences and documented in ePortfolios connecting with the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS).

Here are 10 of the MELDS that were demonstrated this morning:

  1. Communicates math ideas verbally and non-verbally
  2. Recognizes the relationship between numbers and quantities
  3. Transitions from rote counting to 1:1 correspondence
  4. Matches similar shapes
  5. Explores three-dimensional and two-dimensional shapes in the environment
  6. Begins to speak audibly and, with prompting and support, express thoughts, feelings, and idea
  7. Chooses individual activities
  8. Develops increased capacity to share materials or caregiver/teacher’s attention
  9. Uses materials and equipment purposefully, safely and respectfully
  10. Explores objects and materials, and interacts with others in a variety of new settings
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