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Sunday, April 29, 2012

When a Preschooler Goes Rogue

A while back one of my Little People went rogue on me.  To be truthful, it happened almost overnight.  The first few months of school he was fine - an obvious thinker and careful talker, if a little moody.  However, around Christmastime something happened and he got a little - angry.  I'm not sure what exactly occurred that made this so, and I might not ever know.  It seemed to me as if something was happening at home that had him anxious, or tired, or worried.  Whatever it was, it manifested itself in his behavior in many challenging ways.  He (let's call him Billy) was suddenly quick to push, shove, and hit.  He lost all tolerance for sharing or taking turns, and would just grab toys from other kids when something caught his fancy.  His favorite playground game was playing "police" and catching (and often grabbing/on-the-edge-of-tackling the "bad guys").  He began acting out in ways that disregarded classroom the same expectations that he had before followed  - seemingly in order to gain approval from his peers.  These took the form of silly comments in large group, select words that were not "school words", continuing to make sounds on the comment when asked not to with sidelong looks at his carpet neighbors to see if they were paying attention to him.

Unfortunately, these occurrences of misbehavior left a trail of collateral damage around him.  While the kids at first had regaled him as the "strongest" and "bravest" of the class, they soon tired of his angry play and rough actions.  The teachers also tired of his constant talking and out-of-line behaviors.  All of these factors added up to culminate in a situation of kids quick to tattle on him and (sadly true) teachers quick to believe anything negative said about him.

And it was at that place where we found ourselves just last week.  My co-teachers expressed frustration that they kept hearing report after report from the other kids about things that Billy had done.  I heard the rising irritation in their voices as they called out to him after these reports.  I found my fuse short with him as he continued to call attention to himself during large group time.  An incident of throwing multiple woodchips that found their way inside onto the carpet brought me to the end of my rope and I sent Billy to sit in a chair and away from the group for a while.

However, I knew in the back of my mind that of all the things that Billy might need, exclusion from attention wasn't one of them.

The next day with a new outlook, I decided to shadow Billy for awhile.  I kept close to him as much as I could with the aim to try and figure exactly what was happening around him as he went about his school day.  I really wanted to discover if he really was getting into the trouble that every seemed to think that he was.  I wanted to sort out how much of what was happening was his misbehavior and how much of it was assumptions.

I decided to apply some natural consequences when necessary and otherwise to sit back and watch.  When he threw the bubble wand over the playground fence, I told him that now that his wand was gone and now he would have to play somewhere else.  When he decided to "arrest" a co-student (and the arresting was in the form of tackling) I informed him that he needed to sit with me for awhile before he found a calmer way to play.

When I wandered away from him later and two little boys ran up gleefully claiming that Billy had "punched" them, I had a pow wow with all of them to find out what had really happened.  It turns out that Billy was going to "knock down their building" (meaning the built-in play structure), and when they loudly protested, he  hit his chest with one fist and made a punching motion with another - but not anywhere close to their actual bodies.  (He demonstrated this maneuver for me, and from the widened eyes during the demonstration, I could tell that it hurt him way more than it might of hurt them - especially since he never even came close to touching them at all.)

These things and others showed me that we were all in some way jumping on the "Billy always is doing something wrong" bandwagon.  Sure, he was still angry, and that anger was still directing him to make some bad choices.  However, we owed it to him to deal with the actual infractions and not get caught up in the swirl of assumptions around him.

So I decided to hop off the bandwagon and encouraged my co-workers to do the same.  I stated that I wanted all of us to pay close attention to the things that Billy was actually doing, and apply a firm, but gentle hand when he did go too far.

I also vowed to give Billy way more hugs than scowls, and to start them the minute he walks through the door in the morning.

Because that, of all things (rogue or not), is probably what Billy needs the most.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Working at the Car Wash in Preschool

We made a car wash today in preschool.  This project is something that I intended to do last week during Transportation week, but I I couldn't quite get it all together then.  Fortunately, we play with our bikes on the playground almost every day, so there's always a need to keep them clean.

The idea for this project first came to me when I first started working with plastic tablecloths for different projects.  They have just the right weight for this kind of project.  They blow nicely in the wind, but still hang down nicely for the kids to drive through them.

I used two dollar store tablecloths for the streamers.  It turned out that the best streamer length for the boxes that I was using was 36", which is one-third of the total length of the tablecloth.

After I folded the tablecloth into thirds, I cut the streamers by aligning all three of my pieces on top of each other and then folding up one edge several times so that I could cut the whole streamer length with one small cut:

Using a paper cutter can be a risky way to cut them, because if you cut too far you will cut the whole length of the tablecloth into single strips (which is not the end of the Plastic Steamer World, but it does make things a bit trickier).  However, when I use the paper cutter for this I cut slowly and stop as soon as I feel the blade cut through the thick folds.


When you're done, you should have a long strip of streamers ready to tape on to your box:

My original idea was to use refrigerator boxes for this projects.  I envisioned that I would cut out two sides of the box, creating a tall tunnel for the Little People to drive through.

However, I am finding that locating good, extra-large boxes is much harder in general than it used to be.  In fact, this problem has turned me into somewhat of a Box Stalker, but that's the story for another day.   Fortunately, last week I came across some tall skinny boxes up for grabs at our Teacher Center that I figured would work.

I taped my streamers to one long edge of one box, and both long edges of another (I used clear packing tape for this):

 Here is the trial run with a single archway in my living room:

Because of the size of the car wash, I obviously had to assemble it at school.  I came with the streamers already taped on, and had the kids help me set it up.  I made two archways as shown above for the drive-through part.  As you can see, I had to space the side boxes out as far as possible for the various trikes and wagons to fit through.   I just used duct tape as well as I could to connect these archways together.  I then taped the two boxes on the ground to the arches to give it some stability.

This worked fine, and the Little People loved it. However, when I do it next year, I will definitely work harder to find refrigerator boxes.  The stability of those would have been worth it.  However, on the other hand, using these multiple boxes makes it a little easier to store.  I was able to take the boxes apart to store in our toy shed and promise the kids that we could play Car Wash on Monday, too.

 Here are some of the Little People enjoying the "water spray":

 As a side note, when I got done attaching the steamers to the boxes I had a few extra pieces left.  So I gathered bunches of them together and tied them to make car "polishers".

This and a few other car washing "tools" gave the Little People who were waiting for bikes something to do until it was their turn to get clean.  (You can see below that I provided the dusters that we used when we painted flowers):

Then, to top it all off, I used two tissue boxes and the very last of the streamers to make two car washes for the cars that we play with in our room on the carpet.  That way the Car Wash Fun could continue on even after we went inside:

All in all, it was great fun, and something that I think the Little People will enjoy and remember for quite some time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shelf Paper Art Prints in Preschool

After we had so much success at preschool with our Bubblewrap Butterflies a while back that I decided to branch out into some different types of printmaking.  As a result, as I was about to throw away some pieces of that rubbery shelf liner recently I decided that it might make really good printing material.
Basic Grip Shelf Liner - Taupe (12x5")
Here is an example of the shelf liner that I mean.
This is one you can buy at Target.
I had several different kinds hanging out unused at home, so I took it up to my local Teacher Center and die cut some big flowers and leaves, along with a few flower pots and stems. (You can of course also hand cut these.)

I got this extra-bumpy shelf liner at IKEA.

Then I lightly glued them in place with a smear of regular school glue to some of our plastic work mats.  I have found in the past that plastic/rubbery items glued lightly to these mats come right off later so I wasn't worried about them sticking permanently.  Plus, I didn't want the pieces to slide around while the Little People painted on them. My first choice would have been to have the Little People arrange the elements of their flower pictures themselves before painting and printing, but I wasn't sure how to combine this with the "must-glue-to-avoid-sliding" issue.

As a result, the mats looked like this:

It doesn't matter at all whether your pieces are mix-and-match from
different types of liner - it all looks good in the end.

You can see the glue still drying on this one.

These were a little harder to glue down because this liner is stiff
 and had a good curve to it.  However, this would be easily fixed by gluing them
 the day before and putting them under something flat and heavy to dry.

  Then we had the Little People fingerpaint on them.  I especially wanted to use fingerpaint for this project because of the bumpy nature of the shelf liner - it was a fantastic sensory project.  In fact, I had one girl who wasn't ready to make her print for a long time because she was just enjoying rubbing the clear, bumpy liner flower over and over.

I wouldn't have thought of this before, but the non-black liners were a little easier for the Little People to fill with paint because it was hard to see how much paint was on the black liners.  Here are some being painted:

After the paint was distributed as the kids wanted it, we put a large piece of white paper over the painted mat and (after washing their hands) they rubbed all over it:

And then we got beautiful flower prints:

I think tomorrow I will experiment with some extra tacky glue that I have to see if I can make the pieces a little sticky on the back - kind of like Post It notes.  If so, the Little People will then be able to arrange the pieces as they wish, making this the perfect art project:  some sensory, all process, all student-led.  Not to mention a project that recycled some unused extra shelf liner.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sitting Outside on the "Pants Blanket"

Despite a few super-hot days over this past weekend, we have had very nice weather this week at preschool.  Everyone enjoyed being outside, and it was especially pleasant in the shade.

Today I brought out what I call my "jean quilt" to spread out under one of the trees.  This is a heavy blanket made from old jeans that our family used to wear.  I brought it out for a day or two a few weeks ago and then took it home, thinking that the Little People weren't so interested in using it.  However, then I had several questions from the Little People about where the "pants blanket" was, so I brought it back.

Today a set of Little People had a picnic on the blanket that soon turned into an busy animal exhibition.  The animals were brought over a few at a time until there was a whole menagerie frolicking on the quilt.

The good thing about the quilt is that it has pockets from the jeans still on it, which the Little People think is great fun.  You can't see it here, but today several of the baby animals napped in the pockets while the big animals played, because "they weren't afraid to be by themselves".

It's always interesting to me how a simple change of materials at school can bring about a completely different type of play.  It's also a reminder to me to continue to bring in and try new things to encourage new types ways of growing and learning.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dog Treats are For Dogs...Not for Little People

Well, I didn't let the Little People eat any dog snacks today.  Which, as it turns out, was an improvement on yesterday.

It's not that I fed them dog snacks of course.  It just kind of...happened.

So it all went down like this.  We have been having a series of dogs visit our classroom this week and last.  All of these canine visits were supposed to happen last week when we had Pets week.  However, since it was raining three out of the four days we were in school last week, we had to postpone some of the visits.  This is because we hold all sanctioned (and non-sanctioned) pet visits outside on the grass in front of our room (since obviously we can't have dogs in the classroom).  We ask the pet owners to bring the dogs about 15 minutes before our school day is over and keep them out on the grass.  That way the Little People who want to visit with the dogs can, and those who don't can keep their distance.

For the most part, the Little People all wanted to visit with the dogs.  Even with the biggest one - a Bull Mastiff about as large as they were.

I did have one little boy who obviously was nervous about all of the dogs.  He would hardly come out of the classroom when the Bull Mastiff was there, and he wouldn't even get close to the little Yorkshire terriers.  However, he seemed intrigued by Timmy's poodle yesterday, and kept wanting to try and pet her.  He would get close...and then he'd back off...and then he'd get close...and then he'd back off.  He carefully watched her stand on her hind legs and dance around, and saw her get a treat from the owner.  

Then other kids started getting treats for the dog, too, and he was all over this idea.  "I want one," he said, daring to come quite close to get his.  I was a little worried about this sudden burst of confidence from him when before he wouldn't even come out on the grass.  "Um, you know that the treat is just for the dog, right?" I asked, imagining that he had abandoned all his dog fears in the hopes of picking up a little personal afternoon snack from Timmy's dad.

He nodded (perhaps in a crestfallen kind of way), and eventually ended up flinging it the dog's direction and fleeing with a holler as she approached him to take it.

The truth is that I was so concentrated on helping him have a chance to touch the poodle that I didn't even think to remind the other kids that these little bacon-looking morsels were just for the dog.   So I was surprised when I looked over and saw little Sally chewing little, tiny bites, a look of complete disgust on her face.

"Did you know that was just a treat for the dog, Sally?" I said only to her as we headed back into the room.  A look of  embarrassment, realization and a degree of relief came over her face as she put two and two together.  I'm not sure which feeling was more prevalent: embarrassment that she had tasted a dog snack,  or relief that Timmy's father wasn't really giving out the worst snacks ever.  She handed the treat to me, a tiny piece nibbled off of the corner.

Fortunately her dad was right there waiting to pick her up and had in fact watched the whole dog-visit scenario happen.  So I just let him know what had happened with the treat and he just laughed and it was all good.  Which was much easier that meeting him at the door after school and starting out, "Well, I need to tell you that Sally tasted a dog snack today..." which would have taken a whole lot more explaining than the first scenario.

So today was good.  No dog snacks tasted, no parents to talk specifically to after school.  Not even any dogs visiting.  Just a regular day at preschool.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Transportation Pictures in Preschool

This week in Preschool we're talking about Transportation.  This is one of my all-time favorite units because there is so much fun stuff to do with it.

So far this week we have driven cars through shaving cream:

We have had all manner of traffic jams and pile-ups made at the art table:

I brought all of my sons' matchbox cars from home and put them on the carpet at center time.  You would have thought it was Christmas.  The kids went to work with the blocks and cars, making garages and highways and cities:

Unfortunately, there were also some Styrofoam packing peanuts in the matchbox car box, and these were soon pulverized by the heavy car traffic.  Soon the carpet looked as if it had been hit by a Styrofoam snowstorm.  We even had to the get the vacuum cleaner out to clean that up, which added even more excitement to the day: 

The Little People got to play with the Transportation Math mats and the vehicle erasers, which proved to be lots of fun:

(These are available as part of my Transportation Printable Set for sale in my Teacher's Notebook and Teacher's Pay Teachers store:

So many fun Transportation activities and so little time!  I'll share some more tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Graphing Pets in Preschool

We had a great time graphing all about our pets last week as a part of our Pets theme.  We did several different types of graphs.  First we graphed who had a pet and who didn't:

I used a half-sheet of poster board and name labels for this one, taping on the graph categories (the yes and no) and the graph title.  I wrote all of their names on the labels ahead of time, and then I had them find their name and put their sticker on the appropriate side.  This graph is a good size to put outside our classroom door at the end of the day for the parents to see.   Perhaps the Little People realize that I like to do this, because one little girl who has told us stories about her cats and dogs all year finally had to 'fess up that she doesn't actually have any pets.  (I knew that she did not because I asked her mom a while ago, but wondered what she would say when she had to stick her name down on a "yes" or a "no" side.)

You don't see it on this graph (because I recreated the graph at home to take a picture of it), but after everyone makes their pick, we count how many people picked one category or another, and then one Little Person comes up and writes that number on that side of the graph.

The next day we graphed what kind of pet everyone had.  Dogs and "no pets" definitely won on this graph, although if I had to do it again, I would have more than one card for each child, so they could put their name in more than one column if they had more than one type of pet.

I used my "graphing" pocket chart for this one.  It's actually a "hundreds" chart, but it works perfectly for graphing.  The only thing I would do differently next time is have the Little People write their names on the cards themselves.

Next we graphed whether their pet was an inside pet or an outside pet.  When at first they had trouble with understanding what this meant, I asked whether their pet slept outside or inside.   If they didn't have a pet, they got to tell me what kind of pet they might like to have some day, and whether they would want it to sleep inside or outside.

For this graph I used my large white board and our magnetized popsicle name sticks.

Finally, to make the playing field level for all (meaning that I gave both the pet owners and the non-pet owners equal opportunity) I asked them what kind of make-believe pet they would like to have out of the ones shown on the graph.  They especially seemed to enjoy this.

I used chart paper and labels for this graph, taping the pet cards on at the bottom and the graph title at the top.

The pictures and graph titles for all of these graphs are my printables that I just in my teacher stores.
You can see them in the store here - thanks for looking!