A Fun Project

Our fall season started this past week, and my class marked the occasion by beginning a unit on transportation. Please understand that when I say we started a new unit, it doesn’t mean that we focused on nothing but cars, trucks, trains, and planes all day every day for a week. This is how our exploration went down:

On Monday I introduced some laminated strips of black construction paper that we were going to use to make roads for the little plastic cars that I had just added to the block area. We made roads for about fifteen minutes on Monday, and the pieces of road went largely unused for the remainder of the week. That is, they went unused until Friday, when two of the children got them out and proceeded to put them together into a road.

They worked together for a while, but they became frustrated when they ran their cars on the road and it wouldn’t stay together. So we got out the masking tape and they worked to tape the strips to the carpet. Several other kids had joined them by this time, and we all had a wonderful time taping the strips to the carpet. It was amazing to watch the kids concentrate on holding the tape without letting it touch itself, concentrate on trying to untangle the tape if it got stuck to itself, and concentrate on putting the tape on just the right spot on the strips.

I took lots of pictures and am planning to do a very thorough documentation of the experience, as well as any similar experiences that come along in the future (because of the company I work for I do not post pictures on my blog, in case anyone was wondering). But as I was taking the pictures and reveling in how involved and focused the children were, it occurred to me that two of the participants will be moving to a different classroom in a few days. I will not be able to follow their progress in this activity any more; I don’t even know if they will be doing this activity in their new classroom.

I remember reading during my investigations into Reggio Emilia that teachers there stay with the same class the entire time they are at the school. Children move from classroom to classroom every year, but the teachers go with them. This has so many positives, because teachers know so much about a certain child’s learning style and how they approach a project. The teachers learn about the temperament of the whole class, as well as the individual children. They are familiar with the interests of the children, as well as how they have progressed developmentally. If children have to have different teachers every single year, those teachers have to become familiar with new children all over again. Children also have to get used to new teaching styles, which can be a shock if the style is very different from the classroom they were in previously.

It hurts my heart that I will not be able to follow the development of those two children, and I know that they will probably not experience the joy of the project that we had just worked on again. We have so much fun revisiting projects in my classroom and expanding on them any way that we can, and I saw aspects of their development that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. It has caused me to approach observation and documentation with renewed and increased vigor, and to plan projects intentionally. I can only hope that those two children will receive the same care and vigilance on the part of the teachers in their new classroom.

Reflection, and a Look Forward

Well, it is that time of year again – the time when everyone looks back on the year behind them and plans (or resolves) what they will do in the year ahead of them. I believe that it should be no different for me on a professional level. So here we go:

2010 was an awesome year, in that I learned more about what it is that I do than I had in the past three years combined. The past three months has been a huge period of growth and maturity for myself as a teacher, but I would still describe myself as being in the “young-adult” years of my teaching career, in that I am trying to fine-tune my teaching philosophy and implement all of the wonderful things that I have learned. I will look back on 2010 as being a time where I soaked up so much knowledge so quickly that, even though I was mentally exhausted at times, I still kept pressing on, impressed by all of the amazing things that I was learning. I read some very informative books, a lot of which I will keep around so that I can dive back into them for some inspiration when I feel the need to.

2010 was not just a year of amazing knowledge-building. 2010 was the year that I changed the mood of my classroom. I still have a LOT of work to do, but I am proud to say that I am on the road to building my classroom into a community of children, families, and teachers, rather than feeling as if I am walking into a gauntlet made up of students every day. Because of this, I am enjoying my job much more than I did at the beginning of 2010. I do have a lot to do to keep building this feeling of community, and that brings us to:

My Goals for 2011

My first goal for 2011 is to continue to expand my knowledge about progressive and Reggio-Emilia inspired teaching practices. I am well on my way to achieving this goal already, since I received some wonderful resources for Christmas that will help me attain this goal.

My second goal for 2011 is to continue to implement the things I have learned and make them felt in tangible ways. This includes:

  • Developing a system by which I will offer the children in my class real and tangible things to experiment with and discover. I will find ways to display these items in ways that will inspire the children to experiment and create with the items that I offer the children.
  • Develop a better documentation system that will not only better inform the parents as to what their children are learning and accomplishing in the classroom, but will inspire the children to continue to revisit, experiment, and discover more about the projects that we undertake.
  • Make the families of the children in my care more a part of the classroom than they are now. Make them feel like they are welcome and included in the classroom environment. Find a way not just to inspire more parental involvement, but to make the parents and the children feel more like the daycare is an extension of their home rather than an entirely separate place that the children go to for a huge block of their day.
  • Make the day less regimented than it is now, which will make transition times less of a stressful time, not just for myself but for the children as well. Give them more options, and make the things that they like doing (such as painting) more accessible to them so that they can do it whenever they want to.

There are others, I’m sure, but these are the main ones. I would like to see more parental involvement and more knowledge given to the parents of what we are actually accomplishing in the classroom. I would also like to see the children given more opportunities to explore and experiment, and more items to do that with. I know that with the ideas that I am trying to implement, 2011 will be a great year as well, perhaps even greater than 2010.

“It Looked Like Spilt Milk”

I found a project to go along with this book on one of the blogs that I’m subscribed to. I wish I could remember which one, so that I can give them proper credit, but I can’t remember! I read the book to the kids this morning, and then we used ketchup bottles filled with white paint to make “spilt milk” paintings. It was great, and they really enjoyed it! Then it turned into a finger painting project for a couple of kids that probably would have painted all day if I would have let them! Then this afternoon we went outside and tried to figure out what shapes the two clouds in the sky at the time were.

This afternoon we made paper chains. The kids had a lot of fun with it. I am always entertained by how amazed the parents are that their kid actually put together this chain! I usually do this project for a countdown to Christmas, but this year we just did a chain. I had thought about making one big one to hang all around the room, but the kids were so proud of their individual chains that I didn’t have the heart to try to have them make one big chain out of them. Maybe tomorrow…