Sunday, November 17, 2013

Professional Development

Being an early learning educator for almost 10 years now has been a blessing for me. I should have known that it was where I was going when I thought about it and could remember my experiences from playschool. I remember Ms Clark and how she smiled. I remembered not being allowed to go to the park and how much I wanted to ONLY play at the park. I remember playing with the bear family in their little yellow house. I remember the crafts, picture day, and the clock in circle. I should have known I was born to share, create and play.

Now that I am here, a really exciting part of my job is finding people in this profession that breath the same passion as I do. Thankfully, Edmonton offers various conferences and over the weekend I got to go to the Northern Alberta Preschool Teachers Association conference, held at Grant MacEwan. A smaller conference compared to the Teachers convention or the MacEwan Early Learning and Child care conference. This conference was special to me because I volunteer for the board, and I was the one who asked if we could bring Lisa Murphy.

Lisa Murphy is better known as the Ooey Gooey Lady®. I first saw her on Facebook and was fascinated by her hands on process art and experiences. As I became more drawn in by her, I discovered she was an inspiration and mentor.

Lisa doing her Key Note
Because I wanted Lisa so badly, my board was so kind to let me introduce her, so I was able to sit in on all of her presentations. Lisa's key note was called "What if today was their only day."

The question is powerful, and is a great thing to think about as I drive to work every day. What if today was the last day your child came to playschool? What would they leave thinking about? Being thankful for?
It was very motivating to make sure I remember why I got into this career and how to make it more inspiring than the simple ABC's and 123's. While the concepts I teach during circle are fun, and the predictability and routine is comforting, when it comes to playschool experiences - it ALL needs to be fun, comforting, inspiring and motivatings. 

Lisa Suits up
Lisa told various stories in her key note. From her first day at playschool, to her experiences working with children. How humans are not simple, they are not easy and they do not fit on a program plan. In class I may plan to spend time doing craft, but sometimes a moment happens and you go with it. You decide that the spontaneous building of a huge structure from blocks together is more creative than my programmed plan for the children. That the game they love, and want to do again, is worth doing again and being 5 minutes late for circle.

I love the comfort in knowing that every year I will have the girl who loves the babies, and the child who asks why, and the child who beats to their own drum. And although, sometimes you have a plan, sometimes you go off the paper, or you let that one child do what they need to do in order to enjoy their "only day" at playschool.

Lisa also brought up an important topic when it comes to getting to know my playschool families - Trust.
Would you give me the keys to your house? Would you give me the keys to your car?
Parents come in every day and leave the most IMPORTANT person(s) in their lives to me. These children are worth walking through fire, they are worth fighting for. I believe it, I understand it and I empathize with it. I am a lucky woman to have the trust of so many people. And if you agree with me, but don't know if you fully "trust"  me, please take the time to get to know me, approach me and speak with me till you say "Yes - you have my trust Ms Asha."
When Capilano Playschool interviewed me, they believed in my education, my experience and my intentions when it came to program planning for the children. When parents decided to enroll in Capilano Playschool, and read our philosophy and our program plan, they are beginning a trusting relationship with us. That is so important. It is a powerful thing, and I really enjoyed the comfort in knowing our community is based on trust.

The first work shop  was Identifying and creating child centered environments. It reminded me how much I love offering the children a safe environment that speaks to them. It is open and inviting, letting the children have areas for them that is age appropriate. It creates confidence when we allow them to use scissors, and help themselves to craft materials. It is a place that offers comfort with soft couches and pictures of their families. Our classroom creates connection, using materials we can find in everyday life such as real cooking utensils and drift wood in the sandbox and rocks in the block center.

After, our second workshop was Fizzle Bubble pop and wow! It was so much fun to get my hands on the original reason I began to follow the Ooey Gooey girl.


Sharpe tie dye

 Baking soda, vinegar and food colouring

Shaving cream

You will not pop a balloon if you stick the pin through the tape

Did you know the first stage of print is dots? When children BANG with art materials they are getting ready to write mom or dad. Did you know + and x  in children's art are not T's and X's but shapes? They are exploring shapes to begin to write their name. Did you know art and creative expressions are about the process not the product? Did you know there are 80 stages of scribbling before they write?!Art is so important to people at various ages. Thankfully, it is something we spend a lot of time experiencing in our playschool classroom.
 In this workshop we got to get our hands on and use art to explore science.

I love learning about the early stages of printing, and the therapeutic experiences children go through when doing art and creative expessions.

The workshop I was very excited to finish with was The Importance of Early Experiences! Playing is school readiness! Coming out of school, and having so much experience with children already gives me confidence to agree that Kindergarten readiness comes from facilitating confidence, independence and interest through play.
Lisa explains the foundations for early learning, the cement that lays to let the children build their academic mansions comes from daily experiences in our classroom involving create, discuss, move, observe, sing and read, which can all be experienced during Play.

It was really reaffirming to what I feel I already knew, already do, and already want to offer the children everyday at school. I'm so proud of our program, and will continue to reflect to ensure the children always get what they deserve. Play is not a privilege, its a right and it is the right of the child.

I look forward to my next Professional development event, and hope to share more of the information I learn.
Please enjoy the handouts from the conference plus MORE!

Here is a list of workshop discriptions

Here is Lisa Muphy's social networking sites, I encourage you to follow her. It is so inspiring!

Ms Asha

Are you sleeping little bear?

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. If you go out in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise! This week was the week the Capilano Playschool celebrated teddy bear picnics!

With the snow falling and winter officially here, the children and I spent time exploring Hibernation.

The Bear Cave
We transformed our house center into a bear cave - where we could read books, dress up like bears and snuggle in with some teddy bears.

Our sensory bin was filled with various animals who adapt or hibernate in the winter.

I love our little window, and although I wish our class had more natural light I am thankful at least we have a window in the classroom. I really enjoy seeing the children climb the stool to look out the window and explore our outside world.
We added some sun catcher gels of snowmen to play with for the cold season.

The sun really shines to light up the deciles.

Our craft was making new little teddy bears to decorate our bulletin board. The children cut out their own bear, before decorating him with some warm fur and googly eyes.

For our teddy bear picnic, I asked the children to colour a picture of the stuffed animal they brought. After, they told me some stories about their fluffy friends. It's great to spend time writing down what the children tell me  and encourage them to work on their story telling skills. Most of the stories were non fiction, so it also worked on their memories.

Some children did not bring bears, but horses and owls. I had to trace the bears to make diffrent animals to go along with items children brought. This lovely lady enjoyed seeing me trace the bear print out, and decided to do her own tracing.

In the gym we really loved singing songs about bears!
We played a game about a bear who falls asleep. Another little bear comes and steals their honey combs, so they have to chase them. It was a lot to happen in a little amount of time for the children and their peers. Practicing waiting for their turns to sleep or kidnap the honey, sneak up to the bear to not wake them before running away and engaging in a game of tag. When the children ran as fast as they could holding the pylon, it appeared as if the children were playing a game of football - holding the pylon in their arm while they ran for 3 seconds from a friend.

They love this game. PLAY IT AGAIN MS ASHA!

Isn't it funny how a bear likes honey? Buzz, buzz, buzz

After enjoying stories and conversations about other animals that slept, we played a sing along game.
The children would act out the animals as I sang
"Look at all the bears hibernate, hibernating oh so still ... are they ill? No they're just sleeping, and they snore (the children will snore like the animal, its cute). Wake up little bears and crawl crawl crawl, Wake up little bears and crawl crawl crawl, Wake up little bears and crawl crawl ... sleep"

We also did frogs that jump, groundhogs that bury, prairie dogs that scurry, bats that fly, snakes that slither and other animals the children could remember like skunks.

On Thursday/Friday, the children brought their own stuffy to class for a bears picnic. We sat on big blankets, and spent time learning about Polar bears, Kodiak bears, Grizzle bears, Black bears, Panda bears and Sun bears. We discussed bears that hibernate vs bears that do not, where they live and what they ate. After the children munched on some bear food while I read some bear stories.

Honey, fish and berreis - bears love them and so do we
Ms Asha

Remembrance Day

This week at Playschool we spent time reflecting on why Canada honors Remembrance Day. The concept of Remembrance Day is quite difficult to understand for many children. Last year I spent some time researching on how to talk to children about war, death, soldiers and Remembrance Day, but found very little. Instead I spent time reflecting and thinking about what I knew about 3 and 4 year olds and realized, I already knew how to explain Remembrance Day in an age appropriate way. I had to decide on what was the age appropriate details about the important parts of Rememberance Day, and I believe that letting the children know that soldiers did it to keep us safe and let us have freedom was something they would very much understand.

Some other details I told the children were:

·         Fighting is not okay - it is not a good way to problem solve
·         In some places, people are using fighting instead of their words, because these people are not listening to them. If someone is trying to hurt other people (like mommies and daddies), special people called soldiers, fight to keep their home safe. People don’t want to fight, they want to keep the peace  and all get along but other people will not let them.
·         People who have special permission to fight are
o   Knights in stories
o   Police officers
o   Soldiers
·         November 11th we take time to think about and remember the soldiers who sadly, didn’t get to come home from fighting because they died. We also thank the soldiers who did come home to their families! We thank all the soldiers who did their jobs to keep us safe so we can play and be happy.

For the Playschool children I keep these details simple, honest and to the point. We started the week by celebrating poppies. 

The children decorated our door with red poppies that they cut out themselves. 

I use the book "A Poppy is to Remember" to offer visuals for the class. If you ever need to discuss something very serious I recommend looking into appropriate picture books. Stanly Milner library has a lot of wonderful preschool picture books covering many tough topics. 
Most children do much better at understanding when they are offered various learning concepts, such as visual,  kinesthetic and authority. Children find new information easier to process when story books offer provocations to invite various questions and examples. 

I also tend to adapt the story if the message is too complex in the writing, or the paragraphs are too long, but the meaning still applies. 

We read the poem "in Flanders field" and made our own fields of poppies. 

We used pop bottles to make the poppy petals and corks to make the middle pieces. 

In circle the children had a lot of fun working on their memories! I told them to remember something, is to use their memories. We played a game where I present a cookie sheet with random trinkets collected on them. Once we've gone through all of the items on display, I cover the baking sheet up with a towel, before grabbing an item to sneak away under the towel. The children then get to shout out what they think Ms Asha took off the sheet. The children were REALLY good at this exercise, so I had to continue to add new items.

During play we spoke about avoiding fights. We discussed the power of our words, and how to use them. To support this conversation we played a simple version of Sorry. Board games are amazing tools full of many curriculum concepts! In our Sorry game, the children took turns to turn over a card and tell Ms Asha what number was on the card  - we practiced our number recognition skills. Whatever the card displayed as a number was the amount of spaces we were able to move. The kids used one to one correspondence to transfer their knowledge of the number on the cards, to the amount of time their pawn was allowed to move.  Often when children count they have a hard time associating 1 item being one number. They will count quickly "1,2,3,4,5,6,7 ..." but have only pointed to 4 objects.
Once they moved their pawn, we let our other peers take their turn - using our social skills and exercising our patience while three other people get to go! Sadly, if our pawn landed on another friends pawn then we had to say sorry and send them back to their homes. Unlike real Sorry, Ms Asha did not make them wait till they got a 1 or a 2 get back out of "start." We are lucky Ms Asha isn't that mean *wink*

Other play fun this week:

Our computer

Our airport

Ms Asha

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Halloween Week

Our classroom got very spooky this week! And by spooky, I mean very fun and hands on.

We started off our Hallo-week by visiting local seniors complexes in our neighborhood. The children were asked to dress up so we could do a parade for the residents. After our parade the children sang "5 little Pumpkins" for their audience, and together we read the book Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler. The seniors were so thankful for the children sharing their song, book, and adorable costumes that they gave the children candy to take home.

Back in the class, the children enjoyed some Halloween theme games and toys.

Sensory bins are really easy to make, and a lot of fun. They are also full of development opportunities. In our Halloween sensory bin we had black beans, orange lentils, spoons for gathering and pouring, cups and pumpkins for collecting and filling, and various themed items such as pumpkins, bugs and skeletons.
There are lots of various senses being used in this sensory bin, such as the sounds of pouring and mixing the beans, the satisfying sensory of touching and feeling dry beans, and of course the fun of all the creativity when we watch what we can do with our beans and the tools.

Making pumpkin faces
Math can be easily incorporated into our pumpkin theme. The children were offered various shapes to enjoy making different faces for our laminated pumpkin. We could explore feelings, offering our pumpkin emotions such as happy, sad, silly, scary or surprised. It is important to offer children lots of opportunities to explore emotions, especially when they can put emotions onto others. Young children are very egocentric, which means they are preoccupation with one's own internal world. By helping children identify others feelings, it creates a way to still make it about them ("how do you think the pumpkin is feeling?") and yet identify that like themselves, others have feelings and we need to acknowledge this. This way, when in a situation of conflict with others it reminds them to identify how the other person is feeling. I scaffold the enjoyment of being silly with the pumpkin making various faces by asking "why is the pumpkin happy? What could we do to make the pumpkin laugh?" or "why is the pumpkins face sad? What would you do to make the pumpkin smile." Offering young children LOTS of exposure to this play creates quick thinkers in real conflicts.


Because we did our seniors walk on Monday, we only did one craft this week. Sometimes I do a craft per day, sometimes two! But occasionally, its okay to not do a craft on a busy day.

Our craft was aimed to be mess free to save the children's costumes.
In a box we added small pumpkins, black paper and white paint. We put on the lid and began to SHAKE!!!!
This craft is always a hit, and is great for following directions and remembering prepositions. We use the pumpkins to roll around remembering to go back and forth, up and down and forward and backwards.   It's also great for turn taking because we do one child's craft at a time.

Once done we have lots of white lines.

After the web has been made from shaking the box around we add our cute plastic spider.

In class we, we also carved pumpkins.
The children listed off shapes to make the eyes and nose, and then an emotion so we knew what kind of mouth to cut.

I carved the pumpkin and gutted it so the children could help me pull out the seeds.

Some children were fearless, and got right into the pumpkin with their hands. Others used gloves or spoons.
When we were lucky enough to have children who would gut it by hand, we discussed some of the sensory the inside of a pumpkin provides. The seeds are "slippery", the pulp is "squishy" and "slimy" and the inside felt "wet."

Our M/W/F AM was happy

Our M/W/F PM was scary

Our T/Th was scared

Celebration Center

Each year I use carving the pumpkin a learning opportunity to explain to the Christian program children that we are like pumpkins for God. We use the charming story book The pumpkin patch parable by Liz Curtis Higgs, and then as we carve our own pumpkin I go step by step to explain how we are like this pumpkin. God chooses us! He then removes the yucky pulp from us, which is our bad thoughts and choices, and invites room for happy decisions and opportunities. We talk about saving the seeds, because seeds are good. They bring new, new life, new choices, and new experiences. As we carve the pumpkins eyes, I remind the children that although we can't use our eyes to see God, we know he's there so we use our eyes to see signs of God. We see crosses, and see new friends to share God's love with, and we see the wonderful miracles God gave us on Earth such as the trees, and the animals. As we carve the nose we talk about how we also can not see our own breath but it is there - just like God. If we breath out our nose, and put our hands up we can feel ourselves breathing from our nose and we can feel God inside of our hearts, and in our presence. 
I talk about the smile we can give the pumpkin, because we smile when we think of how fortunate we are to have God in our lives, and how much good God gives us to be happy. Of course as you can see, we don't always choose the happy pumpkin face but that's okay too because God wants us to feel various feelings to remember how to keep him in our lives such as praying when we are scared.
Lastly, we add the candle, which is the light God gives us when we invite God and Jesus into our lives. We glow with love, acceptance, and joy when we have God in our lives. 
Ms Asha