Saturday, April 14, 2012

Timing is everything.

When it comes to photographing children, timing is EVERYTHING!

I'm no expert. I take photos of activities we do in the classroom, and I try to capture the happy moments as well.

Take this photo. Four children spontaneously decided to lie down and enjoy the beautiful weather together, and I managed to capture a few giggles. But look at the boy on the right. He is right about to...

...get up.

In the few seconds it took my camera to click and prepare for the next photo, the moment was gone. But wasn't it lovely?

Happy Playing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Does A Play-Based Classroom Teach Social and Emotional Skills?

You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance. ~Franklin P. Jones

Part 2:

     Welcome to the second in my series “How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach…?” The first in the series was Making a Portfolio for a Play-based Classroom, which stated the reasons for making a portfolio and how to organize it. Now you are going to join me in my process of actually making a play-based portfolio! My objective is to create a portfolio that will demonstrate the standards we meet through play.

     There is a reason that Social/Emotional skills are the first in the series, and also first in the Arizona Early Learning Standards. Social and Emotional Skills are a means of recognizing and controlling our feelings and interacting with other others. Those skills include:
  1. Self Confidence
  2. Recognizing and expressing emotions
  3. Self-control (stress management)
  4. Cooperation (Turn-taking/sharing)
  5. Respect for others (asking before taking)
     Children who have mastered these skills generally do better in a traditional classroom (and any social situation). However, as anyone who has experience with a 3-5 year old knows, these skills are difficult for many children! Yet these are the skills that--more than any other--will follow a child into every social interaction of his/her life!

     How scary is it to think that as parents and educators, we are responsible for teaching this ever-important skill set to each and every child we are responsible for?! It's not easy. There is no over-night fix. It will take time--and yes, extreme amounts of patience.

We take care of ourselves, first. 

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”  -Haim G. Ginott

     The first step a teacher can take is to take care of him/herself. That means we as role-models must effectively be able to handle OUR OWN stress. Easier said than done, right? Here are a few ways teachers can take care of themselves: 
  • Know your limits. If you're feeling the stress knot building in your chest, it's time to take a potty break! Go in the bathroom and breathe in and out for a few minutes. It really helps!
  • Carry around a stress ball.

  • Make sure to get enough sleep each night. 
  • Eat right.
  • Exercise daily. 
  • Take deep breaths. All day long. It's magical. 
Above all, remember this: We want the children to feel safe in their environment. A teacher who yells a lot, and becomes easily frustrated does not set a good example of self control, or maintain a positive, safe environment.

We discuss feelings and emotions every day.
There are many tried-and-true ways of discussing feelings words with preschooler. I talk about how I am feeling all day long. When I'm happy, I tell them I'm happy. When I'm frustrated, I say, "I'm frustrated," and put myself in a quiet spot to take three deep breaths. I do this to:

     a) let the children know that is OK to have upset feelings (even teachers!), and 
     b) model an appropriate way of managing those feelings.

Other ways include:
  • Discussing feelings "in the moment."
  • Point to characters in stories during story time. "Uh-oh. Her fists are balled up, and she's stomping her foot. How do you think she's feeling right now?"
  • Sing songs and recite poems about feelings. A very popular song is "If you're happy and you know it." There is a poem that I love that is very similar to Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr.'s Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? book.

         "Happy face, Happy Face,
         What do you see?
         I see a sad face looking at me.
         Sad face, Sad Face,
         What do you see?
         I see a surprised face looking at me! (and so on and so on....insert any emotion. Use facial   pictures that match each emotion to go with the poem!)
  • Use charts. This webpage has several free templates for you to download and print. I use them all the time, but you can always make your own! There is a feelings wheel, a feelings chart, and feelings posters. Why not use them all?

We help children to manage their stress.
Little ones get stressed, too! They have to share an environment with up to 20 other little humans, sharing toys, space, and attention with only 2-3 teachers. You also don't know what their home life is. The fact is, we don't know WHAT happens from the time they leave our doors to the time they are signed back in again, and it is our job to give them coping skills to deal with the situations life throws at us.
  • We provide a cozy space indoors and out to "escape" to for awhile. 
  • We model stress-coping mechanisms like deep breathing or finding a quiet spot. 

  • We wait for them to calm down before approaching them about how to fix the situation. 
  • We use tag-team approach when we find ourselves in a power-struggle with a child. 
  • We give lots of hugs and kisses. 
  • We tell them we love them, and it's okay to make mistakes. 
  • We offer positive choices as alternatives to hurting others, screaming, or throwing a good old-fashioned tantrum. 

What do you do to help teach social and emotional skills in your home or classroom? 
As promised, here is a sample of what our portfolio would look like. This is the first strand in the Social Emotional Standard of the Arizona Early Learning Standards
Arizona Department of Education
Early Learning Standards
Ages 3-5 Years Old

Social Emotional Standard
Strand 1.        Knowledge of Self
         Self Awareness
              a)Demonstrates self-confidence
The children frequently measure, pour, and mix concoctions that are used in the classroom. We stretch paint with liquid starch, make flubber, play-dough, glarch, goop, oobleck, and also do cooking projects once a week.
     b)Makes personal preferences know to others
 (children participate in class surveys, in which they are able to mark with stick, name plate, or felt-tip markers.)
The children often participate in group surveys. We do simple surveys to see what colors the children are wearing, to find out how many boys and girls there are today, and also to vote for preferences. 

     c)Demonstrates knowledge of self-identity
Children are given time with mirrors to create self-portraits. Children also pick favorite art work to put in their portfolios. The child's name is used to label his/her cubby, nap mat, nap shelf, and art.
d)      Shows an awareness of similarities and differences between self and others

·         Recognition and Expression of Feelings

a)      Associates emotions with words and facial expressions
b)      Identifies and describes own feelings
Veronica made a self portrait, and dictated to me: "I made it with those eyeballs, and this hair, and with a smile because I like to small all the time. I feel joy. I feel peaceful." 
c)       Demonstrates refusal skills by saying "No" to/in harmful situations
d)      Expresses empathy for others 
Peyton helps her friend dress in one of the dress-up costumes. She helps him put his arm through the hole, and even assists him in zipping the outfit.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It Matters

This quote has been weighing on my mind. Please pardon me if I tweaked it slightly. Just let it sink in.

 "The best thing about being a teacher is it matters. The hardest thing is that it matters every moment of every day." --Todd Whitaker
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