Thursday, February 19, 2015

3 Sizes of Teaching Big Concepts to Little People

scaffold learning for preschoolers big visuals to small visuals

There is often talk about scaffolding learning along the learning path, but I don't hear about scaffolding the learning EXPERIENCE of a specific concept.

My philosophy is that young learners learn best when concepts are presented in three levels. It's like a movie. On the big screen in a theatre, it's an experience. You see the details and how everything works together. It's big and loud and holds your attention. 

If you see it on your big flat screen TV, whether 80 inch or 32 inch, then while it may be entertaining, it's something you watch, rather than experience. You may enjoy it, but if you have to grab a bite, you pause it and don't feel you've lost anything.

Watching it on the iPad, yeah, you may pause it multiple times. You can't see all the details, and you don't really care. It's not an experience, it's a time filler. It's something entertaining to do and if you pause it multiple times, then you are fine with it.

Unfortunately, most learning starts and ends at the iPad viewing stage. 

There's a reason we go back to the theater to watch the good movies. We crave the EXPERIENCE.

Make it BIG
Whenever I teach a new concept we always start out BIG. 
As big as we can get it. 
As interactive as we can get it. 
As fun as possible.

preschool interactive number line

For instance when we began number line work, we laid it out on the floor in tape. The children placed the numbers. Then we stepped it off. Then they hopped it. Then they hopped addition and subtraction. They worked as teams to provide equations to the person jumping. 

I taught it, they learned it, then they played with it. After about a week of playing with it, they had it pretty much down. Obviously they were simply scaffolding to a higher level and new format of addition and subtraction, but it was vital to their understanding to begin with it BIG.

Shake it DOWN.
Once the children have a concept down in BIG format, then we start gradually shaking it down. Just as you get a better movie experience from an 80 inch screen rather than a 32 inch, the size of the learning experience needed depends on the level of detail and interaction necessary to continue the learning path. Each child is different in this requirement. 

We drew number lines in the sand box and had sand toys jump the equations. We moved it down to drawing number lines on the chalk board and white board. Eventually we moved it down to drawing them on the lap boards and writing equations.

Mr. G wanted to measure everyone one day, so we did. We graphed it on the number line and worked the less than and more than aspect between their heights, along with graph interpretation stuff.

Take it SMALL.
Small is worksheets. Small is independent work. Small is reinforcement of mastery, not learning.

If learning the concept has been fun, and they have it mastered, then they WANT to "play" with it on worksheets. 

Even with our worksheets, they are dynamic and interactive. Above all, they are a FREE CHOICE activity, not a requirement. The children roll a die for the two numbers writing them in. If the second number is less than the first, they have the choice of doing addition or subtraction.  

Since they can do one of these in about two minutes with a 6 sided die, I'm making a new one that will use a 12 sided die.

So this is how we've done number lines, but we do the same with other math concepts, and it's also how we do reading:

Big is actions and manipulation as a group.

Shaking it down with activities, big books, and group reads.

language blends activity

Taking it small.
Miss A - 4 years
BIG hands on exploration in a fun, playful learning experience is a much better introduction to big concepts for little children than going straight to small work. By the time they get to the small work, they should already be very familiar with the plot, characters and setting of the concept. Having seen it as the big picture, the small one will make sense.
Tags: teaching, daycare, preschool, pre-k, reading, math, classroom, early elementary, homeschooling, homeschool, curriculum

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine Art Piece Bag

Sometimes our art is organic. Such as our Valentine's bags.

Miss H brought her small heart punch from home. Miss A wore a heart grid top. So of course we had to combine these into an art piece.

We've been working on multiplication with the bigs, so I took advantage of that aspect of this activity as well.

Since I knew this activity would be time consuming - we only had the one punch and each child had to punch 12 hearts - so I did the folding of the paper to provide the 3X4 grid for the children to glue their hearts into.

Two big aspects of this project were taking turns, and preparing for your turn.

If the punch got to you and you didn't have your paper picked out, then it went on by. It's not often that the children are rushed to make decisions, so it was very interesting for me to observe that aspect of their behavior and capabilities and to see how their thinking and planning changed/developed as the activity went on. I think it was a very beneficial experience.

It was also good experience in fine motor control, and placement of the paper within the punch, which was not clear for easy viewing, so some critical thinking was having to take place.

One of the things I observed, was that the wiser ones would pick out several pieces of paper, have them ready, and then punch out multiple hearts when their turn came. Thinking they were doing something potentially wrong, they were a little sneaky, and very fast at it. 

Impressive. I didn't catch on quickly, since I was helping the younger ones. Since I had never said that you could only punch out one heart at a time, I felt it was just efficient and sound judgement.

As the punch moved on, the children used glue sticks to paste their hearts into individual squares on their grids. Good hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Once done, I realized that the size of paper I had used would fit on our white lunch bags and make cute Valentine bags for our Valentine exchange. The children thought it was a wonderful idea, so we did that.

It worked out great!

We had a wonderful Valentine's party with some special treats for the children from the parents, and some special gifts for me!

I have AMAZING clients and kiddos!
Follow Connie -'s board Valentines Theme on Pinterest. Tags: Valentine, craft, cut, paste, math, learning, bags, box, Valentine's, homeschooling, art, process, preschool, pre-k, daycare, child, care

Preschool Mardi Gras Sensory Bin

The children actually help put these sensory bins together. They get to canvas the art room and play area for relevant items. 

The big girls decided we HAD to have jewels in this one, so I put them to the task of fishing out the appropriate colored gems. Excellent fine motor activity, and they debated between them on whether the color of the gems fit. "That one's too light green." "This is more pink than purple."

We ended up with it including:

  • Base of split peas
  • Crepe paper streams
  • Metallic ribbon curls
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Reindeer moss
  • Mardi Gras coins
  • Mardi Gras beads
  • Feathers
  • Gold metallic grass
  • Gems
  • A small doll to hide like in King Cake

The girls also insisted on adding green and gold glitter to the split peas. 

The crepe paper is for tearing and tying.

Since we had pipe cleaners in our Valentine sensory bin, I wasn't planning on putting them in this one, but was over-ruled. Little Miss H made several "balloons" out of them to celebrate today. They are a very versatile loose part.

Feathers and coins are must-have for Mardi Gras,

along with masks and beads.

The reindeer moss is a new element. It not only has a very unique feel to it, it also has a very earthy scent as well. It is a great sensory item as it can be pulled apart using fine motor skills, and pressed back together.

This is prior to beads and gold filler. They threw in some St. Patrick's Day foamies as well. Hey, they are green. And, you know which holiday this sensory bin is headed into next...
Follow Connie -'s board Mardi Gras Theme on Pinterest.
Tags: child care, daycare, preschool, pre-k, homeschool, holiday, loose parts, loose parts play, spring, child, children, kids

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You've Got Mail Sorting Activities

I've been waiting for these little mailboxes to arrive in the stores. I've tried using small buckets, muffin cups, etc. to do independent sorting activities, and simply kept mentally kicking myself for not buying some of these last year.

Luckily, Target had them in their dollar section last weekend, and I snagged the last few. 

Since children have a natural affinity for the number three, I try to appeal to that natural order. However, I can use only two of the mailboxes if that's all I need, for instance noun vs. verb; or up it to four on the few occasions that is needed, for instance sorting by seasons.

The tops of these mailboxes come completely off, so I am able to label them on either side for two completely different activities, one for the bigs and one for the littles.

For the bigs, I wanted to work on them distinguishing the blends dr, gr and tr. I used my clipart program and made up picture cards. Since they read well, I didn't want the word on the cards, as many teachers do, so I had to make my own. It was pretty easy for them, but helped to reinforce the skill. 

Surprisingly, dragon gave them the most trouble, with it often going into the gr box.

For the little ones, I simply take the top off and plop it the opposite direction. For the youngest, they have red down, but green and blue get mixed up. So I included red as a given success. For the first few times, I place the green and blue right next to each other for easier discrimination. Once they seem successful, then I move them to either end with red between for higher mastery.

These thick magnetic number and letter tiles were also in the dollar section at Target.

One of the best aspects of these little mailboxes, is that I do not allow the children to take off the tops. First of all they would ruin the soft plastic trying to get them back on, and secondly this allows the children to not fix their mistakes, usually what I DO want, which allows me to assess their first response ability. I can go do something else, and have assessment results wait for me, rather than having to observe the activity. 

Some of the other planned activities:
  • shapes sorting, including 3-D
  • person/place/thing
  • number/letter
  • beginning sound sorts
  • ending sound sorts
  • living/non-living
  • animal pictures to habitats
  • animal families
  • land/air/water
  • size sorting
  • sequencing sort
  • root/stem/leaf/fruit
  • food groups
  • senses
And I'm certain to find a LOT more uses for these little gems!
Tags: homeschool, preschool, pre-k, children, child, kids, math, language, science, sorting, fine motor, homeschool, homeschooling, child care, daycare, care, learning, activities,