Sunday, September 1, 2013

Encouraging Team Work

Yes, I know, it's been very quiet here on the Seedlings blog and things have been insanely busy.  I'm not sure I've ever experienced a new school year quite like this one.  Our classroom has taken some getting used to and we've had to make some adjustments along the way due to other unforeseen circumstances, but we're picking ourselves back up for September and starting with a fresh daily rhythm and lots of fun in store.

This month, we spent time getting to know our new space and each other.  I realized very quickly that the size of the classroom was overwhelming for most of the children and that I'd have to exert a bit more control over their daily activities.  In general, the only activities I oversee are circle and snack time - the rest of the day is run by the children, however, the space offers too many options, especially for my younger kiddos and I found myself often dealing with squabbles over space and materials as well as issuing far too many reminders about classroom behavior.  Because most of my students are returning and not brand new to preschool, I was a bit disheartened with having to take a step backwards and removing some of the control they'd rightfully earned in our old classroom, but with a new space comes new challenges, so we've tightened the reigns a bit on our daily rhythm.

One area that I felt could be improved immediately was group work such as floor puzzles, complex block structures, imaginative dramatic play scenes, etc.  I happened to be given a set of foam letters that can ONLY be assembled in alphabetical order - score!  I set Monkey to work on them, while I sat across the room helping him to remember which letter was next.  Within two minutes, another student joined him - who has mastered alphabetical order - and I was able to disappear into the background while they worked together to form their 'letter road'.  As they worked, they attracted another friend, and the three of them managed to assemble the entire alphabet with no arguments!

Of course, they weren't finished yet.  I pulled out the letters from the box and said, "Hmmm, I wonder if we can find homes for all of these letters....."  They went to work....

At this point, I thought it would be safe to snap a few photos without being a distraction.

Everyone had letters, everyone chose one at a time, and no one said 'mine!' the whole time.....phew!
They were so interested, they even managed to put in the little tiny pieces in the middle of the open letters.  After the 'road' was assembled, they grabbed some cars and drove on it for an additional 20 minutes.  From start to finish, they'd worked together for nearly 45 minutes!  I was thrilled!  And the best part was that after all that time working together, we didn't have any arguments for the remainder of class.

This month, we'll be going back to a daily rhythm I used years ago when I first opened Seedlings, starting with a table activity.  Each day, I will set up at activity on our large snack table.  It could be anything from play dough to tracing to coloring, etc.  As the children arrive, they will find a place at the table and work until everyone is at school.  After our table activity, we'll move right into circle time and then begin our day.  It is my hope that if we start our day as a cohesive group, we can finish it in the same fashion.  I'll keep you updated on that!  For anyone who might be interested, here is a look at our daily rhythm, please note, there are no times listed as the amount of time spent on each part of our day is determined by the interests of the children:

Seedlings Nursery School Daily Rhythm
8:30am-11:00am or 11:30am-2:00pm

Arrival and Table Activity
Greetings and getting settled in for the day

Circle Time and Stories
Finger plays, songs, stories, rhymes, games

Indoor Play Time or Outdoor Play Time
Hands-on, child-directed activities; natural learning; fine motor, dramatic play, language, math, science.

Art and Handwork
Process-based art activity

Potty and Hand Washing
Hygiene and responsibility

Manners and group dining conversation

Independent Reading

Music and Movement
Movement songs, scarves, bubbles, instruments


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