October 19, 2017

Over the past few weeks we have shared a little bit about the different areas of the classroom and the kind of work kids do in each space. You have seen the kids at work in the sensorial, practical life, and math areas, and today we wanted to share what we have been doing with language!

We began our small group Scope and Sequence work this year with story writing, and many of you got to see the results at Curriculum Night. Last week, we began our Letter Meetings! These begin with the whole group, after our Morning Meeting. We started with A and B, and this week we introduced C and D. Teachers presented the sandpaper letters, and kids took turns coming up to trace the letters with a finger. Designed by Maria Montessori, these are actual sandpaper-textured letters mounted on wood boards. Because the letters are tactile, kids truly get to feel, and therefore more deeply comprehend, how each letter is formed. As the kids trace the letter, they are encouraged to say the letter’s sound. During our Morning Meeting, we have been practicing recognizing upper and lower case A, B, C and D by finding them in our Morning Messages each day, like a simple word search (letter search). Kids take turns coming up and circling letters in the message.

We have also begun small group letter work, during which kids work in groups of 3-4 with a teacher on identifying letters, practicing sounds, and writing or tracing letters. Since we have a wide range of ages in our class, activities vary depending on the group. We also now have a word wall in the classroom, and during our meetings kids practice making letter sounds and coming up with words for our wall. We’re excited to see what new words we add to our vocabularies this year as themes begin to emerge and an investigation takes shape.

In addition to Letter Meetings, kids practice language skills daily with shelf work. In our language area, we have a variety of works designed for use by all Purple Room kids, of all age range and ability. One work, which is made up of magnetic letters and a board, allows kids just becoming familiar with the shapes of different letters to explore them without structure, while other kids can practice spelling their names and other short words. All the kids practice forming letters and recognizing their names with the name tracing work. Another work challenges kids who are already familiar with the alphabet by encouraging them to sort images by initial sound.

Here are some photos of Purple Room kids at work! 

October 18, 2017

In the Purple Room, we have been working on developing and improving our fine motor skills. "Fine motor skills" (or dexterity) refers to the coordination of small muscles in synchronization with the eyes, commonly in activities like writing and drawing, building with or manipulating small objects, and in self care routines like dressing (putting on shoes, fastening snaps and buttons) and eating (opening and closing lunch boxes and food containers, using cutlery). Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday functions but are also foundational building blocks for developing skills that will be critical for kids’ academic success later on in kindergarten and beyond. Completing these tasks also boosts kids’ self esteem and improves their play options and confidence to take on more complex tasks. Independence in life skills like dressing and feeding also play an important role in kids’ social growth.

Many of the shelf works in our classroom, particularly in the practical life area, emphasize fine motor development. There are currently works on the shelves in the Purple Room that involve grating, sanding, sweeping, and grinding, as well as threading and picking up objects using tongs. In addition to these works and others, and to kids’ other writing, drawing, and painting work during morning and afternoon work time, all Purple Room kids have been regularly using these skills every morning when they first come into the classroom, by practicing writing or tracing their names as part of morning check-in.

This week we also introduced scissors into our atelier/art area. Purple Room kids have been using scissors in their creative work in the Blue Room, and now will have the opportunity to practice with them more often. Scissor skills are especially important because the specific opening and closing motion of cutting with scissors helps children develop those small hand muscles that are so important for holding a pencil or crayons and building the hand strength needed to make the controlled marks that lead to writing.

We have also been practicing with using tape. Our colored tape dispenser also requires acute manipulation and strength; to use it, kids have to pull the tape out and rip it using a quite strong sideways-and-down motion with a pincer grip. It is difficult to do for little hands, and today some of the Purple Room kids demonstrated during our Reflection Meeting in a presentation for their classmates.

Note: We are accepting donations of old electronics! We are particularly interested in anything that has moving parts or motors. Thanks!

October 17, 2017

The past few weeks in art have been full of changes. For all of September, we had been exploring various media collaboratively in a highly structured way. After kids demonstrated how confident and capable they'd become working with art materials, it seemed like they were ready for more independence and choice. In the beginning of October, I reorganized the Blue Room to create a space that fosters more autonomous work. 

A large part of this reorganization was adding more materials to the shelves. On the drawing and collage shelf, we have oil and chalk pastels, pencils, markers, crayons, tape, glue, scissors, paper, and a large basket of collage scraps. These materials are separated into dedicated trays or baskets and have corresponding images taped onto shelves to support independent clean up. On the paint shelf, we have trays that contain a sponge, cup, paintbrush, and two paint casters--kids take one of these trays to an easel if they feel like working with paint. They are free to choose their own paint colors and fill their casters using kid-friendly squeeze bottles. There's a clean up area with a water bucket and towel, which kids can use to clean their tray of materials when they're done painting. The light box is available during work time as well and usually contains a variety of loose parts to help them explore light or sculpture. Clay or blocks are generally open as well.

All of these changes mean that morning art time looks a lot different. Rather than focusing on one concept or medium for an entire work time, kids can work on whatever feels right for their unique place on the developmental and artistic spectrums, and may move fluidly between the areas of the Blue Room. Morning art time now looks more like an open studio than a teacher-directed class. This encourages them to practice making artistic decisions. These decisions might involve what medium they'd like to work in, if they'd like to explore the qualities of the medium or create something representational, or how they know when they're finished. Sometimes kids know exactly how to challenge themselves--they might try out new paint techniques, try to build a "roly poly bug" out of clay, or experiment with drawing media to create different types of marks. Other times, all this independence can make it tough to choose a work! If a child needs help making a choice, I might take a walk around the room with them, pointing out different possibilities. Something usually catches their eye and inspires them.

Kids seem to understand what this independence means. At the beginning of a recent work time, one child stated, "I'm not a baby anymore." Another responded, "I'm an artist!" See below for photos of what's happening in the Blue Room.

October 16, 2017

Hi families, Anna here! I like to pop into the blog once in a while to share my observations about what's going on at RHP. We're six weeks into the year, and there's been a palpable shift in the feeling in classrooms. Now that each child and teacher has settled into school, there's a more collaborative energy to work time. New friendships are emerging and connections are being made.

Community is always on our minds at RHP, so during the first six weeks of school we focus on getting to know each child as an individual and on helping the children learn the basic routines that make a strong classroom community possible. Now that listening to each other, raising hands, and taking turns are almost second nature, we see children taking other steps towards creating a supportive community. It's not unusual to see one friend helping another with a challenge like putting on shoes or putting away rest materials!

During work time, this spirit of collaboration is ever more apparent in both independent and teacher-guided settings. At this stage, small group work is becoming an important venue for children to share their thinking and to deepen relationships based on common interests; we're curious to explore more about what seems to be a widespread fascination with the sounds and physics of everyday objects. Teachers are beginning to consider how this year's curriculum might emerge from shared wonderings to reflect the ideas, strengths and challenges of this particular group of children. 

Below are photos of a few moments of connection I noticed while passing through school today. I'm also thrilled to share a video Tanya made that reflects ways that children and teachers are experiencing the RHP community during outside times of day.

Of course, children and teachers aren't the only members of the RHP community; families and neighbors are important parts as well! To that end, a few reminders:

  • Fall Fling is coming up on Saturday. We're thrilled to partner with our neighbor, Added Value Farms, to join Harvest Fest. Hope to see you there!
  • Parent involvement helps make RHP the special community it is. If you didn't get a chance to look over volunteer sign-ups at Curriculum Night, please check them out here and email me if something strikes your fancy.
  • In the spirit of the wider community, we're partnering with Raising Race Conscious Children. If you missed it this morning, here's an intro.

 

October 13, 2017

Hi everyone!

If you joined us for curriculum night you may have noticed a bulletin board called “Physics at Work” featuring photos of your children making ramps, tunnels, bridges, catapults, and building things with large and small unconventional materials. This is something we’ve been experimenting with for a few weeks now. The work has started to evolve from an exploration of physical properties into how to manipulate objects so they function independently or serve a purpose: machine making.

Here are some of the machine ideas kids are coming up with:

  • Cupcake making machine

  • Tea pouring machine with a cube of sugar

  • A soup making machine

  • Pasta making machine

  • Wood chopping machine

  • Ground-flattening machine

  • A machine that makes paintings

  • Pancake making machine

  • A machine that could smash up floors and make a new house

When sourcing parent machine ideas at curriculum night, most involved ways to get more sleep while a robot takes care of your kids/house! RHP kids are given access to different kinds of materials as their ideas evolve.  Today’s cookie-making machine “reads your mind and knows what flavor you want.” It also made a “zombie killing cookie” when some zombies appeared. This work has been so rich and has really invited children to incorporate dramatic play into their building, problem solving and collaborating with their peers.

We are always interested in materials brought in by RHP families! Some really popular items this week have been: wheels from an old tricycle, an old analog phone, some broken headphones, foam packing material, old doorknobs, locks, chains, hooks, shower curtain holders, zip ties, metal switches, colored wooden balls. If you have any old unwanted items and home, please bring them in- we can likely give them new life!

NOTE: Purple Room parent Jessica Miller, Greenpeace employee, has invited RHP to come take a tour of their boat, the Arctic Sunrise. It will be open all weekend (https://www.brooklynbridgepark.org/events/public-tours-of-greenpeace-s-arctic-sunrise) but Jess has arranged for a special Monday tour for us! Any interested folks should head down to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park after school on Monday. I’ll be there around 4.  You can contact Jess for more info at millertalocchi@gmail.com.