Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Color, Color Everywhere

Autumn is ablaze with colors. Red, orange, yellow, gold and even green. How do children learn colors? They learn colors the same way they learn anything else, by exposure and manipulation. Bev Boz has a quote on her site; ""If it hasn't been in the Hand... and the Body... it can't be in the Brain!" Children learn through all their senses. The challenge for teachers is how to teach to the senses, how to involve the "whole" child in the learning process, especially with something so abstract as color.

The first step to teaching color is to expose children to it. Point out the changing leaves. The yellow ones, the red ones. Take two or three and say look I think these are different, but how? They may point out that some leaves are big and some are small. Now you point out that they are also different colors. One is red, one is yellow and one is still green.

Ask your child in the morning or the night before what color they would like to wear. Would they like to wear white or pink socks? Would they like to wear their favorite blue shirt or the black one? Slowly the children will come to recognize and be able to name the different colors. Perhaps just one at first. Soon they will start to remember the different names for the colors.

Here at Ivy League-West we start by painting with red, then blue, then yellow, then we mix the colors to see what new colors we can make. We also play yummy juice bars. What? You've never heard of yummy juice bars? Well, I'll tell you, but you must know that if you introduce this game you will be playing it over and over again...right after you read their favorite book for the millionth time.


Different color construction paper
Popsicle sticks

Cut out 2 popsicle forms of each color and glue them together leaving a portion of the bottom open so that you can insert a popsicle stick into the cut outs. Draw a star (or use a star sticker) on one of the popsicle sticks. Like so:

Now to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, you sing the following:

Can you find the little star hiding inside my yummy juice bar?
Think real hard and then decide, which flavor is it hiding inside?
Can you find the little star, hiding inside my yummy juice bar?

At first the child may just point at one. You say "ooh you want the pink one." (or whatever color he pointed to) and then you say, "The pink one can be strawberry or watermelon." Then you slowly pull out the stick and see if it has the star. If it does, you congratulate the child for finding the star. Then you put that stick into a another color and continue the game.

Soon the child will be naming the colors and their flavors!!



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Done That!

"I want you to read this one!" Inevitably it is the book you've read a million times. How could a child not get bored of the same story over and over? Aren't they craving something new? The short answer is no, not really. This is why daily rhythms are such an important part of our curriculum. Repetitions provides comfort. Think of chanting "OM" while meditating or for me it was praying a rosary. After repeating the "Hail Mary" fifty times, you are not so much saying it, you are almost singing or chanting it. There is something soothing in the chant, the repetition. It's calming and soothing. Try reading Green Eggs and Ham about 100 times and you'll notice that you find your rhythm immediately. "I am Sam. Sam I am."

Children that are even five and six years old are still so new to the world. There is still so much that they need to learn and so much that is out of their control. Rhythms, whether it's following a daily routine or listening to the same story brings a sense of peace and comfort to their day. A moment to relax and calm down. They have a sense of control because they know exactly what will come next. Your tone, your facial expression, the next word, it's completely predictable. They feel they are in control of something in their environment.

I have a young pupil at Ivy League-West and everyday when I sing, "It's clean up time." This young pupil says, "so we can have circle time." "That's right, " I respond. When we set the table for lunch, he says, "and when we are done we'll have nap time?" "Yes, that is what we will do."
It thrills me that he has come to expect what follows. I see that knowing what comes next bring a sense of security to the children. For me following a rhythm eliminates discipline issues. When one thing follows the next everyday, there is no room for argument.

So the next time your child asks you to read their favorite book for the umpteenth time, go ahead and read it. It's good for both of you. However if you are a real thrill seeker you may make a deal to read one they pick and then one you pick. Just be prepared to read the one you pick over and over as it may quickly become a new favorite.



Some favorite Autumn books to add to your repertoire:

Wild Child

The Little Yellow Leaf

Flora's Very Windy Day

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bean There

See these? This is one of the easiest, most exciting projects to do with kids. Growing beans in a baggie, taped to a window is pretty fool proof. Now if you are especially foolish or have thumbs a shade not even close to green, it's okay. The first thing we do with any science type of project is come up with a hypothesis. Don't be afraid to use that big word with little ones. They may not be able to pronounce it or even remember it, but use it anyway. A hypothesis is a guess. (That's what I tell the kids.) It doesn't have to be right. It can be incorrect. Scientist do experiments to find out if the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. If it's incorrect, then they try something else. That' all, no drama, no winning or losing. So here is a step by step scenario.

Adult: Hey, I have a crazy idea! Do you think we could grow beans in a bag?

Kids: They will either laugh at your foolishness or stare blankly thinking about how ludicrous this sounds. (Or maybe they didn't even hear you because they are fighting that pesky dragon that pops into their head at the mere mention of science.) Some may nod in the negative and of course there are those few that will go for just about any crazy idea.

Adult: Let's see? How would we do this? What do plants need?

Kids: Water. Air. Sunlight. Dirt. Jelly Beans! There is always one kids suggesting Jelly Beans as a cure all to EVERYTHING, or they are still just be staring blankly at you. That's Okay.

Adult: Okay...I think this may work. Dirt works, but I want to be able to see the roots growing.
You may need to stop and explain what roots are...but only if they ask. Remember, the art of teaching is about leaving a lot unsaid so that the kids come to the knowledge themselves. This way they are more likely to remember it. What can we use that will let us see the roots growing?
(if an answer or two are not suggested...continue.) I know! I think I saw once someone using cotton balls. So we will substitute cotton balls for dirt. Now, what else do we need? Yes! Water.
Let the kids pour some water into the bag. What else? Of course, we need some beans. Let each child place 4 or 5 beans into the bag, mushing them into the cotton a bit. Now for sunlight. Should we tape these babies inside the fireplace?

Kids: Laughing hysterically and screaming in unison...NO!!!! It's dark in there. Tape them on the window!

Adult: Genius! What about air? How will the beans get air?
Some kids may know, but this is a great demonstration anyway. Take an empty baggie and seal it. Now let the kids squeeze and feel it. Pop a hole in it and have them squeeze the air inside. Ask again. I bet they can all tell you that the air is already in the bag.

The rest is simple. Watch those bean sprouts...well sprout!

Our sprouts got so big we planted them. We measure them. We water them. We ask questions. There were a few that didn't grow and we learned from them too. So if your kids are itching for something to do, tell them you have a crazy idea. Just as a reminder, someone may ask you to grow jelly beans. Do it! Grow them in a separate baggie next to the beans and note what happens.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome Autumn

Today it feels like Autumn. I know it officially started the 21st of September, but we've been having some nice weather and it seemed even the leaves were holding on to summer for as long as they could. Today it rained and I sat watching the leaves rain down too. I love Summer, but I must admit I really, really like Autumn.

I am excited thinking about all the leaves in the back yard. It will be so much fun to rake those up into a pile and let the kids jump in. It's a great time for science lessons. During Autumn we get to view nature in a blaze of glory. It's last hurrah before going dormant for winter. This is the time of year kids learn to classify. We classify leaves by shape, by tree, by color. We measure rain water. We talk about the wind. We get to feel all three caress our cheeks. This is the time of year for baking healthy treats. I can almost smell the cinnamon in the pumpkin bread now. This is the time of year for pumpkin patch visits and for jumping in puddles.

It's also the time of year were as teachers we are at our busiest. Autumn means more rain, it means winter is approaching quickly. It mean more time indoors, more planning on our part.

Well, we've got it covered. Through this season I'll be posting ideas and projects to keep little hands busy and moms and daddy's sane. Be sure to check often for inspirations and don't forget to jump in a pile of leaves or at minimum a puddle or two.