Archives for posts with tag: after-school programs

I sit here pondering what to do. I struggle to run a functional program.  I have had an epiphany. Education and personal life need to be separate entities. One can not personalize classroom experiences nor allow personal stress to color reactions with in the classroom. However, personal lives do intertwine into ones life as an educator in a positive way. We learn in the classroom via trial and error. If we attempt to connect with the children in a way that does not work, we go back to the drawing board and seek alternate plans. Far from bias, drawing on ones personal experience can assist in assimilating a struggling child into the classroom successfully.

My younger son struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities for years. He was labeled as lazy, non-compliant, and received many other negative labels along the way. Those labels have carried all the way into his college experience. He struggles with negative self efficacy and anxiety. In retrospect, my personal experience with my son has provided me with a nonjudgmental persona of my young charges in my classroom. I personally have experienced the pain of feeling incompetent as a parent due to people who were quick to label my son and family. A result of this experience is my ability to not label other children. What I child displays on the surface usually hides a precipitant which hides right below the skin.

As an educator, my job is to find out what the precipitant is. I have a kindergarten child in my class who constantly has urine and bowel accidents. The mother is devastated as the child never did this in the past. Other teachers have said the child is “babyfied” by her family and needs to be reprimanded more. In dealing with the family, I find quite the opposite is true. The family wants to eradicate the problem. I assured the family that the child is quite bright and capable. She was enrolled in the private kindergarten at my facility because she missed the cut off date for public school. The little girl is the youngest five years old in the class. I reassure the parents that the little girl is still extremely young.

Rather that chastise the family, I remind them of the reality of the situation. Kindergarten is quite a transition for children. My belief is that transition has been extremely difficult for this child. In preschool, children are reminded to use the bathroom. In kindergarten, they are expected to do so independently. In pre school children are expected to attend to academics in much shorter time chunks. Kindergarten presents new academic challenges such as sitting at a table developing reading and math skills. We need to respect each child for the individual they are. They reach developmental mile stones at different speed. When the child is ready, the milestones occur.

I have observed, processed, and attempted to trouble shoot in the situation. Rather than punish, I reward. Rather than embarrass the child, I developed a system that keeps her peers oblivious to her dilemma. Every hour or so I privately go over to the child and say “You know what you need to do right”? The child nods her head and goes to the bathroom. This takes minimal effort on my side to give reminders. It saves the child embarrassment from peers. Accidents have dissipated. If the child has no accidents I find little tasks to reward her for her compliance. I allow her to be a helper, line leader, or another role that she might covet. I remind her that these are big girl roles that are only doled out for responsible behavior.

Some of the behavior modification techniques were learned in school. Others were learned from going to counseling with my son during his developmental years. Thus the writer hopes a parallel has been made towards what one learns in life having the ability to teach us just as much as we learn in the classroom.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

1) Trapped gas experiment: This experiment provides an elementury and fun way to engage kids in learning about chemical compounds, and the creation of trapped pressure. i.e. What goes in must come out:-0) Provide children with a standard sized water bottle. Have the children drop six tablespoons of baking soda in the bottle. Provide each child with a balloon. Make sure the balloon has a good sized neck as the children will need to spread the neck of the balloon securely over the water bottle to trap the pressure.

I normally allow the children to insert the baking soda into the bottle independently. It gives them a sense of self empowerment and engagement in the experiment. I than encourage the child to hold the balloon in their hand while I insert baking soda into the bottle for them. My rationale is that the chemical reaction occurs rather quickly and if the child already has the balloon in their hand they will be capable of sealing it over the mouth of the water bottle rather quickly. Young kids will most likely lack the dexterity to pour the baking soda and seal the bottle with the balloon quickly enough. Hence, we do it as a team so they still feel independently involved.

Now for the fun part. When the balloon is sealed over the perfectly safe and nontoxic chemical mixture, the pressure will have no where to go but up:-00 Thus, the balloon that is sealed to the water bottle will inflate as if by magic!!!

This activity is an all time favorite learning experience, from the smallest kids to the eldest. The hands on component and seemingly magical quality keeps kids happily engaged in the activity.

2)Magnetism exploration: Have the children create a race track with posterboard and markers.

Tape a paper clip to the bottom of a small toy car. Provide the children with various size magnets and magnetic wands. Wave the magnets over the toy car to move them across the track.

For comparison, remove the paper clips and have the children wave their magnets across the toy car again.

This will create a springboard for a comparison and contrast discussion.i.e. Why did the cars move within the set we taped paper clips underneath of, and vica versa.

3)Weights and measures: Provide the children with objects of varying sizes and weights. Allow them to drop objects into a bucket of water. Ask the children if their object floated or sunk in the water. This is an excellent segway into a conversation and exploration into weights and measures. Perhaps children could weigh their objects before dropping them into the bucket of water to reinforce the idea that heavier items like a spoon will sink in the water, before light objects like a balloon.

4)Smelly Volcanoes: Provide the children with modeling clay after reading a picture book on volcanoes. The book will layer and reinforce concepts the children will apply in this activity. Encourage the children to create a volcanoe out of the modeling clay to provide a container for their eruption.

I am sure we all remember creating a volcanic eruption in a homade volcanoe by mixing baking soda and vinegar together in grade school.

We are going to add a little pizazz to an age old experiment that has been popular throughout time. Have each child add five tablespoons of baking soda to their volcanoe. NOW HERE IS THE FUN PART. Add several spoonfuls of red koolaid to the baking soda, than have the kids pour in the vinegar. The end result is a bubbly eruption that is the color red to simulate a real volcanic eruption. It will have a cherry oder as a result of the Koolaid.

As you can see, I attempt to encourage children to be as independently involved in their project as is possible. We must remember it is their project and learning experience, not ours. Yes, there will be spills and mess. However, that is merely a sighn of a hands on learning environment where children feel safe to explore. And Isn’t exploration the very thing that will shape our future thinkers and leaders of the world?

Have fun

Mar N. M.Ed., CECE

1)  Ballon Bounce:  Have two children stand at the starting line. Provide one balloon. The goal of this game is to get to the end point without dropping the balloon. If the balloon lands on the ground, the kids must go to the starting line and try again. I attempt to avoid telling children they are “out” for dropping the baloon if I am working with an inclusive group. By letting children go back to the starting line and repeatedly try the activity again, self esteem is boosted. Children who struggle with competitive sports due to emotional, social, young age, or neurodevelopmental issues are given a chance to hone their skills through a safe challenge. Use your judgment. If your group is capable of handling a competitive edge this game can be adapted according to the childrens skill and capability level.

This game appears easy – appearences can be deceiving. :-0) The balloon is extremely light, thus difficult to keep airborne. This game provides honing team work skills through working together to keep the balloon moving. It provides eye hand coordination development through watching a teammates movements in order to swat the balloon back to them. Last but not least, it provides some good old fashioned excercise with classmates or friends.

2) Starburst race: Position children in two lines with a bowl of starburst candy beside each line.Place two buckets at the other end of the room or playground. Provide eac child in both starting lines with a glove. The child wears the glove, grabs a starburst candy and runs to the finish line, standing by the empty bucket. The goal is to unwrap their starburst candy with the gloves on. Upon succeeding, drop the unwrapped candy in the team bucket, run back to the starting line and give gloves to the next participant. The goal is to unwrap as many pieces of candy per team as possible.

This game provides excercise, teamwork, and a good activity for honing fine motor skills

This game can be adapted for younger children, or children with motor skill challenges by having the child walk to the finish line carrying a marshmallow on a spoon without dropping it and leaving out the competitive factor.

3) Wipe that smile off your face: This is a great rainy day activity. Encourage children to sit in a circle. Choose one child to sit in the middle. The child in the middle can walk up to chosen children and make funny faces at them. The other children attempt to maintain a poker face. The goal is for the chosen child to make other children laugh with their silly faces.Upon doing so, the chosen child will WIPE THAT SMILE OFF THEIR FACE :-0) and hand it to the next child who will take their place in the center of the circle and continue the game.This game inevitably ends with children doubled over in contageous laughter.

4) Music and movement: Children can make musical maracas by placing rice in two disposable cups and securely taping them together with duct tape. Have children personalize their maracas with markers and scraps. Guitars can be created by placing rubber bands over empty tissue boxes. Next, pump up the music and here comes the band!!!!!!!

Perhaps children who do not wish to play instruments could accompany the little musicians in a silly dance contest. The sillier the dance moves, the better:-0)

5) Elephant feet: Provide children with brown paper bags. The children can color elephant toes on the bags, wear them, play music, and stomp till they drop:-0) I did this activity after a field trip to the zoo, as the children had just seen elephants. Hence, they could equate the animal to the activity.

6) Feed the zoo animals: Children can toss roll wads of  food (PAPER) into a pail. Adjust throwing distance according to the child’s capabilities. This game can be played with no scorkeeping. If children are capable of handling the competitive edge, you may attempt to score the most wins.

Always remember – what sems like a simple activity can assist children in honing many skills. A book does not always look like the cover.

Have a great day

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

Today started off on a pleasant note. I felt like this was going to be a day of smooth sailing. I welcomed my morning class into the room and convened at a table with the children. I always plan a morning meeting where expectations for the class are expressed. My form of expressing expectations is always done on a positive note. I make a point to ask each child how their evening went before moving on to classroom business. As expectations are presented, I remind each child in the room that I have every confidence in them to make the right choice instead of the wrong choice.

I address the children with behavior issues with the same tone I address the others. We must always keep our unconscious perceptions of others in check hence the self fulfillment prophecy does not follow. A child will behave poorly if they know an educator expects them to. Cheering them on reminds the child that I believe in each and every one of them. I was extremely pleased at the amount of self-control a child with behavior issues was using. Any directions were met with a positive response. If I asked her to stop running, she did so.

At nine o’clock I lined the children up to go to the traditional classroom. I moved on to another classroom to assist and went about my day. At 2:45 I entered a classroom to find the class in a shambles. The teacher appeared as if she had been through a war. A little girl had busied herself by putting glue in the other children’s hair. I learned that the little girl had hit the teacher with a ruler and kicked another child in the nose. The teacher was telling me these war stories within the earshot of the mini offender and the child’s peers.

I couldn’t help to think how those negative comments exacerbated the child’s issues. I hold my tongue when observing other teachers as I do not wish to breed resentment between them and me. Resentment between educators trickles down to the children. Children sense the stress and their education suffers as a result of it. Upon taking the children back to my class for the afternoon we had an afternoon meeting. Some children immediately tattled on the other child with glee. One child told me that this child was the “baddest” child in the class that day. I immediately told the children to stop and listen to me. I reminded them all that I abhor the word bad. I reiterated the fact that no child is bad. We make mistakes and misbehave, but are never bad. The word bad is not allowed in my classroom. We may say that someone made the wrong choice instead of a good choice. We never use the word bad to describe someone. I told the children that the teacher had it under control. My intent here was to instill respect in the children towards the kindergarten teacher.

I wanted them to sense that she and I work as a team. If a child knows they can pit teachers against each other the educational experience will be ruined. I suggested that all the children worry about themselves versus taking joy in tattling on others. The children were all informed that they had hurt the offending girl’s feelings by publicly pointing out her problems. I demanded that they apologize to the little girl. They quickly did so in unison. When they realized that their words could hurt a peer they experienced remorse to some degree. The children were all reminded that everyone makes mistakes and misbehaves. I suggested that focusing on our own problems is a full-time job leaving us no time to worry about anyone else’s antics.

I took the offending child aside. Words were chosen carefully and positively. I explained to the child that I was shocked and appalled by her behavior. In reality I had seen it many times. The child was reminded that she was capable of making better choices than she had that day. My goal by using positive statements is to let the child know people believe in her and her capabilities. The child received an explanation of how her infractions had impacted others that day.

I demanded the same thing from her that I demanded from the others, an apology to her peers. I also had her apologize to the teacher for making it difficult for the other children to learn, and physically harming her teacher. She promptly did as she was told. I believe that explaining the reasoning behind rules goes a long way in terms of having the children appreciate why rules are a necessity.

Reflective teaching versus objective teaching can assist educators in the behavioral management realm. My favorite phrase is that a behavior never presents itself without a reason. Prevention, although not always doable always out ways remediation. Usually, the issue has exacerbated by the time remediation is warranted.

Have a great day:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

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Empathy towards co – workers can avail adults the chance of a successful career. These traits are developed in early childhood. My long-term project has a major focus. It will emphasize what power children have when working as part of a team. Children often feel powerless. They often believe they are not capable of achieving anything of worth to adults. Hopefully, by the end of April these children will be equipped with self empowerment skills that will take them far in life. We are designing a giving tree. It sits on the wall by the art center. The children can pick a blank leaf. They may take the leaf home write the item down that they wish to donate to the families at the homeless shelter. When the item of choice is returned to the school, the leaf is placed back on the tree. A box sits by the door waiting to be filled with donations. The parents were asked to let the children pick the item of choice.

Parents may feel that a child’s donation is not the same item they would have chosen. By not coercing the child by choosing the item, parents are instilling choice making skills in the kids. The children are sorting, and packing the items every Friday. I will deliver the items to the shelter. We will add cheery notes and pictures from the school age class to our donation box. The shelter has agreed to let their children respond back to the school age class.  These will be memorable pen pals. Lessons will be learned, and a widened understanding of our world will develop.

I held a circle today to gain an understanding of how much my young charges comprehend about charitable projects.  We have gone over basic concepts such as the definition of a donation, and what kinds of notes we will write to the children. I first asked the children what the definition of a donation is. A child promptly raised her hand. Her definition was quite interesting. The child said a “donation is when we give away things that we don’t like”. This is a direct example of how children assess and scrutinize the adults in their life.

This child was mimicking others in her social circle. I responded by explaining that sometimes we donate things that others need. I added that this is a hard thing to do. We may choose a toy for our project. The child may decide that they would like to keep the toy. However, sometimes we need to realize that we have many nice things at home. The one toy we donate may be the only toy this child will own. Some may see this concept as above a child’s cognitive level. If adults take the time to model and explain, children surprise us with their level of compassion. Sometimes they are more empathetic than adults.

The next topic covered was the content of the pen pal letters. I asked the group what we should write in the letters. One child suggested that we write, “I am sorry you do not have a house”. I gently told the group that it was a wonderful sentiment but perhaps we could tell the children at the shelter about our hobbies, names, favorite foods, etc.  In actuality, the child’s statement had shown a simple level of comprehension in regards to why families live at the shelter. I believe the children will be shocked when the kids at the shelter write back with similar likes and dislikes. Perhaps the children will find a kindred spirit in the shelter kids. Utopian in thought, no doubt, but doable!

Have a great weekend !! Mari N. M.Ed.