Archives for posts with tag: multi age preschool

Day 1:    A long term project has been the topic of discussion for the last month.  My fondest hope is to build character and empathy in the children through a donation drive for the homeless shelter. Children learn compassion for fellow human beings through example. Compassion is a positive character trait that that becomes an innate quality. It is carried into adult hood. As children grow and seek employment, the ability to be a team player will be non negotiable. No question, literacy is important. It is a major component of positive assimilation into adult society. The concept of team work and empathy our valuable components as well.

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!

Day 14:

I entered class today and assessed the leaves on our giving tree. I have been working long and hard on this project. A mere six leaves contained names of children who had donated to the homeless shelter project thus far. I have broached the components of our project for months. I have written, printed, and dispensed fliers to notify parents of our project.  I pondered the idea of passing this project off as a bad idea. Perhaps the utopian lens I view this project through is clouded. I assumed that parents would embrace this project with positive support. After all, it is a unique chance for their children to learn empathy.

Approximately one hour after I pondered canceling the shelter project two families entered with donations. The donations were notable. Diapers, an inflatable infant pool, sandals, shorts, rain boots, and bathing suits, the items were of notable value, and seasonally appropriate for the warm months ahead. I addressed the director about canceling my project. She responded with positive support. The general consensus was that the project was beneficial to my students and the shelter. I was looking at the quantity of donations, and names on the donation leaves. The director reminded me that this project was beneficial in more ways than met the eye.  The director reminded me of the many facets to this project. I am teaching the children to step out of the box. They are being challenged to help those in need. The children are learning that our needs are not the only ones to be met in society. One needs to learn to put others before themselves. They will hopefully learn to step outside the insulated bubble some of them live in.

I realize this is a concept that cannot be fully comprehended at the tender age of five, six, seven, and eight years of age. In reality, some of their parents live in a secluded bubble. There is much power to the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree. Hopefully, I can instill the building blocks for empathetic, action oriented behavior. In years to come, when the children’s brains have developed to a mature cognitive level the memories of this project will guide their maturing brains. Perhaps, a connection will be made. Time and maturity will tell.

The children are learning letter writing skills. They write notes to the children at the shelter which are to be delivered with the donations. I have received approval from the director for the shelter children to write back as long as last names are not used to protect identities. My hope is for the children in my program to make the connection through writing letters that the children at the shelter are composed of flesh, bones, and emotion. Will this connection cause a larger interest in donating to our cause? My fondest wish is to be able to respond with an adamant yes. I will deliver the first shipment to the shelter during the upcoming weekend.

I will persevere, be creative, and not give up on my utopian dream. To assist in the assimilation of future empathetic, open minded leaders into society!  I will take advantage of the plasticity of their young minds and hopefully alter their schema. If I don’t make an effort, I am not doing my job as an educator.

Day23:

Every teacher has aha moments. The day seems to be fraught with intentions that are met with indifference by the children. No tactic seems to extrude excitement out of their young bodies. Today would prove to be a reminder of why I am in this profession.  My journal is riddled with entries regarding a project I have directed. For the homeless population, I have endlessly explained what the meaning of this project is. To effectively get my point across to the younger school age population, I have had to chunk and simplify the definition of a charitable project. It must be conveyed in a simplified version that is appropriate for the cognitive level of my students.

A young girl entered my classroom with some wonderful donations this morning.  I was excited to see that she was finally getting excited and wanted to participate. This five year old child seemed to display great difficulty in grasping the reasoning behind this project. She is extremely bright. She is a victim of coming from a wealthy family. Every whim, wish, and desire is granted.  She has not been exposed to the atrocities of homelessness at any level. A couple of months ago I had posed a question to the class. I asked if they knew what a donation was. This child raised her hand. She said that donations are things we give away that we don’t like.

I gently explained that donations are given to help people who do not have any money. We try to give away things we no longer have use for. However we always give away things that we would like if we didn’t already own so many nice things. I believed that this child was indifferent to our project. Today would prove me wrong. I would be reminded that assumptions have no place in my class room.  As the little girl stood by the donation box, I eyed her hand. It was squeezed into a fist.  Something hung out of the end of her tight little fist.

Upon further observation I noticed it was money. I asked the child what was in her hand. She stated that she wished to drop a one dollar bill in the shelter box. I asked her if it was her money, or her parents. She proudly told me that the dollar was from her piggy bank. She had been saving for a new toy. She recalled my comment about poor children that have no toys whatsoever. The little girl dropped the dollar in the shelter box. She said that she wanted a poor child to buy a personal toy with the dollar she gave them. This was one of those days when a catch phrase is appropriate, and validated. That phrase is “and a little child shall lead us”!

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

The school age children had the day off from school. I worked a nine-hour day. My kindergarten charges joined me for the day as the kindergarten room follows the public school schedule. It was a test of my patience and energy as the curriculum was non academic for the day. I had forgotten Friday was a school holiday. I perused my curriculum and realized I would need to restructure it to keep the children engaged. I had thirty minutes before I was due to leave for work. I searched around my house for supplies I could bring in for added activities. I resigned myself to the fact that I would leave early and grab supplies from the local convenience store. As I prepared to leave, I spied a huge pumpkin on my deck.

My family used it for mere decoration I rationalized. My kids are young adults, they wouldn’t miss it. I grabbed the pumpkin and threw it in my car. Several activities could be had from this one pumpkin. I ran back in the house and found shaving cream. Another Aha moment, shaving cream puffy paint would be enjoyed by everyone. Sometimes I amaze myself at how quickly I can develop a project out of desperation and common household products. Flexibility is a major component in being a successful teacher. Successful adaptation to any situation ensures a lack of chaos in the classroom.

I dropped the pumpkin in my class and scurried down the hall to retrieve my charges that had been dropped off at an earlier time. We sat and broached the day’s activities as a team, killing time until the rest of the class came in. thirty minutes later we had a full house. We went to circle time and I pulled out a book that was on my curriculum. As soon as the children saw it they begged for me to read a book from a series we had used the past week. I took a vote. The Magic School Bus Scours the Ocean Floor Was retired in lieu of a book about children who couldn’t find their shoes and designed footwear out of the likes of meatloaf and bologna!

It was a vacation day for the kids so I decided to let them have a part in the curriculum and go light on them. After reading the book we observed and talked about the pumpkin. The children were enamored by the pumpkin carving kit I brought in. It was safe for children and I believe in a format that allows for independent exploration. In order to teach team work the children were broken into teams and I instructed them to draw four different faces that they would carve. I injected humor by stating that with four different faces we could turn the pumpkin around when we got bored with one face. After drawing their mark, we headed outside with the pumpkin and started carving. The children were extremely excited with the experience of using carving tools. After carving was done we proceeded to dig out the guts. Some children were apprehensive about sticking their hands in the guts so I offered gloves. They dug out and placed the flesh in one pan. The seeds were placed in another.

At this point the children were ready for free time and the pumpkin was temporarily laid to rest. Some children wanted to ask questions about the seeds and flesh. A mini science class ensued for the children who wished to continue our pumpkin adventure. I held the tiny seed next to the pumpkin for comparison. I explained how the pumpkin we cut open grew from a seed just like the one we held in our hand. This went on for thirty minutes or so. I was shocked at the interest. After lunch, I took the class on a field trip to the kitchen. We rinsed the seeds and flesh. The children remarked on the slimy feeling. I explained how the texture would change upon baking the treat. Cinnamon was sprinkled on our treat. We than baked these items.

At snack time I presented the items for exploration to the children. The pumpkin seeds were popular. I assume the children had eaten them in the past. The pumpkin flesh was viewed with a degree of trepidation. I inquired as to who liked pumpkin pie. The majority of the children did. When I explained that what they were looking at was the main ingredient in the pie they looked at me with confusion. I believe in exploration of the unknown, so I pushed the issue. I asked my little pessimistic friends to take one small taste. If it was not palatable they were welcome to spit it out. Most children were pleasantly surprised. A simple pumpkin had afforded the children a new experience.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

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) Set aside a table in the corner of the room. Make sure ample space is provided in proximity to other activities. In doing so, the child on the autism spectrum will not feel crowded or feel as though their personal space is being intruded upon.This should be left out as a long-term project and can be used to encourage non threatening solitary play during times when the child is anxious and needs space. It can also be used to gradually encourage participation in a group project, even if the child is parallel playing.Place a puzzle, snap together model, or construction project on the table. Children on the spectrum are often attracted to items like these. They are great as they can be done in groups or as a solitary activity.Children on the Spectrum will generally allow a trusted adult to assist with the project. On the first day allow the child to work on the task alone and get comfortable with surroundings. On the second day ask if you can participate in the project.Other children will inevitably wander over out of curiosity and ask to join in. When the child is engrossed in the project let him/her know that you need to step away for a moment. Make your absence short, no more than a couple of minutes. Each day lengthen the time that you step back from the group by a couple of minutes.This can be successfully orchestrated in a one on one card game as well. Play cards one on one with the child. As other children become curious and ask to join the game hand your cards to one child and step aside for a few minutes using procedures already mentioned.If this is done slowly over a week or so you should be able to start coaching versus being involved in what will have become a group project at this point. Intervening will be done at this point only during the presence of behaviors or peer difficulties.

Tabletop long-term projects can also be used to redirect a child to a solitary activity when the signs of over-stimulation appear.

2) When it is group cleanup time in the classroom, children on the spectrum can get anxious, and overstimulated if too many children are in close proximity to them. Using an example of putting wooden blocks away, discreetly place some blocks a few feet away from the other children who are cleaning up. Again, this will assist the autistic child in feeling non – threatened.Ask the child to please put the blocks away in the bin. He/she will generally comply dropping the blocks in the bin quickly and walking away. As time goes on move the blacks slightly closer to the other children during clean up time. As the child is introduced to this concept slowly and over a period of time they will generally feel comfortable after a week or two.These ideas can be adapted to group play at home as well. Invite a maximum of two or three children over as more will overwhelm a child with social, emotional, and sensory issues. Initially, sit with the children and encourage group play with a play dough kit, race track, etc. slowly excuse yourself from the activity for several minutes. Gradually extend your time without intervening in group play. Your goal will be to become a coach observing from afar, only intervening when difficulties regarding the social situation arise. This is an extremely slow process the can literally take a month or more to accomplish.

These socialization tips can be quite successful, but the child must not be pushed before they are ready. The ingredients to success are a safe non threatening environment, patience, and praise.

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE


Oh teachers listen closely

For this you need to know

My future rests right in your palm

I need you as I grow

My destiny is yours to shape

By words you choose to use

Encourage me, tell me I’m great

Your power do not abuse

Believe in me and I will shine

I will not let you down

Give up on me and let me fail

My choice will be to drown

Please teach me all you know my friend

Do not give up and leave

And I will thrive because I knew

In me you did believe

I have the talent to succeed

But sometimes feel lost

Please help me so I find my way

No matter what the cost

Don’t leave me on the tough days

I need to know you’ll stay

For you help me to grow and learn

And assure me i’m o.k.

Support me, guide me, and teach me

My fate is up to you

For with your words I’ll fail or win

It is up to you you’ll see

Please don’t leave nor write me off

I am worthy of your time

I promise I’ll not fail you

To give up would be a crime

My future is up to you you’ll see

In you I do believe

I will succeed and fulfill my dreams

If you walk with me

In order for me to succeed

I can not walk alone

Don’t give up on me and walk away

My emotions will turn to stone

Teachers listen closely

I need your help today

Help now and I promise

I will make you proud one day

MARI NOSAL, M.Ed., CECE

Today I taught in every room from toddlers to school age. Staff was extremely short handed. I was asked to stay and work extra hours to assist in filling in the staff gap. I actually enjoy the variety and break in my routine. My personality veers towards seeking constant challenge and change. In my opinion this is a great trait to possess. As an educator, the ability to respond to constant change is non negotiable. The day is controlled by the children’s moods, and attention span. Without a flexible personality on the educator’s part, nothing would ever be accomplished. Adults have off days, and need to comprehend that children are human beings who succumb to the same mood shifts as us.

When working in different rooms, my eyes always scan, and my mind silently trouble shoots. I emphasize the word silently because a teacher’s classroom is their kingdom.  Suggestions by another educator are heeded with the same welcoming tone as criticism about their own children. That would be with defensiveness. I sometimes have to remind myself of the latter fact as I work in various rooms. Keeping my thoughts to me will protect future cohesiveness and camaraderie between the teachers. Negativity amongst staff is sensed quickly by children and breeds nothing but a negative classroom climate for the children.

My first stop was the infant room. It was a nice day and the door to the infant room was open to let in fresh air. The mobile infants were crawling towards the door. The door abuts a gated outdoor infant sized playground with a foam floor. Thus children can’t be injured by crawling into the road. However they do need to be supervised on the small equipment so their wobbly motor skills do not cause a calamity on the low little tike’s equipment. Staff stated that they were tired of chasing infants who constantly crawled towards the door. My observations found an obvious way to save the staff stress. When the weather is nice, put a safety gate across the opening to the outdoors. The staff will not tire from constantly retrieving the infants. The infants will be free to roam safely and freely. I made a mental note to make an anonymous suggestion to the director.

My next stop was the pre kindergarten room. The class was in the midst of a rousing rendition of “One Two Buckle My Shoe”.  Many children were engaged in playing with cars and toy farm animals. I silently felt that choice based creative curriculum does not mean playing with toy cars during circle time. Could choices made for children not interested in finger play and songs be restricted to more educational choices? Perhaps if the child does not wish to participate in the activity, other activities could be limited to using stencil letters, manipulatives, and other educational items.  This is just an observation. I respect the classroom teacher who developed her pre Kindergarten curriculum. I would never correct her. Who knows if my observation is wrong and her way possibly correct. I would not want a teacher coming into my school age room and doing such a thing to me.

My next stop was the preschool room. The children were transitioning into nap time. One child cried incessantly. I sat by her to comfort her. The staff referred to her as a whiner. This was a typical case of labeling. The child is two and one half years old. She transitioned to the preschool room in early September. Apparently the child is going through an adjustment period transitioning from the toddler two room where pacifiers are common. Instead of calling this toddler a whiner, perhaps observing the whole picture is warranted. How can one expect a child to transition to such a different environment so quickly? The crying jags are obviously based in the little girl’s fear of the “big girl” demands that are being expected of her.

As children arose at the end of naptime, a teacher actually told the little girl that she kept the other children up with her crying. The little girl was told to stay on her rest mat for five minutes while other children got up. I thought this statement was deplorable. How can one even expect a two year old girl two comprehend the concept of five minutes. In using time frames with small children a visual should be used. I have been known to put five strips of paper up on the wall. Each minute of time would include the removal of one strip of paper. The child would know that the time to get up was coming as less paper strips were visible. My week has been long and tiring. I will end with this entry.

Have a great week:-0)

Mari N. 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