Monday, March 11, 2013

Restaurant play

Sometimes when I am doing something a brilliant idea comes to me about what to do in my classroom. Today I was substituting in middle school, sitting there supporting a student in math, when this idea of having a restaurant for dramatic play came to mind. I also thought of all the things children could potentially learn too.

This is how I create restaurant play in my classroom:
I would begin by setting up a restaurant area next to or near the dramatic house area. I usually try to set it up with the children, and the children add to it throughout. I allow free play in the restaurant for at least one day, observing what the children do and how much they know about restaurants.

I begin bringing the restaurant theme back to the children at circle time. I make a graph of who had gone to some local restaurants. I ask what they noticed about going, attempting at this point to talk about the menu and who worked there. Together we make a simple restaurant menu on a dry erase board with prices, usually 1 to 3 dollars so they can practice adding to 5.
When it is free play time I role model how to order, how to take an order, and how to pay, we always have play money that I have laminated.

Throughout the week we have daily questions about restaurants. Questions like: What’s you favorite restaurant? What do you like to order for breakfast (lunch; dinner)? I have columns of local familiar restaurants using their actual signage, simple 2 to 3 choices, up to 4 depending on age and development and I try to have pictures or I draw pictures so every child can participate at independently at their own level.

Vocabulary words we get to know and use are: Restaurant, menu, prices, dollars, “Order Here”, “Pick Up”, wait staff, bus person, cook, customer.
Skills children will work on are: pre-reading and actual reading, pre-math and actual math (specifically adding to 5 or identifying numbers to 5), writing, language skills, turn taking, sequencing, and cooperation.

Extension ideas for Restaurant play: Make it Chinese, Mexican or Pizza restaurant, make it a coffee shop or café. Add local take out menus, invite a chef or wait staff to visit and talk about what they do and how they use reading, writing and math skills in their job. Make lunch time a restaurant, invite other classes for a lemonade stand, or snack restaurant. Really the sky’s the limit and the children will come up with many of their own ideas.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Masaru Emoto and his beautiful water crystal photos

Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto and his beautiful water crystal photos found at 

I learned about Masaru Emoto's photos years ago when The Secret came out but it is such a beautiful thought and truly amazing.

Emoto photographed ice crystals after the water had been exposed to different human emotions. He also photographed polluted water as it was and after a Buddhist monk said a blessing over it.  While this seems so incredible, it brings such a hopeful thought to how we can heal ourselves and our world.

Ice Crystal of "Appreciation"
found at  

Ice Crystal of "Thank You"
found at  

Much love, gratitude and appreciation to you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thoughts about the system

My Sweetest Little One--what will her education look like?
My very favorite magazine, right after Teaching Young Children, is the Intelligent Optimist (formerly Ode). This magazine brings us news and stories of positive changes that are working in the world. Changes that make a difference for people living in poverty, or who are sick; it brings us innovative ideas. The most current one has an article about the innovations coming from shantytowns, and slums in Africa. An article in the November/December 2012 magazine, titled Warrior of the human spirit by Jurriaan Kamp (who is also the editor), is about Margaret Wheatley and her ideas about changing the systems for the better. She sees this world we live in as a place no one wants to live in. We don’t want poverty, hunger, violence, and global destruction. Wheatley believes that we cannot change the system, we have to start all over on a new one. This article reminded me of how I sometimes feel about teaching in public schools.
Since becoming a credentialed teacher I have found that all of my education seems to be meaningless because we have pre-made curriculums to read to the students, tests that are being used to prove that teachers can teach (something they are not intended for), and military like practices for walking around campus. The great theorists that I have spent hours upon hours reading have no place in today’s schools. Vygotsky’s theory that children learn by being pushed to a place just slightly higher than they are now capable, by teacher or other students, is non-existent in school. What I see instead is students who are all taught the same thing, at the same time, in the same way; they are bored or distracted because they are either not ready for this information, they are already beyond this information, or they don’t learn this way. As a well-educated teacher, who has had many great professors and role models I often feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the system.
This article about Margaret Wheatley gives me hope in a strange but alluring way. Wheatley states that we cannot change the system; it has become a “emerging phenomenon”. She tells us “You can never change emerging phenomena by working within them. You change by starting over.”
I have felt this way for a while, that we must start over.
Our schools are not beneficial to EVERY STUDENT, only a percentage and that is not good enough. I even have complaints about the buildings, no running because doors open out, and hall ways that are long and impersonal, the playgrounds are manufactured and paved, and there is not enough time for play. This is an old outdated system based on a factory model that needs to be replaced.
The article discusses not giving up but seeing our work as important for other reasons than making a huge change to that system. I have felt this, I teach, neither because I make a lot of money, nor because I can make a change to how we all teach. I teach because I love to see the spark of creativity and curiosity turn to knowing. I teach because this is our future and if I can create a learning space of collaboration and cooperative creativity I have done my part to make a change in the future. If children leave my classroom with the skills of compassion, empathy, and perseverance I have helped create a better future for these children.
It doesn’t matter that the mainstream teachers and educational system don’t value these yet. They give praise for my students knowing how to identify letters and numbers. For how they line up and behave so well in circle.  We live in a literate world, children will learn to read, children will learn to do math. Many parents are now un-schooling, and these children are learning these skills just fine. However, empathy, compassion, and perseverance are in short order in our society. That is what I want to focus on, that is my “right work”, and I will continue to do it for as long as I can.


Monday, March 4, 2013

The Seven Learning Styles

Learning styles are so important for teachers to know. Most of us know about the some of them and many more of us often teach in our own style. Being a great teacher means we must present the same information across multiple learning styles and modes of learning. For example preschool teachers often present a subject through story, dance or movement, and items placed in centers.
This multiple teaching helps all the children attain the information they need in the way they best learn. It also gives the brain better access to remembering the information. Our brain stores and accesses information better when information is retained using lots of different stimulus, for example the brain will store information more quickly and permanently when it is novel, and maybe physical, visual, and auditory.  As a teacher I might combine a vocabulary word with a silly movement, a picture, and say it with a funny voice. The children will think this is most fun and they will also retain this information better.

Here is some more information on learning styles **found at on Sunday January 6, 2013 9:05am**:

The Seven Learning Styles
Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems.
Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.