Teacher Feature: Infant Classroom Explores Chanukah

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Logan Crowley, Jill Manasco, and Ashlee Smith in the infant Duckling classroom. Our teachers were once again inspired by the changing environment and the events their children would soon experience so they decided to learn about winter holidays.  I joined their class for a lesson led by Logan on Chanukah. Below you will find a reflection from Logan, Jill, and Ashlee and images from Logan’s lesson.
Duckling Cover 1

What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

We had recently come off a month-long study of music and decided to spend a couple of weeks focusing on winter holidays as a transitional theme. Having a more straightforward theme gave us the opportunity to spend some time observing the kids to see what we may want to explore next. This specific theme also helped us to bridge connections between school and our children’s family traditions, as well as an opportunity to explore cultures other than their own. During this particular week, we were exploring Chanukah and also using that topic as an opportunity to explore properties of light.

Why and how did you choose the visit?

The menorah is a staple of Chanukah and tied in well with the exploration of light as well as it’s lit with either candles or bulbs, in the case of the White House menorah. The menorah is also very large and since our kids are still riding in buggies, I wanted something that they would be able to observe easily. Finally, we were having unseasonably warm weather so it was a perfect time for a nice long walk.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

In teaching infants, my primary goal is to give them a break from the classroom and provide them with an experience that is interesting and meaningful to them. Anything else is pretty much gravy. In this case, my hope was to also give them exposure to the concept of the menorah and the traditions that many observe during Chanukah.

What was most successful about your lesson?

We made it there and back without anyone falling apart! I think the most successful part was how much they seemed to enjoy the experience in general. It is always a toss-up when we stop the buggies, because if we have chosen something that doesn’t engage them, they become restless very quickly. In this case, they spent a long time observing the menorah. I think having some tangible objects helped maintain their interest- namely sensory bags with pictures of menorahs inside them and a short board book about Chanukah. They spent a decent amount of time manipulating the sensory bags and many of them showed a lot of interest in the book, smiling or pointing as I showed them the pictures.

How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic?

We successfully got out of the classroom and got some much-needed fresh air. The kids also became increasingly interested in our Chanukah books throughout the week. Children, especially infants, love familiarity so the experiences we planned for them, including our visit to the White House menorah, were planned to help them to gain familiarity with menorahs and Chanukah and increased their interest in looking at related materials.

What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

I was really glad I did the sensory bags. They were somewhat of a last minute addition and I think they helped some of the kids who may otherwise have gotten restless quickly to spend time engaging and more thoroughly enjoy the outing.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic?

I’m not sure, honestly, I felt it all went pretty well. I might have come into it with a more solid concept of what I wanted to say or a wider variety of manipulatives for them to engage with. I also may have brought a blanket and taken them out of the buggy to give them a bit more freedom of movement.

What was challenging regarding logistics?

We did not have any major logistical challenges other than just getting them out the door, I purposely kept the lesson pretty simple since I knew they may already be tired from the long ride.

What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

Think about what interests your kids the most and plan around that. Since this is an object they cannot touch, bring something tangible for them to interact with. And of course, something I constantly remind myself of, it’s okay to throw your plans to the wind and improvise if something just doesn’t work.

Here are a few images from their unit on Chanukah:

DSCN4373Logan, Ashlee, and Jill bundled up their group and headed straight to the National Menorah in front of the White House.
DSCN4399The Menorah is located in the grassy space in front of the White House and set back from the road. So it’s location and size, make it an ideal spot to learn about Chanukah traditions.
DSCN4383Once the group was settled in front of the menorah, Logan provided the children with sensory bags filled with blue water,silver sparkles, and images of the menorah. The teachers then began pointing out the different parts of the menorah and matching them to the images in their hands.DSCN4390 Logan then read the group, My First Chanukah  by Tomie dePaola. 
DSCN4406 DSCN4420Logan also brought along a bag of dreidels and menorah for the children to explore.

Logan, Ashlee, and Jill finished up their unit on Chanukah and started exploring Arctic Animals. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on Chanukah! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!