Teacher Feature: Preschool Classroom Explores Architecture

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Jessie Miller. Her three year old classroom was learning about architecture and decided to spend a day creating models. Below you will find a reflection from Jessie and images from her lesson on architecture.

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What were your topics of exploration?

During our exploration of architecture, we talked about the process architects and builders go through to create houses. With the help of Chris Van Dusen’s book If I Built a House, we discussed what kinds of things we would want to include in our own dream house. After the architects make blueprints they often create models of what they want to build. The students used their previous knowledge of architecture and their new ideas from the story we read to create their own model of a house. Each child was given a shoe box as a starting point and they used materials such as cardboard, paper, ribbon, tape, markers, scissors, etc. to build their model homes. During this activity, we talked about making sure the houses have a solid foundation on which to build and what kinds of essential elements they needed to function as a home. It was also a way to show them how models are created to help architects visualize what they want something to look like before they actually begin building it.

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

The class had been studying architecture for a few weeks prior to this lesson and I wanted them to have a hands on experience related to this topic. We had read countless books on architecture, created our own blueprints, observed the architecture around us, learned about building materials and tools, and even met with some real architects! I wanted the children to use all this knowledge they had learned and apply it to this project. After this lesson, they should understand the concept of what a model is and why they are an important tool for architects. I also wanted the class to take on the role of the architect and see how they can use their own ideas to create something. They should also be able to compare the things they were putting in their model to real life. For example, if they added cardboard to the top of their shoe box it could represent a roof or if they cut a hole in the side it may be a door.

What was most successful about your lesson?

This lesson was a great way to have the class express themselves in a creative way without many restrictions. They were given a lot of space and a range of materials to work with, which allowed them to all work on a project at the same time but at their own pace. There were three adults and twelve children so there were extra hands when the children needed help with something. I think the most successful part of the lesson was that the children were able to create something of their own and have fun with it. The lesson was structured in a way that allowed them to move around a lot and not be confined to sitting in one place or having to wait long periods of time to get a turn. The Wallabies really impressed me with all of the conversations they were having about what they were building and how they were able to take their ideas and turn them into something real. This lesson also leaves the children with a final product they can keep and be proud of.

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

This was a fun activity for the Wallabies but it takes some time and effort to complete. We were able to do the activity on the floor of a large art space which was much more conducive then tables in the classroom. However, because of the amount of children and materials it could get a bit cluttered at times and the clean up is a process as well. One issue that arose was how much tape the children needed. Because they still needed help from teachers to get tape, it was hard for me to pass it out as quickly as they needed it. Therefore, I would have more of that ready for them beforehand. Doing this activity with smaller groups could be helpful as well so the teachers can work with more children one on one. It is also important to either have a set time when everyone stops or have something for them to do once they begin finishing the activity. Some children get really detailed with their models, while others may rush through it quickly so it is important to be mindful of this difference.

Here are a few images from their unit on the architecture:

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Throughout the week the group studied blueprints and worked on their own sketches.

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The group even visited with Natural History Museum’s building manager to look at blueprints for the museum and learn about the role of an architect.

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For this lesson, Jessie wanted to focus on the children creating models of a house of their own design. She read the group If I Built a House to inspire them to think creatively about what their dream house might include.

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Jessie then explained that each child was going to get a box and could use any of the materials she collected (string, ribbon, cardboard pieces, dot paint, straws, etc) to create their model. Jessie had the group work together to help build her model before beginning to work on their own.

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The children were able to get lots of fine motor and problem solving practice during their construction.

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When the children were finished, they would describe their house to one of their teachers. This little girl explained: “I love the house. The strings are woggly and there are dots on the bottoms and dots on the top. The cotton balls are windows up top.”

This class had a wonderful time learning about architecture! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

 

Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores Gardening

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Erin Pruckno. Her three year old classroom was learning about Eric Carle and Erin decided to spend a week focusing on The Tiny Seed. Below you will find a reflection from Erin and images from her lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?

In this unit, we were using the books of Eric Carle to engage with a variety of topics that our class wanted to explore, topics like animals, food, rainbows, and more. This particular lesson was from our week on plants, using The Tiny Seed to guide us. We focused on the parts of a plant, the plant life cycle, what plants need to grow, and in this lesson, how we garden to care for plants.

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

One of my objectives for this lesson was for the students to develop a sense of their role in tending plants—many of them are interested in the plants on our playground, so I wanted to encourage their sense of responsibility in caring for the natural environment. I also wanted to foster their language development by introducing new vocabulary for the different tools we use to garden, which would also add new elements to their dramatic play. Finally, we used the lesson as an opportunity to organically build letter recognition and phonemic awareness as we named and labeled the different tools.

What was most successful about your lesson?

My students really enjoyed picking out and adding tools to our poster of “Gus the Gardener.” Making it into a game by telling them to close their eyes and pick is always a hit too! I also think that the lesson was successful in encouraging my class to think about the sounds associated with letters as they matched a label with text to the corresponding image of a gardening tool. They also were quick to pick up on the new vocabulary, using the words for tools they previously didn’t know as they played with them on the playground later that day!

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

The fun part of this lesson is that it doesn’t have to just be about gardening! I’ve also used a similar format to introduce the job of a paleontologist and all the tools he or she needs to dig. It could also work for exploring other occupations, like doctors or builders. During the museum portion of our visit, we were very lucky that there were two paintings side-by-side that allowed us to compare and contrast gardening indoors versus outdoors. Another teacher could accomplish the same thing by bringing in an image of a different kind of garden in another painting, or by comparing and contrasting two different photos or prints if they can’t make it to a museum. Visiting indoor and outdoor gardens would be another opportunity for making comparisons about the kinds of gardening and the tools we need.

 

Here are a few images from their unit on gardening:DSCN2891Erin’s class was spending time exploring the wonderful world of Eric Carle and decided to spend a week on his book, The Tiny Seed.

DSCN2886The group had read The Tiny Seed several times throughout the week so Erin decided to have the class work together to re-tell the major plot points.

DSCN2889Erin then read a new book to the group: A Seed Grows by Pamela Hickman. The book introduces the different tools used in gardening.
DSCN2898Erin brought out some of the tools found in the book and introduced the group to her illustration: “Gus” the gardener.

DSCN2904 DSCN2922“Gus” needs his tools! Erin invited each child to pick a picture of a garden tool and add it to the image. They all worked together to try and identify the different images.

DSCN2937Erin then had a second bag with the names of each tool and invited them to pick a word and match it to the image on the sheet.

DSCN2939The class then headed out to the National Gallery of Art (NGA). On their way into the museum one of the NGA gardeners invited the students to check out his gardening tools.

DSCN2960The final stop was to see Miro’s The Farm and Matisse’s Pot of Geraniums. Erin asked the group to do some close looking and describe what they saw in the two paintings. She emphasized that these paintings were both of gardens but one would be found indoors and the other outdoors. Erin then brought out “Gus” and had the group work together to identify which tools could be used to plant in either garden or both.

This class had a wonderful time learning about gardening and Eric Carle! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Infant Classroom Explores Mail

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Jill Manasco. Her infant class was learning about communication and decided to spend time learning about mail. Below you will find a reflection from Jill and images from her lesson.

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What were your topics of exploration?:

Our topic of exploration was mail/communication/writing letters. We looked at the different types of mail like magazines, letters, bills etc. We also talked about where our mail comes from and how it gets from place to place.

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

I wanted them to see where our mail comes from and how it gets to other people. Also, I wanted them to see what kinds of things are sent and received through the mail.

What was most successful about your lesson?:

Our trips to the post office and NH mail room were the most successful things about our lesson. They enjoyed mailing a letter to our friend Emerson and also picking mail up for the school.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?:

The entrances to the post office were tricky for us since we are in buggies. The doors were not automatic and they were really hard to open but with an older group that would not be a problem.

Here are a few images from their unit on mail:

DSCN2721The group got all bundled up and headed straight to the post office for their lesson!

DSCN2725Earlier in the week the group worked together to write a letter to a friend who had moved. Jill showed the class the mailbox where they were going to drop off the letter but explained that they needed stamps to make sure it got all the way to their friend in a different state!
DSCN2731In the post office, they stopped to check out some of the boxes where people get mail.

DSCN2737Jill showed and re-read the note to the group.

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DSCN2748She invited each child to help participate in the mailing process. Above a child is adding the letter to the envelope and below he is helping to seal it up!

DSCN2755Then it was time for Jill to weigh the letter and purchase the postage. Jill narrated the whole process to the friends.

DSCN2761Last step was the postage! This little boy loved how sticky it was!

DSCN2767Then it was time to mail the letter! When the letter arrived at its location the group was able to Skype with the recipient and see how their letter had traveled all the way to her.

This class had a wonderful time learning about communication! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!