Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Peek Inside Our Playrooom: September is Here!

September is here, which means S has begun preschool and we're getting ready for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year! Starting preschool is a big deal for S. He was nervous and excited for the big day. Admittedly, so was I! We both handled drop off on that first morning like champs and when he arrived home at the end of the school day, he came running up the stairs, shouting "Mommy! I did it! I went to school!" He is so proud of himself and we're pretty darn proud parents, as well. Y is liking his mornings with just Mommy and loving when S comes home even more! Never have you seen a baby as happy and content as Y is when S is nearby...
...once naps (or attempted naps) are out of the way, afternoons here are more about play and child-led exploration than directed activities. At home, even in our year of home preschooling S, I favored play based learning and a multi-sensory approach to building the skills necessary at this age and stage. S's school is a wonderful blend of Montessori-inspiration, Jewish and secular curriculum and a calm and homey environment. At home, I like to have our playroom set up to inspire play and conversation about activities he enjoys in school. I keep our STEAM Cart  stocked with more structured play and learning activities he can do independently or together with me as he is interested. Our main play areas are set up for more open ended play and exploring, and also geared to include Y (who's having his own version of Mommy & Me Nursery School at home while S is in preschool).

Honey sensory bag--all the fun without any of the sticky mess! Plus these great free printable honey bee lifecycle cards inspire playful learning about bees and the sweet honey they provide for us!
Y is too little to taste the honey this year, but he sure loved squishing it through the bag with his hands (and later his feet) while sneaking in some tummy time!

Since we are nearing Rosh Hashanah, S is learning about the upcoming holidays in school as well as preparing for them with us at home. Including props and toys with a holiday theme allows that gap between school and home to be playfully bridged. I love to see what play is inspired with these decorative apples and pomegranate, and these Rosh Hashanah themed photo blocks I created last year by hot gluing laminated holiday symbols onto wooden blocks. Last week, S took the pomegranate to his toy kitchen and pretended to cut it up and make a pomegranate smoothie! He's enjoyed using the blocks in building scenes with other wooden blocks as well as in dramatic play to "set a table for Rosh Hashanah."

Sensory play is a favorite activity here. I pulled out this parts of an apple dry oat sensory bin from last year and it's getting a whole new life of play and hands-on exploration this year. There are those who prefer not to use food for sensory play, and you can substitute in shredded paper as a base in your favorite shades of apple. However, if stored in a sealed and dry location, these oats definitely last--mine are from a year ago and still fresh. On the other hand, if your little ones play quite a bit with them or they end up getting unplanned additives, you may want to toss the base and replenish it the next time around. In addition to dry oats, we added the following to our Parts of an Apple Sensory Bin:

  • decorative/toy apples
  • artificial leaves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • dishes, recycled containers and scoops

Check out some of our previous apple themed posts for more play and sensory activities related to apples!

S remembers visiting a local produce shop last year to pick out different varieties of apples and is excited to make another visit this year in the coming week. We may even sneak in a mad science afternoon experiment if he's interested!

Our art and writing center is also set up with Rosh Hashanah in mind:
In addition to the usual standard art and writing supplies I keep out and some that I rotate and swap, I have some Elul and Tishrei-themed activity sheets from A Jewish Homeschool Blog that I printed off and laminated for use with dry erase markers, some coloring sheets, some apple-colored paints, brushes and a smock at the ready, and our writing bin is stocked...

I included blank cards, outlines of apples, apple shaped sticky notes, stickers and Rosh Hashanah word and photo cards/sentence strips to inspire some holiday card making and letter writing. S will have ample opportunities at school to make more directed art projects. At home, I like for him to have access to materials and more opportunities for process art and self-led pre-writing activities.

 S is very proud of going to school now. We proudly display every doodle and dot that comes home. I love when he tells me what he drew about and he often asks me to write it down for him. I use sticky notes to take his dictation so as not to compromise his original work and then I try really hard to enjoy the display but not save every single doodle forever. We are keeping a binder of special artwork.
Our reading area and felt board are also stocked with books about going to school, books about Rosh Hashanah, books related to our upcoming story stretcher and even a few about getting glasses. At our felt wall, I've set a basket of laminated pictures related to topics S is learning in his classroom this month, like English and Hebrew letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. I don't do structured lessons with them, but rather leave them for him to play with and use as he wishes. He loves the felt wall basket right now! And I love that not only does our playroom inspire creative play and learning, but it also encourages S to share with us what he is doing in school.
One of the most common concerns parents of students I taught expressed was that their children did not share with them what they did in school. With the exception of a few, most children when asked by their parents what they did in school responded with "I don't know" or "nothing." After this topic first came up in a parent orientation during my first year teaching here, I decided to create and initiate a curriculum on having conversations. After all, how many adults do you know that also respond to the question "what did you do at work today?" with a "nothing" or "I don't know!" Conversation is an art and it needs to be taught and practiced! I created spaces in my classrooms known as The Conversation Corner. I taught the word "conversation," because little kids love big words. And I taught that conversations have two players: the one who is talking and the one who is listening. Both players play both parts, just not at the same time! I introduced songs to encourage sharing a favorite thing about the day and we worked from sharing one thing we did to sharing one thing and with whom we did it all the way to creating newspaper reports and detailed accounts of a day in the life of a preschooler. I'm pleased to say that my own test subject at the time, S, has done quite well with reporting back to me what he does at school, but like many kids (and adults), he doesn't want to talk about his morning there all afternoon! I know some of what he does because he tells me, some of what he does because it comes home with him and some of what he does I know about because I see it in his play! Those are always my favorite glimpses!
Happy Playing!

No comments:

Post a Comment