Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Making Choices: Where are you playing?

Every year is different at Inch By Inch. Every group of children arrives with their own experiences and interests. Every day, week, month and year is a changing process.

This year's group currently needs to touch and hold. 
They need things to be very concrete. 

Several months ago I made "name rocks" for each of them. The picture below shows our wooden tray of rocks. I flipped all the rocks over so the children's names would be protected. Some of the rocks have the first letter on the back for the children who needed a little extra help recognizing their names.

At first the rocks were simply available around the classroom. They could look at them. Carry them around. Find their friends' names. We have been amazed by how many of the children recognize their friends' names now. They will find somebody else's rock and deliver it to their friend. 

Two weeks ago we started putting the rocks around the "Gathering Rug" before storytime. They could find their rock and sit in the seat that we placed it in.  The purpose was to help with name recognition, but also to place certain children next to each other.  The results were great. The children also had something to hold in their hands, which kept their hands busy while they listened to the story.

The following week the rocks were an inspiration for a new process in the classroom. We have been noticing a lot of the children have been having difficulty engaging in play. They seemed to check out one area and then move to the next without actually touching or doing anything. Just wandering.

We decided to use the rocks as a way for the children to be more aware and thoughtful about their play choices within the classroom. 

Each area now has a matching sign and bowl. A different color and name for each area. The children are still free to play where the would like, but are asked to bring their rock with them and "sign in" to the new area. 

Small World Area

If we have noticed that a child is wandering, we may have a conversation like this...
Teacher: "______, where is your rock?"
Child: "Oh! Over there."
Teacher: "Would you like to move your rock?"
If yes, they would be asked to clean up a couple items and then move their rock.
If no, they would then return to their previous area. 

The children are very excited about their rocks. They are very excited about the new color coordinated circle signs and bowls that have appeared around the classroom. So far there has been a lot of success with this new approach. The ultimate goal is for the children to be aware of their actions and movement through the classroom.  The children really seem to be enjoying it and are excited. Some of the children seem to be staying in areas much longer. Other seem to be using the passport approach and they make sure they get to each area during playtime. 
They all seem to be PLAYING more. 

Our major areas:
Gathering Rug
Quiet Reading Area
Art Table
Small World
Imagination Station (our newly combined dress up and block area)
Sensory Table
Octagon Table (usually lego or trains)

Quiet Reading Area

Imagination Station