January 2016 archive

Weekly Update 1.29.2016

Busy busy Beavers!  We had some wonderful shares from our five Teachers of the Day, as well as a birthday celebration!  Keep up the good work, Beavers!

Exploring Folklore

This week, our exploration of puppets and puppet theater deepened as we guided the children to reenact the Anansi the Spider stories with our puppets and the puppet theater.  On Wednesday, we worked in partners to recreate some of our favorite scenes from Anansi and the Magic Stick, Anansi and the Talking Melon, Anansi Goes Fishing,  and Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock.  Using photocopies of these scenes, the Beavers experimented with the puppets, creating dialogue and action to bring these stories to life.  We then re-gathered at the rug and the Beavers performed their scenes at our puppet theater in front of the whole class!

We also began exploring Japanese folklore.  We read: “Tasty Baby Belly Buttons,” retold by Judy Sierra, “The Funny Little Woman,” retold by Arlene Mosel, and “Momotaro” retold by Virginia Haviland.  These tales spiked the curiosity of your children, specifically about Japanese culture and the evil imaginary creatures: Onis.  Onis are giants, ogres or demonic beasts.  As we read each story we charted the similarities and differences we noticed between all three folktales.  The Beavers devoured these stories and were eager to create art to express their ideas about this newly discovered imaginary creature.  The Beavers noticed that Onis from “Tasty Baby Belly Buttons” are different from the ones featured in the “The Funny Little Woman” and “Momotaro.”  Specifically, they are giants! We worked on a collaborative mural to create a GIANT Oni, which the Beavers proudly proclaimed, “It looks just like the one in the book!”  We also worked on watercoloring a painting of the Oni from the “The Funny Little Woman.”   As we read, the Beavers noted that Japanese Onis  reminded them of centaurs, fawns and even meanies.

Exposing children to rich literature allows them to develop an appreciation for the world that books can open to them.  As we read we challenge the children to use higher level comprehension strategies, such as making text-to-text connections, text-to-self connections and text-to-world connections.  With folklore, there is a natural opportunity to explore different versions of the same tale and therefore make connections between the stories.

Next week, the Beavers have expressed interest in making Japanese dumplings! Mmmmmm….


Winter Wonderland

The snow brought new excitement to Packer this week! On Monday, the Beavers were eager to engage one another in conversations about their weekend adventures with family and friends, discussing topics like snowman building, snowball fights, sledding in Prospect Park, hot cocoa drinking, and more. Questions about the blizzard and snow in general were abundant.  We opened morning meeting on Monday with an open-ended discussion about why and how snow falls. Here are a few of their initial theories and wonderings.

Why and how does snow fall?

Vivian: There’s rain that lets it fall down.

Ash: The snow fall down because of the clouds are sticked together

Jalen: Do you know how the snow falls down? because it falls down to snow

Jake: The snow falls down puz you know, raise your hand if you ever saw a cloud moving slowly. So the cloud is raining slowly to a different place, so when that, like, when that, maybe uh the summer is in Canada or someplace so maybe the snowstorm is gonna move to a different place somewhere.

Pearl: Snow falls when it’s winter.

Elfie: Have any of you saw rain? So maybe rain, into a long time, so the snow falls down when the snowstorm came and it maybe just felled down from the clouds.

Ruby: Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the city get really dark and it’s about to rain or snow? So that snow doesn’t come from the sky, it comes from the snow clouds.

Milo: The water gets rised up to the clouds from rivers and when it gets solid it comes down like snow.

Emerson: Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a river. So the water comes from a river and then the ice pushes the snow down, and the ice lands and the snow lands, and the ice gets all snowy and gets all covered in snow and then it is used for snow flakes.

Téa: I think I might know how the snow gets out of the clouds. So the snowstorm was put in there. The clouds turned really dark, and fills up with a lot of snow and then it POOFS out. Does anyone know where it’s headed? It’s going from Boston to New York.

Harry: Or Washington DC and then New York? Then Boston.

Steelo: Well, what Téa was trying to say is that the storm is going to move everywhere. Actually when the snow falls the clouds are moving away into a different place because it’s going to be summer in a different place.

Harry: A needle comes into your house in the middle of the night and then up your chimney and up into the clouds, and then it falls down.

Carmen: The clouds make the snowfall down and when the clouds make them fall down and the snow falls all over the place and that’s how the snow gets in every different places, every place it needs to be.

Charlie: I think that how snow falls down is that it first rains and then rains dries up and then it goes back to the clouds and then the rain freezes and it comes down as snow.

Ava: Actually the snow comes from the sky not the clouds.

Cate: I think the same thing as Charlie.

Lucia: The cloud gets heavy and then snow comes down.

Alex: So have you ever seen rain come down a cloud? So that’s how snow comes down. It’s the same as rain.

After the long awaited snowfall, the Beavers spent some much-deserved quality time playing in the snow! Needless to say, the Beavers didn’t need any prompts to help them get started with imaginary play in the snow. They really worked hard on keeping each other safe and were more than happy to help one another climb up giant snow mountains, create imaginary igloo homes for cave people, and build forts to protect themselves from evil imaginary creatures. Overall, the snow in the garden was a huge hit!

During Choice Time, some Beavers joined their teachers in collecting snow from the garden to create a “canvas” for color exploration.  Using a myriad of watercolors and pipettes (or eye droppers) they took pleasure in the process of creating “rainbow snow.” As they worked, they made noticings about the concentration of the colors mixing with the snow, the shape and aesthetics of their designs, and the colors they could mix to create new colors.  Open-ended experiences to interact with art provide a context for self-expression, creativity, fine motor development and a sense of personal accomplishment.

After finishing their snow paintings, the children took as much pleasure in the process of “clearing their canvases.”  They created rainbow snowballs which they joyfully threw at a snow wall that had previously been built.  They loved watching as their snowballs burst in a rainbow explosion.

With the snow, comes LOTS of layers! Your Beavers were such sports this week, as they battled the weather and geared up.  If you think dressing one four or five year old is a challenge, try that with 21!!!  We were so impressed with their independence as they learned to zip jackets, change wet socks and pants, strap snow pant suspenders, and pull on mittens. Take a look at the mayhem the weather caused our locker room!

Happy Weekend!



Storytelling Brought to Life

This week, our fascination and interest in folktales sustained.  The children have become particularly invested in the West African folktales about Anansi the spider, a notorious trickster and the keeper of stories from Ghanaian culture.  We have read Anansi and the Magic Stick, Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock, Anansi and the Talking Melon, Anansi Goes Fishing and Anansi Does the Impossible.  Referring back to our activity in which we became “culture detectives” and noticed the visual aspects of New York, we re-investigated the Anansi stories, focusing on the setting and what it tells us about Ghana.  The Beavers noticed that all of the stories take place in the jungle or the forest, and that all of the characters are animals.  We discussed how this was different from other books we have read, and how the setting affects the trajectory of the story itself.

From there, we prompted the Beavers to act out these folktales themselves.  With a deeper understanding of character and setting, the children were eager to take ownership of these stories and become the characters.  Dramatization is an important aspect of early literacy development, as it encourages children to exercise the language and comprehension skills they have acquired through read alouds.  Additionally, dramatization cements learning and increases children’s retention of content.  As the teacher reads through the story, the children act out the corresponding actions, dialogue, and expressions in the middle of the circle.  Performing in front of their peers builds confidence and encourages the students to take risks in their learning.

Being the natural performers that the Beavers are, they excelled in this activity.  From the “moss-covered rock”, to the Lion, the Warthog and the “King” (an orangutan), every Beaver loved bringing the Anansi stories to life.  We then discussed how we had seen Beauty and the Beast brought to life through performance at PuppetWorks, and the Beavers unanimously decided to build our own puppet theater.

For the theater itself, we upcycled a cardboard box and painted it in many colors.  After one child remarked that a theater needed a curtain, we guided the students through their first sewing activity using scrap fabric, needle, thread, and a dowel graciously donated by the Maintenance department.  We created a setting, or backdrop, using collage materials from old National Geographic magazines, finding images that reminded us of the jungle setting we detected through the Anansi illustrations.  We also cut out images of wild animals, which we then laminated and taped to popsicle sticks to create our first puppets.  Finally, we drew our own Anansi spider puppets.

During Choice Time today, we opened our “Puppet Theater” as a choice for play and had fun putting on our own puppet shows.  The Puppet Theater was a hit!  We look forward to using it to hone our craft as storytellers. 

Our field trip to the Brooklyn Heights Public Library was fun, engaging, and a great learning opportunity.  It provided us the chance to extend our learning outside of the classroom and to use our local library to further our research.  Learning to use libraries as a resource is an important lesson for young readers.  Additionally, visits to libraries encourage children to positively engage with books, furthering their love of literature.     The Beavers were eager to explore the wide selection on the shelves.  They were given the task of selecting one folktale to bring back to our classroom.  With such an extensive folklore collection, it was difficult to choose just one book!  Many of the children expressed an interest in returning to the library, so we encourage you to take a walk to your local public library and explore what it has to offer.  Thank you to all of our parent volunteers for helping to make the trip a success! We loved watching you as you snuggled up with a Beaver and a good book! 

Another project that we worked on this week was the making of our snowflake garland.  After one of the Beavers asked to make snowflakes at Choice Time, the idea really took off!  The whole class was soon hard at work cutting folded paper to make snowflakes.  We then strung them up on string and hung them across our room as a garland.  The Beavers exclaimed, “Look!  We made it snow in our classroom!”  With the first blizzard of the season  on its way, the Beavers truly believe they sent some positive snow vibes out into the world and brought the snow here to New York! Please don’t burst their snow bubbles! 🙂 Have fun in the snow this weekend!

We also had three more Teachers of the Day!  Thank you to these three Beavers for interesting, thoughtful shares, including some magical pasta, a Darbuka drum, and a special necklace.



Emergent Curriculum and Discussions about MLK

This week we formally launched our Folktales from around the World sub-unit. To encourage the children to start thinking about their place in the world, we started the week with an examination of a world map. During meeting, we unrolled a map and asked the children to share what they know.

Lucia: “I know what maps are for, they are for finding treasure…like jewels.”

Asher: “That’s a map because there is lots of different Islands. I wonder where the United States is because it is a different country?”

Alex: “What is that?

Milo: “That is a compass and it always says south, it goes down. For electronic maps there is something called GPS that is actually an electronic map.”

Ava: “The little orange space is much more smaller than anything else.”

Carmen Belle: “A world map is like all different kinds of countries in different world. W stands for West.”

Cate: “A state is bigger than a country”

Ruby: “We use maps for when we you don’t know where you are going and you look at your map.”

Charlie: “When we go to places like Connecticut and New Jersey my mommy uses a map on her phone so that my daddy doesn’t get lost.”

Elfie: “We live in America”

Emerson: “Has Arjun sent us a new picture?”

Harry: “The ‘N’ means North and that country is New York and then Kansas.”

Jake: “It’s a map that shows you the whole entire world, like the Southwest. Did you know that New York is that big thing on the map? (pointing to a large Russia). I think my dad is from Italian, where is Italian?”

Erica: “Italy is over here and actually, the big orange land mass that you are pointing to Jake is Russia. Russia is a very big country. The state of New York is this small piece of land here. New York City is a city in the state of New York.”

Jalen: “All different countries and states is a map .I think I have the same states on my Ipad.”

Steelo: “Maps are flat”

Tea: “Maps are for knowing where the places is and where they are.”

Vivian: “I don’t know what is that?” (Argentina)

Before break, we began reading several folktales derived from Ghanian and Pacific Northwest Native American cultures. While the children loved the Anansi and the Raven stories, we realized that they did not have the proper schema to enable them to recognize the cultural aspects of these stories and to understand the essence of folklore. While reading Anansi they would ask questions such as, “Is that spider real?” “Did Anansi really trick all of the animals in the jungle?” During a sharing of The Raven, children asked, “Is that really how the sun got in the sky?” “Did those people really have a baby that was a raven?” Responding to this confusion, we decided to back up and craft a few experiences that would allow the children to start to create a shared definition of culture.

We started by examining our life as New Yorkers. We talked about how because we all live in New York City, there are day-to-day experiences that tie us together and shape our culture as New Yorkers. We created a graph about different aspects of city life. On this graph we examined “Homes,” “Transportation” and “Environment.” The Beavers sorted through pictures of homes, modes of transport, and environments from around the world and decided which images they thought belonged on our graph. As they sorted, they shared their observations, “That looks like it could be in Kansas and that one in Minnesota, but not New York,” “This place is not New York, because it has stairs to go down, but not back up and there is mountains,” “That place is not in New York, because there is no water and there is a lot of sand, so it just looks like a dessert,” “This is not New York, because it has too many plants that don’t look like the ones we see in the parks. It looks more like a jungle or something,” “That house is made of sticks and lots of leaves. I’ve never seen one like that in New York City. It must be from a different city in the world.” After some debate we completed our New York City graph and took pause to think about how all of these pictures represent unique aspects of our culture as New Yorkers.

We then asked the children to act as “Culture Detectives” and to examine the pictures in a collection of books, all set in New York, and to find images that served as clues to the reader that this was a book about New York City. Some of the books in this collection were, Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, and The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber. We shared our findings and then discussed how in folktales, the illustrators and authors give clues about the specific culture from which the story is derived. We will use this lens to bring depth to our folklore exploration.

A developmentally appropriate characteristic of four and five year olds is egocentrism. Taking time to discuss people and places different from themselves helps children to broaden their horizons, explore multiple perspectives, build empathy and develop critical thinking skills. Fostering an appreciation for diversity is an imperative step in shaping globally-minded citizens. This work lived on today in our discussions about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During morning meeting we discussed the upcoming holiday, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Several Beavers knew who MLK was and were aware that this coming Monday we would have a day off to remember this great leader. Pearl mentioned during our meeting that MLK was an “activist.” We talked a lot about this notion and what it means to be an activist. We spoke about inequality and segregation, and about how as a country there used to be institutionalized racism or “laws that were unfair to people with dark skin.” We talked about race, specifically the words: black and white. We talked about equality versus equity, equality being equal rights for all and equity being equal opportunity for all.

During this conversation, children were upset to hear how unfairly our country once treated people of color. Jake asked, “If dark people were treated unfairly, why do we have a brown President and he is treated nicely?” We discussed how so much has changed in the last half of a century. We talked about what a huge step forward it was for our country to have an African American President and that this had much to do with the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King. We pointed out that throughout time there have been many laws that have discriminated against all types of people. Harry mentioned, “Yes, like women!” We talked about how this country has never had a woman as a president, but that 2016 is a special year, because for the first time we have two women who are in the running to become president. We highlighted the progress that our country has made, however we discussed how much more work there is to be done. We brought to light how still to this day there are people in the world and people here in this city, that treat others unfairly. We emphasized how in this community we know how important it is to treat all people fairly and to act with a kind heart. We brought the conversation back to the theme of activism and reminded them how important it is to be a change maker – our shared responsibility to speak up for others and fight for change.

Later in the day, we read the book “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier. As we read this book, the Beavers considered the gravity of some of what happened during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the book there were lots of comments about how “unfair” segregation and discrimination were. In the Caldecott winning biography, Rappaport uses poignant quotes of Dr. King’s to capture the essence of this leader – someone who led a movement fighting a battle with “his words, not his fists.” The children were moved by this story.  After sharing this book, we took time to listen to Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech.   The following are some of the thoughts and reflections that your children shared.

In reference to signs that read: WHITES ONLY and segregation…

  • “That’s a very naughty thing to say! – Téa
  • “That’s a put down!” – Asher
  • “My sister is darker than me. But one time, I got a tan.   It’d be like, if they said, ‘your face is spiky, then you can’t go to the store’, that would be very mean. That would be mean to my Dad because his face is very spiky. His face is just like a cactus. -Steelo

On Rosa Parks…

  • “That makes me feel sad!” – Cate

After learning about the death of MLK…

  • “People still have memories of him, they say he was a really good person.” – Jake
  • “Did the person that killed Martin Luther King go in jail or something?” – Milo
  • “Even though someone has different colored skin they can join any country or city.” – Emerson
  • “I think he was a very important guy in the whole entire earth and the whole entire land.” – Téa
  • “I think the person who killed MLK was maybe somebody who didn’t like his speech and believed only white people can do things.” – Steelo
  • “I miss Martin.” – Ava

We were deeply impressed with the way your children were able to absorb and respond to our discussions today. They engaged with open hearts and empathy. We encourage you to continue these conversations over the long weekend. As questions arise, please feel free to use as a resource. We hope enjoy the long weekend and we look forward to being back together on Tuesday!

Teacher of the day!

Happy Birthday to another Beaver! Thanks for sharing delicious cupcakes and a reading of Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger.

emersons bday

Welcome Back!

Welcome back from Winter Break! It is no surprise that your children were enthused and eager to get back into the swing of things at Packer. It was heartwarming to see the smiles and hugs on Monday morning as children greeted their friends and teachers. It was a long break and we really missed our Beaver friends!

The first week of 2016 has been a productive one in the Beavers’ classroom. In keeping with the theme of a fresh start in the new year, we kicked off 2016 with the introduction of several new activities.

This week, we launched weaving.  Weaving is a fine motor activity which helps young children develop manual dexterity and manipulative skills.  By using their hands, children more fully integrate learning experiences.  Weaving builds concentration, while building self-confidence with success and by learning a skill that can, at times, be challenging.  Working through knots, finger cramps and the acquisition of a new patterning skill, your children successfully began their first weaving.  It is a long process that requires children to delay gratification.  We look forward to their hard work and their satisfaction with learning a new skill.

We also began woodworking this week.  We believe it is important to provide children opportunities to acquire skills that require “real” work.  Woodworking is a way for children to become makers, tinkerers and engineers.  Through the creative process of working with real materials, woodworking empowers children, building self-esteem, competence, confidence, responsibility, respect for self and others, and respect for materials and safety.  Additionally, woodworking develops hand-eye coordination, strength and fine-motor control.  As children work with real tools, they develop mathematical thinking, exploring concepts of size, shape, volume, directionality and geometry.  Open-ended materials allow children to acquire engineering skills, hone problem-solving skills  and increase their creativity.

Because woodworking uses real tools, our introduction to this experience focused on safety,   the names of tools and the practical application of using a hammer and nail.  Beginning one-on-one with a teacher, the Beavers began by practicing nailing.  We cautioned the children as they worked, reminding them that because these are real tools, there are real risks involved.  As such, we practiced our technique and stressed the importance of focus while engaged in woodworking.

We also made new lavender scented play dough this week!

We introduced some new puzzles and games. The Beavers enjoyed “Set”, “Jenga”, and are now working on puzzles with upwards of 60 pieces!

We filled our Sensory Table with pom-poms and corks.  With chopsticks, scoopers, cups and egg cartons, the Beavers happily explored this new sensory material.

Another exciting activity that occurred in our classroom this week was the creation of the basketball stadium in our Hollow Blocks and Dramatic Play areas during Choice Time.  It started simply on Monday, as an idea of two friends who agreed to build a basketball court in Hollow Blocks.  It quickly gained momentum, attracting the attention of all of the Beavers, and shortly following the creation of the stadium, friends were approaching these centers to add details.  At the Arts and Crafts center, they created signs for the bathrooms, emergency exits, and the snack bar.  At the Creation Station, they made basketball nets out of reused containers and recycled rug pads.  In Dramatic Play, they set up a snack bar complete with a counter, play dough food, and a microwave (made out of recycled materials, of course).  At Morning Meeting on Wednesday, it was decided that on Friday we would have the “big championship”, in which everyone would get an opportunity to “shoot baskets” in our classroom basketball court using the basketballs we created out of pom-poms.  As each Beaver stood in the court for the great “hoop-off”, their classmates cheered them on.  This week-long, student driven experience is a great example of how emergent studies, whether indicative of greater curricular work or small activities, are the most engaging for young learners.

Here’s a video compilation of some clips from the “big championship” and the “hoop off”, including a singing of the “National Anthem”.