Monday, August 13, 2012

New School Materials

Some of our awesome school materials
Every good teacher gets super excited to get new school materials and today we went to the local market to purchase some of our Flood Garden learning tools.  We use everyday tools to teach the children to teach them life skills.  We got some traditional trays, and many materials that will help develop pre-writing muscles and encourage the children to care for their environment, the garden and also their communities.  Our teachers have great plans to use these materials and they are so very excited for the beginning of term in September when they can really try this out.
This week, we have inviting a small group of children to come during the school break so that we can test some of our new lessons.  We are very thankful and very excited and cannot wait to tell you about our progress.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Discipline vs Punishment

Teacher Orientation Workshop 

Discipline v Punishment 1

in attendance: Tr Jacky and Tr Nickson

Introduction: Mystery Bag.  I demonstrated how teachers can use the mystery bag to start circle time
Ppt:  Discipline vs. Punishment

  • We also reviewed: why understand Developmental Stages

Videos: I Tried and I Made it (TED Video The Boy Who Tamed the Wind), Intro to a Montessori Classroom
Discussion: Circle Time
Reading Materials: Videos and Circle time

Observation:  Teachers seemed more engaged today.  They even brought paper and pencil to take notes.  The Presentation proved a bit awkward since the teachers wanted to write every word I said in their notes.

 Nickson was very interested in the Montessori Classroom demo video.  He was especially fascinated by the children's ability to learn alone without misbehaving.
Both Teacher Jacky and Tr Nickson were concerned as to how to make the children at MDFT behave like the children in that video. How can we teach the children to think creatively and practically like The Boy Who Tamed the Wind?"

We did have a couple of internet glitches so we lost about 45min. waiting for the wifi to return.  I did not get to do an end of workshop review and conclusion because of the tech glitches and I did not get to remind them to ready the required reading.  Hopefully they will visit the facebook page to get the information there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Outdoor Individual Learning Station

Preparing the outdoor learning stations is a lot of fun because there are so many possibilities.  My objective for this post if for the teacher to get an idea of what an outdoor station can look like.  Remember that young children learn very well outside and when outside, they learn best through play rather than through an organized lesson.  
This child's apron is made of old Kanga fabrics

When children learn outside, it is OK for them to get wet, muddy and dirty.  In a traditional school setting, it is important for the child to keep a clean uniform but true learning is sometimes messy so we will put that notion aside for a while.  When learning outdoors, children should wear an apron and when playing with water or dirt, maybe we should consider allowing the kids to simply wear their swimming costume.  I know, I know, it sounds very daring but I think there will be less clean up if the child is taught how to dry up, and how to hang up her wet swimming costume after they are done playing.

The teacher must prepare the outdoor learning station each day ( we will talk about Teacher Helpers and The Buddy System in later posts).  Just like in the classroom, the outdoor learning stations should be age appropriate, safe and engaging.  It should encourage the child to play and invent games as they go.

Here is a really fun sample outdoor learning station:

Sink the Boat

For the Sink the Boat learning station, you will need:

Sink the Boat Learning Station

  1. a medium plastic bucket or bowl
  2. two small bowls (one empty and one with rocks)
  3. ten garden rocks (since the child would have learned how to count to 10)
  4. one small towel -- for drying 
  5. a light tray to carry all the materials
  6. water to fill the bowl
First the child is taught to carefully place the drying towel to the side for when he is finished playing.  Then he is taught to dry all the items (tray, bowls and rocks) and return them in the same condition and position as in the picture.

After the child learns how to return these learning materials to the same condition by themselves then they are ready to play/learn (this will be covered in the Etiquette Lessons that we will prepare for the students)
Float the 'Boat' in the Water
First the teacher, or the teacher's helper or buddy, fill up the medium bowl with water.  Then the child floats one of the small bowls "or boat" in the water.  

Then the teacher asks, "how many rocks do you need to sink the boat?".  The child can guess how many. This is pretty fun because if there are more than one child doing this activity, the game quickly becomes pretty hysterical.

One the child has registered his guess, he can begin placing rocks from the rock bowl into the floating bowl while counting them.

How many rocks does it take to sink the boat?
After the boat sinks, the child will want to do this again, again and again.  Soon, he will want to see how many rocks he can try to fit in the boat before it sinks. Children will often begin to find other items in the garden that they can put in the floating bowl, "how many sticks does it take to sink the boat?" or "How many leaves?", etc. If two children are at this same learning station together, it is also fun to float the two small bowls and see whose boat stays afloat longer.  

This activity will slowly progress into splashing, swirling the water, sinking the boat by tossing the rocks into the boat rather than carefully placing it in the boat.  The water will fill up with mud, leaves, grass, bugs and many interesting things that the child will try to float and sink

Without even know it, the child has just learned the scientific process.  Scientists begin an experiment by asking a question "What? or How? or Why?" and then they do experiments until they get the answer they need.  In this activity, the student will practice counting to 10 but also learn advanced scientific concepts such as probability, prediction and surface tension.  

To make the activity more challenging as the child is able to write numbers, this learning station can also include a log or chart so that the child can log his results.  We can also introduce boats of different size surfaces to really delve into the concept of surface tension.

After the student is finished with this activity, he is fully expected to pour out the water (maybe even water the plants with it) dry the bowls, the tray and his hands with the towel and put the learning station back where he found it.

Please take the time to write comments and questions below this and every post in this blog.

A Glance at the Classroom Individual Learning Station

What is an Individual Learning Station?

The Individual Learning Station is a space where a child can learn by herself.  This is a very important step in the learning process because we aim to raise children who will value themselves and their opinions. When a child learns to understand a concept by themselves, her ability to trust herself and her instincts grows. 

Individual learning generally happens after the teacher has presented a concept during circle time. The student then scatter and go to different learning stations (I will post 'how to supervise individual learning stations' in a later post). 

Creating an Individual Learning Station (for indoor spaces)

Inexpensive learning mats for the learning stations
A wonderful way of creating individual learning station in small spaces is to use small inexpensive mats or small carpets.  The mats can be made of inexpensive mat or can be store bought.  However, they should be soft and comfortable for the child to kneel, lay down or sit on.  The mats can be rolled up and stored in a box or basket in a corner of the classroom.

Where ever the mat is laid becomes the learning station. 

As part of learning about responsibility, independence and cooperation,  children should be taught the following things about these mats:
  1. An unrolled mat on the floor signifies individual space and no child is allowed to enter that space (or step on the mat) while another child (or group of children are using a specific mat)
  2. The children must unroll the mats by themselves when they want to/need to use them and must learn to roll the mats and put them away when they are finished (you will need to prepare a separate lesson on how to use and care for the learning mats) --This concept is similar to the Montessori mat.

How it Works

So, first the child gets a rolled mat from storage (box or basket) and chooses a spot on the floor.  The children will be taught about Mat Etiquette and learn to use the mats before they can use any of the learning stations.  This will be an important lesson because they will use the same mat etiquette throughout their learning in the Flood Garden model. Then, the child gathers the learning materials they need to use and places them on the mat.

Before I present how to prepare a learning station, I want to show you this video.  A portion of the Flood Garden learning model (especially the indoor model) is based on the philosophy of Maria Montessori.  The Montessori curriculum is very beautiful but also very expensive (as you will see in the video). However, there are many things that we can learn from this philosophy and from that create our own.

NOTE ABOUT THE VIDEO: The viewing of this video is intended to show the peaceful and natural culture of a Montessori style classroom.  The video contains scenes of western style Montessori classroom. It is not our goal to achieve the glamour of these classrooms because of the cost. However, we can learn and be inspired to make our own version with the many resources that we already have.  I am very excited to create our own beautiful learning spaces to fit the needs of our own students in the Flood Garden learning model.

Planning Individual learning activities can be a bit daunting at first because the teacher(s) must make each tool by hand.  However, it is a wonderful chance to first observe our students and then create materials that we know will work for them. The learning tools are easy to make and students can use them many, many times before they need to be replaced. 

One of the advantages of making the learning tools and materials ourselves is that if they break or get lost, we can simply make them again.  We do not have to wait for anyone to replace it for us or mourn the loss of a valuable learning tool for long.

The individual learning station is simply a place where the student will use a prepared set of learning materials and a simple set of instructions to learn about, practice and manipulate objects that will help him better understand specific academic concepts through play.  

Counting Wheel and Numbered Clothes Peg Box
Here are some really exciting examples:

The Counting Wheel (Math)

Math Wheel activity completed
The pictures to the left show a counting activity. It is a counting wheel. The student has been presented with the concepts of numbers and the counting dots, for example, during circle time. In this activity, the student rolls out a mat unto the floor, then retrieves the counting wheel activity and places it on the mat.

Then she works to match the each dotted wedge to the correct numbered cloth peg.  The student can repeat this activity and any combination that they would like to do with these tools until they are done.  

The teacher can see that the student understands what each number on the cloth peg means when the student matches each peg to the correct number of dots. 

If the teacher makes 2-3 counting wheel sets, then 2 or 3 children can use them; each on a separate learning mat.

This counting wheel is made simply of paper and then colored dots.  The dots can be cut out of colored paper, leaves from the Flood Garden or simply drawn unto the paper by the teacher.  A bag of clothes peg is very inexpensive.  The clothes pegs are numbered 1-10 using a black marker.

The Counting Tray

Counting Tray and Numbers 1-6
Counting Tray and Numbers 7-10

More complex math concepts using the counting tray
The Counting Tray has the following objects:
  • a small box of beads, stones or seeds (it is more beautiful if they have great colors but it is not important)
  • numbered cards from 1-10
  • a small inexpensive tray to carry the bead box and the numbered cards together.
You can determine by the pictures to the right what how the counting tray works.  After the child has  been introduced to the concept of numbers and maybe has even worked with the counting wheel, she can now play/learn in this learning station.  

She can match the printed numbers to the number of beads.  As the student masters the concept of counting and the number character, the teacher can then add a learning station that has more complex mathematical concepts using the counting tray.

The counting tray is super easy to make and you can see that the teacher can create many different activities using the counting beads and a simple piece of paper.

This activity can also be repeated in the Flood Garden, using the many beautiful resources found there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Introduction to Group Learning Time

This image illustrates the first two components of the Flood Garden learning model.  It is based loosely on some aspects of the Montessori model, the Emergent Curriculum model (Jones and Nimmo, 1994) and a Project-based learning model

When planning lessons for the Flood Garden model, the teacher must first consider the learning environment.  The learning environment must have class time and space for group learning.  The group learning time can be called Circle Time because the children sit in a circle to learn. 

During the circle time, the teacher has a chance to gather the children around her and challenge all the students with a compelling question or concept that will be carried across other learning areas (math, science, reading, writing, movement, arts, music and life skills).  They can also use this time to read a meaningful book to all the children, explain the unit goals, teach a song and/or use a variety of multi-sensory techniques to create and excite the students and encourage them to become more aware.  Circle time is also a wonderful way to verbally assess how the group is learning as a whole.

Circle Time

The teacher must also prepare a space for individual learning time (2).  The classroom or the Flood Garden can be divided into small areas in which students can learn by themselves or in small groups of 2 or three. The activities in the individual learning areas are meant to help the child discover and learn new things by themselves (example: learn more about the topic just presented by the teacher during circle time), practice what he is learning and manipulate objects that help reinforce what he is learning.

The teacher may want to divide the space in a way that allows students that are working independently to do so without interruptions or distractions.  The indoor classroom can be used for individual learning time and the outdoor Flood Garden classroom and spaces can be used for team work, group activities and research.

Remember that everyone learns in different ways so there more ways the teacher presents a specific concept the better chance she has to reach every child.

(Next Post: A first glance at an Individual Learning Station)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Understanding the Learning Process

This is a short explanation of the learning process that we will be using in the Flood Garden.  It is a process that takes that combines some of the best proven learning methods which I have customized for the Flood Garden.  This method will use your already great methods of childcare and teaching and enhance them with the addition of a few new ideas, a few new learning tools and new approaches to learning.
This image displays the learning goals we are trying  to achieve.  Our learning environment should foster many opportunities for the child to discover through awareness, learn content to increase his knowledge and be given the skills to define their attitude and give them motivation.  Only when surrounded by opportunity will the child understand how to see, seize and/or create opportunities in his environment.

Preparing a lesson that includes the Flood Garden can be challenging.  It requires a solid understanding of the learning process.  It also requires a clear vision and a firm structure.  The lessons must include thoughtful results (outcomes), performance  evaluations (assessments), and authentic learning experiences.
The goal of every unit is to provide opportunities for the student  to learn to change his  behavior and learn new habits. Behavior is a temporary modification of one’s actions but habits are a lifetime change. 
In traditional lessons, knowledge is imposed through repetition. Attitude and motivation are enforced through discipline and punishment.  Awareness is limited to the teacher’s ability to inspire the student and skills are measured on paper and pencil tests. 
In a Flood Garden lesson,  the student will have achieved our intended purpose for each lesson when he gains awareness of the lesson objective, he gains enough knowledge to want to learn more (attitude), he obtains the motivation to act and the skills to put what he has learned into action.  When a child understands that he has the ability to take action, he is able to monitor his own behavior and it is easier for him to learn and form positive habits.

 A Simple Path  to the Formation of Positive Habits.

This image is meant to illustrate the learning process in the Flood Garden model.  Because we begin with the End of the lesson or the Unit in mind, the student is aware the purpose of a lesson which helps him understand the meaning of what he is learning.  It not only becomes much easier for him to retain the information and apply the knowledge more skillfully, but also helps him feel more motivated to achieve. 

The goal of learning is to give a person a set of positive habits that allow them to see, seize and/or create the opportunities that life offers and help establish a good quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities.  We want teach our students good habit patterns right from the very beginning. 

A large part of developing good habits in a child is providing that child with environmentally and age appropriate learning tools in each learning station.  If the learning station is too easy, the child will grow bored and lose interest.  Loosing interest in learning might lead to the child destroying the tools or cause them to engage in other negative behavior.  Similarly, if the learning station is too difficult, the child might get discouraged and also lose interest.

Teachers that fail to understand this simple fact or lack the resources to provide the appropriate learning tools must often deal with many discipline problems in their classroom.  In many schools, the children's misbehavior is seldom interpreted reason to revisit the class curriculum and course tools.  Children often suffer at the hands of well meaning but frustrated educators who are themselves victims of a system that forces the students to fit the curriculum rather than provide a curriculum that fits the students.  It is, therefore important that the Flood Garden teacher understands the learning process and has the skills to create learning materials to fit that process.

The Flood Garden is therefore a place where children can learn from knowledgeable teachers who thoughtfully provide students’ minds with thought provoking and age appropriate experiences.  Our goal is to is to stimulate the students’ curiosity and encourage them to be active learners now and life long learners in the future.  Because we do not know what the future holds, our aim is to provide the children with minds that are open and flexible as well as with the ability to problem solve and view challenges from many angles.

Preschool students are fascinating.  Almost everything in life interest them and they spend much of their time asking why or questioning their surroundings.  This is why we must use things in their environment to teach the children and allow them to manipulate that environment so they can find the answers for themselves.  Children love to explore with their hands and their senses and teachers must be the facilitators of this natural learning process

A good teacher will spend much time observing the behavior of her students and planning lessons and activities that make the connection between what the students are interested in and the focus of her lessons.

Although the Flood Garden model encourages the teacher to allow students to develop at their own pace, the teacher must also be equipped with a simple developmental rubric that will serve as milestones to a child’s progress. These charts should never be used to punish or pressure a child’s progress but a way to establish developmentally appropriate lessons and activities.

The following information is meant to serve as a guide for the teacher to create his own developmental chart specially customized to reflect what his students will need to succeed in their community.  For example, a child that lives in a community where there is a system of rules and  laws to help a child get from home to school safely (eg. school busses, road crossing guards, parent patrols, etc...) will be prepared differently by his teacher than children from communities that do not have similar accommodations.

This section will cover the cognitive, language, social/emotional and motor development.

The Learning Development of 2-3 year olds.

The Cognitive Development

The Cognitive Development is the growth of a person’s ability to think, understand and reason.

A cognitive development observation chart can help understand  the development of the learning structures and systems in the brain that begins at birth and continues through adulthood. These include the formation of thought processes such as memory, problem solving, exploration of objects, the ability to understand concept, etc.