Thursday, March 29, 2012

Preschool: An Animal Map Game

When you're a preschooler, the joy of joys (one of many, really; kids are enthusiastic) is getting new toys.  And that is just what happened in our room this week.  There were of course the inevitable meltdowns about sharing, which is always a challenge when we're excited, but for the most part I was proud of how well our class enjoyed the new toys together.

On the day of delivery, we played a game of my own invention that I've been wanting to do for ages.  Our Circle Time rug has a large map of the continents and oceans, hence teaching the class "The Continents of the World" song during Circle.  All our previous animals for our animals center were dinosaurs and African animals: giraffes, zebras, wild cats, elephants, etc.  I requested an order of new ones: farm animals and North American forest animals, and when they were delivered, we could play our game.

After our usual Circle Time routine, I invited the children one at a time to choose one animal from the shelves.  When they brought it back, I asked them what animal they had chosen and where they thought their animal lived.  It allowed us to review the continents, remind ourselves which continent we live on, and familiarize ourselves with our new animals.  It also prompted a nice discussion of which animals we have seen, and where.  

One student chose a dinosaur; I had anticipated more would do that, but they were probably too excited about the new animals to chose an old favorite.  It may have also been because the student who did choose one didn't get to put it on the map, since dinosaurs are (as the class knows) extinct.  I meant this to be a teaching moment, but I guess I didn't chose a special enough alternative spot for the dinosaur to go (just off the Circle rug), because the student got upset.  That was a good lesson for me, so maybe it was a teaching moment after all.

We have two cows in our farm animals set, so I suggested this one might be a Brahman: 

With a little more research, I think it looks more like a Brangus cow, which is a cross between a Brahman and an Angus.  It was nice to have an animal that could feasibly be from Asia, though, so maybe we can continue to call it a Brahman.  We'll discuss it next time we play.

One last creative categorization was the goat:

When one of my little friends set the goat so confidently down in Europe, I thought of Heidi and gave my assent.  

Only one of our animals was unidentified:

That was where the game ended; I told the class I would look up the unknown animal and we could continue the game another time.  My best guess is a Pronghorn Antelope, based on the horns.


With these facts, we are ready to start play again!

Here's a Kid Quote to leave you with a smile:
Four-year-old: "I had a dream that I was with my mom in the jungle and I was so handsome with a hook and I used the hook to get the crocodiles out of the TV so they wouldn't hurt anybody!!!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

English Language Tutoring

Preschool is what I do eight hours per day, but it is not the only teaching I do during the week.  Two days a week, I visit a family who is in the U.S. temporarily, while the father is visiting a local university.  This family is in the country for about a year, and prior to this I worked with another family who was in the country for a similar amount of time for a similar reason.  I have never advertised my tutoring services, and have been recommended only by word of mouth.  I am proud of that fact, as this week I am about to start working with my third family in two years.  I can't pretend that the only thing I want to do when I leave work in the evening is eat in the car on my way to another job, but I love my tutoring.  I have wonderful relationships with my students, and the progress they make is so rewarding.  And since I am considering this kind of instruction as a career, I want to get as much experience in the field as I can fit into my schedule.

Since I am working with my tutees (as we called them in the Writing Center in college) on English language, we do a lot of reading.  I love books for introducing vocabulary and idioms in an engaging way, as well as identifying weak areas in pronunciation.

Particularly for initial assessment, I like to pick up wordless picture books from the local library.  Picture books with no words, like The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, allow me to assess children's vocabulary and spontaneous syntactic structures since they are forced to describe what they see in their own words.  In some cases, I can also observe the quality of narrative and structures that make a story more interesting and easy-to-follow for the audience, such as added dialogue or "and then" links.

In addition to reading, I play games with my students.  I love Guess Who? for tutoring because it works with questions, which are hard to illicit normally.  Since questions are a more complex structure, requiring syntactic movement, all of my students thus far have needed help in this area.  Guess Who? is a fun way to illicit questions, and since it is a slow-paced game, I can easily stop for corrections, even with my more excitable students.  I have lots of other games I like to use, among which is Twenty Questions for Kids, though it requires a relatively advanced vocabulary.  I've found any game that is new to the tutee is useful, as they have to listen to or read and comprehend possibly complex directions.

For records, I keep vocabulary lists and notes about areas to return to later.  I've recently started keeping pronunciation lists as well, though I have not found a method that I like yet for reviewing these.  So far we have only copied our pronunciation words to flashcards and written a creative sentence containing the focus word, but I find flashcards so boring, I have a hard time believing students can benefit much.

This week I begin work with a new family.  In my next Tutoring post, I will write about my initial assessment techniques and the success or struggle therein.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I am a preschool teacher and part-time English Language tutor.  This is my living portfolio; a forum for documenting and facilitating my growth as a young teacher.

In October 2011, I came to my preschool classroom as the newest of three co-teachers in an established room in an arts-based child care center.  Having worked in a younger classroom in the same center for a year beforehand, I already knew and loved the children and two other full-time teachers.  Many of the children are students I had in my class previously, when they were younger, and my co-teachers and I enjoy a great dynamic; our differing styles compliment each other well.  Ours is a collaborative classroom, with no lead teacher or authority ranking; this blog documents my efforts and projects as my personal portfolio, but that is not meant to diminish the work of my co-teachers.

Though I am the most recent addition to the classroom, my co-teachers have made me very welcome and I've settled into my own.  My proudest edition to the classroom has been making circle time a more established routine.  We begin every morning and afternoon (post-nap) by singing "Everybody Have a Seat" (hence my URL) which the children now recognize as a signal to clean up and gather for reading library books as a group.  I made a poster-board calendar with velcro dates and months, so we sing a days-of-the-week song everyday, discuss the date and sometimes count "in our special calendar way" (e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), and have recently added a months-of-the-year song.  I printed Dr. Jean's weather wheel, and we sing her "What Will the Weather Person Say" Song.  The kids love being the Weather Person, looking out the window and announcing the day's weather. Adorably, the class has somehow concluded that whatever the weather person says will be the real weather for the day, regardless of how it actually looks outside.  The class also learned a song for the continents at Circle and is still working on a Bingo-style song for vowels.

I love teaching through music, especially with children at such a wiggly stage.  One of my favorite songs to sing is Dr. Jean's "Seven Little Letters,", though I modified it to be "Twenty-six Letters," so we can sing the song as long as the moment calls for.  We also love Frank Leto's Colors song, especially to keep ourselves quite while waiting in the hall for the bathroom.  I learned this song at a Montessori school I worked in during college, and there we also signed the colors as we sang.  I recently introduced the sign language alphabet to our Circle Time rotation, and I found this video for signing the colors, so I am excited to soon teach the signs for the colors we use in the song.

My next post will give a foundation of the work I do as an English language tutor.

The question I hope to answer for myself here is: what next?  I am interested in returning to school for a master's in Early Childhood Education.  I have a master's in linguistics, so I am considering non-degree teacher certification.  I am also researching a master's in English for Speakers of Other Languages.  I am optimistic that with a purposeful exploration of my current work, I can discover the work that will best fulfill me in the future.