Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School
Dec 30

I want our students to be thinkers.  At this age, children shouldn’t have to regurgitate facts, but rather be given opportunities create their own ideas and discover new possibilities.

 

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Can you find the children who are painting?

I’ll give you a hint, there are two of them!

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The children put paper inside a coffee can.

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Then rolled some bells in paint.

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The tweezers strengthened hand muscles. Close the coffee can and…what can you do with it?

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The children created games with the cans. (This is the only “action” picture I have!) Cans were rolled with partners. Some children shook them to hear if the bells made sounds.  “What if I try this?” Here you can see one being shaken (as she’s talking to her friends) and one being rolled on the floor.  Their eyes lit up when they removed their paintings from the can!

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Dec 07

It’s important for children to pay attention to the world around them, especially things outside that may be taken for granted.  In the fall the colorful, falling leaves are a great learning experience. At this time of year in NJ, evergreens provide the color.

Yes, they’re used as “Christmas trees.” Why?  Because people like to decorate with nature, and evergreens are still “alive.”

This are some of the things we’ve done/are doing with evergreens:

Painting: What effect can you get? Can you create texture? Do all the branches make the same mark?

Some children made copies of their paintings by putting another sheet on top.

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Examining and exploring with tweezers and magnifying glasses.

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Recording observations and thoughts.

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Using pieces of a tree trunk for imaginative play.

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What next?  I’m sure the children will think of something!

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Nov 28

As much as I’ve said I’d NEVER have workbooks in preschool, I’ve learned never to say never.

The reality is, children’s fine motor skills and upper body strength have diminished over the past ten years or so.  Some kindergartens’ expectations have increased.  Pre-Kindergarteners need to be comfortable drawing and writing some letters.  (Pre-K’s, not threes.  While some CAN, it’s still developmentally inappropriate to expect a 3-year-old to write letters!)

We’ve started a good, developmentally appropriate program, Handwriting Without Tears’ Get Set for School.    The program utilizes sticks, (long line, short line, big curve, little curve) play dough, songs and other hands on activities before and while the children write.  The “workbook” does not require children to form letters over and over.  It reinforces what they’ve already created and handled.  It begins with proper pencil grip, using small crayons. Yes there are songs about how to hold a crayon.

Below you can see children working on the correct pencil grip and color by moving their fingers, and not their wrists. Developmentally, children begin to color by moving their entire arm, then their wrists, and eventually must refine it to just moving their fingers.

The alphabet on the previous page goes along with a song on the CD about dogs singing the alphabet!  They are not required to  write those letters yet!

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A big favorite is Mat Man.  The children sing about him and create him cooperatively using the wooden shapes. That follows up with the children drawing their self-portraits. What a difference Mat Man makes!

This is Mat Man at the NAECY (National Association of the Education of Young Children) conference I attended. See the little guinea pig on his shoulder?  That’s the stuffed animal the children voted on for me to take with me!

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This is a Mat Man the children created in the classroom.

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Children need to play now more than ever.  They’re also required to develop academic skills now earlier than ever. What better way to introduce these skill than through play, songs and play dough?

That’s why I attend the national conferences.  *I* am constantly learning. I adapt my strategies to what each class needs to learn, and combine that with what I’ve learned to help them however I can.  There’s nothing like coming back to class reenergized and ready to share and bring new life into our program!

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Nov 17

Ok, yes, that’s a bad pun!  We are still exploring seeds and plant life (among other things, of course!)

The children had planted grass seed and the seeds we took from our pumpkin.  We’ve had some growth! Some pumpkin seeds have grown, others have not. Some grass came in thickly, others a bit sparsely.

On of our goals is to get children to really LOOK at nature and really pay attention to what they see. What are the colors?  What shapes do you see? Are there straight  lines or curves?

The children had the opportunity to look at their grass (and pumpkin sprouts) and observe, touch, and even smell their plants!   The put unifix cubes into “towers” to match how high their plants have grown. “Mine is 13 high!”

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Because grass is pretty straight, the actual drawing of it was pretty simple. One child wanted to color it pink.  Since the goal was to draw and record what they saw, I asked if she saw pink. “No, but I like pink.”  I asked, “How about if you draw a picture of YOURSELF in pink next to your plant?”  Her eyes grew wide, her smile deepened, and she said, “WOW!!! YES!”

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Some delight in squeezing their grass!

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The children then dictated or wrote a description of their plant.

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The finished entry?  “This is a grass. It is amazing.”

 

The children were give the option of cutting the grass (with scissors) if they chose.  The loved it! They cut a little at a time and took much longer than we’d expected!

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What did we do with all of the grass clippings?  We gave it to the guinea pigs and rabbit, of course!

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Oct 21

We have wonderful fields behind our school with mowed pathways surrounded by natural fields.

Our Pre-K class decorated nature journals in which they can draw and write about what they’ve found.  They now have canvas “backpacks” which hold their journals, crayons and magnifying glasses.

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Decorating

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Packing up!

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We’re off!

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The grass is taller than the children!

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Everything’s upside down!

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They’re ready to run back up the hill and go back to school!

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Oct 18

Do you want your child to ace a college or job interview?  The time to start preparing him/her is now while they’re in preschool!

No, I’m not crazy, and I’m not talking about Common Core.

In an interview, the person needs to be confident, well-spoken, polite, able to communicate effectively, make eye contact and carry on a two way conversation.

Interviewers expect potential employees to connect to others in a productive manner. In order to do that, one must be able to express their ideas and abilities effectively.  Can  they problem solve? Are they creative? Can they think for themselves? Are they team players?

My oldest son was accepted on Immediate Decision Day in college not based on his grades, but for his passion for history.  He was able to communicate his knowledge and present it in a unique, creative way that impressed the interviewers.

If you wait until they’re older and “prep” them on interview skills, it will be new and may feel awkward. However, you can nurture these skills in preschool so that it so natural to them, they won’t have to think about it when the time comes.

How do you prep preschoolers?

Let them play.

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The very first thing a preschooler needs to learn are social skills.  Children need to learn to communicate their wants and needs. They cannot become little dictators, demanding their own way. (Well, actually they CAN, if the adults in their lives unknowingly encourage that behavior!)  By playing with others their own age, they learn that grabbing a truck out of another’s hands may not be the best decision.  They see the results of their actions. (another’s tears.) Adults help to guide them to communicate effectively and develop empathy.  “Look at Johnny, how do you think he’s feeling? I see two people who want the truck,  what do you think we could do about it?”

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Did you notice I didn’t use the word “share?”  To preschoolers, sharing means, “You have it, I want it, give it to me NOW!)” How would YOU like it if you were in the middle of a good book and your friends yells “SHARE!”  Would YOU want to hand it over right away?”  You can apply that to your new TV, game, car…. at school we encourage the children to say, “I’m not done with it yet, I’ll give it to you when I’m done.”

When playing, the children have to problem solve to come up with a solution.

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Dramatic play promotes idea sharing, communication, and compromise.  “I’ll be Batman and you be the bad guy!”  Now the “bad guy” can break down into tears because s/he doesn’t WANT to be the bad guy, hit Batman, or s/he can communicate what s/he wants.

What if THREE girls want to be Elsa? While they may simultaneously try to freeze each other, they’ll need to figure out a compromise.

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Children need to learn to deal with difficult peers, or ones that have different ideas. (Just like any workplace!) Yes, they may melt down, say or do hurtful things.  That’s were the adults in their lives help them to recognize what they’re feeling and help them come up with different strategies.

The important thing here is that the adults don’t actively direct play, but they step in and help the children identify the problem and encourage them to come up with solutions.

Communicating, problem solving, carrying on conversations. Confidence. Resiliency.

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What about those first impressions on the interview?  What can you do at home? Have them say “please” and “thank you.”  I’ve seen some articles where parents think it’s old fashioned and unfair to children to make them say please and thank you.  It’s not unfair, it’s polite. It’s kind. It shows respect for others. This is reinforced when they play. Children who are kind are more fun to play with than those who aren’t!

When they’re on a playdate, have them look the other parent IN THE EYE and say, “Thank you for inviting me.”   As they leave, teach them to do the same.  “Thanks, I really had fun.”

When you have company at home, teach them to stop what they’re doing, and greet the guests.  Similarly, they should come and say good-bye when they leave.

Remember, children are not born knowing these things. They need adults to guide them. These reminders should all be gentle and fun.

Why am I “preaching” these things?  As a mother of sons who are 27, 24, and 20, I’ve done all of the above. I’ve seen the results. (I was also an Early Childhood major in college and a teacher for over 30 years, but nothing compares to parenting and seeing the effects of your efforts!)

Successful interviewing skills start at home (common courtesy/manners) and at preschool (playing in a large group.) Really, if you think about it, it’s really easy to encourage alphabet  and number play at home, but how often do you have 17 other children in your house?

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I haven’t even begun to discuss the other benefits of play such as math, pre-reading, writing, brain development, etc.

For now, let your children play. Choose a school that lets your child play.  Understand that they are not JUST playing.  They are preparing for life.

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*Ironically, just after I finished writing this, my husband emailed me this link from the October 16, 2015 NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/upshot/how-the-modern-workplace-has-become-more-like-preschool.html

 

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Sep 29

I have been teaching for over 30 years, and a parent for over 27 years.  I’ve seen the “best” way to educate children change several times.  The past few years  I’ve seen academic pressure put on children like never before.

Something people forget: Four year olds were only born 48 months ago.  For approximately 24 of those months, they didn’t speak in complete sentences. How can anyone insist that they should be reading and writing only 24 months later or even 36 months later?  Even worse, I’ve seen pressure for three year olds to read and write their names!  (Yes, some children can.  However, some children can’t read comfortably until second grade, then they excel!)

The alphabet and numerals are tools we use to share information and ideas.  Before a child can share or interpret information, they have to experience life! They must touch, explore, observe, smell, and experiment with  the world around them! They need to share information verbally before they can write about it!

Here is a good example of an appropriate kindergarten readiness activity:

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Ok, I know what  you may be thinking: How can this be kindergarten readiness? They’re playing outside!

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This is a group of 3-5 year olds, many of them just met three weeks ago. Some of the children decided to build a nest on the ground.  Others wanted  a campfire.  After some discussion (and without adult intervention,) they decided to build a nest.

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Dried pine needles were piled up.


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Everyone pitched in. The number of children around the tree varied. They talked, gave suggestions,  argued, and came to a consensus.

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This big stick is for the birds to perch on.  (Not everyone agreed with the stick placement. Some children wanted it out.  Others wanted it in.  There was a lot of discussion (and disagreements!) about where that stick should be.)

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They agreed that it needed to be “sprinkled with decorations.”

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The result?  A very tall, well decorated nest made cooperatively!  Although it might be a sparrow’s nest… or a bald eagle’s.  Or maybe they’ll share!

Now, just HOW is this kindergarten readiness?  The children needed to communicate effectively, negotiate, and share information, opinions, and  responsibilities. (Many adults have a difficulty with this, and these are 3-5 year olds!)

Let’s look at the New Jersey State Department of Education Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards 2014 

http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/guide/standards.pdf

Here are the standards that were met:

 There are five preschool standards for social/emotional development:

Standard 0.1: Children demonstrate self-confidence.

Standard 0.2: Children demonstrate self-direction.

Standard 0.3: Children identify and express feelings.

Standard 0.4: Children exhibit positive interactions with other children and adults.

Standard 0.5: Children exhibit pro-social behaviors

Speaking and Listening

Preschool Standards

Participate in conversations and interactions with peers and adults individually and in small and large groups.

  1. a)  Follow-agreed upon rules for discussions during group interactions.
  2. b)  Continue a conversation through several back and forth exchanges.

Language

Begin to understand the conventions of standard English grammar when speaking during interactions and activities.

b) Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.
c) Form regular plural nouns.
d) Understand and use question words (e.g.,who, what, where, when, why, how).

e)Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., to, from, in, out, on, off, for, by, with).

f) Begin to speak in complete sentences.

g) Understands and can follow simple multi-step directions.

There are four preschool standards for approaches to learning:

Standard 9.1  Children demonstrate initiative, engagement, and persistence.

Standard 9.2 Children show creativity and imagination.

Standard 9.3 Children identify and solve problems.

Standard 9.4 Children apply what they have learned to new situations.

Math:

Respond to and use positional words (e.g., in, under, between, down, behind).

Science:

Standard 5.1:  Children develop inquiry skills.

SOCIAL STUDIES, FAMILY, AND LIFE SKILLS 

Standard 6.2: Children become contributing members of the classroom community.

 

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“Just” playing?  Absolutely not!

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Sep 24

 

“There’s no place like RHCNS! There’s a warmth and sense of family that makes it different from other places. It’s not daycare, it’s a second home for your child- where they feel welcome and like a valuable part of a larger community.  They learn how to be important and kind- and ABC’s!!! It’s a perfect way to introduce a child to the idea of “school” where they can grow at their own pace and know that they are loved.”
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Sep 11

This is the first year I’m offering home visits for all new students before school starts.  I’ve done some before, but only if the child REALLY needed it!

I am having such fun!

I’ve learned about T-Rex, Star Wars and lightsabers.

Dinosaurs and trains.

Minnie and Mickey Mouse, and Doc McStuffins.

I’ve been served coffee, cookies, mint and lavender ice cream, and a felt taco.

I’ve watched children jump and twirl while talking to me. I’ve been introduced to very important parts of their lives.  I’ve even been invited to a sleep over!  (While I was flattered to get the offer, I said that I thought Mr. Linden might miss me, but I’d love to have a pretend sleepover in school!)

I even had one little guy show me a two inch stop sign from his train set, and said, “Stop!”  As I was leaving, he put it in front of the front door.  I asked, “Did you put the stop sign there to keep me from leaving?” He gave me a big smile, and said, “Yes!”

Home visits will definitely be a regular start to our school year from now on!  Hurry, Wednesday, I can’t wait for school to start!

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Hi Thomas!

 

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“A fashion show with boats!”

 

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“Val and Hug are holding hands!”

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Aug 24

First of all, we’ve had to say a fond farewell or our wonderful assistant, Mrs. Lisa Stock.  She and her family have moved to Colorado.  She will be missed!

Fortunately, we have another former helping parent (we really like this place, some of us come back for more!) Randi Kydonieus will be joining us this year!

Mrs. Randi Kydonieus (Assistant Teacher) received her BA in Elementary Education from Rowan University. After college, Randi taught kindergarten for two years at Kiddie Academy in Freehold, NJ. She then began working at Creative Learning Center, a private school in Shrewsbury, NJ. She remained there for the next 9 years where she taught preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and was the Assistant Director of the learning center. After giving birth to her first child, she decided to stay home and raise her children. Both of Randi’s children attended RHCNS and she was able to work in the classroom then, as helping parent. Now that both of her children are in elementary school full time, she has decided to come back to the RHCNS classroom, this time as an Assistant Teacher. She adores children, the way their minds work, and how enamored they become with learning about the world around them. Her passion and excitement for what she does is contagious!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also new for this year: Bi-monthly trips to Mary Jacobs Library! The library is just a short walk for us, and since all enrolled families are eligible for library membership, this will be a wonderful opportunity for the children to get even more exposure to books, take out their own books, and even at times have story time with a librarian!

We are reaching out to others in the community in addition to the firefighters, rescue squad and State Police officers.  I can’t reveal the plans yet, but stay tuned!

One of the amazing things about this area in which we live, there are so many wonderful opportunities for children to learn about their world with first hand experiences!  We like to take advantage of what’s available to us. The best part?  Parents have input!  Do you have an idea for us?  Let’s hear it! Do you have a special job or talent?  When my son attended, there was a dad who made prosthetic arms and legs, and brought them in to show the children!

Family, Community, and Exploration.  That’s Rocky Hill Co-op!

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