"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Level: Questions that Promote Problem Solving

As we continued our construction unit we began exploring the concept of things being level and balanced.

Mr. Tyler, a former preschool parent and builder visited and showed us all the different sizes of levels he uses in his job. As he showed each level, he explained what type and size of items for which he would use each one. He explained how you look between the two lines to see if the air bubble is centered.

He passed several levels around so the children could manipulate them and see the movement of the air bubble.

Then we put the new knowledge into action. Mr. Tyler set up some boards and placed the level on each of them. The children had the opportunity to observe it up close and make a determination if the board was level or not. If it wasn't, they directed him as to what they thought he should do to make it level.

Around this time I was pinning items to Pinterest and discovered Deborah from Teach Preschool's post from almost a year ago about exploring balance. We decided to set up some of our own investigations.

Some of the set-ups were balanced, others weren't. The children were encouraged to move the items around and try to achieve balance.

It was interesting to see the items and the way they moved them, stacking and re-stacking trying to make them level.

Of course, you had to get down on the level of the items and look closely to see if your goal was achieved.

Not only were we exploring measurement and balance concepts, but we wanted to pursue it further through literacy and to encourage problem solving thinking. Deborah's post recommended the book Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh. I love her book, Mouse Count, so I was eager to share this book with the children, as well. Little did I know just how amazing this book would be and the deep thought process it would promote.

The story begins with two little mice that use a long stick balancing on a rock to create a teeter-totter for themselves. Just as they are reveling in their victory, more friends decide to join them. With each new addition the balance is shifted and they have to figure out how to restore it. I was asking things like, "What could they do to get it to balance again? Is there a way everyone can join in the fun?" The children were brainstorming and predicting the result that would happen for each scenario presented. We were also discussing how many animals were on the teeter-totter. As we counted and/or the children could state the totals without counting, we went further stating how many were on each side and doing the addition to match it.

Even as the bird joins the fun, the children had to determine, "Is there a way for all of the animals to be on there and it balance? Why did it work for the bird to be on one side and all the others animals to be on the other side?" It brought up additional conversation about not only the number of equal items sometimes balancing, but the weight of the items mattering.

Then came the biggest dilemma, the stick breaks. "Is there a way to make the teeter-totter work again?" The interactions were priceless. As one child suggested tape or glue, others would reason why that wouldn't work. 

Eventually, one child came up with the solution that the mice choose to do. Such amazing conversation took place during the story. There was problem solving, predicting, ideas shared and then revisions to the ideas, often by the same child that shared the initial idea. Of course, after the group-time I stated that I wish we had set up the iPad to record the activity, but alas, we hadn't. To that end, that special time will live on in my memory and hopefully, in theirs, as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Preschool Construction: Measuring Up

We've been working on a construction unit lately. This is always a hit with the kids and one I enjoy, as well. We always put out construction tools, talk about safety (helmets and goggles), and lots of building materials, but this time I really wanted to put an emphasis on the importance of measuring.

One of the first things we did to embark on this endeavor was discussing blueprints and the use of drawing lines. I put out several rulers, paper, and pencils just to see what they would do with them. We discussed holding the ruler in place to make the lines. 

Some children drew houses and buildings, while others simply worked on drawing lines.

We then had Mr. Tyler, a former preschool parent and builder pay us a visit. He shared lots of his tools, but did a huge emphasis on the importance of measuring and showed some of the tools he uses to do so.

I think they could have listened to him all day.

We then set up a provocation for measuring. I placed rulers and measuring tapes on the table with some everyday items for them to explore.

Lots of exploring began to take place. After a bit we began discussing how to place the metal part at the beginning, as that was the 0 mark and then measuring. 

It was really neat hearing the kids counting to determine how many inches each item measured.


Then we took the measuring tapes outside and there was measuring going on all over the place.

We even got our kid tape measure in on the action.

We even began a discussion about diameter. We began with measuring the diameter of each friend's head while we were inside, then they began measuring diameter on items outside. 

I love it when I see a simple idea grown and expand with endless possibilities. I can say with certainty that this activity "measured up" to and beyond my expectations.