Friday, October 28, 2011

Will Work For Nothing!

Hi everyone! With less than a year left of my undergraduate special education teaching program, I've been thinking that I need to do something to really make my resume and portfolio stand out. I've always loved doing community service... I served a year with AmeriCorps, spent several summers volunteering at a summer camp for children in foster care, volunteered for a while reading to children in a homeless shelter, and currently volunteer with dogs in a rescue organization. All of my volunteer work with children was many years ago, and the dog thing probably won't make much of a difference when I try to get a teaching job. So, I decided, I should try to get a volunteer job again, doing something involving children!
The most sensible choice would be to volunteer at an afterschool tutoring program. However, for the life of me, I can't find any around here! The ones that I have been able to found all insist that they will only take volunteers over the age of 55. Why is that, do you think? I agree, its awesome for senior citizens and retired people to take advantage of their extra time and do volunteer work. But why only them? Do the school districts believe that, if you are under 55, have no children in the school, and still want to volunteer in a school, there must be something wrong with you?
I searched for other volunteer opportunities. Two places I was very interested in volunteering are a local organization that serves people with special needs and children in foster care, and a drop-in center for children and adults with Down syndrome. However, I contacted both of these places quite a while ago, and they never replied. They are very well-known places, and I'm sure they have their fill of volunteers.
I looked up the homeless shelter where I used to volunteer many years ago, but found that they had actually moved to another county. Weird! There is a second, similar homeless shelter i my town, but their website does not list any volunteer opportunities. I emailed them anyways, to ask if I might be of service.
I applied at the YMCA and at two youth mentoring programs near by. I hope one of these places will contact me! I have heard from several sources lately that getting a volunteer job these days is almost as hard as getting an actual, paying job. Organizations have their fill of people, and some even find volunteers to be a pain in the butt. What many of them really want is money! Kind of a shame. But anyways...
Do you have any ideas for other places I might look for volunteer opportunities? Or other ways that I can make my resume stand out from the others? Any advice would be appreciated!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Miss Read Teaches Her Peers

Hi, everyone! Today I had to do a peer teaching assignment for one of my classes. Peer teaching, in case you never had to do it or forgot about it, is when you teach a lesson as if you are teaching children, but the "students" are your adult classmates who are also studying to be teachers. We were each assigned a chapter in our text book about teaching math to children, and we had to design a lesson based on what we learned in that chapter. My chapter was on ratios and proportions. 
Since next week is Halloween, most of the people did lessons with a Halloween theme. Mine was no exception. I planned a lesson involving taking a trail mix recipe for five people, and increasing it to serve 25 people (supposedly for a classroom Halloween party that afternoon.) 
To introduce it, I told a fictional story about teaching my little cousin to ride a bike, and that my little cousin felt so unsafe riding a two-wheeler, he asked for a bike with ten or fifteen wheels to be extra safe. Everyone laughed and we discussed that bikes have two wheels, and that the number of wheels increases in proportion to the number of bikes. 
Next I gave each group a mixing bowl, a set of measuring cups, and one of the five ingredients needed for the recipe. The original recipe was written on the board. Each group had to come up with a way to convert their portion of the recipe to serve 25 people. 
This is the way we are taught to do lessons. Instead of just teaching, we are supposed to give the class a problem to solve, individually or in small groups, and then have them share the different ways they found of solving the problem. Afterwards we can show them our way of solving the problem. 
Towards the end of my little activity, I realized it went a lot faster than the other lessons had seemed to go, so I improvised and added a few lessons. I asked them to reduce the original recipe to serve one person, which was a lot more difficult and required more brainstorming from them. They had to share how they came up with the answers for that, too. 
Finally, I came up with random proportion problems, and whichever group came up with the answer first could come get some of the delicious trail mix first. 
When my lesson was over, I thought I totally bombed. But the other students had to fill out peer critique sheets, and when I got mine, almost every single person had given me an A+ and said that my lesson was great! They commented that I kept everyone engaged and challenged, and that I taught them a new attention getting method (I used Mrs. Jones "Ready set, we're the best" call and response thingie.) One person even said that my lesson was the best one in the whole class!
The good news is, I'm getting more actual teaching experience in this math class than I got in all the rest of my education classes combined. What do you think of that?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Miss Read's Big Day

Hi everyone! Today was the day that I was scheduled to teach my lesson on estimating time to the second graders at Ash Elementary. I was so nervous! Throughout the past few days, I studied the Xeroxed copies of the teacher's edition, took notes, and wrote out a script on index cards. I practiced teaching the lesson, working on the kitchen chalkboard at my house and using my dogs as stand-in students.
But even with all that practice, this morning I was so nervous, I could have puked! I thought seriously about calling in sick. Mrs. Jones would have to give me a new lesson to do, and this time I would really, really, really practice and study! To top things off, last night I couldn't fall asleep until one in the morning because I was so nervous. This morning I woke up at 5 and couldn't fall back asleep. So, running on four hours of sleep, I was sure I would fail! I had to talk myself into going.
The day started off poorly when I got lost on the way to Ash Elementary. I don't know how! It was the first time I had tried to drive there without checking my Mapquested directions. (I am horrible, horrible, horrible at directions, by the way! Even with Mapquested directions, I frequently get lost going to unfamiliar places.) I thought I remembered having to go down one main road and turn on a certain back street... and the back street did connect with that main road... but I was supposed to drive further down to the second main road. So... yeah. Luckily, I had left early, so I still made it on time!
Then, Mrs. Jones asked me to make copies of worksheets for a whole unit of math. This involved taking about ten double-sided worksheets and making single-sided copies of them, and then putting the whole thing together and making 92 copies of them, in four groups of 23, one for each second grade class. Of course everything went wrong... first I punched Collate instead of Group, so the first 230 pages came out in an A, B, C, A, B, C pattern instead of A, A, A, B, B, B. Rather than separate all of the pages into piles I just threw the whole thing away and started over. Then the machine ran out of paper, and then it got jammed about 90 times, and then people kept coming in and asking if they could use the machine for just a minute, and one person changed it back to Collate, which I forgot to check when it was my turn again, so the copies came out ABCABCABC again and I had to throw that group away, and then more paper jams, etc, etc, etc... So it took me about an hour and a half to make the copies! I was sure Mrs. Jones would think I was a total loser!
Then, after snack time, it was my time to give my lesson. Mrs. Jones said she'd leave it up to me to get the kids' attention (they were all eating snack and taking a conversation break.) I nearly died on the spot!
I decided to stick with Mrs. Jone's method of getting attention by saying, "Ready, set?" Sure enough, they chorused, "We're the best!" and quieted down.
They had to do a warm up exercise where they had little fake clocks, and I would say, "Show me what time you get up in the morning," and they would put the correct times on the clocks and hold them up. I was walking around the room to check, but I was so nervous, I was barely looking at their clocks! I was shaking!
Then I launched into my lesson. I started out by telling them a story. I drew a large clock on the board, and said that when I was a kid, my brother and I had a clock like that in our room, but my little brother broke the hour hand off the clock. I erased the hour hand. I asked them, "Do you think we couldd tell the time with just the minute hand?"
They shouted, "No!"
I told them, "You're right! We would know it was something-fifteen or something-thirty, but we didn't know what! Then my mom fixed our clock for us, so we had our hour hand back. (I drew it back on.) But guess what my little brother did then? He broke the minute hand off of our clock! (I erased the minute hand.) Do you think we could tell time with just the hour hand?"
"Actually, there is a way we can tell. We can estimate the time, using just the hour hand," I told them.
And I won't give you a whole script of the rest, but I went through it pretty easily. Even though I was shaking most of the time. I had to go through estimating time using just the hour hand, estimating to the nearest five minutes using both hands, and writing in digital formation.  I called on kids (even though I didn't know half of their names and had to say, "Kid in the stripes!" and things like that), got everyone involved, and made sure to call on Kristie a few times. (She actually seemed to be paying attention this time, maybe because having me up at the board instead of Mrs. Jones was a strange and new occurence.)
I was so glad when it was finally over! It was like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders!
After the kids went to lunch, Mrs. Jones showed me the notes she had taken, and she said she was very impressed! She told me that, if I did this well when my professor came to observe me, I'd blow him away! She really loved my story about my little brother breaking the clock, because she said it drew all the kids in and made it relatable to them. She was glad that I tried to involve Kristie. She said I seemed very nervous at first, but that the kids didn't notice. (Isn't it weird how little kids just assume adults know what they're doing?)
I also worked with small groups on Tell Time Quizmo, which is just like BINGO. I would show them a card with a clock on it, we'd all look at it and figure out what time it said, then they'd see if they had the matching time on their BINGO card. It went really well, and by the end, the kids were really impressing me with how quickly they were figuring out the time. (The kids who I work with are the kids who are way  behind the rest of the class in learning time telling.) Kristie was in my group of course, and even she did pretty well! They keep asking if there are going to be prizes if they win. Luckily (or unluckily) nobody ever gets BINGO because there are about four million calling cards and only four or five kids playing!
So... that day is over! I am so proud of myself for actually going, and getting through it, instead of calling in sick. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Observation at Renaissance School

When I was a kid, there was a school in my town called Renaissance Care Center. It was kind of in a run down building on the edge of town. I always heard it was a school for kids with behavioral disorders. But although, as I got older, I had many friends who were in, or had been in, "BD," and had even attended special schools, I never knew anyone who went to Renaissance. When I became an adult and started looking for places to work, I was warned against applying for any jobs at Renaissance. It was said to be a school for "the worst of the worst." I was told that the police were always there, and that the teachers there were known for improperly restraining out of control kids and even abusing them.

So, when I got the news that I was going to be observing at Renaissance this semester, I was a little nervous!

When I mentioned it to others in my class, they made horrified faces like, "Oh, no, Renaissance? Really? Be careful!"

It turned out that Renaissance is actually a company that runs multiple schools for special needs, in various states. The Renaissance School in my town is no longer listed on the company's website, and I think it may have been shut down. The Renaissance School I was assigned to go to was in a neighborhing town. Still, I was a little nervous. Until I got there!

I was greeted by the principal, a friendly lady who gave me a tour of the school. She seemed proud of it as she showed me every classroom, explained the school-wide behavioral support system, talked about all of their special events and field trips, etc. Instead of a Time Out room, they have a small room with no door, painted to look like the inside of a fish bowl. Kids can go there to just chill out, instead of as a punishment. The kids who are on the highest level and have the most responsibility have their own clubhouse, a room where they can watch TV and play video games during their free time. They even have a stable with horses for therapeutic riding, and a dog and a cat who take turns spending days at the school for pet therapy!

As we walked around the school, I saw lots of artwork and colorful posters. In one classroom, a wall was decorated to look like a game board. Kids could move their markers one space on the board whenever they turned in their homework. When they landed on pink spaces, they got small prizes or privileges. When they completed the entire "game," they won a gift certificate!

In most of the classrooms, the kids were cheerful and said "hi" to me. In the hallway, a teenaged boy came up, shook my hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Matt! Nice to meet you!"

Finally, the principal asked me which room I'd like to observe in. I chose the youngest room, which was mostly for children with autism. I figure, I'll move to the older rooms when I go back. In the room I was in, there were only about five children, and each one was working with his own teacher or aide. One first grade boy was being observed by a teacher from his home school district, to decide if he was ready to transition to his home school's somewhat less restrictive classroom for children with autism. I watched as the boy's teachers from Renaissance asked the prospective new teacher tons of questions about her classroom. They wanted to know, would he have some extra support when he first started in order to make the transition easier? Would he have breaks throughout the day? Would there be anyone willing to take him for walks in the hallways if he needed them? What kinds of therapies were offered? Would he eat lunch in the cafeteria with the entire school, or in the classroom? Would there be someone to help the children with autism at lunch, or would he be on his own on the playground? It seemed like these teachers wanted to be very sure about letting the little boy move on to a new setting. They discussed how, since this boy was doing so well at Renaissance and was probably capable of succeeding at the home school, he should be given the chance to do so, but at the same time, he'd still need a lot of support and they wanted him to have it no matter where he went to school. I've seen situations where teachers were eager to convince a prospective new teacher that a student was ready to transition, because they just wanted one less student to worry about. This was definitely not the case here! The teachers felt like the boy's future success in a new classroom was as much their responsibility as his past success in their classroom had been.

I no longer feel nervous or worried about doing my observations at Renaissance School. In fact, I've added this school to my list of prospective schools to send my resume to, once I graduate. I guess the moral of this story is, never believe anything you hear about a school, until you see it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm Going To Teach A Lesson!

Hi everyone! For the class I'm taking on teaching math, I have to write and teach a lesson plan to the second grade class I observe in, towards the end of the semester. My professor will be there to watch and evaluate me. Frown! I thought, at least, I was safe for a few weeks, though... until when I got to Ash Elementary today, and my cooperating teacher, Mrs. Jones, told me she'd like me to try to teach a lesson next week! AUGH!
She gave me the teacher's edition of the math book and showed me the lesson I'll be in charge of, which is on estimating time. So its not like I'll have to write the lesson plan. I'll basically be following the guidelines in the book. On the other hand... this will only be my second time teaching a lesson! I think its a little odd that I've almost completed my entire teaching education and have only had one opportunity to actually teach a lesson to children. I've written plenty of lesson plans, and carried out a few in front of peers in my class, but only once in front of children! I'm a little anxious. Will I stutter and stammer and look like a fool? For my first lesson, I taught kindergarteners about magnets, and everything went wrong. This time, Mrs. Jones has suggested that I actually script out everything I am going to say and do. I'll probably post my "script" later on this week! Maybe someone can give me a few pointers!
I did work a little with a group of children today. I played Time Bingo with a group of kids who are having most difficulty learning to tell time. My group included Kristie, the little girl I mentioned in my last Ash Elementary post who has behavioral difficulties. She was being a wild woman today, but she actually did really well in my group. She seems like a lot of kids I've met in life... on one hand, she wants to please adults, earn praise, and make friends, but on the other hand she just can't stop bouncing around! The other kids were able to focus more easily, but they all had a terrible time with the clocks. They mixed up the hour hand and the minute hand, or they tried to count by fives to get the hour as well as the minute. For instance, if they saw a clock like this...

...some might say its is 2:50, and others might say its 50:10. Still others might call it 10:02, or 2:10. And a few tried to count by ten instead of fives, and would call this 10:20. With the first group, they had their Bingo cards turned to the analog side, and I would call out a time and have them look for that time on their cards. But it took them about a million years to look at each of the sixteen clocks on their cards, decide what time it was (usually incorrectly) and decide if any matched the time I had mentioned. So, for the second group, I had them turn their cards to the digital side. Then I'd show them a card with a clock on it, and we'd all figure out the time together, and then they'd check their cards. This was much easier for them, and I could keep track of who was actually getting the times right and who was having trouble. The problem was, the game was meant for a whole classroom, so there were about a million different calling cards, and almost none of the times I called out matched a time on any of the particular BINGO cards the kids in my group were using. It was a little discouraging for them to go through the long process of deciphering the time, and then not have it on their card ever! I think next week I will sort through the calling cards ahead of time, so that someone gets to mark their card for almost every clock we look at.
I was still observing when the teacher was working on what they call "Interventions," which is really just an extra reading class. Mrs. Jones was trying to teach them about the prefixes "un" and "dis." For part of it, she was showing them words with "dis," and the students would raise their hands and try to come up with an example of how the word is used. They were doing a good job with most of the words, until they came to the word "disorder." Some of their responses made me giggle!
Girl: "I disordered my mother."
Teacher: "How did you do that?"
Girl: "She told me to do something, so that was an order. I didn't listen to her, so I disordered her!"

Boy: "The people at the restaurant disordered us."
Teacher: "Can you explain more?"
Boy: "We gave them our order. They messed it up. It was a disorder."

LOL, right?
Well, wish me luck on my lesson next week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Sad Story

For some reason today, as I drove to school, I kept thinking about a little girl I once worked with while I was in AmeriCorps back in 2001. After a while, I realized it was the fall air, and the colorful leaves, that reminded me of Brandie. Although I was in AmeriCorps for all of 2001, October of 2001 was the last time I saw her.
At the time, I was a full-time volunteer at a therapeutic learning center for preschoolers with special needs. Most of the children there had behavioral disorders, and a few had autism. But that spring we got a new girl who had a very severe and life-threatening form of scoliosis. She had been in and out of the hospital since she was a toddler, including having spent most of the past year in the hospital. She wore a serious-looking brace that forced her to hold her chin straight up, and she walked stiffly, like a robot. We were told that Breann had to be careful all the time, to be kept from playing too roughly, because if she fell she could be seriously injured. But trying to keep track of ten preschoolers with severe behavioral disorders (we had children who were placed there for things like attacking teachers at their former day care centers with scissors, acting out sexually with other children, starting fires, attempting suicide, etc) it was hard to monitor Brandi all the time. That was probably a good thing, for her. Within a few weeks she was running around and playing like all the other children. She knew her own limitations and was reasonably careful, but we also didn't stop her from doing things like going down the slide on the playground.
Brandi's mother was a single parent with two other children. The father of Brandii and one of her siblings lived in another state and struggled with alcoholism. The mother worked full time and also went to school, and whenever we saw her she was in a huge hurry, trying to get from one place to the next. There was one time that, as her mother rushed Brandi and her sister (who also went to our center, although she had no special needs at all) out of the classroom, Brandi tripped. Her mother and sister didn't notice and hurried outside, and Brandi burst into tears. "Now she really forgot me!" the four-year-old wailed. I picked her up and carried her (very awkwardly because she couldn't bend at the waist) out to her mom's car, assuring her that mommies never forgot their children.
One weekend towards the end of October, Brandi's mother went to spend a weekend with a friend in the city. It was a rare vacation for her. She and her friend went out for drinks that evening. The friend had too many drinks, and attempted to drive anyway. On the way home, they got into a car wreck. The friend survived. Brandi's mother didn't.
We learned of Brandi's mother's death the next morning, when her grandmother called to say she'd be coming in to pick up the girls' things. They would be going to live with their grandparents, and would not return to our center. I never saw them again. Throughout my life the memory has always haunted me, of the little girl crying for her mother not to forget her.
When I came home today, I did a Google search. I couldn't remember her last name, but just searching for her first name plus "scoliosis" turned up a few results. Since her form of scoliosis was so rare and dangerous, she has been in the news a few times, and her grandmother has also written about her on a few scoliosis websites. As of the age of seven, she was still living with her grandparents, attending various kinds of therapies, participating in Girl Scouts, and describing herself as "trickster who likes to play pranks on people." She got to go to Disney Land, where her grandmother used a towel to hide her brace, believing that Brandi should experience the rides and have some fun. Tragically, her father committed suicide that year, leaving Brandi and her sister orphaned.
There was no more information about Brandi beyond the age of seven, except for the news that she recently won second place in a statewide essay contest. Unfortunately I couldn't find any links to the essay... but it shows how smart she turned out to be!
I doubt I'll ever forget about Brandi. She had so much going against her, from the beginning, but she always had tons of spirit. In many ways her story reminds me to never take life for granted.
What about you? Are there students you've worked with that you will never forget?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: Learn Me Gooder, by John Pearson

Hi everyone! When you're studying to be a teacher, like I am, one thing you like to do is read about other teachers' experiences. At least I do. I love to read blogs, and I also enjoy reading books by teachers. Recently I got the chance to read Learn Me Gooder, by John Pearson. You may know him from his blog, Learn Me Good, or his first book by the same name. The blog is about the personal experiences of Mr. Pearson, a former designer engineer who, after being laid off from his job, decided to make a major life change and become a third grade math teacher. 
Here's where it gets a little confusing. Pearson's two books are about a former designer engineer who, after being laid off from his job, decided to make a major life change and become a third grade math teacher. His name is Jack Woodson! I guess Mr. Woodson is Mr. Pearson's alter-ego. He experiences many of the things that Mr. Pearson experienced as a teacher, but with a little bit of dramatic license. 
Mr. Woodson teaches at a school filled with children from low-income homes, many of whom speak English as their second language. But this isn't a powerful and inspirational story of a courageous teacher who turns an entire classroom around, gets gang members to write poetry, takes kids who are said to have low IQs and turns them into star students, etc. 
Instead, this is the story of a regular teacher, dealing with every day life as it comes. He writes sarcastic emails to a former co-worker , describing the things that go on in his classroom.
You may find yourself cringing as Woodson describes having to teach math to third graders who come into his classroom not knowing how to read or write, , who don't recognize what the = sign means, who think 25 cents is equal to either seven cents or a dollar, and who swear like little sailors. You'll sympathize with him for having to put so much energy into standardized testing, and having to deal with losing students and gaining new ones on an almost weekly basis. You'll also find yourself being inspired and impressed as Woodson finds ways of reaching the students, such as turning lines from Star Wars into mnemonic devices or realizing that offering a Golden Corral gift card as a reward can turn an F student into a B student.
And, more often than not, you'll be laughing at the ridiculous situations Woodson finds himself in, such as having to rescue a student from being swallowed up by a gaping hole in the earth in front of the school, or being tricked into calling a new student by a fake name for half a day. 
Whether you're a teacher, or just a book lover, I recommend you add both Learn Me Good and Learn Me Gooder to your reading list. Both are available on Amazon, in hard copy and Kindle versions. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cool Spots On The Web

Hi everyone! One of the classes I'm taking is about teaching children with learning disabilities, but the professor who teaches it also teaches the Special Education Technology class, so she integrates a lot of technology into this class as well. She is always showing us interesting websites that can be useful for teachers. I've posted some of them in my Delicious tags on the sidebar of this blog.
One of the sites we learned about last night is called Glogster. The main site is at, but there is also a site especially for teachers and students at The regular site is free but limited. The edu site requires a yearly subscription but includes 50 to 200 student accounts (depending on the subscription level you choose) and lots of extra features. Basically, its a site where you can create online "posters" and presentations. It can be a creative way to do a book reports or projects on just about any topic.
Our assignment for the class was to use Glogster to make a poster about learning disabilities. (We only get to use the free version, so mine isn't quite as involved as it could be.) You can see it here if you'd like!
What is your favorite website to use with students?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Observation At the Equestrian Center

Hi everyone! Today I had the strange chance to observe a therapeutic riding session at a local equestrian center. This was assigned to me for my class on teaching children with physical impairments. Its a little odd. See, my school does not let us choose or find our own observation sites. Instead, they have a computer program that consists of all of the sites they work with, and it randomly assigns you to one for each class. I guess they really try scrape bottom finding schools to put us in, because instead of schools you may find yourself in a special recreation program, and instead of working with children you may find yourself working with, for instance, senior citizens! There's no rhyme or reason to it. But anyways...
The setting was, obviously, a horseback riding arena. The equestrian center mostly does regular horseback riding lessons, but on Sundays they also do therapeutic riding. When I arrived and told the person at the desk that I was there to observe therapeutic riding lessons, they led me over to a gallery and told me to observe trough a window along with lots of parents of children taking regular riding lessons. It was a little hard to observe, since I had to strain my eyeballs to try to follow one particular person working with certain kids, I couldn't hear anything that was being said, and I often got elbowed out of the way by parents. Plus the teachers would often take  the children to an outdoor ring, which I could not see and could not manage to find.
The children ranged in age from about four years old, to high school aged. Of the children with special needs, it seemed like most of the ones I saw had autism.(Not physical impairments, at least not ones that were clear to see!) Each child had at least one teacher to himself, and sometimes one or two volunteers helping. The volunteers would walk on either side of the horse, I guess to make sure the children didn't fall (or jump) off. It seemed like, for some of the kids, the riding lessons were similar to what the non-therapeutic beginner riding students were doing. They had to lead the horse out into the ring, get on him, steer him around and around (I don't know if  "steer" is the right word here, but you know what I mean!), possibly try trotting, and eventually lead him back out of the ring and into the stable. For other children, kids who were less verbal or had less understanding of what was being said, it looked like the teachers just led the horse around and around the ring with the child onboard. I saw some teachers talking to the therapeutic riding students. One very happy boy was grinning and making joyful noises like, "Whoooo! Yeeee!" and his teachers laughed and talked to him as they led him around. Another teacher barely glanced at the child, but just walked around, leading the horse, like a pony ride at the carnival.
Anyways, I was there for about two and a half hours, and then I went home. I am supposed to go for a total of ten hours, and write a "reflection" on my experience, tying it in with what I learned in the class. I wish I could get something out of this, other than just watching children ride around in circles on horses. It would be nice to interact with the children, talk to the teachers, and understand more of what is going on. This is why sometimes I get so frustrated with my school... they have an attitude of, "This is just the way it is, don't complain and don't ask questions," so many people end up not getting as much out of their "field work" experiences as they could. I don't know how sitting in a gallery counts as field work, but I guess it will just have to do for now!
Maybe it will be better next week. I'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pre-K Korner... Apple Time!

Hi, kids! Finding a job that will work with my erratic school hours has been pretty difficult. Most places that involve kids want you there on a regular basis, the same days and times every week, preferrably all day long, and for more than a few months at a time. Jobs that don't involve kids want to know, "Why do you want this job if you've always worked with kids before?" They wonder, did you commit some devious act that would ban you from working with kids and cause you to resort to applying to be a cashier at Target?
So I started babysitting, which can be more catch-as-catch-can... even though its embarassing to admit that I may be the world's oldest "babysitter!" I have one regular job, watching two preschool aged girls on Fridays. When I was a nanny I home-preschooled the kids and had weekly themes with activities, and so I've been trying to do that with these girls as well. And so, each week I will post my Pre-K Korner, with some fun, themed activities for the preschool crowd. These activities can also be adapted and used with older kids and kids with special needs. Enjoy!
This week's theme was apples. Our first activity was Hide-And-Seek apples. I had cut out apple shapes from construction paper, and wrote an alphabet letter on each apple. While the girls closed their eyes, I hid the apples all over the house. The girls then had to walk around and find the apples! To figure out if they'd found all the apples, they had to lay them out across the floor in alphabetical order. They loved this game, and they also loved taking their own turns at hiding the apples! (Unfortunately, when Girl 2 had her turn, she hid three of the apples so well that we never found them! U, Y and W are still MIA.) You could do this activity with just about any theme, or make it more fun by using real apples (if, for instance, you had gone apple picking recently and had a whole ton of apples on your hands!)

I didn't get a picture of the next activity, but we played "Red Apple, Green Apple," which was pretty much exactly the same as "Red Light, Green Light." I had a red piece of paper and a green piece of paper, each with an apple drawn on. The person who was "it" just had to hold up the green apple if they wanted the others to "go", or the red apple to make the others "stop." The girls don't really play by the rules all the time, but they do love the game!

Next we did the time-honored activity of apple stamping. I cut an apple in half so that the star in the middle was showing. I then stabbed a fork through each apple half, so the girls could use the forks as handles. They painted the bottom part of the apple, and then stamped it on construction paper. Fun!

Finally, the girls played with apple-cinnamon scented playdough. Sometimes I make playdough with the kids, but I made this ahead of time because I wasn't sure about the recipe. I found a recipe online that said to use 1 and 1/3 cup of cinnamon, 1 cup of applesauce, and 1/3 cup of glue. I followed this recipe, but I found that the playdough was super wet and gooey, and if I gave it to the girls, nothing good could possibly come of it. I took a bunch of flour and just kept kneading it into the dough until it became easier to work with. The girls used cookie cutters to make lots of different shapes. If you let these dry for several days, you can actually keep them, and put them in a little basket or bowl to use as air freshners. Just make sure to warn everyone not to eat them!

I also had other ideas... we were going to play Hot Potato with an apple, read apple-themed stories, and go to a local apple festival, but the girls got very tired and cranky and ended up taking a nap for the rest of the time instead.
Stay tuned next week for our Fall theme! And feel free to post your own ideas for Pre-K activities!