Saturday, July 26, 2014

Creating a Mosaic and Finding Patterns

I shouldn't make promises I can't keep.  In the last blog I wrote, I had said that the next day I'd share another blog about a book Gordon Lee and I were reading and a water activity that we did.  Well, Gordon Lee was having mood swings the "next day," and we didn't get much accomplished.  We did learn about how rain that has fallen turns into water vapor and returns to the sky to form clouds.  Gordon Lee made an observation on a poster that showed the cycle, and he has been paying closer attention to the clouds in the sky.  Other than that, he was just oppositional to anything and everything for the day.  I wasn't about to plan any activities with him or they'd probably get thrown all over the floor in a fit of rage.

Today was much better.  So, we accomplished a mosaic activity, which is very simple. I just cut several squares from two different shades of blue construction paper.  I gave Gordon Lee a sheet of white construction paper.  And I told him to create any kind of water that he wanted to. 
I put both colored squares in a cup together.
I gave Gordon Lee a glue stick, a blank sheet of paper, and let his imagination take over.  He said he was making "An ocean with a waterfall" (interesting concept!).
At first, he seemed to be placing squares randomly on the paper.
I left him to his own devices while I got a few other things done (in the end he ended up spending at least 30 minutes gluing and sticking).  I came to check on him after a few minutes, and I saw that he was starting to create his own shape (a circle appeared to be forming).
I checked on him again several minutes later and indeed a circle was forming.  He also appeared to be filling it in.
All of this took him a good 30 minutes.  After awhile, any child will get tired.  Plus, we did this right before his nap time.  After taking his nap, the first thing he said when he woke up was, "I want to finish my picture, Mommy!" He returned to it to add some more squares.  He took another break.  He came back to it later in the evening when he made his announcement that he was "all done." 
This is the final product of "Ocean with a Waterfall" by Gordon Lee

1.) This is an easy art activity (that creates very little mess..just a little bit of glue on the fingers).
2.) It kept Gordon Lee busy and engaged in something meaningful for him.
3.) He was extremely pleased with this own masterpiece.

Funny thing--we wouldn't have been able to accomplish this yesterday. Those squares would have been all over the floor.  Regardless of what we are doing with him, no child is perfect.  No day is perfect. Sometimes, you plan things and just have to wait to do them.  Interesting how something that is a success in one day may not have been for another day. 

Now onto the book.  One of the books that we have been reading was one that I put on the list because I was having a hard time finding enough fictional books (and I wanted one on rain).  
Two people judged it by its cover.
Me: I thought "This book just looks boring.  It looks like it might be about a baboon named rain!"
Gordon Lee: "I want to read this one! There's a monkey on the cover!"
It's called Rain by Manya Stojic, and it is an adorable story with a lot of elements for building early literacy.

One element is a pattern of prediction.  Gordon Lee quickly and easily picked up on the fact that the animals were each using one of the 5 senses to detect rain.  Then, each animal tells another animal about the rain.  So, he started predicting what was going to happen next (a very important skill for active, engaged readers).  It all starts early!

Another element is the pattern of rain.  The soil is dry and cracked at the beginning of the story.  
Then the story starts with a porcupine sensing the rain solely through smell.

The chain begins.  Each sense used detects the rain as it gets closer and closer.  Each page builds on the previous ones.  Reminding the reader of the pattern.
The last animal to detect the rain is a lion who tastes it on his tongue.  Then, the rain pours down.  The book shows how it has impacted the scenery.  Gordon Lee likes to point out two things on this page every time, "There's a grasshopper in this book! This is a buggy book too!" and "Somebody colored on this page.  They shouldn't do that to a library book!" (There is a brown crayon scribble.  I am not sure how well it shows up in this picture).
After this point, the animals use their senses again "To feel the squishy mud, to taste water that has pooled, to enjoy the shade of the leaves, etc."  The book is cyclical and comes back to the point it started where the porcupine announces she knows the rain will return again.

Gordon Lee "read" this book to his Nana R on the phone tonight and he actually recited 1-2 sentences verbatim from each page.  It's amazing how much a child absorbs.  

I'd highly recommend this book.  It is cute and educational (in so many ways) at the same time!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Learning by Exploring

Since I will be staying home with Gordon Lee again for the next several months, I have felt the need to enrich himself and myself in this time.  I feel like I just can't stay away from teaching, and I also want to make sure that Gordon Lee is engaged in something that is going to expand his thinking.  So, an idea formed.  I can't take complete credit, so I will explain the process of this idea.

1.) The local library where my mother lives started creating backpacks of books on various topics.  She had checked one out on digging in the dirt.  It came complete with a small shovel, magnifying glass, and other dirt-exploring fun. There was a nice variety of books to help a child understand soil better (The beginning of my idea).

2.) While I worked with preschoolers, I was introduced to the Creative Curriculum.  The approach of the creative curriculum is to encourage children to explore through their own natural curiosities, to enhance those curiosities, and to consequently provide the most enriching educational experience for a child.  When I first saw it, I was skeptical.  It seemed so empty (unlike some other curriculums that had a specific structure in each unit).  The approach is to take a unit of study and spend 3-4 weeks exploring the topic in every possible way. From my personal experience with 3-year-olds, I found that the only downside to the curriculum was the amount of time spent on one topic.  They could only sustain a heightened interest in the topic for about 2 weeks before it became too repetitive for them.  Ultimately, it sort of backfired on itself because they wouldn't want to talk about the topic at all anymore after the last week.  So, I thought, good idea.  I like the exploration approach.  Let the child ask questions.  Help the child make observations.  Link understanding to early literacy and reading (which is what the curriculum is rooted in).  Just shorten it so they don't get exhausted by it.

3.) Here's the result.  Create our own "book bag" on a topic (especially since our library here doesn't have them).  Then, incorporate the Creative Curriculum approach into our study.  I choose one topic for us to explore.  I look up 10 books to put on hold at the library (making sure they are children's books).  I try to keep a good variety of fiction and nonfiction.  Then, we take our bag to the library and we fill it up.  Gordon Lee loves putting the old books in the return slot.

We basically do anything and everything with the topics.  We are on our second week.  The first week, we explored bugs.  This week, we are learning all about water.  Next week we are going to discover reptiles (and I am particularly excited about this one since Gordon Lee asked me for an iguana at Petco the other day).  

You start finding that you don't have to go out and spend a bunch of money to provide a very meaningful experience for a child.  Just a trip to the pet store can show them so much.  Even this week with water, God helped us out by giving us rain for 4 days.  So, Gordon Lee and I stood outside of the YMCA one day watching rainwater wash down a pipe and into the parking lot.  He observed how the hill helped the water run away from the building, and then realized that the giant puddles he liked jumping in formed because the parking lot was a flat base where the water could pool.  Now he is constantly finding drains and looking to see where the water is going.

And while we've moved onto a new topic, he is still excited about last week's topic and still expanding his knowledge.  He found a dead Japanese beetle, picked it up and discovered why a beetle is a beetle (due to the wing covers).  This is my child who would freak out at the sight of any bug before this.  He started learning about them and understanding that not all bugs bite or sting.  Yesterday, he became extremely excited at the sight of a grasshopper. He wanted to see how the grasshopper moved and how it could fly.

We also did a lot of art during our bug week.  Here are just a few samples.  Gordon Lee wanted to draw, paint, color, or make every bug.
(bumblebee with wax paper wings)
(spider in a web made with the palm of his hand, his 4 fingers, and just free-handing the head)
(butterfly--of course..I did draw those antennae.  He did the rest)

I could go on and on about how excited he is, how much I am learning, how much he is learning, and how readily books are expanding his observations around him.  However, I will stop here. I will start sharing one fun thing we did each day plus sharing one book I particularly like from the selection we're reading.
For the bug unit, here are some of the books Gordon Lee loved.
The Little Squeegy Bug by Bill Martin Jr.
This is a cute fictional story about a bug that has no identity. So, they all call it a little squeegy bug.  He just wants to feel special and fly in the sky.  Ultimately, a magic spider turns him into the firefly.

Bug Safari by Bob Barner
This is a story about a child who follows an army of ants to an unknown destination.  Meanwhile on their journey, he learns about all of the struggles a tiny ant faces in the big world of bugs.  Gordon Lee requested this one every single day.
This is just a sample of the nonfiction bug books we got.  We had 5 of them.  They are from a series called "Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!" by Margaret Hall.  We had grasshoppers, fireflies, beetles, bees, and centipedes.  These were extremely educational, and even I learned things I didn't know.

As for water, we are not doing as much art, we are doing more experiments and observations. Tomorrow, I will share one of my favorite (and Gordon Lee's favorite) books on water.  Admittedly, I judged this book by its cover and didn't want to read it, but then I loved it.  And I will share one of our water activites.