Sunday, October 27, 2013


 Here in the Garden Room we are observing that the children are intrigued with the idea of connecting things together.  We first started noticing this in the early days of the children's paper exploration.


Children immediately started figuring out ways to join pieces of paper together.

 As they found new ways to put things together, they saw new possibilities
Connecting animals with beads

Connecting tables together with tape       
Connecting rulers together

Connecting your house to my house

Looking more deeply at the work of the children, we see another form of connection taking place:

Our shared experiences are connecting us together.




“Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” ~ John Muir

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Super Hero Doggies

One day Emmett introduced the idea for a game of "funny puppies" at the magnet table. I'm not sure exactly what the story was, but I remember all his friends really enjoying this narrative. Even when Emmett was gone one day, Cal built a "funny puppy" game where he rolled magnet balls down a block tunnel. Lately we've noticed that many of our Rainbow Room boys (and the occasional girl) have been playing “super hero doggies” in our classroom and on the playground. The funny puppies game has disappeared (evolved?) and now super hero doggies is the exciting play. Many of the same people are involved.  Here are two of their stories:

Acting out themes of good versus evil are common at this age.
Super Doggies!

Written by Samuel, Madison, and Cameron (10/16/13)

One day Green Lantern Doggie heard a noise and said, “help! Help!” Superman Doggie came to the rescue. Then Batman doggie came the way he went and now he’s in the police car. He drives the police car. He goes to the rescue. He’s going to rescue the Superman Doggie from a fire. (Another) police car came and it was Mr. Freedog with Joker Dog and Scarecrow. They tried to defeat the Super Hero Dogs, but they couldn’t. The Super Hero Dogs defeated them. Batman doggie shoots his bat blade and threw it at the bad guys and they got hurt.

 Notice the theme of rescue and safety in this story. Friends help each other out, even if it means fighting bad guys. The theme of good versus bad often surfaces in the play of preschool-aged children, particularly in the Rainbow Room. At first glance, this play usually looks disorganized and kinesthetic. By slowing the children down to compose a story together gets everyone one the same wavelength and provides many learning opportunities (which could be an entire blog post!). It also helps me to scratch the surface of this play: what may look like a lot of crawling around on the floor or chasing on the playground has much deeper meaning for these children.

By asking children to illustrate and narrate their stories,
the process is slowed down. It also helps the adults
understand the deeper meaning behind their narratives.
Next story, recorded 10/18 and 10/21- I’m going to combine them into one story.

 Written by Oliver, Cameron, Emmett, Berkley, Carter, and Zack

Cast of characters: Batman Doggie, Green Lantern Doggie, Raccoon Batman, Buzz Lightyear, Superman’s Doggie Crypto, and Rhino

Batman doggie destroyed a robber. Then he and Green Lantern Doggie shoots and goes to jail and there’s an X in part of his jail and he finds treasure. He has to dig it.

First of all, Mr. Crow (Scarecrow from previous story?) never died, so Super Doggie Batman shot a laser at him. Rhino comes, then puts Mr. Crow back together again. And then Joker Doggie comes and Superman Doggie and Rhino turn him into a nice guy. And then Superman Doggie turned all bad guys to good guys. They broke into 3 pieces, and Rhino put them back together and they were nice guys. The end.

So I wanted to ask about this bad guy to good guy transformation. How does that happen?

Oliver tells me that He throws his Batman shirt to bad guys and they turn into good guys. His laser beams have goodness in them to turn bad guys to good guys. It fills them with goodness.

When writing a story together, the narrative becomes more of
a shared and organized effort.
When I read these stories, I can’t help but think to the lecture I heard on Friday of last week. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor and author in the field of education and child development, spoke at CMoR about the influence of media and increased screen time in our children’s lives.  She points out that children’s television programming, often a source of inspiration for preschoolers' play, can be violent (as in super hero cartoons), and fighting is the only example of conflict resolution. The play that manifests may be imitative, rote, and unoriginal. But this play is different. Or by digging deeper into this "power play" do we just understand it better? While these children have created characters based on popular figures, they have added original features. The doggie idea is their own. And so is the part about making bad guys good. They don’t just conquer bad guys, they try to make them into good characters. And they showed a unified front with this part. Everyone wanted the bad guys turned good. That piece deserves a lot more exploration. This play isn't just about exerting power, it's about interacting with scary forces and trying to make sense of them.

I have more questions about this process and will revisit this aspect with the storytellers. What are bad guys? What are good guys? What makes somebody good vs. bad? This is rich material at this age- the world is now turning a shade of gray. It’s not all black and white any more. It can feel scary. Maybe these narratives help figure some of that uncertainty out. I’m not entirely sure, but it’s a common theme at this age.
(To learn more about Nancy Carlsson-Paige, visit her website at






TIME: A Bike, Stop Watch, Timers and Imagination

Nancy had a bike stand at home and the Perdue family had a bike.  They are kindly letting us borrow it.   It took some mechanical skills to set it up safely and we put "Stop" signs on it until it was properly anchored.  Several days went by and finally the stop signs came off.  The children were eager to get on the bike.  There was a lot of interest,  but... waiting in line for a turn was a problem.  A teacher picked up one of the timers and asked, "Would this help?" The children figured out quickly that the timer worked. It seemed the problem was solved, for a time.  But the turns ended up being too short.
D used a calculator to time I's turn.

Meanwhile..... Anna ordered some very cool stuff for the preschool, one of the items was a Stop Watch. The children were pleased with the new acquisition. One morning  D took it over to the bike, pushed the yellow button for Start and got on the bike. Then he got off the bike and pushed a button to Stop, obviously enjoying the stop watch and the bike.
Since then, the children have been using the stop watch for taking turns on the bike. It is not surprising that they've found a way to have a longer turn.  It certainly is more satisfying for the individual.  Will the inquiry "which works best" compel the children to keep investigating with the stop watch and the timers?  Will either of these materials ultimately help them find a way to satisfy their need for a "fair" turn for both the individual and the group?

Here's where small group work in the studio with Anna supports growth and learning. 

On Friday we took several children into the studio to think about the timers and the stop watch and what would work best for taking turns on the bike.  Going to the studio to work with Anna gives the children an opportunity to practice collaboration, and encourages patience and flexibility. The children didn't come up with a solution that morning but they were able to slow down, listen to one another and think more deeply about taking turns and time.

The timers and stop watch are back in the classroom with the bike.  Stay tuned.


Time:  A Bike,  Stop Watch,  Timers and Imagination.

Monday, October 14, 2013

You've Got Mail

Don't you love to get a letter from a friend?  We introduced the children to our mail boxes recently and many children have been excitedly making mail ever since.

 They love to surprise a friend with a note and make them smile.  They rush over to tell them to look in the mailbox then follow them over and watch eagerly for their reaction.  Quite often the recipient will then go into the mini studio to reciprocate.   Happiness is contagious!

They write to say that they want to spend time together, at school or on a play date, or just to say "I love you".


The mail boxes are a provocation for literacy as the children write, or dictate their words to a teacher.  They watch with great interest as their words are written on the paper.  The power of text in this application is a strong motivator.

The children also support each other. 
Here K helps S write a note to ask for a play date.

Now when they miss a friend, they have an outlet for their disappointment, and a way to feel connected in their friend's absence.  

Renae thinks about Luke when he stays home from school one day:

"I want to make a note for Lukie.  I remember how to write his name...

L...U...K...E   ...........and that's it!"

Hmm, I don't know how to write: 'I hope you feel better tomorrow'" 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taking Time to Pause

Our Umbrella Project this year centers around the concept of time, so we teachers worked to come up with some questions that will guide us as we work with the children.  One question the Forest Room teachers came up with is, "How can we create ways to pause, become centered and slow down?"

                                    We began by teaching the children the sign for "pause."

             We first began pausing on our way to and from the playground to look for the moon.

Sometimes we see it; other times it has disappeared.  Where did it go?
Occasionally during the day we ask the children to pause and take a deep breath.  (You can hear deep, noisy inhalations when we do that.)

Pausing and taking a breath certainly helps me feel calmer and more grounded. What do the children feel?

                We ask them, "What do hear when you pause?"
                                                   "What do you notice?"
                                                           "What do you feel?"

"I hear the wind!"
           "I see the moon!"
                      "I see the playground!"
We wonder what else we could ask; how we could make pausing more meaningful.

We see clouds but no moon.

"How do you feel when you pause?"
            "When you pause, do you notice anything about your body?"

If we can learn to pause, to become aware of where we are and to appreciate what is around us, where will it lead?  Can pausing help curb impulsivity and knee jerk reactions (for teachers and children alike!) and lead the way to more positive social interactions and self awareness?


"Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in."  -Sebastian Vettel

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Who's the line leader?

On the way in from the playground one day last week, several children got mixed up in line. One child stopped to peek into the Assembly Room at a familiar adult, then his friends followed to see the excitement. Meanwhile the rest of the group continued on toward the steps. As a result, the whole order of the line changed and many children pushed past others on the steps seeking their original positions. (This behavior is dangerous on the steps, so children are always reminded to hold the rail and walk in a straight line up or down the steps).

When we settled in the Rainbow Room for circle, many children were visibly upset about the line situation. I, too, felt flustered at the commotion and wanted to figure out how to make these transitions easier and safer for the group. The line leader felt like the line should have waited for him. The latter part of the line felt like they had the right to keep going past the small group that had stopped. What a conundrum!

This type of line "dilemma" arises every year. Four-year olds love to be line leaders (as many ages do, too, I'm sure!) and they feel very strongly about maintaining their places in line. Friends also like to walk in line together and children will often pass people to catch up to that special someone (which inevitably upsets the order and balance of the line).

On the one hand I just want to solve this problem by creating order from the chaos. Cris and I could just choose a leader ourselves and require that children stay in a certain order while walking in line. But we don't operate that way in the classroom. We are flexible, understanding of children's desires (of course they want to walk with their friends and lead the group!), and year after year we have consistently experienced the amazing problem-solving skills of the 4-year old.  Having a challenge occur like a "line order" dispute is a gift to the classroom: it lets us think as a group, perform the hard work of negotiating our ideas with the needs and wants of rest of the group. It brings us together, builds our Rainbow Room community, and provides experience in solving difficult, emotionally-charged issues. Here is the list that we compiled that day during circle. Keep in mind these are the children's rules, not mine or Cris'.

  1. Don't pass the line leader
  2. Stay in your place in line.
  3. The same child gets to be the line leader the whole time.
  4. No racing in the building. Only walking.
  5. The children get to choose the leader. To be fair.
  6. Go straight upstairs without stopping
  7. Go straight to the classroom and sit down in circle.
  8. No jumping over anyone in line.
These rules may sound suspiciously like the things that teachers are always saying to preschool students. But during our heated discussion, children were speaking from their experiences in line- walking. They remembered how it felt to be passed, or to lose their place in line because they were running and the teacher asked them to try again. They really wanted to make a list in circle, to document their thinking about what happened that day.

I particularly like #5. Now when we're deciding who's going to lead the group to the playground, I just remind them of this decision and it's out of my hands. Today I observed two boys who had been leaders today and yesterday invite a girl to be the leader (one that they knew wanted desperately to lead the group today).

To be clear, this list is not set in stone. It is a working document, one which we will revisit to discuss necessary changes, if any, that need to be made. We need to define more accurately how the children choose the leader; that's still up for debate. And the children are still learning their own rules: impulse control and self-regulation are continuing to develop at this age, so sometimes even knowing these rules makes the performing of them difficult- but with practice, learning will occur. It just takes some time.

Four-year olds are compassionate, capable, and creative thinkers who can successfully operate in a democratic classroom. I am amazed every time I participate in these discussions with the Rainbow Room children. Help spread the word to the world about our amazing children!

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Here's what's happening in the Rainbow Room-

Observing and drawing a
 transparent clock 
The clock dance
A watch made in the studio
Stacking the
Kapla blocks
Drawing a watch, part of our ongoing
study into TIME
Tristan built a bridge
Using tweezers to
move pebbles and
beads on the light table
A magna tile house for
 her frogs
Mixing colors
Making a ball out of tape
 and paper strips
Typing numbers
while having tea
Figuring out how
to balance the wobbly
wooden pieces

After building a tinker toy creation, a Rainbow
Roomer documents
his work by drawing his design.

Tracing the rainbow as part
of our daily record-keeping for
this phenomenon

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