Teacher’s are only one piece of the teaching!

We love to engage our parents in the learning process! We want to provide a variety of ways for teachers and parents to work together. One way that we do this is by sending things home for children to complete with the parents, and then return to school. It helps parents to know what we are working on at school, how their child is doing academically, and it provides for parent/teacher. Here a re a few ways we facilitate that home-school connection!

  1. Reading Logs24173685_10155185723201527_748842498333817452_o.jpgAt the beginning of the year, we sent home a letter to parents explaining the importance of Reading and our goal for the year. Children and parents read together at home and write the titles on their reading log. After 20 books, they return the reading log for a prize and they get to add a leaf with their name and number of books to the Reading Tree board. This is such a fun way to encourage reading at home and to work towards a collective goal. Last year we read over 4000 books in the course of the school year and we gave out a Gift Certificate to a local bookstore to our top Pre-K readers at graduation.
  2. Homework from Mother Goose Time
    1. “I Can Read” books: Our teachers use these books as homework. They will use them as outlined in the lesson plan book in class and then they will send them home. The children read the book 5 times at home and color in a star on their paper for each time. When they have all 5 colored in, they can return it for a sticker prize.
    2. More Literacy and More Math Books: Our teacher will use some of the pages from these Add-On books as homework and some to supplement or challenge kiddos in class.
  3. Whole Group Projects: 

    Each year, we send home a solid-colored card stock in a sheet protector with a slip of paper that explains the task. Parents are asked to work with their child to create a Family Scrapbook page. When it is complete, they return it and it goes into the Family Scrapbook binder. Throughout the year, if we add any new children, they get to add to the Scrapbook. It is so fun to get to know each of our families, but also to incorporate everyone in our School Family.

    Sometimes we use our Community Board to involve parents as well. This month, we made a Thankful Board and put up a feather with each child’s Name and Picture. Then we sent home an additional feather for families to decorate. They could bedazzle it, paint it, add words or pictures… whatever they wanted to do, and then we added their feathers around the edge. It turned out so cute and the children that returned their feather from home were excited to hang it up.

  4.  Family Night24232157_10155185775911527_5457529972648247757_n.jpg What is more fun that watching families spend time together? This year, we are beginning Family Night’s to get parents to come and play with their child. We will do a variety of activities for an hour just after we would normally close, once per month. Our first one will be a Storyteller. Children are invited to come in their jammies, enjoy a story with his/her parent(s), and then we will have some small snacks. Other ideas are playdough making, crafting, or cooking together. We are very excited to host these engaging times for families and we hope they are enjoyed!
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Let Us Count the Ways!

Millennial parents are said to be more involved than generations before and what they need most is instant communication. They want to know what their child is learning at school, what they ate for snack, who they played with, when they slept, and most of all, that their child was loved. It is important to share verbally at drop off and pick up, but the fastest way to communicate is electronically or visually.

At our centers, we use a program called HiMama to communicate and share information electronically. Parents can check in via their smart phone or computer to see updates throughout the day. We can share photos, and input everything about their day, and that report will get emailed directly to the parents each evening. We can also use HiMama to share information about upcoming events, classroom needs, etc. It is a very useful tool!

In addition to HiMama, we love all the ways that Mother Goose Time provides for instant visual communication with parents. There are pieces that are sent home daily explaining our work, things that are hung in the classroom and hallways… Let us count the ways!

  1. Theme Web and Skills Chart23722616_10155166616136527_5952528475991481107_n Each month in our curriculum kit, there is a Concept Map and Skills Chart to show what we will be learning and what Early Childhood Standards we will be meeting throughout the month.
  2. Activity Calendar23722701_10155166639526527_1937044144423930350_n We hang the Activity Calendar at the Sign-In Desk so Parents can see the plan for the day.
  3. Family Newsletter 

    Each month, we receive a copy of the family newsletter for each child. There is information about what we will be learning during the month, a child development topic, a copy of the Theme Web, and some fun song/rhyme and book recommendations to support what we are learning. Having this resource communicates to parents about what is happening at school and the value of their continued support from home. It also saves our staff from having to take the time to prepare such comprehensive materials.

  4. Daily Notes23795294_10155166616226527_5541963172335457694_n (1)We love this new addition to the curriculum kit! Everyone who has been around small children has received a lovely piece of artwork and had no idea what it was, or why/how it was made. These cards communicate to parents what the work was all about and provide a prompt for parents to engage with their child about the work. These go home daily with the child’s work and are such an amazing tool!
  5. Daily Topic Poster and the Circle Time Board23167853_10155123644426527_3686715316261368706_nThis display is such a helpful and engaging tool in the classroom, but it also communicates to parents how much learning is really taking place each day. There is space for the Theme Poster and the things we practice daily, such as the calendar, letter, numbers, days of the week, weather, shapes and colors. The calendar follows a different pattern each month, so even the calendar work itself is academic. One of the best pieces, however, is the Daily Topic Poster. This shows parents and children what our focus is for that particular day. It helps begin our discussion at circle time, assess what the children already know or wonder, and the pictures are always wonderful. Some of our teachers have been cutting apart the Topic posters and making a large wall collage of the pictures throughout the month. Once again, having these comprehensive materials prepared saves so much time and is invaluable to the teachers.

STEAM in the Rainforest- Week 1!

A buzz word in education right now is STEAM stations and you will hear us use this term often because it is all over the Mother Goose Time curriculum. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. What that means is we offer children the opportunity to use critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and questioning throughout the activity.

The first week of our Rainforest Adventure Theme, we implemented two STEAM activities that were laid out in the Teacher Guide. Week 1 was all about the forest floor. We began a science experiment that we will continue throughout the month. We cut a potato in half, pushed sticks into the base so it could balance on top of a plastic cup, and then we filled the cup with water. 23031576_1558512954239665_8237372388337483612_nWe discussed how the forest floor is covered with decaying materials (leaves, fallen trees, etc), and it is home to many animals, plants, and fungus. We made some predictions about what we think will happen to our potatoes. Potatoes are a root vegetable, but will they grow roots of their own? Will they turn to mush? Will they sprout something new? What do we need for something to grow (light and water)?

The second activity we decided to try was the Root Vegetable Marketplace.

We set out a variety of real root vegetables and talked about the different shapes, colors, and names. The children had so much fun stuffing all their vegetables into bags and pretending to buy them. Then they would sort them back into the baskets and do it all again. They naturally took turns being the shop keeper and the customer. We talked about how much money they thought the vegetables should be and how many they had. Maybe next week we will add in a scale and do some weight measurements. I never realized how many root vegetables there are and I know we even missed a few (no Beets!) This was such a fun activity and we will probably continue it for another few days (or as long as the vegetables survive).

These types of activities lead to Authentic Assessment and real learning. I love that Mother Goose Time has adapted the Teacher Guide to include STEAM stations!

Navigating Change

Our program is currently undergoing a big change! While it is very exciting, there is so much to learn, and how things are handled can make or break the shift. We have been operating a Certified Childcare Center and this is our fourth year in our current location. The opportunity came about to expand by joining forces with another program in our town. They have a professional gymnastics gym where the children spend part of their morning, but the classroom time was struggling in the academic and management department. We are so excited to share Mother Goose Time, among other things, with another group of children! In just two weeks, it is already making such a huge difference!

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The children are so excited each morning to come in and see what we will be learning. It is amazing to watch their self-control and focus when they are engaged. I have seen so much growth in the children with some simple structure and new material. The reality is winning over children is easy… but earning the trust of their parents is another story.

The biggest piece that was missing was communication with parents. There was no way for the parents to know all that their child was doing while they were away or what was coming up. We are currently using a program called HiMama to document our day. Parents can check in via the app, or an email will be sent to them each afternoon with their child’s Daily Report. This is a helpful tool, but the structure of the curriculum is our biggest asset.

We have a research based lesson plan packed full of learning and new experiences with Mother Goose Time. Each month there is a Family Newsletter to send home, detailing the topic of the month and some things parents can work on at home with their child. This month we are going on a Rainforest Adventure! Parents can see the Theme Web, The Activity Overview Calendar and the Skills Chart posted in the classroom. The Daily Topic Poster is always hung on the Circle Time board before the children arrive, and when they look around the room, there are purposeful activities that send the message, “We are learning here!”

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Here are 5 Lessons we have learned so far on this new adventure, but good to remember for any program change!

#1: Always be honest! Speak only to what you know for sure, not what you think they want to hear. Change is hard, but if you say one thing and do another, it does not inspire confidence in your program.

#2: Focus on what is to come! It is important to learn more about how things have been done in the past, but the reality is that the future is the only thing we really can control. Never speak poorly of what was, but focus on the great things that you are bringing to the program for the future.

#3: Ask Parents what they want! We are talking about other people’s children and what they need/want is important. We are on the same team and truly want what is best for each child, so asking for parent input in a new situation is the best way to begin open communication.

#4: Make a clean break! Communicate very clearly with parents what is going to happen and when. It is important to have a clean shift from one leader to the next so care remains consistent and parents know who to talk to with questions/concerns. We run into problems when their is a communication loop between the old and new, and if both are present as is our current situation, we have to be on the same page.

#5: Try not to take things personally! Not all families will be willing or ready for the change. They may take their child elsewhere or need to take a break while the dust settles, and that is perfectly acceptable. It is not about you and it is important to let them do what they feel is best for their family. Focus on the children and families in your care and do your very best to meet their needs.

We are so excited about the days ahead as we expand our program. We love Mother Goose Time and the amazing stability, communication and asset it is to our program. Our teachers have what they need to succeed and our children are excited to learn!

“What the Hail?” Authentic Observation with Mother Goose Time

I do apologize for the adult humor in this title, but I couldn’t resist (and the kids won’t be reading this anyway)! A whole day all about Hail? Our children have probably never even seen hail because it is so rare here in Oregon, but this might have been one of their favorite lessons of this unit.

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What is Hail, how is it formed, and what happens when it falls from the sky? These questions were the foundation of our lesson yesterday with Mother Goose Time.

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We love hanging the “Invitation to Create” at the center to guide our investigation. It is a good place to start our conversation with the children, but it also a good connection for the parents to see why we are doing the activity.

The children dipped the bouncy balls into bowls of paint and then dropped them onto the paper (in a tray). They had so much fun feeling the slippery paint on their fingers and the joy of the splat. It was interesting that some children were cautious about getting so much paint on their fingers while trying to get a hold of the slippery bouncy balls, while others dove right in. We were able to observe some large motor skills as they tried to move the tray and get the ball to roll across the paper. A few balls rolled right out because we shook a little too much.

A buzz word in education right now is STEAM stations and you will hear us use this term often because it is all over the Mother Goose Time curriculum. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. What that means is we offer children the opportunity to use critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and questioning throughout the activity.

The STEAM Station for Hail day involved a mallet hammer and ice- what could go wrong, right? Seriously, they loved this activity and it stemmed the best conversations in every classroom. In our Littles class (2-3 yr.) they focused on the sensory elements.big_457f3365-8280-412c-aa8a-edc0b2e74159.jpeg

How does the ice feel? Is it Hot or Cold? Is it Hard or Soft? After we smash it a little bit with the mallet, how does it feel? What if we smashed it more? What happens if we leave it in the sunny window?

These little ones loved playing with the hard ice and observing what happened to the ice over time.

Our preschool/Pre-k children were able to handle doing a bit of smashing themselves. They discussed what they thought would happen before it happened and then test their theory. “What do you think would happen if we hammered the ice? What is happening to the ice? What do you notice? What happens if we hold the ice in our hands?”

We love that Mother Goose Time plans these great activities to go with the theme, because I would not have thought to talk about Hail here in Oregon. The concept of the ice going from solid to liquid was such a fun process. The children loved using the mallet, which is so good for developing those upper body muscles that they will need for writing. We also love that the lesson plan has a book suggestion and we get so many great materials to support the theme. We really can open the box and be ready to teach!

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Whatever Would We Do Without Mother Goose Time?

After almost 8 years, we have become so accustomed to having the prepared lesson plans and materials that not only meet National and State Standards, but are also complete and fun. What would we ever do without this wonderful program? At the beginning of October, due to an ordering mix up, we were forced to find out!

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In the first week of our “Weather and Changing Seasons” unit, we had to get creative! We had a Curriculum box for 1 child, so we still had a copy of the lesson plan, but some of the activities weren’t possible without the proper materials for everyone. Our children still had loving care and great activities (of course), but what we found was it took so much more of our time and energy to come up with a plan and collect the materials. We ended up with more cotton balls than we actually needed and a whole box of fruit loops that we won’t actually eat. There was a sense of uncertainty each morning about what we were going to learn and how. We were able to make copies of some of the limited materials we had, but that took time, ink and paper.

Needless to say, it made us feel so grateful for Mother Goose Time! The plans, the counted materials, activities across the content areas that are backed by standards- AMAZING! Week #2 is going much smoother, our kiddos are loving it and our teachers are happy too!

Mother Goose Time in Action- September Edition!

The month of September has been so much fun! Making new friends, establishing routines, and learning all about our Amazing Bodies. Here are a few highlights from this month with Mother Goose Time!

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We are excited for October and to learn all about the “Weather and Changing Seasons” with Mother Goose Time!

Community!

Wonders Early Learning Center embraces children from 6 weeks up to 6 years. We have 5 classrooms and 12 teachers total. In the midst of so much learning and fun, it is easy for our staff, children, and parents to lose site of the larger community. We have a couple of ways to foster  that community feel across the classrooms.

A Welcome at the Door!

As our families arrive each morning, they ring a doorbell and a teacher comes to welcome them in. It is a good way to “read” the child upon arrival, but it also allows a chance to check in with each parent briefly. Our Littles, Preschool and Pre-K children begin the day in one mixed-age group and break off into smaller groups as more teachers and children arrive. The younger children get to see the olders and the older children get to help the youngers.

The Reading Tree!

We want to foster a love of reading at school and at home, so the past couple years we have sent home reading logs with space to write 20 books. When the family fills up their log, they can return it and the child can choose a prize from the Treasure Box. We set a goal for how many books we can read- last year it was “2016 Books by the End of 2016”, and then they read another couple thousand more by the end of the school year. We kept a large graph, but by the end of the year it took up the entire wall! This year, we decided to make a Reading Tree and each time a reading log is returned, we hang up a leaf with the child’s name and how many books they read. We are already up to 140 books read at home in just 2 weeks! The reading logs are for all families, no matter the child’s age or classroom, and the goal is collective.DSC_0254.JPG

The Community Board

We have a large board in the main hallway that we call the Community Board. We try to do something new each month (possibly theme related) that involves all of the children in our care.  For the month of September, we incorporated the Shape of the Month (Circle), and the theme of making new friends at the beginning of the new school year. Not only did we add some new children this year, but some new teachers as well. We took our pictures on the first day of school (or close to it) and hung them all in a circle. We used the materials from the September “Open House” packet to tie it all together- leftover colored circles to highlight our teachers and the sign, etc. We still have to get pictures for a couple of our new teachers, but there is time. 🙂DSC_0268.JPG

Fostering a community feel prevents division and conflict and it sets the example for our children that we can accomplish great things when we all work together!

“According to Wonders Teachers”: Class Routines at Circle Time

With the new school year comes the quest to find the perfect routine for a new group of children. What worked last year may not feel just right now, and what works for Pre-K probably won’t work with toddlers. So, I asked some of our teachers to share what is working in their classroom (at least for today)!

DSC_0199   Ms. Elizabeth in the Littles Class (Ages 2-3) said:

“For littles we use the buttons on the rug and circle time toys to keep their hands busy. When they have found a button they can choose a small toy to hold onto until it is time to get up to find our picture. Then they find their name and picture at one of the activities and get started! It keeps them from going all over the place when it is activity time.”

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Circle Time Toys to keep little hands busy and ears listening!

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Name Cards with pictures attached to the chairs with Velcro. Once everyone has had a chance to do the activities, they can take the name tags off for free play.

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Working hard on a noddle bracelet! I love that Mother Goose Time provides the activity cards and the materials for such great activities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ms. Heather in the Preschool Class (Ages 3-4) said:

“I really like the mats! After they wash their hands, they grab a mat and sit criss-cross applesauce and wait for their friends. When everyone is ready, we stand up on our mats and do exercises to the Circle Time Song from the Mother Goose Time CD. It gets some wiggles out and keeps them from getting too distracted!”

The mats are simple foam place mats from IKEA, but there are lots of good ideas like this that give children a choice and their own space for Circle Time.

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Ms. JenCSC_0197nifer in Pre-K (Ages 4-5) said:

“In Pre-K we use the 5 Star Listener poster to help us with transitions. They know that when we come inside from recess we walk to our room and sit on the carpet and they show me they’re a 5 star listener (eyes are watching, ears are listening, lips are closed, hands are still and feet are quiet). When they’re ready then we move on to the next thing. When I say let’s meet at the carpet they know to show me a 5 star listener and then we’re ready to move on. I also have been using the 5 minute sand timer. I give them a 5 minute warning before it’s time to clean up and they know that when the sand runs out it’s time to clean up and get ready for our next activity. When I turn the lights off they know to stop what they’re doing, put their hands on their head and look at me. That has been a great attention getter for my class.”

All of our kiddos love Circle Time! They like the special things that happen there and the predictability that when they hear the “Circle Time” song it is time to gather together and learn something new!

The First Week of School!

Infants (6 weeks- 12 months or walking) and Wobblers (Walking-2 Years)

Our center operates inside of a church (not affiliated, but shared/rented space). Because of this, three of our classrooms have to be completely mobile. Our Infants and Wobblers reside in the sanctuary. They have rolling shelves, folding gates, foam tiles for the eating area, a mobile sink/changing table, light weight room dividers, etc.  At the end of the week, everything rolls up and is stored for the weekend. Within that space, we are able to offer safe and age appropriate experiences. They have opportunities for quiet space, climbing/large motor, a variety of engaging toys, sensory experiences, and lots of snuggles! Our Infants and Wobblers use the “Experience Baby” Curriculum from Mother Goose Time.

Littles (Toddlers, 2-3 year olds)

Our Littles use the Little Goose Supplement to take the main Curriculum and make it developmentally appropriate for Toddlers. This group loves Dramatic Play, Sensory and Large Motor experiences. The activities/toys on their shelves rotate with each new unit to keep them engaged.

Preschool (3-4 Year Olds)

We call this room the “Island Room”. Our Preschool kiddos love the novelty of having new activities and books on the shelf each month. Having the classrooms set up and inviting on the first day is so important. Children that are continuing on in our program know where things are and what is available, but on a child’s first day, having an activity out and ready invites them to come in and play.

Pre-K

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Our Pre-K Class (The Jungle Room)
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Pre-K Circle Time Space, Thanks to Mother Goose Time for the great materials!
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Math and Science Shelf
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Quiet Reading space and Carpet activities

Our Pre-K class is all set for a great year! The first week of school is focused on the classroom rhythm, getting to know each other, developing the class rules and setting them up for success. Their teacher will be working on basic assessments (mostly observing the children’s play, but some more formal ways of documenting where each child is at).

Here goes the first week of school!

The very first day of school, the lesson plan included an activity where the children all chose their favorite color and drew on a large piece of paper together while the music played. When the music stopped, they talked about what they drew and how it felt to work together (Did they have enough space to work? Did anyone get in their space? How did that feel? How was it handled/could it be handled?) It was such a good time to talk about how we can work together and respect one another in our classroom.

Our First Circle Time!

21430090_10154977699421527_7874787942004033101_n21462904_10154977699356527_5181626094983302308_n21432716_10154977699251527_7420465976677000544_nOur very first Circle Time of the School year was a success! Goal #1 is getting every child to the carpet in an orderly fashion and holding their attention for just a few minutes to sing a song and chat about the options for the day. The older children got to the calendar, weather, and a short activity too!

The first week was great! We are getting to know some new friends and we are so excited about the great Mother Goose Time themes and materials for the year ahead!