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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Study Party Literacy Beginnings Chapter 4: An Organized, Engaging Environment for Learning

I know I'm dreadfully behind in the Book Study blog party hosted by   
Pre-K Pages
but I refuse to give up! Now that I have passed my Praxis test (with flying colors thankyouverymuch!), I will have more time to devote to this wonderful collaborative learning opportunity! If you are just discovering this, click on the button above to find out more.

This post is my reflection on Chapter 4 which is being hosted by Karen at

Chapter 4 of Literacy Beginnings is all about Organization and Management. This is not an area that comes naturally to me. J However, I love the sense of empowerment that I feel when I am finally organized in some area that has been an "unmade decision" for so long. You wonderful teachers have helped me tremendously in the classroom and a website called The FlyLady.net  is helping me at home. The main theme of organization is doing bits at a time consistently to form habits so that, eventually, it doesn't even feel like work. My mom always told me, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!".
Clipart from www.digiwebstudio.com

There are so many things I have learned about organization and management from so many incredible resources. I will be listing a few of them in this post for you.

The quote that struck me in this chapter is:

“Children learn to inquire or search for information, regulate their own behavior, work with and appreciate others, build curiosity about the world and others, and expand language to new and more complex levels.”  Tons of ideas were popping into my head while reading this one sentence!

Inquiry and searching for information made me think of The Wonder Book and KWL charts as well as placing book bins in the different learning areas rather than confining them to one Library area. Put number and shape books in the Math area, home and family books in the Housekeeping area, color and weather books in the Science area, pet books in a bin near the Class Pet, building books in the Blocks area, etc. Also, house the Leveled Readers in an area all their own. This not only puts books in the proper frame of mind location, but it also takes care of any traffic problems you may encounter by keeping the books in one spot. The whole point of having a literacy rich environment is surrounding children with language; helping them see that words are everywhere and help us learn more about our world.

The Wonder Book is simply a binder of questions (illustrated for emergent readers, of course). Whenever you come across new information that has been “wondered” about, feel free to have a student draw/write the answer in the Wonder Book. However, the purpose of The Wonder Book is not necessarily to answer all the questions you and your class come up with. It’s there to demonstrate that there is value in questioning alone. At the end of the year, you can review the Wonder Book and have children explore possible answers to those questions that did not get answered during the year or make a copy for students to keep and continue to add to as they grow.

Regulating behavior: this is a biggie in Early Childhood. The discovery of Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey was the Aha! moment I needed desperately. If you haven’t read it, go there now! It never felt great sending a child to Time Out as punishment. The Safe Spot is NOT a punishment. It is a place for reflection, gathering composure, or just a spot to be alone for a moment. The Safe Spot includes pictures illustrating different methods for calming down, relaxation techniques and aids, seating and other objects to provide comfort, activities to encourage proper expression of emotions, etc.
Safe Place Breathing Icons- free printable poster from http://ConsciousDiscipline.com

Working with and appreciating others is a big part of the Early Childhood classroom. Celebrating special moments such as the birth of a baby brother or sister, birthdays, classroom leaders and helpers, exciting news, or simply enjoying the specialness of ourselves reaches into all areas of learning and ability. My favorite resources are I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey and , of course, Dr. Jean.

Expand language to new and more complex levels: Math talk cards, modeling and practicing conflict resolution, circle games used to introduce each other, themed vocabulary word walls, etc.
Check out ABCteach.com for several word walls with pictures or just google and you will find tons of free resources. :)
Another point made in this chapter is to change out certain areas of the classroom to keep interest levels high. Areas such as Dramatic Play, Sand/Water tables, an area to feature books related to your current theme, Author Study feature area are easy to change out and keep things enticing. 
The key to keeping things orderly and in one piece is to Introduce, Model, Practice, Introduce, Model, Practice…
Here's a free idea form for keeping your sensory tables new and enticing:

Lea McGee’s Transforming Literacy Practices in Prekindergarten: Research-Based Practices That Give All Children the Opportunity to Reach Their Potential as Learners by Scholastic states that the number of books should equal 5 times the number of children in the class!
# of books = 5(# of children)
Do you hear that, honey???   

Now that we know we can include so much in the environment, we need a little reminder that it is also important to

The fabulous book The Cornerstone by Angela S. Powell,

and Debbie Diller’s book Spaces and Places,

and the amazing blog:
Clutter-Free Classroom

have all helped me tremendously in this area. The biggest tip for a visual learner like me was to choose a color scheme for the classrooom. I cannot tell you how this simple idea has helped the kids AND ME feel calmer. It's so ... (sigh)... :). So remember, monochromatic isn't just about clothes!

Also, you don’t need a lot of froufrou in the classroom. Avoiding all the cutesy wall fillers leaves plenty of space to feature student work. Invest in some dollar store frames or fancy scissors to make paper frames to feature the masterpieces of their minds!

Make your classroom inviting by using rugs to define areas, cushy pillows for a comfy reading spot,

 lamps for ambient vs. fluorescent lighting,
LOL! Just checking to see if you were still listening. ;)
and plants to keep the air clean and fresh!

What an inviting place to learn through play!

Happy Organizing!

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