Using all those great ideas in your preschool classroom

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on April 18, 2010

in Messages from Deborah

I love to search out new preschool ideas and activities on other blogs. New ideas keep me motivated and inspired. However, once I find a cute idea, I visualize how I will do the activity with my students.

Lose the recipe

Often times teachers look at an idea they find online or in books as they would a recipe for baking a cake. Following the idea one step at a time. Following step one, step two, step three, and so forth, teachers feel they should not deviate from the recipe. But you need to understand that the outcome and process of the project should be based on the development of the children in your classroom.

Visualize what the children will actually do

As you plan to use an idea, ask yourself: “What will my children actually do?”  If you are doing all of the cutting, tearing, arranging, folding, gluing, and so forth then what part of the process is left over for the children to actually do?  Remember – it is in the doing that children begin to develop their skills, abilities, and confidence!

When I plan an activity I actually visualize my students taking part in the process. If there just doesn’t seem like there will be enough for them to do then I change the idea up to make sure that the activity is something they can do all by themselves.

Creating flowers

Over the past few weeks I have found a ton of amazing ideas for flowers. I just love them all so at my first opportunity, I brought some of those ideas with me and presented them to a group of young children. However, I modified those ideas to fit what I felt would be best for the ages and stages of this particular group of young children.

Since I would only have one opportunity with this group of children, I decided to let them use a variety of materials to make their flowers. I first had the children brainstorm with me what ways we could use the materials to make flowers. We decided to try the following….

Colorful paint, colorful paper towel squares with seeds, straws, tape, yarn, and one child wanted me use letters to spell the word “HA”.

Then the children were given time to make their own flowers.

The children started by snipping the edges of green paper to make some grass.

The children added some glue – all by themselves!

Then the children flipped the grass over and glued it to their paper.

Most of the children did the grass exactly the same way I did even though they were told they can put the grass any where they want.

Then stems were cut out by the children and then they glued the stems to their paper.

Some of the children preferred long stems and others wanted short. One little girl only wanted one really tall stem.

This little girl decided she only wanted to use paint to create her flowers. Oh, and her white flower is actually just a glob of glue since we didn’t have any white paint!

Product and Process

In the end, we had a beautiful set of flowers to display in the room but we also enjoyed the process. The children were able to make decisions, use a variety of materials, and do the work without my help. I did provide guidance at first so the children could visualize the process but once the process was started, it was time to encourage their own creativity and skills.

If I were to be teaching these children on a regular basis, I would probably not have put out every type of material and instead had them try a different type of flower each day. I say this to let you know that I took a combination of ideas and adjusted them (or in this case – combined them) to make them work for my situation.

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Teacher Tom April 18, 2010 at 11:13 am

Every teacher should read this, Deborah. Brilliant! If the kids can’t do it themselves it probably shouldn’t be part of preschool, right? I like that you just collected all the different flower making methods and let the kids go with all (or none) of them at once. That’s what I’m doing on Monday.
.-= Teacher Tom´s last blog ..Keep Spreading The Word! =-.

2 Karen Harrington April 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

I like this too, Deborah! I don’t believe in showing a child “exactly” how something should look. Just because I like it one way doesn’t mean that is the way it SHOULD be. I prefer to tell my students what we are going to make (and why) and they let their imagination run wild. Work should be their’s not mine.
.-= Karen Harrington´s last blog ..Watch Us Grow! =-.

3 Domestic CEO April 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I HATE “cookie cutter” projects so am always searching out ideas that encourage the process instead of the final product. I really like how you first gathered ideas from the kids about what they could use to make the flowers. I am adding this to my plans for this coming week and can’t wait to hear what my kids come up with!

4 Despina April 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

You couldn’t be more right Deborah!!! I try to never prepare things at home for my kindergarten students to finish at school, but unfortunately, in Greece many teachers still care more about the perfect outcome than the procedure itself :(
Thanks to blogs like Tom’s and yours, I am never out of ideas for creative and children-centered -I don’t know if it’s properly translated in english- education!

5 Deborah J. Stewart April 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Translation is excellent:)

6 Noah April 20, 2010 at 8:01 am

Deborah – really really smart – we need to digest the ideas we find and make them our own, ground them in our own context to make them have the most meaning to ourselves and the kids we work with. Repeating something we find EXACTLY is easy and fun – and I think we lose opportunities to refine our own processes as educators…
PS – thanks again for those ideas! They really helped to inform my work!

7 Deborah J. Stewart April 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Thank you Noah for sharing the ideas with others:) I agree – take what we learn from others then refine them to meet our own processes!

8 Danny April 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I think all this time, even we already well prepared our daily teaching plan. We still have to add “spontaneous” things in the class :) as for reacting the uniqueness each of them.
two students, two different skills
.-= Danny´s last blog ..Numbers , ants , and yikess….!!!!! =-.

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