Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa's Reindeer

My class has been doing a lot of pretend play the past few weeks revolving around Christmas. I set up a wrapping center in my room, complete with gift wrap, ribbons, bows and lots and lots and lots of tape. This served as the jumping off point for a game that has continued all week - Santa delivering presents. There are elves that wrap the presents, children who sleep while waiting for Santa, the big guy himself, and of course, the reindeer that pull the sleigh.

"I'll be Rudolph!"

"I'll be Dancer!"

"I'll be Donner!"

"I'll be Prancer!"


"I'll be Blister!"

You all remember Blister, Santa's reindeer whose shoes were too small?


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Birthdays, Then and Now

I am celebrating a birthday in a couple of months. And the number is kind of a big one. I have found that if I practice saying it a couple of times a day in the months leading up to the fateful day, it is easier to accept it once I get there.

One of my students turned 4 yesterday. She walked onto the campus her head held high, a spring in her step, and a smile that lit up her face. As she walked up to me, I said, "Whose celebrating a birthday today?". The look she gave me was a mixture of disdain and pity.

"Mrs. V., of COURSE it is me. Can't you tell by looking at me that I turned 4 today?"

I love how little ones look so forward to getting older and getting bigger. I love how each birthday represents an achievement, and an automatic check in the "I am more grown-up" column. And how once they reach these landmark birthdays, they look back on their younger years with such nostalgia.

"I remember when I was three, I didn't know how to take turns" one little boy said to me earlier this week, shaking his head as he looked at his classmates squabbling over a block. "Now, that I am four, I know how to share." It should be noted that he has been 4 for about 10 days.

The age technique is one that I keep in my arsenal of Behavior Management Tools. Few words have the affect on a 4-year-old as "Wow, for a minute there, I thought you were three again". The usual reaction is one of horror, like being three was just this side of prison, and then the mistaken behavior usually ends immediately. "I didn't mean to take the firetruck from you and then hit you on the head with it."

I would like to pinpoint the exact age when getting older and getting bigger is no longer an achievement, but an embarrassment.

"Happy Birthday! I had no idea it was your birthday until I looked up your Facebook page. How old are you?"

And you either answer...

"...cough..forty cough..cough four" into your hand


"None of your business! I am changing my Facebook profile this intstant!!"

Why can't I answer, with my head held high, a confident spring in my step and a smile that lights up my face, "I am 44! And I remember when I was 43, I was embarrassed about my eye wrinkles. But now that I am 44, I know that eye wrinkles rock!!"

*marin thinks about changing her attitude about her birthday. those 3-year-olds have the right idea, I think...*


Birthdays in Preschool

A couple of my students celebrated birthdays this week. We make a big deal out of birthdays in my class; we make cupcakes! The birthday child gets to choose what kind of cake and frosting he wants (I always have a couple of choices on hand), and then we make the cupcakes as a class.

This is a great exercise in beginning recipe reading. Cake mixes now have the pictures of the ingredients right on the box, and the kids take great joy in being able to tell me exactly what ingredients we need to get. By the end of the school year, and the celebration of many birthdays, the students can differentiate between different measuring utensils, and they understand the idea of following the steps in a recipe.

The hardest part of these birthday rituals is trying to convince the kids that they can't lick their fingers, and then stick them back into the bowl. Because, ewww. I have tried several methods to try to curb this temptation. I have gone into long detailed explanations about the transfer of germs via fingers and mouth, but found that by the time I had finished this diatribe that there were about 6 children up to their elbows in cake batter. I have also tried to detail the dangers of e-coli in raw eggs, but this lecture had the same result as the germ lecture. My current strategy is simply saying the rule is no licking fingers at school. This technique has had better results; only two children end up elbow deep in cake batter as opposed to six. I comfort myself that very few germs can survive 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

We make mini cupcakes, and after they are cooked each child gets a plate with a cupcake, a dollop of the chosen frosting and a small pile of sprinkles. Each child decorates their own cupcake, some with care and detail, some with reckless abandon. Some kids eat each part separately. Last year, I had one little boy who would stuff the whole cupcake in his mouth, and then tell me, mouth full of cupcake, that I forgot to give him his cupcake. He tried this on every single birthday celebration. I am happy to report I only fell for it twice.

The birthday child gets to take the leftover cupcakes, frosting and sprinkles home to decorate with their family.

By the end of the year, my students can whip out a batch of cupcakes in record time. And that is an important life skill.