"I thought I heard your voice"

Last week, I arrived at the state university where I am a part-time instructor. I walked into the office of the elementary education department and the Head of the Department greeted me by name. I have only seen her three times since I began working at the university and she greeted me by my first name. Even as an adult, I am caught by that skill - intention - that teachers at all levels try to offer: the idea that each person is recognized and acknowledged, my face and name having been filed away in the Head of Department's memory.

"Hi, Jeanne," said the Head of the Department as she casually glanced up to see me, To See Me.

We spoke for a few minutes, standing in the office doorway, about final grades and next term's courses.

I started making my way down the hallway to the Co-chair of the Department and as I arrived at her open door, she looked up from her desk and said, "Hi...I thought I heard your voice down the hall..." We chatted for a few minutes about the semester, upcoming courses, and her sweet dog Lucy who was in her office.

As I left that day from campus, I thought about Being Greeted By Name and My Voice Being Known.
I thought about how these same ideas are abundantly important in the early childhood classroom.
The most basic LITERACY: Young children know others by face and sound. This is how they "READ" and engage and connect. They see others and hear others, they discriminate details of how things look and how they sound. Young children are making meaning of their world bit by bit, face by face, sound by sound, voice by voice.

Classroom Games & Books:
1. Make class books of close-ups of parts of children's faces (you can take a regular portrait of the child, then crop in editing for Just Eyes, or Just Mouths, etc). Put the book in the Reading Area and children will love identifying their friends by these small clues!
2. If you don't have a tape recorder to make a "Sounds Like" tape/CD to play, you can make a Sounds Like book! Have the children make a drawing of their own favorite sounds and create a class book. Perhaps someone loves Truck Sounds or Wind Sounds or Jingle Bell Sounds! Friends can identify their friends' favorite sounds in their drawings!
3. You can play Sound games at your meeting/circle time. Children can say Good Morning or any other phrase using a different kind of voice - a mouse voice, a booming voice, a high or low voice. They can make up lots of ways to play with their voice!
4. You can play I Spy Describing Games for eyes or hair..."Do you see someone who has long, brown, curly hair? Who could it be?"..."Do you see someone with big green eyes? Who could it be?"
5. You can read Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle's : Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Look around. Listen. Who do YOU see? Who do YOU hear?

hands-on nativity scene

One of my favorite explorations during the Christmas season is offering the children the pieces of the Nativity scene to get their hands ON. The classroom is lucky enough to have two distinct kinds of hands-on pieces for children to handle - you can see a few pieces of both sets in the photo.

Have nativity pieces for children to interact with along with a book - they love it!
1. One lovely set was gifted to our classroom nearly twenty years ago. A mom hand-painted pre-cut wood pieces from the local craft store, small enough for small hands, painted with rich colors and even some gold on the kings crowns (don't children LOVE silver and gold!).
2. The second collection is from a purchased hand-carved set with lightly washed-in colors, larger sized yet still handle-able by young children. These pieces I purchased one or two at a time over some years.

It is wonderful to be able to have pieces that are For Children to use, handle, play with, explore, experiment as they wish. So many Nativity scenes are 'extra special' to only look at on display, never touch, breakable, treasured, all that - it is important to offer pieces to children at home/school that invite them into the scene of the Birth Day :)

In your classroom:
You can make pieces from CONSTRUCTION PAPER, decorated by children, laminated to last longer and make more handle-able.  
You can make pieces from CLAY or PLAYDOUGH.
You can make pieces from RECYCLABLES & CARDBOARD.

Out of print but worth a search!
This particular book, The Christmas Story: A Nativity Tale for Young Children by Anita Ganeri, is a favorite to read, act out and also put out alongside the creche pieces. The book is unfortunately out of print, yet perhaps available if you search for it from sellers. The main reason I love it is because the pages are literally photographs of children dressed as though in a play acting out the Christmas Story and the story is easy to read and follow for the young age group.

* To note, this exploration is appropriate at our religious based school, where we explore religions of any students along with Christian celebrations.

Happy reading. Merry Christmas. Peace. Joy. Jingle.

year one for zella!

the enthusiasm I feel for my first year of blogging!
I started blogging one year ago today.

I was encouraged to start blogging by a professional mentor who thought I might enjoy the creative aspects of writing along with incorporating my classroom photos and educational theory. It was a gift that I didn't know would be Such A Gift: Blogging has been the richest form of professional development and networking that I have ever experienced, and it only keeps getting richer and better.

Thanks to all the readers, bloggers, educators, and parents for offering support and comments over the year via this blog, twitter or FB. I am inspired daily reading so many fabulous blogs that inform my own teaching and enrich my lens on valuing childrens learning and development.

In celebration of Year One For Zella, here are my 5 favorite posts from the last year...


My five-year-old friend Mimi loved to draw. That's all she really loved to do.
Hmmm, let me be more clear: Mimi really really loved drawing mermaids.

2. Word Bank Treasures
Using a Word Bank in your classroom is an exciting, hands-on way to offer words to children to USE without imposing direct teaching methods.


3. choices turn into "I Need to Do This"
During Choice Time, the children direct themselves in or out of the classroom, engaging with peers and materials and teachers. During Choice Time, teachers have the opportunity to listen and observe, photograph, document...

4. Moving at the Speed of Children
People have often asked me how I can work with young children. 
"Aren't they wild and busy and on-the-go all the time?
Don't they go in all different directions?
Aren't they moody and needy and unpredictable?" 
Ummmm, not really, no, not really.
What IF... children could DO what they wanted with whatever materials they chose?
What IF...children could THINK of an idea then try it out with whatever materials they chose?
What IF... children could INVENT anything they wanted with whatever materials they chose?

Happy Reading.
Looking forward to writing Zella in Year Two...

edublog nominations! (clap, clap)

The Edublog Awards are here!

I will start with a personal admission: I am not usually a fan of the awards kinds of things, the center of attention kind of things. I prefer the focus to be the children, period, and my role is to fade out as much as possible to allow the children to shine.

The Edublogs are a bit different. Or, at least, I perceive them to be different because they exist within the blogosphere and are cloaked by professional development and networking.
I see the nominations in the Edublogs Awards to be a valued acknowledgment by e-colleagues to recognize bloggers For Their Inspiration in their specialized field (early education, in my case).

I appreciate the acknowledgments I have received already by other bloggers. Literally, just being nominated by them has uplifted my efforts of my blogging work and my support of others' work.

I follow many many blogs and now - in return - it is quite difficult to reason out who I would like to most Thank For Their Inspiration by nominating them for an Edublog Award. 

With THANKS to all bloggers who have supported and commented on Zella...
I offer these nomination for this year's Edublog Awards:

Best Individual Blog:  Teacher Tom  the powerhouse blogger for early childhood education

Best Individual Tweeter:  Brick by Brick  ECE networker & support extraordinaire 

Best Group Blog: Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning  global community builders

Best Teacher Blog: Let the Children Play  the queen of all blogs & cheerleader for all bloggers 

Most Influential Blog Post:  Teacher Tom's "Spoiled Brats"  a must must must read  

Clap. Clap. Clap.