Friday, January 13, 2012

Toddlers - They Tell Me What to Do

I do not sweat more than when leading my toddler classes. Wait a minute, I do not lead anything, they run the class! I love it though. Last week when I played the ukulele for a freeze dance, the tots took over by telling me to "freeze" and "go," and again this week. It is quite adorable.

I have a huge tote bag that I bring with me that has all my teaching props ready to go - scarves, a few instruments, fabric, fabric, fabric, a stuffed bear, a magic wand, all the necessary things.  The tots found the bag and just started pulling things out, "Ok, its scarf dancing time!" I don't fight it, I roll with it. This is how I have figured out how to teach toddlers creative movement. They tell me what to, I just make suggestions now and then.

For the story part, I read From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. When we got to the cat, I showed them how to stretch like the cat. One of my little ones went into a downward dog with one foot bent in the air, "It's yoga," he said in his little toddler voice. The cuteness is unbearable at times.

I have learned to love teaching toddlers creative movement and music, though my first year doing these classes for this age, I felt, was very challenging. Now, I really look forward to it. The difference with this group is that I really have to let go of trying to get them to do what I planned or want them to do. I bring the music, the instruments, the props, and we play. I don't even do things in order anymore. You want to start with the ukulele, sure. You want me to cover you in fabric, ok. You want to jump up and down for awhile, let's do that.

My classes are, usually, very structured. The toddlers, apparently, are my kryptonite because all structure goes out the window. And it works. I think part of the success of these groups are the excellent teachers in the classroom. They participate and enjoy the children as much as I do. With a supportive group of teachers around, every class is a success and everyone has fun.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bread and Roses Strike, 100 years today.

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses! 
Triangle Shirtwaist Strike, 1909, precursor to Bread and Roses

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creative Movement with the Toddlers

Yesterday I started Story Story Dance with two toddler classes. I find this age the most challenging because, at this age, they really do not care one bit what your agenda or schedule may be and their moods change ever so abruptly. So for me, it is especially rewarding when I can get toddlers engaged in these classes.

We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. I got this book and a stuffed animal brown bear on a recent visit to Kohl's. These and other children's books and toys are being sold there as part of the Kohl's Cares program which donates money from these special purchases for children's health and education. I read the story to the tots and for each animal, I asked the children what sound the animal makes and either offered, or let them come up with, a movement for each. After the story, I passed around the bear; each tot had a turn to hold the bear while we asked, Brown bear brown bear what do you see? The child with the bear got to tell us what to do.

This worked pretty good with the first group; apparently, all animals like to jump up and down, even fish! One student started braying like a donkey. So I said, "Oh! Donkey's like to kick," and they all started kicking their feet - it was too adorable! And when I asked them to wag their tails for the dog - again, so stinking cute! The teacher and I had to turn away with the biggest smiles because we were so overcome with the cuteness of it all. After reading the story to the second group, they just wanted the bear, forget acting anything out. So, I put on the dance music and passed the bear around.

Every small success is a big success with the toddlers. 


Colors are for Everyone

I recently read the article, One Teacher's Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying in a Classroom. I was really happy to read how one teacher is addressing these issues in her first grade classroom.  As a preschool teacher, the students do not typically care or give a second thought to when the boys dress-up in the dramatic play area, they all seem to be ok with that; where they start voicing their gender labeling most often comes-up when talking about colors.

By four years old, my students have already decided that pink is ONLY for girls and boys should not even use the pink crayon (and they can be really snippy about this too). Some teachers of young children may choose to ignore this all together, or support the girls' stance, but I typically do not let it slip by. I respond, "colors are for everyone." I do not throw this out there and then walk away, I engage students in a dialogue. Everyone gets to enjoy all the colors that are around us and in the world. Certain colors are not just for some people and not for others. I often talk about my husband - who can rock a pink shirt. Last year, I had a male pre-k student who was very open about his love for the color pink. The children very quickly accepted that this particular student loves pink and that was ok, but making the next leap that pink can be enjoyed by any boy, or girl, that takes a little more work.

That is why as teachers, we need to create a learning environment that is safe for children to explore, ask questions, try new things, make friends, and learn. School is not just a place to learn academics; it is a social place where our students learn how to be participants of the larger society.

The teacher in the article mentioned above writes;

"My job is not to judge, but to teach, and I can’t teach if the students in my class are distracted or uncomfortable. My job is also about preparing students to be a part of our society, ready to work and play with all kinds of people. I found that teaching about gender stereotypes is another social justice issue that needs to be addressed, like racism or immigrant rights, or protecting the environment."