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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Teachers Need to Imagine the Possibilities . . .

       As an early childhood educator, I realize that teaching little ones involves a lot of preparation.  Maria Montessori referred to it as "the prepared environment."  Many hours are spent before the child even enters the classroom, not only deciding which lessons will be taught and how, but every detail of the classroom.  Thought goes into which materials are placed on the shelf, their most advantageous placement, and how they might be used (the intended uses as well as the not-so-intended) by the children.  (It's this same "teacher think" that makes me cringe when others buy my children any sort of stick-like toy.  I can just imagine the possibilities . . .)
       This week, my "teacher think" allowed me to appreciate the preparation that went into the lesson in our Mandarin Parents & Tots class at Language Stars*.   Time spent watching another teacher is always enlightening.  I enjoy reflecting on how she/he teaches, on what I can take from the lesson, and on how I might use his/her strategies as a jumping off point to improve my own teaching.  It's kind of neat to be on the "let's-just-sit-and-watch-the-lesson" side of things for a change, taking a "breather" so to speak, using the time to mentally improve my own teaching (and my Mandarin, too, hopefully!).  So, when the teacher pulled out the play fruit and a cash register that had buttons to push AND made noise, I saw my son's face and knew it was going to be a good lesson!

      When I heard the cash register ding and saw every little face light up, hoping for a turn (in exchange for speaking--or attempting to speak--Mandarin, of course), I knew right then and there that this teacher was prepared!  Now, was it a complicated lesson?  No.  The little ones were just taking turns picking out a favorite fruit to buy at the "store," pushing the cash register button, and removing money as their change for buying something.  (Although, they didn't pay any money in the first place.  Now wouldn't THAT be nice?!)  Did it involve a lot of fancy props?  Not really.  The fruit was from different, mismatched sets.  The cash register was one I have seen many times before.  But the teacher KNEW that it wouldn't take much.  Squishy, fuzzy bananas, enthusiasm, & a cash register that made noise?  Now that was a winning combination!  Every child was completely engaged for the entire grocery store experience.

Pretending to buy fruit and veggies
Taking turns asking for their favorite foods 

     So, if I had to name the things I like most about Language Stars, I think teacher preparation would definitely be in the top 3.  To illustrate this, I wish I had taken a picture of the classroom (not closet, CLASSROOM) that they use to store all of their materials.  Never have I seen such a stash of the latest in junky toys (which children LOVE and moms HATE--think things with a lot of pieces or, for example, these little squeegies that blow air and shoot foam projectiles), props, and topic-relevant board games.  But, even as I look at that huge room full of toys that my son would love nothing more than to dig though, I know the preparation that goes into picking props to use and using them effectively.  I realize that the Language Stars teachers are using their own "teacher think" to imagine the possibilities . . .

Thanks for reading my blog!

P. S.  Watch for me to post some new Chinese stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers in the next couple of weeks!  

*We get 50% off of our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  

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  1. I've nominated you for the Lovely Blog Award. Check out my blog http://rakiradresources.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/lovely-blog-award/ for details.

    Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

  2. I'm really like your blog and the article about Teachers Need to Imagine the Possibilities . . .

    Post by http://twitter.com/term_papers