Reciting nursery rhymes is an ideal way to teach pre-literacy to preschoolers. In a few short verses, they demonstrate rhyming words, alliteration, letter and sound recognition and story telling as well as a whole host of educational concepts.
Recently the children heard Little Boy Blue. They listened to it twice and then were shown prompts so that they were able to help recite the rhyme. To encourage their ability to recognize rhyming words, the prompts were mixed up so that horn and corn were exchanged, sleep and sheep, and I and cry. The children thought this was hilarious. The older ones immediately identified these words as rhyming.
Then the play. Four stations were placed around the room to highlight certain literacy skills.
At the first station there were cardboard horns and corn. Some of the kids pretended to play the horn, others pretended to eat it and vice versa. This encouraged the use of rhyme.
The second station had the letter B (Boy Blue) with different textures. The younger kids were touching them, rearranging them and learning to identify the actual letter, while the older ones traced the letter with their hands. This group were also given paper and pencils in case they wanted to try writing. Many did and were excited to show off their skills.
The third station was a sensory table filled with corn and wooden B's. The kids got to handle the letter and physically feel its shape. This was good for all ages. Again the younger kids were able to identify the letter while the older were aided in writing it.
Lastly and most educational was the hay block. Several lessons were demonstrated at this station. Blue cardboard boys in different sizes were provided. The kids placed them under the hay, on top of the hay, next to the hay, learning about directional prepositions. They also lined the boys in rows. There was the little one, big one, bigger one and biggest one. Finally the oldest group started play acting using the cardboard boys as brothers and creating story lines.
By setting up the stations, the kids were learning some important pre literacy skills. Each age group was able to take something different and educational from the experience, all done through fun and play.
Our school has a long standing Shabbat Pak program. Shana Lee, our wonderful coordinator, puts together a "Shabbat in a bag" kit with everything from candles and challah to a CD with Shabbat songs. Every child in the preschool has a turn taking the Shabbat Pak home and celebrating with family and friends (sometimes two or more families with Shabbat Paks get together for dinner!).
Here is the Shabbat Pak experience from a non-Jewish family:
giuliana's first shabbat dinner
After sharing our first Shabbat dinner with our oldest daughter, Adriana, during her first year at Kaplan in Miss Nora's class; we were all very excited to share the experience with Giuliana.
For the meal we chose a wonderful Chicken in White Wine recipe from The New Jewish Table (written by Daddy's friends and owners of the Equinox Restaurant in Washington, DC). Daddy got home later than expected, so its was a bit of a rush to prepare the meal and set the table before sundown, but we managed.
Like her sister before her, Giuliana helped out preparing the ingredients (a lot less than for Adriana's Osso Buco meal). She did well and was able to get back to tickle-time with her sister while dinner finished cooking.
A little iPod and kitchen game later, Daddy called everyone to the table. Mammy had set the table nicely, with the challah covered, grape juice poured and the candles ready. Meanwhile, Adriana had sneaked into Daddy's spot at the head of the table.
We followed the Shabbat blessings in the folder point by point; blessing the girls, the wine and the bread. The blessings came in a combination of Hebrew and English, and we recited them as best we could, with Adriana and Giuliani repeating after Daddy and participating in every step.
After dinner we read the Shabbat story and sang the Dinosaur song, which was Adriana's favorite a few years ago. Giuliana knew the song the best thanks to her practice with Rabbi.
At the end, it was Giuliana's turn to pick her favorite part of Shabbat dinner, and she said "the wine". She loved the story and the song, but raising the kiddush cup following the blessing and drinking the "wine" was #1.
as told by Renata Lee
Sukkot is perhaps the Jewish Holiday that best suits the preschooler mind. It is, like Passover, a reminder of the Exodus; but it also celebrates the very concrete experience of the harvest. At this time of the year, in the East Coast many farms open their orchards to the public and most of our students experience apple picking first hand. Sukkot expands this experience and gives it more depth.
Building and decorating a sukkah is perhaps the most exciting part of the holiday. Every child makes something to decorate the sukkah, and the process involves much more the actual creating of a craft project. Along the way we explore foods that come from plants, we separate fruits from nuts and seeds, we taste and smell new things and marvel at the amazing bounty that is offered us.
And of course the sukkah is a fascinating place in itself, so it comes up in their play and different representation pop up in every classroom. Some groups made small for their dolls, others built them with blocks, and yet others made them big enough to get inside! But every group worked hard at figuring out what worked and what didn't work, all of them had to negotiate and come up with creative solutions.
During the whole festival we are also learning about our identity and the traditions that make up our Jewish experience. Shana, our Jewish Education Specialist, visits every classroom, bringing the lulav (and how perfect is a holiday that provides a preschool child with something to shake in every direction!) and the etrog to all of us and helping us better understand the meaning of the holiday. We are lucky to have our backyard sukkah where we can have snack to fulfill the mitzvah, and Rabbi Scheinberg's songs bring a true sense of joy and celebration.
Recycling, reusing, and repurposing seem to be the words of the day. While it can take some work, and there is no instant gratification like being bought in a store, the rewards far outweigh the trouble. Transforming objects, especially with kids, teaches imagination, creativity, and the ability to think things through to find solutions. In addition, it is a lesson in the old adage, “waste not, want not”, and more importantly in how we can help the planet.
Cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle. It is found everywhere. It can readily be cut down, it comes in many different thicknesses, and it is versatile. For our summer camp, one of the most enjoyable projects for the campers is the cardboard maze. Large boxes that can be cut down are easily found during the summer when people tend to move. Our maze had a castle theme allowing for other projects to stem from this theme. Turrets and a drawbridge were added. The campers were told that the drawbridge had accidently been left opened and a dragon wandered inside. In addition, a knight went to find the dragon, the treasure chest was misplaced, a diamond ring and a crown were lost, the prince has turned into a frog, and the king could not find his royal underwear. A scavenger hunt ensued.
The kids had so much fun looking for these pictures that additional images (unicorn, key and scepter) were added the next day. All throughout the maze, the kids could be heard shouting out their finds. “I found the dragon, I found the underwear.” The excitement was heightened. While the maze is inexpensive (the cost of duct tape), it does take time and space to assemble. It is, however, well worth it when one sees the enormous fun the kids have.
Playing on the castle theme and also using cardboard, the campers made mask and paper bag crowns to become princes and princesses. They also slayed a dragon made out of a box, and rode around on horses and unicorns that were made out of milk cartons for the heads, covered with brown or white paper bag and attached to a mailing or wrapping paper tube.
Another day and theme during our recycling week was transportation. The room had 5 different activities set up, mainly utilizing cardboard again, but also using bottles and milk cartons. A bus and cars were made out of boxes in two stations. At a third, the campers had great fun sitting in a boat made from gallon and liter plastic containers.
The boat was able to support three kids because the bottles with tops maintained the air pressure. It would have been interesting to see the boat afloat.
Three of the activities were on a big scale where the kids could actually sit in or on the vehicle. The other two activities were on a smaller scale. At one station the campers played with boats made from milk cartons. A milk carton is an ideal recycling material for these easily made boats which are capable of floating. Lastly the kids played on a cardboard surface that had been painted and divided into 3 sites consisting of the moon, an airport, and a raceway. The kids played with cars and rocket ships made from toilet paper rolls while planes were made from cereal boxes.
There are so many materials that can be used for recycling and reusing. Cardboard is the easiest to use and find, but other materials work just as well. Large and small cans from local restaurants are perfect, although the edges must be taped to prevent getting cuts. During our week of recycling, the kids used the large cans as drums and building blocks. They also made wind chimes out of the smaller cans. The magnetic characteristic lends itself to the use of magnets. We had fun with a robot made from the larger cans. Old pots and pans work just as well as the cans, have a magnetic surface, and can be repurposed (for example making them into instruments). Unfortunately there are no images of the large cans.
While imagination and creativity are useful for finding new uses of recycled materials, ideas are within anyone’s reach through Pinterest. Besides saving money, the fun of repurposing is so rewarding…and it helps our earth.
Here are a few other pictures of recycling to follow.
Post by Heather Alberts
On April 1st, the Fours class received two leopard frog tadpoles. We were told the full metamorphosis would take 12-16 weeks, so we knew that the children would probably not see the whole process, but we did expect that they would be able to see some significant change.
It was disappointing to see the weeks go by without the tadpoles doing much more than grow fatter. Luckily, they were still fascinating for the children, and just their interactions and habits proved to be interesting enough. With Meg's--our science teacher--help, we explored frogs' life cycle and habits, we did endless observational drawings, and made charts recording the tadpoles' growth (at least they were definitely getting bigger!)
By the last day of school, on June 11th, one of the tadpoles had two minuscule back legs, almost impossible to see. Disappointed, I cleaned the tank, packed the tadpoles in a bag, and took the whole thing home, unsure of what I'd do with them.
Meg, our science teacher, suspected we had not received leopard frog tadpoles, but bullfrog ones instead, which take between two and three years to go through the full metamorphosis...
A couple of weeks into summer vacation, and still only back legs on one tadpole and no sign of change on the other. I was starting to think that Meg was indeed right. But then my sons noticed that there were actually two tiny front legs on the growing tadpole. There was hope!
And indeed, after leaving them in a friend's care for a few days while my family went away to celebrate the Fourth of July... Big change awaited us!
I was informed by my First Grader (who had done a whole unit on frogs at school), that we had only one tadpole, and the other one was now a froglet. It was absolutely amazing to see how quickly things progressed once the front legs appeared. The froglet got a rock in the tank so he could rest now that he had lungs, and within a few days his tail disappeared and we had a real frog!
It was sad to think that my students had not seen this transformation, but I could at least send their parents and email with pictures; and it was so fun to receive all the children's responses.
Next school year, we will get tadpoles earlier so that we all get to see first hand this truly amazing process.
If you walked down Park Avenue by the synagogue this summer, you may have thought a new pool club opened – but no- it’s the Kaplan Summer Camp sprinkler park!
Over 100 campers had fun cooling off during water play, stretching during movement class, exploring science projects, playing sports and games, running around during playground time and spending an entire week building with recycled materials and thinking of new ways to use them.
Stepping into our classrooms you may have found a beach, a circus, an undersea adventure, a Where the Wild Things mural or a bunch of monkeys from Caps for Sale! The fun and learning never stop.
Many of our campers are Kaplan regulars while others are newbies to our fun and nurturing Kaplan community.
The Kaplan Campers have had a great time acting out some of our favorite stories and performing shows for each other during the Creative Arts weeks.
The Dragonflies looked at Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs and created their own land of Chewandswallow where all of the food falls from the sky. We made orange juice rain, clouds of waffles and blueberries, and giant pizzas that flew in from the northeast (with a healthy side of kale). Our story continued with a giant parachute pancake that landed on our heads.
The Fireflies, Crickets, and Butterflies explored the differences and similarities between bats and birds with Stellaluna. We did lots of flying and hanging upside down from our feet. We even made a giant nest from recycled paper and cardboard that held the entire group. The campers’ favorite part of the story was pretending to eat bugs and imagining how yucky that must be.
The Caterpillars had already read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus in their classroom and had made pigeon puppets. We went a little deeper into the story by painting our own giant bus and individual steering wheels. We sang “The Wheels on the Bus” and drove our bus to the zoo, a farm, and the beach where danced like different animals and practiced our swimming (while popping lots of bubbles!).
Kaplan Summer Camp ran this summer from June 16th -August 1st . We were open from 8:00-6:00, Monday – Friday. If you are interested in having your child attend camp next summer, contact the Kaplan office in March 2015.
Passover is a particularly joyful time of year around Kaplan Cooperative Preschool. At long last, spring has sprung, and the students (and teachers!) are thrilled to be back outside in the fresh air and sunshine after an unbearably long winter – enjoying a bit of freedom, one might say. Also, as the school year begins to wind down, the children have matured so much, and they seem able to understand the story and meaning of Pesach on a much deeper level.
The tale of Moses, from his infancy through to the miracle on the banks of The Red Sea, is alive each day at Kaplan School. Many of the children use the toy babies in the dramatic play area of the classroom to reenact Moses’ voyage as a baby in the basket in the river. Don’t fear, the teachers have reassured the kids that none of their mommies will put them in a basket in the Hudson River!
Each class, from the tiniest Parparim to our seniors in the Susim class, has created a Haggadah for use at home at the family Seder. The children have made pages representing various aspects of the Passover experience, from the burning bush, to the plagues of frogs and locusts, to the four questions.
When the classes go to visit Rabbi Rob in the sanctuary for Shabbat, he reminds us that Passover is about freedom. The children laugh as he pretends to wield a shovel, working hard for King Pharaoh. ‘Please, can I take a rest? Can I have a drink of water?’ he asks. The kids are eager to play their part and respond with the angry voice of King Pharaoh, ‘No, no, no! Keep working!’ It’s a fun exchange, but the meaning stays with them. At Kaplan we encourage the children to ‘make your own choice,’ and, ‘be in charge of yourself.’ Even many of the youngest students are able to draw the connection from the bravery of Moses leading us out of Egypt to the liberties we enjoy today.
At Kaplan, our students enjoy each holiday through music, art, storytelling, food and family. Each day, preschool skills such as literacy, math and science are integrated into this rich experience.
Nora Martinez DeBenedetto
In every Kaplan classroom you will find a sensory table along with plenty of other opportunities to play with sensorial materials (playdough, beads, cotton balls...) and you may have wondered why is that, or even if it is really necessary. I'm here to tell you that yes, it is very necessary for young children to have plenty of opportunities to play with materials that stimulate their senses.
A sensory table is a very special tool in a preschool classroom, it is a place where a child can have pretty much total control over his actions and experiences; where it is rare that a teacher needs to intervene to alter the way in which the materials are used: children can grab as much moonsand in their fist as they can possibly hold, no need to share; they can pour sand through a funnel over and over again, no need to change activities; push playdough into a tin for the sake of feeling its resistance against their fingers, no need to produce any finished object... They can guide their experiences based on their sensory needs, which is what makes it an ideal place for a distressed child (think separation anxiety, difficulty during a transition...) to calm down.
It is also a place for exploration, where a child is encouraged to naturally use scientific processes such as comparing, counting and making predictions (will this skinny cup hold all the water in the short fat one?, how many cotton balls can I line up on this edge?). All this manipulation is also a pathway to develop specific vocabulary related to the physical qualities of the materials (heavy/light, soft/hard, wet/slimy...).
As a child pours, spoons and grabs materials, she is developing hand-eye coordination and refining fine motor skills that will be essential when she is learning to write.
And if all these weren't enough, sensory experiences create specific, new neural pathways in the brain, which is why tracing a letter in the sand with your finger is a much more effective way to learn to write that letter than starting directly with a pencil. That shape and the proper directionality of letter formation become imprinted in the brain much more effectively through touch than through the use of a tool.
It is easy to think as sensory play as an essentially tactile experience, but the sense of touch is not the only one that comes into play when we plan these activities; often we will scent play dough or moonsand or choose naturally scented materials like pine needles or herbs to add another dimension to sensory play. The senses of hearing and sight are also engaged in these activities, as most materials will make some kind of sound when manipulated (think of rice flowing through a funnel and tapping a metal recipient as it falls into it).
Furthermore, just as children learn and practice social skills, language development and so on through sensory play, their brains also learn and develop through it, making them become more perceptive the more they use their senses.
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
I hate to disagree with Shakespeare here, but when it comes to a young child's name, it means the world. Their name is their identity, and using it is the first way in which they define who they are. A child's name is the first word they recognize in print, and it will be the first one they write. And this recognition is also the realization that they belong, that they are part of a community.
Soon enough she will begin to recognize those twisted lines, especially the ones that make the first character: "That's my letter!". When a teacher asks her to find her name, they will often refer to that first letter.
Before long she'll recognize all the characters in her name "I also have an A in my name!." And then they start popping up in her drawings, peppered in between flowers and houses.
Her name is the gateway to "cracking the code", it is the beginning of the reading and writing adventure that we hope will bring much pleasure and learning with it.
When a child walks up to his cubby, he always sees his name, often accompanied by his picture or a symbol that identifies him. When he sees those characters next to his work, his sense of identity takes on a new layer: that of his authorship, which gives him a sense of ownership and worth. "I made that".
Now, in a classroom, a child's name is rarely displayed in isolation; there are other children's works next to it, other names on a class list, other tags on an attendance chart... These other words they will learn to recognize soon, they mean that they belong to the group, that they are part of a larger unit that is separate from their home cocoon.
From the word that is a child's name, they will get their identity as creators and as valuable, useful members of a community of readers...
Fall has arrived at The Kaplan Cooperative Preschool, and along with it comes our annual trip to the farm. All the classes travelled to Green Meadows Farm where these city kids had a chance to have some hands-on experience with rural life. Children, along with their families, had an opportunity to take a hay ride down a country road, pet some chickens, and finally, pick out a pumpkin to take back home to Hoboken.
We were lucky to experience beautiful weather during the trip. The guides at the farm were wonderful in helping each child have an opportunity to come in close contact with various animals. We were so lucky feed the goats, milk Daisy the cow, and we even saw lots of brand new baby piggies!
All the classes at Kaplan have used this opportunity as a touching off point for class discussions and themes. Students have enjoyed talking about how animals start off as babies, just like kids do. The baby pigs helped the kids to realize that animals have mommies and daddies, too. This larger understanding of the world around them is an important developmental stage, and a concept that is reinforced daily at Kaplan.
As we look back on our day in the country, and our study of farms, many of the classes have taken the time to create art projects based on their trip. All around the school, pigs, cows and chickens are lurking around every corner. Some classes have built small barns complete with real hay and finger puppet animals.
A day at the farm is always a special experience for city kids – it’s not often they get to see that much grass, let alone milk a cow! We were especially grateful for the many families that came to experience the wonders of that crazy rural world together. It was a truly special experience to be able to gather together beneath a perfect autumn sky and share our Ha’motzi and a picnic lunch together before picking a pumpkin and heading back to the city.
Nora DeBenedetto, Goorim teacher