Posted on 10/19/2017 at 03:22 PM by Blog Experts

Ahhh, the sights and scents of fall… crisp air, beautiful colors on the trees and in the fields, and the smell of fresh apples and fallen leaves can’t help but remind us as to why we are thankful to live in Iowa.  During this thankful season, early childhood teachers have the opportunity to embed extra “blessings” into their lesson plans to enrich the experiences of their students and help them make connections to the world around them.  

Do you still have that jack-o-lantern sitting around?  If so, take a picture of it then place it outside in a special place for the children to observe as it changes from a plump pumpkin to a flat memory.  Let them make predictions as to what it might look like in a week, a month, or in the Spring.  Record your observations by photos or letting the children draw what they see.  What a fun way for children to learn about the cycle of life through something they have experience with.  Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell is an excellent read that takes children through the life cycle of a pumpkin while allowing children to experience the emotions of joy and loss in a safe way.  

Fall is also a great time to jump in and play with math!  How many activities can you think of that involve acorns, buckeyes, field corn, and leaves?  Children can sort, compare, pattern, chart, count, discuss, learn new vocabulary, manipulate, crunch, create- the possibilities are endless.  Fun fact:  “Playful Math=Engaged Learning” (Lisa Hansel, Young Children Editor in Chief, July 2017 edition of Young Children, pg. 6).  When children are engaged, problem behaviors decrease and interest increases.  Children learn best when their hands and bodies are active.  This fall, forget the worksheets and pre-drawn color activities and let children interact with natural items.  Invite families to share in the fun by sending natural items to school.  This can be a way to strengthen that home-school connection and give children and their families something to talk about at home.  

Not only do we want to give children something to talk about, we also want to give them a reason to listen.  Phonemic awareness is all about listening.  It’s something we can do with our eyes closed.  Challenge your students by providing them with listening activities.  You can begin with having them identify various environmental sounds:  a fan, car, tractor, toilet flushing, dog barking, etc.  Have them lie on the floor and close their eyes.  Tell them you are going to have them listen to something they might have heard before.  When they know what it is, they may open their eyes and sit up.  When all are sitting, have them tell you what they heard.  Do it again, and again until they tire of it.  Another activity would be to have them listen to compound words as you say them segmented.  “Cup…… cake….”  Ask your students, “What new word do I have when I put together the words cup…….. cake?”   You can even hand out pictures to each child of a cupcake, doghouse, sunshine, butterfly, ballgame, baseball, and other compound words.  The children can hold up the card that matches the segmented words.  Listening with a purpose makes it fun.  And when something is fun, children want to participate.  And when children want to participate, they are engaged.  When they are engaged, they are learning!  

November is the season of thankfulness.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if your students were kind, helpful, and thankful towards each other?  They can work towards that with a little help from the adults in their lives.  Being a servant, being kind, fair, thankful and generous are all skills that aren’t necessarily inherent to humankind, therefore need to be taught.  Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor is quoted as saying, “The opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference.”  In a world filled with intolerance, prejudice, and fear of being different, early childhood educators have the opportunity to change the trajectory of our “world’s love thermometer” one child at a time.  Be a model to your students, to their families, and to your co-workers.  After you teach and model these things, make sure to notice when the children are doing them as well.  Let them know you notice and appreciate their efforts!  

Thank you for taking the time to make a difference in the lives of the children you teach

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