The Grocery Project

Last week, we took a walk up the street to an international food market/grocery store.

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We noticed the sites and smells, and after talking about wanting to try one the day before, we bought a papaya to bring back to class to try for snack.


We watched the papaya get weighed and paid the cashier for our fruit.

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My intention was for the children to get exposure to a grocery store that they could then contribute ideas to turning our classroom into a make-believe grocery store, but we also decided to write a story to share the trip with our families.  For most of the story, we used pictures from our experience to inspire the language, but for some parts, the children were excited to illustrate their experiences. As the year progresses, I anticipate more of our class books will use the children’s illustrations. I scanned the illustrations and inserted them into our class book.

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Later in the week, we went to a larger chain grocery store, and set up both in our classroom for shopping. We will explore one more neighborhood store next week and compare the three experiences.

Sunflowers and Weekend Reading

IMG_3344A sunflower painting provocation provided to the children this week during small groups.



The NY Times has had some interesting articles on early childhood education over the past couple of weeks. Have you seen these?

The Building Blocks of a High Quality Pre-K — Love that this opinion piece gives concrete examples of what high-quality play-based early childhood looks like.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, is Crucial to Language Skills 

And, from NPR, on children and screen time.

Environment as the Third Teacher

Did you see that early childhood environments made the New York Times (blogs)? The article sites research suggesting that commercially-purchased, busy bulletin boards and wall coverings are a waste of money for teachers. I think most of us know this, but it’s so hard to prioritize de-cluttering (visually, at least) our environments when so many resources are purchased by school districts or other people in our school systems with whom we may not be in regular contact. Here is another great article from NAEYC on setting up your environment, if you’re interested.

I’d love to share some end-of-the-year photos of our space, which I have tried to calm even since the beginning of the year set up, if you’d like to see. Can you see a difference? We at least replaced that huge, busy carpet with a plush navy one.

block center via provocations & play

We’ve been exploring ramps in our blocks center, and a DC high school’s carpentry program built us that amazing building platform.


Ramp building in action.

hardware store via provocations & play

We went to the amazing hardware store down the street and created a hardware store, complete with tools, paint mixing and a key-making machine.

woodworking via provocations & play

Our hardware store visit sparked an interest in woodworking, something I’ve always wanted to try with my kids. We have a woodworking table in our science center. Those are kid-safe, low-temp glue guns, and I also bought a hand drill via Montessori Services. First we made “bird houses” for our community gardens, and then we started to design our own roller coasters after a few children visited Six Flags. Both Teacher Tom and NAEYC have some great articles about woodworking with young children, if you’re interested.

hair salon via provocations & play IMG_2228

Our dramatic play center, on the other side of blocks, is currently a hair salon, which has been a blast. It’s a favorite every year, but the kids didn’t even bring it up until last week (next week is our last week of school for the year). I’m glad they did :)


Of course our art area has easels, a table to create with clay and a corner to explore light and shadow with an overhead projector and light table.

calm down space via provocations & play

Finally, our calm down center, or safe space, for children who need a break, want to be alone, or for some story telling :)

storytelling via provocations & play




Monday inspiration


(image via)

Because sometimes inspiration is more effective on a Monday than a Friday :)

Some of my favorite articles from the last few weeks:

Great article on the importance of risk in child development

Kindergarten readiness is a state of mind (love the advice on contact talks!)

Fascinating article on homework

This DC principal is a true role model for his kids

“scary” self portraits


Inspired by this project found on pinterest, my kids did another round of self-portraits. We’ve done a lot of process-oriented art (pendulum painting, spin art, Jackson Pollock-inspired paintings), but this abstract art resonated with them more than most, I think. It was really interesting watching them experience the whole process.


I printed out 8.5×11″ color photos of each child that I took on the playground that morning. With some help from the children, I taped each photograph on the table with a clear transparency over it, and asked the children to draw over the shapes and lines they saw in their faces and bodies. Quickly, most of the children noticed the buttons on their shirts were circles, and also that the shapes in their faces weren’t exactly what they had memorized them to be.



When the children removed the transparencies from the photographs below, they were shocked. “It looks scary!” they said. Some of them even tried to fix it, making the photo more like the clip art version of people they have gotten used to drawing.

We mounted the photos on our wall on top of some of our paintings from our pendulum. This week, for our final portrait project of this school year, we are going to set up a provocation with several different mediums to see which the children prefer, and how their projections of themselves have changed over time (over the past two years for some of our kids(: ).  What is your favorite self portrait project?

fine motor development

eye dropper art | via provocations and play

I get so much inspiration from other programs’ walls! When I went to the training by Julianne Wurm last weekend, I noticed so much great documentation on the hosting school’s walls, including one display focusing on finger strength, showing different opportunities for the children to develop these muscles. I loved this not only to make children’s learning visible for them, and to acknowledge the persistence that is often necessary for these tasks, but also to showcase the importance of fine motor development to our community.


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I also loved this excerpt from Developmentally Appropriate Practice: “Teachers and parents sometimes push preschoolers in the technical skills of handwriting (e.g. forming letters with precision) before the children have sufficient fine motor development for such exactness. At this age, the focus should be not on children’s handwriting, but on their emergent writing – that is, their learning to express themselves; to use writing for various purposes; and to become familiar with letters and words, print conventions, and other aspects of written language (p. 164).”

classroom reorg

I am lucky enough to co-teach with the two most amazing women, ever. Not only are they warm, nurturing, smart and wonderful with young children, they are completely flexible with my ever-changing whims. Last Saturday, I went to an incredibly-thought-provoking training by Julianne Wurm, and left with a million ideas to reorganize my classroom (thanks, Julianne!). Would you like to see the current set up?

classroom tour | via provocations & play

As soon as you walk into the classroom, the quiet/calm area is on your right. The students’ journals (we add documentation weekly and they take them home on Fridays) are in there, as well as a privacy cube. A 4-year-old put that red tape on the floor because it used to be the blocks center, and she wrote “b carfl” on it after a 3-year-old haphazardly stumbled into her tower. I haven’t had the heart to move it yet ;)

nursery area | via provocations & play

We’re currently exploring hospitals, and this is our nursery. Typically, when the children are there, the blue table is filled with water and bubble bath. Also, I just added our baby photos, which is awesome!

dentist play | via provocations & playWelcome to our dentist’s office (on the other side of the nursery).

blocks area | via provocations & playHere is our blocks area (please forgive the awful, permanent media area in the corner… anyone have ideas how to better camouflage it?). I love the blocks area in this corner, though. It used to be in front of the door which was chaotic when entering or exiting, and meant projects didn’t last over any amount of time. I’m trying to commission somebody to build us a building platform to help with longevity :) The dollhouse is there because we are experimenting with building handicapped-accessible ramps for our hospital (i.e. the dollhouse).

ambulance | via provocations & play

And, not really part of our set-up, but definitely a part of our room, our (almost!) finished ambulance we have been working on, as part of our hospital project.

Thanks for visiting! I left out our dramatic play (which is currently the emergency room, with the light table for exploring x-rays), lunch area, and art area, but you can see most of that here. I’d love to hear your ideas or suggestions.

weekend inspiration





After a parent workshop 2 weeks ago, we adorned the wall space outside of our classroom with representational drawings and paintings our families made for their children (as well as photos of them doing the activity). The kids were enthralled with the display, and ran to the provocation to make their own artwork, which we posted near their parents’.

Have you seen this Slate article about the importance of exploration (versus explicit instruction) in preschool?

I liked this post on a Montessori school’s blog about helping children deal with “mean” children.

Also love re-reading this older (but still so relevant) post about the effect of preschool model on later school success.

I’m in awe of her kindergarten project of wonder project.

goodnight, gorilla (and pandas)

what we know about pandas | via provocations and play

Our zoo project has come to a close. I had such an amazing time learning with the children, and it has renewed my belief in early childhood and especially how amazing project work can be. Last week, we wrote and illustrated a book about everything we know about pandas. So many children contributed ideas, knowledge and illustrations to the book at their own levels. It was really exciting to see the 5-year-olds typing out words and labeling their pictures and the 3-year-olds thinking about how to draw a panda representationally.

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I loved presenting the “published” project on Wednesday! In the picture above, Isaac learned that pandas are from China. He remembered that when we looked at the map, China had lots of mountains (and, of course, bamboo).


I think that we are all going to miss watching the panda cam from our panda dens, although we did take one apart this afternoon to re-use for our next project ;)

panda cam dramatizations | via provocations and play

why we should play with blocks

Through our STEM partnership with the Smithsonian, we have been following our children’s interests building structures. After our visit to the zoo, we started a focused exploration on enclosures, building exhibits for our pretend “zoo.” As we built, we developed important understandings of patterns, symbolic representation, numeracy and cooperation. (These objectives use Creative Curriculum’s GOLD.)

block stop signs | via provocations and play

E, R, D, I, and K wrote stop signs to protect their work over time, so that they could revisit their structures.

Objective 14a: Thinks symbolically Attempts to write words to label a picture

Objective 11a: Attends and engages Returns to construction… adding new features each time

Objective 3b: Solves social problems Says, “let’s make a sign [to protect our work].”

zoo exhibit | via provocations and play

After sorting animals into “scary” and “not scary” animals, and discussing why, Isaac made an elephant exhibit, and wrote “lfant” on a card to label it.

Objective 14a: Thinks symbolically Attempts to write words to label a picture

Objective 13: Uses classification skills Groups objects… and explains the reasons

Objective 11a: Attends and engages Returns to construction… adding new features each time

Objective 3b: Solves social problems Says, “let’s make a sign [to protect our work].”

citiblock towers | via provocations and play

K and R built complex structures, using an AB pattern and experimenting with stability. They compared the sizes of each other’s structures, and later, other children, like L and T used measuring tapes to measure their enclosures.

Objective 23: Demonstrates knowledge of patterns Extends and creates simple repeating patterns

Objective 22: Compares and measures

Objective 11a: Attends and engages Returns to construction… adding new features each time