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.

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.

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

the panda exhibit


The children were showing an interest in pets, and we planned a field trip to Petco to tour the store and see my dog get groomed. We decided to also go to the National Zoo, though it would be cold. Prior to the trip, we talked about the indoor exhibits at the zoo, and the children voted on which exhibit they wanted to see. One of the children had already seen Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s panda cub, and excitedly talked about him.  We asked each child what he/she preferred, and tallied the results together. The children voted to visit the panda exhibit first, and then the reptile house. We were lucky to visit on such a cold day because there were so few people there, and we were able to watch Bao Bao, Mei Xing and Tian Tian for a while (which I mentioned here). I thought that this would lead to a conversation between which animals would make good pets and which would not, but the children had other interests…

A conversation before nap time:

Child: What is that dark thing?

Me: What dark thing?

Child (I noticed he was looking at a photograph from the zoo): See it? There by the panda?

Me: Oh that’s like a cave that the panda goes into. It’s called a den. Should we make one?

Child: YES!


First we painted two large boxes black, and then compared the boxes against our photographs. We noticed that the real dens “were brown with rocks” on the outside, and then painted rocks on our dens.


The giant pandas at the National Zoo are named Bao Bao, Mei Xing and Tian Tian. We labeled two of the dens for Bao Bao and Mei Xing. We pretended we were pandas, and that citiblocks were the rocks that Mei Xing often lays on and that PVC pipes were bamboo.

A child was pretending to be Mei Xing, laying on “rocks” and “eating” bamboo. She got upset because another child was playing with her bamboo.

Me: Can he be Bao Bao? What does Bao Bao do?

Child: She crawls just like Mei Xing but a little slower.


I am very conflicted about the use of technology in the preschool classroom, and try to limit it as much as possible. The smart board in my classroom is hidden behind a shower curtain (and also is much too high for my children). However, we did watch the Smithsonian’s panda cam to make observations of Mei Xing and Bao Bao during centers, and they drew what they saw (or acted it out). We wondered out loud about the giant pandas, and kept a list of our questions. One child wondered if pandas had belly buttons. We made predictions and answered our questions using non-fiction texts (pandas do not have belly buttons, at least that we could see :).

My co-teacher and I went to see the amazing Lillian Katz last week, and I have been re-reading her book and reflecting on the project approach (here are some great tip sheets). This is the kind of child-directed learning that I love to do, and I hope by offering children more opportunities to make their thinking and learning visible, we can continue to learn together. I am finishing my first documentation panel of this learning adventure!

light and shadows


We did a lot of exploration of light and shadows at the beginning of the year, so I wanted to put the projector out again to see what sorts of ideas I could provoke. Also, we have been playing with flash lights and shadows in our “campground” in dramatic play, so I thought this would be a complimentary provocation.

I love this sequence of documentation, and how it packages persistence, curiosity, and motivation, among other things.




cherry blossoms provocation


I brought a branch of cherry blossoms in yesterday for a provocation. We used markers and tempera paint (pink mixed with white) and painted with cotton balls to duplicate the branch.  I also brought in some photos of the blossoms at the Tidal Basin, with the intent of getting into how the trees were a gift from Japan, but we did not even get there.  We did have a lot of fun duplicating the shades of pink, though.




hyacinth provocation


Hyacinths from the garden in a bud vase (it was all I had at school!) on a round mirror and oil pastels. I wish I had taken a photo of the finished products.