Monday, August 9, 2010

Things I've Learned About and From Pre-K Students

Wow. So, teaching itty, bitty, teeeny, weeny kiddos is totally different. I knew they had short attention spans, but I didn't REALLY know. It is a big learning curve, and I'm having a lot of fun. Here are some of the things I've learned already.

1. Little kids are literal.
After I had the kids trace their hands out on paper, I intended for them to paint them. So, I said: "Okay, boys and girls, get your paintbrush and paint your hands!" AND, everybody held up their little hand and streaked it all over with paint. HA! Ooops. I guess I should have specified I meant the PAPER hands.

2. Little kids love to play in the sink.
Hand washing takes F O R E V E R. And, if a little water is good, a lot must be awesome, right? The first day I sent several back to class looking like they'd been through the sprinkler.

3. They are in full-on discovery phase all the time.
I gave everyone a bunch of tissue squares to glue down. But, they discovered if they blew into the squares that they would float in the air. COOL! Tell all your friends. righnow! EVERYONE BLOW!

4. They like to clean up and be helpful.
If someone can't sit still, won't be quiet, or is just driving you crazy - give them a job. Pretty soon, everyone wants to be a special helper. "Special" helpers, indeed.

5. They don't get nuance at all.
Is someone unexpectedly crying? It is probably because he didn't get to the special helper (because he was on task and doing what was asked of him).

6. They literally have the attention span of a puppy (because they are sweet little babies).
Is your story more than 5 pages long? Good luck. We barely made it through Where the Wild Things Are.

7. Little kids are conflicted about sticky stuff.
Some of them love getting messy. Some of them freak out about getting messy. Usually, because the world is funny like that, the polar opposites sit next to one another.

8. Adults are all-powerful in their world.
I showed them a flip-book. After viewing it they asked how I made it work. I winked and said: "magic." Instead of being met with the expected giggles I received wide eyes, shock, and awed whispers of "Ms. J is magic."

9. Simple works best.
I use clean-up games. My favorite is "magic trash." You pick a piece of trash on the floor and tell the kids to try and find it by picking up the rest of the trash. They will go nuts trying to find it. If someone finds it before all of the trash is picked up, simply don't say anything and pick another piece of trash. You can use the hot/cold technique if you like to let them know if they are close. The winner gets the teacher's congratulations. Your floor will never be so clean.

10. A little goes a long way.
At the end of class, when everyone lines up, I like to give them a little something. It isn't a reward, because they always get it. . .It is more of a "Ms. J. loves you," kind of thing. I'm smooshy and gooey like that. I don't like stickers cause they get expensive, and stamps can stain the kids hands for a loong time (you hate to send them home with a big stain on their hand if they have somewhere important to go etc. AND, they will stick the wet stamped hand on their face etc.) So, at the end of class the kids get "Smellies." "Smellies" is a swipe of any particularly good-smelling chapstick (devoted to this purpose) on the top of their hand. It is super exciting and the kids love it. :)


  1. Hee hee - I find it hard to believe nobody is leaving comments on your ultra-funny posts! Funny, but so real - we've all had comments like the ones in your previous posts, and those of us who work with the wee ones know exactly what you are talking about with your observations.
    Brought to mind a sweet autistic boy - maybe in 2nd grade - we were painting cats, and I had told the kids we were painting the backgrounds first. This boy took me literally like your kiddos and their hands. He turned over his paper and painted the whole back side of it. When asked why, he explained that he had no idea why, except that's what I told him to do!

  2. I'm laughing! I can't believe I've been teaching for close to 20 years and I've never thought of the "Smellies" chapstick idea...that is cool! I know they love that!
    I've taught art from K to 12th grade, but when I started teaching K-2 only, about 8 years ago, I was in shock!!! You think you know that age until that is the only age you see ALL day long...that's when all those little discoveries you mentioned appear. They are very literal and the thing I miss most is joking with them...they don't get most jokes. The best thing about this age are the hugs!!! Have a good year with your little ones!!