Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cornmeal Play-dough

When I first started working with my second toddler class in March, they were in the middle of a western theme. I had trouble coming up with activities that fit in with the theme that were appropriate for toddlers. One of my ideas was play-dough, but I wasn’t sure how to tie it in with the theme. My co-teacher suggested something textured, grainy or rough. I thought of mixing in coffee grounds or oat meal and finally we settled on cornmeal.

I used a recipe that I found from Little Wonders Days.

I added some yellow food coloring to make it a brighter yellow. This play-dough did not come out grainy, but it had a nice texture. It was squishy like regular play-dough and had an occasional rough or grainy texture when broken apart. This was the first batch of play-dough that I actually cooked and it came out well. The kids enjoyed it. We kept things simple using small rolling pins and cookie cutters. The toddlers were most interested in squishing, pounding and rolling with their hands. It’s good fine motor practice!

As a side note, I found a pack of these containers at Walmart in the Tupperware section. I’ve found that they work well for the play-dough. They seal pretty well if you push down on the center of the lid and they are just the right size.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Sticky Bucket

I got this idea from Deborah Teachpreschool. She has done various activities with a sticky table so I decided to create one of my own. Since I knew it wouldn't be possible to keep the contact paper on the table for more than an hour, I decided to make sticky boxes. I covered two small boxes with the contact paper sticky side up. some of the children didn't understand and ripped the contact paper off so we ended up adding the sticky paper to this bucket. When I introduced this activity, I started by putting out a basket of ribbons, pipe cleaners and feathers to see what the children would do. Some decided to make letters, shapes and elaborate constructions. Two girls sat down at the table and made a boat. They told me about diving boards, motors and wheels. They used every single piece in the basket. As time went on, I added different materials to the basket like felt and yarn. On the day when I was finally able to take a picture of the sticky bucket, I had set out sponge shapes for them to try. I imagined that it would be like building with blocks accept it would be 2d because the sponges wouldn't stay stacked. However we discovered that the contact paper wasn't sticky enough for the sponges to stay in place, but we tried.

This was the last time I was able to add to the sticky bucket with this class, but later I tried it with the toddlers. I covered a small table with clear contact paper sticky side up. The toddlers noticed the texture above everything else. They kept touching it over and over and saying, "Sticky." When they started to put their pretend foods on it, they noticed that some of them actually stuck and they were able to keep things in place. I am hoping to do more texture activities like these with my future classes.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Assignment: Who Am I as a Communicator?

This week we completed three evaluations; the communication anxiety inventory, the listening styles profile and the verbal aggressiveness scale. We were also asked to have two other people complete them for us so I asked my boyfriend and a coworker. I surprised me that all the scores were so similar. First, I scored a 57 on the communication anxiety inventory. My boyfriend and my coworker scored me at a 59 and 55 which are still in the moderate category. “47-59: Moderate. Your score indicates that you feel somewhat concerned about a number of communication contexts, but probably not all. This mid-point level of communication anxiety is what we call “situational.” This kind of surprised me because I avoid speaking in public and in most cases I won’t speak up at group meetings. I prefer talking to one or two people at a time. This is even the case with children. I get nervous at the thought of leading a circle time activity, but don’t mind leading a small group activity with the children. According to these evaluations, people know I don’t like public speaking, but they don’t notice my nervousness. Feeling more comfortable speaking up in group situations and or leading activities where all the children are focusing on me is one of my communication goals.

For the listening styles profile, I scored highest in group one which means that I am a “People-oriented listener. You are empathetic and concerned with the emotions of others. This listening style helps you to build relationships, but it can interfere with proper judgment because you tend to be very trusting of others.” The others who evaluated me got the same result. I agree with this because I am empathetic and prefer to listen than talk.

Finally, on the verbal aggressiveness scale, my score was 40. The other scores I got were 30 and 33 which all fall under the category of low verbal aggressiveness. I don’t like arguments and I try to avoid them especially in professional situations. Sometimes it can’t be helped which can be very uncomfortable for me. There are times when it is helpful or necessary to be more verbally aggressive. I’m talking about being more assertive than aggressive. The evaluation implied that being verbally aggressive was related to attacking someone’s character or damaging their self concept which I almost never will participate in.

From this week’s discussion, I learned that I am hesitant to make assumptions about people from a first impression. In this case it was a photograph. It was impossible for me to choose what books, TV shows or activities the woman enjoyed. However, if her appearance were different, I might have been able to make a guess. This will help me professionally because I will take time to get to know children instead of making assumptions. Communication involves so much more than language. It involves body language, tone of voice, eye contact, the way we dress, our hairstyle and the way we carry ourselves. A good communicator keeps these things in mind and adapts them based on the situation.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Assignment: Communication Differences

When thinking about the assignment this week, I realize that I communicate with some groups differently. However, I’m not necessarily talking about people from different cultures. Professionally, I find that I communicate with the parents in the same manor. I may change the method of communication based on the preferences of the family. There were a couple mothers who preferred receiving a few short texts about their child’s progress throughout the day instead of waiting until pick up time. One mother told me that this helped her feel better while working knowing that her child was having a good day. There are some families who I have a better rapport with. I find that it’s easier to communicate with outgoing and inquisitive parents than those who are more distant or don’t initiate communication. This is partly due to my personality. I am generally quiet and it takes time for me to feel comfortable with new people. So if the parents are more outgoing and ask questions or share other information it helps shape our conversations. When parents are less comfortable communicating with me, it’s more difficult because I’m the one asking questions or giving most of the information.

With coworkers, it depends on the situation. I remain professional, but there are coworkers who I can laugh or joke around with. If they come to me with concerns, I do my best to listen and respond appropriately. One example was when another teacher wanted my opinion about whether I felt a child in her classroom should be referred for services. This was before I knew the child well, but I told her that I saw some things that might be red flags, but I wanted to observe the child more. As I spent more time with the child and in the classroom, it was apparent that he needed help in several areas. During our first conversation about him, I wanted the other teacher to know that I was listening and understood her concerns, but I did not want to jump to conclusions without enough information.

With my friends and family, I’m not formal, but I may or may not discuss certain topics depending on whom I’m talking to. In most cases, I feel more comfortable speaking my mind or offering advice or my opinion. One rule of communication that I feel applies no matter who I’m talking to is talk less and listen more. I get so frustrated with people when they ask me questions that they would’ve heard the answers to if only they were listening. Over these past three weeks, I have learned a lot about the patterns of my own communication.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Assignment: Communication TV Show

This week, we were asked to watch an episode of a show we were unfamiliar with. So I decided to look around for reruns and came across an episode of Home Improvement from the 90’s. As I watched the show with the sound off to observe nonverbal communication, the show appeared to be about a family. The first scene showed a woman talking to two children. I assumed this was the mother. Soon after, a man who I assumed was the dad walks in and kisses her. The mother points to a grade report on the refrigerator. Next we see a third child come in. He talks to the mother until she holds out a package of cookies which she refuses. One of the boys from a previous scene comes in and she offers cookies to him as well which he also refuses. I assumed there must be a joke behind that because kids don’t usually refuse cookies.

Next, they show the dad and an unrelated man working on a car in the garage. Things seem to go well until his wife comes out and it appears as though she’s bothering them. The husband appears frustrated and the unrelated man is talking with the wife about something. At another point, an unrelated woman comes in and I assumed that she was related to the second man. They have an argument and even give angry looks to the wife. After that, the wife goes into the yard where she starts to talk to a man who does not show his face. Another unrelated woman comes out and it appears as though they start arguing, but the wife leaves the conversation with a smile on her face.

Eventually, they all meet up at a veterinarians office with a turtle. The wife tries to talk to the unrelated woman, but she looks away from her. The dad smiles and says something before walking away from the two women. The wife hands the couple a card which the man tares up.

My assumptions were right about the show being about a family. While watching the show with the sound turned back on, I discover that Jill, the wife is a psychology student. She posted her own grade report on the fridge because she was proud of it although her husband, Tim makes jokes. The three boys are their sons. The one she offers cookies too is Randy and the cookies reoccur throughout the show because Jill believes that the best way to get people to talk is to offer them cookies. They also show Randy with a girl whom he likes which ends up being the daughter of the unrelated couple. The unrelated couple is friends with Tim and Jill. The conversation out in the garage started out with Tim complaining about his wife and she overhears. Then the friend starts complaining about his wife and Jill offers psychological advice. This is unethical because she is a student. This is what caused the arguments later in the show. The husband is upset with his wife because she has to do everything that her father says, but then their anger turns to Jill when they find out she is only a student. The husband thought she was an actual psychologist. The man who does not show his face is Wilson, their neighbor and the other woman who came out to talk to Jill was Judy, someone he was dating. Jill wanted advice about how to repair the relationship that she had broken up, but the couple kept arguing about quotes and poetry. Jill was able to take some of the quotes as advice and realized that sometimes it’s better to stay out of people’s arguments. She apologizes to the couple and offers them a business card for her psychology teacher Judy, but the man tears it up stating that they will find someone on their own. Jill wonders if she would really make a good therapist. Tim cracks jokes, but then reassures her that she will be great.

I was right about the show being light hearted and full of jokes. Tim and Jill had some serious conversations, but mostly they used jokes to keep situations calm and humorous. There were some parts of the plot I didn’t pick up from having the sound turned off. It was a little confusing with different characters being added in, but since they were paired off, I assumed they were couples. The verbal communication gives you information and little details that you would miss. For example, I didn’t realize that the woman talking to Wilson was actually Jill’s psychology teacher until I listened to the plot. While watching a TV show, small details like these aren’t that big of a deal, but in personal or professional situations, we need to listen more carefully. Sometimes the little details are important. Also, when we communicate with others it’s important to not just focus on one aspect of communication. We need to use information from both verbal and nonverbal communication to really understand what the other person is saying and feeling.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Assignment: Communication Role Model

This week, we were asked to think about someone who demonstrates competent communication. One of the people I thought of was a person that I work with. I thought of her because I’ve noticed that she is a good listener. She’s not one of those people who just says things without thinking. She actually listens to you and then responds to what you have said. She has a way of making people feel comfortable enough to ask questions or talk about problems they are having. She also takes the time to find out how someone is feeling about what’s going on instead of brushing it off. She respects people enough to keep things confidential when necessary. That is very important in a work setting. The times that I have used phone calls or E-mail to contact her, she usually responds quickly and in an appropriate manor. Some people have a preferred method of communicating and cannot adapt their communication style very well to other forms. For example, the people who leave five minute voicemails as if they are speaking to you directly (O’Hair & Wiemann, (2009).

I also noticed that she communicates affectively with the children. For example with the infants, she asks them questions, points out things or people who are in the room, gets down on their level and looks at them. At times, she tries to communicate with the babies using gestures or sign language. I feel this is important because even though they are babies, they are real people. The difference is that they are just beginning to make sense of the world around them which includes learning how to communicate with others.

Here's a short article called, "Baby Talk: Communicating With Your Baby."

I admire all of these positive communication skills. I feel that I am a pretty good listener and I do my best to affectively communicate with children at their level. I also feel confidentiality is important so I try not to pass on things that people tell me unless it’s necessary. I’m not sure if I’d call it a skill or ability, but I wouldn’t say that people usually feel comfortable talking to me about problems or concerns. I think this is something that’s important for an early childhood educator or supervisor. Families need to feel comfortable enough to discuss their children and educators need to feel comfortable enough to share concerns with their supervisors. I think I am getting better at reaching out to parents and there are families who I have a good relationship with, but that comfort level isn’t the same as it is with my supervisors and some of my coworkers with the families. Working on these communication skills will take time and will improve with more experience. According to O’Hair and Wiemann (2009) “We begin learning how to communicate during the first days of our life, and the best communicators never stop learning” (p. 5).

O’Hair, & Wiemann. (2009). Real communication: An introduction.
New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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