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Developing Community and Strong Habits

December 8, 2021 | Kristen Jordan

Since we returned from Thanksgiving, children have been excited to work and play with many new activities in the classroom.  They have been drawing, manipulating clay, working with the nativity themed worship basket, telling the story of Red Riding Hood with figures, lacing beads onto strings, trying out new puzzles, scooping glass beads at the light table, engaging with magnetic alphabet letters, looking at new books, and they’ve been very excited to play with sheep that appeared in our drama area!

Phew!  So many things going on!

At most of these activities, children are working on traditional “academic” skills for preschoolers such as practice with spatial awareness, storytelling, recognizing letters, and developing fine motor skills.  But there are also many other, perhaps less visible habits that the children are developing as they engage in these activities. 

At Mustard Seed School, as children progress through their education here, we consider the 20 habits of heart, mind, learning, and work.  While these may be less obvious, we place tremendous value on them.  You will see many of these habits addressed in the daily work in our classroom:

When children decide where to work, they are building the ability to choose and work with purpose.  They must make a plan and organize their thoughts.  Sometimes children choose to go to areas that are of interest to them, but sometimes they go to an activity because they want to be with a particular friend.  Both of these are ways in which children are pausing, considering their options, and then making a choice.

Sometimes children might not be able to go to a particular spot because it is full.  When that happens, they must practice patience as they wait until it is possible to go to that area, think of another option and engage in that.  They are learning how to wait and how to think flexibly, both of which contribute to developing self-regulation skills.   

As I mentioned, sometimes, an activity might be so intriguing that a child chooses to go there because they just really want to try it out, but at other times, children may choose where to work because they just enjoy being with a particular friend and want to connect with them.

We have seen so much bonding and connecting between the children since the school year began.  There are many lovely friendships in the Rivers Classroom!  As children work together they must practice using the language needed to be in community together.  

“Can I have a turn with the tiny sheep?”  The response might be “Sure!” or maybe…“I’m playing with it right now but you can have a turn when I’m done.” 

“Do you want to come to the light table with me?” Sometimes the answer will be “Yes!” and sometimes it might be  “No, thank you. I want to look at a book right now.” 

As children listen and respond, they are developing conversation skills, which are a critical piece of working with others.

In learning how to work together with actions and words, children are also expressing kindness toward one another.  The Rivers children are a very kind and thoughtful group of children who are growing so beautifully together as a community! 

Though at first glance, it may seem like children may just be having fun as they work and play at activities (we always hope they do!), but underneath it there is so much more going on!

If you are interested, please take a look at the 20 habits of heart, mind, learning, and work.  Your child is practicing many of these as he or she engages during the day at school!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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