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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Those pesky crows!

I'm stepping on my soapbox this morning to tell you, if I had to pick one thing that I think is often overlooked in many school curriculums it would be imagination. I think sometimes with all the new regulations and academics that we are required to teach we often forget that the learners in our classroom are children with active imaginations. It is our job as educators to not limit their imagination and to let them think creatively as often as possible. You are only a child once and it should be a time of fantasy, interest and possibility. I do not want to teach at a school where the only thing that matters is a child having academic knowledge but no fun or imagination while acquiring it. I think in early education the most important thing we can do as educators is instill a love for school and learning at a young age and to teach children learning does not happen at the expense of fun.
So without further ado, I will step off my soapbox for the day and tell you about one of the activities we did in my classroom this week.
The activity that started off our week was to paint with Indian corn or flint corn. I really wanted the children to use their senses and explore the process of rolling the corn to spread the paint and to pay attention to the types of lines and textures that it created on the paper.
 They did a great job and once the paint was dry the children cut them into individual ears of corn. I then hung them up as corn stalks in our dramatic play area.
So festive for Fall! Love it!
But then something happened...

A bunch of pesky crows appeared in the corn field and the pumpkin patch!!!
The crows appeared while the children were outside on the playground. No one knows quite where they came from or how they appeared inside the classroom... ; ) nevertheless they came. When the children came back to the classroom it was lunch time. After the children had been sitting down for a few minutes one of the children asked why there were birds in the corn field. Another child said those are black birds, another said no those are crows. I said, "Oh no! There are crows in the corn field! They must be trying to eat our corn!" One of the children then told me the birds weren't real. Another child then exclaimed, "but they are going to eat all of our corn!" Another child asked me directly if the birds were real. I told them in my imagination they are real and the conversation really started about how the crows could have flown in through the door when someone opened it, and how they love to eat things that grow on a farm, etc... The children caught on to the game and came up with some great scenarios of how and why the birds were in the classroom. I then asked the children, how can we get rid of the crows? A few children threw out some ideas until one yelled, "we need a scarecrow!" The other children and I agreed that was a great idea!
We brainstormed as a class what materials we would need to build a scarecrow. Pants, a shirt, gloves, a hat, leaves to stuff it and a head is what we decided on in the end. So after rest time I took the children outside to gather the leaves to build our scarecrow.
Before we began I sat the children down outside and read them the story, The Little Old Woman Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams.
If you have never read this story it really is so cute and one of my favorites! The little old woman is walking to her cottage and she comes across different things such as a shirt which shakes, pants that wiggle and a scary pumpkin head. They follow her to her house and try to scare her but she is not afraid of anything so the items are sad. She whispers something to them and the next day they are outside in her corn field and have come together as a scarecrow to scare all the birds away. The children loved the story and enjoyed shaking, wiggling and yelling Boo along with the storyline.
We then got started on making our own scarecrow. Originally, it was just my class that started but soon as the other children in the school came outside this became a community scarecrow that all the children were invited to stuff with leaves.


It came out pretty great and is happily guarding the entrance way into our school. The next day, the crows moved to the other side of our classroom away from the corn and pumpkins! The children were so happy that their idea to make the scarecrow worked.
I was so happy to see the children work together and brainstorm a solution to the problem in a fun, imaginative and hands on way!
Happy Fall everyone! : )

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Classroom Reveal 2016

Here we are again! I swear the school year goes by faster and faster every year. It was hard to say goodbye to last years little ones and in preschool it was just yesterday as our school year does not end until Sept.1st. It's certainly a challenge to get the classroom ready for the new students while the other students are still with us but somehow after an 11 hour work day last Thursday I am feeling ready...mostly haha! So without further ado here is my classroom reveal for the 2016-17 school year!

Upon entering the classroom this is certainly the most prominent thing you see! Nice, bright and colorful is our classroom mantel. In the basket in the middle is all of our morning meeting read aloud books. The frame to the left is going to keep track of how many books we read as a class and it's dry erase to make life easy and cut down on our paper use. The frame to the right is our quote of the day board, make sure to check if your child is featured.

Here is our classroom birthday board! I have been preaching to my younger coworkers that everything on the wall in the classroom needs to have a purpose. I am not a fan of a birthday board that sits there all year and nothing really happens. To me it needs to be interactive, so on the child's birthday they will get to paint their frame and we will take their picture to put inside. Then on the last day of school they will each be able to bring it home and have a memory of their birthday with their friends. 

A new edition to the classroom this year is the calm down corner. It was a challenge not to add in all my ideas from the start but I know I need to start off the year simply in this area. Right now it has a how do I feel chart and mirror to be self reflective (literally), some sensory bottles and items to squeeze and roll, choice chart, breathing chart, pinwheel to help breathe deep, books about feelings, a self esteem cube and a soft area to relax. This area gives me a place to redirect a child to if they seem to be having a hard time regulating their emotions. During the first few weeks of school we will be adopting a stuffed classroom pet whose home will be in this area. The children will then be asked to take care of the pet to help foster their empathy, compassion and care taking skills.

Here is our classroom writing center. Our writing wall is changed out often and the children are encouraged to directly write around the words on the wall. This area has pencils, rulers, stencils, letter tiles, wooden chalkboard pieces, chalk boards, dry erase boards, clipboards, letter magnets and board, popsicle stick name tags and lots of alphabet and sight word books.

Here is our library and literacy center! First off, I am in love with our new rug!!! Yay! : ) This area has our story books, big books, story puzzles, name tags, story wands, song cube, alphabet cards, environmental print, and a felt board with various story pieces which are switched out throughout the year. This area would not be complete without a variety of puppets such as hand puppets, finger puppets and popsicle stick puppets. Also, I just bought a big bad wolf puppet from Ikea that actual swallows the Grandma and I'm a little obsessed haha it's all about the little details! LoL

Here is our dramatic play area. This is my favorite area of the classroom and the one that changes the most throughout the year. Right now it is a more traditional house keeping and the children are able to role play different characters or family members. I added a tension rod to our shelf so that the children can work on using a hanger, a basic home skill which can sometimes be a challenge for little hands. Right now this area has all the usual things pretend food, plates, pots and pans, menus and cookbooks, baby dolls, cash register, assorted clothes, jewelry, accessories, cell phones, travel guides and journals to write in. Soon this area will be a pet shop, farm stand, pumpkin patch and many other things.   

Here is our updated art area. I color coded the markers, pencils and crayons adding the paint chips to show how each color has many shades. This is a great way to work not only on colors and sorting but one to one correspondence as well. I need a few more soda bottle tops to complete the yarn above each color but I just adore this idea. This area also has paper, scissors, paper punches, magazines for cutting, and a collage box. I decided to make the file folders from old books and put my stencils into them organized by season. I have had trouble keeping stencils in the past as the little ones love to cut them up so I decided to raise them up so the children will need to ask to use them and I can remind them that stencils are for tracing and not for cutting.

Our easel got a little makeover and is
much cleaner looking now!

The front of the easel serves as our
question of the day board. Every morning upon arrival the children will write their name
and answer a yes or no question.
Here is our science and math center. This area holds all of our manipulatives, science tools, natural materials, scale, binoculars, geo boards, geo safari (which was actually mine when I was a child, did anyone else have one of those? haha) tangram's, unifix cubes, and so much more. This area is all about exploration and we are always adding to it throughout the year.

Here is our sensory table! This area is another one which is constantly changing. I want to make sure every child has a great sensory diet and is able to use a multitude of vocabulary related to the senses ex. hot, cold, slimy, soft, hard etc...

Let's make some music! This area may be small but there is a good amount of things packed in! We have a basket of music books, boom whackers, rhythm sticks, small instruments (maracas, castanets, hand drums and tambourines) hand bells, movement cards and dancing scarves.

Here is our block and building area. Such a great hands on area complete with blocks in all sorts of shapes and sizes, tunnels, traffic cones, pipe builders, train sets, animals, people, vehicles, road signs, transportation books, multicultural books, a globe, pictures of famous landmarks, hard hats, clipboards for drawing their designs and construction and mechanic costumes just to name a few. On the board on the left is the challenge of the week, this week it asks the children if they can build a school.

Here is our parent wish list. Please take a cookie if you are willing to donate an item to the classroom. We are looking for baby wipes, sharpies, Crayola twistables, scrapbook paper, playdoh, fun looking duct tape and dry erase markers. Thank you!
I am looking forward to a great school year and can't wait to meet all the new children!!! : )
 My little gift for all my co-workers today!
Let's have a great first day!!! : )

Sunday, March 1, 2015

STEM and The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff meets STEM in the Pre-K classroom!
Our objective was to construct a bridge as a class using the children's engineering skills.

Before the lesson: I tore pages out of an old magazine, rolled them up and secured them with tape. That was our material that we would be building with for this lesson.
We began the lesson by posing the question: How could we construct a bridge (like the one in the story) using our building materials and what else would we need to meet our goal?

Our steps to building the bridge:

First, I had the children brainstorm and shout out ideas which I listed on a piece of paper.

Second, it was time to do some research. I had copies of many of the local bridges in our area as well famous bridges around the world. We also used an iPad to look up other bridges which we did not have pictures of.
Third, it was time to put our research into practice and sketch out a picture. We sketched one as a group where we took into account the children's favorite bridges and ideas. The children were encouraged to make their own sketches after and try out their bridge idea in the block area.
Fourth, we discussed what we would need to put the bridge together. The children decided on staples and tape. A few wanted to use glue but the other children reminded them of how long glue takes to dry so they consented to tape as well. I just love when they learn and problem solve with their peers.
Fifth, I had the children go to their learning centers and called the children over two at a time to work on the construction of the bridge. Every child in the class had a chance to help build the bridge.
Sixth, it was time to test out the final product by a story retelling with our puppets. I love to mix STEM with storytelling to make sure I'm reaching all of my young learners.
Extension activities: The children were encouraged to use the bridge for the rest of the week throughout the various learning centers in the classroom.
In the block center children were invited to add blocks, cars, and make their own bridges. In the library area children were invited to use puppets and conduct their own story retellings in small groups or independently. In the dramatic play center children used it to put themselves into the story and cross the bridge just like the goats. In the art center children were encouraged to draw a picture of the bridge. In the science center the children were invited to test the weight and durability of the bridge and in the math area children were invited to count how many pieces were needed to put our bridge together.

Trip trap, trip trap went the bridge...
happy learning! : )
Check out our Three Little Pigs meets STEM here or more Three Billy Goats Gruff activities here.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

More snowmen activities

Here in New England we were just hit with a huge snowstorm and more to come next week. As much as I am exhausted and tired of shoveling...I do love winter lessons with a snow theme.
Here are a few new snowmen activities that my class has been enjoying this winter!
Snowman bowling!
Do you want to build a snowman??? hehe How many times have you heard your students singing that song? At least a thousand times...a day! All kidding aside, the students in my class have loved building this no snow snowman. We made him as a class from tissue boxes and used white paper scraps and markers to decorate them. The children have enjoyed building him in various orders but what they really love is knocking him down. This was a great activity to add to our winter classroom (as we cannot get outside as often) and it brings in movement and exercise that the children can execute independently.

Open ended snowman easel paintings.
The children were invited to make their snowman/woman at the easel in any form they would like. As you can see above, some of the children chose to make a melted snowman, some a snow storm snow person and a few went the original route. They were then given a variety of embellishments from pipe cleaners to pom poms to finish them. The goal here is to let each child be truly creative and not to tell them how to make it. Process over product. Each one came out so unique just like the students in my class. 

Snowman number recognition practice.
For this activity the students worked one on one with the teacher. They first were asked to draw a card and identify the number. If they were unable I would have them find the number on the number line and count to it. Once the number was identified the children had to put a gem on the matching number on the snowman. After the students all had a turn one on one with the teacher this was a free choice activity for the week.

Name snowmen.
I have seen these all over pinterest in many different forms and wanted to try them out in my classroom. Any activity where they are writing their name is always a hit. After the children completed their name snowman they were given white paint and a q-tip to make the snow falling over their snowman.
Click here to see more of my snowmen ideas and activities.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another new school year (2014)

I absolutely love this time of year! The excitement in the air of the school, everyone putting up their new bulletin boards and tidying up their classrooms. The anxious but excited feeling of meeting all the new students and hoping that I can successfully meet all their needs. The craziness of the bus schedule and figuring out all the children's individual schedules from full day to half day to part time, etc. The eager and a bit anxious look on the children's faces on the first day reminds me of why I went into teaching in the first place. It's a super stressful time but it's also so rewarding. Plus, its a great excuse to go school shopping at my age! I just love back to school time!
hehehe just kidding... : )
I wanted to share with you a couple of my new back to school boards for the 2014 school year!
My welcome with all the children's names on the door to the classroom.
To ask for donations to the classroom.
Can you make our wish come true?
Take a star or maybe two?
We are asking for: Play dough, dry erase markers, googly eyes, baby wipes, seasonal stickers, Clorox wipes, clear packing tape, washable markers and a gift card to Riteaid to print pictures for the children's year books.

My birthday board!
 I am so pleased with how it came out! Complete with 3D candles made from scrapbook paper.


I was very excited to find this great display/storage idea for morning message and other charts on pinterest! I simply bought an L bracket at home depot for under $2 and attached our charts to a plastic hanger! Love it! So easy and makes great use of the limited wall space in my classroom.
I found this cute welcome poem on pinterest but couldn't find a source for it.
During the first few days of school I like to have the children come up with a few rules to help the classroom run smoothly through the year. The children then add their handprint as a way of signing and agreeing to the rules. It's a great tool to be able to refer to when a child is having a rough day remembering the rules.
Have a great school year everyone!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seven on Saturday (Instruments)

Today I spent the morning with a few of my coworkers at the Steve Lyons Memorial, Rock out cookout at Winnekenni Castle! All of the proceeds go towards art and music education at Haverhill High School. We were there to not only promote our school but also to give back to an important cause in our community. Plus, we had lots of fun listening to the amazing talent from some awesome local bands and making instruments with the children who attended the event.  
This week's SoS will focus on my favorite recycled musical instruments for kids to create!!!
1. Paper plate tambourines! We made these today with the children that came to the fundraiser. We simply folded the paper plates, punched holes in the side, added macaroni to the inside and tied the sides shut with ribbon. We then had the children decorate them with markers, stickers and beads.
They had a ball shaking them along to the music and dancing around.

2. Plastic Egg Maracas from Made. A great way to use those left over eggs from Easter in a productive way.
3. Rainsticks! Made from paper towel tubes and toothpicks. Super easy and they sound just like the real thing. Click here for step by step instructions on how to make them.

4. Drinking straw Pan Flute from Krieger Science. I mean really, how cute and easy is this?
5. Paper plate hand held drums! We made these during Chinese New Year in my classroom. We stapled the paper plates together, attached them to a large popsicle stick and added the beads to the string to make the noise as you twirl them back and forth in your hands. Lots of musical fun and a multicultural lesson as well.
6. Cereal box Guitar from Red Ted Art. I have also seen these made from tissue boxes in the past for smaller hands.
7. DIY! One of my favorite things to do during classical music appreciation week in my classroom is to put out a whole bunch of recycled materials and see what the children come up with on their own for instruments! 
This is always a hit with the students and their creativity never ceases to amaze me! : ) 
"Education isn't just about feeding the brain. Art and music feed the heart and soul." -Julie Garwood

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Introducing Children to Herbs

Introducing young children to herbs!
 I decided to bring some herbs from my garden into the classroom for the children to explore.
I selected a sprig of rosemary, mint, lemon balm and chive. I put each one into a brown paper bag and made sure to rub the leaves along the outside so the smell was strong and apparent.

To start the introduction, I first wanted the children to use their sense of smell to explore the herbs. I invited each child over to smell each of the bags and tell me what they thought it smelled like.
Their predictions varied greatly on the rosemary and mint but many thought the lemon balm smelled like jelly beans or candy. While many predicted the chive to smell like pizza or pepperoni. I told the children these were wonderful predictions because each of these scents belonged to an herb which can be used to flavor food. We then went on to discuss that there are many different types of herbs and that some are used not only in food, but for medicine, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, and many other things. 

I then showed the children what each one looked like and some of the foods that they are often paired with. The children were all given a chance to explore them independently in our discovery center. The children were invited to touch, smell and get a closer look at the herbs. They were also encouraged to sketch the herbs and match them to their corresponding picture.

 Numerous studies have shown the best way to teach children to respect nature is to let them play and explore it as a child. It is my hope that by introducing the children to herbs and teaching them the importance of nature that they will want to take better care of their environment now and in the future.