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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. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Seven on Saturday (Rocks)

While I was on vacation my amazingly creative co-teacher spent the week rocking out! ; ) 
This SoS features my co-teacher and good friend Sonia's best rock study activities for preschool! 

1. Sorting rocks by their attributes. Smooth vs. rough. A great way to get those little ones looking at details and using descriptive language.

2. Counting rocks activity. The children were encouraged to show how many small rocks were represented by the numeral on the larger rock.

3. Famous rock formation paintings at the easel. A great way to spark conversations about history and geography.

4. Painting with rocks. A fabulous process art project and sensory experience all in one.

5. Adding rocks into the block building area. Looking for a fine motor and balance challenge for your little ones? You have got to try this out. The children were encouraged to take their time and think creatively to carry out their plans all while improving their hand eye coordination.

6. What do we know about rocks? Where do rocks come from? It is always important to find out what the children already know about a subject and what they might be confused about. This way you can address any misconceptions at the start before they become imprinted in the child's mind for the future. As you can see, the children had lots of interesting ideas about rocks.

7. My personal favorite! Painted rock tic tac toe! The children were invited to use the rocks in a fun and engaging way where they could interact with others and practice some much needed social skills.

Click here to see how we use rocks to tell stories in our classroom.
Happy learning to all! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Story Stones

I have seen so many different types of painted stones online for all sorts of educational purposes. I decided that since I most certainly am not a painter but, I really wanted a set for my classroom that I would have to come up with an alternative that even I could make. My solution... modge podge to the rescue! I cut out some interesting pictures that I found in a magazine and simply stuck them on with modge podge then let them dry and ta da!

My own set of story stones!
Here is how I use story stones in the pre-k classroom.

I call the children over one at a time for this activity. I have each child choose six stones from the box. I then encourage each child to tell me a story using the stones as inspiration. Each stone has to be used in the story in some way. This way I am guaranteed more than a one sentence story which can sometimes happen. It's funny, children can tell stories all day long but as soon as you ask them to tell you one and put them on the spot they freeze up. So these stones help to give them topics to come up with and interesting situations for the characters and objects to get into. I write down their stories while they are telling their tale and read them back to them when they are finished. I then ask the children to illustrate their story. After each of the children have finished I have them share their stories with their classmates. 

The children love this activity! Many of them wanted to write story after story which I just love! It was amazing how creative their stories really were. Aside from the children having to use language skills to tell the story and fine motor skills to draw the story. They also are engaging in a great sensory experience while they interact with the stones. I think the next set, I will have to make with seashells or maybe wooden pieces...the possibilities are endless and it's a great way to bring natural materials into the classroom in an engaging way.

Happy story telling to all!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Seven on Saturday (Shark Week)

This week's SoS features my favorite shark week activities that I have found on the web.
From: Humble Hearts Academy
From: Toddler Approved
From: Deceptively Educational
From: Playfully Learning
Fom: Kidzone
From: Glued to my Crafts
From: I Heart Crafty Things
I can't wait to try out these shark inspired learning activities in my classroom! Please feel free to link to your shark lessons/crafts in the comments below!

Click here for my Shark Week ideas.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dramatic Play Camping

This is the first year that I have taught a camping theme to my class and oh my goodness we are having way to much fun! haha : )

It's no secret that my favorite area of the classroom is the dramatic play center. I love that I can literally set the scene for the children to go on a serious learning adventure. They are free to try new things and use their imaginations freely in a safe and secure environment.
We first painted our camp scene mural complete with the stars in the night sky made from yellow paper and tinfoil. We then added our butcher paper tree and the brown felt for the dirt. We then hung up the tablecloth from the dollar store to make the tent. 
We added a magnetic fish and fishing pole set to our campground. Our "pond" is made from a sled but it was the perfect size and color to keep the fish in. We added the sand pail for the children to put their catch in and the basket (from the first picture) we flipped over for the children to use as a grill. We built a pretend play campfire from paper towel tubes, tissue paper and construction paper which we painted and cut into handprint shapes which encase the outside of the flames. This was not only a great art and dramatic play prop but it was the chance for the children and I to have a great conversation about fire safety and etiquette.
What camping trip is complete without s'mores? After we made our campfire we attached cotton balls to sticks that we collected on the playground. The children loved being able to "roast" the s'mores over the campfire.

Since we had the packaging left over from the real s'mores we made in class, we decided to add a cooler filled with pretend s'more ingredients into our campground as well. We cut foam into the graham crackers and chocolate squares and of course we added more cotton balls for the marshmallows.
We put together a first aid kit for the children to use for the campers who might attain an injury while off hiking or fishing. We discussed things you might find inside a first aid kit and how to use the items properly. My hope is that this will help the children learn to empathize for friends who get hurt by acting out the role of the caregiver and the injured camper.

We added travel guides, maps and blank notebooks to act as camp journals. This was a way of bringing in some extra literacy to this area in a theme based and engaging manner.

Other things we added:
Binoculars, cameras, compasses, clothes, beach bags, towels, canteens, utensils and other food items besides just the s'mores.

This area of the classroom made for lots of happy pre-k campers! : ) Thanks for reading!

More camping lessons and activities to come soon!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Seven on Saturday (Debut)

Happy weekend friends!

I have decided to add a new segment to my blog entitled Seven on Saturday. Every Saturday, I hope to post seven facts, activities or ideas on a wide variety of topics.
For my first, Seven on Saturday I thought it might be nice for you (the readers) to learn some interesting facts about me. So, without further ado here is my debut Seven on Saturday post!

1. I currently work at the same preschool that I attended as a student back in the early 80's.
2. I have my bartending license! Which comes in very handy after a long work week! haha ; )
3. I love kayaking, boating and basically anything on the water but...I get motion sickness every single time regardless of anything I do to try and prevent it. However, I won't let that stop me! haha : )

4. I met my boyfriend and now soon to be husband on World of Warcraft. Yea...that's a video game! Talk about fate! : )

5. I was the queen of extracurricular activities as a student. I was involved in dance (tap, ballet, jazz and lyrical), baton twirling (all events), 4-H, cross country, indoor track, intramural volleyball, peer leaders, stick fighting, orchestra and pep band where I played two instruments (clarinet & bassoon) and anything else I could get involved in!
Seriously, how cute was I as a 4 year old? : )
6. I have traveled out of the US to Canada, Ireland and England and I hope to see many more countries in my lifetime.
7. I am a pretty awesome baker (especially when it comes to cookies) and I swear if I wasn't a teacher I would probably be a pastry chef. 
Thanks so much for reading my first ever Seven on Saturday! There is plenty more where this came from! Next week's SoS will be about my favorite week of the summer...Shark Week! It will host my seven favorite shark activities and lessons for young learners! Thanks for stopping by! : )

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Math Website Reviews

       I'll be honest, I'm not usually a big fan of computers in the early childhood classroom. I think that this is due to the fact that I believe it to take away from the social interactions that children so desperately need at such a young age. However, I understand that we live in a technology driven world and I do want to prepare the children for the future. With that in mind, I have been looking into various websites for children that promote early childhood math skills. Here are 3 websites that I have found to be helpful and how I would use them in my classroom.

The first website which I decided to evaluate was Illuminations. I found this to be a very user friendly website with a wealth of lessons and activities to use in the pre-k to 2nd grade classroom. When you first go to the website you are prompted to choose activities, lessons, standards or web links. I found the best way to use this site was to click on activities and then pre-k to 2. My favorite activity was the patch tool, where you can use virtual tangrams to make a variety of shapes and pictures such as boats or animals. I would use this activity in my classroom after having the students use real tangrams to build with. Once the students become familiar with this idea I would then introduce them to this website. I would first explicitly show them how to use this website in a group setting and then I would have the students work in pairs at the computer to use that particular activity. The goal would be to use this in a geometry lesson to teach about how to put various shapes together to make something new. I think this would then enhance their understanding of these shapes even further by looking at it in a new light using technology. The Mass frameworks which would be covered under this activity from this website would be K.G.2 Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size and K.G.6 Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes. I think this website could be a great learning tool to use in conjunction with the hands on learning of the regular classroom routine.

    The next website which I decided to evaluate was reading resource which is mainly a literacy site but has recently added math activities as well. This website was a little hard to navigate at first and can be very overwhelming at a quick glance. Once I found the math page I was able to bookmark it so that I will be able to get back in later. There were lots of fun interactive games that I think the students would enjoy to use as a review. Two of the activities that I really liked was the balloon pop math for counting and for ordering. This activity first has the students pop the balloons in order from 1 to 10 and counts along. The next activity gives the student 3 balloons each time and the student has to pop them in order from the smallest number to the largest. This is certainly something I would use in the pre-k classroom as a review for all students. I would use the first activity in a group setting and then would let the students individually have a turn to complete the second activity and pop the balloons from lowest to highest number. This would link to the Mass frameworks in the domain of counting and cardinality for pre-k. PK.CC.2 Recognize and name written numerals 1-10 and PK.CC.3 Understand the relationships between numerals and quantities up to ten. The only thing that I really do not like about this website is all the adds which take up the entire left side of the screen during the learning activity which I think might be distracting to some of the students. However, I do believe that there is a wealth of valuable content being taught through the activities and games on the website that this should help to keep the student interested and engaged.

    The final website which I decided to evaluate was called fun brain. This website is bright and colorful, very easy to use and extremely child friendly. It is easy to navigate and you are prompted with the age range you would like math games for right away to make searching easier for the teacher or parent. After browsing the website I decided to look at the math games that would relate to my pre-k students. One of the games I liked was the bunny count. For this math game the students are shown a certain amount of bunnies and are given two answers to choose from. I would have the students use this website independently as a fun way to work on matching quantities to the corresponding numeral. This would relate to the Mass frameworks in Counting and Cardinality, PK.CC.3 Understand the relationships between numerals and quantities up to ten.
 (On a side note, I would like to add that I think technology can be a wonderful thing but we have to remember that we do not want it to consume our children's lives. Therefore, all of these websites I would only use sparingly in the classroom as an extension never as the actual learning lesson. In my opinion, nothing can take the place of actual hands on learning in a fun and engaging environment.)

Questions for discussion:
Should we use computers with 4 year olds in the classroom? What math websites do you use with your children or students? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Click here for an example of one of my favorite hands on math learning games that I use in the classroom.