Saturday, August 31, 2013

Natural Light Table/Block Play

 Wooden unit blocks with transparent acrylic windows are great  to capture the attention of my preschoolers on a sunny day.

A sunny day, a window sill and these great blocks and you have a center for one or two.
 Add some pictures of stained glass windows to the walls nearby.

I have also used colored plastic wrap to tint my classroom windows.

Great for teaching basic colors and shapes.

Color mixing when the children look through more than one block at the same time.

These blocks are a little big for most light tables but I absolutely love them on the window sill!

They also make great colorful reflections on the walls and floors. (:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weather Charts, PreK Style

 I have tried several types of weather charts with my preschoolers over the years and this style is one of my favorites. They love taking turns looking out the window then choosing the corresponding card to place on the chart. We also count and compare the days to see which type of weather has the most or least. The helper then reads the sentence strip using a pointer.

This is a weather chart I used for several years and though it worked fine and has the same basic concept as the one on the bottom I felt like I needed to change a couple of things.  I like the larger labels on the top of the chart instead of the bottom. On this  chart the children always wanted to count the labels at the bottom as one of the days, especially when the lines got full of cards.

They learn really fast which word says 'rainy' or 'sunny' so instead of drawing the corresponding picture on the word cards I changed it on the new cards to just the word itself.  So far this has worked really well and helps the kids with word recognition.

I like the sentence strip under the chart on this one. The kids can reach it much better with a pointer or even their finger. The only downside with the new one is the poster board is already starting to fade because the sun shines in on the bulletin board it is on.  We don't get a lot of snow here so I have often thought of removing the snowy day and adding a windy day.... but the kids really like to see the snowy one even if it's not used much.

By the way... today was a great day as well...  No tears, it's Friday and a holiday weekend!! Couldn't ask for much better (:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chester Raccoon and the first day of school

The first day of school for nine bright eyed preschoolers. The PreK students at our school do "staggered entry" which means half of the class comes one day for their first day and the rest of the class comes the next. All of our kids come together on the Tuesday after Labor Day.  I consider first days great based on mostly one thing.... TEARS! or the lack of them to be more specific. This includes tears from children, parents or teachers... and today was a great day!  I seen some brief "almost" tears but they dried up quickly after mom left the classroom. First days are made up of teaching routines, learning names, and counting heads. The routines will slowly become habit (I hope), I think we'll get the names straight pretty quick and I work with a wonderful teacher who takes care of me on the "counting heads" part. (:  The Kissing Hand and No, David! were a hit with the kids and we charted how we felt today.

_Chester__ felt _sad_ on the first day of school.
_________ felt _____ on the first day of school.
_________ felt _____ on the first day of school.
_________ felt _____ on the first day of school.

As I filled in the blanks we got many different answers including "happy", "excited",  "sleepy", "good" and "just right". I am happy to note that Chester was the only one who felt sad on their first day. I am really hoping the trend continues through tomorrow! I will let you know...

Birthday Bulletin Board

The birthdays start in the top left hand corner and move clockwise around the bulletin board. This great group of kids are in first grade this year. (:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Welcome Bulletin Board

    Finally after a couple of weeks of screenings, home visits, paperwork and getting the room uncluttered and somewhat organized... My kiddos start tomorrow!  Thought I would share a bulletin board from a couple of years ago.  They always love seeing their names on things when they first come into the room so we try to label their cubbies and chairs as well. Giving the children ownership in the room and a space to call their own will help them feel like they belong. Making them feel welcome and safe will help with that separation anxiety we are sure to see at 7:45 in the morning. (:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Astronauts PreK Style

My little astronauts in their space shuttle. A quick note out to parents and I got some wonderful old motorcycle helmets that we covered in foil added an antennae and we had some great space helmets!
More boxes!! Love my little astronauts!! (:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Boxes full of imagination (:

Many of us were raised playing with pots, pans and cardboard boxes. How often have you heard parents of little ones say their children had more fun playing with the boxes the toys came in than the toys themselves? This is true in the classroom as well. Usually in the middle of the school year, when the weather outside is cold and the toys inside are no longer holding the children's interests, I find a boxes. Sometimes a large refrigerator box, sometimes a few smaller ones. All you have to do is sit a box in the room and soon the kids will start asking why it's there and what it's for. Without much encouragement at all they will start offering suggestions and so it begins... "We could paint it" "We can get in it" "We can cut it up" or in this case "We can make a rocket ship!"  Ohhh, I like this one. Great for those open-ended questions. "What does a rocket ship look like?" "What do we need to make a rocket ship?" We found pictures on the internet and in books to help with our design.(Research/Technology) We drew pictures of what we thought it should look like.(Art/Critical thinking) The children decided it should be shiny, so in this picture they are cutting double sided tape and putting it around the box.(Fine Motor) We then wrapped the box in foil and added some windows and a door. This is a project we took our time with and it lasted for well over a month.
This project took only fifteen minutes or so to make but was played with all year long. It started with a couple of boys sitting back on the little couch in our home living center. When I hear one of them say what they needed was an X-Box Live. After they discussed the games they would play and talked about it a few more minutes I suggested they make one. At first I had some funny looks and giggles until they realized I was serious. "How big does it need to be?" I asked. "Well, I have this box..."  So here is the finished result. I just noticed the "knobs" were missing from this picture (milk jug lids taped on the bottom left hand side of the screen). The two things lying beside the game are controllers made from folded up brown paper bags. The boys drew pictures for each side of the box of different games and they drew the buttons on the controllers. Then they put their X-Box Live on the shelf, each grabbed a "wireless" controller and leaned back on the couch. This was probably the most played with "toy" in our room last year!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Colors, PreK Style

This is a great activity to start at the beginning of the year. Each year my kids have a homework bag, which is a gallon size ziploc bag with their name on it. For this activity they are to each bring 2 or 3 items that we can keep to add to our color poster. So I send home a note in their homework bag explaining the activity and the color of the week and they send the items back in the bag. They may cut from magazines, draw pictures or bring items as long as we are able to keep the items. I also keep a few things handy for anyone who forgets their homework. I don't do this every year but after reviewing the class screenings I determine if colors are something most of the children need to learn. The kids have fun with this activity and love to share what they have found at home. I sit with each of the kids and let them pull things from their bag and we talk about not only color but shapes, sizes and positions as well. I do try to look through their bags a little before we start this activity and choose the children with bigger items to go first so the larger things are on the bottom layer.  We use bottle glue to attach things but if you are going to hang them in the room I usually go back with my hot glue gun and reinforce heavier items. I also use hot glue to attach the poster to the wall because it is usually pretty heavy.  If you plan each week right, yellow close to Fall, orange and black close to Halloween, red and green close to Christmas, white and blue in January it helps with finding relevant items that go with other themes in your classroom.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Work in Progress

I was having a particularly rough day today and then I saw this sign. (: The past two days we have been screening the new prek kids, this as you know can make for a very stressful day. Some children separate easily from their parents, some don't. Some children can stay on task very well, others are easily distracted. Some children test well, some don't. In most cases this is the first time I get to meet the children and their families. Unless I have had an older sibling in my classroom I don't know these children or their families. I don't know if there is food in their cupboards at home, if they had to borrow money to put gas in their gas tanks to get here or if this child was a preemie and not suppose to live past his first birthday because of some complication. I don't know their story and they don't know mine. I try my best not to judge them with my first impressions. Keep this in mind as you meet your new classes. We are all a "Work in Progress", don't label your kids and treat them differently because of the way they are dressed, the way they talk, negative things you have heard about the family or how they score on an assessment.

BTW these are boot trays (nice size because they are long and narrow to fit on top of our shelves) for children to keep those ongoing art and construction projects. Many times there are Lego structures, drying Play-dough sculptures and wet paint pictures on the trays, all waiting to be finished the next day. (:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fall Math, PreK Style

Here's an activity my class really enjoyed from last year. Every year my class does many math activities involving pumpkins and gourds including measuring, weighing, comparing and predicting. With this activity I gave each child a "pumpkin seed" with their name on it and they wrote down the number of seeds they thought would be inside the pumpkin. If they didn't know how to write a number I helped them as needed.  After I cut the top off the pumpkin the children took turns scooping the seeds out with their hands. Other children helped wash the seeds and then we laid them out to dry. The next day when they were dry we counted, and counted, and counted! Now the problem came with the huge amount of seeds we found in this very small pumpkin! It was a small pie pumpkin, who would have thought there would be 567 seeds!! This year I may "lose" a few seeds along the way...preschoolers get bored after counting to about 30. (:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Science Center PreK Style

Thought I would share some insight about building a PreK science center. I was looking at ours this morning while we working to get our room into shape for the new school year. This is a great center for the kids and their families to help with and take ownership in. What's in our science center right now? These awesome gourds that were donated by a grandparent; leaves, acorns, pine cones and a giant seed pod that the children found on the playground and walks around campus, sea shells brought by children and teachers from trips to the beach, a bird nest brought by a little boy at the end of last year, a nice green plant, a beta fish, science books, magnet set, magnifying glasses, bug catchers and a few other things. I have been in classrooms with science centers that were made up entirely of store bought science toys. These may catch the attention of children for a few minutes but are nothing compared to the presence of real things, esp. real things the children contributed. Let your children and their families know you would like their help, and how much you appreciate donations. I try to give credit where it is due by placing little tags like this one next to donations. This not only let's them know it's appreciated but gives children ownership into something they helped to create and bragging rights that may encourage others. I love to watch this center change throughout the school year from the field corn and pumpkins of fall to the caterpillars and flowers of spring. (:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Class Lists

Back to work on a rainy Monday. But on the upside I hope I have a final class list with no more changes! One of the first things I do when I am handed my new class list is to put the kids in alphabetical order and make a new list. This is very helpful when going through the list in my head, hundreds of times each year. For instance, my new class includes 3 children that start with an "A" and 4 that start with "C". So the first 6 on the list will be pretty easy to memorize. I also take notice to birthdays and boy/girl ratios. One thing I noticed is that over half of my class have late birthdays, which means they are overall a fairly young class with one turning 4 on the cutoff day. 7 boys/11 girls. Now if I can just learn to pronounce some of these names. (:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A few favorites from last year

This is an old Tupperware relish tray I found while cleaning out my kitchen cabinets last summer for a yard sale. I laminated the numbers and taped them down so I can easily change them if I want. Great sorting tray and it even has a lid! (:

 I took this picture not long after I put this chart on the window and the kids hadn't quite figured it out yet. The idea is that when someone sees a bird at one of our feeders they could color in one of the rectangles on our chart. Rethinking this one, but I really like the concept. I may need to do it daily for a while in the beginning until they get the hang of it.
These are pizza pans attached to the wall. The children's names are on each of the magnets. I would read the days question and each child would find their name and put it on yes or no. I found some great sentence strip holders at the dollar store and cut them to fit my needs.

 Our Post Office! We had such a great time with this. The mailboxes I made with lots of priority mail boxes and boxing tape. The best part is they were free! I labelled each child's name on the front and back of each slot so if you were "working" in the post office you could match the name on the mail to the mail slot and the kids playing in the rest of the room would look for their name and get their mail from the front. To the right and around the corner I had a counter set up with a cash register in case the kids had packages to mail. I will look for more pictures if anyone is interested. (:

Back to School !!

Excited to start blogging about my classroom!  A couple of weeks before my new kids start but school starts for me tomorrow. It's been a great summer and though one more trip to the beach would be a wonderful thing, I am ready to get this school year started.  Found some great new ideas and materials this summer that I can't wait to try (: