Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tracking Small Humans

So it turns out that the stomach flu is going around. Five teachers, countless students, and a few parents down so far...including me. Strangely enough, cleaning up after the kids and holding their head while food comes up is highly contagious.

On a much happier note, today is almost Friday!

I've started a Facebook and Instagram account for my new pet cheetah, Rita. She's a cool cat who likes to go on all kinds of adventures, and posts photos about her interesting encounters. Who knows, someday she may travel the world and save it from the evil villains who are trying to take over, or possibly aliens. Who knows? The lava monsters in Kona might need a good solid Cheetah fight!

Today was a day of footprints in the sand! We are discussing foresters and tracks that animals leave, in continuation with our forest theme, so of course we did the whole "painting with our animals". Who doesn't do that? I also made a book with the ABCs of different animal tracks (A is for Armadillo tracks, B is for Bobcat...etc) which is in their writing center.

Speaking of writing, I finished creating the writing packets today. They are in their infancy still, so I don't have them ready for viewing yet, but as soon as I am done I shall post them online for all to see!

Moving on.

We started our "human tracks" experiment with some wet sand. We all thought it was pretty plain, so of course we added some liquid watercolors to make it more beautiful! What started out as plain white sand (filler for a sensory table, of course) soon became a blast of colors!

And, because we've been talking about primary colors, and I'm not one to miss a golden (and red and blue) opportunity, I chose three specific colors.

Which we then, of course mixed. Rainbow sand! Can you guess what color it ended up as? Definitely not rainbow...

After making the sand and eating snack, we kicked off those old shoes and stepped in the sand to make our own tracks, seeing how our feet (and later our hands and our dinosaurs) made impressions in the sand. We talked about how a forester can use these tracks to determine what kind of animal made them (see how the shape of the footprint matches your foot?) and also can follow them to the animal and see where it has been. Afterward, we of course documented our experiences by drawing our footprints and tracing our hands and feet.

I got several good questions: what kind of tracks does a dragon make? How about a snake? We discussed what these would look like, and used our beaver as an example for some--he has a low tail which drags in the sand.

To finish, here is a bit of a conversation from yesterday while on the playground.

"I am a tiger!" -Monkey
"I am a dragon! ROOOOAR!" -Bean
"I'm a TUBA!" -Shoes

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I Love It When I Am Called Away From Planning Time to Clean Up Puke

Here is how I know it is winter: I have 8 additional blankets on top of my comforter, and I'm still cold. Tonight it will be a desperate battle between cold and blankets, and we shall see if the blankets can rise up and conquer the cold.

For now, I'll just shiver and hope my body eventually warms my little burrito tunnel up. Hard to do when my limbs are made of ice.

Here's another clue: my classroom has officially lost its leaves. Farewell leaves, we shall miss your beautiful colors! It is now time for the blues, grays, and whites of winter! Also intricate snowflakes. And here they are! Aren't they pretty?

I cut these the same way I do my leaves; draw a stencil, trace them on stapled butcher paper (or printer paper for the white ones), and cut them out. Then, with fishing line and tape, I have cheap, easy, pretty decorations that are pleasing to the eye and pretty fun to make as well. I get compliments on them all the time.

This time around, I added a bit; I sparkled a few so that they looked like real snow. My kids helped. Used mod podge and fine glitter to make "glitter paint", which got all over the table and floor. They loved it though.

My lesson plan for today (which involved forests and mountains) was unexpectedly interrupted by the arrival of the "fixer guy" who came to change a few ceiling tiles that had leaks. Since it was too cold to go out for very long, we spent about half an hour watching him replace tiles. Each time a new one was taken out (leaving a gaping hole in our ceiling), we counted, using the experience to see how math can be used in real life as well as practicing "one more" and "one less". I have several very good counters who figured out the system easily after only a few tries.

Then of course, my creative types came up with the idea that dragons live in our ceiling, and we have to be quiet or they'll wake up. One of my girls, codename "Monkey" told me, out of the blue, "When I'm a monkey, I'm going to climb into the ceiling and defeat the dragon." Since we were talking about dragons, this didn't surprise me. I asked her when she was going to turn into a monkey though. Her reply? "For Christmas."

Of course. Should have thought of that myself.

My less enjoyable event of the day was when one child, codename "Curly", threw up while I was planning. Needless to say, I wasn't able to finish, since I had a lovely mess to clean up. Poor guy, I don't think he knew what hit him.

I ate the same thing for lunch...hope it isn't slow acting!

Another mid-close up of my snowflakes :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Singing and Dancing and Singing, oh Joy!

I'm constantly trying to introduce my kids to knew music (to them), including as many genres as I can. I love world music, and kids music, and what preschool classroom would be complete without Disney music? These are all classic favorites of theirs, and I'm totally up for playing them all day. Lately though, I've been trying to expose them to some of my favorites by sneaking them into CDs with songs they'll like. I just burnt three new CDs; the Frozen soundtrack, and two "mixed tapes" (do people still do that?).

The Naptime CD:
Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
I'm Coming Home, by Diddy
I Won't Give Up, by Peter Hollens (an A Capella version)
Boston, by Augustana
When I See You Smile, by Bad English
Africa, by Toto
The Impossible, by Joe Nichols
Puff, The Magic Dragon, by Peter, Paul and Mary
When You Say Nothing At All, by Alison Krauss
Let It Be, by The Beatles
Dream Big, by Ryan Shupe
Superman (It's Not Easy), by Five for Fighting
How To Save A Life, by The Fray
Man With A Memory, by Joe Nichols
Hold My Heart, by Sara Bareilles
100 Years, by Five For Fighting
White Flag, by Dido

The Awake CD:
How Your Love Makes Me Feel, by Diamond Rio
The Fox, by Ylvis
Mamma Mia, by ABBA
Wavin' Flag, by K'Naan
Hurts So Good, by John Mellencamp (I meant to put a different song in, but I like this one too)
Footloose, by Kenny Loggins
I Wanna Dance With Somebody, by Whitney Houston
Shine Your Way, by Owl City
What Made You Say That, by Shania Twain
Landslide, by Fleetwood Mac
Stuck Like Glue, by Sugarland
I Can Hear The Bells, from the movie Hairspray
Human, by Christina Perri
See You Tonight, by Scottie McCreery
Life Is A Highway, by Rascal Flatts
Brave, by Sara Bareilles
I Like To Move It, by Madegascar
Everybody Walk The Dinosaur, by Was Not Was
How Six Songs Collide, by Norwegian Recycling
American Honey, by Lady Antebellum

For all of these songs, I know them well, but often I don't hear inappropriate words. I'll be proofing them tomorrow, so if a song isn't a good one for class and you know it, don't use it!

I Love It When My Office Supplies Are Pinecones

George Takei recently posted something to his Facebook wall that I simply could not resist sharing. Any funny teacher pics, really. This one made me laugh especially, since I'm the worst when it comes to bringing stuff to school. Caps, corks, lids, and pens; cups, containers, tins and bags. If it's a thing, I want it. I have everyone I know collecting magazines for me (collage opportunity!), and whenever I see a big box, I immediately ask, "Can I have that box?" with the zeal of a true fanatic.

Today was one of those days where I had collected enough stuff to actually take it into school. In my bag of goodies, there were yogurt containers (containing water bottle lids and tin cans), Semester at Sea catalogs, scratch paper (always useful), big game dice, a paper tray, and the forest. By that I mean pinecones, leaves, pine needles and twigs, mulch and acorns and bark and dirt. It was lovely.

It is forest and mountain exploration week, just in time for December. Also, snow. It didn't stick, thank goodness, but it did snow, and the air was freezing! My hands weren't happy. The kids were, though, and that's all that matters, right?


During our morning circle, I introduced my kids to the forest. We couldn't go to it, so I brought the forest to them. It included all the things I mentioned above as well as some plastic bug counters (in real colors!). We discussed what we could smell, see, feel, and hear (though we definitely did not taste), and explained what they reminded us of. Since the colors of the forest are predominantly greens and browns, I added some paint chips (which I snag every single time I find myself in a paint department of any sort) in these colors to their art center.

In their science center for exploration time, I put the forest items on a tray with some magnifying glasses and "forest journals". The kids were able to trace, draw, or make rubbings of the items they saw. They described them to each other, and then used teamwork to make the best rubbings they could. As a lesson, it was pretty fantastic. We're keeping the science journals in our center all week.

Last, we painted with evergreens today (after learning what evergreens were on our freezing cold nature walk). The kids got to experiment with different types of art materials, getting creative with their brushes. They discovered that stroking the twigs across the paper created many thin trails, while dabbing them caused dozens of tiny speckles or lines, making for some pretty creative artwork. Later this week, we'll try making nature paint, mountain formation, and playing in a bear cave! I'll try to keep it as updated as possible.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fine Motor Balloons, or Stress Relief for Teachers

My school director mentioned to me once the idea of filling rubber gloves with hand sanitizer as  kind of sensory bag. I liked this idea, but I didn't have rubber gloves OR enough hand sanitizer, so once again I had to improvise. I did have play dough, and balloons. So why not use those?

Of course, I was improvising so I didn't actually have a funnel on hand, which left the question of how to actually get the play dough IN the balloon. My first attempt was to do it by just shoving the dough into the balloon, which worked to an extent. It left play dough in the mouth though, and was messier. Eventually, I remembered an old scotch tape roll I'd saved, thinking it might come in handy. Turns out I was right ! It opened the mouth of the balloon enough so I could stuff it with play dough.

After that, just tie the balloon tightly, and voila! Balloon fine motor muscle stretcher!

Of course, drawing faces makes them even more eexciting. We had fun with this part.

And if you'll notice, they are a very relaxing toy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cardboard Blocks

The Perpetual Curse of the Preschool Teachers seems to be that we never have enough of a budget to buy all the things we want. Have you ever looked through one of those catalogues for preschool classrooms? I spend the whole time bookmarking the things I want to have, even though I doubt I'll ever get them. Talk about expensive!

I try to create as many of my supplies on my own as I can. This can be difficult at times, especially without a laminator, but occasionally a few bright ideas come my way. My kids were starting to get bored with their cool curve blocks (BORED?!?!?) so I thought it might be nice to exchange them for some other type of block. Why not giant stacking blocks? They're light, and can fall on heads with little to no effect (great for higher stacks), they're colorful, they're paper, and best of all...they're FREE. Basically. Also, they're made from recycled materials, which is my favorite part.

If you can't find small boxes already, here is how I made mine from regular-sized boxes:

Start with two equal-sized rectangles and fold into thirds (the folds should be the same length as the width of the rectangle). Tape these together into a T shape.

Begin folding box sides up and taping them on the inside edges.

Tape all the way closed and tape up outside edges

I wrapped my blocks in colored butcher paper as if they were presents, using clear tape to keep shut, but it's not necessary. Just looks more colorful.
Let the stacking begin!

Don't forget to let the T-Rex destroy the buildings!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall is Coming

I've often wondered, in Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Does that mean they're in fall?

Well, up here in the Great Northwest, fall is certainly on its way. You can tell because it has been rainy, including lightning, and the leaves have already started to change colors. Also because I'm putting fall decorations up in my classroom.

They are leaves cut out of butcher paper and hung on fishing line at my entrance. Everyone loves them. For winter there will be snowflakes!

To cut out the leaves, all I did was print some leaf clipart out, trace them onto overhead transparencies, cut those out to make stencils and then draw the leaves onto several folded sheets of red, orange, and yellow butcher paper. If you staple the sheets together it makes it easier to cut them out so they don't slide around.

I also made my question of the day board fall-themed, but I don't think my kids appreciate it quite as much.

The leaves are the nametags with magnet tape so they stick to the board

Disney Naptime Playlist

As 3-year olds, my kids are in love with Disney music. As a 3-year-old-at-heart, I am too. And everybody knows that naptime music is less for the kids and more for the teacher who has to listen to it for the next two hours. So I try to pick music I enjoy, won't fall asleep to (I'm more into naps than they are at this point), but music that doesn't have that steady binaural beat that activates the alpha waves and keeps them asleep (such as Beethoven). Since all I really know is that classic music is the cause of that, I'm not necessarily the best at finding the alternatives, but I've come up with some favorites. A slow-paced Disney playlist is one of those.

I happen to already have the majority of the Disney soundtracks, so it was just a matter of thinking of all the slow songs used in Disney movies. This is what I came up with:

River Lullaby (Prince of Egypt - Not Disney, but kids)
Stay Awake (Mary Poppins)
You'll Be In My Heart (Tarzan)
So Close (Enchanted)
Reflection (Mulan)
God Help the Outcasts (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
Can You Feel the Love Tonight (The Lion King)
Love Will Find a Way (The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride)
For Longer than Forever (The Swan Princess - Also not Disney)
A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella)
Tale as Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast)
Best of Friends (Fox and the Hound)
Once Upon a December (Anastasia - Not Disney)
We Are One (Lion King 2: Simba's Pride)
Gotta Find You (Camp Rock)
If I Never Knew You (Pocahontas)
A Whole New World (Aladdin)
Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas)
I See the Light (Tangled)

Insects and Arachnids and Arthropods, Oh My!

When I look back on bug week, even though it is my least favorite subject (talk about gross!), I have to admit that so far it has been my best in terms of planning preparedness. I had bugs, sensory dirt, spider experiments, and all kinds of good, fun learning.

As anyone in childcare knows, you are not only teaching your students, but also your parents. I find that when parents talk to me I have to justify everything I do. Even though I know that my kids are learning every time they play, parents don't. This week happened to be a bit easier to justify. Who doesn't count legs on bugs to determine which type they are?

While it may not seem academic, continuous practice counting is essential in developing later math skills in children. Studies have found that children who don't understand early on that numbers represent a quantity (and aren't just a list of words you say in order) struggle in math later on. So, in my class, we take every opportunity to count that we can. Counting friends in line, counting spiders in a bucket, counting goldfish in our cup...and so on. Even outside I challenge my kids to count and sort, and they are delighted to do it.

Over the course of bug week, we worked on many various art projects and science experiments. For instance; did you know that the reason spiders don't stick to their own webs is because they have oil on their legs? I didn't either, but when we taped contact paper sticky-side-up over a web and walked our insect fingers across it, then dipped them in oil and tried again with spider fingers, we discovered for ourselves exactly how. See, I'm learning new things every day too!

We of course sang bug songs, such as the Ants Go Marching (I don't actually know all the rhymes, so I found myself making some up on the kids helped!), I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider (my kids love this one...we sing itsy bitsy, big fat spider in a deep voice, teeny weeny spider in a squeaky voice, and silent spider with no voice and just hand motions). Another favorite is the beehive fingerplay, which goes like this:

Here is the beehive, (fists together)
But where are the bees? (hands out in question)
They're hidden away where nobody sees! (dance fingers back into fists)
Soon they'll come creeping out of the hive (I stick one finger out for every syllable)
So let's all count them...(Hold out hand and point to fingers)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5! (let kids count)

And here is the part they love the best...sometimes I go around and "sting" them. Unfortunately, it results in screaming in class, so I had to limit this particular one to an outside fingerplay (though it gets them to pay attention in line)

One day, one of my students brought in a dead bumblebee she found in the driveway with her dad, which was like a lesson plan just waiting for me. We examined the bee (from a touching!) and described it, counted its legs, and told stories about bees we've either heard or experienced. Telling stories is important to help kids learn to be better readers, so I always listen with interest when they try to tell me something, even if I don't understand. Asking leading questions and prompting are also important. We also drew our bees and wrote commentary on them.

Another art project that I'd actually planned ahead of time was to take coffee cans, paper circles, and marbles coated in paint, and create "spider web art". The kids shook the coffee cans around (motor skills AND art, who knew?) to get the paint to make webs, and then we covered them in glitter. Mine looked something like this:

And then I put them up on my cupboard walls in a display that looks like this:

You can't really see it, but there's a bit of white yarn coming from the spider. I think I'll probably save him for Halloween! The kids are really fascinated by spiders, for whatever reason. I'm less of a fan.

As usual, I found several of these ideas on Pinterest. Another great resource for me has been, or a few of the pre-K websites. The internet is a great tool, and you can bet I make full use of it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Summary of Summer

As I mentioned in my last post, I have switched jobs to a place a bit closer to home. Previously I thought I might actually catch up on all the months of missed dramatic plays I did, but now I'm thinking that it's a bit of an undertaking.

So instead, I'll work from this point forward!

Welcome to Summer Camp with Preschoolers! It's actually the second-to-last week for us, but I'll highlight the fun projects we've worked on. This week is bug week, so we've been looking at things like pairs and symmetry, counting legs and bugs and identifying insects or arachnids. We've had a bug hunt in sensory dirt (baking soda and brown-colored water with plastic bugs), we did butterfly bead patterning, butterfly symmetry art, antennae headbands, and more! Mosquito tag was a major hit, as is any song that involves Ms. Meghan (me) "eating" or "stinging" or otherwise "getting" the kids at the end.

For the past three weeks, I had a cardboard rocket ship in the classroom, but it sadly reached its expiration date a few days ago. So I took it down, and in its place I'm building a pirate ship! Next week is pirate week to celebrate the last week of summer camp. I will post pictures of these soon!

In fact, I'll try to post pictures of everything I have done over the summer soon. I take these photos for a reason! Might as well share with the teaching community!

Over and Out!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Note About Jobs

While I absolutely love working in a preschool, sometimes the people I work with can make or break a deal. Also, during times of stress, I write less in my blogs, as we can note here.

So, just as an update, I am working in a new preschool with 3 and 4 year olds in Kirkland now, and I will write more/post pictures of my classroom later.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Break is Over...Finally!

While two weeks of relaxed curriculum (in recognition of the "holidays") was a nice break--and something I looked forward to--I have to say I'm happy they're over! I pulled down my snowflakes and snowmen (saved the snowflakes), but left up the dark blue and lights. Because one subject I've always loved is...OUTER SPACE!!!


Now tell me that isn't awesome.

What's better is that the rocket is interactive. The kids can go behind it and take pictures looking out the windows--and the rocket is a half-circle of pure grade-A materials...AKA cardboard and butcher paper! my design went something like this:

The kids loved it and couldn't WAIT for it to be finished. They spent much of their afternoon watching me. It was like being on stage--they literally lined up chairs and watched. And spent about half that time asking me when it would be finished so they could try it out.

I can't wait!

Besides having all the planets in relative size (sort of...enough for the to get the picture. I discovered at the Pacific Science Center today that my relative sizes are nowhere near realistic, but that's alright), a moon and an astronaut, I have a table that needed to be filled with something to do. I generally struggle most with the table, and usually come up with some last-minute art project to fit there.

Not this week!
(Can you tell I had two weeks to plan?)

This week, I've created galaxy playdough! I found the idea on Pinterest, and used the recipe, but I didn't have black food coloring so I had to improvise. You can find the recipe here. MY playdough looked more like this:

We couldn't help but play with it. Here is my sea serpent, among a few other things we created
We used a LOT of blue and purple food coloring. My hands look like I tried to fend off muggers while in Seattle today.

Yesterday, at the Boeing Museum of Flight, I bought rocket ship and shooting star cookie cutters. If I have time, I'll stop for some glow-in-the-dark stars to add to it, and the station will be complete. Space week, here I come!