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!