Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trains, turtles and trees for T

 This week started out with another cool box creation!  My neighbors brought me another box, and the cardboard corner pieces begged to become a ball track.  We rolled ping pong balls (yes, I rolled some too,) whenever the box was available.  I finally retired the bean box midweek, when all the beans were spread all over the floor.  Twenty-one ping pong balls are easier to pick up than 3000 beans!


Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T
 One of the things I wanted to include this week was more science. 
We started learning about trees by brainstorming what the children know or think they know.  This is called activating prior knowledge - basically, if they're thinking about something, it's easier to add new knowledge onto what they already know.
Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T

Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T
 We made models of trees; a half art, half science activity.  As they painted we talked about the parts of the tree, and I introduced the word "trunk" - I was surprised no-one knew that word when we made our chart!  We talked about making the roots under the ground as big as the branches above, and that roots branch out too.  Here are our finished trees, with all the parts labelled.
Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T


Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T
 Another tree project we did was one with concentric circles for leaves.  We looked at Kandinsky's paintings of concentric circles, then made our own.  The oldest kiddos cut out their own circles, the younger ones had precut circles.  We talked about shapes a lot this week!
Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T
 You can see all our beautiful concentric circle trees at www.artsonia.com.

Learning about trees (and more!) for the letter T
 Here's what the children knew about trees a couple of days later.  They were very impressed to know chocolate comes from beans on a tree!  They learned new vocabulary - trunk, learned about more products from trees (cardboard, hockey sticks, rubber, maple syrup),  and learned that green leaves breath and make food for trees, and make oxygen for us to breathe too!  I'm impressed with how much these 3-5 year old kiddos know!








We also learned a lot about turtles this week - mostly sea turtles.  We did an awesome art project:
 On the first day we water colored an ocean background with cool colors.  The kiddos worked very hard to cover their papers with color!
 The next day they painted the turtles.  I showed them a model of a sea turtle, and we noticed the shape (oval), counted flippers, and noticed that the front flippers were long and curved.  They followed step by step directions to make beautiful turtles.
 When they were dry the teachers cut them out, and the children glued their turtles onto the ocean background.  Beautiful!  You can see all of them at www.artsonia.com.


Our turtle study wouldn't be complete without acknowledging a certain group of 4 teenaged turtles.  I knew TMNT would engage the kiddos, particularly some of the boys who often wear turtle clothes to school, but I didn't want a day of Ninja wars and t.v.-related pretend.  Here's our compromise:
I made a chart comparing Ninja Turtles to sea turtles, and the children told me all the answers for Ninja turtles.  Next, I read a beautiful realistic fiction book about a loggerhead turtle: One Tiny Turtle, by Nicola Davies.  As I read, the children listened to find out what loggerheads eat, where they live, how big they grow, and other cool facts.  The kiddos remembered all the relevant facts!
We finished our turtle theme with a snack that looks like one.  I put peanut butter on Ritz crackers, and the kiddos added almonds for heads, cashews and peanuts for flippers, and topped it with another cracker for the carapace (shell).

 Of course, we did our usual activities: upper and lower case letter crafts, hand and foot prints, and our abc albums.

Some of the hand and foot print art doesn't require much work from the children, and I've been thinking that perhaps I need to change that.  Painting hands, and especially feet, this week, reminded me of what a fun sensory experience it is for the children to feel the brush as it spreads the paint, and the lovely squishy feeling of paint between their toes.  They love this activity, and that is enough sometimes!  For more hand and foot print ideas, check out pinterest.

Finally, here are some trains we made while talking about and reviewing the names of shapes.  This clever idea came from Counting Coconuts.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quilts, Quarters and a Queenly Q

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Some letters lend themselves to so many activities that it is hard to schedule all the fun things I want to do.  Q on the other hand, has always been a challenging letter to find appropriate activities for.  Thank goodness for Pinterest, with so many people sharing their great ideas, I found plenty of fun ways to reinforce this letter!

We made a class quilt, with each child drawing or coloring in 3 squares.  They enjoyed the open ended drawing activity, and we had a nice cooperative piece to show off afterwards.  This idea came from www.teachpreschool.org.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

 I read the students Patricia Polacco's beautiful book, The Keeping Quilt, and they decorated their lowercase q craft with quilt squares.  You can see that some children worked on making patterns with their squares, and others had to focus their mental energy on using small dots of glue. 
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Another fun book we enjoyed this week was Eating Fractions, by Bruce McMillan.  We cut and ate a fraction snack one afternoon, breaking our graham crackers into 4 quarters, and cutting our bananas into quarters.  I don't expect the children to have mastered the concept of quarters in these brief lessons, but I've introduced the vocabulary, and by connecting it to an eating activity, it's more likely to stay with them.  We'll start noticing quarters and other fractions in the world around us more now that the concept has been introduced.  We also practiced quarters as coins, reviewing some favorite   money songs  from youtube.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

I had the children explore an unknown item this week as a science activity, observing and making predictions about what they were manipulating.  I provided each child with the intact stem and core from a bell pepper, and watched and listened to them as they picked the seeds off, and tried to discover what it was. 
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
 I heard a lot of guesses about what it might be: cauliflower, orange, mushroom, corn, broccoli, onion.  They all knew it was from a plant.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
 One child thought it felt slimy, and as our jack-o-lantern pumpkins are getting slimy as they compost, guessed this might be a pumpkin.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
 Here are some other things the children said while they worked:
"It has seeds.  Because of these things in the middle."
"There's a bunch of them everywhere, I think they're already dead."
"What are the pieces?"
"It smells like cauliflower."
"It's a pepper coz it smells like it."

I asked "What are we going to do with these seeds?" and was told, "Make a like a bean collection," and "Put salt on it, so it would be yum."  It was very interesting watching the kiddos try to identify the pepper cores!
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

On another day we made our hand prints for the letter Q.  The kiddos regularly pull down their hand print alphabet books to look at them, and review the letters and sounds while they check out their own artwork.  It's a great motivator, and I think a nice keepsake for their pre-k years too.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

No preschool Q unit would be complete without some royal play, especially in preparation for a visit from HRH the Queen!  We played with knights and castles, dressed up in royal garb, and played in my castle tent.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
 We looked at Paul Klee's Castle and Sun painting, and observed the geometric shapes he used to create his castle.  We built our own castles too.  You can see them all at artsonia.com.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

We read some fiction books about queens, Tea for Ruby by Sarah Ferguson, and The Missing Tarts by BG Hennessy, before making our uppercase Q project.  Don't these look royal?!
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
The children told me they wanted to have tea with the queen, like Ruby did in the story, and fortunately for them I have a direct line to HRH, and invited her to come over the next day.  She accepted our invitation, so we had to get ready!

We prepared "tarts", using a recipe from this Scholastic book.  The children crushed graham crackers and added some butter to create a crust, mixed vanilla pudding to top the crust, and added cherries on top.  YUM!  They tasted wonderful, but some of the paper baking cups didn't hold together well.  Next year I'll use sturdier containers.

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

Q is for queen, quilts and quarters

 Before The Queen arrived, we learned how to curtsey and to bow, and practiced polite greetings.  We also reviewed meal time etiquette, so we would remember to wait for everyone to be seated before eating, use napkins and forks appropriately, and to talk quietly at the table. 
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
 HRH The Queen was very impressed with our good manners, and enjoyed the tarts and pink lemonade with us.  Before she left, we took a photo of all of us, dressed in our fancy clothes, posing by the castle.
Q is for queen, quilts and quarters
We had a lot of fun learning about Q this week, but the very best part was the royal visit!  We're so glad Her Majesty was able to join us!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fort Worth Stock Show field trips


Children - and many adults- learn best through hands on experiences, so I take the children on a lot of field trips.  There are many wonderful places we can go to learn about our world, but one of my favorites is the Fort Worth Stock Show.  Check out all the fun things we were able to do!

We saw how cotton grows, then felt cotton bolls with the seeds still inside.  We saw a miniature cotton gin separate the seeds from the fibers, and found out that there is cotton fiber in our clothes and our money, and that cotton seed oil is in peanut butter and toothpaste.  We use cotton every day!
 We took turns sitting in the cool vehicles in the vendor hall.  Pretend is always fun!
 We even sat in tractors, and tried them out.  Farmers get to use some cool tools!
 Wow!  Tractors can be HUGE!  We didn't realize they were so big.
 The wheels on some of the tractors were a LOT bigger than us, and they made comfy seats.
We always stop to see the statue of Midnight bucking a cowboy off.  Later one of these children remembered the horse's name as "Nightmare"!
 We saw tiny chicks, freshly hatched, huddling together in an incubator.  Aren't they fascinating?!
You can see how engaged the children are with the new experiences at the Stock Show.
 The ducklings were adorable - and we noticed how they huddled together under a heat lamp, peeped, and puddled in the water.
 There are milking demonstrations every hour, so we saw how large cows really are, learned about dairy products and how they are important for our bodies, and saw a cow being milked.
 We pretended to milk the model cow, which also showed us how big cows stomachs are.
 There were cow hats to wear, and lots of farm themed products available to purchase.  Everyone showed me which boots they thought were the best.
 In the petting zoo we were able to interact with and touch goats, rabbits, chickens, llamas, cows, a pony, a wallaby... did I miss anything?  There were a lot of animals for the children to experience.  Most of the children were cautious at first, but once they started touching animals, they loved it. 

 When she saw this cow, one child announced, "That's bull!" 

 This llama even decided to join our group photo!  We love the Stock Show!