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!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Here's where our wild things are

We were Wild Things this week!  Yes, extra silly and a tad crazy - spring fever?- but also Maurice Sendak type Wild Things.  Last year I made a wolf suit (there's another w word) out of a hoodie, adding ears and claws.  This year I added a paper bag Wild Thing, and the kiddos loved it!  As we read the book they "roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth, rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws".

 We even played with Wild Thing magnets.
 Of course we did all our routine things... abc books, handprints...


 ... and upper and lower case letters.

The weather this week was lovely, and we took full advantage of our outside time.   I had some wheat and millet seeds to put in the sensory table, so the kiddos drove construction vehicles through it for hours.

 It was also time to do some spring planting.  We made plant starter pots with empty paper rolls, and the kiddos helped me start tomatoes and cucumbers in them.



They also helped me to weed some of the veggie garden and to direct seed beets, and some basil.  We're going to have some yummy veggies to eat this spring and summer!

Is it not spring where you live yet?  It surely is here - our almond tree is in bloom!
 We fed the ducks...
 ... and chased each other around the yard. 
The children also love to search for critters in the yard, and right now is a good time to find snails and slugs.  Unfortunately the slugs have also found the hyacinth bulbs that are trying to sprout!

I brought some of the slugs and snails inside, so we could observe them better.  I read The Snail's Spell by Joanne Ryder, and the children acted out the book, pretending to be snails.  We learned a lot about these interesting creatures.  They have no legs, and one foot - which they slide on.  Their mouth is on their foot - ew! - and they eat by scraping tiny bits of plant with the radula hooks on their tongue.  Their eyes are on long stalks, but they don't see well, and if they are scared, they can pull their eyes down into their heads.  Cool! 

There are so many fun and interesting things to learn about! 

Developing Mathematical Thinking, Part 2


There are so many things that are important for children to learn in preschool, but the thing that I believe is THE most important thing, is that learning is FUN!  I want my kiddos to leave me knowing that it is fun to learn, so they will become self directed, life long learners. 

One of the ways I foster a love of learning, is by letting the children play to learn.  We have a lot of free play time, and an abundance of toys to choose from. Just because the children are playing, doesn't mean I'm not teaching too.  One of my roles as an early childhood teacher is to facilitate learning, to create situations in which children can play and learn all at once.

This post is about some of our mathematical learning, how I create an environment in which children love to play and learn.  You can read my earlier blog about this, Developing Mathematical Thinking, here.

After lunch most days, I set out some math games for the kiddos to choose from.  During this time the teachers are cleaning up from lunch, making sure everyone has a turn in the restroom, and supervising math play.  It's a busy time, but just right for the children to come and go from the math activities that are set out for them to choose from.

This wonderful sorting board came in this set from Lakeshore learning.  I added the colored paper rectangles for sorting colors, but it also works well for these coins.  We've been learning about coins, singing songs about money on Youtube.com, and of course it is money, so the children are interested in it!  I have always allowed them to use real coins.  Not only are they more interesting because they are real, but they cost less than the plastic ones!


Here is one of our patterning toys.  The cards have incomplete patterns of varying difficulty, and the children match, complete, or extend the patterns with colorful shape tiles.  Lots of fun and good practice for the kiddos,  very easy for me.  I found it at Barnes and Noble, it's also available here.  (No, I don't have any affiliation with any retailers, and won't get a cut, but if you like the toy, it's nice to know what it is and where you might find it.)
These magnets have been around a long time, so I can't tell you where they're from.



Here are our tangrams and geoboards...
and sorting with a Venn diagram.
 Learning games don't have to be expensive, or fancy.  I found these colorful hair bows at the dollar store, and they are lovely for fine motor development and to sort and make patterns.




 






 Here is an activity with dollar store and upcycled parts.  The sorting tray originally came with cookies or something on it, and I saved it.  The baby themed items came from the dollar store, this is about $8 worth of colorful manipulatives.  Sometimes the children sort by color, other times by the shape.  The clear lidded container I keep them in is also a reused food container. 

These girls worked a long time with the parquetry blocks, making squares out of two triangles.  Later, when they are learning geometry, they will understand why the area of a triangle is half the base times the height - they've used two triangles to create a rectangle many times.  This is foundational learning that will serve them well!
 We've been playing with the dominoes recently, as learning what '6', and other numbers, look like, is part of developing number sense. While we start by just exploring the materials....
...we later learn how to really play the game, and enjoy practicing the skill of subitizing - recognizing numbers without counting.
 We measure sometimes too.  I know children this age aren't supposed to understand measurement with standard units, but here they are, demonstrating that they do. 
In the lower left corner of this picture you can see a good early activity for measuring.  I cut up some dollar store necklaces into various short lengths.  On the red cards I wrote shorter, equal, and longer.  There is a line on the white card.  The kiddos measure each segment against the line, and decide which red card to put it with, based on size. 

Math is all around us, all the time, we just have to stop and notice.  Children love to 'play' with fun themed items (always supervise, especially children who still put things in their mouths).  They can sort by different attributes (color, size, shape) and make patterns.  They can manipulate shapes to see how they fit together, read dots on dice or dominoes, and look for ways things are the same and different.  Did I mention counting? 

I hope you will look for fun ways to incorporate math into your child's play times!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

V is for vegetables - and various other things.

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

We're learning about the letter V this week, and while Valentines Day is a terrific V thing, we had to learn about vegetables too!  The children brought one vegetable each from home, and I had lots of others on hand too.  We had quite a variety!
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 We sorted our vegetables by color.  There were a LOT of green ones!
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 Some vegetables grow above the ground, and others grow below the ground.
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 We learned that people eat a lot of different parts of plants!  Leaves and roots were mostly easy for the children to figure out, but fruits, the part of plants that include seeds, were a little tricky.  The kiddos didn't realize broccoli and cauliflower are immature flowers!
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 Next we weighed our vegetables on a balance scale.  We wanted to find out whether each one was lighter, heavier, or equal in weight to a bottle of glue.
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 There were some of each, and in a lot of different sizes.
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 Vegetable math was a lot of fun!  Tomorrow we will peel them, chop them up, and make soup!
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Here are our vegetables ready for us to make soup.  As you can see, we had a great variety!
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
 The kiddos pealed, cut, and put all the veggies into the pot, with just a little help from me. 
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!
It took us at least an hour to prepare all the vegetables, but we did it.  I forgot to take photos of the finished soup, but it was delicious!  These kiddos are good cooks!

Have you heard of the Vegetable Orchestra?  I hadn't, but my husband found a video about it, so we watched some clever musicians make musical instruments from veggies.  Check it out here.  The children were inspired, and created a lot of sounds with natural materials outside afterwards.  I didn't give them real vegetables to work with, but gourds, pine cones and seeds are all available in the backyard, and they discovered many ways to make music with them.
Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!

Hands on learning ideas with vegetables: math, science, fine motor, cooking and more!


 Another fun project we do for the letter V is to make our own version of Vincent Van Gogh's vases of flowers.  We looked at several of his sunflower pictures, paying attention to the texture he gave his paintings, then the children painted backgrounds for their vases.
 The following day I had the kiddos paint flowers and a vase.  I cut them all out, then had the children collage them onto the background.
Beautiful!

Of course we also made hand prints, upper and lower case letters, a page for our abc photo album, and a few other things, all before our Valentines Day party on Friday.






 

We ended the week with our Valentines Day party.  The children all helped with making cupcakes for our snack.  We followed the snack with a Valentines version of pass the parcel, a game I played as a child in Australia.  The parcel has several layers of wrapping, and is passed around a circle while music is playing.  When the music stops, the person holding the parcel unwraps a layer.  Between each layer, I inserted a heart with instructions for the children: smile at a friend, tell something that starts with the letter of the week, jump up and down as we count to 20, etc.  The final direction was to have a group hug.  Inside the last layer was a treat for the whole class, Pete the Cat stickers.

Next the children handed out their Valentines to each other.  Many had written the names of their friends on their cards, so this was a reading and writing activity for them, with cute pictures and candy as a motivator - and what a motivator they are!  Everyone ended up with a bag of goodies to take home, and there were many thank yous and hugs all around.  We headed outside to run all the fun off until mom or dad picked up.  It was a simple party, but just right for us.

 Happy Valentines Day!