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!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just for J

5 Little Pumpkins, and other Halloween fun

You can tell it's almost Halloween from the songs we are singing, and the activities we're doing.  The Halloween sensory tub from last week is still the hot item of the week, but the book The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is running a close second.
Halloween fun with the letter J

On Monday, we started the week by putting on lots of jewelry, and jumping for J.
Halloween fun with the letter J

Halloween fun with the letter J

Jumping with jewelry for the letter J

At snack time we had juice and learned how to write the letter j - in jelly!
Writing the letter J in jelly to learn our letters

Today is Tuesday, and we reread Five Little Pumpkins , learned some hand motions for it, and made a craft to follow up.  Super cute!
5 Little Pumpkins, and other Halloween fun

Of course, the real reason we learn the letter J in October is so we can make a jack-o-lantern!  The kiddos suggest shapes for the facial features, and then vote (we even got to review tallying!)

I do the cutting, since small children and sharp implements is not my favorite combination.  They're always fascinated when the "guts" appear!
5 Little Pumpkins, and other Halloween fun

Everyone takes a turn to grab a handful of pumpkin guts, and to scoop it out into a bowl.
J is for jack-o-lantern, and other Halloween fun

J is for jack-o-lantern, and other Halloween fun
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the process!  There is also a good run on handwashing - which is why we worked on this before and during snack time. 
J is for jack-o-lantern, and other Halloween fun

I drew on the facial features, and started cutting...
J is for jack-o-lantern, and other Halloween fun

... while the children had snack: fresh pumpkin muffins, made with a pumpkin they helped me to buy (see this previous post) , and that I baked over the weekend.

When I baked the pumpkin, I also saved and roasted the seeds.  One of the children asked about eating pumpkin seeds, a little incredulously, as the seeds she could see were in fresh pumpkin guts!  I explained how to make them, and we warmed and crisped the (already toasted) seeds.  You can see they were also received with different levels of enthusiasm!
This child liked them - he said they tasted like salty popcorn, and I think he's right.  They were good!

Here's our jack-o-lantern! 
J is for jack-o-lantern, and other Halloween fun
Next time I'll tell you about our letter crafts, and some of the other fun learning activities we are enjoying!

Friday, October 24, 2014

I like learning i

I'll start by admitting that the phrase "I like learning i" comes from one of the songs we've been listening to this week on youtube.com.  It's a Storybots song, and it is sooooo catchy - in fact, I woke up in the middle of the night with it going through my head a couple of nights ago! 

The children LOVE using our youtube.com playlists each morning, and learn so much by singing and dancing about learning concepts.  In addition to Storybots, I like to use a lot of HarryKindergarten and The Learning Station music videos.  Here's a link to this weeks' playlist.  By far the favorite song this week was Jack Hartman's Silly Pirate Song , especially the phrase, "Hey Dude, surf's up!" 

There aren't as many fun ways to learn about the letter Ii as there are for some letters, but we found some ways to learn and play all at once.  I've created an "ice cream" sensory play bin for the children, and it had lots of use this week.  In a shallow tub I put all the pompons I could find, several clean and empty ice cream boxes with their lids, some toy food ice creams and cones, empty containers from sprinkles, spoons and bowls.  The children scooped, poured, sorted, pretended, and worked on social skills like sharing and turn taking.  Stuffing small pompons in the tiny jars (from sprinkles) was the hit of the week - and worked on fine motor development, strengthening finger muscles in preparation for writing.  The children will tell you it was a fun way to play.

Our upper case I craft was decorated as an ice cream.  The children cut out their letters (more finger strengthening work as well as hand-eye coordination), then glued on cones, "ice cream" and sprinkles. 

 They looked delicious hanging on the wall, along with our "inchworm" lower case i crafts.

You won't be surprised to know that our ice cream taste test was also a happy and fun event for the children.  I bought 3 flavors of ice cream; chocolate, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip.  We were scientists, and predicted which flavor we would like the best, and graphed it (math and reading our names).

 The best part was definitely the tasting!  (I'm not talking about what the children liked now, I'm talking about Ms. Paula and Ms. Julie!  Yum!)  It was interesting to revisit the graph after we tasted, because several children discovered a new favorite flavor!

We also enjoyed playing instruments for the letter i.  I have an outside carpet that we put down, and the children play the instruments on the carpet, or have a marching band on the driveway.  Some of the boys got very excited about drumming this week, and spent hours of our outside play time using plastic bowling pins to drum on the tree trunks, the playground, and some empty crates.  They made a very satisfying sound, and the boys involved got some big body play out of the experience.

Our final letter i activity was to make an Itsy Bitsy Spider craft, to read an Isty Bitsy Spider book by Iza Trapani, and of course to do the finger play.  Have you met "The Great Big Hairy Spider?"  It's just like the itsy bitsy spider, but of course much louder, and with much bigger hand motions.  It's a hoot to see the kiddos act it out, and use their big, deep voices to say it!
The children decorate their "house" cut out, and we add a spider ring to a drinking straw "water spout".  (I think this idea originally came from Mailbox magazine.)

See, just like the Storybots sing, "I is incredible, I like learning Ii!"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like... Halloween!

It has taken me a little longer than usual, but I have started our Halloween themed learning fun.
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
Look carefully at the pictures - at first glance it looks like we're doing nothing but playing, but we've worked on sorting, matching, fine motor development, seriation and more.  See if you can spot the learning!
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 Our Halloween sensory bin has lots of small plastic goodies in it: rats, spiders, witches' fingers, rings, finger puppets, etc., plus some "test tubes," a pumpkin box, small trick or treat can, and a purple people eater.  Everyone needs a purple people eater!  The children like to pick through and collect items - note the rat collection at the bottom of the picture.  The rats are having a rat race - her words, not mine!  They sort, collect, negotiate for the desired pieces, and get a sensory play time all at once.  This was by far the most popular toy at school today, and was in constant use whenever I made it available.
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 I find it very interesting that the children all want containers to put things into, and love to see them working on their fine motor skills and pinch grip - very important muscle development that is a precursor to writing.  We need strong finger muscles to hold a pencil.
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 Our fall themed sensory bin was another very popular item today.  This child found 4 different sizes of scarecrow, and ordered them from biggest to smallest.  (That's ordering or seriating, an important math skill.)
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 These children sorted pumpkins and leaves into the dishes - including the various gourds that don't look like jack-o-lantern pumpkins - demonstrating that they did indeed learn about gourds on our field trip to Green's a couple of weeks ago.  No standardized test necessary, they're showing what they know!
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 Our jack-o-lantern felt board is mostly for fun - but also involves matching, shape recognition, and another fine motor work out.
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 Our math centers for this week are various mats I created to work with Halloween foam shapes - available all over the place at this time of year.  The colorful Halloween themed shapes engage the children - they saw them on the shelf while we were eating lunch, and asked what they were.  When I told them they were for math games, the kiddos actually cheered!  Yes, our math lessons are so exciting, that children cheer for them!
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!
 We sorted by size, shape, and color, and also matched and extended patterns.
Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!

Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!

Never underestimate the power of play - or the learning involved!

Awesome Halloween math and sensory learning ideas - see how this play based learning works!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Looking Back...

I wrote yesterday about winding down my school, and getting ready for new learning adventures.  Letting go of 21 years of teaching materials is not a quick or easy process... letting go seldom is.  Going through every shelf, every notebook, each piece of paper is an overwhelming task that winds through a lot of "Memory Lane" territory.

I thought I'd go through pictures, to find a few for the post I was writing yesterday, but that brought back so much, and looking through thousands of pictures over several hours helped me see some themes that have run through many of the 21 years I've spent working with children.  I got teary... several times... and found myself thinking about the song Seasons of Love, from Rent.  The song asks: how do you measure a year in a life?

I wonder, how many birthdays have my kiddos celebrated with me?  How many cupcakes have I helped children to bake?
My best guess is about 108 birthdays... which is about 2600 cupcakes!

How many field trips have we been on?
 My estimate? about 1500 field trips!

How many meals have I served?  Breakfast, lunch and snack for 15 1/2 years... this number blows my mind...
99,900 meals!!!

How many goats have we milked?
That one is easy, just one!  We all got to hold a baby kid, and then took turns milking the momma goat - that was a pretty memorable field trip!

How many pumpkins have the children scooped the guts from, and carved at school?
 One jack-o -lantern each year... next week will be my 16th daycare Halloween, and our 16th pumpkin to carve...

How many Easter egg hunts have I hosted... and how many eggs have the children and I stuffed for them?
Like the jack-o-lanterns, one egg hunt each year, so 15 egg hunts.  When I first started I had the children bring a dozen eggs each, but over the years I've kept the empty eggs, and reused them... I have about 400 of them now (anyone want to buy 400 pre-loved Easter eggs?!)... My best estimate is that we've stuffed and hidden about 3500 eggs.

What about masterpieces - or "mess"terpieces?
... a LOT!  I've uploaded 819 to our Artsonia page in the last 2 years alone.

How many children have I taught?  That number is easy to estimate.  I've had 132 daycare kiddos, and about 120 first graders, so around 250 children have called me teacher.

Even as some of these numbers are pretty impressive, they don't tell the most important parts of the story of my school: things learned, friends made, and smiles shared. 

Those are numbers no-one can know,  but my heart tells me that they are enough. 

If you are a family member of one of "my" kids, I want to thank you for sharing your child with me!  I'd also love for you to leave a comment about what your child(ren) remember about their time with me.