Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and 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!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowy learning at the library

One of the highlights of my week is the time spent at my local library, helping out with story times.  The Thursday sessions are especially popular - not only do we sing and dance and read books, but there are also fun follow up activities.  This week our theme was snow.

I know there are a lot of people and places that have waaaaaay more snow than they want right now, but here in northern California there isn't any.  Not to worry!  Ms. Kathleen made us up a batch of instant snow.  (No, I'm not affiliated with or compensated for linking to fun things, and yes, you can find it other places too.  This is just to make it easier for you if you are interested.)
We put all the polar animals we could gather into the large sensory bins full of "snow".

Here are some little fingers at work, enjoying the sensory experience of the cool wet stuff!

We sang a snowman song as part of our story time, and the kiddos used this open ended art center to create snowmen of their own.  There's paint, paper, scissors, stickers of eye balls, and someone reminded us part way through to add some glue too.  (Oops!)
You can tell this was an open ended project by looking at the resulting creations.  Yes, there were some finger painted snowmen, and some made of paper circles.  There were also kiddos who were fascinated by the feeling of paint in their hands and simply rubbed it around, and others who created... um... creations!  Our focus was on the process rather than any particular product, and the children showed us many ways to work with these fun materials.

Our third activity was making snowflakes.  We had looked at lots of snow flake pictures, and had counted six arms on them, and most of the children made snowflakes that matched that pattern.   We provided lots of pipe cleaners, shallow trays of school glue, and shallow trays of plastic "snow" shreds.  This was a sticky activity!  After bending their pipe cleaners, the kiddos dipped them into the glue, and then into the sparkly plastic shreds.  They were so pleased with themselves!

Next time we're going to learn more about polar animals - I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kente Colors, art and math learning

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors
Have you met the beautiful book, Kente Colors, by Debbi Chocolate?

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors

 The illustrations by John Ward are a gorgeous accompaniment to the rhyming text about the meaning of different colors in the West African cloth.  There is even an author's note explaining a little bit of the history of Kente, which is just right for young listeners.

Years ago, when I taught first grade, I used this book as the starting point for a combined math and art lesson - which I thought I'd share with you today.

We started by reading the book and the author's note, and it is also very easy now to use YouTube.com to show students video of traditional Ghanian artists creating kente.  I like this link and this link.  We also reread the book, noticing the designs in the kente, which are inorganic, geometric shapes, in complex patterns.  Do you see the math lesson hidden in this gem?

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors

Next the children chose paper in several colors, each of which has a special meaning.  I found a table showing the meaning of each color here.  I cut my paper into 4" wide strips - because traditional kente is woven in long strips 4 inches wide, then sewn together into pieces of cloth.  Making narrow strips also makes it easier for students to repeat the patterns, it seems to be a more manageable size.  You can see on the photo above that I've drawn a zigzag line on one of the strips, and have several colors that I'll cut all at once.  I also made 4 or 6 of each element, so I could create a repeating pattern on two strips of paper.
See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors
It can be difficult for young kiddos to make multiple pieces the same - so here's my trick.  I have the students fold the paper, and I staple the end together, as you can see above.  They can then draw one shape on the piece of paper, cut through all the layers without the papers slipping around, and end up with 4 copies of their shape.  If you need a little more detail, I wrote a blog post explaining this step by step.

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors
Here I've cut out multiple pieces so I can layer them for my pattern.

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors
Have your students lay the pieces out on their strips of background paper - they can move them around until they are happy with the design, and then glue them down.  (You might want to keep the glue back until students show you that they've created a repeating pattern, so they don't glue down something that isn't a pattern.)

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors
If  you like, you can have students make another set of kente inspired pattern strips, and then alternate them with the first pattern - creating an even more complex pattern of patterns!

See how I teach complex patterns with the beautiful book, Kente Colors

This artwork makes a fantastic display, and an excellent opportunity to discuss shapes and patterns, with an art history lesson too.  My students enjoyed this project - I hope yours do too!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sleepy Bears

I've been pulling down books for January - you know, all the fun polar animal books, snowmen stories, books about hibernation... winter themes!  As I gathered my books, I noticed I have a LOT of books about sleepy bears.

Here are a few favorites:

Image result for sleepy bears book

I LOVE this one by Mem Fox!  Mother bear prepares her six little cubs for bed, telling each one their own bedtime story, custom made for them.  This is a sweet story that young children will adore, and will surely relate to at least one of the cubs (princess, explorer, acrobat, dessert lover, pirate and baby).  There is a very satisfying surprise at the end, and your little ones will be calm and ready for sleep by the end of it.

When I read Sleepy Bears, I am reminded of something Mem Fox wrote in Reading Magic, a book she wrote for adults, about reading to and with children:

     "We can achieve great things emotionally if the last line is a definite dismissal, a
     farewell.  As we say it, we're releasing our listeners from their contact with us.
     Without this drawn-out final line, our listeners will feel an uncomfortable sort of
     incompleteness.  A rapid finish feels oddly wrong.  A slow finish is an absolutely
     delicious experience.  Both teller and listeners find themselves in a state of bliss,
     akin to "living happily ever after."
                                                                                                          (Chapter 6, Reading Magic)

Good Night, Baby Bear

You probably know Frank Asch from the classic Happy Birthday, Moon.  His books are just right for the preschool crowd, very sweet and loving, and this is no exception.  When mother bear tells baby bear it is time to hibernate in a cave, he has a difficult time with the change to his sleep routine - and if you have young children, you can relate!  Mother bear is patient and loving, and solves the problems that are preventing her little one from sleeping.

Time to Sleep

I've mentioned Denise Fleming's books before, and I'm sure I will again!  Once again she has paired exquisite illustrations with text that is almost poetic, and created a perfect children's book.  Bear - and the other animals in the story - notice various signs that winter is approaching, and that it is time for them to hibernate.  There is a lot of science woven into this lovely piece of fiction, and you could use it to teach children about seasons, hibernation, or woodland animals.  I used to use this one when we learned about the letter L, because there is a ladybug in the story who settles under a log to rest.  We made a letter L craft that went beautifully with the concept.  Here's a picture:

Surely you've met the Bear books by Karma Wilson?  There are several books in the series, each of them as much fun as the next.  We recently enjoyed the Christmas version, Bear Stays Up For Christmas, at our library story time.  The children loved the story and illustrations!

With all these sleeping bear stories, I was inspired to make a cute sleepy bear craft too.  (There's a mini book about animals that sleep in winter, hidden under his nose!)


Next time I'm going to show you some of my favorite polar bear books!  I'd love to hear about the stories your students love to hear too - please let me know in the comments!

***I do not use affiliate links, and am not reimbursed in any way for providing links.  I've chosen to link these products in order to make it easier for you to find them, if you wish.  There are many, many retailers that will be happy to help you locate these books, the links are merely suggestions.***