Monday, October 3, 2016

a new year, a new room...2016

It took us weeks to get the room ready this year if only because we began from the ground up. My co-teacher and I had a vision for this year and I have to admit we did it! We pulled it off. As the children use the room, we discover new ways to tweak things here or there and that is what it is all about. Let the children guide you! Here are the details for those of you who love room tours, I know I do!
Last year we got new floors. We used to have industrial blue/grey carpet and now we have industrial linoleum which is both better and mind numbingly distracting. We had some money to use on classroom stuff, instead of purchasing materials for play and investigation, we went with storage. Up until last year we had a motley crew of mismatched discarded pieces in white. Bringing in more wood and birch creates a more calming environment for the children and the adults in the room.
Our JrK classroom got a new art shelf and gave us their old one. Instead of using it for art, we turned it into a loose parts shelf for the building area. We backed the back of it with felt and now have a tiered basket shelf in that gap their to hold items for felt play or other small world play. The carpet runner in front defines the space for play. The shelf on the right their is an Ikea Kallax shelf and a bargain at $35.
Here's a peek into our building area. Previous years, the building area was pushed up against the wall. As it was a shared classroom, I didn't always get to move things where I thought they would work. This year, beginning from the ground up with a new co-teacher, there was a lot of moving things around and dialogue about our visions. We always knew we wanted the area more defined and in the middle of the room. The room is quite large and previous years' layouts lent themselves to a lot of running in the room. By taking up much of the middle of the room and using furniture and rugs to define new spaces, the running so far has been kept to a minimum. It is really cool!
The dramatic play area is a work in progress. Previously it wads always tucked into a corner in a very small space. This year we put it along the longest wall, added a rug for definition and opened it up a bit. The children in my co-teacher's class use it a lot and we are finding that we can make the space even more open. To the right of the space, behind the place stove we set up another small play area that never gelled. This week we are going to open up the Dramatic Play space into it, pulling a small table and chairs we tried using in the art area to complete the dramatic play. We'll see how it works in a few weeks of observing their play.
The reading corner is now more defined. We exchanged and alphabet rug for a plain rug last year, thank goodness! Arranging a bookcase at an angle creates interest in the corner. There are baskets of puppets and stuffed toys, along with a stack of blankets. There is another bookcase behind the puzzle shelf, and to the right is a large Ikea Kallax fixture that we use for open storage. It blocks of the reading corner so now the children go to the corner and spend time quietly looking at books. Before, it became the space where the children would bring every single other item in the room into. No kidding! I think that by making the Dramatic Play area larger and and well defined satisfies the children's needs for differentiated play. It's pretty cool!
The circle time rug used to be a large oval rug that looked like a map of the world surrounded by children from all over. It was not a favorite but it was large and we needed a large rub. Our budget was spent and large rugs would put us out of pocket by at least $150. Luckily for us, co-teachers down the hall were getting rid of this one and while it was not in a color we had our eye on, it was free and so we grabbed it! A parent came in the weekend before classes began to shampoo all of hte rugs. Win! Win!

Baskets and bowls for the shelf came from thrift stores. Larger square baskets are from either Home Goods or Ross. They have pretty good prices on sturdy baskets. I do not recommend dollar stores for baskets, they are cheap and cheaply made and will end up in a landfill before your year is over. Go for sturdy. I spent about $40 on plants to green up the room. The large plant on top of the shelf was a $7 purchase from the thrift. Fake plants are spendy and this was a score for me!
The art area was also expanded and we moved our art wall to be near the area. Hopefully when all the photos and art is up, you won't see the wonkiness of the green squares there! The small table on the right is the one we moved to the dramatic play area, it's actually for that area but we thought we would try it in the art area for awhile. It's too small for art work and the children kept moving items from the play kitchen to it so we knew where it needed to go. We're looking for another table and chairs so we can have a clay table but for now the one we have will have to suffice.
Not having the art shelf in the area made us get creative with how we would offer up art supplies. The shelf we moved to the building area for Loose Parts is a pretty cool set up with clear bins already labeled for art supplies by the JrK teachers. I found this rolling shelf set up at Michael's and it was on sale for $30 plus my teacher discount. It usually retails for $90 so whoo-hoo! Inside the drawers we have added collage materials. We will add more as the year progresses. I'll share more about how it works in a future post.
I am loving our new kitchen/large art area set up! We used to have a series of tables that were too tall for the kiddos to sit at. They could sit but their feet would dangle and they would grow super wiggly. I firmly believe that having their feet on the ground keeps them focused and grounded so the old big blue table that used to hold fine motor activities was moved into the kitchen! It poses its own issues (our chairs seats hit too high) but so far it is working nicely. I want to cover it with a solid oilcloth or maybe a woodgrain...anything to mask that blue! My dream is to get wooden chairs. Someday!

We used to stack the plates up next to the sink and I was not a fan. Plate racks are super expensive but luck was in our favor when I discovered the wall racks I bought for foil packs and the like would house the plates. I went back to Amazon and purchased a second set and voila! Wall racks for our plates! The blue cart under the towels in between the bathrooms hold cloth napkins (a 4 pack from Target that was cut and stitched into 16 smaller napkins for the kiddos by a parent), a pair of scissors, and our kiddo-sized silverware.
My mister added two more shelves to this window for me and we moved all the glass from the art shelves to here. It looks clean and interesting and our art shelves are a little less crowded.
Mister also added more cubbies for us so each class can have their own set. We teach on a double track. I have my own group of kiddos two days a week and my co-teacher has her own group. The bins above the cubbies hold rest bags. We used to store rest bags in a bin in the bathrooms and it was unattractive and messy. Now everything has a place and our bathrooms are uncluttered. We have a laundry basket in one and a crate that holds sheets for fort building and the like in the other. Adding a cubby for each kiddo allows for their change of clothes to be in their own space instead of in a bin in the bathroom.

I would have preferred to have all of the bins on the art shelves to be the same color but we had to use what we had and what I could find inexpensively. The green bins were mine and purchased either from Daiso or The Dollar Tree. The orange bins were Home Goods finds and a little more expensive but still under $5 each. I will take a more detailed picture for a future post to show ya what is in each bin etc. We do the bulk of teacher led art projects in the kitchen area so all of the paint is nearby.
This awesome area was all my co-teacher's doing. Classrooms need to have specific items posted at all times for people to view and look at. Previously we just had them all stapled to the wall in a big mishmash of ugh. my co-teacher came in and saw a need to pretty this up and she made it her big project. Mine was adding new shelves like the Ikea Kallax to the left there. I had brought in a stack of picture frames intended for loose parts play that were appropriated for this wall. By adding a frame to each pertinent item we gussied the area up and made it more inviting. Pretty cool, no?

This area is the parent area, where parents sign in and communication can be posted. The desk was a Craigslist find and a parent donated new knobs to make it a little less castoff looking. The drawers hold our label maker, communication notebook, kiddo mail, and other bits. The pink crate under the desk is our art file and holds the dry take home art. Each kiddo has their own folder with their name and picture on it. We put their art in the files right now but soon the children will be able to. For now, they put their art on the dry rack.
Here's our nifty communication center. The notebooks on the left now have specific items in the, such as our lesson plans, song lists, and meetings notes. There are dry erase markers, sharpies, scissors, tape, etc all available. It makes it super easy to have a space for everything.

So..that's the classroom for this year! I'm pretty sure very little will be changing next year other than purchasing new storage or wood pieces, etc. Stay tuned for our new outside area! It is super happy!











Saturday, June 11, 2016

the return of our pan pipes!

I think the children had more fun cutting the straws and watching them fly, than making their pan pipes. We forgot to plug up the bottoms, though we did pop some play dough in a few (which was super fun to blow out, of course). If you decide to make these, you can find the diy here. I recommend using masking tape as the washi tape peeled off a few hours later.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

same but different


I'm sorry for the blurry photo but really wanted to show you these two paint palettes as poured by two different kiddos. Both were three at the time, one a few months shy of their fourth birthday, the other a few months into their third year. What a difference a few months make! I love this so much.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

buggy pea soup

More spring time sensory play. This time with two bags of dried split peas, and an assortment of insects, reptiles, and amphibians (which all escaped the pea bin and made their way to the sand box..of course!)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

spring play dough fixings

We love a good play dough set up! For spring, we pulled out a thrifted divided tray and filled it with bracelets from the dollar store, wee stampers and cookie stamps, silicone cupcake liners (also thrifted), plastic flower picks from Daiso, and a flower set from Toobz! This was out for three weeks, the children were having so much fun with it!

Friday, June 3, 2016

it's time for our estimation jars!

There are five jars for the children to investigate. Each jar contains a set number of like items such as rubber duckies, stretchy snakes, butterflies, small pebbles, and a large mossy (faux) rock. We set this up along with a couple of clipboards and pens to encourage drawing what they see. This year around, it was more fun to stack the jars as high as they could. Either way, it's all learning!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

bean counters!

I love a wooden Mancala board for sorting small items in the classroom. I think we have two or three in the classroom as they are easily found at the thrift stores. Here, we popped a handful of mixed beans into the large well, along with one of each in the small wells. Yay for sorting!