Sunday, January 26, 2014

best two dollars I have ever spent!

Sometime last summer I wandered into our Goodwill Outlet and came out with a bag full of old school curlers. I had the vague notion that they would be fun sensory bin items for the preschool. It wasn't until I switched schools and had my own classroom that I thought to bring them in.
Before I dumped them onto our train table, they got a good soak in the sun then a spin in the washing machine. Now they were as good s new!
We played with the curlers for two weeks. I sorted out all of the purple curlers and we talked about all of the little blues yellows, and greens we had to play with.
The children sorted them by color and/or size, stacked them up, made designs and patterns, lined them up and blew them over.
The following week, the purple curlers were added as well as a couple of jump ropes for lacing.
Best two smackeroos I have ever spent!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

we made a paper quilt, you can too!

Back in November we spent a week with The Quilt and all things square with a few other shapes thrown in. One of my favorite projects was making these concentric square blocks. Each child had an opportunity to layer away.

We used square format scrapbook paper, construction paper, and origami paper. The children chose their first large square and then their next and so on. We were working on recognizing size and shape. Some papers had to be cut smaller. Our kiddos are young threes so needed a little help. The fours I worked with did their own cutting and began with origami squares. Picking up the smaller piece of paper worked those fine motor skills while applying the glue to the larger worked those large motor skills.
Look how lovely the papers all look. The colors chosen were all that of the children. I have to admit I got into a zone making these too. It is too fun! We used glue sticks to adhere the papers together.
Some children chose to do less on their layering but then added more a day or two later. The mix of pattens and colors were truly remarkable. The paper pad we began with for the large squares was a bit united in the color palette. I think that added to the community of the project.
We have two separate classes in the room and each group worked on the project...teachers included. Like I sauid it was a lot of fun!
Our quilt was put together by my co-collaborator and is absolutely lovely, don't ya think? That center square was contributed by a few children on the Jr. K class who did all of the cutting themselves. So gather up some paper and gluesticks and get to it!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

our week of sunflowers

Fall is a lovely time to study sunflowers. Our literature for the week was The Lion and the Mouse. I added sunflowers to the mix since they were growing all over town and in season. It helps that a sunflower can resemble an artistic lion...if you squint a bit.
My sunflowers at home had gone past a few weeks before and I saved one of the dried head for exploration. Since I had no fresh flowers I picked up a bouquet at Trader Joe's and popped them all about the classroom. One large bunch was featured on our nature and science table and one of the students got to exploring it with a cinnamon stick. Of course!
Before placing the flower head on the table, I brushed at it a bit to make it a smidge less pokey. The children explored it with our magnifying glasses and used tweezers to remove seeds.
We also had a jar of store bought seeds for scooping and pouring. SOe of the seeds made their way to our play-dough table.
I made the dough and added a bit of lavender oil for scent. Add some seeds and some glitter and the children played and played for the longest time!
As we observed our sunflowers, the children named the colors they saw and we sorted our beads to make our own sunflower colored bracelets.
There was also some dissection going on. We wrote down the words the children used to describe what they saw, felt, and smelled. We talked about our senses as we made our observations.
The children painted up egg cartons and scooped out seeds into green paper envelopes to take home for home sorting and playing. They were so proud! At the end of the week I sent the children home with a recipe for chocolate covered sunflower seed oatmeal cookies. Those were super tasty! We also did a lot of arty projects which I will post next. Sunflowers were a lot of fun to explore for the week. We will definitely do it again!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

the lion and the mouse: spin art lions!

Back in the fall we spent a week with The Lion and the Mouse. One of our art projects was to make a spin art lion. The kiddos as school LOVE painting with our salad spinner.
This was a bit unplanned but I knew we could do it. I pulled out some coffee filters and dis some quick scissors work to create shapes to use for lion faces. After rifling through the yarn box, I found some funky fiber and had one of the children snip a few strips for whiskers. The paint colors were decided by the children as well after a discussion on what a lion looks like (I think tigers may have influenced their choices as well).
 We used three filters per lion. One filter ends up folding into itself as it spins around the basket. The paint usually seeps through the filters so that they stick together. Three filters are stable enough to spin and hold all the paint. Each child took a turn placing his or her filters into the basket and adding paint before replacing the lid and giving it a spin or two or three or seen or twelve.
Once they were ready, they removed their now paint splattered filters and selected shapes for their features. We dialogued as they went. The paint is wet and sticky enough to hold the shapes down without needing any glue.
Here are two sample lions. The one on the top got three whiskers on each side "like a kitty-cat". The artist also selected orange circle ears but then wanted to turn them into eyes by adding paint. The second lion was all about the gold paint, and the whiskers across the forehead.
Can you tell this one is teacher-made? The children wanted to take theirs home after they were dry so I made one for the curriculum folder. I love how our thrifted little salad spinner can make most anything.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

setting up the classroom for the new year

School has been on break for three weeks now. We return next week for a week of The Mitten. Here is how the room has been set up so far....I also have a basket to fill with wool squares. I'm going to see if the kiddos want to make their own mittens! First up, I added wee mitten erasers to our rice bin.
We pulled all of the fall items from the nature table and my co-teacher prettied it up. We added white stones and jewels and hope to have the children bring in items from around their homes. Our winter so far has been unseasonably summer-like. We'll see what happens.
 Mittens shapes on our chalkboards for fine motor painting. Some of our children will do this for all of their exploration hour. Sometimes they will request we redaw the same shape over and over again. Some want new shapes, some want to draw their own shapes, while others will simply paint the water onto the board over and over again.
 Mitten memory games as sorting fun. The mittens on the right are from Oriental Trading. I only put out half of the game (with their matches), the other half, I punched holes into one end, added a pipe cleaner loop and now we have ornaments for our winter tree. The mittens on the right are also a matching game but these feature numbers and colors. We'll see what the children do with them.
 Mitten shaped paper at the easel for the children to paint their own mittens. I will select a few harmonious colors (pictured here: red, pink, gold, white, and turquoise) for the painting but if the children wish to add any others they will tell me and we do. I have a few children who polish off five or six paintings a day so we have a pile of pre-cut mitten shapes and regular easel paper to choose from.
 I plan on making some snow dough but just in case I do not get to it, our festive cloud dough is set up. If I do not get the play dough made, I'm going to add a squeeze bottle of hair conditioner, a container of baking soda, and a container of cornstarch for the children to mix up to see what they make.
 Th art table is set up with mitten stampers, snowflake stampers, snowflake stickers, and crayons. The art shelves are always open and filled with markers, crayons, scrap construction paper, blank paper, scissors, glue sticks, white glue, and stickers. We also have watercolors and tempera available if the children ask for them.
 The train table has been turned into a winter inspired sensory bin for the children to use for dramatic play. It is full of pom-poms, glass jewels, snowflake shapes, forest animals and more. I am excited to see what the children do here.
Last, but not least, I have hidden mitten shapes around the room for the children to find during group time. There are two of each design and we'll do some mitten math with them. Later in the week we will add ice to the mix for the children to explore. Bring on the mitten!