Sunday, February 23, 2014

my heart is like a zoo

Our book for the Valentine Week was My Heart is Like a Zoo. For the literature, we read the book and went on a heart hunt through the story. Then we went on a classroom heart hunt and graphed our hearts.
The hearts we found became our zoo animals. We used gluesticks and markers to create our animals.
 Throughout the week, the children used their eyes to seek out hearts of all shapes and sizes. When we talk about our senses I use words and phrases such as visual clues, auditory clues, sense of smell, sense of touch, etc. I have been doing this since the very beginning of the school year and just now the children are starting to tell me about their clues.  When we read a story and the children tell me what is going to happen next as they look at the illustrations. I will tell them that they are using their eyes to seek out visual clues to the story. I use descriptive phrases like this to illustrate and reinforce each child's actions and processes. Rather than say great job or a simple yes, I prefer to reinforce what they are telling me by repeating what they said with the physical action of how they came to that conclusion. Let's just say I jump into it kinesthetically. I like to make connections and build autonomy this way. I believe it gives them more power an control over their own learning, to know that they are physically capable of using their body as a tool for learning.

We also learned about how our heart works. We used our fists to demonstrate the size and pumping actions of our hearts. We tested our resting hear rate and our accelerated heart rate. We dance around our room to build our heart up and later throughout the week, when the children had been running or bike riding, they would run to me to feel their hearts beating. I would feel their heart beats and say the thumpy, thumps out loud with them repeating after me. Of course we used a stethoscope to listen to our heartbeats and we looked at pictures of the muscles in our bodies. I really liked this book (darn it is out of print but I think this is the same one?) and this book. Also, just found a hand pump at the hardware store used for siphoning gas that will be a great tool to demonstrate the in and out pumping of our blood through our hearts.

scenes from our Valentine Week {photos}

lovely books
our valentine tree
valentine station
a valentine assembly line
sorting fun
valentine button snake
squishy bag
with glitter added
bags in action
glitter makes everything happier
mixing up tints
paint happy

our play dough chocolate shop

A happy batch of play dough, tool for rolling and cuttings, an assortment of beads and jewels, and a trio of empty candy boxes makes for some delightful play! Tikes for blurry photos, but they move so quickly you never know if yer going to get a good shot or not!

valentine cloud dough fun

A few weeks ago we had cocoa cloud dough in the classroom. I need to get those photos up! For Valentine Week I added a box of strawberry cake mix to the dough and a side dish of crushed cocoa husks along with various tools such as a flour sifter, measuring cups, wooden spoons, and a wee mortar and pestle.We also had hearts aplenty with small jewels and heart shaped containers.
The children loved the scent of the cloud dough as did the parents. Some scooped up the dough and spooned into our muffin pan. I found the silicone heart-shaped muffin pan at the thrift outlet for fifty-cents!

I only had one sifter and it was a popular tool. The cocoa husks got dumped into the dough and then the children tried to sift the all of the flour away from the husks. They noticed that their sifted dough was more dusty than the rest and kept calling it their chocolate dust. There was also a lot of husk crushing going on. Due to having only a single flour sifter, we had to get creative...
Which brings me to the mortar and pestle. The children really liked the crushing aspect and feel for the tools. Using a tiny one I found at World Market they would go at it for all of their exploration time. A lot of focus and work was happening. As well as all those nifty motor skills we like to talk abut. If you have never tried cocoa hulls in your sensory bin, I recommend it! The scent and texture is thoroughly satisfying and when all is said and done, it makes for a great ground covering or mulch in your garden or you can whip up a wee "cocoa" bunny and add a handful to the stuffing for authenticity. Source it from a local organic supplier and make sure to dry it out in the sun before sealing it up in a bin or bag to prevent molding. Cocoa hulls are harmful to dogs and if you have a child under the age of three I would not use hulls unless supervised (as all children should be).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

valentine play dough fun

I always have play dough available in the classroom. Often, we make it in the morning using a no cook recipe that is mostly made up as I never write things down. It has all the usual suspects;  2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup corn starch (makes it so smooth!), 2 T cream of tartar, 2 T oil, liquid watercolor, and about 1/2 cup of hot water. The measurements are not exactly exact when you let three-year-olds take the lead but it is always fun and it is always a learning process. While I would have delighted in making up a batch of pink dough for Valentine's Day, we had a perfectly good batch of aqua colored dough that came about when the children mixed their blue dough and their green dough together. Add a bunch of heart shapes and cookie cutters and voila! Valentine's Dough!
Perfectly good save for the fact that it kept getting more and more gooey week by week (hey, it's still good!).  I think maybe someone was experimenting with water and well since school is always a learning process, I added a cup of flour to the table for the children to knead into the dough. We call it "working the dough". I love hearing their little voices call out that they are working the dough!
This was the first time I added basic flour to the table. Some of the children spent more time playing with the flour than the dough. Across the table I even had a batch of Valentine's Day cloud dough available but I think the sensation of the flour on the table was a new and unique experience. I remember how much I loved the feeling of flour on my hands when I helped my mother bake and so we added a bit more flour just because.
One of the children discovered she could make heart shapes in the flour with a cookie cutter. She also discovered she could scrape and scoop the flour with the cutter as well. It was all very exciting!
Every time I passed the dough table I was greeted with a new sight. One of my kiddos rolled the dough out as thin as possible and stuck these festive picks into it. They kept falling over and it took a few tries for him to realize the dough needed to be a a tad bit thicker. All that flour made the dough super fluffy and not crumbly. Putting it away at the end of the day found me joyfully rolling it into balls and squishing it into the bag, you dust it off, of course! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

special delivery {scissors work}

For our week of Valentines I created a file of airmail envelopes for the children to cut and mail. These threes love scissors work and the mail boxes were an added bonus. We also created a post office in the classroom. More photos coming soon. If you would like to print out your own air mail strips for your classroom, click here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

book review: Meet the Artist! {Picasso and Calder}

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! Have you seen these wonderfully fantastic interactive books by Patricia Geis from Princeton Architectural Press? They are tremendously informative and fun (I had no idea Picasso's father was a painter or that Alexander Calder painted up a BMW). When Princeton Architectural Press contacted me to see if I would like to review a copy of each, I barely finished reading the email before I replied with a hearty YES! I'm a mad art fan however you want to spell it. Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder are always favorites in my book so how could I say no?
I am delighted, delighted that I did. The Meet the Artist series is ever-so-lovely, well thought-out, and put together. I teach three-year-olds and already I can imagine what wonderful tools these titles will be for me in class. You can bet we are going to Calder it up with stabiles, mobiles, wire sculptures, and recycled art. As for Picasso, we will be pulling out our scissors-skills and glue sticks to make artastic collages all in his name.
I think my favorite parts are all the little flaps with biographic information behind them. With the information tucked behind the flaps, you could easily read the words featured on the pages as a story. With older children you can have them flip the flaps and read you the information. With even older children you can sit back and discuss what you read so really, these books are for ALL ages!
Both titles stand alone are beautiful to look at on the shelf. The covers are sturdy and engaging and once you open each book up you are immediately welcomed with interesting facts before your eyes hit the title page .
And if the subject matter doesn't reel you in, or the flaps, or the pull-outs...did I mention the pull-outs...well check out the very very back of each title to find a little bit of interactive fun that encourages you to build your own art a-la Picasso or art a-la Calder. I really, really hope to see more from this series! For now I need to order up a few copies of each...these will be dandy gifts for almost everyone in my family.