Friday, August 29, 2014

a new school year means a newly organized classroom

the view from the door
It took us hours and hours to get this room to look like this. It's the same room as last year but good golly did we do an overhaul. We removed some furniture, added a few small tables, and rearranged the whole shebang. While we do have a nice budget for our preschool it goes to big wishlist items such as a light table or block shelf so a lot of our furniture is a bit mismatched but you can't be too choosey can ya? The blue table here replaced a taller rainbow table and we love having it there.
the view from the reading corner
Our classroom and school used an old elementary school so we have amazing windows and space. I mean look at all that natural light! The white shelving units are from Ikea and had blue doors on them last year. We relocated the items we were storing in them and pulled the doors off to create a math shelf and a science shelf. The backside of each shelf will soon hopefully have magnet boards on them. The coffee table was in the a-go-go garage and is now a small world table. The rug came from the old casa de a-go-go and adds a bit of color to the grey carpet. The playhouse in the way way back there was sold to create more space in the room and put a little moolah back into the budget.
the art shelf
The art shelf is a work in progress but I love having the art supplies out all the time. I covered the back of the shelf with brown paper because there were a bunch of flower stickers stuck all over the place.
another view
 On the shelf for the first two weeks the kiddos will find glue and gluesticks, colored pencils, sharpeners, markers, pencils, beeswax crayons, gemstone shaped crayons, paper, and traditional crayons. Phew! The art table is next to and in front of this shelf for easy transfer of supplies. On the table is a lazy susan which currently is holding cans of yellow, blue, and green markers for our week of Little Blue and Little Yellow.
the reading corner
 Our reading corner used to be on the other side of the room where the play kitchen now is. The bookcase is new and we finally got the canopy hung. I would love to not have an ABC rug but that will be for a later project. I would also love to switch out our pillowcases to match other elements of the room. There are a bunch of orange pillows at Target that I am adoring right now. The Alphabet cards are from K & Company and have nifty animal facts written on the back.
the play kitchen
 Here is our play kitchen. Out went all the plastic toys and food and in came the fabric, glass, wood, and stainless steel. This little area sees a lot of play. It's a bit trying to keep organized but al that happy play is worth it.
the artwork wall
 The brown paper here is covering two long white boards. I am so happy to have them covered up. we will be putting photos of the children on this board and their art will be rotated here throughout the year using washi tape covered clothespins that have magnets glued to the back. This took me far too long to put up. Phew!
view into our kitchen area
Here is our kitchen area. This is where all the play dough play, easel painting, cooking, and concoctions happen. We also eat our lunch here before heading out to our adjoining play yard. Last year only one of the cubby areas with hooks was a vailable for use as the other was used for storage. The mister installed shelves on the bottom for us and now we have official cubbies. Just don;t look in the cabinets yet, they still need a bit more work. One holds our pantry items such as flour for cloud dough, baking soda, vinegar, shaving cream, and snacks for us teachers...of course.
another kitchen view
Last year I made a few organizational-like changes to our kitchen such as putting in a hook or two for our broom and dustpan and adding an art wire across the top of the entryway (fine, I didn't do it myself, the mister did, but it was my idea).  Before that, the broom was always in a different place and  artwork space was at a minimum. We now create classroom garlands with the kiddos' artwork and hang them along the wire. It adds a bit of flair to the room. The white shelf unit there used to be in the middle of our room. It held art supplies and blocks. The shelves are pretty deep and the unit is taller than the kiddos so we were super happy to move it to where it is now to act as storage for all the plastic shoebox sized bins we have that hold art/craft materials such as pipe cleaners, beads, coffee filters, etc. The other side holds puzzles and games. I made the curtains from a Target tablecloth and a couple of tension rods.
our kitchen counter
 Here is where we set our snacks, wash our dishes, and place art trays ready to go out. Last year it got super cluttery so this year I asked the mister to install a couple of shelves for us. We also added hooks under one of the shelves to hold our mugs. The shelves closets to the wall hold cleaning supplies and spray bottles while the other two shelves are for cups and plants. The plate rack was moved from the center of the counter to the right side of the sink and above the sink there is a three tiered hanging baskets that holds dishtowels, plastic clips, sponges, and a few other odds and ends. Not pictured is the mini fridge and microwave which have a hanging clippy thing that we clip damp dishtowels to for drying.
the paper shelf
 The paper and paint shelves used to house all sorts of art supplies and all of the bins for collage and the like. It was a mess and got very cluttered. We now have one side dedicated to paper and the other dedicated to paint. I found the white paper holder on the left at Micheal's on clearance and mister made the paper holder on the right out of cardboard. The trays are used for wet and messy art and as drying racks for wet and messy art. The stripy bin (a gift from the divine Ms. Za) holds tiny notebooks and is often added to the art shelf. The basket hold paint chips which also get added to the art shelf. The purple bin holds scraps of construction and scrapbook paper. It's so organized! I love it!
paint shelf
 I got a bit wacky with our paint shelf but I love how every type of paint has its own space. Most of the baskets and bins came from home. The tempera paints gets used daily and I like to store them in rainbow order as a conversation piece for the kiddos. They totally notice later i nthe year, when one is out of place. The basket on the top shelf holds baby food jars with the rest of my glass collection on the left. The children love when they get to use the glass jars and bottles.

This is the basket I put on top of the mini fridge. We tend to drop our water bottles, keys and phones up there and it gets jumbled and messy. The basket helps solve the mess and holds supplies we use everyday such as tape, scissors, and markers. It also holds my snack as you can see.

So, that's it. A mini tour of my newly organized classroom. I hope you had fun. I'm quite happy with it. Phew!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

making twirly art {using what you have}

I think it is safe to say that I am not the only preschool teacher who holds onto odd bits of scrap paper and other flotsam and jetsam I come across.  In my classroom one of the children's favorite activities to use the salad spinner to make art. Sometimes we use coffee filters in our spinner but with some prep time, I find that the centers of paper plates work best for durability. After I cut out all those circles I am left with a pile of paper plate rims that have just enough curl and twirl in them that I came up with this project that the children call twirlies.
All you need is a paper plate rim, any size, paint, and glitter. When the art is going to be super messy, I will lay put a sheet of wax paper for the children to use as an art mat. Wax paper is great for sticky gooey art projects because you can move the whole shebang to a safe place for drying and the art (mostly) won't stick to the paper. The wax paper also keeps any glue or paint from drip dropping all over your tabletops or, in our case, windowsills.
My kiddos absolutely adore glitter...and paint...and sweeping up with the dustpan. I keep the dustpan on our counter between the refrigerator and microwave and each kiddo in my class knows where it is stored and freely uses it to clean up the riff-raff that falls on our floor. They also return it to its spot when they finish. I think this young lady spent more time engaged in sweeping up than she did sprinkling glitter all over her twirlie. The finished twirlies were hung on our art wire across our room and/or under our windowsills, the children chose where they wished for them to be hung and were quite proud of their creations.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

diy patchwork pots {and planting in the classroom)

 I don't know about you but my class really likes to dig in the dirt. They so enjoyed planting out their sunflower sprouts that when the opportunity presented itself for another garden project I jumped right in. We ended our school year with a Shakespeare celebration that involved the entire student body. From my wee threess to our graduation class, our students got up on our outdoor stage and performed  their interpretations of Shakespeare...Julius Ceasar to be exact (also a smidge of Sophocles' Antigone). Wanting our youngsters to be able to take part, we decided to teach the preschool, Jr. K, and Kindergarteners a verse from A Midsummer Night's Dream. To assist the youngsters in understanding the verse, we brought in the plants from our verse for the children to touch and explore. One of our plants was wild thyme and after our program, we planted it out into our own pots to take home but first we had to decorate those pots!
The first thing we did was paint the outside (and for some, the inside) of our pots white.  This was done over the course of two days. The pots sat for awhile on our windowsill while we explored others areas of interest for awhile. When the kiddos were ready, we brushed on precut tissue paper squares using a bit of liquid starch. This too was done over the course of two days. On our last day of school the children each got to plant their wild thyme into their pots. We reviewed the concepts of sequence, order, and steps and the children talked a lot about when they planted out their sunflower sprouts.
I did not get a chance to seal their tissue covered pots so when the tissue gets wet, it gets a little sticky but they sure do look nifty, don't ya think?

Monday, August 18, 2014

making smoothies in the classroom

One of our activities for our week of The Very Hungry Caterpillar was to make fruit smoothies. The children were very excited at the idea and talked a lot about when we were going to do it.
On smoothie day, each kiddo brought a piece/type of fruit to class. I notified parents ahead of time and asked them to not bring bananas as I worried that each kiddo would bring a banana, I would supply those.  I also brought along a few other types of fruit that I thought would be fun to explore. We did not stick with the fruit from the book as I wanted the children to decide which fruit they brought to class. We had strawberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, plums, oranges, apricots, and kiwis. A cornucopia! Thank goodness we have no fruit allergies in this class!  The children were very excited to get started as they were going to cut their own fruit with real  (butter) knives! Each piece of fruit was introduced and we talked about the visual characteristics. I talk a lot about us being detectives of the world and how we use our five senses to seek out clues. We used our eyes to give us visual clues to determine what kind of fruit we had. We see an orange is round and of course orange. We then use our nose to smell the fruit before we cut it, we use our hands to touch and then we use our mouth to taste, etc. Some of the fruit was new to the children and we would guess what color the inside was and write down our predictions. There was a lot of excitement, vocabulary, community, etc.
I found this really awesome blender at Target for $15. It makes a 16oz drink and you can drink from the base if ya like. It is not a very loud blender but still loud enough to unsettle my sound sensitive student so before using it we talked about the sound a blender makes and she took some time to decide if she wanted to be in the kitchen with ears covered our in the reasing corner with pillows piled over her, etc. We put in our fruit with a few ice cubes, a smidge of pineapple juice to help get things going and the children took turns blending away. It was thrilling! When the smoothie was deemed finished, the children took turns pouring their drink into their own cups.  Making a smaller smoothie is crucial as all that fruit in those little know.
Here is this photo again showing the scale of our blender. I love it and the children were so serious when they were blending their smoothies. It was a delicious smoothie and made more than enough for our small group. If you have room in your class to store a small blender I would highly recommend it. Though, I do have to admit I take my blender home to store and use as I find it makes a much better smoothie than our large Oster. Cheers!

Friday, August 15, 2014

dot marker butterflies {a lesson in symmetry}

I thought it would be fun, during our week of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to use dot markers to create symmetrical patterns on butterflies.
I drew the butterflies freehand onto our large white paper (still haven't picked up a code for the copy machine but I'm too busy too get into the office to make copies anyway) with pencil for the first one then used Sharpie over it. I used our window as a lightbox to make copies the old fashioned way but the children were going through them so fast I just drew them when we needed more. Talk about muscle memory, I can probably draw these in my sleep!
As with the magnetic butterflies we talked about symmetry. Some of the children wanted to match what I did so instead, I asked them to make a pattern so I could match theirs. After a few trial runs, the a-ha! moments kicked in and they were having a blast. Now, if only I could figure out how to preserve those sponge tips on the dot markers. Any ideas?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

chalkboard butterflies in the classroom

 When I was shopping for butterflies the first time around, I spied these already-made chalkboard butterflies at Michaels for three dollars and scooped one up for the children to draw and color on.
The chalkboard came with a twine hanger threaded and knotted through the holes at the top. I cut the twine off so we could use the butterfly at our art table. The set up was really pretty simple. Just the chalkboard and the chalk in one of my insect trays from Cost Plus World Market (from 2011). I mean really, look how pretty the chalk looks...all those happy colors. The children had a damp sponge and/or a piece of flannel to wipe the board clean. One of my industrious kiddos got a hold of a wet wipe to wash the chalk dust off his hands and continued to use it as an eraser. While a lot of fun, this board did not work as well when wet. You know how vibrant chalk looks on a wet board, or wet chalk looks on a board? It didn't work on this board...I have no idea why but that did not deter the kiddos at all.
Sorry about the blurry photo. This is the only one I managed to get of the set up. Even though I wiped it down you can still see evidence of the chalk all over the surface. For some reason, the children also preferred the brown chalk above all the other colors. Go figure. You can find chalkboards in all shapes and sizes now. I have chalkboard teapots, pumpkins,  birds, many!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

diy magnetic butterfly {that is also a chalkboard and a felt board}

This project is a favorite of mine and the children's! There are three ways the children can interact with them. They are a both a magnet board and a chalkboard and the backs are covered in felt to use as a felt board. I came up with is on the spot at Michaels once I saw these butterflies.
These wooden butterflies were a great size, not too small, not too large. They were thick and sturdy and while I wish they were flat, the details were not too cumbersome. At two dollars a pop, I snatched two up and ran to the paint section to search for magnetic paint. The only magnetic paint they had was from Martha Stewart. It was a bit on the pricey side but I really wanted to make this project and was very happy I had a coupon to use so I justified the purchase and popped it into my basket. I gave the butterflies two coats of magnet paint and one coat of black chalkboard paint that I had previously purchased from Michaels as well. It was a small bottle, 2 oz, from CraftSmart. While the paint was drying, I glued magnets to happy colored shape buttons purchased from Oriental Trading, and cut out tiny shapes from colored scraps of felt I had from another project. To finish it off, I glued orange felt to the back of one butterfly, and yellow felt to the back of the other.
We covered our  butterflies in buttons, colored them with chalk, pretended they were sandwiches and practiced our symmetry (for some of the children I designed one side of the butterfly while they matched the other and vice versa). We also sorted out our magnetic buttons into cool and warm colors (which was an impromptu project when one of the children asked me if purple was a cool color, how awesome is that?) We never got out the felt pieces for the back as the task of covering the entire surface with brown chalk (and only brown chalk) was much too enticing for ALL of the children.
I am really really pleased with how this project turned out and how the children engaged with it. Now I have to think of some other projects for my magnetic paint. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

bubble wrap butterfly prints

The week before we did this activity we had bubble wrap on the easel. It was such a popular center that I wanted to keep it but felt hat it needed a fresh twist when I remembered back to my toddler art class days and how we covered the table with bubblewrap and pulled prints from the colorful mess! Let's make butterflies! We had our bubble wrap in two parts taped together. I took advantage of the taped seam, folding it all in half and free cutting a butterfly half from the seam out to the edges. Once unfolded I had a nifty bubble wrap butterfly waiting to be painted on!
The children were really excited to practice painting butterfly designs onto the bubble wrap. One of my kiddos got really into our lessons on symmetry and painted/printed up some awesome symmetrical butterflies! Another kiddo must have painted/printed up over a dozen butterflies. Our classroom looked so festive!
We changed out the colors each day to add a bit of variety to the project. I wish I had more photos, they looked so nifty! I'm glad I captured these small moments. A three year old classroom is always a very busy place!

Monday, August 11, 2014

diy beaded caterpillars

The children had a blast creating these easy-peasy bead and pipe cleaner caterpillars. I was actually a little surprised at how much they enjoyed this activity. They were quite proud of their critters and a few of the children even decided to bring them to their rest mats.
The set up was really easy, the children chose their favorite colors of the day and sorted their beads into their small bowls (I do love that set of bowls). When they were all ready, they chose one color to be the head of their Very Hungry Caterpillar and threaded it onto their pipe cleaner enough to bend the top of the stem around their bead thus anchoring it in place. Vocabulary we used included, pipe cleaner, chenille stem, top, tip, anchor, thread, and bead both as a noun and a verb. We also took advantage of this activity to work on our patterning. Some of the children added beads then removed all of them and then began all over again.
Such an easy and simple activity that encourages fine motor practice and patterning. There was a lot of discussion at the table between the children so add socialization to the list as well as spatial recognition (how many beads is too many beads), color recognition, vocabulary, and counting! I am looking forward to presenting this activity next year to my soon-to-be new class!

Friday, August 8, 2014

diy paint splattered bowls

We made these super cool bowls for our Mother's Day gifts. Thy turned out so ridiculously happy and cool that I think I am going to do them again next year. It may be our classroom thing.
First we had to shape our bowls. Our bowls are made of sculpey clay. Each kiddo used half of a small sculpey block to create their bowl. To begin, they were given the clay and encouraged to play with it to soften it up. Then they placed their piece of clay between two layers of wax paper and used a rolling pin to squish it as flat as they could get it. Some of the children asked for help when it came to flattening their clay. The sculpey is a bit hard compared to play dough. After they flattened their clay they then used their hands and fingers to shape it into a bowl. The idea was to create a small catch-all for mama's keys, coins, or jewelry. The bowls were places on a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper underneath. I wrote their names below their bowls and attached a small piece of masking tape with their names as well. The tape would come off before baking and was placed just in case the bowls got mixed up in transit. I took the bowls home to bake according to the instructions on the package and they came out gorgeous! Sculpey, while the not the most price-friendly option made for a really pretty and modern looking bowl. The clay bakes to a matte finish. It's really cool!
We painted the bowls and our gift wrap two days later. This was done two weeks before Mother's Day as one never knows what they day may bring in preschool. To paint our bowls I set up a splatter paint station in our room, using a large vinyl tablecloth as a backdrop. As a group we discussed what colors were were going to use (keeping it to three) and decided on gold, pink, and black. The kiddo in my class love the gold paint! As the children played about the room, I would ask them if they were ready to paint their bowls. We would place their bowl onto our large sheet of white paper and they would get to splattering away. This was a first for all of my kiddos and they had a blast. Before each would have a turn we would look at our paper and decide what section needed paint and the kiddo would place their bowl in that section. Doing this one at a time created a special activity for each child, yet knowing that the happy paint splattered paper was a result of all of their efforts created a feeling of group effort and community. The next day the children flipped their bowls over and got to more splattering.
We wrapped our bowls the last day of class before Mother's Day. Before we cut the paper, the children had to measure to see if they could fit their bodies on it. We used photos to document their scientific discovery and they may have had more fun lying on the paper than painting it. For wrapping their bowls, we used tissue paper (they chose their tissue color) to wrap the bowl first. I explained to the children that their bowls were very precious and delicate like glass. They took me very seriously and wrapped them up oh-so-carefully. I added pre-torn pieces of hot pink scotch tape to the table edges for the children to tape up their packages. The tape did not have a dispenser and the children have a trying time getting the tape off themselves. Those that can and wish to do their own tape tearing and/or cutting.
So there you have it! Our paint splattered bowls that we made back in May for Mother's Day. Happy splatters, pretty bowls, lovely wrapping, and joyful kiddos. This can totally be an anytime project!