Friday, September 18, 2015

it's all in the details...

our fine motor shelf ready to motor!
We're spending a few weeks reading books on trains and trucks. The library corner is stocked with books, we have an awesome thrifted wooden train and car set on our building table, and the shelves around the room are filled with activities centered around shapes and things that go. Here's a peek!
This is our Math Shelf.  It consists of two Ikea cabinets with the doors and extra shelves removed. We aim to keep it simple by placing one basket or tray of manipulatives for exploration on each shelf. We have been exploring shapes and colors in the room so our Math Shelf is full of happy shapes and colors. On the top shelf we have a basket of pattern blocks along with a book on shapes, and our cylinder stackers from Guidecraft* (via Zulily). On the bottom shelves we have a basket of Magformers*, and a basket of rainbow cubes.  During the week, the children bring the baskets to different areas to the classroom to explore. When they are finished and it is time to clean up, the fill the baskets and return them to the shelves (or any surface they think will suffice).
The felt train was made to go along with the book Freight Train* by Donald Crews. I did a big ol' eye batting at the mister to get him to draw me the template for these pieces. I have them somewhere in a file and when I find them I will scan them in so you can use them as well if you are interested. I introduce the pieces as I read the story. We then work on sorting our vehicle counters* as a group on our circle time rug. Later in the week, these felt pieces are moved all over the classroom and used in various ways. The counters too are used all over the room. While I set up the investigation on our Math table, I do not fret when the children decide to use them elsewhere. The table is a bit tall for them and they prefer to use the floor for the most part. 

On the art table I have set out tickets, hole punches, and crayons in a truck shaped container. The children spent the week making ticket collages and creating their own train tickets. We have an art shelf as well full of paper, glue, crayons, and markers. Next to the art shelf and table is our easel for painting. 

We have two waterfall style bookcases in our reading area. I hit up the public library every two weeks for books that fit various themes. here we have all things transportation. I want to write more about the books but am not sure if anyone is interested enough. 
Finally we have our fine motor shelf, which is a Kallax shelf from Ikea (the entire shelf can be seen in the top photo of this post). Here we have shape connectors, transportation lacing beads* (I picked these up from Target), a thrifted peg board, and gears from Plan Toys*. In front of our shelf is a coffee table that the kiddos bring the baskets down to for exploring. 

So there ya go! More details on what I use in my classroom and how we set it up. The baskets are all thrifted and we have a cabinet in the classroom where we stack up the unused baskets. I'm a basket hoarder and my teaching partner is not so we agreed that if it doesn't fit in the cabinet it goes! Thank goodness they stack so nicely! 

*all Amazon links are affiliated with my school, just so ya know. Thank you!

Friday, September 11, 2015

press here collages

Another year, another group of awesome collages inspired by the book Press Here. I wish I had photos of the set up (it was a provocation), but the kiddos jumped right in and I had no time to grab the camera! I had the materials at the art table all pretty and laid out but I think it was the glue stick that drew them in. Either way, our collages are up on our art wall making the classroom an extra cheery space!

For more Press Here inspiration click here, here, and here! Have fun!

Friday, September 4, 2015

a new year, a new classroom set up with details!

Howdy folks! This year my classroom got new floors. Our carpets were a bit on the sad side so the school district came in and set us up with new floors (we lease our space from the district). We were hoping for something a little less busy but we'll take what we can get. The best part about having a tiled (laminate?) floor is that we can pop that easel anywhere in the classroom, and so we did! We also took advantage of having the entire room emptied out by rearranging everything when we brought it all back in. The three-year-old classroom was the most recent class added to the school (which goes all the way up to twelfth grade) and we often get cast-offs from other rooms so it's a little hodge-podgey but it works. There are two of us who share the room and we think this year we have finally found a winning combo in floor arrangement and materials. Crossing fingers at least! Up top you will find a photo of our science/nature table. We moved it back to under the window to take advantage of the natural light. The first week of school is generally loosely planned so that we can get a feel for how the children will use the space. We do not put out a whole lot but do thoughtfully arrange items.
Here is the view from the doorway. New floors! The floors make the room appear a little lighter and airier. They also reflect the light back out into the room making it appear brighter. I love that as I am not a fan of the overhead lights.
 I managed to hit up an IKEA on the way home from a mini road trip. I picked up this four-cubed Kallax for $35! This is what we call opur fine motor shelf. Each shelf holds a baslet or tray with items inside that encourages fine motor wark. The children may take a basket off a shelf and move it to the floor or coffee table in front. When they are finished, they return the tray or basket back to the shelf they removed it from.
Here is the view from the fine motor shelf into our kitchen area. We pulled in our old fine motor table into the kitchen to use as a group project table and to eat on at lunch. Previously we had a very large shelf unit defining the space but it was awkward to get into for our art supplies and made it the space smaller so we had to use three smaller tables for the kiddos to eat off of. We also put curtains over two sets of our window shelves. We needed more storage and the shelves are a bit too shallow to put items on. The middle shelf set will still be used for our artist study area.
These small white shelves used to have doors on them. I nixed the doors and the additional shelves to create an open space for our math materials. We use these fixtures to separate our circle rug area from the rest of the classroom. I plan on putting felt on the back of the shelves but keep forgetting to get spray adhesive or mounting tape to do so. Each shelf will hold one basket or tray on the bottom and one on the top for math exploration. There is a table available to work at or the children can use the carpet.
These are the items on our math shelves. I found the graduating cylinders on Zulily. I love watching the children play with these. They get quite creative and will play alone, side by side, or together. We put these out at the beginning of the year to go along with our week of Little Blue, and Little Yellow, then I move them to our artist study area to accompany our study on Vassily Kandinsky.
Unifix cubes! Here we pulled out the blue, yellow, and green cubes to go along with the literature for the week. Already these cubes have been turned into swords, brooms, and measuring sticks. The green place mat underneath was a Homegoods find. Four place mats for $4. It adds a bit of texture to the room.
A simple set of canisters (Pringles, anyone?) with color coded holes on top and a pile of pipe cleaners in corresponding colors. A parent made these for us a few years ago and they get a lot of use. The children play with these in all sorts of ways as well. Sometimes the pipe cleaners disappear and end up in other areas of the classroom. It's always an adventure!
Two types of magnet tiles/blocks. Here we pulled out all of the green, blue, and yellow again to go along with the literature. Since there are limited colors and shapes the children have to get creative in what they wish to build. This basked of tiles has already been turned into a house that fits three of our dollhouse dolls and a toilet because "every house needs a potty" according to one of ht kiddos.
And, the return of the curler table! This time with added pom poms! The children stack, organize, sort, and build  with them. There is a lot of social activity going on and the parents are always surprised at the medium! Curlers for the win!
We moved our block area to where our reading corner used to be. The big hunk of furniture that holds most of our art supplies was pushed up against the wall to the right. This separates the area from the circle rug and gives it a little more definition. We left the canopy up to add a bit of soft to the area. Building with blocks on our new floors is a little tricky as small fingers can get punched when there is rushing going on. The kiddos are learning a new type of respect.
Our Froebel balls are out and on top of our fine motor shelf to add a splash of color and familiarity. Not pictures on the remaining shelves are a tray of yellow, blue, & green beads with pipe cleaners for bracelet beading; colorful wood shapes and laces for more threading, a tray of transparent circles for Little Blue and Little Yellow retelling, and a basket with felt pieces in yellow, blue, & green along with small objects in matching colors for color sorting. I love this shelf!

And finally, our reading nook which is still a work in progress. It's a little larger than the old nook and more inviting but needs a little more oomph. We're working on it. For now there is a garland of book covers matching the books we will be reading for the first twelve weeks of school. We're hoping to add photos or other art work to the area as time goes by. We hope this new arrangement all around will help with classroom management and keep a little lid on the want to run around in here. So far, the change has been tremendous! Thank you for checking out our classroom! Come back soon!