Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oceans of Fun and a Pirate Adventure or Two!



We just finished our Ocean Adventure unit and it was a blast! I haven't done this unit in a couple of years, so I visited Pre-K Pages and The Virtual Vine and borrowed some ideas to go along with what I already had. The crafts will not go in the student portfolios, but the experiences this week were more about becoming familiar with some of the mediums and materials so the friends will be comfortable using and creating with them on their own later. Our walls are still pretty bare, so we used the group projects to make a little display and to decorate our F.I.S.H. bulletin board.

We made cute little Orcas out of dessert paper plates. The children traced a shape on the bottom of the plate and drew a mouth, then painted the rest black. (This was a challenge, since many want to swipe once and be done. I wanted them to cover most of the plate with black, just to get the painting practice.....process, not product.) After the paint dried, we added googly eyes and fins.




We made jellyfish by painting waxpaper with colored glue (white glue with food coloring added). Some friends added a sprinkle of glitter, too. We laid another piece of waxpaper on top and cut the shape out later when dry. I initially tried to have the kids string curling ribbon to the bottom, but we'll have to work on those skills some more, so we ended up just stapling the ribbon on.




We've done a lot of painting with watercolors, so we took some of those and stenciled a seahorse shape and added them to the display.


The crabs were a lot of fun. When I made these in the past, I had a template for the arms and claws to use as a stencil. This time, we fooled around with the pipe cleaners bending and shaping (more good fine motor practice) until we got something akin to a claw. We painted them with watercolors (I know, but the kids love those individual paint pots, and the colors are so fitting with an ocean theme) and added pom poms and googly eyes when dry.



We also made a few paper plate pirates.



In our small groups this week, we played some learning games.
In one game, the students rolled the die and put the corresponding amount of fish in their dish. After everyone in the small group has had a few turns, we sort, count and compare the fish using lots of math language.


On Pre-K Pages, there is a game called "Thar She Blows". We modified this and played in in small groups and, by popular request, at circle time one day, as well. I reduced the size of a clip art whale, made about 32 and wrote a letter of the alphabet on each and "Thar She Blows" on the rest, and laminated them. We took turns drawing cards and stating the letter and appropriate sound. When someone drew the "Thar She Blows" cards, we all jumped up, did the wave and said in our best pirate/sailor voice, "Thar She Blows"! This was a BIG hit!!!



One of our independent groups worked cooperatively on an ocean floor puzzle.



The students sorted sea animals by type, size and color. We also played a game where we took turns drawing a little animals out of a bag and had to place them on an ocean mat or land mat depending on the type of animal.




Outside, we played "What Time Is It Mr. Shark?", a variation of "What Time Is It Mr.Fox?". This has quickly become a favorite, and the kids enjoy it so much they start asking at circle time if we can play it at outside later!

Our last day of the unit, the kids were allowed to dress like a pirate if they wished. (This was something many did last year in the 3's, so I knew many of them wanted to do it again this year.) If they didn't have anything to dress up in at home, they were welcome to make newspaper pirate hats or use scarves from our centers to make their own costume.



My favorite part of the unit was watching the kids become inspired. We read lots of books about ocean animals, oceans, sailing and pirates. Many of the pirate stories had treasure maps and the kids went about making maps. I love that they asked to borrow the book, How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and set out to make treasure maps of their own!







Some of the kids made 2 or three maps a piece and had them tucked into belts and pant waistlines. This was too funny to watch! I got excited that they were so into the map-making. Matt, over at Look At My Happy Rainbow, posted Maps back in February. I thought about including a map making activity in my plans for this unit, but didn't think we were ready for it yet this early in the year. Well, the kids sure showed me! I was the proud winner of the book , Katy and the Big Snow on a giveaway (Thanks, Matt!) and after seeing this enthusiasm for map making, we'll definitely have to do a similar activity when we read Katy this winter.

No unit would be complete without a few yummy morsels to go along with the theme. We made hotdog octopi and blue ocean jello. We added a few SpongeBob gummies to the jello for fun! I found some gummy sharks (after we already made the jello) so we added them on top!

I have a little boy that just moved here from Japan and he doesn't speak more than a few words of English ("BATHROOM!") and doesn't seem to like any of our American food. He came up during snack time and grabbed my leg from behind and yelled "YUMMY!" and lead me to his jello and pointed. Yea!!!!! A new food experience AND a new word! I went on to teach him "JELLO" and he kept repeating "YUMMY! JELLO!". (I have to admit, this was a fine moment for me! I will remember that moment for a long time!)


We read quite a few pirate adventures this week. Here are some of our favorites!




We also read many books about ocean life.



This was such a great unit to teach. The kids had a lot of fun. The hardest part was choosing which activities to do---there are so many out there. I always plan for way more than we can actually do, but it's always good to have back up plans if something doesn't work out.  If you have any good ocean activities you'd like to share, feel free to leave a link in comments. I'm always looking for inspiration for the next time!



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Literacy Activities for the First Weeks of School


Our year is just getting started and most of what we've done so far is getting to know each other, our school and learning about the materials and centers in our classroom. It takes a while for kids to get to know the expectations of a new teacher and a new class, so I've tried to wade slowly into the academics. I want my friends to have fun and not be overwhelmed. I try to help each student feel that they have a special place in our classroom community.

One of the activities that we do during the first week of school is to make an ABC poster of the names in our classroom. I'll leave this up all year.



Initially, the students were asked to put their name card by the letter their name started with and we all made the letter sound and clapped the syllables of each name. Later, we'll go back and count the number of students who start with "J" or find a friend that starts with the letter "D" or other little games.


One of the girls mentioned at circle time that her name began with a "T". The kids all began to share words that started with the "T" sound. One child wrote the letter in the air, so we decided to take turns writing the letter on the whiteboard.


Since we don't do a "Letter of the Week",  I have to really try to make sure I get in all the skills that I would do in our everyday curriculum. Often that means grabbing a "teachable moment" and running with it. The kids really love to have turns to come up and write on the teacher whiteboard, so I try to give them opportunities to do so.

Last week, Teach Preschool shared "Sand Tray Prep" from What Do You Do All Day?. It had been raining on and off for a couple of days and our playground was wet. When I saw the post, I knew I had to take advantage of all that wet sand. I set up trays at center time and we practiced drawing letter shapes in the sand.





 The kids also enjoy squirting the water to keep the sand moist. I think they thought they were getting one over on me by convincing me to allow them to use the squirters independently, but what they don't know is I was counting on that--working the sprayer is great fine motor practice!





This quickly became a very popular activity. I need to get a few more trays so it doesn't limit some of the other things kids do with the trays (art, finger painting, glitter, etc.). I'll admit, it was a little messy, and I'm brainstorming ways to eliminate so much of the spill off, especially because our classroom is carpeted. 


Finally, I want to share a little item I bought for my nephew's birthday. I'm not usually an advocate for video games, but this seemed like the neatest little learning tool. He can get fine motor practice and literacy practice all in one fun activity and take it anywhere! It's called the LeapFrog Scribble and Write. I hope he likes it!

LeapFrog Scribble and Write



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday's Wisdom....And A Little Child Shall Lead


We've officially been back in school about a week and a half and things are absolutely crazy, but in a good way. I've got a few things I'll be posting about soon, just as soon as I get a few minutes to upload the pictures and write a few words.

As I start my year, I'm try to remember that in the greater scheme of things, there are some things that I need to be mindful of as I go about my daily teaching. I really want to take the time to listen to my students and learn from them. There is so much that can be gleaned from the child's perspective on life and if I just listen, and become a great student, it will help me be a better teacher.

I borrowed the following words of wisdom from my friend, Brenda Ballard, who is not by title a "teacher", but she often tries to help others learn some important life lessons. Although simplistic, there is great wisdom in the words of these little friends.

And a little child shall lead....

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds ,

'What does love mean?'


The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.


See what you think:



'When my grandmother got arthritis , she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'
Rebecca- age 8


'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.'
Billy - age 4


'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.'
Karl - age 5


'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
Chrissy - age 6


'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'
Terri - age 4


'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.'
Danny - age 7


'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing , you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss'
Emily - age 8


'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents
and listen.'
Bobby - age 7


'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate , '
Nikka - age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)


'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.'
Noelle - age 7


'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.'
Tommy - age 6 

'My mommy loves me more than anybody
You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.'
Clare - age 6


'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.'
Elaine-age 5


'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford
Chris - age 7


'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.'
Mary Ann - age 4


'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.'
Lauren - age 4


'When you love somebody , your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.'
Karen - age 7


'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.'
Jessica - age 8 

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,

'Nothing, I just helped him cry'

I hope you take the time in your daily life to stop and listen. You never know what you'll learn!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bulletin Boards for a New School Year

I went to school today to try to finish up my room. My students arrive ready for action on Monday. I still have tons left to do (is a classroom ever completely ready?), but at least to the untrained eye, we're almost there. A few more odds and ends to take care of tomorrow, and we'll be set. I'm quite excited. I got a new assistant this year, and we are working well together already.

I decided to decorate our classroom door up to look like the front of a little red school house. The pictures don't really so it justice, because it wraps around a corner, so in the photos, it looks a little uneven. (Also, I apparently wasn't holding the camera at exactly right angle. We got a new classroom camera and I'm still getting to know it.)



I use F.I.S.H. binders in my classroom for daily parent teacher communication. The acronym stands for Family Involvement Starts Here, and we encourage a lot of parent participation in our program, so this tends to fit our needs better than many of the other notebook acronyms. I try to do the bulletin board nearest the door representing the F.I.S.H. theme at the beginning if the year to tie things together.

I 've never noticed until I was standing back trying to snap this photo that my bulletin board is slightly warped!

 I've done the t-shirt theme on a board on and off a couple of times, but I got a roll of rolling hills background for the boards this year and decided to try it here as well as on one of my other boards.



For the last several years, I've done the cute, well-loved "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Look Who's In Our Room!" theme for outside my door. I'm always sad to take it down and because I tend to dress my door for seasonal changes, I usually need to take it down before I'm ready to see it go. I decided to use the Chicka Chicka theme on one our art boards so it would have a little more longevity this year. The caption reads "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Check Out The Art From Our Room!" Student work will cover this board and I'm planning to use coconuts with student names and pictures to hang with each student's art.


In the rear of our room, the bulletin board sits in the middle of two centers, dramatic play and computers. I try to have a sort of seasonal theme on it, but it is one of the first boards to get covered in art, so the background is only important for the first few days of school when it is still bare. As I mentioned earlier, I decided this year to make it easy on myself and treated myself to a pre-printed background. Most of my bulletin board backgrounds are made from plastic tablecloths. I can reuse them over and over, they last forever, and store away in a medium baggie. We do have bulletin board paper that is there, but it seems so wasteful to throw it right away after taking it down, so I end up storing it until I can use it (usually in art) again. Here's my extravagant (paper waste and $$) splurge.



Our writing center is always a challenge. Last year, I found some yellow CAUTION tape at the dollar store and used it as a border on a black background with the caption: "CAUTION! Writers At Work!" It was very cute, but I wanted a little change. I know several of the boys coming in my class enjoy dinosaurs, so I thought a dinosaur would be cute here.



With the exception of two small parent information boards (one is the yellow one pictured on the schoolhouse doorway), and our circle time boards, all of our boards end up covered in student work.  I start the year with a bare Circle Time board and add to it as I introduce concepts. There will be a community helper featured, a character word, poems, etc. that we will change out as we go along. I've found that often when starting school the first time, a busy circle time board can be a distraction until the students get used to everything on there. Even though their individual work is not displayed here, the students become a part of helping to build this board.






I love cute bulletin boards, and they are always a challenge. I am usually so busy teaching, that I can't enjoy really creating them during the school year, so my assistant will probably be doing most of the rest of the creative boards we'll have this year.  I try to start collecting ideas for the next year as I discover neat boards that others are doing. If you have a bulletin board idea or post, I'd love for you to leave a link in the comments. I may even add a link here!
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