Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Apple A Day.... (part one)



We start our school year the first week of August, which is essentially the middle of our summer. Although most people think of apples with their back to school themes, we are well into our school term by the time we actually get to start talking about apples and fall. Apples are a great theme to build cross curricular lessons around. Almost every subject can be covered in a broad range from cooking, literacy, math and science.

One of the first days of the unit, Johnny Appleseed comes to share an apple and tell his story. (I gave up on wearing a real cooking pot/hat a few years ago when I wasn't able to keep it on and it almost clunked a student in the head. I guess my head is just not meant to wear a pot!)


Apple printing and painting with apples was a popular activity in  our art center.


The plan was for the kids to trace an apple shape and decorate it using collage materials of their choice. The friends have recently discovered glitter and powdered tempra and that was the material that reigned supreme. They can't get enough of that glitter, although I can. They are still learning to use it appropriately so it still requires a fair amount of teacher guidance this point in the year. (I can hardly wait until they become "little pros" and can contain most of it to paper and trash can!)





One of the things I usually do with a big unit or season is to put die cuts in my math and literacy centers that are numbered and with upper/lowercase ABCs. This year, I've decided to also make die cuts that the children can use to spell their names. This was great for independent practice. I'll use these until pumpkin season , then replace with pumpkin die cuts for each student. (The only draw back is that I no longer have access to a die cut press, so these are all hand cut. I'm so lucky to have a fantastic assistant who doesn't mind helping with all this cutting!)





We made a version of a Venn diagram, although we did not include an area where each apple was the same. For now, we just sorted the information for our brainstorming session.


A little torn brown paper and some cookie cutter printing and.....



.... VOILĂ€! You have an apple tree!!!



One of our math activities was placing the appropriate number of rubber fishing worms on the numbered apple. The worms provide a fantastic sensory experience and the friends just can't get enough of this game!
I laminate the apples and use a dry erase marker on the apples, so I can use lower numbers for some and larger numbers for the friends who need a little more of a challenge.



We had so many fun activities, there's just too much for one post. Look for "An Apple A Day.... (part two)" coming soon that includes some of our other apple activities!






Saturday, September 18, 2010

Going On A Bear Hunt



Did you ever have a unit that could go on forever and never run out of ideas? Bears and camping is just one of those units for me. There are so many great things to do that I always feel guilty about some of the great ideas I just don't have time for.

 Each child brought a "bear buddy" to spend the week with us. We began our week singing and reading one of our favorites, "Going On A Bear Hunt". This activity was repeated many times throughout the week, by popular request (or more accurately, threat of pre-k lynch mob) sometimes at our spots, sometimes moving around the room, using little obstacles like balance beams and beanbags.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Anniversary Edition of a Modern Classic





Colored counting bears are pretty much a standard in every pre-k classroom I've ever been in. We talked about the colors of the bears and the sizes ( I do have a special set that has small, medium and large). We sorted by color. We weighed and compared bears.


One of our favorite free creative movement songs is the "Gummy Bear Song" that one of my kids sent me last year. It's sort of a techno mix and the kids get more movement out dancing to that song than most of the rest of our day combined, and we're a pretty busy bunch! Our bears even danced with us a few times.



(Note: I've never played the video for the kids just the song on cd.)

We learned how to make a graph with gummy bears. Quite a challenge, but lots of fun. I know that is is something that takes lots of practice, and we'll do a lot more this year. For now, my main goal was to let them place the gummy bears on the correct location on the grid.


We talked noticed who had a lot or none of a particular color and which color we each had the most of. I've been in classrooms where this particular activity is a quiet one and the students are expected to listen, but this is not a quiet activity in my class. We talk a lot about our graphs and we speak out occasionally, but we are using this as a language experience as well. We did attempt to record the data, and some of them did pretty well, but I wasn't concerned with them getting every box colored correctly. Our goal was to understand the experience and to use language to further our understanding. Besides, we were excited to eat the results!



We wrote our very own camping story to read while we "camped out".

We sent up our dramatic play area with a bear cave, tents and sleeping bags. This was a popular activity---the kids loved playing in our "camping center".



We took our bears outdoors and hung out and played. Sometimes, we just read a story to our bears.



We made binoculars using recycled tubes and tried them out on a nature walk. We also put a piece of masking tape around our wrists sticky side out and set out to "see what we could see".  After we came back, we shared some of the things we found and saw along the way.


We practiced making shapes with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. I get such a kick out of their "discovering" how to make a square or triangle. Most of the shapes are pretty simple, but they also made a pentagon, hexagon, some 3 dimensional shapes, a star and even a chain!



We read many versions of "Goldilocks and the 3 Bears". The friends role played the story with dolls in the dollhouse center.


One of my favorite Goldilocks activities is to have the students take turns acting out the story. Last year, the group I had doing this activity really did a great job and were so animated. I have several siblings of those classmates this year and have been excited to have them repeat this activity to see how they do.

This little friend reprised her sister's role as Goldilocks!

We had a teddy bear picnic in our pjs with Honeycomb cereal, Goldfish crackers, Teddy Grahams and Honey Bear cookies. We sorted and patterned before the more serious work of eating our bear snacks.




We made these cute bear headbands from circles and decorated the faces. This one just struck me with it's simplicity. It's "just right", as Goldilocks would say!


No camping adventure could possibly be complete without making s'mores. They're oogey, gooey treats that are almost as much fun to make as they are to eat. S'mores make a wonderful lesson on introducing changing states of matter. After we microwaved our s'mores,  we discussed the changes in the marshmallows and chocolate. And then, of course, we ate them up!





Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wee World...A new class, a new world!



One of the best parts of this online community is the sharing and building off others' ideas. My friend, Teacher Tom, started his Little World Experiment and the idea nagged at me until I finally had to implement a version myself. Wee World started as a St. Patrick's Day activity and eventually morphed into an outdoor center for imaginative play. At the end of our year last year, I packed everything away so the new class could start fresh and make a Wee World of their very own. Granted they are using some of the same materials, but it is interesting to watch this new group explore and develop what they want this area to be.  They have only played in Wee World a handful of times, but it is already a very imaginative, innovative place to be on the playground.I can't wait to see how this will grow as the children do. For now, I'll happily watch them explore and imagine!

Checking out some of the structures.


Setting things up.


It doesn't matter to them that the manipulatives, or "people" don't "match". They make families and friends with whatever they have!


I can't wait to see what happens next. I'm trying to think of some neat things to add to broaden the play, such as cars. Any suggestions? Please leave me a comment!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Like ME!

I Like Myself! 

A couple of weeks ago, was our  "All About Me" week. This is a unit that I usually spend 2 full weeks on, but in order to fit a few units that the children would like included this year, I pared this unit down to one week. That said, I didn't get to do a lot of the fun activities that I usually do, but we managed to pack a lot of fun into one week.

My assistant recently went to training and brought back this really cool idea she saw and we had to implement it. As a means to foster a home/school connection, we sent home a file folder cut into a t shirt shape and asked that they decorate it as a family to represent things important to the child.


These came out so much better than I could have imagined.

Many of them included photos of family members and pictures of things they like.


 We are going to showcase one each day and the children can take a minute to describe the meaning of the things on his/her t shirt. They will probably hang in our room all year so the children can see them whenever they want.



As an effort to get students to try new friendships, we asked them to pair up with someone they don't usually tend to play with and have that partner for the morning. They played games, and sat with each other and helped each other when needed. We made a friendship chart story.


We talked about similarities and differences between girls and boys and graphed our gender.




In small groups, we made paper bag puppets of ourselves. I always love the tones the children choose to represent themselves. I always encourage the children to compare the multicultural materials to their own skin and hair, but inevitably, they often choose whatever they want. As long as they are using language and telling me they have a reason for choosing a particular shade, I let them use what they wish.







We talked a lot about the things we can do. The children are accomplishing a lot that just, a few weeks ago, they weren't able to do. Even I was amazed at the cutting this friend did. Boy, was he proud!


They are surprised and proud as they become independent. Even managing to put their own sheet on the mat or putting the nap mat away is reason to be proud!



We made an "I Can" chart story.


We made fingerprints using pencil lead and packing tape. We made a fingerprint box that the children can use to store their fingerprint cards and examine them with the classroom microscope. It's been a sure way to get the kids exploring in Science Center! They love exploring with the microscope.


Educational Insights Geosafari Talking Microscope 

We did many of the old standards for this unit, like the Hokey Pokey, Tony Chestnut, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, measuring our height and weight. We talked about our body parts and had "Freaky Feet" day. I wish the pictures I took of the feet came out, but sometimes we're just having too much fun for the camera to catch it all!

We also read some great books. The Amazon carousel widget I usually use is acting wonky, so I'll try again to add them later, but for now, here are a few titles we enjoyed

I Like Myself!  I Like Me! (Picture Puffins)  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day [ALEXANDER & THE TERRIBLE HORRI]  Good As Goldie

It's Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel  I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem  When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth   

Big Words for Little People  The Story of Ferdinand (Puffin Storytime)  Elmer (Elmer Books)  Purple Hair? I Don't Care


The Way I Feel  When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry   [WHEN SOPHIE GETS ANGRY REALLY] [Paperback]  The Foot Book  Aaron's Hair


Ruby the Copycat  All the Colors of the Earth (Mulberry Books)  School Reader Level 2: If You're Angry And You Know It  If You're Happy And You Know It




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