Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Trip to The Pumpkin Patch

We've had several trips this month, but none so revered as our annual trek to the Pumpkin Patch. I tease that we are out to find the most sincere pumpkin in the patch, but I don't think the kids watch the Charlie Brown Halloween special, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" anymore. There are too many specials with more current day characters, I guess.

 Our class goes to a pumpkin patch at a little country church in Harlem, Ga., about 30 minutes from our school. (The home of Oliver Hardy, hence his picture on the sign above.) They do a fabulous program and really make it a fun day for the kids. (We have several larger patches nearby with elaborate corn mazes and attractions, but they are  cost prohibitive for a program that can't ask for parents to help pay for the trips.)

There are stations set up for us to visit. The first station is the story station, where we ready the story of "Spookley, the Square Pumpkin".

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin with CD

The next stop was the craft table, where we colored "October" headbands.

After coloring, we needed a little break, so we stopped at the refreshment station for cookies and juice.

Our favorite part of the day is always the hayride. What fun!

After the hayride, we were ready for a little lesson about the life cycle of a pumpkin.

We also learn about other fall vegetables like gourds and indian corn.

We got to pick a pumpkin to take back to school to decorate.

Spending the day at the pumpkin patch is hard work and we really worked up an appetite. We spread out blankets and had a picnic in the field. After we ate, we played on the playground for a while.

We had a lot of fun but we were tired and it was time to get back to school. We got our picture taken before we left. It was an fantastic day! We send a big "THANK YOU" to Harlem United Methodist Church for allowing us to come and experience their awesome pumpkin patch! I'm sure the most sincere pumpkin was there somewhere!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit To The Fire Station

October is Fire Safety month and we always plan a trip to the fire station. We have several nearby in our community that we've visited in the past, but we have a new one that also serves as the headquarters for the local fire department. We were fortunate to get in, even booking in August.

The Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Headquarters is a beautiful building. We started the tour upstairs in the living quarters.Each firefighter has his own little bedroom. There is a day room and living area. (Sorry, my hands were full during this part of the tour and I couldn't get many pictures.)

The living quarters have a balcony that over looks the garage. There are two ways down: the stairs or the fire pole. We took the stairs. :)

As we went downstairs, the firefighters met us by sliding down the pole.

We met on the floor of the fire station garage.

We gathered around and sat on the floor and began to talk about safety. I was thrilled that these guys really got down on the kids' level and really enjoyed teaching my little friends.

We talked about having the protective gear ready to go in a flash was important.

And having lockers to keep everyone organized was also important.

The firefighter began to dress in his gear.

We were surprised at the number of layers they wear.

We talked about how the full gear can make a firefighter seem scary, especially when he's breathing through the mask.

We practiced stop, drop and roll and stay low and go. The firefighters showed us exactly how we should react in an emergency.

Before we left, we got a class picture in front of the fire truck.

And if the firefighters weren't nice enough, they gave us really cool coloring books and fire hats to take home!

A big THANK YOU to the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue. They do a fantastic job and are truly heroes!

Community Helpers

We recently had a visit from our local Police Officers.
We talked about ways to stay safe.

We talked about stranger danger with Officer Robertson. It's always interesting to ask a child what a stranger looks like.

We saw all the different parts the make up a police uniform. These are Sergeant Massey's handcuffs.

We also got to check out the police car and try the lights and sirens.

I'm so glad we had this opportunity to really get the kids familiar with our community helpers. Special thanks to the Officers Massey and Robertson and to the Columbia County Sheriff's Department!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Visit To The Symphony

Our track record with field trips last year was not so good. We had a few great trips, but overall, Murphy's Law reigned over the majority of our outings. When our school initially booked a trip to see the Symphony Orchestra Augusta, I was hopeful. As the date grew near, I became very apprehensive. We'd had a few problems on our first trip and the thought of 20 little 4 year olds sitting attentively for an extended period listening to symphony music began to make me uneasy. We decided to try it and I am so glad we went.

Maestro Shizuo Z Kuwahara, or "Maestro Z" as he is called, did a FABULOUS job getting the kids attention and bringing music education down to their level in a fun and very energetic way.  The kids were introduced to a variety of instruments and music terminology. Before I knew it, my friends were patting their legs, keeping time with the music. "Maestro Z" had such charisma, and engaged the kids from the first moment. He even tried to tell a few jokes that I'm sure some of the elementary students got, but went right over our friends' head, but they laughed anyway. After the concert, we had a little picnic before heading back to school for dismissal.

Later, the friends enjoyed talking about the instruments and how "Maestro Z" used his "magic wand" (baton) to lead the instruments to all work together. I know that this may have been the only exposure that some may ever have to the symphony, so I'm really glad we had this opportunity. And I promise (or promise to try) to keep an open mind about exposing my kids to a wide variety of experiences.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flannel Board Fun For All

I've been a part of several discussions lately regarding the use of flannel boards in the classroom. One of the recurring themes is that teachers don't seem to use them very often.  There seems to be a wide variety of reasons for this ranging from the inconvenience of the board itself to lack of variety of pieces available.

It's a shame, because they are such a great tool in the classroom. They promote literacy and math skills and are an excellent way to promote retelling of stories by the children.  I have a few that I use for different purposes. One on an easel is used for our large group teaching. During large group time, I use the pieces and during subsequent re-tellings, allow the children to help place the pieces at appropriate moments in the story. Even the most hesitant to participate will usually agree to help with flannel board stories.  Another feltboard is available for the children to use independently. I love to sit back and listen as the children manipulate the pieces and tell the story or make up one of their own!

Felt or flannel boards  can be purchased in a variety of sizes or you can make your own. This is the back of my portable whiteboard easel that is just covered in felt. This is the one I usually use when I teach.

 I also have one of the standard black felt boards that run about $40 to $70 at the educational supply stores/sites. (There are pictures of it further down with the dinosaur felt story.) I keep this one in my literacy center with several story sets for the children to play with independently.

My friend made this one for an ECE class she was taking. I'm thrilled that she's donated it to my classroom. It's simply felt glued to cardboard with a ribbon border. I love that is is so bright and cheerful!

Felt boards don't have to be big, or permanent. I have a couple of pieces of felt that can be rolled out and played with on a table.  Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool notes:
"I have little trays that I glued felt in to make felt trays. I make extra sets of all my flannel boards and lay them out with the trays at one of the centers for the children to play with."
 I have also seen miniature felt stories in pizza boxes lined with felt. These are really cute and the perfect size for little hands to manipulate. I really do hope to make some soon.

Flannel board pieces can be purchased or made a variety of ways. Most teachers have a few pre-made sets. Glitterful Felt Stories has some nice ones that aren't too pricey and correspond with many of the stories and fingerplays that we teachers already know. 

Teacher supply companies like Lakeshore Learning sell pre-made felt stories.  This is a dinosaur set I inherited when my aunt retired.

Teacher Tom wrote about his own homemade flannelboard and this little flannel story, Five Balloons Way Up High,  that he uses in his class to work on numbers and counting. I think this will be an easy one to make and definitely on my "to do" list!

It's fun to get creative and find new ways to make a set of pieces. The key is to select a few of the story elements to help illustrate. Often, too many pieces make it hard to keep track of during the story.
This bunny story with 5 carrots is one of the simplest I've made. I just cut a few little pieces of felt out and glued them together.

The pieces I made for the story "How Mr. Fox Got His Red Coat" were a little more involved.

 One of my favorite homemade stories is a flannelboard story about hibernation. For this one, each color is a separate piece so I can add elements throughout the story.

Felt stories don't have to be made from felt. There are lots of great sites that you can download and print story pieces from. I usually laminate and add felt or velcro to the back. I have even found that applying a couple of coats of Rubber Cement (be sure to allow to to dry well) on the back of laminate will provide just enough "sticky" to work well on a felt board.

A few dots of Velcro work well
or simply glue some felt on the back.

 Patterns or printables for felt stories can be found everywhere on the internet. Jean Warren's Preschool Express has lots of patterns and songs/stories available for free. Webbing Into Literacy has some great stories and rhymes included in their lessons that are easily converted into felt stories~ two favorites in my classroom are "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Some of the teacher resource books often include clipart that can be used. Here's a pre-colored version of the 3 Little Pigs I got from a Mailbox magazine.

 This story for the Napping House was made from a blackline master worksheet from a teacher book that featured literature tie in activities. Many of us are no longer using worksheets or coloring sheets in our classrooms. This is a great way to use some of those things in a new way!

Sometimes, I use coloring pages to find images that will fit my stories. These are coloring pages I printed out to make a Thanksgiving story that we wrote as a class one year that is fashioned after "Brown Bear, Brown Bear".

Even mismatched pieces can be fine. I'm sure my students don't even realize that this set for the apple cutting story, "Little Bear's Star" are a bunch of pictures I gathered together when I lost most of the pieces to the first set and needed to put something together on the fly.

The 5 Little Pumpkins pieces are simple die cuts from back in the day when I had regular access to an Ellison machine. Boy, I sure miss that Ellison! *sigh*.

This was a stick puppet page that I made into a Christopher Columbus story.

Last year, my mom went to the Pacific Northwest and picked up these postcards for me. I do a lot of storytelling about the Native Alaskans when I teach my polar unit. These will be a great addition to our flannel board!

One my most innovative sets was made from a set of window clings. I already had a story about a small little pumpkin who is worried about not being picked from the pumpkin patch for Halloween. I later saw this set of window clings in the dollar store. Each one of the characters in the story matched the window clings perfectly!

I glued some felt on the back and voila!~an instant flannel board set! I can definitely say that over the years, this is a big favorite out of all the sets we use.

One last note: I use the terms "felt board" and "flannel board" interchangeably. I have always called it a "flannelboard", but have heard others use the term "felt board". I honestly don't know if there is any actual distinction.
If you use flannel boards (or felt boards :) in your classroom, I'd love to hear about your favorite flannel board story or props!

Thanks for stopping by!

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