Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All In A Day's Play In Pre-K

I am frequently asked by parents "What do y'all do all day?". Yes, we play. It's play, but it is so much more! My friend and blogger buddy, Alec from Child's Play Music, posted a wonderful article just this week called "The Future Of Education Is Play". ( I highly encourage you to pop on over and give it a read--you'll be glad you did!) While a large majority of my posts here are about the planned activities that we do, much of our school day is unstructured free time, where students choose for themselves where and what to play. Today, I want to share a glimpse into some of what goes on in our classroom on any given day during these times.

Our morning started by preparing apples for our crockpot applesauce. (More on that and our visit from Johnny Appleseed coming soon!)

While we were preparing apples, some of the friends were working hard on putting together some large floor puzzles.

Center time was a bustle of activity today. Our "Fruit Stand" in our dramatic play was full of activity (I'm saving those pictures for a post later on our apple unit). In our math center, some of the friends made a "tower with a parking lot" with pegs, peg boards and transportation manipulatives.

Building a "cabin".

There was some farming going on in one area....

And some dollhouse play nearby.

How about this little "tv room with a wide screen tv" ?

Science Center was also quite busy today. 

I noticed all the dinosaurs seemed to be carefully placed. When I asked about them, I was told they were all lining up to go see the new baby whale. Anything is possible in the mind of a preschooler!

Some friends took time to enjoy a good book.

Our classroom neighbors found this gigantic caterpillar on the playground today and shared it with us, so we stopped for a few minutes to observe him. He was several inches long and about as thick as a fat cigar. I've never seen a caterpillar this big!

This block structure was built over the course of the morning. 

It started off fairly simple, and became more and more intricate as time went on. 

 Different parts of the structure had different purposes.

 These small blocks are "ice cream for the people". 

 This is a "cave for the people".

These girls are using sanding blocks to make all the blocks "feel soft". 

A bedroom.

A "secret hiding place".

I watched as the friend playing with these table blocks arranged each block with precision. I asked about the arrangement and what he was making and was told, "I don't know yet. I'm just building it first!"

It struck me funny that seemingly random arrangements were actually items carefully arranged, while the small table blocks were so carefully placed without an end purpose. Some of the most important learning going on today can't quite be captured in photographs. There was sharing, cooperation, leadership, turn taking, compromise, critical thinking, problem solving and a host of other social skills going on throughout their play today. They are learning so much more through this play than I could ever begin to teach through direct instruction. So when I'm asked, "What do y'all do all day? Do you do any 'real' work?". My answer? YES, we work. Our work is play. And play IS important! 

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Discovery Bottle Inspiration

If you've seen my latest post on PreK + K Sharing, you may know that I've had a recent spurt of creativity making discovery bottles. I had one or two that I wanted to try, and a couple that were already on the shelf that needed a facelift. The result was a discovery bottle bonanza for my science center. I just kept getting inspired by all the great ideas out there, as well as being inspired by the bottles I was making! Click here to see my original post on discovery bottles on PreK+K Sharing.

I visit our toddler rooms often, to see the little friends and to see what they are up to. (You never know where a great idea may come from!) I've received comments about the reluctance to provide discovery bottles for younger learners because they are often very determined to open them. I saw this bottle while visiting the toddler room and thought I'd share it. This bottle is filled with age appropriate bug manipulatives. There is no "filler" to spill out should the kids decide to explore by opening.

One afternoon,  I got quite a surprise when two of the afterschoolers (3rd and 5th grade)  that share my room in the afternoon called me over to see what they were making. They made a discovery bottle with the plastic water bottle label and some yarn. I think it is a pretty cool bottle, especially since the kids made this completely on their own!

One of my preschoolers went home and and got busy while outside playing that afternoon. He grabbed a plastic soda bottle and set about finding interesting things from nature to fill it. When his parents asked what he was making, he proudly proclaimed, " A century bottle!" His parents couldn't figure out what a "century" bottle was until they returned to school and realized he was making a "sensory" bottle!

A few days later, I came to work early one morning and found a little display of bottles on my desk. Some were bottles I'd made along with a few new ones. I especially love the notes left with the bottles!

"Dear Mrs. Ayn, Please let me know if you want another bottle. If so, I will not be able to give it to you right away, unfortunately. If you are interested, let me know ASAP. 
Your friend, 
P.S. My favorite is the one with the glitter."

"Dear Mrs. Ayn,
I made this bottle for your class. I love the other ones, my favorite is the clear one made of Orbeez.
Tori "

It really warms a teacher's heart to know that she has inspired kids to take a lesson or idea and have them run with it on their own! This was especially meaningful since the older kids have become so inspired that making discovery bottles has become a popular activity in the afterschool room, without any prompting from adults!

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Thanks for stopping by!

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