Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Books to Love: Commotion in the Ocean

A book like "Commotion in the Ocean" by Giles Andreae, can be used to teach so many things, besides being so FUN to read! The illustrations, by David Wojtowycz, catch your eye with their bright colors and cartoony features, which sets the stage for the silliness to begin :)

Each short poem about different sea creatures introduces new names and other related vocabulary, broadening the scope of what your child may know about each of these underwater animals.

The rhyme and rhythm incorporated in each poem will draw your child in - play the waiting game at the end of each section, drawing out the last sentence to see if your child will complete it with the final rhyming word :) Rhyming is an early reading indicator, and is best taught through organic word play within a text :)

Your child may want to recall and list the sea creatures, practicing sequencing and ordering. Or, maybe they would prefer to retell facts about each, displaying some retention or comprehension of the content. You could even simply play with beginning (or ending) sounds, stretching out the name of the animals.

Kiddos always love to hear sound noises and you can show them how they are shown as onomatopoeia, within the illustrations ... snippety snap and click and pitter patter. Try to re-create them using hands or toys or sticks - so much fun!

As an extension, the illustrations in this book provide great, simple shapes for tracing on paper and making stick puppets of each creature. Your child will get practice with tracing, cutting, and other fine motor practice while creating something fun - and useful! Attach craft sticks to make puppets or make sets for practicing visual discrimination and matching games, all centered around the sea creatures in the book!

So many things you can do!

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fairy Tales: The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Children love to get really involved in stories ... helping to tell stories in any way, acting them out, drawing pictures of characters or scenes! This particular tale - The Three Billy Gots Gruff - is so much fun to really delve into, as the children always come up with different ways to extend it :) Extending a story through discussion, dramatic play, or retelling helps with comprehension - and, it's fun!

Before you read, see what materials you might have that correspond to the story characters or setting. Maybe there are some animal figures laying around or some art materials that could be handy. Blocks are great for scenery - like building bridges for trolls to live under :) Don't organize these, but have them available to be "found" for retelling - when the children feel ownership of a project, they get even more excited!

When you are ready to read, find a repeating line (or two!) that the children can "help"with and practice it before starting to read - they will love having a job! In Three Billy Goats, the kiddos love to play the part of the goats and/or the troll :) Plan on reading it through once, so the storyline is known, and then again, maybe in a dramatic retelling, with children taking parts. Taking a story and pulling it apart to retell it is a great way to make it memorable!

My kiddos always love to use toy figures to act out the story - for days afterward! They have "discovered" figures to use (sometimes a horse figure becomes a goat!), made block bridges, searched for blue paper to make into "water," etc. The hunt for a troll figure is always interesting, as they pore over different versions of the story to see that the troll always looks different, depending on the illustrator! Sometimes a troll drawing contest emerges!

Allowing time for all this to unfold is critical here - for their imaginations to really take hold and spur these different extensions of the literature! Stepping back and just observing is key also, as the children will most likely keep the ball rolling with little support. The last time I did The Three Billy Goats Gruff, we dedicated a table for building on top of, like a stage set, and left it up for a few days. It was a very popular spot!

Paper renditions of the troll and goats can be fun and silly. Looking at a model, then cutting and gluing to try to match it, is a great way to stretch skills like sizing, counting, cutting, etc. Our trolls and goats were all originals :)

Above all, have fun with it!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Photo Magnets: Graphs and Surveys

Have some fun with photos! You can do this in a classroom, or use with family members at home!

Take a great photo of each child's (or family member's) face and attach it to a magnet. I find that the business card adhesive magnets are a great size for this, as well as for many other jobs :)

You can laminate the photos for longer life, or copy them onto sturdy paper stock.

Then, have your kiddos generate some questions that they would like to take a poll on ...

Do you like apples? Yes or No questions work great for simple surveys


Decide on some categories for graphing. What color apples do you like? Red/Green/Pink/Yellow

They will LOVE coming up with categories and questions ... the possibilities are endless!

What's your favorite ice cream? Sport? Book? Use your imaginations!

I like to use "Getting to Know You" questions for the beginning of the school year:

How many people are in your family?
Do you have any pets?
How many kids in your family? Brothers? Sisters?

This gets our new friends talking and sharing, and we get to learn more about them. We use the photo magnets to build graphs, starting at the bottom or left side of a magnet easel or board, and building up or over. As each child answers the question, they come up and place their magnet in the appropriate place on the graph. We can count, and label each "tower" (or line) with numbers when complete.

These magnets can teach sorting, ordering, counting ... you can even work patterns in - boy/girl, ages, etc.! As each child takes their turn, there is discussion and interest, and children making connections with each other, bringing cohesiveness to the group. The magnets are reusable and great for so many other activities, too - dividing into groups, taking turns, etc.

Have fun with them!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Intentional Exploration: Step Away!

As children move from parallel play to mingling with others, so many changes take place. Child-directed play is so cool to watch, as the children work out roles, compromises, and plans ... and the language development, social skills, and organizational skills begin to show.

Step back and allow the children to develop ideas, formulate questions, and look for answers. It is hard for adults to let go, but so necessary :) You might help launch a project by supplying materials or by "recording" a plan that will help to organize a small group - but it's important to help and then step back out of the action, to watch and support only when needed.

Let the play be child-driven or child-directed, instead of just child-centered :) The adult role should be less of a teacher and more of a facilitator. In everyday play, this may look like observing a play situation and stepping in to encourage compromise or to help players find the right words to ask for what they need or want. Water play took on a new direction here when students wanted to make the balls move by blowing through straws.

In a larger play scenario, as in a whole class study or investigation on a broad theme, a question may come up that spurs investigation on the part of the children, and they may need guidance and organizational help. As they generate questions, an adult may take on the role of recorder, writing down questions and terms that need explaining, in order to build a web or list of "what we want to know."

The best, most interesting way for children to learn, is to dig in and really find answers for themselves. Touching, creating, experimenting ... little scientists can direct their own learning, with support. By working in the background to make sure that materials are available and time is set aside, teachers or parents can aid in setting the stage for great learning!

In the block play area pictured here, some children are making letters from blocks, some are fitting them together like a puzzle, and some are trying to create a balanced wall. Lots of different ideas being tested and played out.

There is nothing like watching one of those "lightbulb moments" occur, when a child gets something and is so excited to share about it!

As always, have fun!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Loose Parts: Junk Drawer Bounty!

There are so many cool things that you can do with Loose Parts - all the little things that end up in your junk drawer or around the house. With only a discerning eye and some old odds and ends, you can put together a basket or box of small things to tempt your child's imagination! Playing with collections can enhance math and science skills, stimulate language development, encourage creativity, and give small motor skills a workout. And, it's fun!

First, check your junk drawers for old keys, buttons, and other little pieces that might make interesting additions to your collections box. Coins can also be cool for sorting, patterning, and making designs with. Nuts, bolts, screws, etc. might make the list - anything small hands can tinker with, while staying safe. We also found some old monopoly houses, dice, bottle caps, and ping pong balls, which were all of immediate interest to our small friends.

Next, set them out and watch the magic happen! All of these small objects can be examined,  sorted by many different attributes - size, color, shapes, etc. Piles, patterns, lines and arrays may happen. Counting and comparing will be a natural next step. Encourage one to one correspondence counting by touch-counting objects yourself. Some of our friends even made creative pictures with different small pieces, shaping flowers, people, houses ... watch out, imaginations may be sparked! Side by side play on the part of the adult is a great way to spur exploration, without direct instruction or direction.

When our friends discovered our classroom collections, buttons and keys were examined and sorted - conversations about where they came from and what they would do with them came next. Sorting mats were pulled out and magnifying glasses employed. Every child discovered their inner scientist :) Patterns were made, and attributes discussed, using comparative language! The balls were bounced and rolled and then raced on flat surfaces - and then  other small pieces were used to make an obstacle course - lots of basic physics tests followed. Different objects were even put together to make non-permanent art - very cool pictures and collages!

See what's in your junk drawer - and get started!

Have fun!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Host Your Own Kiddo Olympics!

With the Winter Olympics coming up, there are so many fun ideas to play with that are Olympics-related and that will inspire excitement in your children!! Check out the live feed from www.nbcolympics.com or get lots of info at www.olympic.orgGoogle "Olympics" for more sites ...

Even though your kiddos aren't in the real Olympics (yet!), you can still do some training and competition! It is so important for children to have lots of exercise and physical movement - get out there and make it happen! It's easy to put together a simple program of activities using items you may already have around the house or classroom. If you do a few games or exercises each day, you can stretch it out over a few days or a week - culminating in a Closing Ceremony of your choice!

Generate some interest in a "Kids Olympics" by asking your children what they already know about winter sports ... skiing, skating, hockey, snowboarding, etc. Build the conversation by sharing your own experiences with athletics or your memories of Olympic athletes (or other sports figures!). There are lots of clips available on Google, YouTube, etc. to help explain the concept of the Games to children - just be careful to preview all clips before sharing - titles do not always reflect content. Talk to your children about competing and taking pride in their accomplishments - stress the value of trying and training, and the concepts of winning and participating.

A trip to the great outdoors when there is snow on the ground or to the ice rink is a great option for those who are able. Any time you can fit in a little large motor activity, go for it! If you are looking to do a competition indoors or in a more controlled way, you can come up with your own games. Try putting together "Our Own Olympics" with fun and games for all! 

Here are some game suggestions that you can do at home or school with little preparation: 
(A punch card or sticker card is an easy way to keep it organized!)

Sock Skating: shoes off on a smooth surface and you can practice some twirls, figure eights or, in a big enough space, some speed skating! Great for the large motor stretching!

Balance Board: using a piece of 2x4 or some long wooden blocks, practice walking on the thin raised (just the depth of the blocks) platform to work on balance!

Olympic Ring Toss: use bean bags and some hula hoops or a piece of rope made into a circle to do some tossing for depth perception and eye-hand coordination.

Precision Racing: Plastic egg on a big spoon - find a friend and race up and down the room or outside - great exercise for coordination, balance and it's fun!

Tumbling - on a soft surface with supervision, rolling races (roll like a rolling pin!) are action-packed. (Or down a snow-covered hill!)

Keep going ...  inventing games is half the fun! Perhaps your athletes have some ideas, too!

For a related art project, trace children's hands on flame-colored tissue paper - red, orange, yellow - one set of each if you can! Wrap a paper roll with black paper or have them paint them black and then attach the hands to the top - now you have an Olympic torch!

Make some hand-made medals together, going over the five colors of the rings - every country participating, at the time the logo was developed, had at least one of these colors in its flag! The five rings represent the five continents (North and South America were considered together at the time, Europe, Africa, Asia and "Oceania") of the world - and the fact that they are all joined together for "unity" - kids understand that concept!

Crafts can be simple:

For olympic rings, you'll need paper, paint (representing each of the five colors) and small paper cups! Hold the cups upside down, dip in paint and print circles galore!

I like to finish off with individual photos of my Olympic athletes, standing in front of the flag, wearing their hard-earned medals - and huge smiles! They make a great keepsake - and, who knows, maybe it will be part of their own Olympic profile someday! :)

As always - have FUN with it!

(note: Parts of this post are taken or adapted from my previous posts on the Olympics.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mindful "Noticing" in Springtime!

 As Spring emerges, "noticing" has become our favorite word. We notice buds on bushes, water streams after the rain, pods lying on the sidewalk. Many "gifts" have been brought in - dandelions, shiny rocks, flower petals ... all the signs of spring!

As good as the children are at noticing, sometimes we adults are so busy organizing and planning, and just doing, that we miss the opportunities that are presenting themselves ... to stop and look through the eyes of the child next to us, and see where we can go with the subjects they are showing interest in.

Welcome and celebrate the interests of each child - see where their interests lie by the things they consider treasures and want to share with you or their friends. Find a way to incorporate telling about treasure in your day - a show and share type of activity, expanding vocabulary, and promoting conversation and questioning. Try taking turns filling a special bag or box and sharing what's inside! Each day could be a different surprise!

Explorations in parts of a flower or plant, how trees come back to bud, life cycles of plants and animals ... all of these "growth" topics are great for springtime, with examples all around us. Asking open-ended questions, such as "What would you like to do with it?" or "How can we find out?" will get your child more involved in the exploration.

Set up a "sticky wall" to give your children a place to display their treasures. A square of contact paper, hung sticky side out and tacked onto a window or other surface, can become a favorite display and organizing tool for your kiddos. With the light coming in, treasures are highlighted and can become a focus for future explorations. A dedicated exploration center, with small bins and boxes, is another way to organize special things that should be handled and examined. My friends are excited about magnifying glasses and plastic pincers - the tools of a "real" scientist!

Add art materials to the mix! Leave paper for sketching and clay for sculpting near the objects and see what your little ones decide to do - they may make a sculpture with sticks and flowers incorporated, or mold a tower with clay and rocks.

Combining natural materials with traditional art materials gives them a whole new experience! Sketching a rock with all its veins and colors helps children really see all the variety in its appearance, instead of just seeing a brown oval shape. It takes them deeper in "noticing."

 During the day, as you go about activities, make sure that you are present in the moment to witness these experiences, as often as you can. This attention to the little things is the mindfulness we hear so much about lately - young children are so good at this naturally, if we give them the opportunity :)

Have fun!