Saturday, June 25, 2011

Eric Carle's Birthday Bash!

All kinds of fun from my friends at "An Amazing Child" - they have set up a link to gather ALL these great ideas - check them out!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Calendar Play: What Day Is It?

Learning with the calendar is a great way to focus your children's attention at the start of a lesson or as part of your daily routine. Many of the topics covered in the early years are naturally related to times of the year, seasons and holidays, so it makes sense to put them in context. There are so many things that the calendar can help you get started on ... and, your kids will take it from there! Mine have often been found "playing school" with the calendar as the center of activity.

Along with a Daily Schedule, it gives them a framework for expectations (two more days until our trip, three school days until the weekend, X's birthday is coming up, etc.) and allows them to begin ordering things, beginning on the road to organizational techniques. Giving them jobs that relate to the calendar - numbering the days, choosing a pattern, using a pointer to read the numbers and days of the week - all promote good learning and literacy practices!

Daily, go over:
Days of the Week - follow left to right progression, just like reading!
Months of the Year - beginning sounds get a work-out here!
Seasons - work in proper dressing, weather!
Related Holidays - share knowledge about each others' holidays!
Counting Up - practice any time you can! At the end of each week, practice moving down to the next line, just like reading :)

Play "How many more until... (fill in the blank!)" or "What day starts with /m/?" to get in some math or beginning sounds work, which will be seamless and organic to the activity. Use this time to introduce different forms of Patterns (AB, ABC, ABB etc.) - and have the children predict and participate in "what comes next?"

For more math practice, work in "Counting Down" to just about anything - the weekend, a special activity, a holiday - and "Counting by twos, fives and tens" as they are able. (I use different colors to denote the breaks when we are headed this way!)

As you work with your calendar, you will find many more uses and ways to build on the experience - and your kids will, too!

Have fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Under the Sea Handprints

Love, love, LOVE this end-of-the-year project! This is a close-up of a t-shirt that has a lot of person-ality in its design! My friend, Mary Ann, and her wonderful helpers, Tammy and Jean, were looking for a fun end-of-year keepsake, so this is what they did in their preschool class. Each little person in the class made a special handprint with paint on each little shirt. Then, with a little imagination and some fabric paint, they were all  transformed (Tammy's the artist-in-residence!) into a variety of sea creatures - one shirt for each child :).  I see a snail, a stingray, a jellyfish ... as well as some beautiful, colorful fish and seaweed!

This concept would transfer well to a cloth bag for a sweet gift, or even to paper for a fun craft project. Use it as part of an Under the Sea unit or for a party craft - have fun with it! Ask your children to interpret what they see in different handprints or shapes and add some touches to make them unforgettable!

There are so many great books to use for an Under the Sea unit! One of my favorite authors - Marcus Pfister - has a series of "Rainbow Fish" books that are fabulous for their lessons - themes of friendship, sharing, inclusion - and for their beautiful artwork! These are anytime books, but especially fun to read as it get closer to summer - have fun!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pretend Play: Dinosaur Lab

I love a great Pretend Play Center - change your kitchen/housekeeping area up every so often to keep the fun fresh and to stimulate more verbal interaction between the children! I've seen/done Kitchen, Hospital, Doctor's Office, Vet's Office, Pizza Parlor, Bakery ... but here's one I just saw a few weeks ago:

Pretend Center: Archaeologist/Paleontologist's Lab

I stopped by my friends' classroom - Mimi and Merrie - and they had this fabulous center up and running - it was a great favorite with the kiddies!
Here's what I observed: A table covered in craft paper with textured stencils taped down to do dino-rubbings; Bones (dog chews) and paintbrushes in sand for finding and preparing for "study"; Fossils made from plaster-of-paris (could be play-doh or other modeling clay) for examining, and more modeling clay and small dinosaurs for creating "fossils".

There were many dinosaurs on display and props to get in the mood: "Lab Coats" made from old adult-sized white shirts, with labels; Magnifying glasses and plastic lab/safety glasses; Charts and dioramas identifying all different dinosaurs, with pictures and labels.
Books in the library were also theme-driven! Include some great dino-books in yours - there is an Usborne Book of Dinosuars and a few younger non-fiction books by the Berenstains "The Day of the Dinosaur" and "The Biggest Dinosaurs" in my collection - and of course, some wonderful fiction books, like Jane Yolen's "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?"

In this dino-center, there was much exploration going on - lots of questions asked and answered, lots of engaging pretend play! And, as always, along with the play ... tactile exercise, verbal exchanges, matching, sorting ... all sorts of learning was taking place! Thanks for the inspiration, teachers!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning With Leo Lionni

There are MANY great books by author Leo Lionni which continue to be a valued part of many teachers' libraries, even though they are not new books - the books below were first published between 1960-1975! Wonderful, beautiful picture books (some Caldecott winners!), they also deliver powerful messages - some may be favorites you remember from your own childhood!

 If you're looking for books that have lessons about friendship, bullying, sharing, etc. - this author is one to look for! Read each on their own or as part of an author study group! Here is a short sampling of some of his books:

'"Swimmy": Swimmy gets a group of fish to swim as one to scare off the big fish that has been scaring them.

"Fish is Fish": A fish wishes he could go on land like his friend and see all the wonders of the world, but, when he tries, he sees that his own world was actually the most beautiful to him.

"Frederick": Frederick shows his friends the value of words, thoughts and poetry when they need some inspiration.

"A Color of His Own":
A chameleon finds out that having a friend to share with is better than having his own color.

"Inch by Inch": The inchworm outsmarts his enemies by talking and using his ability, measuring, to get away from threats.

With each book, take time to explore the pictures, which are full of color and texture - Eric Carle counts Leo Lionni as one of his great influences!

Read and re-read - explore the messages that are presented, as Leo Lionni gives each animal character human situations or dilemmas to work through - talk about these "problems" and "solutions" with your children - use them as jumping off points for discussions about events in their own lives. Make your reading time a time for sharing, also!

When you are ready to do some crafts to extend these stories, check these out:

Make a large fish out of posterboard or craft paper. Have children use a stencil or sponge (or any way you want!) to make many fish within the big fish - or have a whole class each stamp a fish and supply one dark-colored one for an eye! All will work together to make one!

"Fish is Fish"
Supply fish cut-outs to children and have them glue on larger paper and design their own fish-kids! Add arms, legs, clothing, hats - use your imagination!!

Write a poem together on large paper - dream up a list of descriptive words and phrases and try to re-create a favorite place or feeling!

"A Color Of His Own"
Have your children draw an outdoor scene. Make a cut-out of the chameleon from the story from posterboard and have the children trace him into their picture when they are finished. He will be a perfect "hidden" chameleon! Add a dictated or written sentence about the child's chameleon! If you're doing with a whole class, you just might have a new favorite class book :)

"Inch by Inch"
Make a six-inch worm to use as a unit of measure. We used a large-sized craft stick (just about 6-inches!), pompoms and googly eyes - see what you have on hand! Then measure away!! (This paper is two-worms long! This table is six-worms wide!)

Have fun!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Ocean Animals!

Getting in the swim of an ocean animals unit? Don't forget to include non-fiction books in your reading stack! There are many books with terrific pictures available at your library or bookstore. Don't let the volume of text get in the way of using books for reference - you may just share a picture or two to add some context to a story you are reading!

I have a Scholastic book that even the younger children love to pore over - "Seashore" by Sue Unstead. They are inspired to handle the book by the real sand in a pocket on the cover, but a lot of the vocabulary is unfamiliar ... so we read some sections, a little bit at a time and take picture walks through the rest. As you revisit a book like this, you may read more and more, as your child's interest and attention grows!

When it's time for a craft, make a jellyfish! Here's a simple one for younger children, similar to the crab in a previous post. Here's what you need:

One small paper plate
tissue paper
googly eyes

Fold paper plate in half and color to match the tissue paper - cut mini-streamers for tentacles and add eyes. Add something to hang it, like a length of yarn or a chenille stick - and you're done!

Another jellyfish that the children love to make incorporates a squishy center for tactile fun! I used hair gel, but warned about possible leaks, letting the "goo" out! If you have an idea for a filling, let me know! You'll need:

Purple construction paper
Sandwich-size ziploc bag
A squirt of hair gel (or another gelatinous substance)
Tissue paper (light purple would be great!)

Fold a piece of construction paper in half and trace or have children cut a half-circle shape through both. Cut a second, smaller half-circle, as shown in the photo. Take your sandwich bag and add a squirt of hair gel (I found some purple, inexpensive gel) and glitter. Seal the bag. Center this in the smaller half-circle and attach, using staples and/or glue to try and contain the gel in that "window." Add tissue paper tentacles and secure between layers of construction paper.

Let your children feel the squishiness and talk about the flourescence that the glitter represents. There are jellyfish that are luminescent - look it up in one of your non-fiction books! Have fun!