Sunday, April 14, 2013

More Spring!

I purchased these butterfly life cycle models at Michaels craft store  for around 6 dollars.. we've used them so far for storytelling in whole group, story retelling, sequencing, and observing in the science center!  The brand is Safari Ltd. and Michaels also carries frog and plant life cycle models!  I am anxious for our butterfly house and caterpillars to arrive!!  They will be here within the week!  

We watched this Very Hungry Caterpillar claymation clip in class...It is made by kids and super cute.. my students were noting what everything was made's inspiring to them because they can recreate the story through art using things we have in the classroom...they actually clapped when it was over and wanted to watch it again! 

A look at our spring calendar! Only a few weeks to go till Summer break! The Owl themed month headers are from:

Spring Vocab.

These "Very Hungry Caterpillar" word cards, in the pocket chart, are FREE! on tpt:
The garden and insect vocab. is from a downloadable printable pack from tpt : 

The pack is $6..but includes so many themes..including farm, family, zoo, and ocean!

This is a photo of part of our writing center... since we are studying creepy crawlies, I've added some spider rings on the markers! and included some fun spring themed pencils..

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Blocks, Pretend, and Reading Centers!

We are starting our gardening unit this week! In our blocks center we have gardening tools, gloves, watering cans, pots, and flowers, insect/plant books, and ..of course... blocks/block people.  
These pretend play items and books  might inspire students to plan and design their own gardens...students might use blocks as fences, flower boxes, or outline their gardens...
The pretend center is now a garden market!  It contains garden vegetables and a variety of flowers...
Vocab, chalk, mini chalkboard plant markers (Michaels dollar bins) encourage writing.. 

Students may write their own labels or prices on mini chalkboards (Michaels craft store). The plant stand is actually a magazine rack from my living room!  

I used actual pictures from my honeymoon when we visited a farmer's market in Quebec!
The reading center contains large spiders (Halloween sale at a party store),  a large caterpillar/butterfly puppet, ladybug puppets, artificial flowers, garden felt board for creating stories and retelling familiar stories. I included informational and fiction books about bugs/insects, spring, and gardens. 

Spring Math and Science Centers

Science Center - Hungry Caterpillar/Garden Vegetables vocab. cards and butterfly sequence cards
Science Center - bug and garden books, color sensory bottles, spring/bug puzzles, bean seed and flower exploration bowl, spring match game, flower petal sorting game, rain stick, ruler, stones and pebbles
I found these wood/styrofoam grass boxes at hobby lobby..they were part of a display and the manager gave three of them to me for free!  Students can poke flowers into the foam (fine motor) and make their own arrangements (creative expression).  I also have one of these grass foam boxes in my sensory garden tub.  I made some see identification mini posters with seed packets and actual seeds (clear tape over the seeds). They go with a seed sort game (not pictured).  
These yellow plastic bottles are awesome! The top is a magnifying glass and they students can take them out to the playground to collect items from nature to observe in the center later. They came in my Lakeshore science kit.. I think it came with about 10 of the bottles. 
Flower petal counting.. the petals are from the craft/bead area in Hobby cube tray..magnifying glass..and I also put tweezers with it for fine motor.
Rain stick for April showers!
Math Center - "5 Little Honeybees" book/other books about counting bugs or vegetables,  measurement game with mini cubes, counting mats, Fly to the Nest board game, manipulatives for measuring (that is our math topic for this week). 
The counting mats, flowers, and ladybugs came from Lakeshore..the Hungry Caterpillar buckets came from the dollar aisle at Target : ) 
Hungry Caterpillar story sequencing and counting card..these little stick on hooks are removable  and do not leave a mark on the the cards can slip out of the hooks so students can arrange them in order! 
In puzzles center we have a large Hungry Caterpillar floor puzzle, Hungry Caterpillar  that has a matching card game inside (bought on clearance at Books-a-Million!), and insect/vegetable/spring wooden puzzles. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Music and Math!

There are so many opportunities for music and movement throughout the day!  We sing and dance to start our morning meeting, to practice and remember new skills in literacy and  math whole groups, to shake our wiggles out, to transition from one activity to the next, and to leave our classroom at the end of the day wearing a smile! In these photos, students are bouncing and balancing beanbags to the song "Bean Bag Boogie" from a CD by Greg  Steve...AND students are learning/demonstrating  positional words! 

I now have all of the Dr. Jean CDs ...this week we sang "Cool Bear Hunt" for positional words.. We include her songs during calendar, morning meeting, transitions, topics of study, etc! She has created SO many songs perfect for engaging young children!  If you do not have the CDs you can download her songs (fee) ..she does have some song and printable freebies on her website:
I have many Jack Hartmann CDs.. we use the songs to warm up before morning meeting and on inside recess days..and for silly songs before we go home like "The Silly Pirate Dance." He has made numerous counting, alphabet, rhyming, making words songs that are upbeat and keep the kids attention span.
Here is a link to all of his cds  Click on the title on the CD to view the list of songs... there are three pages of cds!
The Learning Station makes some fabulous videos (perfect for a  SMARTBOARD  shake break!)...and CDs .. some of our favorite music and movement songs are "Boom Chicka Boom" and "Wishy Washy Washer Woman!"
These are songs we usually sing at dismissal.
 Click on the link to their website 
They even have a  ZUMBA video for inside day recess!

I recently ordered the Greg & Steve cds.. We've been using the "Kids in Action" and  "Shake, Rattle, Rock" cds.
Here's a link to their online store and sample songs

Another idea for positional words.. A teacher across the hall loaned me her new Lakeshore musical instrument set (which comes with more than 20 instruments by the way!)  The students practiced and demonstrated positional words as  I called out the directions.. above, below, beside..etc..

Also.. sometimes when my class is sitting in the hall ,and we have to be very quiet while waiting for specials, we play a quiet game... In this game, I select one student to be the leader.. he/she makes hand movements, ex. rolling arms, tapping head ..kinda like a silent simon says... and the rest of the class follows.. after a few movements the student picks another friend to be the leader.. you could easily add in whispering positional words along with the hand movements.. I learned this game from a mentor of mine during an internship and I have been using it ever since!  It gets some of  the wiggles out.. gets their focus off of bothering or touching each other while waiting on bathroom breaks in the hall... helps them to stay quiet.. 

Click on the link to view another post about positional words:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Classroom Jobs

I started this year with the intention of setting up classroom jobs.  I was going to have the usual door holder, line leader, trash helper...etc.  I believe when students have classroom jobs they experience responsibility, ownership, and respect for the classroom and school. It helps to establish the idea of a classroom as a community and we all have our part.  Well..weeks went by and I still hadn't made that outstanding classroom jobs chart that would rotate with velcro and all that..  but then  I realized that our class had already began to establish classroom roles/ kinda happened naturally and some of the roles were not the was fabulous because the children were feeling important when they got to do their job, we still were able to discuss how our contributions made up our classroom community, they remembered their jobs (and I didn't have to keep track or remember 20 jobs!)  Students would volunteer to do something for me and it immediately was turned into their classroom job!  Take something they are good at or interested in and turn it into a job!

 The photo above is of our new bathroom helper. He now has two jobs! He saw me emptying the mini wastebasket under our sink into our large trashcan...and asked excitedly if he could do it so we turned it into his job!  What is great about these tasks is that nine times out of ten students don't need to be asked to do it..they do it naturally...they remember and it is something that they think is fun to do.

So..this same boy..just the other day.. was having a mopey kind of day, didn't want to go to centers, didn't really know what he wanted to do.. He eyed me pulling our name sticks out the jar and I figured..why not? He picked up within minutes.. many of the names he could figure out!  Some of the names he asked me...we talked about the beginning letters,  he knew he had to call a new boy or girl when the first boy or girl was done using the bathroom...he started sorting the girl sticks and boy sticks in piles.. he sorted the sticks into piles of done and not done..he counted the sticks...not kidding!  talk a surprise learning opportunity!  Instead of me calling their name five times when they were engaged in their center...he was happy to go over to them and say "your turn for the bathroom!"   ..I had offered him books, cars, art supplies.. he wasn't interested in anything...yet plain old popsicle sticks was thrilling! and he was practicing skills he would have been doing in his center..

Here are some of the jobs my students and I have come up with:

Shoe tie-er -   life saver!!

Lunch cards carrier -  It helps that they are in a sparkly plastic index card box.

Board eraser - this student on the front row kept touching the board and erasing parts off my giant easel during lessons..I told him he was great at erasing the now he waits till the end of the lesson and he gets to erase the whole thing!

Sanitizer bringer - for snack time in our room

Coat bringer - I have one student who beams when she brings me my coat from my desk chair when we line up to go outside.'s the littlest things that make them feel important!

Toilet paper checkers - We have bathrooms in our rooms..these kids check for tp on the floor and flush it  : )

Playground checker -  There's a poster on our cafeteria door that has a sun on it for an outside day, or no sun for an inside day depending on the weather

Hallway leader - this girl knows her directions well and is trustworthy! She takes students to the office (our school is HUGE! (pre-k-6th grade!) and will also take materials to next door teachers.

Obstacle remover -  I have a student who moves stools for the water fountains, left by other classes, out of the way so our line can get down the hallway without stopping.

Center director - I call out the groups of kids for the centers and this students stands up and points them where to go

Snack trash helper - if we are eating something with a wrapper, he goes around and grabs the trash

and last but not least...

bug stomper - we had black beetles when we move into our classroom..they would invade our carpet group times..I'm very squeamish about bugs!  this boy is quick to notice, quick to squash, and quick to throw it away! : )

Artistic Expression

One of my favorite quotes is "Every child is an artist" by Picasso.  I truly believe that, not only as an artist myself, but as an educator.  Do Picasso's paintings mean something to all of us? No. Can we interpret all pieces of art for ourselves? No.  Sometimes we stare at a piece of abstract art and wonder what it is or what it means. Does art mean something to the creator? Yes!  Art in the classroom is not always about the end can sometimes be an exploration of new materials, an interpretation of knowledge, or even a release of emotion.

Visual arts provide a spark for students' imagination and creativity. Art expression allows for students to make choices and build confidence in themselves.  Art in the classroom provides engagement of different learning styles and  initiates higher level thinking skills. I have used artist studies in my classroom to introduce new materials (like watercolors, pastels, etc.) and techniques (stamping, printmaking, using brush strokes, stippling, modeling, sculpture design, etc).

I have used art projects to provide an extension of a lesson or a unit. The photos above and the one right below are of my students' garden watercolor paintings. We were studying gardens and explored our school courtyard garden and pond. Students' created versions of their ideal gardens.  Choices were made about materials..crayons, pastels, watercolors, or a mix of all..thick or thin paint brushes...what to include in their gardens. This experiences opened up conversations about different plants (soil plant/water plants), fish, insects, (and turtles!)...predictions about mixing colors and materials and the results..

I strive to include choices in our art projects and the motivation for creative expression. I try to stay away from the reproduced die cut..add black buttons for eyes..and a yellow triangle nose bit. I do admit to a few crafty things for holidays or something that is too cute to pass up for the students to make...but I try to fit some sort of choices and expression in there as well. 

Here is an artist study on Kandinsky...we were studying shapes and colors at the beginning of the year. It was our first watercolor project.

This photo was taken during our study on vegetable gardens.. students explored the insides of the vegetables..chose what they wanted to use in their "garden" ..and learned a stamping technique.

This pic is from our ocean unit. We were also learning about likenesses and differences between friends. Students drew their own fish shapes and were introduced to pastels..and the techniques of smearing and mixing pastels. We also read the book "Rainbow Fish 
This pic was during our ocean unit.. Students chose what shells to use and made their own patterns/designs with sand. We also studied the art work of artist Eric Carle.  We read "Mr. Seahorse" and students did sea creature watercolor paintings.
The photos above and below were taken during our about me and feelings unit. I love how different they all are!

Princess and the Pea story and art/math project.  
Nursery rhyme art project.
Barn art from our farm unit. These were kept as a portfolio piece.