Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Playground & Recess

Hooray for "playground & recess!" Welcome back to the final part of the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series So far we have taken a look at the math, writing, art, blocks, science centers, dramatic play, and tech centers. This week we will take a look at what learning looks like during recess! 

I have taught at a few different churches, learning centers, and public schools over the years and each has been different. Some had gravel, mulch, or rubber flooring. Some had huge areas some were small. But basically, most all of the buildings had a play yard with a jungle gym, slides, and climbing areas. At the school I last taught at we were fortunate enough to have a new building with a (size appropriate) jungle gym specifically made for younger children. 

We also had gardening areas, a dinosaur dig, outdoor easel painting, music area, outdoor block building, tricycles, scooters, soccer, sidewalk chalk drawing, AND sand tables! 

The garden area...

I once taught at a school that had an indoor koi pond/indoor was an amazing learning opportunity for the students!

Upkeeping a school garden does take a lot of work. If you don't have the means to create a raised garden, I encourage you to keep a couple of potted plants outside. It's always fun for students to observe a little while at recess! 

Students headed out to the recess play yard and were so excited when they found something new growing in the garden!

The dino dig area... So many social skills, friendships, and relationships were built here! Plans, creativity, and conversations were being constructed almost constantly. 

The music area...

Recess & playground time encourage: 

- gross/locomotor skills
- hand/eye coordination
- balance/coordination/stability
- spatial awareness
- friendships and relationships
- social skills

I believe the most important environment/materials to have for a playground are:

- an appropriately sized jungle gym
- something for children to climb on
- large play space for running/playing games

Extra materials might include:

- kick balls, soccer balls, soccer goals
- wiffle ball sets for throwing and catching
- tricycles or scooters
- hula hoops

Some areas you might consider adding: 

- flower, vegetable, or herb gardens
- outdoor painting easels
- outdoor block building area
- sand/water tables
- dinosaur or sand digging area
- balance beams
- running track 
- playhouse 

Also, it would be helpful to have a gross motor room or extra area. We used our gross motor room daily as an additional recess time and on rainy days when we couldn't go outside! 

Materials for suggested for this room would be: 

- wiffle ball sets
- bean bag toss games
- hopscotch rugs
- hula hoops 
- floor scooters
- jump ropes
- basketballs and hoops
- parachute

The teachers role during playground/recess time is to:

- monitor safety and behavior
- model games, activities, and equipment
- observe student to student interactions and learning
- interact with students through conversations and play
- encourage play, creativity, and movement

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE to see more about the playground/recess areas!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: The Technology Center

We are continuing this week with the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! So far we have taken a look at the math, writing, art, blocks, science centers, and dramatic play centers. This week we will learn a little about how to integrate technology into the classroom!

In my previous classrooms I never really had a specified "computer/tech center."  We had a Smartboard area and two ipads. If I found a Smartboard game or activity that had to do with our topic of study, I would open up the Smartboard for students to rotate through and use during center time. We also used the Smartboard for our daily morning calendar, to listen/watch songs and dances, and in conjunction with math/literacy lessons. 

Sometimes the ipads would be placed at an empty table during center time and students could rotate through a specific game. We've used the ipads to take photos on nature or number hunts and to make our own videos. Ipads were also incorporated into the library center!

Students could scan laminated QR codes with the ipad. Then, the ipad would pop up a familiar story and would read it out loud. For more information on how to create/set up QR codes visit Heidi Songs! 

Click on the image below to download QR codes for your listening center by Teaching is a Royal Adventure. My students loved hearing the familiar stories read aloud and watching the pictures! 

By creating a computer/ipad center or incorporating technology, students are learning: 

- how to type and use a mouse
- about the alphabet/numbers through learning activities
- how to navigate through educational games
- how to problem solve and make decisions
- how to share and take turns

Technology also prepares students for the real world and helps them to be more "tech savvy." 

Smartboards, Smartboard tables, Promethean boards, digital cameras, computers, and ipads can be used to encourage tech engagement in the classroom. 

I have had a Promethean board in one of my classrooms and a Smartboard in another room. I prefer the seems easier to use and there are a lot more teacher-created Smartboard activities to download. I've downloaded activities from Teachers Pay Teachers and also SMART Exchange. The SMART Exchange is nice because everything is free and you can search by subject!

I've also had a Smartboard activity table. It is a touch screen with games/activities. Although it is useful as a center activity, it was hard for my students to use by themselves. I also found it to take up a lot of space in the classroom. 

You can create your own games in Microsoft Power Point or on the Smartboard program. I've found many fun and interactive Power Point games from Pink Cat Studio on TPT. She makes such fun activities that my students loved playing! 

With the Smartboard markers I can create a quick chart or graph. Students can practice writing, drawing shapes, circling items. It's amazing how fast they can pick up how to use the digital markers and eraser. 

We've also used the Smartboard to go on "cultural discovery trips" around the world and to research animals or new places! 

The teachers role is to...

- guide and moniter students with how to use/navigate the technology. Teachers can instruct, model, and practice with students how to use the computer, Smartboard, digital tools, etc. 

- incorporate technology into the classroom to reach a variety of learning styles and to prepare students for the real world. 

- to protect students (with online games, anything connecting to the internet) by taking proper security measures like using passcodes/parental controls. 

- to limit the use of technology in the classroom! Many children these days have access to ipads, cell phone, and computers at home. It's important to make sure classroom screen time is monitored and that you are still providing many hands on real experiences. 

Thanks for stopping by and next time we will discuss the playground and outdoor activities! 

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE to learn more ideas for your tech center!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Dramatic Play Center

We are continuing this week with the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! So far we have taken a look at the math, writing, art, blocks, and science centers. This week we will learn about setting up the dramatic play center!

Here are a few photos of years past in the pretend/dramatic play center. I've always set it up to go along with what we are learning, seasons, or themes. I've also had students plan and set up their own dramatic play center such as a clothing store. Click here to see a list of my classroom themes. Sometimes it would change based on the students' interests as well. In the past I have changed the center fully every month. I added little things to it during the month. For example, January was set up as a winter theme with scarves, mittens, hot chocolate cups. We studied The Three Bears story one week so I added in bear stuffed animals, three of everything, and a few bear storybooks. When the drama center is changed over we have sat as a class in/around the center and have practiced with the items. Students learn where things go and how to clean it up. Students are learning life skills and organizational skills! 

Fall theme...Click HERE to see more fall center ideas!

Farmer's market theme... could go along with fall or spring theme...Pots, buckets, and baskets for sorting by size and color...

Baking theme... for November...lots of breads, cookies, pies, baking utensils, and cookbooks

Winter holiday theme...we read and compared several gingerbread stories around the time after Thanksgiving until winter break so the center is set up with gingerbread cookies and baking supplies..and some costumes. Search garage sales..they always have lots of holiday items!

January through February leads into studying winter animals, winter seasonal stories, and fairy tales...This photo shows the center set up in a three bears theme.. Notice how the chocolate chip cookies are different sizes...I asked my mother in law to make them that way for a reason..students can put the sizes in graduated order!  I have always loved to get as much skills into the centers as I can! 

Here is a Dr. Seuss "house"...I put in a mix of silly foods like felt green eggs & ham, variety of colored vegetables and fruits, and cupcakes...also a teapot! There was a bucket of silly hats and a mirror later!

Click HERE to see more Seuss center ideas! 

In this set up students planned what type of store they wanted, created their own wishlist of items, brought in items from home, set it up themselves, and labeled the store! See more of this idea HERE...

Spring is probably my most favorite themes! During the spring we learned about Eric Carle stories, gardening, and vegetables! This center was set up as a spring garden market or spring farmer's market. 

See more spring ideas HERE! 

The library as tons of great informational texts to add to your pretend/dramatic play center!

Students are not only learning social skills (sharing, taking turns, communicating) through dramatic play! The dramatic play center can be enriched with a wide variety of tools, manipulatives, books, toys, add-ons to help students practice literacy skills, math skills, and more! 

During our baking unit students are practicing sequencing recipes, ordering, retelling, and measuring with cups/spoons. They are also practicing cooking and life skills! Incorporate familiar stories like The Little Red Hen as well as cookbooks/nonfiction. 
Incorporate picture/word vocabulary in all of your centers with paper, clipboards, and pencils! Students will draw out their ideas and students who are interested and ready to write, will! Many, many of my students loved to write the vocabulary in the centers! The more picture/word connections they see, the more they will become familiar with those words!

Here is a photo of our hardware store! The kids had so much fun exploring familiar and unfamiliar new tools! So much measuring, counting, and comparing went on in this center! Students also sorted the colored paint chips and created mosaics with the tiles. Home depot donated aprons, carpet, and tile samples for free! See more of our construction study HERE.

I also like to have students explore their creativity in some way in the center. For example, the tile designs in the hardware store. In the garden show students can buy/sell items and design their own flower arrangements! See more spring theme HERE!

The most important thing to recognize about the pretend/dramatic play center is that it is for play and pretend! I can put as many skills (to be practiced) into the center as I want but they ultimate goal is to provide a place for students to be creative, make their own decisions, role play, have conversations, and just play! If they want to take the forks and pretend they are hairbrushes in a beauty parlor (while in your beautifully arranged "bakery store")...let them. Let them play.

I do love themes and providing play inspiration for students. If you see the students interested more in another theme or topic than you suggest...then go with it! Two students take the pretend chairs and fly off into the unknown in a "spaceship." Take that as an opportunity into peeking into their interests.  Go grab a spaceship book or pull up a kids NASA video on the Smartboard. You might find them grabbing the clipboards to draw or write a space story, telling each other their plans, getting their verbal skills going! You might end up doing a two week or more project approach study on space shuttles. It's okay to switch it up..go with the flow.. Some of our best in the moment creative learning classroom experiences came from doing the unexpected and going with student led decisions! 

Students need a large area/space to play in the dramatic play center. They need plenty of room to explore, move, interact, and create!  The basics needed are of course a stove, sink, and a table w/ chairs. You can also include shelving, a bookcase, or a rug.  

At the very beginning of the year I have always had my pretend center very very basic. The items were familiar and similar to what students had at home. It's set up as a home since in August/September we learned about families and All About Me.

- old cell phones or pretend phone
- pots and pans
- butter, milk, eggs, bread, breakfast items
- pretend iron/ironing board
- empty food boxes and laundry soap/dish soap boxes
- sponge, gloves, dish scrubber
- plates, cups, and napkins
- regular large sized clothes for dress up & for ironing
- baby dolls and cribs/highchair
- vocabulary
- clipboards, paper, pencils

As the weeks/months go on you can change/add in more items that fit what you are learning about. 

Having different textures and sizes of pretend foods provide interest, variety, and are fun! My mother in law made tons of amigurumi crochet items for my classroom! I like to make items out of felt. See more HERE. I also used store bought plastic pretend food and empty food containers like cereal boxes. 

This was a setup from August. Students learned how to set the table. The dollar store has inexpensive non-breakable dishes!

Baskets and containers are great to have for storage and help students pick up items easily. In this picture you can see all the different foods. Students can put the pumpkins in size order!

Costumes and dress up clothes are always a fun addition to add to any theme in the pretend/dramatic play center. Students just love to play and pretend. This apron and hat was purchased at Walmart and then I used puff paint to write on it.

Always try to integrate literacy through posting vocabulary and providing related books in the center. It's such an easy addition to do and will enrich your learning center!

The teacher's role during the dramatic play is to act as a guide or facilitator. The teacher can ask questions about the character roles the students are playing or what their plans are. Center time is a great time to document and listen in on student learning and student conversations. The teacher's role is also to provide materials in the center to enrich creative thinking and curiosity in all learning areas. 

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE to learn more ideas for your dramatic play center!