Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Circle Time (Jobs Part 1)

Everyone does circle time a little different but if you're like me it is one of your favorite times of the day.  There are opportunities for the children to lead and to follow, to encourage one another with applause and to help one another when an answer is elusive.  Circle time is a community meeting where everyone belongs and has a say.

This is my helper chart.  The blue pocket chart cost $1.00 at the dollar store and has 12 pockets.  I have 11 jobs that I made headings for.  We start at the top during morning circle and work our way down.  I use clothespins with each child's name written on them.  They move clockwise every day.  The children who do not have jobs (right now that is 2 because I have 13 students) are in what we call the waiting place (hanging at the bottom of the chart).  Because the jobs cycle every day then that means each child has a job 11 days in a row and then is in the waiting place for 2 days and then the cycle starts again. They all know the routine and are happy when it is their turn.  Some jobs are more coveted than others.

We start with the flag holder. The flag holder holds the flag straight and tall while the other children stand at attention.  When everyone is ready with hand on heart then the flag holder says "Ready Salute!" and leads the class in saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing My Country Tis of Thee.

The second job every morning is song leader.  That child comes up and chooses the first two songs out of the song pouch.  She/he then chooses which of the two songs they will help lead the class in.  They stand at the front of the room while the rest of the boys and girls remain seated unless it is a stand up type song. During December all the songs are replaced with holiday songs.  As we learn the songs I am able to add new ones that go with whatever theme we are learning.

I make the song cards myself by using cardstock and printing an appropriate picture on the front and the words to the song on the back and then laminate them.  That way anyone subbing for me always has many songs (right there on the circle time wall) and if the children ask for one specifically they can show the sub and she has the words right there.

The next job is the Elephant Question person.  That person gets to come up and pick the first Elephant Question.  The whole class helps me do a drum roll on their legs and then I announce (very dramatically)"The elephant question for today is..." and read whatever the question is.  The question might be something like "What did you have for breakfast?" or for instance, after we had fire prevention week the questions I added were "What do you do if you catch on fire?", "What number do you call if there is an emergency? What is an emergency?".  The children LOVE getting the elephant question.  I explain to them at the beginning of the year that elephants are supposed to have really good brains for remembering things and we are going to use our brains to remember things too.  The elephant question job is probably one of those most coveted jobs I spoke of.  Every child will have different ideas and everyone can be right.  his is also very encouraging because it encourages those shy, quiet children to speaks in front of their peers. 

Those are the first four jobs we do every morning (after our morning exercise). Look forward to how we incorporate more jobs tomorrow...

 I would love to hear about your circle time activities.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Dental Health Fun

Here are just a few other things to share this week regarding dental health.

We painted with a toothbrush.  The children took a yellow tooth shape and painted it at the easel using a toothbrush and white paint.  You can add a few drops of mint extract to the paint to make it smell like toothpaste.  It makes the whole classroom smell good and the children get even more of a sensory experience.

Of course there are also so many great books to read. Here are a few of the books we read this week.

I Know Why I Brush My Teeth is a book for older children in pre-k and is a discussion between a mother and her son while he is getting ready for bed.  It talks about the parts of a tooth, the names of the different teeth, what makes plaque, going to the dentist and cavities.  It's very educational and my class was very attentive and receptive.

Tooth Trouble by Jane Clark is another book the class really enjoyed reading.  I have that book in big book form and somehow that always captures their attention too.  This story is about a little walrus who has a toothache. The little walrus can't do anything that walrus' are good at because they use their teeth for almost everything but he refuses to go to the dentist.  His mind is changed when he visits his grandpa and sees the old walrus' broken tusks and finds out that grandpa never wanted to go to the dentist either. 

The other books in th photo are good too and explore different aspects of seeing the dentist.  Reading books is a great way to relieve a child's fear of the unknown. 

I'd love to hear about your dental health ideas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Toothy Eggsperiments

I love science in the classroom and always take every opportunity to do fun experiments with the children.  Today's 2 experiments have to do with our teeth and how the things we eat and drink affect them.  Below are the items we are using for the experiments.

We'll be using eggs for this experiment.  4 boiled eggs and one raw egg should do the trick.  Take two boiled eggs and put them in a small clear cups and cover them with a dark soda, coke or pepsi will suffice.  We will cover the other two with coffee or tea, your choice.  The eggs will sit in these drinks all day and then overnight and the children can check on them periodically. 

For the raw egg we also put it in a clear cup but poured vinegar over it and let it sit overnight. 

As for discussion we talk about what the drinks and the vinegar might do to the hard white shell of the eggs.  The eggs were stained within 5 minutes but had a much deeper stain the next morning. The initial thought of the children were that the drinks were going to somehow crack the eggs.  I guess we shall see.

Here's what happened to the eggs in the soft drink. The took on a deep yellow brown colored stain.  The eggs in coffee were not quite as brown but still had a nice deep yellow stain.  We talked about how soft drinks and coffee and tea affected the egg shell and how they can affect our teeth.

We used toothbrushes and toothpaste to clean the eggs by using the following at our sensory table.  The children couldn't wait to get their turn!

As for the raw egg in the vinegar.  The vinegar dissolved the whole shell over night and here's what it looked like.  The kids were amazed!

It was very soft and squishy (the kids words) and almost transparent.
We all took turns squishing it gently to feel the difference between the hard shelled egg we put in yesterday and the shellless egg we took out of the vinegar today. 

The egg also expanded in size compared to the two boiled eggs that spent the night in the coffee and soft drink.  Very Interesting.

So all of that and what did we actually learn?

  • Coffee and softs drinks stained egg shells and they will also stain our teeth.
  • Brushing with toothpaste can help remove stains from eggshells (teeth).
  • Boys and girls should not drink soda (that came from the children after the experiment)
  • Taking care of our teeth is important so they don't get soft and mushy with cavities (again, this is the kids words).
  • Coffee and soda make your teeth turn yellow (kids again)
As far as the egg in vinegar we discussed that if we do not brush our teeth that the pieces of food that stay in our mouths mix with bacteria and make a slimy stuff called plaque.  Plaque will build up on our teeth and start eating away at them like the vinegar ate the egg shell.  We will get cavities, which are little holes in our teeth. 

The children know we can protect our teeth by flossing (we practiced that), brushing and eating healthy foods and drinks and going to the dentist regularly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Toothbrush Chart

This is a really simple activity that gets the kids thinking about brushing their teeth.  I think it originally came from The Mailbox Magazine but it is a simple project that you can make yourself.  It would be easy to make the little chart in Word and add a little toothy clipart.

I give the kids a simple toothbrush shape made out of a 12x18 piece of bright colored construction  paper that has been folded in half lengthwise.  The children glue the inside and fold and then add a half sheet of copy paper between the two sides to make bristles for their toothbrush. They then fringe cut the bristles. 

After they are done fringe cutting they add the little chart and write their name and we put them on the wall so that we can refer to them throughout the week as we talk about teethbrushing.  I allow the children to add stickers to their teeth brushing chart even if they have said they have not brushed.  I encourage them to do so when they get home and inevitably they come to school the next day excited to tell me they brushed their teeth which was all I was trying to accomplish in the first place.

 How are you encouraging dental health in your classroom?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Tooth Book (Dental Health)

Here is an easy project to do with your class. Make a tooth book.  I googled tooth images and found one that I liked for the front of my book.  I popped it into power point, made it the size I wanted and then added the title of our book.  Each subsequent page has a sentence at the bottom which describes what the child was asked to draw. 

Prior to letting the children work on the book make sure that you have talked about whatever concept is on each page.  A child might have a hard time drawing foods that are good for their teeth if you have not had a discussion, read books, had a visiting dentist etc...

I always write the words for whatever the child has drawn. This helps Mom and Dad when they don't recognize whatever the object is and it also is one more way to expose the children to print.  They know what their picture is, so they can tell Mom what the word is too.

The little boy who drew this picture made me smile when we were doing some egg experiements (another post soon) and I showed them how soda and coffee can discolor teeth.  I asked the children what color teeth they wanted and most said white but this little boy said "gold".  I told him we need to work on the white ones first.  Anyway, I think his picture reveals a quest for gold teeth. He's quite an artist.

We talked about the items we can use to take care of our teeth and I showed them little flossers. I loved all the floss depictions after that.

And the last page is a storytelling/imagination question.

I love writing down stories the children tell.  This little girl has such an awesome imagination.  She has an answer for everything and it is always entertaining. 

So, there you have it.  An easy book that you can make using whatever questions or ideas you want.  The children love working on the books and parents get a good idea of what the children learned this week.

I hope you have fun making books in your classroom.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine Math

Occasionally I will take time to share with you a blog or website that I feel every preschool teacher should use as a resource.  There are so many awesome people out there working to help all of us get through out tough days by sharing wonderful activities and ideas that they do in their classrooms.  Today we'll be using some activities from PreKinders website. I love this site and know you will too.

Since it is Valentine week we continue our theme and use candy hearts for math experiences.  There are so many ways to use candy hearts for sorting, graphing and counting and children get more excited about math when candy is involved.  Whatever it takes!

I love this candy heart sort and count activity.  You can get the free printable at PreKinders Valentine Math page.  She has many different printables that you can use with candy hearts. Check them out!

Whenever I expect the children to write numbers I like to write a simple number line because this helps them as they decide how they will form the letter and it also helps if they are not sure what the number should look like.  They can count from one and find the answer themselves.

Below is another candy heart math activity in which the hearts are graphed and we are able to see what color we have more/less of.  You can have the children color the graph in but I find that time consuming and have them just run a crayon of the same color down the side of the hearts so parents can see (the candy will be long gone when the paper goes home) how many of each were graphed and counted. 

I often make my own graphing sheets and printables but it is wonderful having a great site like PreKinders when I am not on the ball.  Make sure and check it out! Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heart Art (DAP)

Art in the classroom does not mean showing the children a pattern and having them follow it to make a duplicate of the teachers (although there are times when teachers do this as a means to an end like I did with the valentine mail truck).

Art is children taking materials provided and using their imagination to create something that means something to them.  Some children are really good at this but others who have not been given the freedom to explore art materials and different creative processes often have difficulty because they aren't sure if they are going to do it right.  Through art, children learn to solve their own problems rather than relying on the teacher to do it for them.  Art in the preschool classroom is all about the process rather than the finished product.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad, messy or neat.  It should just be fun exploration.

I always have many items on my art shelf for the children to explore but I frequently add items to encourage color recognition, color blending, shape recognition, size or texture exploration.  You can add something new to an art area almost every day because the options are almost limitless. 

Since it is Valentine week I added hearts of different shapes, sizes and colors (I only used white, black and red this time) and wiggly eyes. We read the book The Biggest Valentine Ever in which two little mice make a valentine card for their teacher.  The Valentine was made using hearts and the hearts are put together to resemble a mouse.  This is a cute book and a great segue into the children thinking about other animals they can make with hearts.  I made a panda bear using black and white hearts and showed that to them also. Although they were not expected to make either a mouse or a panda bear, seeing something like that starts getting their creative juices flowing.  They were excited to get started and below are a few of the animals we ended up with.

The children went right to work and each had their own ideas.  The above are only a few of the wonderful little animals they created.  One little girl carried her heart puppy around throughout the morning.  Children take pride in their work and they like to use their imagination.  This is a very easy project with great payoff for very little input from the teacher.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mail Truck Valentine Holder

Every year my class makes this cute mail truck valentine holder for all their valentines and candy.  I've been using it so long that I no longer remember where the original pattern came from.  It's possibly Mailbox Magazine but I'm not sure.  If you know where it came from and are able to send me a link then I'll give credit where credit is due... until then, on to the post.

First you need 12x18 white construction paper.  Fold it in half and and cut a notch out for the front of the truck.  Staple the sides so that you now have a large pouch.  You could glue the sides but I find that the staples really help when the mailtruck is bursting at the seams with candy and cards.

Next, the children can glue on ( I like glue sticks for this) a 4x12 strip of red paper.

On top of the red paper glue a 3x12 strip of blue paper.  This gives your mailtruck it's stripes.

Next add your wheels.  These can be any size.  I give the children different size black circles for this and some of our mailtrucks become monster trucks while others eek along on little tiny tires.  I'm always curious to see what they choose.

Now the mailtruck is ready to be decorated.  Of course we use hearts for this auspicious occasion.  Some of the trucks get real fancy and almost flowery with all the hearts while others don just use a few.  I freehand cutting the hearts because it doesn't matter what they look like or how big they are. I do use at least 3 or 4 different valentine colors.

I have the children write their names and U. S. Mail and then the trucks are ready to be filled with goodies.  After all the valentines are delivered I put a few staples in the top and it's a nice little package to go home and be opened in front of Mom and Dad.

What do you use for Valentine collection?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Playing Post Office

February is a great time to play post office because it is later in the school year and the children have enough writing under their belt that it is very enjoyable making and writing valentine cards for one another.  As I was deciding how I would add a post office to the classroom this year I scrounged around the school to see what I could find.  You never know what treasures are awaiting you.

So I found this great box with little cubbies in an empty room and snatched it up. I added each child's name, and my own of course so that we all have a little mailbox.  I also added lots of paper, envelopes, pencils and some special mail to deliver.

I took blocks from our block center and covered them with a piece of copy paper and then added addresses.  I made one for each child and used the school address with the child's name.  The return addresses are all made up.  The postal worker had to find the recipients name and deliver the packages to the right person.  The kids loved this activity. Everyone gets a package and gets a chance to be a mail carrier also. This is an awesome sorting activity.

 The children also worked at the table writing valentine cards and delivering them to their friends.

This young man really decorated his card beautifully.

Valentine card delivery.

I had one little girl who flitted around the room throughout this morning so excited as she would come to me and say "I wonder if anyone has sent me any mail." She would go check it and say "not yet."  Reminds me of myself at times.

This was a really fun project that will continue for the rest of the month.   To expand the fun have parents send in junk mail that they get every day.  If everyone saves up a week or two then you'll have plenty of mail to deliver and the children can learn about different types of mail like personal letters, advertisements, cards for birthdays and anniversaries, bills (ugh), packages, flyers and magazines.  Mail carriers deliver all sorts of fun things. A good book to help teach this concept is The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

 What do you do to celebrate the mail carrier's job?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fingerpaint Fun

I'm not sure it can be called fingerpainting when it usually involves whole hands and arms up to the elbows.  Well, no matter what you call it, it is a lot of fun! But why do we do it? Is there any learning going on while fingerpainting?  The answer... of course there is, especially if you help it out a little.

I started with 2 colors, red and blue and the children quickly spread the mixture together to see what those two colors made.  I also added heart shaped cookie cutters and encouraged the children to make heart prints since we are talking about Valentines this week.

Heart art is also beautiful and the children love it regardless of the medium.

Making designs in the paint is fun and very relaxing.  They can quietly run their fingers through the paint, feel it ooze between their little fingers, and luxuriate in the cool smooth sensation.  

Other than enjoying the sensory input what did we learn from this activity?
  • You can mix 2 colors to make a third color
  • Blue and red make purple
  • Fine motors were used while trying to lift the cookie cutter which suctioned to the paint
  • A cookie cutter can make a thin or thick line (turn cookie cutter upside down and use the top to make a thicker shape)
  • Fingerpaint is thick and does not pour like easel paint (tempera)
  • Fingerpainting encourages language as children try to describe how the paint feels
  • Children count the hearts they stamp on the paper
  • Children use self help skills by cleaning the paint off of their hands and arms by themselves (of course I had to scrub a purple sink and soap dispenser when the project was done)
  • Use different sized cookie cutters to encourage size exploration

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Easy Silhouettes

Every year I do silhouettes of my students during the first week of February.  It continues our discussion of shadows after Groundhog Day is over.  Every year I also get lots of questions about how I make them.  Some folks think I'm really talented... I laugh!  Anyway, today I'm gonna share the easy way to make a gorgeous silhouette without any talent.

All you need is an overhead projector, black and white 12X18 paper and a pencil. I use a little sticky tack to hold the paper on the wall so they are easy to remove and add the next one.

I sit the overhead projector on a table and cast the light on the wall.  I sit a small chair in the light for a child to sit on.  After the child's is sitting I adjust the paper so the child's silhouette is on it.  Adjusting the paper is much easier than adjusting the child.  Encourage the child to not look into the light. I usually give them a focal point in front of them to keep focused on during the procedure.

Next just trace around the outline of the head getting as much of the detail as possible.  Eyelashes and little whisps of hair are pretty easy to trace at this point.  I usually also steady the child's head with my left hand because it is very difficult for them not to lean forward. 

After tracing I cut them out and use glue sticks to attach them to the white paper.  Note: put glue on the side you drew the silhouette on and you will have a clean silhouette as a finished product.

Here are a few more.  I put these up on the wall and then we all try to figure out who is who.  The children are amazing at this.  They recognize their friends easily. We also refer back to the silhouettes during president's week later in February.  I'll tell you all about that in another post later this month.