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Monday, September 29, 2008

Leaves of Color

I love the colors of fall. Our first activity at school for fall is to paint a fall leaf. We use the colors of red and yellow as these are the first two colors we have discussed. Also, because our next color is orange and it helps to incorporate the mixing of two colors to get another color.

I love these fall leaves. It 's great to have them, because each one is so unique. We hang them around the room and it just adds so much life and beauty to the area. If you're making them at home it's great too, because your children can make as many as they like, and each one will be different. If you would like, you can even work for an end product being a big tree.

When I make the leaves I use a Maple leaf pattern, only because that's my favorite. If you would like, you can make different leaf patterns too. Then I have red and yellow paint out. I give the children the pattern I have pre-drawn and let them go. As I said, after they dry we cut them out and hang them in the room.

A variation to using tempera paint would be to use finger paint. We try finger paint later in the year when the children are more accustomed to their surroundings.

It's a great and easy fall activity that just adds so much color and vibrancy, but also secretly teaches that yellow and red make orange when mixed.

I have two updates: Number one, I wanted to post a pictures of our beautiful fall wall!

Second, I have been getting many search requests for leaf patterns. I have been out on the net, looking for good ones, but haven't come up with any good large ones. I thought I would scan mine in and post it. If you click on the picture it should come up, then you can print it out(I hope). I'm still learning a lot of this stuff.

A very kind and internet savy friend of mine sent me these two links. Thanks kind friend:,

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Bus Load of Yellow

As I browsed through my Mailbox magazine, I found a great idea to help the children with the color yellow. It was also appropriate as we have been singing "The Wheels on the Bus" alot because of the beginning of school.

I found the "recipe" in my Aug./Sept 2002 edition of The Mailbox for kindergarten.

For the activity you will need:

One four section graham cracker for each child
yellow tinted vanilla frosting
4 pieces of Chex cereal
2 Mini Oreo cookies.

At circle time I put the vanilla icing into a transparent glass bowl, then I added yellow food coloring and stirred. This way the children could watch the white icing turn yellow. Then each child got a graham cracker on a paper plate and a plastic knife. I put a glob of yellow icing on their graham cracker then told them they could spread it around--a lot of icing got tasted during the spreading process. Then they got to add two cookies for the wheels, and cereal for the windows. Some of the graham crackers broke during the process too, but they didn't mind.

This was an easy activity, but they had fun--even my children that are still apprehensive came right over and joined in.

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Yellow Like the Sun

This week we concentrated on yellow. These guys are good. My poor color box took quite a beating with the number of yellow items they found. We also had some nature in our color box as I found some yellow leaves and some yellow flowers to put in before I got there. I had brought in a lemon and banana too.

Yellow is most closely related with the sun, so we have our yellow and talk about that big, bright sun in the sky.

To experience yellow, we water colored a lemon, banana, and corn. Then we had some yellow Play Doh, and our favorite thing was the yellow school bus. The kids had a great time with the bus, mostly because it had the sugar count of a full field of sugar cane, but it's always fun to make food. I put the ingredients for the bus in Kitchen Fun.

Our yellow snack was pineapple. I must say, I loved the pineapple, but not a large favorite among the children. Then for our color book we colored a yellow sun and used our color dots to make tropical fish.

Yellow is a great color--one of my favorite. The class looked so bright and fun on Thursday when we all wore yellow to school. Great fun!

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Red Like an Apple

Unfortunately, I will say red gets a quick once over. We do the color red on our first full week of school. Since it is the first week, we still have some children that are uncomfortable with their surroundings and we take longer trying to make them feel at home and have fun then concentrating on skills. If I don't start though, we don't finish our colors until after Christmas.

So for red we, of course, discussed apples. I had apples in the class, we felt the apples, Mrs Nodolski took an apple bath when slicing the apples, we explored the seeds, and we ate the apples--YUMMY!

We also had a red table with red blocks, red puzzles, red beads, sorting between red and blue, and we played with red Play Doh. Our color book always has one page that we color something and the second page we make something using color circle dots. We colored a red apple and then we made an apple tree applying the red dots to the tree(good for fine motor control).

So that was RED. Very quick, but effective.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Color Fun

In our preschool class, each week we take some time to explore a new color. We try to do some fun things with it, and we create a COLOR BOOK to go home when we have experienced all the colors. Young children grasp things much easier when they experience a new concept. For example, they will have a much easier time learning their colors by being surrounded with them and having fun with them, then sitting down and doing a "page" about them.

I wanted to share some things that we do in case you are looking for some color fun. First of all, as I said, we do one color a week. At school this is an extremely quick introduction as we are only at school for 2 1/2 hours per day for two days. If you are at home, you can expand on these greatly.

First of all, the color is introduced on our color wall. We have a wall with all the colors displayed largely so they can always see it. Then we discuss some things we can think of that might be that color. We present this at opening time, then I have a COLOR BOX. I ask the children if they find anything of our special color for the week during play time, that they put it in the box and we will check it out after snack time. The color box can get very overloaded, but they have fun with it.
Then after snack we go through the color box to see what they find. We then we have a game of seek and find. The children go around the room and find something of the color we are looking for. As the year progresses, I might ask them to find more than one color during the seek and find.

We also wear our color of the week one day. I hate to say it, but this sometimes stresses the parents--"I don't think we have anything of that color!" I try to tell the parents it can be anything, a sticker, a bow, a sock, etc. I think it's beneficial if the child can help the parent pick out the item.

A final thing I have started this year is to have a colored snack one day a week. For red we of course had a red apple, this week was yellow: we had some pineapple. I haven't actually figured out what to do for blue yet...any suggestions?

When I introduce the colors I always read the book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. This is a great book to introduce all the basic colors and also allows the children to participate in the story.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Handwriting Without Tears Update

A little while back I had mentioned that the school was going to begin using the program called Handwriting Without Tears. I wanted to give you a little update, in case any parent out there is trying to help their little one learn to write without too much frustration.

First of all, the letters are not going to be presented in ABC order. The letters are presented to the children in an order that goes from what you might call "easiest to hardest." This helps the children to become more familiar with the motion of writing without worrying about the difficulty of the letter.

Also, the letters are formed with manipulatives first. The children get a group of "lines" that they will place in the correct formation. Our teacher spent all summer making groups of various sized horizontal lines and laminated them for the children to use.

For example, the first letter the children worked on is the letter L. The first experience for them was to take the maniupaltives, one long and one short line, and make an L that way. Then they went on to write the letter L. As you can see, L is an extremely easy letter to write because it is a straight line in a downward motion, then a straight line in a left to right motion.

If you are interested in presenting your child with the letters--here's how far we've gotten. Here is the order: L, F, E, H, T, and I. These letters take us through the month of October. I'll let you know the next group in a month.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

An Apple A Day

Happy fall to one and all! Could I be any more corny?

Yes fall has arrived today. I was actually out collecting leaves a little while ago to show the children tomorrow. Fall is such a wonderful time of year here. In PA the colors are beautiful and the weather is gorgeous.

Some great fall activities for young children involve apples. Because apple picking time is in the fall, it's a good theme to focus on. It's amazing what one can do with an apple. First of all it's the discovery of the many different kinds of apples. Go to the store, buy different kinds and have a tasting party. They will be amazed that apples can taste so differently.

Next apples can be cooked into so many different things. Throw one in the oven with some cinnamon and butter--have a baked apple. Make an apple pie, apple turnovers, apple crisp, apple cake--the list goes on and on. Since many of you already know, the kitchen is not my expertise--so my recipe box for these are empty. There are many great recipes out there on the web for apples. I just typed in easy apple recipes. One recipe involved making a baked apple in the microwave and using cinnamon candies. You can find it here:

One thing that is also fun is to cut an apple in half horizontally. Inside you find the wonderful apple seed star. Did you know that the seeds make a star shape? I have to say I only learned that about 5 years ago. Our Pre-K class made placemats. If you would like to make something like it here is what you will need:

One apple cut in half horizontally

Large piece of construction paper

Different color tempera paint

We used a laminator to finish off ours, but if you don't have one you can purchase clear contact paper at any store.

Pour out some different color tempera paints. Cut the apple horizontally. I removed the seeds to show the children what the seeds look like and also to show them the pattern inside. Dip the apple into a paint color, then press it on the paper. You now have a beautiful apple stamp with the star inside.(As you can see my star didn't come out that sharp--it looked good in the apple:). After the paper dries you can add your child's name if you like. Run it through a laminator or cover with contact paper and they have their own personalized placemat.

I must say this is the first time I have ever done this project. It is usually done with the Pre-K children. Have a ball, mix the colors, overlap, make it your own.

I meant to check my Mailbox Magazine to see if it had any unique apple ideas, but I left it at school. If I find anything I'll be sure to let you know.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I just wanted to take a moment and thank the many wonderful teachers who have inspired me lately. The great websites I have been visiting with ideas and thoughts from some fabulous teachers have helped ME to be a better teacher. There are so many things over the years that I let go by the wayside, or became too comfortable with. After reading all these marvelous posts, and seeing the great works of art, I was inclined to be better myself. We had a great day today with lots of fun things I haven't done in a few years, and I have YOU to thank.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Who Am I?

Our first theme at nursery school is the traditional exploration of "ourselves." Who we are, what we look like, differences and likenesses to others, family, how big we are, etc. Just a general look at ourselves and those around us. This year I got an idea for a new project from one of my most favorite sites: Teaching 2 and 3 Year olds.

At the beginning of the year in the school where the writer works, the teachers make posters about themselves to introduce themselves. I thought this was a great idea so I made one and had my aide make one. Then I thought what fun it would be to have the families make one of these for each of the children and we could discuss them as they came in and also hang them in the room for a while.

My aide and I had a good time making ours, although we had quite a time finding a good picture or ourselves. Then on orientation day, I passed a 12x18 piece of paper out to all the parents. I showed them the poster that I made then asked them to sit down at home with their preschooler to make one to send to school. I know, I know--preschool homework! What am I thinking. I stressed not to get too elaborate, but to try to enjoy the project.

Our ME BOOKS we make at school begin by having pages focused on: how big we are, who are the members of our family, and what we like. I asked the parents to focus on these things to make the poster. I told them they could use photographs, pictures from magazines, drawings, etc. anything they were comfortable with. We haven't gotten any back yet, I just gave the paper out last Tuesday, but I'll let you know how our response is.

I also wanted to share this in case there are any parents at home looking for a fun project to do with their child. Every child at this age thinks they are the "greatest thing since sliced bread." It would be fun to help them make a poster of themselves to hang on the wall.

Thanks Teacher Sheryl.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Darth Vader Death Grip"

Right now you are probably thinking---What? What kind of site am I in? I thought this was a preschool site. Well, you have not been directed to a wrong site. This post is all about the grip a child uses on their writing utensil.

I titled this Darth Vader Death Grip, because that's the phrase my aide uses to explain how some children hold their crayon. You know, they grab it in their fist with such force there is a possibility the crayon will crush in their hand.

The school district we are in holds seminars for preschool teachers so that we can sort of be on the same page. One year was dedicated to pencil grip--for a whole year the district's motto was, "Give me three!"

We all know that using our pointer finger, middle finger, and thumb are the correct digits to use when writing, but getting some children to do this is quite difficult. There are special pencil grips that one can purchase to put on a writing utensil, but there are a couple of other methods too.

Last year we had an occupational therapist in our room once a week that worked with a specific child. He always asked the child, "Where are your quackers?" This was when the child would take the two fingers and thumb, and make them "quack" like a duck--to symbolize the fingers that should be used.

Another method the district gave us was to use the "magic pom pom.' The child would hold a small pom pom--like a cotton ball--in their hand with their ring finger and pinkie, leaving the other three fingers to hold the writing utensil.

They also said you could break a crayon in half, or cut a pencil in half to make the writing utensil smaller. When the object is smaller, there is less of a chance for children to be able to hold the item with the "death grip."

Do these methods work? Well, we just started our new year and the child with the occupational therapist still needs to be asked where his quackers are. I don't have any real secrets on how to get the grip correct, but I think you just have to keep at it and keep using a positive correction when they are writing. I wouldn't stress on this though. Out of my 5 children, I have two, plus one husband, that still don't hold their pencil correctly.

I just thought I would put out some ideas that were given to us that may help someone looking for some guidance in this area.

This year we are starting to use the program Handwriting without Tears. We are very new to this method and are still learning many aspects of it. I'll try to remember at the end of the year to let you know how it went.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

A Carton of Bugs

You would be amazed at the many different things you can do with an egg carton. Occasionally, of course, if I remember, I will post different egg carton activities. Today I have; egg carton bugs. The best type of egg carton to use is the cardboard type. The Styrofoam ones don't hold paint too well.

We made four different kinds of bugs with one dozen-sized egg carton. We made a one segmented bug, ladybug; a two segmented bug, spider; a three segmented bug, ant; and a caterpillar that could have as many different segments as you would like.

For the project you will need:
one egg carton-dozen size or larger
pipe cleaners
optional: wiggle eyes (you know they are my favorite)

First, you will need to cut your egg carton into the different size segments you want. Then give your child some paint and let them go. My son helped me to paint the bugs here. He added spots and multiple colors--let them have a ball.

After the "bugs" dried I used pipe cleaners for legs. I had to pierce a little hole in the area I wanted the legs to go in, because the pipe cleaners were not strong enough to push through themselves. I used one pipe cleaner for 2 legs: I pushed the pipe cleaner in one side and came out the other. ( I did see in a book that someone used small sticks to make bug legs. You would probably have to use a strong glue like tacky to make them stay.) I did not add legs to the caterpillar--just too many.

I also used pipe cleaners for the antennae. I pierced two small holes in the top and fed the pipe cleaner in one hole and out the other. If the pipe cleaner was too long, I just cut it.

The bugs were very easy--the children will probably need help with pushing the pipe cleaners through. The look much cuter than the real things. They are also good to use for teaching the more scientific aspects of bugs like: number of legs or different number of segments.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Learning Happens Everywhere

I was on an answer/question site last night and I came across a question I would love to share. The writer asked about a 2.5 year old son and teaching him colors. The writer stated that when they sat and worked on things he wasn't picking the colors up and both the writer and son quickly became frustrated.

I just want to address this quickly. All children are going to learn at different times. As you know I teach three year olds. Some of them come to the first class knowing their colors and shapes, some have no idea.

It is very important when "teaching" young children to learn through experience. Their whole lives are a desk and all around are the teachers. I suggested to the writer not to sit and try anymore but help the boy to experience the colors in everyday life. At dressing time--let's put on your red shirt, where is that yellow sock, should we wear blue shorts today? On a walk--look how bright green the trees are today, what a beautiful orange flower, that bird is really blue, etc.

Constant conversations with key points are very helpful. No one is feeling pressured to "learn" something, but learning is occurring.

It's also fun to experience the colors in other ways like with Play Doh, paint, crayons, markers, even during cooking activities: that's some white flower, the egg is very yellow, how about we add some black raisins. Opportunities to teach your children are all around you. If you do it enough, it will become almost automatic and you won't even realize how much your are teaching your young child.

I know I have based most of this article on colors, but the same goes for numbers, shapes, letters, counting. Pointing objects out in everyday life: the triangle pizza, the square book, the rectangle door, etc. All you have to do is look around and casually point things out or count or sing. Just have fun with it. When you have fun, they have fun. Everybody's learning and everybody's happy.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Kissing Hand

Our very first day of school we read a story with the parents called, The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn. It is an adorable story about a young raccoon going off to school for the first time. The story centers around the young raccoon and his mom. In the story Mrs. Raccoon gives Chester, the young raccoon, a kiss in the middle of his left hand and tells him anytime he starts to miss her, he can always look at his hand and remember--Mommy loves me.

This is a cute story and brings tears to parents too--really pulls at the heartstrings. I know many schools read this story to begin their school year as it gives parents and children something tangible to work with during separation.

On the first day we used to make a kissing hand, but time constraints have put that on hold a little. I thought it might be fun for mommy or daddy to make a kissing hand for their child if they are feeling apprehensive about going to school by themselves.

I thought if this book was used on the first day with parents, as ours is, it might be nice to make a kissing hand at home and the children could wear it to school. Then they would have something concrete from you and whenever they looked at it could remember--Mommy loves me, or Daddy loves me.

The kissing hand is very easy to make. You will need a piece of construction paper, marker or crayons, yarn, and tape.

First, trace your hand on the construction paper and cut it out. In the center of the hand you can draw a heart, or lips--your preference. Then I used some tape in the area where I was going to punch a hole so that the paper would be reinforced there. Punch a hole and thread the yarn. Now the child has a kissing hand necklace to wear to school. There is also clear contact paper out there that you could use to cover the whole hand and make it even more durable.

Don't forget though, before you go, take that little palm in your own hand and plant a big kiss on it so your child has your warmth with them all day. I hope you have an enjoyable preschool year!

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