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Thursday, April 30, 2009

With a Moo Moo Here...

Today I decided to focus on that good old farm animal the cow. I would love to have enough time to focus on one animal a day and at the end of the unit create a farm. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of time. We are actually done in the classroom next Thursday. I have two classes left to finish Me Books and Mother's Day activities.

We talked about our trip that we took on Tuesday. Most of the children left right from the farm to go home, so we didn't get a chance to discuss our day. We then talked about what animals from the farm do for us; cows, milk; chickens, eggs; goats, milk; pigs, meat; etc. Then we came back to the cow. I then asked the children what can be done with milk--new concept for many. I just happened to have a bag of goodies with me to help them along.

The first thing we did today, was LOADS of fun--we blew bubbles in milk. I told them we were making milk volcanoes--this was so much fun, I just hope they don't do it at the dinner table.

I then had a very easy craft for them, which took longer than I thought. I had a cow from construction paper and I let them put spots on the cow using black paint and their fingerprints. They had more fun with this than I realized they would. Some of the cows even ended up black--along with lots of black hands. They actually turned out cuter than I had envisioned.

Our last fun with milk was snack time. First I let the children make chocolate milk, such fun squeezing and stirring. I had then brought in whipped cream, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. If they wanted whipped cream I helped them squirt some on their plate. Then I let them enjoy whatever milk products they wished.

The book we read today was called "The Cow Who Clucked," by Denise Fleming. We loved making all the sounds of the animals the cow met as she traveled the farm looking for her moo.

We ended our day with finally getting a chance to play outside. It wasn't long enough for my liking, but at least we made it.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April Showers....

I have had this activity for a little while, but have been procrastinating. Now, May is only 2 days away. Plus ABC and 123 is having a handprint art category and I thought this was cute.

We all know the wonderful saying, "April showers bring May flowers," so of course an umbrella is a very appropriate April craft.

For the craft you will need:

construction paper
pipe cleaner
watercolor paint
blue paint or ink pad

Take a piece of white construction paper and trace the child's hand. After tracing, run lines down to separate it into different sections. I used watercolors to decorate my umbrella as I thought it appropriate with the "water" theme. I thought one could use many types of decorations for this--the sky is the limit.

After the umbrella is dry, cut it out, and glue it diagonally on another piece of construction paper. Pick a pipe cleaner and cut a small piece for the top of the umbrella, and a piece for the bottom handle. I used tacky here to help hold the pipe cleaner in place. I thought one could use yarn for this part too.

Finally it's time for rain. Again, different ways to do this, but I opted for the fingerprint method. I figured if we're using the hand for one part, let's finish up with the hand. I dipped my finger in blue ink and made raindrops all over. You could also use blue paint. If you didn't want to use you finger, you could use a Q-tip, or small sponge.

Now, we're ready for the rain.

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The Block Center

In my Learning Centers course the author, Ms. Maxine Edwards Cornwell, states that there are some primary centers that all childcare facilities must have. What are they you might ask? The first and most important would be the block center, followed closely by the art center. She then states that other centers that should be given priority are the cooking center, family center, and the quiet center. I thought I might take some time to explore each center with you. As the block center is the most important I thought it a good place to start.

So, why is the block center so important? Here is a center that involves the whole child. There is physical attributes because of the actual process of picking up, carrying, and building of the blocks. There is the intellectual aspect because of the thought process going into the creation of the architecture. Then there is the social aspect of conversing with neighbors, working around and with others, and building what they know. Finally, the emotional aspect of creating something unique and beautiful.

The block center is an open-ended process. A child can't take the finished product of a block center home, so in that way it frees a child to "experiment, plan, change, negotiate, and enjoy without the pressure of an end product."

I thought it interesting, yet should have been a no-brainer, that it is extremely important for the teacher to always let the children feel the job they are doing with the blocks, is just as important as when they are mastering their name writing for example. The block center holds more importance to the children when it is important to the teacher. Kay Stritzel had some great ideas in her article that I would like to institute in my block center. "Blocks are not like painting and other art forms since you can not display them, but there are ways to "save" them: if possible leave the constructions up for a day or so--would not be able to do this in our center; label construction; take photographs to display a block book--liked this idea; take dictation or have children write stories about their work; make sketches of the buildings; collect pictures to display near the art center--something I look forward to doing next year.

Here are some characteristics listed for a "Great" block center--I don't think ours fits totally in here, we might be a "Good" block center:
  • A block center should have a border.
  • Blocks should be contained on marked shelves.
  • Block centers should include other play materials such as, wheel toys, farm animals, people, etc.
  • Block centers sometimes go outside.
  • The center should not be in the main line of traffic.
  • The center should include, unit blocks, hollow blocks, shaped blocks, cube blocks, cardboard blocks, bristle blocks, or any other geometric shape that can be used to construct.
  • Teachers recognize the stages of play.

I thought it important to let the teachers know the stages of play--as I learned something here:

Stage 1--blocks come off the shelf, get spread on the floor, big mess! This helps the child see what's available and become acquainted with the materials. "Big Mess is play."

Stage 2--blocks are put in rows.

Stage 3--stacking, bridging and full-fledged construction.

So how do I measure up? Block center has a border, check; Blocks located on shelves-no check, lots of blocks, lots of containers; Block center contains other materials, check; Block center goes outside--no check--actually never thought about it before, but not an easy task as our center is on the second floor; Not in the main line of traffic--so/so check--not in the middle of the room!; Different types of blocks, check--don't have all of them, but a large majority; Recognizing stages of play, check NOW that I know.

Finally, the author suggest two types of blocks which are very valuable. First you have the unit blocks. These are blocks that are wooden blocks with different shapes and sizes. Unit blocks are found in most centers. The writer suggest 400 blocks for a total of 8 children playing--I don't think I have that many.

The other type of block suggestead by Sally Cartwright is extremely fun for the children and works large motor skills immensely, large blocks--I have none of these. These are "large hollow blocks, boards, packing boxes, often with small ladders and saw horses, designed to fit together for safe building, made of wood but light enough for children to carry." "The blocks represent nothing but simple rectangular shapes that children's imaginations turn into kitchens, space ships, cars, and other three-dimensional objects." Where does one get these? She said they are very expensive but can be bought at school stores. She does include instructions on how to make some for a much more cost friendly approach.

Blocks important? You bet!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flower Art

My son brought home the most adorable flower from kindergarten yesterday, I just had to share it with everyone.

You will need:

strips of paper about 3 inches wide

For starters, let me tell you that I used a glue stick. You might want to try a stronger glue, or hold the pieces together with a clothespin until the glue dries. I thought glue dots would probably hold well.

Cut the construction paper into the strips. Allow the children to decide what color petals and what color center they would like. I had 6 petals, 1 center, 1 stem, and two leaves; I needed 10 strips of paper. Have them make cylinders with the petal colors and with the center color. Next have them fold the leaves in half and glue together at the bottom.

The final step is to glue all the pieces together. I glued the stem to the center first. I then glued the petals and finished up with the leaves. I really think this is an adorable flower--lots of "character."

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Down on the Farm

What better way to discuss a farm unit than with a trip to a farm? Today was that day. It has been so hot here, I was a little worried about "smell." I know some of them find farm smells very bothersome. But, we were blessed with a beautiful breeze so it turned out great.

We got to see the many different animals. We talked about what they ate, where they stayed, if they give us anything, etc. This farm is also a rescue type place so we got to see some animals that you don't always see on a farm like; a fox, a wolf, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, and pheasants. It was a glorious day. I always love days like these that work out so well.

The piglets were 12 days old--really cute! How's that stare on the bull? I wasn't even wearing red. The pheasants had a nest of eggs under a pine tree--that was really neat. Mr. Turkey there did some great showing off which the kids loved! He was quite vocal too.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fingerpaint Table

As many of you know, I have been doing a course on learning centers. Ms. Cornwell, the author, stated the importance of a fingerpaint center, all the wonders it does for children. So, today I had a fingerpaint center....poor Mrs. T.

Ms. Cornwell emphasized the importance of learning to clean up afterwards also, but since this was our first time, we tried, but I think we are going to have to work on that aspect.

I used shaving cream with dried watercoloring. Ms. Cornwell suggested using dried tempera whenever you would like to color something as it doesn't stain the tables. I figured the dried watercolors would do the same thing. So each child got a pile of shaving cream, then sprinkled on some color, plus they all had smocks on(thank goodness).

Then came the fun part, the mess, beautiful colors swirled around, mixed with friends colors, so much fun. Okay now what? Clean up. We had shaving cream in our hair, on our clothes--even with smocks, on the floor, smocks covered front and back. I wasn't sure how to clean up the kids and also let them clean up the area. We tried with some paper towels and wash rags, but I think this will be a skill learned with practice.

Was it fun? You bet, the children loved it, they couldn't wait for their turn. Oh, and the dried watercolor? It didn't stain the table, but ask the parents how their children turned colors. Oops. I think Mrs. T will be cleaning shaving cream up for weeks.

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Pet Show Day

We were able to have our pet show today. It was really sunny, but also cold. It was so windy that one of our signs even blew away. I also had to talk loudly so that everyone could hear me. But, we made it and even though it was chilly, the children had a great time.

For pet show day children are invited to bring their pets from home and show them off. If children don't have live pets at home, they are invited to bring in a pretend pet. We have our show at the beginning of class time. We make a big circle outside and everyone gets to go talk about what pet they brought, then after they have all been introduced everyone gets to walk around and visit the pets. I always have a first place certificate for everyone with a special characteristic of their pet written on it.

Each year we have gotten less and less live pets. This year we had, bunnies, two dogs, two hermit crabs, one cat, and lot of stuffed buddies. I will say it's a bit less chaotic without all the real pets, but it's not as fun. We can have lots of barking dogs, hissing cats, etc., but they are always fun. Over the years we have had lots of pets; dogs, cats, ferrets, fish, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards, hermit crabs,...I always love seeing the pets.

After our show, the live pets went home and we went back to the room to finish our day. Today we made bird puppets. They were very easy as our time was short, and I decided to add a great mess to our room, but you can read that in another post.

Each child got a bird print out which they decorated with marker or crayon. Then if they were comfortable, they cut it out, if not I helped them--it's a bit curvy. We folded and glued, added a stick and off they flew.

We read the book "My Pet Turtle," by Deborah Reber, illustrated by David A. Cutting, with Blue from Blue's Clues. It was appropriate because Blue got to take his pet turtle Turquoise to school with her. She also explained what was needed to care for a turtle. The children love it because it has Blue in it too.

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