Monday, December 24, 2012

Upcycled Big Blocks

Upcycling is my favorite. Using something old for something better. We've found that something as worthless as Capri Sun blocks make the best big blocks. Not only that, but they have words and letters on them, and it gets you extra points for environmental print. 

EVERY child should have a set of blocks. And there is no excuse when the blocks are so free!

The wooden blocks are more popular, but the Capri Sun blocks make frequent appearances. 

They make great tunnels. 

This looks suspiciously like a coffin... but I think it's just fun to enclose someone. 

Castle making with both kinds of blocks. 

A Classroom from the Past

I have a record of changing physical classrooms often. In three years of teaching I have had four classrooms. Here is my 2011-2012 room: 
The room. 

The entryway. 

Calendar/Schedule & Reading Chair

Carpet Area (Dramatic Play is in the back right). 

The Writing Center

Paint chips from Lowe's used for "The Wall of Art & Color." 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Craft

Christmas is a time when we all pull out a few more craft projects than usual. After all, you can't grow up without at least one kindergarten ornament hanging from the tree. 

Here are the two projects we did this year in kindergarten: 

Invitation to decorate your own construction paper tree
-using glue with buttons, sequins, stars, etc. 

Invitation to Make a Wreath
-using green tissue paper and red circles
I put the glue in cups and let them use Q-tips to smear it on. Of course, a picture of each kid with a Santa hat on went inside the wreath circle. Then we added a ribbon for hanging it. The children get to wrap their own gift and make a tag. I always let them choose who they give it to. Usually it's mom or dad, but occasionally Cousin Bob or Sister Susie are the lucky recipients instead. 

Monday, December 17, 2012


Run, run, as fast as you can.
You can't catch me, 
I'm the gingerbread man!

Gingerbread is a big unit in our classroom around Christmas time. No, it's not just a cutesy theme. We study summarizing the beginning, middle, and end of these stories.

It starts by reading aloud each different text. We make a chart writing the Beginning/Middle/End and then someone illustrates it for us. We do probably four or five different charts.

The students get to choose their favorite story. They write their own three BME sentences and then illustrate them.

We do some comparing, too, of course. What did you notice was the same about these stories? Wow, you all seem to have a lot of ideas. Maybe we should write them down to help us remember. Did you notice anything that was different? How was the story changed?

We have some pure play fun with the gingerbread theme, as well. Our favorite new song right now is Jack Hartman's "Gingerbread Man." Boy, is it a catchy tune.

We play with gingerbread playdough. I smells good enough to eat. 

And... when there are very few days left in December, we decorate our own REAL gingerbread cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fergus the Elf

I hear a lot of concern about the Elf on a Shelf. People are rightly worried, I suppose, that children should not only be good because an elf is watching them. Rest assured, our elf, Fergus, has just been hanging around for pure FUN these past few weeks. He wrote the boys and girls a note that said he needed a place to stay until Christmas. We are a fairly inclusive group, and we welcomed him into our classroom family. He doesn't go back to the North Pole every night, because he lives with us and is just supposed to hang out in his basket at night. Of course, he never listens to that idea and is always doing SOMETHING when we arrive at school.

When one student loudly accused, "It's YOU moving Fergus!!!!" I did not try to deny it. I simply responded with, "It's still a lot of fun. Would you like us to keep doing it?" He said yes, and we continue to do it.

So here's what little Fergus has been up to SO FAR this holiday season:

He built himself a thrown with the MagnaTiles. A bit full of yourself, eh there, Fergus? 

Another morning we found him sleeping in the tissue box.

Once he spent the whole night trying to work out our science experiment. He's checking what is in the bottle and asking, "Can it float?" OF COURSE, he didn't forget his safety eyewear. 

Sometimes he's not so studious and gets into a little mischief. 

Relaxing in a homemade hammock. This elf has the life. 

Everyday when we find Fergus, somebody has the job of "Elf Helper." That person simply documents on paper what Fergus is doing and then returns him to his basket home. We write some words with their illustration and add it to our book called, "Fergus the Elf."

Over Christmas vacation, I am sending home an elf cut out. Students may color & name their own elf. It is their job to keep a journal of what he/she does over the vacation and bring it back to share when January arrives. (Disclaimer: We NEVER do coloring sheets. That part is a rare occurrence).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Can it Float?

We do a series of "classifying" science experiments in the fall.

Sink and float is by far my favorite. For most of the experiments, I just let the students do it in the science center, but for sink and float, we do it small group style. I like talking about being a scientist. I like emphasizing what good scientists do. "Good scientists ask questions. Good scientists write down things that they learn. Good scientists use the word 'predict' Good scientists wear their safety goggles." Doing this experiment in a small group gives me the opportunity to model good vocabulary. "You made an observation. I observed that the cork floated on top of the water. I think I'll write that down. What do you predict will happen to the rock? Does anybody disagree? Why do you disagree? Give us your idea."

Each student gets a turn or two putting objects in the water. Everybody has a sheet to record their findings. The ultimate question of the day was, "Can it float?" We circled yes or no... and practiced our sight words while we were at it.

Since I can't post pictures of the students doing sink or float, here is Fergus, who practiced the experiment later in the science center. After our small group lesson, I put little clear bottles with objects in them for the kids to practice some more classifying. It's not as fun as putting it in the water yourself, but for us it was helpful for independent practice.

Grocery Store

In circle time we've been discussing goods and services a bit. So, during centers we've been playing with some goods. Our latest addition to the play environment is a store in the "bonus" center. The bonus center has already been a post office and a pet store/veterinarian office. I like the grocery store, because it's somewhere EVERY child in my class has always been and can personally relate to.

Usually I put a lot of thought into opportunity for literacy, both reading and writing. It's the busy Christmas season though, and I just quickly put out some grocery store props. They loved it anyway, of course. We brainstormed a list of jobs before we got started. They came up with "Register, Boss, Shopper, and Bagger." I added "shelver" in hopes to inspire putting things back on the shelves occasionally.

The aisle where you can find most things you'd like to buy.

The produce section. This trunk typically my light table, but closed up it serves great as a grocery display, as well.

The check out counter. I like having a cash register that is also a calculator so they can see the numbers when they press them. The check out is just a tall mirror flipped over and set on two crates.

No center is complete without a few dress up accessories- an apron, some purses, and grocery totes.

Fergus the elf even decided to stop by and do a bit of shopping. Of course, he made a list of things he wanted to buy. (Inspired a LITTLE bit of literacy... MAYBE??)