Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcome to the Pumpkin Patch

When I didn't get any pumpkins for fall, I sent out a desperate plea to the parents of my students. They responded in the form of eighteen large pumpkins, two small pumpkins, and one giant gourd. It was a slightly ridiculous situation, one I will possibly post more on later. But, it was also the beginning of the newest dramatic play center: the pumpkin patch. Since we were planning a trip to the real pumpkin patch, it was good to get some practice picking our pumpkins. 
Check out counter where you pay for your pumpkin. 

Light Table with number plates and small acrylic pumpkins. 

The pumpkin patch with overalls and scarecrow costume for dress up. 

Decorate your own magnet jack-o-lantern. Different shapes are in the nearby basket. 

The fall pumpkin patch center! 

Fall sensory bin with pumpkins, leaves, spider, skeletons, corn, beans, seeds, etc. 

Pumpkin Drip Painting

Last year we did drip painting on wooden blocks. We made the mistake of using black as one of the colors and using fairly dark colors. The whole project dried into a bunch of black blocks. 

This year, I added lots of white with only the primary colors, hoping for better results. I let one of my students try it on a pumpkin. He needed some help with his colors, so I sat and narrated, 'You have the red bottle now. You used a lot of red. The red is dripping. Oh, now you picked the yellow paint. You poured the yellow on the pumpkin, too." 
Just getting started. At first he used very small drips and then got more into it as he progressed. 

It was neat the way it pooled around the stem for awhile and then eventually flooded over. I also had the idea of doing this in the outdoor classroom right over the water drainage making it the mess a zero issue, which was great. 

And the finished product really turned out looking neat! Of course, it's all about the process but a fun looking end never hurts. 

A Play Space at Home

When you're small and you learn through play, life is your classroom. Even though you don't need a fancy set up, I do think it's important for toys to be organized for even small children. They know what they can use, they have easy access to what they need, and they feel comfortable experimenting within space boundaries. 

My nephew is approaching two years old and another is on the way. There's no better time to prepare for the next generation. My parents have a retirement house, and this summer was spent working on the perfect play space. I'm just trying to help them be the best grandparents they can! 
Books: Low to the ground and visible. Easy to pull out AND easy to clean up. We simply screwed baskets straight into the wall. 

The kitchen is converted from an old entertainment center. It has space up top for extra storage. We replaced & spray painted the refrigerator door. 

Close up picture of the kitchen. 

Sink:  Bowl in a jigsawed hole. 
Faucet:  Donated from our plumber. 
Tiles:  Leftover from another project. Super glued around the edge. 
Stove:  Plexiglass spray painted black with round wooden discs painted black. 
Window:  Picture frame and curtain. (Going to add a photograph!) 
Utensil Hooks:  Key holder from Lowe's. 
Pots and Pans:  From Ikea. 

The kitchen table and art area. This table and chairs did not match... but they do now that they are both painted blue! 

Crayons are in baby food jars and in an old spice rack. We will probably eventually add some more art supplies, but that will be when older grandkids are using the space more often. 

The kitchen space. 

Buckets and baskets for manipulatives, blocks, people, cars, etc. 

Small building materials and accessories. 

The buckets are hanging on pot plant hooks. They can be removed and put on the table or floor. 

Again, easy to access and easy to clean up. Organization does enhance play! 

Trains to play with and wooden animals. 

The space is basically finished! As always, spaces evolve and change over time, but we're excited about this one getting some use soon. Our seven year old cousin has already dutifully taught the 18 month old how to make eggs on the stove. 

*You can also see a bed to the left... though its purpose is to double as a guest room, it is also great for a comfy reading area! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Organized Markers

When my sister moved to Malawi, I acquired these buckets, and decided to use them for marker storage this year. They originally came from the dollar spot at Target.  I printed the color words off of the computer, backed them on black circles, and taped them to the buckets. 
Peg board is my favorite! These are so easy for the kids to keep organized and take wherever they need them in the art center. 

Literacy: Color words
Art: Of course
Math: Sorting & Matching

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Frogs in the Science Center

There's always something new in the science center! This spring it was tadpoles! I always keep my fingers crossed that I'll run across some tadpoles, and every year they come through in some way or another! 

Life cycle on a sorting tray. 

All in order! 

Some specimens to look at. 

The whole frog experience... real tadpoles in the container! I loved seeing the pictures in the observation notebook of the tadpoles growing legs! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This is Teaching.

Contrary to what this blog may seem, I spend a fair portion of my day doing guided reading or small group math or journals with my students. We follow the common core standards. 

Today though, 9.5 days until summer, when I gave up and decided to have fun, I wondered why we aren't doing this every day. I mean, I really really wish this is how I spent my days. 

Two of my fellow teachers keep their sensory tables in the hallway, so I snatched them... along with my own, for a full outdoor sensory experience. Six kids went outside with me, and I was in one of those completely UN-frustrating moments when I truly was loving every single thing about my job. 

Sensory Table #1: Water bead gel & water

Sensory Table #2: Green sand & water.

Sensory Table #3: Water with funnel rack and pipes

I recently got this gutter for my ramps and pathways center. They loved it even more with water.

The only way they could figure out how to get the sea animals down though was to push them. Pouring water didn't seem to be a strong enough force. 

Oh hey, add some slimy water bead/gel to the animals before you pour the water, and it will slide right on down! Lesson in friction and weight? You bet!

Even filling a bottle with sea animals holds so many lessons. These are the things they don't even realize they are thinking! ha ha.

Spatial Skills: "Why do some fit in the opening and some don't?"
Problem Solving: "What happens if I turn it this way instead of the other way? Will it fit then?"
Science: "Where do they go when I drop them in there? Hmm... they sink to the bottom."
Science: "Look, the more I put in the bottle the higher the water gets. when I fit all of the animals in, the water overflows and spills out." 

Why did I love it so much? Because I hate trying to tell them what to learn. They figure it out for themselves pretty well!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saying Goodbye.

First grade. In some ways my students are ready. They are older and more mature. They are much more social and interested in each other's business. However, in other ways, I don't know if they'll ever be ready. First grade means having a desk. it means getting more independent work done and setting personal reading goals. First grade means more tests and more pressure. Even though our first grade teachers are great, these students are still children- small children.

Honestly, I pity them a little, because I've been through it all. I've moved up the ranks of every grade, I've sat quietly for years in school, and quite frankly, kindergarten is the best place to be. (Or, as one of my students told me just the other day, the SECOND best grade, because in pre-k you play ALL day).

So, every year I send them on to first grade, to a world of higher learning. I hope they make it without our blocks and animals and paint brushes. And I wonder to myself about a few of them, "Will today be the last day they ever build a castle out of blocks?"

Then, quite frankly, I breathe a huge sigh a relief. Selfishly speaking, I'm relieved that I don't have to go with them, that next year I will still have my light tables and water play and baby dolls.

Friday, May 10, 2013


I broke down and spent my money on this popcorn popper.
When we focus on our five senses, popcorn is a great cooking project. 

Can you see the popcorn? Yes! (Thanks to this popper!)
Can you hear the popcorn? Yes!
Can you feel the popcorn? Yes!
Can you taste the popcorn? Of course!
Can you smell the popcorn? Yes!

We made graphic organizer webs for each of our five senses. We wrote pieces about our experiences and illustrated them. A good time was had by all. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jenga Blocks

Dollar General sells the game Jenga for $3. Two to three sets added together make really great building blocks!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Puppet Days

It seemed like we should get excited about puppets before we visited the Marionette Theatre. First, I started by putting out all of my hand puppets. My students are more interested in creating than imagining though, so I added a puppet making station. One hundred paper bags later, we were all feeling pretty good about puppetry!

Puppet Making Station

Supplies for creating- pictures of different types of puppets

Books about puppets

The puppet center with a puppet theatre 

Cutting, making, creating a character

A final production!