Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Commotion in the Ocean!!

We recently spent two weeks learning about everything under the sea! Most units that I teach only last one week, but some, like ocean, space, zoo, dinosaurs, can go for two weeks,  There is just way too much to learn to try and squeeze it all into one week!! So, let me share with you what awesome activities we did.  I also added some of my math and literacy centers...just so you know we don't just "play" all day.

A Commotion in the Ocean!!!

 This is our library corner.  I borrowed this adorable fish tent from a co worker and it was a HIT!! I have found that if you want your kids to really be engaged in the library corner...add some kind of fun element.  A tent, stuffed animals, puppets, etc... make the center more inviting and peaks their interest to read!! Also, look at all those books! I always make sure I have at least one books per child for every unit I teach, which means I'm pulling from my personal books, school library and our local library downtown.  It just looks so cozy doesn't it!! They loved crawling inside this fish mouth to read a good book.
 Here's my favorite!! Dramatic play...YELLOW SUBMARINE! This sub was formerly my igloo during my penguin unit, I just laid it down and cut holes in the side for windows and a hole for the periscope and this is what I got! Nothing like a little recycling!! I covered it in yellow butcher paper...and yes, the entire time I was singing "We all live in a yellow submarine....".  For the windows I cut the holes and hot glued clear plastic plates for the glass inside the circle.  For the periscope I recycled some paper towel and tissue paper rolls, hot glued them together and painted it black.  Since this had to last two weeks there was one repair to the telescope, not too bad though, since 23 kiddos were playing with it! On the floor I have a vinyl tablecloth and some ocean animals that I purchased at Dollar Tree and on the wall I have some ocean life posters from an old calendar that I have laminated and hot glued to the wall.  I also had some life jackets inside the sub in case they went outside the sub to "swim " with the animals.

Math and Literacy Centers

I decided to show some of what we do during our math and literacy center time.  For this theme I pulled from 4 different units that I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers.  At the bottom of this post you will see which ones were utilized.  They all had great activities that were hands on, meaningful and engaging! 
pattern blocks

roll and cover :addition
My handy/quiet dice cups! Simply shake the cup and add the dice! 

tally marks
count the room (write the room)

Magic sight word!! 
The math centers were a hit! They loved using the pattern blocks, unifix cubes, dice cups and clip boards for Count the Room.  Doing math this way is so much more fulfilling for these kids than sitting down and doing boring pencil/paper tasks.  Yes, they have to record their work for accountability sake, but it's not daunting or redundant.  They are manipulating math tools and moving around the room!  For Magic Sight Word you print a color sheet of your current theme.  Before you give it to them use a white crayon and write sight words on their paper.  Give them watercolors and as they paint the sight words "magically" reveal themselves!! This is a fun one because you can hear them telling their friends "I found THE"!! and "I found HERE!!" They are learning and reading and they aren't even aware of it...sneaky, eh!! It's ok to learn AND have fun!!!

Ok, so I told you earlier that I would share the units that I used for these 2 weeks.  I did several other math and literacy games from these units that I did not take pictures of.  I love all of these and would certainly suggest you try them out for yourself!! 

Ocean Animals - Math and Literacy Activities for the Common CoreUnder the Deep Blue Sea! Math Work Stations-Common Core

Pattern Block Math {Ocean Animal Edition}Dive In And Explore!  A Math & Literacy Creation!

The authors of these units are Kim Adsit, Deedee Wills, Christy Donnely and Greg Smedley-Warren.  

Thank you for stopping by and I will posting again soon with a special guest teacher!! My student teacher is beginning her to week STEM unit tomorrow and I am excited to see what she comes up with and share all of her awesome ideas!!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I Just LOVE Workin' Those Fine Motors!!

Fine motor skills are so very important at this age!! Pencil grip is one of the first things I look at during that first week of school!! Scissor grip is another one that can be tricky!! Let me tell you...these littles can come up with some pretty creative ways to hold their pencils and scissors!!! Sometimes I think they are making it harder on themselves by holding writing utensils so caddywhompus!! They can really twist their little hands into pretzels and I think How on earth can you cut/write like that??? 

Something that I incorprate into my literacy centers every day is fine motor.  This can be with playdough, beads and pipecleaners, tweezers for transferring or legos.  However, since we are further into the year and we are working on our sight words I have created a center that uses fine motor skills and gets them reading as well.  Here are some of my favorite tools for fine motor.  Both pairs of blue tweezers are from Lakeshore Learning.  Very durable and easy to use! I also use items as simple as clothespins and tongs from my favorite store...Dollar Tree! 

Here is a sample of what we do with our sight word cards for literacy centers.  I provide them with different items to place on the cards.  You are only limited by your imagination! I have used beans, popcorn kernels, pom poms, glass gems, and holiday or themed beads.  I also use play dough with these cards.  They simply roll a long "snake" and use the play dough to build the word directly on the card.  

If you would like a copy of my All purpose Fine Motor cards click below and you will find it at my store at Teachers Pay Teachers!! 

I hope you find these products useful!! Until next time!!! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The World of Eric Carle: A Kindergarten Author Study

One of my absolute favorite units to teach throughout the year has got to be my Eric Carle author study.  Usually my little nuggets have been exposed to Eric Carle's work before they come to me, but it's mostly superficial.  They have heard the classics, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, The Grouchy Ladybug, etc. However, they haven't REALLY been exposed to the amazing person, author and illustrator that he is!! I pack my classroom library FULL of the classics and those lesser known little gems that they have never seen or heard of!! I begin my unit with a video that I purchased on amazon a few years ago called Eric Carle: Picture Writer
I watched this video in one of my Early Childhood classes at Oklahoma State and I fell in love with this adorable little man right then and there!! He talks about his childhood, how he became an artist and author and he demonstrates his technique...which absolutely mesmerizes my little ones each and every year!!! 

Throughout the week we read as many stories as we can fit in and I have thematic centers during our play time that are based upon his stories.  By the end of the week they are begging for more and are sad to see the books go back to the library.  But the absolute best part of the WHOLE unit is when we visit the library for the rest of the year they are practically wrestling in front of the Eric Carle section to check out a book to take home and share with their families.  It makes me smile to see them so excited about books!!! Here's a little glance at our week of Eric Carle in our classroom.....

Eric Carle Thematic Centers

Sensory table based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar...filled with green dyed rice, a plush toy that I found on Amazon and the items that the caterpillar ate throughout the book that the students can use to retell the story as they play.  So simple, but so engaging!! 

My classroom library full of every Eric Carle book I could get my hand on using my personal books, our school library and our local library!!! I didn't want them to miss out on ANYTHING!!! 

ANNNNNDDDD here is my passion favorite center to plan of all centers in all of the entire universe!! DRAMATIC PLAY!!!! What on earth can you do for Eric Carle week in dramatic play, you ask?? Well, how about basing it on the story Pancakes, Pancakes  !! I purchased a cutie patootie breakfast play set from my second favorite place...Amazon... and set up my kitchen for my little nuggets to cook away!! There's more to this center later...just wait, it's AMAZING!!

You have GOT to have art during an Eric Carle unit, of course. So this week we mod podged tissue paper squares onto our initials to create and Eric Carle inspired project!! They turned out beautifully!! 

For some fine motor work instead of regular old play dough, which, don't get me wrong...they LOVE...but this week I changed it up a bit and made some cloud dough based on the book, Little Cloud. Such a simple recipe!!It's only 2 ingredients...flour and vegetable oil or baby oil.  1 cup oil to 8 cups of flour....can't get any easier than that!!! 

I found this awesome Eric Carle ABC floor puzzle on Amazon!! This kid LOVES puzzles so I make sure I have one every week!!! 

Block area is based on the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear where I have provided some bears and I borrowed these awesome natural blocks from a co worker for my little ones to build bear habitats.  They love these blocks and the BEST part is they were FREE!!! My friend had a log that my handy hubby cut into pieces for her and VOILA you have natural building blocks!! Now, I need to find myself a log and have hubs make me some!!! 

ANNND the most exciting, engaging, messy, amazing, hands on activity yet!!!! We put our learning to work and we CREATE!!! Just like the master himself! My favorite part is how they use his technique and his vocabulary and they are talking about texture and color and mixing!!! It is absolutely and completely satisfying to listen to them create these beautiful papers that we will, as a class, turn into a mural that will hang in our hallway for all to see!!! The mural is still under construction, so I will add it when it is complete!! IT'S DONE! We incorporated our Eric Carle painted papers into our ocean unit and created and Under the Sea mural!! 

Isn't this mural beautiful? I had each child choose an under water animal or plant that they wanted to add to the mural.  Then they chose the color they wanted for their choice. I either traced their choice (on the SmartBoard, just by pulling up an image and placing the paper on it and tracing with a marker) or I free handed what they chose. We then put them all together and hung it in the hallway to show off our amazing artwork!! 

  Next to dramatic play planning, another one of my favorite things to do in the classroom is COOKING!!!! We cook a lot and I have a small kitchen in my room that I have built throughout the years. I have a microwave, crock pot, hot plate, griddle and all of the utensils and products to whip up something on a whim!! Sometimes, I make my kiddos fresh chocolate chip cookies just for fun and they get to enjoy them right out of the oven.....that is heaven!!! But, to end our unit we read Pancakes Pancakes I pull out the griddle and they get to turn their own pancake and put it on their plate and add their toppings.  We do this first thing in the morning so they think it's so cool to have a "second breakfast" that's super sneaky!!! 

And there you have it folks!!! That is my Eric Carle Author Study in a nut shell!!! I hope you find it inspirational and as enjoyable as we do each year!!!! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

We are 100 Days Smarter!!!!

Well, we made it!! We are at the 100th day of school and are so close to first grade!! YIKES! We had so much fun this week.  I used to do 100th day only on 100th day....then I realized there were WAY too many cool fun activities out there to do so I stretch it out over the whole week! and why not?? 100th day is kind of a big deal!!
Here are some of the activities we engaged in over this week.  Now, I am 100% positive these are NOT original ideas!! How did we teach before Pinterest, TpT, and blogs??? I love love love all of the available resources teachers have out there for other teachers!! It really is life saving at times, right?? Ok, here we go...
For the Library corner it was difficult to find several 100th day books, so I added books that we about school as well.  Since we were studying 100 days of school I thought it was completely perfect!! They love walking in and seeing what new surprises are in the library corner!! 

Dramatic play, anyone??? If you read my previous post on play in the classroom you know that I am passionate about dramatic play!! It is my favorite center to plan, can you tell?? I simply tossed together some "teacher" things that I wasn't currently using and I had a great little classroom! If 5 year old me could have walked into kindergarten to this as a center she would have had a smile on her face for a week!!!! This was a very popular center this week...everyone wants to be the boss  teacher!! 

I love Dollar General , Dollar Tree, any store with the word dollar in it has MY attention!! Putting together this 100 piece puzzle with my littles was pretty exhilarating!!! and I was a bit obsessed to get it finished before PE!!

Sensory table this week was pom poms and a muffin tin with the numbers to count to 120 by tens.  Using the tweezers they would count ten pom pom and place them in each compartment.... and then "sell" me the "cookies" for $1.00 each :) 

Race to 100! Easy Peasy to put together!! copies of 100 chart inside plastic sleeves, beans for counters and foam dice.  They would roll the dice and place that many beans on the chart.  First one to 100 wins!! 

OH MY GRAVY!!! Talk about a HIT!!! they love, love, LOVE building cup castles!!!!! Giggles and screams galore!!!! 100 cups from the dollar store, of course, and you can make some kids SUPER happy!!!! 

Building structures with 100 marshmallows and toothpicks.  DISCLAIMER: I did not count out 400 marshmallows and 400 toothpicks (since there are 4 people at this center) so I cheated a little and put a bag of marshmallows in a pan and 2 bowls of toothpicks on the table.  But the amazing contraptions they built were genius!!! 

Our 100th day hats...nothing fancy, just FABULOUS!!!

100th day snack ideas!! I used to do the "Count out 100 snacks at home and bring them in for a 100th day party mix" activity.... and then, I really, really thought about it and I realized that was kinda risky with all those pesky germs out there, so I had a new plan of action!! I have 10 parents send a different snack and it goes as follows.  FIRST we all wash our hands and tables!! Everyone has a 100th day mat that I made out of construction paper and laminated.  There are 10 circles in 10 different colors on the mats.  I then put each snack in a small Styrofoam bowl and place it in their tables.  So each table will have 10 bowls.  I then instruct them on how to count their snacks out of the bowl and if you touch the fruit loop, then it is YOUR fruit loop because it has YOUR germs!! I realize there is still a possibility to spread germs...however, it is GREATLY reduced when there are only a few hands reaching into that bowl instead of 23!!! After they count 10 of each snack and their mat is complete I give them an empty bowl and they are ready to snack away!! I love this activity and they do too!!! Here's what we used for our snack this year: animal crackers, fruit loops, Oops berries cereal, Cheeze-Its, chocolate chips, marshmallows, mini MnMs, pretzles, goldfish, and Cookie Crisp!! 

I mean, come on!!! Can they be any cuter doing this in their cute little hats?!?!

I love how careful they are to place each snack inside the circles!! 

So, there you have it!!! Our 100 days of school week is complete!!! Stick a fork in me because I.  AM.  DONE!!! It's exhausting, but I love it and wouldn't want to be anywhere else!!

100 down....only 75 to go!!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not Your Average Kindergarten

Today is going to be short, because I am gathering up pics and activities for our 100th Day of School that we are celebrating this week!! SO stay tuned to see what fun I have planned for my little nuggets.

I just really would like to take this time to share my "philosophy" of worries, I will try not to bore you...I am just passionate about early childhood and I am saddened that it seems as though kindergarten isn't kindergarten any more, in most cases.

But on the bright side, I am proud that my district still believes that kinders are little and they still need that play time to learn to socialize, solve problems, make friends, reenact real life situations.What is so wrong with 5 year olds BEING 5 year olds??? Why are we forcing them to grow up so quickly and turning them into "test taking little robots"? Now, don't get me wrong, I realize the value of test taking skills and when it is time to work in my class, it's time to work....but when it's time to play I pride myself on providing meaningful and engaging activities that they will enjoy and remember for years to come!

I have so many teacher friends on Instagram that I am thankful for! It really is my happy place to get on there and see what all of these inspiring teachers are doing in their classrooms.  It is very fortunate that those kindergarten teachers that are not "allowed" dramatic play, or blocks only on inside recess days, are thinking outside of the box and creating fun and engaging activities for their students that are not boring old pencil paper tasks.  I realize that it is often not the teachers choice, they are just doing what they are told to do.  boo....

I am happy to say that in my room I provide dramatic play, blocks, woodworking, sensory table, light table, ipad, computers, library, writing, and 5 different tables with fine motor activities each and every day for 45 minutes in the afternoon! This is what my kids look forward to the most! When they walk in on Monday mornings they always look in three places to see what we are studying that week, the dramatic play, sensory table and library.  This excites them and gets them ready to learn! It makes me happy to see their faces light up when they walk into the room and there is an igloo and ice fishing, or a 50's diner, an apple stand, military command center, a Valentine chocolate shop, and so many others I'd love to list! I enjoy planning it and making it happen as much as they enjoy playing in it! 

So, it's ok if these little ones play each and every day! They are learning so much more through their free play with each other than I could ever teach them!! I love kindergarten , my kids love kindergarten and it's awesome that we are not your average kindergarten.  

This is my dramatic play for my penguin unit.  The Emperor penguin on the wall is the actual size so the children can measure themselves to see if they are taller than an emperor or not.  I also have "ice fishing" which is just an alphabet fishing game that is also used during literacy centers and there is a "fire" outside of their igloo.  

One of my favorite dramatic play centers to set up is my Christmas one!! they are able to redecorate the tree, make cookies, sip "cocoa" by the fire and you can't see but there is also a baby bed on the right side that they LOVE to play with! I put 2 babies in there because I only allow 2 people in this center because of space and  it reduces the amount of quarrels and they seem to play better when there is just 2.  

Close up of cookie baking. I LOVE this Melissa and Doug sliced Christmas cookie set I found at TJ Maxx for $15!!! Woohoo!! I love a good bargain! 

This is so much fun for the boys, but the girls really dig it as well!! It is my military command center.  I have printed pics of maps of Afghanistan, Iraq, soldiers from WW1-modern day men AND women soldiers and even some of our four-legged furry soldiers! I have 2 grown boys, so lots of this army stuff came from their rooms and a friends son.  I didn't purchase anything to create this center and it was a hit!! Wait, I take that back, I found army helmets and vests at my FAVORITE STORE IN THE WORLD......DOLLAR TREE!!!! Seriously, I have to go there every week or I have withdrawals!! It's a problem... :) 

I hope my post inspires you to let your little be just that...little.