Friday, February 10, 2012

Keep it Popping!

One of the biggest hits this winter was the day I brought in the air popper and let the popcorn pop all over the place.  We put a blanket on the ground and all gathered around.  Many of the children had never seen an air popper before.  They were used to having popcorn from the microwave.  I explained to them the effect of the heat from the popper and they used all their senses as they observed what happened next!
They were captivated as they watched the kernnels pop here and there and change as they reacted to the heat!  As soon as it was done, guess what they said..."Can we do it again?"  And of course, the answer was "YES!" 

I couldn't believe how much they enjoyed eating the popcorn when it finished popping.  It didn't have any salt or butter on it!  They were so intrigued about what they had experienced, they couldn't wait to eat it!

This activity was so cool because it was a great example of how essential it is to plan lessons that are engaging and use all the senses!  I didn't have to worry about behavior problems one bit during this lesson!  It was also an awesome springboard activity that hooked children into learning more about popcorn and the science behind what makes this favorite snack go from seed to snack!

So, next time you plan a lesson think of what you can do to "keep minds popping" as you hook children into learning!  Engage the senses and engage the mind!

Ice Play

It has been an unusually mild winter around here.  There has been very little snow and the temperature feels more like spring that winter.  It has been interesting talking and learning about winter while you barely need a jacket outside!
This week, we used some heart-shaped ice cube trays to make colored ice for the discovery tubs.  We also used some ice tubes that were from a tray I got at the Dollar Tree.  We added a drop or two of liquid water color to each tray of ice before they were frozen. 
We added some tools like tongs, scoops, and cups for them to use as they explored the ice. 

Some of the kids discovered that the ice made their hands different colors as it began to melt.  We got some paper and explored what would happen if we used the ice to color on paper.  They even tried using the tongs to hold the ice while the were writing.  What great hand strengthening activities!

Reserved Parking Only: Parking Lot Playmat

We made this parking lot to use in our block center the last few weeks.  We used a large piece of brown felt for the pavement.  The colored spaces are parking spots for the cars.  Each parking spot is made of felt.  We guided the children in matching their cars to the space that was "reserved" for that color car.  We added the corkscrew racetrack as a "parking garage" at one end of our parking lot.  This was very easy to make.  The hardest part was squeezing the Tacky Glue out of the tube!

Math Trays for Multi-Age Preschool

One of the challenges we face in our program is the multiple ages and developmental levels of the children we serve.  We constanly strive to meet the learning needs of all the children in appropriate ways.  One activity that we have started doing this year is math trays.  I found these baskets at Target for $1 each.  Everyday as the children arrive they complete their arrival routine and then find their tray on the table with activites that are appropriate for them.  At arrival time, we focus on math readiness skills.  This particular week we were focusing on counting skills. 
This pink tray is a ice stick tray from the Dollar Tree.  We used a permanent marker to write a numeral in each slot.  The child is then given a small manipulative (buttons in this case) to count into each slot.
This child has the written numeral as well as a visual cue to help them count the correct number of tokens for each square.  The children also enjoy playing with their manipulatives and have some free exploration time while they are working at the tables as everyone arrives and gets settled for the day.

This child is using the same tokens as the child above, but he is focusing on color sorting.  He is using a wooden tray that I found at the Dollar Tree to sort each color and give him the visual cues he needs to help him make the groups.  You just never know what fun tools you'll find at the dollar store!  The nice thing about all of these materials is that they can be used over and over in multiple ways.

As you can see in some of the pictures, we have dry erase boards and markers in each basket as well.  One of the things the children do when they arrive is practice writing their name.  According to their developmental level, they may just be making lines or working on the first letter of their name.  Some children are working on fine tuning their hand writing skills for kindergarten and beginning to write their last name as well.  I found those little dry erase boards 2/$1 at Target before school started this year.  We needed something to erase with and we found some little gloves in the classroom that weren't being used so those are our erasers.  One board and one marker fits nicely into the glove for safe keeping.  The children also enjoy trying on the gloves and it is great fine motor practice for them to try getting all their fingers in the correct holes. 

Ten in the Bed

When I was a child I remember my family snuggling in my mom  and dad's bed and playing this game.  We would say, "There were 5 in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll over'".  Slowly but surely each family member would roll out of the bed until finally only one remained.  It is such a fond memory, that I enjoy sharing this song with my preschoolers as often as I can.
These are little dolls that I made using colored clothes pins.  I simply drew on a face and glued on some yarn for hair.  I used a small piece of extra material for a blanket to cover them up.  As we sang the song as a class, each child had a chance to come up and roll one of the dolls out of bed.  They loved it and these little clothes pins were just prefect for rolling!

After several readings of the book Ten in the Bed we also took an opportunity to act out the story with our classmates.  The children all snuggled up under a quilt that I brought from home and slowly but surely they rolled out of the "bed" until the final child said, "goodnight."  It is a hit for sure!

As a part of our Night-time theme we also enjoyed several readings and activities with the Five Little Monkeys books by Eileen Cristalow.  The activity below was a class favorite!  We used a small basket with a picture of a bed and small monkey finger puppets to "bounce" while we repeated the rhyme.  At the end of the rhyme the child would give the basket an extra "bounce" and see how many monkeys fell out of the bed.  It was a great opportunity to squeeze in some math concepts by discussing how many monkeys remained in the bed.
At the end of the week, our speech therapist came in and did more "monkeying around" with the preschoolers and made a special monkey snack with the children.  They loved their little monkeys!  The were almost as much fun to make as they were to eat!
The base of the head is a mini pancake that was warmed up in the microwave.  They added some chocolate frosting "fur".  The ears are mini vanilla wafers and the nose/mouth is another vanilla wafer with a little piece broken off.  The eyes are m&m's and the smile is gel frosting.