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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Worms and Eggs

With this the last week of school before Spring Break (and Easter occurring during at the end of the break), we have been talking a lot about Bunnies and Baskets this week.  Also about eggs, which go with baskets.

As a result, I got out the plastic eggs to play with on the playground.  Needless to say, the Little People were thrilled when I poured the big bag of them out on the ground, and they got to do what they wished with them.

I kind of thought they would hide them, but they did not.

The first thing they did was throw them.  It wasn't complete random throwing, but instead was attempting to throw them up on the tent/awning above the play structure (seen in the background of the picture below).    They figured out a few months ago that because of the slanted angle of the roof, if they threw balls up on the awning, they would roll off again and they could try and catch them.  Most of the time.  Sometimes the thrown object got stuck, and then we would let them problem solve about how to get it down. (Usually this resulted in someone throwing a bigger ball up against the bottom side of the awning, knocking the stuck object off.)

As this is their custom, I wasn't surprised when the eggs started being launched up on the awning.    Actually, it proved to be quite a challenge to get them up there, since the eggs are so lightweight.  However, this same lightweightedness prevented them from harming anyone as they fell off.  We just called that area near the edge of the awning the "Danger Zone" so anyone playing there would be aware of the risks of falling plastic eggs.

The next step of play with the eggs was to fill them with things.  Some tried to find smaller eggs to put in the larger ones, but most just put wood chips in them.  And then some started digging up earth worms and putting them in the eggs.  I almost put a stop to this, but one of them charmed me with her clever analysis of the situation:  "Hey!  Birds like worms!  So we're just feeding them before they're hatched!"

However, I did have to put my foot down with the first two worm scenarios combined and they started launching wood-chip and worm-filled eggs on top of the awning.  Because all of the sudden we had an egg-launcher shrieking, 'There's a worm on the roof!  There's a worm on the roof!"  And sure enough, if you stood under the awning and looked up, you could see the silhouette of a poor little worm wriggling around on the roof.

I used my own problem-solving skills on that one by getting one of the playground balls and throwing it up under the awning, sending a shower of wood chips, egg parts, and one stranded worm on the nearby onlookers.

Then I banned putting worms into the eggs.

Today they launched the eggs on the awnings, they put wood chips on the eggs - they even sat on a few of them perhaps hoping they would hatch - but they did not (to my knowledge) put worms in them.  It might have upset the (hungry) unhatched baby birds, but I'm pretty sure it kept the worms happy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Lot for a Little - Things that Add Dimension to your Preschool That Don't Cost Much

You know, I love the Dollar Tree.  And the local 99 Cent store, too.  There is always, always something in those stores that I want for the Little People.

Now, despite the fact that each item in a dollar-type store doesn't cost much, one can obviously spend a great deal of money in these stores.  Especially if one stops by, say, three or four times a week.  However, it's always exciting to me that sometimes you can just buy one or two small items that turn out to make a very significant difference in how your preschoolers play and learn.

For example, one item that I found last week at our local 99 Cent store was some plastic grass.  Not loose Easter grass mind you, but instead flat sheets of quite unattractive fake plastic grass.  If you try at all, you can even pull out tufts of the grass off of the plastic grid to which it is attached.  Nevertheless, despite its  plastic-y  and extremely unnatural condition, I was thrilled.    We were talking about Bugs and Butterflies that week, and I figured some sheets of grass were just what those insects needed.

I had already put out a basket of large plastic insects with the blocks on the carpet, but not much had happened with them.  However, once I put out the grass, something interesting happened.  Not only did the bugs have new homes, the kids started sorting them. One day I saw this:

The next day I saw this.  Something about the squares brought about some grouping and sorting - plus some extra creative play that had not happened before they arrived.

This week we're talking about Bunnies and Baskets, which includes lots of eggs.  I'm thinking that if I get some more squares of grass, the eggs might get even more new forms of grouping and sorting, too.

Which is a nice bit of extra learning for a rather inexpensive item.

**Note:  When I went today to pick up some more grass squares for the block center I was amazed to find that they were all sold out.  I quite honestly couldn't fathom what people other than preschool teachers would want to do with such very fake grass.  But, as is always the case, one person's artificial grass is another person's treasure.  I'll just have to keep my eyes open for some more.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Name Cheers in Preschool

Have you ever had anything to cheer about with your preschoolers?   Each spring I like to have my Little People make Name Cheer books.   These are accordian-type books that the kids make which have a page for each letter of their name.  (I originally got this idea from a Mailbox magazine.) Once the kids make their book and practice a bit, they take turns standing up in front of the class with pompoms and leading the class in their Name Cheer, with the "audience" cheering the each letter back:

"Give me a B!"  (B!)
"Give me an O"  (O!)
"Give me a B!"  (B!) 
 "What does that spell?"  (Bob!).  They love it, and it helps everyone involved with recognizing and naming letters, not to mention helping the cheer leaders learn how to spell their own names.

However, what they love even more is using and getting to keep their own pom poms.  Last year I just borrowed a coteacher's pom poms for Name Cheers, but this year I wanted to let everyone take a pom pom home so they could do their cheer for their family.  So I decided to make some.

After searching on Pinterest I found this Pom Pom tutorial:

Source: marthastewart.com via Julie on Pinterest
I basically followed the instructions from the link above, and found the directions very easy to follow. Therefore, I will just point you to that link for the basic pom pom steps instead of trying to replicate what is already well-explained.

I will say that I seriously overestimated the amount of tissue paper that I needed for 25 pom poms.  To keep you from doing the same, I will tell you that it worked out that it took approximately one standard sheet of tissue paper for each pompom.  However, since I used more than one color on each pom pom,  I cut several different-colored sheets of tissue paper at a time and mixed up the colors as I went to make multi-colored pom poms.  Like this:

One difference that I made from the original tutorial was that I did not wrap my cut tissue paper strips around a dowel.    I made this switch largely for cost purposes, but also because the combination of Little People and dowels in my mind just makes me think of poking.  And who needs poking with the Little People?

Instead of a dowel I used toilet paper rolls.  One roll was too short of a handle, so I put two rolls together.

Fold one of the toilet paper rolls in in half lengthwise (like a hot dog).

Place the folded tube inside the non-folded one a few inches.

Then fold the unfolded one so that the folds line up with the already-folded inside tube: (I know, there are a lot of "folds" in that sentence - sorry.)

Hold them together tightly and wrap well with masking tape.  This will become your handle onto which you tape the tissue paper.

Using this as a handle, follow the instructions in the link as Martha suggests.

When I was done, I had a wonderful pile of pom poms for the Little People.

As a side note, I also made one pom pom out of my favorite new material, plastic tablecloths.

While it turned out cute, I still decided that tissue paper was the most cost-efficient choice for the large quantity I was making.

When all of our Name Cheer books were made, I put them all on our bulletin board with the available pom poms.  After the kids practiced saying the letters in their name, they got to choose the pom pom that they wanted and used it to lead their Name Cheer in front of the class.  Then they got to take the book and pom pom home and (hopefully) do their Name Cheer for their family.

Making the pom poms is definitely something that I would do again.  It was easy, inexpensive, cute, and highly popular with the Little People.  Definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Goodness of Glue in Preschool

A week or so ago we were doing Letter W with the Little People, and as a result did some fun activities with wood.  Of these activities, my most favorite was making Wood Sculptures.  I gathered all of the various wood pieces that I could find in my Creative Art stash.  There were cubes, flat squares, matchsticks, craft sticks, wooden spools and various flat wooden shapes.  I put out containers of these objects on the art table along with pieces of cardboard and bottles of glue.  Then I let the Little People go at it.  I didn't give them any instructions except for "make whatever you want", and just watched as they came up with the most wonderful sculptures.

And believe me, the glue was flowing on this project.  The kids had a blast pouring the glue on the cardboard, gluing pieces together, making glue puddles here and there, and filling all of the wooden spools with it.

To be honest, I was just as happy as they were as I watched them work.  Because the truth is that I think gluing is good for children.  Not gluing with glue sticks, or gluing with tiny adult-administered dots of glue.  I mean gluing with the whole bottle.  Squeezing the bottle and watching it flow out.

Granted, I am not going to let them pour out enough glue that it runs off the table onto the floor.   Nor will I let them pour glue in the non-art area or on each other.  But I am going to let them use the bottles alone and add the glue to their projects that they think is needed.

Because Little People learn things when they glue.  They learn about volume and spatial concepts and viscosity. The learn about pressure, and how glue gets hard and clear when it dries.  They learn that yes, glue is messy, but that it also washes right off.  Believe it or not, they also learn that sometimes too much glue is just too much.

I have discovered that I am unusual in this belief.  I have worked with several teachers that avoid liquid glue at every opportunity.  Or they try to control how much glue the kids put on the their paper.  Or (even worse), they commandeer the glue bottles and administer the glue themselves.  Worst of all,  they will shun all liquid glue efforts altogether and will only give the kids glue sticks to glue on heavy objects that won't stay glued to the paper and then end up falling off and lying sad and abandoned on the floor.

But I think there is a true goodness in glue.

Next week we're doing the Letter X.  To celebrate this I am going to pull out the many, many small cardboard boxes I have been saving all year long (think cereal and crackers and toothpaste boxes).  Then I am going to let each child use as many boxes as they want and as much glue as they want to make box sculptures.

I haven't told my glue-fearing coworkers this yet.  They might actually shudder at the thought of all that glue.  But the Glue Lover in me almost shivers with the anticipation of it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bubble Wrap Butterflies in Preschool

This past week was Letter B for the Little People.  Letter B is one of my most favorite weeks, as it comes in the spring and lends itself well to learning about bees, butterflies and bugs.  I had also been saving bubble-wrap forjust this week, and decided at the last minute to combine several b-words and make  Bubble Wrap Butterflies.

I folded my bubblewrap in half and cut out some butterflies.  Mine fit nicely on a 12 x 18" piece of construction paper. I used a little bit of regular glue to adhere the butterflies to the background paper to keep it from sliding around during painting.

With our butterflies the size that they were, I worried that I would need some really dedicated painters to fill the entire shape with paint.  However, that didn't seem to be a problem at all, as most of the Little People really seemed to enjoy painting the entire thing.  (Surprisingly enough, only a few kids got distracted by trying to pop the bubbles.) After the kids painted them, we put a white page of construction paper on top and the kids rubbed on it to make the butterfly print.

When the prints were done, I cut around the printed shape before we put them up on the wall.

I also saved the bubblewrap shapes as well, and was delighted to discover how nice the look up on our windows.  Despite the fact that they were lightly glued to the background paper, they pulled right off and now decorate our room on every window.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

18 Fun Ways to Create Learning Experiences with Muffin Tins

This is the first in my new series of "Wait!  Don't throw away that    (insert object here)   ".  It's intended to highlight objects that you might ordinarily throw away that you might could really use in preschool.  Or more likely, objects that other people in your family might throw away, since most preschool teachers I know don't throw away anything.

If you are a yard saler, you can think of these posts as "Wait!  Don't overlook that ________." with yar dsales in mind.  Sometimes it just takes a new perspective to see ojects that you might ordinarily overlook in a new light.

This week we are talking about muffin tins.  A week or so ago I was doing my usual yard sale perusing when I noticed a few muffin tins at a sale.  There they sat, rejected and alone.  I must confess that I left them in this sad state, as I did not pick them up and buy them.  However, once I got home I started thinking of what you can do with muffin tins, and after spending some time on Pinterest I had a wealth of ideas.

Of course, yard sales are not the only place to get muffin tins - just the main place to get them cheap.  You can also buy very nice muffin tins at Dollar Tree and for more than that at any other regular store.

So wherever you get your muffin tins, here are 18 fun things to do with muffin tins at preschool:

Muffin Tin Labels on the Store Shelves

I have a new items in my TPT and TN store that I am very excited about.  They are muffin tin sorting labels.  They are designed to be cut with a 2" circle punch and placed in the bottom of muffin tins to assist sorting of objects on those days when you want to provide a set of basic skills sorting standards.  (Most times I like for my Little People to come up with sorting categories on their own, but some days I want to check their understanding of certain concepts and will use these labels.)

There are several types of sorting labels in this set:  Upper case letters, Lower case letters, Numbers, Colors and Shapes.

You can look at and purchase these items in my Teacher's Notebook and my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  Both are priced at only $2.00.