What Winter Storm Warning Really Means

It means an entire day to craft away….and then blog about it. So this week we’re doing our ‘Outer Space’ theme and there’s no shortage of fun, smart ideas for content teaching on Pinterest and Teacherspayteachers. For open-ended outer space play, we’ll use our Safari Space Toob figures – if I have any left from last year or if like every year, I need to buy another one because I won’t find last year’s figures until the Space theme is finished for this year…ayeayeaye.

There are dozens of playdoh recipes floating around online but the one I’ve used for years is:

2 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 cup salt, 1 Tbsp oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar*, and food coloring.

I whisk it together in a bowl and pour into a pan on medium heat. I stir until it becomes a single glob and then I take it out and knead it on the counter – it’s pretty hot  so I wince at first (this is probably why I don’t like making it!). Last time I made playdoh I added some fine glitter and it was so gorgeous, I couldn’t stop staring at it. When the kids would drop some on the floor, I’d pick it up and mutter under my breath! I don’t think I’ll ever NOT add glitter to playdoh again.

*just a note about the cream of tartar – I used to use 2 tablespoons but I’ve read some recipes that use the smaller amount and the stuff is so darn expensive that if it doesn’t make that much of a difference, why spend more? Do you know where the stuff comes from? I just learned this – from the bottom of wine barrels. You could really save money if you made your own wine AND cream of tartar my friends.

Anyway, back to the subject. I added black food coloring to this batch and after it was out of the pan, I kneaded in blue, pink, and gold fine glitter and small white and blue star confetti. And look at this stuff! Will I even be able to take it to school???? The picture doesn’t do justice and I don’t have the toys to put with it because – it’s a snow day! Maybe I’ll post some faceless kids playing with it later in the week. For now, it’s MINE….ALL MINE!

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What Makes Good Early Childhood Data?

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Goal: Given 2 choice times per day, student will choose a toy/activity and play for at least 1 minute. 

Sure – tally marks, time sampling, structured observations,  charts, graphs….create them, compare them, send them home to parents, take them to IEP meetings. But please don’t use them to replace your narrative records. Why? Well, here’s an example…

One day during choice time, to your utter delight, you see the child with the above goal sitting on the sofa of your dress-up area with a doll in her arms, saying, “Hi girl…” There are so many things happening at this moment! I want to record the dialogue (using words to greet) and the activity (dramatic play). I want to take a picture to use this as a visual prompt to play tomorrow.  I want to call her mom – perhaps they can do some doll play at home. I want to note this moment to expand play with an adult or a peer later.

But if this observation is nothing more than a dot on a chart or a slash on post-it, it is likely to be lost. And that is why I strongly encourage this data-driven generation of early childhood teachers to learn and practice the art of recorded observations.

Breathe, Children, Breathe

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Circle time in our classroom has somehow gone from impressive to insane. Maybe that’s a bit over dramatic. In any case, I know that we go through phases in the preschool classroom. Whether we’ve got cabin fever (April is still winter in Upstate NY) or the addition of a few new characters in our production, circle time has escaped me these days. I’m a firm believer that it’s our job as teachers to make circle engaging enough that the kids will attend. Oh, our kids are attending all right – to each other! 

So, I wanted to try something different. We recently had a yoga training at one of our conference days and the instructor showed us some interesting breathing exercises. What I’ve decided to do is just the good old ‘in through the nose, out through the mouth’ to start circle time this week. So I picked up some fake roses, a box of birthday candles, and some green scotch tape. I happened to have some lollipop sticks. I taped the rose around one end and the candle around the other end. My plan is to give each child one of these (pictured in the lower right hand side) when they get to their seat and we’ll all try a few rounds of “smell the flower, blow out the candle”. If breathing really makes a difference, a few rounds of this should help us start out circle time a little calmer Monday! But just to humor myself, I’m predicting that there will be a few kids who manage in the first few seconds to tear off the flower, pull off the tape, and try to chew the candle. Ahhhh…preschool 🙂

learning to spell our names…

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One of the activities I’ve used to help the kids learn to sequence the letters of their names is shown above. Our kids really love puzzles and what could be more motivating for prek kiddos than pictures of themselves? I made this as a word document with the letters of each child’s name spaced evenly underneath their picture. I cut up one picture and had them glue the pieces on the other picture. Plus this activity has differentiating possibilities! The easiest version is shown, since it only involves matching. For more challenge, have the kids glue the strips onto a blank piece of paper. For some cutting practice, have them do the cutting. 

What could bee sweeter?

Sometimes one part of the day is so endearing, it takes away the fact that you didn’t sleep well the night before….
Today my assistant made the cutest thing in food group with the kids. It’s part of our ‘Bugs’ theme – a bee made with apples, blueberries, Kix, a rice cake with cream cheese, and carrot slivers for the antennae and stinger. Adorable and a yummy snack! Then in music group I taught the kids that old song, “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee…” I gave them each a plastic bee from the Honeybee game. They thought it was so funny at the part where you drop it and say, “OW! It stung me!” They loved squishing it up and saying, “EW! It’s all over me!” They wanted to sing it 3 times and laughed more each time we sang. SO CUTE!!!! Of course I had to preface the song by saying, “Boys and girls, do we really catch bees in our hands and squish them up?” That’s all we need!

At long last......

Jeepers Creepers, it was a long, cold winter in our neck of the country! Maybe everywhere. That just makes days like today sweeter – we actually let the kids take their coats off. It never gets old when a little kid hands you a dandelion with the same expectation as if they were handing you a huge bouquet of roses. What a magical age when they think those pungent weeds are beautiful and worth finding and giving. We are finally rediscovering our playground at school. There won’t be many dandelions for long!

Spring Bulletin Board

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I truly love doing bulletin boards – always have. Sometimes I end up with something I love and other times, I’m not so crazy about how they turn out. They take so much time and I always feel a little guilty spending time being artsy rather than doing other planning and prep. We finished our Spring bulletin board this week and I have to say I love it. It’s a collection of different things I’ve seen on pinterest. If you look at my ‘stuff to make’ pins, you’ll see where most of these ideas started. From left to right here is a description of the flowers the kids made for each window box:

The first flowers were made by cutting open those small craft cups, kind of like the ones at a dentist’s office. Inside they glued the shredded tissue paper pieces (I think they’re called FLOX – you could just make your own). They painted the flowers and glued them to green construction paper stems/leaves. I added some felt ‘vines’ on that window box.

The second flowers were colored construction paper cut into circular swirls. I rolled them up and taped the ends. There are actually only a couple of kids in our class who can cut that well so these flowers were made by just one enthusiastic little girl and I!

The middle window box is filled with pre-made cardstock flower shapes. I bought those from one of the school supply places online. You get a pack of them and they are actually big stickers. I had the kids glue mini muffin cups in the middle with a circle of textured foam inside. Then they glued tissue paper to the petals and painted the stems and leaves green.

The forth box (there’s not a close up of this one) is just made with corks dipped in paint and dotted into the shape of a flower. I gave the kids a sample and this is what they came up with. These are the only flowers that aren’t 3 dimensional.

The final box is filled with tissue flowers. You know, the kind we made as kids? Tissues folded accordian style, fastened in the middle and then gently pulled apart. I made one for each child and they used liquid watercolors to color them. 

To finish off the board, I used some festive wrapping paper to make ‘curtains’ at the top of each window. I love having 3 dimensional elements on a bulletin board. I might pick up some birds/butterflies to add to the board. They’re on sale at all the craft stores!  This came out so cute, I might get away with keeping it up until the Fall 🙂