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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Decorated Doll House

My kiddos absolute favorite toy to play with during the month of December is our doll house.  I put out a box of decorations (a little tree, wreaths, garland, plastic candy canes and so on) that I buy at Target after Christmas (or at the Dollar Store) and ticky tac and let them go wild.  Both the boys and girls LOVE decorating and redecorating the house.  I also give them little gingerbread ornaments and the gingerbread boy and girl finger puppets that I made. What fun it is to watch the creative adventures of the gingerbread family.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Personalized Christmas Balls

Each year the teachers at our preschool make an ornament or small present for each of the children. We have made a LOT of adorable snowmen.  The criteria for choosing the ornament is that it has to be non-religious, it can't be very expensive and we have to be able to produce 100 of them in a couple hours (there are 9 teachers working). The idea for this year's ornament came from our director Joanne (who is the source for many of the ideas I share on this blog).  It was really simple and the ornaments came out beautifully.  We simply put a picture of each child into a plastic ornament.  The photo above really doesn't do the project justice.

First we traced around a plastic template and cut out the picture.  It is important that you leave a tab on the top.

We then put the date on the back of the photo with a sticker.  You could also glue pretty scrapbook paper on the back.

Next we wrapped the photo around a pencil...

and then slid the rolled picture into the top of the ball.

Once the roll is inside, we used the pencil to flatten the picture back out.
Adorable!  We tried adding a little bit of "snow" or glitter but it stuck to the sides of the ball and photo and took away from the whole effect.

I'm planning to make more for friends and relatives with new babies.

Friday, November 16, 2012

We Are Thankful

This is an idea I saw on last year on the Let's Explore Blog.  I love how they turned out,  I began by reading Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes.

After we generated a list of things we were thankful for, I spoke with each child individually during free play . Each child told me what they were thankful for.  Some could rattle off eight or more things without taking a breath.  Others needed prompting to think of more than 2 or 3 things. If they needed prompting, I asked about their favorite toy, or food or activity. I then asked the child to tell me which item(s) they were most thankful for.  I then typed up all of the poems and printed them onto watercolor paper that I had cut down to 8 1/2" x 11".  

Next I traced a large leaf pattern onto contact paper. I cut the contact paper and placed it over the words.  We then used liquid water colors to paint around (and over) the leaf.  When the paintings dried I pulled off the contact paper. 

Last year, many parents told me how special this project was to them.  It really captured what was important to their child at this moment in time.  

Unfortunately, the project did not go nearly as smoothly this year.  I used Discount School Supplies' "contact type" paper and when I went to pull it off, it took the letters too.  I ended up having to leave the plastic over the poem.  They still look good... sort of like a window, but next year I will use real Contact paper.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Fun Update

The campaign buttons my assistant and I will wear tomorrow.
         Today I told my class that they were going to chose one of the toys that would be in our classroom for the next month.  My assistant campaigned for Lego.  She explained that a vote for Lego meant that they would also get some new Lego.  I campaigned for the Sand Table and asked the constituents what they would want to dig for in the sandbox.  Suggestions included dogs and cats and jewels.  I promised that if they picked the Sand Table it would have toy dogs and cats and jewels (not sure I'll be able to keep that campaign promise because I only found little dogs and jewels among our toy and craft collections:).

During free play, many of the children chose to make posters and buttons for their preferred toy. There were also chants of  "Lego, Lego, Lego" and "Sand Table, Sand Table." The kids  are really excited about the election!

A Lego supporter (as evidenced by her giant sticker).
A Sand Box supporter.
Busy Making Campaign Posters.
Vote Lego!

After voting, each child will get an "I Voted" sticker.
Our Voting Booth is all ready for election day.

Early polling seems to suggest that we are going to have Lego in our class next month :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Fun

I've been trying to think of an appropriate way to celebrate Tuesday.  We have talked about the election  and my kiddos know that there is an election for president, who the candidates are and who their parents are voting for.  I didn't ask for the last information but boy were they excited to share:)  I plan to read Duck for President but I also want my little ones to experience voting.

Actually, we regularly vote for what song we will sing.  I usually have the kids in favor of one song sit and those in favor of the other stand and then we count and compare the numbers.  The value of a secret ballot is really evident as the kids always change their vote (so they are voting like their friends or for the "winning" song :). Dr. Jean has cute ideas for voting on her blog but because of the setup of our day (we play outside, then come in and have our circle time and then snack and then free play and time for projects) we don't have time to do a secret ballot to pick our story, song or snack as she suggests.

Today I had the brilliant idea that we should vote on whether we have the lego table and legos in our room or the sand table.  Tomorrow I will explain that the children will pick which toy will be in our room for the next month.  Then  my assistant and I will each vigorously campaign for one day for our preferred toy.    We will discuss the benefits of each toy and they will be able to ask us questions.  I am going to encourage the kids to make campaign posters and buttons (stickers).


Tuesday, we will have our election.  I made up simple secret ballots with photos of each of the toys.  After each child has come up to the voting booth (a box), and had their name checked off, they will fill out their ballot (mark it with an x) and get a sticker that says "I VOTED!"  We will then count the votes  to see which toy the majority has picked.

 I hope my candidate (the sandbox) wins!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Unclipped Linky Party

Tammy at Forever in First has become one of my very favorite go-to blogs because I love how thoughtful she is about how she teaches and treats her students.  She is the teacher I would want for each of my own four, very different, children.  Tammy has again demonstrated her respect for her students with her current post about why she doesn't use behavior charts in her classroom. Tammy says that when she makes classroom decisions (either academic or behavioral) she keeps in mind how she would feel, as an adult, if those decisions were made for her.  What a simple way that is to evaluate our choices...a version of the Golden Rule.  I think that so many of our actions would be better if we routinely asked ourselves "how would I feel if this was done (or said) to me?."  Tammy's post was inspired by a very articulate post by Nikki at Teaching in Progress titled Why I Will Never Use A Behavior Chart Again."  Nikki suggests a "Take a Break" Center where children can go if they need to take a breather or think about making different choices.  This sounds like a wonderful idea.

I wrote a post several months ago about my concerns with Clip Charts and what I had tried in my kindergarten class. You can read that post here. As I describe in that post, I  liked the easy positive  systems created by Angela Watson from The Cornerstone and Sally from Fairy Dust Teaching.
The Cornerstone's Simple Token System
In my preschool class, I have not needed to use any formal system. I address behavior on an individual basis.  If a child is repeatedly having trouble staying in his/her own space during circle time, I will ask him or her to move to a chair until they are ready to come back to the rug.  Similarly, if a child breaks a rule (for example is running in the classroom or throwing toys) my assistant or I will speak with the child. If the behavior continues, the child will be moved to a different activity.

I feel very strongly that one of the most important things I can do as an educator of young children is to make sure that they are excited about going to school and that they feel confident about their ability to learn.  I think that this should be an overarching goal of all primary teachers (perhaps all teachers:)  It has always been my experience that children who want to learn will learn and I fear that any system that relies on publicly degrading (and evaluating) children will interfere with a child's intrinsic excitement about learning.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Paloosa

Pumpkin Week is always a fun way to get ready for Halloween.  We begin by sorting the pumpkins in our classroom.  The kids did a great job thinking of different ways they could classify the pumpkins.

sorting by size
sorting by color
working on sorting by whether the pumpkin is real or not
We also had lots of fun using our play dough to decorate the pumpkins.
These pumpkins have hair.
We created our own pumpkin patch that was inspired by those made by Deep Space Sparkle.
We mixed red and yellow paint to create our orange pumpkins.
Next we used paper scraps to add faces and turn our pumpkins into Jack O Lanterns
I think our pumpkins have such great personalities! 
We loved the poem "This is Jack O'Happy"...this is Jack O'Mad
We used Mrs. Lee's Pumpkin Investigation to answer questions about our pumpkin before we carved it. We were surprised that it floated!

We voted on how we would carve our pumpkin.

We also measure "how many pumpkins tall" we each are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

LOTS of Halloween Craft Ideas

We do so many adorable Halloween crafts at our school I decided to put lots of them in one post.  Let me know if you need more details about any of them.


Paint tolet paper roll green and black, snip hair end, use green golf tees for bolts, add google eyes and mouth with black marker

The Life Cycle of a Pumpkin

seed is fun foam, sprout is knot in yarn, flower is yellow tissue paper

Giant Pumpkin 

The kids love painting the big pumpkin made by stuffing a paper bag with newspaper.

After the orange paint dries, a face is added with black paint and the stem is painted green.
 Halloween Class Book

Knock, knock, knock
Sounds like more
Trick or Treaters at my door.
I open the door and what do I see?
A __________smiling at me!
The door is stapled on and children draw a picture of  themselves in a Halloween costume,,,I usually draw a square so their picture is not bigger than the space covered by the door.

 Simple Spider Web

A black plastic plate has small slits all around the edge. The children wrap a long piece of white string around the plate and add a spider ring at the end.


I love these simple mummies made by wrapping strips of cheese cloth around popsicle sticks.

I have done this at class parties and have the sticks all glued together in advance. The children first color the top portion of the stick green with a marker and then add google eyes.  They then wrap the long strip of cheese cloth around the sticks (I usually glue one end before I give it to the children. 

Spider Web

This is my favorite halloween craft.  It is perfect for class Halloween parties because it can be done in a short time and there is not a long drying time. The web is made with a permanent marker on a triangle shaped piece of plastic (cut overhead projector sheets in half diagonally).  A long piece of black yarn is attached to a hole in the plastic (made with a hole punch)
4 pipe cleaners are cut in half and tied together at the other end of the yarn. The child wraps the yarn around the pipe cleaners (to make the spider body) and then bends down the legs and adds google eyes.  So simple but so effective hanging in the corner of a doorway.

Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Fence.

Pumpkin Glyph

Skeleton Made From Paper Plates and brads

Painted Pumpkins

These pumpkins were painted with yellow and red paint. the children then added the details with scraps of black and white paper. These pumpkins were inspired by those described on the Deep Space Sparkle blog.


Ghost Lantern made by folding large piece of white paper in half lengthwise.  Slits added on folded edge.  Paper opened and stapled together to form a cylinder.  Paper eyes and handle added.  Simple and cute blowing in the wind.

Halloween Bulletin Board

Haunted House,
Haunted House,
Scary As Can Be!
How Many 
Spooky Things
Do You See?
Ghosts are made white footprints on black paper with sharpie mouth and eyes. Mummies are made with popsicle sticks and cheese cloth as described above.  Pumpkin are sets of 5 all put next to each other.