Thursday, February 20, 2014

Come Play With Me! Teacher Rebekah

I recently read that, “among young children the line between fantasy and reality is delightfully fuzzy”. That fuzzy line is what allows our children to play and learn. However, how they play changes as children grow. When the younger class begins the year we see the kids taking in their new environment, and playing but not necessarily together. Parallel Play can be observed in those first few months as the children are watching each other play and immersing themselves in play, often side by side, and becoming comfortable with the environment.

As we reach more than halfway through our school year, we see less parallel play and more cooperative play. The children are beginning to find a friend to create with. Castles with knights and horses are fighting off flying dragons, cowgirls have been seen stomping through the carpet area on their way to lunch and towers taller than the sky have been built (and crashed), all while working together. I even heard a rumbling that a movie was being shown in the playhouse, complete with snacks.


Although it is very exciting to watch the kids begin to play together, there are many kids still in the parallel play stage.  Remember, they are the ones quietly observing their friends, watching them model cooperative play. They will get there!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Engaging Children With Microenvironments - Teacher Elaine

As teachers, we strive to design centers in our room that engage the children, support their interests and invite social interaction.  We often set up “microenvironments” throughout the year.  A microenvironment is an area or play station that is often a scene or habitat with props where the children can develop imaginative stories and scenarios by themselves or with others.


Fall is the perfect time for a forest habitat with hills, trees, a cave and various woodland creatures. We read stories about such themes as changing leaves and hibernation beforehand, so it wasn’t surprising that many of their stories reflected similar subjects.


We designed a haunted house at Halloween with pumpkins and trick-or-treaters complete with interchangeable costumes.


Both of our classes really enjoyed reading and acting out The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  We decided to try a new environment based on that story with hills, a bridge, three billy goats and some trolls (You never know when those old toy trolls in the basement will come in handy).  This activity allowed the children to make the story their own and gain an understanding of the characters and narrative.  It was fun to hear them retell the story in their own words with dramatic inflection and proper sequencing of the events.

We designed a “Santa’s Workshop” during the holiday season complete with Santa, the reindeer, a sleigh, elves and many toys that fit into Santa’s bags.  This provided a great opportunity to share Santa and decide which toys were going to be delivered.


Our latest environment was a winter scene with snowy mountains, ice blocks for building ice forts, skiers, people ice fishing on a frozen lake and a warming house.  The children could play in the pretend snow while waiting for Mother Nature to deliver.

These environments not only invite pretend play, but they support literacy, exploration and socialization provided through open-ended opportunities for learning.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kindergarten Valentine Store - Teacher Jean

Last week, our Valentine store gave the Kindergartners a hands-on introduction to the idea of exchanging money for goods. Each child started with $.25 in pennies. The pennies were used to buy large paper hearts and the supplies they needed to decorate the hearts. The items varied in cost, from one to three pennies each.

Teacher Lisa demonstrated counting out the correct number of pennies to pay for each item as she collected enough to get started on her heart.

Then they were off and running.

Some children chose to make their hearts symmetrical. (We have talked about symmetry quite a bit this year.) Others used a more free-form approach.

After they finished one heart, they could start on a new one, and when they ran out of supplies, they went back to the store for more. We re-supplied them with pennies as needed. We used the rest of our math time shopping and decorating hearts. The children enjoyed it so much that we opened up the store again during free time. 

We had each child choose one of their hearts to decorate our tree in the hallway.

We will continue to practice counting money in several ways, including matching the date with coins during calendar time. Our art store will appear again in another form soon.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed reading about the Valentine store. Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Our Younger Class at the Water Table - Teacher Marah

We have a water tub that gets a lot of attention in our classroom. It can be security for children to come in and go there first. Some children guess what color the water will be each day.

There is a lot of exploration going on with all of the pouring, sorting items in the tub, and imaginary lemonade, coffee and various "other" items made out of water.  

We vary the contents by holiday as you can see in these pictures around Halloween.

There isn't always water in the tub either. Around the holidays we turn it into a wrapping station with boxes, paper and tape to wrap a gift that the children have made at the invention table.

In January, the tub was full of snow (packing peanuts) and was full of penguins and polar bears to explore with. We also had Insta-snow that is powder that you add water to and it's wet like snow, but doesn't melt!

We also had a polar ice station. The children brought in ice frozen in every thing from yogurt cups to specially shaped ice cubes. We added bags of ice, rock salt, regular salt, and colored water and let the scientists see what happens when you put these all together.  Did you know that salt is like glue with ice? It also eats through the ice and when you use your fine motor skills squeezing colored water through the nooks and crannies, it's amazing what you can observe.

These are just a few of the ways we make use of play in the water tub. There might be fishing going on, or creepy crawlies in there. We put dirt and "plant flowers" (silk, of course) and put grass and bugs (fake ones) in there to catch.  The children always make their way to the tub to see what's new there, what will inspire their imagination at school for the day.