Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mittens, Hot Chocolate, and Warm Hearts! - Teacher Jennifer

We spent the last week of January keeping our "mitts" warm and very busy with all of our activities! Our art table this week featured two mitten projects. On Tuesday, we had the children use pipettes to squeeze watercolors on mittens made out of coffee filters.  This activity helped to strengthen the children's hands and pincer grasp (what is necessary to hold and manipulate a pencil when writing) along with providing some great scientific opportunities to observe how paint drops, spreads, and mixes on this thin, absorbent paper.

 On Thursday, we had the children create a patchwork mitten by overlapping tissue paper squares on a paper mitten.  Once again, the children were really exercising their pincer grasp picking up these thin pieces of paper!  These will be mounted on a square and will join our melted snowmen in the hallway to create a winter quilt for all to enjoy.

At our math table this week, we worked on our visual discrimination and spatial memory skills by playing "Mitten Concentration."  The children took turns turning over two mittens and then determining if they were a match!  We had many different colors and patterns for them to coordinate.

On Thursday, we practiced our counting and one to one correspondence skills from 1-10.  The children filled a small cup with 10 snowflake buttons and then spilled them over a mat with a mitten in the middle.  They needed to count how many snowflakes landed on the mitten.  The children pointed to each snowflake and counted.  We will continue to work on these very important skills!

Mittens also made a grand entrance during our story and group time! Some of the favorite stories shared were The Missing Mitten Mystery and The Mitten Tree. We enjoyed dancing the "Snowkey Pokey" and playing a game where children brought up colored mittens that rhymed with a word Teacher Lisa said in a poem. "If your mitten rhymes with SINK, it must be _________." Based on the children's beginning understanding of this game, we will spend much more time with playing with words, listening for rhymes, and finding the perfect stories to practice this very important literacy skill! At home, be looking for for toys that rhyme, playfully bring rhyming into your conversations in the car, and listen for and point out words that rhyme in books! The children will catch on really fast.

Speaking of rhymes in books, the children LOVED listening to the story Ten in the Sled.  We watched animals sequentially fall out of the sled in the story until it was empty.  The cadence and rhyming words made it very easy for the children to catch on and also to practice counting backwards from 10-0.  After we read the story, we took some time to act out the story!  We were able to fit 5 children in the sled at a time. 

"There were five in the sled and ___________ said, 'It's snowing!  Get Going!'  So they all got going and _____________ fell out."

The children enjoyed playing many different games this week and working together to build big floor puzzles.  Don't Break the Ice, Polar Bear ABC, and building/playing dominoes kept the children's "mitts" busy!

One of the most popular areas of this classroom this week was the center table filled with Magnatiles!  If you are not familiar with Magnatiles, they are translucent shapes that have magnets around the perimeter.  They lock together to create masterpieces!  The children love to stack them, connect them, and create pictures with them.  This would be a very solid investment to have at home!

As always, the play dough table and the easels attract children all day long.  We notice that these areas are very soothing for children who need a "break" from the room.  They are also very safe spaces to have conversations with their friends!  It is so fun to see what our "mitts" create and crave!

After all of these "cool" activities, our "mitts" needed to be warmed up.  The best way to do this?  Gather around the water table filled with hot chocolate cloud dough!  This dough was created from flour, canola oil, and hot chocolate mix.  It was a soft and moldable.  The children enjoyed filling mugs, sprinkling marshmallows on top, and adding red and white striped straws!  A few lattes and mochas were made (we are guessing similar to mom's Starbucks order) and even chocolate birthday cakes with candles!

Whew!  It was a very busy and very fun week with this class!  We welcomed a new friend, and sadly, had to wave and say goodbye to one who has moved to a new house.  Working with our hands is so rewarding.....and such hard work!

Until next time........
Jennifer and Lisa

What's in a Name? - Teacher Lisa

Lines and letters were the name of the game in our older class this week. Since the children started writing their names for check-in, we have been using names as an opportunity to begin focusing more on letters and sounds. This is something we will continue to work into the curriculum weekly throughout the remainder of the school year.

At the art table we explored lines all week. On Monday the children rolled a die with different line samples on each side. Then (with some help from an adult) they drew those lines in glue on a black mitten.

Wednesday they looked at the spaces created between the lines and used oil pastels to fill them in. This was a task that required focus, stamina and a lot of hand/finger strength to do all of that coloring. They did a great job!

On Friday they did more writing with glue as they traced their printed names. They covered all of the glue with salt and then carefully dropped water colors on each letter, watching as the paint traveled along the salted glue without spilling off. They had to be careful to release drops sparingly - another opportunity to practice fine motor control.

We played with names at our group time as well. Since we no longer need their old check-in cards, we cut the pictures off so that we could use them for a matching game.

We played a game called JUMP - ask your child to tell you about it! (We held up the name cards one at a time and read the individual letters together. Any time a card that said JUMP was held up the children all had to jump up and then sit back down as quickly as they could). Sometimes JUMP came up several times in a row which resulted in lots of giggles!

We also did the following chant reading the children's name cards:

Hickety, pickety bumble bee
Won't you spell (Molly's) name with me?
Read it! (Molly)
Clap it: (Mol - ly)
Whisper it: (Molly)
Cheer it! (MOLLY!)

***Here's a "try-it-at-home" idea: Write out the names of the people in your family and use them in this chant. You can also write your child's name out and then cut it into separate letters. Have them practice putting the letters in order. Too easy? Make one version with all capitals and one with all lower case letters. Or try it with the names of family and friends.

At the math/science table this week the children measured their height using mittens. They each filled out a page to put in the portfolios they will bring home at the end of the school year.

They also played an addition game rolling two dice, calculating the sum and then placing a game piece on a snowman with the corresponding number written on it. Most of the children have a good grasp of number recognition up to 10 so we will focus on 11-20 for the rest of the year.

On Friday they took it to the hallway for some Name Hockey. Each child collected the paper plates necessary to spell out their names.

Then they laid them down in a line on the floor, spelling their names toward the hockey goal net.

Once the plates were in place, they used a hockey stick to hit the puck and bump each letter, naming them as they went. Once their entire name had been bumped with the puck, they went on to score a goal! If they wanted to, they could switch with the friend they were playing with to spell the friend's name instead.

While we were doing our mitten measurement, we pulled mittens into our story time as well. On Monday we read The Mitten by Jan Brett. As we read, we also used props to tell the story. These were then available to the children for retelling on the next school day.

Wednesday we read another version of The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt and compared/contrasted the characters from each story. We drew a Venn diagram and asked the children to help us place each character in the correct section according to which story (or stories) they were in. We were impressed with the children's recall of characters and how quickly they grasped the concept of the diagram.

One of the biggest hits in the room this week was the "hot chocolate" in our tub. This combination of flour, canola oil and Swiss Miss resulted in a soft, pliable substance perfect for packing into cups and buckets. Spoons, scoops, marshmallows and drinking straws were all that the children needed for hours of fun. And it smelled delicious, too!

If anything was as exciting as hot chocolate, it was the fact that the children met Panda and began taking him home for sleepovers. This is such a special and memorable tradition at Small Friends!

Table games have also been very popular with our Older Class. They have been enjoying Checkers, Don't Break the Ice, Polar Bear ABC, and dominoes. We will keep those games coming! Playing board games is a wonderful way for children to practice taking turns and working together. Some games also challenge players to devise strategies and use critical thinking skills. Do you have some board games tucked away that you haven't played for awhile? Pull them out - your children will love them!

Many of you commented on the trolls we had out on our light table. They were definitely a blast from the past for those of us over 5 feet tall! The children enjoyed them, too. Ask your child to tell you about the story The Trouble With Trolls and how Treva tricked the trolls into giving her back her dog. Talk about strategy and critical thinking - she was an excellent problem-solver!

On Friday we demolished our igloo. You should have heard the shrieks and giggles as it came down. We stomped on the cartons to mash them down, pulled off all of the tape, packed them into bags and took them up to the recycling dumpster. Cheap and easy entertainment - the children were delighted!

Here's a look at what else was happening around the room this week:

It's been an exciting January. Monday the children will add a special item to their memory boxes to commemorate the month and then it's good bye snowmen, hello hearts! We will also do some Chinese New Year activities in the coming weeks to celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

Until next time...
Lisa and Jennifer