Thursday, December 17, 2015

Polar Express Pajama Day

We had such a blast today in our pajamas!  The energy was so high you would have thought I gave them candy upon entering the classroom today :).  We started our day off reviewing our pre-primer sight words on a fun website based game of memory.  Then we had to get right to work making our Christmas presents for our moms.  We lost a day this week due to snow so it was a rush with slightly wet paint in the end but they turned out so cute!
 We watched a narration of "The Polar Express" book that had images from the book, movie and other scenes to go along with it.  Then we watched the "Hot Chocolate" scene from the movie and followed that up with dancing to the song.  Our next step in our holiday gifts was to sew on buttons.  The kids did a fantastic job with this mini sewing project.  I was so proud of them and proud of the ones who were waiting patiently for their turn.
 They even got to wrap their presents at the end.  It's been fun to see these kids grow in silly skills like ripping tape off the dispenser.  It wasn't too long ago that that task was simply too difficult for them to do.  Today most of them did it on their own with little struggle.  I was so proud of them.  When we were wrapping presents I asked the kids to be quick because moms would be arriving soon and we didn't want them to see their gifts.  One of my boys responded with, "But we just got here!"  It was such an exciting day that it was over before they even knew it!
Have a fantastic holiday break!  Enjoy family and spend some time reading to your children.
Hugs and loves, Miss Amanda

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How We Express Ourselves: Writing and Color

Today we had a great time writing to express ourselves.  We made a big deal about working and trying hard at the task no matter what it looked like.  The task for some was more about the drawing and for others was more about the writing.  Then each child got an opportunity to share their writing with the group.  I know the kids love having sharing time but it was so sweet to hear it from one of the boys directly about how much he loves sharing time.
 We then headed to the kitchen to paint!  I was very impressed with their ability to follow fairly complex instructions for making their color wheel.  I only gave them one step at a time with the tools to complete that step after I had explained it.  They were super excited when we started blending colors and they saw new colors appear.
 Of course, clean up after using that many paint brushes was quite the party at our one little sink :).
The kids played outside for a few minutes while I finished up with the paint brushes and wiping down the table.  The weather is so nice I'm sure they wanted to stay out and play forever.  There was also the benefit of feeding the chickens today.  I let them feed some celery that was still in the garden (quite wilted and sad) and then some mealworms, which the kids and the chickens were super excited about.
I don't have any pictures, but toward the end of the day we had about 5 minutes before pick up and a cute little voice asked if we could listen to the "Wolf and the Little Boy" again.  "You want to listen to 'Peter and the Wolf'?" I asked. "YES! That was so awesome!" Came the reply.  I LOVE how much they got from that experience and turned it on as we finished up for the day.  What happy little people :).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How We Express Ourselves: Color and Music

Today was a phenomenal day in preschool.  The kids worked very diligently on on their reading lessons.  We added new sight words and started talking about vowels and consonants. After working very hard we moved into our inquiry block about how we express ourselves.  We reviewed emotions (which we spent last week talking about) and talked about how our emotions can also be demonstrated through music.  We spent the next 30 minutes listening to "Peter and the Wolf" and acting/dancing out the parts of the story.  If you've never listened to Peter and the Wolf with kids I'd HIGHLY suggest you look it up.  It is a fantastic example of how music can change to demonstrate different emotions and events in a story.  The kids were in love with the activity as they were able to act like all the characters including a cat, bird, wolf, hunter, grumpy grandfather, and happy carefree child.
We then talked about how important music is and what it can tell us about emotion.  We spread this into a couple of books about colors of emotions and listened to Kira Willey's song "Colors".  We also had to read "Blue Hat, Green Hat" by Sandra Boynton because it's hilarious.  At the end of the day we drew and wrote about our experience with "Peter and the Wolf".  I was super impressed with these kids today.  Keep up the good work!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Emotions: How We Express Ourselves

This week in preschool we started our new inquiry block "How We Express Ourselves".  With preschoolers this starts of with discussing emotions and actions/reactions.  We read tons of stories like "The Way I Feel" and "Today I Feel Silly" to discuss the wide variety of emotions.  I love that "Inside Out" has been seen by many kids in the past year.  They have more vocabulary to describe the different emotions because of it.  We identified emotions all day long on Tuesday and then on Thursday we talked about what emotions look like on your body.  If you're happy you smile, if you're sad you may be quiet, if you're excited you may be jumping up and down.  We also talked about the possibility of changing a negative reaction (hitting, snatching, wailing, sulking) into a helpful reaction.  The idea that we have control over how we react is still being worked out within preschoolers.  I hope that our conversations this week have opened them up to a possibility of choosing a different reaction, though as an adult it is still hard for me personally to change a reaction. One small step at a time, I suppose.
The first couple of weeks of December will also be spent reviewing the 4 basic coins, their value and their identifying characteristics.  On Tuesday we talked about pennies and shined our pennies in a salt and vinegar solution.  That's why my house was stinky when you picked up your kids :).  On Thursday we talked about the nickel.  We're also dilligently working through the Moffatt Girls Ready2Read program and reading our interest led reading books.
Thursday we pulled out the puppets and let the kids play with the puppets and the emotion bean bags together.  It turned into a silly game of very emotional puppets :).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Turkey and Thankfulness

With a mini break on Tuesday due to the quantity of snow we had lots of work to catch up on today.  The kids were AMAZING and worked so hard the whole time they were here.  We did our standard reading review and lesson before heading upstairs to paint turkeys and write about them.  Each child could choose if they wanted to write about the turkey or about things they are thankful for.  I was impressed with the quality and quantity of writing today.  They were all diligently sounding out words!  It was so exciting!
 We worked more on our reading lessons while our turkeys were drying.  We're making great strides with the Ready2Read program from the Moffatt girls and our digraphs study.  Keep up the good work at home and enjoy next week off!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Creative Explorations

We are working on our inquiry block titled "Where we are in place and time".  We spend much of our day singing the days of the week and trying to figure out what day would come next after a given day.  Today we started days of the week books.  We wrote the names of each day by stretching the sounds and writing the sounds down one by one.  
 We also spent a little time talking about if anyone has special plans for Thanksgiving.  We wrote about our special plans if we knew what they were.  Please talk with your children about what you plan to do for Thanksgiving.  This will help us compare the first Thanksgiving a long time ago and Thanksgiving now.
We reviewed faced of 3d shapes today and I was happy to hear most kids remembered exactly what we were talking about and even remembered how many faces were on a cube, cylinder, etc.  They were then turned loose to play with the blocks and quite creative play broke out.  Apparently all the spheres were "cows" that were getting loose and needed rectangular prisms to build fences around them.  It was so fun to watch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Digraphs and Faces of 3d Shapes

I was so excited that the Moffatt Girls just came out with a new digraphs bundle of workpages.  What I had been using were ok but not great.  Today we were able to really focus on the /sh/ digraph with the whole class.  We also worked through the rest of the digraphs and some of the Ready2Read program.  We had fun writing and illustrating in our journals and the kids were super sad that we didn't have enough time to let everyone share.  I'll need to set the timing better on Thursday so we can for sure share with each other.
 Since learning the names of 3d shapes came so quickly to this group of preschoolers I was able to start a new section on faces of shapes.  I had this idea that we could use little stickers with faces on them to mark where all the faces are.  It worked fantastically!  We first started with regular wood blocks as they are bigger and easier to handle.  Then each child got a full set of the plastic small 3d shapes.  They were able to put stickers on each of the faces and work on counting how many faces are on each shape.  It was amazing how long they were really focused on this activity.  They loved the interaction between stickers and blocks.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Where We Are In Place and Time

We had so much fun today talking about where we are in place and time.  With preschoolers it's a continual conversation to help them understand how each day is different and how they are represented on the calendar.  He acted out a whole week of waking up on a day, eating, playing, eating, playing, eating, brushing teeth, going to sleep, and waking up the next day.  While they were "sleeping" they were asked to figure out what day would be next when they "woke" up by singing our days of the week song.  They picked it up really quickly.  Encourage this conversation at home by telling them what day it is and asking them what day will be tomorrow.  The words "yesterday, today, tomorrow" are still not a concrete idea but the pattern of the weekdays should be well learned by now (at least in my classroom as we sing the days of the week all the time).  The kids were even singing it without prompting as they were working on their Very Hungry Caterpillar book today.
video
We spent a good deal of time talking about how things don't stay the same.  As we grow and learn time is passing and things are changing.  We talked about if we remembered when a sibling was a tiny baby and are they still the same tiny baby or have they grown?  We worked through a very real broken arm scenario with one of our gals by discussing how in the summer her arm wasn't broken and she could do whatever she liked, now her arm is broken and she has some limitations, but in a couple of months her arm won't be broken any more and she can go back to ice skating and other things she loves doing. 
 We've continued our lessons on digraphs (sh, ch, th, wh) and blends (bl, cr, etc).  We're seeing harder words (CCVC* rather than CVC**) in our reading books that indicate a blend at the beginning of the word.  We're also seeing more digraphs as we're ready to dive into more complex reading.  Our practice in 2D vs. 3D shapes is proving that these kids have quite nearly mastered this concept already.  I scheduled the whole month of November to work on them. Maybe we'll start counting faces and vertices, something I've never done with preschoolers before, but they're ready for more than just names. 
*CCVC = consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant
**CVC = consonant, vowel, consonant 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Like to Move It, Move It!

I still am not sure why the song "I Like to Move It, Move It" broke out among all 8 kids today but it became the theme music to our day.  We got right down to business this afternoon as kids walked in and immediately started working on their reading books.  They are doing so fantastic.  I'm using the series "Now I'm Reading" with them.  It's working great to have a whole set for each child.  They can practice and work on the books at their own pace.  They are a fantastic next step to reading BEFORE tackling any harder phonics.  The simple CVC words are tricky and this series is great practice.  We then wrote about our weekends, most about what they did for Halloween, and then shared with the whole class.
 Today we started learning about the difference between 2D and 3D shapes.  I was quite impressed with the kids who remembered many of the 3D shape names from our lessons last year.  We had fun playing with all the blocks and there was a ton of calling out the correct shape name.  There was also a lot of "I like to move it!" singing, which proved very helpful when it was time to clean the blocks up :).
I utilized the Moffatt Girls November Kindergarten pack for our study about Where We Are In Place and Time.  We worked on filling out the November calendar today.  We sang the days of the week and talked about which day was today and which day would be Thanksgiving.  We also talked about how each day we wake up, eat breakfast, play, eat lunch, play, eat dinner, go to bed and then when we wake up it's a new day and number on the calendar. That was fun to act out :).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Preschool Halloween Party

We had so much fun in preschool today!  Everyone wore their Halloween costumes to school.  We played with balloon "bats", decorated our Halloween bags to carry all of our stuff from the day, read a "Pumpkin Day" book together and explored the parts of pumpkins.
 We played with the seeds and guts of pumpkins.  We also turned our pumpkins into geoboards with push-pins and rubber bands. 
 We wrote spooky haunted house stories and made patterns out of finger prints. 
We had a fun day learning and playing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween is in the air!

Today was such a fantastic day in preschool!  We played on Starfall.com and read some Halloween stories to get started.  Then everyone helped decorate the classroom by cutting out pictures and taping them to the walls. 
 Every year we make "Ghost Footprints".  On a paper cut like a haunted house we paint our feet white and add ghosts.  A little tip - wrap completed feet in baby wipes to help with the cleanup process.  Also, having a trampoline for kids when their done is an added bonus since it takes time one-on-one to complete the painting part.  We'll write in our haunted houses on Thursday and then send our art home.
 We also worked on our books about Halloween and added skeleton bones to our body maps.
For math we worked on AB patterns with Halloween images, it was tons of fun!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Writing about Halloween

We began our preschool day working on our books about Halloween.  We're writing and illustrating our own stories about our costumes and traditions.  As each child finished the writing portion of their book we glued their picture to the back and they wrote some information about the author.  It was so fun to see them really take ownership of their work. 
 We had so much fun reading Halloween stories with half of the lights turned off for a "spooky" effect.  Then we spread around the room to practice our decodable reading books.  We finished up the day working once more on graphing.  I know I told you that we were done with that on Tuesday.  I lied.  Turns out I failed to do coloring graphing, we only did cut and paste examples and the concept didn't cross over.  After working on it today the concept clicked.  There is an empty page on the back that they can practice again at home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Importance of a Finger Space

Today in preschool we started work on our own book that mimics a book called "This is my Halloween".  It is an easy reader and we're utilizing the pattern to write similar books with words and pictures that match our own personal Halloween stories and costumes.  After reading our mentor text a few times we were ready to get started.  A mentor text is a book that does something that we want to try and do in our own writing.  "This is my ..." is the repeating phrase we'll be using within our own books about our costumes, family and traditions.  As we were working a teachable moment arose when I noticed so many books looked like this: ThisismyHalloween.  Insert a lesson about the importance of a finger space.  Here is the idea: between every word there is a space so we know the old word is over and a new one will begin.  In the beginning writing stages using a finger space, actually putting your finger down after a word and starting your new word on the other side of your finger, the space becomes a concrete part of the writing process.  Try to encourage the use of the finger space if your kids are doing any writing at home (which I highly encourage!). 
 Our work on our decodable and leveled reading books continued today with great success.  There may have even been M&M's involved.  Boy those little mini M&M's encourage kids to try sounding words out immediately instead of staring off into space.  With the little motivation I was thrilled to see the fantastic progress that the whole group is making.  Keep it up!  In fact, the progress was so awesome that I'm going to ditch the rest of the alphabet review entirely.  Expect a new calendar with updated information soon!  We finished our short unit on graphing today with a little cut and glue project and then had a blast with an introduction to making thumbprint Halloween creatures.  We'll be using thumbprint creatures for the next 3 days in our build up to Halloween.  Happy learning everyone!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Writing Workshop Takes Off in Preschool!

We had such a fun day of school today.  I'm very impressed with the writing we are producing already.  Today we had a nearly complete actual story about Batman.  It had a cover, a beginning, and a middle.  We talked about how fun it was to listen to the story and how we hoped that the last page would be worked on during our next class to finish the story.  Being able to create a story line in writing form is very difficult and it's so fun to see it emerging already!  I am impressed with the attempts to sound words out and add them to our books.

Sharing what we did as authors today.
 We continued working on reviewing the alphabet today.  We added the letter "G" which we practiced by opening our mouths really big and making the /g/ sound at the back of our throats.  Through our interest led reading books and our decodable "Now I'm Reading" sets we had plenty of practice with the letter G.  We're continuing our graphing conversation in math using the books we read aloud each day.  Today we read three books that all had "Moon" in the title.  It was fun to talk about our favorite story out of the three and "vote" to make our graph.

Passionate Reading and Writing in Preschool

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!  On Tuesday in preschool we used a loved classic to work on reading the word "and" as we reviewed the letter D.  We talked in great depth about how we don't write or color in books at the library, books at home, or books at Miss Amanda's house.  However, they were being gifted a special book where they had permission to highlight all of the words they know how to read in the story.  We read through the story together, highlighted the words we knew, and then read the story again...maybe even two more times.  The kids were so excited about their own books and a story many of them already loved.
 We also read two other story books and used all three read alouds from the day to make a graph of which story we liked the most.
 Yes, I really do teach kids to write this way.  In the bottom left picture you'll see how we worked on sounding out the following words: family, dump truck, Dora, Hello Kitty, villains, dinosaurs, dragons, and dino trucks.  We "grab" the word in the air and then slowly "stretch" it to find out what sounds we should write next (imagine grabbing bread dough and then stretching it long and thin).  We are not looking for accuracy in spelling here.  These guys are 4 years old, and even at 5 and 6 years old phonetic spelling is perfectly acceptable.  After we spoke in great deal about how to write words we continued our work on writing our very own books.  A few kids decided to start new books and the rest continued working on the book they started last week.  We have some great authors!  Encourage this phonetic spelling at home!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Books Galore

Books, books, books.  Today I nearly lost my voice in 2.5 hours of preschool.  The reason?  Books.  It is much more rewarding to read books with a theatrical emphasis, especially if one is sharing their favorite book that happens to be called "Where the Wild Things Are".  It just needs some roaring and eye rolling to really sell it.  Today we hit on our passions very intensely.  We talked about our favorite stories, the types of books we love to read and found something suitable for each of us from our classroom library.  We talked about how reading a book is more fun when you get into the story and read fluently.  It's less engaging when you stop part way through a sentence.  It is certainly more fun if you read it with fun voices. 
 Through a variety of high interest books and leveled readers we took time today highlighting and marking parts of fascinating  stories that we could read on our own.  Though there was a lot of jumping around to quickly find sight words we will continue our focus to hopefully start at the beginning of each sentence and do our best to actually read the majority of the text.
 Our fantastic exploration of books today led to our first writer's workshop where we each started writing our own books.  With a few sheets of paper stapled together and all the writing tools we could think of we wrote and drew stories.  There were stories about villains, being a vet, a ride at the local amusement park, a camel, a whirlwind, and a few other ideas.  The kids did fantastic with adding their name to the cover just like real authors and adding words and pictures throughout their books.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Working with Word Families

Today in preschool we reviewed the letter O.  We spent time using the letter O in two common word families: -ot and -op.  The goal was to make as many words as we could and figure out how they are the same and different from the opposite word family.  As we talk about letters and sounds in words we're drawing attention to the sounds in the beginning, middle and end.  The word "top" came up so we took a little break to play with tops on the tables.  As kids worked on a word family sorting page (after I had worked through it with the whole group) I was able to read one-on-one with each child and I have to tell you that these kids are doing fantastic!  It's not common to teach 4 year olds how to read in a preschool setting, but I LOVE watching the light in their eyes as they recognize that they are readers and are in charge of their own brain power to accomplish a difficult task.
 We're continuing talking about passions and interests of each child and spent our writing time practicing our clock letters while we were drawing and writing about our favorite things.
As promised, the Guess My Secret Rule game was back again with new options.  We added size and thickness (fat like a hamburger, skinny like a lettuce) to our options for rules.  It made the game quite a bit more challenging but we're getting the hang of it!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

New Basement

Ok, I admit, I teased you about posting pictures of our awesome new school room and then I didn't post them.  Now a month later I'm catching up!  Yay!  We are having a fantastic time in our new school room with both the Preschooler and my own kiddos in our homeschooling adventure!  We took out a wall, added a TON of bookshelves (which means my boys have been reading so much more on their own now that they can get books by themselves), and made a nice little nook for the SMART Board.  We're loving it!  Thanks for pardoning our dust over the summer!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Guess My Secret Rule - a Comparing and Classifying Preschool Math Game

Guess My Secret Rule is one of my favorite games to teach preschoolers.  It introduces comparing and classifying language into our math day in such a fun way.  There are a few rules to this game.  Each person builds their own "sets".  Each set needs 4 blocks.  Within those 4 blocks three of them have to be the same and one has to be different.  Then they get to ask anyone in the room to guess their secret rule by telling which one doesn't match.  Once the person guesses the builder of the set has the most important question to ask, "Why?".  Then the guesser has the opportunity to describe the characteristics that match or don't match.  Today we played with pattern blocks, which gives the game a very small framework of choices for things that match (color and shape).  Next week we'll start playing with attribute blocks were descriptors like size, shape, color, and thickness will also be in play.

The sound isn't great, but I just had to capture the kids doing such a fantastic job at this game today:
video
We also continued our work on writing clock letters (focus on lowercase a today).  
 Sharing our work is one of the best ways to get kids to talk about themselves and develop the confidence to share and learn from each other.
 Our reading lessons today were so much fun with glitter sight words and success in reading and blending!
 Keep up the great work at home!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Growing Our Muscles!

You just can't plan for these things in the classroom... Today we spent almost the whole time talking about growing our muscles, including our brains.  It started out with a child saying his hand was too tired to practice writing any more. My gut reaction was filled with enthusiasm, "GREAT! That means you're growing your muscles!" Promptly EVERYONE in the class had tired hands, legs and heads.  Thus, the conversation of growing muscles continued throughout the day.  "Shh!! Watch! He's growing his brain!" was said more than once as a child was demonstrating or sharing with the group.  It was so much fun!
 Today we reviewed the letter P and added the sight word "ball".  The kids had so much fun "taking a picture" mentally of the word so they could remember it.  We also continued our conversation about clock letters practicing the letter C.  In math we're wrapping up our number sense unit and had the opportunity to play a few games again.  We made ten frames with Q-tips, tornadoes made our base ten blocks get thrown all around and they needed sorting back onto decimal street, we built the 1-20 chart and made chains 20 links long.
It was such a fun day of learning!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Persistent Learners

Today in preschool we talked about being persistent A LOT.  We jumped right in to work on sorting sight words with do-a-dot markers and then moved to cutting and gluing to make a 15 chart.
 There was much conversation about how the 15 chart was difficult.  It was tricky figuring out what number goes where and which direction to place the number. Often times the first time you do something it isn't easy but with practice it gets easier.  As long as we are PERSISTENT and KEEP TRYING we are GROWING OUR BRAINS!  Isn't that exciting?
 During our writing time today we jumped back into forming clock letters.  We only talked about the letter O today but we did make a capital (mommy) and a lowercase (baby) attempt.  Imagine a clock.  When we write circle shaped letters (imagine the letter "o") we start at the 2 o'clock and go counterclockwise around the clock and back to the 2.  We do the same for letters like "a" (start at the 2, counterclockwise to the 2, then straight down), "d" (start at the 2, counterclockwise to the 2, straight up to the top and straight down to the bottom).  Clock letters include: a, c, d, f, g, o, s, q.  These letters all start at the "2 o'clock" (the f starts at the 2 on the top clock).  This is an important habit to encourage at home.
 The kids were thrilled when I told them they would get to watch a movie.  Shouts of "Iron Man" and "Blues Clues" were offered up as suggestions.  Instead, we watched Steve.  He's the man in the Math-U-See curriculum videos.  We watched about 3 minutes of his segment about "Decimal Street".  Then we played the decimal street tornado game.  Each child got a page with a drawn decimal street and some unit and tens blocks.  We would all make tornado noises and mix up all the blocks.  Then when the tornado ended we had to put the units back in the units house and the tens back in the tens house.
After playing the tornado game the kids were let in on a little secret.  When we write the quantity of blocks in each house it writes the same number as there are blocks!  I explained it in more appropriate 4 year old language and we built the numbers 1-12 on the white board as we were talking through the concept.

These kiddos certainly worked hard as persistent learners today.  Great work everyone!