Saturday, March 12, 2011

Letter scavenger hunt

One of my favorite activities for learning to recognizing letter shapes is a scavenger hunt.  There are many many ways to do this activity.  The basic principle is picking a letter for them to look for in text.
Sometimes I will write a familiar poem or nursery rhyme on a sheet of poster board and allow them to take turns finding and "marking" the letter we are looking for.
Other times I have photocopies each page of a favorite story or two and let them each have a page or two.  After they have marked up the pages, I hang them in order up on the wall and we read the story together, looking at the "letter" as we read.
Still other times, like we did this past week, they went through the books on the shelves showing me words that had "A's" in them, and I wrote each word on a sheet of paper.  I read the word to them, and some of the children talk to me about the sound "A" makes in the particular word.  This is really the only way, I believe that you can even talk about phonics of vowels; which is to say you can only talk about them in context because vowels each can make over 5 sounds each in English, and seldom follow the "conventional" phonetic rules.  Other children aren't yet thinking about letter sounds, and that is okay; they will when they are ready- most of them sometime in the next six months before kindergarten.   (On another note about A- in this instance it is nice to reference text to find "A" because a lower case "a" in print does not look like a written lower case "a."
No matter which of these methods I have used, they really have fun doing this activity and will point out which ever letter we most recently looked for in the hall way, in the lunch room, in the bathroom, and just about anywhere else they see print containing that letter.  They are also learning letters in context of words and words in the context of books and other materials.

If you liked this post also check out letter sounds game

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Hospital

Not very long ago in  our classroom we started putting books in need of a little "TLC," in our book hospital, at first I was a little pessimistic about this idea- after all if they liked having books in the book hospital mightn't they intentionally rip or tear books to get them in the hospital?  Turns out not.  Somehow they have a hyper- vigilant sense of the importance of books now.  They say to each other things like "you shouldn't bend the book like that, it will get broken!"  They put books with the slightest rip, tear, or slightly frayed binding.

Our book hospital is made from a simple small cardboard box and contains clear packaging tape and scotch tape.  On my shopping list is also more gum erasers to clean off any crayon marks that might pop up.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

playing= coping

How many times have you had "that child" who clings to mom, who fights to hold on to her, and when mom is finally out of his grasp, who cries by the door?  You know the one I am talking about.  The one who hangs out at your elbow all day, just fighting away the sniffles?  No, he doesn't care how nice you are, how friendly, how reassuring.  He doesn't want to play.  He doesn't want to hear a story. He wants to GO HOME! It is a frustrating thing, sometimes for teachers.

99% of the time, with a little encouragement, with a little adult interaction, the child will eventually find their way over to an area of interest, play, and forget about home.  The child will have fun, but what is really happening here?  The child is coping.   (The 1% that is not included in this is the one child I ever had who didn't play after an entire day, no matter how much I encouraged.  The next day started the same way, I asked him "if you could do anything you wanted what would you do?"  He answered "go home."  "What if you couldn't go home but could do anything else?" "Cry," he answered.  I told him, firmly but lovingly, that he could cry if he needed to but we, he and I were going to play.  I gave him a list of three things that his mom said he liked to do at home that we could "play together" and said he had to choose one.  He chose drawing, and after a bit stopped crying, and never had a day like that afterward. Some children have to be taught how to cope).  There are a million important things that play "does" for children, but sometimes the most important is that it enables them to cope, and to cope with something that is (for them) very traumatic.  Many of these children have never been with this many children at once, some have never been in the care of someone they haven't know for their entire lives, and the ones that have get to have a "babysitter" in their own home.  It is a tough, tough milestone; but they are hardwired to cope by playing.

Other times play- coping takes a different form.  Sometimes children use play to make scary things that are upsetting to them okay.  For instance the other day a child passing from one side of the room picked up our telephone and screamed into it "OKAY! I ALREADY PAID THE FREAKING BILL!!"  Slammed the phone down and moved on to play in the art area.  Of course we all know there are far more scary things than this that some children are trying to cope with around the world, but this is a small example.
Other times, they are coping with disappointments, rules, or change.  Today one of the children explained to her "baby" why they couldn't go out.  "I'm sorry Charlie, but it is raining out so we can't walk to the post office.  Don't cry we can go another day.  I know you are sad, but we will go another day."

Of course these are verbal examples of children coping, but just imagine how much they are coping with that is NOT verbalized.

Yes, when children play they learn, grow, develop, and cope.  Such a little thing can be so important.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Walking Water": a photo blog

I found this activity at Irresistible Ideas for Play- Based Learning, and my class gave it a go!

Once ALL the liquid was in the bottom cup, they wanted to do it again.  Instead of starting over, I just put blue water in the top cut and left the red in the bottom and put in a fresh paper towel.  They could see that the red traveled up the paper towel and blue down, but the red never made it all the way up into the cup- however the blue made it down and mixed to make purple.

It was a pretty cool experiment, surrounded by a lot of excitement.  Some of them actually watched it for large chunks of time, just watching it slowly move.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Miniature paper towel roll collages

The other day my children were "visiting" in another classroom awaiting my arrival since I had part of the morning off.  When I came in they were painting and gluing feathers to empty paper towel rolls which the teacher was attaching ribbons to and hanging up sort of like wind socks.  When we left my kids begged to do it in our room too.  I had no feathers but I have a huge bin of collage odds and ends and tons of magazines so I gave them glue, paper towel rolls (that I am sure every teacher hoards by the hundreds in their closets), and the collage materials and let them go to town.  I figured that they would each do one or maybe two and tire of it, but I was very wrong.  They made them for hours on two separate days!
 I am not sure what fascinated them about making little collages on little paper towel rolls, although I just suspect that they were interested because it wasn't really like many other art experiences they had before.  In any instance I had dozens of them and wasn't really sure what to do with them, but after a few minutes reflection decided that I would string them on clothes line rope and string it across the ceiling.  This is an idea adapted from when I taught barely three year old children- they used to love to string paper towel rolls on a rope like beads on a string.  In the end this impromptu project looked pretty cool- but more importantly they enjoyed the experience of creating them.