A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for June, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are – Clay Creations

“The night Max wore his wolf suit………..” is the beginning of the much loved book Where the Wild Things Are. A book we have been exploring over the past few weeks and which has stimulated lots of opportunities for the children to be imaginative and creative. We have acted out the story using props and paper wild things, retold it using puppets, created a forest and masks and had our own rumpus using musical instruments and also used clay to create our own wild things. This is the first in a series of posts about these experiences.







Prior to making our clay creations we had many discusiions about the illustrations in the book, looking at the kinds of body parts and features of the “wild things”. We noticed that all of them had 2 legs but the legs were very different in size, shape and covering. We observed that their heads were very different, as were their bodies, and that some had tails and some didn’t. We looked at all the similarities and differences and using this prior knowledge, began creating their own wild things, out of the clay.







I wanted the children to make their wild thing without adding pieces ( because these tend to fall off when dry) so each child was given quite a large piece of fairly soft, air drying clay and  decided which way up they wanted it to be.   I discussed with each child what ideas they had for their “wild thing” and nearly all the children wanted to have 2 legs although some had none, 1 child made his quite flat and another child wanted 3 legs. The children found “karate chopping” the base in the centre was the easiest way to mould the clay for legs. Once they were happy with the legs, with or without feet and claws, they shaped the body, making decisions about arms, wings, shape and size. Sometimes they shaped the head before deciding on body features and sometimes the head was part of the body. It was up to them what they wanted, I viewed my role in this process as a sounding board for their ideas.

The head was the focus of lots of conversations, as they considered the kind of head and features they wanted. Usually, children make the head first when drawing, so it was interesting to observe how they went about this experience with the head being one of the last things to be made. Sometimes the children found they needed to modify the body to ensure they had enough clay for the head. So the whole creative process involved a lot of thinking and problem solving.

This "wild thing" has stripes.









Once they were happy with the shape of their wild things, the children used a pencil to create texture and add more features.


Once they were air dry, the children wanted to paint their wild things………. with yellow eyes of course, so Max could stare into them and tame them! (I had initially planned to leave them unpainted but the children really wanted to paint them.)









Here are some of the finished Wild Things.














Learning Statements-

Imagining and Responding


Fine Motor Skills

Social and Personal Learning

Patterning with Picasso the Green Tree Frog

Earlier in the year we had the pleasure of raising some tadpoles and watching them grow and change into frogs. One of the stories we read during this process was Picasso the Green Tree Frog. This story is a favourite of mine not just because  its a full of fun but also because it demonstrates to children that life is full of changes and that changes can be for better or for worse depending on your perspective.




In the story Picasso has some fun with jelly beans and this can be a great stimulus for sorting and patterning, colour recognition and cutting skills. When I read this story I use  my frog puppet to discuss where green tree frogs live and the children like to make a tree for my puppet to live in and this is where the fun begins.

Once Picasso is in his tree the children love to make jelly beans for him. As a small group activity, the children choose some coloured jellybeans drawn on paper and cut them out. The children then make a pattern using 2 or 3 colours and repeat it, stapling them onto green crepe paper. These are then hung up, and before you know it, Picasso has a very colourful tree full of jelly beans and the children have practiced sorting colours and, creating and repeating patterns.







To add to the fine motor practice the children can also cut out their own frogs and scrunch crepe paper into little balls to glue on, to make their own Picasso. We have also scrunched and glued coloured crepe paper onto coloured paddle pop sticks to make the caterpillar at the end of the story.

Learning Statements-

Early Maths Understandings

Fine Motor Skills


Imagining and Responding

Thank You Eric Carle for Inspiring Us!

We love any book by Eric Carle and always find them inspiring. We had set up a zoo in our classroom and after reading The Mixed Up Chameleon and watching the Youtube Video of the story we thought it would be fun to create our very own mixed up animals. 

 We set to work making lots of interesting paper using a variety of rollers and objects for printing.







We spent several days enjoying this process and when we were finished, we set about carefully selecting paper and print effects to use in creating our mixed up animals.






Sometimes the paper inspired the animal and it’s parts, and at other times we searched for just the right piece of paper, for that special effect in our animal creation.







But either way it was all about our thinking and the process, and that is why I haven’t posted any final animal creations but, if you look carefully in the photos you will see some animals under construction.






 Happy Birthday Eric Carle and Thank You for all your stories and inspiration.

Mystery Objects – developing oral language

The children were very interested in riddles. They enjoyed making them up and listening to the clues to guess the answer. To enhance this interest and their oral language we began a whole group session called Mystery Objects. Every night 3 children were given a calico  bag and after the child had chosen an object, parents were asked to discuss it with their child and help them to consider answers to possible questions using the guide below.










The first mystery object was a zip lock bag and no one guessed what it was, even with some really useful clues. 

  • It is made of plastic.
  • You can use it for holding things.
  • You can keep them in the kitchen.






I found it interesting that after being unable to guess what the first mystery object was, the children even further engaged in the guessing process and celebrated how clever they were when they did guess and, how clever the child with the mystery object was, when they couldn’t guess it. The children who brought an object that no one could guess really looooooved tricking us! Here is an example of what the children brought in as Mystery Objects –

A torch.



An Egg Whisk










I decided to record these sessions  and whilst listening to the play back, the children were very excitied to hear (or in some cases not hear) themselves speaking. They were able to discuss voice tone and volume and it was amazing how they, in later sessions, were very careful to use a “confident” voice so they could be heard. The recordings also provoked curiosity from those children who rarely participate, ( without direct questioning) in class discussions. They were curious to hear themselves speak and quickly became active participants to hear themselves again. The children also liked to guess who was speaking and overall their listening skills as well as their speaking skills were enhanced.

A wide variety of mystery objects were brought in and the children very quickly became aware of the kind of questions that were more useful for guessing the mystery object. They realised that asking “What colour is it?” was not as helpful as “What can you do with it?” and the children became quite creative about the questions asked. This was a great opportunity to observe who was using higher order thinking to ask and answer questions.

We decided to make a book about our mystery objects using a photo and the clues given to describe it. I kept the recordings as portfolio samples and they provid rich insights into the childrens use of oral language and their thinking.

Learning Statements –

Oral Language


Imagining and Responding

Personal Learning

Using fun and play as a provocation for “have a go” writing!

Children focussed and engaged in writing!




Yesterday I posted about celebrating being a child and taking our classroom outside, but what I didn’t share was how all of this fun was a great provocation for drawing and “have a go” writing. After lunch we were a bit tired from all that playing and so after some relaxation meditation and a review of the photos and lots of shared discussion, we decided to draw our favourite memories of our play and “have a go” write.

Before we “have a go write” we discuss the process we use. I have visual clues for these up on the wall in pictorial form with talking and thinking bubbles.

These are –

1. Think of an idea and draw a picture of this idea. (Usually the children are free to draw whatever idea they might have but yesterday I thought we would use our play experiences outside as a stimulus.)




2. Share your drawing with some one. (This creates discussion about their drawing/idea. Sometimes this is with another child or an adult.)




3. Write down any sounds and/or words you can hear in your story about your drawing. (We have a very print rich environment and the children have access to lots of words in a variety of forms.)

4. Don’t forget punctuation!! (We love exclamation marks and question marks and are fantastic punctuation detectives when we read together. A full stop tells us when we have finished writing and a capital letter tell us when the sentence starts.)


5. Read/share your story with someone.


As I said this is a very simplistic version of our discussion and yesterday’s “have a go writing” was amazing. The children were engaged and very enthusiastic about writing and drawing their play memories and used words such as spectacular and ginormous in their stories but, regrettable for this post, they took their stories home to share with their families before I could take some photos. Sorry!

Writing and Shaping is one of the Learning Areas of our early years curriculum. In the national curriculum the suggested outcome for this area is – for the children to write 2 sentences by the end of prep with punctuation.Philosophically this is a tricky and worrying area for me because some of my children are only 4 and a half when they come to school and yet they are expected to write 2 sentences by the end of the year. But……….. the national curriculum is coming and so my challenge is – How do I assist my children to achieve this outcome as best they can considering their developmental age and maturity?

The answer for me is naturally, through play, especially with text, words, letters, sounds etc  but how I do this is complex, constantly evolving and not a post suitable for writing at the end of the last day of term! I’ll post how I set the children up to “have a go write” over the next few weeks.

Being young and having FUN! Today we celebrated the joys of childhood in our outdoor classroom.

Bubbles! Goop! Science Experiments! Music Making! Water! Paint! Playdough! These are just some of the experiences we enjoyed today as we celebrated being young, wonderful winter weather and having fun!

I think the photos say it all. I’m just sorry you can’t see their happy faces.

We love the feel of goop! Look out below! Here comes the prep rollercoaster.


Hmmmmm. I wonder what will happen?Making music.


and now I think I will.........we play to our own beatFriends at play.


Bubbles, Bubbles everywhere.Using motor control to bounce down the ramp.


Ooooops! Whatever happened to turn taking? Having too much fun..... not us!


Ahhhhh how we love maths.This is numeracy??????


Stirring the pot.

Playdough under the trees.


Construction fun


Painting with friends.Just hanging around.........


........ hanging with friends

Threading and lacing......


How lucky are we to have such wonderful weather.water play in the sunshinemore bubbles


shake, rattle and bangmarvelous messy playa childs joy


beautiful bubbles





Reluctant Drawers? Here are 2 Amazing “Must Have Books” by Peter H. Reynolds to help them on their way.

Have you got children who are reluctant drawers? Then these 2 books are for you and the children who hate to draw.

   Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

 Drawing is what Ramon does. It’s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.”.


The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds 

It’s too bad we couldn’t all have art teachers like the one who is the heroine of this book. When Vashti complains that she can’t draw, her teacher suggests that she “just make a mark.” This sets Vashti off on a creative adventure, making every kind of dot imaginable.

This book teaches kids and grown-ups the importance of exploration and the unique creativity in something so simple as a dot. It proves the point that everyone is creative and unique in their own way. Maybe you can’t draw like Da Vinci, but what can you do? This story is a lesson about finding what interests you and diving into it head first, regardless of the consequences. Perfect for children, this story is even more relevant to many adults.

 Books can take us into many different worlds, challenge our imaginations and teach us lessons in life. These 2 books share an invaluable message about teaching children to have faith in themselves and the importance of feeling valued and would make a great addition to any early childhood classroom.

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Let your Imagination run Wild! Recycling + Open Ended Experience = Rollercoaster FUN!!!

Here is a way to recycle corn starch beads, enhance fine motor skills, encourage thinking and simply let your imagination run wild!

The children started constructing in this open ended experience and all of a sudden there were…………. rollercoasters!!!!!!

These wonderous beads just need to be dampened with a wet sponge to stick together.


Under Construction!


"There is still room for some secret passages." says Harry


"You get to the end and then go backwards to the start." by Conor

"It goes round and up and down." by Alex


"This is like the one I had a ride on at the fete." by TJ

Rollercoasters + Recycling= FUN!

Prep Learning Statements covered-

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Sensory Tub Counting Search

Lots of my children are very kineasthetic learners and so I have used sensory tubs to practice our counting. Currently in our tubs are corn starch beads used in packaging boxes. Amongst these beads are hidden 20 zoo animals. (These were chosen because of our current construction of a zoo.) The children love to search through the tub and find the animals. I also have some laminated cards with numbered squares up to 20 to assist them in counting. The children can place an animal in each square, which assists with 1 to 1 correspondence and numeral recognition as well as engaging in conversations about how many have been found and how many are left to find.


I have at least 4 of these made up at any one time.


These are up to 20 but you can make it for any number and groupings.








The use of these tubs is endless and I will post more ideas as we use them in the classroom.

Some of the Learning Statements covered include-

Early Maths Understandings

Fine Motor Skills

Active Learning Processes

Reading and Viewing

Oral Language

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In our Class We all Fit In Together! Welcoming children to a new school year.

At the start of every school year I like to send the children a letter welcoming them to their prep class and share a little bit about myslf and the things they can do when they come to school. I also include a cardboard puzzle piece that theycan decorate at home and bring to school on their first day.

Our Class Puzzle








 The first thing we do on day one is put our class puzzle together. All the adults who work in the classroom make a puzzle piece too to include in this project. There are usually spare pieces and we talk about how there is always room for more in our class and anyone else who joins our class during the year gets to decorate one of these spare pieces.


The text for the letter is typed below.











Dear ————-,

 Hello and welcome to Prep H!! My name is Lynda and I will be your Prep teacher this year.  I am very excited that school starts on Monday and I can’t wait to meet you.  I hope you are excited to be starting school.  We will learn about all sorts of things, play lots of games inside and outside, sing songs, and meet many people, while having lots and lots of fun. 

 Some of my favourite activities are singing and dancing, building with the waffle blocks, reading books and doing puzzles.  I also enjoy going down the slippery slide and blowing bubbles. I can’t wait to find out what your favourite activities will be. 

To start our year together in Prep H, I need your help with a special activity. I am sending everyone in our class a puzzle piece. On the same side as your name, can you please colour and decorate your piece at home (you can make it as special as you like) and bring it to Prep on Monday.

I know that you will have lots of things to remember on the first day – your school bag, lunchbox, drink bottle, hat and uniform, scrap books and folders – and now one more thing – your special puzzle piece.  Using it, we will work together to create our first class project.   

So, get ready for some fun, pack your puzzle piece in your school bag and I will see you on Monday morning at 9.30am.

Looking forward to meeting you,                                 



The children love looking at their class puzzle and even now talk about everyone’s piece. On our last day together, at the end of the year, we take our puzzle apart and each child’s puzzle piece is returned to them to symbolise their moving on to another class.

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