A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for August, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 31st August 2011

Wedding Dresses X 6

Wedding fever has descended upon our classroom. We have 6 brides preparing to marry their 6 grooms in a wedding extravaganza, and just like any other wedding there is lots to do. Fortunately we have a class full of preppies ready and willing to help. The builders are constructing a castle, the wedding cake decorator has been researching designs on the internet and of course there are the dresses!

The creation of the wedding dresses is a mini industry of it’s own in the classroom. Firstly the brides consulted wedding magazines to decide on the features of their dress designs.


















Sketches were made and our resident dress designer created a book of drawings as well.









The brides consulted with the dress designer and looked at her design book.








After a lot of consideration, the creation of each bride’s perfect dress began.







Lots of fittings were involved.









This bride decided she wanted lots of lace and our lace designers set to work.








It takes a long time to get the lace just right.








The bride needed another fitting once the lace was attached, to make sure it was where she wanted it. The dress’ train also needed to be checked to see if it was long enough.









Perfect fit. Now for dress number two.








This wedding dress has sleeves and required lots of thinking and problem solving.







It also needed a lot of fittings to make sure the sleeves were not too tight. The bride also added a flower to the waist of her dress after watching our florists making paper flowers for the bridal bouquets. She recycled the dress scraps so her waist flower would match.







Just like most brides she changed her design again, to incorporate flowers all along the hemline. Fortunately she asked a lace maker to help and together they set about making the flowers.







Glitter was added for sparkle. She chose silver because she is planning on wearing silver jewellery with her dress.







Work on this dress will continue tomorrow.I heard talk of a pattern of purple and blue flowers all around the hem. 

Earlier today we had looked at photos of weddings in other cultures.










Our next bride decided she would like a red Chinese wedding dress.










After drawing red rubies all over her design, bride no.3 changed her mind and decided upon a white dress covered in red rubies.

 Whilst discussing this idea with the dress maker, the designer suggested a 1 shouldered dress and the design was redrawn.









Once the top of the dress, including the 1 shouldered design, was made. Rubies were added. This involved an indepth discussion about where the rubies were to be placed and if they were going to be in a pattern.







They began with a line of rubies…………







and will continue with the design tomorrow.

It’s been almost a week of wedding preparations and we are seeing lots of progress. We are almost half way through making all 6 wedding dresses and each one seems to be a little easier to make than the last, although the designs seem to be getting more elaborate. The grooms decided that all they needed were bow ties and quickly made them on the first day of wedding preparations. They try them on almost every day and one child, who was not happy with the tie he made, has brought in a tie from home. He puts it on at the start of each play session.









Another groom, who is a knight in the castle, has made a book about knights “to read to my bride after the wedding” (his exact words!) We are very fortunate that our grooms have lots of castle preparations to make, suits of armour to polish and horses to make and ride because just like with most weddings, they are waiting for the brides to complete their preparations before the ceremony can take place.

Stay tuned later in the week for photos of the completed dresses and a Prep Wedding update.

Friend or Foe? Decoding Magic Stones.

Meet our castle guards.








They have been protecting us for almost a week now. Ever since a castle was constructed in block area and then outside our classroom, our trusty guards have been on duty asking all who seek to enter – Friend? or Foe?

Should the answer be “friend”, another question was asked. What’s the password?  Hmmmm this can be tricky if you haven’t any prior knowledge but our guards will give you a clue. Last week it was something beginning with b. Fortunately this was our sound for the week and so all our friends were able to think of a word.

Today the guards asked our “friends” to decode magic stones.








As each friend sought entry into the castle they needed to read the sight word on a white granite stone.








Initially the guards were located at the bottom of the bridge across the moat.








But it got a bit hot out there, so they retreated to the castle keep.








The guards took turns asking the friends to decode the magic stones.








Sometimes our friends needed help.








and our castle guards were happy to oblige.








Our friends were honest and true and even told the guards if they had decoded the stone before, at morning tea.









If you were the last to enter you had to decode 2 stones.









It can take a long time for all our friends to enter the castle but we love decoding the magic stones and sometimes even the guards get tricked up with the decoding. Learning to decode can be tricky for everyone.


My Many Coloured Days

Over the last 6 weeks we have been interested in colour and light. Throughout our investigation and exploration we have read lots of books about colour but there have been 3 books that have really impacted on our learning and these are One and Zero by Kathryn Otoshi and My Many Colored Days by Dr Seuss. All 3 books explore the power of colour and we have had many conversations together about how our feelings can be represented using colour. We have compared the way the books have used the same colour to represent different feelings and discussed which feeling we individually thought the colour represented.

Dr Suess’ book My Many Colored Days was the last of the 3 books we read. We found the contrast in illustrations between this book and the other 2 books interesting. This contrast was a provocation for further exploration of colour and light and we decided to paint some of the windows of the classroom in observe the effect of the light shining in through the colours.

The children began to slowly cover the windows with paint………










enjoying the effect of the light as it shone through.








They discovered that the amount of paint they applied affected the lights ability to shine through…….










The thicker the paint the stronger the colour










The children explored the effect of different brush strokes as well.










Slowly throughout these explorations and experimentations the windows were covered in paint.










Then we added another layer of texture using our patterned rollers……….








and white paint.









This experience was really good gross motor practice as well as we stretched up high and across especially when using the roller. We also used our dotted stamps to add to the effect.










We rolled and printed all over the paint enjoying the added dimension and textures and then the painting of the windows was finished.










The next day we sponge painted body shaped stencils  onto paper using colours that showed our feelings. When these were dry we cut them out and added them to our coloured windows.










Our Many Coloured Day windows were finished.








We love our windows and the way the light shines through them!















We especially love the way our body shapes look like shadows.








We loved this entire process and are now going to paint our other windows and the door at the front of the classroom.

Mr. Squiggle in Black and White

Mr Squiggle was an Australian icon when I was growing up. Every afternoon he would amaze his audience with his clever drawings based on squiggles. Today on the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB), I shared a Youtube video of Mr Squiggle with my preppies, many of whom had never seen or heard of this “funny puppet” with a “pencil for a nose.”

The children found the idea of creating drawings from squiggles an interesting concept particularly when, after drawing 1 idea, Mr. Squiggle would add some more lines to the drawing, his helper, (Miss Jane in this video) would turn the page around and suddenly the drawing was transformed into something new. “Hmmmmm that’s clever” said one of the children.

After watching the video again, I showed the children some squiggles on the IWB.







“I wonder what you could draw with these if you were Mr Squiggle?” I asked. Many of the children began to share their ideas but before we got too involved in this discussion I said ” why don’t you pretend to be Mr Squiggle and show me instead.”  We had some fun discussing how they were going to attach a pencil to their nose but in the end decided to use their hands to hold the pens and draw.








To enhance their exploration of the contrast between black and white, we had covered the tables with black tablecloths and placed black pens of varying thicknesses and inks in  glass jars. The white paper and black squiggles contrasted really well with the black on the tables and assisted the children to focus on, and explore their mark making.























  As they drew, there were lots of conversations about their ideas and it was interesting to listen to them share and narrate what they were doing, just like Mr Squiggle.







I was struck by how different the drawings are and wondered…… how the children could think of such interesting ideas? Here are some of their finished drawings.


    A bird in the sky.







   I like to play.






 An Electric Train







   The letter M hiding in a box.







 A towel on the sand at the beach.







   A Caravan







Mr Blackboard







 A boy with dirty teeth.







  A Pattern







    The Game







      The Sun






Young children’s imagination is truely awesome!



A Black and White Invitation

This week we are exploring the contrast between black and white. We have been drawing on white paper with black pens of differing thicknesses and today the children were presented with an invitation to explore this contrast even further using play dough.






The table was covered with a black tablecloth and on it was placed laminated black and white cards with feathers, smooth glass beads, buttons and shapes and the playdough. Unfortunately the black food colouring we used, made the playdough grey, not black, but the children were still drawn to it as we had made grey paint the day before for another project.






It was interesting to observe the children exploring the colour contrast between the dough and the materials.








The photos with the black/grey playdough look they are black and white but are in fact colour.







They made patterns.










Some children made familiar things such as birds because of the feathers.






A bird and nest……




























The back view of these birds.










Some of their other creations.









When I first reflected upon this experience, I was a little disappointed that I had offered the feathers because the children used them to make birds but  after thinking about this some more, my intention was still successful. The children were very involved in  using the contrasting black and white materials and whilst my planning was all about the process, I also had some preconceived ideas about the product which fortunately I did not try to impose upon them. This further reflection reminded me that the process was what was really important and …….. that there are a lot of black/grey and white birds in the world including the young magpie that regularly visits inside the classroom and that prior knowledge can be a powerful tool for learning.

The Racing Track

Block construction is a popular everyday activity in our classroom and, whilst there are documented stages of development that children go through as they construct with blocks, sometimes I think they can get a bit “stuck”  and need some support to move on in their thinking.  An example of this occured when I had a group of children in my class who pushed blocks around the floor pretending they were cars, occassionally constructing a simple straight road for them to drive on.

Over several days I listened to and observed their play, noticing a strong interest in racing cars. Using this information, I added some numbers and stripes to a car and asked if I could join them in their game. They immediately noticed the numbers on my car and this provoked an interesting conversation about racing cars and tracks. From this discussion the children decided to construct their own racing track and using the Interactive Whiteboard we searched for information to support their ideas. The IWB is a really useful tool in these situations as it provides the children with opportunities to closely observe and discuss the images they find interesting. From the information found, they can synthesise, select, and print out the ideas that are the most useful to their play.








Using Higher Order Thinking and Critical Literacy skills to make decisions and enhance learning.









Armed with the information they needed, the children began their construction. Some of the children drew plans and built the racing track. As they built the track they also constructed the safety fence after noticing one in some of the images they found.











One of the children was very eager to construct the Pit Stop area – with  little fuel tanks and hoses “for the mechanics to fill up the cars when they run out of petrol”.








He even built the opening from the track “so the cars can zoom in and get fixed.”








Other children were interested in the signs and flags they observed around the tracks and took on the role of making them.

The speed limit sign –














































It was tricky getting the Finish Line banner to stay up.







All the children spent a lot of time making number signs for their cars. At first the signs fitted on the cars………










but then they equated the bigger the number with the faster the car and this is what happened………

  Lots of numeral writing. There is a car hiding under all the signs but they didn’t last long because the cars didn’t fit on the track with them on.





The fire coming out of the exhaust.










An experimental car made out of collage and boxes.










The children were engaged in long periods of rich sustained play not just when constructing the racing track, but also when it was completed.
















The purpose of this experience was to “move on” some of the children’s thinking when constructing with blocks. This project demonstrated they were ready and able to operate at a “higher” stage of construction development. It was only in later construction opportunities that their ability to apply their understandings independently would be known. Here is an example of another racing track built after this project. This was was built without support or scaffolding from an adult.










and the start of a road with an interesting bridge.










After this project the children’s block constructions continued to develop and evolve as they explored other ideas and structures.

Sometimes they just need a little help and support to “move on” .

As a Follow Up to this project we used stop watches to time cars as they raced down luge ramps (long pieces of PVC pipe sliced in half). The whole class had lots of fun experimenting with the angles to discover which was the fastest.


Time for Mastery

Over the last few weeks, one of the children in my class has been totally engrossed in using pippettes. Her interest was piqued when we were experimenting with milk, paint and detergent to create a Storm in a Saucer. Initially she had difficulty using the pippettes and needed lots of help.  After several days we ran out of milk and as  her interest was still very strong, I put out paper towels and water paint to give her further opportunities for practice and exploration. Each day she would sit for long periods of time dropping paint onto the paper, and with every day that passed she developed more and more control over the pippettes until  she was able to drop the paint skillfully wherever she wanted it on the paper.












As I observed her persistence and total engagement with the process, I was reminded of just how important it is to give children opportunities to practise and master skills.














Life at school can be very busy and in our haste to provide our children with lots of different learning opportunities and experiences I sometimes wonder if, in some respects, we are teaching children to become a jack of all trades and master of none. If I had stopped putting out the pippettes after the first experiment, would my young preppie have been disadvantaged in terms of fine motor development? Probably not. There are plenty of other opportunities for developing fine motor skills in our classroom. Would she have continued to explore colour? Probably, because this is a strong interest in our classroom at the moment and there are, again, lots of  opportunities for colour exploration and experimentation. Would she have gained a deep understanding of the science involved in using pippettes and the skill of controlling this tool, not just for art but for other learning areas as well? Probably not. Without this deep understanding would she be able to apply the knowledge she has gained, to create patterns and other imaginative representations? Probably not. Would her self esteem and personal learning skills have been enhanced without the opportunity to persist in using the pippettes? Probably not.

As a teacher I need to consider the bigger picture. By giving her time and plenty of opportunity to practice, this young child has learnt so much more that the original learning intention of the first experiment. She has mastered a useful tool, she has gained deep understandings about the science of pippettes through experimentation, trial and error, thinking and problem solving and is able to apply this knowledge to other situations. Her self esteem has been enhanced as she progressed from squirting the entire amount of paint out in 1 squeeze to being able to carefully control where and how much paint is dropped out. I loved watching her engagement in the process, her complete focus and intense concentration and whilst she would leave the activity to do other things she would continue to return and explore and experiment. She was setting her own challenges using her interests and thinking and problem solving whilst persisting to build her skill base. Something that I strive for when facilitating a child negotiated, play based curriculum.

Messy Monday Phonic Fun!

Fantastic, fabulous, friendly fun whilst practising our sound for the week.

Flying Kites










Foaming Volcanoes

Fishing Fun








Fairy Flour Cooking (Forgot to take a photo of the glitter in the flour) 







Flying down the ramp!


Flying Feet








The Firefighters Pole

Fantastic Footpainting

Fancy Footwork with Friends



















The children declared this Messy Monday the most fun.  Have you guessed what sound we are learning this week?

The Alphabet Monster

Please meet our classroom friend, the Alphabet Monster. He is bright green, soft and fluffy, likes to hang around his basket in the classroom and teaches us about sounds.








Every week in Prep we focus on a sound. We listen for and explore words that contain the sound, and learn how to form the letter that represents the sound. We gather objects from home and school that begin with the sound and put them in the Alphabet Monster’s basket. We put pictures of things that begin with the sound, on the wall above where our monster friend likes to hang out on his basket.










All week we like to add things to his basket and build a collection of objects that begin with or contain the sound. Friday is the Alphabet Monster’s favourite day because he gets to reveal all the things inside his basket.  We all sit in a circle and the special helper of the day helps the alphabet monster take the things out of his basket and display them in the middle of the circle. After an item is taken out we problem solve how to write the name of the item to create a label for the object. We discuss where in the word we can hear the sound and use a different colour to write the sound’s letter in the word.



Some sounds are more challenging than others for collecting a large group of objects and sometimes an object begins with the correct letter but not the correct sound. We discuss these differences and learn about new sounds and new ways to represent sounds. For example unicorn begins with u but does not begin with  the short /u/ sound and giraffe begins with the /j/ sound but begins with g not j. Thanks goodness the alphabet monster is wise and can teach us about these tricky concepts.

After labeling all the objects, each child is given a divided peice of paper, selects an item, and takes it and the word to a table, copies  the it onto their paper and draws a picture of the item.



The children record 4 items and words that contain the sound on their paper, highlighting the letters position in the word and glue this into their sound book. We also photograph the items to create a class sound book and record the text to assist us with the sound recognition.

When we have to achieve mandated outcomes particularly in literacy, anything that makes our learning engaging and fun has to be a welcome addition to the classroom and that is exactly why our Alphabet Monster is such a favourite (and not to mention wise) member of our class.  Although……… he is usually a bit grumpy every Friday afternoon because his basket is empty and he has to wait until Monday morning to collect and look after  items beginning with our new sound.