A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for October, 2011

The Little Mouse,The Red Ripe Strawberry and the BIG Hungry Bear

In Prep we read lots of stories. Every week I choose a story to really explore indepth with the children, focussing on current literacy and oral language outcomes. This week’s book is one of my all time favourites. Written and illustrated by Don and Audrey Wood, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear presents us with lots of opportunities to explore some interesting text concepts and challenge our comprehension skills as we search for answers to questions that may be found “in the book” or “in my head”. Concepts we are currently learning in our QAR program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To extend this learning a little further I have placed a strawberry plant, some facts about strawberries, 2 magnifying glasses and the book on a low table in book area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today was probably our fourth reading of the book , and afterwards we looked at and discussed the strawberry plant, matching illustrations to plant observations. The children were very interested in how the flower transforms into a strawberry and as our plant is in various stages of fruiting, they were able to explore this process first hand. They were able to observe the yellow flower centres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and what happens as the petals fall off the flowers and the centre grows and changes colour to become a strawberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading our Strawberry Fact poster 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and hanging strawberry shapes which, thanks to the wind today, entwined themselves just like on a real vine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We discovered that strawberries are the only fruit with their seeds on the outside. Naturally we had to use the magnifying glasses and the digital microscope to investigate this fact and sure enough we could see the seeds quite clearly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a bit too tricky to count the seeds but our fact sheet told us there are usually approx. 200 seeds on each strawberry. Perhaps we’ll try counting them again tomorrow.

This wonderful book also provides lots of opportunities to pose questions to challenge our thinking and problem solving skills including –

  • If you were the mouse how would you pick the strawberry?
  • How would you disguise the strawberry?
  • What would you do to protect the strawberry?
  • What would you do if the big hungry bear found the strawberry?  (This question could lead to lots of philosophical discussions about sharing .)

All of which we will explore using a variety of mediums as the week progresses. Other planned experiences include-

  • cutting trawberries in half and investigating the inner part of the fruit, along with lots of tasting.
  • using observation skills to draw and record the shape of the leaves, the various stages of fruiting and the runners with their roots and shoots.
  • planting the runners to propogate more plants

We will also be watching the story’s Youtube video with text , stopping on the pages with questions and problem solving where we will find the answers to the questions ie. “In the Book” or “In my head.” This story is a great text for finding answers to  “in my Head” questions due to the narrator being the person reading the story. A different perspective for a children’s book. Love it!!

 

Sight Word Graphing

By the end of the year our preppies are required to know approx. 40 sight words and we have been working steadily towards achieving this outcome through play and the manipulation of  lots of concrete materials including our Sight Word Stones. We also have our sight words on Duplo bricks which the children can stack, sort and put together to make sentences and phrases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently, one of our favourite activities is Sight Word Graphing using these blocks. This activity involves the children  in selecting a block from the Lucky Dip box, reading the word and recording it on a graph. If the children select a block with a sight word they have already read and recorded, this block is stacked on top of the first, creating a block graph to match their paper one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make the blocks, I print out the words five times on labels and stick them to the side of the bricks/blocks. The random selection of the words using the Lucky Dip Box provides the children with the opportunity to explore and graph a variety of words. Some children may have 5 words on their graph and others up to 10, depending on what they draw out of the box. This creates lots of opportunities for numeracy discussions whilst the children compare and discuss their individual graphs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a sample of the Lucky Dip graph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as graphing the duplo blocks the children really enjoy graphing the results of a sight word hunt. On this sheet the children circle the same words in the same colour and fill in the graph accordingly. I like to use different fonts for this to provide opportunities for recognition of the sight word in differing forms and sizes to our beginners alphabet. I wonder if their enthusiasm for these activities is because the graphing provides them with a real life opportunity to use their numeracy understandings to record what they know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love to be able to provide opportunities to combine  literacy and numeracy learning together, especially when the children eagerly participate in the activity as well. Sight Word Graphing seems to be one of those opportunities.

Purple Snow

Today was one of those days when I stopped and thought “this is why I love my job.” As the children came into the clasroom this morning, one of my preppies presented me with some jacaranda blooms off her tree at home. After roses, jacaranda’s are my favourite and I told my little friend that today, in honour of her gift, we would read the book “Purple Snow” by Eric Lobbecke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a cockatoo who, whilst visiting the North Pole, compares the white snow on the ground to the purple carpet at home, created by the  jacaranda blooms falling to the ground from the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After reading the book, we discussed the jacaranda trees in the children’s gardens and our school grounds and I told the children that one of my favourite things to do when I was a little girl was to thread the fallen flowers onto the fine twigs that also fell from the trees as the flowers were spent. To my surprise, none of the children had ever done this before, so taking the opportunity to share this childhood memory with my preppies, we went outside and looked for the nearest jacaranda tree. Unfortunately this tree was near a busy pathway and playground which meant many of the blooms had been trodden on but the children were so eager to participate in this experience that they searched really carefully for suitable flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and threaded them onto their twigs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children enjoyed exploring the different effects that were created as they threaded the flowers onto the twigs. Some were thin, some were thick and some were in a pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were disappointed that, because of the busy nature of where this tree was situated, we couldn’t see the purple snow/carpet effect. Some of the children said there were jacaranda trees on the edge of the oval and we should look there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To our delight, from across the oval we saw purple snow and the children rushed across to get a closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I had caught up with them they were already settled on the grass under the trees threading flower twigs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was at this time that I paused and took in the scene……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of my wonderful 5 and 6 year olds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

enjoying the simpler pleasures of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as threading we spent some time on our backs, lying on the grass looking up into the jacaranda trees. When a breeze blew, some of the blooms would fall gently from their branches, just like falling snow. The children demonstrated quiet patience as they waited for purple snow to land on, or near them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, with the lunch bell about to ring it was time to return to our classroom. As we began to walk back across the oval the children noticed all the patches of clover in bloom and embraced the opportunity for some more simple childhood fun with a game of “what does this remind you of? ”  If you use your imagination this clover patch looks like a map of Australia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In another game the children made up and with rules known only to them, they had fun jumping from one clover patch to another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we finally got back to the classroom and the children tenderly placed their threadings either on a table or in the vase with my original gift, I overheard them sharing our adventures with our Intern, a new Early Childhood Educator. As I listened to their happy chatter, I was reminded of one of the many reasons why our chosen profession is so joyful and rewarding…… the opportunity to not only relive childhood memories but to create them as well.

Our Calendar

This term I have implemented a calendar time into our classroom routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time as an opportunity to incorporate lots of literacy and numeracy learning into our daily routine. We begin with the name of the day and the date, which the children write into their calendar journal. I use this part of the routine to practice their letter and numeral formation. For the first week the children wrote over dotted lines to give them a size guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have also learnt the “secret code” for writing the date eg. 3.10.11 is the third of October 2011. We enhance understandings of yesterday and tomorrow, which are time concepts young children often find difficult to grasp by moving the days up this chart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We often sing our favourite Days of the Week song to help us remember which day will come next. The song is sung to the Adams Family theme song. Here is a link to a version of it on Youtube http://youtu.be/OPzIbbvoiMA 

During the year we have used graphs to record data about lots of topics such as our pets and favourite vegetables. To further enhance our graphing knowledge and understandings, we are recording the weather on a monthly basis using a graph. This graph is in the children’s journal as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also chart the weather on a weekly basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The graphics for these charts were from a free web site called Pete’s Power Point Station.

After the weather, we record the number of days we have been at school. This is a great opportunity to practice counting, numeral recognition and numeral formation. The children record this number in a variety of ways each day.

On this page they write the numerals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the next page, the children are exploring the concept of Tally Marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are also using concrete objects to explore groups of ten as we count the number of days at school. Every day we place a paddle pop stick in the ones cup. When we have ten we will bundle them up and move them into the tens cup. This activity is a real life way of learning about how we record and write numerals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final numeracy activity for Calendar Time is counting how many children are in class that day. All the girls/boys stand up and when counted (by tapping them on the shoulder) they sit down again. This number is recorded and the process is repeated for the other girls/boys. We also discuss how many children are absent. The children problem solve how many children are present in total based on all this information and then everyone stands up and is counted to determine the actual number present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final literacy activity is to review our Sight Words for the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each day I write them in the talking bubbles, with the children copying them into their journal on the Sight Word page. As I form each letter in the words, I use our Casey Caterpillar Handwriting language to assist the children with forming their letters correctly. This activity enhances both handwriting and sight word recognition.

When we first began Calendar Time it would take us approximately 30 – 45 minutes, which, despite all the learning opportunities is a long time out of our day but,  each day we have gotten a little quicker and can now complete the whole activity in approx. 15 minutes. The children really love filling out their journal and, during the first week, lots of parents asked about Calendar Time because the children were coming home everyday telling them about it.

Calendar Time is quite a formal activity in our classroom and I am surprised at just how much the children enjoy this daily experience. Sometimes I wonder if  it is because it is a real life experience or they like owning and completing a “real school type” book or if it is a sign of their readiness to move onto Year One. Perhaps it is a combination of all three?  Whatever the reason, it has proven a valuable and engaging way of incorporating literacy and numeracy into our play based curriculum along with teaching the children the valuable “learning to learn” skill of how to organise themselves and find the correct work page in a book.

Sorting and Patterning in the Edible Garden

Once a week our preppies enjoy a lesson in the school’s edible garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of our garden lessons involve assisting with the maintanence and care of the garden, learning about the different plants through sensory exploration and learning about food production from the garden to the table. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At other times the children use what they have found and collected for art and other learning activities including sorting and patterning. Here is one of the children’s A B patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another example……. using leaves and bean pods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds and leaves………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some patterns are quite complex…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ready availability of natural materials in the edible garden, provides the children with endless opportunities for sorting and patterning, using all their senses in the process.

 

A Story of True Love and Humanity

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received the following story from a good friend of mine and thought I would share it with you.

Two Choices

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered
a question:

‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.

Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do.

He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued.

‘I believe that when a child like Shay,who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realise true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story: Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were
playing baseball. Shay asked,

‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’

I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps..

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked
around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’

Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small
tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognising that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life,
moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.

As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.

Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!

Run to first!’
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline,wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay.’

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by
turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third! Shay, run to third!’

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay,
run home! Run home!’

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped
bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy,
and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

I don’t know the original source of this story,  but here is a little footnote to the story.

Many people send and share jokes via the internet without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. Public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces but by sharing this story I believe we can all make a difference especially as early childhood educators.

We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realise the ‘natural order of things’ and through the internet and in particular social networking sites we are presented with a choice:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the
world a little bit colder in the process?

Our Tinkering Table

Throughout the year I have been fascinated to observe the intensity of thought that some of my preppies have put into their block constructions. One child in particular, carefully selects and considers the placement of each and every block he uses. His constructions and their exploration of balance, shape and complexity are astonishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late last term he brought in some metal nuts, bolts and springs he had collected from the site where a bus had been repaired after breaking down. He asked if he could look at them on the light box and experimented with putting them together in interesting shapes and patterns. It was only whilst discussing these loose parts with him, and listening to his thinking about where they might have belonged on the bus, that I realised he was interested in, not just how things were constructed but also how they could be deconstructed and so our Tinkering Table was born!

I had seen a post on the wonderful blog Irresistable Ideas for Play Based about just such a table and immediately looked for a place in the classroom to add our own version of it. For now we are using the water trough because it stops the different parts and paraphernalia from falling to the floor but with summer fast approaching I will soon need to find an alternative.  

Our sound for the week was /v/ and so it seemed appropriate that the first object we should deconstruct was a vacuum cleaner. We added a set of screw drivers and waited to see what would happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first the children explored the vacuum cleaner as a whole, opening and closing all the different compartments. They were excited to discover the cord could still be pulled out and retracted. An action they repeated over and over again. I was interested to observe that it was only after I posed the question “I wonder how that works?” that some of the children, including the child who had collected the nuts and bolts from the bus, chose to begin using the screw drivers and try to open it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once they got started, the children demonstrated great persistence and concentration as they used the screw drivers and there was lots of celebrating when the first screw was finally undone. One down……… many, many more to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mathematical understandings were enhanced as the children matched the size and type of screw driver required to the screws, learning during the process, the difference between flat headed and phillips head screws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one part was opened up another problem would arise, as the children worked together to think through what needed to be undone next. They discovered that there was a system to deconstruction, just as there is a method to construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children have also discovered that deconstruction is not a quick process but when another part have been released from the screws holding it together, they are another step closer to finding out how it all works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 2 weeks of hard work the children have finally gotten through to the section of the vacuum that contains the motor and we are all really looking forward to this next stage of deconstruction.

Who would have thought that a simple everyday vacuum cleaner, a machine that can be found in almost every home would become such a long term and interesting project? Certainly not me….. but from now on I think that, just as construction with blocks and other materials is an everyday activity in our classroom, so too will be deconstruction at our very own Tinkering Table.