A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for the ‘Fine Motor Skills’ Category

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 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.

 

Wordless Wednesday

28th September 2011

Egg Cups and Beads

Here is a simple and inexpensive fine motor activity that can be revisited over and over again. It is quite sculptural and very colourful. To enhance the process further you can encourage the children to make patterns using the beads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The base for these are the wire egg cups that can be purchased at most “cheap shops.” I bought a set of four egg cups for $2.95.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stretch the egg cups out so that there is more space between the spirals and the children thread pony beads onto the wire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy and attractive!

Wordless Wednesday 14th September

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday

The Castle Wedding – Playing in Prep and the National Curriculum

Play is one of five contexts for learning in the Early Years Curriculum.

The others being –

Routines and Transitions

Real Life Experiences

Focussed Teaching and Learning

Investigations

Play can also be a pedagogy, a way of teaching that encourages learning through active participation.

So what does active participatory learning mean?

Anne Epstein from Highscope defines it as –

  • experiences based on the children’s interests
  • experiences that are hands on and linked to real life situations
  • children actively constructing their understandings
  • by making choices children are involved in problem solving and decision making both necessary skills for learning
  • adults acting as guides and facilitators of the learning
  • adults expand children’s thinking with diverse materials and nurturing interactions.

What does a play pedagogy look like in a prep classroom?

We have been involved in castle play for the last 3 week. What do you think this would look like?

My Classroom

 

How it all began…….. Some of the children constructed a castlein block area using the waffle blocks

 Some of the children decided they wanted to be kings and queens in the castle and made crowns.

To encourage thinking and problem solving the children are not given templates for these ideas (ie crown making) and need to work out how to make the crowns using prior knowledge and to seek help if they need it.

Through this philosophy of designing and creating what they need themselves, the children develop lots of  skills and understandings and view themselves as competant and capable. When making their crowns the children are enhancing measurement concepts and practicing lots of fine motor skills as well as using their imagination.

Several of the girls decided they wanted to get married in the castle. One of the girls made a wedding cake.

During Reflection Time, at the end of play time, the children said they were going to have a wedding. We brainstormed everything they knew about weddings.

The next day, wedding preparations began with the brides and grooms researching dress, suit and bow tie designs.

Research Learning Statements – Reading and Viewing, Writing and Shaping, Oral Language

 

Designs were drawn. Design Learning Statements – Imagining and Responding, Writing and Shaping

The brides also consulted with our Dress Designer who had compiled a book of suggested designs and accessories.

Consultation Learning Statements – Social and Personal Learning, Oral Language,  Thinking, Reading and Viewing

When the final design was decided upon, production of each dress began.

Production Learning Statements – Investigating Technology, Fine Motor Skills, Thinking

During production, fittings were needed.

Fitting Learning Statements – Early Maths Understandings, Thinking,  Oral Language

    Is it too big?

    Is it too small?

    Is it too long?

     Is it too short?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the brides wanted sleeves in her dress. This was a challenge for everyone and required lots of thinking and problem solving.

The design –

The Wedding Dress almost finished.

Some of the brides decided they wanted lace on their dresses and a new industry appeared in the classroom – lace making.

Lace Making Learning Statements – Imagining and Responding, Fine Motor skills, Thinking,  Social and Personal Learning

 

The designer and lace maker consulting on where the lace needs to be placed and if anymore is required.

 

One dress finished. It even has a designer label on it.

Only 5 more dresses to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst the brides were busy with their dresses, the grooms were also busy making their wedding attire.

 

  This groom is wearing his Knight helmet and shield. As well as his designer tie.

This groom asked his father for his favourite tie because he like sailing boats.

 

 Weddings fit into the Understanding Cultural Diversity learning statement of our curriculum. To enhance our knowledge of

 weddings we explored wedding customs from several other cultures including –

Chinese Weddings

      

 New Zealand Weddings –

      

 

and Indian Weddings

   

   

This exploration of weddings in other cultures inspired one of our brides to design a one shouldered red wedding dress.

This design needed to be altered because we didn’t have any red fabric to make the dress and the bride decided to have a white

 dress with red rubies instead.

 

 The bride and dress designer decided a row of square rubies were needed on the bodice of the dress.

 

For the skirt, the bride elected to scrunch the rubies up for a 3D effect.

and place them randomly around the skirt.

Knight Helmets were a popular choice of headwear for the grooms with this groom designing a special wedding knight helmet to

 wear to his wedding.

    “It is high like a wedding hat” he told me.

Here are some of our grooms/knights guarding the classroom door in the “regular” helmets and armour.

In another area of the classroom our florists had begun making the colourful paper for the flowers that will go into the wedding

 bouquets. They used their prior knowledge of making butterflies using paper towels and eye droppers to make the paper

and with the help of our teacher aide they used pipe cleaners to fold the paper into flowers (just like we had made our

 butterflies) and joined them together for the bouquets.

With the whole class enthusiastically preparing for the wedding, our castle builders discovered a problem.

The castle was too small to fit in all of the bridal parties and the wedding guests. What were we going to do? Could we still have the

 wedding? Does anyone have any ideas?

 

Tomorrow I will post the solution and the rest of the lecture. Linking this learning to the National Curriculum.

 

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.