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Indoor Large Motor Play

We’ve been cooped up inside for way too long! We were able to go on a walk yesterday, although it turned out to be a littler wetter than we had anticipated. With today’s rain we were stuck inside again, with a lot of extra energy to use up.  This happens a lot in the winter, so we’ve gotten pretty good at finding games that we can play inside.  Today’s activities proved that even the simplest things can be just what preschoolers need.  We rolled down the hallway, crab walked around the tables, and hopped around with our legs tied together.  There were lots of giggles, and just enough movement to get rid of some of our wiggles.

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Spontaneous Learning: Tornadoes

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The boys have been talking about tornadoes for the entire month of January, so I had planned on introducing the tornado bottles, quietly, to see what kind of conversation they started.  The boys literally dropped everything that they had been playing with to watch the tornadoes in the bottles.

We had some amazing conversations too.  After each child had gotten a turn to make a tornado, I asked them if they thought that real tornadoes were like the one in the bottle, They all said no, and Aiden told me that real tornadoes are made of clouds, not water.  Xavier noticed that the water in the bottle was spinning, just like the air spins in a real tornado.  After a little discussion, we decided that for a real tornado to form, the air has to make the clouds spin.

I also asked the boys if we should put some glitter in the bottle to see what happened, Gage said that glitter was a good idea, “but not beads, because they would be too heavy”.  We put some blue glitter in the bottle and they boys shook it up to make a tornado, we noticed that the glitter was spinning on the outside, but not going in the middle of the tornado.  Then I reminded the boys that real tornados can pick up really heavy things, so they decided that we should put some beads in the bottle and see what happened. 

Sure enough, the beads got sucked right up in the middle of the tornado.  We watched as the beads flew to the top, dropped to the bottom, and then got picked up by the tornado over and over again.

I was surprised by how long the boys worked with the tornado tube (over an hour) and that they were able to make real connections between what was happening in the bottle, and real tornadoes.

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You can do math with anything!

Math is everywhere, and in the Pre-K room we are constantly counting something, you will hear me asking the children if they have more beads or less beads on their beaded necklace, encouraging the children to count the number of pretend cupcakes that they are making, and asking them to estimate how many toy cars they might need to reach across the room.

Right now we are focusing on numeral and number name recognition, so the other day at circle we played this game.  I asked each child to bring me a certain number of objects, they could choose anything in the classroom, but they had to have enough of the same.  After we lined up the piles of different objects (1 dice, 2 stuffed birds, 3 books, 4 pencils, 5 play tools, etc.) I handed them number cards, and they had to place the number card at the corresponding pile.

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This is a super easy activity that you can do anywhere, but it made those numbers very concrete when the children were able to see exactly what 3 books looked like, and how 3 books is different from 4 pencils.

A few words on assessment

I just Googled the word “assessment” it came up with over 124,000,000 responses.  Clearly, assessments are everywhere, I can’t tell you how many different kinds we use, but I do want to share two that we have come up with that have proven very helpful.  We use these in the classroom, so that we have a clear picture of what the children understand, and we share them with parents, as a tool to show what their children have learned at school.

The first is a basic skills assessment.  This was developed for the preschool classrooms, and while the skills may seem very basic, they are exactly what we work on with preschool children.  The skills covered this particular assessment include;

Writing samples

2D Shape recognition

Upper and Lowercase letter recognition

Phonetic letter sounds

Number recognition

Number sequencing

10 Frames/Subitization

Patterning

Rhyming

Days of the week and Months

This assessment pack (available on Teachers Pay Teachers) also has printable flashcards to help keep each child’s focus as you work with them.  We make one copy per child and use different colored highlighters to track their growth throughout the year. Image

 

The second assessment that we use is standards based.  We took all of Ohio’s Early Learning Development Standards and put them in a spreadsheet that follows the child throughout their development.  The Infant/Toddler version can be used for the first threes years of a child’s life, and the Preschool version can be used from the time a child turns 3 until they turn 6.  This allows teachers to record periods of growth, and parents can see exactly when their child reached certain milestones. These assessments are much longer and more comprehensive than the basic skills assessment, and we typically fill them out only once per year, you can find the Infant/Toddler version and the Preschool version on Teachers Pay Teachers.Image

 

These are only two of the many, many different forms of assessment that we use, but they are great tools for both parents and teachers!

Frozen bubbles!

It has been so cold, but today that was a good thing.  I have been putting this activity on lesson plans for years, but the weather has never been righ for it, today the wind chill was -15 degrees, so I knew we wouldn’t have any problems getting our bubbles to freeze. We bundled up really good and took our dish-soap and water bubble solution outside.  We used pipe cleaner bubble wands and we were able to make some really big bubbles, but after a little practice, we found that the smaller bubbles didn’t pop as easily, so we were actually able to watch them freeze.  This was so cool, and definitely worth getting a little chilly to see!

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When the bubbles got really cold, they would start to shrink, and they tore like tissue paper.  When they popped in the air we could see the bubble float to the ground like a balloon. Take advantage of the cold weather to give this activity a try.  We might even see if we can think of other ways to do it. Could we put a bubble in the fridge? The freezer? what happens when a bubble gets too hot?

What to do with the after-Christmas blues

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Hopefully you all had a wonderful Christmas, and you’ve had a little time today to unwind! There should be a mandatory recovery period for this holiday! Christmas can be exhausting, and the day after Christmas can be a bit of a let-down, and kids can feel it too.  We’ve been anticipating this holiday since Halloween, so its natural to feel a little disappointed when its over.  Kids feel this too, and unfortunately, they don’t know what to do with those feelings, so they may act out in other ways – is there any sibling arguing, whining, or overall mopiness going on in your house?.  here are a couple of tips for helping your children deal with the after-Christmas blues;

First and foremost, talk with them, about their feelings, but also about Christmas.  Even the youngest children can listen as you tell them what you loved about Christmas this year, and share your thoughts for what your family can do to celebrate next year.  Hearing mom and dad vocalize their feelings helps kids to understand that not only are these feeling normal, but their parents feel the same way that they do.  You can have great conversations about favorite gifts, funny moments, and family traditions.  This helps kids practice sharing their thoughts and feelings, and helps parents understand which memories their children really value.

Another way to help children cope with feeling let-down after Christmas is to encourage them to help think of special traditions that can be carried on after the holidays, and throughout the year.  Have special pancakes for breakfast on the day after Christmas, set a special time where mom or dad gets to help each child put away all of their new things – this will give each child individual time with a parent, which is always special. Think about what your children love the most about Christmas, do they love making Christmas cookies? Talk about the next holiday that the family could make cookies for.  Do they love to decorate the house? Make some special decorations for New Year’s Eve, or Valentine’s day.

For older children, this is the perfect time to look at a calendar with them.  You could have them help you pick a special new calendar to hang in their room, or create one together with family photos or clip art.  4 and 5 year olds are naturally curious about the passage of time, they want to know when it will be Christmas again, when their birthday is, and how long it will be until summer.  These are all things that you can help them understand with a calendar of their very own.  Older children can also begin to understand the idea of goals and resolutions.  Help them make a short list of things that they can work towards this year, maybe they want to learn to write their name, ride a two wheeler, or tie their shoe, maybe they want to take music lessons, or play a sport, or a day trip that they would like to take.  all of these things could go on their list and you can help them work towards these goals throughout the year.

Hopefully these ideas will bring some harmony to your family as your recuperate from the holidays!

Lunch Packing 101

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The rules that we have implemented for packing lunches are not always easy to decipher. In order to comply with State regulations we have to make sure that every child has each food group covered in their snacks and lunches, so that we can ensure they are meeting nutritional standards, and getting the right kinds of foods to give them the energy that they need to get through a long school day.  Here are some tips and ideas for understanding these regulations, and making sure that your child has healthy lunches and snacks that he or she will actually eat.

Snacks:

We have snack twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Each snack has to contain food from two separate food groups, however, for snacks 100% fruit juice can fulfill the fruit requirement.  We suggest filling two small water bottles with 100% fruit juice, your child can drink one at morning snack and one at afternoon snack, and you have already fulfilled one of the food groups.

Some other great ideas for snacks include snack crackers (graham cracker, goldfish, ritz sandwich crackers with cheese, cheez-its, etc.), raw veggies such as cucumber slices, celery sticks, or green pepper slices, a small container or tube of yogurt, string cheese, or veggie-based baked chips (veggie chips, veggie straws, sweet potato chips, etc).

If you choose not to include a 100% fruit juice, some snacks that contain items from two food groups include graham crackers with cream cheese or a non-nut based spread (wow butter, flavored cream cheese, cheddar cheese spread, etc), raw veggies with a dipping spread (ranch flavored cream cheese spread, wow butter, hummus), a combination of raw fruit and cheese, crackers and cheese slices, or  toast or a tortilla with jelly or apple butter.

Lunches:

Lunches must include vitamin D fortified milk.  If you would like to bring a gallon of milk in for your child we can label it and store it at the school, or you can fill a thermos or re-usable water bottle with milk each day.

Lunches also have to include 1 protein. This could be lunchmeat slices or a protein spread (wow butter, hummus) on a sandwich, tortilla, or crackers. Most beans also fall into the protein category (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, edamame, etc), so if your child will eat a cold bean dip feel free to use that as a protein, with tortilla chips. Tuna fish is also a great protein source, you could make your child a tuna sandwich or include a tuna salad dip that they can eat with crackers. Eggs are another protein source that people often forget about, you could include a cold omelet (make one large omelet and cut it into quarters – lunch for your child for four days), if you add cheese and green peppers or celery to the omelet then you have covered 3 different food groups.

A lunch also needs to have a vegetable and a fruit, or two fruits ( 100% fruit juice does not count as a fruit for lunch).  Raw veggies are always a great choice, but some other ideas include a tomato salsa that includes  a variety of other vegetables, lettuce and tomato on a sandwich, or a small salad.  Raw fruit is also a great choice, but remember that if you send grapes they should be cut into quarters so that they do not pose a choking hazard. Other ideas for fruits include apple sauce or a fruit cup, dehydrated fruit, or natural jams and jellies.

Finally each lunch should include a grain. If you have packed a sandwich, the bread would be the grain, but you could also include crackers, a tortilla, tortilla chips, or cereal, cold oatmeal, or a bagel.

These suggestions should help you get started, packing lunches shouldn’t have to be stressful!

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