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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Every teacher needs one of these!

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This is the best teacher planner/organizer ever! We have them to use in the classroom this year at Inspirations, and we are so looking forward to filling all of these pages.

They were created by April at A Modern Teacher, and can be purchased at her Teachers Pay Teachers Site.  What makes them the best ever is that they are 100% customizeable.  You can type right on the pages before printing them, and she has a number of different layouts for the exact same information, so if you want something a certain way, then you can have it that way! Plus, you only print the pages that you want to use – we don’t need to track actual grades, so we didn’t choose to use those sheets.

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There are a million different ways to use her layouts – it’s like organization overload, but we absolutely love it!

All photos are from A Modern Teacher

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Inspirations Events: Bubble Bonanza

Last night’s Bubble Bonanza was a huge success! We always love to see Children, parents, and teachers working together and enjoying themselves, and these fun activities, not to mention the close proximity of the playground, were a great combination! Thank you to every one who attended, we hope to see you at the next Inspirations Event: Art at the Park Tuesday August 20, 2013. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Thinking outside the box in the block area

When thinking about your classroom centers or areas most have a block or construction area.  I used to put out the typical cubes, Legos, people and animals, but I think if we as teachers can think outside the normal items we can instill more creative and imaginative play among our children.  In my own past experience with this, at first the children are not sure what to do with the materials you display and allow them to use because “these are not blocks”.  But once you encourage them to explore and see what they can do and build, they use the items in more ways than I had even thought of.  Below are a few I have tried in my own toddler and preschool classes.

Some Block Area Materials to consider:

~ Real pieces of wood, tree logs cut into flatter circles or as logs

~ Natural items such as pinecones, seashells, acorns, leaves, rocks, etc

~ Tops of plastic drink bottles and can also be cut to look like flowers, etc

~ Seasonal items such as garland, cotton balls or Styrofoam balls in winter, ornaments, fake spider webs, etc

~Household items such as cardboard tubes, items used in packages for shipping, various boxes, thread spools, tiles, cut sponges, pool noodles cut, etc

I still like to provide some blocks but try using wooden rather than plastic ones.  Here are some ideas to alter even the wooden block sets you can purchase:

~ Try attaching some mirror paper or foils to blocks to give different illusions while building with them.  Add mirrors themselves to area along floors or walls makes for a great look at their creations too.

~ Tape photos of the children dressed up to blocks rather than play people.  We have also taped photos of the children’s own homes, places in our community or road signs to blocks too; it makes the area more relative to the children and got out girls loving the block area!

~Try adding sticky Velcro to blocks so they can stick them together as they build.  Most craft stores sell Velcro in colors too.  We have even added Velcro hair rollers too, it adds different shape and texture. 

~ Print a photo and cut into squares the size of your blocks and tape to different ones, creating a photo puzzle with the blocks

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Reggio Mondays: The role of the teacher

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This week I thought I would discuss the role of the teacher as related to the Reggio Emilia Philosophy.  Within the Reggio Emilia approach, the teacher’s role first and foremost is to be a co-learner and collaborator with the children.  Basically, it is the idea that the teachers carefully listen, observe, ask questions, and document children’s work in order to discover what the children’s interests truly are.    The teachers are then encouraged, with the help of the children, to plan activities and lessons based on the children’s interests and then actively engage in the activities alongside the child.   The teachers can also act as a resource and guide by taking their expertise and provoking open ended questions and thoughts to stimulate thinking on the part of the children.  In other words, the teacher is mainly a partner who guides and nurtures the children to become learners, are researchers who observe and ask the open ended questions, are documenters who listen, observe, and portray the children’s work, and are advocates for children by including parents in their children’s learning and being involved in the community.

COOL ideas for HOT days: Ice Chalk

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Summer is in full swing and boy is it HOT around here!  The rain has gone away but now almost too hot and humid to play outside.  I have compiled a list of some ice activities that we have done in the past and we explored a few this week too.  Some not turning out the way people had posted but the children still loved them all anyways; who doesn’t like playing with ice when it feels like 100 out?

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The one we tried yesterday was Ice Chalk.  We mixed it up and put in freezer after breakfast and it was ready to go after nap, so we headed outside with our bowl of ice chalk shapes and they went to work.  Very easy to make; mix half water and half cornstarch with some food coloring.  Dish soap was suggested to help with washing away later, so we added some of that too.  I did find that even after mixing in bowl and again once in trays, the cornstarch seemed to settle at bottom making it not work quite as promised.  You could also add Kool-Aid or other scented items to add some more sensory or use the homemade Popsicle holder too.

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Once outside the side with more cornstarch seemed to “write” in color better.  The children loved played with it and watching the ice slide and melt into bright colors all over the sidewalk!  They even began experimenting to see if they stacked them if the melted water would change color as it mixed.  All the icy fun was gone fast as the HOT day melted it away quicker than they had hoped.  The end result was a beautiful work of art!

  • Ice Paint: mix shaving cream with color and ice cubes or shaved ice, you can also add scents or glitter for various effects.  Gives a different painting effect and is cool sensory experience on hot days.
  • Ice Treasures: freeze water and small objects in a bowl and allow the children to break open or sprinkle salt to get to treasures. Dogs like this too on hot days!
  • Glass Ice:  freeze colored water in balloons and then peel off balloon.  The balls of ice look like colored glass and the kids love it!
  • Ice Boats: before freezing water add straws or sticks, when frozen you can add paper sails to make boats and play with in pool or sensory table and even have boat races!
  • All of these ideas can be found on our Pinterest account,  Inspirations ELC on Seasonal Board

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A trip to the museum

Everyone looks for quick trips to take with children in the summer, but most people quickly pass over the idea of taking the kids to an art museum.  An art museum is a great trip for even the youngest children, and there are art museums virtually everywhere, many of which allow children to visit for free or reduced rates.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of a trip to the museum:

Infants: Believe it or not, even the youngest infant will benefit from a trip to the museum. Viewing the colors, contrast, and lines will encourage brain stimulation and foster brain development.  It is also important to talk to infants while showing them paintings and sculptures.  Expose them to art vocabulary, just as you would expose them to any other vocabulary. This does not mean that you have to know anything about art, talk about the colors you see, what is happening in the paintings, how shiny or smooth the sculpture is.  A trip to the museum with an infant is about building your relationship with the infant, as much as it is about the art. Look into the programming that your local museum offers, some even have programs specifically for infants and their parents, where you can experience the art with other infants and parents.

Toddlers: The tips for listed above for infants also apply for toddlers, but toddlers are mobile and they love to touch everything.  This is how they experience their world, but not always acceptable at an art museum.  You want to make sure that you have prepared your child for this experience.  This is something that you can practice at home.  Have your child help you create simple drawings and hang them on the walls, then model how your child can walk up close and look, but remind them not to touch. Practice more than once, make it a fun game.  This way, when you do go to the museum your child will understand that they are not supposed to touch, and you will enjoy the experience without worry.

Preschoolers: A preschooler with be able to have appreciation for the art that you see at the museum.  Encourage them to talk about how the art makes them feel – is it a happy piece? Why do they think it is happy? What do they think the artist was thinking about when he or she was creating this piece? Their answers might surprise you.  A preschooler is also likely to be inspired to create their own art after a trip to the museum.  Make sure to stock up on art supplies before your trip so that you can come home and create with your child. Their creations may not be directly related to the pieces that they saw at the museum, but you can still talk about the process, and consider choosing a piece that they have created to frame and hang in their room, to help them understand that their art is important and valued too.

If possible, try to visit the museum in the morning, and follow it up with a trip to the park. After walking quietly through the museum the children will have some energy to use up!Image

We are looking for a few things…

In the many years that the four of us have been teaching we have accumulated a lot of stuff, but opening a eccentric requires even more stuff! Here is a list of some of the items that we are looking for. If you have any of these things that you would like to donate to Inspirations Early Learning Center it would be greatly appreciated! Please email inspirationselc@gmail.com to set up a time that we can pick them up. Thank you!

Adult sized chairs – kitchen or office type

Radios with CD players

Paper products (silverware, plates, cups)
Paper towels
Grocery bags
Scrap paper
Double strollers
Bibs and burp rags
Changing table pad
First aid supplies 
Outdoor toys
Sandbox with a cover
Deck storage box
Storage bins – any size
Ziplock bags – any size
Kleenex
Area rugs
Office supplies 
School supplies
Hand soap
Diaper wipes
Towels and rags
Toilet paper
Dress up clothes
Garbage bags
Beach umbrella
Address labels
Spray bottles