Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet


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Letters and Shapes

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Amongst all of our Valentine’s Day fun we have been still continuing with our investigation of letters and shapes.  Above is a picture of L and B looking closely at the large uppercase letters on the overhead projector.  They were lining up the letters, finding the letters in their names, discussing the letters as the pulled them out of the basket, and wondering why some letters looked “backwards” no the wall.  It is wonderful to see two children work for an extended period of time at one task, and scaffold each other with new information while they “play.”

Preschool Math:

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Since there is so much emphasis on the Heart at Valentine’s Day, I deduced to introduce other shapes through a series of books and activities this week.  We read some of my favorite shape books this week!  These are some of the titles we have been exploring…

This is a book of pictures and you can find shapes in each of the real-life photos

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The Greedy Triangle introduces the idea of geometry with lines and angles, but we focused on the shapes the triangle changes into from page to page.

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This is a great book that covers many different types of of shapes

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After reading many of these books we went on “Shape Hunts” around the classroom looking for shapes all around us!  The picture above is A holding up the Handwriting Without Tears wooden pieces into a circle.

We found Squares…

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A line and a square found by M…

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A circle and a rectangle found by H

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A semi circle and a rectangle found by D…

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A Rectangle and a Heart found by B…

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A Heart and Circle found by A…

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M found a circle on the edge of her cup…

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L found a circle and a line

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It was a lot of fun to do our shape hunt, and I was proud of how creative they were with their findings!

Process Art:

Of course we had to paint some shapes…We made these gorgeous Heart Mobiles with cardboard and tempera paints:

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Sensory Play:

We also explored hearts, pink salt, glass jars, and paintbrushes on the light panel this week:

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We made the most amazing SLIME from Fun at Home with Kids recipe on her blog!  It turned out perfect and the kids enjoyed it so much!!!

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We were also so lucky to get to go outside and on a bunch of walks this week with the warmer temperatures!  Ms. Kay came for yoga as well and we did partner yoga for the first time!

Preschool Gross Motor Development:

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Yep, I pretty much love my job!  What a great week!  Ms. Clare


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March Madness

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We had so much fun on St. Patrick’s Day this year!  The kids came into the classroom to find that some little leprechaun vandals had left a mess in our classroom overnight.  There were gold coins, rainbow yarn, and green confetti all over the place.  Then some of the students noticed a clue located on our bookshelf. 

 

We worked together, read the clues, and used our thinking skills to determine where to go next!

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We ended up finding chocolate coins and treasure hidden in our trashcan!  The leprechauns sure know how to be tricky!

 

During our morning meeting we had a “lucky hunt” around the classroom.  Each child was given a hunt paper and had to find golden coins hidden around the classroom.  Then they had to race back and try to fill up the lucky hunt papers as quickly as possible.  This was so much fun that we played it a few times!

 

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We also found some very green gak in the art room on St. Patrick’s Day.  Gak is still a favorite in our classroom, and we loved sticking the gak full of coins, shamrocks, and green gems.

 

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In March we opened a new construction area in the classroom.  It included our golf tees and foam board, with real hammers and goggles.  This is such a great activity for everyone in the class.  Holding up the hammers and pounding them into the board is great muscle building for our arms and hands.  Also getting the chance to use real tools is enticing and empowering for children.

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New in our construction area were vests, hard hats, and all our construction vehicles.  The vests and hats have become a permenant part of our dramatic play area of the room.

 

 

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We played with pasta, tubs, scoops, and bowls in one of the sensory tubs.

 

 

 

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After reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears a bunch of times we got to act out the story using the sensory tub.  I filled the tub with oatmeal, added three bears and a goldilocks.  Then I put the furniture from our doll house to act out the beds and chairs.  They always know just what to do when they see these activities around the classroom.

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Last year we spent a great deal of time discussing rainbows, colors, and color mixing.  I still did a few projects that included rainbows this spring.  We painted rainbows on a large sheet of paper.  Before they started painting I put a rainbow piece of contact paper on their sheet.  Once their paintings dried, I peeled off the contact paper to reveal an opposite rainbow picture.  They were very confused about the process, but once they saw me peel off the contact paper the whole idea made more sense to them!

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We also finger painted rainbows with our glitter filled paints.  Each child decided if they wanted their rainbow to run across the paper or in an arch.  After our rainbows dried we taped rainbow yarn to the bottom of the paper and turned it into a windsock.  They loved taking them outside and seeing them blow in the wind.

 

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This winter was filled with a lot of snowy days, and we have loved adding the addition of yoga into our monthly routines.  The children are quickly picking up on the poses, terms, and the breathing elements of yoga.  They are so flexible and can quickly move from one position to the next.  I am in awe of their attitude to embrace new ideas and jump into yoga feet first!  We will continue to have Ms. Kay visit us throughout the spring too!

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Ms. Kay begins each lesson with an affirmation that we repeat a few times before an after our yoga exercises.  Then she guides the yoga session by reading a book that usually has animals in the story.  Each animal leads the children to the next pose they are going to encounter.

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Moose ears and breathing right to left

 

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Whale pose: laying on belly and lifting arms and legs

 

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Wolf pose:  downward dog with a leg lift to be the wolf’s tail wagging. 

 

Ms. Kay is so creative, and makes yoga fun for the kids!


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Featuring Fall

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Throughout September we spent a great deal of time talking about the weather, but here and there I have been incorporating fall based play opportunities here and there.  We spent a great deal of time discussing fall last year.  We learned about apples, pumpkins, life cycles, and much more.  Since my group of children is the same this school year, I wanted to discuss some new topics.  Of course the seasons and temperature changes were another part of our weather discussions. 

 

Play Dough:

 

These are some pictures from my fall play dough tray that I had out for a few weeks.  The tray had wooden acorns, acorns on toothpicks, leaf cookie cutters, and leaf gems.  I can never, ever get enough of play dough.  I am constantly blown away by the children’s continued interest in play dough, and the things they create.  They loved pushing the wooden acorns deep into the dough, such great fine motor work!

 

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Then I moved the play dough tray inside of the classroom.  I added red cinnamon scented dough to tray, and it renewed an interest in the dough again.  I also added scissors, because they love rolling and cutting the dough into pieces.

 

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Sensory Play:

 

The oatmeal table came back out this fall.  I love oatmeal and cinnamon sticks in the sensory table!  The child loved scooping it and sending it down through the paper towel tubes.  This year I added a bunch of handfuls of chestnuts (thank you Max’s family), and three beautiful leaf votive I found at the dollar store. 

 

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Light and Shadow Play:

 

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The light table has a continued interest this year.  I keep trying to add new and interesting materials to engage the kids and keep them coming back for more!  This year I put silk leaves, leaf gems, and popsicle sticks on the light panel.  The children made patterns, and loved looking at the details on the leaves.

 

Of course there is always something interesting to create with the overhead projector!

 

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Invitation to Play:

 

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This was a wonderful fall invitation to play that was left on the tables for a week or two.  The tray was filled with woodland animals, flaxseed, cinnamon sticks, grass balls from the craft store, and wooden pieces.  The children came back to this tray day after day.  The flax seeds were a new sensory material for us, and they enjoyed scooping them, and moving them around on the tray.  The animals were always

 

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Outdoor Art:

 

 

 

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I recently purchased some plexi-glass boards from Lowe’s for a cheap outdoor easel.  I set up this painting invitation with the boards, paints, and squeegees.  They of course went right to town experimenting with the paints and this new form of a paint brush!

 

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Learning Trays:

 

 

This year I am trying to introduce more and more games into our learning trays.  The company “Blue Orange” makes some of my most favorite games.  If you are looking for a great Christmas gift that doesn’t require batteries, their games are my #1 pick!

 

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Pengoloo is a simple memory and matching game.  Children roll the colored dice, and try to find a penguin with the matching egg color.  If they find a match they get to place the penguins on their iceberg.  They are learning their colors, using their reasoning skills, and of course learning about turn taking.  This game was a hit with everyone.IMG_4930

 

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Here is a simple color match you could set up at home!  I painted toilet paper tubes different colors, and then stacked them in a line for some popsicle stick sorting.  You don’t even need to paint the sticks, you can find colored sticks at the craft store!

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Another great and cheap fine motor activity: skewer the beads!  I simply stuck cooking skewers in the play dough and put a bowl of beads in the learning tray.  They went right to work filling up their sticks. 

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I pre-wrote children’s names on paper in another learning tray.  They could use stickers or dot art to trace over their name.  Most of my crew chose stickers of course!

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Lastly, these aren’t the greatest photos, but we had the Duplo blocks out for about three weeks.  Last year the children mostly loved driving the trucks and trains around the classroom.  This year they worked together to make some of the most creative castles, train sets, and playgrounds.  I snapped a few photos of their work, but this type of creativity went on and on for weeks.  They were making elaborate Duplo trains to take around the classroom.  I have truly enjoyed seeing how much they have all grown since last year, and how this has affected their play and use of materials!

 

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What’s the Weather?

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Within the first few weeks of school, one of our students began talking about some of the big summer thunder storms that had rolled through recently.  He drew a picture of a large cloud on our chalkboard and called it the “thunder factory.”  That got me thinking about what the children  already knew about storms and rain clouds.  We had a large group discussion about the weather and each child had thoughts about the rain and big thunder storms.  Everyone in the class has previous experience or specific stories to go with this topic.  I thought it would be great to explore it further!

 

 

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I found a series of science experiments and art projects online that correlated with learning about rain, rain clouds, and different types of weather.  We started our discussions with rain, since that is where the idea began.  First we made a large scale rain cloud.  I filled a large mixing bowl with water and then topped it with shaving cream.  We put drops of blue liquid watercolors into the shaving cream and watched it “rain” before our eyes!

 

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We painted our own rain clouds using cloud cut outs and a mixture of shaving cream and glue for the puffy paint.

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Then they each got a chance to make their own mini rain clouds!

 

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For the first time we did the Ivory Soap Experiment in the microwave upstairs.  The children went upstairs with Ms. Lori two at a time.  First they drew a picture of a normal bar of Ivory soap.  Then they heated the soap up in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes and watched it expand.  Afterwards they drew a picture of the changed soap in their journals.  Lastly, we had to feel it and explore it once it had cooled!

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Another science experiment we tried was to make it “rain” in a bowl.  Ms. Lori filled a glass bowl with steaming water.  Then we covered the top of the bowl with a plate and lots of ice.  The effect was condensation inside and outside of the bowl.  This was a little more of an abstract experiment, but some of the group was really interested in watching the changes take place in the bowl.

 

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A wonderful rain sensory activity we did was with an old aquarium.  I found this idea from the Teach Preschool website.  She has so many wonderful and easy ideas to implement.  I place a large tub filled with cotton balls and tweezers.  The aquarium was filled with plain water that I tinted blue.  Children could use their hands to move the cotton balls or the tweezers.  They enjoyed bringing up large collections of the cotton balls and watching it rain over and over again.  The series of photos below are some of my favorite pictures from this whole weather study.  Such hands on learning, and focused play!

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We also set up a rain station outside in the sensory tub.  Thank you parents for all of the clear lids.  I used one of Chris’ tools to hammer in lots and lots of small holes in the plastic lids.  The children loved experimenting with the tubs, making lots and lots of rain. 

 

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L and L had a lot of discussions about large rain clouds, and if you had one cloud on top of another cloud how much rain will fall.  Love their thinking!

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I didn’t capture a lot of pictures, but I had the class sort picture cards into different weather categories: stormy, foggy, windy, cloudy, and sunny.

 

 

We also made a beautiful rainy weather art project.  First the children painted with watercolors onto a outline of an umbrella.  After the picture’s dried I made a mixture of water, glue, and blue coloring to create a rain effect over the umbrella.  Each child dropped the blue glue on the top of their umbrella and then held the paper upright to cause the glue to drip down the front of their picture.

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We also did wind paintings with straws and watered down paint.

 

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One of our last provocations was a clay prompt.  I gave each child a small amount of clay, wire, beads, gems, and pictures of clouds and storms.  The results were fabulous.  I had each child describe what they created after they were finished with the clay.

 

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Amazing Water Wall

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Our water wall has been a wonderful addition to our outside time this year. 

 

I purchased a large sheet of plywood from Lowe’s, and with Chris and Bradley’s help we created the water wall.  The materials are a combination of milk cartons, gutters from Lowe’s, orange juice bottles, and other random trash.  Overall the project cost less than $20!  I would say that is money well spent!

 

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I have noticed that once one child starts playing with the water wall, it quickly becomes a group effort.

 

“Hey, help me pour some water!”

“You hold your cup on the end and catch my water.”

“Look how fast my water can go!!”

“You’re splashing me!”

 

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I always love to explain the learning that takes place while children are “playing.”  Some of the basic skills being developed while exploring the water wall are:

 

  1. 1. Cause and effect: If I pour water into this item what will happen? Where will my water end up?

 

2. Cooperation and Communication skills: Children taking turns, children waiting to pour, children working together to fill up a container at the bottom, watching out for a friend while pouring water.

 

3. Fine motor and gross motor skills: Scooping, pouring, projecting how much water to gather.  Gross motor skills are developed by using their bodies to scoop, reach, and stretch to the funnel or tube to begin pouring.

 

4. Math Concepts: Predicting “If I pour water here, where will it end up?”  Volume “What happens when the bucket fills up to the tippy top?” 

 

I noticed the children working together to try and fill one of the buckets on the bottom over and over again. 

 

“Help me!  If you pour here, it will go right into this bucket!  We can make it overflow.” 

 

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Another item you might notice is there are a variety of cups to pour from.  They are a variety of sizes for the children to explore with while filling and pouring.

 

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Now that the weather is changing the water wall hasn’t been visited quite as often.  I am going to change the water wall, and bring it inside for exploration.  I am contemplating sand, colored water, beads or marbles as our next avenue for our wall. 

 

Later this year I would also love to offer different materials for the children to try and create their own water wall using recycled materials.

 

The possibilities are endless! 

 

 

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The Great Nature Adventure!

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It already feels like ages ago, but just a few weeks ago we went for a long nature walk on the trails right by school!  We are so lucky to have little oasis like these so close to us for a little retreat.

 

Each child got a bag to collect their goodies while they were walking.  They picked up sticks, rocks, strips of bark, acorns and even a snail shell!

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We stopped a few times along the way to talk about what we saw.  The mossy trees were always an attraction to stop and feel the tree!

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The biggest attraction was the creek, of course!  There were a few perfect spots to stop and throw rocks, watch the water, and climb on large rocks next to the creek.

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Once we made it back to school, we had a lot of nature items to use!  The first thing we did was pull the large stick inside that the children found.  I laid it on a piece of paper with different sets of acrylic paints.  They went to town painting it over two days.  They would sit down in different groups and work on all of the different sides and edges of the stick.

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I wanted to use a variety of the materials at the same time.  I made a clay invitation using small lumps of clay, beads, and their bags of nature items.  They were so interested in the clay and it’s properties!  We used clay only a small number of times last year, so it was neat to see them so interested in this art form.

 

The results of their nature clay sculptures were fantastic!  After their clay dried Ms. Lori walked around the room and had each child talk about and describe their clay sculpture.  The stories and names of the sculptures varied as widely as the children’s interests.  Some children said they created race cars, fairy worlds, the beach, and some made themselves with the clay.  We displayed our work on the block shelf for a few weeks.

 

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Their final nature sculptures on display in the classroom:

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Another art invitation I offered was painting bark and their leftover nature items with the acrylic paints.  With the nice weather we have been having, I was able to set this invitation up outside for children to paint under the deck. 

 

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One of the last nature crafts we did after our nature walk was making fairy wands.  This was a great fine motor activity!  They had to slide the beads onto the sticks and then I wrapped them in ribbon.  The fairy wands turned out great, but I learned the hard way that the weight of the beads and ribbon caused the wands to snap easily.  My girls broke their wands very quickly!  It is about the process, right?!!

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After we finished the large branches I covered the paint in modge podge to seal in the paint.  They have become pieces of art for our classroom, and I have incorporated them into fairy play in the block area.

 

I can’t wait for our next great outdoor adventure!


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Environment as the Third Teacher

I place a large emphasis on my classroom learning environment.  This includes layout of furniture, types of materials, and display of materials.  One of the important aspects of a Reggio Inspired Curriculum is the school environment.  I want to provide lots and lots of choices, but at the same time have the space feel clean and uncluttered so play can happen.  I spent a great deal of time this summer reorganizing the preschool space.  After spending one year teaching in the space, I quickly realized what areas were too crowded or unusable by the children. 

 

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One of my main focuses was on our block area this year.  Over the course of the school year last year I had collected many blocks and loose parts to add to our block area.  The problem was making all of those materials available all of the time for the students.  Last year I would switch around the classroom every two weeks, so the block area would change bi-weekly.  I really wanted a space in the classroom that would be exclusively block play that could be out year round.  My solution was to take the two doors off of my sideboard and fill them up with all of our new block loose pieces!  This area is now in the front of the classroom right when you enter the room too!

 

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A platform for building, mirrors, haba car blocks, ramps and gutters, pipes and poles are now located in the front of the classroom.

 

Below you can see the shelf filled with the new large “hollow” block set that I purchased this summer.

 

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A view from the door of the classroom.  The large hollow blocks are now right next to the train table.  This old train table will change throughout the year.  Currently the fairies and sea shells and tree blocks have been on the train table.  The train table drawers are filled to the brim with smaller unit blocks.

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To the left of the train table is my old side board.  Chris removed the doors and it is now filled with all of my “loose parts.”  There are wooden cars and trucks, street signs, rainbow blocks, professional people, window blocks, horse trailer, horse stable, battery candles, and all of the wooden princesses and super heroes I made this summer.

 

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Now the students can have access to these building materials all year!

 

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A closer look at our fairy house, tree blocks, and sea shell investigation area.

 

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This view shows our dress up area that is now filled to brim thanks to a generous neighbor who dropped off a large trunk of old play clothes.  The favorite pieces of our new collection are wallets, fans, and the clown hat!

 

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This year I really wanted to do something to honor each child’s birth day.  I stumbled across this idea online, and I loved it.  I hung up a letter representing each child on the classroom wall.  On the child’s birthday they will paint and decorate their letter.  It will be a beautiful reminder as the year progresses!DSC_0113DSC_0114DSC_0115

Our loft is still the same and is one of the most popular parts of our classroom!  “Playing House” as the children call it, is a deep part of our classroom activity.

 

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Our new calendar/meeting area is revamped this year!  I made a ABC card for all of the letters we found at the end of the year last year, and hung them up underneath our calendar.  It serves as our classroom’s ABC strip!

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After much discussion during morning meeting we finalized these three rules as our classroom rules.  Gentle hands, take care of our school, and be kind.  Very simple, yet they incorporate our daily life of the classroom.  Each child signed their name on the list of rules. 

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Everyone also had a meeting with me to discuss what their hopes and dreams are for this school year.  I love their pictures and goals for 2014!

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The children also helped me create and write our classroom job list!  I have a picture of the job and movable pictures of the children to the right of the job.  Their job switches once a week.  Everyone has to help…unless you are on vacation!

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Another big change is our art studio.  I really wanted more materials accessible during the morning.  I moved one of my leaning shelves into the art area, and now we have a lovely display and writing area.  Now they always have access to paper, stickers, dot art, scissors, glue, markers, chalk, hole punches, pencils, and so much more! 

 

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I have a lot of pictures and exciting things to share about our new and improved outside space as well!  I know that your children have loved playing and exploring the new space these past few weeks, and it brings me joy to see them interact with the materials every day.