Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet


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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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New Snack Routines

 

 

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In some of my earlier blog posts I talked about lots of changes in our classroom routines this year.  One of the biggest changes we made was about our snack routine.  Last year the class learned how to serve themselves snack, set the table and wash their dishes. 

 

This was such a great learning process for them, but I wanted snack to be more of a part of our morning choice time, than a designated time for everyone to eat.  My thinking behind these changes were a few reasons:

  1. 1.  To empower the students to choose when they were hungry and wanted to eat
  2. 2. Allow them to learn how to serve themselves different snack items (this is a lot of fine motor work, pouring water, scooping food, and the feeding process)
  3. 3. Snack isn’t as big because they are just eating the designated amounts of food (last year they often ate quite a bit because it was more of a social event)

 

 

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Learning how to “serve” themselves has proven quite challenging at times.  Yogurt, peanut butter, and other snacks can be tricky to scoop and pour.  I often find them helping each other if one child is more confident with the snack preparation.

 

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There are cards are placed on the table with the ingredients.  After I took these pictures I re-did the cards with picture clues as well so they knew what was written.  Ms. Lori thought to draw dots under the numbers as well to help them count “how many” of each item they should take.

 

 

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It is amazing how much learning takes place while they are eating:

1. fine motor work

2. communication skills

3. cooperation skills (working together and helping each other)

4. math skills (counting the items to serve themselves)

 

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Another aspect I love is seeing the children eating with different people each day!  Last year they always wanted to sit next to their buddy for snack time.  Now they end up eating when they are hungry and visit with new friends.  It has proven to be such a great set-up.  I truly think the children feel very empowered too!

 

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Ocean Adventures ~ Exploring the Sea

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My children and I spent two weeks at the beach this summer, and I really wanted to kick off the school year with all things “beachy.”  Most of the children in the classroom have some relationship to the beach, memories from the beach, or have played in the sand.  All children seem to be fascinated with ocean animals as well!  They are so vastly different from us, I can see why! 

 

This post is packed full of some of the activities we did about the ocean the first two weeks of school. 

 

Sensory Play:

 

One of the sensory tubs, that is actually still open this week because it was so popular is the mermaid lagoon.  The addition of Ariel and lots and lots of seashells has made this a popular place.

 

 

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Some of the children gathered around the mermaid lagoon:

 

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Ocean Cloud Dough:

 

Cloud dough is a wonderful silky smooth sensory material.  It is a combination of flour and oil that makes a substance that will hold its shape, but can be manipulated easily.  I added blue powdered paint to our cloud dough to make it more ocean-like!  I added large sea shells and larger ocean animals to the cloud dough.  Bringing the sensory tubs outside has really allowed the children to enjoy them in the beautiful weather.

 

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“Frozen Ice Castle” Sensory Tub

The first week of school Ms. Lori and I had a lot of fun watching the children interact with this Frozen themed sensory tub.  I froze different sized blocks of ice in the deep freezer each night.  Once choice time started Ms. Lori would pop all of the ice blocks out and let the children play with the Frozen movie characters in the sensory tub.  I added silver beads, charms, and snowflake beads to the water to add to their imaginative play.  M probably spent two full mornings at this tub, and it was so sweet to see her playing pretend on her own for such long periods of time!  That is the exact purpose of these tubs!

 

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Small Group Activities:

 

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Last week I called over children one at a time to work on their number sense.  This is the first time they had a chance to use the “links” which was a learning process in itself to get them linked up.  Here is a picture of L with his linked up number lines.  I had number cards with a hole punched in them.  They have to create the correct length chain and attach it to the number card.  Each child had a chance to work on this activity with me last week.

 

 

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Exploring our Materials:

 

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I have enjoyed watched the children really interact with the materials so far this year.  They have gotten out more of the blocks and manipulatives in the block area then ever before.  It may be their growth and development from last year, but the easy access to the materials is helping aid this interest.

 

M spent a lot of time last week working with the rainbow blocks.  Here is one of his master creations.  I love seeing the younger students watching in awe at his building skills!

 

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We added some new materials to the light and shadow area this summer as well.  I also added a book shelf to store the array of materials I had accrued last year for this part of the classroom.  The shelf holds Widgets, Blockus blocks, ABC see through pieces, flashlights, magnitiles, X-rays, and these new insect blocks.  They are quite creepy, but the kids have enjoyed examining them!

 

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The fairies and their friends have also been an exciting new discovery the past two weeks.  M had lined up all of the peg people on the fairy house, and was arranging the blocks underneath.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the process that went into creating this fairy world.  M and E spent a good part of the morning creating this land.  Everything had a purpose.  The line of trees to the bottom were the “dark forest.” And the bark painted yellow was the bridge to the rainbow to get through the dark forest.  It all had a part in their play.  After they were finished creating, MH had another story line going with snails and them disrupting the fairies.  Not long after C and MR were intrigued by their set up and came to play.  They joined right in, and I loved seeing their work.  We actually left it out to be played with again this week.

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Open Ended Art:

 

Last week we did one ocean themed art project, but for the most part I provided open ended art activities in the classroom.  One of the MOST popular ones was this bottle cap canvas.  I had three large bowls of bottle caps, a blank canvas, and two glue bottles.  They really enjoyed squeezing the glue and flipping over the caps to find a perfect space on the canvas.  They used up all of my bottle cap stash, so if you have bottle caps send them in!  I know the children would enjoy doing this activity again!

 

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The art room was back in a big way last week too! Both easels were opened again, and the painting, painting, and more painting has begun!

 

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For a new art process that we didn’t explore last year I covered cardboard boxes with aluminum foil.  Then I purchases Sharpie paint pens.  They offer a really neat drawing experience because of the texture and sheen, as well as the crunchy noises when you draw on the foil.

 

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We Love GAK!

 

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One child discovered the joy of cutting gak and it spread around the classroom.  Everyone stopped by the gak table last week to try their hand at cutting gak.

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LP also figured out how to shred gak using the hammers to shred the gak up.  We really spent a lot of time exploring our ocean gak!

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Last but not least, here are the pictures of our sand casting in the sand box.  What a neat process and the results were stunning.  I can’t wait to do this again!

 

 

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After the children added their stones to their hole in the sand, Ms. Lori and poured plaster of paris into the holes and allowed them to dry.  Then we lifted the plaster out of the sand to reveal their art.  I love how different and unique each sandcast turned out!

 

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I know that was quite a post, but we have been so busy the past few weeks!  Soon we will be sharing all of our weather activities!


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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. 


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A New Year, New Friendships, New Beginnings

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I wanted to share some pictures from our first week of school!  It already seems like ages ago that we met up again in our sweet school to meet new friends, visit with old friends, connect, play, get messy, dance and have fun!

 

The first weeks are always spent working on routines, establishing classroom culture, and easing back into the classroom basics.  Many of the areas of the room weren’t open the first few days of school.  We opened one area at a time and talked carefully about how to play, care for, and clean up each area in our classroom.  The first day of school was focused on our new and improved block area.

 

We built an amazing road:

 

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Most of the students stopped back by the invitation to add more gems to our classroom branches.  We now have a beautiful branch filled to the brim with beads!

 

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Sensory Play:

We explored with ice the first week of school!  The children were given glitter star ice cubes, salt, colored water squeeze bottles, and other tools for exploring the ice cubes.

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At first I thought the ice cubes were the most exciting part of this sensory tub, but pretty soon Ms. Lori and I realized that the squeeze bottles were actually the best part of this activity.  These kids loved to squeeze the water, refill the bottles, and repeat the process again and again.  I started the morning with many different colors in the bottles, but by the end of the day the water was a glittery blue.  They didn’t seem to mind what color was in the bottle as long as it was ready to squeeze!

 

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I love the ice, glitter, and squeeze bottles.  It added such a fun element to a simple water sensory tub.  The large bottles I purchased from amazon, they are restaurant bottles.  A fun addition to your play at home!

 

Play Dough:

The first few weeks of school we have been playing with coconut play dough.  This year I added mini popsicle sticks, mosaic pieces, mini shells, and gems.  I always love to see their creations in the dough!

 

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L’s creation!

 

 

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It is always important to be dressed as a fairy princess when you are working with your play dough!

 

Process Art:

The first week of school Ms. Lori brought this amazing crayon melting machine to our art room for the children to explore.  It heats up on a low temperature and melts the crayon pieces.  The children “painted” with melted crayon on sea shells and onto paper plates. 

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Look at that smile!  I swear M is giggling in the background!

 

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A few pictures of the children interacting with our wonderful Ms. Lori the first few days of school!

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One of the mornings we did a combination of process art and sensory play!  I filled a tub with shaving cream, added ice cubes of paint, bowls, scoops, and popsicle sticks and paint brushes.  The children loved mixing the melting paint into the shaving cream!

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New Routines:

We have started a number of new routines this school year.  This year we have “Classroom Jobs.”  The children are very excited about these jobs and have been taking them very seriously.  They helped me create the list of classroom jobs:

 

Plant Caretaker

Song Stopper (turns off the ipod for me!)

Light Manager (turns the lights on to the overhead and light table before choice time)

Line Leader

Play Dough Bagger (Bags up the play dough at the end of the morning)

Trash Collector (looks for trash under tables after snack)

Loft Manager (checks the loft after choice to see if any toys have been left up there!)

On Vacation

 

I will take a picture of our new Classroom Jobs sign that the children wrote!

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D and M enjoying our light area together!

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Just had to end of this hilarious picture of “practicing lining up.”  This was the closest I got to all of them looking at me!

 

We’re off to a great start!


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A Sneak Peak

Sneak Peak One

 

 

This year has started off with so much excitement!  As a teacher it is truly special to get to “loop” with a group of children.  Looping is when a teacher works with one group of children over a two year time period.  I was lucky enough to get this experience in Fairfax Public Schools when I looped with a group of first graders into second grade.  It was one of my favorite teaching experiences.

 

Now I get the chance to do it again this year!  All of my students returned from last year, so they already walked in feeling comfortable with school.  The one difference is both of my groups from last year combined to make one larger group.  This is due to the fact that most of the students this year are in their Pre-K year.  I will be sad to see them all go in May, but I am looking forward to all of the adventures and learning we will do this year. 

 

 

Sneak Peak Two

 

These are just a few of the videos that I captured the first few days of school.  It gives a little peak into our newly changed classroom, and what Crozet PlaySchool is like during the day.  Another great and wonderful change this year has been the addition of a new teacher, Ms. Lori.  Ms. Lori is joining us from Ohio, and has lots of different teaching experiences from around the country (VA to California!).  She has settled right in with the kids, and I know they have warmed right up to her.  We are so lucky to have her (the students and me too!!).

 

This portion of the morning is a free choice time.  Children are allowed to make their own choices, and move around the room freely playing, learning, and exploring. 

 

The children are excited about some changes this year in our daily routine. This year they get to serve themselves snack when they feel hungry.  We are still working out the “kinks” for this process, but so far I think they have enjoyed the independence and freedom of choice with this change.  I will write some more about the snack changes and all of the learning that is taking place during snack time later on this month.

 

I have a lot more to share in the form of pictures and writing, but for now enjoy the videos!

Sneak Peak Three