Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet


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Creating Community

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We have spent the past month focusing on our classroom community!  Using the Responsive Classroom approach to building community, I use morning meeting, guided discoveries, and a number of steps to create our classroom rules.  I don’t just tell the students what the rules of our school are, we work together to come up with rules and procedures to help our classroom time run smoothly.  It is a long process, but it ensures that the children are invested in the classroom rules.  They also are very aware what each rule is, and how it applies to our day to day classroom activities.

(The picture above is A and L working on cutting straws in our cutting tray).

 

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First we read a few books about children that don’t like to follow rules: 61P6MBGGK0L._AC_US160_.jpg

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These are some of my favorite books for talking about Cleaning, Caring about our school, Rules, and Getting in Trouble.

 

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After we have read a number of books like this, I ask the children to generate a list of rules:

No Throwing ~ D

No Pushing ~M

We don’t throw books ~ W

Don’t throw blocks ~ H

Don’t touch friends ~M

No hitting ~ B

No touching friends ~A

Walk inside the school ~ B

Play kindly ~ A

Play gently with dolls ~M

Clean up toys ~J

Don’t play rough ~B

Don’t throw food ~ H

No throwing the rice ~M

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The children generated this list over the course of a few days.  We decided that this list was just TOO long and had TOO many things to remember.  Ms Melissa and Ms Clare didn’t want to spend all day telling everyone “No!” just like the books.  Over a few sessions we narrowed our list down to:

Be Kind

Use Gentle Hands

Take Care of Our School

These rules are clear, concise, easy to remember, and most of all they are what we SHOULD be doing, not what we SHOULDN’T be doing.  It is much better to ask friends to “be kind” then “don’t be mean, that’s not nice.”

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We also read a series of books that encourage friendship, kindness, and how we should treat each other at school:

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While we have been working on community each day, we have also continued to explore the different sections of the classroom through “guided discovery.”  Children are beginning to get the flow of the classroom, feel at ease, and understand the materials at hand.  They are also learning how to tidy up when we are done!

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I have begun to look more closely at children’s interest and play.  I hope to see some topics and ideas emerge in the next few weeks to delve into for our first project.

 

 


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Light and Letters

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Our beautiful classroom got a much needed face lift and I took some time to rearrange a ton of furniture in the room.  Many of the children have been building lots of building, ramps, moving the tubes around, and I felt they just plain needed more building space.  I moved around my train table area and brought out both of the wooden platforms that I have for building.  I also moved the projector out the light area to add another element to the building environment.

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It didn’t take them long to start exploring our new area!  B got busy moving around the color paddles to see how they looked projected around the room.

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It didn’t take long before B had an audience to see how they colors looked when they were manipulated on the overhead projector.

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The light also provided a very soft glow that made it the perfect spot for building.  I love seeing the whole group working on a building together.  Above they made a large building with the unit blocks, LED candles, and the large animals.  They spent a great deal of time here during the morning.

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After the next few days I added translucent letters to the overhead projector, and it was interesting to see how the letters added a new level of play to the projector.

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Immediately they loved to see all of the letters on the ceiling.  Each child wanted to see “their letter” on the ceiling.  As soon as their letter was projected they would climb up to the loft to touch their letter on the ceiling.

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After we explored the letters on the overhead for a few days, we also explored the letters in  our names using paper and pencil.  These little crayons the kids are using are called “flip crayons.”  They are purposely made very short and encourage the correct pencil grip when children are using them.  We made these name puzzles by cutting strips of paper and using one piece per each letter in their name.  Each child they wrote their letters down the strip of paper as many times as they could to practice their letters.  Once they were finished we mixed up the pieces and they put their names back together again.

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It was neat to see children’s names start to appear all around the room in different places.

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Animal Adventures Part Two

We have had so much fun exploring animals of all different shapes and sizes!  This animal unit of study came about from the children playing with these large sized animals from Learning Resources, as shown below.  They are great toys to have around the house, because you can get them muddy, dirty, and even covered with paint and they wash right up!  They also provide the type of open ended play that can go on and on without a intended goal in mind.  They might made a great gift to fill up an Easter Basket?

Here is a link to some of the animals we love so much:

 

jungle animals

 

Jumbo Jungle Animals

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Ocean Animals

 

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Endangered Animals

 

We made animal footprints with our large animals by dipping them in a plate of paint.  The girls thought this was really fun!  I was hoping that the “prints” of the animals would show up a bit better, but they enjoyed the process so much I decided that wasn’t important.

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I love how C decided to make his animals have a little dance party, and it made his paint smear all over the paper.  It is amazing what happens when we let go of our “ideas about what they should do” and just let the children explore freely.

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Fine Motor Activities:

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I set up this really fun cutting activity last week for the children at the table using crepe paper.  My good friend is a pediatric OT, and she shared this simple idea with me.  It was a fun and unique way to practice our scissor skills while standing, moving, and cutting something unique.

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After we had a few days to work on our cutting I gathered up a new fine motor activity that we hadn’t seen this year:

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A bath mat flipped upside down, marbles, and tongs.

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The children all worked diligently to fill up the bathmat.  After they had used every last marble in the room H asked if there was anything else they could use for the project.  I got them some gems to fill up any of the last holes on the mat.  The marbles required more fine motor skill to keep them from rolling away, but the finished product of the whole mat filled with objects was really neat to see.  I love when they will stick with a project for the entire duration!

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Animal Adventures:

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We had a whole group discussion about what we already know about animals (which was a WHOLE LOT) and what we wonder about animals.  The overall theme that kept being discussed is where animals live.  They knew the names of many of the habitats, but we unsure of some of the animals that lived in each biome.  I have decided to move along those lines with our animal study, and we got our hands dirty playing in a sandy safari habitat above.  I used my sand cloud dough, added my large safari animals, scoops, rocks, and fake large leaves.  The weather was so beautiful we were able to have the sensory tub outside with the doors open to the school.

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I found M and D building this awesome animal habitat with the blocks.  I loved how the used the hollow blocks turned sideways and each little animal had a resting place inside the block.

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After morning meeting we also sorted our mini animal figures into two categories: wild animals and tame animals.  We read Dr. Suess’ new book “What Pet Should I Get” and discussed which types of animals live in people’s homes.  They were especially interested in animals such as birds or turtles that can be found in the wild AND in people’s homes.  Such detailed discussions happening everyday!

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Of course these little animals just begged to be played with, which M got right to work making them come to life one morning last week:

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Collaborative Art:

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Lastly, the children came in last week to find this blank rainforest mural hanging up in the classroom.  I got the foundation of the mural started, and then each day we added a new animal to the mural to make it complete!

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Although many of the animals are bit more on the “crafty” side as far as projects I choose to do with the children, I wanted to make a finished product that would allow them to visualize the rainforest.  I tried to choose child made animals as much as possible!  The toucans were cut out using paper that they had painted for their Eric Carle project.  They added feathers and eyes to their birds.  The snakes were stamped using painted bubble wrap.  Above is a picture of J painting the bubble wrap green, and then we pressed the plate onto the bubble wrap.  Lastly, we painted anteaters using forks and dipping them in brown paint to make the fir.  The mural turned out beautifully, and after we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week, we will begin our mural of the savannah.

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Thank you for coming along on our animal adventures!


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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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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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Crozet PlaySchool’s Open House 2013

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Crozet PlaySchool opened it’s doors this week to a wonderful group of children and families.  We have spent the better part of 2013 preparing, organizing, and creating a friendly and warm space for children to be a part of our school.  Although our environment will always be a work in progress.  It was very exciting to finally unveil our new classroom space at open house on Monday.  Children had fun looking around the classroom, finding pictures of their families, and adding a “leaf” thumbprint to our family tree. 

Some of our new classroom features are a brand new art studio for the kids.  It has an easy to clean floor that is perfect for our two new sensory tubs, two easels, and the art table.  It turned out great!

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Here is a picture of Ellie right before open house exploring the new sand dough sensory bin.  The room still looks bare on the walls, but I am sure it will be overflowing with artwork very shortly.

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Our sand dough bin was put together at open house for children and their parents to investigate and explore.  We filled it with home-made sand dough (1 part sand, 1 part flour, baby oil until it sticks together easily).  I also added some silver sea shells, natural shells, little scoops & spoons, along with some fun little cork treasure jars to fill up!  It was a huge hit!

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I also placed a few of our learning trays on the tables for children to explore while they were walking around.  This a math tray that I put together using sand, sea shells, and pearl beads.  It is great for counting, sensory fun, and number concept development.  One of the older siblings jumped right in and started sorting pearls and counting sea shells!

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Another new space in our room is our magnetic board.  It is actually an oil drip pan from Walmart, go figure?!  Cheap and fun!  I made some simple magnetic shapes, magnetic Popsicle sticks, magnetic pom poms, and each child’s name for some magnetic fun!

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Here are some of our new tables and chairs, with the learning tray shelf in the background.  So much fun awaits these kids!

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The first week re-cap will be coming later this weekend!  For now I am going to relax on this Friday afternoon after my first week of work!  Let’s celebrate!