Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Creating Community


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).



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






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



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


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.”


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






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!



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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.




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.



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


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Cooking With Kids


IMG_3595.jpgWe had a fabulous visitor at the end of the March, our very own in-house executive chef!  Mr. Bryan was nice enough to come into our school, bring loads of supplies, and spend the morning cooking with our fabulous children.  Before we started cooking we first read the book Strega Nona by Tomie DePoala.  It is a wonderful fairy tale, that has been one of my family’s favorite books for many years.

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Strega has a magic pasta pot that gets used by Big Anthony after she warned him not to use it while she was gone.  Anthony fills the entire town up with pasta, and you have to read the book to find out what happens…

Then the children headed upstairs in groups of two or three to put their pasta dough through the machine and press it out.  IMG_3594.jpgIMG_3616.jpg


Then they used Mr. Bryan’s special pasta rolling tool to roll out their noodles.  It went from a piece a dough to many pieces of spaghetti!







After that they got to watch Mr. Bryan toss the pasta in some home made marinara sauce that he brought from home!  Of course then we ate!  Yummy!







Mr. Bryan was nice enough to pack some of the pasta into a to-go bag for each and every family.  It was such a wonderful morning, and I feel so lucky to have such awesome families in our little school!  Thank you Mr. Bryan and his family for their generous time with our kids!



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What’s the Weather?


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!




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!






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


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



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!





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.



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. 



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!




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.




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




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


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!



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!”



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.” 



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.



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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A New Year, New Friendships, New Beginnings



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:








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!




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.



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!









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!








L’s creation!




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. 






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



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



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!


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!


D and M enjoying our light area together!






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