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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Clay Work

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As soon as we returned from our wonderful holiday break I brought out clay as a new material in the classroom.  The materials provided with clay were cardboard pieces, clay tools, beads and gems.  Clay is a great fine motor manipulative for preschool children to work with!  It takes more dexterity than play dough, holds its shapes, and dries to make a permanent piece of art.  They were very interested in this material, and the table was quickly crowded with little clay workers.

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The first time this invitation was set up I didn’t give the children any direction on what to make with the clay.  I allowed them to work with the clay as they wished, creating anything they pleased.  I helped students if they wanted to roll the dough, but otherwise I let them create whatever they wished.

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Once each child finished their work, we took time to transcribe a story about their work of art.  They each had stories to tell about their clay.  It was fascinating to hear all of the stories, ideas, and tales about their clay pieces.

Some children loved squishing beads into the clay and using the clay tools to make marks in the clay.  Other children were intent on making “something” with the clay: people, gingerbread men, cupcakes, and lots of other fun ideas.

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J above is making different marks in the clay using a variety of tools.

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C in the picture above is in the beginning stages of his gingerbread man.

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H in the picture at the table made a wonderful piece that was his sister with the clay.

 

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This is a picture of one of D’s siblings!  It was so neat to see them making clay creations for and about other people.

The following video shows a display I made of their clay work, and how unique all of their pieces were!

 

 

 

 


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Marble Madness

A few weeks ago I got out a large basket of “pop toobs” and a small container of marbles.  The children started making intricate connections of tubes and circles to put the marbles in and out and through.  It didn’t take long before the long connections of pop tubes were taken up to the tippy top of the loft.  They soon started sending marbles from the top of the loft down the carpet area.

 

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I got out a large roll of blue tape and the kids would tell me where to tape up the tubes and we had them winding all around the loft.  At the end of the morning there would be large piles of marbles underneath the tubes on the floor.

This past week some of the children started to add the ramps and tubes to make different endings for the marbles as they came out!  I observed them adding parts, testing them out, taking out tubes, and attempting to make the marble go farther and farther.

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To encourage this idea of different ramps and motion I pulled out our Hape Quadrilla marble run.  We learned about all of the pieces and set it up to watch the marbles in motion.  These marble runs are quite tricky and got knocked down easily, but this taught us a lot about patience and building it back up after it had fallen down!

 

This is a video of the ramp in motion!  So much going on in the video from sharing, taking turns, negotiating marbles, in addition to all of the math and science concepts from the marble run itselfIMG_1210

 

 

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Then their ramps got even more advanced.  They asked me to move the tubes so they could go down the ramp off of the book shelf.  Here is B, M and H each sending down marbles to inspect where they are landing.

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T wanted to make a barrier for the marbles, and created this little half of a square to keep the marbles in after the rolled down the ramps.

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I can’t wait to see what marble creations are next!

 

 


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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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That’s a Wrap

 

 

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Over the past two weeks of the holiday break, I really tried to breath, enjoy my children and take a little break from all things school related!  That worked until the Thursday before we returned when I hit the ground running each night planning and prepping for everyone to return and all sorts of winter themed fun!  Before I start telling you about all of the winter fun, I need to share our last few moments in 2013.  I truly can’t believe how quickly the first half of the year passed by!  It went by in a blink for me, trying to keep up with all of these wonderful kiddos!

 

The picture above is the kids playing “Hullaballoo” on a really cold winter morning.  It is a fun movement and learning game that is made by the same company as Cranium.  I have played it twice now with the group and they are getting better and better!  There is a little speaker that calls out directions, i.e. find the circles, stomp to an animal, put your foot on a red.  Learning and playing at the same time!

 

 

 

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I love seeing my younger group really coming together over these winter months.  They are interacting, talking, and playing together more and more each school day.  K and M are working on K’s gingerbread man ornament together.  I love to see the bonds they are forming.

 

Table Invitations:

 

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One of the table invitations I had out in December was the light panel and letter construction.  I recently bought this letter construction set from amazon.  They are great for building upper and lower case letters, and working with the light table is always a crowd pleaser at school!

 

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Here is another great picture of my younger group working together!  This fun math game was out on the tables for them last month too.  It was very simple to make.  A Christmas tree with circles drawn on it.  I had a little bowl with counters and one dice.  Roll the dice and add that number of counters to the Christmas tree.  L, K, and D are all playing together!  They played this game a bunch of times.

 

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This was another fun holiday themed fine motor activity.  Candy cane sewing!

 

 

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I also found this great idea to use our “Light Bright.”  It has been tucked away in our playroom closet for quite some time.  I have been wondering if we would ever use it again.  Then I saw this idea on Pinterest to create my own drawings for the light bright.  I made a simple outline of Christmas trees and Gingerbread Men.  They enjoyed filling up the trees with little ornaments of light.

 

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Special Events:

 

In December spent a whole week talking and reading about Gingerbread Men.  At the end of the week the children got to decorate gingerbread houses.  They loved every part of the process…the icing, the candy, and licking their fingers was their favorite part.

 

THANK YOU for all of the parents who donated food items, volunteered during the party, and a special thank you to Sarah and Allie for making the finicky graham cracker houses.  They were not easy to put together!

 

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Play Dough:

 

 

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To go along with our Gingerbread theme we played with “Gingerbread Play Dough.”  It smelled just like a bakery in the art room!

 

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Art:

 

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On the chalk board wall a few mornings I would draw the blank outline of a Christmas tree and the squares for the gifts underneath.  The kids had so much fun filling the tree in with ornaments and even adding twinkle lights to the stars.  P turned all of the boxes into gifts by adding lines for ribbon and a bow on top!  I repeated this again and again for both groups.

 

One of my favorite art projects from December was this gift to the parents.  I was a salt dough ornament.  It was filled with a handprint and then once I baked the ornament in the oven they painted the hand part with dots for a Christmas tree.  We wrapped them up along with a picture I took of them tangled up in lights.  Around the lights are all of their thumb prints.  Such a great homemade Christmas present!

 

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We made A LOT of ornaments in December!  I don’t think I took pictures of all of them, but below is a picture of Ellie making a snowflake ornament.  The children were allowed to use the cool glue gun.  It still melts the glue, but the gun and glue won’t burn you.  Perfect for little hands!  Many of the children had a hard time squeezing the glue gun, so I would squeeze it and they would place the gems onto their snowflake.

 

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We also made Christmas votive candles with tissue paper and modge podge.

 

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And snowmen ornaments using their handprints. 

 

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Sensory Play:

 

The last few weeks of December we had two very fun sensory bins.  One was “Clean Mud” and Christmas themed goodies. 

 

Clean Mud Recipe:

three rolls of toilet paper

one bar of Ivory soap grated

warm water

 

I had the kids unroll the toilet paper (which they thought was really fun!).  Then we slowly added warm water and squeezed the paper to help it break down.  The clean mud gave off such a nice scent from the Ivory soap.  This would last you a couple of days.  The paper would start to dry up each day, and I just added a bit of warm water to get the paper softened up again.

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Lastly we had Peppermint scented rice in the other sensory bin.  The rice was dyed red and then I added peppermint extract to it!  Before it was all mixed together I had the rice placed in red and white stripes in the sensory bin.  It looked like a huge candy cane! 

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All in all it was a busy and fun month of traditions, holidays, and Christmas Spirit!

 

I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for Crozet PlaySchool!


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Five Little Pumpkins Rolled out of Sight

 

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The classroom has been filled to the brim with Halloween and fall inspired learning this month!  This post is packed full of pictures from our classroom, and all of the activities we have been working on.  Each week I try to lay out different “Invitations to Play” on our classroom tables.  The activities may be a type of game, art, craft, or sensory experience that is tied into our classroom discussions.

 

Table Invitations:

 

This months we had felt pumpkins with matching cards.  Children pulled a card and then tried to find the matching pieces of felt to build their pumpkin correctly!

 

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We have also been doing a lot of activities to build up our fine motor strength.  One of the table invitations was grabbing and squeezing pumpkin erasers with tongs and placing them in the “witches cauldrons.”  This has been a classroom favorite!

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This “invitation to play” was on our tables a few weeks ago: coffee beans, trucks and differs, playmobil construction men.  We love trucks and cars, and I am trying to find ways to incorporate car play into the classroom.

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Mr. Potato head is always fun and great fine motor practice too!

 

We also have had a lot of Halloween inspired learning on the tables this month:

 

Making fun jack o’ lantern faces on the magnet boards:

 

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Squeezing spiders on the spider web and fall themed toothpicks pushed into Styrofoam. 

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I also had jack o’ lantern faces on the large magnetic board this month too!

 

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Weaving practice with Halloween themed ribbons…

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Counting practice was on the tables last week.  I simply drew a few pumpkins with numbers inside.  Children counted out the correct number of ghosts and placed them in their pumpkin.

 

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We have also had a few more discussions on sorting objects.  This month we sorted our pumpkins into Big, Medium, and Small.

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Play Dough:

Play dough continues to be a common core of our classroom.  The children visit it daily.  We are learning through our play every day.  Just take a look…

 

 

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We have had our pumpkin and fall themed play dough tray out for a few weeks now on and off.  I will add and change the materials in the tray as the weeks go on.  Here is some of our most recent “play dough play.”

 

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L realized that if she pushed her play dough into the jack o lantern, it would imprint on to the dough!

 

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C spent a great deal of time creating a little fall scene with her play dough.

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E was inspired by the craft sticks.  First she was making Xs and then she began to make more letters with the sticks in the dough.

 

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M and P spent most of the time making “pumpkin popcorn.”  They would roll the dough into a long snake and then cut it apart with the craft sticks.

 

Below are more pictures of different play dough work I have found around the classroom….

 

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Exploring Art and Colors:

Another art exploration we did this month was color mixing.  I provided the children with ice cube trays and droppers.  Then I put blue, red, and yellow colored water in their trays.  I showed them how to draw up the water and move it to another section of the tray.  Then they could change colors by mixing the colors in different ways.  This exploration was visited over and over again by all of the age groups.  (This is also such great practice for fine motor coordination for the children to squeeze up the water and release it into another part of the tray.)

 

I am going to expand this learning next month by introducing color mixing with paint trays.  We are going to make our own class set of paints by having the children mix them on their own!

 

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Look at all of the different shades C was able to make with her colored water:

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Our art activities have been really fun this month!  I have tried to balance as much process art and project art as possible.  I posted about the importance of process art previously, but I still love to do some “themed” projects especially around the holidays!

 

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We mixed our own shaving cream paint with fall colors and glitter.  Then we pressed paper onto our paint tray.  I am on the look out for a REALLY large branch (hint, hint parents if you come across a cool branch I can hang from the ceiling).  I am going to cut our paper pieces into leaf shapes to hang from the ceiling.

 

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I think mixing paint colors might be the best part!

 

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Process art Pumpkin painting:

We collected our pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, and I laid out a variety of acrylic paints for the children to choose from.  Once they had painted their pumpkin, they could add glitter or googlie eyes for some spooky Halloween fun!

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Frankenstein and Mummy Art:

For more of a product art activity the children made Frankenstein for the front door.  I provided them with the cut out shapes for his face, and they filled him in with tissue paper before we sealed him up!  He looks very spooky on our front entrance!

 

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After reading “Where is My Mummy” this month I invited students over to make their own mummies using gauze and a toilet paper roll.

 

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One of the groups did some sponge painting with jack o’ lantern foam pieces.  We laid the foam onto the paper and then painted around the foam with different colors.  I loved watching their faces as they lifted the jack o’ lanterns off the paper to reveal their pumpkins.

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Science and Math Investigations:

 

 

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This month we have also been working on a pumpkin investigation.  We have been filling out our “investigation” chart little by little throughout the month.  First we thought of describing words for our pumpkin, then we guessed and counted how many lines were on our pumpkin.  Third we guessed and then measured how tall our pumpkin was using unifix cubes.  Finally today we wrapped our pumpkin in yarn to measure exactly how big around our pumpkin is. 

 

This project has lead to many great discussions about estimating, math, numbers, and exploring an object further than we usually get a chance to.  You can see from their numbers that estimating is a very new skill.  Hopefully we will get more and more practice with estimating throughout the year.

 

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Halloween and Fall Sensory Play:

Sensory play continues to be a integral part of our classroom environment.  I know that I have posted some of our sensory bins this month, but here is a re-cap.

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Pinto bean pumpkin patch, beans, scoops, fall leaves, and of course pumpkins!

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Pumpkin washing:  pumpkins, drying rack, scoops, cups, sponges, and droppers.  Children spent A LOT of time at this sensory bin.  They love water!  Pouring water on the pumpkins and in and out of cups, and squeezing the sponges was a much loved activity.

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Halloween creepy crawlers: black beans, Halloween items, bouncy eye balls, snakes, and cups and scoops.

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There is still more Halloween and fall fun to share!  I hope your children are still enjoying their school year, it is so much fun for me each and every day!!