Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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A Series of Learning Videos

In February I shot a few short videos of two students working together on the magnetic board. I wanted to share them with you and note a few things:

The students are doing their own alphabet activity, even though I had something different laid out on the magnetic board that corresponded with the sorting circles from the previous blog post.  This is one of the aspects I love about the Reggio Emilia Approach…letting children find their way and explore the classroom as they wish.  I didn’t stop the activity or try to re-direct them.  They were on-task, learning, and being 100% appropriate.

Secondly, they are working together, as a team.  This is called “scaffolding” in early childhood lingo.  One student is expanding the knowledge of another student in a stair step model.  They are learning from each other.  One is teaching, one is learning.  The model reverses itself through the videos…

The two students start to talk about some other things in this video, but then get back on track with looking for letters.  They are helping each other in such a great way!


Next, B continues with the work on his own and gets really far through the alphabet.


Lastly, another student comes along.  She quietly observes, and doesn’t interrupt his play.  But, she is taking in the lesson in her own way!  Learning from a different angle.

This is just a short series of videos that I captured, but I thought it demonstrated how active learning takes place in our classroom each and every day!









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Letters, Letters Everywhere


We have tried to incorporate letters into many of the learning activities this late winter.  We have done a number of letter activities that the kids have loved!

These pictures are from some beautiful letter names the children made with sequence pieces, and glue.  They had to work very diligently to get the many pieces of sequences on their name. Each name turned into a work of art, and the kids were very proud of them!






Here is a video of some children working on their names:

Light Play:


On the light panel I used small pink glasses to write upper and lower case letters on two sets of glasses.  The children had to find the lowercase match from around the edge of the light panel to match to the uppercase letter in the center of the light panel.

Below are some pictures of D and J matching up the letters on the light panel.


Some of our glasses cracked so we added in new colors and alphabet letters:



Large Group Lessons:


In our large group circle time, we have done a series of lessons from the Handwriting without Tear Program.  I also added some sorting letters activities at the end of our circle time.  I pulled out the large sorting circles, and we studied the letters together as a whole group.  The first sort we did was: Letters with Straight Lines & Letters with Curved Lines.  These lessons allow children to take a closer look at each letter, what components make up the letter and how it is formed.  After I sorted a few of the letters first, I had each child come to the front of the room to be the ‘teacher.’  They sorted a letter or two for their friends, and the children watching got to check their answer!

Below B is examining his letter before sorting:




A short clip from our sorting lesson:



After we finished the activity I cleaned up the letters, but left the sorting circles out for choice time.  Below is a picture of J and she sorted the entire alphabet by herself!  I love when they extend our group learning into their class time choices!

Here is a video of J sorting her letters:

J posing with her circles:


Lastly we used our mini chalkboards to practice our letter writing!  The Handwriting without Tears chalkboards use mini pieces of chalk to encourage the correct pencil grip, and give students just the perfect amount of space to practice their uppercase or lowercase letters:


Everyone holding up their different letters:


In our play time area I set up a very large parking lot with the matchbox cars and the garage.  Each car had a letter written on the top of it with tape, and then they had to park the cars in the corresponding parking lot!


Sensory Play:

I set up a large kinetic sand tray with our ABC stamps for the children to explore.  They could dig in the sand and press the stamps into the kinetic sand to see the impressions of the letters.


Dinosaurs and Letters:

A few of my students just love dinosaurs!  I thought I would incorporate both of these ideas into a sensory table.  I added sand, plastic dinosaurs, and then some salt dough letter cakes I made with my students a few years ago.  The letters are pressed into the cakes, and are fun to uncover in the sand!



More of our past February activities will be shared soon!  I will slowly be catching up with our posts over spring break since my computer is back:)



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That’s a Wrap




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!





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:



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!



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.



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




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.




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!








Play Dough:




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







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!




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.



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




And snowmen ornaments using their handprints. 





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.



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! 



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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A Very Merry Classroom

Table Invitations:



We have kept things festive this month with lots of fun activities that children enjoy around the holidays.  Of course I am always trying to find ways to sneak in some fine motor practice, or numbers and counting without them even realizing it!  I set up a mini tree for the class (above).  I think it has been decorated and taken down over 10 times so far this month.  It was a Table Invitation the first week of December and now I have moved it to the book shelf so children can visit it whenever they want!  Sometimes ornaments with hooks came be tricky for little fingers, so I have half of the ornaments attached to circle pipe cleaners.  They are easier to take on and off the tree because they hold their shape.


Another fun table invitation was called “Decorate the Tree.”  Children simply rolled the dice, counted the dots and added gems or counters to their tree until it was filled up.  Simple math and number practice with a twist!  This activity was out on the tables for one week and then I added it to the learning trays for further exploration.



Another fun idea I got from a great website, Buggy and Buddy, was this felt cone Christmas tree.  I simply hot glued felt to a Styrofoam cone shape and then cut out small felt pieces as ornaments for the tree.  They also have visited this tree again and again.  I placed it on the book shelf too for easy access to be decorated any time during the morning. Team work!




This table invitation was more sensory inspired!  I brought out my playmobil Santa set and a few extras (red gems, artic animals, and people) and added some white navy beans for some great imaginative play.  This invitation was visited by both groups and very popular.  Playmobil is so easy to manipulate and the children like all of the little parts and pieces to add to the story lines during imaginative play.



Santa’s Workshop was just a little brainstorm idea I had last week for the tables.  I cut out smaller rectangles and squares of paper, added rolls of tape, mini boxes, and small pom poms and bendable people for gifts.  They spent the morning, cutting, using the tape, and wrapping “presents” for their classmates.  It was so much fun to see them working like little elves.  They always want to help with Christmas wrapping, but if you are like me I often time do it myself. 


Their wrapping paper was all rumpled, twisted, and covered with tape, but they were proud of their wrapping jobs!  This station will be coming out again this week while we wrap presents for our parents!



Play Dough:



This month I made the children a Christmas themed play dough tray.  I had little bulb gems, craft rhinestones, red and green gems, red bead cut into smaller strips, and Santa and Elf cupcake toppers.  The possibilities were endless!



Sensory Play:


This snow themed Christmas tub was one of my favorite sensory tables I have made this year.  We often times tell our kids at Christmas, “watch out, don’t touch, that’s fragile!” to all of the special holiday decorations around the house.  What better way to make the holidays more accessible to them than creating a sensory tub with all special Christmas items that they CAN touch! 


I searched the stores high and low and found, little mini nutcrackers, bristle trees, holiday finger puppets, mini reindeer ornaments, soft gnome ornaments, and snowmen ornaments.  I filled up an entire table with fake snow that I found at Target and cut up a few strings of read beading to lay in the snow.  This table was so inviting!  The children used the little boxes to make presents for each other, the snowman and Santa’s came to life!  It just went on and on.  I also think it is easier to ask them not to touch things when they have their own place to play with the holiday décor without getting in trouble!


Before I put the playmobil Santa set on the tables, I had it in the Sensory room first!  I put the lid on one of our large sensory tables and put a large white tray on top.  Then I put glittery white “cloud dough” on the tray and added the Santa set.  Playmobil is great too because most of the pieces can get a little dirty and wet, but will wash up just fine. 







The second week of December I opened up the tray and we made “Snow Dough.”  This was my first time making this type of dough with the class and it was really fun.  You combine equal parts cornstarch and shaving cream to create a fluffy dough.  It will form into balls, but once it begins to dry it will start to flake apart.  I added some bowls, buttons, and some foam shapes cut up to look like carrot noses, hats, and scarves.  I thought they would like to make snowmen, but they mostly enjoyed moving the dough all around and scooping it.  It was very light and fluffy, who can blame them?









In art we have been very busy!  I think the children have taken home a new ornament for the tree almost every time they visit school.  We have been busy making some surprises for the parents too!  Shhhh!  The first week in December we made Salt Dough Ornaments!  This might be something fun to do over the Winter Break next week!


2 cups flour, 2 cups salt, 1 cup warm water.

Knead into a dough, roll out and cut out shapes. Color your dough with food coloring or paint after it has baked in the oven. Just be sure to poke a hole into the dough with a straw if you want to hang it on the tree!

Bake @250 for two hours. Flip over half way through!

I like to paint a coat of Modge Podge on top of my ornaments for a more shiny look!


We have been slowly adding items to our group effort Christmas Tree sun catcher.



We also made this simple toilet paper roll Christmas tree.  They dipped the roll into green paint to stamp out the shape of a tree.  Then they covered the tree with gems and glitter!




We tried out hand at another puffy paint project!  It was a great success!  This was brown puffy paint (glue and shaving cream and powdered paint mixed together).  It dries fluffy and it is a lot of fun to paint with!  They added buttons and smiles to their gingerbread men too!




I need to get more pictures of our Learning trays this month, but here are a few that have been really popular with the kids. 


Learning Trays:

Squeezing Christmas erasers:



Make your own candy cane ornament:




Some new items out in the classroom are:


My cousins’ vintage Fisher Price Dollhouse.  The people are precious, there is even a little art easel for the kids room inside.  It has been visited every day by just about every child!



Magnatiles on the light table!  These have been extremely popular in the classroom.  A lot of toys and manipulatives only come out for short periods of time and then are switched for another item after a few weeks.  There are a few items that have a permanent home in the classroom: blocks, cars, books, kitchen, and now magnatiles! I even gave the tiles a permanent home one on our shelves!




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Light and Shadows


In October I opened up a new section of the classroom.  It is our new light and shadows area.  In reality, it is nook tucked away that provides the perfect wall space for the projector and I can keep the lights dim on that side of our classroom for children to explore!


I opened the area with a long explanation about the projector, how we care for it, how to turn it on and off, and just how gentle we have to be with the glass.  So far so good!  I also bit the bullet and bought our very own light panel.  I have had my eye on them for quite awhile.  This one was on sale for $100, when it is usually $190!  Steal?!  It has been such a great investment and so exciting to watch the children explore the light area. 


Of course on the first day M couldn’t have been dressed more perfect for our new area!  She was wearing a glow up skeleton shirt for Halloween.  She fit right in!





For now our exploration with the projector and light panel has focused on colors and loose parts.  I provided the children with “swizzle sticks” from the dollar store and colored counters in a basket.  It was fascinating to watch them work with the projector and try to follow their images as it was projected on the wall. 



After about two weeks I moved the light panel to the table and provided a few cups of loose parts.  Two cups had the colored counters, and the other two cups held some beautiful gems.  They were invited to explore with them freely.


L made an image of “Tangled” on the light panel.  Pretty impressive!





Some additional materials I provided for the children were “Wedgits” that are a wonderful stacking and building material.  This set is also translucent and provides lots of fantastic reflections.



During the month of October the children had been talking a lot about skeletons.  They were interested in the skeletons in our Halloween books as well as the skeletons I provided in the sensory and gak play.  I found two sets of x-rays on Amazon.  One set was the human skeleton and the second set was animal x-rays.  We looked at them together as a class over a series of a few mornings, and then I left them for the children to explore.  I also put some skeleton books nearby by the projector for further reading and discussions.


I am looking forward to seeing what comes next in our exploration of light and shadows.  This will be an on-going theme this year with the children.