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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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 Peak into our Morning Meeting

On Friday I decided to capture some quick video clips of my M/W/F group having their morning meeting.  We hold morning meeting after everyone has arrived at school.  It always begins with a greeting.  Over the course of the school year I will teach the children lots of different greetings.  Some greetings are songs, little sayings, handshakes or silly movements.  The morning meeting is all part of the responsive classroom program.  It builds community, establishes communication skills, and creates a sense of caring and warmth in the classroom.  Here the children are doing what I call the “Brown Bear Greeting” because it mimics the simple word patterns in the classic Brown Bear book series by Eric Carle.

Following the greeting the children get to do an activity.  I will teach them lots and lots of “activities” over the course of the year as well!  They can be simple songs, hand games, dancing, musical activities, or a group game (such as Simon says).  Often these activities will reinforce a skill we are working on at school and other times they are just fun, unrelated songs and games that build a sense of community.  The activity portion of morning meeting fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills.  The kiddos have just finished learning a new activity called “Oliver Twist.”  The beginning of the song is shown in the video above.  The song gets progressively quicker and sillier as shown in the video below.

The third portion of morning meeting is sharing time.  We will soon start to incorporate a more formal sharing time for both groups at Crozet PlaySchool in the upcoming weeks.  I hope to capture some of my little ones as they slowly start to participate in morning meeting too!

 


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And We’re Off!

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Our first week at Crozet PlaySchool was a success!  There were a few tears from some of my younger friends, but we quickly dried our eyes and got in on the first week of exploring and fun! 

As a former first grade teacher I was able to attend a week long workshop called, “Responsive Classroom.”  It is a wonderful community building philosophy that focuses on direct modeling and positive encouragement to create a safe and happy classroom environment.  The foundation of responsive classroom is the morning meeting, which starts each day on a positive note.  After children entered the classroom this week, we sat down for our very first of many morning meetings!  They learned this week how to safely greet their friends with a handshake or a high five.  We practiced each other’s names and learned what our favorite foods are for each friend!  They were given a challenge on Friday to see if they could remember one friend’s name and their favorite food.  Some of them were able to!  The second part of morning meeting is the “activity.”  This is usually a fun thinking game, a silly song, a dance, or a team building type of activity.  We got to do two different movement songs from Greg and Steve this week, and the kids thought they were both quite fun and silly!  We also learned a new song called, “I’m a Martian.”  Be sure to watch for your children dancing around like little martians soon!

Next we had our first “guided discovery” for the block area. 

Goals of Guided Discovery
  1. To excite children about classroom materials
  2. To help children explore materials with confidence and imagination and build a repertoire of constructive ways to use the materials in their academic learning
  3. To enable children to make independent and purposeful choices
  4. To establish and teach norms and routines for the use, care, and storage of materials

The classes were very excited to try out the block area after we had a lengthy discussion about our blocks.  We discussed what we can do with blocks, how we treat our blocks, where they are found in the classroom, and we took a tour of the block area so we would know how to clean them up.  Once we covered blocks thoroughly, I gave children the opportunity to use the blocks through open ended play…

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L made his puppy dog “lovey” that he brought from home, his very own dog house with a swimming pool.

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P and L quickly got to work with the blocks and the animals to create a classroom vet to take care of sick animals.

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L was the first to try out our smaller colored blocks.  He spent a great deal of time working on his creation.

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M was very interested in our big building blocks, he got right to work as well!

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C was working on a type of road, and helping M to create with the large sized building blocks.

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Another part of blocks is our “tree blocks” and fairies and dragons area.  They are free to create on top of the train table with these items.  It was an instant place for block building!

IMG_1706Another fun part of our block area is our felt and scarves.  Children can use the felt to create a roof, places for animals to lives, make a fast flowing river, the possibilities are endless.  They didn’t waste any time using the scarves and their imaginations!

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A closer look at P and L’s animal area!  They became fast friends!

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K got right to work the second day of school in the tree block area.  He was fascinated by all of the dragons.

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M and L were busy working on his dog house and “pool” area.

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L was already organizing the animals for the grassy area. “These animals eat and live in the grass.”

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Another big part of our morning this week was snack time.  After a bathroom and hand washing break, we all sat down for snack.  I showed the children how to set the table with our real glass cups and plates for one another.  Then we carefully poured our own water (with Ms. Clare’s help) from a beautiful white pitcher.  My M/W/F group loved helping with snack prep and clean up that I hardly had to give directions on Friday, they knew just what to do!

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G dried his eyes and sat right down for snack with his new friends!

We got to enjoy a beautiful week outside too!  We were able to get outside each morning and enjoy the play set, the sand box, and my sweet little T/TH group figured out that the little brown pebbles are perfect for digging under the play set!  I quickly ran back to the classroom to find some more trucks and scoops so that everyone could join in the fun.

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The second guided discovery we had after we came back inside was our first activity on our “Play Trays.”  The play trays are large white finger painting trays that I use to lay out different sensory activities.  It was so fun to see the children get so excited for our coconut play dough.  I offered them play dough, a rolling pin, a small bucket of sea shells, gems, and under the sea creatures.  They got right to work exploring the play dough and all of its possibilities.

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C was very busy with the play dough and the gems.  She pushed the gems into the dough to create a design.

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L was working hard to roll out his play dough.

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M showed his friends how to use the pointy edge of the shell to create a hole in the play dough.

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L searching for just the right shell for his play dough.

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P enjoyed the animals that went into the play dough.

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D was very busy with his play dough.   He even posed with his creation for me.

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G was squishing the shells into the play dough.

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E and L were having big discussions about what to do with the play dough.

Our M/W/F group also had time to have guided discoveries for the sensory tables and the kitchen area.  They were so busy in the mermaid lagoon.  Some children didn’t leave this choice for the rest of the morning!

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E and M were discussing the kitchen, and what they should start cooking first!

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The sand dough table was also opened on Friday too!  We didn’t play with as much as the mermaid lagoon.  We’ll see who visits it next week!

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All in all it was busy and fun first week of school!  Our themes right now are community building, establishing routines and rules, learning to clean up/take care of our classroom, and summer fun.  Many of the sensory activities were sand and summer based since it is still hot outside right now!

Our first FULL week of school starts tomorrow, wish us luck!  Best, Clare