Thursday, March 28, 2013

balloon rockets

You know that moment when you have something so perfectly planned out, and then right as you start it, you forgot the most important part?
So that was me with this activity. In preschool, I had everything set up and ready and the rockets were awesome! But I had fully intended on having the instructions typed up to be sent home with a balloon, straw, and yarn. Forgot that part.
So, your kids went home with a balloon and straw, and you can click here to learn how to make the rockets if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I feel like these 3 days summed up why I love play-based learning. I feel like I taught so much, and they learned so much, and we mostly just played! I doubt they soaked it all in, but we just had so much fun exploring this great dinosaur theme. Honestly, dinos aren't my favorite, but I did it because kids love them, and they really did!

Dramatic Play/Blocks area
I brought the sand table inside and each day we were paleontologists working. The first day looked like this:

Inviting, I know. These are dinosaur eggs made from mud, with some flour and salt mixed in to make them stick together better. They were so excited to crack them open and find baby dinosaurs inside. They immediately took them to the block area where the big dinosaurs were and the real fun began.

They paired up the babies to their moms that looked similar (most of the time) and formed little families. Pretty soon dinosaurs were attacking each other, so I suggested we find a way to protect our babies from the other dinosaurs. Pretty soon we were building nests out of legos for the babies. The babies in the nests even invited other dino babies over for play dates. I agreed that dinosaurs may have liked to play with friends too.

We had so many great discussions in this play time. First of all, we talked about dinosaurs protecting themselves and their babies from predators. We pointed out their horns or spiked tails, or long strong tails and neck, or claws, etc that they could use to fight off another dinosaur. This also caused them to build nests, which I'm sure dinosaurs did. We talked about being in large groups to protect each other too, and they all put the babies in the middle with the adults on the outside. Great instincts. We also got into discussions about meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaurs (which was a great intro to our first 2 days of snack). The stegosaurus was attacking my T-Rex babies and I explained that that probably wouldn't have happened, because stegosarus was a plant-eater and didn't attack other dinosaurs. I could tell that by their flat teeth. So, we found the sharp-toothed dinosaurs, like the T-Rexes, and decided they would probably be the attackers since they had sharp teeth to eat other dinosaurs. Well, the T Rexes were soon ravaging lego nests the others got to work defending themselves and their young. They had the best time. I was right in there with them, protecting my baby dinosaurs, and loving how much we had learned together. It was so much more hands-on and effective than it would have been had I just read those facts out of a book. This similar play happened all 3 days. One day, we even built a big block castle to defend our babies.

Day 2 the sand table was like this:

Dino bones. We had brushes and they were so curious why we were using brushes. I showed them in a book called Digging up Dinosaurs how paleontologists used brushes to dig up bones so they wouldn't break them. Putting the bone puzzles together was hard (ages 3 and up yet I even struggled) and I pointed out several times how hard it must be for paleontologists to put dinosaur bones together too. I labeled them with letters so I would know which bones went to which dino and they were great at sorting them into piles by letter so I could help them put them together. Great math sorting skills. They also liked to just rebury them for each other and play in the sand! This was another day I felt great about teaching them facts within their real play.

Day 3 was the same bones in the sand, but I also added dino eggs to the block center, and had the babies inside.

All the dinos, babies, and eggs were soon in the sand table and we were all there, pretty much the whole hour. The eggs could be matched together by capital and small letters to add in some literacy too. I also pointed out the bones glowed in the dark, and we were back and forth from the storage room watching bones glow for awhile there.

We also had these great dino hats in dramatic play that they loved playing with.

Thank goodness for Dollar Tree for these hats, all our dino toys, bones, eggs, and chalk boards!

Those activities took most our time, but here's some other things we did (thanks pinterest!):

Q-tip painted a dinosaur from here
 Watercolor painted on magically-appearing dinosaur skeletons, found here
 Playdough fossils of bugs and bones

Small manipulatives
Lacing cards
Dinosaur chalk boards
D is for Dinosaur pebble matching found here
Dinosaur math puzzles
p.s. I already owned these, and love them, but you can go to the same link above for the pebble activity to print some at home to do. Such a great number sequencing activity.

This was another time to squeeze some learning into a real-life, fun activity. I reminded them of our play and that some dinos ate plants, and others ate meat. I told them day 1, that we were going to be herbivores, and we said that word over and over. As plant-eaters, we ate some spinach (dipped in Ranch) and I was shocked how much they loved it. As a picky eater, I never would have done that as a kid! We then ate some other plants: cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, bananas and carrots. It was all on the table to take and eat as they wanted and they seriously kept taking more and more and ate almost all of it! It was the longest snack we'd ever had, but I didn't stop them since they enjoyed it so much.
Day 2, we were meat-eaters and learned the word carnivore. We felt T-Rex teeth and Triceratops teeth and talked about how you could tell which dino ate meat, and which ate plants. As meat eaters, we ate yummy chicken nuggets with dipping sauces, as any great dinosaur would have done. :)

Large Group
We did so much great learning and exploring dino facts in play and snack, large group was mainly used to mix in some social learning and math, with a dino theme.
Day 1, we read Mine-o-saur (which, I'll be honest, my daughter could benefit from more than any other child in the class). You can read it free online here. We talked about sharing as we went along, and how the other dinos felt when the Mine-o-saurus wouldn't share. It was a great extension of our sharing talks from Friends week. We then practiced taking turns and sharing with a spinner graph game found here. We spun, then colored in a graph and saw which dino won. Simple, but they were into it and learned about graphing!
Day 2, we read 10 Little Dinosaurs, and worked on our numbers and counting. We used our poem, 5 Enormous Dinosaurs to practice numbers 1-5 and counting backwards. We also made a number line to 10, and used it to help us get our math dino puzzles in order 1-10. We also had to review sharing, as we felt the need to hoard puzzle pieces to ourselves instead of putting them in the puzzle. Ah, 3-year-olds.
Day 3, we danced to Dinosaur-rumpus and then learned about fossils. We had made some with play dough during self-select time, and now made more with play dough stuck to my easel. We put all sorts of things into it to see what made the best prints. They then got to choose what to use for their fossils, and they were all so different! They are now drying, so watch for their salt dough fossils coming home next Monday.
salt dough recipe:
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
3/4 cup water
Just had to throw this in here, because we are back outside! And not the end-of-the-day-spend-15-minutes-getting-dressed-just-to-freeze-anyway kind of outside. We actually went outside after snack, played awhile on real grass in the real sun, and then came back for small group. We are all happier people because of this. We found flowers sprouting and tons of deer poop (they are so thrilled with this and search for it everywhere), and just ran and played like kids should. Loved it. Today we even made a volcano inside. I told them all about it at snack and thought I'd gotten them excited, but as soon as we wre outside, some were pretty scared. They hadn't paid attention to the pretend-in-a-styrofoam-cup explanation of our volcano, so I had to explain again to convince them to come watch. It was about as exciting as pouring red vinegar into a cup of baking soda gets, but they went crazy over it. They all had to touch it (and were warned about the vinegar smell on their hands) and we ended up doing it 4 times, all with the same stoked reaction. It was great. I love outside time!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dr. Seuss

We just couldn't pass up Dr. Seuss' birthday, and the chance to pull all my Dr. Seuss animals out of the cabinet! The kids were thrilled. They've been looking at them all year and were so excited to hold and cuddle them!

The definite highlight of this day were the tunnels. They had played with them outside a lot at the beginning of the year and were so excited to see that tents and tunnels had taken over the dramatic play and blocks area for the day. They were playing so well together, chasing and rescuing each other.

We then watched Green Eggs and Ham on youtube (because the slacker teacher realized Friday she didn't have the book when she thought she did-it belonged to my old school, not me...and it wasn't at the library). They loved it and each cuddled a Dr. Seuss book as they watched it. While they watched, our green eggs and ham cooked (which they had helped mix and loved watching the yellow turn to green from blue food color). They weren't too sure about eating it, but Sam I Am sat at our table and reminded them that his friend did not like green eggs and ham until he tried it. So, they all tried it, and they all liked them! They didn't all eat the ham, but they all loved the eggs. They even fed them to Sam. As they ate, they were joking about eating it with a goat, in a boat, and on a train, in the rain, and other lines from the book so we were able to review lots of rhyming words.

For large group, we read Fox in Socks and they tried to repeat lots of the silly tongue twisters with me. We talked about TONS of rhyming words too.
We then talked about the Cat in the Hat and patterns. They were so great at repeating the pattern on his hat with me (red, white) and they were great at telling me how to color my hat (red, then white) and they even extended the pattern I drew. But even after all that, and clear instructions they repeated back to color a pattern on their hats, all of their hats just turned out all red. Not one pattern. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that they didn't even try (only one realized she'd made a mistake by coloring 2 red stripes in a row, but after seeing everyone else's, she just scribbled it all red like theirs), but I then remembered their age. Repeating a pattern with me is on their level. Recognizing patterns, they can be expected to do. Extending them is already going a little beyond. Making a pattern is an end of Kindergarten skill and I sometimes forget that. I'll still keep teaching patterns, but they all really did do great on their preschool level.
We got some great pics in our hats, then enjoyed some spring weather by running around my front yard on actual grass! The back is still snowy, but I can feel spring coming.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our Community

The 2 obvious highlights of this week, were our 2 field trips. What better way to learn about our community, than actually get out of the school?
Petco was so fun, and they were so crazy excited about the fish! They seriously would have been thrilled, had that been the whole field trip! We also saw lizards, frogs, turtles, and tarantulas, and even got to pet the bearded dragon lizard. We also got to pet a ferret, and they loved how wiggly and cute he was, and he enjoyed sniffing all of us! We then watched the birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, and mice before looking at the cats before we left. They were all so well-behaved and we had so much fun!
The fire station was awesome too. The guys at South Davis Metro Fire here in Bountiful did such a good job with the kids. We watched a cartoon about fire safety and getting out of your house, then got our tour. We got to watch a fireman slide down the pole too. We got to check out the big truck and they let us touch everything, which we did! Everyone who wanted got a turn to "drive" the truck, and we got a group pic in the front. We even saw a fireman coming back from a job, still all dressed up in his gear. It was a little scary, but he was so nice. We each got a hat and a badge and it was so great!

We had such a short time after snack for free play before large group, and here's a few things we did:

Fire Station dramatic play

I got all the pictures from a training on dramatic play years ago and they were great. The kids loved the pictures of the real fires. I helped the kids the first day with the different roles like home owner, fire fighter/chief, and dispatcher. They were so cute as they'd call each other to tell the dispatcher their house was on fire, tell them which house, then the fire fighter kids would come spray it out. A simple thing like pictures of houses with house numbers, and the papers that matched them for the dispatcher were so great for their play and for extended math and literacy in the center. I helped them read the numbers, and fine the house and circle it on the paper so the fire fighters knew where to go. They have great imaginations and it was a great time for me to talk to them about calling 911, knowing your house number, and knowing that fire fighters will keep you safe and help you. Since at 3 years old, kids rarely know their phone numbers and addresses (and as many pointed out, don't know the passwords to unlock their parents' phones) we talked about how grown ups would help us get out of the house and call 911 because we always have someone older watching and taking care of us. This was a fun center and they loved it and spent most of their time playing here, especially right after being at the fire station. We even had a few fires in the igloo that they had to run over and put out.

We had 2 different fire truck floor puzzles and several community helper puzzles. They are getting better and better at figuring out how to put them together, and we always get a group helping, so we are learning to cooperate too.

Just a favorite that's always asked for and played with almost daily.

Large Group
We read about heroes in our community and how "every day" people, like our neighbors, can be heroes. We talked about different jobs that people have and what they do to help us.
We read about a girl who wants to be a fire fighter like her dad.
We made patterns with community helpers' hats.
We practiced fire safety by learning to not play with anything that lights on fire, and to crawl low on the ground to get out of a fire. We practiced crawling to the door to get out of school if there were ever a fire, and I reassured them (over and over) I would always take care of them and we would be safe if something like that happened, as long as they listened and obeyed.

They had so many questions and concerns about getting out of their houses in a fire, like they saw in the video at the fire station, and I just reassured them their parents would always take care of them. It made me realize how important it is to have a plan in place and let them know what you'd do to get out of your house if you had a fire. It took me back to my own elementary school days and learning to have a family plan and being so scared! I encourage you all to talk to your kids about it and develop a family plan. We're going to be doing that here. It's about time I listen to the great advice from those fire fighters!