Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I wish this theme could last all month! There are so many fun Christmas-themed learning activities, that it was hard to narrow them down to just 3 days worth, but I think we got it all crammed in.

Dramatic Play
Christmas tree! I decorated the top half, and they added ornaments as they made them in art, so the bottom was decorated too.
I also have this random assortment of foam Christmas masks I inherited from a retiring teacher back in my public school days. They are a huge hit each year! I added presents under the tree, and we had kids dressed up as Santa, his elves, and reindeer. They turned the bean bag chairs from the reading center into their sleigh, and they spent the day delivering presents to the kids in class. They also went to the writing center to make cards to go with their gift deliveries. I loved watching them play and get along together, plus get creative in their gift giving and play.


I had out a bean bag toss and bean bags. It was used a lot, but the bean bags also went into the presents for delivery by Santa and his elves.

We played with the magnatiles and jingle bells. They would use them around the blocks since they stuck to the magnets, and they also liked making houses to fill with the bells.

On the last day, I got out our trains and tracks. They loved them! My kids had actually gotten them out over the weekend, and although they weren't on my original plan, I left them out because trains around a tree just says Christmas to me.

Day 1, we made ornaments. I had a variety of foamie ornaments and stickers. I wanted something that didn't have to dry and could be hung up immediately.


Day 2, we played with peppermint scented play dough. It made the whole room smell peppermint-y, and we also had the cinnamon smell from the salt dough for small group, so the room smelled extra Christmas-y and yummy! I love adding the smells into the sensory play.

Day 3, we painted our dried salt dough ornaments. When I look at the Pinterest versions, they're all perfect and cute and I want that, but I also want them to be the kids' creations, so they were not perfect, but I think they turned out pretty darn cute. Hope you enjoyed them as well! A few kids chose not to paint them, and a few missed school the last day, so some of you also got to enjoy them in all their natural color glory!

Small Manipulatives
Christmas tree and Santa magnets

I used styrofoam christmas trees with pipe cleaners in them, and the kids decorated them with beads. Its a great fine motor exercise for little fingers!

The next day, I used the same trees, but put thumb tacks in them and had small elastics for them to stretch over them, to make geoboards. This was my first year trying it. They each tried it at some point, but not many of them stayed for long. It was a pretty difficult skill, but definitely doable.

On the third day, we had Christmas tree print outs on cookie sheets, with magnetic pom pom balls to decorate them. This is a great fine motor skill, and also helps teach counting and number recognition.
On the table, I had out foam gingerbread men, with pom poms, bows, and gems they could use to decorate and re-decorate them. I had a lot of fun at this center with a group of kids, making silly gingerbread men. I added the tweezers to help with fine motor skills, but they mostly used their hands, which was easier.

The first and third day, I had out Christmas cards (thank you Dollar Tree!), and they were a huge hit. I think we went through 40. Some made some to take home for family, while others used them as part of their play in delivering, and I had quite a few delivered to me. It was just great watching them write and color as they dictated what they were "writing." This is such an important pre-writing skill.

The second day, I had out Christmas stamps. Some came home with the stamps also up and down their arms. We also had a lot of pretty pictures made and delivered to each other.
Large Group
Day 1, we read the Grinch who Stole Christmas, then talked about being kind to show love at Christmastime. We made hearts where they kids drew, and we wrote, what they could do to be kind at home, and what they could do to be kind at school. We sent the family ones home, and hung up the school ones on our wall to help us remember.

Day 2, we read the Polar Express. Then we made jingle bell necklaces. I wanted them to make patterns, and they were great at following and extending the patterns I made first. Some of them made patterns, while others would make 1 pattern for a bit, then switch to another one. Some didn't make a pattern at all, but that was fine. Threading the beads onto the string was a difficult, but doable, fine motor skill for them.

Day 3, was our Christmas party. Thanks to the moms who came and helped! We rotated between 4 different centers to learn about different holiday celebrations. Each read a book and did a craft.
Group 1 celebrated Christmas by making beaded candy canes on pipe cleaners. They worked on fine motor skills, as well as patterning.
Group 2 celebrated Saint Lucia Day from Sweden by making hats. The girls made wreath hats with candles like Saint Lucia wears, and the boys made cone-shaped star hats.
Group 3 celebrated Kwanzaa by weaving mats, called Mkeka. It was a great fine motor skill for them.
Group 4 celebrated Hanukah by playing the Dreidel game. They loved it! I sent home a bag of Hanukah gelt (chocolate coins) and a dreidel made from a pencil, if they wanted to try to play again at home.

Small Group
My group used cinnamon salt dough found here, to make handprint mittens, inspired by this. I loved how the smell enhanced the play. They really wanted to eat them since it smelled so good! I did cinnamon graham crackers for snack Thursday, since they wanted to eat cinnamon so much, and they tasted much better than the salt dough would have.

Miss Kim's group worked on spelling their names and putting the letters in order, by making name Christmas trees. It was a little difficult, making the names go vertical, but they got it with help. They got to decorate them with markers too.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Feelings and Emotions

Dramatic Play
Doctor's Office


 The pictures pretty much explain it all. There was a waiting room, receptionist desk with calendar and notebooks, plus a phone, then the dr. office. There was a big chair for the big patients, and a baby bed for the dolls. We have all sorts of dr. tools, plus empty pill bottles, ace bandages, q tips, and popsicle sticks. Each day, I added something new to make it interesting. Day 2, I added glasses and band aids (those were a hit), and the 3rd and 4th days, I added dentist items so it could also be a dentist's office.

Cardboard bricks

Puppet Theater

I managed to not take many pics of art this week, but here's what we did:
Play dough face mats


Collage faces


Small Manipulatives
Feelings puzzles and game

Lacing cards

Bristle Blocks

Links, and whatever this collection of things from Wendy's are called.

Blank faces for drawing in emotions

Snow! We switched our schedule to go outside last, to accommodate how long it takes us to get ready to go outside. The snow was so much fun! They love tubing down our little hill, and all tried it. They also love eating the snow. The second week, I also added bottles of colored water to color the snow. We've had a lot of fun outside this week! Please remember we go outside all winter, so pack all the winter clothes they'll need out there. We've had lots of cold hands this week. I have a few extra gloves, but not enough for everyone. And I've appreciated the labeled ones, since a few have been left at school and I've been able to get them home to you.

Large Group
Day 1, we read Meet the Moodsters. The Moodsters help a little boy overcome and talk about some strong feelings. I found it on clearance at Target a few years ago, and the kids love it because it came with a "Moodster Meter" that helps them share their feelings. They loved the book and the meter!
We did an activity with feelings cubes, where I would roll one cube with emotions on it, and another with animals, and they have to act out that emotion and animal. It's fun to watch.

Day 2, we read My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. He uses colors to talk about feelings. We than painted our own feelings. The papers came home just a bunch of mixed colors, but the process was wonderful! As they chose colors, they actually talked about what feeling they were showing with that color. We had a lot of great conversation going on as we painted.

Day 3, we read The Way I Feel. We played the feelings cube game, and acted out lots of different emotions from the book. We also watched a Sesame Street clip about jealousy.

Day 4, we read Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day and talked lots about grumpy feelings. After small group, we got together as a large group again to talk about empathy and thinking about how other people are feeling. We've had a few problems outside, with kids not taking turns with the snow tubes, or just jumping on them in front of other, instead of waiting in line. We watched a Sesame Street clip about empathy, then as we got them dressed in their snow clothes, they watched part of a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood episode about the same topic. It was nice to discuss a relevant topic, and we related that once outside, that they needed to think about how other people are feeling before they used a tube twice in a row, or butted in line, or took it from another person. The talk definitely helped!

Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood are awesome resources for learning about feelings! I love how they describe and show them on a child's level. I especially like the songs Daniel Tiger sings. We used the song about anger all week, "When you feel so mad, that you want to roar. Take a deep breath, and count to 4." I recommend looking up episodes of both of these shows if there's a particular thing you want to teach your child, or help them with. It's most helpful when you also take the time to discuss it with them.

Small Group
Week 1, I talked to the kids about anger and sadness. We read a book about anger, then role played several situations that could make them feel angry. We practiced taking a deep breath and counting, then talking calmly to express our feelings. They were GREAT at role playing, and without much prompting, knew exactly how to express their feelings. Although, minutes later, they were fighting over blocks again and yelling, hitting, and throwing, instead of taking deep breaths and talking about it. But, that's why we're still in preschool. We'll keep working on this throughout the year.

Miss Kim did this Sesame Street worksheet to help kids talk about their feelings.

Week 2, my group and I role played different feelings with puppets in the puppet theater. I had it out in the block center this week for them to play with, so it wouldn't be new. I know they wouldn't be able to use it how I intended in a lesson, if they hadn't had a chance to play and explore with it first.
They were a lot of fun, and I loved role playing with them. Even the kids who don't like to talk in front of the class, were fine doing the puppet show. It was cute watching them choose an emotion and then act it out. It was also fun watching them doing it again during free time, after having done it with me.

Miss Kim helped the kids make pipe cleaner faces. She read an emotions book with them, and they would change their pipe cleaner to make that face expression. Then they glued on the mouth to bring their face home.