{12 Days of Books} - a little late is better than never...

Well, I had intended to do a fun "12 Day Countdown" of our favorite Christmas books, but I'm just not that organized AND I had to travel back home for a few days for a funeral for an uncle, who was a wonderful man by the way... I still hope to get through our favorite 12 Christmas books before the holiday comes and goes, but we shall see.

Our first book, which we did actually read last Friday was....

Appropriately enough, the book that we read 12 days before Christmas, was "Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas." Jack Kent is a famous illustrator and cartoonist, who authored and illustrated an impressive list of children's books. My favorite Jack Kent books is "There's No Such Thing as a Dragon," which I fondly remember from my own childhood.

Most people are familiar with the traditional "Twelve Days of Christmas" song... or at least have heard it somewhere before. As a child, I think that I knew more of the words, but now, the words are fresh in my mind... along with Kent's cute and expressive cartoon drawings that accompany the story.

... and I always thought it was "4 calling birds" -- who knew that it's really "4 COLLIE birds"?!

As the song (and book) continued, the pages filled up with all of items... it was quite a crowd...

By the end of the book, the young girl is sprinting away from the boy... who simply loved her so much that he wanted to give her tons of gifts -- albeit pointless and useless gifts by today's standards....

Which left me pondering the idea of a love as strong as this... how do we express that without seeming ridiculous?

There are 4 more books to come -- hopefully later tonight, so that I can catch up AND share our holiday favorites with you!

Snow Day & Snowmen

Snow day off school and my toddler is napping ... it's a perfect opportunity to catch up on blogging - or my lack of blogging during the past week. I've been busy with preschool shenanigans, university end-of-semester tasks and holiday preparations at home. Managed to get our Christmas tree up - while not as organized as usual, it's up and my toddler LOVED decorating it - that's all that matters really!

We've been reading lots of Christmas books at our house lately. I had wanted to post a whole 25 days of Christmas reading, but couldn't get it together fast enough. However, we will be doing a '12 Days of Christmas Books' with some great vintage books and some new favorites ... stay tuned beginning December 13 -- I'll be sharing our favorite books in posts between the 13th and 25th of the month... probably a few at a time rather than one every day (I'm just not that organized to write a post a day!)

As for what's been going on at preschool, here are a few of our pictures from last week that I never got around to posting....

 We made a big ball of sparkly snow play-doh roughly using the microwave dough recipe from a while back.  I can't say we were champs at measuring this time, but it worked out well - microwaving did take extra time because we made a quadruple size batch! I put out assorted odds and ends for making a snowman and let the kids go to town.

Check out the biggest snowman with the black beads on the sides of its head -- those are hearing aids! I've got a student who has recently become very aware of his hearing aids and has started putting hearing aids on all of his drawings, sculptures ect.

The sparkles in the dough were about a cup or two of Buffalo Snow that I picked up on clearance somewhere last year. It makes a heck of a mess by itself, but in playdoh, it's really quite charming!

I also changed out the materials for light play and introduced a couple of sheets of cheap snowflake window clings. The kids are still getting the idea of the whole 'light play' thing... and many of them just aren't all that interested in it yet, but we'll keep trying to find just the right materials that catch their interest...

We sang "Five Little Snowflakes" (to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle") with the snowflakes, adding one at a time with each verse, and overhead that went something like this:

One little snowflake with nothing to do 
along came another, then there were two 

Two little snowflakes playing with me
along came another, then there were three 

Three little snowflakes calling for more
along came another, then there were four

Four little snowflakes dip and dive
along came another, then there were five 

Five little snowflakes having so much fun
whoooo! went the wind, then there were none!

I can't say that I remember where it came from, but there are similar versions all over the internet!

Lastly, we made this simple letter craft. S is for snow ... or snowballs. Pretty simple.

I have to say that I've enjoyed my day off... catching up on house work, laundry, blogging, time with my own child... They're calling for more snow late tonight and early tomorrow morning... two snow days in a row? We'll see...


Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, we've officially moved on to "Winter" themed activities in my classroom. I currently work at a school that does not really celebrate any holidays; our mantra is something like 'educate don't celebrate' ...  so this season can be a bit challenging!

Although we don't have any snow (yet), we've moved on to books about snowmen, snow, hot chocolate and other wintery themes. This week might be uncharacteristically warm, but next week they're calling for snow!

Here's our new sensory bin for the week- Snowballs Bin! containing cotton balls, a bag of glittery decorative balls from the craft store, plastic snowflakes, tongs, scoops, pots, pans, bowls and spoons!

 A few new fine motor trays - one for using tongs and one specifically focused for pincer grasp. Both contain simple items: various size pompoms (some sparkly), ice tray, empty oatmeal container and tongs. We also use both of these trays to practice reaching across mid-line by strategically placing the bowl and the tray/canister so that the students much reach as far across mid-line as possible -- then we switch placement, so that they must reach with the other hand across the other side.... my students HATE when I do this... so we only do it for a designated period of time, then I allow them to complete the remainder of the activity however they choose!

And this afternoon's craft activity - make-a-snowman gluing activity... contents included simple pre-cut shapes for mittens, stick arms, hats, boots, buttons, scarves, mouth, nose and eye stickers. The snowmen were cut from watercolored paper from earlier in the day - we painted with liquid watercolors using turquoise, blue and sliver paint and sprinkled salt over the wet paint for a 'snowflake' effect!

I think that our snowmen turned out great! There's more winter fun to come! What have you been up to?

Another {Sticks & Stuff} Christmas Ornament

My first {Sticks & Stuff} ornament tutorial over at Tutus and Teaparties a few weeks back sparked my creativity and we still had a huge tray of red and green painted sticks, pinecones and seed pods to use for something! 

With my son's help, we made triangles out of some of the leftover green sticks. I glued them with hot glue on the corners and my son played with the triangles for a little while.

Then we tied a bit of yarn to the triangles and I showed my little one how to wrap it around. He's nearly 3 but had quite a bit of trouble with this part -- he ended up dragging them around and pretending he was flying kites! Then he pretended he was fishing from our stairway... throwing the triangles down the stairs and pulling them back up by the yarn --"mama! i caught a fish!"

Once they were wrapped up with various colors of yarn, we glued on a twine loop for hanging.

I think that I'll be doing a version of this craft with my preschool students at school. They're a little older and I think that they could manage the yarn wrapping part better than my 3 year old.

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving...

Well we spent the day traveling "over the river and through the woods... through the snow... to grandmother's house we go.... " -feels like forever, but my husband did all the driving and we made great time. I just took a quick break and went out to the the bookstore for the internet access. I had one more Thanksgiving activity that I just had to post before the time has gone!

At preschool, we spent the last couple of weeks reading "Feast for 10" The kids made a small art project for each of the first ten items in the book: 1 shopping cart, 2 pumpkins, 3 chickens, 4 children, 5 kinds of beans, 6 bunches of greens, 7 pickles, 8 tomatoes, 9 potatoes and 10 helping hands....

My assistant and I laminated and cut out ALL of their artwork and made these cute take home story telling bags.

Inside, the children's art projects were hole punched, tied together and labeled for easy story retelling at home! We also included a page with an abbreviated version of the first half of the story. Here's a look inside:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for Thanksgiving...

Here are a few of the Thanksgiving activities and crafts we've been working on... I just haven't had time to get them all posted! The following activities are heavy on receptive and expressive language practice!

Last week, we learned about letter T. Here's our Letter T turkeys...

I had my classroom assistant pre-cut all the pieces for this craft. The children practiced following directions with specific shape, color and location vocabulary concepts. Before we got started, I introduced all the pieces and named them by shape, color and which part of the turkey each piece would be. I verbally reviewed the steps involved and layed the pieces together on my page for my students to see. Then, my students helped to tell me the directions. When they got stuck, I gave the direction and had them listen carefully to choose the pieces - the brown half circle vs. the brown circle etc.

We read the book "Today is Monday" by Eric Carle and sang the book. I found this great little write-on version with a dry erase marker at a local discount store. I asked each child to name a food as we read and I drew a picture of the food and wrote the words while we read.

We also played the "Today is Monday" game - another item I picked up somewhere for cheap! Although the game is for ages 3+ it did seem to work better with my 4 year old students.

It lent itself to both expressive and receptive language practice. My assistant and I modeled using whole sentences when the children drew a card from the pool "I got spaghetti." "I picked a chicken." I also asked the children questions about the food items, "Do you like meatballs with your spaghetti?" And when it was my turn to choose a card, I gave the students clues about my card before showing them, "I picked something that is a vegetable, it is long and green, and the porcupine ate it on Monday. What did I choose." We also talked about whose turn it was - "My turn." and "Your turn." When we got down the end of the game, where players only needed one or two items, we talked about the concepts of 'sharing' and 'giving' game pieces that players didn't need.

Next week at school, we'll be wrapping up Thanksgiving as we head into a 5 day break... then onto Winter and Holiday themes!

Happy Anniversary!

In just a few days, I'll celebrate my one-year anniversary selling teaching materials on TpT! I can hardly believe it's been a whole year! I've learned so much this year when it comes to creating materials, design skills, photo editing, blogging and much more... I can't thank all my friends, family and customers enough for their support this last year! Here's to another year of creative ideas...

Enjoy %15 off of everything in my store until 11/26!

Cranberry Sensory Play...

I picked up a few bags of cranberries on sale the the other day at the store and wasn't all that sure what I was going to do with them. Aside from cooking them up into some yummy dishes, I was thinking I'd take them to school for the kids to play with for a bit. In my mind, I had planned a counting activity where they'd count them into numbered cups and a fine motor activity where they'd push them onto skewers... but only one of those ideas actually happened... here's how it went....

I did get a counting tray set up. Simple, but new and interesting counting materials. The kids enjoyed this tray and the cranberries... We simply counted them into numbered plastic cups.

When I went to set up my fine motor tray with the skewers, I realized that I left them sitting at home on the counter!! Ugh! So no skewers -- maybe next week.

Then, my students were so interested in the cranberries we started playing with and examining them... we poured them into a large plastic container and added water to the mix. It was a great opportunity to talk about the concepts 'sink' and 'float.' We added a few items from the kitchen to scoop, fill, sort and move the cranberries between...

Then I remembered that I had purchased turkey basters from a discount store a few weeks back, so I pulled those out to add to the water play... and we ended up with a great Thanksgiving Sensory Bin of cranberries, water and kitchen items!

This sensory bin has been hours of fun for my students!

This was great out of the ordinary Thanksgiving fun...

what I learned from daycare...

In a previous post, I mentioned that I'm taking a human growth and development class at the community college for my teaching certification renewal. The idea of re-taking a class that I've essentially taken (under a different name) irks me, but I'm doing my best to remain positive about this experience.

As part of the course, I had to do 15 hours of field work observing in a childcare center or school. I strategically picked a local Reggio Emilia inspired school so that I might actually make the best of my time time. Today, I spend my day observing and assisting in the Reggio-inspired Preschool and this is what I've learned...

1. less is more - their shelves are sparsely filled with natural objects, a few carefully selected plastic toys and other mostly open ended items. Although there was barely enough play food and plates to share between two kids, four kids successfully played in the kitchen... there were only about 30 magna tiles, but six children played. Five cars were enough for five kids... this leads me to think that too many choices certainly doesn't help... but rather hinders the children's play. I'll come back to this idea later...

2. time is precious - during their 'project time' the class schedule had 45-60 minutes blocked off for learning. While the teachers really only 'taught' for the first 15-20 minutes, the rest of the kids' time was spent engaged in play activities that supported their learning from the first 15 minutes -- or even their learning from the previous day. This long period of time gave the children plenty of opportunity to become engrossed in their activities.

3. planning is key - not that I don't plan... it's just not one of my strengths. I pride myself in being able to go off the cuff and change the plan on a moment's notice, based on what my students need at the time. The Reggio teachers spent considerable time planning and prepping the learning environment, and once that prep was completed, the environment essentially did the teaching for them. It's not that I didn't know this, but watching it actually happen was pretty amazing.

With these broad take a-ways... I'm left contemplating how this could work with my students who have so many special needs. The idea of self directed activities for 45-60 minutes makes me cringe, as it's difficult for some of my students to engage in self-directed play for 10 minutes, much less an hour! Limiting toy choices to just enough cars for each child to have one (or even two) would cause a serious coup in my classroom! And frankly, many of my students just don't have the communication skills to negotiate the type of play I witnessed today. Lastly, while I do plan, I find myself in a situation where things need changed at a moments' notice...

Reggio Emilia in special education is a topic that I've long been contemplating. Having the opportunity to observe it in action, ask questions and take my own mental notes was great! I'm determined to figure out how to make it really work for students with special needs. It seems like it could have such amazing benefits, but some of the big ideas just don't fit with the needs and abilities of my students right now... I'm sure that this is a topic that I'll be back to soon enough.

Any thoughts?

{Gobble, Gobble, Gobble}

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I've had turkeys on the brain lately. This weekend my toddler and I made some turkeys from pine cones - well I mainly made them, but my son enjoyed playing with them.

Here's the process... my pictures are not super organized, but you get the idea...

As I said, I did most of the crafting with this one, but my three year old did enjoy playing with them afterwards.

And, at preschool, we made these play-doh turkeys today...

They were a huge hit even though I didn't have all the 'right' items - like brown play-doh. The kids didn't seem to mind that our turkeys were yellow. What kind of turkey crafts have you been busy with?

Peek @ the Week

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had much time to post the last two weeks... here's a quick peek at what we've been up to this week!

We've been reading books about food, fall and family in preparation for Thanksgiving! Here's our bookshelf this week:

We've focused heavily on the books "Feast for 10" by Cathryn Falwell and "Today is Monday" by Eric Carle.

We're working on a take home book based on "Feast for 10" .... here's our artwork so far - 2 pumpkins, 3 chickens, 6 bunches of greens and 7 pickles... 

Our sensory bin the week has a variety of beans, play food, pots, pans, funnels, spoons etc.

Here's one of our morning work activities - bean sorting.

I introduced some light play using an overhead projector with a handful of translucent plastic leaves, leaf shaped sequins (table scatter decor from the craft store) and plastic letter tiles.

And we learned about letter 'L' for leaves since the leaves are still turning colors and falling - Here's our Rainbow writing letter 'L' with smashed up leaves sprinkled over glue. Simple but fun!

That's all for now... what are you up to this week?