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?

{sticks & stuff} Christmas Ornaments

Aside from being today's featured guest post over at Tutus & Tea Parties, I haven't really thought much about the upcoming holiday season. I usually don't start thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving... but I made an exception this year!

Check back soon for more of my ideas for nature inspired ornament crafts!

{5 Fun Magazine Letter Ideas}

I must admit that I've got a serious thing for cutting up old magazines... It's nothing new. For me, there's just something mind-numbingly wonderful about cutting up paper. My love for paper has followed me from childhood to adulthood and now into my classroom - here are some of my favorite ways to use magazine letters with my students!

1. Letter ID Activities - Magazine letters are great for building letter recognition skills because there are so many different font colors, sizes & styles. At this level, I have students 'search, cut & paste' a single target letter using my printable magazine letters and alphabet worksheets. I also use this FREEBIE Letter Hunt worksheet for finding & matching all letters of the alphabet.

2. Upper & Lowercase Matching - Once students begin recognizing and learning letter names, I like to take advantage of the varied font styles for upper and lowercase matching practice. This is especially important for letters like 'Aa' - we teach students to write a lowercase 'a' one way, and we expect them to be able to recognize a letter 'a' in another way. These letter dominoes are one of my favorite ways to work on upper & lowercase matching; they also lend themselves for uppercase matching and 'traditional' dominoes type play for upper and lowercase matching with more capable students.

Magazine Letter Dominoes Game, 3-in-1 Literacy Center, Alp

3. Sorting - There are so many ways to sort letters. With my very young students, we start by sorting letters by color, size, and shape. Then I provide two well known letters to sort and increase difficulty from there. We use different sorting strategies and visual organizers - I LOVE when my students come up with new sorting rules and ways of organizing their letters! 

4. Name Practice - What little kid doesn't love making something wonderful with their name? Last year, we made name plates for cubbies with my printable magazine letters. I printed each child's name on a sentence strip, provided pages of my printable magazine letters and glue to construct 'ransom note' inspired name tags; we laminated the names used them for cubby tags.

5. Sight Word & Spelling Word Practice - With older students, magazine letters are a fun hands-on way to practice spelling. It's much more than just writing the words out, students must find, cut, arrange and glue letters for this task. Great as a literacy center, morning work activities or for daily word work!

For most of the above activites, I've used a combination of printable magazine letter cutouts from my TpT or TN stores and real letter cutouts.

What other ways do you enjoy using magazine letters in your classroom? More ideas coming soon!

Friday was yesterday...

Time has been flying by - being incredibly busy makes the week go by fast, but I feel like I've barely had time to breathe lately!

Here's my Five for Friday recap - a day late:

1. Goldilocks & the Three Bears - We read this classic in preschool this week. The kids were slow to warm up to the story, which surprised me, but I decided to give a few more reads before giving up on it entirely. I'm glad I did! By Friday, all the kids were excitedly retelling parts of the story and enjoying the Three Bear themed activities that I had pulled together. I had a collection of story telling props that we used during reading and than transferred those items to our doll house; introducing the bears to the doll house area was a fantastic way to get the boys engaged in an area that I rarely see them play in. I also like to read Brinton Turkle's wordless picture book, "Deep in the Forest," which has a similar storyline except it's a bear that enters a people house. We had fun looking for similarities and differences between the stories.

2. Oatmeal Sensory Bin - in the spirit of our story this week, I whipped up an oatmeal sensory bin. So simple and inexpensive, yet so much fun. I raided the kitchen for small, medium and large cups, bowls, spoons and plates so that we could reinforce the size concepts from the book. Unfortunately, I forgot that the other PreK teacher at my school is allergic to oatmeal! So when our kids got together (which happens daily!), I had to make sure it was put away and cleaned up! It won't last another week because of the allergy issue... on to beans next week!

3. Fingerpainting! This messy activity is always a favorite. My students could spend at least an hour fingerpainting, too bad we can't do it all day. We'll be cutting out and laminating these leaves for our classroom tree - which I've been delinquent in posting pictures of ....

4. This week, I worked on a guest post for Tutus & Tea Parties. Look for my "Sticks & Stuff: Xmas Ornaments" sometime next week!

5. Five more weeks until my course for professional development is finished. It's turning out to be an interesting experience and I'm actually looking forward to my field work at a nearby Reggio-inspsired childcare center.