Friday, June 24, 2011

"Well, Hello...Here's a Toy for You to Admire!"

What do you do when you are very friendly and want to play with a new friend, but don't yet have language to use with your friend? 

You find a toy and put it in your friend's lap!  Then you run off and find another toy and put this toy in your friend's lap.  Then you hurry off to find yet another toy and present this to your friend!

This never grows old!  Who wouldn't smile if you are receiving toy after toy after toy!?  Yes, THIS is the extent of the game; but what a game it is! 

Receiving a present from a friend, over and over and over!  Just like it's your birthday...each and every day!  Now, seriously, who wouldn't love this game?!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Changes are never easy!

Changes are never easy.  Lately, I've been so busy working on paperwork and IEP's that the changes that are about to happen at our school really haven't sunk in yet!  Changes are never easy; especially when these changes are happening because of budgets that are created at a much higher level and are completely out of the control of anyone within our immediate area!   Changes are never easy. 

I've tried to keep looking at the positive in all this.  Although we will have teachers moving from preschool to teach kindergarten; we aren't truly "losing" anyone.  We will still be able to provide wonderful services for the children in our preschool program.  We continue to function as an early learning program...we just may look a bit different...with fewer classrooms and programs, but still a good core group of programs.  Changes are never easy. 

I'm all for learning new things!  Sometimes shaking things up is a good thing!  We'll have the opportunity to work with new wonderful people!  Although, of course, we will miss those wonderful people who are moving on to new adventures.  Changes are never easy.  

I have the month of July off...the entire month!  I'm very excited and completely ready to have a month off, but these changes will be taking place WHILE I'm off!  I'm pretty sure I'm going to come back in August and hardly recognize the place!  OK, that may be taking it a bit far!  Changes are never easy.   

So, while changes are never easy...sometimes they really do open up wonderful new learning opportunities!   I'm excited to see what these changes bring...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ahhh...I SEE!...Visual Prompts Part 4: Play Boards!

After 6 hours of IEP work yesterday, I finally feel like I may be just about ready for my month long break in July!  So, after creating numerous rubrics, reviewing progress from previous IEP's and adding data to goal graphs, I spent part of today organizing and creating some visual play boards! 

So, just in case you didn't get enough ideas for visual prompts HERE, HERE and HERE   below are some more ideas for visual prompts...for play boards!   Here's how I made them and how they are used:

A play board to use while playing with cars.
Along with my hundreds of Boardmaker pictures that I've printed out over the past several years; I had some extended file folders from Wall-mart that were just sitting at my house.  I decided to use the file folders to make simple picture boards for routines or play.  It took me a bit to realize that these came with an added benefit...they stand up! 

Another play board...but this time, for baby dolls!
I plan on using these during to help the children with receptive and expressive language while playing.  The file folders probably won't last forever, but they work well now and can easily be replaced.  I ended up simply taping the Boardmaker pictures directly to the file folders.   
This board I actually slid inside the baby doll play board.  This way, we can pull
it out while playing with the babies to talk about body parts...which we need to work on anyway!
Tricky, aren't I?! :)
These play boards are used simply by pointing to the (picture) as you are playing.  Ex. for the car board:   "Oh, I want to (drive) the (car)!  I wonder where we should go?  Look, there's a (bridge), we're going (up) (up) (up) and (over) the (bridge)...(OH NO!) the (car) crashed!....(down), (down), (down)...."     
This is actually a board to use during mealtimes.
 The colors are used to signify various parts of speech.   Below is what type of word each color is supposed to represent. 
  • Yellow- nouns
  • Pink- verbs
  • Purple- exclamations!
  • Green- prepositions (this is why "blanket ON baby, baby IN chair, clothes ON baby" are green :)  
  • Orange- Extras (yes, no, I need help etc.) 
The back of the board for breakfast or lunch.
I have always been more inclined to use pictures with the children when I can place them throughout the room where they would most typically be used.   I use these boards more for increasing receptive language rather than for requesting items or actions with most of the children in my room.  However, after some time, we generally see the children start to point to items as they are playing as well!  It is amazing how many children will begin to replay simple play schemes after using a play board and listening to an adult "self-talk" through the play scheme!  These are, by far, my most favorite type of visual prompt! :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Our "Sand-Pie Kitchen"! :)

I realized the other day that I have fallen hopelessly behind on writing anything at all on our outdoor learning!  This isn't because we haven't added new items to our space.  It isn't because we haven't gone outside!  It's simply a matter of managing a camera and numerous small hands holding on to mine...a clipboard, keys and a first aide backpack!
Well, I did it people!  I balanced all of those things and am here to tell about it!  Today was the first day we added our "Sand-Pie kitchen" :)  We decided since it has been raining a great deal of the time here, we would take advantage of the wonderful wet, packed sand in the sand pit!  
 We simply added a few small frying pans, a few cake and pie tins, some wooden bowls,  some tree cookies as the burners and baskets filled with rocks and other natural objects!  We have a bench that sits next to our sand pit, so this became the stove top!
 The children didn't need any prompting to begin scooping and filling the tins and pans with wet sand, packing it down and then adding "toppings" like stones to the top of the pies and cakes!
While some of us were busy cooking and baking in the kitchen, several children were busy looking for bugs in the wood chips.  The children love overturning the tree stumps and digging through the wood chips and dirt to see what is beneath! 
Of course, they were successful!  Here is the poor "pet" caterpillar (really an inchworm, I think) that was lovingly carried around for a good 20 minutes before he was "lost" in the wood chips again!  (I'm sure he was thankful for this!)
Another exciting discovery today was the children's discovery that our bean plants that we thought had died, have not died at all!  The children called us all over to show us that they found full size BEANS on the plants!  We were as surprised as the children were over this discovery!

(Thanks to Meaghan L. for the photos used in this post, as mine seem to be lost forever on my camera phone!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ladybug Painting!

I bet you've always wondered what "Ladybug Paintings" would look like! haven't?!  Well, we decided to spare the real ladybugs the embarrassment of having their feet painted; and we used our ladybug back massager as our painting tool! 

The children each took a turn choosing red or yellow paint, dipped the ladybug feet in the paint, pushed the button and watched the ladybug jiggle, wiggle and "paint" the paper!  

We watched as the ladybug mixed and stirred the red and yellow paint together to make orange and, a few times, had to work to keep the ladybug from cruising right off the side of the paper! 

I'm still working on a way to keep the ladybug feet holding a bit more paint each time!  The children did enjoy watching the ladybug bounce around and paint, but I think it will be even more fun if we add a few more bouncing bug back massagers to paint at the same time!  Hmmm...we'll have to save that for another day!

The closest thing to this that I can remember seeing on the Internet is Teacher Tom's Drawbots (Of course, I may be forgetting that someone has already done this- If so, I'm sorry, please let me know!)

I am linking this to Nurture Store's Play Academy idea swap!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stickers...Simply Essential to the Morning!

Today I came back to work after a week break*...a week break that I spent sniffling, coughing,  taking medicine and sitting at the computer with a box of Kleenex beside me.  A stay at home sick break.  It always takes me a few days to get back into the swing of things after a break; so I knew today would  be no different.  I figured it may be a bit more jarring than usual, given the fact that I spent most of last week laying on the couch or sitting at the computer!

aaannndd...I was correct! 

Here was my first big mistake:  You see, I couldn't find the stickers...the stickers we use every morning at calendar time.  Those same stickers we put on each child's right hand before we sing the "Hello Song".  The VERY same stickers that help us distinguish our right hand from our left.  The PRECISE stickers that help us remember to shake our friend's hand with our right hand.  The incredibly STICKY stickers that often immediately get removed and stuck on the carpet!  Never mind that they often end up on the carpet...apparently, we are simply not allowed to sing the "hello song" without firmly securing one round sticker to the back of our right hand!

I reached behind me for my basket of supplies...I found a few extra carpet squares, I found a few rubber duckies, I found a Lego.  No matter how much I searched, I couldn't find the stickers.   Great...  We can be flexible today!  I tried to keep my voice upbeat!  Sure we could be flexible!  It's a great skill to practice!  Why not practice it today?!

As I turned on the music and said "It's OK, we will still sing our hello song" I realized I may have been wrong.  Flexible was definitely NOT the word of the day in my room today!  I was met with hands covering a face and tears streaming down from one child and a flop to the floor and a swift kick to my leg from the child nearest me.  Great way to start my morning.

Good thing we found the stickers soon after this disaster!  Tomorrow will be better!  It has to be better; we will be starting it with STICKERS! 

(*Because of our "year-round" schedule, we often have small scheduled breaks throughout the year.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

HEY! HE TOUCHED ME! (or Don't make me stop this car...again!)

Several weeks ago, there was some disagreement in our program as to how to handle certain things.  Some felt these were very large issues; others did not.  This got me to do we as early childhood teachers, normally handle disagreements?  

Now, we are no strangers to conflict!  Any group of people who have worked together for any length of time WILL deal with disagreements at some point!  HOW we handle disagreements can make all the difference in the world, though!  

Hopefully, most of us would choose to take an issue that sends us "over the top" to the hall, to an office or wait for a more appropriate time to discuss it if we couldn't "hold it together" for the moment.  Hopefully, most of us would not choose to "vent" while the children were present. 

But, other than that, how do you deal with conflict within your program?  Is there an established procedure for dealing with issues that are "hot button" topics?  Do you have established times to meet to discuss issues? 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making Your Mark...Crayons, Markers and Paintbrushes

Ever since I compared many different types of scissor we use in the classroom, I've wanted to do a post on the various crayons, markers and some adapted paintbrushes we use in the classroom on a regular basis.  I've wanted to compare why certain types of designs seem to work best for specific needs. 

As with our scissors, we have a wide variety of crayons, markers and paint brushes!  I generally have children working at all stages of writing development: some who are working on making marks on paper, some working on imitating horizontal, vertical and circular strokes and still others who are beginning to have enough control and pressure to want to draw "letter-like" marks or actual letters in their names! 

Over the past several years, I've experimented with several different types of markers, crayons and paintbrushes.  Some of our favorites include uniquely shaped items that work well for certain children.  Other favorites are simply examples of well made drawing items! 

The photo above shows one of my favorite crayons to use with children who have limited movement.  It seems to work best for children who may not be able to fully open their hand to grasp and hold on to a typical crayon. This wheel-shaped crayon has the added benefit of coloring on the paper no matter what way it is turned! For children who are just beginning to make marks on paper, or who have limited mobility, it is always nice to have a 'no-fail' crayon that will color no matter what way you turn it!  I found this crayon at Walgreen' no special ordering was necessary!

These crayons come from our Handwriting without Tears program and really promotes finger grasp rather than a full hand grasp.  Another teacher in the building always used to recommend breaking larger crayons if you don't have access to these small-sized crayons!  The smaller size causes the child to have to hold on to the crayon with either a tri-pod or quad-pod grasp since it is so small it could not be held with a fist or full hand grasp.  These work wonderfully for children who are beginning to move on to drawing and writing in a more detailed and "adult" way.

Here is another early coloring tool.  This board actually plays music!  You place paper on the surface and color.  The faster you color, the faster the music plays!  For children who are just beginning to make marks on paper this can be motivating.  For children who are still gaining the control and muscle strength needed to apply enough pressure to make marks on paper, the faster tempo of the music can be a signal that they are indeed applying enough pressure to the paper!  I do not think there is much benefit for children who are already drawing and coloring on paper, since it just encourages coloring very fast to make marks! 

Now, this little marker comes from a set of animal shaped markers I found (and have not been able to track down since!).  This is intended for children who continue to need to use their entire palm to hold a marker.  The cap is nearly impossible for a child to remove, but once removed each animal makes an animal sound!  This type of marker works well for children who have limited fine motor control.  

Typically you see the type of "palm-grasp" needed to use these with young toddlers; but often children who have limited fine motor control and physical challenges will continue to hold a marker in this way in order to have enough control and to be able to apply enough pressure to make marks on paper.  (These are similar to the Tadoodles from Crayola- but I actually like these better because they angle in so a child's hand does not need to be completely open around a sphere shape to hold the marker.)

This is one of the "Pip-squeaks" markers.  These are preferable to the larger traditional markers for the same reason that short crayons are preferable to larger crayons. They encourage a more "adult" grasp and give the child more control as they color. 

These paintbrushes are again helpful for a child who still needs to use a full palm grasp to manipulate drawing/painting tools.  They also allow the child to have more control as the paint brush is closer to the paper.  (We have adapted some of these with a loop of Velcro around the handle to loop around a child's wrist.)

This last example is simply an adapted paintbrush.  I slid a small paintbrush into a T shaped PVC piping and taped it together.  This makes it possible to hold the shorter extension with fingers wraped around it and paint upright at the easel. 

These are, of course, just a few examples of possible items to use for drawing, painting and writing!  Explore what works best for the children in your own classroom.  If you have a child who has difficulty with fine motor activities, check with an occupational therapist for ways to adapt typical drawing and writing tools!  The possibilities are truly endless!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

5 Green and Speckled Frogs

This is one of my most often used, most loved by the children and definitely, my favorite song prop!  This is simply a Pringles can covered with construction paper.  I drew black "speckles" on the construction paper and then wrapped the entire thing with contact paper.  I then added Velcro squares to the side of the can. 

I bought some plastic frog bath toys and added Velcro squares to the bottom of the frogs (I think it took me 2 sets of frog bath toys for this).  I added some Sharpie marker spots to the frogs and stuck them to the Velcro on the can!

This is the perfect prop to use with "5 Green and Speckled Frogs"  Below is the song, in case you've forgotten it! 

5 Green and Speckled Frogs
Sat on a speckled log
Eating some most delicious bugs,
Yum, Yum.
One jumped into the pool,
Where it was nice and cool.
Than there were 4 green speckled frogs,
Croak, croak...
(continue with 4,3,2,1 frogs)

The children LOVE to help take the frogs off as we sing the song and stuff them back into their "log" (of course, you could have some blue felt on the floor for the "pool", but the children in my room seem to just love stuffing them into the "log"!) 
Another added benefit:  all five of the frogs fit into the "log" with just a bit of it makes a wonderful storage container for the prop as well! 

(This was originally posted on my previous blog- which has since been deleted- but I love this so much, I decided to write a blog post about it again. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reducing Visual Distractions

For many children, visual distractions can be a huge problem!  Some children have a great deal of difficulty focusing on the "big picture" and notice (and are distracted by) every small visual item around them.  This has been an issue we deal with quite often in our classroom.  Visual distractions can include items placed on walls, general classroom clutter or even small toys or items placed on tables or floors! 

While it is unrealistic to expect to be able to eliminate visual distractions completely from a room, there are certainly things you can do to make backgrounds less distracting; especially backgrounds where children will place items to focus and work on or group areas where you may want the children to focus on a book or other item. 

One big problem in my classroom was this large, multi-colored and multi-patterned carpet that took up a large area of the classroom (Believe me, I didn't pick this was here long before I taught in this room!).  The carpet on the floor in this area was so highly distracting that it often became confusing for children to build with blocks on this carpet or even to focus on a story being read.  Since this area served multiple purposes:  both as a group time area and the block area, we really needed a carpet that was neutral and easy on the eyes!

Above is our new dark blue carpet on the floor!  (It really is blue- the lights were out, so it's a bit difficult to see).   Just look at how much easier on the eyes it is and how much easier it is to focus on the dry erase board and....well, just about anything in this area!  We took away the needless and highly distracting visual patterns and colors on the floor. 

I know many teachers prefer a carpet with spaces or pictures to indicate where each child should sit.  If you do feel you need this, I would just suggest large, solid items on the carpet rather than the multiple patterns and colors on our original carpet! 

Personally, though, I would consider a neutral colored carpet in the group time area.  You can then add carpet squares during group times to indicate where each child should sit (we just store ours in the basket above when they're not in use).  By going with a neutral color, you not only are giving the children a neutral background to view items on, but you are also making such a big difference in the overall look and feel of the whole space! 

Grab the "How Long is this Hall" Button!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Total Pageviews

Popular Posts