Sunday, January 29, 2012

Milk Filter Flannelboard Follow-Up

Carrie saw my previous posts on making flannelboard pieces with milk filters, and would like information for purchasing these.  I figured I would do a quick follow up post for anyone who would like to make flannelboard pieces from milk filters and was still having difficulty finding the filters!

If you missed the information on how to make these you can find it HERE and HERE.

Ken Ag 15" Transfer System Milk Filters

You can purchase the milk filters directly through Farm and Fleet on-line.  I found that some of the stores may not carry them in stock or they may only have one size, so buying on-line is probably the easiest route. 

Here is the link to buy the: 15 inch Ken-Ag milk filters  These will need to be cut to the size of printer paper and fed through the printer just like paper.  While $13.49 may sound like a lot, one box of 100 should last quite a while!  You can print multiple flannelboard pieces on one sheet of milk filter 'paper'.  

I ended up experimenting with using the 6 1/2 inch Ken-Ag milk filters, which also can be purchased on-line.  Simply tape the filter to the middle of a piece of computer paper and it will feed directly through the printer.  These are $3.99, but are a little more tricky to use for printing.

Of course, if you don't want to pay shipping charges and you live near a farming area, you may be able to simply go to a farm implement store and ask for these.  Any area that has dairy farms should carry milk filters.  I'm sure there are other brands. I just happened to use these since that is what the store near my house sold!  I really am not sure if there are differences in brands or not. 

Hope this information helps if you are still having difficulty finding these in your area!  These make quite durable and long lasting flannelboard pieces! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

All Those Things We CAN do!

Recently a new program to help evaluate classrooms was implemented at the preschool level in our area. The evaluation involves training a group of teachers to make brief observations of classrooms.  During these observations the observers tally the number of children considered "on-task" in the classroom during very brief (3-5 min.) time periods. 

To be honest, I wasn't sure at all how this would go!  My classroom is very much, what I consider, a 'flexible' community!  The children are rarely all doing the same thing.  While it may APPEAR to others that certain children are not actively engaged with materials, it may really be that the children are overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and are attempting to self-regulate, they may need time to process what is happening or they may simply need to observe an activity many times before engaging in it. 

As the peer observer entered our classroom for the first time, I was curious to see if interacting with Bob the hamster would be considered "on-task"!  I looked around.  Wow!  Every single child was watching, interacting with or feeding Bob!  The children were clearly engaged in the activity by choice.  There was no need to redirect any child.  For those who needed mini-breaks from the group, it was simple enough to turn a back to the group and engage with a toy on the shelf for a minute or two before returning.  The children were talking to Bob, blowing kisses at Bob and some were using words to describe what he was doing while playing!

The peer observer popped in a second time to observe our calendar time routine.  Every single child was watching, vocalizing, verbalizing, singing or signing parts of our routine!  Well, I would say that was "on-task"!  It is amazing now to hear almost all the children vocalize while we are "reading" our morning message each day. 

A stranger would never know that we are all supposedly saying the very same thing!  While a stranger may not understand all (or even any) of the words some of the children are saying, each and every child clearly WANTS to be part of the group and is proud and eager to help read that sentence.

Finally, the peer observer came in for a third time.  We were in the midst of small groups (IEP goal work).  I was working one on one with a child, one of my teacher associates was working one on one with a child and my other teacher associate was engaged with the rest of the children on the carpet building bridges, roads and tunnels with blocks.  Again, we were all on task! 

Nearly all of the children in my classroom will move on to elementary school next fall, so at this point, these children are very familiar with the group and classroom.  It is so wonderful to see how far these children have come! 

So, while I'm not sure if our little tally marks added up to "on-task" from the observation perspective (although, from my quick conversation with the observer afterwards, I'm pretty sure they did) it gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much progress this group has made. 

It helped me remember all those things that we can now do!  I hope that the peer observer saw the following things we CAN do while observing the classroom! 
  1. We can engage with other children through smiles, words, gestures, vocalizations or proximity.
  2. We can interact with a small animal gently.
  3. We can be part of a community.  We enjoy helping others and are proud of what we do together.
  4. We can follow directions within our routine. 
  5. We can participate with a group of other children for 10 min. or more.
  6. We can understand, remember and request various favorite parts of the routine of the day.
  7. We can make connections with our learning.  We know that if it is cold outside, we will need to wear a coat.  We know that if it is very cold outside, we will go to the gym to play.  We know that we will get to listen to "Thriller" if we go to the gym.  We know that we can choose to ride a bike if we go outside. 
  8. We can remember and talk about activities we have done in the past.  We know that each day we sing the "Winter" song.  We know that the words "hot cocoa" are in the winter song.  It reminds some of us of the "train" movie we watched nearly a month ago and the hot cocoa we drank...and we must mention this each and every day!
So, I guess there was something to be gained from this 'evaluation'.  Go ahead, tally how "on-task" the kids are...this group of kids loves coming to school each day! 

They're "on-task" because they simply REFUSE to be left out of anything!  :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Well Planned Disguise!

Before our break I tried to gather up and take home our materials from December.  I took down the tree, the lights, the "Santa dog" that played jingle bells and a few other things. 

We actually had been so busy that we hadn't even had a chance to explore our new "moldable" sand in the sensory table with some candy cane tubes and Santa shaped plastic containers. 

Well, imagine my surprise when I realized that I had forgotten to remove the holiday items from the table before break!  The kids didn't mind one single bit!  In fact, they seemed to be extremely happy to see these leftover remnants of holidays past!

The Santas' said "ho, ho, ho" while their tummy's were filled with sand!  The children filled and emptied and enjoyed.  So, there.  What I thought at first was a "mistake" was CLEARLY not a mistake for the children who played at the sensory table! 

Sometimes, a forgetful mistake is simply a well planned way to engage the children in recalling previous disguise!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Making Learning Connections...and Gingerbread Houses!

I'm always looking for ways to help the children connect the songs, stories and games that we do in the classroom to real life activities or objects!  It's one thing to READ about a gingerbread's another thing to MAKE a gingerbread house!  So, before our break, with the children so obsessed with The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett, we just HAD to try our hand at miniature...very child created and super simple gingerbread houses! 

We started by saving and washing small milk cartons (one for each child).  We (a-hem, my teacher associate :) cut a flap on one side of each milk carton to form a "door."

The children used craft sticks to spread frosting on the milk carton and then stuck graham cracker squares directly to the milk carton. 

Spreading is a WONDERFUL way to work on those fine motor skills!  (If you are looking for other creative ways to work on fine motor skills through play, check THIS out!)

Then the fun part...MORE frosting!  We went through almost an entire can of frosting...and, believe it or not, very little was eaten!

After the houses were frosted, the children chose to put marshmallow shapes or cookies on the outside.  We chose not to use any candy or small items, as these would pose a choking hazard for many of the children.

Then the BEST part of ALL!  The children LOVED, LOVED, LOVED putting a gingerbread baby cookie inside the gingerbread house. 

I could clearly tell that several of the children were connecting this directly with their beloved Gingerbread Baby book!   What a great way to work on those fine motor skills AND create a tiny part of a book we love!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Jingle Bell Art!

Here's a super quick art exploration that the children love doing quite often.  At first glance, this may look surprisingly similar to golf ball art!  But, we've added a twist to this.  We've put HUGE jingle bells inside plastic cake boxes with clear lids. 

We've added paper cut to fit the bottom and several colors of paint.  The children work together or take turns bouncing, shaking and moving the bells around the box in order to paint the paper with the paint and bells.

We used red and green in these pictures, but I think we may try white paint on blue construction paper during January!  I'm imagining it may look a bit like snow on the paper! 

I especially love the fact that we were able to add the auditory component of listening for the bells to an art exploration! 

And now, after looking at these pictures again, I realize there's a great adaptation just waiting to happen!  If a child is not able to easily move the box on his/her own, attaching a string or piece of yarn and a large bead to the end, would give the child the chance to hold the bead and PULL the box around!  Hmmm...we may have to call that "train painting"!

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