Monday, January 21, 2013

A Giant Mitten...for The Mitten Book!

It seems each year around this time I pull out the book "The Mitten" by Jan Brett.  It gives us a continued chance to talk about winter weather gear (mittens, hats, coats etc) and since it is so cold around here in January it gives us an excuse to enjoy an interactive book surrounding the snow!
In this photo you can't see the large bear and fox that take up most of the room in the mitten :) 
All the other stuffed animals are very small.
Previously, we've told the story of the Mitten by using a large white pillowcase and stuffed animals.  When I pulled it out again this year to bring it to school, I decided to try to create a more "mitten-like" case for the animals to sit in.  

I left the top very square to accomodate the larger stuffed animals and made the "thumb-space" small since I didn't want to have to fish out small stuffed animals from that area :)
So, I cut the pillowcase into a semi-mitten-like shape and sewed up the sides.  I added some Velcro at the bottom to hold it closed while transporting the "mitten"  and all the animals and attached some leftover material as a rudimentary handle to the mitten.  The entire project took me less than 20 minutes (and my sewing skills are extremelly limited). 

The velcro strips I sewed in place at the opening.
Now, a note about our stuffed animals.  Even after searching for a "mole" and a "badger" for our story-telling, I have yet to find either of these animals as a stuffed animal.  (Has anyone ever seen a mole or a badger stuffed animal?)

So, we use a raccoon for the badger and a hamster for a mole!  The real fun of the story is how many animals wedge themselves into a tiny mitten so I'm not too worried about the authenticity of all the stuffed animals. :)

Since I wanted to keep as much room as possible for the animals (the stuffed fox and bear I have take up most of the room in the mitten) the shape is a bit odd!  But, I do think it will give the kids a bit more of an idea that this is supposed to be a mitten...not a pillowcase! 

Now, I'm just excited to try out our new "mitten" for The Mitten at school this week!  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Finding Resources: Use What Sticks!

Sometimes you get those kids in your class that just need SO much!  You know the ones!  The ones that have family challenges, developmental challenges, throw in some pretty serious attention problems, behavioral challenges, language understanding and of course huge difficulty in learning and retaining information. 

Where exactly do you start?  Well, I have a very unscientific way of looking at this.  I find as many resources as possible, throw everything at the wall...and see what sticks!  I don't even begin to think that I could tackle all of those challenges with one child in a matter of...oh...let's see....10 months from the time he started in my room until heading off to kindergarten (we have school all summer- this is including the summer months). 

So, we started slow, giving him a chance to get used to new expectations, environment, children...then slowly began adding things in... evaluation for music therapy...check.  Tracking down mom to encourage her to take advantage of a community mental health program offered through school for the child....check.  Therapy dog set up to visit once a week (not just for this one child, of course)....check.   Sensory breaks...check.  Language based computer program offered at school...check.  A daily schedule basically set up to maximize his strengths and work with his energy level....check, check and check!

And, of course, we're also working our butts off to directly teach social skills, model appropriate social and behavioral skills in the classroom, give him plenty of opportunities for practice and a safe place to feel he can come to each day. 

It's funny, when people realize you are interested in taking advantage of outside resources, they will often help track down these things for you!  (I had almost nothing to do with tracking down the therapy dog, our wonderful SLP did this!  She has another child in mind for the reason behind this- but we all know it will help several children.)

So, sometimes, just keep throwing things at the wall...something WILL eventually stick and make a difference for that challenging child!  And sometimes you may find that each thing and each person plays a part in helping that child!

(Keep in mind, this is a HIGHLY active child who needs continual one on one assistance.  This many outside resources may be overwhelming for most children...not this one :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Few Fun Fine Motor Activities!

Our preschool special education classrooms have chosen to focus on fine motor development for our data team this year.  Let's just say, we may have gone a bit crazy with the amount of ideas we have found and are currently utilizing in our classrooms!  We actually made up several fine motor activities boxes with supplies to use! 

Here are a few of my favorite ideas to increase fine motor skills.  While most of the activities we have been using were found on Pinterest, we've come up with a few of our own to add to the mix.  These really aren't original, but perhaps they will be good reminders of activities to try to increase those fine motor skills!

Finger Painting on Mirrors!  The Dollar Store acrylic mirrors I found are perfect for this and are just the right size.  Not only are the children working on fine motor skills, by "scribbling" and "writing" in the fingerpaint, but they are also noticing themselves in the mirror.  We have a chance to talk about facial features, feelings, count eyes, nose etc.

Sponge on a Clothespin Painting!  This is still a bit of a challenge for my children, so we've only explored this once and are waiting a bit until they feel more capable of managing the clothespins.  Basically, I cut up a sponge into small squares, put these on a tray with a clothespin and encouraged the children to open the clothespin, clip a sponge square, dip it into paint and dab it on the paper!  We ended up making "snowstorms" with white paint on blue or black paper.

Pom Pom Pushing!  This is an idea I found on Pinterest.  We found the perfect baskets to put pom poms through.  We simply turn the basket upside down, put pom poms halfway through the holes and encourage the child to push each pom pom through a hole using his/her pointer finger.  This has become a perfect activity for a little guy who is a bit rigid in his thinking.  This gives him a clearly defined beginning and end.  He knows, the game is done when he can't see anymore pom poms!  He loves this so much now, we're able to pull all the pom poms out from under the basket when he is done and he uses a pincer grasp to retrieve each pom pom and place it back through the hole.  (2 skills for the price of one, I say!)

And, of course, good old fashioned playdough with gems hidden inside!  While most children would engage in enough pretend play to practice these types of skills naturally in the classroom and at home, some children just don't naturally gravitate towards activities that increase fine motor skills.  These activities have been great ways to introduce those children to these skills! 

*NOTE:  I will upload photos of each activity as soon as I can slow the kids down long enough to aim the camera in the direction of the activity :)  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

He Joined the Tap Dancing Craziness!

Remember those tap dancing preschool children in my room the other day?  Well, guess who decided to join them in their tap dancing craziness on Friday?  Yep, the quiet child at the table toys table who thought they were simply nuts the day before!

Give a quieter child some space and the ability to join the activity on their own terms and some great imitation and social interactions can take place! 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Tap Dancing Our Troubles Away!

You should have been there!  Two children tap dancing around the art shelf...dressed in tutus, tap shoes (one two sizes to large, one two sizes too small) and firefighter hats.  Two children tap dancing, laughing and attempting to "break dance"  (or something like that :) 

And one child sitting quietly at the table toys table, putting pegs in a pegboard and looking at those two as if they had completely lost their minds. 

I'm not posting photos...just use your imagination!  Oh...sorry, forgot to mention that this was not an activity limited to girls.  One boy, pant legs pulled up so the purple tutu would stand out doing pretend flips and somersaults.  Yep, that's how we spent our center time yesterday! 

Reason number 1 of at least a thousand as to why I love teaching preschool!  How could I possibly miss THIS!?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Teacher Feeders"

Well, Hello!  I think I recognize this blog :) You may have wondered where I went!  Or, maybe you haven't even noticed that no one has been manning this tiny blog for a while!  Well, some confessions first:

I haven't been off on a grand adventure, wonderful vacation or a teaching break (oh, except for the past two weeks for winter break, of course!)  I simply have found that a regular, extended absence from the Internet is needed on a regular basis to keep my sanity. :)  I've browsed the other preschool blogs off and on throughout this time, I've checked in here from time to time and I've pinned lots of teaching ideas to Pinterest!  I just haven't pulled out the keyboard to actually begin a post for quite a few months!

I'm beginning to feel rejuvenated and figured I'd better start off with an incredibly simple post for you today! goes! 

Before we left for our winter break, I managed to pull together some super simple gifts for the other teachers in the preschool program where I work.  Of course, you could probably make these for any gift giving occasion!  So, I thought I would share!

I found small plastic bird feeders (I think I found these at Wal-mart several months back for less than a dollar each!)  I bought paint pens at Wal-mart (look for the paint pens that specify you can use them on plastic).

I painted the name of the classroom and decorated the bird feeders with the classroom theme (at our school this is Ladybug Lane, Caterpillar Creek, Bumblebee Boulevard and Firefly Freeway). 

I filled the bird feeders with chocolates and candy and handed them out, calling them "Teacher Feeders" :) 

Of course, unless you are a bird, you can't peck at the chocolate to eat it through the bird feeder holes!  You will have to open the top to steal a chocolate out of the Teacher Feeder!  But, I'm pretty darn sure any teacher would quickly figure out a way to get to a chocolate after the first few days back with the kids after winter break!  Of course, once the candy and chocolate is gone, the bird feeders could be filled with actual bird feed and hung outside the classroom window. 

So, there you have it...a super simple post about a super simple, easy to make gift! 


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