Saturday, November 26, 2011

We welcome Winter!

Hi everybody! Long time no see! Can you believe Christmas is already just around the corner? And there is definitely a jolly feeling in the air!!!
Anyhow. We have stated our winter theme. It always feel good to move on to something new. Kids get so enthusiastic! We went for a small winter walk around the garden together this week. We talked about the changes we saw in nature: how do the trees look now that is different from autumn or summer? How does the grass look? How does the sky look? Are there any (or many) animals around? Are there flowers? Finally, I told them that winter had arrived.  

 I read them a book called  The Polar Bear and the Snow Cloud by Jane Cabrera. It is the story about a little polar bear looking for a friend. The snow cloud tries to help by making animal shapes out of snow, but they're not real and they keep melting.

I asked the children to think of things that melt.: ice cream (their favourite answer), ice, snow balls, snow man.. This make me think that there is another cool book you could read the kids and which would introduce the concept of melting to them. It is called The Snow man by Raymond Briggs. I LOVE this simple story. It is a classic and once you sart reading the story, you are bound to feel Christmas is the air.

Anyhow. Back to what we did.  After brainstorming for a while, I brought the children to a table where I had prepared 4 containers with ice in it.

First, I asked them to take some ice I had broken up in pieces beforehand. They held the ice in their hand and observed what happened: "oh, it is freezing, Aude!!", "it's dripping, now, Aude", "that's because it is melting!"..

I told them that the ice was melting because their hands were warm and ice doesn't like warm or hot things. If it melts, it turns back into water. Then I asked them if they knew another way to melt the ice. A little boy suggesed to leave it in the sun (he definitely got the idea!!). I agreed. And then I asked "what would you do if the sun was hidden in the sky and it was a cold cloudy day?". One of them said you could blow on it because this is what he does when his hands are cold. (Waaaa, those little brains are working so fast!!). After brainstorming a little bit, I told them that salt can melt ice.

I added some salt to one of our container. Then I told them we were going to do a little experiment and see which tub of ice was going to melt faster over the half an hour. We labelled our tubs: melting with salt, melting on the table, melting on the radiator, melting in the fridge.

We made predictions (I forgot to take a picture of our little chart- but you get my drift). Most of them predicted that it would melt faster on the radiator (clever bunch!!). None of them mentioned the salt. After half an hour, we went back to check on the ice. Well!!! They couldn't believe that the ice mixed with salt was nearly all melted!!! They got so excited about it!! I reminded tham of last year when it was snowy and icy here. People were buying bags of salt to spray in front of their doorways to melt the ice and make sure they wouldn't slip on their way out. The ice on the radiator came second, the one on the table came third and the one in the fridge came last. I explained again that the hotter it would be, the quicker it would melt.

Sorry if it is croooked. I can't put it straight for some reason.

We then put in the containers in order: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

I have 2 other science experiments to do with the children this month: cryogenics and densiy experiment (not directly linked to winter but I make it Christmassy for fun!). What do you do in your classroom in science at the moment?

To conclude this post, I have added a little video from the Snow Man book. Enjoy it!! I always do:



Saturday, November 12, 2011


I took a few photos of what is new in our classroom and of the most popular activities we have at moment in school. Have a look:

  1. Mushroom dabbing
I got some bingo dabber in the shop last week (I had been looking for them for some time and got lucky!)

We are still talking about harvest time but we have moved on from pumpkins to mushrooms. So I drew a plain mushroom template for the kid to colour. The I showed them how to use the dabbers to make dots onto the hat of their mushrooms. Oh my God! They were QUEUEING for this activity:

I laminated the finished product, cut it out, punched a hole on the top and added a string on it. Great little decoration!.

2. Punching activity

I have had this puncher for a while but I had put it back in the cupboard as the children were not that interested in it anymore. It is now back again on the shelf and the kids love it (for another while!!)

3. Practical activity

Now, the children are getting such a kick out of this exercise. They spray a bit on water on the mirror and have to rub it off and polish it. What fun!

Are you asleep bear?

I am back!! Sorry it took me so long to find the time to write about our little adventures! There is just not enought time in a day for me! Anyway, we are currently completing our Autumn theme and I have introduced the children to the notion of hibernation. At circle time, I explained  them what animals were up to in Autumn time in preparation for the long winter months. First, I read them Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming. It is a wonderful spring-board for class discussions and "acting - out" activities!

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Then I present them to a poster my daughter made for school project. I still look at it with very fond memories of the time we spent together making it and it has proven to be very useful in our classroom. It helps the children to visualise exactly what I am talking about as I read the book to them.

One of the kids favourite game related to the theme is  called "Animal, Animal, who are you?". The children sit in a circle.  One child sits or stands in the center and acts out the movements or makes the sound of an animal.   The other children raise their hands to guess what animal the child is imitating.  The child who guesses correctly then  acts out another animal.  You may want to have the child in the center whisper the name of the animal to you  before acting it out.  Then you can be sure the child has the animal clearly in mind, and you can help the child is necessary.

My little man was back from primary school that afternoon and was delighted to be able to start the game! Guess what he was...

And I love to introduce a variation to our Musical statues game (when the weather doesn't allow it outside, we move the tables around in the classroom and play inside). I call it the Musical Hibernation game. All you need is a CD player and mats. Have a mat for each child. Explain to the children that while the music is playing the animals(them) are dancing. When the music stops it is winter time and it is time to find a spot to sleep. As the children know more about hibernating animals, you can ask them what animal they are when they sleep too.

Another game I have up my sleeve is to bring the kids outside and tell them we are going to pretend there is  a bear hibernating in our garden, and we have to find it to make sure it stays safe (of course, we will have to make sure they grasp the notion that this is only pretending!!!). I was planning to do this game this week but unfortunately, it has been so wet that we haven't been able to go out at all.  The activity is based on the book We are going on a bear hunt. I read the book to the children beforehand (this is one of their favourite book and they know the words nearly by heart!).

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What I am planning to do is first to chant our Bear Hunt song and invite the children to follow me as I go off on the bear hunt. We sing the little song from the book. We act out each line as we go. For example, when we say "we are going on a bear hunt", we all pretend to have binoculars! When we are singing about going throught the thick mud, we exaggerate our movememnts and lift one foot heavily, one after one, pretending to be stuck in the mud. 

I have one more activity planned for the HIbernation theme but I need good weather. SO I will kepp you posted as soon as we are lucky!!!! Keep in touch...  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How big is your pumpkin?

Today, we did a little experiment with the children. The children have been sorting and classifying lots of different types of items over the past few weeks: nuts, leaves, veggies etc... And without even realising it, they have learned a lot!! An extension of these mathematical concepts was to introduce them to measurement. And the best way to do so is to use everyday real objects to teach them. So this morning, I asked them if they could gather around the table to help me figure out which pumpkin was the biggest or the smallest. We used coloured wooden counters as a measuring unit (you can use anything really, blocks, pencils, woden beads etc.., as long as the items used to measure with are all the same size,).

I used the counters by towering them up as tall as each pumpkin.

 Then we counted them.

Then I said: "this pumpkin is 3 counters long" and I repeated this process for each pumpkin. 

We then placed the pumkin from the tallest to the smallest and laid the counters down for the children to better grasp the notion of bigger/smaller in terms of measuring units.

I didn't know if the children would actually find this activity interested. Obviously, the smallest ones lost interest very quickly but my big preschoolers (3.5 to 5) were very intrigued and even made predictions as we went along. So, yes, I think it worked. And I will have to repeat the exercise again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What have we been up to?

We have been very busy in preschool these past 2 weeks. Children have made tremendous progress. Some of them could hardly make a simple jigsaw on their own... most are now able to work on their own and they take such pride in their achievements! Others could barely hold their pencils properly and many were just doodling.. Look at what they can do now:

Something we have noticed a lot as well in our classroom is role play or pretend play. As you may be aware, when we talk about fantasy play Montessorians usually believe that "fantasy should be postponed until the child is firmly grounded in reality." I want to make it clear here that even though I follow Montessori's method of education, I would NEVER discourage or reproof a child who is engaged in imaginative play of their own design.  It is not the allowance of fantasy that should be postponed. I simply take care to avoid the planting of fantastic ideas in children's heads. Remember that Montessori herself asked "How is it possible for the child's imagination to be developed by that which is in truth the fruit of the adult's imagination?". I really believe that imaginative play is a wonderful thing. I just don't want that type of play to be directed by what we, adults, provide the children with. Cildren shouldn't need plastic spoons, toy kitchens etc.. to develop their imaginations. They do this quite well on their own. In our classroom, we have many fantasy/imaginary stories and have lots of open-ended art materials (for example, play dough.... I have eaten so many "pretend" pizzas so far this year!!) . They play some sort of superman game outside with their friends. The kids play "house" sometimes when cleaning up or helping to prepare snack or "you're the mom, I'm the kid". The difference is that we, teachers,  are not doing it with them - they're coming up with it themselves. Imagination springs from the child, not from a predetermined creativity curriculum, diecut crafts, or a teacher's mind... "let's pretend to be supermen and I'll give you a cape." We don't have a dress-up corner or a home corner in our classroom. But children don't need them to be imaginative. When the weather is really bad and we cannot go outside and play, I sometimes get a prop box with very random things in it: a scarf, a hat, a real stethoscope, postcards or used envelopes, etc... And that's all they need to start imagining. Lately, they love playing "teacher" together. They gather on the mat and one of them pretends to be the teacher during a "pretend" circle time:

As a follow up on our harvest theme, we have been studying the life cycle of pumpkins and this week the children have worked hard on their Pumpkin Book.

And to relate the theme to Halloween, the children have also created their own pumpkin. I cut out some pumpkin shapes out of card board. They painted them orange and glued some pumkin seeds all over them. Once they were dried, they painted them in orange again and finally varnish them. I added eyes and mouths and voila:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Autumn tree

The children have been very busy this week working on this craft project. I do it every year and this always brings a buzz of excitement in our classroom. As I mentioned in my previous post, we have been studying leaves at circle time as part of our Autumn theme: oak leaves, birch leaves, maple leaves etc... The children are learning to recognise them bit by bit and one little boy asked if we could "make" our own Autumn tree. I thought about it for a while and asked children how we could do it. Some thought about planting one but we all agreed it would take too long to grow. Some wanted to go and cut a tree down but we agreed it would kill the tree and it would be sad. As the children struggled, I suggested making  decided t our own leaves and our own tree. They used Autumn colors to paint and chose the leaves they liked the most. I drew them on their paintings and cut them off for them. I traced light veins on each of them. Then the children glued them onto a wooden peg and voila!! All that was left to do was to pick a branch or two in the garden, spray paint it slightly and place it in a container to hold up straight. See for yourself:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Round and round the garden

My husband cut one of the dead pine trees at the entrance of our site. As he was busy putting the wood away, I spotted these little logs and thought they would be a great addition to our garden for the children to play on. And so far, they have been a hit:

We could even use them for circle time (whenever the weather improves!!!!!)

An apple for teacher!

This week, I introduced the theme of Autumn time to the children. I prepared our nature display carefully and put up lots of laminated posters all around the classroom for the children to look at and inquiry about them. As we have started our theme by talking about harvest time , I have concentrated on pumpkins, apples, berries, pears, shesnuts, conkers, acorns etc.. And I also added leaves to our display tree to make it more real.


We are focusing a bit more on apples this week and believe me, talking about apples can keep the little ones  very busy as well as teach them about a variety of subjects including agriculture, the seasons and more. Today, I asked them where apples came from. Guess what? Most of them shouted: TESCO!!!! OK. Time to read a book:

                                              How Do Apples Grow? (Let's-Read-And-Find-Out)

Great book. A bit complicated, I admit but I usually skip the hard parts and simplify the text as I read along. The children loved it all the same. So, our next move was to make an apple. I got the kids to color the template of an apple (both sides). I laminated all of them once they were finished and cut them out. I punched several holes around the apple and asked the children to lace a red woollen thread around it. Lacing provides excellent small motor exercise, helping children learn to manipulate and control objects with their fingers. And
children love the back and forth action of threading yarn