Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Australian Ballad....

Yesterday, I introduced the children to our new continent: Australia. I set up 2 main baskets on our geography unit: one representing the landmarks of Australia and one depicting the animals living on the continent. I also placed the Australian flag on the unit counter as well as books about the continent in question.
(It is quite funny to observe children walking in the classroom in the morning: no matter what you have changed, removed or added in the setting, they will spot it staright away and they are automatically drawn to the new activity or the new material!!)
At circle time, I used the 3 part cards about animals. I have information written in the back of each picture and I read it to them as we discovered the animals living in Australia. I then read them the story about how koalas got a stumpy tail (it's only a legend but the book actually gives lots of acurate facts about the animals mentioned in the story).

But I have to say that my favourite book is Sail Away, The Ballad of Skip & Nell by Mem Fox. We've been reading about the story two delightful little dingoes who started a  rather long journey around Australia, in search of a boat race. This story is a great introduction to Australian Geography and Australian Animals and it ties the 2 baskets I have introduced SO well. It takes us to nearly every state and territory in Australia. What more do you want. And along the way, we discover new animals living in Australia!!

Later on, I showed the children how to use the 3 part cards with the plastic animals I got from The Land Down Under Toob. They first start by matching the cards to the booklet I made.

Then, they find the corresponding written name of the animals (great pre-reading skills even for non-readers).
Finally, the children can match the platic toy animals to the pictures.

Of course, the children are also allowed to use the animals just for fun!!!
Next, I introduce the children to the Australian landmarks 3-part cards. Same principle. I added a twist by collecting a few postcards and asking the children to match them up to the right picture card! I wish I had a lot more postcards but this will do for now.

So, this is what the children are learning about at the moment. Later on, I will add fun facts and pictures about Australia as well as pictures about aboriginee art (cave painting, dot painting et..). My Australia continent box is an on-going project and apart from a few postcards, a few coins and my plastic animals, I actually do not have many items.
And just inc case some of you ask,  I can't even remember where I got the 3-part cards. My guess? Montessori Tidbits. I apologise if I am wrong (please send me a message to correct me I am referring to the wrong person!). However, if you are looking for more stuff, check it on Montessori for Everyone (they have brilliant and affordable continent kits there.)  I hope this helps. Keep in touch!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where is my name tag gone?

We are moving on slowly but surely  in our literacy program and this week, as part of our effort to teach the children to recognise their own names, we removed the pictures attached to their name tags. Each morning the children are to put their name tag up on the board as they arrive in class. Some of them were puzzled yesterday when they realised that their tags were different. Most of them picked the right one straight away while another few were still struggling a little bit but I think we are on the right track. 

This is what their new name tag look like ....

And this is what the younger kids's tags still look like.... See the progression? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Our Antarctica continent box

As the children grew more and more confident identifying continent shapes, I introduced the children to our Antarctica box.Why starting with this one? Because we were still right in the middle of winter and the box fitted well with our Winter theme in the classroom. This box is definitely not finished and I am trying to gather more plastic animal to match our 3-part cards distinguishing animals living in the arctic world. Children have responded quite well to this new way of presenting a continent. What I used to do in the past was to leave a full box in our geography corner and let the children root though it. I did find the exercise quite upseting as the children were only using it as a treasure box, messing everything and not really learning anything. This year, I decided to introduce the children to the contents of the box gradually. To do so, I used several trays to display the materials. 


We started with pictures of some landmarks. The children used the 3-part cards matching the cards together and noticing what they could see as they went along: water, ice, iceberg, snow, moutains etc... I didnt insist too much on the specific name sof these landmarks as long as they registered distinctively the major traits of the Antarctic landscape.
Then, I added another tray with simple cards representing what goes on in Antarctica. The children were amazed to discover that some small boats need to break the ice in the sea to allow bigger boats to get through. They also had a look at the ice pics used to climb mountains and the special spiked boots required to be able to walk in an icy and slippery environment.
Another time, I introduced a tray with 3 part-cards of animals that can be find in Antarctica. I got all the materials from Montessori for Everyone, laminated them and bound them together.

When the kids were a bit more familiar with these animals, we went look in more details into a certain type of animals: penguins!

This was so much fun to extend the study to other areas of the classroom: books in the circle-time corner, drawing and pre-writing skills area (we did the same activities as last year, see right here) etc... Later on, I added plastic animals. I am still looking for a whale, an octopus, a seal and a star fish to add to our collection. But I'll get there!

This new presentation of my continent box was a success. Having ony a couple of trays set out at a time really made the materials more visible and a lot more inviting to use correctly.

Pinning it down..

If you are following this blog regulary, you know that I love practical exercises. I really do like to rotate them regulary but lately, we got stuck into a rut and i couldnt think of anything new that might engage the children. And suddenly, there it was. Inspiration... I saw this cute pin cushion in Home Focus and I thought that pinning pins onto it would be a great pincer grasp activity. Some of the children are still struggling with holding their pencils properly and obviously require more practice at developing their fine motor skills.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tell me the continents...

Geography is a huge part of our curriculum. Children's queries about the world show that the interest and the curiosity towards geography emerge at early ages. I think it's really important  to encourage children's  curiosity and their enthusiasm for exploring their environment. Geography teaching makes  children more sensitive to their surroundings and to other environments and cultures. Besides, Montessori education helps children develop an understanding of their place in the universe.  In fact, Montessori education is often called a "cosmic education."  To this end, children are presented with the big picture first.  One thing that I like to do early on in the school year is to teach the children the "continents song" at circle time.  And I know some of you, parents, are smiling right now, as many of you have told me that your little ones keep singing the song again and again!! While singing this, I have the continent map in front of me or the globe ( or a laminated map) and I point to the various continents as we sing them. 

Once they have been introduced to the map, I let them practice the names of the continents by using three part cards. The children learn to associate the names of the continents to the shapes and colours. 

Today, the children made their own little folding booklet to bring home. I had prepared the Booklets beforehand. Using the template of the 3 part cards, they reproduced the pattern. This was such a popular activity!! The children were so proud to bring them home! 

Will you be my Valentine?

Love is in the air and for our Valentine activity, I refer you here to the one we did in February 2011 right here. We also made cute little cards and I hope parents will appreciate the work that has gone on in our classroom. All these art activities are a great way to refine pincer grasp skills and enhance concentration skills too!!! 

Snowflakes all around!

As snow has been all around us ( but not with us), we decided with the children to make our own snow flakes (2nd edition this year but who cares? Kids love snow!) I used paint masking tape to draw a snowflake shape on thicker sketching white paper. Then we chose colours to represent winter. The children thought that purple, white and blue would be nice together as they are cold colours... like  the snow!! The children painted over the tape and once it was dried, we removed it carefully.And this is what we came up with: 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear...

Patterning is a very important math skill for preschoolers. While some children achieve mastery of patterning ver quickly and effortlessly, others struggle and it can takes months before they get the "hang of it ". this is why i always look for different games to provide my students with plenty of patterning practice all year long.

At the moment, we are using coloured bears with laminated sheets. I bought the exercises in a local shop and laminated them myself. At first, the children showed no interest whatsoever in the activity. And then all of sudden, it became very popular as they love playing 2 by 2 and go through as many sheets as possible. They even help and correct each other which is also a great teaching moment and opportunity and which enhances their sense of self esteem!