Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Classroom

The new school year begins next week and it's time again to change things up.  Last year's big reveal of a refreshed, painted and rearranged classroom was one of my most viewed posts to date.  It may sound odd, but that fact makes me so proud!  Organization and classroom arrangement has always been one of my favorite parts of being a preschool teacher, so the recognition of my work makes me happy. :)

Check out this year's exciting changes and additions!!

First, the big picture....

And another angle....

And another....

One last view....

In the Dramatic Play area, you can find lots of Waldorf-Inspired fun.  Babies, play silks, kitchen and cleaning tools provide for plenty of imaginative play.  This area helps hone social skills and creates many opportunities for language expression and expansion.

Our Cozy Corner and Circle Time Area is a place for resting, reading, songs and stories.  Each kiddo has a picture frame for art projects to be displayed.
Our perpetual calendar was lovingly made by Elizabeth over at Toadstool Forest.  She even made a special Dust Storm Weather Gnome just for us and our crazy AZ weather!

Items on this shelf are changed out occasionally depending on our monthly focus.  Language, math, building, and much, much more!

Our light table has been relocated and given its own shelf.  Any light table toys can also be taken elsewhere in the classroom, allowing for plenty of expansion and creativity.

I've added an additional shelf to serve as part of our science, sensory, writing, art area.  Activities on this shelf are also rotated monthly.  Our work mats are also kept in this area.

Finally, we have our Safe Place with our Feelings Buddies and our Peace Basket.  The Buddies are part of a curriculum to help children master emotional regulation and our Peace Basket contains items that can be used by one or more child when there are big feelings that need to be worked out.

There it is!  I'm so excited to get started with the new curriculum and sharing all of the amazing activities we'll be doing each month!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Montessori-Inspired on a Budget: Work Mats

As you  may know, Seedlings is a mash-up of my favorite educational philosophies: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio - Waldessorio, if you will.  This year, I am writing a brand new curriculum and adding in even more elements from each of the philosophies I love; especially Montessori as Monkey will be attending Kinder at our local Montessori school.

If you've ever tried to shop for Montessori supplies, you know they don't come cheap, so I have set out to find ways around the large price tag while still filling my classroom with Montessori-inspired elements.  First up: Work Mats.  Yes, I'm aware that in real Montessori schools they are rugs, not mats, but here at Seedlings, they are mats, yoga mats, to be exact.  I couldn't quite afford the $12 per rug, so I opted instead for $9 yoga mats, which I then cut in half to provide just the right amount of work space for my students.

As it so happens, I've also found myself an amazing yoga instructor who will be teaching classes for my students this year, so the mats will also be used for their actual purpose.  In addition, I use the mats during music and movement time to give each child a space to we don't end up falling over each other during our more active periods.  I love classroom elements that can multitask!

Why work mats?  Here are just a few reasons.

- They give each child a protected space in which to work
- They help the children recognize and respect the work spaces of others
- Children can leave work and return to it at a later time without it being disturbed
- They add an element of importance to the child's work
- They are part of a larger rhythm: unroll your mat, choose your work, complete your work, clean up your work, roll up and put away your mat
- And much, much more!

More sneak peaks into our new classroom coming soon!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Literary Summer: Week 7 - Way Out in the Desert

It's our last week of desert fun at Seedlings!  We read Way Out in the Desert by TJ Marsh and Jennifer Ward.  This book is a modified version of the classic song Over in the Meadow.  We get a look at quite a few desert creatures and their little ones and there is even a hidden number on each page of the book just for some extra fun!

After a few weeks of desert adventures, there is one thing I learned - desert themes are HARD!  Unless you really know quite a lot about the flora and fauna of our arid landscape, you may run out of ideas by week three - I know I sure did!  But here is a quick look at our arts and crafts for the week:

Hummingbird Garden - 
stamped with scrubby sponges, poppy seed centers and a clip-art hummingbird.

Bubble Wrap Gila Monsters -
I LOVE these guys, how awesome are they? Seriously!  And so simple.  Just paint your bubble wrap, press onto your paper, lift and voila!

Hand Print Tarantulas - with lots of eyes. :)

I'm keeping this one short because I'm working night and day to prep the classroom for the upcoming school year.  I'm so excited about the changes in store, sneak peek coming soon!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Literary Summer: Week 6 - Desert Night, Desert Day

This week, we read Desert Night Desert Day by Anthony Fredericks.  This story shows the activities of a few nocturnal and diurnal desert creatures through rhyming text and adorable illustrations.

Aside from learning the new vocabulary words 'nocturnal' and 'diurnal' we had fun with a few activities and games:

Sandy Slime
I originally saw this posted here, but set the idea aside because I didn't have any sand sitting around.  After remembering that I had some fine white craft sand in my garage, I decided to give it a try.  It turned out wonderfully sandy and very, very stretchy!  Maybe not exactly like the sandy desert, but still awesome!
Very, very, VERY stretchy!!!

Did you know that Elf Owls live in old woodpecker holes in Saguaro Cacti??  And you can make a tasty owl snack so you don't forget.  We just used bread, but you can also use bagel thins like they did over on Primary Learning Log when they made their owl snacks....they fed their owls grapes, I love that!!

We learned this week that javelina have very poor eyesight, but they use their ears to make up for that.  We used our 'javelina ears' all week and tried to hear lots of different sounds throughout our day.

Need a song that teaches something in a very fun way?  Billy Jonas probably has a song for you!  We LOVE his song Nocturnal to remind us of some of the sounds we might hear from animals who are awake at night.

Desert Tortoise Art
These guys can live over 100 years!!

More desert fun next week!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Our Literary Summer: Week 5 - Cactus Hotel

Week 5 of our literary summer started off our Desert Theme.  We read Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson.  The story teaches us all about the Saguaro cactus, its growth cycle and the native desert wildlife that call the cactus home.

We had lots of fun delving into our desert theme.  Even though I've lived in Arizona for over 7 years, this is the first time I've done a unit on the desert and thus far, it has been quite educational!

Play dough snakes - and other desert creatures

Play dough cactus, ok, this one is mine, but I was so proud! :)

Saguaro cactus art - showing roots and fruit we learned about in our story

We even found a kind neighbor who let us visit her home and observe her cactus - not a Saguaro, but still super cool to see up close!

Absorption experiment to demonstrate how roots work...

And the really awesome finished product!

We even made some tasty Bread Snakes just for fun!


I can't wait for more desert fun next week!!

Our Literary Summer: Week 4 - Yes, Let's

I'm a little late posting about the fourth week in our summer literary adventure.  We were super-busy doing family things after Daddy returned from 12 days out of town.  Our fourth book was Yes, Let's by Galen Goodwin Longstreth.  
The story follows a family on a fun day trip into the woods and shows, in very detailed illustrations, everything they did that day: swimming, picnicking, hiking, etc.  I wasn't able to take pictures of many of the activities we did this week, but here's a quick look at how we spent our time.

Underwater Art - watercolor and foam shapes

Hand Print Boats

Going on a Bear Hunt from Greg and Steve's Kids in Action CD

I'm Packing a Picnic Lunch Game
This is a fun memory game to play with the class.  Sit in a circle and start off by saying, "I'm packing a picnic lunch, and I'm taking sandwiches (or any other food)".  The child next to you says, "I'm packing a picnic lunch, and I'm taking sandwiches and (they choose a food).  Continue around the circle with the next person repeating what the previous people have said and then adding on.  If you get around enough times, things will start to get very silly and giggly!!

And the best part of our week, playing picnic!!  The children set out Play Silks and pretend to be all of the places pictured in the story.

Easy Peasy!

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