Thursday, September 24, 2009

cicadas ?!

Two lovely but deceased creatures captured everyone's attention and sparked the school year's first book making project. Examining the cicadas with a magnifying glass, each part of the insect is colored and pasted into the book with its matching name.

Science lessons in the classroom are meaningful and vibrant when they grow from daily experiences. After a while, children look forward to each day with anticipation, wondering what new discovery will be made or what question will be answered.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back to School

I'm always amazed how the first day of school always brings the appropriate weather. Suddenly the mornings are crispy, the afternoons are sunny and warm and the darkness of the evening creeps in earlier each day. As you can see, the children are already preparing for the fall apples. Not shown here, but shown in one of last year's posts, is Mrs. T's apple matching activity for several varieties. Many of the children already know the names of at least 5 different apples. Drying prints of apples cut both crosswise and lengthwise cover every horizontal space in the art corner.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

a little Jackson Pollock

I walked into my daughter's home 2 weeks ago and spied this painting above her fireplace. Admiring its flow and colors, I was surprised to hear that her 3 1/2 year old son had painted it.

She prepared him by showing him some Pollock paintings at . Click on Shimmering Substance 1946, Autumn Rhythm 1950, Number 7 1951, and Convergence 1952. They are good examples of his drip style. Then she showed him a video of Jackson Pollock painting at . Do a search for Jackson Pollock action painting, then click on Pollock Painting (1950). I must warn you, though, the video shows Pollock with a cigarette in his mouth. There doesn't seem to be one of him without it. But the video is important to stress the free style. In it he tells of using no preliminary sketches and the freedom to let the painting evolve and change. Nothing is regarded as a mistake. Just the way a young child naturally paints.

Then, just as Pollock worked outside, my daughter laid a fresh canvas out on the lawn. She dressed little Matty in an apron and old rain boots. Using little plastic flip top bottles of craft acrylics, she showed him how to drip and squeeze and spray out the paint. He chose colors and got to work. At a moment when her attention was directed away, he swooshed his hand through the paint, creating what artists call a "happy accident". Then he placed some dried bits of flowers on the wet paint and declared his work completed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the portrait artist

Of course, school has ended and the summer session is on. But this happened just after Fair Day. One of the treats given by PoDS was the presence of an artisit who tirelessly drew a portrait of every single child in the school. Each child took their turn sitting in front of her as she drew child after child. The scene inspired one of our young men to do the same. His classmates were happy to sit for him. It's always a renewing affirmation to see children of this age (five and six years) with enough confidence and minimal experiences to be unafraid of the outcome or the criticism of others. It's equally pleasing, then, to see how uncritical and accepting the class was with his efforts!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

money money money

Here are two activities that we used to help teach about money. Our money stamps are kept on a tray that shows their matching coins, their values and names. I make up little books with an amount written on each page. The children love stamping the appropriate coins on the page.
The next picture shows the money game. From midyear until the last day of school, it proved to be fun and challenging. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters are separated into compartments in a tray. In the center is one dollar coin with a small booklet showing various coin equivalents. To make the booklet, I used the money stamps to show that two nickels equal one dime, two dimes and one nickel equal one quarter, etc. A child throws one dice then takes that number of cents. For example, if the dice shows a five, the child may take one nickel or five pennies. As coins are accumulated they should be exchanged for coins of higher value. The goal is to have four quarters, which are then exchanged for the dollar coin. The first to get the dollar coin is the winner. Since this is mostly a game of luck, all of the players have a fair chance of winning. In our classroom, children of all levels enjoyed this game. They get great practice with counting, addition, counting by fives and tens and recognizing the coins and their values.
And probably the most important lesson learned in this type of game is sportsmanship. Initially, a few children would get distressed upon losing the game. A teacher or a sympathetic classmate would sit with the players to help them keep track of their turns, use the little book of coin equivalences and remind them to exchange smaller coins toward the goal of quarters. Because of the luck factor with the dice, cooperation between players and peers is fair. In our class, the children seemed to realize this themselves, as there were many happy games with helpers nearby.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Only one more week of school. I don't like to think about it. I'm going to miss every one of the children in our class. Thinking back to the first weeks of school last September, it's hard to imagine that these are the same children. We've seen them mature into responsible students, develop their skills in reading and math beyond expectations and we've enjoyed the blossoming of their very varied personalities. I can't think of a better or more interesting group of people with which to spend my time.
These last weeks have been a surge of activity. Bead chains are being recounted, spelling quizzes are requested, the garden is still being planted and dug and finger paintings are produced. All this to the tune of Raffi's Like Me and You, often heard sung in the background. And the whole school seems to have picked up Y A Un Rat, the little French song that the class sings.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fair Day

Thanks to PoDS ! The children had a wonderful Fun Fair Day last week. Here are some pictures of them enjoying the bean bag toss with Holly Jolly, the balloons she created for them and thanks for the popcorn, the pizza, the ice cream, the beautiful portraits drawn of each child, the face painting and the prizes for everyone. And a big thank you from all of the teachers for their "prize" and the delicious lunch this week. We are all looking forward to the show and picnic coming up next week.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

After showing the class comparisons of the pink tower and the brown stair, several children came up with their own.

Subtraction using the fractions is a popular activity.

How many cups make a pint? How many half cups make a cup? We are finding out.

A few weeks ago we read two books on Amelia Earhart. The children liked hearing about her independent personality and her busy youthful life. Some made their own Parts of an Airplane book by tracing the plane on our light table.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We've been talking about India lately. Using these little factual books that also show how to draw the animal, many of the children are drawing tigers and Indian elephants. They have a kurta to try on and and a child-sized turban and sari to wrap onto themselves. We have Hindi numbers to practice and stories to read. We smelled some Indian spices and ate some mango.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We did get back in the garden last week, ridding it of practically all those pesky weeds. The peas, lettuce and radishes have suddenly grown with all this rain. As soon as it dries a bit we'll be back to digging compost holes and planting more seeds. The children feel really good seeing the result of their work. They are careful with the baby plants, taking care to point out what is growing to children from the other class. They treat every pill bug, worm and centipede with care. Last week one boy cautioned his classmates to be gentile with the bugs by stressing several times, "They are defenseless!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The children didn't get to work in the garden last week, but hopefully, they will tomorrow. Meanwhile, some of the children have been interested in planning road trips with the help of our Highlights highway map of the U.S. Others have been exploring the properties of magnetic attraction between metals, other magnets and through objects. Yet others are excited about solving 4 X 4 KenKen puzzles.
Mrs. T. has taught the whole class a lovely song about global living. Each child has worked on flags representing the 24 countries in the song.
Today we talked about India; the foods, the Hindi language and its influence on our language, numerical system and culture. Then we shared a mango.
In the next few days we'll talk about some of the animals of India, try some of the clothes of India and hear about some of the customs of India.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The radishes are growing. . .

and so are the weeds. We're not certain if the lettuce seeds have sprouted or if we just have a zillion new little weeds. We'll wait and see. E.W. is holding one of the garden's residents. The children were happy to get back out in the garden after so many days of rain and wetness. We used the rainy days to plant pea seeds in a glass inside our classroom. They have already sprouted, letting us see the root growing downward and the stem growing upward. Yesterday, they grew another inch. The first leaf was unfolding today. We also have a radish, a carrot and an onion planted inside glass tubes, hoping to see how they will develop under the ground.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Between the garden and the fence is a small area where the children can use shovels to dig holes. We try to respect the worms that we encounter, realizing that they are living creatures and that they help us in the garden. We already used 2 of the holes to hold the compost the class has been collecting from their lunch and snack scraps (fruits, vegetables and egg shells only).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Now it's a garden.

We planted radish and lettuce seeds last week. Then we watered, then hoped for rain and on Friday, it did! Just to see how dense the weeds population was, here's another picture of the weeding process. Without 16 weeders this would have been a much more tedious job.

After raking away the old mulch, each child placed a brick or two to form a path. Here are some of the boys finishing the path by filling it with the old mulch.

We have a bin with 1 Sharpie pen, lots of plastic markers and the seeds. I showed them the seed packets. We saw the long thin lettuce seeds and the little round radish seeds. We read that the lettuce had to be planted 1/4 inch deep and the radishes at a 1/2 inch depth. I wrote "lettuce" on a popsicle stick and made a line 1/4 inch from the end. I did the same for the radish seeds, but with a 1/4 inch mark on it. I put the seeds in little containers to keep them from spilling out. Each child dug a little hole with our tiny cultivator, checked its depth with the popsicle gauge, planted 2 seeds in the hole (just in case) and wrote what was planted on the plastic marker. Each planted 2 lettuce and 2 radish seeds. Now we have a garden full of plastic markers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Finally the weather cooperated and allowed us to begin cultivating the playground garden. We divided the class into two groups; the "dragonflies" and the "caterpillars". The garden isn't big enough for more than 8 children to be digging, raking and planting at the same time. But it's just the right size for the two groups to plant and care for. Today both groups learned how to dig out each weed with its root. And even though they each worked hard, we still have more weeds to pull tomorrow!

sold !

Gone to loving homes are all the beautiful pieces created by the children. I'm glad we have pictures of them. The money PoDS earns through the auction brings some wonderful programs to our school. This fall, they gave us all a memorable Native American experience, then the Lehigh Valley Zoo thrilled us with animals of numerous types. And before school ends for the year, PoDS will host a school-wide festival on our playground.
We give a huge thank you to PoDS and the many parents who attended, bid upon and bought the children's work.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

more for PoDS auction, Friday, April 17

Here is that box that LC was working on. You can see his finished chipmunk popping out of its hole to EW's chipmunk sniffing a flower. JF painted the grass, RM drew the running chipmunk, LW made the sun, JK the bees, ML the snowflakes, TK the sleeping chipmunks, . . . Like most of our pieces, every child in the class contributed to this box. They're quite a team!

Monday, April 13, 2009

PODS auction pieces

Over the last few weeks the children have been occasionally working on these pieces for the PODS auction. Here is LC drawing a chipmunk emerging from its den to warm spring raindrops falling on the grass. Each side of this box has a scene of the chipmunk during each of the four seasons.

EN is shown drawing a detailed bug on the chair. While some painted the sky and grass and clouds, the rest of the class took a turn at drawing another bug crawling about on it. Examining specimens and poring over bug books since the fall gave the class plenty of ideas for this project.

Just click on any of these pictures to see them larger.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

We've finally reached the present day after introducing each and every president in their order. Well, I did cheat, talking about Lincoln out of order to coincide with his birthday. We found out about the pets, the big events from who could vote through inventions to space travel, who had the neatest handwriting, how fast Jimmy Carter could read and presidents' former jobs. The picture shows part of the rows of presidential portraits covering the wall. As you can see, Grover Cleveland was president both before and after B. Harrison, however we didn't have another picture of G.C. Immediatly, our artists got to work on another G.C. portrait. Then, to cap off all of this information, I wrote out the address of the White House and suggested that each child could write a postcard with a question or a comment for President Obama. Here's what some of the children wrote:

Dear Barack Obama, I like your name. Dear Mr. President, I like that you got to be president. Dear Mr. President, How old are you? I am 5 years old. Do you know that you were against Hillary Clinton?

Friday, February 27, 2009

J.K. made use of her snack between bites.

For the past few weeks the children have been painting a stool, boxes and this little chest of drawers for the PODS auction. Here are some of them putting their signatures on the back of it. I'm amazed by the children's fine work.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

insects, reptiles, birds and mammals!

Today Mandy, from the Lehigh Valley Zoo visited the school. From 1 tiny and 3 medium sized carriers, she showed a hissing cockroach, a turtle, a snake and 2 screech owls. Mandy encouraged each child to touch the cockroach's exoskeleton, the turle's shell, the snake's scales and the owl's feather. To introduce the final animal, a mammal, she passed around a piece of camel fur. We were all curious to see what hid in the last carrier. E.W. muttered, "Uh-oh, I think it's a bear." E.N. cooed,"Oh-h-h, she brought a little camel!" No, but it was this sweet bunny. Thank you, PODS, we learned a lot.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

words to live by

Last week two of our students were peeling oranges for snack. One was having difficulty with the task. Mrs. T. overheard one of the children's encouragement to the other: "If you keep on trying maybe you can do it." The response: "Yeah, that's the world; that's the way life is."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

history lessons

We've been reading book after book about our early presidents and enjoying all of them. We made Abe Lincoln's log cabin and some tried drawing him. One of the books showed his signature. Since it was put on our light table, tracing it has been a popular way to practice a little cursive writing.

Today we read a book about George Washington's favorite breakfast. It was too simple to not try it. So here are the hoe cakes frying. Surprisingly, everyone loved them and came back for seconds.
Next week we'll begin learning fun facts about more of our past presidents. What kind of pets did they have? One had two alligators. What did they like to eat? How did they have fun in the White House? How did they help our country?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

snow fun

J.K. shoveling and R.M.'s legs near M.L., H.K. and T.M. putting the final touches on the new playground buddy.
Another avid shoveler.

Friday, February 6, 2009

sweet valentine's day

Montesorian Michelle Irinyi eloquently defends the celebration of Valentine's Day in this post for the North American Montessori Center.
For all of you busy multitaskers, this quote from her post sums it all up. "Valentine’s Day isn’t all about romantic love. It’s about friendship. It’s about the love we share with those around us. It’s about teaching children to care about those around them. "