Friday, October 21, 2011

This week......

 This week......

::  we made the most beautiful impressions in natural clay

 :: We worked with those beautiful new wool pumpkins, sorting them into groups
 :: We read the Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
 :: We counted bats
 :: We hammered nails into a pumpkin
 :: We worked on punching out leaves
 ::We transferred spooky spiders from bowl to bowl with tweezers
 ::We were crazy for art
::We worked on reading with the sound baskets

How was your week?  Ours was Spectacular!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How do you spell that?

 Some times I really envy Ms. Wendy.  I don't know if you have ever noticed that she has the loveliest voice and particularly her tone.  It is soft and it commands without much effort on her part.  I watched in awe today as she worked with a group of children and the large moveable alphabet. The following are her thoughts on that working morning.

Some of the second year students at Maple Tree are excited about beginning to work with the moveable alphabet.  The moveable alphabet is cut out wooden letters housed in two special flat wooden boxes with a compartment for each letter.  The wooden letters are the same shape and color as the sandpaper letters. 
There are five of each of the consonants in pink and ten of each vowel in blue.  The children began with familiarizing themselves with where the letters live in the box.  As the teacher asked a child to pick out “a” or name the sound of “t’ the young lady remarked, “I’m learning so many new sounds.”  To begin with the children spelled out simple three letter phonetic objects.  They were very pleased when the could not only identify the first sound of “dog but also the vowel and last consonant and then easily find the letters in the box.  They also chose their won words to spell with great confidence.  Bumblebee was a favorite and also pencil and sea.  With the less phonetic words of their own choosing the correct spelling comes with time.  One first year young man who stopped by to see what we were up to remarked that the “l” looked like a 1.   The moveable alphabet helps the children with the exploration and analysis of their known language.  They can reproduce words with graphic symbols and express their thoughts.

It is amazing to me just how far the children have come already with their reading this year.  Some are deep into the sandpaper letters and some are already past that and working with the alphabet and objects.  I was told that the children were invited to take it out and make their own words at first and then they were given objects that were three letter phonetics and encouraged to spell them.  I love it when we get into this kind of work.  Exciting times!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two little apples, hanging in a tree

At the beginning of the year we do lots of music centred around getting to know our new friends and reconnecting with our old friends.  I have enjoyed meeting new little ones and welcoming back enthusiastic returning students.  With Thanksgiving in mind, this year I have added songs about families and loved ones.
We have also been singing songs with fall themes about acorns, apples and other plants.  This week I will be bringing in some dry seed pods that we can use as shakers to sing along with.
Here are the words to a chant you may have been hearing during apple-picking season:

Two little apples, hanging in a tree.
Two little apples, smiling at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down came the apples!
Mmm - they were good!

~Ms. Susanne

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wool Pumpkins

I am having a love affair with wool right now.  Actually, it's been going on for the last few months.  I am knitting a poncho for my girl and getting ready to wet felt some acorns.  Up until now, I've always been afraid to use it or experiment with.  I must say that when I dyed my first pot of raw wool, I was worried it wouldn't work out but it did!

This post is about wool felted pumpkins that I made in August!  Yes, August. I must be crazy, right?  I know my husband was thinking that: "Pumpkins already?!" he said.  I told him I have been wanting these pumpkins forever for my math shelf and that I could not justify buying them as it was too expensive.  In the end, I really don't know what it cost me to make these as I was already sitting on the wool.  My best guess is about ten dollars for the wool.

I made tiny wool balls from some yarn I had and then rolled them up in the raw wool.  I had to lay out a few layers of the raw wool and then roll up the yarn ball in the wool.  Next, I stuffed the yarn and  wool balls into panty hose and tied each one off.  As you can see from the next picture, I made them in different sizes.

When you get the wool into the hose and are ready to dye it, just put it into a pot of coloured water with a bit of vinegar.  Boil until the water is clear.  When that is done, take the wool balls that are still in the panty hose and throw them into your washing machine.  I have a front loader, so I needed to add a towel and a bit of laundry soap.  I just ran my machine through a regular washing cycle in hot water.

When it was done, I cut the coloured wool balls carefully out of the panty hose.  So, there you have it, perfect orange wool balls ready to be turned into pumpkins.

The last thing I did was use embroidery thread to wrap around my pumpkins to make the lines and give them definition.  I used my sewing needle to go into the middle and just wrapped my way around the pumpkin -- in and out, in and out, etc.  After the pumpkin shape was finished, I added some tiny green stems.  The green wool was in my stash already from a project last Christmas.  I ended up making forty five because I wanted enough to count from zero through to nine.  Crazy I know, but I sooooooo needed that crafty break from those classroom reno's at the time.  I can hardly wait to get them out on our shelf this week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Please Help Me

I find certain things about being a Casa teacher challenging.  I hate to say it but, mostly, it boils down to dealing with parents.  Yes, this is brave (or foolish) of me isn't it!  But, if we are to work together, I feel I must be honest with you.

We are all here to help the children that come through our door each day.  Part of helping that child is letting them do things for themselves.  I know it can be frustrating for your child to come home wet and dirty at the end of their day but it is their day.  It is very normal to feel worried at the beginning of the year when accidents are happening and your child hasn't had them in a long time.  Yes, paint is being spilled and spaghetti is going everywhere and someone always has a snotty nose.

When we choose to do something for a child or correct the job they just did, we are minimizing that child's effort and making them feel small instead of big and confidant.  I heard today from one of the teachers that there was a massive glue spill at the art table and three children worked together to solve the problem all on their own.  This is how it happened...

Someone was making a turkey hat and got frustrated with the glue bottle and took the lid off.  Glue went everywhere.  Another child came onto the scene and said, "Oh, let me put that lid on for you."  While this was happening, another child was waiting with a tissue to wipe up the puddle of glue."  We heard the children talking and one of them said, "Phew, I'm glad that's cleaned up before Ms. Michelle saw it!"
After I heard this, I reflected on it for the rest of the morning and asked the other teachers if I was too tough.  To which they said, "No, someone has to be firm around here and they need and respect that.  Plus, they were quick to step up to the plate and fix the situation all on their own and they were proud of themselves for it."

So, I am saying this: Childen are learning how to eat with a fork and knife here.  They are learning how to care for themselves (i.e., washing hands, wiping themselves in the bathroom, putting their own gear for playground, blowing their nose, washing their face).  They are washing up their own table space after lunch and clearing their dishes.  You would be surprised at how much they do.  Ask them to do it at home.  It is never to early to start good habits.

I am amazed at how much we do for our children, and we are a society that is always in a rush and so we do it for our children instead of waiting for them to do it.  My husband mentioned to me the other night how shocked he was by the number of parents still helping their child get into their hockey gear in Peewee.  These are children that are eleven and twelve years old.  Is it a function of time?  Is it less frustrating to dress the children ourselves?  Velcro has wrecked my life!  It took my son forever to be good at tying his shoes.  My daughter will whine to get out of tying her shoes even though she can do it all on her own very well.  I've asked her teacher to not do this for her.  If we keep doing it for them they will never master it and then become lazy about it.  I was always happy when my son was dirty, I knew he had a great day at his preschool.

Try to bear with us as we are teaching these things to your children and, we know that it can only improve from here.

I am leaving you with this poem by Bud Hadfield.  It was on the door of my classroom in the early days of my teaching and I just recently happened upon it and I thought I would share it with you.  This should be our motto in life.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Can Peace be taught?

I try to take my cues from the children when planning lessons.  They have a way of telling me what is important to them.  One day last week a child came to class wearing a pink anti bullying t-shirt.   One of the children noticed and said:  “Hey he's wearing a pink shirt!”  It was a lovely teachable moment.  I told them that my son has a shirt just like that. We talked about what bullying is and how it can hurt our bodies and our feelings. During circle time I brought out one of my favorite books of all time  entitled Have you filled a bucket today? By Carol McCloud . The book tells us how we all have an invisible bucket that we carry with us and it holds our good feelings.  People fill our buckets by saying and doing nice things.  The book also describes how we can dip from other peoples buckets by doing and saying hurtful things. After I read the book I invited a child to hold a bucket while the other children took turns giving examples of “Bucket filling.”  Some examples they gave were: saying “Hi.”, asking “Do you want to play?” and smiling.  As they gave their examples they put a bean bag in the bucket and they eventually filled up their friends bucket. Another great book is “Do Unto Otters” by Laurie Keller. It gives great kid friendly definitions of words like cooperation, and consideration.  It talks about what it looks like to be friendly and when to say “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me.”  Laurie Keller writes about  this in a fun humorous manner. 

 I learned about the book “Have you filled a bucket today?”  from my son Parker.  He was seven years old at the time. One night after Parker had gone to bed he came downstairs and asked if I would come upstairs to talk.  I went upstairs and  he wrapped his arms around my neck and said “I love you.” Then he said “Do you want me to tell you why I said that?”  I  said “OK” over the lump in my throat and he said: “Because people are like buckets and we fill them up by saying good things.”  I asked him where he learned about filling buckets and he said his principal read a story about it to them.

Parker has autism and before that moment he had never told me that he loved me.  Often children with autism need very direct instructions about what to say or do in a given situation.  It had probably never occurred to him to tell me he loved me even though he felt it. To be fair, it  never occurred to me to tell him that Moms like hearing their kids say “I love you” once in awhile.

Just like we teach our children the alphabet, or numbers or even how to tie their shoes we have to teach them how to live comfortably and respectfully within their families and  community.  Sometimes just our good example is enough and sometimes they need explicit instructions. Have you Filled a Bucket Today? gives very explicit instructions.   ~Ms. Melanie

This month one Lucky winner will receive a copy of, "Have you filled a bucket today" and "Do unto Otters".  Please be sure to leave a comment in the comments section.  The winner will be selected by random draw at the end of the month.  Good Luck!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And the September Winner is......

Congratulations to the Wool Fairy and her family they are the winners of our September giveaway.  Please email me to make arrangements to pick up your set of pencil pots and pencil crayons!  The winner is selected by random drawn.  Check back on Monday to see our giveaway for October!