Sunday, October 4, 2015

No Prep, Seasonal, ENGAGING Math Activities!

This week, I met them all of my students where they were at with  fun, seasonal activities that took zero prep time and hit sorting, patterning, counting to 10 and one-to-one correspondence!

I have these patterning trays from Lakeshore Learning, and I love them because they keep the materials contained and in a line. Patterning on a table or on the floor is fine, but often pieces roll around or get too jumbled together. I have a pattern pocket chart too, but I haven't got that out yet this year. Somehow, adding a tray or pocket chart just makes the activity that much more intriguing for a child!

I try to do my interventions during free choice time. I either make an activity for a specific learning center, or I create an activity at a "play" center. This time, I made the activity specifically for Math Center. I started out by inviting one friend to Math Center. She hadn't yet picked a center and no one was at Math Center yet, so it was perfect. She leapt at the chance to play one-on-one with me and I quickly pulled out my pattern tray and these Autumn Harvest Mini Cut-Outs from Creative Teaching Press.
They are adorable and my little friend was instantly hooked. We quickly sorted them into three piles - pumpkins, leaves and corn. We've been talking about the signs of Fall, and she noticed right away that the cut-outs were of seasonal items/colors, so we had a fun conversation about that as we sorted about 1/2 of the pack - there are 150 pieces in a pack.

Next we I showed her how I made a simple AB pattern. She quickly started her own pattern, and I noticed that she started right to left and from the bottom up. Instantly I know that I need to do more top-bottom, left-right print concept activities with her. I make a quick note to check the rest of my kiddos as we go along to determine if this needs to be a small group intervention for just a few kiddos or if a whole group lesson and activities are needed.
 She was eventually able to successfully create AB and AABB patterns!

The patterning sustained her interest for about 15 minutes, and honestly she would probably have been happy to keep going, but I had another activity I wanted her to try. I pulled out these large Autumn Leaves Cut Outs, also from Creative Teaching Press. This was an almost zero-prep activity. I had taken a Sharpie and write the numbers from 1-10 on some of the yellow leaves - literally about 30 seconds. Then I brought out my bag of mini acrylic pumpkin pieces (a Hobby Lobby find) and she set to work counting them and placing them onto the leaves. She has great 1-1 correspondence, but is wobbly on number recognition after 5.

By this point, it was time to clean up and switch centers. For the next round of centers, as I suspected, there were so many kids wanting to come to Math Center, that some had to be turned away. I limit my groups to 4 kiddos at a time so I can give each one some one on one attention. But don't worry, the others rotated in over the course of the week! The beauty of this center is that I can keep it up and running as long as I need to for everyone to have a turn, and even once I move on, the kiddos can do this themselves after having done it just once with me!

Again we started with the mini cut outs, and no one had any trouble with the sorting. Once we started to use our pattern trays however, I quickly realized that my group was on 3 different levels. I had two that were ready to move on to AABB and ABC patterns, one that could create an AB pattern but had trouble with AABB and one that could complete an AB pattern that I started, but couldn't create his own. Luckily, these materials are so open-ended that I was able to meet all of their needs at the same time!
This sweetie created an AABB pattern and maintained it almost to the very end of the tray!

This kiddo could create an AABB pattern and maintain it for 1 line, but had trouble carrying it over to the next row.

Once each child had filled their tray with patterns a few times, we moved on to the counting activity. Again, they were on different levels with two of them ready for 6-10, while the other two were still working down at 1-5. Not a problem, and I could concentrate on my lower 2 as I just kept an ear turned towards the other two in case they needed help.

Creative Teaching Press sent me these cut outs for free in exchange for trying them out in my classroom and blogging about it. I love using simple, fun, seasonal materials like this to create engaging centers that don't break the bank (all of the cut outs shown in this post are on sale for a steal right now!) The best thing is that the thick paper they are made of stands up well to use in a center - I know we'll be using these again next year and I didn't even have to laminate them!

Hopefully this gives you an idea or two about using decor items in your classroom for other purposes than bulletin boards! Have a great week!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fire Safety Math & Literacy (FREEBIE!)

It's Fire Safety time! I think the highlight of October is our visit from the firefighters. They come out and show us that old fire safety video (someone needs to work on getting them funds for a new video - that thing has been around since I was in grade school!) and then we troop outside to look at their fire truck, and, if we're lucky, they spray the hose for us! Of course the kiddos love it, but I have to admit, taking an hour out of the day to watch firefighters is NOT a hardship for me!

We do a lot of Fire Safety themed activities and I try to incorporate it into every facet of our day. 
My Fire Safety Math & Literacy pack has 10 Math Activities and 4 Literacy Activities - including 2 Emergent Readers! There's two freebies for you in the Preview too:
Just check out my Fire Safety Math & Literacy Pack and download the Preview for your freebies!
And a Fire Safety Rhyming Match-Up! These are great for center time activities!

I'll be bringing out my Fire Safety themed Ten Frames too:

We also get out our squirt bottles in our sensory table and spray out the fake fire (made of shredded yellow, red and orange paper). This year I'll also be adding some flame cut outs with letters and numbers so they can practice letter and number recognition while putting out "fires".

Our squirt bottles also come in handy for painting fire - I fill them with red, orange and yellow paint and they use them at our art easel.When they've covered the paper we let it dry and then cut it out in the shape of a flame!

At recess we practice Stop, Drop and Roll and our playground becomes a house on fire as the "firefighters" race to put it out with their "hoses" made from 1 foot lengths of white cotton rope. The rope isn't long enough to trip on or wrap around anyone, and since its soft cotton, it can't be used as a weapon ;P

I'll try to get some pictures this week, and share with you soon so you can see!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Getting The Most Out Of "Play"

This week marked our 4th week of school. While I still have a few that like to test the boundaries, for the most part everyone has adapted remarkably well to our schedule, rules and procedures. We play well together and clean up without complaint, so I went ahead and opened some new centers.

We now have the following free choice centers available for the students to choose from: Painting Easel, Blocks, Puzzles, Play Dough, Lego Table, Dramatic Play, Puppets, Reading, Listening, Games, Math, Sensory Table and Pet Center.

When I opened Math Center for the first time, I sat back and took some observational notes as 4 students chose to play with our Learning Resources Three Bear Family Counters. We've been doing a lot of sorting and patterning in our math lessons, plus learning about shapes, so I wanted to see what they would do when set free with these counters.
First, they sorted by color - this was great because it meant each student had their own set of bears so there was no fighting over them!
 Next they started sorting by size. One little sweety paired up a Mama Bear with each Baby Bear!
They also formed their bears into the shape of a circle - at this point they put their bears together so they could indulge in some cooperative pretend play.
While I watched, one sweetie decided to count her bears and successfully counted to 22! During our two center rotations, I observed 5 children successfully sort the bears by color, and 3 of them then sorted successfully by size by their own initiative. Another child has one-to-one correspondence down, but skips 20 when counting (she went from 19 to 21 every time). All of this is invaluable information for my records and report cards, and I didn't have to do any assessing to get it!

We also opened Game Center this week with some board games from Learning Resources.
I was sent All Around The Playground and Picnic Party to try out in my classroom in return for an honest review.
The thing that I LOVE about both of these games is that there are different levels of play. Right now we're working on number, shape and color recognition and one to one correspondence so the Level 1 play is right up our alley. As the year progresses and we start building our skill set, these games will be able to advance with us!
The All Around The Playground game was an instant hit with my kiddos. They loved the little people and the colorful gameboard. This one has a two-sided spinner for game play. We chose to use the side with shapes and colors as we are really working on basic 2D shape recognition. There are merry-go-rounds on the board too, so if you land on a special space, you get to take a ride! This was cause for lots of giggles! This game is for 2-4 players and is for ages 3 and up, although my 4 1/2 year olds were sufficiently challenged just by Level 1 play. On the other side of the spinner are numbers 1-10, so it would be great for reinforcing numbers and one-to-one correspondence too! The kids enjoyed this game so much that Game Center wasn't empty all week! The game play is simple enough that they could play it by themselves after a few times playing with me.
Picnic Party is also for 2-4 players, and is aimed to the 4+ age group. This one was a little trickier for some of my kiddos, but with adult support they still enjoyed the game. The Level I play requires students to compare numbers - which some of my kiddos could do easily and others found a bit tricky. For the ones that need help, I will add some unifix cubes next time so they can build their number towers and compare them.
This game was also great for number recognition - which is also a skill some of my littles really need to work on. The players each get a stack of cards and then flip over the top card. Whoever has the largest number gets to move that many spaces. The kids enjoyed the ant tokens and the fun picnic themed gameboard. I think in another month or two they will be able to play this game on their own, but for now either myself or my aide play with them to assist.

We also introduced our Pet Center this week! I created a Classroom Pet: Hermit Crabs pack that we are using with great results. It includes a pocket sort for foods that hermit crabs can and can not eat (which led to great nutrition discussions!) as well as vocabulary cards, diagrams, a daily care check list, graphic organizers, observation journal, emergent reader and more!
I love having pets in the classroom, but I want to make sure that they're an actual learning experience for my students and not just taking up space. I also wanted them to have something constructive to do when visiting Pet Center, which cuts down on behavior problems.
Each student has their own observation journal and can add to it whenever they visit the center.
The emergent reader is a bit high for my pre-k students, but through repetition and by using the picture clues, they can "read" most of the pages on their own now. I also have a few books at this center, but I'm ordering more from Amazon this weekend so I'll have a selection of fiction and non-fiction books about hermit crabs and guinea pigs that the kids can read to our pets!

Our last activity of the week was creating a card and police officer masks for "Thank a Police Officer Day" which was yesterday. I delivered our card and a picture of the class with their "masks"and the sergeant at the desk was very appreciative. He told me he'd display them in the briefing room so all of the officers can see them. Activities like this are very important for my students since I teach in a Title I school. Many of our students have relatives in jail, and often times, police are seen as the enemy. By doing activities like this, and having police officers come visit and read stories, I hope to show my students that the police really are the "good guys" and there's no need to fear them.

 The template for our police officer masks came from this pack by Dr SAM on TpT!
I had more to share, but the family is calling me to watch a movie - and I'm trying to be better about dividing my time between work, family and this blog! I hope you have a great Sunday night and a terrific work week!
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