Tons of Halloween Center Activities!

We are going to be having so much fun the next two weeks! We are hitting our standards hard, BUT in totally playful ways that my students love! Recently Oriental Trading invited me to try out some of their products in my classroom in return for an honest review. Here's what I picked:

Oh my gosh! These little stamps are so cute AND they're perfect for making patterns. As long as you press firmly, they show up great! My little Kats had a great time with them - and although I started off just asking them to make an AB pattern, several of them soon branched out and created AABB, ABB and even ABC patterns on their own! Each pack of Halloween Stampers contains 24 stamps which means even if a cap or two gets left off (it always happens!) you'll have plenty left for centers!

I love, love, love these Shape Spiders! First, they're super easy to put together and come with extra pieces just in case some gets overzealous when peeling off the backing of the stickers. They're made of foam and have a good size magnet - I used hot glue to make sure the magnet stayed put! This is one of my white boards in class and I am the proud artist of the web - I'm actually shocked that it turned out so well since I usually can't draw at all lol! First we used our spiders for shape recognition, and then we used them to practice our positional words! For example, my Kats would have to tell me where the Rectangle Spider is on the web, in relation to another spider, so "The Rectangle Spider is UNDER the Triangle Spider!" They come 12 to a pack, so just 2 packs and I had enough for my whole class to have one to take home to practice positional words with their families!

I also got these Spooky Finger Eye Rings, which of course we're going to be using to find letters in our big books! These are sure to make our Big Book Center a popular center - I love fun things like that can motivate kids so easily! These come with a dozen in a bag, so it's perfect for small groups or center activities!

These Candy Corn Weaving Mats may present a bit of a challenge to my kiddos, but luckily they come with 24 in a pack, so they should last until Halloween. This is a great fine motor exercise, and the paper is sturdy enough that my 2 year old could manipulate it without ripping it!
I am so looking forward to our lesson involving these Peanuts Halloween Gliders! They're very simple to put together, although since my kiddos are 4, I'll be doing it in small group to help out with anyone who gets frustrated. Then we'll hit the cafeteria (after lunch time when the tables are cleared away) and do a measurement lesson. We'll see who can fly their plane the furthest, plus we'll use some giant "monster feet" (I'll be cutting those out of construction paper) to do some nonstandard measuring of the distances!

Our Spider Web Ceiling Decoration was a big hit too! All day long I would hear excited gasps and whispers as other classes passed our door lol! As soon as my kiddos saw it they knew we would be studying spiders this week, and the conversations began immediately. This is big for us, since we're really working on our vocabularies. Anything that can get my kids excited and talking is awesome to me!
Can you tell I'm really hitting patterns hard? In a recent PD on math, one of our specialists mentioned that often times when she has someone who is having trouble in middle school, she brings them way back down to the very beginning with number sense and starts seeing where their gaps are. She stated that most of the time, it turns out that they have trouble seeing and producing patterns, which eventually leads them to lots of trouble in Algebra. These Smiley Face Monster Stickers and Jack O'Lantern Face Stickers are highly motivating, so my kiddos think this is just a fun activity rather than the important math practice it really is!

My absolute favorite part is my Sensory Table though. I colored rice to create our candy corn, then added black beans and dried corn! The various toys are also from OT - like the Halloween Rubber Ducks which come 24 to a package in 4 different colors - perfect for sorting and patterning too! I added some rings and snakes, plus I have some cupcake liners printed with spider webs, and plastic Halloween cups. We'll be cooking up lots of spooky treats! To top the whole thing off, I sprinkled a little bit of pumpkin pie spice into the various layers, to make it a multi-sensory experience!

There you have it - lots of ways to incorporate motivation and fun into your centers via Oriental Trading! Most of the items will last more than one year too, so if you pack them up carefully, you'll be able to use them repeatedly! 

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!

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!

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