Tag Archives: hands-on learning

anything you want


some of our creations displayed with easel paintings

I’ve been sick for almost 2 weeks now…but I feel almost human again!  Last week I opened our Creation Station.  This is basically a totally free art center with a variety of materials for them to use.  I always wait until after Christmas to open this area because most of the children I get at the beginning of the year have not idea how to use basic materials such as scissors, glue, markers, hold punches, etc.  So the beginning of the year is spent learning how to use and manipulate various art tools before I just let them at it!

My kids weren’t sure what to do…which is normal…and somewhat amusing.  “What do you want me to do?”  “What should I make?”  “What can I use?”  And so on.  My answer is always the same, “Anything you want.”  And with that, they’re off.

Some of my kids can spend close to an hour just cutting and gluing…sometimes even throwing it away when they’re done.  Which always makes me wonder…as rare as it is.  Some spend only a few minutes making their creation…and are insanely proud.  But either way, I see their concentration and their joy in the process.  And it makes it more then worth it…and they’ve asked for it everyday since.  🙂

where we left off and other updates


The last time I posted I was talking about our valentine grandparents tea and that went off without a problem and everyone had an awesome time!  Even Ms. Lezze-Faire made an appearance and seemed to enjoy herself!  The children made little flowers with sucker centers for the favors…we had enough left over to give each teacher one!

The rest of that school year went fairly well with the majority of my students being more then ready for Kindergarten.   That left me feeling good for what this year would bring.  But, being the buzz kill she is, Ms Lezze-Faire came to me literally days before school was to start and told me that I basically sucked at doing my job.

She said that a certain parent (and that parent’s kindergarten teacher) had complained that the child wasn’t ready for kindergarten because I hadn’t done my job properly.  She said they had complained that the child couldn’t sit still for long periods of time and couldn’t color correctly.  She said this was due to the fact that I didn’t do worksheets in my class.

Um, hello?  Are you serious?  First of all, if the only 2 complaints they had were about attention span and coloring, I think that’s pretty good.  Secondly, some children will always have a hard time sitting for long periods, especially if what is being done doesn’t hold their attention.  Thirdly, who cares if they aren’t perfect at coloring?  It’s coloring…not brain surgery.  Duh.

So anyway, she told me that I had to do worksheets or that she’d fire me and find someone to replace who would do them.  So there.  That’s what I got 2 days before school started.  Fine.  I’ll do what I have to do to keep my job.  No one wants to be out of work in this economy.  So i started scouring the internet for paperwork I liked…which wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Let me be clear on this:  I am not against paperwork…I’m against worksheets.  They are different.  I don’t like the thought of children tediously tracing something or counting pictures and circling a number.  I don’t like the thought of children drawing a line to match two pictures on a paper.  It’s just too passive…and doesn’t really engage the child in learning.   I have no problem if the children are doing an activity and recording their findings (that’s what real scientists do after all).  I also have no problem with my children creating books and filling in letters or stamping a certain amount of items or something similar.  So for a lot of my paperwork, that’s how I set it up…the children are simply doing a hands-on activity and recording what they find (much easier with number activities…letters, not so much).  It has seemed to work so far.

This year I have 10 children showing up consistently.  I have 12 on my roll.  I only have 3 girls…and lots of wild crazy boys!  Sooo….I’m trying to find ways to keep them interested and engaged…which is not as easy as it sounds.  So far, I have done okay…but I think I can do better.

Mid year progress reports have just gone out and most of my kids are right where I want them to be…so I’m happy.  I’m hoping they continue to progress over the next 5 months…and hopefully the ones who are behind start to catch up.  Now that I know where they are all, I know who to spend more time with and what area they need extra support.  I look forward to telling you all stories of our days together…it feels good to be back.

be mine


As I was looking for valentine activities on my favorite blogs and websites I came across this post from Kristin at Preschool Daze.  I saw it and immediately thought, “I have got to do that in my class!”  And so we did – and the children loved it!  I’ve done this before (with red and yellow) but I’ve never painted as a group on large piece of paper before (and while we don’t have a large rectangle table where a lot of children can be at once, I used a circle table and had 4-5 children paint at once).In the past each child gets their own piece of large paper to paint – but I loved this community painting!

After reading that post I went on and found this post (from last year) and more recently this post!  You can only imagine my excitement!  So after cutting our pink paper into hearts and savaging around the school for anything and everything we could use to make our own valentines, i dedicated a table in our room to this purpose!  Unfortunately this area was only open for 1 week (it took me awhile to gather up items and such) but the children immediately fell in love with creating valentines!  Next year this will be an activity for the first two weeks in February!  I adored seeing the children so excited and creating such wonderful valentines for everyone they love!  🙂  Who could ask for more?

red yellow orange


So this week we’re learning about orange.  Yes, we are still in our farm theme – but it’s fall so I put this mini unit into the mix.  This past weekend I made a batch of yellow and a batch of red playdough.  As you’ve probably guessed, we are mixing the two together to get orange.  I give each child a little ball of yellow and a little ball of red and just let them play – most mix the colors, a few choose not to.  However, the color is coming out more of a red-orange then a true orange.  I should have made a batch and a half of yellow and a half batch of red because as it stands now the red is overpowering the yellow.  Oh well, I’ll have to mental-note that for next year.

Another activity we did was I put a squirt of yellow and a squirt of red paint into a small zip-lock sandwich baggie, sealed it, and gave one to each child to squish around.  After a bunch of manipulation we discovered that the two colors mixed and made orange!  Some children told me they already knew that would happen – but I could tell that for a lot of them it was a new discovery!  I loved the looks on some of their faces when they saw the color changing!

One of the last activities we’ve done so far this week is painting with yellow and red.  I put some red and yellow on a large piece of white construction paper and give them a paintbrush.  Almost every child mixed their paints and painted until their entire paper was covered in orange!  Then, when their painting was finished I put a strip of paper in the middle that read “Red + Yellow = Orange” – which made the kids excited because they had a “real” math problem on their paper!  (We had talked about the “+” and “=” signs as a group beforehand when we did the paint in the baggies and I wrote it on the board)

So far, a good start to our week!  🙂

counting fish


Well, I’ve been sick for a few days now…to be honest, I’ve been waiting for it to hit – and it finally did on Friday!  For some reason I always manage to get sick within the first month of school – and it was no different this year!  I think this is the worst cold I’ve had in months!  I don’t remember feeling so bad in a long time!  But today there was some semblance of normalcy back in my life and I didn’t feel like death warmed over all day – so that was good.

This morning we did some goldfish cracker sorting to go along with our ocean theme.  We sorted them by color, and then colored in a graph to record how many of each color we had.  Then we talked about what color they had the most of and what color they had the least of.  I got through about half the class today and they all did really well!  Afterward I let them eat their crackers – and this was of course their favorite part!

Well, this is it for my little update – maybe a longer post will come when I feel a little better (and less tired)!  For those of you who are back at school – good luck with your new classes – and have fun!  🙂

my scientists


We’ve been low this week – and (shock to me) it’s actually been going really, really well so far!  The children have been very involved in their work (I call play time work time when I’m in class) this week – so the noise level has been brought down a couple notches (thank God!).

Today Ms. Bennet started our sink/float experiment.  I first talked about it and demonstrated it to the class.  I had a few different objects and we guessed if we thought they would sink or float then we tested our hypothesis to see if we were right!  The children enjoyed this a lot!  Then I had a small tub of water and some more objects on our science table for the children to experiment with during choice time.  Due to the fact that I apparently “need” to send paperwork home, I found this sink/float paper (scroll down to the last page of the PDF file) for the children to record their findings on.  Ms. Bennet sat at the table and helped them.

While I do this experiment every year, this is the first time I had the children record their findings.  Instead of having them draw or write what objects were – I had small pictures of each item (I made from clip art) that they glued in each box.  This seemed to work well – but it was a very slow process!  I was surprised by how good they were at guessing what would happen to each object!  We will definitely be doing this for the rest of the week!  Or until everyone who wants a turn has had one – and it looked like they all wanted to try!  🙂

how long?


If you read my post from yesterday, you know how frustrated I was with my classes behavior.  This morning at circle time I had a talk with them about how they are big boys and girls and it’s their job to follow the rules and listen at school.  Then, instead of us (the teachers) going over the rules – I had them take turns telling me the rules.  I don’t know if it was the talk or the fact that we had 5 less kids today – but finally – after days of frustration – we had an almost great day!  YAY!  I am so happy!  🙂

Today we did a math/science activity that the children were really excited about.  We talked about how big things are  and how we measure using a ruler or measuring tape.  Then we talked about how we could use other items to measure with – like hands, feet, blocks, or in our case, unifix cubes!  I have a bunch of plastic ocean animals and I took out a few and asked the children to guess how many cubes long we thought the animal was.  After I took a few guesses, Ms. Bennet showed the children how to snap the cubes together until we had a line of cubes as long as the animal.  Then we counted the cubes and compared our guesses with the actual amount.

Then I laid out our container of unifix cubes, 4 plastic ocean animals, a couple pencils, and an ocean animal measuring paper I made to record their data.  I showed the children how to use the paper to record their data and told them that only two children at a time could work because it was a small table.  I also put out a sentence strip with numbers written on it to help them out with writing their numbers.  I made sure I sat very near the table to help any children that didn’t feel like they were ready to tackle this on their own (there were quite a few – but I expected that)!

In the end the children really enjoyed working on this activity and I told them that they did the kind of work a real scientist would do!  They were excited to take home their papers and show their parents how they wrote numbers (most for the very first time)!  And I was excited to see them so excited about learning!  We will keep this activity out until everyone who wants to has had a turn!

new approach


Okay, so I need to send “paperwork” home so the parents “can see what their child is learning each day.”  A quote from the meeting.   Because God forbid a parent interact with their child through games, songs, books, outings, etcetera to find out what they know…God forbid they actually be “parents”.  (sigh)  Don’t get me started.

Back to the topic at hand – paperwork (as some would say, worksheets).  As you know – I pretty much hate them and don’t feel like they belong in a developmentally appropriate preschool learning environment.  But I must do what I have to so that I may keep my job.  But I will do it on my own terms and in my own way – it’s time to get creative!

I’m not against all paperwork.  I just want that to be made clear.  I believe in “appropriate worksheets”.  For example, a data recording sheet for a science experiment – perhaps recording what was magnetic and what wasn’t.  You get the idea.  I’m against repetitive tracing or drawing a line from one rhyming picture to another – etcetera.

The problem is I need more appropriate worksheets – for all areas of learning – and I don’t know where to find them.  Or, perhaps I can make them on my own if I had a good idea.  I would appreciate any ideas or perhaps teacher websites or free printable sights any of you might know of that has the kind of stuff I’m looking for to help me out.  Something that can get the children more involved but still be “paperwork” to send home.  Thanks!