Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ever Seen 'Innerspace??'

From the humbling expanses of outer space, we now take a trip of smaller proportions.... INSIDE THE BODY !!!
For a long while, the children have expressed a natural fascination with any of the topics dealing with 'the body,' and there are so many things to talk about. A good place to start was at the teeth. Here we go!

All of the children have taken a trip to the dentist by now, and they love to tell about their experiences. When reading "Dr. De Soto" by William Steig, or 'The Crocodile's Dentist,
by Shel Silverstein, they love to identify the dentists' tools, as well as the names of their dentists. "The Tooth Book" by Dr. Seuss has an interesting couple of pages near the end, showing various ways we can damage our teeth if we do not take care of them, such as using them to open bottles or eating massive amounts of baked goods. In freeplay, we featured dominoes in the water table, with toothbrushes for the children to scrub those pearly whites. During after school, we cut out our own teeth, and laminated them so that we could draw 'dirt and plaque' on the teeth with a dry erase marker, and then wipe them clean.

We have discussed the presence of teeth in all animals, and have found photographic evidence that not all animals have or need teeth. Snakes, snails, clams, and birds were some of the ones we noticed. The children know that teeth help us bite, tear, and chew our food, as well as help us speak.

Our letter buddies from Friday were 't' and 'h,' appropriately found at the end of the words 'tooth' and 'teeth.' There are more than a few children who claim to have "teef," so the highlighting of 't' and 'h' will surely prove to be helpful. Below are past buddies:

Our classroom was recently taken over by a strange gelatinous sticky gooey mess, and I'm not talking about the deliciously sweet topping of a Cinnabon! That's right... GAK ATTACK!

We've also been getting ready for drum day, and the children love playing with the drum machine. It makes various percussive sounds, and can be played by hand or with sticks. Our other new toy, the Kidizoom Digital Camera, is a huge hit. It was (relatively) inexpensive, is super durable, holds many pictures, and simple controls. The children use it rather intuitively. I enjoy it because it gives me a break from taking photos. Soon, we can host a gallery show featuring their photographs.

And, while these cutting edge technological wonders are thoroughly entertaining, let us not forget the simple pleasure a light bulb can bring... that's right! LiteBrite! This is a great tool because it's open ended (w
e don't use the pre-made patterns or pictures), allows for experimenting with light (like with a light table), while helping to develop fine motor skills (pincer grip).

That's all for now.
Remember that the school will be closed on (Good) Friday, and we will return on Monday, 3/31. We will have a field trip to the New Victory Theater on April 4.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Picture Perfect Preschool

You'll notice that we have reached the end of our alphabet, posted along the top of the classroom. We have begun to discuss what we call 'letter buddies,' which are two (or three) letters that frequently appear side by side in words and make a special sound. In the same style, during our morning meeting, we discuss a new set of 'buddies' each day, and we have been having wonderful brainstorms where we think of as many words containing the buddies as we can. This is a great precursor for spelling, and we have noticed that many children are eager to attempt to spell words when writing.

At this stage in their development, we allow 'invented spelling.' In the same way that we do not demand that the letters are perfectly formed, we cannot expect them to spell words exactly right, and telling them "Well, there's actually a silent 'e' at the end of that word" can be confusing for them. For instance, one child was spelling 'love,' and after sounding out each sound, had written down "lov." And this is great!! We want to get them excited about letters, words, spelling, and reading without over-correcting them.

We have been rehearsing with Adelaide for our dance performance in April (details forthcoming). We are reviewing our favorite dances from this year, and cannot wait to show off our fancy moves for you.

During extended day, we have been talking about feet. Yes, feet. We looked at all of our feet together and noticed and everyone's looks a little different, but all have the same basic structure. We've talked about bones, joints, nails, and toes, and played a game where we tried to see how many corks we could pick up with our feet and deposit in a box in 2 minutes. Then, one child had an idea for an art project to do with our feet.... and here's a short movie showing how we did it!

Throughout the schizophrenic weather patterns of late, we have been having fun as always on the playground. Although it may be flooded at times, the sandbox frequently transforms into a bake shop, where fresh cakes are produced by the minute, while the jungle gym provides refuge for mama and baby birds, or a platform for steering friends to far off lands.

And picture day was as smooth as butter on a baby's bottom.
The children were very excited to have their pictures taken. Here are some outtakes from the shoot, taken before the photographer arrived. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Crisis of Astronomical Proportions!

Everybody knows that one day, the Sun will cease to produce light and heat, collapsing in on itself, turning Earth into a frozen wasteland. Most scientists predict that this will happen five billion years from now, so you can imagine our surprise when we came into school one day and realized it was happening much sooner than anyone could have anticipated.

We had a great discussion about why our Sun exploded. As it turns out, we had over-stuffed our beautiful star with newspaper, and it could not handl
e the weight. We came up with a few ideas on how to rebuild the Sun, most children suggesting either a smaller Sun or less newspaper. We decided to try the latter option, and if it still did not hang, we would make a smaller one.

We've been talking about recycling lately, and thinking about the activities we've done in the classroom that involved reusing materials that would otherwise get thrown away (shoe box pyramid, appliance box space ship, cork game, paper towel tube telescopes) and realized we could make little space ships out of toilet paper tubes. Check out the bulletin board for the results!

We also have a great new space toy, which many of you may remember from your precious childhood days: the View-Finder!! It seems rather 'old school' now, but the children love looking at the slides.

Another (ongoing) art project we've been working on was truly an open-ended activity: decorate a box (we had plenty of leftovers from Egypt). The children got to choose which materials they wanted to put on the box, and everyone had a chance over the course of several freeplays to add their own piece to the box. We will be hanging it up this week. This ain't no ordinary box!

And...although I was sick, I was informed that the Valentine's Day festivities were enjoyed by all. Here are some pictures taken by Amanda:

Now that we've become so comfortable with the alphabet, the children are really enjoying writing their own stories, or trying to spell out words on their own. This is something they are genuinely excited about, and I cannot tell you how thrilling it is. Many parents have been telling me that the excitement has also been happening at home, so encourage it whenever possible! Here are some photos of your young writers in action:

And finally, I'm sure you heard, but our field trip to the Natural History Museum (or, as some of the children referred to it as, the 'Matchural Mystery Museum') was a lot of fun. Most of us were able to explore the dinosaur halls in addition to the three floors of space exhibits. It's not just for kids, there is some real mind-blowing stuff at that museum, especially the 'Scales of the Universe,' which attempts to convey how small and insignificant we really are.

On that note!