Aug 31, 2011

John's First Day pictures

John started his first day of pre-school yesterday. I was pretty nervous about dropping him off. I knew that he would be totally fine but I didn't know if I would have a major breakdown in the middle of his classroom. Thankfully John had absolutely no issues with me leaving him (hmmmm...maybe he is tired of being around me?!) and I didn't cry at all. I was surprised that I held it together.

Anywho, I wanted to share his 1st day of school pictures. I saw the idea all over pinterest (to which I am totally addicted) to do the 'favorites' on the picture. I am glad I knew I wanted to do this before hand so I knew to take some pictures with John framed to the side.

I also saw lots of cute pictures of the kids holding printed signs for their age or grade. I didn't get my act together for that one and figured it would be tough to get John to take a picture holding something we would need to read. So instead I gave him a white magnetic board we had and told him to hold it. (he chose to get on the scooter that is probably too small for him!). Then I just photoshopped in the words. Much easier that way!

So, the moral of my story is, a little prep work and thought before taking important pictures goes a long way. I think we were able to get a couple cute pictures of an always-moving John!

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Aug 30, 2011

Toddler Art Tuesday - Baking

Last week we did baking themed activities for tot school. So I wanted to match up our Toddler Art Tuesday activity to the theme. Since we were baking and decorating cupcakes, I connected the activity to the book 'Cupcake' by Charise Mericle Harper. It is a pretty cute book and John wanted me to read it to him 429 times last week.

Before my nieces came over, I had the boys make chef hats for our baking adventures. I cut a strip of white paper and let them color it. John made all of 3 lines claiming he drew a hat and Matthew didn't color his at all. Typical! I guess I should cut Matthew some slack considering he is 13 months. :)

Then I wrapped the strip around each boy's head to get the size right and taped into a circle.

Lastly I taped some tissue paper to the inside of the paper strip to creat the top of the hat.

The BEST part was after all that work (taping is hard work!) John wouldn't wear his. Again, typical.

Once the girls came over we made icing from scracth and then decorated cupcakes. Bella's turned out...interesting. I think she used the entire bottle of sugar sprinkles on her three cupcakes.

Notice that Bella has a cute chef's hat. That is because I sewed it for her as a Christmas gift. :) My poor boys are slighted sometimes, huh?

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Aug 28, 2011

Tot School - Baking Themed Week

First of all, Happy Birthday to ME! I am turning 31 on Monday...dang I am getting old. :)

As I am spending my birthday with my favorite boys (probably treating myself to a fancy lunch at McDonald's), I am leaving you with this little post on our baking themed week during tot school last week. I thought it turned out really cute and finally made up some new games for John. Woohoo! So, here it goes...

**All games that I made can be dowloaded HERE!**

Cookie Monster Game:
I printed off a picture of Cookie Monster and attached it to an empty tissue box. Then I printed out different pictures of cookies- either different shapes or with letters, numbers or words on them. I put out all the cookies for John and pretended to be Cookie Monster asking for a certain cookie. John loved it and would crack up every time he fed Cookie Monster the correct cookie. I threw in words that he spells on his own to see if he could recognize the words and he did! I was so excited! We played this game several times (even with Daddy at night). Matthew joined in on just putting stuff in Cookie Monster's mouth. Seriously, John LOVED this game and wanted to play it every day. So, I consider this one a success!

Counting Cookies Game:
I printed some different style cookies, laminated them, and glued them onto magnets. My mom has been giving me advertising magnets for a while so I have quite the stash of magnets now! (Thanks, Mom!) I took a block we had at the house and used stickers to number the sides. John would roll the cube and the put that many cookies onto the baking tray. I used a muffin top pan for this which worked perfect because each cookie fit nicely into its own spot. You probably could even do without the magnet part but I thought it might be fun to let Matthew use them on a the fridge late or for another activity.

Fine Motor Skills:
John practiced pouring rice krispie cereal using measuring cups. After he did this a couple times he decided he just wanted to eat the cereal and made a HUGE mess. They had fun so it was ok that I had to vacuum up half a bag of cereal off the floor. :) I am still nervous about Matthew choking on small items so I am hesitant to use beans or something else that isn't edible.

He also practiced scooping up 'candy' (decorative stones) and put them in a muffin tin. Not very exciting for him so he only did this one time.

I put out a pitcher of different spoons for John to sort by size. He did a couple and lost interest. Then I let Matthew play with it and was interesting because he didn't quite know how to get the big spoons back in the pitcher. So this was a great activity for him too- very simple but he is still fine tuning those fine motor skills.

Dot Pages:
I made a C is for Chef page and downloaded a B dot page from Confessions of a Homeschooler. John really loves dot pages so I thought he would enjoy playing around with the marker. However, I guess he decided he wasn't as interested in dot pages this week and only did the C page. You can download the C is for Chef page I made and the other cookies games HERE for FREE!

Random Kitchen Stuff:
I put out a tray of random kitchen stuff for the boys to play with: measuring cups, spoons, sifter, slotted spoon, and cupcake liners. Matthew liked stacking the measuring cups and squeezing the cupcake liners. So this was kind of just like a sensory bin without the beans. We also played with the play kitchen for a little bit. The boys aren't super interested in the kitchen at our house yet they love to play with toy kitchens at other people's houses! So weird!

Real Life:
We made cupcakes and icing during the week. Of course I had my helpers with me the whole time! Then my nieces came over for our weekly playdate and we decorated cupcakes together. So fun! and super yummy! Tomorrow I will post more about this for Toddler Art Tuesday.

We mixed up pudding and watched it change colors as we mixed in food dye. That counts as science, right?! We then turned it into a sensory activity and I let the boys paint and play with the pudding. Matthew had a cooking brush and John has a bottle cleaner and they just sat there mesmerized by how it felt with pudding all over it. So cute! Of course we ended up with baths (and a quick mopping of the floor!) to clean up the mess.

The printables I made are available for free download HERE!

John starts preschool tomorrow so wish me luck on not crying when I drop him off!

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Aug 25, 2011

Teaching Thursdays- Classroom Set Up

First of all, did you enter the giveaway?! I hope so!!

Today I am going to touch on how I set up my classroom and how to get students working with their partners or groups.

Classroom Set-up

For the last several years I taught, I always had my students in pairs and I LOVED it. So I had 3 or 4 columns of paired desks. Like so:

In this picture, Student 1 and Student 2 would be partners. Everyone is facing the front all nice and neat. Everyone is SUPER excited to be in math class. :) I encouraged (and forced) my students to talk to their partners for help, guidance, assistance, praise, etc. Throughout the class period, we worked out problems with our partners, we compared answers with our partners, we discussed solutions with our partners. I often would say 'I don't hear you talking! I should hear you talking to your partner about this problem!'. I think it really helped those students were are too embarassed to ask for help when they are forced to discuss the math with the person next to them. Those students start to gain confidence because they more than likely understand the material better than they think and can start to solve the problems on their now. This also helps the student who is helping the 'struggler' because they are learning by teaching and explaining. They are having to really understand what the math is to explain it to someone else. So, it is a win-win situation! I will posting tons of ideas of specifically how to do work in partners, but not quite yet...hang tight on that one!

Now, I also wanted to do group work or group projects often. So, I wanted the students to be able to quickly move their desks into groups. So, I had the students turn their desk so they are FACING their partner and then squish in to either the partner in front or behind them (depending on where they are in the column). So the first two pairs in the column is the first group of 4, the second two pairs is the second group of 4. This will take literally 20 seconds so it cuts down any excuse for not doing group activities in class. :)

In the picture above, partners 1 and 2 are now facing each other and are group with partners 3 and 4. So Student 1 and Student 3 are now shoulder to shoulder and Student 2 and Student 4 are should to shoulder. All students can easily see me at the board because no one's back is to me. I INSIST they move their desks like this so I don't have backs to me. I won't continue the class until everyone is in their groups exactly as I want them. Some students complain but they quickly realize it is wasted breath because they have to move anyways.

Obviously, I have very specific seating charts. I have been to a couple Kagan Cooperative Learning worskhops where they talk a great deal about how to seat your students. I found it kind of time consuming and so I just kind of did a shorter version of basically pairing a stronger and weaker student together based on a recent test score. However, I never paired the person with a 100 average with the person with a 20 average. There is just too great a gap there and wouldn't be beneficial to either student. I also had to make sure that when students were in groups, their group mates and 'shoulder' partner in their group was compatible. So it takes a little tweaking each six weeks when we switched seats. The best way I made the seating chart was using sticky notes for each student so I could literally move them on the paper to configure them the way I wanted. It is also easy to move a student to a different class period when schedules start changing. :)

Getting the kiddos to work as a partners or groups

Another big Kagan idea is to have partner building and class building activities throughout the year. It sounded kind of cheesy but I tried it out anyways and I really think it worked. These were very short and informal activities for students to get to know each other outside of math work. This would get them to know each other better as a person which would make them more comfortable with working with them during the math part of class.

One way I did this in partners was by having students answer questions. Every time we got new partners (or new groups), we introduced ourselves to our new partner (yes, even in May we had to introduce our names!) and I would have them answer questions. I had a whole list of questions at my desk and would just call two or three out to the class and they shared their answer with their partner. It only took a couple minutes, students got a break from math, and we moved on. Here is my list of questions I had handy. Feel free to download a copy for free! :) You can also find tons of questions online pretty easily if you have different ages of students or just want different questions.

Another way I had students get to know each other in groups was with an activity called "Likes and Dislikes". They shared the following:
1. Things they liked that they were supposed to like. (ex: candy)
2. Things they liked they weren't supposed to like. (ex: math)
3. Things they disliked they were supposed to dislike. (ex: veggies)
4. Things they disliked they were supposed to like. (ex: ice cream)

The kids gave some pretty interesting answers with this activity and if we had time I might have them share some answers with the class. Again, this takes maybe 5 minutes out of the class yet has a big impact on getting students to work together easier in the classroom. I think we can all spare 5 minutes once every other week or so, right?!

Do you have any fun partner-building tips to share?

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Aug 24, 2011

How Their Brain Works

Well, I don't actually know how John's brain works. However, I did catch him doing this on his own:

He did an ocean themed jigsaw puzzle...

...and then pulled up another ocean puzzle and matched up the pieces.

So cute! I had no hand in this. He did this all unprompted. (It is a great idea too so I may have to use this idea during tot school! haha!) So, it is crazy to think of how their little brains work and what connections they are making as they play! It also makes you remember that they need that play time to explore and learn on their own. It definitely is a fun time to be around John and it is amazing to me how fast they learn and excel! It is during times like these that I am so thankful that I get to be home with my babies and experience this learning with them.

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Aug 23, 2011

T is for Transportation

Last week we attempted to do 'T is for Transportation' with the boys for tot school. I set out all their transportation toys, puzzles, games, etc and let them play. I basically did similar things from when we did our 'car' week a couple months ago, although of course we added in new toys accumulated in the last 6 months, new books to read... So instead of re-typing everything out, I am reposting what we did for those new visitors who didn't catch it before. Enjoy the old pics!

Posted in Februrary...

We had a fabulous week working on the letter c using all of John's cars. It actually turned into cars and other modes of transportation since John has so much of those toys around here. It is crazy how all those types of toys have accumulated around here! John showed a lot more interest in this week's activities and only said 'mommy do' for maybe two of the planned activities.

This week I changed things up slightly, only because we had so many themed toys and I organized it all one night while the boys were sleeping. I loaded up all the tot trays, put car themed books in a bucket, and put extra car themed toys all in the 'school' area in our dining room. So, when it was time for school, we ended up staying in that area for a long time just playing with all the fun stuff instead of going back to the living room where we usually play. I think that really helped us get much more accomplished this week and John seemed to be having fun! I also was able to pull out some baby toys so Matthew could join in the fun!

In case any of you were wondering, this is what our little area looked like. We had our small bookshelf with the tot trays and extra toys...

...our books that matched the theme (well, some were in John's room since he wants us to read those for naps!)...

...and our sensory bin.

So, here is what we did...or at least what I got pictured! and fair warning- lots of pictures in the post!!!

John completed this train puzzle several times this week. I was so proud of him because he did it all by himself and didn't need my help! He was so proud of himself and would say 'Mommy, look what I did!'. Too cute!

He worked on more puzzles. I got these from the dollar spot at Target at Christmas...

I use cards of transportation items and road signs and found objects that we had around the house. I put the objects in a box and layed the cards out on the table. John had to match put the objects with the correct card. So, really it was just another easy matching game, but just presented in a different way. I was SUPER impressed because John put the stop sign and do not enter sign in the wrong spot but self-corrected without me saying anything to him. We did this activity twice and even though it was easy for him, we were able to connect to our week's theme.

John and his cousin, Bella, painted using their cars and then had a car wash in the backyard to clean them off. Those two kids had a blast with this activity!

They also played with the sensory bin.

John got a 'Cars' marker book for his birthday so he colored with that a couple times. I love that these are 'magic' markers that don't mark anywhere but the paper, although I don't love that there is a bit of a delay for the color to appear on the paper when you actually use the markers. Guess that is the price you pay to not have your house colored with markers!

We used color cards from PreKinders to sort John's cars by color. He was too funny and had to have the cars all facing the same direction. Since we had a TON of cars by the end (30 to be exact...we counted!) we took turns pulling a car from the box and putting it in the correct column. I know you are supposed to let your kids do these type of things on their own, but I thought he might get burnt out on the activity AND he can always use practice on taking turns! I put the cards across horizontally so that way we could also indirectly be graphing with the cars. We counted each column of cars at the end and John was able to count most of them correctly. Yay!!

I found this Cars stamp set at the Dollar Tree. It was a short lived activity, but the set came with paper, three stamps, ink pad, and stickers. All for a DOLLAR!!! What?!??! I also got a Cars puzzle, but we didn't get around to doing that one.

We used the Shape Book from this tot pack. John wasn't super interested in it, but he did find all the shapes on the cars so I guess that is what counts!

We read lots of books, including 'Red Light, Green Light'. After I read it to John and Bella, I taught them how to play. It was so cute! John mostly understood how to play even though he didn't stop running right when I said red light. Bella just copied what John did! :)

Using a printable from 1+1+1=1, John matched pictures of cars with the correct number of cars. John can get 1, 2, and 3 perfectly and would automatically guess 5 without counting when he saw several cars in the picture. So, at least I know he knows that 5 is more than 3 so it is a reasonable guess! :)

Using printables from Homeschool Creations, John practiced 'spelling' car, boat, and plane. We only got about half way through this activity when he lost interest.

Last, but not least, we painted a traffic sign from

Holy canoli, we did a lot this week!!!

Tiny Tot with Matthew (who is 7 months this week! how crazy is that?!)...

Playing with transportation snap toys:

Playing with a steering wheel toy:

John had to play too!

Reading a transportation book:

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