Open House Family Night!

Last week was so hectic! Thursday was our open house night for the 4 year old classes and I was busy finishing projects with the kids and working on gathering everything we needed for the night. The kids were also busy cleaning up the classroom. I gave each of them a wipe and let them go all around the classroom and clean! They LOVED it. They cleaned Meatball’s (our hamster) cage, the chalkboard, the doors, door handles, walls, tables, chair, shelves, the stage, EVERYTHING!

Open house was from 6:00-7:30. We started at 6 in the classrooms where families could look at the documentation posted around the room and in the hallway. The kids showed their parents around the room and explained how we did calendar, how centers worked, and enjoyed refreshments. Siblings came as well and loved exploring a brand new classroom. I made sure to have updated documentation posted around the room and in the hallways. I also updated everyone’s portfolio.

At 6:30 everyone went to the Fellowship hall (kind of like a cafeteria) I has a projector showing videos we had taken earlier in the year of various project and moments in the classroom. The kids and parents loved it. After we gathered everyone to the tables I introduced Mrs. Mary and she shared a story with everyone to introduce the project they were about to do! The story was Not A Box by Antoinette Portis, which is about a bunny  who has a box but it’s “NOT A BOX” it’s other things like a burning building or a rocket.

I wish we had an ELMO or some way to make the pages bigger so everyone could see the book better. But, everyone pretty much got the point. Then, I explianed what was going to happen next. They could work with either jus their family or as a table with more than one family. I had glue, brads, markers, crayons, tape, scissors, and paper at each table and the boxes, lids, yarn, pipe cleaners and staplers at the front of the room. Also, hot glue guns set up on a table for ONLY ADULTS to use.

They we stepped back and observed everything that happened (and took pictures, of course). It was just amazing. So many parents let their child take the lead by deciding what they were going to make, choosing the materials to use, cutting things out, etc. They made rockets, houses, cars, bird houses, a refrigerator, a table with food on it, a robot costume, dinosaurs and so much more!

 

I had a handout for the parents to take with them when they left and if they didn’t I just put a copy in thier cubby for the next day. Here is what it looked like.

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A couple days later I also sent home a survey for parents who came to fill out about how to improve.

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And that was about it! It was sucha great time and everyone enjoyed it! We had nothing but positive commments! 🙂 If you’d like to know anything else about it please don’t hesitate to send me a message or comment! Thanks and enjoy!

❤ Ali

 

BUSY BUSY BUSY (Shadows and Light)

I feel like I haven’t written in so long! Last week we were busy with Groundhog Day and learning about shadows and light. I set up a black light on the wall by my writing table a provided white paper and different color highlighters for the kids to write and draw. They LOVED how the light made the highlighters glow!I had fun playing with it too! 🙂

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Then I recycled a box that had our snack in it and put a piece of white paper inside and lined the height and width of it with unifix cubes. I set out our wild animal basket, some see through colored blocks and 2 flashlights. The kids put an object in the box, shined the light on it to make a shadow and used the cubes on the side to measure how tall it was.

We also were lucky enough to have the use of the school’s mobile light lab; which consists of an overhead projector, 3 flat light boards and different colored and shaped see through objects. I hung white butcher paper from the doorway in my room and had the projector shining light on it and let the kids experiment with making shadows with their bodies.

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It was so beautiful outside last week too, PERFECT for shadows! I had each child pick a block to take outside. Working together they made a tower in the sun. Using colored stones, rocks and wood pieces they filled in the shadow. It took a little explaining before some of them understood what “fill in the shadow” meant. They started by putting the stones on the blocks or on the ground around the blocks. While they filled in the shadow we talked about shadows, can you see through a shadow, can you see your face in your shadow, things like that. After they were done we left everything out and went to the playground for about 30 minutes. We decided to go check on our tower before going inside. In just 30 minutes the shadow had moved about 4 or 5 inches. The kids were amazed! I asked them how they thought the shadow moved.  I got answers like “the wind blowed it!”, “someone moved the rocks!” and “NO! The sun moved!!” We talked more about how light can make a show move and get bigger or smaller and experimented some as well.

We did a few crafts too. I laid out white paper and black paint. The kids were invited to paint shadows. And we also made groundhogs that we used on Thursday to go outside and see if they saw their shadows (unfortunately, they did).I set out pictures of real groundhogs, various sizes or brown circles and ovals, markers and glue. I was so bad with pictures this week that I didn’t get any of these projects!

By the time Friday came around I was going bananas! Never had a heard so much whining, from my class or me! So, after nap I decided to spend our whole afternoon OUTSIDE! It was a beautiful day! Fluffy clouds, the sun shining, 76 degrees-GORGEOUS! So we took our blankets out and had a picnic in the grass. We also took clipboards, markers and paper out and did an activity. They all laid down and covered their eyes and listened. The called out the things they heard-a car, a kid yelling, a train, a bird. Then they opened their eyes and drew one thing they heard.

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I thought that was a pretty ingenious idea. . . the kids however did not. The complaints started “I’m hot!” “The sun’s too bright.” “When are we going to the playground?” “I’m bored.”. . . Me: *in my head*”We are never doing anything fun again.”

We packed everything up and moved to a different spot-in the shade. There I told them they were to find something they could see and draw. I gave them an example of a light on the building next to us. I described the lines on the bottom of it and the circle on the top and the rounded shape of the whole light. If I were drawing the light, that’s what I would draw. I emphasized that I want to be able to tell what the picture is of when I look at it. I didn’t let them tell me what they were drawing either. I had to be able to guess. They surprised me. One had drawn the light I described, one drew a house across the street, one drew the church, and you could pick out certain key aspects of the subject of their drawing and tell what it was. The church had a cross at the top, the house had lines on the side for the siding, they actually paid attention to detail! SUCCESS!! 😀

Then FINALLY they got to go inside and “cool off” before finally going on the playground.

❤ Ali

 

Shades of People

At the beginning of the year we started our self investigations. We read a book called Shades of People.

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I’m going to copy and paste that documentation panel i made for this on here so you can see how I write them and what it sounds/looks like. Here goes . . .

 

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We read Shades of People, which explores the many different shades of human skin, and points out that skin does not reveal what someone is like on the inside. This prompted a discussion about the different shades of our skin. Right away the kids noticed the differences and similarities in their skin.

“Mine is just like hers!”

“My arm is browner than his.”

“Ours is kinda close, but not really that much.”

I provided skin shade cards and prompted the kids to find a shade that matched themselves.

“Mine and his are the same!”

“Mine isn’t on here.”

“It’s kind of close to that one.”

Later I provided brown, yellow, white and black paint and prompted the children to mix colors together to get their shade of skin color. They started by picking the colors they saw in their skin and adding some to a plate to mix them.

“It’s turning white-brown.”

“I need more brown.”

“I need it darker. More brown.”

“I’m adding yellow because I like bananas.”

“Hey it’s turning my color a little bit. Or maybe pie.”

After they mixed them together they tested the color against their skin to see if they needed to add anything to it. They understood that adding white makes colors lighter and adding darker colors like brown and black makes colors darker.

After mixing the right shade they painted their hands and made hand prints.

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I hope that was helpful! If you have any questions please let me know!!

❤ Ali

Beautiful Stuff Project

At the beginning of the year we began our beautiful stuff project. The first thing I did was ask the children what they thought beautiful means. Those answers are on the left; the ones on the right are things they thought were beautiful. I particularly like that they think onions and teachers and both beautiful!

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I found some items around the room and outside that I thought were beautiful (ribbon, bead, shiny paper, a leaf, a stick, etc.). I put them in a brown paper bag and took each one out and showed it to the class. Most of the class agreed with me that most of my items were beautiful, but then I brought out the stick. . .

”A stick?”

“That’s not beautiful!”

“*laughter*”

Then came the meaningful conversation about how everyone can find different things beautiful, not everyone finds the same things beautiful and that’s ok.

Then, I gave them a job. They each got their own brown paper bag and were told to take it home and find SMALL things they think are beautiful and fill up the bag. They were all so excited to take their bag home.

They took it home over the weekend and on Monday they each took a turn pouring out their bag on a tray and showing their beautiful finds to the class.

After they all shared, we poured out all the items they brought and sorted them into three groups: art, home, and nature. I split the class into two groups and gave each group half of the items they brought in. They worked together to decided what box them item would go in.

We used the items to make the letters of the alphabet for our wall. Each child got to choose 2 letters to make. I cut black poster board into 6 sections and wrote the letter on it using white crayon. Some things had to be hot glued on because they weren’t staying on with regular glue. Surprisingly the shells and most of the rocks stayed on without any hot glue! They have been up going on 5 months and (KNOCK WOOD!!) nothing has fallen off any of them. OH! Also, I used command Velcro strips to attach the letters to the wall! Taping things to the wall in my classroom and in the hallway almost never works. All our humidity, even in the winter, makes sure of that.

Well, that’s about it. I LOVED this project! We regularly receive compliments about it and the kids love referring to it when they are writing.

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Documentation board for the entire project

We’re learning the letters in sign language too and so each week when we learn a new letter I take a picture of one of my kids making that letter then I print it in black and white and post it above that letter on the wall.

Enjoy!

❤ Ali

It’s OKAY!

Okay, so your classroom is all set up and looking absolutely fantastic-ready for your class to come in and start exploring and learning! . . .OR maybe it’s not. Maybe you only had time to do 2 of your 6 curtains, you only have one center with baskets in it and you can’t find all your books for your first day of school. IT’S OKAY!!! Really and truly! Do you think your kids are going to care about if their toys are displayed JUST RIGHT or that all their windows don’t have curtains? No, they don’t. All they want is to play and explore your room. It’s OKAY not to be completely ready on the first day of school or all at once when you begin transitioning. I’ve had to tell myself and others this countless times.

But you may have started thinking about how once you get your room set up, what and how are you going to teach your kids??

Reggio is based on the belief that children are competent and ambitious, researchers. So, many of the activities and lessons are guided by the children and their interests. Provocations are set up in the classroom for the children to explore and discover. Provocations, provoke. They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas. They can also expand thoughts, projects, ideas and interests. Below are some of the provocations that I have used in my classroom.

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What can you make with stones and wood?
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Investigating a scale
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Patterning with marbles
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Alphabet magnets in water with tongs and larger magnets.
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Racing cars and using a number line to see how far they go.
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How can you paint a penguin?
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Testing velocity using ramps, a timer and things that roll.
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Stamping letters in Play-doh.

Going into the planning phase I wanted our lesson/themes to go along with the children’s interests. But that’s kind of hard to plan for in advance. I like to be able to KNOW what I’m going to be teaching for the week and have some kind of plan to go off. With the help of our director, my grade level decided on using webs for planning our investigations. It’s OKAY if we don’t get to everything on the web and it’s OKAY if we do something that’s not on the web. The web is just an outline for us to know where our investigations are going, what we expose the kids to and give them an opportunity to explore. Here are the 4 webs we have made so far, this year. This first one is the web for our ENTIRE year. In the middle is a question we want to investigate all year long. Coming from the middle are topics we are exploring to answer that question.

 

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The first topic we explored was HOME. This is our curriculum web for our Home investigation.

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This web was for all the 4s classes but not all of us were on the same part of the web at the same time. I did a very long unit on the human body (which isn’t even on the web, but went with the topic of self) while the other 2 classes were on families and houses. And that was OKAY. My kids were interested in a book I had in the classroom about the human body and so it stemmed from that. I’ll post about that unit later. It was LOTS of fun!!

The rest of the webs we have done are below. We are currently working on the Natural World web.

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As you can tell our webs became much more evolved as we went along!

We started the Natural World web at the beginning of January and it will probably last us until about March or April. Then we get to do SPACE!!! (I am SO EXCITED about teaching space!!) The point is these webs don’t just last for a week or 2. You get TIME to go deeper into the subject and explore the topic in depth. This gives meaning to the child and they become more engrossed in it.

 

Well, just because you have a web to last you a couple months doesn’t mean you don’t have to do lesson plans. HA HA thought you got out of that huh??Nope

We call them Short Term Intentions.

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The form we use lasts us through a couple weeks, while we explore a certain topic. They are called intentions because they are what we intend to do but can change depending on the child’s interests. Here is an example of my intentions from my human body investigation.

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The documentation focus at the bottom of the page was to help us with our documentation. Instead of trying to photograph everything when we first started we could focus on just one thing until we got the hang of it.

 

For the parents, we post our webs for them to see what we will be focused on but the intentions are for our personal use and for our director to check and see if we are on track or need assistance with anything.

 

If you have any questions about any of this or comments, please let me know. I always love hearing about what others do in their classrooms. It gives me ideas and inspiration!

Just remember this is a lot to take on! It’s OKAY if it doesn’t all happen at once or exactly the way you like it or if you don’t understand it all. It’ll all work out and be fantastic!

It’ll all be OKAY.

 

❤ Ali

Portfolios <3

I have researched Reggio portfolio formats until I was cross eyed. I wanted mine to be set up a certain way to where the kids could look at them and see the work they had done, I wanted the parents to be able to look at them and see the children’s progress and I wanted someone just visiting my room to be able to look at them and see how much my kids have learned and what they are capable of.

That’s a lot to ask of a little binder filled with paper.

First, we decided we wanted each child to have a 1 inch binder for their portfolio. We figured that would be big enough to hold each student’s selected works for the year. We also chose to have their work put in page protectors, that way the kids would be able to look at it without tearing them up.
After we got our binders we each decided on our own covers. I went with a typed page with the child’s name on it ( ____’s Portfolio) and a picture I had taken of them engaged in an activity. Here’s an example:

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I have the portfolios displayed on a shelf in my reading center so when we read books or start a transition the kids can either choose to read a book or look at their portfolio.

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On the inside of the portfolio I try and put pieces of work that are meaningful; a cutting sample, name practices, self-portraits, etc. Their contributions from the calendar also go in here. At the beginning of the year some of the kids needed extra help with their name. Since they liked their portfolios so much i put a name activity in the front to help them practice. They could write their name in the blank space with an expo marker then put their name in order on the bottom of the page. (There is a picture below of this page.) Everything gets dated and I try to put it in the portfolio in chronological order. Also, when I take any documentation down off the walls that has pictures I have taken of them I put those in there as well with a description of the activity we were working on, any specific mention of them in the documentation, and the product of their work (if it fits in the page protector). Some examples are below:

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On the top of my shelf I have our Classroom History Portfolio. That is, obviously, for the entire classroom. The whole group documentation that I do goes in there when I take it down off the wall. The kids really enjoy looking at this one. It really down become a history of our entire classroom.

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If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to leave me a comment below! I would LOVE to hear from you!

❤ Ali

DOCUMENTATION!!!! (*sing song voice*)

Alrighty! Here comes one of my favorite things to talk about!!!

DOCUMENTATION!!!!

I started documenting with the understanding that I’m not taking pretty pictures of my kids hold up their artwork or standing next to something they built.I want REAL pictures of them in action, exploring things, making discoveries, trying things out. I want to document the process of their thinking. Most of the time I have to be sneaky with my picture taking because once the kids see the camera they either want to pose or go into hiding. Again I got a lot of help from looking on pinterest boards and at other teacher’s blogs. Plus, in the beginning I ran all my documentation by my director and Mrs. Mary (my work best friend) before I posted it.

Documentation is not just pictures of the kids engaged in learning. It’s also writing down the what they are saying. This can be tricky some of the time because you are so in the moment that you forget your camera, you don’t write down what they say and then you forget later (happens to me all the time!). I don’t want to write down what they MEANT to say either. I want their real, authentic words. I have gotten permission from my director to record what the kids are saying so I can go back to it later and make sure I document it correctly.  Here are a few examples of some of my documentation.

This is from our Beautiful Stuff Project at the beginning of the year.The picture below is on a bulletin board and is a documentation panel.

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The next set of documentation is individual documentation. Our letter for this past week was the letter R so we made Rectangle Robots. After each child made their robot I asked them to tell me about their robot. Some of them went right off telling me their name, special powers, what they like to do, etc. Others needed a little more prodding with questions as you can see below. We have a very spacious wall above our cubbies outside so we put some of our documentation in the hallway to entice the parents. 🙂

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In my next post I’ll show you how I include my documentation in the kid’s portfolios and in our class history portfolio!