Sunday, November 6, 2011


I guess I was a bit of a slacker in the October posting arena.  I think it is because I hate to download pictures from my camera.  I really do.  I don't know why.  It isn't hard.  I just don't like it. We did have a lot of fun in October and I did like that. We went to Africa.  Or at least as close as we could get.  We learned the names of African Safari animals in Spanish, studied the pyramids of Egypt and made an African Aguapa doll

 (whose handmade jewelry we used as an abacus to help us practice adding.)

 Some highlights: Art: We studied the cut out works of Matisse and made our own Matisse-like jack-o-lantern window hanging.

Picasso Pumpkins:  I cut out ears, eyes, noses, mustaches, jewelry, mouths, etc. from magazines.  At our field trip to the pumpkin patch the kids reviewed their Spanish body parts and glued the parts on their pumpkins.

 They were maybe my favorite thing we did all month.  They all turned out so darling and unique.  The best part?  They needed very little help.  They really could do it all by themselves.  A great alternative to carving for little ones. . if I do say so myself.

Our Aguapa Angolan Fertility dolls. Children in Angola carry these around (they are made of wood, not cereal boxes, in Africa) in hopes of having their own children someday. Much like our little baby dolls!

The kids are getting so much better at counting (several can count to 100 already and most can identify any number 1-100) and adding.  We are still working on adding with manipulatives but we had fun practicing with beans, handmade beads (the kids rocked the handmade bead project! ) and jack-o-lanterns.  The kids are all doing really well telling time, and identifying the coins.  They loved singing "Five Little Pumpkins" and learning those ordinal numbers.  We have been counting all the way up to 20 in Spanish and last week one little preschooler had to correct me!  They all loved that.
I tried to get tricky and ask the kids how many legs I would have if I had 2 zebras or 1 elephant and 1 ostrich.  They are too smart for me, but it make them think.

Um. . .ANCIENT EGYPT!  I loved teaching this.  The kids loved learning about it.  It was pretty much awesome.  I ordered a kit that came with hieroglyphic stencils, stickers of Egyptian stuff and lots and lots of info.  The kids each became an "expert" on 3 Egyptian topics and went home with the stickers that corresponded to their subject.    We practiced using the stencils and making hieroglyphics.  We made our own cartouche (name tag) and had fun thinking about writing with pictures instead of ABC's.

Our Cartouche and some random hieroglyphics (from stencils).
Still practicing our numbers and our names.  We have been trying to learn the correct way to make letters and have even practiced that by doing a few dance moves.  We have practiced our sight words and short vowel words by using letter dice, wood letters, scrambled words, color by word worksheet, and lots and lots of games.

We finished up our review of short vowels and have started learning digraphs.  TH, SH, WH, CH man, that letter H is tricky.  The kids loved making their own flash cards to use while singing the TH, SH, CH, WH song and they loved playing the flash and dash game with their cards.  They love to try to beat me!  Parents, keep reading the Sam books and send them back as soon as they are ready for the next one so they can get a sticker on their reading chart.

Beethoven.  The kids really enjoyed learning about his life, listening to some of his intense pieces and learning some sign language (Beethoven was deaf).  They thought it would be hard to learn songs if you couldn't hear them.  We will be doing a little more Beethoven this coming week as well.
We learned The Garden Song  as our folk song this month.  It is sort of long and has some harder lyrics but the kids love to sing it.  They like to help me strum the guitar and use the actions to plant their own garden.  This is one of my most favorite songs and I was so happy to teach it this month.  I think it will be one to perform at the closing show.

You know when you prepare a lesson and you think "I hope someone asks this.  . ." or "I hope someone says this" or "I hope they make this connection.".  Halloween was that day.  The day when everything was perfect.  Scripted almost.  Besides misplacing 2 books I wanted to read just before class (turns out Baby Noli stole them and brought them to me right after all the kids left. . .of course) everything was perfect.
I started by pretending I had forgotten all about Halloween.  "I just can't remember what it is all about!" I lamented to the costumed kids amid the Halloween bedecked preschool room.  "Can you help me remember some Halloween words?"
Then, as the called out the words I asked them to try to spell them, even if they could only get the first and last sound.  They did really well and as they spelled the words I wrote them on some special cards I had prepared and posted them on the chalkboard.  Our words were:
Mummy, Bat, Boo, Ghost, Jack-o-Lantern, Pumpkin, Spider
See what I mean about scripted?  Not yet?  You will. . .
Then we played a game with our word cards I had made.  I also had pre-made some cards that had a pumpkin on them and one that had a witch hat.  At the back of the room I had 36 foam jack-o-lanterns hanging on the wall.
I would show them a card (flash card style) and they would say the word on the card.  I wanted to figure out a way to make flash cards fun, and motivate the kids to actually look at the cards.  Even if they cannot read the word, they benefit from hearing the kids say the word. . .but only if they are looking.  This is where the witch hat and pumpkin cards come in. . .if a pumpkin card came up they had to all yell PUMPKIN! and race to the back to grab the foam jack-o-lantern and bring it back to their seat.  If they saw the witch hat they would have to cackle like a witch and take a jack back to the wall.  I do a lot of copying of ideas from the internet, books, people smarter than myself so when I have an idea like this one, I really feel proud of myself.  I mean, come on, reading, Halloween, addition, subtraction and running all in one game?  You know!  So they were loving life.  Yelling, running for pumpkins, giving me an updated total of how many they have, etc.  I rigged the game so each kid ended up with five and then I pulled the word 'pumpkin' from the stack and we sang "Five Little Pumpkins" and "Pumpkin on the Vine".
Then, I asked one kid to pick another one of the words that we had written on our cards.  The next word picked was "Spider".  I posted it on the board next to "Pumpkin".
I turned over one of the bulletin boards that I had covered in spider webs and had 6 spiders on it.  None of them had 8 legs.  I started to tell the kids about spiders.  "Some people think spiders are scary, but I don't" I said. "Spiders help eat insects that eat my garden.  I love spiders.  Most spiders don't bite us and they help keep other bugs from making too much trouble."  We had already talked about insects so I asked if they remembered how many legs an insect has.  "SIX!" they said.  "Spiders all have 8 legs.  Are spiders insects?"  They thought about that and decided that they were not.  Smart kids.  Then, as if I had prompted her, Sweet Cambell says "Miss Meg!  Miss Meg!  That spider does not have 8 legs!  Hey, neither does that one, or that one!"  I could not have been happier.  I said they were right, those spiders had a problem, they were missing some legs, but we were in luck, I just so happened to have some extra spider legs hanging around.  The kids then helped me figure out how many more legs each spider needed until they had 8.  They were doing math and they didn't even know it.  They thought they were just helping out a few spider friends.  This is where I would have liked to read my spider book, which is a great non-fiction with big bold words they could actually read and then name a spider at the end. . .sigh. . . my sweet Noli!. . .I read them the book the next week when they came back and they still seemed to love it.
We then picked another word from our cards.  Bat.
I had them all go under the bunk bed and into our Bat Cave.  I had a cut out paper bat (that even folded it's wings over its body) and asked them if they thought bats were scary.  They said 'yes' but after we learned about them, they all said they did not think they were scary at all.  We even learned what vampires were.  Vampire bats, that is.  Science rules. . .even on Halloween.  Again, as if I had given them a script, one of the kids said "I don't think that there are bats around this part of the world, I never see them."  Many of the kids already knew the word 'nocturnal' but it was new to some.  We learned that their nocturnal habits is why we don't see bats too often, but they do live near us. This is where the other book was to be read. . .oh well, it made a good supplement on the next preschool day.  I guess you just cannot expect everything to be perfect.  Not with a Noli to help anyway.
Back to the chalkboard to pick another word:  Mummy.
Up to the top of the buck to hide in our Egyptian pyramid.  We talked about mummy's, who made them, how, why and where (we have been learning question words so that worked out).  Then we played a fun game of mummy making (minus the embalming. . .which I did not discuss with preschoolers).  They loved wrapping each other up in toilet paper.  I expected more sillyness at this game, but they were very serious about their mummy wrapping.  It kind of cracked me up.
We ran out of time for 'boo' and 'ghost' but I did have something planned (really!  See how perfect the words they suggested were!  I thought for sure no one would say spider or mummy and that we would have a few random ones like candy or witch and I would have no activity for those.  It was CRAZY how perfect it was).
We had our snack of goblin meat (honeydew melon), ghosts (bananas with craisen eyes), and Mummy Wraps (refried black beans in white corn tortilla strips).   Then I let the kids play while I cleaned up and waited for our special guests.
For our Halloween Party I had each of the kids invite a grandparent to come.  Each grandparent came prepared with a Halloween story, tradition, game, song or story about their special preschool grandchild. It was awesome.  I was worried that it would take too long and the kids would get bored and have to get up and wiggle around but no one made a peep.  They all were totally fascinated with what the grandmothers had to say.  Everyone did an amazing job.  We had a variety of things from a great song/story book, to my mom who brought pictures of me as 4 and 5 year old and some of the toys I played with at that age, to a jack-o-lantern decorated by Mr. Potato Head parts to Halloween traditions.  It was quite magical.  Then, the grandparents helped the kids make a Halloween craft.  It was a spooky tree with a full moon (a perfect segue to our discussion on trees of all seasons that we did the next week).

Phew!  Now. . .NOVEMBER!

Bring it on.  We venture to South America!

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