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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Blooms on the Classroom Tree

Today I spent some extra time adding all of the extra blossoms to the classroom tree, and ended up with this:

While is doesn't match the trees outside that are currently covered in blossoms, it definitely gives the idea of spring blooms.

I ended up doing a lots of groupings around each branch.

It's amazing that even after putting up 19 strands of flowers I still want to add more, but this will have to do.  Soon enough it will be time to add leaves again, so I will leave the flowers alone for now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Bags in Preschool

Well, another Valentine's Day is now behind us. Numerous valentines were passed out, goody bags were carted home, and who knows how many cookies and cupcakes were consumed.  We graphed conversation hearts, made cards for family members, and practiced some fine-motor skills with popsicle sticks, sugar cookies, and frosting. All that is left from the day are some residual candies left after my teenage sons commandeered my own Valentine's bag once I got home from the school.

This year we tried a new type of Valentine's bag.  I decided that I wanted to try making bags out of two layers of clear Contact paper with tissue paper hearts in between the layers.  The plan was to layer the items between the Contact paper, fold the paper in half, and then tape the edges to make it into a bag.  It looked so cute and easy.

Indeed, they did turn out cute.  But they were not easy.  In fact, that Contact paper just about drove me to madness right there amongst the Little People.  Granted, this was my first experience with the Little People and Contact paper, so I had not yet learned some of the helpful hints that can prevent one's Contact paper experiences from being fuel for a classroom breakdown.

The first hint I learned was to tape down the Contact paper before the kids start putting decorations on it. I learned this the really hard way.  At first I blithely thought I could just lay the Contact paper on the table sticky-side up and warn them to try not to touch the paper too much.  Bless their hearts.  I had one Little Person on the edge of tears as she desperately tried to get the sticky paper off of her hands, arms, clothes and ultimately out of her hair.  I finally was able to wrestle it away from her without causing any Contact Paper Removal Abrasions and cover it with a second piece, trapping no less than three or four or her hairs in the process.   Finally I shooed all of the children away while I took several deep breaths and started over by taping the contact paper securely to the table (sticky side up, of course).

The second hint I learned was to adhere the second sheet of contact paper on very carefully.  I learned that it was best to first just peel back an inch or so of the backing paper on the second sheet all the way down one edge.  Once this long inch of paper was exposed, I lined it up with the already-decorated sticky paper (which was still taped to the table) and pressed this small part together.  Then I slowly pulled the rest of the backing paper off while running my other hand down the papers to seal them together.  Trust me, this is much easier than taking all of the backing off of the second sheet and then trying to maneuver it right on top of the first sheet and then trying to adhere them smoothly together.

Now that I've figured out a few tricks to make working with the Contact paper easier, I might conquer these additional Contact paper ideas found on Pinterest.  They might end up containing some air bubbles and a few stray hairs, but I'm sure they will be wonderful:

Source: thechocolatemuffintree.com via Jaclyn on Pinterest

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Space Rockets in Preschool

Here's another fun Day/Night activity that we did last week.  Actually, this really went with our Space theme.  We did a Space week because we had so many fun things to do with Day & Night that we grouped the space-type activities into the second week.

I got the idea for these Space Rockets from this Pinterest post:

Source: alphamom.com via Julie on Pinterest
The person who made these actually made them as confetti rockets, but for some reason I just couldn't get excited about the idea of confetti flying all over our classroom.  Well, now that I think about it, that could have been kind of fun, but I don't think the custodian would have been happy at all about it.  And we all know that the custodian is one of those people that you want on your side.

So we made non-confetti versions.  Which means that we used plain ole' paper towel rolls with nothing in them.

We used:
paper towel rolls
metallic poster board
pipe cleaners (cut in half)
streamers made out of cut-up plastic tablecloth
masking tape

Now, this is one of those projects that is a combination of child-done art and teacher-done art.  But it's about 70/30, with 70% being teacher-done.  I admit that I really struggle with that, since I usually favor projects with the highest percentage of child-done art as possible.  But I will placate myself now by saying that sometimes a balance is okay. (And after I made it, I thought of some more ways to make in more child-done, which I will share with you.)

After the kids painted their tubes, I cut circles out of silver poster board for the cones.  I actually used the die cut machine at our local teacher center, and my circles were 4" wide.

I then cut a slit in the circles from the outside edge to the center of the circle, and then pulled the edges near the cut together to make a cone shape.  You can glue or staple this.  However, if you glue it, go ahead and take your pipe cleaner or string or whatever you are going to use to hang your rockets with and place this so it sticks out the top of the cone before the glue dries.  I did not do this, and then had to tape my pipe cleaners on the top, which I didn't think looked so good.

You can then glue your already-formed cones onto the tubes.  I placed my cones upside down in some old muffin tins, placed the tubes into the cones (so the whole rocket was basically upside down) and then squeezed in ample amounts of glue to secure the cone to the body.  In hindsight, I could have just done this with hot glue at home.  It would have been much quicker, and then the ample glue mentioned above would not have pooled in the tip on the cone, preventing me from sticking my pipe cleaners in the top for easy hanging. However, if you wanted to get the kids more involved in the project and you already stuck your pipe cleaners into the top of the cone as suggested above, the regular glue would be fine.

Once the glue is dried, you can add the fire.  For this I used my favorite new material:  cut-up strips of cheap vinyl table cloth from the dollar store.

The method that I used is as follows (although I will add disclaimer here that I am later not going to recommend this method):

I first cut my pieces of streamers from the red and orange table cloth.  My strips were about 1/4" wide and 8" long. I then wrapped masking tape sticky-side-out around the lapboard that I also use while doing these kind of jobs at home.  I then took the strips of plastic and attached them to the tape all the way around the board, so it looked like the picture below.  If you do it this way, make sure and leave enough spaces between the strips and/or above the strips to keep the tape sticky.

Once you have a nice length of tape with the streamers attached, you can cut a piece off and tape it to the inside bottom edge of your rockets, leaving the fire hanging out nicely.

I would strongly recommend that if you do it this way you get your tape and streamers ready right next to where the rockets are.   If not, you might make the mistake I did and get the tape and streamers ready at home and and then have to take all of this to school to finish making the rockets.  You might wrap several already-draped pieces of masking tape (one above the other) to a single empty cookie sheet and try to transport them without disaster in your car.  Trust me: It might look like a festive Cookie Sheet-Hula Party O' Fire, but in the end, it just looks like this, which is definitely what you don't want:

Actually, if I did it again, I would attach the streamers in an easier and much-more child-friendly way.  I would put out a strip of shiny silver tape on our work surface, sticky side up.  I would then let the kids put the streamers (and perhaps some silvery ribbons) onto the tape.  Then I would cut a piece of this decorated tape to the size we needed to wrap it around the circumference of the rocket once.  We would then tape it to the outside of the bottom of the rocket, so that the silver tape covers the beginning of the streamers.  That way we wouldn't have to worry about putting the tape inside the tube, and we would be adding a nice silver stripe to the rocket.

Regardless, here is one of our rockets hanging from our class ceiling:

Despite all of the trials of learning how to do this project, the kids love them, and they ask every day when we will take them down so they can take them at home.

Now I'll just have to plan something else to hang from the ceiling so we can take these down...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Butcher Paper Classroom Tree in Spring Bloom

Click here for giveaway details.

You can find ‘Making a Classroom Tree” here  and here, and “Decorating a Classroom Tree” here and here.

Well, believe it or not, we are seeing definite signs of spring here in California.  Just today I broke off a couple of twigs from trees and took them in the classroom to show the Little People how new leaves were coming out of the leaf buds.

With onset of spring in mind, I spent some time wandering in the Dollar Tree today trying to find a way to make our classroom tree look spring-ish.  I wanted it to have flowers (since it's supposed to be an apple tree, after all), but since I didn't give the tree flowers last year, I didn't have anything already planned or stored away for this look.

I went into the store thinking I might look at the bunches of artificial flowers with the goal of pulling the flowers off of the plastic stems and sewing them together on the sewing machine to make a flower garland.  However, it quickly became apparent that it would take a lot of bunches of flowers to make any significant amount of garland.

But then at the front of the store I saw them:  "Wedding" flower garlands

Each package had 12 feet of garland.  Each white flower was separated with what appears to be a piece of clear drinking straw.  Now that I think about it, this idea could easy to be replicated at home, but certainly not for the cost of a dollar.

 And certainly not for $.50 each, which is what they rung up for when I took my eight garlands up to the cash register.

After school I began to drape the flowers up on the tree.  I actually thought I got all eight strands on there, but then after I was finished I  found one more strand that I had not put up yet.  Then I went back to the Dollar Tree after school and bought 11 more strands. (I was a little worried that they had changed the price to a dollar in the three hours that I was away, but hooray, they had not.)

Here is the tree in the first stage of its spring look.  As you can see, seven garlands hardly made an impact on the tree at all, but adding 12 more tomorrow should do the trick.

I wasn't really sure how to string the flowers up so I just randomly tried a few methods as I went along.  However, after I was finished I could tell that I didn't like this "wraparound" method shown below...

...as much as the "group and clump" method shown here at the far end of these branches.

 So tomorrow I'll be doing lots of "grouping and clumping", which of course are highly technical tree-decorating terms.

As you can see in the picture above, the garlands did have other things on them.  They came as both flowers and holographic hearts, or holographic doves, but I went for the hearts.  I took them off the garland and then added them to the Valentine's creative art center that was a choice today:

Actually, I almost feel like just the cool silver hearts were worth the $.50 alone.  I think I'll take the ones that they don't use on their art and put some of my blank yard sale address labels on them and put them in the writing center for Valentine's Day cards.

So, a tree's worth of apple blossoms, plus over 100 large holographic hearts to use for various purposes for only $9.50.   Not a bad deal at all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learning About Day and Night in Preschool

Well, despite the fact that I have written nothing on the blog the last few weeks, the Little People and I have been very busy.

The week before last was our week to talk about Day and Night, and that was lots of fun.
This is the sign that I made to put out and show the parents of the Little People  what we're talking about.  You can find a whole set of them for sale in the Teacher's Notebook Store here.

 Out of the whole week, one of the most fun things that we did was to make Shooting Stars.

My inspiration was this post idea from Pinterest from the blog  www.firstgraderatlast.blogspot.com.  (Which is a blog that I really enjoy, by the way.)
Source: firstgraderatlast.blogspot.com via Julie on Pinterest

The author of the blog did this with her first graders and they loved it, so I decided to give it a try with the Little People.  The only change I made was to use something other than the crepe paper.  This is because last year I learned the hard way that crepe/tissue paper + moisture on the ground = big soggy mess, and with the wet weather we were having I didn't want the same thing to happen again.

So I thought for awhile about what I could use that would a)not go soggy in wet weather and b)still fly well and look cool doing it.

I finally came upon the idea of using these plastic tablecloths from the local dollar store.

I got several in some nice "shooting star" colors, and then cut a section of each one into small strips using my paper trimmer:

I ended up cutting them about 1/2" wide, and they were about 24" long.  Just using about a fourth of each tablecloth left me with all kinds of streamers to work with:

I then took them to school to have the kids make the stars as instructed on the blog.  Next time I do this with my kids (and I certainly will do this again) I will allot more time to separate and straighten the streamers.  This took the most amount of time.

However, it was worth the time spent, because the shooting stars flew wonderfully! After everyone made theirs we took them all outside and spent some time throwing them around.

This is an activity that I highly recommend.  In fact, my family at home still tosses my sample around the house any chance we get!