Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Nature Based Circle Time

I found a lovely book for 75p in my local charity shop last year but had forgotten about it until now. It is called 366 and more Nature Stories by Anne Marie Dalmais. It is available on Amazon for 1p plus postage if you wanted a copy!! I have always read with interest posts on other blogs about having 'circle time' but didn't think that it would suit us as it was so engineered and time-consuming to plan and resource. Basing it on this book however provides a perfect fit as it will build on knowledge and understanding of the natural world in a short time with minimal planning and can be adapted to suit the current interests of the children.

Today's nugget was about the Blackbird, to go with the short story (2 minutes long), we:
  • Listened to the song of the blackbird on YouTube.
  • Looked at a nest that came from a section of hedging we needed to remove (see picture). This nest is so lovely because it incorporates lots of man-made materials that the children could recognise.
  • We then tied a bundle of goodies for the nest-making birds this year and put it out in the garden.
  • We used the new software on the laptop to make bird nest pictures (I will post about the software separately!).
The children really loved this time.... it was short, relevant, focused and they loved it!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I Can Tell It's Spring When...... back door has stood open all day and this is the view from it!!

The girls spent all day outdoors, from about ten in the morning when it warmed up until 6.30pm when I called bath time and deposited two grubby happy children. Here they are sweeping up the wood shavings (from Dewi sawing up tree branches to replenish our wood store for next Winter) and mixing them into water.

We had delightful weather all last week..... shame about the forecast for this week!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Revamping the Book Cart

I love this book cart as it displays the books with their covers facing out which helps the children to choose what they want and find their favourite books, however it hasn't been very well used recently. I read an article in Nursery World Magazine last week about making book corners more inviting and decided to give mine a good clear out!

I didn't take a 'before' picture but this is the 'after' one! the little ones that I child mind are really into numbers and letters at the minute so I focused on those areas. The middle shelf holds counting and shape books and the bottom shelf holds literacy books. Yes yes I know..... all books are literacy but I picked, abc books, ones that focus on noises or rhyming words and the hungry caterpillar as I've made a story sequencing pack to go with it.

Added to that shelf are the Montessori sandpaper letters that I made, and a couple of games that I've made recently to focus on particular areas of language that the little ones are enjoying playing with. I will post on those as we use them. I have to admit that my 'amazon click finger' was twitching this afternoon to buy some more lovely number and abc books but I resisted!!! We are going to a new library club this week and we can look for some books altogether there!

The top shelf is for the current topic or interests of the children. I've put out books on bird nests for now as I'm going to try a new 'circle time' idea tomorrow and see how we can link it to the children's current interests and needs and get them using the book cart  a bit more.... watch this space!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

States of Matter - Solids, Liquids and Gases

This is Eve and I playing a 'states of matter' bingo game that I made up. She really got to grips with the three states and their basic properties doing this game. I made it as when we sorted the three states into groups (see the pictures below), Eve was calling solids 'hard' and gases 'oxygen' and I wanted her to get to grips with calling materials by their 'group name' and understanding the basic reason why they are grouped that way. She was quite happy today that gases are there all around us, that liquids flow and that solids stay in one form, even though some can be squashed like sponges.
Eve already played with different liquids last week when we made our own 'marvellous medicines' after seeing George's marvellous Medicine at the theatre. She commented during the activity on how some flow faster than the others and some are slower.

Eve considered the sponge for a long time; I asked her to think out loud and she said "well you use it with water and it's got bubbles in, but when you put it down it stays in one shape so it must be solid" I was impressed with her logical reasoning here! I put a candle in with the solids ready for when we look at materials changing state and we can heat the solid wax to melt it!

I had fun making up a wide range of cards to represent gases and the different ways they might be found, some eve recognised and others she considered for the first time. I used a wide range to set the scene for more detailed explorations of matter. Similarly when I made up the cards for the bingo, I used a picture of molten magma and of liquid mercury to seed the idea that usually 'hard' substances such as rock and metal can be liquid also!

And the surprise bonus of these activities? Solid, liquid and gas are all phonetically spelled so it provided a reading activity too!

Next up? Changing states..... we made some coloured water and filled an ice cube tray today and I asked Eve what she thought would happen when we put it in the freezer. she replied "it will freeze and then it will be a solid, not a liquid anymore! I love that my children love science as I love it too!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Adding the Suffix 'ing'

Knowing how Eve responds better to hands-on activities than purely paper based ones, I made this activity for her to practice reading 'ing' as a suffix and adding it onto phonetic words that she can read already. I have been introducing new sounds as we come across them in the read write inc books that we have been reading, fairly systematically but I've got some other reading books for Eve and 'ing' endings are in a few pages time so I thought I'd prepare her to come across them!

I wrote root words on paint sample strips and cut them out, then used the pegs vertically if an additional consonant was needed, and horizontally for the 'ing'. You can see it set up below..... I had Eve look through the box and set up the components as she wanted, and asked her what she thought was on them.
Halfway through she said "thanks mum, this is great!"....... result!!!
There is a similar concept involved for the suffixes 'y' and 'ed' as well and I've got more pegs ready for those!!

Friday, 18 March 2011

George's Marvellous Medicine.....

We went to see 'George's Marvellous Medicine' at the theatre this morning, adapted from the book of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was the first time that Eve had been to the cinema and she was enchanted with the whole set-up. She took so much pleasure from all the little details, and it was such a pleasure to take her.  Later this afternoon we made our own versions of George's Marvellous Medicine.

I set up a tray with cooking oil, salt, blue bath bubbles, washing up liquid, shaving foam, gylcerine, salt, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, oh and lots of colours of food colouring of course!

The girls had a glass, a glass bowl, a tiny shot glass, tiny spoons, a milk powder measure and a whisk each. They were incredibly careful about measuring out amounts of their chosen ingredients and then replacing the caps. In the picture above, Eve has added bicarbonate of soda to her mixture and is quite fascinated with the growth of her potion as she adds vinegar to it!

The mixtures all ended up a vivid yellowy green for some reason, despite the amount of red colouring that went in!! The girls made lots of observations about the viscosity of the liquids and how the materials combined, as well as the way they stirred into each other. They looked very closely and said what they thought was happening...... a good launch pad for some science experiments based on solutions and mixtures me thinks!

We did of course combine and freeze the bowls of 'medicine' for exploring another day!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Schemas - Patterns of Learning

Last year one of the little ones that I child mind showed a strong interest in things that rolled, span and turned and when I looked into it further I discovered schemas.

Pen Green describe schemas as:  „patterns of play‟ that children exhibit when they are exploring the world and trying to find out how things work.

Reading further helped me to provide suitable activities and resources to facilitate her exploration and stretch her thinking. Since then she has become a very focused little girl with a long concentration span for anything she chooses to do. Recently she has lost this concentration and been 'flitting' from one thing to the next.

This week I sat and observed her play and took photographs for about two hours. As I watched her and thought about her play it suddenly clicked that she was exhibiting another schema...... envelopment this time. Indicators of an envelopment schema she showed were:
  •  She drew in circular movements, encircling everything everything else she drew, or drew a detailed picture then scribbled over it thickly.
  • She folded all her pictures up into small parcels after she'd drawn on them.
  • She laid a doll down and covered it in every blanket that she could find.
  • She carried a bag round with all manner of items squirrelled away inside.
  • She built a castle from duplo and told me about what was inside.
So although she was moving fairly quickly from one play resource to the next, she was exploring the same idea through all of them.
This document from Pen Green explains the basic schemas well.

Specifically for this little girl I have planned to extend her exploration of envelopment by:
  • Making dens with cloths.
  • Providing fabrics to wrap herself in.
  • Putting out small objects with the play dough to fold into it and envelop.
  • Show her how to secure her paper parcels with sellotape.
  • Provide stiff paper to paint on (as envelopment schema children often cover the paper thickly with paint all over)
  • Pasta in the sensory table with boxes to put it into, and cloths to wrap it in.
  • Hollow wooden blocks to build enclosures big enough to sit/lie in.
  • Show her how to put roofs on the buildings she makes.
  • put envelopes out with the mark-making materials.
I will probably add more to this as I go..... and I will put together my observations and ideas and explain it to her Mum so that Mum can understand and support her play also.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

St. Patrick's Day fun!

We celebrated St. Patrick's day a little early today with a mixture of activities.

We read "What Makes a rainbow and talked about the legend of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I found lots of rainbow legends here. Then we made these lovely window hangers, with the idea from teaching hearts (scroll down).

The older children did some rainbow maths. I adapted the game for the younger ones so they could pick a number card, match it to the rainbow and colour the rainbow section.

We wanted to set up this experiment to catch a rainbow but the sun stayed behind the clouds so we will try it when the sun shines!
We made hand print shamrocks from activity village and attached Irish blessings for the children to take home.

For snack time we made Irish Soda Bread. It was yummy!! So yummy that I forgot to take a picture until it was nearly all gone.... ooops!

We had a great day and I can't wait to see what spins off from this!