Saturday, January 28, 2017

It's Groundhog Day!

This is such a busy week in my classroom!  We celebrate Chinese New Year, and Groundhog Day!

I LOVE Groundhog Day!  The kids take on my enthusiasm for this weird holiday and we have FUN!  For me, Groundhog Day begins on February first.  We take a part  of our whole group time to discuss what Groundhog Day means, and we make our own predictions about what we think or hope will happen.  We make a class graph of names of who thinks the groundhog will see his shadow, and who thinks the groundhog will NOT see his shadow.  We count and compare our predictions and leave them visible for the next day.

On Groundhog Day we watch the footage from Punxsutawney that morning and we see who predicted correctly and who didn't.  We also count the 6 weeks (if needed) and mark our calendar for when Spring should begin.

I have 2 books that I read to the class.
"Groundhog Day" By Betsy Lewin
Robin Hill School "Groundhog Day" By Margaret McNamara (both from Scholastic)

For Centers I use my Groundhog Day Lesson Plan.  I have all the printouts for the previous day's graphs, an emergent reader to color, a letter match game, a number game, a groundhog craft and MORE!

Click on the link's AWESOME and honestly, it will make your planning SO much easier!

My favorite part of the day is our Groundhog Craft.  It is so cute and so much fun.  It is another craft the kids will PLAY with during our center time...they even take their groundhogs out to the playground at recess.  I have photos of the supplies needed and the finished products.  Templates and instructions are included in my lesson plan.  This is one of the best crafts I do with my class all year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

This week we will celebrate Chinese New Year in my PreK class.  Chinese New Year Celebrations for 2017 will run from January 28th to February 15th.  This year is the year of the Rooster.  I love to bring unique cultural celebrations to my classes.  Most of the kids I teach don't celebrate Chinese New Year in their this is unique and fun!

I start out the day by reading "Bringing in the New Year" by Grace Lin.  It is an age-appropriate story about a family preparing for the New Year celebrations.  The colors are bright and bold, the text is simple and leaves lots of opportunities to ask the children questions and relate all of the preparations to their own lives.

I also spend some time talking about the Chinese zodiac and what the Year of the ________ is all about.  This year I will talk about Roosters and what the Chinese believe the characteristics of those born in this year will be.

There are fantastic videos put out by Panda Express that very simply explain Chinese New Year in a way that is entertaining and fun for the kids.  I found them youtube.  Just follow the links below.

Here's another, this one is the Legend of the Chinese New Year.

This video gives information about the Chinese Zodiac.

For centers we sit on cushions on the floor and practice eating ramen noodles with chop sticks!  I twist a rubber band around each pair of chopsticks to make it easier for the kids to master.  They LOVE this center for the noodles of course, but it is a FANTASTIC fine motor activity!

I have a matching game and a numerical order game in my lesson plan, but one fun activity I have done in the past is to put a container or bowl of puff balls on a table, give each student a set of chopsticks (again, wrapped with a rubber band), and we will use dice or number cards to count out puff balls to place in an empty bowl using our chopsticks.  The kids have really enjoyed this activity in the past.  I only use one die, and keep the numbers low...otherwise it can take forever to complete.

The best activity and the one the kids love the most is to make a real Chinese dragon.  I have the templates in my lesson plans-I will provide the link at the end of my post.  The kids love making their dragons, but mostly...they love playing with them when we are through!  It took many years for me to figure out how the kids could play with them immediately.  I use glue sticks for the glitter and to glue onto the dragon body, but the most important step is to hot glue the craft sticks onto the body before class begins.  That one step of prep make the whole day 100 times better.  I'm including photos of past year's dragons.  The kids are so happy with their work, and it is a perfect end to a fantastic day of celebration and learning!

My lesson plan for Chinese New Year can be accessed through the link below.  There is so much included in this one-day plan.  It will make your Chinese New Year celebration so much fun and so much easier!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Polar Express!

I LOVE teaching my students about Polar Animals!  Last week was our polar animal week...It was so much fun and so busy!  I wanted to hit a few pictures

We made 'Arctic Hares in the Snow'.  We talked about all the animals that camouflage in the winter.  We looked at pictures of animals in spring and summer and the winter coat transformations that make them become part of the polar landscape.

 Then we made penguin hats and learned about the many different kinds of penguins that live in oour coldest regions.  We walked and talked like penguins, and wore our awesome penguin hats all day!

 What would Polar animal week be without polar bears?  We made the cutest and simplest polar bears out of paper plates and cotton balls.  The kids added eyes and a cute nose and mouth.  This one was my favorite....

Follow the links below for some great Polar Animal resources!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Create a Little Winter Science Magic!

I'm thinking that I might start a 'Sunday Science' series of posts.  This week during our 'Winter' unit, my PreK class got to make Borax snowflakes.  This is one of my favorite experiments that I do with the kids all year.  It can be a little dicey, but if you have good control over your class, and stress how important it is to follow should be able to complete the experiment with no problems at all.

I'm going to give some step by step instructions with photos...bear with me, this post will be long!

First assemble everything you will need.
1 box of Borax
Mason jars-1 per snowflake
pipe cleaners cut in to 3 pieces a width that will fit into mouth of jar
a pencil-not round!
yarn or string
measuring spoons
measuring cups
food color (optional)
tape and sharpie (if you choose to label jars with names)
large craft sticks or spoons for stirring

The recipe for the snowflakes is as follows (I use this method for younger children)
6 Tablespoons Borax
1 cup HOT water
1 cup cool water
food coloring (optional)

Twist 3 pipecleaner pieces together to make a snowflake, and add string.  tie one end of the string onto a pencil (not a round pencil, or the string will unroll and the snowflake will get stuck on the bottom.)

I talk to the kids about the dangers of HOT water.  I how them how to hold their jar and stir so they don't get scalded by the water. (in 6 years, no one has been scalded)  I do this experiment in small groups...3-4 kids at a time.  I go over the rules about handling HOT water again.

Each child is given a jar with their name on it-or you can do 1 jar for the group.  We look at everything we have assembled and name each item.  I tell the kids that borax is powdered soap crystals and that we are making a 'solution'.  We count the tablespoons of Borax as we measure them into the jars.  Them I add the HOT water only and we stir breaking up clumps if needed.

After stirring for quite a while,  when I can see the majority of the Borax is dissolved, we add the cooler water and stir some more.

Then we are ready to add the food color and the snowflake.  The water will be very cloudy at first.  Let the pencil rest across the top of the jar-winding the string around it so that the snowflake is not touching the bottom of the jar.

We then say a little magic spell-I usually make it up on the spot. This year it went something like, "Abracadabra goodness sake, please become a snow flake." (silly, but the kids love it!)  We slowly and carefully place the jars on a shelf and go on with our day

By the next morning the water is clear and the crystals are clearly visible.  Actually, most of the time crystals have formed within 30 minutes.  Its wonderful!

The next day I assemble magnifying glasses, paper towels, and a large tub to dump the remaining solution into for center time.

I call the kids in groups of 3-4 to my center and we have our big 'reveal'!  I dump the solution and place the 'snowflake' carefully on the paper towel.  The kids are allowed to examine their snowflakes and the crystals that have formed int he jar for as long as they like.  They always ask how we made ice...I tell them to touch the is not cold.  it is not can be hard for them to understand.  I try to explain the best way I can to 4-5 year-olds how the saturated solution clings to the string and pipe cleaners as the solution cools and the soap reverts to it's origional form.

I place the snowflakes carefully in a baggie wrapped in a paper towel for them to take home.  They are so excited to show their parents at the end of the is an absolute thrill to see how happy and engaged they are.  I always listen to how the kids will explain the experiment to their's adorable!

Kids LOVE science, and I LOVE exploring right alongside them!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Winter is snowmen.  Winter is snowflakes.  Winter is about staying cozy and reading good books.

We stayed in and read 'Snowballs' by Lois Ehlert.  I love her books.  They are so simple and sweet.  She blends art and color, texture and text in colorful pictures that are never the same thing twice

Snowballs follows a day where after saving a bag of "good stuff" for abig snow, a big snow finally happens as do...a snow dad, snow mom, snowy, snow girl, snow cat, and snow dog are all made using the "stuff".  The kids love looking at the stuff that is used for each different snow creation.

We made a tray of our own "good stuff" and using plain white paper plates..made our own snow faces!

The kids really got into this activity.  Even the kids that hurry through art centers took their time and created their own little masterpiece.  We had a lot of fun and imagined even greater snow people and animals!

If you like this idea it is included with many others in my lesson plans and center packets for winter.  Just follow the links below!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What would YOU do on a Snowy Day?

Happy New Year!  Today we head back to school...I'm tired, but excited to see the kids!

We begin January learning about Winter.  My favorite Winter book to share with the kids is "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats.  The pictures are wonderful...they just draw you into the story.  The author has also managed to capture the feeling of a snowy day and the feeling of being a child.  Its a magical story thatchildren always seem to enjoy.

We do an art and literacy center to go with the story.  I read the story either in whole group or in our small groups at the beginning of the center.  I have made up a template of the main character Peter in his snowsuit.  We re-create a picture in the story while I ask the kids in the group what THEY would do on a snowy day.  I write down what each child says and add their answer to our bulletin board outside our room

The parents love to read what their children have to say and it is a fantastic way to bring literacy and creativity together while discussing the different characteristics of a winter day.  It is perfect for a Weather unit too!

I have this activity and some other great Winter resources available in my TPT store.  Just follow the links below if you are interested!