Monday, February 28, 2011


Today we began listening and reading the story "Abiyoyo."   After we listened to the story, we decided to 'paint-dance'!  Of course, this would be a version of the dancing that Abiyoyo does in the story; we just added paint to the mix!

We each positioned ourselves with two paintbrushes each, turned on some music, and had those paintbrushes "dancing" across the large paper taped to the table!  Some of us danced fast.  Some of us danced slowly!  Some of us danced with the paint side by side...but MOST of us danced with the paint swirled together!

Some of the children watched carefully as we used the brushes to swirl the paint in circles and make "feather" painting with the brush almost dry.  The children all stayed interested in this group painting project for more than 20 minutes! 

We enjoyed this project so much, that it may take several days for the finished group project to dry!   I think we may try this again sometime with different colors!  The children really enjoyed the open-ended aspect of this project.  And, of course, who doesn't like painting with TWO paintbrushes?!
Oh, yes, and some of us threatened to dance those two paintbrushes right on our teacher's head!   

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Frogs on the Brain!

This blog could definitely be described as a "working blog" a "work in progress" or...a "blog with a bit of ADHD" (yes, I think that describes this blog best)!   However, this is what I enjoy best about reading other blogs; being able to actually view the author's thinking or creative process!

After I wrote yesterday's post with the 3 Little Frogs rhyme, I saw a comment from Kierna mentioning using various tunes with the rhymes and songs that we, as teachers and parents, tend to make up throughout the day.

I quickly realized that the tune to "5 little ducks" (...went out one day, over a hill and far away.  Mother duck said, quack, quack, quack, quack...but only 4 little ducks came back)  would work fairly well with the rhyme the way it was written.   (Go ahead...try works!)

However, I came up with a bit of an alternate version that works just as well, perhaps even better, using the tune to "5 Little Ducks" and I think my kids will enjoy the extra bit of wiggling that we can work into the song! 

So, here is an alternate version of the 3 Little Frogs (sung to the tune of 5 Little Ducks):

3 Little frogs,
Resting on a log,
Right in the middle of the great big bog.
One little frog went wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.
And jumped in the bog with a giggle, giggle, giggle!

(repeat with 2 and 1)

Now, I'm sure these alternate versions could continue on forever in my head, but I will refrain from posting any new versions!  You may be sick of frogs by the time they leave my brain!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

3 Little Frogs!

It must be all the (relatively) warm weather we are having here or something, as I watched TV the other night, this little rhyme began forming in my head!  It started out about birds, but quickly evolved into a rhyme about frogs!   (I'm pretty darn sure this isn't out there somewhere already...but if you've heard this or something like it, please let me know!  I may be losing my mind!)

So, here's the 3 Little Frogs rhyme:

3 little frogs
resting on a log
right in the middle
of a great big bog.
1 got the wiggles (one child wiggles)
and jumped right in (jumps to the middle) 
"Look" said the other frogs, (other children make circles with hands around eyes for binoculars)
"Look at him/her swim!"

2 little frogs
resting on a log
right in the middle
of a great big bog.
1 got the wiggles
and jumped right in
"look" said the other frogs
"look at him/her swim!"

1 little frog
resting on a log
right in the middle
of a great big bog.
She got the wiggles
and jumped right in
"look" said all the frogs
"look at us swim!"

Now, of COURSE I would come up with a rhyme...WHILE I'm on break from school! Isn't that the way it always happens?! So, anyway, we have several long, low "shelves" at school that are actually meant to sit on and take off shoes. I think we'll use this for 3 of the children to sit on and "act out" the rhyme! (Oh- they'll have fun- especially with all the wiggling!) We also have logs surrounding our sand pit outside. THIS may be where we act out the new rhyme!

And, just in case you're wondering, frogs do live in bogs! A bog is simply a marshy area with water and a great deal of vegetation.

(If you would like to see an alternate version click HERE!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ring Around the addition!

Here's a quick little addition to Ring Around the Rosy.  After everyone "falls down" and is sitting, pat the ground as you chant:

"Fishes in the ocean,
Fishes in the sea.
We all stand up again,

Slowly draw out One...Two...and on Three stand up and raise both hands in the air!  Then, of course, you MUST start again with another round of Ring Around the Rosy.  :)

The children LOVE the additional chant and usually we end up with a never ending round of Ring Around the Rosy for the next half hour or so! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Everyone Needs a Moment to Relax Every Once in a While!

Ahhh....I'm on a week break from school right now!  I guess I didn't realize just how much I needed a little break at home until I was AT home!  I am catching up on so much that needed to be done around my house, but wasn't really sure what I would blog about while on this break!  Given the fact that I am relaxing and rejuvenating, I was thinking of ways we find to rejuvenate while IN the classroom!

I don't know about you, but if I'm having a tough day in the classroom, I try very hard just to really ENJOY the small moments of the day!  Sometimes I have to purposely remind myself that I can worry later, but NOW is the time to stay in the moment!

Working with preschool children tends to naturally lend itself to staying in the moment.  99.99% of any of the stress I feel at work comes from adults...not the children.  And, I'm sure that probably is the case for most of us! 

If I'm REALLY having a tough day, I may try to catch a few breaths by taking a lunch cart down, assisting a child with a sensory break or even changing a pull-up.  This gives me just enough of a breather to regroup and allows me to spend some one on one time with a child.  I often "find my smile" again while walking down the hall with a child pushing a weighted cart, kicking a weighted ball with a child or pushing the lunch cart to the lunch room!

Sometimes we do group things that others may think are for the benefit of the group, but in reality, I'm trying to regroup and relax!  Often we listen to relaxing music at lunch time in order to relax.  If I'm on edge you will probably see me pop in my "Zen Relaxation collection".  (just thinking about it helps me relax!) 

As a group, we may just decide to take an afternoon walk after lunch!  In order to make sure this is not too stressful, I simply push back to the next day anything we may have had planned for the afternoon.  This way, we can take our time to really enjoy the walk and explore the outdoors without feeling we need to hurry back to the room. 

In order to prevent feeling crazy first thing in the morning, I make sure I get to work early enough to make sure things are ready for the day and in time to check the answering machine to make sure one of my teacher associates won't be out for the day. 

Another trick I've started is checking my e-mail BEFORE I even arrive at school.  I check e-mail in the morning after I get up and ready.  That way, if there's anything that I will need to take care of immediately, I don't feel like a bus just ran over me when I get to work!   I can go in, take care of it and move on with my day!

How do you find time to take a breather if you're having a tough day?  I'm sure we all have creative ways to regroup when we need a breather!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lightly Weighted Sensory Stuffed Animals!

I saw this great weighted stuffed animal (Cozy Hugs) at Big Lots for $7.00, and just couldn't pass it up (I found these on-line "on sale" for 27.50 a piece)!  
Knowing now that I saved myself $20.00 I may have to go get another one!
For many children, and adults for that matter, weighted blankets, vests or toys can provide a soothing, calming effect and can help reduce anxiety.  This weighted stuffed bear is simply the perfect size and weight (just comfortable, not heavy) to hand to a child during group or center time who is having difficulty focusing on an activity, having difficulty engaging in an activity or simply needs some time to regroup and calm down.   If you have a child with sensory processing disorder, weighted materials may be an integral part of his/her sensory diet (An occupational therapist would always be involved with the child if this is the case). 

This weighted stuffed animal is also the perfect size and weight to sit on a child's lap while reading a story.  Or, perhaps lay tucked under an arm as a child is calming down for nap time!   It is small enough to sit on a child's lap in a wheelchair, or to be carried around with a child in the classroom!

I really liked the idea that these weighted stuffed animals are also aromatherapy animals!  They can be placed in a microwave with a bowl of water and when removed after a few seconds are warm and provide a calming aromatherapy smell.  I'm not sure I will use these warm in the classroom, but it certainly is an option!   And, you can smell the lavender scent even without warming it up!

Now, if you choose to try to make your own weighted stuffed animal, here is an article with directions on how to do that!

A few cautions:
  1. Before using a weighted item with ANY child it is ALWAYS a good idea to consult an occupational therapist!
  2. NOTE:  (This post is not intended to provide information on how to use weighted materials with children who have sensory processing disorder, autism or PDD.  I am not an occupational therapist, and certainly not an expert in this area.  Here are several sites and articles that are (in general) quick and easy to read on the topics of:  sensory processing disorder, sensory seekers and sensory avoiders, an example of a working sensory diet, reducing anxiety in children as well as a sensory processing disorder blog.  If you have more questions please consult an occupational therapist!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

All Time Favorite Play-Dough Recipe!

At some point I said I would post my very favorite homemade play-dough recipe.  Since I just have the recipe written down, I don't remember where I got this recipe from, but I've used it many times over the past ten years!  (This is the recipe that got me started on adding olive oil to ALL the play- dough recipes!)

Here's the recipe:

Water - 2 cups
Olive Oil -3 Tablespoons
Food Coloring
Flour -2 cups
Salt- 1 cup
Alum (a preservative sold with spices)- 2 Tablespoons

In a saucepan, bring water to boil.  Add food coloring and olive oil.  Remove from heat and add flour, salt and alum.  Mix well.  Knead the dough when the mixture cools a bit.  Add flour as needed.  Should last up to 3 months if sealed and not allowed to dry.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Well, picture day was as much of a success as anyone could expect!  We managed to see true smiles from every single child in my classroom!  We threw a koosh ball, played musical instruments, gave kisses with a puppet, made silly noises, silly faces, said "ready, set, go" and ran around the camera area and came back to 'catch' that smile and basically made complete fools of ourselves!   

How DO you make an experience such as picture day at preschool meaningful to a child who is three or four years old?  Well, in our case, we make complete fools of ourselves and allow the children to giggle and laugh at us!  Hopefully, all our silliness today will be noticeable on the actual photos when they are printed!  (They did look awful darn cute on the preview screen!)

Here are my tips for making picture day as stress free for the children and adults as possible:
  1. Bring props...lots and lots of the most loved props in the classroom (we packed a small backpack with small items from the classroom).
  2. Look at things from the child's point of view.  That large screen or great big lights may not scare you, you know what the purpose is.  It probably will worry the little ones.  Explain what things are and what they are used for if you know the children will understand the concepts.  If not, simply try to make the experience quick and painless!  Allow the children to touch as much as is allowed.  Give them time to warm up to the room and equipment.  If the children need to wait, try to make sure they have a hand of someone they know, in order to feel safe. 
  3. It's never a failure to say, "We'll come back later when it's a little quieter in here!"
  4. Insist that someone the child KNOWS will help the child.  ONLY if the child seems comfortable with the photographers should you allow them to assist the child.  (It's stressful enough, the child doesn't need new people combing their hair, adjusting their shirt or "kissing" them with stuffed animals!  The people who know the children should do these things.  Of course, if the child is smiling and seems comfortable, take advantage of the extra assistance!)
  5. Bring a great BIG bag of patience!  You'll need it!
  6. Take what you can get.  Don't expect the child to sit there for multiple attempts at a picture unless they are happy and having fun! 
  7. Finally, join forces with the photographer.  If at least ONE photographer seems sensitive to the fact that a child may do better in a different position (in his or her wheelchair, or sitting rather than standing) or with things done in a bit of a different way, talk to that person about how things may work better for the child.  Then make adjustments immediately! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picture Day...Or the Fine Art of Juggling Sharp Objects!

Tomorrow is picture day.  Now, I know parents want a great picture of their child...I know!  But, I must tell you about picture day from my point of view! 

Managing a group of children who are not big fans of changes in schedules, bright lights, loud noises, large objects, new people; and then requiring that the child sit down, look at a person they don't know, smile and, of course, do all of this without like herding a group of cats into a room full of dogs.  Needless to say, it's not always easy!  

Well, of course, everything will be just fine!  The children will adjust.  The adults will make it through the day.  The photography equipment will be just fine.  The photographers will live to make it through another picture day at another school!  And, we will see smiles...a minimal amount of wiggling and (hopefully) clean clothes and combed hair from the children!  

But, I always have a million things going through my mind before we head down to a loud, large, echoing cafeteria for picture day.  ..."Got to grab the puppet, so we can catch a smile as the puppet gives kisses.  Don't forget the maracas or other musical instrument so we are happily listening to the music and 'forgeting' that we are uncomfortable with the loud noise and bright lights.  And, remember to sing with the child who will almost always smile as he is joining in the singing." 

"Oh, and, wait, make sure no one spills any breakfast on their clothes!   And, yes, we will need to avoid the long lines.  We will need to time this just right.  We will need to check the photos as they are being done.  We will need to make sure the photographer doesn't try to hurry through.   We may need to remind the photographer that it may take 1,2,3 or many more takes before we get a picture with a smile!   We will need to strategically position all adults to make sure no one tries to take off or tries to dismantle any equipment!"  (children or ADULT trying to escape...ALL will be stopped!)

Whew...I'm exhausted just THINKING about tomorrow.   Good thing I have all next week off.  I may need a whole week to recover from picture day! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Organizing All of our Stuff...Part IV

Organizing supplies for the week is a never ending nightmare in most preschool classrooms!  OK, maybe just mine!  The children in my classroom tend to require large realistic items rather than smaller paper or abstract items.  Which, of course, take up a great deal of space! 
My supplies for the month in a 3 drawer cart.
I've tried lots of different ways to organize supplies for the week, but my biggest "problem" (if it truly IS a problem) is that I often switch things up!  Since, we should be planning each day around the interests and needs of the children, I don't view changing things as a problem.  However, this does make it tricky to organize!  So, I've basically decided to use multiple ways to organize. 

Our basket for weekly supply items.
Previously, I found an organizational system on Teach Preschool, using a basket and expandable file folders.  It was simple and easy to set up, but didn't quite work for me.  So, of course, I used the basic idea and adapted it so it fit my organizational style and what works for the classroom I teach.  (I'm not as linear thinking as some people- I tend to organize things based around ideas and topics, rather than days of the week.  And as I said, I may change things mid-way through!  If my system doesn't make sense to you, you may be a more linear thinker, and should go with the simple system Deborah suggests at Teach Preschool.)
I just recently added the 3 file envelopes for hard copies of activities
flannelboard stories etc. that I plan to do with the children for the week

So, here is how I set up my organization for our daily, weekly and monthly supplies: 

1. First, I have a 3 drawer cart that holds large supplies for the month.

Each drawer is labeled:
    A.  Drawer #1: Art, sensory, science and cooking supplies
    B.  Drawer #2: Stuffed Animals, Puppets, Books and Listening Supplies
    C.  Drawer #3: Outdoor, Center time, Transitions and Extra Items

I simply throw stuffed animals, art materials, sensory materials, books etc. that I plan to use for the month in these drawers. It's really just a hodge-podge of various items that I anticipate that I will need sometime during the month. Often this becomes my basic materials for the month, with more added for a specific week or day.

2.  On top of the 3 drawer cart, I have a basket for weekly supplies. I take any item I will need for the current week out of the monthly drawers and throw it in the weekly basket. This way it's simply in my line of vision so I remember to pull it out and actually USE it!

3.  I have recently added the third organizational tool:  3 expandable file folders that sit in the back of the weekly basket:  

These are each labeled as well:
     A.  File #1:  Songs, flannel-board stories and finger-plays
     B.  File #2:  Art and play-dough projects
     C.  File #3:  Book activities and projects 

These file folders hold hard copies of activities I have found on the Internet or in books that I plan to use during the current week.  They also hold words to fingerplays, songs etc. that I plan to use and don't already know.  I basically have paper-clipped together the hard copies of the items used for a week, then each week the new hard copies will be placed in front.  The files are expandable and will hold many weeks worth of hard copies of activities, so I will simply keep adding, until I am forced to take some out and file them away in a more permanent file! 

Oh yes, that would be how I organize!  I'm all for systems that don't require me to move things too often!  If you would like to see how I've organized our paper-work, books or how I have labeled the books follow the links to read more.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yikes! Playdough Tip Follow-Up!

I felt I MUST do a quick follow up to the playdough tip post!  I saw a comment about sticky playdough on the Teach Preschool facebook page after the link to this post. 

You will really need to play around with the amount of extra virgin olive oil you add to the dough after you have made it! 

Some playdough will not hold a lot more without going overboard and becoming sticky and losing consistency!  Sometimes humidity will change how much it can hold!  In other words; I simply add a little bit, mix it in then add a little more if it is not yet the consistency I want.  It is definitely NOT an exact science!  I did add almost a tablespoon to this particular recipe...but if I made it today, it may not hold that much! 

I don't want people to start tossing out whole batches of playdough because it is too sticky!  Deb is correct, letting it air dry a bit or adding more flour should help if you find the dough does get too sticky.  Just make sure to go slow with the addition of the olive oil.  Remember, the other oil was absorbed as you cooked it; this oil is really sitting on the top of the dough, so it can only absorb so much at a time!  Hope this follow up post helps!

"People" Progress!

Lately, we have been enjoying using markers, crayons and adapted scissors to create and color!  I have one little guy who has made remarkable progress in his ability to create a recognizable person while drawing! 
Completed January 7, 2011. 

Completed January 10, 2011

This is completely child-initiated.  His drawings began with mostly faces and lots and lots of circles!  Since then, his people are more defined and he has added many body parts: a nose, ears, body, arms, legs and feet.   

Completed February 1, 2011  Hey, we see some arms and legs...and a nose and some ears!

Completed February 4, 2011 The oval shape under his head is supposed to be
his "body" I was told!

Completed February 11, 2011  He's actually focusing more on the first
3 letters of his name rather than the person!  But look at those fingers...and look at the
letters he wrote all by himself!  We have been working on those first three letters of his
name with the Handwriting without Tears wood pieces.  This child transfered this
learning from building the letters with the woodpieces to
writing them on paper himself! 
On a regular basis we sing the song Mat Man from our Handwriting without Tears curriculum.  We also build the Mat Man character as we sing along.  I am sure this song is probably going through his head as he draws since his people have all the body parts (and generally are the same shape) as Mat Man!   The children LOVE the Mat Man song and building Mat Man.  This particular child knows ALL the words and sings loudly each time we do this!
Mat Man
This child has made so much progress and absolutely LOVES coloring and creating people all over his paper!   At some point, we will probably find EVERY single piece of paper in the classroom covered with people!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Playdough Tip!

I just finished making our strawberry sparkle play-dough for the week and thought I'd share my tip to make sure homemade play-dough is smooth and soft!  I found the recipe for the strawberry sparkle play-dough at the Imagination Tree.  (It smells delicious!  Hope no child tries to sample it tomorrow!) 
No "sparkles" yet!  Tomorrow, the children will help add these!
So, here's my tip:  After making the play-dough according to the directions, I knead the dough until all the ingredients are mixed, then I add a tablespoon or so  add small amounts of of extra virgin olive oil to the top of the play- dough and mix this in- then add a bit more and mix it in, until the dough feels smooth to the touch, but not sticky.  (If, at some point, while playing with the dough it begins to dry out, simply place a few drops of extra virgin olive oil on the dough and re-mix!)

Now, if you want REALLY smooth and silky play-dough, substitute extra virgin olive oil for the vegetable oil.  However, I would rather COOK with the extra virgin olive oil, so I just add a bit after I make the play-dough!  And, of course, also keep the dough covered when the kids aren't playing with it! 
*If you are having difficulty with the dough becoming sticky, please read the playdough tip follow up post.  If your dough is sticky and loses consistencey, you've added too much extra oil.  Don't add too much extra oil all at once- a little extra should do the trick!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birdseed Sensory Table

Towards the end of this past week, I decided to take out our cotton balls from the sensory table and add birdseed instead.  Previously, we had cotton balls and tongs and scoops to explore.  The children enjoyed this, but needed quite a bit of assistance to manipulate the tongs in order to pick up the cotton balls (and probably a better skill to work on at a different time of the school day).  So, I kept many of the accessories: the heart shaped scoops, measuring cups and spoons, the red sifter, the red heart shaped bowls and the pink boxes; and simply swapped out the birdseed for the cotton balls.  

The children CLEARLY enjoyed the change!  Several children have spent long periods of time at the sensory table scooping, filling, pouring, and sifting birdseed!  With past classes, we have seen a great deal of birdseed scattered across the floor when we've done this; but not with this class!  Not yet, at least!  Most of the birdseed has stayed in the table!

The children took the time to experiment with how full each bowl or box could become!  One child experimented with what would happen when he flicked the scoop up in the air very fast!  (This was pretty much our only birdseed on the floor!)  Interestingly enough, he didn't continue doing this, but went back to scooping, filling and pouring the birdseed in the table!

Another child decided holding the birdseed in his hands and slowly letting it sprinkle out was more rewarding than scooping with cups and spoons!  When we are finished using the birdseed in the sensory table, I generally would just sprinkle this outside for the birds. 

However, I'm tempted this time to roll the whole darn sensory table outside and see what happens!  I have a feeling the children may be more interested in watching the birds eat the birdseed directly out of the sensory table!  Then again, I'm not sure I want to CLEAN the sensory table after THAT experiment! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

February Friendship Fridays!

This year I decided to do something a bit different during the month of February.  Rather than just having a small "party" on Valentine's Day and allowing the children in my classroom to bake cookies to eat in the afternoon, I decided to focus a bit on friendship throughout the entire month of February!
So we decided to celebrate Friendship Fridays!  Each Friday in the month of February we are baking "friendship cookies" (yes, regular heart shaped sugar cookies) to take to our friends in the other preschool classrooms.  So, today, for the second Friday in a row, we baked cookies!  The children helped to put the cookies on the cookie sheets, put the cookie sheets in the oven and waited for the timer to ring to tell us the cookies were done. 
After the cookies cooled a bit, we put some in small pails.  Each of the children then got to carry a pail to our friends in another classroom to deliver our "friendship cookies".  We had a pail swinging from a hand, swinging from a wheelchair and clutched to a chest in order not to trip and fall! 

Since we have four other preschool classrooms in our building, we plan on doing this each Friday in February so we can deliver "friendship cookies" to each classroom.  

Of course we make enough cookies so each of the children in my classroom can take a cookie home with their family to enjoy! What fun it is to show our friends how much they mean to us!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day Heart Roller Stamps

I found these wonderful heart roller stamps at Micheal's.   They were $1.50 a piece and a GREAT deal!  We tried them out today during center time, along with sheets of pink paper taped in a long strip around the table.  This way the children could stand and actually walk all the way around the table while rolling!  What fun is THAT!    
We used purple and red ink to stamp with.  The children did need a bit of assistance pressing down hard enough to soak up enough ink to make a long print.
We also attached some thick foam tubing to the handles of the rollers since originally the handles were very flat and a bit difficult to hold on to. (The foam tubing is often used to help children or adults who have difficulty with strength and fine motor skills hold on to paintbrushes/ toothbrushes etc.)  You can find the foam tubing through Beyond Play or simply use Styrofoam tubing (this is what we used on these).   
When the children grew tired of using the heart rollers we brought out the pipsqueak markers to color with!  (The pipsqueak markers are much shorter than regular markers and better for small hands to hold and work on those fine motor skills)

This was a great activity that I think we might pull out again some day soon!  I think next time, though, we may just cover the ENTIRE surface of the table with paper as some of our children found it very interesting to roll the stamper in the MIDDLE of the table...or color with marker in the middle of the table!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Lazy Teacher's Chocolate (Hot Cocoa) Playdough!

I got the great idea of making chocolate play-dough and making pretend chocolate candies from "Counting Coconuts."  But by the time I got around to making the chocolate play-dough, I realized I had NO regular cocoa powder in the house and I really didn't want to take the time to make homemade play-dough!  I know, I know,  LAZY!   (I had already been to the Dollar Store, Target, Walmart, Walgreen's and a craft store....I was NOT about to go out again!)
So, I used what I had!  I had two containers of brown play dough:  Play-Doh brand play dough.  I had packets of Nestle hot cocoa mix (rich milk chocolate).  I basically poured a packet of hot cocoa mix on a plate and kneaded the dry mix into the brown play-dough. 

I used 2 packets of hot cocoa mix for one container of play-dough.  Now, I'm SURE the homemade chocolate play-dough probably smelled better than my version (You know that play-do smell?  It still retained a bit of this smell.)  But, it DID smell surprisingly like chocolate! 
I brought several more packets of hot cocoa mix to school with my second container of brown play-dough so the children could help mix and knead this into the dough themselves.  So, for anyone else who is lazy out there- this really does work!  And basically just takes enough time to knead the hot cocoa mix into the play-dough!

*****This has been linked to...
Every Day Sensory Play

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Have You Ever...

Have you ever found yourself searching through storage boxes, cabinets, drawers and shelves...KNOWING you have an item you need to use for the week!  Knowing it is tucked neatly away SOMEWHERE! 

I recently spent at least half an hour tearing apart my office in search of ONE small item.  I can see this item in my head.  I can picture it in one of the storage boxes in my office.  I KNOW it is in there somewhere!  I JUST CAN'T FIND IT!

All my boxes are sorted and SHOULD be in one of those darn boxes!  Sadly, I still can't find it.  Now, I know I can substitute.  It isn't the end of the world.  But, I KNOW it's there!  Somewhere!   I even checked in boxes and drawers that it SHOULDN'T be in.  No luck. 

On my quest for this one elusive object I did find about twenty OTHER things that I can use in the next several weeks!  I guess I was just taking the "scenic route" to find all these other wonderful items!  I'm sure I'll find the item I was looking for when I least expect it...while I'm searching for something else!  And, of course, I'll have to make sure I find a use for it then...because, I sure the heck am not going to have all this searching go to waste!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Getting Started...Writing IEP Goals

I thought I'd write a little about the very dry subject of writing IEP goals today :)  Go ahead...find a more interesting paint dry on your won't bother me!  If you'd like to see my previous post on how to keep TRACK of IEP goal progress go HERE.

Writing IEP goals that are meaningful to the child, attainable for the child within the one year time period, are relatively simple to track and will show true growth are sometimes a challenge to write! 

Of course, we know, IEP's are invaluable!  IEP goals keep us on track.  Goals allow us to help a child move from where they currently are to the next level.  IEP goals (as with IEP's themselves) are never written in a vacuum.   Writing goals should be a collaborative effort.  The entire team needs to be involved (parents, sp.ed. teacher, specialists, gen. ed. teacher...and with older children, often the child him/herself)

Even though IEP's and IEP goals are written for a specific child, it certainly doesn't mean that you can never use a well written goal more than once!  I have children who are very similar in what they need to work on and where they are functioning.  Therefore, the IEP goals may be very similar.  (Although I always tweak the goal even if I am using the same basic format.)

There are many different ways to write IEP goals.  Each state, and, in fact, each school district has certain requirements for IEP goals.  You need to know the rules in your own district.  However, there are items that will make an IEP goal work well.  And in my opinion, seeing examples of goals, rather than a list of what needs to be included in a goal is more helpful.  Therefore, I will just move on with a few examples of my children's current IEP goals (of course, without names):

*Self-help/ Independence:
By January 2012, when entering the classroom, ******* will complete 4 out of 4 steps of the morning routine (take off backpack, hang up backpack, unzip coat, take off coat) independently (initially with verbal and picture prompts only as needed) on 4 out of 5 consecutive days observed.
(This goal sets us up naturally to move on to the next steps (unzip backpack, take out notebook, hand to a teacher).  This also leads us from using pictures to prompt at first and then moving to only verbal prompts and eventually independently.)

*Social Goal:
By January 2012, during a 20 minute timed period during small groups, outdoor or center time, when set up with a toy and an adult or child to interact with, ***** will obtain a total of 6 points on a 18 point joint action rubric given 4 consecutive weekly probes.

The joint action rubric includes 9 boxes:

The bottom three (easiest) boxes include these things:
Returns eye contact when another child or adult initiates interaction.   (1 point)
Vocalizes to another child or adult when an interaction is initiated.  (1 point)
Reaches towards a toy another child or adult sets up for him or indicates by vocalizing, laughing and/or physical activity the desire to continue or repeat a play scheme with a toy.  (1 point)

The middle three boxes include these things:
Initiates eye contact with another child or adult.  (2 points)
Initiates interaction with another child or adult by vocalizing.  (2 points)
Reaches to manipulate a toy near another child or adult or indicates by vocalizing, laughing and/or physical activity the desire to continue or repeat a play scheme with a toy.  (2 points)

And the top three boxes include these things:
Sustains interaction by repeatedly making eye contact over a several min. period. (3 points)
Sustains interaction by engaging in turn taking vocalizations of at least 2 turns.  (3 points)
Sustains interaction by watching another child or adult and then reaching out to manipulate toy or indicates by vocalizing, laughing and/or physical activity the desire to continue or repeat a play scheme with a toy.  (3 points)

I am still experimenting with how to most effectively use rubrics for IEP goals.  I'm sure these will evolve as I get more experience with writing them for IEP goals.  It's always a good idea to brainstorm how a goal will need to be written.  Sometimes the logistics of how a goal will be tracked or what needs to be included in a goal will take several attempts before everyone (parents, teachers, specialists etc.) are all satisfied with how the goal is written. 

Hopefully, this will give you a basic idea of what needs to be included in an IEP goal!  Now, hopefully, you aren't still watching your paint dry!  Just don't have TOO much fun brainstorming possible IEP goals!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Good Friends!

I just had to smile today when I saw this happen in the gym:  One of my little guys from my classroom was having a great time.  He was bouncing around in his gait trainer (walker) laughing and vocalizing.  A little girl from the other classroom came running up to him smiling and talking to him (we think she may have a bit of a crush on him...she LOVES talking to him!). 

She suddenly stopped and looked up at me, "But, when will he TALK to me?"  "Well," I said, "he IS talking to you!  Listen...see, he says he's happy you came over to play with him!  Look at his face, he's smiling at you!"  I was waiting for her to question how I knew all this or to question my translation skills, but, she just stopped.  She looked at him, looked back at me and smiled a huge smile, as if to say, "Oh, NOW I can hear him!  I just didn't understand!"

Just then another child ran up and overheard our conversation.  "HEY, he just said Wally!" he exclaimed!   "That's her brother's name!  How did he know that?"  And for the next few minutes they insisted that the little guy from my room KNEW the little girl's brother and was calling out his name!  

I love seeing the children develop friendships and love seeing them enjoy playing and talking with their friends!  These children just viewed the translation process as a fun part of the interaction!  They were quite sure that this little guy was speaking his own language, and all they had to do was figure out what words he was saying!  I'll just bet you that they will run back up to him next time they see him and ask him who else he knows.  And, I'll just bet that he knows SOMEONE from their family and, of course, he will tell them all kinds of cool things he has done and how he knows the person!   They, of course, will listen and translate and enjoy hanging out together with a good friend!  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The "bonus" snow day!

The second snow day is always more fun than the first!  On the first snow day I feel trapped in the house.  There's no way I'm going out before the streets are plowed!  The second snow day is a whole different story.  The second snow day always feels like a "bonus day"! 

Second snow days don't come around very often.  So you have to make them count when they do!  Baking cookies and staying in your PJ's is for the FIRST snow day!  Going out to lunch and heading to the mall is for that "bonus" second snow day!

So, here I sit, at my computer...wondering what to do with my bonus snow day.  Darn, I need to start planning for snow days!  Next time I must have a list of fun things to do that don't require much money for my bonus snow day!  But for today, I'll have to wing it!  I'm sure I can come up with something for my bonus day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Organizing All of our Stuff...Part III

You had to know it was coming...Part III, that is!  I do enjoy organized chaos around me, and teaching preschool pretty much gives you an endless supply of items to organize!  If you have not read Organizing all of our stuff...Part I and II and want to catch HERE and HERE!

When I made up my book lists, and organized and alphabetized my books, I also needed a quick and easy way to know which childrens books are mine and which are the school's books.  I know most teachers already have labels on their own books as well as labels on school books.  I just needed a quick and easy way to distinguish between home and school books without having to LOOK at every single label!  Here's how I did that: 
I ended up making up two labels- one for my books, which I attached to all my books on the front cover, and then separate labels for the school books, which I attached to the lower part of the spine of the book.  This way, I can easily spot all the school books as they are on the shelf since the flower shows on the spine!  It may seem that it would be difficult to spot these on soft cover books, but, truthfully, the red flower shows up very well!  I can scan the entire bookshelf and pick out the books that are mine within a few seconds.
Because the books are often going between home and school for planning and storage, they do often get mixed together.  Labels give me a very easy and quick way to distinguish between the books so I can separate them.  My husband thought it was silly to put my name as well as the classroom name on the labels for my home books (in the event I would teach another classroom) however, in the event a book would be left somewhere else in the school, it could now easily be returned to the classroom! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Paint Cup Tip

Many years ago, I found the absolute perfect paint cup/water cup for painting and watercolors.  I happened to eat a certain brand of yogurt at the time, that came with a small cup attached to the top with granola or M&M's.  Probably not the healthiest yogurt, but it was pretty darn good tasting!
I ate these every day for probably more than six months before I realized that these small plastic cups could come in very handy!  Before this, they were routinely thrown in with our recycling. 

We found that these are simply the perfect size to hold enough paint to paint with, but not so much that the paint is wasted or needs to be covered for another day.  This is the reason I have always detested the larger paint cups that are sold for this purpose!

These cups have such a broad opening and flat bottom that the children can easily see and reach the paint or water with their paintbrush, but it is nearly impossible to spill the paint or water!  These are especially handy for holding water for watercolor painting!  If, by some chance, the water does spill, it is such a small amount, that it is very quick to clean up and refill the cup! 

Grab the "How Long is this Hall" Button!

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