Friday, October 28, 2016

Corny Tales, Bins, Art and Display

Happy Friday. Today, I tell you one story in five parts- it will make you cringe, cry, smile, laugh, and perhaps, go ah-ha. Thanks to Doodle Bugs for hosting everybody's favorite linky party. Let the story begin.

1.  You know those gorgeous pictures on blogs and Pinterest of really cool things you can put in sensory bins for kids?

Well, I love those photos. I think sensory bins are the bomb and help kids not only with sensory issues, but also with sorting, fine muscle development, reading, math, and lots of other learning, depending on the materials you use. So when I made the classroom move, I made sure to make room for a sensory bin.

Well, last week we were studying seeds, and what better thing to have in the sensory bin than dried corn, right? It's all seed, after all. And corn is plentiful, and cheap, and the lovely golden kernels bring a kinda fallish feeling to the room– also important.

Twenty pounds of golden goodness

I took that lovely photo up there to remember the moment and add to my list of sensory ideas. As another center, for very distinct fine muscle practice, I supplied ears of dried corn so the kids could pick the kernels off the cobs. I mean corn and kids are hardly a NEW concept, Pinterest or no Pinterest. Playing with corn is basic early childhood stuff and has been around for years.

They really went at it with great determination

As I often do with a new feature in the room that will be available for free choice time, I first used the corn in centers. That way every kid, even the kids who would choose other things over the sensory bin, have a little sensory time. We had three centers that day– sensory bin of loose dried corn, dried corncobs to pick at, and poetry notebooks with me– this week a three part poem. Needing three different illustrations. On a notebook page without a lot of room. Away we go.

I usually can keep an eye on the whole room when I am teaching a center, or doing guided reading, or whatever. I mean I AM a teacher and I DO have eyes not only in the back of my head, but all sides of my head.  SOMEhow this particular poetry illustration task took waaaaay too much of my attention. When it was time to say, "Clear your center table," which is the signal that we are about to rotate centers, I looked over and Oh. My. Gosh. Corn was ALL over the floor by the sensory table. Like you could hear the crunching from across the room and there was no way the littles could avoid walking on it... or falling on it, too, I feared.

So good ECE teacher that I am, with only minimal mutterings under my breath and yells firm directions out of my mouth, I decided to do an impromptu whole group center of cleaning up the floor. THIS would be a teachable moment in the truest sense. The kids who came next would certainly know not to dump corn on the floor.

"Everybody on the floor to pick up the corn," I announced as I sat by, breathing slowly and taking pictures to calm myself.

About halfway through the clean-up

We then rotated centers and now the kids who had done sensory bin were doing corn picking, and the poets were checking out the corn, and I had a new crop at the poetry notebooks.

Fifteen minutes later, "Time to clear your center table," and OH. MY. Gosh. NOW the corn was all over the floor at the sensory table, AND under the corn picking table.

Big Breath.

Well... we wouldn't have to read the seed book right after centers, we could put it off until after lunch... I had minutes to spare for a second clean up.

"Everybody back on your knees."

Hmmm... I did get a few eyeball glances. Surely THIS time the teachable moment lesson would sink in and the remaining groups would be oh. so. careful. at the sensory bin.

Center rotation number three starts and I vow to keep my eye on the corn. AND the children.

All was well again
At my table, somehow the tool bin got dumped, two glue sticks got twisted all the way out, and somebody "accidentally on purpose" ripped somebody else's page. This was not one of our better poetry centers.

Finally! "Time to clear your center table...."

NOT AGAIN!! There it was. The floor was golden with corn.

"Everybody on your knees to pick up the corn!"

One little guy came up to me and said, "Mrs. Wright, I do not like the Picking Up the Corn center."


SOMEhow everybody got to lunch. I did a lunchtime vacuuming, christening my new, handy dandy 3-in-1 Bissell vacuum... sometimes things in the universe do align like buying a vacuum just before you really need it... and I VOWED to throw the corn away after free choice.... though actually, nobody chose the gorgeous, golden corn with it's many cups and scoops and tongs once we got to free choice later that day. Hmmm.

Really. We do use the sensory bin for all sorts of stuff, but never do we have messes that have to be cleaned up three times. I guess I need corn center moments to appreciate our better days, which fortunately outnumber corn days.

On my way home I decided there were indeed other "neater" corn activities to do:

2.  Like this game I invented. I copied a classlist of students names, one for each kid, and printed them on yellow cardstock. I then cut them up so each name was on it's own slip. I scattered them into the corn, mixing and burying them. I didn't do all the names for all the kids, just enough names in the corn for one center group to do the activity. I added some more with each rotation. Can you see those little name slips in there?

The kiddos found a name, then went and glued it to the matching name on their list. We did this center twice, over two days, cutting the class list of names in half. Their page looked like this when they were done. They were very engaged in finding and glueing the names.

3.  We did seed math, using a number grid as a tool to aid our counting.

4.  We did seed window art, which included the corn. I prepped the window sheets by cutting out a frame of construction paper, and taping the cut, there in the corner.

Then I stuck a rectangle of clear contact paper to the frame, so the hole was covered with the sticky side of the contact paper. Be careful it doesn't stick to the table through the hole.

To keep it particle-free until we used it in centers, I put the waxy sheet of paper that I had just peeled off back on until we were ready to make the art projects.

They turned out pretty neat, in and of themselves, and also in the window display.

I love this little seed fairy

It's the first thing that grabs visitors' attention when they walk in, especially on a sunny day

5.  And finally, as you see, we added corn outside in various feeders so it could be enjoyed by the birds...

and other wildlife working on fattening up for the winter.

The kids LOVED it and were NEVER so quiet in their lives, for fear the little robber would run away. Some of my littles live in neighborhoods with few big trees so squirrels are a treat. And who cares– they are part of nature learning, too... even if they do unearth all my impatiens and begonias every year...

If you like sensory bins like me, and there are some that are much neater than corn, thank goodness, you should click on that favorite Pin up there at the top of the post to see a list of 40 kinds of bin fillers. Some are very unique and fun. Thanks to Little Bins for Little Hands.

Hope you got some "corny" ideas from this post! Click on back to Kacey at Doodle Bug for more great ideas.

Hope you have a great day!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hoods, Hacks, Hoots, a Sequel and More

Okay, so Happy Friday again! This is another post, the real post, for this Friday. You know with me it either NEVER rains, or it POURS when it comes to blog posts. Oh, to be one of those bloggers whose life never interferes with their posting schedule. Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday. Here's five.

1.  I have often said that I should have been born an octopus. Between needing to rein in hold little children and carry seventy two LOTS of things to school everyday, I could always use more arms. Here's me coming to school the other day.  Can you relate?

2.  The day I was schlepping all that stuff was my teaching assistant's last day. She was only there to help launch the school year.... waaawwwww! I wish it could be all year. The kids and I made her some special little momentoes– the kids made cards and I put together a piece of special artwork... I use the term artwork loosely. I wanted the kids to be featured. I share it to give you some ideas for your own goodbye gifts.

Yes, it took a while to cut out all those little heads, but I think it turned out pretty cute, and she loved it. It will hang in her home office. We miss you, Chris!

3.  Did you see my earlier post about my Paint Drying Rack Hack? You can see and read about how it works if you click the picture.

4.  Okay, now this is the REAL purpose of today's post– a new favorite book review! Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam teamed up again to create Hey, That's MY Monster!

Hey, That's MY Monster is a companion to I Need My Monster and furthers the adventures of Ethan and his monster, Gabe. This time Ethan's little sister Emma joins in the fun.

What is going to happen when Gabe has to make somebody else go to bed? Everyone needs their own scary monster to help them go to sleep, but why does it have to be Gabe??

Great illustrations accompany this monster tale, from cover to cover... I mean LOOK at this fresh crop of end paper monsters... monster drawing lesson, anyone?

And look at the adorable little sister...

There's just the right amount of shiver to hook five year olds right in. We read it fifty seven many times, with "Again!" following every reading. I am always interested when books strike just the right note with the Littles and this one does. Going to bed in the dark, with monsters or without, is a fear that is pretty much universal, and this story helped the kiddos deal with that fear in a lighthearted way.

You can read two posts on the first book, I Need My Monster here and here. The posts contain a freebie to use with the kids and a link to a neat video.

Some classrooms do monsters only at Halloween, but in my classroom, monsters are regular characters in our daily drama. Our favorite monster puppet Ten-Ten Twenty helps us do math (click to read previous post) The rest of the monster gang provide good sports when we need to act things out– little monsters CAN be naughty, you know, SORT OF like five year olds.

I highly recommend both I Need My Monster and the new Hey, That's MY Monster. I thank Flashlight Press for sending me the review copy. I can honestly say it is adored by my monster loving kidpeople AND their monster loving teacher, too!!  You can check out both books at your favorite bookstore and Amazon. You can see a complete list of Flashlight Books by clicking below. They are a consistently high quality publisher and every teacher should know about them.

5.  Last but not least, it's time for

So my kindergarten colleague and I were sitting on the teacher bench at recess when one of her kiddos came up and gave her a truly beautiful, red maple leaf. She thanked her little person and said,

"We've been learning about all sorts of leaves in our classroom, haven't we? Can you tell me what kind of leaf this one is?"

Her kiddo was thoughtful for a moment then said, "Dead."

A quick, gleeful glance exchanged between us two adults said it all, "The kids are the best part of this job!"

Click on back to Doodle Bugs for more teacher news.

And if you hoped over from Small Victories, take a leap on back to continue reading this week's favorite posts!

Small Victories Sunday Linkup

Hope you got a grin or two this time. Have a TERRIFIC fall weekend! Oh, and do check out my new wink below... that husband of mine...


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paint Drying Rack Hack!

Happy Friday! Here's five details for a Paint Drying Rack Hack! Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching's Five for Friday for giving me opportunity to share!

My kidpeople LOVE painting and we do paintings of all sorts. There is one little glitch to painting joy, though– where to dry all those works of art? Drying racks are big and expensive. Even foldable clothes drying racks take up a lotta space and get in the way. So, look what I did...

That is an undershelf hanging basket, the kind that just slides on to a shelf and is sold in shelving or storage departments... pretty much like this one. And it's only about eight bucks on Amazon.

Click it to see it. 

In the photo it is is full of wet paintings hung with clothes pins from the basket grid. I can put my arm into the basket area to easily pin the artwork on.


Tip! I learned the hard way to number the clothespins so it is easier to find the two pins that will hold one piece of paper– Number One pin on the left aligns with Number One pin on right, Two with Two, etc. Without the numbers, I wasn't clipping corresponding clothespins and was losing hanging capacity with skipped pins.

I keep my "drying rack" hanging from the cabinet above my sink. This is particularly handy because any paint drips go right into the sink.... paint drips? Did I say paint drips? Naw, there aren't ever any paint drips... If we use bigger paper, I attach the clothespins on the short side of the paper, as opposed to the long top side shown in the photo. This particular basket has enough grid wires to allow for eight paintings to hang at once. If the paper is not completely soggy too big, another painting can lay down in the basket itself. That is usually about as many paintings as we can produce in a day.

Idea! On this particular day my kiddos were doing science art and I only gave them primary colors of red, blue, and yellow on their pallets. Their assignment was to mix the paints to make the secondary colors of purple, green, and orange... SOME got it, though we had quite a few mucky browns, too... practice will make them color experts..

The cabinet door has to stay open slightly to allow for the basket brackets to slide onto the shelf– as you see it is barely noticeable.

When empty the rack is pretty unobtrusive, so I leave it out all the time. With space at a premium in my new classroom, necessity really WAS the mother of invention for this hack! I give it a double thumbs up! Whoot! Maybe it will work in your classroom, too!

Click on back to Five for Friday for more tips!

So glad you stopped by! Sorry I've been awol for a while– change of classroom and new program really beat my bum this season! See you next week, I hope!

p.s.  Whatcha' think of the new winking Kath? Hee.
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