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!


  1. Your sensory bin looks much fun! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very Cute center! I can just imagine how much fun your students must have playing in the seeds. What a great lesson. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    The Very Busy Kindergarten

  3. Oh Kathleen I laughed and enjoyed your corny experience because I've gone through the similar experience in my days. I think sensory bins are great. I haven't used them in many years because we were pushed to do academics and it was not deemed rigorous. New in command so I will get them back out! Thank you for the inspiration. Love the fall colors.

    1. Glad you got a chuckle! It is funny... NOW. Thanks for stopping by. Kathleen

  4. What a gorgeous window view you have! Don't you just love it when the art of teaching becomes an object lesson for you? I bet you'll never look at corn quite the same way again!

    1. Yep, next year, less corn, but more of the same view :) Thanks for stopping by.


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