There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Flubber is nothing new, but I have not found a child (or adult) that doesn't love to play with it. I was reminded of this today as my twins (age 9) "researched" how we were going to spend our day. You see, their older sister was at a sleep over, and feeling as if they were missing out on something, they decided to capitalize on my full attention. I'm very familiar with the recipe, but I was surprised by how long the girls played with it at their age. The flubber turned into a runway for Polly Pockets, a pile of fake vomit (yes, that came from my little one with a bit of a twisted sense of humor), a bunny, and even the letters in their name. There is just something about this stuff that makes you want to touch it. It's squishy. It snaps. It feels wet. But it isn't wet...go figure. It changes shape soooo quickly! When big sister got home, she felt like she had missed out on something and she sat for a half hour playing. No wonder preschoolers love this stuff. In case you haven't made flubber before , here is the recipe:
3/4 cup cold water
1 cup Elmer’s glue
liquid food coloring
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon borax (you can find this in a box in the laundry aisle)
Step 1: In bowl 1 – mix together the cold water, glue, and food coloring. Set aside.
Step 2: In bowl 2 – mix together the hot water and borax, until the borax is completely dissolved.
Step 3: Slowly add glue mixture to borax mixture. Mix well. Pour off excess water.
Ok, so Flubber isn't new, but what IS new, is that Flubber doesn't have to be about science or a sensory experience. Of course, I wanted to tie this amazing flubber to language (no surprise). I have been working on ways for teachers to teach/practice sequencing skills. This past school year I had a teacher say to me "I can't stand teaching sequencing." I knew she just needed a different way to teach it and some ideas for what to do when children weren't understanding the concept. The boxed sets of sequencing cards we can buy are great, but if kids don't understand these, what then? You can keep practicing these over and over, but in my experience, this doesn't get you anywhere. At least not quickly...or without pulling out a few, okay, a lot of hair! I like to use my iPad or camera to take pictures of everyday experiences which the kids can relate and we can practice while completing an activity. So, if you haven't made flubber, make it! It's science. It's sensory. It's fun. And it's language. Make the flubber. Talk about the steps of making the flubber. Talk about what happens first, next, last. Make sure you revisit the steps involved in making the flubber. Kids love this stuff, so capitalize on their interest. Here are some pictures that you can use to to practice sequencing while you have fun playing with this oooshy goooshy stuff!
"Children see magic because they look for it." Christopher Moore
The weather has finally gotten nice in our neck of the woods, and our classrooms have been able to spend some much needed time outside. I like to keep the kiddos engaged to help prevent some of the "spring fever" behaviors as well as allow the kids to spend extra time outside without missing out on learning time. One of my favorites has been to combine a few of my passions...language, technology, and hands-on activities. I do this with a variety of scavenger hunts. Some have said "iPads on the playground...NO WAY!", but with the right iPad case, and some structure, this can be a great way to integrate technology in the early childhood classroom, and create an engaged learning environment. After you've completed the scavenger hunt, extend the learning by having the children share their "finds" during large group. This is a great way to work on their oral language skills. To download a copy of this scavenger hunt, including instructions, click here. Have Fun!
After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." -Phillip Pullman
Story stones continue to be one of my favorite activity to do with students as well as my own children. I have made many different variations of these over the years, but since I don't always have time to do the whole find/wash real rocks, I usually end up using the great rocks that are available in the floral section of Dollar Tree. To see some other examples and tutorials, click here.
I use these in many different ways...here are a few:
1. Progressive Stories: These are my all time favorite. Place all the stones in a bag and have the children take turns drawing a stone out of the bag. The first child draws a stone and starts the story using the picture on their stone. Each child takes a turn adding to the story using the picture on their rock. These are my favorite because the children have to think how they are going to weave their picture in to the story, but I also love them because they get darn right silly sometimes. I love to hear the giggles from the kids. Before starting I alway go over rules for the game. These can be different depending on your situation. Below are the rules that I use that eliminate most of the issues that can possibly pop up during the activity. I go over these no matter what the age of the children.
2. Transition activities: I use the stones in a bag for transition between activities or while waiting in line in the hallway. I will have them draw a stone and make up a sentence using the word, say a rhyming word, describe 3 features of the item and have the other kids guess, etc.
3. Sorting/Vocabulary: I have stones that have pictures of different categories (clothing, food, animals, etc.), and I have them sort the stones in to different buckets/containers. These are so much more engaging that using plain old flashcards.
There's just something about these stones that kids love to touch! Let me know how you are using story stones...
When I first starting using my iPhone and iPad with my students, my challenge was finding good apps that were more than just entertainment. Using these devices in the schools was new, and there was a lag while developers caught up with the educational possibilities. Now, my challenge is sifting through the vast number of apps to find quality, reasonably priced apps. I often find myself saying, "This one is pretty good, but I wish it did...", or "That was a waste of $.99." When I came across Book Creator by Red Jumper Studios last year I was a little skeptical. It was spendier than I like for something I am trying out on a whim, but the initial reviews were good, and having been on an app drought, I splurged. This app is so intuitive that over the past year, it has become one of my go-to apps. I use it to make social stories, have students create their own artic books, work on vocabulary concepts, and my own kids even like to create books to share their activities with their friends and grandparents. During one of our school's technology trainings, I shared the app with our first grade team, and they quickly began to use it throughout their day. It is so fun to see the kids grab an iPad, open iBooks and read the books THEY have written....and yes, they CHOOSE to do this. The best news is that Book Creator is 50% off for the month of December!
Language is so vast, that when teaching language skills, it's often hard to know just where to start. Over the years, I have made myself many charts and lists to help me quickly remember the levels of learning, but until now I haven't found anything that works as a quick reference for me. I created this graphic as a easy reference for me when setting goals for my students and for teaching scaffolding of language skills to staff. Each shelf is a representation of one of Bloom's levels, and each book contains a verb/skill that is associated with that level. The lower level skills are on the botton of the bookshelf, and the skills build from there. I find this especially useful when working with the little kiddos. I like to think of little toddlers pulling books off the lowest shelf, and as they grow they can reach the books on the higher shelves. This resource is available on my Teachers Pay Teachers site by clicking the bookshelf.
When children are engaged, they are ready to learn!