Friday, December 5, 2014

A Little Bit of Christmas

In FDK we are encouraged to steer away from teacher-selected "themes", and to favour the inquiries and interests of the children. But when December arrives, it is hard to resist the attraction of Christmas! We are busily preparing for our Christmas Open House, and while all centres are open, we have added a bit of sparkle here and some glitter there.

We plan our week(s) using a template that includes all the various centres in the classroom, and link our ideas back to the children's interests and questions, any inquiry that has arisen through play, and the many expectations laid out in the Ontario FDK Document. As with so much of what we do, there are many layers of learning happening while the children explore and play with new materials. 

Some of the week's Christmas centres include:

MATH EXPLORATION: rolling a number cube and placing the corresponding number of sparkly pompoms on a five- or ten-frame. We sit nearby and ask questions such as, how many more do you need to fill your ten-frame? Who has more? Can you fit six more on there? We make observations about the child's ability to recognize dot patterns on a number cube, count with one-to-one correspondence, represent numbers in various ways, compare quantities, and explore simple addition. If the children choose to play in pairs, we also observe their play and social skills. Can the child take turns? Do they use questions and statements effectively? How do they solve problems that arise?

SENSORY EXPLORATION: I brought in some whole spices, as well as some ground spices. The children have been invited to "sniff-and-match" the whole spice with its ground counterpart. The children come to me full of excitement..."I matched these ones!"

WRITING: We co-created a cloze-passage letter to Santa, focusing on sight words we've touched on this year. The Year Two group was then invited to write their own letter to Santa. I always photo-copy these to send home to parents, as some children can be hush-hush about their Christmas wishes! I have a modified version ready to write with the Year One students, and next week we'll walk to the post office to send them all to the North Pole!

SENSORY TABLE: I created a Golden Cinnamon Sensory experience for the children. A big bag of rice, cinnamon, glitter, and lots of golden trinkets from Dollarama were the raw materials. The children have loved exploring these items, using them to make "cakes", picking through to find the treasures, sorting them, and so on. It is very calming to let rice trickle down between your fingers! 

SAND TABLE: As we move through Advent with a focus on the Nativity Story, we are adding items to the room to encourage the children to draw on their previous knowledge and to retell the Christmas story. We have durable Nativity figures in our sand table and it's been wonderful to see the children sharing this timeless story with one another time after time.

Please check in next week for some Nativity Art!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gingerbread Time!

The play dough centre is a hot spot in our classroom all year round. We make a new batch every Monday, incorporating reading, measuring, and forms of writing (procedure) into the process. The children roll balls, flatten it with a rolling pin, create snakes, pat it, squish it, cut shapes out of it, decorate their creations with sequins, toothpicks, glitter, and googly eyes. One of us usually sits at the table to demonstrate new techniques for manipulating play dough, while listening in on the spontaneous conversations that arise. These conversations between the children offer so many insights into their understanding of the world around them. We take photos of the children and make notes that will help us in future planning.

Today at our Welcome Circle (first thing in the morning) we passed around a small cup containing a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. They each took a sniff and we marvelled at the range of their experiences of scent: "It smells jelly beans...cinnamon hearts...cookies...spicy stuff...GINGERBREAD!" We read "Maisy Makes Gingerbread" by Lucy Cousins and everyone seems keen to make REAL gingerbread cookies before Christmas.

We talked about where spices come from and they were astounded when I mentioned that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. I made a mental note to bring in the "raw materials" that are used to create dried spices: a ginger root, some whole cloves, a whole nutmeg, and some cinnamon sticks.

When we sent them out into the classroom to play, I gathered a small group in the play dough centre, and we went through the steps of creating play dough. This recipe was different as it required us to cook the dough, and the children were very interested in the way the mixture changed as it cooked.

In no time at all, we had a beautiful batch of Gingerbread Playdough, and we set the children loose with rolling pins, cutters, and lots of sparkly sequins with which to decorate their cookie creations! The dough turned out beautifully and as the site suggests, it would make wonderful homemade Christmas gifts. Enjoy!