Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Preschool: Dinosaurs Week 1

Welcome back!  I have really been enjoying our transition to preschool, and I think Little Guy is, too.  I'm playing with how to share what we have been up to, so any feedback is appreciated!

When Little Guy turned 3 this summer, we had a dinosaur themed party.  We had not done many other things with dinosaurs, so I thought a preschool unit on dinosaurs would be fun.  This was a two week unit, so here is a snapshot of what we did the first week.  Little Guy is 38 months old.

It was fun to pull together some dinosaur themed activities.  We started each day by reading.  We went to he library and checked out many non-fiction books about dinosaurs.  There are some great books that are geared towards little learners. Two of my favorite brands were Acorn from Heinemann and 21st Century Junior Library from Cherry Lake Publishing.  These books had text that was simple enough for Little Guy to understand, but also felt like great non-fiction books.

After reviewing our calender, we started choosing activities to complete.  The first was an alphabet activity.  I laid out some ABC flashcards ad Little Guy had a dinosaur wand.  Now, this isn't just any dinosaur wand.  When you hit it, its starts flashing lights.  to do this activity, I would call out a letter, and Little Guy would hit that letter with his wand.  It was pretty fun! We did have to wait until the wand stopped flashing before moving onto the next letter, but that didn't take too long!
We have several plastic dinosaur toys, we we used them with playdough this week.  Little Guy would roll out the playdough, then push the dinosaur into it to make tracks.  We even got out some magnifying glasses to examine the tracks even closer.
What dinosaur unit would be complete without pretending to be a dinosaur?  We had some masks leftover from his party, so Little Guy and I put on masks, went outside, and pretended to be dinosaurs.  We stomped around, pretending to eat trees and leaves (we were herbivores), with a few mask changes!
We can't forget to work on those fine motor skills.  We got out his Toob from Safari Ltd of dinosaurs.  He had to use a pair of tweezers to put a dinosaur into each compartment of the tray, then take them back out.  The dinosaurs were a little tricky to grab, but he did okay.
You know how my Little Guy loves puzzles.  For his birthday, he received a large Melissa and Doug dinosaur floor puzzle!  This was a big hit!  We separate out the edge pieces for him so he can do the outside first, then he fills in the inside.  He can't do the puzzle completely on his own, but he is getting better.  I like to ask him what dinosaur he will put together first, then encourage him to finish that one before moving onto another dinosaur.  The inside is easier for him, and he is always so proud when he is done!
Little Guy also chose to do some coloring this week.  Coloring is not a regular choice for him, but this week he got to use colored pencils.  Some of the pencils looked like sticks from a tree, making them very interesting. 
Our preschool time would not be complete without a snack.  Little Guy was practicing spreading peanut butter (one of his favorite foods) onto animal crackers.  Then he would add another animal cracker to make a little sandwich.  Yummy!  The spreading was a bit hard for him, but it is great practice!
Come back next week to see what else we did in our dinosaur unit!

Looking for more dinosaur ideas?  Check out my dinosaur Pinterest board.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preschool- Insects

Preschool at our house has gotten off to a great start!  I am loving the change of spending more time at once working with Little Guy, instead of snatches of time here and there.  Little Guy is 38 months old.

We started our homeschool preschool year off with a unit on insects.  Now, Little Guy is not particularly interested in insects. However, our local botanical gardens was having a "Bug Day," so I thought it would be a great way to peak his interest.  Our zoo also had a butterfly exhibit all summer, so we had an opportunity to get up close with the butterflies. 

We started with books.  We pulled out some classics, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle.  We also made a trip to the library and checked out several non-fiction books about insects.  We spent time every preschool morning reading.  (These books were left out in a basket all the time, so many of these books were read throughout the week, at various times of the day.)

One book that was read several times was The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  You may recall that I made a busy bag to go with this book. I pulled out the leaf lacing, bead caterpillar, and felt pieces for this story.

Little Guy loved using the felt pieces to tell the story.  I would read the book, and he would put the story pieces on the felt board.  It was really cute watching him to pretend feeding the food to the caterpillar.
He also really enjoyed stringing the bead caterpillar and then wearing his necklace.  He wasn't too interested in the lacing (even with the cute caterpillar) but found another use for the leaves.

The favorite activity of the unit was probably the alphabet monster!  This was an idea I saw on I Can Teach My Child.  It is made from an old wipes container and milk bottle lids.  I made all the consonants red and the vowels blue, more for possible future uses than anything else.

Little Guy loved this activity!  He would shout, "Alphabet Monster, eat the (letter)!"  He got so excited about "feeding" the monster.  It was a great way to review the alphabet in a silly way!

To practice some counting skills, I would like us to begin using dominoes.  There are many things that can be done with this manipulative.  As a teacher, I know when I introduce something new, I must allow time for play.  It is no different with my own child.  So this week the dominoes were to play with and to observe.

We made several trails of dominoes to be knocked over (really, can you play with them and NOT do that?).  Little Guy stacked them and listened to the noise they made on the floor.  We also wrote what we noticed about them.  Little Guy would make an observation, which I wrote, then I would make an observation for him to write.  We did this twice during the unit because he asked to do it again.

I want to make sure to include name recognition or writing into our preschool time.  To practice his name, I wrote it out on a piece of paper.  He then had to cover it with bug stickers.

This is another activity that we ended up taking turns with.  He would choose a sticker, then me.  This only makes sense, as it is a difficult decision which sticker to choose next.

To go along with this unit, I purchased the insects Toob from Safari, Ltd.   One interesting thing is that there were three animals included that are not insects.  It was great to talk about why these are not insects.

Little Guy loved playing with the insects!  I ended up cutting leaves out of craft foam for him to put the insects on. 

We also worked on making insects out of egg cartons.  This idea came from Gummylump.  Little Guy actually got really into painting the egg cartons.  Mommy enjoyed helping, too! 

For this unit, I made some number cards and some 3-part cards, using the insects out of the Toob. For the number cards, Little Guy had to count how many insects were in the picture and match it to the number.  The 3-part cards had to be matched altogether, and you could even add the plastic insect. 

Little Guy completed the number cards, but not the 3-part cards.  Since the numbers went to 6, it was great to stretch him a little, since we have mostly worked up to 4 in the past.
I am trying to incorporate some food skills into our preschool time- during snack.  One thing that Little Guy practiced was using a butter knife to cut a banana into slices.  He was really excited to do this!
So there are our first 2 weeks of preschool!  Little Guy seemed to enjoy the time, as did I.  There were other activities that we did not complete,  but at the end of the two weeks we were ready to move on.

How is your preschool going?

Check out more insect ideas on my Alphabet I Pinterest Board!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Butterflies...A 3 year old's take

At our local zoo, there was a butterfly exhibit over the summer.  We went several times.  Little Guy always wanted to stay until a butterfly landed on him!  Recently, we took his camera.  Here is his perspective!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Preschool- Planning and Organization

If you know me, you know I am a planner.  As an elementary school teacher, that aspect of my personality helped me in many ways.  As a teacher of 1, I want to make sure that I am giving Little Guy what I gave to my students.  So I am back to planning!

To plan for our homeschool preschool this year, I wanted to make sure I was including many skills, not just the ones I remember.  I started searching for some planners.  I found this one from Homeschool Creations.  It is customizable, so that is really handy.  However, since I am planning on doing preschool only 2 days a week, I did not need a daily planner.  Then I found this one on Not Just Cute.  It is a thematic planner with lots of different aspects of a preschool curriculum.  Based on this, I created my own planner, then tweaked it even more.
This is the planner I used when planning our insects unit.  (Some of the lines show how I wanted it re-organized.)  While I created it in Excel, I found it easier to print and write on.  Not all activities were completed during our unit, but I can use it to roll ideas forward.  After this first draft, I made some modifications.
I feel like this is a very usable document for me. I can have several printed off and plan ideas for the next several units.  It will be great as I search on Pinterest to actually write down the ideas, not just pin them for later, to be forgotten.  I don't think I will fill every box for every unit, but I can use these to make sure that over time all are included.

So now that the planning was under control, I had to organize all these activities.  So I bought this cart.
I'm sure you've seen them before.  I picked my up at JoAnn's.  Its nice because it will hold 10 different activities, with a place to stack additional items on the top.  Previously, I was using some baskets that could stack together, but whenever we went to work, I laid them out on the floor, and they took up a bit of floor space (I can't tell you how many times I kicked and tripped on those baskets!).  Little Guy can easily pull out the drawer he wants and it is easy to find the activity you are looking for. 

How do you organize ideas and activities for your preschooler?