9th July 2019: Lettuce Play
Pre-School's Gardening Club leader, Mrs Davis, had let us know that the lettuce in the school's allotment was ready for eating. The next day, we re-told 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' by Beatrix Potter using a giant story book and the children's own knowledge of the story. The discussion was very detailed and varied; we talked about how mischevious Peter is, discussing stealing and how and why Peter's father had ended up in that pie. We talked about the different vegetables you might have in a garden and by the end, all the children were very keen to visit the garden to harvest the lettuce.
Back in the classroom, everyone wanted their turn to butter a slice of bread and make their own lettuce sandwiches for snack time. Great fine motor skills and following instructions were practiced. Also our four 'of this week's gardening club children also picked the peas that were ready and we had fresh podded peas to go with them. They were, not surprisingly, very popular!
4th July 2019: Paint, Cover, Wash, Repeat...!
Yesterday, the children had been burying the dinosaurs in the sand, hiding and finding them, then cleaning them off by dunking them in a bucket of water and repeating. To continue and extend this play idea, we printed out pictures of dinosaurs, put them in frames and 'painted' them, following lines or just completely covering them. Then simply wash off and repeat. There was 'hide and seek' language going on as well as comments on what the dinosaurs were called and their different shapes. The children found this activity wholly absorbing, satifying, almost meditative and they would repeat it many times before moving on.
27th June 2019: Worms Continued...
Continuing our worm theme, we put out our pink playdough with rulers, googly eyes and 'measuing worms (borrowed from the year2 classroom) to see who could create the longest worm! As well as motivating the children with a little competition and developing mathematics skills in measuring and comparing, the physical skills needed to roll out dough and manipulating the little eyes has made this activity into a popular all-rounder.
26th June 2019: Worm Charmers!
This week the children have been particularly interested in the worms they have been finding in our outdoor areas. During Sports Day practices on the field, we have noticed some really BIG ones! Today we looked at a video of the World Worm Charming Championships; watching the competitors use different strategies to 'charm' the worms to the surface; playing music and banging drums, using garden forks, dancing and jumping. We decided to hold our own worm-charming event and took garden tools, instruments and our creativity back onto the field to give our ideas a try. We collected 10 worms and have put these in a wormery that we made in the afternoon.
20th June 2019: "Come on Pre-School! Come on Pre-School!"
Next week its Sports Day: Tuesday 25th at 10:00-11:15.
We had the Pre-School classic 'DOGGER' by Shirley Hughes. In it, a beloved toy goes missing (and is found) at the school's Summer fair - which handily includes a beautiful full page spread of traditional sports day races. We talked about what was going on in the pictures and what the children might expect at our own event.
After this discussion we went down onto the school field to practice our races. For some, it was a trip down memory lane - our older pre-schoolers remembered their experiences from last year; "I didn't do the sack race - it was too scary!", "I ran with my friend!", "Daddy picked me up in the daddy's race and ran fast with me!" Everyone had a go at the races - even the scary sack race - and it was lovely to hear them all chanting for each other and shouting encouragement "You can do it!"
Keep you fingers crossed for good weather and we're looking forward to a champion day!
19th June 2019: Carpe Diem! (Sieze the Day)
We are interested in a new(ish) concept called 'In the Moment Planning'. This is where our planning is flexible so that where children show a particular interest or something unplanned happens, the moment is siezed and interests are fuelled there and then - not planned for in the following day or week when that interest has moved on.
This morning was noisy - it was grass cutting day. The children showed curiosity in the machines and talked about their own experiences. Once gone, our grassy area was left shorn with piles of grass, which we mixed with water to create a swamp for the dinosaurs. This generated lots of sensory exploration, story-telling and conversational language and - of course - scientific naming of the dinosaurs. Later was the dilemma of how to get the grass off hands and legs - the hand brush put to use - and discussions about the properties of wet and dry grass.
At story time, the children chose 'Dinosaurs in the Supermarket'; a hilarious, messy, 'hide-and-seek' romp that we all enjoyed so much we went for a second reading. All from something as mundane as lawn mowing..!
18th June 2019: Say Cheese!
This afternoon we had a visit from Dental Paybox, a service run through the Action for Sick Children charity. To compliment our daily toothbrushing scheme, we welcomed Cheryl who brought an exciting box full of great activities designed to reinforce the importance of looking after our teeth and how to do it well.
The children loved the soft toys with teeth and used real toothbrushes to help them clean their teeth. Cheryl talked to the children about choosing healthy drinks and food for snack times - milk and plain water and a piece of fruit - and to keep sweets and chocolates as a special treat to eat after a meal. We talked about going to the dentist and we all had the chance to dress up in gowns and masks and pretend to check the puppet doll's teeth. The vegetable puzzle created great discussions about the vegetables the children knew and we finished with a cautionary tale about Douglas Dinosaur who ate too many sweets!
We have a small box of similar toys and props to borrow for a few weeks to bring us yet more happy - and bright - smiles!
6th June 2019: Thinking Inside of the Box
Mrs Morgan has brought in a collection of boxes and 'can't throw that out' pieces that she'd collected throughout her maternity leave. All inside this gem of a box that is a new idea from Finland - a Baby Box, designed to sleep newborns in. Not wanting to let this one go the way of most cardboard boxes (or rather; pirate ships, rockets, aeroplanes or houses), which are usually in need of recycling within a few days, we have put it in our story corner. The children were immediately interested and wanted to test it out.
It gives a enclosed comforting space which is just right for cosying up with a book and I'm sure will continue to be popular with our children.
6th June 2019: All It Takes Is One...
One of the children had proudly shown me the Duplo tower they'd made and said "It's finished, but I don't want anyone to get it!" I suggested labelling it as theirs and putting it on a special table top that we cleared. At cirle time the child got to show their tower and its label and what it meant. "You can look, but you can't take and you can't break!" It was an exercise in ownership, fairness and pride and of course it prompted more such undertakings. Everyone who built something wanted to label their creation (...and some even built just so they could label!), but whatever the motivation we also had writing for purpose - the best way to encourage putting pen to paper!
23rs & 24th Mat 2019: Nuturing Nature
The warmer weather has meant more frequent and longer times spent in our outdoor areas. All the children have more opportunity to explore into evey inch of the spaces and this means they come into contact with the other beings that share our environment.
On Thursday, one of the children called me over to look at this orange-coloured bumblebee (a Tree Bumblebee) they'd found in the grass. It wasn't flying and together we wondered why. Earlier, the children had been given some buttercups by the older children doing their 'daily mile' walk and we tried giving these flower to the bees. It immediately started investigating them and we watched for many minutes as it worked its way around its many more yellow gifts. Interested in what was going on, the other children came over to take a look and as they watched closely; no-one was frightened of it and they also understood to be careful.
During carpet times, we have noticed little birds flying in and visiting a particular corner of our sheltered area. Mrs Holt managed to get a photo of the bird and she saw that was going in and out of the end of the pipe that runs along the end of the roof. They return frequently and the children thought they must be making a nest or feeding babies. We zoomed in on the photo and looked online and in a bird book from the school library. We think it might be a Coal Tit. It will be exciting to see how the birds' hard work plays out...
And Friday brought us this beautiful snail, found in our natural-play tyres. Usually the snails we find are shy and stay in their shells, but, to the children's delight, this one was much more out-going! Being around these creatures builds a curiosity and respect for nature that is a hugely important attitude for our future.
21st May 2019: First Fruits (or Herbs!) of Our Labours!
Mrs Davies has worked really hard on developing the garden area for Pre-School. She takes a few children each week into the garden to explore the plants, sow seeds and help tend the beds. This week the first fruits of our labours were chives. The children brought some back to the classroom and everybody who wanted to gave them a try. Some (including Mrs Holt!) liked them so much, they added them to their butties and crackers at lunch time! We also have sugar snap peas and onions to come...
20th May 2019: Just like a Wavin' Flag...
Our pirate ship display is coming on and today it's flags! We discussed what we knew about flags and what they are and then used the smart board to research what flags had. We looked at their shapes: most of the flags were rectangular, and what they had on them: crosses, stripes, lines, circles, stars...
We cut card into rectangles and the children chose their own designs using the tapes. As well as decision-making - some children were deliberately conservative with their choices, using only one colour or line direction, while some were more flamboyant - the children were using fine motor skills and simple measuring to pull the tape to their required lengths and snipping with scissors.
The children were particularly proud seeing their flag go straight up on the display.
16th May 2019: Sun, Swamps and Sand!
With the lovely weather in full swing, we are making good use of our sand & water outdoor area. The water pump is currently faulty, so we decided to fill up the water tray with water to use. This afternoon the children were all engaged in the activity of transporting the water from the top, down the slope and into the sand area at the bottom, creating a swamp. Children used their problem-solving skills to find out the best containers for the job and then the phyisicl control of carrying it down the slope. They commented on what was happening in the sand area and what they were creating. There was lots of imaginative and conversational language as the vehicles got stuck and needed to be hauled out. Some created "huge waves" with a broom that flooded the swamp. Some children got wetter and messier than others as to their personal preference and approached the play in different ways, but it brought us all together in collective enjoyment and discovery.
14th May 2019: Walking the Plank
Our pirate display is coming on; we've had a look at real maps and used them for a background. Our splatter paint waves are in place, so we're moving on to the planks for the ship. We talked about what they are made of and the kinds of lines we see in the grain; straight, wavy, circular and knotty.
We mixed green and red paint to create brown and used scrapers to create the lines. then we nmade a print of the marks we made and will cut these prints into planks to create a ship.
13th May 2019: Silly Soup Song!
We are focusing on the letter sound 's' this week and started off with our favourite Silly Soup Song. We got the children thinking about the 's' sound by adding a sausage and a sandwich to our sillly soup. Then the children had to find other things in the room that would go in a 's' soup. Tey found scissors, soap and Mrs Holt's smelly sock! One child suggested putting a number in and we found one beginning with a 's': seven. Each time we add something we give it a stir and chant the rhyme;
We're making lots of silly soup,
We're making soup that's silly,
We're going to put it in the fridge
To make it nice and chilly!
10th May 2019: A Pirate's Life for Me!
We decided our old 'What Time Is It, Mr Wolf?' display has had its day and it's time for something new. We like to keep this display space to show what the children are interested in and so at circle time on Thursday, we discussed the kinds of things we like to play and what we could make our display into this term. Children are always 'in the moment' and as we had just cleared away the pirate ships, they brought up the idea of a pirate ship. The children all wanted to be on it, so some said they wanted to be pirates, some mermaids and one unicorn. So the challenge is laid down...!
Today (Friday), we discussed the theme further and Mrs Holt scribed on the board what the children suggested should be included on the display. The resulting list emerged with some excellent vocabulary and ideas coming forth. We set to work on a splatter-painted sea-scape using washing up and tooth brushes. Next week we'll be creating wooden plank prints and taking photographs of the children for them to transform themselves into their chosen character.
I imagine the coming weeks will be full of sea shanties and adventure... Yo Ho Ho!
9th May 2019: The Real Thing
At Pre-School we like to use actual real items rather than plastic kiddy versions of real things. It helps to make the children's play more purposeful and they feel 'grown up' and responsible using authentic 'adult' things that they see their family using at home. Here, we have a selection of kitchen utensils and cookware being used to make pies, soups and mashed potatoes!
With this comes lots of new vocabulary - not just 'bucket' and 'spade', but spatula, tongs, strainer, masher, whisk... and they use more words for their actions too: mashing, scraping, flattening, stirring, mixing, scooping...
8th, 9th & 10th May 2019: Kim's Game
After introducing the old favourite 'Kim's Game' to the children, on Wednesday, they have asked to play it every day since! We started with a selection of three items on a tray, saying each item in turn in a chant to help the children remember them. Then Mrs Holt put a blanket over the tray and removed an item. When the tray was revealed with a missing item, the children had to see if they knew which item had gone. We made the game trickier by mixing up the order of the items and then by adding new items to the tray, one at a time, up to five. Sometimes two items went missing and Mrs Holt stretched the children even further by taking away nothing!
The children loved the challenge of this game which exercises their visual memory and it's completely free to set up and play.
The game originates from the Rudyard Kipling novel of the same name about the hero Kim who trains as a young boy to be a spy.
7th May 2019 - All Week: Letter Sound of the Week 'a'
This week's letter sound is... a!
Remember, we teach the children the pure sound which is 'a' (as in ant), not 'ay' (like in acorn).
We found other things that begin with an 'a' sound and even some of our Pre-Schooler's names do!
We practiced writing the letter, chanting 'round the apple, down the leaf' and this week we used magic wands for writing in the air and on each other's backs and even used them to turn our friends into things beginning with a!
2nd May 2019: Newt News!
Today's excitement came in the form of a newt! Our beady-eyed Pre-Schoolers found it hiding in a hole that had been dug in the sand the previous day. It had buried itself until just its head was peeking out. Mrs Holt carefully dug it from its potentially dangerous choice for a home and everyone was keen to have a look. We all decided the sand area wasn't a good place for it to set up home, so we put it a few steps away at the edge of our woodland area. By the afternoon it had disappeared - hopefully to find a better place to stay...
Back in the classroom, we looked up 'british newts' on Google and discovered that it was either a smooth newt or a palmate newt. Ours had a dark greeny/brown body with dark markings. We talked about size and texture and wondered why it was in the sand - ususally they like watery places.
What a Wonderful World!
29th April - all week! "Mmmmm... Phonics!"
From this week onwards, our Pre-Schoolers who will be off to recpetion in September will be focussing on a letter sound each week.
This week it's 'm'
We use the 'Read Write Inc' programme that is used in many infant classrooms including ours. We practice saying the pure sound and repeat words that start with that sound. We learn how the letter shape (grapheme) is formed using simple pictures and chants. We write in the air with our fingers or magic wands and also on a friend's back! Then we use pens, pencils, fine brushes, cotton buds etc to write the letter, practicing the 'froggy legs' tripod grip. Its fast-paced and lots of fun and we do it every day so no-one misses out!
26th April 2019: Democracy in Action
Today, as the weather was good, we had a choice as to where we would spend our outdoor play time. When we asked the children if they would prefer the sheltered area or the sand area, we had a noisy and mixed response. We have used this tally method before, but this time it was the children who suggested putting it to a vote; "let's do the lines!".
Each child gets to make their mark next to the area of their choice, with symbols and writing modelled by the adult. Then we add up the tallies together and see which area 'wins'. Today sand play was favourite. Obviously there are disappointments, but the children understand the fairness of this method and are comforted by the knowledge that there are always other opportunities.
4th March 2019: It's Hip to be Square!
Today we have been looking at squares. We described them and drew big 'air-squares' with our magic fingers. We discovered what's special about them and chanted "every... side... is exactly... the same!" We made square pictures; drawing round squares and using different craft materials to recreate it's four straight, even, edges. We used the square Duplo base boards for to create enclosures and explored the square-shaped numicon with flat squares on dotted paper.
1st March 2019: Seed Bombs
To go with our Spring activities and the restart of the Gardening Club, we have been making seed bombs to plant around our outdoor play space and the woodland area. We made paper pulp by tearing up newspaper and mixing it with water, adding pink colouring to make it look 'pretty'. We left it to soak until it had gone really sloppy, then squeezed the soggy pulp really hard through sieves to dry it out as much as possible. Squeezing, stretching and tearing are key hand exercises to strengthen fingers for good pencil skills.
Then we made a 'seed sandwich' by pushing the pulp into the bottom of muffin tins, sprinkling on a layer of wildflower seeds, then topping off with another handful of pulp, pressing it all down firmly. They'll take a while to dry out, but after the holidays we'll be planting them out and hoping for some sunshine...!
29th March 2019: T-Shirt Talk
Today's unplanned discussion at circle time came from the children. One child mentioned that we couldn't possibly see them today because they had camouflage on their t-shirt. This led to a turn-taking look at each child's t-shirt and what they had; secret pockets, a big, bad wolf, vehicles, sports logos (puma), sparkly french bulldogs and writing. But it was this wonderful t-shirt that got us wondering. The children said "its a whale!" or "a seal" with "a unicorn horn!" Its wearer told us it was a narwhal and we used the smart board to research these strange animals. We looked at photographs of real narwhals and watched a video about them and learnt that their horn is not a horn at all, but a tooth! Another child said that they'd seen one in an episode of Octonauts and it used its 'tooth' to cut the ice. No-one's really sure what it's for, but it seems the boy narwhals like to show off their tusks and see who has the biggest!!
All this from a spark of a conversation from a Pre-Schooler.
29th March 2019: Process v Product
We often like to provide 'invitations to play' where there is no end product to be made, but materials and techniques to be explored. Today, we put out cardboard canvases with printed wrapping paper pieces, dot stickers, paper shapes, scissors and glue. The children also chose other tools and materials they needed eg; tapes, hole punches and pens. They cut, stuck and mixed materials to their heart's content, each child creating their own masterpiece that they were proud of.
Children need to be engaged in the joy of doing rather than the end result. It helps to build their confidence, creative expression and individuality. There is no right or wrong, the activity is usually calm and unrushed and the artwork is completey unique. The Curiosity Approach is an inspiring website to discover if you're interested in this.
"It is not important what children create, but that they DO create, that they exercise and implement their creative imagination."
-Vygotsky (sociocultural psychologist)
28th March 2019: Sand Pies
The children have been taking their interest in creating tea parties into the sand area. They love to bake, mixing ingredients they find eg; leaves, twigs, water and grass to make cakes, pies and soups.
They are particularly interested in creating a smooth finish and use their hands, spades and trowels. This all creates lots of talk from their own experiences and imagination.
March 27th 2019: Big Kid Playground Treat!
Today the building work has got very dusty, so our playground play has ventured up to the Keystage One play area. We have all been itching to try out the new equipment for ages! The children challenged themselves with steeper steps and mountaineering, working out how to use the pulley system and playing on the different floor markings.
26th March 2019: Water Lot of Fun - and Learning!
The children have enjoyed having the water tray indoor (since we're not able to use the sheltered area). We've had bottles and scoops with water beads for experimenting with 'full' and 'empty' concepts, fish and seaweed for sensory imaginative play and today we have the 5 Little Ducks for storytelling through songs and number matching.
21st March 2019: Bricklaying Sensory Play
As the interest in the building work at Pre-School continues, we had a go at brick laying using shaving foam, wooden blocks and cake slices for trowels. There was lots of descriptive language about how it felt and how it made the blocks behave and role play language as they pretended to be builders, wearing hi-viz jackets;
"it's sliding off, oh no!"
"you need to scrape it across, like this..."
"quick, we need to get it done!"
It was also a great sensory experience as they noticed the marks they made with their fingers and tools as they spread the foam across the tray.
20th March 2019: Building Work
The children are very interested in the building work that's going on at the moment on the school's gable end. The drills and hammers are very loud and today we saw the skip and cement mixer! We watched as the builders layed new bricks and took different tools and equipment up the ladders onto the scaffolding. It was a great catalyst for learning new words and the children were inspired to construct their own buidlings, towers and paths.
20th March 2019: Who's For Tea?!
Today the children have been interested in the new real packets that have appeared in the home corner. Using real things that the children may recognise makes their play more purposeful and generates lots of discussion about their own experiences and linking environmental text. We had sausage pot noodles and buttered toast - delicious!
19th March 2019: Planting
For Mother's Day we have been planting spring flowers! We had to wash the plant pots first, then add soil and put in the bulbs. Hopefully by the time they go home, they will be starting to show... finger crossed!
15th March 2019: Water Beads
We recently bought gel water beads for sensory play. There was great interest as on Wednesday they started off as teeny-tiny beads that we left in water overnight and by Thursday they had grown into these rainbow-coloured gel balls. The children couldn't keep their hands off them! They have a bouncy, jelly-like texture and are great for funky finger skills as they are tricky to pick up. We used them with the Numicon® as they fit perfectly into the holes and today we explored them in water and strainers. As the children have been so keen on them and they last for ages, we'll use them well into next week.
If you're interested in buying your own, we got ours from Amazon at £11.99 and there are 1000's!
14th March 2019: The Greatest Show!
There has been high energy today and the children have enjoyed 'performing' on the big carpet space. We supported them to set up a show with chairs for the audience and a performance space for the dancing. They each had a turn in the spotlight to show off their moves!
As everyone wanted a turn, this helped developed their turn-taking skills as they explored different ways of moving. Performing in front of their peers helped to build their self-confidence and their expressive creativity.
14th March 2019: More Number Monkey Fun!
The Number Monkey strikes again...
This time he took down some of our numbers and pegged up his friends instead! The children went on a number hunt to find where the Number Monkey had hidden the missing numbers and we put them back again at circle time. The children were very inspired by this number fun and have been working with numbers in lots of different ways.
13th March 2019: Pedestrians This Way
We have a big, real 'Pedestrians' road sign in our sheltered area and it came in particularly useful when the children had created a path from the planks and blocks and needed to direct everyone. They extended their ideas to mark-making arrows on the floor with chalks. This is great for exercising the gross motor skills that will eventually help to write and draw and mark-making for purpose.
13th March 2019: Picasso
We have noticed that the children have been using a lot of faces in their mark-making and decided to introduce them to Picasso. We looked at the painting 'The Woman in a Hat' and talked about the lines, shapes and colours we could see. Then they had a go at using the oil pastels to create their own Picasso-inspired face artwork. We also extended the learning to playdough; modelling a face shape and adding the 'Mr Potato Head' facial features! Come and see our growing gallery...
8th March 2019: Hey, Hey, It's The Number Monkey..!
All week we've had a cheeky visitor who messes up our number line. Today he's turned the numbers upside down!!
The children love to see what he's done this time and then we work together at circle time to put things back to rights. Today we noticed that the '0', the '1' and the '8' are the same either way up and the '6' and '9' look like each other when they're upside down. We tell him off by wagging our fingers and singing "No More Number Monkey Messing up the Numbers!" (ala '5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed')
7th March 2019: "...and he ate all the sandwiches on the plate - Owp!"
To celebrate World Book Day, we re-told the classic story of The Tiger Who came To Tea by Judith Kerr. We even had a visit from the tiger himself! Afterwards, everyone made jam sandwiches for snack. Using real knives and ingredients gave us a perfect opportunity for talking about keeping safe and healthy while excercising those fine motor control skills.
6th March 2019: Bubbles, Balloons and Rainbows
We are updating our seasonal display with spring flowers by making bubble painting for hydrangeas. It's a great exercise for using facial and mouth muscles as well as being cheeky fun! We halso have made rainbows by draping tissue paper from cotton wool-covered paper plate 'clouds'. We looked at pictures of rainbows on the SmartBoard, talked about a rainbow's arc shape and sang and signed the 'I Can Sing a Rainbow' song.
To compliment our colourful, bubbly day, we played with balloons; throwing, batting, catching and bouncing.
5th March 2019: Pancake Day
To celebrate Pancake Day, we had a 'Pancake Station'. The children could create a pancake mixture to their own secret recipe using real utensils. It got pretty messy, but everyone wanted to have a go and there was lots of imaginative, scientific and social play to be had...! We also made piles of pancakes numbered 1-10 and had some physical fun with a pancake toss (using bats & beanbags). Happy Shrove Tuesday!
4th March 2019: Dinosaur Big, Dinosaur Tiny, Dinosaur Clean, Dinosaur Slimy...!
We're trying to encourage children who might not naturally choose writing or craft activities to give mark-making a go by creating dino-prints in muddy puddles! The children enjoyed stomping their dinosaurs in the paint and marching around the table, keeping time with the 'hup two, three, four' chorus - and noticing the tracks they made.
Afterwards there was more fine motor control exercise as the children brushed the dirty dinos with toothbrushes.
1st March 2019: Picture Frames
Working on a vertical surface is great for children's elbow stability and arm strength. We use cheap IKEA frames with plastic fronts with a limited colour pallette. The activity was very popular and stimulated lots of talk about textures and marks. Also, because the frames get wiped clean after each painting, there is no pressure to create 'a picture'. We showed the children who wanted to keep their masterpiece how to create a relief print of it by placing paper over the top and peeling it back.