Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Case of the Escaped Gingerbread Man-a holiday mystery!

Today was such fun! The holiday tradition that I share with my class is my collection of Gingerbread stories. We have been reading them for a little over a week now. On Friday we made gingerbread dough, yesterday we made individual gingerbread cookies, and today we made a giant Gingerbread Man.

We rolled out the dough, cut out one large cookie and then each child added some candy.

We popped him in the oven.

                                          And guess what?!

Sure enough, just like the stories we have been reading, he jumped out of the oven and ran away. He left us rhyming clues at every one of his stops.

First he went to the classroom next door. There we found his note in a bookshelf.

He sent us down to the two year old’s classroom. The teacher there found a note in her cabinet.

Our Gingerbread man is pretty worldly as his next stop was to the office to surf the net.

We found what he was looking at on the internet: turtles. So we knew our clue would direct us back upstairs to our turtle tank.

We were too late as he had decided to go outside.

A quick jaunt outside found our last clue. He was cold and going in to get mittens.

Back inside as quietly as can be and…… FOUND HIM!! In the corner, trying on some of Jack’s mittens

We lovingly scooped him up and then with great fan fare we ate him while reading Gingerbread Friends, our last gingerbread story until someone finds a new version for me.

At pickup time, all of the children were delighted to share the details of their day with their parents. Many of them asked me if we could make another one tomorrow-only tomorrow they want her to be a girl.

Check out these yummy versions of this delicious story

The Gingerbread Girl- Lisa Campbell Ernst

Gingerbread Cowboy-Janet Squires

The Gingerbread Pirates-Kristin Kladstrup
Gingerbread Baby-Jan Brett

Gingerbread Friends-Jan Brett

Reading and rhyming are playfully delicious!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playfully Learning is Delicious!

One of the great joys of having a pastry chef as an assistant is the wonderful baking that we get to do in class.  We have always cooked in our classroom, but it has a special flair this year, thanks to my assistant, Katherine.

She was even a good enough sport to wear her full uniform to class one day when she cooked with us.  The children were thrilled.

Following our field trip to the grocery store and hearing about how the bakers come in at 3am to start the baking, we pretended it was 3am in our classroom one day.

A mom wanted to come in and decorate holiday cookies with the children as that is their family tradition, and we also decided to make bread from scratch.  Our room turned into a bake shop for the day-actually two, as the bread is a two day process.

The children enjoyed measuring, pouring, counting and mixing.  They learned about the properties of yeast and how to knead.

The also learned just how many sprinkles one sugar cookie can hold.

I always use tongue depressors when spreading anything with children as it is just too darn hard not to lick the knife. This keeps the germs from spreading and the tongues from getting cut-everyone has their own and we just throw them away when finished.  They never dip into a community bowl with them; the butter, cream cheese or frosting is always put on their plates and then they use their own spreaders.

It was a delicious few days of learning though play!

Real Life Investigating-The Grocery Store

We went on a great field trip a couple of weeks ago.  We have been studying the topic of the grocery store and creating our own, so we wanted to go to a store with a critical eye and see if some of the things we predicted would indeed be found.  We live near a Stew Leonard's which is basically the Disneyland of grocery stores.

Before going, I created a scavenger hunt form with items that the children thought they would see.  The most interesting item was "people with dogs".  Each chaperone held a clipboard with the scavenger hunt sheet and reminded the children of what they were looking for as we walked around.

We had a great tour guide, Dori, who explained each area to the children as well as what happened behind the scenes.  We were also able to taste our way through the store.  The children had chocolate chip cookies, fresh baked donuts, rice cakes, pomegranate juice, cheese,  and the grand finale of ice cream!

For those with students with allergies, I did contact the parents of the children with allergies ahead of time about the ice cream and had back up snacks available.  A few of the tasting items were a surprise and I did have to call the parents that were not with us. This is a good point to remember.

The children had a wonderful time, and were able to see in action many of the things we were re-enacting in our dramatic play center including restocking the shelves!

What's On Sale At Our Store? Playfully Learning

The students in my class were collecting all the items from the dramatic play center in bags. They told us they were “shopping”. This type of play continued for several days, so we decided to talk about stores and what we knew about them. This got us onto the track of the “grocery store” and we decided to create one in our dramatic play center.

First we brainstormed the types of items sold in a grocery store. The children came up with many things including clothing, jewelry, toys, Transformers, and eventually food. We were trying to get them to think of what we may need in our store; shelves, bags, cash registers. This took a few more discussions. To get them involved in deciding what we needed, we set up a suggestion board where they wrote down their ideas. This gave writing a meaningful purpose. We were able to sit with the children individually or in small groups and help them to sound out the beginning sound of the item they wanted to add to the list .

Then we collected empty food containers from their homes. We had to be especially diligent with this activity as we do have several food allergies in our class. We learned that even empty boxes that had contained individually wrapped granola bars with nuts or oats could pose a threat to one of our students. Her mom would come in each day and check the items before we put them in our store.

We talked about how to store, organize and sort the items and label them. This had a collection of children interested in making signs. We then added pictures to their signs to help when it was time to restock the shelves.

When the store first opened we had a problem. The children loved shopping for the items, but then they would take them to another rug and dump them in a pile and eventually start to walk or jump on the items. We went back to group time to discuss this problem. We talked about what their parents did after returning from the grocery store. Did they pile the groceries on the floor and jump on them?

We received many replies of the groceries going into pantries and cabinets. So we recreated this as best we could with our limited space. We moved all the writing materials from two shelves down to one and turned a shelf into a pantry. Each day at center time, we swing the shelf out, so the children who have purchased items, can come “home” and put their groceries away.

Our next problem consisted of children haphazardly gathering all the items they could fit into bags and taking them out of the store. That left little for other shoppers and a ton of clean up that none of the children wanted to help with. Back to group time to discuss this problem. The children came up with the fact that their parents use lists when they shop. Creating shopping lists and then limiting items to five per shopping trip seemed to help with this situation. That and another lesson on the important job of restocking the shelves of the store when items get low, seemed to have our store running much more smoothly.

One of the questions the children wanted to answer in our brainstorming and investigating about grocery stores was if they could make a shopping cart. We gathered scooters from outside, cardboard boxes and wood scraps and made our own very colorful shopping carts. When this was happening, a couple of girls decided to bring our little store in to the modern world, and they made several scanners for us to use.

We also went on a terrific field trip which will be in the next blog.

This grocery store experience has tied in sorting, writing, counting, word recognition, invention, creativity, problem solving, role playing, cooperative play and so much more.

Playfully shopping has led to many days of playfully learning.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What to Wrap This Season..Books, Books, Books!

When asked for my book suggestions, I stagger. There are so many incredible children’s books out there, it is so hard to choose. Here are just a few of my favorite books or authors for children.

The Hungry Thing by Jan Slepian, Ann Seidler, and Richard E. Martin-a fun, engaging rhyming book. It has a couple of sequels now.

Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash (Laura Geringer Books) by Sarah Weeks and Nadine Bernard Westcott- another funny rhyming book.

Oh My Gosh, Mrs. McNosh by Sarah Weeks and Nadine Bernard Westcott
Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type (Caldecott Honor Book) by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin –this is just one of this hilarious series

The 3 Little Dassies by Jan Brett –Jan Brett is my favorite illustrator. I love how she gives clues on her pages causing children to make predictions.

The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup and Matt Tavares (Hardcover - Sep 8, 2009)-I collect Gingerbread stories. This one and the one below are unique and empowering for young children.

The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?: by Eric Carle-You can’t go wrong with anything Eric Carle does. He should be part of every young child’s library.

Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman- an adorable series following the antics of a loveable bear-and the text rhymes!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards)) by Mo Willems-a story to which young children can really relate.

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney-beautiful!

Snow (Caldecott Honor Book) by Uri Shulevitz –so simple, yet catches the excitement of the first snow

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammell-another author who should be in all young children’s hands.

If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick and Jane Dyer- a new one for me, but fantasy at the perfect level for preschoolers.

Please post your favorites to include.

Have fun playfully reading!