Beans: They’re good for your fine motor skills!

091914_5192Our sensory, or touch, table made its first appearance the other day.  It is filled with colored beans.  I actually prepped the table the first full week of school, but haven’t had the opportunity to introduce it to the class.  In true Responsive Classroom style, we used guided discovery to find out more about the new materials.  As you can see in the picture above, the class did an amazing job of following directions and listening with their whole bodies as I explained the basics of the bin.  Here we are touching them for the first time:

A few moments later, beans were flying, giggles ensued and happiness permeated the atmosphere.  The children were measuring beans into containers, placing individual beans in upside-down funnels and creating flavor concoctions.

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How to make a bouncy ball

With the students’ growing interest in everything round, we decided to try our hands at making our very own, homemade bouncy balls. We found a simple recipe online and decided to give it a shot. The ingredients include borax, glue, cornstarch, lukewarm water, and some food coloring. We discussed how the recipe tells us what ingredients we will need and when/how we need to add them.

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Many of the students wondered how the ingredients would eventually become bouncy balls. “How is it going to be round?” one child asked. “It will just look like water!” another child exclaimed. But sure enough, when we added all of the ingredients together at the end, a slimy gunk started to form at the bottom of their bowls. Once they couldn’t stir any further, the students pick up the gunk and started to shape it into a ball. Before they knew it, they had made their very own (sort of round) bouncy balls!

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The only problem with the project was that the bouncy balls had the tendency to take the shape of whatever they were placed in. They flatten on a drying board, become square-shaped in an egg carton, and cone-shaped in a plastic baggie. Thankfully, they can be reformed quickly with a little bit of extra shaping before the bouncing can commence. The recipe does suggest placing the ball back into it’s zip-lock bag when it is not being used. All students will be permitted to bring home their homemade bouncy ball once they have completed the project.

Happy bouncing!

Potions, Color and Chemistry

We can’t have a study of all things creepy and spooky without branching into potions and gooey concoctions.

101713_0275Making slime or goop requires:

  • Measuring
  • Estimating
  • Concentration
  • Self-Regulation (I’m going to follow directions and wait for my turn.)
  • Patience
  • Coordination (stirring)

Playing with it draws on even more:

  • A Willingness to get Gooey
  • Fine-Motor Coordination (fingers and wrists)
  • Experimentation
  • Hypothesis
  • Self-Regulation (I’m not going to eat it, throw it, or put it in my hair.)

101813_0229Later in the week, we moved onto individual potion creation.  This time our experiments included only three colors of water, but watch out in the future.  Who knows what we’ll mix together now that we’ve had the practice.  We planned our potions, hypothesized the outcomes and then tested our ideas.

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We all scream for ice cream!

The day had finally arrived! Friday was the day we would get to make ice cream from scratch!

All the students gathered in a circle and glanced over the ingredients in front of them. At first, the students weren’t quite sure what we would be making. Someone guessed meatballs, but after looking over the ingredients again, we decided it would be pretty difficult to make meatballs with half & half, sugar, and vanilla. Another student guessed that we were making a cake, which was obviously a little closer, but not quite what we were looking for. Then, one child remembered that we had been discussing ice cream and it clicked! The classroom erupted with excitement!

Their very next concern was if they would be permitted to eat the ice cream that same day. When they learned the answer was yes, another wave of excitement hit the students. First we needed to figure out how much of each ingredient to put in the bowl. One student suggested we look in our cookbook and find the recipe. Before we knew it, we had our ice cream mixture ready to go. The only problem was that it didn’t look very much like ice cream at all. In fact, it just looked like milk with a little brown swirl. In order to make the ice cream, we had to put ice and salt in the other side of our ice cream maker. Then we closed up both sides tightly and began to roll!

After about 15 minutes of heavy duty rolling, the students grew tired and elected to eat the ice cream (or milkshake) a bit early. Despite it’s liquid state, it still managed to get two thumbs up from the students and teachers!

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Sweetly Measured

Welcome back to school!  We jumped right into some extra-sweet measuring earlier today.  In honor of The Gingerbread Man, and The Gingerbread Baby [Brett], we used two different forms of non-standard measurement to find the length of many objects.

The giant gingerbread man you see to the left was measured using Link N Learn links.  First, each child estimated how long they thought a particular section might be.  Next, the group worked together to align links along various body parts.  They recorded both their estimates and the actual length on a diagram.  The most challenging portion of this activity was remembering that the links must touch end-to-end for an accurate measurement.

The other measuring activity took place across the room in the Math Center.  The children were asked to find the length of items such as a basket, a shelf, the dramatic play couch, and themselves using gingerbread man cut-outs.  This activity emphasized one-to-one counting, writing numerals, following directions, and aligning units of measure for an accurate count.  It also required the children to read the pictures on their recording form to find out what needed to be measured next.  After the first two objects on the list, the children felt that it was getting a bit overwhelming.  With a bit of discussion, they discovered that they could each measure a different object and then share their findings rather than doing each on their own.  Team work made the task both enjoyable and manageable.

Tracks Everywhere!

While hiking through the woods with Mr. Cooper the other day, the children came across some unknown tracks in the mud. With Mr. Cooper’s help, they deduced that they must have been made by wild turkeys. Returning to the classroom, we made a list of other kinds of tracks we might be able to find on our campus. These discussions prompted at least a week’s worth of group and individual activities.

Using play dough and our collection of animal models, the children explored the variety of tracks that animals can make. Of course, once we started making animal tracks, cars, trucks, blocks, and cooking tools made tracks as well. We also discussed the idea that our plastic models may or may not be entirely accurate when making tracks.

Over in the math area, we examined scale copies of wild animal prints. The children used Unifix cubes to measure six different tracks. They used one-to-one correspondence when counting, non-standard units of measure when finding the length, and numeral recognition as they wrote the length found.

Once they completed the measuring portion of the project, the children practiced motor planning and understanding spacial relationships as they decided how to arrange their footprints so that all of them fit on their display.

Our final project invited the class to practice their skills as an illustrator. We created a book called, “Who was here?”. Each page had a different foot print and text matching the animal track (“A cat was here.”) with lots of white space for their animal portrait. While reading, we practiced using our “reading finger” to point at each word as we read and scanning  from the left to the right. We also used the track images and beginning letter sounds to identify unknown words.

Measuring Up!

We had a shoe extravaganza this afternoon!  We each took off one shoe and tossed it into a giant shoe pile.  The children then helped me figure out what kinds of shoes we had.  We made a list of the different types on a large sheet of paper and sorted them into the appropriate groups.  Then, we realized that there were other ways to sort them as well.  We sorted by color, by size, and by the presence of tongues.

Our next task was to use the shoes to measure our friends.  Each took a turn lying on the carpet while a friend lined shoes up beside them to see “how many tall” we were.  Almost all of us were either 5 or 6 shoes long.  We recorded our investigation by drawing a picture of the person we measured along with the appropriate number of shoes.