Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Motto: Improvise And Adapt

This week is all about animals that live in the orchard. Today was Porcupine Day. I had to do some running around town this weekend in search a book, ANY book, that had a porcupine it it. We didn't have a single one at school. Finding related literature is a little more complicated in Japan than just going to the library with MGT's suggested book list.  There are 2 bookstores that I frequent, which carry English children books, so I scoured the shelves and finally found a cute Leo Lionni book titled WHO? It has a porcupine at the end, but it's not really about the prickly critters.

 Part of my weekend outing involved a trip to IKEA where, wandering the departments, I happened upon a tiny plush hedgehog that I couldn't resist picking up. I have a fondness for hedgehogs since I kept one as a pet briefly when I lived in China as a child. One of students in the upper kindergarten class also has a pet hedgehog. I decided to do a little compare and contrast lesson after we read both WHO? and Apple Trouble. Free hand drawing on a tiny dry erase board is not the most ideal for showing off any sort of artistic talent, but the class thought it was great!

I used the small white boards with magnets for the "-ig" word family cards in the MGT planning guide as a whole group activity. Moving the beginning and ending sounds on separate boards from arms length to mid-line was a brilliant visual cue for my emergent readers. I even had a 3-year-old read the word "fig" all by himself. He was so proud! 

After the whole group activity they had a chance to do it independently 

During small group centers they also had an opportunity for self-directed exploration with the word cards and a variety of letters. M was pretty excited about her word of the day!

I decided it was such an engaging activity that I adapted it for the beginner readers in the upper kindergarten class. They were SUPER excited about the little hedgehog, so each child got to hold her while I read Apple Trouble, and passed it to the next person around the circle each time I turned the page. After MUCH debating (there are 7 very opinionated boys) they finally all agreed to name the hedgehog  とげ (Toge chan, which translates as "thorn").  

The Kinder class has really been picking up on short vowel word families, using a Roll & Write center I found on Pinterest. Using that model, I adapted the "rules" for the MGT word family card game and they wrote the words on the board. The person who rolled a six had the mystery card, so they had to come up with their own word using a new letter not provided. They had so much fun with those 2 activities they decided they wanted to do art like the "little kids", so they painted paper plates to make hedgehog puppets, which will be finished tomorrow. 

The day required a lot of quick thinking and quick gathering of extra supplies, but all in all, it was a pretty great start to the week. Happy Monday! 

The Pokey Porcupine Friends

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For The Love Of Lemons

Question: when was the last time you got really excited about lemons? I mean REALLY excited, like jump for joy and shout "IT'S LEMON DAY!" kind of excited? Never?? Me either...

I was not prepared for the level of lemon-enthusiasm that greeted me on Day 8 of our In the Orchard theme, otherwise known as "Lemon Day". I had given the class a preview during closing circle the day before, when I hung up the daily topic poster. The first four students to arrive in the morning literally burst into the room with arms flung wide, declaring,"IT'S LEMON DAY!!!!" They were beside themselves with anticipation when they saw the two big, yellow lemons on the sign-in table. 

It was hard to resist being caught up in the lemon frenzy! They were having so much fun relating all play activities to this fabulous, and clearly under-appreciated yellow fruit. During free play, one child brought over a yellow plank block, placed it beside the lemons on the table, as if measuring it, and said proudly,"It's MATCHING!" 

For fine-motor play, I placed a variety of small yellow manipulatives in a clear container and hid two yellow lemon erasers in the bottom. The kids used pinchers to take objects out, count, and sort by type. Later in the day, they wanted to do this activity again, and discovered that they could make "lemon lollipops" by sticking the lemon erasers on top of the yellow sticks (from last month's theme box). The yellow sticks also doubled as chopsticks for picking up other yellow objects! 

In the math center, they used the MGT counting mats with numbers 1-4, but mostly they just filled up the blocks on the 10-frame. There wasn't enough yellow play-dough available for everyone, so we used yellow leaves and banana erasers instead.

The celebration of lemons continued in literacy with the MGT Little Reader Big Pig. It's quite a silly story! The introduction of the sight word pointers was great! Even me youngest (3 yr old) pre-reader was able to identify "I" and "a" in the story, using the pointers. Several students were quick to identify "pig" and "big" as rhyming words. 

Taking a "lemon break" from reading 
The most exciting activity of the day was the lemon "tasting". I gave everyone a small piece and they took turns looking in the mirror, licking their lemon, and making silly "sour" faces. 

We counted the seeds as I cut the lemon and took the seeds out. I missed a seed, but found it when I held the circle up at a different angle. This turned into a spontaneous science discovery lesson. I passed the circle around the table and they each held it up to the light and said what shapes they saw. Tiangles, circle, and "flower" shapes were mentioned. One student made a very astute observation that inside each triangle looked like the veins on a leaf. 

We talked about how the light shined through the lemon and made it look transparent, so that is how I was able to see through it to find the seed that was hiding. We counted 15 seeds in all, which we decided was more than the 10 seeds we counted when we cut the apple open last week. 

Take away: When life (or in this case, Mother Goose Time) gives you lemons, use your imagination, laugh at yourself, look at things from a different perspective, learn something new, and get excited about what the future has in store! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Day In The Orchard

What better way to learn about fruits that grow in the orchard than actually going TO a real orchard to pick fruit??!! And there is no better fruit in season to pick than Fuji apples in Japan! I could not have timed the sequence of curriculum days and field trip day any more perfectly. We learned all about apples on Day 6 (Mother Goose Tme) which fell on Thursday, and since we learned about leaves the day before, I combined concepts in a couple different center activities. 

First, on "leaf" day, they made the adorable hungry caterpillar leaves. The half of my class who returned from last school year remembered doing The Very Hungry Caterpillar unit, and one student even remembered that "on Monday, the caterpillar ate through one apple." I had jar of random beads that I mixed in with the red beads provided in the curriculum box. Only one child chose to make their caterpillar look like the one in the book, everyone else chose their favorite colors. 

On "apple" day, I mixed in some counting apples and leaves manipulatives with a basket full of foam leaf beads, and also hid the MGT "Aa" apples in the basket for the kids to find. They made groups of three, and also used ice cube trays to make leaf & apple patterns.

Another favorite of "apple" day was in the introduction of the MGT story book, "Johnny" about Johnny Appleseed. There are SO many meaningful learning opportunities embedded in this book! My students were excited to learn about maps and different states in America. There's so many ways to differentiate number concepts in the illustrations. We counted groups of three, groups of five, and some of older students (5 years old) very quickly grasped counting multiples of 5 (apples on the tree) and 10 all the way up to 30. They thought Johnny Appleseed was a pretty cool guy!

Friday it was off to the Kobe Fruit and Flower Park to do a little apple picking ourselves! The park has beautiful flowers, grand buildings, a Koi pond, a go-cart track, and a play ground, as well as peach, pear, plum, grape, and apple orchards that are open for public picking. The trees are pruned so that fruit is easily accessible for people of all heights. Before I released them pick their apples, I reminded them about good fruit and bad fruit (from our Fruit of the Spirit devotional) and we talked about checking to make sure only the good fruit was chosen. They were so proud of their apple harvest! 

After they picked the apples, we all got to sit down for a little taste test. Fuji apples, fresh off the tree in Japan, are nothing short of heavenly! 
"Kairu sensei, it's so yum!"

It was hard work, exhausting, and fun. Everyone got to take an apple home to eat with their family and share about their day in orchard. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Play With Words

We are in the throws of learning all about the parts of a tree. Between our school sports day, the officially Sports Day holiday and me being in Hong Kong for 3 days last week, we lost a bit of instructional time and are still working our way through week 1 of this months unit In The Orchard. Today we did "Day 4", all about what grows on tree branches.

At morning meeting, we listened to the Months of the Year song on our new Mother Goose Time CD, which talks about the rings of the tree growing each year, which was a great segue into the science activity we missed last Thursday, mostly due to teacher error (as in, I read the directions in the teacher planning guide and they did not compute) Thankfully, I received some very helpful feedback from a few other MGT users over the weekend, so we had a much more successful learning experience about tree trunks today (teacher included!). 

We reviewed the previous parts of the tree we have learned so far and I was quite surprised when I mentioned roots, and one student responded immediately with "R-O-O-T-S!", the Day 2 song that's been nearly 2 weeks since we sang it.  Today's song was about things that grow on the branches of a tree, so after the "red apple" part, I asked the kids to give me examples of other fruits that grow on trees. 

I pulled the "fruit of the Spirit" story pieces that corresponded with the fruit that was mentioned, one of them being "red cherries". Several students immediately identified the word "joy" on the cherry. I asked if they wanted to learn a new song about joy, and they were very eager. I learned this song as missionary kid many years ago, in 3 rounds and after some research, it appears that it might be a combination of a couple different songs. Rather than trying to teach 9 preschoolers to sing 3 different things at the same time, I just picked the 2 easy parts and did a "girls" verse and a "boys" verse. It was super cute!
     Girls: "J is for Jesus, O is for Others, Y y y y y y is for You, you, you, you, you, you"
     Boys: "Joy, joy, joy...I've got joy, joy, joy...I've got joy, joy, joy...I've got joy, joy, joy"

They did such a great job writing the letter "A-a" in their Little Journals today, and came up with really creative pictures and words that start with "A". 

Some mighty, green angels
A is for "Anju" (her BFF in class)
Before story time, I scoured the book shelves in the upstairs hallway for some tree/fall/harvest science related books, and also chose Apple Banana Cherry for our read aloud book, since it tied so nicely into everything we talked about today. It just so happens that the author's name is Joy, which was possibly their most exciting discovery of the day!  

Ah, the joy of learning in preschool! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hello There, October!

It's October 1st. The days are getting shorter, the temperature is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colors, and it's time for a new theme! Yesterday we opened our Mother Goose Time box for "In The Orchard" and checked out some of the new items we will be adding to our morning meeting wall. My littles were ready to jump right in with "Day 1" today!

The first week of this month's curriculum is all about the life-cyle of a tree, so of course we started with a seed. There was lots of good discussion about what fruit has seeds and which ones do/do not grow on trees. I introduced our new Bible verse and story, which is about "good fruit" and "bad fruit". For previous themes before MGT curriculum was introduced, I tried to find a song for devotional time that would help the children learn their verse, so they were happy that this routine has continued with the Truth Tunes CD.  There was also lots of excitement about the ring that holds the daily theme related songs for the whole month. Today's song about seeds was sung to the tune of "Do You Know the Muffin Man". This song is one of their favorites, so of course they also HAD to sing the song with the original words, too!

During centers, everyone had a chance to investigate different kinds of seeds with a magnifying glass, and they counted and sorted with pinchers into ice cube trays however they saw fit. I was impressed that they were able to identify the pumpkin seeds (because pumpkin seeds are sold differently in Japan - without the crunchy outer shell, so they are green) and the sunflower seeds right away.

Since I had just pulled out the calendar numbers, but hadn't yet laminated anything to hang up, I used the calendar as the math center activity, and asked each group to work together to put the numbers in the correct order. Some of my little smarty pants even figured out the new pattern without me even asking about it.

We finished up My Little Jounal for Fables and Folktales by drawing a picture of the favorite character at the writing center. The winners were Mommy Crab & little crab, the tortoise, and the lion and mouse. Everyone got to choose a new name tag to write their name. It's amazing to see the progress from the same activity last month!

For science and sensory, I brought an apple to school to share. We all crowded around one table and passed the apple around and talked about how it looked, felt, smelled, etc. I cut the apple into 4 large sections so we could get all the seeds out, and then I passed around one section so they could observe and talk about the difference between the inside and outside of the apple. I even threw a little bit of multiplication in when I showed them that by cutting the remaining three sections of the apple into 3 pieces each, there were 9 pieces: enough for each student to have 1 piece. They thought that was amazing how it worked out. Last, but not least we counted all the apple seeds together.

Counting apple seeds is serious business!

The art project will have to carry over to tomorrow, since we ran out of time after one small group. I loved the low prep activity, and they turned out super cute!

All my kiddos were super engaged and on-task today, and looking forward to more new things to learn about tomorrow. I was proud of myself that we actually accomplished all the activities listed for Day 1 in the Teacher Planning Guide. Teacher success!