Saturday, January 30, 2016

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

It doesn't snow much in Osaka, and even on the night the weather was calling for several centimeters, we got none. So I was thankful for the abundance of snow and ice pictures posted by all my facebook friends in the eastern 1/2 of the U.S. to show my class what walking in a REAL winter wonderland looks like!

It's always fun to compare and contrast things about Japan and America with my students. They have famous deer in Nara, which is about an hour from where I live (yet I STILL have not gone to see them) but they are much smaller and from what I know also don't have antlers. The kids had fun looking through all the winter books on the shelf to footprints in the snow, belonging to deer and other animals. Since our music week(s) overlapped into winter sights, we even ended up with a trio of musical deers in class one day!

Whenever I pull out a special science card from the daily topic bag, it's like a party! I have a "special activity" picture for the visual schedule and every one gets SO excited. It's a big deal to line up and walk to the kitchen to "help" Kairu sensei gather all the supplies. They loved the "ice fishing" experiment. I think the record was 10 "fish" on a string at one time. 

Serious observation faces

Winter is not my favorite season, personally, I'd rather be warm. But, Mother Goose Time has redeemed the season quite a bit by providing so many fun learning opportunities (inside, where we can stay toasty warm!) about weather and environments near and far! 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bring On The Strings

Violins, cellos, and harps...Oh, my! There was so much to talk about with stringed instruments, we spent a couple extra days and extra time on projects related to this category of instruments.

We talked about the number seven, and the kids traced the hands-on number in their little journals to create a harp with 7 strings. They counted/drew seven musical notes and made up their own little tune on the opposite page.

I started using the daily coloring page provided by Mother Goose Time as a self-directed activity during centers. I encourage them to cross out the Spanish word and write the word in Japanese if they know it. Since I have a mixed-age group, the older ones often help the little ones with that part. Then they are free to decorate and color the page (front and back) however they want. One student took a particular interest in cellos, so he changed the guitar on the coloring sheet into a cello with the little stand on the bottom. I loved that creativity!

The violin art prop was really fun! Some groups spent lots of time decorating their violins, so it took us several days to get them all done. They enjoyed "playing" along with the string parts of the the Sights and Sounds of Winter CD.

We are blessed to have multi-talented staff at our school. One of the administrative assistants in the front office is also a worship leader in the church, so I invited him one day to come to the class and play his guitar for us. They loved having Daiki sensei as our "special guest musician"!  I found some little mini guitars at the 100 yen store (Dollar Tree equivalent), which, when tuned, worked surprisingly well. They made up songs about Jesus and took turns playing and singing into the echo microphones.

One of the favorite activities actually happened unintentionally. I had a so many empty tissue boxes I was trying to think of a way to use them for homemade instruments. I put them out on a table with a bag of colored rubber bands and the hands-on numbers. The instructions were to choose a number and count that many rubber bands to put around the box. In reality, they just added as many rubber bands to the box as they could fit, and one student actually "tuned" her bands so she could play a song on her instrument. I was so proud! (even though they didn't follow my directions! Ha!)

For an open-ended 2-dimensional art/music project, we looked at examples of sheet music from the back of several of our story books, and I gave them popsicle sticks to trace five lines for the staff and music confetti with treble clef, quarter notes, and eighth notes to arrange however they wanted to create their own musical score. The results were totally adorable. I often invite the students' input on where/how to display their art work in the classroom, as well as how to label it on sentence strips. I read several different scripture verses about making music, and finally they decided we should just write,"I will sing to the Lord a new song."

Sometimes simple and sincere makes the biggest impact: in art, music, and life!

Monday, January 18, 2016

We're "In The Mood" To Sing The Winter Blues

I must confess: I do not love winter. About this time of year, I really start missing Haiti sunshine and "cool" season of mid-70's. (and Haitian babies that are now preschoolers, which Timehop and Facebook memories are quick to remind me of)

So what's a teacher to do when she finds herself slipping into the winter blues, and barely the middle of January? Well, lucky for us Mother Goose Time has got us covered! In week 1 of the Sights and Sounds of Winter theme, there are plenty of opportunities to write, color, dance, play, and sing our blues away with an intro to musical instruments. And that is exactly what we have been doing!

The story book for this month is The Mississippi Musicians, a tale of a rag-tag group of animals who feel hopeless and worthless in their present state, but choose to pursue lost dreams and end up not only chasing away some "mean people", but also chasing away their sadness, and restoring hope for themselves and others by playing music together on the banks of the Mississippi river. It's simple and cute, but has an incredibly profound message!

We read the story aloud several days in a row, then Friday I asked the class to look through all the books on the bookshelf and find the ones with music at the back. I pulled one of the school keyboards out and we formed our own band with various instruments, including several shoe box drums. This was my way of easing myself back into playing the piano in front of an audience. I played for years growing up, but since leaving for college, didn't have a piano readily available to practice. I finally talked myself into getting a keyboard last spring and I'm slowly getting back "in the mood" to share my talents with others. Of course my students thought it was the best "special activity" ever! Several of them take piano lessons as an extra-curricular activity, so I gave them all an opportunity to play a little blues scale duet with me.

The piano note activity provided multi-layer differentiation, not just the fine-motor aspect of cutting on the dotted line. For the 5-year-olds, several of whom are currently taking piano lessons, I had them write the fingering numbers for the C scale, as well as label the notes by letter key. The youngest ones snipped the short lines between colored musical notes, then matched the colors to the dots on the keys. My newest kiddo did his best attempt at imitating color words, then gave me a high 5 after every note. :)

I love that they love to write in their little journals, and they did an exceptional job of illustrating the front cover with their favorite musical instruments.

It's still cold outside, but as long as the music is chasing our blues away, our hearts will be toasty warm!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Back In The Rhythm

We are back to full days, but still had a short week, since Monday was a holiday in Japan. Tuesday we started our new theme, Sights and Sounds of Winter, and right on cue it got REALLY cold. Nothing warms the body and the soul like some good music!

Day 1 was all about drums. Mother Goose Time always has meaningful ways of including multicultural ideas and concepts in each theme. The instrument craft and the movement pattern cards both featured the Japanese hand drum. This was not lost on the students or the Japanese teachers, who were very impressed that things from their culture would be included in an American curriculum. 

During morning meeting, we sat in a "drum circle" and played the name game with the wood pieces from the Handwriting Without Tears kit. We went around the circle and tapped out the syllables for each child's name. We practiced doing it fast and slow, and then students took turns being the "leader" and tapping a different rhythm for the rest of the class to follow. 

Everyone was very excited about the new shape connector manipulatives. There are so many ways to play with them! They even tried to make some structures by "connecting" some of the classroom musical instruments together. 

I tried to encourage them to play the instrument matching game, but they were more interested in playing "I spy" with magnifying glasses and the theme-web poster. They still used the cards in their game, so it was a win-win. 

At the end of the day, they asked to hear "Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum" (The Little Drummer Boy). They sang that in English for last year's (2014) Christmas program, and in Japanese for this year's (2015) program. I love that they remembered and made that connection with the music. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

We eased into the New Year with 2 half days last week, followed by a 3 day weekend. This might seem counter-productive for resuming normal school day routines with preschoolers, but I can assure you it did this jet-lagged teacher and her sleepy little students a world of good! 

I have a new student who speaks no English yet, and is generally clueless about classroom expectations, but happily follows the rest of the group *most* of the time, and is eager to imitate whatever I say. The half-days were a good transition for the newbie to get a taste of our daily routine, but it didn't give us much time to delve into new concepts. We did some review of letters, and got some fine motor practice in, snipping scrap paper with our new scissors to make a "color blue" collage. It was fun to watch them during free play, as they pulled out the rainbow paper "roads" from our MGT On The Go theme. I'm always impressed by their creativity. 

During morning meeting, we typically start off with the MGT Circle Time CD. Lately, my students have taken to making up their own words to sing during the instrumental breaks in the Circle Time Song, which is highly entertaining. We discussed what activities we would not have time for in our shortened school day, and adjusted the visual schedule accordingly. 

On Friday, just before it was time to clean up for dismissal, the new curriculum box for Sights and Sounds of Winter was delivered to the classroom. It was met with a chorus of, "OPEN, OPEN!" so I pulled out the theme web and poster for a little preview. They were SO excited! Jingle bells, snow, and cookies...Oh, my! 

It's great to be back, and we are looking forward to walking in a winter wonderland with Mother Goose Time to start 2016 off right.