Monday, December 22, 2008

What God Wants for Christmas

Wow - has it really been almost two weeks since the last post? My mom came into town last Saturday, and despite my best intentions, I have not been able to get a post up. If you've been checking in periodically, thanks for sticking with us!

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, we celebrated our last day of school before taking a break for the Christmas holidays. For Circle Time, Miss K read the kids a really neat book called What God Wants for Christmas:

The book comes with a nativity scene, six nativity figurines, and seven boxes that are wrapped like presents. As the reader reads the story, the first six boxes are opened to reveal the nativity figurines. Finally, after asking again and again what God wants for Christmas, the seventh box is opened to reveal a mirror, because...what God wants for Christmas is YOU!

This was the last day we would be meeting for quite some time, so we made it a little special. Everyone got dressed up, and we spent the day making Christmas crafts. Afterward, we even went to lunch together - how fun!

For starters, the kids made wreath picture frame ornaments...

...and then they decorated miniature gingerbread houses:

Miss D's daughter's ski chalet:

Hmmm, not sure what happened to the roof on this one, but it looks delicious:

Miss K's mother- and father-in-law were visiting from out of town. We loved their company, and they were extremely helpful - the gingerbread houses were kind of an "all hands on deck" sort of thing.

Finally, the kids made an ornament kind of like this one, although I can't find the exact one. We closed with the N story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses, "No one can serve two masters," and then we headed to McD's for nuggets all around - it was a fun way to end our first semester together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Go Tell It on the Mountain!

This is the last week we'll be meeting before the holidays, so Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week is the nativity story. She brought in her family's Little People nativity set and read the nativity story:

The kids enjoyed this so much, they did it twice.

At the start of Independent Work time, my daughter and Miss D's son made plans for their day. Miss D's son chose the addition strip board, and my daughter chose reading, pin punching (I put out a new Christmas tree to punch), and the addition strip board. She sat on the couch and started reading a book, and Miss D's son plopped down next to her. She read to him for a little while before getting fatigued, so I sat down with them and read to them for a while. We don't usually read together in the classroom, and it was a nice (and somewhat refreshing) change.

Miss K's daughter chose (among other things) nuts and bolts...

...water transfer with a funnel...

...and pin punching...

...which was a very...

...very popular activity:

Miss C's son also chose sandpaper letters and the cornmeal tray, and then almost the whole crew worked together on the geometric solids matching cards:

Toward the end of the day, Miss D's son wanted to read some more, so Miss K picked up where I had left off - she attracted quite a crowd:

During Music Time, Miss D led the kids in a rousing rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain," which has been stuck in my head for days now! She also brought in jingle bells and sang all the requisite jingly Christmas songs. Then she gave the kids rhythm sticks and led them by donkey to Bethlehem, clip-clopping all the way.

We closed with the "N" verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses, "No one can serve two masters," Matthew 6:24.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More on Pin-Punching

Today, my 8-month-old was pretty sick and pretty contagious, so regretfully, I had to cancel school. The doctor recommended a 24-hour waiting period for the antibiotics to kick in, so we should be good to go for tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I've been meaning to do a post about the pin-punching activity I put out recently, because it would be so simple for anyone to set up at home. I'd been searching for punches in all of my local craft stores and couldn't find anything, which left the internet. All of the Montessori sites wanted way too much money for punches and felt, and they wanted even more for shipping, so I wasn't sure what to do. Fortunately, I saw this post at My Montessori Journey and noticed that the "pin" in the tray was a simple push pin. Surely it couldn't be that easy, could it?

I emailed Laura at MMJ and asked her about it:

Hi Laura,

I’m trying to set up a pin-punching activity in our classroom. I was prepared to spend about $45 at Montessori Services (not including shipping!) for a set of punches, a punch holder, and some mats, when I saw this post. Do your kids really just use a push pin? Can they hold a push pin in their hands as well as they can hold the punches from Montessori Services? (I know you have both because I’ve seen them in other posts.) If money were no object (wouldn’t that be nice? :), would you recommend I go ahead and invest in the ones from Montessori Services? My youngest child is only 7 months old, and I know we would get a ton of use out of the punch set; however, if a push pin works just as well, I’d love to put that money toward something else in the classroom.

She graciously replied, and then even more graciously allowed me to share her advice with all of you (thanks again!!). Here is her response:

When I first taught in a Montessori school several years ago, we used push pins, but BIG ones. You can buy them at most office supply stores. I am talking about ones that are about 2 inches long, really big. When I came to my current school to teach, they had the wooden handled ones from Montessori Services. After observing the children in my classroom using the regular (small) push pins and the Montessori Services ones, here are my thoughts. If a child can hold a pencil well using a tri-pod grip, I think the Montessori Services ones are great because they are the same diameter as a regular pencil. However, I pulled out the small pins for my littlest students who haven't yet formed a good tripod grip. The small push pins pretty much force the child to use a tripod grasp. advice is to start with the regular small push pins. As far as the pad, I do really like the thick wool ones from Montessori Services. However, in the past I've just used a square of thick carpet padding. You could probably get a remnant piece of that for free from any home improvement store that installs carpet. That would be a cheap way to get started. Hope that helps!

I never made it to a carpet store to get carpet padding, so instead I got eight 9x12 adhesive sheets of felt and stuck two together to make four felt pads (I left the backing on the bottom sheet of felt). Voila! Pins and pads for four kids for about $4! For the outline, I did a Google images search for a leaf outline, copied the image into a Word document, and printed it out on construction paper (never knew I could do that!). Now that I have the pins and pads, it will be very simple to add new outlines to go with the current season/holiday, etc. Fun!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Gingerbread Baby

On Wednesday, Miss K introduced a variation on the gingerbread man theme: The Gingerbread Baby. She began by reading The Gingerbread Man story from the previous day, and then she read the new version. Then she and the kids did a lesson in comparing and contrasting using - of all things - a Venn diagram (remember those?):

Of course, the kids love anything having to do with babies, so they enjoyed the retelling of the classic story. As for independent work, recently I had seen a lot of posts about lacing beads onto pipe cleaners. When I saw this craft in Family Fun Magazine, I set it up right away:

OK, so ours didn't look quite like the ones in the magazine, but when do they ever? This was a great activity for the two-year-olds, because the pipe cleaners hold their shape, unlike string.

For Arts & Crafts, Miss K brought in a gingerbread man "glyph" she made. Basically, she gave each kid a gingerbread man print-out, and then they had to follow her instructions and color the gingerbread man accordingly (if you're a boy, color the gingerbread man's nose blue; if you're a girl, color his nose pink).

We closed with the M verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "My little children, let us not love one another in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Run, Run, As Fast As You Can...

On Tuesday, Miss K introduced her Circle Time theme for the week: The Gingerbread Man. She and the kids read the story of the gingerbread man together, and then Miss K explained that The Gingerbread Man is a fairytale that was written by a person. Next she explained that the kids could use their imaginations to write their own version of the story.

She asked the kids simple questions like, "If you were writing the story, what would your gingerbread man's name be?" "How would you keep him from escaping from the oven?" "Would the fox eat him, or would he get away?" She wrote down each of the kids' answers, and then they took turns reading the stories they had written. It was neat to see how everyone's stories came together at the end, and the kids really enjoyed this creative writing exercise.

Unfortunately, I didn't get many good pictures during Independent Work time (the two-year-olds were with us, and they definitely require all hands on deck :). Miss K brought in a Gingerbread Man story sequencing worksheet, and the kids spent a long time working with it. They really enjoyed reading the captions underneath each picture, cutting them out, and then gluing them in the correct order.

For snack, Miss K brought in some gingerbread cookies for the kids to try, and then they all voted on whether or not they liked them (the result was a resounding "yes" :).

During Music Time, Miss D led the kids in Christmas songs. She typically incorporates instruments or movement into each of the songs the kids sing, but I wanted to take a second to describe how she uses rhythm sticks. Every kid gets a pair of sticks (blue stick in the right hand, red stick in the left hand); while she taps out a rhythm that the kids follow, she narrates a scene or story. For instance (imagine you can hear sticks in the background going tick, tock, tick, tock), "We're walking down the street" (tick, tock, tick, tock). "There's snow all over the ground, and we're going sledding! We drag our sled all the way to the top of the hill (tick, tock, tick, tock). We're almost there! Just a little farther! And we get to the top of the hill so we stop." (She stops tapping, and so do all the kids.) "We sit down on our sleds and weeeeeeee," and the kids furiously tap their sticks as they sled down the hill. "And we get to the bottom of the hill so we stop" (sticks stop). "That was so much fun! Let's do it again! We walk our sleds all the way back up to the top of the hill (tick, tock, tick, tock)..." I'm sure you get the gist. She's taken them on some very fun "trips," including through the grocery store, where they "rolled" their carts through the store, etc. The kids love this activity, and Miss D does a wonderful job of vividly describing things so that the kids can use their mind's eye to visualize her stories.

We closed with the M verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "My little children, let us not love one another in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18.

This may sound presumptuous (as though you're waiting with bated breath for each new post!), but I apologize that there has been such a long time between posts. This is such a busy time of year! I definitely hope to post more in the future - it's just hard when so many other things take priority.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We're Back!

Last week ended up being pretty light - I had to cancel school on Monday because my daughter was under mommy-imposed quarantine. We had already agreed that we wouldn't meet on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so that left Tuesday as our only school day.

During Circle Time, Miss K and the kids talked about all of the things they are grateful for, and then they created this thankfulness tree:

In a twist on the cutting activity of old, I gave the kids strips of red, yellow, and orange paper that they cut into small pieces, which they then used to make Indian corn:

Finally, for Arts & Crafts, in a combination of both thankfulness and corn :), the kids created these cute little ears of corn with foam shapes and sequins:

Yesterday morning, our local MOPS group held its annual Birthday Party for Jesus, which we all attended. Today we were all back together, and I'll post more about it tomorrow. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving!