Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chasing Rainbows

To cap off our weather-themed explorations, we focused on rainbows this week.  Even as an adult, I find rainbows captivating and magical since you never know exactly when and where one will appear.  Even with all the right ingredients in place, rainbows can still be elusive.  No matter, the Pre-K class got to see lots of rainbows this week right inside our classroom.

We dove into rainbows right off with two stories - one fiction, one non-fiction - to gain some background knowledge.  We learned that the spectrum of colors is always the same because the colors blend to create new colors.  That's why orange is surrounded by red and yellow; and green is surrounded by yellow and green.

The fun started when we actually caught a rainbow in a bowl.  Colors mixed and created a rainbow right in front of the children's eyes.  It's a visually appealing experiment that lent itself well to color mixing discussions and documenting our observations.  This idea was highlighted on the Chasing Cheerios blog. You can find the specific instructions and documentation sheets on the Kid Zone website.

We did this activity in groups of 5 to accomodate each child and make sure they had a bird's eye view on the action.  I enjoyed watching the different designs that emerged each time we did it.  This is definitely an activity that could be repeated because the visual results are different each time.  Here are some pictures of our "captured" rainbows and the children documenting their observations.

After they completed their observations, I transcribed their answers to the question "What did I see?."  I love hearing their explanations.  It shows the critical thinking skills they are building as they observe and ponder what it all means to them.

We viewed rainbows all over our classroom through two prisms.  The children enjoyed seeing where the rainbows would appear when they held it up to the light in the classroom.  They also got to see rainbows dance across the room as sunlight streamed through the prisms in the afternoon.  That was a very exciting moment indeed.

Finally, we also saw rainbows created by our "Rainbow in Your Room" machine.  This is a really neat device that projects a rainbow onto a wall.  It works best in a dark room, but the rainbow is still visible in a lit classroom.  Here's a link to the product on the on the Amazon site.

Finally, we flexed our creative muscles by painting our own rainbows.  The children were given rainbow colors and allowed to create a rainbow from their own imagination.  Here are some of the little artists hard at work on their masterpieces.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our rainbow focus as much as we enjoyed our rainbow-filled time in the classroom.  I love how a science topic like rainbows can be woven into a variety of content areas to create a comprehensive set of memorable lessons for the children.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Leo Lionni Author Study: Focus on Frederick

Author/illustrator studies are one of my favorite things to do with children.  The study really lets us think about the story we are reading, find similarities and differences within a single author's work and just plain have fun.

We recently completed a unit on Leo Lionni.  We focused on Frederick, Inch-by-Inch and Swimmy, and other titles, as well. To gain a deeper understanding of the stories, we did sequencing activities, talked about the characters in each story, and completed Venn Diagrams comparing and contrasting stories.  Inch-by-Inch is all about measurement, so we used inch worms as non-standard measures and created our own Inchworm measuring books.   

The following showcases several art projects we did related to the story, Frederick.

Color Similes
To keep the mice warm during the cold winter, Frederick paints a picture of the warm outdoors and different things which can be found there in the summer and autumn. Based on the idea of painting a picture with words, we discussed different comparisons (similes) that can be made about colors and nature. With these statements in mind, we created our color similes using a single color and different textures. 

Our Own Frederick's
Leo Lionni creates a simple, yet memorable mouse character out of a few pieces of paper.  Using the same technique, Pre-k created their own Frederick’s. We started with a sheet of brown paper.  Using our imagination, we tore the paper into pieces to create Frederick.  The ripping and tearing help us to strengthen our fine motor muscles.

Frederick's Habitat
We used straw, pinecones, corn kernels, paper and glue to create Frederick’s habit. 

Many of these ideas were found here in a Leo Lionni Resource Guide for Teachers.  There are ideas in this downloadable pdf for a range of age groups and many of the ideas and be modified to fit specific needs.  It's a great resource.  

Mural Painting

This afternoon, we turned a piece of packing paper from a recent shipment into a colorful mural.  This project came together at the end of the day when we were itching for something a little different to do.  A group sat down to paint with the knowledge that they'd work together to create a painting/mural.  In a matter of minutes the paper was covered, our artists were painted nearly as much as the paper and we stepped back to marvel at our work.  Here are some pictures showing the development of our masterpiece.

Observational Drawings of Water Beads

As I was poking around the DollarTree this weekend, I found colored water beads with plastic vases - perfect for the classroom!  I was so excited because I've been wanting to get some water beads for the class to explore.

The water beads take a while to expand into their final size.  On Monday, we looked at the small hard beads and made predictions about what would happen when we added them to the water.  Here's a picture that shows the water beads shortly after they had been added to the water.  This picture was actually taken at my home.  I did a test run with the beads to make sure they worked well before we experimented in the classroom. 

We captured our observations and dictated our thoughts about what would happen after we left the water beads overnight.  The ever expanding water beads were placed on the windowsill in the classroom and the children checked on the expansion throughout the day.

The real fun was on Tuesday when we arrived to find the vases filled with water beads.

Each child had the opportunity to touch the beads.  They used words like "slimy" and "bouncy" to describe the water beads.

After touching and describing the water beads, we recorded our observations for a second time.  Below are samples of the children's work.  The left-hand side of the paper records our observations from Monday.  Tuesday's observations are recorded on the right-hand side.  Each observational drawing includes a dictation and some include the children's own descriptive writing.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Engineering Girls!

The ramps have been out in our classroom for several weeks now and they are a big hit.  We see different designs and ideas being tested out on a regular basis.  This past week, three girls worked together to create and amazing ramp structure on their own during afternoon choice time.  It is important to note that there wasn't any adult intervention, coaching or discussion with girls during this process, except to ask them about the design at the end of the process.  And all the boys were occupied at the writing center or the math center while this building took place.  The girls created this work entirely on their own.  Go girls!!

It started with one girl building an airplane.  Here are images of her very realistic airplane design.

Above is a side view.  You can see that there are multiple ramps in the design.  The longest ramp runs the whole length of the airplane and includes a multi-part tunnel.  It ends at the tail of the ramp.  What's ingenious here is that the tail serves as a stopping point, so the marble won't continue off the ramp.  You'll also notice the side ramp has a stopping point as well.  This ramp system is all self-contained.  After the building process, the designer had to experiment with getting a ball down the ramp.  She quickly realized that the large wooden balls wouldn't work down the center ramp and switched to a marble that was able to roll right under the tunnels.

I love this head-on view of the airplane.  It shows the two side ramps and the overall symmetry of the design.  It really looks like an airplane!

Finally, here's an overhead shot of the airplane design.

The little girl was soon joined by two other little girls in the block area.  When I returned to the area a few minutes later, the girls had utilized the airplane as a central component for a new engineering feat - a playground.  Below are pictures of the playground, which has an intricate series of ramps leading off of the main design.

Notice that paper towel rolls have been added to the design as well.

This side view more clearly shows the series of ramps upon ramps that the girls built.  Notice that the end of each ramp includes a stopping device of some sort, typically a single block, but sometimes more than one block is used.

This picture shows the opposite side of the playground structure.  At the end of the longest and steepest ramp, there are nine blocks lined up to stop the ball at the end.  These girls aren't messing around.  They want to make sure the ball stays on the ramp and remains part of the playground.

And who says girls don't have a natural knack for engineering!?!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Fun with M&M's

Earlier this week we read The M&M Counting Book.  We sorted and counted using M&Ms and we got to eat some at the end of our work.

What to do with all those left over M&M's....hmmmm....if we ate them all, we'd have a sugar high for sure.  Instead, we painted with M&M's.  So fun!  And so easy!!

To get started, we sorted the M&M's by color, then added water to cover the M&M's, mix and presto! you have M&M paint.  It has a watercolor effect to it.

Thanks to the Teach Preschool blog for these ideas.