Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beanie Baby Zoo

Does anyone else have boxes full of beanie babies lying around their house? When my husband and I got married, his mom gave us all his old stuff. Including a tub full of beanie babies. I knew my kiddos would LOVE a chance to get their hands on these little guys. So I brought them into my classroom. 

Last year, I set them out for them to play with in the block and kitchen center. They had a blast. The kitchen became the beanie baby store. They made signs (yay writing!) and used money (yay math!) in their store. 

This year, my very artistically talented TA turned our loft into a zoo. Our loft is a "rotating" center. We change the center about once a month or so. We've had a castle, beauty shop, doctor's office, vet, elf station, house, fire station, and construction center.

The zoo is split up by habitat. Since it is up on the loft, it's really hard to get pictures through the bars and around the stairs. 

After my TA had completed all the centers, we had the kids draw the animals to go in the habitats. I was so impressed with their drawings. Ms. C had them look through our animal books to find the animal they wanted to draw. Then she pointed out the shapes and characteristics that animal had. She gave them a little guidance as far as what to draw first, etc. But the drawings are all them. I'm so proud of my budding artists!

We allow between 3-5 friends in our loft at a time, depending on what center is up there at the time. We went with 4 friends at a time for the zoo. We encourage them to sort the animals by habitat, play with them like puppets, etc. 

Do you use anything from your childhood in your classroom?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Reading Bags

I love books! I'm probably Scholastics MVP. I love opening up the book box and looking through my brand new books. As a teacher though, the brand new books don't stay new for that long. I've come a long way with sharing my books. I put out almost all of my books for my students to look at. (That is after all the point of buying books for your classroom.) And this year, I'm even letting students take books home! This is a huge step for me in my protectiveness of my books. 

I started thinking about reading bags when one of our amazing substitute teachers gave me a bunch of her teaching materials. (She's a retired Kindergarten teacher) She had tons of stuffed animals and books. I put them up to display in the classroom and then decided they needed to be used. 

One of my big concerns with starting reading bags was that they wouldn't get returned. I teach preschool, so my 3, 4, and 5 year olds aren't going to remember to return the book bags, so the responsibility would be on the parents. I sent home a letter explaining how book bags would work and asked parents to sign and return if they wanted to participate in this program. I had about 75% of my class return their forms. 

I kept our first set of book bags pretty simple. Just a stuffed animal and book in a bag. The next round of book bags will have retelling activities and other literacy extensions to go with the book. 

Here is my first set of book bags:
1. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

2. If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

3. If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff

4. If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff

5. If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff

6. Clifford The Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

So far I've had all the book bags returned without problem. Over Spring Break, I'm switching out our book bags. Check back in a few weeks for another round of book bag ideas.

Happy Reading!