Thursday, March 19, 2015

Easter Sensory Bin with Learning Activities

Time to change out the sensory bin from March to April. Since we are doing a full-on regarding holidays this year, since the bigs are heading off to kindergarten in the fall, Easter is the theme.

I wanted to use birdseed as our fill-n-pour, but the girls insisted that we use the red/white/blue rice.

There are many learning activities available with this sensory bin.

What's in it?
1 egg carton
18 plastic eggs*
18 colored feathers
1 set of egg dying baskets*
1 package of small/medium/large colored pom poms*
3 bunny plastic eggs*
1 package pink/green/blue styrofoam glitter eggs*
8 chick plastic eggs*
1 package Easter erasers*
crimped paper shreds
colored rice
*From the dollar store

Additional: tools, baskets, containers

The Learning Games

Number Matching 1-18:
At the bottom of the 18 egg carton, I wrote the numbers in colored Sharpie. The colors give a visual clue of the color of the egg for those children less skilled. For the more advanced, they usually grab an egg then look for a number, often disregarding the color coordination. 

Color Matching - Eggs:
For children who don't know their numbers, the egg carton can be used a simple color matching game with the color of the written number to the color of the eggs.

Color Matching - Feathers:
18 colored feathers are included in the bin, allowing for the same color matching activity, but with feathers.

Which Chick Has the Egg?
One child places a small egg into a chick and puts it back into the "nest." The other child[ren] take turns picking out a chick by number, and looking inside to see if that the one. If not, the chick gets closed and replaced and another turn is taken until the egg is found. Works prediction and number recognition 1-8.

Color Sorting Bunny Tails:
Sorting the pom pom "bunny tails" into the egg dying cups. These cups aren't that sturdy, so I've wrapped them in packing tape this year to see if they hold up. If not, I'll be buying small metal buckets for this activity in the future. They count how many are in each cup after sorting. Since they can't usually find all of them, or appropriate them, at every session, the quantities should change every time. 

The feathers can be sorted into the cups as well, but there are only 3 feathers of each color on purpose for the egg carton, and there isn't an orange cup in this set. So sorting the feathers in this cup set has limited value.

Sorting Bunny Tails by Size:
These bunny plastic eggs came as a set of 3. It works, as the pom poms came in small/medium/large and this is a good observation, logic/reasoning, and fine motor activity. They fill up the bunny bottoms then count how many were in each one as they take them back out. A good volume measurement introduction as well.

Bunny Color Sorting:
These styrofoam eggs only come in the blue/pink/green, so sorting them in the bunnies works. Again, counting how many once done.

This set of Easter erasers just happens to have two of each style. Perfect for a simple matching game.

When I introduce the new sensory bin, I let them go at it for a while, then I introduce the learning games that I don't see them incorporating into their play. I simply do them while we play, and they pick up on any they are interested in and developmentally ready to perform.

They also make baskets, do fill-n-pour and have fun.

You may also be interested in our Spring Sensory Bin.

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Tags: daycare, child care, preschool, pre-k, sensory, sensory bin, math, early math, science, gross motor, fine motor, homeschooling, kids, child, Easter, holiday, spring, egg, eggs, theme, curriculum, unit

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dynamic and Interactive Math Worksheets - Preschool/Early Elementary

Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for children until around age 8. The key word being DEVELOPMENTALLY. Some children, like my current pre-k's, are developmentally advanced. Once we've gone through the first two levels of instructions, and we need to "take it small," then worksheets become a necessity.

That does not mean that they need to be boring, stagnant and one-dimensional. They can be fully engaging.

Once the children have a concept down, they need the ability to play with it in their own time. These worksheets are FREE CHOICE activities. The children can grab one at will and do it at their own pace. If they only want to do one or two problems, then they can place the unfinished worksheet in their work drawer to come back to later.

If they have difficulty, as with all of our endeavors, they have to try to come up with a work-around before bringing the problem to me. At their disposal for these math worksheets they can utilize an abacus, number line, manipulatives, 100's chart, or a peer tutor.

I have to limit how many worksheets the pre-k's can do in a day. Why? Because they are dynamic and interactive - fun. Every time they do one, it changes. They have no idea what the next draw will be. It's a little mystery, a little adventure, a little magic. Everyone likes surprises, and especially children. 

It is their choice to do the activity. They make the choices of cards, dominos, or how to roll the die, but chance determines the equations. Everything is within their realm of control and self-direction. Empowered learning.

Below is more information on the six worksheets we are using. The instructions sound much more mature than for this age group. Remember that the children already KNOW how to do these, so these instructions are for your information, not a child's instruction. Demonstration always works better than verbal instruction for the children.


This is the first one we utilize.  Since it is the first, I included a writing key at the bottom. If they need a key on the other worksheets, they just grab one of these for reference, because this is evidently easier than turning around and looking at the one on the wall, or pulling the one from the busy bag bin.

  • Roll the die and write down the first number.
  • Roll the die and write down the second number.
  • If the second number is SMALLER than the first, then you have the choice to add OR subtract.
  • If the second number is LARGER than the first, then you have to add.
  • Write the function in the circle.
  • Complete the equation and write the answer.
  • Roll the die and write down the next number.
  • Continue.


These kiddos have this one down, so I'm revising a new one that will be used with a 10 or 12 sided die. I will also be doing some for skip counting.

  • Roll the die and write down the first number.
  • Roll the die and write down the second number.
  • If the second number is SMALLER than the first, then you have the choice to add OR subtract.
  • If the second number is LARGER than the first, then you have to add.
  • Write the function in the circle. 
  • Place a dot on the number line relevant to the first number.
  • Write the number of leaps relevant to the second number in the correct direction.
  • Complete the equation and write the answer.

This can also be changed up for multiplication.

  • Pick a domino.
  • Draw the domino in the boxes.
  • Write the numbers that correspond to the domino amount.
  • Complete the equation and write the answer.

This uses only cards ace through 9. I like the aspect of A=l. Good algebra initiation. The first time they did this, I asked what the answer was to the equation, something like what is 59-37. Miss A looked at me like I was insane and said, "We can't do THAT!" Then I showed them that she just had on her worksheet and they were amazed.

  • Choose 2 cards.
  • Place the highest card above the lowest card.
  • Choose 2 more cards.
  • Place the highest card above the lowest card next to the previous set.
  • Write in the numbers as they are on the cards.
  • Subtract. Write in the answer.

Since the children aren't allowed to throw inside, this is a special treat and very popular. I have a set of the soft insertable dice. I took one to use for this activity. This week it is has colors on each side. Next week will be shapes. The next, possibly words that go with our theme, or names of the students. Each week will be different to keep that dynamic aspect going and the interest high.

I could just have all 6 dice out with different things on them, but that takes away from the wonder and anticipation. I could also have a die for each of them, but there is also an element of limited resources being valued more highly than plenty that also keeps the interest higher.

This is by far their favorite. The discussion, prediction, and analysis they engage in between themselves and me as they go through this one is just awesome. "Oh, wow, now ORANGE is winning!" "Hey, now I have a four tie between green, blue, yellow and PINK!"

  • Referencing the die, mark in your legend on the bottom row of the graph.
  • Answer question 1.
  • Roll the die, marking the appropriate box until one column is filled.
  • Answer the rest of the questions.

The stated task of this worksheet is skip counting. However, it works odd/even identification, multiplication, one-to-one correspondence counting, number identification, logic/reasoning skills, addition & subtraction...

I have them work on our red=odd, STOP you can not divide evenly; and even=green, GO you can divide evenly.

  • Roll a die to see what the skip count will be.
  • Choose a random number as the starting number.
  • Skip count forward and backward from that number.
  • If you land on an odd number, color that square red.
  • If you land on an even number, color that square green.
We can also use the 100 Chart for other math activities, games and mystery pictures.

One of the wonderful things about a mixed age group, is how much the little ones learn through observation, asking questions, and listening to the older children discuss what they are doing.

A parent asked why I don't just laminate these. I may.

But these are new, BIG concepts and skills. I don't want these worksheets to become just another busy bag or time filler. 

I don't believe in flash cards. These children are performing their addition and subtraction facts multiple times a day, through CHOICE and what they consider to be PLAY. 

The retention of those facts is amazing, because it is meaningful to them.

They are identifying mathematical patterns and concepts on their own through exploration, rather than through instruction.

The children do not have to complete a worksheet. If they do not, it goes into their work drawer for later and they have to complete that one before getting another. I think it is important that they build this work ethic. Laminated sheets do not instill this continuity of performance.

Once a sheet is finished, they get to take it home. I also think that being able to retain their work and show it to others is an important aspect of taking pride in their work and accomplishments. The feedback and encouragement will support their continued efforts and self-esteem. 

If you don't want to spend the time making your own worksheets, I have this set available in my TPT store for $1.00.
Tags: homeschool, homeschooling, unschooling, independent learning, preschool, elementary, math, multiplication, addition, subtraction, graphing, child care, daycare, pre-k, child, care, 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3 Sizes of Teaching Big Concepts to Little People

There is often talk about scaffolding learning along the learning path, but I don't hear about scaffolding the learning EXPERIENCE of a specific concept.

My philosophy is that young learners learn best when concepts are presented in three levels. It's like a movie. On the big screen in a theatre, it's an experience. You see the details and how everything works together. It's big and loud and holds your attention. 

If you see it on your big flat screen TV, whether 80 inch or 32 inch, then while it may be entertaining, it's something you watch, rather than experience. You may enjoy it, but if you have to grab a bite, you pause it and don't feel you've lost anything.

Watching it on the iPad, yeah, you may pause it multiple times. You can't see all the details, and you don't really care. It's not an experience, it's a time filler. It's something entertaining to do and if you pause it multiple times, then you are fine with it.

Unfortunately, most learning starts and ends at the iPad viewing stage. 

There's a reason we go back to the theater to watch the good movies. We crave the EXPERIENCE.

Make it BIG
Whenever I teach a new concept we always start out BIG. 
As big as we can get it. 
As interactive as we can get it. 
As fun as possible.

For instance when we began number line work, we laid it out on the floor in tape. The children placed the numbers. Then we stepped it off. Then they hopped it. Then they hopped addition and subtraction. They worked as teams to provide equations to the person jumping. 

I taught it, they learned it, then they played with it. After about a week of playing with it, they had it pretty much down. Obviously they were simply scaffolding to a higher level and new format of addition and subtraction, but it was vital to their understanding to begin with it BIG.

Shake it DOWN.
Once the children have a concept down in BIG format, then we start gradually shaking it down. Just as you get a better movie experience from an 80 inch screen rather than a 32 inch, the size of the learning experience needed depends on the level of detail and interaction necessary to continue the learning path. Each child is different in this requirement. 

We drew number lines in the sand box and had sand toys jump the equations. We moved it down to drawing number lines on the chalk board and white board. Eventually we moved it down to drawing them on the lap boards and writing equations.

Mr. G wanted to measure everyone one day, so we did. We graphed it on the number line and worked the less than and more than aspect between their heights, along with graph interpretation stuff.

Take it SMALL.
Small is worksheets. Small is independent work. Small is reinforcement of mastery, not learning.

If learning the concept has been fun, and they have it mastered, then they WANT to "play" with it on worksheets. 

Even with our worksheets, they are dynamic and interactive. Above all, they are a FREE CHOICE activity, not a requirement. The children roll a die for the two numbers writing them in. If the second number is less than the first, they have the choice of doing addition or subtraction.  

Since they can do one of these in about two minutes with a 6 sided die, I'm making a new one that will use a 12 sided die.

So this is how we've done number lines, but we do the same with other math concepts, and it's also how we do reading:

Big is actions and manipulation as a group.

Shaking it down with activities, big books, and group reads.

Taking it small.
Miss A - 4 years
BIG hands on exploration in a fun, playful learning experience is a much better introduction to big concepts for little children than going straight to small work. By the time they get to the small work, they should already be very familiar with the plot, characters and setting of the concept. Having seen it as the big picture, the small one will make sense.
Tags: teaching, daycare, preschool, pre-k, reading, math, classroom, early elementary, homeschooling, homeschool, curriculum

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine Art Piece Bag

Sometimes our art is organic. Such as our Valentine's bags.

Miss H brought her small heart punch from home. Miss A wore a heart grid top. So of course we had to combine these into an art piece.

We've been working on multiplication with the bigs, so I took advantage of that aspect of this activity as well.

Since I knew this activity would be time consuming - we only had the one punch and each child had to punch 12 hearts - so I did the folding of the paper to provide the 3X4 grid for the children to glue their hearts into.

Two big aspects of this project were taking turns, and preparing for your turn.

If the punch got to you and you didn't have your paper picked out, then it went on by. It's not often that the children are rushed to make decisions, so it was very interesting for me to observe that aspect of their behavior and capabilities and to see how their thinking and planning changed/developed as the activity went on. I think it was a very beneficial experience.

It was also good experience in fine motor control, and placement of the paper within the punch, which was not clear for easy viewing, so some critical thinking was having to take place.

One of the things I observed, was that the wiser ones would pick out several pieces of paper, have them ready, and then punch out multiple hearts when their turn came. Thinking they were doing something potentially wrong, they were a little sneaky, and very fast at it. 

Impressive. I didn't catch on quickly, since I was helping the younger ones. Since I had never said that you could only punch out one heart at a time, I felt it was just efficient and sound judgement.

As the punch moved on, the children used glue sticks to paste their hearts into individual squares on their grids. Good hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Once done, I realized that the size of paper I had used would fit on our white lunch bags and make cute Valentine bags for our Valentine exchange. The children thought it was a wonderful idea, so we did that.

It worked out great!

We had a wonderful Valentine's party with some special treats for the children from the parents, and some special gifts for me!

I have AMAZING clients and kiddos!
Follow Connie -'s board Valentines Theme on Pinterest. Tags: Valentine, craft, cut, paste, math, learning, bags, box, Valentine's, homeschooling, art, process, preschool, pre-k, daycare, child, care

Preschool Mardi Gras Sensory Bin

The children actually help put these sensory bins together. They get to canvas the art room and play area for relevant items. 

The big girls decided we HAD to have jewels in this one, so I put them to the task of fishing out the appropriate colored gems. Excellent fine motor activity, and they debated between them on whether the color of the gems fit. "That one's too light green." "This is more pink than purple."

We ended up with it including:

  • Base of split peas
  • Crepe paper streams
  • Metallic ribbon curls
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Reindeer moss
  • Mardi Gras coins
  • Mardi Gras beads
  • Feathers
  • Gold metallic grass
  • Gems
  • A small doll to hide like in King Cake

The girls also insisted on adding green and gold glitter to the split peas. 

The crepe paper is for tearing and tying.

Since we had pipe cleaners in our Valentine sensory bin, I wasn't planning on putting them in this one, but was over-ruled. Little Miss H made several "balloons" out of them to celebrate today. They are a very versatile loose part.

Feathers and coins are must-have for Mardi Gras,

along with masks and beads.

The reindeer moss is a new element. It not only has a very unique feel to it, it also has a very earthy scent as well. It is a great sensory item as it can be pulled apart using fine motor skills, and pressed back together.

This is prior to beads and gold filler. They threw in some St. Patrick's Day foamies as well. Hey, they are green. And, you know which holiday this sensory bin is headed into next...
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Tags: child care, daycare, preschool, pre-k, homeschool, holiday, loose parts, loose parts play, spring, child, children, kids