Saturday, October 24, 2015

Story telling

Another piece of the Waldorf process that I am learning about and trying to incorporate is story telling.  I differentiate this from reading stories aloud by the element of pictures.  Story telling encourages the children to see the story using his/her imagination.  I am using this book Tell Me A Story which is a compilation of stories made up by Waldorf teachers.  The stories deal with nature and character development.  They are short and easy to read.  I read 1 each day during the transition from recess back into the classroom.  The read aloud encourages the kids to quiet down, drink water and take a brief rest.  I was able to purchase the book on Amazon but could not find a copy in the library.
I don't spend a lot of time talking about the morals but simply let the students absorb them as they are able.  The morals are not always obvious but subtly encourage kindness and helpfulness.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Discovering Waldorf

 I teach in a traditional public school.  This year I had a really hard time getting into the groove of the new school year, particularly in the area if discipline.  I know that the only thing I can control is what I think, say and do.  So I began some soul searching about how to change my approach and my attitude.  One of the my team members shared that she is currently taking training to become a Waldorf teacher.  She shared with our team some of the philosophies of Waldorf and how school is viewed and run.  I was intrigued and began to research discipline strategies.
I can recommend the following site: The Magic Onions particularly this article: Waldorf Discipline 

One of the strategies is to have kids work on small motor activities to help them stay focused or return to calm.  I began collecting baskets, with handles and filling them with sea shells, rocks, glass stones, pine cones and other small, natural objects but one thing I kept reading about but had never seen was moldable beeswax.  I can be found on Amazon with varying review but I ordered it and found it to be a fantastic tool!
It comes in a small box like this with 15 wax blocks in different colors.

I used a scissors to cut several of the blocks into thirds and stored the rest.  I wanted to see how this would go.
I keep them in a container and kids may choose 1 piece to use at a time.
I found the wax to be a great small motor tool.  Kids have to warm it up in their hands for a few minutes before it becomes pliable.  Once it does it can easily be molded.  I doesn't crumble or mold like play dough, it smalls nice and has a nice texture.  It helps teach patience because of the need for it to warm up and is great for small motor.  It leaves no residue and to clean up kids simply put their piece back into the container.  It is safe, non toxic and won't harm kids even if they are orally fixated and try to eat it.  

I use all my small tools for transitions between activities, particularly for early finishers, and for kids that need extra small motor support.  Also, if a child is starting to become upset or argumentative I can bring him/her over to a table as give him/her a small motor task to do.

Another use is to use the wax or even other small objects as fidgets during listening time.  My rule is that a student has to get a fidget before we sit on the carpet and the fidget cannot leave the hands. This has helped a lot with "keeping has to self" during more concentrated listening time.

Phone log

One of the greatest helps to me in the category of parent communication has been my phone log.   Calling parents has often been a daunting task for me but I know the parent teacher partnership creates a strong climate of cooperation in my class and my school.  To help make this task less daunting  I created a simple book with a page for each child.
I attached a class list to the front cover  and create an index by numbering each child, in alphabetic order and assigning him/her the corresponding page in the book.  I wrote each child's name on his/her page and the phone numbers for the parents.  I put a pen in the binding and Viola!  I can contact parents with a flip of the pages!
I like to have students call/ talk to their parents when they are dealing with a major behavior incident or if they've come back from a major behavior incident and can report a good day and for simply wanted to report a good day.  I want my positive phone calls to out number my negative ones.  We usually do phone calls during free play time.  I jot down a note in the book when a parent is called and the reason so that I have a report.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Apple Market and Bakery

This year I gave up my housekeeping set for a bunch of different reasons.  I am, however, a firm believer in the importance of play in Kindergarten, particularly dramatic play.  I rotate my dramatic play area monthly and I wanted to try something new for September.  I came up with The apple market and bakery to coincide with my usual apple unit that takes place during September.
The following are pictures and tips for creating and maintaining this area.

I used recycled plastic jars and bottles and made labels for them that say "apple sauce"," apple pie filling" and "apple cider".  I didn't want a whole bunch of "stuff" in the area to distract from the actual play.  I re purposed a plant flat as an apple sorting  station and put pictures out that show the price and where thing should go at clean up.

This is the bakery portion.  I have very few items, again to encourage imagination, sharing and easy clean up.  I included containers labeled for sugar  and flour, an empty egg carton, vanilla bottle and cook book I made with picture recipes.
There is 1 large bowl, 1 large spoon, and a few measuring utensils and pots and pans.  The sink/stove is originally from IKEA but I got it from a neighbor who was giving it away.

I used google images to create a simple cook book with picture steps to make apple pie and apple cookies.

This "orchard" consists of 3 trees and a variety of different colored, laminated paper apples attached to clothes pins.
I think there are about 9 of each color.  They are attached to the low branches for easy picking.

Apple close up.

Originally I tried to hot glue the apples to the clothes pins, but soon discovered that they just fall right off so I ended up using masking tape to secure them.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wacky Painting Day

Wacky painting is a great way to incorporate non-traditional painting methods, color mixing and fun!  This works well as a reward activity or a special event for the end of the school year when you want to use up all your open bottles of paint.  I created stations for 4-5 students.  In the middle of the appropriate station, requiring Tempera paint, I placed 2 paper plates, 1 for each of the primary colors, red, yellow and blue (but any colors will work).  Before the kids to begin they had to put on a paint shirt, then they received 5 pieces of paper, 1 for each station, and wrote their names on each piece.  The papers were left on the child's carpet spot for easy access.  I allowed 5-8 minutes per station.  Each time we rotated a station the kids put the wet paper in the hallway to dry (this takes a lot of drying space, be sure you have it!) and took a clean piece of paper to use at the new station.  The next day each child found his/her works of art to brought them home.  This is a great activity to do before you clean your tables for the summer.  It also makes the shaving cream, table cleaning activity really fun because the shaving cream turns colors!
Watercolor painting

Kitchen utensils (especially mashers!)

Sponge rollers.

Mini car wheels.

oil crayons

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dramatic Play- The Campsite

I have long been a believer that when it comes to dramatic play variety and rotating stations are key and less is more.  The less stuff provided the more imagination takes place.  This is why I was so excited to try the campsite.  I used it the last week of school but ended up wishing I had given it a month of play.  My teaching team found 2 boxes of camping stuff that someone in the neighborhood was giving away.  They nabbed the boxes but the boxes sat in storage for months.  I was looking for something simple and different to keep my kids engaged the last week of school so I pulled the boxes out, went through them and discovered a treasure of imagination.  There a very few props but the kids had so much fun being in the tent and cooking over the fire.  In later pictures you will see trees around the tent.  We have these for various activities in kindergarten and they made a nice forest.
I am hoping to put together and apple orchard dramatic play area for the fall.  I am giving up the house keeping center all together because it originally belonged to another program and they really wanted it back.  I don't think I'll miss it.  I'll keep you posted!
The tent and camping dishes were a "give away" find in my neighborhood.

The campfire is a group of paper towel tubes and red, orange and gold tissue paper under a cooking grate.

There is a camping pad inside the tent and a backpack with a set of 4 plates, cups and spoons and 2 frying pans and 1 spatula a life vest and a minnow bucket and a small broom and dust pan.

The kids supplies the imagination.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Science Lab

The Science lab is a dramatic play area created to encourage budding chemists by using simple tools  to mix common kitchen "chemicals" and observe the reactions.  I used clear plastic containers, spoons, eye droppers and dosing syringes to measure and mix vinegar, water, salt and baking powder.  I also included small vials of colored water.  I introduced this area with specific rules, spoons are for powders and mixing, eye droppers and dosing syringes are for liquids.  No Pouring!  This was enforced so that there would be enough compounds for a group of 4 to share and helped with fine motor development and self control.  It also managed materials so that they did not have to be replaced.  I had the center out for 3 weeks and used 1 box of baking soda but still have salt, baby oil and vinegar for other projects.  If a group ran out of a compound, it was not refilled.  I refilled them for the next group the next day.            
Students use small plastic containers, like from fruit cups, to mix chemicals and observe reactions.  Part of their job was to was out their containers to prepare the center for the next group of students.

I used clear plastic cups with lids and labeled them with painters tape.  The vials of colored water are clear, film canister sized containers.  The large bottles are "discovery bottles"  that have been glued closed.  These are ways to observe different liquids.  These are and idea from Dr. Jean at

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tic Tac Toe

This ear I am teaching in a new school and in a new district.  One of the district focuses in STEM.  I wanted to challenge myself and my students to daily work on developing and honing problem solving strategies and teamwork, particularly with hands on activities.  I spend the year seeking different games and activities that were very simple to create and maintain and that the students were able to do independently after a initial practice.  Tic Tac Toe came up as a familiar enough game that it was easy for most student to catch on to, but with enough strategy involved to keep them engaged.

I used coffee and oatmeal canister, covered with colorful paper and decorated with Tic Tac Toe designs.  I used a permanent marker to make X's and O's on the lids (4 of each).  The board is a place mat with a grid made of painters tape.  I use a tote bag and the transport and put away container.