Getting The Most Out Of "Play"

This week marked our 4th week of school. While I still have a few that like to test the boundaries, for the most part everyone has adapted remarkably well to our schedule, rules and procedures. We play well together and clean up without complaint, so I went ahead and opened some new centers.

We now have the following free choice centers available for the students to choose from: Painting Easel, Blocks, Puzzles, Play Dough, Lego Table, Dramatic Play, Puppets, Reading, Listening, Games, Math, Sensory Table and Pet Center.

When I opened Math Center for the first time, I sat back and took some observational notes as 4 students chose to play with our Learning Resources Three Bear Family Counters. We've been doing a lot of sorting and patterning in our math lessons, plus learning about shapes, so I wanted to see what they would do when set free with these counters.
First, they sorted by color - this was great because it meant each student had their own set of bears so there was no fighting over them!
 Next they started sorting by size. One little sweety paired up a Mama Bear with each Baby Bear!
They also formed their bears into the shape of a circle - at this point they put their bears together so they could indulge in some cooperative pretend play.
 
While I watched, one sweetie decided to count her bears and successfully counted to 22! During our two center rotations, I observed 5 children successfully sort the bears by color, and 3 of them then sorted successfully by size by their own initiative. Another child has one-to-one correspondence down, but skips 20 when counting (she went from 19 to 21 every time). All of this is invaluable information for my records and report cards, and I didn't have to do any assessing to get it!

We also opened Game Center this week with some board games from Learning Resources.
I was sent All Around The Playground and Picnic Party to try out in my classroom in return for an honest review.
The thing that I LOVE about both of these games is that there are different levels of play. Right now we're working on number, shape and color recognition and one to one correspondence so the Level 1 play is right up our alley. As the year progresses and we start building our skill set, these games will be able to advance with us!
The All Around The Playground game was an instant hit with my kiddos. They loved the little people and the colorful gameboard. This one has a two-sided spinner for game play. We chose to use the side with shapes and colors as we are really working on basic 2D shape recognition. There are merry-go-rounds on the board too, so if you land on a special space, you get to take a ride! This was cause for lots of giggles! This game is for 2-4 players and is for ages 3 and up, although my 4 1/2 year olds were sufficiently challenged just by Level 1 play. On the other side of the spinner are numbers 1-10, so it would be great for reinforcing numbers and one-to-one correspondence too! The kids enjoyed this game so much that Game Center wasn't empty all week! The game play is simple enough that they could play it by themselves after a few times playing with me.
Picnic Party is also for 2-4 players, and is aimed to the 4+ age group. This one was a little trickier for some of my kiddos, but with adult support they still enjoyed the game. The Level I play requires students to compare numbers - which some of my kiddos could do easily and others found a bit tricky. For the ones that need help, I will add some unifix cubes next time so they can build their number towers and compare them.
This game was also great for number recognition - which is also a skill some of my littles really need to work on. The players each get a stack of cards and then flip over the top card. Whoever has the largest number gets to move that many spaces. The kids enjoyed the ant tokens and the fun picnic themed gameboard. I think in another month or two they will be able to play this game on their own, but for now either myself or my aide play with them to assist.

We also introduced our Pet Center this week! I created a Classroom Pet: Hermit Crabs pack that we are using with great results. It includes a pocket sort for foods that hermit crabs can and can not eat (which led to great nutrition discussions!) as well as vocabulary cards, diagrams, a daily care check list, graphic organizers, observation journal, emergent reader and more!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hermit-Crab-Classroom-Pet-2091509
I love having pets in the classroom, but I want to make sure that they're an actual learning experience for my students and not just taking up space. I also wanted them to have something constructive to do when visiting Pet Center, which cuts down on behavior problems.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hermit-Crab-Classroom-Pet-2091509
Each student has their own observation journal and can add to it whenever they visit the center.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hermit-Crab-Classroom-Pet-2091509
The emergent reader is a bit high for my pre-k students, but through repetition and by using the picture clues, they can "read" most of the pages on their own now. I also have a few books at this center, but I'm ordering more from Amazon this weekend so I'll have a selection of fiction and non-fiction books about hermit crabs and guinea pigs that the kids can read to our pets!

Our last activity of the week was creating a card and police officer masks for "Thank a Police Officer Day" which was yesterday. I delivered our card and a picture of the class with their "masks"and the sergeant at the desk was very appreciative. He told me he'd display them in the briefing room so all of the officers can see them. Activities like this are very important for my students since I teach in a Title I school. Many of our students have relatives in jail, and often times, police are seen as the enemy. By doing activities like this, and having police officers come visit and read stories, I hope to show my students that the police really are the "good guys" and there's no need to fear them.

 The template for our police officer masks came from this pack by Dr SAM on TpT!
I had more to share, but the family is calling me to watch a movie - and I'm trying to be better about dividing my time between work, family and this blog! I hope you have a great Sunday night and a terrific work week!

Stepping It Up With GoNoodle!

We have finished 10 full days of school! Or, in GoNoodle terms, we've gone through 1 1/2 Champs! Today I'm joining up with a bunch of other bloggers for a Back to School Blogger Blitz to share all the wonders of using GoNoodle in the classroom!
This year I'm in pre-k and I have 17 darlings who have tons of energy and very short attention spans. We can't sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time, so we need LOTS of brain breaks - most of which come from GoNoodle!

In the morning, before breakfast, we start off with Maximo - his easy yoga videos calm my kids and get them ready to head into the hallway! I can already see the difference in balance and concentration after just 10 days!

We also GoNoodle during calendar time! My calendar block is 20 minutes long, since we hit a LOT of math standards during it. Of course, 20 minutes is way too long for my kids to sit still at this point, so we do a lot of dancing - some of it is content - days of the week, months of the year, counting to 20 for example (videos from Youtube) - but interspersed into that 20 minutes is at least 2-3 Koo Koo Kangaroo songs! One of our faves is "I Get Loose"!

Since I'm teaching young kids, repetition is important! The first day, I only had a handful of kiddos dancing along when I played a video. The rest stared at our Smartboard screen in befuddlement. Day by day, as I repeat the same few videos, more and more kiddos are catching on and learning the moves. My extroverts are already adding in their own flare, while my shyer kiddos feel comfortable since they know the "steps" to each dance. Of the 28 available Koo Koo Kangaroo videos, I've only introduced 8 so far, which means the kids are really starting to learn the lyrics and movements, so they feel more comfortable participating. I think this is a key step in using GoNoodle in the classroom - start out slow with a few videos and get to know them well rather than overwhelm your kiddos with too many at once.

After recess we do "Chillax" which they love because it's funny. I love it because the deep breathing and calm movements help my kiddos wind down and get ready for nap time!

One of the best things about GoNoodle for me is the progress bar. After each video we figure out how many more videos we need to dance to until we get to the next level of the Champ. My kiddos are so excited about the transmogrifying machine its not even funny! After a video we hold up our ten fingers and then I say "We need 10, we've done 6. How many more do we need?" And I demonstrate putting down 6 fingers (or whatever number). Then we count how many fingers I still have up.

My kiddos have caught on really well and can now call out the number if its under 5 - identifying 3 fingers as 3 without me counting them individually for example, which is great! Some of them are even getting to the point that if we count and have 3 videos to go, after the next video they shout out "Now we only need 2!" without even having to count (we still do though!) This gives us lots of practice with knowing that we have 10 fingers all the time (or 5 on one hand, which can be a tough concept as many kindergarten and 1st grade teachers will attest to - the kids who still count all fingers even though they have 5 fingers up on one hand and 2 up on the other and could just be able to recognize that one hand has 5 fingers and start counting on from there)

This week we've been focusing on learning our colors (reading Pete the Cat, Mouse Paint etc) and I've been using the "Awesome Rainbows" video for that, so GoNoodle is helping with color recognition too!
And of course, at the end of the day we fit in some more GoNoodle time to help release some of the end of day excitement so that we can have a calm dismissal time! For that we usually do "Get Yo Body Movin'" or "This or That".

My kids LOVE to GoNoodle and I haven't even shown them 1/2 of what is available! As the year progresses and my kids gain more gross motor control, I'll be able to introduce the rest of the Koo Koo Kangaroo videos as well as KidzBop, Moose Tube, and Zumba Kids too! GoNoodle will be a constant in our classroom - a treat for the kids and a great behavior management tool for me! By providing brain breaks, I'll be able to keep misbehavior to a minimum since the kids will have a positive outlet for all their energy!

One of the best personal benefits of using GoNoodle in the classroom though? It is great exercise for me too! It really helps me reach my step goal every day - and let me tell you - the difference between my work week step counts and weekend step counts is rather sad! I think I need to start a new GoNoodle class just for me to use on the weekends lol!

As part of this weekend's GoNoodle Blogger Blitz, I get to giveaway a great piece of GoNoodle Swag! This pencil case is adorable ~ I would totally use it in my Writing Center to hold special markers and pencils! You can win it by entering the Rafflecopter below!
And don't forget to check out the Blogger Blitz link-up so you can see how other teachers are using GoNoodle in the classroom - and each blogger is giving away GoNoodle swag so you'll have lots of chances to win cool prizes too! BONUS! GoNoodle has given us a code worth 15% off all the GoNoodle swag in their store from September 4-11, 2015! Just use BTSwithGoNoodle at checkout for your 15% off stickers, t-shirts, tumblers and more!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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