Friday, 28 October 2011

Batty Bats

With Halloween only a few days away we have made these incredibly cute scary hanging bats from Martha Stewart. This week we have been reading a Bat Poem (with our super scared bat voices), and practicing our reading of the 'at' rime.  
We are now 'at' experts. 

 Trace around the bat template. (Great pencil grip!)

 Cut out two black paper bats.

 Glue the bats to each side of the peg. (We painted our pegs earlier in the week.)

Glue on googly eyes, and your bat is ready. 
We hung our bats from a net, but they would look great clipped to wire or along a curtain.

Amazing bat facts:
Some of the amazing things we learnt that make bats special.
  • Bats are nocturnal, they sleep during the day and are awake at night.
  • Bats hang around upside down and wrap their wings around themselves to keep warm.
  • There are over 1000 species of bats.
  • Baby bats cuddle together in a nursery.
  • Baby bats drink their mothers milk.
  • Bats use sonar to fly in the dark. 
  • Bats are mammals.
As part of our phonics program I concentrate on explicitly teaching phonics and linking it to our reading and writing. This week, with 4 lovely brand-new five-year-olds starting, I decided to concentrate on teaching what sounds the letters that 'a' and 't' make and how to write these letters correctly. 

Explicitly teaching phonics enables children beginning school to be able to feel successful reading and writing unknown words. I use the Yolanda Soryl Phonics Program and Jolly Phonics. We have phonics four times a week, each session is about 20 minutes long and teaches children to hear, read, and write the sounds (phonemes) that they can hear in words. 

We also concentrate on roboting (sounding out) words and writing these down. When we robot words we get our "robot arms ready" (elbows bent at 90 degrees), and move one arm at a time for each phoneme in the word, after the final phoneme we sweep one arm across our body and say the word together. So, 'bat' would be "b-a-t, bat"

I always try to end each session by reminding the children that "Now you know this sound, you can use it in your reading and writing". 

I love it when children come up to me during the day and point out a letter or digraph that we have been practicing that they spotted by themselves. One sweetheart pointed out, with great delight at their cleverness, every 'th' digraph they read in every single one of their reading books for a week. (Now that is a successful lesson!)

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Check out our Halloween Mountaineers Discovery session!
This week we .......

Dug for creepy crawly spiders hiding in the sand. We used magnifying glasses to decide if they were poisonous vampire zombie bugs (most of them were!).

Turned orange balloons into jack-o-lanterns with black vivid.

Made these scary looking mummies out of cardboard rolls, paper towels, and googly eyes. Look here for instructions.

Played with our orange Halloween playdough.
Used our imaginations and dressed up to scare each other.

Practiced our fine motor skills and created these amazing spider webs by using string and a large plastic needle.

Coloured and cut out these amazing skeleton masks. We love masks.

Made these these cute foot print ghosts.
Taking of and putting on shoes and socks is a good self-management skill to practice.

Blew dangerous and explosive bubbles with our poisonous 'witches brew'.

When I select activities for discovery I try to provide children with a variety of activities that will stimulate their imagination and give them opportunities to practice a range of skills that we may not be able to do everyday as part of our learning program.

Activities like dressing-up or taking off our shoes to make a footprint allows children to practice their self-management skills by putting on and taking off clothing, and opening and closing snaps, zippers, or buttons.

Sand, water, and playdough provide children with a sensory experience. This article explains about the importance of sensory experiences.
"Sensory experiences provide children with the opportunity to feel good about their decision-making skills - they control their actions and the experience. Self-discovery occurs as children become eager scientists. They take pride in their predictions, make observations, and respond to their findings. In addition, children learn to cooperate and work together around the sensory table. As the children work together or side-by-side, they learn to understand someone else's viewpoint. The children also have the opportunity to express themselves and become confident in sharing their ideas with others. Children need an opportunity to try out their emerging concepts about their world in a safe environment as well as have appropriate outlets for relieving tension. Pounding, squishing, feeling water through their hands are all ways of staying in contact with feelings while learning to control what he does about them."

Different art and craft activities give children an opportunity to practice skills like colouring, cutting, and gluing. They are able to practice and refine their fine motor skills like the pincer grip (part of holding a pencil), as well as their hand-eye coordination.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Learning to Read

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Reading is a huge part of school life. In fact, children start school with the expectation that they are at school to learn to read (which is fantastic and exciting!). My goal is to convey the enjoyment of reading and invite them to explore the magic of books.

It doesn't matter if your child can't read when they turn five, because often they already know the basics without even realising it. They know these because they have had stories read to them, they have seen other people around them reading, and they have held and turned the pages of their own books (even if they have just been looking at the pictures).

Children often start school with all sorts of book knowledge.

Things like:
  • How to hold the book so the pictures are the correct way up.
  • How to open the front cover.
  • That you can turn the pages one at a time.
  • That the pictures often relate to the story.
  • That print contains a message.
I start reading with children on their first day of school (guided reading), often these books contain a word or a very simple repeated sentence on each page and a picture that strongly relates to the word. The children can 'read' because they are able to use the picture to figure out what the word is.
When they bring this book home it will often seem like they are reading from memory. That's okay, because they are! Being able to remember the words of a book is a good strategy for a beginning reader, but they are still using several other important reading strategies. 
In 'kidspeak' here are the first reading strategies that I use with beginning (emergent) readers:

We are learning to (WALT) ....
  • Look at the picture for a clue. WHY? Because pictures tell us about the story.
  • Point under the word. WHY? So we know what word we are reading.
  • Point to each word as we say it. WHY? So we what word to say.
  • Make the beginning sound of a tricky word. WHY? So we can try to guess the word.
Several other concepts about reading are modelled (through my physical actions and through thinking aloud) to the children as we read; how to turn the pages correctly, where to start when reading a sentence (left to right and top to bottom), that the purpose of reading is to gain meaning from the text, and understand the idea that words convey meaning.  

So, when your child brings a book home to read with you, share their excitement. 
Don't be disappointed if it seems like they have memorised the text. Remind them to look at the picture for a clue if they get stuck. Help them point under each word as they say it. And make the first sound of a tricky word with them. 

(Look at my 'Starting School' page for how to make the letter sounds)

When they finish reading to you, ask them about the story; What was their favourite part? What did they learn? Can they retell you the story? Ask your child to point out a repeated word in the story (basic sight words like; I, the, and, is, am, can, Mum, Dad).

And, remember to record the date, name of the story, and a comment about their reading in your child's home-reading diary. As a teacher this is always helpful as I can see what reading strategy they are using, words they did well with, or what is still tricky and will I need to reinforce in our next guided reading session. 

Of course, don't forget to keep reading to your child. They will still love listening to you read.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Superheroes - Saving the World....

Today for our Discovery Mountaineers session we explored superheroes. We have been busy practicing our superhero powers and saving the world.

Our superheroes made superhero masks to disguise their true identity.

We used face paint as part of our superhero costume. This superhero has 'fire' as his special power.

We dressed up as superheroes (real and invented) using our amazing collection of dress-ups, all of which were donated by kind parents and strangers. Some children even came to school in their superhero costume.

We made cardboard police cars and used these on a giant road mat and wooden Petrol Police Station to catch the bad guys.

Once we were disguised in our superhero costumes we role-played helping others and performed superhero tasks with these cards from Sparklebox. Some of our superheroes enjoyed rescuing the money from our 'Superhero Bank' after the bad guys broke in. Others used their special powers to freeze the fire in the library before all the books were burnt.

I love using role-play as a learning tool. Role-play may just seem like play and not 'learning' but role-play allows children to.....
  • Explore imagination
  • Think in the abstract
  • Acquire language skills
  • Build social skills
  • Problem solve
  • Understand someone else's perspective
  • Learn essential life skills from adults
  • Discover leadership skills
  • Safely explore the world beyond
  • Acquire confidence and a sense of self
Because role play engages emotion, cognition (thinking), language, and sensory motor skills, some scientists think that it makes synaptic connections between parts of the brain. And the more synapses, the greater a child's intelligence.

So, the next time you see your child using their amazing imagination in role-play, think about how you can support their play and nurture these abilities.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Fraction Pizza Shop

This term as part of our Maths Fractions Unit we have been running a pizza shop.

Our delicious pizza menu consisted of:
  • paper plate pizza with tasty tissue paper toppings, 
  • gorgeous playdough pizza (see here for my playdough recipe), 
  • coloured in paper pizza
  • for dessert we served fresh oranges, fairy bread, and a tasty paper cake with our favourite foam sticker lollies.
By the end of the term we have become experts at cutting our pizza into halves and quarters.

Paper plate pizza for sale, available in halves and quarters.

Our cutting and knife skills have really improved this term. These practical skills are an important part of developing self-management skills and independence. Knowing where to put your thumb and fingers when using scissors, how to turn and manipulate the paper, and being able to cut along a line are skills that need to be taught and practiced repeatedly. Using a knife to spread topping and cut food is another practical skill that we will continue to practice. I love the meaningfulness of preparing food to eat and share with each other as part of our learning.

Today, after 10 weeks of anticipation we finally made real pizza.

Here is our recipe:
  • Pita bread (for the bases)
  • Tomato puree
  • Ham
  • Salami
  • Cheese
  • Red pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes
  1. Spread the tomato puree over the pizza base.
  2. Carefully place on your toppings, making sure they are shared out fairly.
  3. Cook the pizza for about 15 minutes in a medium oven.

Waiting to be cooked.

Now for the fun part.....

Cut up your pizza into halves and quarters, making sure it is shared out fairly between you and your partner. Quickly eat it before it gets too cold.

We have also been reading some pizza poems, 'How to Make a Pizza' by Eve Merriam and 'Pizza, Pizza' (Poet unknown).