Monday, 1 December 2014

Give a Little For Callum

Callum was in my class last year and is now seriously ill again after defeating cancer as an infant. Please think of Callum and his family.

Cat and Bird Art

 Cat and Bird (1928) Paul Klee

Our amazing Cat and Bird art is up in the office. I was inspired by this post at Rumriver Art Center. We used paint rolled on with a roller, vivid marker, and pastel.

I really enjoy mixed media art projects with children, and Paul Klee is great inspiration. I used Paul Klee's Senecio portrait as a model for some amazing self portraits that I created with my class last year. Thanks to Use Your Coloured Pencils.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Outdoor Week

Check out some of our outdoor week photos. We have been so busy, I was falling asleep straight after dinner! Just like the children.

 Kite making and flying....

Watching the raft race....

Chalk people....

We also dug for treasure, walked to the duckpond and feed the ducks, exploded the air rocket, played on the playground, and made rock art. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Happy Diwali

Diwali is the Indian Festival of Light and falls between mid October and mid November each year. We celebrated Diwali with lots of exciting activities. 

One of the favourite activities was henna designs with real henna. Henna is a temporary tattoo, and the children enjoyed receiving a small tattoo on their hand. Once the henna dried the children washed it off and a pale brown tattoo remained.

We also had a vegetarian dal curry for the children to sample with basmati rice. Dal curry is made with lentils, and for some children it was the first time they had tried them.

We also dressed up in traditional Indian clothing, created rangoli patterns with coloured salt, and made diya to take home with tea-light candles and plasticine. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Mini Beasts and Creepy Crawlies

Today we were very lucky to have an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) come to Discovery and bring some amazing bugs and insect resources for us to explore. 

We had fun catching mosquito larvae to take home, then looking at real live locusts, spiders, mosquitoes, snails, and worms. The children used a microscope to look closely at insects set into resin.

When we have visitors come to school to share their knowledge the children are fascinated to talk to them and enjoy the opportunity to learn from experts. Luckily our entomologist is a parent and volunteered his time and resources. 

If you have something (knowledge, resources, or time) to offer us for Discovery please mention it to a teacher. We would love to have you help out.

Today was also a special session as we had lots of new Mountaineers start their school visits. We call our pre-school visitors Mountaineers as they are 'scaling the heights of learning'. It was great to meet lots of new children and their parents. We encourage parents to stay for our Discovery session to provide support for their children, after a few sessions it is a good idea for parents to leave for a short time before returning for morning tea at 10.30.

Crazy Sock Day 2014

Check out the crazy socks we wore for out Dr Seuss Discovery session last term. Fox in Socks likes wearing his socks and our crazy socks were a fun way to remember some of the many enjoyable and slightly crazy stories Dr Seuss wrote.

We explored lots of Dr Seuss themed activities for discovery - including planting bean plants truffula trees, which grew 20cm over the holidays!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ahoy, me Hearties!

Wow! It's been over two weeks since I last posted an update about what we have been up to in Room 4. Yesterday we came to school dressed in our pirate gear and explored like pirates for our Pirate Discovery session. We dug for gold, walked the plank and jumped into shark invested waters, drew treasure maps, folded newspaper pirate hats, threaded bracelets with special beads, made eye-patches, and created hooks for our hands just in case we need them! Whew....

Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and the whole school is dressing up like pirates. 

Here is some of the 'Pirate Talk' I've been practising:

Ahoy! - Hello!
Ahoy, Matey - Hello, my friend!

Ahoy, me Hearties! - the same as saying "Hello, my friends!"

All hand hoay! - comparable to all hands on deck

Avast ye - stop and check this out or pay attention

Aye - yes

Booty - treasure

Crow's nest - small platform atop the mast where the lookout stands

Cutlass - short heavy curved bladed sword used by pirates

Doubloons - other coins or found in pirate hoards and stashes

Head - the pirate ship's toilet

Heave Ho - give it some muscle and push it

Jolly Roger - pirate's flag including white skull and crossbones over a black field

Lad, lass, lassie - a younger person

Landlubber - big, slow clumsy person who doesn't know how to sail

Old Salt - an experienced sailor

Pieces of eight - coins or found in pirate stashes

Savvy? - do you understand and do you agree?

Scuttle - to sink a ship

Seadog - old pirate or sailor

Shark bait - will soon join Davy Jones' Locker

Shipshape - cleaned up and under control

Thar she blows! - Whale sighting

Ye - you

Yo Ho Ho - cheerful exhortation to demand attention

And you can create your own pirate name with this Pirate Name Generator.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Spring Has Sprung

I can hardly believe it is the 1st September. We wrote stories about spring this morning and spent last week learning about spring for Discovery. Last Friday (29th August) was Daffodil Day in New Zealand and is a fund-raising and awareness day for the Cancer Society. So some of our Discovery activities were about daffodils and Daffodil Day.

The children painted watercolour pictures of a jug of daffodils.

 And we made our own daffodil badges with yellow and orange cupcake cases.

I like how one of my children described it this morning - "the daffodils are waking up."

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Apple Fractions

We have been learning about fractions in Room 4, particularly 1/2 and 1/4's. 

We made sure to wash our apples before cutting them carefully into 1/2 then 1/4's. The children were excited to eat their pieces of apple in class and I was pleased to hear them describing their apple pieces using the fraction language we have been learning.

At home you can encourage the development of mathematical concepts like fractions by using words like 'half' and 'quarters' by using food. Asking your child if they want their toast or sandwich cut into half or quarters and the same with fruit or other types of food is a good place to start. One half is 'one out of two', and one quarter is 'one out of four'.

We have also made and cut up fairy bread as part of our learning about fractions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Waffles and Bird Feeders

Last week for our Exploration Time Discovery session we made delicious waffles and delicious (for the birds) pine-cone bird feeders.

We had three waffle makers for our waffles and used this waffle recipe, it made close to 20 waffles so if you want to make less waffles try this website. We poured maple syrup or golden syrup over our waffles and the children enjoyed eating them up quickly before the syrup dripped everywhere. 

We have made these bird feeders before and the birds love them. Because we had lots of expired peanut butter donated to us the children coated their pine-cone in peanut butter before rolling it in bird seed. You can use margarine if there are concerns about nut allergies. 

The birds went nuts for their bird feeders and they were stripped of peanut butter and bird seed within 4 days. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Fairy Bread Fractions

Yum, we love fairy bread. 

The children had a great time last Friday making and eating fraction fairy bread. We have had lots of discussions about fractions during maths time and I thought fairy bread would be a great way to encourage the children to make their own fractions. At this stage the children are just learning about halves and quarters, so they cut their fairy bread into halves or quarters before they ate it. 

Fairy bread is a New Zealand birthday party tradition, if you haven't made it before here are some step by step instructions.

Spread butter or margarine on a piece of bread. 

Sprinkle 100's and 1000's over the top of the butter.

Cut the fairy bread in 1/2.

Then cut it into quarters.

I really enjoy letting the children experience practical life activities like this one.Next week we are cutting apples into fractions.


Look who came to visit us during our last Discovery session.....

A cardboard box robot!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teaching Your Monster to Read

I've been thinking a lot about activities that parents can do at home with their children to help support their reading development. 

Firstly the high tech version:
Teach Your Monster to Read is a great free website for children to visit. It works best if you complete it along side your child, at least until they get the hang of it. Teach Your Monter to Read focuses on letter-sound knowledge and sight word recognition. They have just released an app too.

Reading Eggs is another great website, you do need to pay to join but they do have free trials so you can test it out first. Again it works best if you sit alongside your child while they work through the activities and drills. Once they are more knowledgeable they may be able to do more by themselves. They also have several apps available, some of which are free.

The low tech version to help children learn to read can be approached from two angles; sight word recognition and letter-sound knowledge.

Sight words are the most commonly used words in text, often they are words that you can't sound out. Sight word games and activities include using flashcards, playing memory, playing snap, hiding sight words around the room to have a treasure hunt with. Click here for some sight word cards to practise with. Choose 3 or 4 cards to start with and as your child learns them add another 1 or 2 at a time until they know each word. Practise every day for a few minutes a day. Most of the early reading books that I teach children to read have lots of sight words in them, the more sight words they know the easier it is to read the books fluently.

Learning the sound each letter makes can be taught with the same type of games and activities. At Totara Park School we use Jolly Phonics to help children learn to recognise their letters. Jolly Phonics is a phonic programme that gives each letter an action and a picture to help children make  the sound. The picture and action mnemonic help children to remember the sound and written letter. (Click here for a copy of our alphabet card.) Once the children know the letter-sounds using the letter and picture cue, give the written letter only and practise that. Start with letters of your child's name, then S, A, T, P, I, N. Introduce a few new letters a week until you are practising all of the sounds every day. Sparklebox have a lot of worksheets you can print out and work on at home together.

So, if your child is struggling, or you want to give them extra support the best thing you can do is listen to them read each night and practise those sight words and letter-sounds as often as possible.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Friendly Games

 Our 'Friendly Games' Discovery session was busy this morning with lots of Commonwealth Games inspired activities that encouraged the children to practise their friendship skills.
 Here we are completing a mountain biking dot to dot, last night New Zealand came 1st and 2nd in the mens mountain biking!


 The children enjoying taking turns on the fitness circuit.

 And this is my personal favourite - Judo Jaguar!

As the Commonwealth Games are in Scotland this year the children used blue paper triangles to complete the Scottish flag.

The children made these very cool highland terrier dogs - just like the real dogs that escorted the teams at the opening ceremony. 

 Photo from here.

These pipe cleaner people are ready to compete at the games, just use one pipe cleaner to make the head and legs, and bend another to make the arms. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Winter Wonderland

The day before our Winter Wonderland Discovery session it snowed overnight and when we came to school in the morning the hills around Upper Hutt were covered in a white blanket of snow. Perfect timing for our session and for lots of descriptive winter writing too!

The children had a great time exploring lots of winter themed activities. I particularly loved the snowmen made out of polystyrene cups with a cupcake case hat and sorting some winter clothes into washing baskets.


We have Discovery every Wednesday morning. Each session involves our three new-entrant classrooms meeting together and exploring activities based around a theme. Our pre-school visitors also join us for Discovery and it provides them with a time to visit school with the support of a parent or caregiver. Our visitors are called Mountaineers, they are scaling the heights of learning.

We choose themes based on special events during the term or topics the children have expressed an interest in. There is no shortage of ideas about what we want to discover. Each session is carefully planned to provide the children with a variety of experiences. We plan art and crafts, writing and reading activities, colouring, cutting activities, counting and number activities, sensory experiences, roleplay, cooking and food experiences, and cooperative experiences.  

When the bell goes in the morning we all meet together in one classroom share our class greetings, at Totara Park School we a very lucky that our Junior classrooms are joined by folding glass doors, so on Discovery mornings we fold the doors back and have a large space for the children to explore. After the roll the teachers share some of the activities that are available and talk about the types of behaviour that we are encouraging.

During the session the children can visit any classroom and complete or participate the activities that they are interested in. We are very lucky to have extra parent help and teacher aide time during Discovery and our Mountaineers parents are encouraged to spend some time with their children which help them to feel more comfortable at school. It can be pretty scary during the first visit and having Mum, Dad, or Nana there makes it a lot easier.

After our session we tidy up together and sit back down on the mat to share about what the children have discovered and how they worked together. 

Then .... 

.... it's morning tea time!

Click on the Discovery and Mountaineers labels to find out more about what we do during Discovery, or check out the Starting School and Transition to School Book pages at the top of the blog.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dinosaur Discovery

Here are a few photos of what we got up to for our last Discovery session of term 2. Dinosaurs provided us with lots of inspiration and is always one of my favourite sessions. 

We dug for fossils in the sand trough, made paper plate dinosaurs (click here for details), cut dinosaur finger puppets, made mini-colouring-in books (thanks Sparklebox), helped our dinosaurs hatch out of eggs, and lots of fun with our plastic dinosaurs.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Happy Matariki!

The Matariki stars start to rise at the end of May and the beginning of June, we celebrated Matariki a few days early (it traditionally begins on the the first day of the new moon following its rising - this year on the 28 June). Matariki is the traditional Maori new year, many years ago Matariki signified the end of the harvest and was a time of plenty.

We celebrated Matariki for Discovery with lots of star art  and craft, including making telescopes and making special Matariki star biscuits to eat.

We were very lucky to have a parent bring in lots of biscuits, icing, and special edible stars to feast on during our session, and the children really enjoyed icing and decorating their biscuit. 
When our Mountaineers (pre-school visitors) start Discovery with us we encourage parents or caregivers to stay to and help their children. Parental support makes a huge difference to the ease at which children  transition to school. The parents that stay for Discovery are always willing to help out and we appreciate the support they provide for their own children and others. Some of the activities we choose for Discovery can provide a challenge for some children to complete and a supportive hand from an adult to complete a tricky task is always helpful and appreciated.

Here is a short clip explaining one of the myths behind Matariki.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


 Check out these gorgeous sock puppets! 

We made them the other day during our 'puppet' Discovery session, along with lots of other puppets....

I especially loved the shadow puppet shows.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


This year Totara Park School started the milk for schools programme and after several weeks of drinking milk each day we have spent the last two weeks learning about cows and where milk comes from. Did you know that cows have 4 stomachs?

We wrote reports about cows and painted these amazing cow portraits. I used this blog post for inspiration for our paintings.

Before we wrote our reports we watched some clips from 'Rosie's World' and read some books about cows.

Here are some of our reports:

'Cows are animals. Milk comes from cows. Cows are red and white.'

 'Cows are animals. Cows make milk. Cows eat grass, they burp up the cud. Cows have 4 stomachs. The grass goes into one tummy then into the next tummy.'

'Cows are animals. They make milk. They eat the grass and burp the cud.'

'Cows are animals. They make milk from their udders. They are white and they are brown. Cows eat grass. Then they make milk. They have 4 stomachs.'

 We have also been reading the first verse of The Cow poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Click here for a pdf.