Thursday, April 26, 2012

Week 1: Growing and Changing - Growing Grass and Green Beans

Our first activity of the week focused on growing grass - both words (growing, grass) were given to students during large group/morning meeting when letter Gg was introduced as the letter of the week and while reviewing the sound made by letter Gg and words that have /g/ as a beginning sound... Letter Gg.  Gertie Goose.  Galka.  Grass.  Growing.  Garbage.  Girl.  Gum.  

We read Denise Fleming's In the Tall, Tall Grass during large group literacy and then took some time to discuss how to make grass grow.  Many of the children were quick to respond that we needed dirt, sun and water to grow grass.  They neglected to include that we also needed grass seed! 

In the Tall, Tall Grass also served as part of our take-home literacy activity packets for our weekly homework.  I created a mini-book based on the activity.  We read the story several times throughout the course of the week so that children are familiar with and can "read" it to their families while working on the homework activities.

First, we decorated the planting pots as "heads," as we were trying to grow "grass hair" on the heads.  The children had fun doing this - some understood the concept more than others, but either way, the activity was enjoyed!  We then took great delight in digging in the dirt and did the children did extremely well considering that four were asked to share each small bucket of dirt.  We used small plastic spoons to "shovel" the dirt into our pots to help enhance the fine motor skills of those in need!  The grass is really starting to fill in now... 3 weeks later.  I had hoped to use wheat grass as it is the wider-blade grass that seems to grow and fill in quicker, however, I wasn't able to find any when I was at the store, so I ended up with a different, finer variety.  For next year, I will definitely make sure to locate the wheat grass somewhere!

Our second planting activity was based on the story One Bean by Anne Rockwell.  I had previously planned to plant beans two different ways, in a moist paper towel inside a zipper sandwich bag and in pot of dirt.  When I was browsing our agency "library," I just happened to stumble upon this book and discovered it was perfect to go along with what I was hoping to accomplish. 

After reading, we again discussed what plants "need" in order to grow.  Children came up with the obvious basics - water, sun, dirt.  This made it really fun to watch their excitement over their beans sprouting in the paper towels and baggies!  Each small group tackled a different way of planting - in the baggies with the moist paper towels or in the soil.  We then switched, allowing the children the opportunity to experience both planting styles. 

In order to keep this a true learning experience, we did NOT interfere with the children at all during the planting and those who chose not to listen did, ultimately see the results - beans that did not sprout because they were drowned in water or buried too deeply in the soil.  At first, they were very upset to realize that their seeds had not sprouted, but quickly came to accept that not all plants will survive.  Notice in the picture to the right that the two plants on the bottom did not sprout - the one on the left was drowned with too much water.  The one on the right was not placed inside (or against) the moist paper towel. 

It was interesting to discover that the bean seeds that were started in the moist paper towel sprouted (and grew) much better than the seeds that were planted in the soil.  (One of only three sprouting in soil is shown to the right, on the very right hand side of the cup... somehow, some grass seed made it into our bean plants, as well)!  Our beans planted in soil were actually a disappointment - perhaps due to the size of the cup?  Or cheap soil?  I'm not sure which!  There are only a few beans sprouting that were planted in soil... but hopefully, they're just slower to sprout!

In any case, the children have really enjoyed planting and the experiments surrounding the planting.  This is only the beginning of the excitement that the children are experiencing, so check back for more!


Fleming, Denise.
In the Tall, Tall Grass.
Henry Holt and Co.
Purchase In the Tall, Tall Grass.

Rockwell, Anne.
One Bean.
Walker Childrens.
 Purchase One Bean.

Coming Up Next: In the Tall, Tall Grass Take-Home Literacy Activities


If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Week 1: Growing and Changing, Letter Gg

Throughout the room, noticeable changes have been made to fully incorporate the theme.  Children were quick to notice the changes... "Look, there's new books!"  "Hey, what's that?"  "It's a cocoon!"  "Oooh, look!"  "Look at the new fish tank!"  "What's that thing?"  "That a big net!" 

New books about growing and changing had been placed on the children's bookshelves.  The titles focused on:
  • life cycles (ladybugs, butterflies, frogs, pill bugs, etc),
  • animals that hatch out of eggs, 
  • seeds and growing plants, flowers, vegetables, and
  • children growing and changing (how bodies grow, losing teeth, etc).
The science area had been expanded to enhance the specific activities surrounding our "Growing and Changing" theme.  A butterfly pavilion and praying mantis enclosure hung, suspended from the ceiling at the children's level.  The caterpillars were moving about in their container just below and in the second container lay a praying mantis egg case.  "Ladybug Land" and "Planet Frog" sat on the science table, awaiting the arrival of larva and tadpoles.   

New small group posters (a chrysalis and a pond) had been posted in their places.  New tags had been created for each group - butterflies and frogs.

During breakfast, we engaged the children in conversation about all the new, exciting things and spent a lot of time answering questions (and appreciating their excitement).  After breakfast, full attention was given to all the new books while children brushed their teeth.  This is always independent reading time and the children really enjoyed looking at all the new books - many took great pride in being able to read the butterfly life cycle books, as many had watched the transformation during their 3-year old classes last year.

The room was abuzz as children were eager (and ready) to explore with the new activities!

Coming Next: Activity 1 - Growing Grass and Green Beans


 If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Theme 9: Growing and Changing

I've wanted to do this all year, but have yet to find the actual time and ambition to make it happen... However, because I'm so utterly excited about our 9th theme in UPK this year, I'm determined to get it done!

Our Head Start program uses the High/Scope curriculum and incorporates the Houghton Mifflin Pre-K literacy curriculum as well. We use the Houghton Mifflin mainly to provide children with exposure the "alphafriends" that will be a big part of their Kindergarten year. I have been trying very hard to successfully incorporate all of the Houghton Mifflin themes into our High/Scope curriculum to make the most of both curriculums!

So... the current Houghton Mifflin theme? Growing and changing... focusing on letters Gg, Ee and Dd. Letter Gg was last week... spring break this week and then we move on to letter Ee... and I have some incredible ideas planned and I'm thinking my UPKers are going to love what I have to offer! I'm hoping you all will enjoy the ideas too!

For now though, I'm going to just share some of the resources I've already used as well as those I'm planning to use. Updates/thoughts/comments on them will come as they are put to use in the coming weeks!

Books to use in collaboration with the Growing and Changing theme:

Activity Kits to Watch "Growing and Changing" Take Place:

This is not a complete list of resources that I may use, nor will I necessary use everything on this list. It will depend how things play out with the children and how the weeks go. I will post more information about the activities, photos and thoughts as I go along!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guidecraft's Manipulative Puzzles Review & Giveaway Link

Each month, the Guidecraft Educators will share our honest feelings about a Guidecraft product(s) and how these products would fare in an early childhood classroom. This month's selection features three items from the Manipulative Line - the See Saw Sorter, the Hide 'n Seek Shape Sorter, and the Primary Puzzle Board! This product would make a wonderful addition to any child’s playroom (or multiple pieces would make for great use in an early childhood classroom).

In reviewing this month's items, I determined that they were too "young" for my 4-year olds. I opted to pass them along to our Early Head Start crew (babies through late 2's/early 3's). Unfortunately, I have not yet received the pictures of the little ones exploring with the toys or the EHS teacher's thoughts on the products, so I've opted to post solely my thoughts. Keep in mind, 4's are the youngest I've taught, so my thoughts may differ from others who have more experience with the younger children (and the way they may explore with the products).

Thoughts on the See Saw Sorter

The bright (basic) colors and big, chunky pieces will likely make the See Saw Sorter appeal to very young children. The puzzle is perfect for introducing children to the concept of eye-hand coordination - six pieces doesn't seem like to many for the little ones to handle. It would be hard to use this as a "shape" activity, as the shapes are 3-dimensional and not typically what you would teach a 1-3 year old about what a triangle, circle, etc. are. These shapes are cylinder, cube, etc. This product is probably the most likely of the 3 that I could have used with my 4-year olds, as an introduction/discussion about the concept of a "see saw" and "balancing" objects. Overall, I think children would enjoy exploring with this toy. I'm sure this will be put to good use in the Early Head Start classroom and I'm looking forward to hear feedback from the teacher that received this!

Thoughts on the Hide 'n Seek Shape Sorter:

Geometric recognition and sorting are introduced at a very basic level with the Hide 'n Seek Shape Sorter. Almost all of the basic shapes I "teach" are touched upon... my only suggestion would be to introduce a hear or oval in place of the cross! It's definitely an activity that the youngest of children will enjoy, as there's a noise component, as the pieces will clink when dropped when correctly sorted. You could introduce a great amount of vocabulary with children aged 1-3 by simple repetition while sorting the pieces - discussing colors, curves, lines, points, etc. I think this will be a welcome addition to the Early Head Start classroom.

Thoughts on the Primary Puzzle Board:

My initial thought when I opened this product was the awesome way that fine motor skills are incorporated, as children will use the "pegs" to grasp the puzzle pieces while sorting and matching the shapes. The matching colors on the puzzle board will help children who haven't quite mastered the concept of matching shape to shape, but who clearly can sort/match colors. Again, I would have liked to see the cross replaced with a heart or oval, but other than that, this is probably the simplest of the 3 manipulative puzzles and will enhance color/shape vocabulary usage in young children!

What do other 'Guidecraft Educators' have to say about theses puzzle manipulatives?

Maureen at Simply Stacie
Andrea at MommyPR
Deborah at Teach Preschool
Carrie from Huppie Mama
Jody from Mommy Moment
Candace at Mamanista!
Lisa from Planet Weidknecht
Vanessa from Pre-K Pages

The Giveaway

Guidecraft is generously offering ONE of each of the three manipulative puzzles to one of the readers of the Guidecraft Educators group!!! To enter, head on over and check out Carrie's post at Huppie Mama. You have until April 20th to enter in the giveaway!

Want it NOW?
If you can’t wait to win, all three products are available for purchase at and also through the Guidecraft website:

See Saw Sorter from or
Hide 'n Seek Shape Sorter from or
Primary Puzzle Board from or

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!