Friday, May 31, 2013

Photo Friday: The Boston Visit Continued

While the Boston Memorial took up the majority of my time, emotions, and energy, I did get a chance to enjoy (and snap photos of) the area I called home for five years (and still do, long after I moved). From the Prudential, all the way down Mass Ave to the Esplanade/Harvard Bridge and all the roads that lead away from the area toward downtown Boston, I learned the ins and outs of these streets better than I did my own dorm buildings and apartment complexes.

Hopefully, I'll get more than just a few hours in the morning to enjoy my city again, but, until then, these photos will have to do.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Open House 2: The Noisy Farm with One- and Two-Year-Olds

It's hard to believe that another Open House came and went. I felt like, last year, it was all I could think about. This year, it downright stumbled together. Which worked for me: while I spent nearly 2 hours after school prepping for Open House last year, I was in and out within a half hour this year.

We continued our theme of "the current favorite book of the kiddos" and picked Noisy Farm. I love books like these, especially for older infants and young toddlers. From the simplicity of its design to the pull-down flaps that keep the child's interest and the pre-literacy skills involved (the only thing on the flaps are the words of the sounds), these books are a must for any parent or teacher.

Much like we broke down From Head to Toe, we broke down the book by animals. Of course, the only drawback is that you then have to walk the fine line between finding activities that are age-appropriate and activities that your administration will appreciate (especially if you're administration primarily handles elementary and middle school happenings and you just so happen to be working with one-year-olds).

The first animal in the book is the "wooly lamb". For this, children glued cotton balls onto a sheep outline. This project was a HUGE case of trial and error. I learned two major things for next time: 1) Let the kiddos just explore the cotton balls at first. and 2) It's actually easier to instruct a child to dip the cotton ball in glue and THEN put it on the outline than it is to place the glue on the sheep yourself and instruct the child to keep their hands out of the glue. A lot of kiddos wanted nothing to do with the project, so I supplemented it with coloring over pictures of barns (key word is over and not in, but more on that another day).

We also put little "counting sheep" on our windows. The best part, is that our kiddos are already learning counting. This is why it's never to young to count things in front of your kids, or point out words in a book: I have kiddos who are now 18-22 months and half can count to three (with two who can count up to 5 and 8, respectively).

Next was the fuzzy duck. We had two projects for this. The first was what I called "Duck Prints". The kids were given spatulas to pant with and were encouraged to smack the paper with the spatula the same way a duck's foot smacks the ground. This is the perfect type of project for younger children: it's open-ended, it's about the process (not the product), and it still ties in an important lesson.

Again, I always love putting a picture of a child doing activities like this. It's hard to get the process, just looking at the final result, so this helps parent understand what is going on.

This project was a lot more structured, but still an incredible project and continues what I was talking about with counting. The children were doled out five little ducks to put into a pond (like the song "Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day" or "Five Little Ducks That I Once Knew"). The teachers counted out the ducks (which already had tape on the backs) and encouraged the kiddos to put them in the "pond" (blue paper). Once all five were placed on the paper, the teacher would get out her Sharpie and ask the kiddo to point out which duck should be Duck #1. They would point to a duck, and the teacher would mark a number "1" on said duck. The teacher would then ask, "Now, which one should be Duck #2?" with a gentle redirection if the kiddo wanted Duck #1 to be Duck #2 as well (something as simple as, "This duck is Duck #1. Another duck needs a turn.")

Continue onward until all five ducks are labeled. I loved counting the ducks in order once everything was said and done. This project is so huge in terms of pre-mathematical skills. Aside from counting and showing numbers to the kiddos, you are teaching them that we only count things once. This is a difficult concept for young children to wrap their mind around (and why you sometimes see toddlers counting the same toy two or three times).

Then there was the pink piggie. This was a two part project: first, the kiddos paint a plate with pink paint. The next day, when the paint dries, the kiddos are given pre-glued parts of the face to place wherever they see fit.

Some kiddos got creative with where the pieces should go. This one student created a cyclops with reverse ears. But that's the beauty of working with young children: there is no "wrong" type of piggie!

The billy goat was tough, but I decided to take a Pinterest idea and flip it on its ear. Almost everyone who visits the crafts section of Pinterest knows of the Heart Stamper out of Toilet Paper Tube, where you essentially pinch a toilet paper roll, secure it with tape, and use it as a heart stamper. I did the same thing, only instead I dipped it in brown finger paint (since I knew it dried to look almost like mud) and called them billy goat hoof prints. Young toddlers love banging away at whatever they are given (don't believe me? Hand them anything that resembles a hammer and watch them go at it), so my kiddos had a blast with this activity.

So the book's cow is technically a brown car, but that didn't stop me from creating a various of pin the tail on the donkey. I made an outline of a cow on poster board, laminated some black construction paper "blobs", taped one side of said blobs, and let each kid have a turn Pinning the Spots on the Cow.

They got a huge kick out of it, and loved pointing to the cow once it was hung up (and mooing at it, of course).

The red rooster rounds out the book. Originally, the children were going to glue the feathers onto the rooster. However, since the sheep turned out to be a sensory nightmare, I decided to tweak the project last minute and have the children paint with the feathers instead. I'm actually happier with the painting than I would have been had they glued the feathers. The project was stress-free, the kiddos had a great time, and the end result is amazing.

I made a barn out of construction paper and adorned it with brown cows (painted by the kiddos, since the cow in the book is brown). It worked perfectly under the room's tree (possibly the first big decoration I made once I was in my room).

I took full advantage of Amazon's "sneak preview" function and printed out a few pages from the book and taped them to the wall. This is a great way to promote literacy and show that words/images can be in places other than books.

And, much like last year with From Head to Toe, I made a sign out of colored letter outlines. I'm amazed at how quickly the kiddos learned their letters. This year, I decided to add "pointing to letters while singing the alphabet song" to my circle time repertoire, and the results are definitely noticeable. Some of the kiddos knew what letter that had been given!

Open House is always an adventure, but I'm very happy with the results (and happy that it all came together effortlessly this year!)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo Friday: The Boston Memorial

Ever since the bombing, I've been itching to return to my city. Unfortunately, with work, modeling, and house hunting, my schedule has been packed to the gills. I finally caught a chance to spend at least a few hours in my city last Sunday morning, as I had a photoshoot that afternoon at UMass Boston.

I decided to do what I used to do every single day: put on my headphones and walk. I was flooded with intense nostalgia, walking down Mass Ave and Huntington and Newbury St, just like I did for years and years. The sun was out, the weather was perfect. It was an amazing day to be back in my city.

When I thought I was ready, I made my way down another familiar street: Boylston. For those who aren't familiar with Boston or the Boston Marathon, the finish line is on Boylston St, right before Copley Square. While the streets have been open for over a month now, there is still a memorial in Copley Square.

I knew it would be emotionally intense, going down Boylston, walking past where the bombs went off, and visiting the memorial. But I didn't know how intense it was going to be for me. I found comfort in the fact that I wasn't the only one choking back tears, or hiding behind her sunglasses when the tears came forth. However, I was crying partly because of that comfort in others: the endless array of gifts and tribute really showed the solidarity between all of us. We are all in this together -- something that we easily forget, going through our day-to-day lives.

Visiting the memorial was definitely a cathartic experience. It was so wonderful being back in my city, and paying tribute to those we lost, as well as those who stepped up to save the day.

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