Friday, August 31, 2018

Art Smart - Mondrian

Activity for ages 4+ with good scissor experience.

We are stepping beyond scribbles, smears and tossed-on collages and adding some product into our process art.  

Wednesdays are our cut and paste days. 

Often preschool teachers cut out the shapes themselves, give the students a review of Mondrian pieces and put some up as "inspiration" and then provide a piece of paper and glue. 

To me, this strips away the skill inherent: cutting, and the process: creativity. It becomes purely product, trying to replicate Mondrian's creativity with pieces skillfully cut by the teacher.

To make this a process piece, I simply give the following directions:

  1. Black is to be cut into strips
  2. Red and yellow are to be cut into squares
"How big should they be?" 

"However big you want them to be."
I provided 2 sheets of black and 2 half sheets each of yellow and red for 4 children. [The 3yo isn't up to cutting shapes, so he was just cutting.]

Once THEY feel they have cut as much as they desire, then I bring out the paper.
      3. Put your cut pieces on your paper how you want them

Then I bring out the glue.
      4. Glue your pieces where you put them

So this is still a process piece with just a bit of direction. As you can see, there is still plenty of room for creativity and interpretation. One did it portrait and two did it landscape. One didn't use any red. One made a road. It is still black lines and colored squares. 

They worked very diligently and were very proud of these pieces. Not bad at all for 4-year-olds.

Next week, when this activity is not fresh, we will observe and discuss Mondrian. They will be able to relate to the works after doing this activity, but they will have lost any intense emotional attachment to their own art and should not feel any inferiority or desire to change it in light of the new information. 

Tags: child care, daycare, preschool, pre-k, teaching, homeschool, fine motor,

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Preschool Time!

It's August! Back to school! We never really stop having "school" time, but now that the big boys are all four, and are developmentally ready, we are taking it more seriously. Here's what we are working on this first month of pre-k:

  • Sight words
  • Letter blend phonics
  • Writing
  • Number recognition to 24
  • Number order to 20
  • Basic math
  • Geometry
  • Animal classification/habitats

These children have the following skill sets firmly in place:

  • Number recognition 0-10
  • Letters: uppercase/lowercase/phonics
  • Basic shapes, including hexagon/octagon
  • Excellent vocabulary
  • Basic reading and writing conventions

While they still get to make their own decisions on participation and processes in many areas, when it comes to "school time," things have changed up. The transition to being expected to follow directions is a HUGE one. Some transition better and quicker than others. Another wonderful aspect of small-group preschool is that individual tailoring of instruction can still be very much in place.

Here's what we are up to.


Sight word exposure began almost a year ago. I would point out words, talk about words, spell words, and we would dance to word videos. This pre-loading exposure made it very easy to slip into more formalized instruction.

I believe that learning to read needs to be personalized, whole movement and fun, as much as possible. You won't see us sitting in a circle doing flash cards. I teach that letters have sounds, sounds make words, words make sentences, and sentences tell a story/have meaning. Words have little meaning by themselves, and thus breed little interest.

Sight words must be memorized. Period. The children are expected to have some sight words memorized prior to kindergarten and to have nearly 100 words memorized by the end of kindergarten. These are highly common words they will encounter and words that don't follow the rules, such as "is." By learning them early, the children gain a limited ability to read. Success! So when they begin to sound out words, they only will have a few difficult words to sound out, and be able to read the rest of the story. This ability to succeed is very important for them to remain engaged when reading becomes more difficult. 

Sight word memorization, whole word reading, is the third of 5 key components to actual, fluid reading ability.

1. Learning conventions such as left-right reading, turning pages, letters make words 
2. Learning upper & lowercase letters and phonics
3. Learning sight words
4. Learning to phonetically sound out words
5. Learning advanced blends, digraphs, phonemes, rule breakers

Our sight word books are simple, repetitive, and created with input from the boys. THEY pic out the pictures we use. THEY have ownership.

Ownership is the KEY INGREDIENT to reading. Children are self-centric. It's all about them. If you make reading about them and their interests, they will dive in enthusiastically. This is a pic of them while I'm making books. They could be doing a hundred different things, but they are SO anxious to get ahold of the new books they just got through helping to create.

While I teach according to the Dolch word lists, I will pull from any level I feel is appropriate to our situation, not just the pre-k level. "This" is a 2nd level word, but it is one of the first ones I teach. "This" implies immediacy, ownership, and singularity, all of which appeal to preschoolers.

As we come across words with blends, such as "this," then we talk about, practice, and use the blend. At this point, it is simply as we come across them, no active planned instruction on blends.

We play a lot of games with sight words. One of their favorites is Word Run. I put out sight words on the floor, right now we are only doing 4 at a time, and give them an order to step on them. We do a few rounds, then I change the word order they are to do them, and the order they sit on the floor. It makes it a whole new activity with very little change. Keeps it fresh and keeps them thinking. 

This is also a MATH activity, as they have to listen to the pattern and follow it. A 4 unit pattern is just that bit difficult, while a 3 unit pattern is pretty easy for them. One of the reasons I am doing 4. If we are doing a sentence, it becomes easier for them to remember the order and we can do a larger number of words. In this case, I used a sentence because I was filming and wanted them to do it independently. They still looked to me whenever they were uncertain, because it is a relatively new activity. 

As with all the activities, we do one, then they have the opportunity to do it independently for as long as they wish, or to do it independently as a free choice activity later in the day. It's important that they take ownership of their learning. This is a Reggio inspired school, and even though instruction has become more formalized, it is still important that they choose and own their learning.

I don't introduce writing until 4 and don't get serious about letter formation until the summer before kindergarten. This is the ONLY area where I use worksheets as a key component for instruction. Our writing bin has a lot of wipe/erase books, white boards, magnetic writing boards, chalk boards, etc. for them to practice writing. They also have free access to paper, crayons, pencils and markers. We do writing in the dirt, sand, etc. But until 4, it is a free-choice activity except for Journal drawing on Mondays.

For language, we also do Monday speech, where the children take turns standing up and talking about their weekend, tell a story, sing a song or show a trick. They take questions and give answers to practice public speaking. 


They have down 0-10 and somewhat 11-20. 11-20 I consider to be the most difficult number recognition to get down, and it is where I always end up spending the most instruction time on a single repetitive topic. They can pretty much count by 10s. So on our journey to be able to count to 100, we are getting more serious about number recognition and number order. 

We have our large number cards, and we do this as an instruction activity. The cards are mixed up and scattered on one side of the floor and they move them into the correct position on the other side. It is also offered as a free choice activity, and these two are always wanting to do it and get faster. 

At first they would ask me after each card if it was correct. I've altered their expectations so that they have to check one another's work and only ask me when they are finished. If it is wrong, then we work to find the error together and have them make corrections.

These number cards [0-10 are available FREE in my TPT shop] are also great for recognition. I will lay out the cards and have them step on the number I call out. When working on 0-10, we will line them in a path and walk the path saying the number name. There are a ton of activities to do with them. They are also color coded for when we start working on odd/even later in the year.

This week we have also been doing Number Lotto for 0-24. We always use edibles for our game tokens when doing it as a "school" activity. They get to eat them when done. This time, we are using Cheerios. Hands and cards are cleaned prior to activity.

I teach addition/subtraction/multiplication/division/grouping/grid formation/graphing all together. Children get it. Grouping automatically connects to un-grouping, which is what it is all about. 

This is not taught on a white board. It is done hands-on with toys, and not just any toys. It is with their FAVORITE toys. They want to know how many THEY have, how many more THEY can add, how many THEIR friend just took, etc. It's entirely personalized. There is an emotional reaction in physically handing over toys to someone else and realizing that your amount just lessened, or joy in receiving more. That personalized connection to the activity is huge to their understanding and retention. 

These children already have down the 12 basic shapes I teach. [Available on TPT] So we are moving on to 3D shapes, trapezoids, parallelograms, rhombus, etc. While our geo board activities are more about following directions, interpreting data, and mirroring processes, it is also a great geometry tool. We discuss angles and how many sides, and are beginning to work out how the grid works.  

The boys get to pick out a shape to make each day. This day they chose a butterfly. Today we made a train. After the group activity, they get free play time with the geo boards and clean up and abandon the activity at will. Once everyone is done, then we all come back to put away and move on.


We have the globe out and are learning about our place in the world and world's place in the universe. Since they are SO into animals, that is our focus. As we learn about animals, we are learning about habitats, eating habits, classifications, etc. We were in a snake and shark phase, luckily that has expanded.

Just now, Mr. L at lunch:

"Connie, we are HUMANS. Right?"
"Yes. We are people and people are humans."
"We are CARNIVORES. Right?"
"Well, we are omnivores. We eat meat AND plants, so we are carnivores and herbivores. Since we are BOTH carnivores and herbivores, we are called omnivores. That means we eat plants AND animals."
Mr. L nods his head like he's got it. 

Lesson tomorrow is determined.


We are adding more product to our process. For instance, in this activity, they were to cut tissue paper into strips and glue it down in one direction, where before they were allowed to just cut it up and glue it down however. So, while it is still entirely their choice of pieces to use, colors, which direction, etc., there were some parameters given.

These are multi-step directions, which is also something we are working upon. They do not get into trouble for not following through with the parameters, but it gives me great insight to see who does what, how and to see where the disconnects occur. 

They are, after all, just turned 4, and Mr. La, who coat-tails along wonderfully, is just turned 3.

Tags: homeschool, home school, preschool, pre-k, child care, daycare, teaching, kids, children, boy, girl, learning, education