Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I thought I would take a moment to share my centers with other teachers (or parents) who might be looking for ideas on how to put together an attractive and economical classroom. I've had a ton of fun putting these classrooms together. My goal has been to make something beautiful and whimsical, but also functional. I hope you like them. :)

I have two rooms that I use for my school.

THE BLUE ROOM - The main classroom is what I call the "noisy room" and contains the dramatic play, blocks, art, and music centers.

DRAMATIC PLAY- The kitchen was a gift from Santa for my kids a year before I started the program. It is, by far, the most expensive thing in the room. The dress up clothes are hung up on command strip hooks. They're cheap and easy to move around. They can, and will, pull the drywall off your wall if pulled too hard as you can see in this picture. I will fix it...eventually. ;) I also use crates a lot to hold things. They're tough, cheap and don't look to bad when used sparingly. For the small figures, animals, cars trucks etc. I organized them into separate bins with labels I created using clip art.

ART - In my art center, I have an easel (one is all I have the room for) and a shelf full of art materials that the children have free access to: play-doh and play-doh tools, paper, markers, paints, recycled art materials, tape, white and colored glue, scissors, stickers, and of course, paper.If you look at the top of the image you will be able to see the little foil stars suspended from the ceiling. These cover the ceiling of the entire room. They are simply stars cut from foil and hung using fishing wire.

MUSIC - My radio is the only thing off limits in the room, for obvious reasons, but the children have free access to a range of musical instruments. The larger instruments are on the shelf and the smaller ones are in the crate. They can also use headphones to listen to music if they wish. You can see on the side of the shelf where I took a page from a torn touch and feel book and taped it there for the children to enjoy. I actually took apart the entire book (after Olivia destroyed it), cut it up and taped the pages all over both of the rooms.

BLOCKS - I got these Melissa and Doug blocks (2 sets) with coupons at A.C. Moore. I just couldn't find a better deal anywhere else. The shelf is just a simple book shelf. I placed the blocks next to the dramatic play area so the blocks can be incorporated into the children's play with the small figures and vehicles.

THE RED ROOM - This room is called the red room for obvious reasons. It is also the quiet room. It contains the manipulative, reading, writing and science centers.
READING CORNER - This is my favorite spot in the whole school. This is where the children can go read a book or get away and snuggle with a stuffed animal. I created the space by turning my old china cabinet to the side and attaching a piece of cloth to the back. The couch is actually a toddler bed with a folded mattress pad on the bottom and pillows lining the back. The canopy is one that you would put over a child's bed.

WRITING - My writing center is simply my old coffee table with different sized markers, pens, various kinds of paper and stencils on it. I used a Closet-maid shoe storage cubby for mailboxes. Since my students are still at the pre-reading level, each of their mailboxes is labeled with their names and a symbol they each got to choose before school started. Children can recognize a simple symbol more readily than they can a name so they are able to tell who's box is who's, at the same time they are learning that written symbols can have abstract meanings.

MANIPULATIVES - Manipulatives take up a large portion of the red room. This is probably because I don't separate them into math, language, etc. I have puzzles and games available in the china cabinet to the right of this shelf. My manipulatives vary from Mr. Potato Head to Montessori's Pink Tower.

The children use the manipulatives how they wish. If they want to build the tower from largest to smallest - great. If they want to put the blocks into cups and pretend they're tea - that's cool too.

I rotate the materials on low tables to encourage the children to try new things and to keep up their interest. In this picture I have magnablocks on the small table and number peg cards and dressing boards on the longer table. The shelf is for displaying artwork and setting art to dry.

SCIENCE - My science center is small. Really, the outside area is the best science center in my opinion. I also do a lot of science related projects with the children, but I have this center available to them all the time. In my science center, I keep plants, binoculars, magnifying glasses and items for them to look at (shells, rocks, bark). I also have a kaleidoscope and some VERY cool magnets.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ice painting

This was sooo much fun! It's messy though. Remember to put paint shirts on the kids, and be prepared with paper towels and spray cleaner.

First you have to make the ice cubes. Here's what you'll need:

  • Ice cube trays
  • Popsicle sticks (you can get small ones or break them in half)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Liquid watercolors (This is the key. Using food coloring does not turn out nearly so bright and colorful. I have only found these at Discount School Supply.)

Here's how to make them:
  1. Take the ice cube tray and fill each section 3/4 of the way full with the liquid watercolors. I used red, yellow, and blue so the children could see how those colors blend to make secondary colors. One tray will go a long way. I used one for about 10 kids, and I had a good bit left over.
  2. Next fill each section the rest of the way with water.*
  3. Place the foil over the entire tray pressing it down so you can see the divisions between the sections.
  4. Finally, push a popsicle stick through the foil in each section (you may want to pierce the foil with a knife first). The foil will hold the sticks up straight until the water freezes.
  5. Let it freeze overnight.

The activity:
Before you begin, explain to the children that these are paints and must not be eaten. They're non-toxic, but do temporarily stain the skin. Twist the tray to release the cubes, and place them in a small container in the middle of the table for the children to share. These totally bleed through paper, but are pretty easy to clean off of hard surfaces. Clothes, however, well that remains to be seen. :P

Here are a few of the pictures. The lighting isn't the best. They are even prettier in person!

* Be careful to leave a little space at the top, or you'll have nothing but brown ice cubes. ;)

Freezing water

This was a wonderful idea, (stolen from Sid the Science Kid) poorly executed. This is definitely one of those activities where YOU can learn from my mistakes. Here's what I did....

The children and I put a bunch of fruit (i.e. grapes and strawberries) in a large Tupperware, filled it with water, covered it, and placed it in the freezer. We talked about what we thought would happen to the water and fruit. Some of the kids said they would turn into popsicles. I thought that was cute. :) The following class, I took the container out of the fridge and dumped the, now, big block of ice into a large bin. Then, the children felt the ice, and gave me ideas of how we could get to the fruit inside. I got ideas like: put it in the pantry, put it in the closet, melt it with cold water, melt it with hot water, etc.

Good so far, right? Here's where things start to fall apart.

We decide to melt it with hot water. So I gave each child a cup of water to pour over top of the ice, and I had a large pitcher. We counted one... two.. three.. and poured. Oops! The ice melted, but not enough to release any fruit. I had to go back to the sink (all the way in the kitchen) about 5 times. Meanwhile, the children were getting bored. Finally, all the ice melted, and we got the fruit. The grapes were wonderful, but the strawberries were mushy - I probably should have anticipated that. I also probably should have anticipated that getting a huge bin full of water out of the room might be difficult. I picked it up, one side gave way and - SPLASH - it went all over the floor. I raced to the sink to dump what was left, spilling much more water in the process, and proceeded to race around the room trying to clean up all of the water before someone fell. In the end, the kids really enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, did not.

However, I can learn from my own mistakes!!!

I did a few things differently with my other class. First of all, I did it outside - MUCH BETTER! Second, I was prepared with a couple pitchers. The strawberries still stunk though. Next time, I will only use grapes.