accepting “mess”

The Pre-K program and its students have taught me so much about life, both as a teacher and just as a person in general. 🙂

As I reflected on my day while looking through pictures taken during play time, I realized that one of the best skills I’ve acquired as a Pre-K teacher is the ability (especially as a highly organized person) to accept “mess.” I put the word “mess” in quotations marks because, while many people would look at my classroom on any given day and think it’s a disaster, I am able to see through the mess to the learning happening within the “mess.”

I will honestly admit that I do still struggle with this at times, and there are definitely days when I am less accepting of the “mess” and immediately kibosh the mess-making, but today’s interactions make me think that I have made miles of progress. Here is what happened…

[A little background information: I put out a sensory bin full of scraps of paper for students to practice their cutting with. Also, we read a book about fall leaves at Morning Meeting today.] When play time rolled around, I walk over and see that, through several trips back and forth, this motivated student has transferred much of the scrap paper from the sensory bin onto the carpet and mixed in fabric leaves and plastic people. Cue my initial cringe at the horrible MESS!

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Thankfully, my Pre-K teacher brain kicked in right away after my first gut reaction (which only lasted a few milliseconds, I am proud to say). I asked the student what he was using the items for. He replied that the people were jumping in the leaves (just like in the story we had read earlier).

Rather than squash this play experience and demand he clean it up right away, I accepted the “mess” and entered into the play myself. I suggested students rake the leaves into a pile so they could jump in, which drew more classmates to the play.

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Jumping in the leaf pile

Finally (and this is how I REALLY know that I am a Pre-K teacher and have accepted the “mess” as it relates to students’ learning and play), I actually suggested that students throw the leaves up in the air, as that is what I like to do with the leaves. So yes, you heard that right, I actually encouraged students to make more of a “mess!” This made for some beautiful action shots that capture the joy of this full-body experience.

The best part? Both students easily agreed to help clean up after their play experience had come to an end (Don’t expect me to completely change my nature, okay?!)

Tidying up with teacher help (it’s only fair – I helped make the mess!)

[I would like to say that this acceptance of mess translates somehow to finding meaning in my enormous pile of dirty dishes that sometimes accumulates, but, unfortunately, there is no learning happening within that mess, just laziness! Haha!]

How do you honour student learning and play?

Do you find it hard to accept “mess”?

Until next time,

-KKF

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new beginnings

Hello, blogging world! In the past 8 months, I have been grossly absent from this little slice of the internet, but I am happy to announce that, with the new school year (my FIRST as a teacher!) approaching, I am setting a goal to get back into it with gusto! Ideally, I would like to post once a week about my journey, but I also want to be realistic and give my first-year-teacher self a bit of leeway, so I am hoping to post every 2 weeks (or twice a month). Who knows, maybe I will pleasantly surprise myself and use blogging as a welcome break from planning – haha.

Just a little refresher and catch-up on my life…

I moved to Hudson Bay and into my adorable little house this past Sunday (July 31). I am absolutely LOVING it! I feel right at home here; having grown up in a small town, it feels familiar and comforting. I know that small town teaching is definitely my niche.

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Home sweet home 🙂

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in this room – the couch and chairs make a great spot to sit and plan.

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My little slice of home – all my friends and family.

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Of course, as soon as I got keys to the school, I was in my classroom and rearranging furniture (thank goodness most of it is on wheels!). I loved how the previous teacher had the room set up (everything in there is so ECE friendly, calming, and beautiful), but I decided to change it up completely to give the room a fresh feel and to put my own spin on it. That definitely helped to make the room feel like mine, and hopefully it will signal a fresh start to students as well!

I decided to have areas in the room that served a specific purpose. I have a quiet/calming/comfy area for students to curl up in if they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the other things going on (it’s complete with a leather sofa and recliner – both miniature, of course!). Then I have a block/construction area and a house (complete with baby dolls, another child-sized couch, and a kitchen and table) area. I have a numeracy/literacy centre where targeted letter/number/fine motor work will be set up. My story corner/morning meeting area is carpeted and features a “VIP/Leader” leather chair, the SMART board, and a book display/shelf. There are 2 large tables in the open space of the classroom for eating snack/doing activities. At the back of my room, I have an art and exploration theme going on – there is a shelf with art supplies and a two-sided easel, as well as the sand and water tables. Finally, near my desk in the back corner is a natural items/small parts/FNMI area (pictured below).

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See the circular basket divided into four quadrants?  I am going to use that as a Medicine Wheel!

 

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This is the visual schedule that is displayed at the morning meeting area. I made it myself – can you tell I’m pretty proud?

Once I have everything set up and picture perfect, I will post pictures of all of the areas of my classroom. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

For now, I am spending most of my days planning and prepping. I made an interactive SMART notebook file at the school today, which students will use to check in each morning for ‘attendance.’ Can’t wait to share more of my adventure with everyone!

Stay tuned!

-KKF

P.S. Did I mention I went on a two-week cruise/land tour to ALASKA with my lovely mom?! We were celebrating being finished our respective educational endeavours – me my degree, and my mom the Educational Assistant course through Sask Polytech. Here are just a couple of the 1000 snapshots I took! It was an awesome getaway and bonding experience that we both adored!

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Our first port of call – Ketchikan, AK

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Checking out historic totem poles

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Whale watching in Juneau – highlight of the trip!

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Dog sledding in Skagway

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Hanging out with some sled dogs 🙂

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I just think this photo is about the cutest thing ever. Sled dog puppies ❤

kindergarten: a whole new world

We had another four day week this past week, due to Labor Day being on Monday. I have to say, it was rather nice to have two four-day weeks with the students – really ease the teachers into it after summer break! All of the students in our two lovely little classes came together for our first full-sized class days this week. I have to say, I am absolutely loving this age – Kindergarten is “a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.” (Can I say that on here? – COPYRIGHT goes to Disney!)

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The students have so much love to give and are SO. STINKIN’. CUTE! They are energetic, inquisitive, playful, funny, adorable… The list goes on and on. I love that K allows teachers flexibility in instructional methods – especially the fact that so much learning can be done in a student-centred approach using hands-on exploratory stations at centre time.

This week was my first crack at doing “invitations” (or centres). I definitely learned a lot about managing them – on the first day, I had out 3 at once and quickly realized that I had to jump all over the place to document students’ learning in photograph form. This was NOT productive. The kids hop from centre to centre at such a fast rate, that I felt I was missing so many great learning moments. Thus, after a conversation with my co-op teacher, I decided to just have one centre the subsequent days. I would then sit at that centre and ask key questions to dig a little deeper into the subject matter with students. This also allowed me to have more focused documentation and more closely follow each students’ interaction with the centre.

This week, I decided to have out a gardening centre. I was astounded at some of the information my students were able to give regarding insects, soil, and gardens. Some of the best quotes:

Q: What do bugs do in the garden? “They eat things and squirm around.”

“‘Gardener‘ snakes live in the garden.”

“It’s a worm. Their home is in the dirt. They dig it up.”

“Worms love living in the garden. The dig up the soil and help the flowers grow.”

Student A: “What is this?” Student B: “I think it’s a butterfly.”

I definitely see theory coming into practice in terms of “students have lots of pre-acquired knowledge from their home lives” and “students are capable learners.” I was so impressed with my students’ knowledge. Here are a few pics of them digging in the dirt.

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This little guy showed some great Math skills at a Science centre. This was even before I put out bug counting mats with numbers.

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This little girl, and one other, were great soil detectives! They noticed different particles in the soil itself (round white pieces, light and dark brown pieces, etc.).

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Students already knew what a magnifying glass was, that it was made out of a breakable material, and how to use it! Wow!

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Using the bug counting mat the next day

This week, I also led our daily routines of Calendar/Weather/Leader time on Thursday and Friday. I really like this part of the day – it incorporates so many life skills and curriculum areas! The students are each given a job while we go over the day’s date, days of the week, months of the year, rhyming poems and songs, the day’s weather, classmate’s names, counting (numbers), colours, letters of the alphabet, girls and boys in the class, and leaders sharing their ‘secret item,’ which their peers have to guess. It is a action-packed morning full of routine and structure. I will post a detailed schedule of these routines at a later date.

I also taught a brief math lesson on Taller and Shorter, and a Phys Ed lesson. These both went well also. I am excited to actually start some regular lessons when I begin my Math unit in Patterns next Monday! I am busy planning that as of late and am happy to say that it has a large emphasis on manipulatives and hands-on activities.

Also this week, I attended two volleyball practices and one game. I am helping out with the Jr Girls (Gr 7-9) and Sr Boys (Gr 10-12) volleyball teams and couldn’t be more excited! It is so wonderful to go from playing a sport and loving it, to sharing that passion with others in an effort to help them develop their skills. I also had a chance to make “Raiderade,” the school’s extra-special, homemade beverage reminiscent of Booster Juice, and named after the school team name: Raiders. Members of the staff and student body meet on a regular basis, either before or after school, just to blend up frozen fruit, yogurt, and fruit juice to make amazing concoctions that are sold to the school population, community members, and visitors during sports games and tournaments. I could not believe the huge amount of dedication that this act involves – one of the teachers on staff makes regular trips into Saskatoon to purchase all of the supplies (in one day alone, a group of about 8 people make over 350 cups of Raiderade). The delicious drinks are then sold for $3 a piece, and make the school a huge amount of money. Davidson has not had to have magazine campaigns in years due to the success of Raiderade.

In only 3 weeks of internship, I could not believe just how much extra work educators and school staff take on simply to keep the school running smoothly and successfully. Aside from planning for and teaching 15-25 children at a time, teachers also run sports teams and extracurricular clubs, make schedules and arrange drivers, work in the canteen, spend time communicating with parents, organize/decorate/clean their classroom, go to school council meetings, and spend time with their own families, among countless other things! I think this conversation with one of my fellow interns sums up our thoughts on teacher dedications and commitment (I am the blue messages):

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My choice of future career is reaffirmed each day. I am so excited looking into my future and realizing that no two days will ever be the same, and that I can continually keep challenging myself and growing as an educator, even after 20+ years! I think this is why teaching attracts some of the finest people in the world: it is challenging beyond description, and often mostly thankless and unnoticed, behind-the-scenes work that is constantly changing, demanding, and never-ending. Yet teachers will continue to put their best foot forward and a smile on their face for the students that they strive to inspire, motivate, and teach each day. I think that is truly a magical feat.

-KKF

P.S. My 3 day internship orientation seminar is in Regina next week. I am excited to be back in the capital city (after all, it has been my home for 3 years) and see some of my friends who are embarking on their own internship adventures! I am also happy to be learning more about my role as an intern, and the expectations for my growth and progress through this amazing journey. This is also a chance for my co-op teacher and I to polish a contract for our professional relationship during these 4 months. More soon, I promise!

garage sale haul + internship pd event

On the weekend, I was out of town visiting a high school friend. It was an absolutely beautiful day outside AND there were a ton of local garage sales for us to hit up – WIN WIN! In true teacher fashion, I bought items entirely for future classroom use. Most of my finds were influenced by a recent PD event I attended through Sun West School Division (the school division in which I will be doing my internship).

I traveled to Rosetown (the location of the division office) to take part in an event for Kindergarten teachers that focused on “Play and Exploration: Early Learning Program Guide,” which is a resource that supplements the curriculum for Early Childhood Educators. It focused a lot on the vision and principles of a quality early childhood education program and I am very excited to try out some of the ideas in the fall. We all had a chance to try our hand at creating an engaging ‘invitation for learning.’

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My invitation focused on objects and items that were round or circular. I thought this would tie in well with Medicine Wheels and other Indigenous elements – drums, sun, earth, moon, etc.

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This centre encourages students to explore the letters of the alphabet in a variety of mediums.

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An invitation to delve into shapes.

At the workshop, I had a chance to meet my cooperating teacher for the first time. She greeted me with an embrace as she said “I’m a hugger!” That was an instant moment of happiness and comfort. My coop teacher has been teaching Kindergarten for five years, and told me that she is hoping to try some new things next year – “We will learn together” as she put it. She was very informative and answered my jumble of questions eagerly. I am so excited to embark upon this awesome journey with such a bubbly and helpful cooperating teacher by my side.

At the workshop, I learned that it is important to have a quiet corner in your classroom for students to decompress and have alone time, if needed. This can also double as a reading corner. Inviting and comfortable furniture is a must to implement this kind of area in your classroom, which leads me to my first garage sale purchase: two wicker benches perfect for little bodies to curl up on. The drawers are a perfect hiding spot for inviting books. I also found two natural-toned pillows that could pair with benches as cushions, or be put in the carpet area for sitting.

These could also double as a centre area for activities  if plastic trays or blankets were placed on the top. The drawers could hold blocks, drawing materials, props for dress up, etc.

These could also double as a centre area for activities if plastic trays or blankets were placed on the top. The drawers could hold blocks, drawing materials, props for dress up, etc.

The small bench is perfect for one.

The small bench is perfect for one.

The larger bench of the two.

The larger bench of the two.

These could also be incorporated into a dramatic play centre such as an office, restaurant, or house if the right props were added.

These could also be incorporated into a dramatic play centre such as an office, restaurant, or house if the right props were added.

A comfy place to sit and read a favourite book with calming, natural colours.

A comfy place to sit and read a favourite book with calming, natural colours.

The other thing I learned at the workshop (which echoed many of the ideals I learned in my ECE courses at U of R) was that invitations require aesthetically pleasing and organized presentation. This means you need a lot of containers (to display, sort, organize, and store all of your items). So I stocked up on a variety of trays, containers, and organizers to inspire, encourage, and direct student exploration.

Baskets of differing sizes, colours, and shapes provide variety to satisfy many uses.

Baskets of differing sizes, colours, and shapes provide variety to satisfy many uses.

These beautifully filigreed silver boxes reminded me of delicate treasure chests. The smaller one can nest inside the large one to decrease storage space. These would be perfect to hold numerous kinds of materials.

These beautifully filigreed silver boxes reminded me of delicate treasure chests. The smaller one can nest inside the large one to decrease storage space. These would be perfect to hold numerous kinds of materials.

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I fell in love with these wooden fruit-shaped trays. They are all separated to inspire sorting and classifying - great for math tasks.

I fell in love with these wooden fruit-shaped trays. They are all separated to inspire sorting and classifying – great for math tasks.

Displaying interesting objects

Displaying interesting objects

Sort object by colour, size, shape, texture, etc. Or use to count as you move objects from one space to the other.

Sort object by colour, size, shape, texture, etc. Or use to count as you move objects from one space to the other.

This square glass tray was too cute to pass up - I love the design and colour. Perfect for sorting and displaying.

This square glass tray was too cute to pass up – I love the design and colour. Perfect for sorting and displaying.

I got a whole box full of these blue plastic containers. They came in a multitude of sizes and shapes. They all came with lids too, which is a bonus.

I got a whole box full of these blue plastic containers. They came in a multitude of sizes and shapes. They all came with lids too, which is a bonus.

Aside from providing storage, I thought students might also use these as building blocks!

Aside from providing storage, I thought students might also use these as building blocks!

Circular trays perfect for sorting, arranging, displaying, or organizing. Could also be used for liquids or solids such as grains of rice, beans, seeds, etc.

Circular trays perfect for sorting, arranging, displaying, or organizing. Could also be used for liquids or solids such as grains of rice, beans, seeds, etc.

I really loved these 4 square trays. The wood grain looking texture is very natural. Could serve so many purposes!

I really loved these 4 square trays. The wood grain looking texture is very natural. Could serve so many purposes!

I chose this oblong silver tray because of its reflective properties - perfect for exploring light and reflections. These three lady bug stones were just too cute to pass up.

I chose this oblong silver tray because of its reflective properties – perfect for exploring light and reflections. These three lady bug stones were just too cute to pass up.

This ice cube tray was free! They are perfect for sorting or counting. Here I showed how they could be used to distinguish hues and shades of the different colours.

This ice cube tray was free! They are perfect for sorting or counting. Here I showed how they could be used to distinguish hues and shades of the different colours.

What was your best garage sale or bargain find for your classroom? 

Until next time,

-KKF

OT kit

I created an OT (Occupational Therapy) kit for an assignment in one of my Education classes. This kit is geared towards Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 1 and is focused on developing pre-printing skills, such as pencil grip and hand strength (as well as some hand-eye coordination activities). The materials within each activity are every day objects that can easily be found around the house. All of the activities are meant to be fun and challenging, so students will actually enjoy practicing these skills.

If I were to implement this kit in my classroom, I would have students choose an activity to work on for 5-10 minutes before a printing/writing class in order to warm up their hands. These activities could also be turned into centres in a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, too.

Food Olympics

Playdoh SpagPenne

This station consists of two different activities. For the first activity, students hold a piece of dry spaghetti in between their thumb and index finger and attempt to pick up a dry penne noodle off of the table. In the second activity, students stick spaghetti noodles into a lump of Play-Doh on the table and use their thumb and index fingers to pick up Froot Loops (or Cheerios, beads, etc.) and thread them onto the spaghetti.

Modifications

  • use the coloured Froot Loops to make a pattern on the spaghetti noodle (ex. pink, purple, green, pink, purple, green)

Mr./Mrs. Ball

Mr Ball

Making Mr. or Mrs. Ball is really easy – just cut a small slit into a tennis ball (the bigger the slit, the easier it is to open Mr./Mrs. Ball’s mouth, so you can have a few with differing sizes to make the activity more challenging as students progress).

Students have to use their thumb and index finger to squeeze Mr. or Mrs. Ball so their mouth will open. Then students hold the mouth open and use their other hand to ‘feed’ the ball some buttons, round chips, etc. When Mr. or Mrs. Ball is full, just hold their mouth open and shake out the buttons to start all over.

Modifications

  • count how many buttons you feed Mr. or Mrs. Ball one by one

Cotton Ball Push

Turkey Baster

Students use their turkey baster to blow the items off of the edge of the table (note: make sure you use your thumb and index finger to pinch the end of the turkey baster). This activity is a lot harder than it looks! Students may need to hold the small end of the turkey baster with their other hand to ‘aim.’ Materials of different sizes (ex. packing peanuts, cotton balls, small foam beads, etc.) can be used to increase difficulty.

Modifications

  • blow the cotton ball into a certain area of the table (marked off with tape)
  • count how many items you can blow off of the table in 1 minute

Tweezer Pick Up

Tweezers

Students use their thumb and index finger to pick up various items (pom poms, cotton balls, beads, popsicle sticks, buttons) with the tweezers.

Modifications

  • have various items all mixed together and students use their tweezers to sort them into categories (type, colour, size)
  • count the items that you can pick up in 1 minute
  • count how many of each item there are as you pick them up

Fishing

Fish

This activity uses triple the hand strength/finger grip! First, place the fish on the floor and have students stand when they use the fishing rod. Students must hold the rod in between their index finger and thumb and move the fishing rod so that the binder clip on the end touches one of the fish (this will be a test of hand-eye coordination as well). Once they touch a fish, students bend down and use their pencil-grasp fingers to open the binder clip and clip it to their fish. Finally, students use their index fingers and thumbs (on each end of the pencil) to turn the rod around and around in order to ‘reel in’ their fish (as the string gets shorter and shorter from being wrapped around the pencil).

Modifications

  • challenge students to touch the binder clip to a certain colour fish
  • see how fast you can reel in all of the fish
  • math: “We started with 6 fish and you reeled in 2. How many are left to catch?”

Firefighter

Firefighter

Students will love to be a hero and put out the fire on this burning building! Make sure to laminate the colouring page (or put it in a page protector) so that it can be used again and again. First, students colour in the flames on the picture with washable marker. Then, they dip their sponge into the small cup of water and use it to ‘put out the fire’ by washing off the marker.

This activity would go great with a Social Studies unit learning about community helpers or a Health unit on Fire Safety!

Crazy Straw Maze

Crazy Straw

This is another activity that can be surprisingly tough (especially with very bendy straws). Simply cut out some shapes from felt or foam and add holes in the middle. Students thread the shapes onto the straw and attempt to get them off of the other side of the straw by maneuvering the straw and shapes with their index fingers and thumbs. Note: Do not use crazy straws that make a complete loop (shown below), as the foam shapes will not be able to pass through this obstacle.

Modifications

  • name the shapes as you get them through the maze
  • put shapes through the maze in a pattern (square, then circle, square, then circle)
  • see how many you can get through the maze in 1 minute

CrazyStraws

DO NOT USE CRAZY STRAWS LIKE THIS —->

Hang the Laundry

LaundryStudents simply hang up baby or doll clothes onto a bungee cord or string. Ensure that students are using their thumb and index finger to pinch the clothespins open.

Modifications

  • hang up the laundry in a pattern (yellow, green, pink OR sock, sock, mitten)
  • math: how many people can you dress with the clothes that are on the line?

Hockey

HockeyA Canadian classic! Popsicle sticks as hockey sticks (use your index finger and thumb!), pom pom as a puck, and masking tape to make lines/goals.

Modifications

  • play in teams (you must pass to each partner before attempting to score a goal)
  • shoot to the goal on the other side of the table from behind the opposite side

Penny Flipping

PenniesLay all the pennies out in a line on the table (this works best if all of the pennies are the same way – all with heads showing, for example). Have the students flip the pennies over, one by one, using their index finger and thumb.

Modifications

  • use coins of different denominations and have students count the total as they flip (ex. for dime dime dime they would say 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents)
  • have students start at opposite ends of the line and see how fast they can flip all of the pennies over as a team

Tug of War

Rubber Bands2 students form an ‘O’ shape with their index finger and thumb (like the gesture for A-OK!) and hold the rubber band within the ‘O’ they made with their fingers. Students rest their elbows on the table, wrists bent, and slowly move their arms (from the elbow) apart. Try to make the other person’s ‘O’ break. Note: try to have thick rubber bands or bands covered in fabric so that they won’t snap and hurt the students. Emphasize that students use caution – we aren’t trying to hurt each other, just make our fingers stronger!

Beading

BeadsHand-eye coordination, hand strength, and fine motor skills are rolled into one. Students can take home whatever they make in this station, which is a bonus!

Modifications

  • use your beads to make a pattern
  • practice tying knots in your string
  • count the beads as you thread them

Mazes

MazesLaminating or putting mazes in a page protector means they can be reused many times.

Pom Pom Sort

Pom Pom SortStudents use their thumb and index fingers to pick up the pom poms and put them in the corresponding colour-coded tube. This is also a great way for students to learn their colours.

Modifications

  • primary-secondary colours: have pom poms in the primary colours and tubes in secondary colours. Students have to put the two primary colours into the corresponding secondary colour tube (ex. red and blue pom poms go into purple tube)
  • math: I had five blue pom poms at the start and I have one left in my hand. How many pom poms are hiding in the tube?
  • quick pick up: how fast can I sort all of the pom poms?

Ring Toss

Ring TossDecorate your paper plate rings any way you want. You can make a base for the paper towel tube post or have one student hold the post while the other partner throws the rings.

If students make their own paper plate rings, cutting the holes in the plates is a great hand-eye coordination and hand strengthening exercise.

Hope you enjoyed my OT kit!

What OT activities do you incorporate into your classroom?

Until next time,

-KKF

back to school busy-ness

Hi everyone! I am officially back to school, and I have to say, though it took a while to sink in, I am very excited to see what my second year has in store!

Back to School

It looks like my prediction about being less busy may have been a bit of a flop… Aside from my 5 classes and being an RA (Resident Assistant) AND (possibly! – I haven’t heard back from the office in a while…) an In-School Mentor for Big Brothers of Regina, I also have three classes with integrated “practicums” or field experience:

ELNG 200 (Linguistic Diversity and Teaching English Language Arts): I will be going into an elementary or high school for an hour/week for 8 weeks and working with an ESL/EAL/ELL (there are SO many abbreviations for the same thing! haha) student.

ECE 200 (Teaching and Learning in Pre-K to 5): I will be observing a 3+ year old child for one hour per week, for 8 weeks. This experience will help to develop my knowledge about ECE students’ behaviour, learning and growth.

KIN 120 (Rec-Persons with Disabilities): I will have 6 one hour sessions to do physical activity and games with a Regina elementary/high school student who has a disability.

So, as you can see, I am going to be a very busy girl! And while this may be a lot to juggle, I am always up for the challenge! I am going to learn SO much this semester and I say, bring it on! 🙂

-KKF