Monday, February 23, 2015

Tot School: Letter C and Patterns

Happy Monday, Mamas!

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of teaching our tot school coop for the first time. It was exhausting and, at times, frustrating, but it was also so fun. I love those sweet, curious little minds. It was definitely a learning experience for me as well as I figure out what works and doesn't work in a "classroom" setting. We talked about the letter C and patterns and here's our basic outline (and resource links).
Singing Time
  • Old McDonald - I brought in different little plastic farm animals (cow, sheep, horse, cat, pig). The kids each got to hold one and when we got to their animal they would hold it up in the air and make the noise. They all love the song, but adding the animals made it extra fun and helped involve even the ones who weren't interested in participating.
  • Who Stole the Cookies - We used the felt picture I had of a cookie and we sang the song and passed it from one child to another. They didn't know the words, but they all wanted a turn to have the cookie.
    • Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
      Who, me? Yes, you!
      Couldn't be! Then who?
      {Child's name} stole the cookies from the cookie jar.
      Who, me? Yes, you!
      Couldn't be! Then who? {pass the cookie}
Story Time
  • Clara Caterpillar - This whole book uses words that start with the letter C. It's a cute story and Emma really likes it, but it didn't work in this setting. It was too long and they lost interested. So we read the beginning and the last couple pages. Hopefully they still heard all the "C" sounds!
  • Caps for Sale - This was a fun one for patterns! I used it in conjunction with the felt board and they could practice putting the caps on the peddler and the monkey's heads. We actually made two attempts at reading this one. The first during story time did not go well, so we put it away and came back during snack time and then they all really enjoyed it. It has fun motions for the kids to do (shake finger, shake fists, stomp feet). They all thought it was hilarious. Story Time with Miss Tara has the cutest felt pieces to go with this one. I did not have the time or skill so I just printed out coloring pages onto card stock and glued felt to the back.

Flannel Board
These are gold. I made one following this tutorial. All you need is a cheap-y canvas, some felt/flannel, and a staple gun. I found the canvas and flannel at Michaels, the former on sale and the latter with a 40% coupon. Just stretch it around and staple it on!
Words that Start with C - You can download my images here. The set includes cow, candle, carrot, caterpillar, car, cloud, cat, cookie, crayon, and cup. I printed them on cardstock and glued them to felt.
Basic shapes patterns - I cut out squares, hearts, triangles, and circles, with two colors for each shape. I gave each kid a shape and had them take turns bringing them up to alternate colors and make a pattern.
  • Color the letter C - Coloring is always a win. They all did so great with this. Download the printable from Mr. Printables.
  • C is for cloud cotton balls - This was a surprising hit! All I did was cut cheap paper plates in a letter C and they used Elmer's Glue to stick cotton balls to it. At first they would hold out the cotton balls and we would dab glue on it, but eventually we switched to putting glue spots on the plate and they just added the cotton balls. Either way, they really ran with it which was so fun.
  • Popsicle stick patterns - I found these foam sticks from Michaels and opted for them instead of popsicle ones because there were more in the package for a cheaper price, and they are soft, to boot! I printed cards from Learny McLearnerton (can we talk about how I love that name, too?) I only used the first page. The kids didn't use them at all, but they loved playing with the sticks. So we just let them do that and hopefully they got an idea about color and patterns?
  • Sticker sheet patterns - These pattern cards have spaces for the kids to match stickers underneath. All you need is some cardstock and those round, colored label stickers.
  • Cardboard bead threading - This idea comes from The Imagination Tree. It took a decent amount of prep work, collecting empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes and painting them. (Tip: I cut them first and then painted them. Dumb. I should have painted each tube and then cut). I spread them on the table and gave each child two pipe cleaners twisted together, with one tube tied to the end as a stopper. 

What I learned:
  • Use snack time to your advantage. It's the only time they are sitting down and being quiet! And they pay attention so well. It's great to bring the flannel board back out and re-visit an earlier lesson or read a story to a captive audience.
  • Have several different activities to try. It amazed me how some kids absolutely LOVED one activity and had no interest in another. Em and M totally loved gluing cotton balls, J hated it because it got on his hands. Lu and Linc were so into threading the beads, and L and J were coloring fiends (while M didn't pick up a crayon!).  Having multiple activities means that there will be something for everyone.
  • Take a few minutes (no more than five) to sit down and explain each activity to the kids, let them try, and then move on to the next one. After you've done them all, put them all out and let the kids go back to the one that interests them and interact with it in their own way. Some kids really gravitated back to the flannel board, while others kept coloring, gluing, or threading. They were all spread out, but they were all doing something.
  • Patterns are probably too advanced a concept for our barely 2-year-olds. It was a great review of colors and maybe a good introduction to patterns, but definitely above their heads. I just keep telling myself it's all about exposure and repetition over time, right?
After one month of tot school, I can truly say that we are loving it. We have gotten to the point where most of the mamas drop their kiddo and go, to run errands, tend to another little one, do homework, workout, etc. It's a great sanity break for us, and the kids are having a blast. The first few weeks there were a few tears, but now they are all excited to come and see each other and they are familiar with the general format (20 min. free play, clean up, 30 minute lesson, snack, 20 minute activity, end with more free play) and they are transitioning well from one thing to another. I love having the rotating teachers and seeing the different methods they try. I'm already excited for my next teaching turn in March! Let me know if you have any suggestions for the Letter I or Counting/Numbers.

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