Posted in Craft Thursdays

Months of the Year Calendar Wheel

In the land of Kindergarten the role of the calendar in the school day has been changing over the last couple of years.  There is an interesting article about how traditional calendar time in a Kindergarten or Preschool classroom may be wasted time.  I have been playing with the calendar in my classroom since September and am still not happy with how we do it, right now we are using if for counting and patterning but I think I may switch things up again.  I don’t concentrate on the days of the week or months of the year with my students right now, I am trying to figure out the best way to approach the topic.

I am currently readying Carol Copple’s Growing Minds: Building Strong Cognitive Foundations in Early Childhood.  This was the latest publication I have received with my NAEYC membership.    In the article on Cognitive Development in the Preschool Years I appreciated the quote:

“Even though research shows that preschoolers’ capacities are at time underestimated, they do have limitation in their reasoning skills that affect learning.  They have a limited understanding of ideas such as time, space or age, for instance, and don’t use these abstract concepts to help themselves reason unless the ideas are made real and relevant to their current lives”.

This is an American publication so the students in my class fit into the categories of both preschool and kindergarten, the joy of a junior & senior kindergarten mixed class.  My youngest student just turned 4 and I have a student who will be 6 in a few weeks.  I can see this development in my own girls, Eileen is almost 3 1/2 and Kaitlyn will be 6 tomorrow.  Eileen is learning the months of the year song at school but to her it is just a song that she sings like any other song.  Kaitlyn knows all the months of the year, the order they go in (without singing), can relate them to the seasons, and can read most of them.  So knowing where they are I set a goal for us – I want to see if I can get Eileen to start to understand the concept of a year and the months, and I would like Kaitlyn to be able to spell the words. Out of this came our months of the year calendar.

To make this calendar you will need a large piece of bristol board or other heavyweight paper, a piece of scrap heavy weight paper in a different colour, a metal fastener, pictures of family members and events, markers and glue.  To prepare an adult needs to cut out a large circle from the bistol board and divide it into 12 slices.  I went over the lines with a black sharpie to make them stand out.

The girls and I then reviewed the months of the year song to remind Kaitlyn, and to make some connections for Eileen to the song she already knows.  I found a version on Youtube that we watched.  With their help I printed the name of each month at the top of the slices.  I did it in pencil and then Kaitlyn went over them with marker.  Next we brainstormed special days in each month.  I wanted to make this a concrete activity and tie it to things that are important to them.  For every event with I either printed out a picture on the computer or they drew their own pictures.  Kaitlyn did an awesome job with her drawings and backgrounds and Eileen even got her hands in their with her own decorations.  Both girls played an active role in deciding what would go on our calendar.  Their selection included: birthdays (all 5 of us), holidays, trips we would take this year (Great Wolf Lodge, Skiing in Vermont & Disney World) and the start and beginning of school.  The best part of this calendar is that it is personalized for our family.  We hung it on the wall in our playroom and hopefully Eileen will begin to associate the different months to the events in her life.  To finish off I cut out an arrow to indicate which month we are in right now and attached it with a metal fastener.

The other great thing about this style of calendar is that it is continuous.  It shows that after December the months start over again.

If anyone makes your own wheel I would love to hear how it turns out!

Posted in Books, Family Adventures, Milestones

The Christmas Tree

One of my main themes I have been using with my Kindergarten class this month has been Christmas Trees and so I am very tired of tree books but I found a different one that was perfect  for December 9th, the day we were suppose to get our Christmas Tree.  Grandmother’s Tree by Avril Tyrrell and illustrated by Frances Tyrrell  is told through the eyes of a Christmas Elf ornament, one of the oldest ornaments on the family tree.  The ornaments are very excited as it is the time of year that they get taken out and placed on the Christmas tree.  Some of them are older and others are new but they all have a place on the Christmas tree.

This is the perfect story to read before decorating the Christmas tree.  It provides children perspective and leads to great questions while putting up their favourite ornaments.  This didn’t quite work for us as we changed when we got our tree and it was already up when I read this story.  This didn’t stop Kaitlyn – she loves pointing out all the ornaments they each got on their first Christmas.

Instead I found a simple Christmas Tree craft the girls could both easily do in our Usborne Preschool Activity book Christmas Fun. 

The very first craft in this book is Stencil Trees.  Kaitlyn and I made these a couple of years ago so I knew Eileen would be able to do it easily.  I wanted to let them make them their own way so I did not show them the pictures in the craft book.

To prepare I made the tree stencil by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting out half a tree for each of the girls.  Then I taped it to a piece of cover stock and set the girls up with green paint.  I showed them how to make fingerprints all over their trees.

This started off pretty well but then Kaitlyn decided she liked it better if she smeared all the prints together and pretty soon they had covered the entire tree.  It wasn’t what I had planned but it was what they wanted to do so it was perfect.

We let them dry overnight and the next day it was time to decorate them.  I picked up a variety of jewels and decorations up at the dollar store and they glued them on the tree.  Kaitlyn did hers independently and Eileen just needed a bit of help putting the glue where she wanted it.  I didn’t get any stars and they both asked for stars for the tops of their trees.  This is a bit ironic as our family tree has an angel at the top.  Kaitlyn put snowflakes around the top of her tree and declared it was outside.  A very easy craft to make with young children, especially those who love paint!