Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Experimenting with Still Life Painting

We love painting. We have painting almost every week, usually at the easel. But we paint in other places, too.

We've experimented with still life painting in the past. This time we had a pumpkin, some gourds, and Indian corn for a fall arrangement.

Offering some items to view can inspire painting in many different ways.

Some of us used the nature items as color inspiration.

Some of us painted representations of what we saw.

Some of us enjoyed the arrangement while we painted our own ideas.

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blogs and Awards

Nominations for the Edublog Awards are all over the blogosphere. I've enjoyed reading about all the blogs that have been nominated - and I love so many of the blogs mentioned. (And some of my very gracious friends included me in their nominations. I am so humbled and honored to be mentioned.)

I've been pondering which blogs I may nominate, realizing that I cannot nominate some of my favorites since they nominated me. And, as so many others have mentioned, how do you choose from among so many great bloggers? So, I decided to take the coward's way out - and just create my own "awards" so I can mention whomever I want. So I give you my own "Bricky" awards.

Insomnia Award - Teach Preschool
I don't know how Deborah gets everything done that she does; I think she never sleeps. She teaches preschoolers, blogs regularly on her blog and contributes to other blogs, tweets and posts on her great Facebook page, makes TV appearances, and encourages so many other bloggers. She's amazing and an inspiration. (And the queen of all social media!)

Risky Award - Teacher Tom
From the first post I read, I felt a kindred spirit with Tom. Through his posts, Tom has encouraged me to take more risks - allowing kids to do more and try more, trying new things and seeing things in new ways, pushing my own ideas into edgier directions. He always inspires me to think and reconsider positions, risking established "truths" in my mind to build greater understandings. (And I'm sure we wouldn't have had kids using glue guns without Tom.)

Cheerleader Award - Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based Learning
Sherry and Donna have inspired me with their wonderful blog. And they are tireless at connecting with other blogs and encouraging fellow bloggers. More people are aware of my blog because of them...and I'm a better blogger because of their encouragement.

Fresh Air Award - Let the Children Play and I'm a Teacher, Get My Outside Here
Both Jenny and Juliet make me long for outdoor spaces filled with kids. I always get great insights from both of them about how the natural world leads to great learning.

Deep Thoughts Award - Not Just Cute and Aunt Annie's Childcare
Both Amanda and Annie have inspired me to think and read posts and reread them. I love Amanda's post Intention Deficit Disorder reminds me to think about the why behind an activity and to be purposeful. And Annie's post Stop Saving Me, You're Holding Me Back reminds me to rethink how I interact with kids and their work. I return to these posts (and many others of these bloggers) often.

Reuse/Repurpose Award - Kreative Resources
Leeanne is a champion garage saler and recycler, creating resources for next to nothing. This blog helps me focus my D.S.D.D. into more productive ways.

Guys Award - Males in Early Childhood and Look at My Happy Rainbow
I enjoy reading about Greg's and Matt's adventures in teaching young children. And I'm always glad to connect with other male teachers.

Visuals Award - Preschool Daze and Frugal Family Fun
I would visit each of these blogs just for the pictures...but the words are pretty great, too.

Go-To Award - Pre-K Pages
Vanessa's blog is one of my go-to's for activities and information. Her site is a great place to visit and spend some browsing time.

Most Enthusiastic Award - Rainbows within Reach
Debbie is the most enthusiastic person I've ever met read. Her own blog is a lot of fun and she's the driving force behind the new collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing.

Fun Award - Child Central Station and Little Illuminations and Getting Messy with Miss Jessi
Amy, Ayn, and Jessi show classrooms full of fun, energy, and learning. I love to see what they were up to. And I do "borrow" a few ideas for my own classroom.

Outsider Award - Education Rethink and Brainzooming
By "outsider" I mean a blog that doesn't specifically connect to preschoolers or young children. John at Education Rethink is a teacher, but he teaches middle schoolers. He blogs about education reform and other related topics. He challenges me to think and often makes me smile. Brainzooming is a business innovation blog. I enjoy reading about innovation and creativity - and try to apply those thoughts to what I do with kids and in my everyday life.

Well, that's a lot of awards...and I still left some of you out. Thank you, blog friends, for all you do to help kids and teachers. This post is long but could never fully contain all the appreciation I have for your daily inspiration. If you type your thoughts about kids or teaching and launch them into the blogosphere, I thank you. Together we create a wonderful learning community.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unusual Things in the Blocks Center

This week I'll be posting links from the blog archive about blocks and the blocks center.

My kids love to play in the blocks center. We've had some unusual items to use in the center. In a previous post, I talked about having fabric with the blocks. Here are some of my other favorite unusual things we've had in the center.

Straws and Small Buckets - Kids played with the straws and buckets independently and added the straws to a building.

Index Cards - Simple index cards can add some different dimensions to building.

Chenille Stems and a Colander - The kids incorporated the materials in their structure and created things with the chenille stems alone.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope this day you are able to be with friends or family, with whomever you love.

I hope you get to spend time pondering and thanking God for what you have. I am so fortunate and have so many blessings.

Last year I wrote about things I thank God for. I'm repeating that post here.

I am thankful for flowers and all of the beautiful natural world.

I am thankful for a place to live.

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful for food.

I am thankful for a car to drive.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am thankful I have money to have what I need.

I am thankful for my wife.
(These are her hands; she won't let me post her picture.)

I am thankful for hands...and a fairly healthy body.

I am thankful for doctors...and others who help us in our community.

I am thankful for my blog friends.

I am thankful I can teach boys and girls.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Math in the Blocks Center

This week I'll be posting links from the blog archive about blocks and the blocks center.

We can use the blocks center as a place to practice and develop math and counting skills. Here are a couple of activities that we did that reinforced math concepts.

How Many Blocks Long? - Kids used the blocks as unstandard measures to see how long/tall they were.

Counters - My stash of lids found their way in the classroom again this past week. I placed them in a center to be counters - along with some cube blocks, counting chips, and "jewels" from an old board game. (Of course, the kids created a structure instead.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Favorite Accessories in the Blocks Center

This week I'll be posting links from the blog archive about blocks and the blocks center.

My kids love to build and love to use all kinds of things in the center. Here are posts that have our favorites in the blocks center.

Tape and Cars - We love to make roads with tape - and drive the cars long the roads.

Furniture and Family Figures - We like to play out family. Both boys and girls enjoy this in the blocks center. And sometimes we even have a tornado.

Animals - We sort animals. We build zoos

Clipboards and Tools - The kids trace blocks, draw buildings, and use tools.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fabric with the Blocks

I put some pieces of fabric in the blocks center. I thought the kids may create tents or similar structures.

The kids were busy elsewhere so it took a while for them to discover the items.

"You could use the fabric as you build," I told them. They began to experiment.

Another boy saw what was happening. "What are they doing?" he asked. He went to investigate and to play as well.

They wrapped blocks in fabric pieces. They built on top of the fabric. They created towers alternating blocks and fabric.

I overheard one say, "I need more fabric" as they played. I was reminded how easy it is to influence words and play.

(Note: For the rest of this holiday week, I'll be posting links from the blog archive about blocks and the blocks center.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inspiration from the Blogosphere This Week

This week there were several posts that used repurposing and recycling ideas - two of my favorite things.

Frugal Fun for Boys: Make Your Own Cardboard Tube Marble Run - "We have been saving paper towel rolls and other items for quite a while now so that we could make our own marble run!" A great way to use a variety of materials to create a marble run.

Centers and Circle Time: Using Cereal Boxes in Preschool - "A few days ago I noticed I had a some left over cereal boxes. I thought I'd share with you some ideas to incorporate cereal boxes in your class." Puzzles, bookmarks, books and journals - you can do all kinds of things with cereal boxes.

The Imagination Tree: Play with Junk! - "Rummage through the recycling box and pull out some boxes, tubes, milk jugs and whatever else takes your fancy!" Let the kids' imaginations run wild with ideas for using recyclables and making stuff.

I love to repurpose, recycle, and reuse materials for fun, learning, and play. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PreK and K Sharing Blog

PreK + K Sharing

Have you heard about the new collaborative blog PreK and K Sharing? It's a collection of teachers, parents, and others who blog about "child-centered, child-directed, genuine play-based adventures." The goal is to have 30 different contributors, all blogging about young kids from different perspectives.


Today is my first post on the blog. I'm blogging about play and repurposing stuff - two of my favorite topics. Check out the first posts of other contributors, too. We're going to have a great time talking about teaching, playing, singing, moving, and so forth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I walked over to the writing center this week. I found someone working hard to practice the letter R.

My favorite part - the lines she drew for her own manuscript paper. I love these surprises.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When an Activity Takes a Turn

On the table were materials to make collages. B approached the table and began to glue shapes.

"Hey," he said, "this is a dolphin." 

He dug into the shapes. "Here is a hand. And another hand. Here is a gold airplane. This one is silver."

Then it happened. This art activity turned into a math/puzzle activity. B sorted the shapes into piles. He compared sizes and colors of shapes. 

"Look at this," he would call repeatedly. "Here's another one."

I've often commented on letting kids choose how to do an activity, encouraging them to follow their own ideas as they work. Over time I've seen a puzzle activity become a building activity and a dramatic play activity become writing. But this is the first time I've seen an art activity take such a turn. 

B went on to create a collage with some of the shapes he found. But even if he had not returned to "my plan" the activity would have been successful. He practiced sorting and categorizing. I learned more about him and his interests.

Flexibility and open-ended play are important components to teaching. Insisting on my own ideas does not further learning--theirs or mine. I love to see play in action, even when it surprises me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's In That Bowl?

A bowl of shredded paper sitting on the table. "What is this?" he asked.

"Names of you and your friends are hidden in the paper," I said.

He searched and searched, finding name after name, but not his own name.

"Your name is in there," I reassured him.

 Finally, the last name was his. A huge grin spread across his face as he held it up.

Another boy had a different method for finding names.

At this point, my kids recognize their names and most of the other kids' names. We play games with names and think about what names begin with.

Using names immediately connects kids to an activity. Names are powerful.

Friday, November 11, 2011

More Math Play

Yesterday I posted about the math mats we used. Kids can discover all kinds of math concepts through play. Here are a few recent posts about math play.

Sorting Pumpkin Seeds (Teach Preschool) - Deborah's kids explored pumpkin seeds in a variety of ways. They sorted colored seeds - I like the idea of coloring the seeds.

Measuring Play Dough Inchworms (Teach Preschool) - Deborah made some homemade rulers for her kids to use. The homemade rulers are new to me but I like how flat they are so the inchworms lay easily on top of them.

Sorting Fun (Nurture Store) - Kids can sort all kinds of things I like the collection of objects that Christie used for sorting. The shadow box sorting box is a cool idea, too.

Making Maths Sticks (I'm a Teacher, Get me Outside Here) - Juliet is creating quite a collection of measuring sticks. I think I need to go searching among the trees near my house now.

Here are a couple of favorite math posts from Brick by Brick--

Our Math Routine - Exploring math in different ways - sorting, grouping, measuring, counting, writing numbers.

How Many Blocks Long? - Using nontraditional measurement to discover our friends' height/length.

Rocks and a Scale - Weighing and recording our observations

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Add in a Little Math

When planning last week, we were trying to think of a game/puzzle to add to one of the tables. Since we were talking about David the shepherd boy, we wanted to use our small farm animal figures somewhere. I remembered the math mats from the SEEDS Network...and decided to add a little math to our day.

Of course, I told the kids they could choose what to do. Some just played with the animals. Some sorted them. Some counted them out.

The other day I read about someone visiting in the classroom to see math in action. "I'm sorry," the teacher told her, "but we did math yesterday."

"That's okay," the visitor said. "I can see them do math today as they play." (I'm sorry but I don't remember where I read it. I'll add a link if I can find it again.)

That's why I love using play in the classroom. Math, reading, writing, science are all mixed as kids experiment and explore. I can play something to emphasize a particular skill or concept. But I must allow kids to develop their own understandings in their own ways.

Kids are learning all different subjects at once, mixing and mingling concepts as they grow in understanding. After all, isn't that the way life is? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"I Have That Book"

This week we were talking about a Bible story of David. I printed David and posted it on the easel.

One girl came to the easel and began to paint. "I have that book," she said.

I was a little confused. She had been painting in silence. We had not been talking about anything so I wasn't sure what book she was talking about. I glanced at the easel and saw the name at the top.

"You have a David book?" I asked. She nodded. "The book where he gets in trouble?" She nodded again.

"I have a David book, too," I said.

"I have all the David books," she said. She continued to paint throughout our conversation.

(I did tell her that the David we were talking about was not the one in her books but a different David.)

I didn't think anything about our exchange at the time. But, later, as the incident came to mind again, I marveled at how significant it was. This girl has looked at a group of letters that formed a name. She recognized that the name was the same as one in some books she had. That's an important milestone in reading and literacy. Recognizing letters and words in different contexts shows that her reading ability is growing.

So often I miss these significant events. I'm glad I was able to recognize this one, at least after the fact. I will definitely need to look for ways to build on my kids' emerging literacy.

(Haven't seen the David series? Check out No, David and others by David Shannon.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Building Letters

Two kids stand in the blocks center, looking at what is on the floor. Cube blocks, our lids, some checkers from an old game, and letters made from tape.

"You can build the letters, putting these things on the tape letters," I said. "Or you can use the materials in another way."

They began to cover the letter shapes, each working on their own letter with their choice of materials.

We've outlined letters before, but this was the first time for this group. They worked on it for quite a while.

After their work, they left to pursue other things, leaving some of the letters covered. A few minutes later another boy came to inspect the materials.

"You can cover the other letters," I said. "Or you can build something else." He began work.

This particular boy likes to work alone. The cube block formed the base of his building but the checkers came in handy, too.

After a while, he knocked down his building. Now it was time to sort the materials, putting them back into their various containers.

Through this activity, kids explored literacy concepts, math concepts, spatial concepts. And, since the word spelled the name of a person in our Bible story - we explored those concepts, too.

Play is so important for kids' development and learning. A classroom should allow kids to experiment, using materials in their own ways.