Monday, February 24, 2014


Hello, all!

TeachersPayTeachers is having a big sale Feb. 27-28.  As a bonus, lots of teachers (including me) are opting to let you get an additional 20% off of products. Don't be shy; if you don't see something you want or if you want a bundle, just ask.

Click the giant picture below:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We Got the Blues (and we love it!)

Hello, all!

Well, it's Thursday. 1 more day until Friday. To help you get through, let me introduce you to one of my favorite pieces of music: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. Don't be put off by the length; leave it on in the background as you read and browse.

Listen to that soaring clarinet in the beginning. Doesn't it just lift your spirit? Make you feel just a little bit more relaxed and happy? As the music gets faster, doesn't it also increase your mood? 

Tonight's Presentation

This week, I introduced the class to jazz in honor Black History Month. I don't do a lot for this month; instead I spread multicultural influences through the topics throughout the year. But in February, when the weather's dreary, it's time for a boost.

By the way, if you want to see a complete set of ideas for jazz or just music in general, you can go here

A Short Musical History Lesson 

You may think you don't like jazz; in fact, it influenced modern music. Let's take an example: Justin Beiber. I hate his music, but he says he was influenced by Stevie Wonder. His influences? Ray Charles. His? Blues, gospel, and jazz, including Nat King Cole. Wonder was born in 1930, so he would have been 9 when Benny Goodman was popular and 12 when Rhapsody in Blue was commissioned for a third time. 
Then you have Jerry Lee Lewis, who listened to gospel growing up.
What were you listening to when you were 9? 
Do your own experiment: how far back can you trace your favorite modern artist? 

On With the Show!

So how did the children do with jazz? They loved it! I pulled out the laptop during circle. After I had them guess what instrument was on a flash card, I pulled up videos of Neal Peart, Benny Goodman, Santana, and Thelonious Monk. I pointed out different instruments as they used them and challenged them to listen for them.
After they were done, we did music BINGO. 
*One little boy warmed my heart. He's hardly ever here, but when he is, he tries so hard and picks up on things quickly. He's currently in speech therapy. He was one of the first to pick up on instrument names and did extremely well at BINGO!*

Earlier this week, we did art to music. A blue collage to Rhapsody in Blue with fabric, paper, yarn, pencils, and crayons. Here are some pictures:

I usually don't like ditto sheets, but I found this great puzzle mural at the dollar store and decided it would be great for cooperation and teamwork:

I love the distinct style each child brings!

Tomorrow, we're looking at our favorite songs on sheet music. We'll be focusing on the rhythm and finding the rhythm in our names. The students will be learning syllabication, directionality, one-to-one correspondence, counting, and even some division! That's a lot of skills for "Old MacDonald."  I put the links on my Pinterest page under "Literacy."
After that, the kids will get music notes (quarter and eighth) and they can create their own rhythm. 


To top it off, the kids reached their class reward (with a little extra encouragement and rewards from me) so they got to bring in a favorite CD this week. We've had Willy Wonka, Bob Marley, Jesus Loves Me, and traditional kids' songs. 
One kid didn't bring in a CD, but he wanted me to play "Cum On Feel the Noize" by Quiet Riot. I played him KISS' "Rock and Roll All Night" instead.
Next week, if the kids are still interested, we might extend music a little. I have the feeling that even if we move on, we'll still talk about it against the backdrop of the topic. 


How do you celebrate music in the classroom?

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Red Letter Day

Hello all,

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays to share with the kids. Recently I looked through my sensory table resources and saw an idea for a monochromatic sensory bin. Nothing groundbreaking, to be sure, but I spiced it up a little bit and thought I'd share.

Sensory tables are great for exploration, but my class is very task-oriented. Some children simply will not stay in a center if my assistants and I don't guide them a little and say, "Why don't you try...?"  So when I saw this idea, I added lots and lots of different red materials from around the classroom: shredded crinkle paper, fabric of different textures, tissue paper, construction paper, shiny crinkle stuff. This is what it looks like:

 I knew this wouldn't be enough for my kids, so I added letters, shapes, and any red object I could find. Then I made this:

I'm quite proud of it. It's laminated so as they find the items, they can cross them off with a dry erase marker. Math, literacy, persistence, and sensory all rolled into one! Here's one boy testing the concept:

He was so engrossed, he didn't want to transition to the other classroom.


What do you do for Valentine's Day?

Until next time,

Amy Latta

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mythical Magic

I love having a flexible curriculum! If you're ever stuck for ideas, just ask your class what they want to learn about.
Mine said "monsters."
We had just finished up our Ocean topic, so my first thought was "Sea monsters." Then I started brainstorming. Obviously, we couldn't talk about zombies or real monsters, but we could talk about mythical animals. We had a lot of fun, even with some snow days. You can view my lesson packet here soon for the full set of ideas.

It really is amazing what can happen with a great book. Here are some books we read and the ideas they inspired:

Cock-a-Doodle Moo: a Mixed-Up Menagerie 

This book introduces the children to some classic mythical beasts: gryphon, hippocampus, and a few other mixtures of animals. It then went on to combine animals in new ways.  The children loved the pictures and silly names.
The next day during circle time, I reviewed the book and talked about how they came up with names. Then, they got to make their own. I gave them heads and bodies from magazines and they creations they came up with hilarious! Some of them even came up with great names for them. I think my favorite was "Cat Monkey Bomb." Sorry, I didn't get any pictures of them.

Where the Giants Hide

Some of the children got philosophical yesterday. We had been reading this book, which talks about reality and imagination . I wish the other children had not been so antsy; we were done with the book and they wanted to go outside. Two of the children got into an argument about what is real and what isn't. I asked, "How do you know?" One of them said, "You can't see it!" I said, "You've never seen my house. I could live in a box." "NOOoo!" they chorused. The other child said, "Well dragons are real to me!"  I guess that settles that.

The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot

This is a funny take on a classic tale. We carried that discussion over into the next day, when we talked about unsolved mysteries. I got some great gasps that day. Inspired by a giant Kraken I saw on Pinterest, we made our own giant sea monster.

Giant sea monster! It ended up being about 10 feet long. Some children drew a monster instead, so we gave it friends. The head is on the right and the tail is on the left.

Outside Over There

Banned book bonus! It also inspired the classic 80s movie Labyrinth. My kids liked it well enough that they remembered what would happen the second time we read it. They liked pointing out small details in the pictures.  

We also created some great art:

Making themselves into monsters

Chinese Dragon after reading "The Seven Chinese Sisters"

Have you ever had a book inspire you and your students? Please share in the comments section.

Until next time!

--Amy Latta

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pursuing Wonder

The name of this blog is now "Pursuing Wonder." I think it gives a better sense of what my classroom and this blog is all about. Make sure to update your feeds!

Legos for Girls

Hello, all!

We had a few days out because of snow last week, so next week, I'll post some great activities we've been doing involving mythical creatures.

Today I wanted to share this article from Kotaku I came across:
"LEGO Gets Told Off by a 7-Year-Old Girl"

How are the Legos set up in your classroom?  Our Block center happens to be far away from Dramatic Play, but I'll probably change that next year and put them together.  I do, however, keep a small box of blocks in our Dramatic Play section and the girls like playing with them just as much as the boys. They're not pink and purple, but bright primary colors that all children like.  We also have a box of giant legos we pull out and dump on the floor at least once a week. 

There's lots of research that says that girls in general are behind in science and math careers. Building with blocks helps build spatial skills, fine motor skills, and social skills like teamwork.

Do the girls in your class play with blocks? How can you encourage them?

Until next time,

Amy Latta