Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Look! A Classroom Post! An exploration of plants

Hello, all!

Is this a hard time of year for you? I know I usually start feeling a little overwhelmed. Transition meetings, increased energy from the kids, and just a general feeling of denouement from the rest of the year (thanks, English concentration!) It's hard to stay motivated. So we talked about plants!

I have a black thumb; the daisy in one of the pictures is outside, but I don't think it's doing any better there. That doesn't stop me from enjoying nature and helping children enjoy the beauty around them.

I'd like to say we did lots of fancy stuff like food coloring carnations, but we didn't. And that's ok. Sometimes the best thing you can do if you're feeling unmotivated is to do something simple and manageable. 

First, we talked about Plants.  I got some opinions from the class about what plants are. How do we know they're plants? I got some great responses: "they have leaves," "they grow in the ground." 

One of the best days on this topic came from the circle a few days later. All week, I'd been building up that we were going to eat plants, with the predictable funny reactions of "Eww! No!" They were left to wonder for a few days while we worked on Handwriting without Tears and IY Dina. On Friday, finally they got to see what I was talking about. I pulled out our list and reviewed it. Then I pulled out some nectarines and showed them the stems along with pictures of nectarine trees. I showed them some grapes. The kids gave some examples about where fruits and vegetables come from and it turned into a very long circle time. On reflection, I think I let it go a little too long because by the end, the kids were restless and excited and we had to channel that energy during centers. Or maybe it was just a warm spring day.

I love doing taste tests because the kids are more apt to try food that's part of an activity than they are if it's served to them. Plus, you never know what the kids get at home. During lunch, we had several kids trying "tangerines" (they had trouble saying "nectarines") and grapes and loving them.  No pictures because it was lunchtime and we were all busy preparing for naptime. 

As part of the week, I found some discounted flowers at the local big box store. (This is why preparation is important; I ended up running to the store that morning and had to throw out some of my flowers because they were poisonous! Oops.)   Before small groups one day, I asked them questions helping them to observe the flowers. Then they all went to small groups and drew what they saw. We really have some "budding" artists in our class!

This one has "rain falling on the flowers to make them grow."

 I put one of the flowers in Science center with a clipboard and the other in Art. Here's a boy who spent the entire time drawing the flower in Science:

We "rescued" it after the weekend because it wasn't doing very well in its small pot inside. I'm still hoping it will get better.

Another fun observation we did was "picked" vs. "live" flowers. What are your thoughts about flowers outside? I want to encourage the children to explore the flowers on our bushes on the playground, but if they pick them all, there won't be any left.  I picked one of the blooms and asked them what they thought would happen. We got some good answers, like "it will die." "It won't look good." At the end of the week, we looked at them both again and the students saw the difference. 

Last week, we talked a little about what plants need and how they use roots to get them. I also added in some birds because some of the students were interested in them. We talked about birds living in tress and what would happen if all the trees were cut down. I also got to read one of my favorite books, "13 Words" by Lemony Snicket. If you don't use big words in your classroom, start. It's amazing how quickly children can pick up context clues and meanings. They love being detectives. "Look at his face: what do you think 'despondent' means?"

This week, we extended the roots idea because I wanted to show them the food coloring/daisy experiment. We wrote down our predictions and on Friday, we'll talk through them and record our observations through drawing. 

Do you have plants at your center? How do you incorporate them into your lessons?

Hey, look! A shiny new Links page at the top! Let me know if you have any great sites you want to add.

Stay positive!

--Amy Latta, KidatHeart

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Call to Action


A post about my latest classroom activities is coming, I promise. This past week I've had meetings with my boss, parents, and a staff meeting. Plus I've been calling UNC and bothering them about how I can afford school. I decided that it's not really feasible this time around and will try again in 2(!) years, when the program's offered again.

And now for something completely different.

Last year, I took this fantastic workshop called "Lifting Voices," about how we as teachers have the power and the responsibility to enact change. I'm part of their email list and received this email today. Even if you don't live in NC, check your state to see if they're meeting as well. Get involved and make sure your voice is heard!

Take Action. Now.
NC General Assembly Returns for Short Session on May 14, 2014
The NC General Assembly returns to Raleigh on Wednesday, May 14th to start the 2014 legislative session, called the "Short Session."  And Governor McCrory is likely to announce his budget this week as well. There’s a lot at stake for early childhood education and now it’s time to lift your voice for young children and families.

The NC Child Care Coalition will be working hard to preserve the early education system and ensure that its three signature programs—Smart Start, NC PreK, and Child Care Subsidies—remain intact and fully funded. Sign up for the Coalition’s Action Center at to receive critical updates and action alerts, and send a message directly to your own state legislator.  Invite your colleagues and others to subscribe - its open to the public and a free service. 

During the session, please contact your legislators to let them know how important early education is to you and your community.  Write letters to the editors of your local media and showcase a local program or a child or family that benefits from early education.  Save the date for Child and Family Advocacy Day on June 10th and come to Raleigh to show your support for early childhood education. 

We’ll be counting on you - our partners, members, and early childhood education advocates—to remind policymakers that the first 2000 days in a child's life have a lasting impact on later learning, health and success. Let them know that early investment produces a lifetime of results and is the key to North Carolina’s future prosperity. 

Don’t delay – take action today to support thousands of young children and families and ensure the future of early childhood education in North Carolina. Please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or stories to share about your work for early care and education.  We look forward to working together this legislative session. 

Michele Rivest
Executive Director
NC Child Care Coalition

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Have you ever lifted your voice for change? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Get great products and help me get my Master's!

Hello all!

Yes, this is a sob story. It's also a great opportunity for you to get customized products and a shameless attempt at begging :) If you want, you can skip this post and I'll have a regular classroom post up soon.

The good news is, I've been accepted into the graduate teaching program at UNC Chapel Hill. It's a Master's of Education focusing on Early Childhood, leadership, and National Board Certification.  This program includes reflection, research, immigration issues, and everything I would need to become a more effective leader and in turn, share my knowledge with you.

I've been struggling since February to get my grant application in, references submitted, entrance application, the whole thing. The only thing I've been waiting on for about a month now was Financial Aid.
Today I found out that federal aid doesn't exist for graduate students. Just a big, fat NOPE. I'm applying for as many scholarships as I can but right now the only options are to either eat into savings or get another loan (while still paying my old one off).

SO. What I'm going to do from now until the end of the month is run a series of 20% sales on my TPT store. You'll get some great products while knowing that you're helping out a fellow teacher.

As always, if there's a theme you would like to see or materials you'd like me to make, just ask! I'll be putting up some assessments geared towards preschoolers in the next week.

The first sale starts tomorrow and runs for the next 4 days (5/8-5/11). Keep an eye out for the next one.

Thank you all!