Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Tried and True

By this time of year, I am prepping to return to work and have found something that I cannot wait to use.  But honestly, this year, I can't wait to go back to my tried and true, my go-tos, my faves.

1. Music
People think I am nuts, but I sing everything. EVERYTHING becomes a song. Working with 3-5 years olds all day long will do that to you.  Almost each session incorporates something from Handwriting Without Tears Get Set for School album.  Kids love it.  I love it.  The songs address so many things from socialization, left/right discrimination, body awareness, language, pre-math concepts, I could go on and on.  In fact, the students even when they leave preschool, still expect to sing the Hello Song and do Tap, Tap, Tap.

My other top music pick incorporates technology.  Inclusive Technology's apps have such catchy tunes that I'll incorporate an app for my kiddos that need to work on cause and effect, assistive technology access learning, turn taking or counting.  The activities are great one on one or in groups.  I often will connect my iDevice to the Smartboard in the classrooms after our music and movement activity and before we move to the fine motor fun.  They just released two multi-songs apps that I might just splurge on, because I know I'll use them.

2. Scissors
I love cutting.  Put a tool in a child's hands and you can see their eyes and bodies hone in on the activity.  Snipping the paper strips or theraputty is, well, therapeutic.  Snipping through the resistance of the putty builds strength of the intrinsic hand muscles, while forcing bilateral hand skill development.  Adaptive scissors help to make it accessible to most, if not, all students, with the just-right assistance level.  And I started downloading or making play mats from Teachers Pay Teachers to support early math skills like one to one correspondence, number recognition and counting.
Scissor Assessment Kits from Achievement Products
Scissor Assessment Kit from Achievement has a great variety of left and right adaptive scissors for just about any need or ability.

3. The Peanut Ball
I think I need to order about 5 more this year.  The peanut ball is such a great tool for core strengthening, balance, attention, and upper body strengthening, that its versatility equals its weight in gold.  Sit on it. Straddle it. Lay on your belly. Lay on your back. Throw it. Kick it. Carry it. Roll it. Do any of those while participating in an activity and the session gets even more bang for the buck.

4.  Theraputty
I  have been having so much fun adapting and creating activities using Fun and Function's variety of putties.  I heart the Animal Rescue Discovery Putty.  But over the year, the kiddos have lost most of my animals.  So I purchased the Emotions Putty which are totally cool.  It comes in Calm which is labeled as Soft. When cool, it is blue. When warmed up, it turns purple, like the old school mood rings.  It also comes in Energize which is labeled Firm.  It's this metallic glob of fun that reminds me of Terminator 2 when Robert Patrick oozes and molds into forms.  It is so mesmerizing that kids and adults alike will choose it.  The Putty Elements packs are a great addition. Because they are named Earth (green/ medium), Desert (red/ extra soft). Sun (yellow/soft ) and Sky (blue/extra firm) that along with science, it can support persistence and strength.  Note, it felt like their resistance did not match their labels; but that was ok.  For the ages with whom I work, I am less concerned with the resistance level than I am with engagement with a substance that will either challenge their sensory or fine motor needs.
Calm Emotions Putty
5. Dice
I am not just talking about the standard dot dice from the board games; I am talking about turning a couple of those random blocks you have laying around and creating new activities.  Roll picture/word dice to create silly sentence that not only address writing skills such as spacing, formation, and capitalization, but also supports language development and awareness.  Roll a move, dance a groove.  Easy way to add a movement break into an activity or the order to which a student completes an obstacle course.  Changing the way a learning center or activity is built, such as adding the playful component of dice, can change the attitude and engagement of a student learning a novel skill.
Foam Dice with Who? Where? Verbs? When? Boardmaker Pictures to prompt sentence expansion
Now that I have shared some of mine, what's in your back to school tool box?

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