Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alphabet Quiet Book: C is for Clock

This post is the fourth part in a series about the alphabet quiet book I'm making with the girls for preschool this year. To read the introduction, click here, and to read the rest of the posts (updated on a weekly basis) click the "Quiet Book" label on the right.

C is for Clock
Teaching Annie to tell time has been a recurring theme all year. Until fairly recently Annie and Laurel were both taking afternoon naps, so I gave Annie a digital clock and taught her she wasn't allowed to make any noise that could wake her sister up until 4:00. The girls also have a sunshine clock-faced clock in their room that Annie has been puzzling over for a while, learning the positions of the numbers but having difficulty knowing how to tell the time. And then, when we moved this summer, we discovered with delight that our new house is only a block from a beautiful old church that chimes every hour and half-hour, so we are ever more aware of the passing of the hours. All that to say, I knew that I wanted the C page of our quiet book to have clocks so that Annie can practice learning to tell time.

Inspiration and Page Design
Lots of quiet books have clock pages, but I drew most of my inspiration from this one. I loved how it combined the old-fashioned alarm clock shape with digits, so you can practice translating the analog time to digital. When I wrote down the numerals that would be necessary to make most times, however, the number of loose pieces became staggering. Many numbers would need to have duplicates, or even triplicates. Finally, I came across this clock page with a somewhat better solution to the problem. Instead of having all separate numbers, it combines the most common 2-digit combinations: 10, 11, 12 for the hours, and 00, 15, 30, and 45 for the minutes. I still would have 17 loose pieces to the page, but it was at least a slightly more manageable number.

Before we get to the digital clock, first let's look at the analog clock. I made the clock face with shrink film, so it's a nice thick disc of plastic. As the instructions on the package suggest, I lightly sanded the back of the plastic in a cross-hatch pattern with 400-grit sandpaper, and then colored on it with colored pencils. Since I was coloring the back, I drew all the numbers on in reverse. I used a regular hole punch to punch the sewing holes around the edge before shrinking, and they were perfectly sized button holes after. Shrink plastic shrinks somewhat unreliably, so this was an 8.5" (full width of the page) perfect circle before shrinking. After shrinking, the disc was slightly shorter than it was wide, so I made a second version to see if I could get a better result. The second attempt was even more wonky than the first, so I just went with it. The final size of the plastic disc is just over 3" across. The clock hands are also made with shrink plastic, colored on the back with sharpie. Altogether, the shrink plastic makes a very satisfying clock face - sturdy, and easy for little fingers to manipulate.

I designed the digital clock to be a slightly whimsical version of the old-school clock radio in the girls' room. The colon separating the hours from the minutes is part of the sewn-down clock (made with French knots), and under the numbers are Velcro "hook" patches to hold the felt numbers. Each separate felt digit also has Velcro "loop" patches. Although the felt itself would stick to the plastic "hook" patches, I wanted to protect the felt from so much wear and tear. The sewn-on hook and loop strips work very well for keeping the pieces secure.

Here they are - all seventeen digits! As you can see, I failed miserably in my goal of trying to minimize pages with loose parts when it came to the C page. I think it's worth it, still, since time-telling is a key life skill that I think this page will help teach very effectively.

When they're not in use, all the pieces stack neatly and fit into this fabric envelope. I used the tutorial on this page to make my envelope, although it was very simple. Basically you make a double-sided rectangle with a point, tri-fold, and sew in place. The loop is made with one of the girls' hair elastics!

Preschool goals for using the clocks
My goal for this page set is very straightforward: Learn how to tell time, both on analog and digital clocks, and be able to translate the time back and forth. Because of the number of pieces, this is one page the girls aren't allowed to play with unsupervised. The grommets and rings make it easy to take this page out if I want to let the girls play with the other pages by themselves, and playing together is a key part of preschool so I don't mind saving this page to use together!

Other Letter C activities
Besides clocks, C week was all about cookies and cookie cutters! We gave Annie a set of 101 cookie cutters for her birthday, and on C week we made ABC biscuits, ABC "breakfast cookies" for Daddy's students (I'm not going to link to a recipe, they were rather underwhelming), and ABC cookies for us. Any time I can include cooking with our preschool lessons I try to do so, because it's fun, makes the lessons more memorable, and adds another dimension to whatever we're studying. The alphabet cookie cutters are great for preschool, because you get to spend time learning the letters both when cutting out the dough and when eating the snacks, and the 3-D shapes give plenty of tactile experience learning the form of each letter.

Speaking of learning the shapes of letters, this song has been hugely helpful with that as well. Annie is constantly biting round food into the shape of the letter C just like Cookie Monster. And when Laurel and Annie growl together, "May we have a cookie, cookie, cookie?" it's just too hilarious and cute to say no.

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