Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Two Favorite Circle Time Activities...and Most Effective!

Circle time is the time of day when the class comes together.  We practice how to sit, how to listen...we sing songs, and read books.  We talk about, sing about, and learn about whatever our theme for the week might be.  Circle time is a VERY important part of any preschool or pre-k day.  Much like "morning message, or morning meeting" in the primary grades, circle time is the way we start our day in order to ensure that we are 'on the same page' and ready to learn.

I have added 2 activities to my circle time that have been transformational!   One is a literacy/name activity, and one is a math/number sense activity.  They are simple, quick, and have a HUGE impact on student learning through the year.  Each one can be leveled up as the year progresses, and the kids absolutely LOVE these activities.  If I ever forget, or run out of time...I hear about it!

Name of the Day


I have a magnet board and an organized set of magnetic letters that I will load into a little box that I keep in my circle time cart.  I always pick the names for the week all at once and make sure I have all the letters I need in my little box.  When I first begin this activity, I write the child's name on the board as shown and 'scramble' the letters below.  Sometimes the child needs help.  We may start by saying "Whose name begins with the letter M?"  Usually someone will pipe up and we will narrow it down, but sometimes we need to just tell the child. "Michael...YOUR name begins with M!"  Then Michael will come up and match the letters either on top or below what is written.  I cycle through all the kids in the class this way until I know they are ready to move on to the next level.  "Level 2" begins when we have worked on level 1, talking each day about the one uppercase letter at the beginning of each name and the subsequent lowercase letters.  At this point the kids will be ready for ONLY the scrambled letters on the board with no writing.  We always mention the Uppercase letter as a clue until the kids just know what the clue is.  Watch for the kids to just automatically know whose name it is each day.  We have a strict rule of NO CALLING the name out!  "Level 3" comes at the very end of our Pre-K year...letters scrambled, and the name of the day child will write their own name on the board.  It is amazing how much they progress in name recognition, spelling, reading, and writing with this one activity!


Number of the Day



Supplies needed for this activity are pretty simple.  You will need a dry erase board and markers. small manipulatives, (I like to change my manipulative to fit our theme as much as possible) and a small clear jar.  I will choose a number for our 'Number of the Day'.  I start small at the beginning of the year and I will repeat numbers that the kids are having struggles with to do over and over-6 and 9 are biggies for the preschool set!  I will hold the board towards the kids and write the number.  The kids usually call it out while I am writing, or we practice being quiet and waiting and we practice choral response when I am done.  I then say, "That is one way to say 6, here is another!"  and I write the word s-i-x.  We say the letters together and I say "Thats another way to say 6!"  Then I draw dots...I ask the kids to count with me as I draw the dots.  I purposely draw the dots like dice faces.  When I am done I say "I have to draw box (or boxes) around them so they don't roll away!"  Then we count the dots in the boxes.  If I have two boxes as above, we would count the dots in one box, and normally I would write that number under each box...in this case '3'.  Then we ounce the dots in the other box and write the number underneath-then I ask, "Are there still 6 dots?"  Then we count all the dots.  This is a great way to begin the idea of 'fact families'.  So here we have covered counting, one to one correspondence, subtilizing, and an intro to fact families!  Then I choose a student to come and count 6 items and put them in the jar.  I make sure that the entire class can watch and count with the chosen student.  We then display the board with all of our ways to say '6', and the jar directly in front of it in a highly visible place the entire day.  

These two activities are so simple, but they cover such a wide range of our core standards and encourage critical thinking, problem solving, working together, and most of all...they are fun!  

I LOVE teaching little ones and challenging them to learn and explore new things each day!  I have so many fun lesson plans and center ideas in my TPT store...follow the link to explore!  (I have plenty of free items to try as well )


Best,

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Back to School Bulletin Board-With a Purpose

I know it is Summer and Back to School time is so far away for many of us...but if you are a teacher, you know that you are already thinking about how to improve everything in your classroom and all of your lesson plans.  I'd place bets that a lot of you teachers have already been hard at work, at least mentally, getting ready for the new school year!

In ECE we like everything we do to be intentional.  Every part of our day includes some kind of learning.  Even at snack time we will talk about what shape our cracker is, which of our five sense are we using?  How can we remember our good manners...it goes on and on.

I begin my year with a bulletin board that not only welcomes the kids, helps the parents learn the names of all the kids, but also adds an element that I use to show progress through the year.  In other words...it is VERY intentional.

The board is outside my classroom door.  It is big-in fact I have 2 classes, morning Preschool and afternoon Pre K, so I break it into 2 separate boards.  It starts out with these flowers with empty centers and names placed boldly on each flower.



I have the words "Watch", "Us", "Grow" placed across the board above the flowers.  I have laminated the flowers, stems, and leaves so I don't have to make them each year.  I added the grass last year and I kind of like it.  

During the first week or two we do a center activity where we look into mirrors and notice our faces, usually during our "About Me" unit.  I ask the kids to notice their eyes color, hair color, if they have nose...where does it go on their face?  Do they have eyelashes?  Eyebrows?  Then I offer large circles in several flesh tones for the kids to re-create their face...we even add yarn hair!
The faces then go into the center of the flower with their own name on it!  I usually take a photo of each flower-including the name so I remember who it is!  The photo then becomes part of their end of the year progress book for their parents-which will show a current self-portrait...it's amazing to see the change!


Here are a few examples.  The face with red hair is one of my Preschoolers ages 3-4, the other 2 are my Pre K kids, ages 4-5.  This way, the parents can also see the progress from the Preschool (3-4) to the Pre K (4-5).  It showcases developmental progress from one year to the next.  

I love this project, and so do the parents.  I think this is one of my favorite bulletin boards of the year!

This is just one of the activities in my "About ME"  5-day lesson plan available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Just follow the link below for this on a other 'done for you' lesson plans.
All About ME 5-day Lesson Plan for Preschool, PreK, K, and Homeschool

Enjoy!






Monday, June 26, 2017

Storm Clouds in a Jar!

I LOVE doing science experiments with my preschoolers.  But as much as I love it...they love it even more!

One of my all-time favorite experiments to do with both my preschool 3-4's and my PreK is what I like to call "Storm Clouds in a Jar".  We do this experiment during our weather and seasons unit.  I read a few books about rain and briefly describe the water cycle and how clouds get so full of water that they need to let it go as rain.  The darker the cloud, the more saturated it is with water.

The kids get so excited when I tell them that they will be making their own storm cloud and rain in a jar...they are a little bit confused as well. So...I show them what we will be doing!  I have everything I need set up to do a whole group demonstration.

A mason jar
shaving cream
water
blue food color or blue liquid water color
pipettes or other droppers.


I fill the jar about 2/3 full with water.  Then I make a 'cloud'
of shaving cream that will float on top of the water.
Then I take the blue water and pipette and start to squeeze
droppers of blue water onto the cloud.  Soon the cloud becomes saturated  enough for the blue water to drip down
like rain.  The "OOOH''s and "AAAh"'s are so great!
At that point the kids cannot wait to get started and they
all want to come to my center first!


It is so much fun to watch the kids at this center.  The level of engagement and interest is off the charts!  One of the best parts is watching the kids get excited not only about their own little 'storm', but they are just as excited watching their friends little 'storms' develop as well.  They cheer each other on and encourage each other as they watch the experiment unfold before their eyes.  



This experiment and so many other fun and engaging centers are included in my 'All About Weather and Seasons' Complete 5-Day Lesson Plan available on teachers Pay Teachers.  You can follow the link below or the tab at the top of my blog.  


Enjoy!



Sunday, June 25, 2017

I LOVE My Alphabet Wall!

I love my classroom...it is my happy place.  I spend so much time there, I have to make it special and it has to be a place that I love and that my students find fun, exciting, and inspires them to learn.

One of my favorite things to do is to change my alphabet wall to go with my theme.  I can hear the groans already..."Isn't that a lot of work?"...."One more thing to do?"...No, it's not a lot of work, and yes, it is one more thing to do, but in my experience it is one more thing with a HUGE impact.

In ECE we strive to teach, but to keep things developmentally appropriate and experiential.  By changing my alphabet wall to go with my theme, I touch on things my students are excited about, increase theme vocabulary and usage, AND it's a fun and sneaky way of working in letter recognition and beginning sounds.

I have a few photos of my ever-changing alphabet wall I'd love to share.

 This is my Spring Alphabet wall.  The kids love seeing changes, and each letter brings up questions and discussions related to our theme.
 Below is Fall...It can be tough to find pictures for letters like "I, Q, and X", but I take liberties.  My aides love to see what I come up with...sometimes it's quite funny!


 Halloween is one of my favorites.  I found a great Halloween font on Teachers Pay Teachers that made it just perfect!

Thanksgiving is next...I loved coming up with just the right words and pictures for this one!

Every one of these alphabets and more can be found under "Themed Alphabets" in my TPT store.  Below is a full listing with links.


Change it up, have some fun, learn a ton!

Best-



Monday, June 19, 2017

5 Ways to Bring More FUN into Your Classroom

I thought it would never happen to me...until it did...

I lost my FUN!

I've always been a fun pre k teacher...silly, rambunctious, funny, and playful.  This year though, after a particularly difficult morning preschool 3-4's class, I was exhausted and burnt out.  I felt like I had nothing left for my afternoon pre k class!

So I asked myself..."What did I do to make class fun before the difficult mornings?"  I needed a refresher, so I gave it some serious thought.  It was tough at first, but I think it all came back to me in the relaxation of summer break...

1.  Sing Silly and/or Fun Songs

Be armed and ready with 4-5 funny crowd-pleasing songs that you can ham up or be really dramatic with the kids!  There's nothing like a shared song or experience to bring a class together, lessen tensions, and turn a bad mood to good!  Some of my favorites are "Little Bunny Foo-Foo", "5 Little Monkeys Swing'n in the Trees", "There's a Spider on the Floor", or "Patalina Matalina".  There are so many more...just pick your favorites, add some actions, expression, or your own dance moves and belt it out during circle time or any time you want!

2.  Have an Impromptu Dance Party

I have a little bluetooth speaker and an iPad with the Pandora Radio app installed in my classroom.  Whenever we need a little controlled fun, we crank up Disney radio, or the Kids Bop station and just DANCE!  This can get a little out of control, so I usually preface each dance party with instructions such as, "keep your hands to yourself", no "feet over heads", and "watch where you are dancing"!  I get out there and dance right along with them!  It makes me feel good, the kids feel good, and once again...it's a shared fun experience that brings us closer and actually helps with discipline issues...try it!

3.  Read with LOTS of Expression!

My class LOVES Elephant and Piggie books...I think they love them so much because when I read them...it's no-holds-barred performance art!  I get so into the voices and inflection...Mo Willems pictures are perfect for giving the reader clear cues on exactly how the character are feeling.  I decided on one particularly rough day with my morning class to read a different story the same way I would read an Elephant and Piggie book, just to see if the performance was key...wow!  The Three Little Pigs drew them in and captured their attention like nothing I had ever read before.  The book ended with shouts of "Again! Again!"...which told me I was on to something.  Funny thing is...my mood changed and I couldn't wait to read another story.  Of course I don't read ALL stories with that much inflection and drama...you have to keep it special!

4.  Depart From Your Plan

I make very detailed lesson plans, create most of my own curriculum, and have a very involved principal, so my lesson plans are thorough and I am expected to teach to my plan.  But...there are days when I look at what I have planned for the day and I just know I'm going to be phoning it in if I follow it...so I use my imagination and find something active or interesting to do for part or all of our day instead!  I keep a lot of supplies on hand for science projects and experiments, I have a lot of free art ideas rolling around in my head that I try, or I make something else up on the fly...some of my best ideas come from 'winging' it!  I usually come away feeling inspired, and the kids usually have a fun time with the activities I come up with...they didn't know what I had planned, so they don't have a clue!

5.  Stop trying so hard to be the best teacher in the world and just have FUN playing with the kids!

I saved the most important for last.  There are some days I let myself off the hook and turn center time into more of a 'play' time.  Play is the way young children learn, and they are so thrilled to have me as a customer in the restaurant in the dramatic play area, or if I help build the tower at the block center, or if I find unusual things to count or measure, or even if I just sit and chat while we color at the writing table.  We build bonds and get to know each other better...which is the cornerstone to good preschool and pre k teaching!  Besides...it is FUN!  After all, if you are like me...you aren't in it for the money...you're in this profession because you throughly enjoy spending your days with children.  

So, put some FUN back into your classroom!  I'd love to hear the ways you put FUN into your classroom too...we're all in this to make school great for little kids...we are each other's greatest resource!  Please leave a comment with your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions!


Best,

Monday, March 27, 2017

Signs of Spring!

This week we begin our 'Signs of Spring' unit.  Here in Utah we are seeing blossoming trees, daffodils, green grass and leaves beginning to show their spring green on the tips of tree branches.

I began our day reading the BEST book I have ever found to illustrate the changing season and the fickle nature of springtime here in the west...'When Spring Comes' by Kevin Henkes.  It so perfectly describes the transition from Winter to Spring.  There is even a picture of snow-beaten daffodils...we had those last week!  It was so relatable, the kids were mesmerized!

I can't believe I have taught PreK for so long and missed this little gem!  It is perfect!

We also tried out a few activities from my 'All About Spring" 5 day unit/lesson plan.  They were really fantastic centers!  One was in conjunction with the book by Lois Ehlert 'Planting a Rainbow'.  I have the template in my lesson plan, (link will be at the end of this post) I use Avery dots to make the 'rainbow' center of the flowers and the kids add the rest!




We also Counted flowers into flowerpots...such a cute activity!  I did this one to numeral 15 for a challenge for the kids that were ready for it.  I had lower numerals for the kids that weren't quite there yet-this activity would be a great assessment tool for one-to-one correspondence, counting, numeral recognition and fine motor skills.



Our letter literacy center was a fun upper to lowercase letter match with a beginning sound picture in the center of a flower.  The kids loved finding the matching parts to the pictures...and it was a great way to double check if they had the right letter match!


It was a wonderful and FUN day!  for the complete 5-day plan complete with book list, art, science, math and literacy centers (and so much more) follow the link below!


Happy Spring!  More to come!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Top 5 Building Toys for Preschool, PreK, and up!

My class has always loved building toys.  Our construction week gives us an opportunity to use our favorites...and more.
Over the years I'v noticed that my kiddos seem to gravitate to certain building sets more than others.  I know if I put any of these 5 toys out at our block center...the learning, creativity and problem solving skills will be tested and improved!
#1...Melissa and Doug Jumbo Extra Thick Cardboard Blocks in 3 Sizes!  I have a small classroom, so I move the block table out of the room and set out 2 big bins of these blocks.  The kids absolutely love the space and freedom of using the floor and the adjacent shelves and wall in their building.  This year they created an amazing castle!  They were so excited to show me their structure and tell me how they worked together to make an amazing structure.



#2...Magnatiles!  My kiddos love Magnatiles!  They can build up and down, and they can make really wonderful flat designs on the table or floor as well.  Magnatiles are sturdy, durable, come in beautiful jewel tones, and they are so versatile!  When I put magnates out for free play or centers, there are always lots of kids waiting for a turn.  The only drawback to Magnatiles is the expense.  I know there are some knock offs out there but I have yet to try them out.  If you have...I'd love a review!




# 3 Foam Unit Blocks.  Unit blocks are awesome!  We have a wood set, but the foam set...though not as sturdy, are quiet.  For a small classroom that can be a lifesaver!  They are considerably less expensive than traditional wood unit blocks, and the potential for creating amazing structures is still there!  My kiddos love them!



# 4 Lego Duplo Blocks.  Kids LOVE Legos...I use Duplo in my classroom to eliminate choking hazards.  The hand strength and fine motor skills needed to build with Legos is fantastic for development.  The creativity unleashed by legos is second to none.  Legos are my absolute favorite block center toy...and I think the kids would agree!




# 5 Nuts and Bolts Builder.  It never fails...each year I put out my Nuts and Bolts building set and I'm asked if it can be brought out the next day.  There are so many different configurations and things to do with this simple set, the kids NEVER run out of interesting and unique things to build.  I think this set is a MUST for any Preschool or PreK classroom.  It sparks creativity and imagination as it builds fine motor strength and problem solving skills.  We love this toy so much that is is almost time to buy a new one...but it has been going strong for over 8 years!  Well worth the initial investment!