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
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.  


Sunday, June 25, 2017

I LOVE My Alphabet Wall!

I love my 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!


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'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'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!  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 mood changed and I couldn't wait to read another story.  Of course I don't read ALL stories with that much inflection and 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 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! is FUN!  After all, if you are like aren't in it for the'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!


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!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Three Little Pigs

During our Construction theme I love to explore the story of The Three Little Pigs.  We read as many different versions of the story that we can during the week.  I am always surprised by how much the kids love the story and how they can't wait to hear each one again and again.

I have put together a list of the books I read during the week with links for purchase on Amazon.

The kid's favorite by FAR was 'The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf'.  When we re-enacted the story, that was the version they most closely followed.  You can't go wrong with any of these stories...they are all entertaining, engaging, and sure to please your class!

Construction Shape Review!

As we continue our Construction theme, we hit so many core standards, I thought I'd share one of my favorites.

Shape Trucks!  I give the kids 4 different truck templates to choose from.  We have a cement truck, a dump truck, a crane truck, and an excavator!  We use circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, and ovals to make our trucks.  In the end we embellish by putting drivers in the truck windows, a load in the dump trucks, stops, a construction site...we just use our imaginations!

All templates for trucks and shapes are included in my "All About Construction" Lesson plan available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  just follow the link below!

Here are some photos of my kiddos having fun making their trucks!

They had so much fun and really began to grasp how shapes make up their world!