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!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Construction Week STEM activity!

My class LOVES our Construction much, that we are into our third week.  I love the construction week because it is a great way to hit dozens of our core standards while keeping the kids engaged and learning.

We usually begin talking about tools and their uses.  The kids are so excited to learn that we use tools in our classroom each day...scissors, paintbrushes, markers, glue sticks...and our HANDS!  This year, I created a great lesson plan for TPT with a fun toolbox craft included.  The kids LOVED making their own toolbox with a handle and full of all the important tools they would need.
They were so proud of their work!

A simple and fun activity that fits perfectly into our Construction Theme is "Cups and Sticks" STEM activity.  We use jumbo craft sticks and plastic drinking cups we have on hand from our snack supplies.  I will do a short demonstration on how the kids can use the cups and sticks to stack and build or build long roads and bridges.  I let them know they can build together or by themselves.  I always add that no one can knock over a friends tower or step on the cups.  I have procedures in place so that the kids know how to behave in these centers!

The results are amazing and so much fun to watch!

 I have a week's worth of great Construction center ideas for math and literacy too!  Check out these great construction products!

Happy Building!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

St. Patrick's Day is Coming!

I LOVE Saint Patrick's Day!  I love to do all of the fun rainbow and shamrock crafts with the kids, I love to stage a 'Leprechaun' visit for my class full of mischief and glitter, and I love making what would be an ordinary day so much fun!

I teach at a catholic school, so I always teach a Saint Patrick religion lesson to my kids.  I had a hard time finding an age appropriate story of Saint Patrick's life and legend so...I wrote my own!  I have included it in my "All About Saint Patrick" lesson packet on TPT.  I will add link below.

I love how Saint Patrick used the shamrock to teach the trinity.  The trinity is a very abstract concept for most ages, let alone preschool and prek...but they do the sign of the cross, and I find that teaching that each leaf of the shamrock represents each part of the sign of the cross makes sense to them.  I explain that every leaf is part of the same shamrock just as each part of the trinity is part of the same God.  I'm sure some of it gets lost in translation, but it is a good start for the concepts they will learn as they move through catholic education.

Here is the link to the entire lesson-so many AWESOME activities are included!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What I have Learned in the Last 12 Days

Has this ever happened to you?

You think you are 'so prepared' because you have almost all of your work saved to a really awesome (so you thought) external hard drive...if my computer crashes...I'm set!

Until the night comes when you plug in that trusty drive into your computer and...nothing happens.  It doesn't even show up as a 'device' on any computer in your home.  Commence panic...big LIFE is on that drive.

Five and a half hours later and an angel of a husband going to 2 stores to get a new one...I recovered about 85% of my what is a girl to do.

Ok...I've accepted my losses, gotten over my panic and moved on.

Exactly...seriously...EXACTLY one week to the second of my hard drive woes...I unplug my macbook to find...NOTHING...outer screen with a cursor only.  Seriously...really?  Is this really happening?

After 3.5 hours and a lengthy session with the kind folks at Apple...I have an appointment to take it in to the store for further help...but it is probably going to have to be restored to it's original state.

I am photos of every high school dance which my 2 daughters attended over six years are on that computer hard drive.  (they were both Homecoming queens...pretty special memories) Every family vacation, Christmas, you name it...EVERYTHING!  (Not to mention all my business photos, photos for my end of the year slide show...products I am currently working on...representing HOURS of get the picture!

I sleep about 2 full hours that night...I have 36 hours before I take my computer into the Apple store.  Thank GOD I had a half day of school, or I think I would have had to call in...which I never do unless I am dying or have to have a colonoscopy or something similar...I'm ALWAYS at school.

So, yesterday I take my new hard drive and my macbook into Apple.  They are able to save everything...I will send them a Valentine...

But, my computer will be wiped clean.  All apps will need to be downloaded again, (no more SAD) all favorites and bookmarks will be gone.  No passwords will be saved...It is not going to be easy when I get it back...I'm grateful for next weekend being President's day.

Here are some choice words of advice for everyone...

  • Write down every password for every account you have and make 10 copies...put them in every spot you might look
  • Back up your work in time machine EVERY time you use your computer.  
  • Back up your back up
  • Print out everything you might need to refer to or need for your taxes IMMEDIATELY and file them in a safe place
  • Write down every password for every account you have and make 10 copies...put them in every spot you might look...should I say it again?
I'm so sad for all of the lost work time...I will never get it back.  I'm ready to get my computer back and do it right this time.  Maybe I'll get it back today...maybe tomorrow after school...but I will be better...I have is painful, but I have learned.

I have also learned that making hundreds of TPT products on a computer with 4GB of memory is NOT going to cut it anymore...saving up for the big Macbook Pro with 16 GB of memory...I'm thinking I should have enough by June...

Thanks for listening and I hope it helps some poor soul like me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Truth is...I'm Tired

I LOVE teaching preschool and pre-k.  I love it more than anything.  I spend weeks planning and preparing for each lesson.  I do my best to always go above and always be patient and do enough of the prep that my aides don't want to quit...I ALWAYS say 'Thank You' at the end of each day...I'm 'Super-Teacher' almost every day!

Right now...I'm struggling.

I'm TIRED.  I am 51 years old.  I get up very early...4:45-5:30 ish each day.  I work out 4 days a week, (hard)  I  don't eat sweets, dairy, corn, or fried foods.  I'm thin, healthy, active, and well-rested.

Why am I so tired?

Every day I feel completely exhausted by the end of the day.  I fall asleep on the couch each night by 7:30 at the latest, only to drag myself off the couch 2 hours later to go to bed.  I'm 'on' and energetic during the day.  I'm excited to see the kids, happy to be with them, and ready to handle whatever they toss my way.  I'm patient with behavior problems, calm in the midst of chaos, pleasant to everyone I work with.  In fact I love the people I work with.  They are some of my dearest friends, I have nothing but love and respect for each one of them.  I'm lucky.

I come home and I try to get some 'house' things done...not too many, I don't have the energy.  I work on planning for the next week and my Teachers Pay Teachers products.  I'd love to spend more time on blogging and social media to market my products, as well as posting some of my products to other sites...but I have nothing left.

All day I plan out things I want to do when I get home.  I start out with such energy and enthusiasm...and I end with defeat and exhaustion.

This is no way to live.

I know that teaching 35 little children is tough and taxing.  I have 17 3-4 year-olds in the morning...then 18 4-5 year-olds in the afternoon.  They love me, they are cute, funny, fun to be with...I love them right back.  But...I'm so tired!  There are days I feel like no one but my co-workers understand what it's like for me.

I don't sit at a desk, I don't get to go to the bathroom when I want, eat when I want, chat with co-workers when I want, or  even take a mental break and zone out for a few minutes.  I have to be aware of what is going on around me all the time.

This year I saved a child's life who was choking at snack time...there were a few moments where I thought she wasn't ever going to breathe.  It was terrifying! It happened at the end of that class time.  I had my lunch and had to go right back to teaching my next class.  I was traumatized as much as the child, and I don't think anyone realizes.  Now I can't even chill out while the kids have snack-I'm even MORE hyper vigilant!

I get paid very little, which is fine because I have a husband with a big job.  I don't have to work.  I want to work because I love it.  I don't have the stress of trying to make ends meet on my paltry I do pretty well on TPT.  So I guess that is fine.

So what on earth is my problem?

I'm going to check in each week with different things I am going to try to get my energy up after the school day...I hope I find some answers and some things that work.  I want to have a full and happy life.  I just know that I can't with this level of fatigue.

Is this normal amongst preschool teachers?  I don't know if anyone will read this and weigh in...but I hope so.  I want to feel like I'm not alone, and I'd love to hear what other people do to get over this overwhelming tiredness.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

It's Groundhog Day!

This is such a busy week in my classroom!  We celebrate Chinese New Year, and Groundhog Day!

I LOVE Groundhog Day!  The kids take on my enthusiasm for this weird holiday and we have FUN!  For me, Groundhog Day begins on February first.  We take a part  of our whole group time to discuss what Groundhog Day means, and we make our own predictions about what we think or hope will happen.  We make a class graph of names of who thinks the groundhog will see his shadow, and who thinks the groundhog will NOT see his shadow.  We count and compare our predictions and leave them visible for the next day.

On Groundhog Day we watch the footage from Punxsutawney that morning and we see who predicted correctly and who didn't.  We also count the 6 weeks (if needed) and mark our calendar for when Spring should begin.

I have 2 books that I read to the class.
"Groundhog Day" By Betsy Lewin
Robin Hill School "Groundhog Day" By Margaret McNamara (both from Scholastic)

For Centers I use my Groundhog Day Lesson Plan.  I have all the printouts for the previous day's graphs, an emergent reader to color, a letter match game, a number game, a groundhog craft and MORE!

Click on the link's AWESOME and honestly, it will make your planning SO much easier!

My favorite part of the day is our Groundhog Craft.  It is so cute and so much fun.  It is another craft the kids will PLAY with during our center time...they even take their groundhogs out to the playground at recess.  I have photos of the supplies needed and the finished products.  Templates and instructions are included in my lesson plan.  This is one of the best crafts I do with my class all year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

This week we will celebrate Chinese New Year in my PreK class.  Chinese New Year Celebrations for 2017 will run from January 28th to February 15th.  This year is the year of the Rooster.  I love to bring unique cultural celebrations to my classes.  Most of the kids I teach don't celebrate Chinese New Year in their this is unique and fun!

I start out the day by reading "Bringing in the New Year" by Grace Lin.  It is an age-appropriate story about a family preparing for the New Year celebrations.  The colors are bright and bold, the text is simple and leaves lots of opportunities to ask the children questions and relate all of the preparations to their own lives.

I also spend some time talking about the Chinese zodiac and what the Year of the ________ is all about.  This year I will talk about Roosters and what the Chinese believe the characteristics of those born in this year will be.

There are fantastic videos put out by Panda Express that very simply explain Chinese New Year in a way that is entertaining and fun for the kids.  I found them youtube.  Just follow the links below.

Here's another, this one is the Legend of the Chinese New Year.

This video gives information about the Chinese Zodiac.

For centers we sit on cushions on the floor and practice eating ramen noodles with chop sticks!  I twist a rubber band around each pair of chopsticks to make it easier for the kids to master.  They LOVE this center for the noodles of course, but it is a FANTASTIC fine motor activity!

I have a matching game and a numerical order game in my lesson plan, but one fun activity I have done in the past is to put a container or bowl of puff balls on a table, give each student a set of chopsticks (again, wrapped with a rubber band), and we will use dice or number cards to count out puff balls to place in an empty bowl using our chopsticks.  The kids have really enjoyed this activity in the past.  I only use one die, and keep the numbers low...otherwise it can take forever to complete.

The best activity and the one the kids love the most is to make a real Chinese dragon.  I have the templates in my lesson plans-I will provide the link at the end of my post.  The kids love making their dragons, but mostly...they love playing with them when we are through!  It took many years for me to figure out how the kids could play with them immediately.  I use glue sticks for the glitter and to glue onto the dragon body, but the most important step is to hot glue the craft sticks onto the body before class begins.  That one step of prep make the whole day 100 times better.  I'm including photos of past year's dragons.  The kids are so happy with their work, and it is a perfect end to a fantastic day of celebration and learning!

My lesson plan for Chinese New Year can be accessed through the link below.  There is so much included in this one-day plan.  It will make your Chinese New Year celebration so much fun and so much easier!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Polar Express!

I LOVE teaching my students about Polar Animals!  Last week was our polar animal week...It was so much fun and so busy!  I wanted to hit a few pictures

We made 'Arctic Hares in the Snow'.  We talked about all the animals that camouflage in the winter.  We looked at pictures of animals in spring and summer and the winter coat transformations that make them become part of the polar landscape.

 Then we made penguin hats and learned about the many different kinds of penguins that live in oour coldest regions.  We walked and talked like penguins, and wore our awesome penguin hats all day!

 What would Polar animal week be without polar bears?  We made the cutest and simplest polar bears out of paper plates and cotton balls.  The kids added eyes and a cute nose and mouth.  This one was my favorite....

Follow the links below for some great Polar Animal resources!