Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Word Resolution

Resolutions. Love them or hate them, it's time to consider goals for the new year.  I tend to make general goals for the coming year, so when I read Primary Powers' post on one-word resolutions, it really resonated with me.  It also reminded me of One Little Word, something that I had read about last year, and am looking forward to implementing in my life this year (check out Ali Edwards' Blog for a great explanation).

The idea that one word can shape the way you view the entire year is refreshing - it reminds me that everything is a matter of perspective.  So this year my word is:

I'm looking forward to applying a little celebration to all aspects of my life. Personally it means recognizing and celebrating how much I've accomplished over the last year, and encouraging myself to take pride in everything that I do. 

Professionally it means a couple of different things.  First, I want to celebrate education as a profession - something that doesn't happen often enough! I want to continue my mission of doing everything in my power to make teaching preschool easier for all of you, which means sharing even more ideas, creating great new products that are needed in classrooms, and being there to offer support in any way that I can.

Second, I want to celebrate children.  It is so easy to focus on the negative issues in the classroom, but I have long believed that going out of my way to recognize positive behaviors and achievements makes many of the negative behaviors less noticeable, and therefore less distracting for everyone.  One of the things that I want to implement when the winter break is over are these "Happy Notes".  I am looking forward to sending Happy Notes home with my students so that they can share their outstanding achievements with their parents.  The great thing about these notes is that they are completely customizable, one student might take home a note that celebrates his accomplishment in successfully reading three letter words, while another might take home a note that celebrates that she was finally able to zip up her coat all by herself.  They will help me make sure that I am celebrating all of my students because even though they are all very different, they all have something to celebrate.  Who knows, I might even write myself a happy note at the end of the day, sometimes I deserve it!

I've made my Happy Notes a free download in my TPT store so you can print them and use them in your own classroom! Make sure to check out the link up at Primary Powers to see what other bloggers one word resolutions are, and have a great New Year's celebration!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Cookie Party Recap

Before officially finishing up at school before the holidays, we had a great big holiday cookie party.  I shared my plans in this post, but I also promised to share photos from the party, so here they are!

For table activities we had cookie patterning, a freebie that I downloaded from Stuff from Steff.

I also made gingerbread play dough, and set out cookie cutters and rolling pins to encourage gingerbread cookie making! 

 The last of my table activities was my gingerbread lacing cookies (find out how to make these here).

While some of the kiddos were doing table activities, others were baking up a storm in the cookie shop dramatic play area (printables from Play to Learn Preschool, instructions for foam cookies here).

As the children worked independently, I got to spend a little one-on-one time with each of them. Together we made sprinkle-filled ornaments for their Christmas trees.

I made signs for each station so that parents could help out and easily know what the children were supposed to accomplish at each table.  You can download them here.

Now you can file all of these goodies away for next year, because I, for one, am ready to move past the holidays! Bring on the New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Freebie - New Year's Sequencing

Happy Friday! I hope that you had a great Christmas, but the fun isn't over yet! It's time to get ready for new year!

It's always really hard to find New Year's activities that are truly appropriate for preschoolers.  They don't really understand resolutions, nor do they completely get the concept of a year, or time for that matter.

This product is completely appropriate, and works on building some really important skills.  This Size Sequencing Set for the new year is from Color Me Kinder and includes new year-themed pictures in a number of different sizes that children can practice putting in order according to size.  Each image comes in color and in black and white so children can color them in if they want.

Because it is so difficult to find materials for this time of year that are really appropriate for this age group, I want to share a few more with you.

I just put together this What is a Year set as I was thinking about how to explain what a year is to my own students.  It includes a ring book that explains that a year is 12 months, a month is 4 weeks, a week is seven days, etc. It also has a wipe off card set where they can fill in the numbers from the ring book, a dice so that they can match the pictures to the words, and vocabulary cards, to help them become familiar with each of the time-related terms.

I also have a classroom decoration set for New Year's - which would be a fun dramatic play center!

And, of course, New Year vocabulary cards to help teach party-related vocabulary.

Check out some of these awesome products as you plan for your own New Year Celebrations - but don't you dare think about school yet, it's not allowed!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Everything!

I think that that is the best way to be politically correct and celebratory, so Merry Everything! I hope you have a wonderful little break! I'll be back on Friday with a fun freebie for you, enjoy your time with family and friends!

Monday, December 22, 2014

So close I can feel it!

I have always worked for schools that are open year-round, so the week between Christmas and New Year is the longest break I get, and it goes way too fast! This year I have plans to get some work done and do some major relaxing!

  1. Sleeping in! Sleeping in is one of my favorite things in the world, I love waking up and knowing that I can lay there for as long as I want.  My body would naturally sleep until 11am and stay up until 2am if I let it. 
  2. spending time with family and friends.  This is huge for me, I have 8 days off and I already have plans to spend quality time with at least one friend or family member on 6 of those days.  I consider myself an introvert, but I have a very close, tight group of people that I feel completely comfortable around, and I would do anything to spend time with them!
  3. SHOPPING.  Shopping could be my middle name, and Christmas gift cards have a way of burning a hole in my pocket.  My sister and I are planning a great big wonderful shopping trip for at least one day, so I'm sure I'll be able to do some damage!
  4. Working. No, I'm not going into school (unless I get REALLY bored), but I am planning on spending some serious time updating some of the products in my TPT store and working on a hug project that I would love to finally finish.  I'm planning some quality time with my laptop at Starbucks to force myself to get that work done. 
  5. A few fun projects.  I love to sew, and I've been so busy making CHristmas gifts that I've had to push my own projects to the side, but now that my gifts are done there are a few things that I'm dying to make for myself.  I made slippers for everyone last year for Christmas, and I am in desperate need of a new pair (or three), and I bought some fabric for new pillow covers when we bought our new couch last month, but I haven't had time to make them yet.  Both of those project WILL get done over break.  
  6. Reading.  Reading is my true love - it has been since I was in the first grade, and I have been neglecting it.  I was sick earlier this month and let myself lay around and read an entire (short) book, but I haven't had time since then. Luckily my mom and dad both share my love of reading and they're usually pretty generous with the Amazon gift cards!
  7. Some me time. I have a message gift certificate that has been collecting dust, I need to use it before it expires, and I bought myself a yoga mat (we'll call it an early Christmas gift), but I haven't gotten to use it yet.  I really need to work on my stress and anxiety levels, so I'm hoping that yoga a few times a week can be a part of my routine going into the new year!
  8. Eating good food. This is a given, my family knows how to cook and how to eat.  My husband and I make dinner together for Christmas eve, my mom always cooks way too much for Christmas, my best friends get together and we make too much food for our annual celebrations, and then for new years eve we have tons of snacks.  Add in a little football food on New Year's day when our beloved Buckeyes play in the Sugar Bowl and I'm going to have to work really hard for most of January to fight the effects of these two weeks
I was planning on doing a list of ten things, but, umm, I'm pretty sure these 8 are going to keep me really busy, so I'll just stop there! I would love to know what your plans are. Share them in the comments!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Freebie - Letters to Santa

Happy Friday! Are you lucky enough to be done with school today?! I have to work next Monday and Tuesday, so I'm still in school mode, but this weekend officially begins my holiday celebration; staff party tonight (yay for pizza with the girls, we do it low-key!), Christmas with my favorite aunt (who also happens to be the best gift-giver) Saturday, and Christmas with my in-laws Saturday and Sunday.

With Christmas quickly approaching, there is still time for that last minute letter to Santa! Here is a great little freebie for helping your little ones write that letter. This Letter to Santa set is from Teacher Karma, go download it before you get too comfy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Polar Express Activity Idea

The Polar Express is one of my favorite Christmas movies to share at school because it really expresses the magic of Christmas.  It doesn't matter how many times my students have seen the movie, every single time they watch in awe of the singing and dancing during "Hot Chocolate", gasp as the train skids across the ice, and exclaim with surprise when the bell is found on Christmas morning.

The Polar Express is all about Christmas wishes, and every child has a wish.  For as long as I have been teaching, my favorite activity to do with this movie has been to make secret wish bells with my students.  They are very simple to make, I just cut bell shapes out of gray card stock.  Then I ask each child to whisper their wish in my ear and I write it on the back of their paper bell.

After writing the wishes on the back of the bell, I use a red ribbon to hang them to a garland in the classroom, making sure that the backs of the bells are facing the wall so that none of the wishes are revealed.  It's a great way to build trust with my students because they tell me their secrets, and I show them that I can keep the secret. It is also a great way to remind myself of all of the truly wonderful things about the holiday season.  The wishes that little ones share can melt my heart, and give me some much needed perspective during a somewhat crazy time of the year.

When I send home parent gifts and cards before break I make sure to include the wish bells.  Parents love to have this little keepsake of their child's most important wish.

I've put together a printable version of my wish bells so that you can do this with your class (or your own children), just download, print, and cut!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Questionnaire

I love any opportunity to share a little of myself with all of you, so I'm linking up with Fabulous in First, here are my answers to the Christmas Questionnaire;

1. When do you decorate?
I always decorate the day after Thanksgiving. My house is pretty tiny, and I only decorate my living room and my kitchen, so it only takes a couple of hours. I love to turn on Christmas music or find a cheesy Christmas movie on Lifetime to listen to while I decorate.  When it's finished everything feels so festive, I love being able to enjoy it for an entire month!

2. Elf or no Elf?
No elf for me. I don't have any kids of my own, so there's no reason for me to have one at home. At my old school parents would occasionally sneak their child's elf into the classroom, which made for a very well behaved class for the day, but we really didn't go out of our way to celebrate holidays, so I never had an elf in my classroom, and now I'm not really in the classroom, so again, no need for an elf.

3. Christmas Cookies, or no baking for you?
I am the Christmas cookie queen! Seriously, I have friends who order cookies from me for their holiday parties.  I have spent years perfecting my secret recipe and frosting cookies is so relaxing to me.  I spend way too much time on them, but they are a hit (and expected) at every single party that we attend.

4. Favorite Holiday Tradition
My favorite holiday tradition is definitely baking cookies.  I used to do it with my mom when I was little (she taught me all the tricks), and I look forward to it every year.  It has become my quiet time to really focus on something that I love to do, and all of the stress disappears when I'm pouring myself into something creative.

5. Favorite Christmas Movie
I can't pick one, but I do have a list of movies that I make sure to watch every year
6. Snow or no snow
If I had it my way there would always be snow for Christmas! It just doesn't feel like Christmas without snow.  Winter in Ohio is gray and dreary, but when it's snowing it's so pretty, it feels a little magical.  Here's a great photo that I took last year right after Christmas:

7. Favorite Christmas Song
I have very strange taste when it comes to Christmas music.  I like the classic country Christmas stuff (anything from Alabama, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride) and then I like Pop Christmas music - particularly 90's and early 2000s (Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera).  Right now my favorite Christmas Album is from Michael Buble , but Lady Antebellum's  Christmas CD is a close second.

8. Favorite Christmas gifts to give and get
I shared a post earlier this month with my "favorite things" all of these are great to give and to get! If I don't know what to get for someone, my go to gift is always a candle from Bath and Body Works.  I love the scents and they're so reasonably priced!

Want to know how some of your favorite bloggers answered these questions? Go check out the link up at Fabulous in First!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foam food for dramatic play

Last week I posted my plans for our holiday cookie party at school.  I've been working on prepping some of the materials for our cookie shop dramatic play area , which means adding to my collection of foam cookies. I wanted to show you some of the cookies that I made before, and the new varieties that I made specifically for our party.

I made all of these with sheets of craft foam, and they couldn't be easier.  Making your own food with craft food is a great alternative to buying play food because it s really easy to customize, and it's all flat, so it stores better than most store bought play food.

These are chocolate chip cookies.  I just cut circles out of a light tan piece of craft foam and drew the chocolate chips on with a permanent marker.

These sugar cookies were a bit more involved (but still very easy).  First I cut circles out of tan foam (for sugar cookies) and out of dark brown foam (for chocolate cookies).  On each of the circles I put a square of sticky-back velcro.

Then I cut frosting shapes from colored foam (I used red and white for Christmas cookies), and drew sprinkles on these shapes with permanent markers.  I attached these to the other side of the stick back velcro.  since the frosting comes off of the cookie that kids can pretend to bake the cookies, and then pretend to frost them.

I made the chocolate chip cookies and the sugar cookies a couple of years ago and they are well loved (many of them have bite marks in them...).  For our holiday cookie party I wanted to make sure that we had all of the cookies to go along with the printables in Play to Learn Preschool's dramatic play cookie shop set, so I made some gingerbread cookies.

For these I created a paper stencil and traced it on a sheet of dark brown craft foam.

I cut the gingerbread men out and glued sequins on for eyes, and white glitter on for frosting.  That's it, how cute do they look on a cookie sheet?!

The last kind of cookie that I made are gingerbread lacing cookies. To make these I chose a couple of Christmas cookie cutter shapes. I pressed each shape into the sheet of foam, which left an impression so that I didn't have to trace the cookie cutter (a nifty little tip!).

Then I cut out the shapes and punched holes around the edges.  Finally I added some pretty ribbon, they look like fun to me!

I can't wait to share these with my students, I'm sure that they are going to love baking cookies that look this cute! I will post photos from our cookie party after Christmas so that you can see how we set it all up.