Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who doesn't love a sale!?

Teachers Pay Teachers has just announced that they have reached 3 million members! To celebrate this milestone they are throwing a SALE! This is pretty huge because Tpt only has 4 site wide sales all year.  I'm excited because this will be my first sale as a Tpt Seller, but also because I have a huge wishlist of great preschool and organizational items that I can't wait to purchase!

I'm trying hard to keep my list small, but there are a few things that I will definitely be buying.  Here is a sample of what is on my wishlist:

TPT Seller's Best Friend TPT & Blogging Planner by Crayonbox Learning. This would be awesome to organize all of my info, and to help me track all of the stats that I don't know I'm supposed to be tracking. I'm still new at this, a cute printable organizer that gives me guidance is calling my name!

Preschool Pack - A kindergarten readiness calendar by Kim Swoveland. This would be an amazing gift for my kiddos at preschool graduation. It has daily activities for the summer months that can easily be completed at home (think counting all of the steps to your bedroom, finding letters in your house, etc.). I absolutely love it!

Patterns for math: non-themed printables packet by PreKinders. Oh My Goodness. 72 pages of patterning, need I say more?!

Lots of Dots: Alphabet Tracing Sheets by Jennifer Hier.  These are awesome. You can use them over and over again, with bingo markers, little jewels, stones, buttons, beads. Preschoolers love tiny little objects, so using all of those loose parts to make letters is such a great concept.

And if there was one item in my own store that I would purchase for myself it would be this one:

My Preschool Assessment Portfolio Pack. I honestly don't know why I didn't come up with this earlier. It has one portfolio page for each developmental standard.  All the teacher has to do is put in the child's name, their own name, the date, a short description of an activity and a photo or piece of the child's work.  No more looking up standards, no more scrambling and trying to get all of these portfolios done at the end of the month, not more cross referenceing to make sure you hit all of the standards. This pack also includes the conference checklist for a quick overview of what the child has accomplished throughout the year. I will most definitely be using this with my class next year!

Head on over to Teachers Pay Teachers and check out the sale, you may have a hard time deciding what to buy, so don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm on Bloglovin!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

My documentation process

Documentation is something that has become a natural piece of my job as a teacher. I am constantly taking notes about what my students are doing. It's one of those things that I do without thinking, those notes are so important because I can take my scribbled notes and turn them into a polished documentation, having the notes already written down cuts my panel-making process in half.  Even though my notes save me tons of time, the role that I'm in at my new school doesn't leave a ton of time for creating panels and other items that I really want to do for the classroom.

I've solved this problem by attempting to polish my notes so that I can post them as documentation, without cleaning them up as part of a panel.  I think this is a great solution because these notes are much more raw, they show how quickly I was writing, and give a lot more detail than my panels often do.  One thing that I've done to make sure that my notes are presentable is to start taking notes on the cute pages that were included in the awesome planner that I purchased at the beginning of the year from A Modern Teacher. I LOVE this planner, and these note pages are so cute that I don't really care how horrible my handwriting is.

Because I have less time to refine all of my documentation on the computer, I've also created a Project Work Planner. This thing has printable pages for webbing, cute pages for note taking, a list of questions to ask while observing children, workbook pages for before, during, and after a field experience, and pages specifically for making lists (because that's what I do best!).  It also has a section just for summarizing possible projects, to help get your thoughts in order, and documentation templates. I love this notebook and I wanted to share it with everyone! It is available here!

Project Work Planner

Weather basics - an experiment

This weather experiment is super easy, and I've done it with my classes for the last few years, but my kids love a good science experiment, and are super into weather, so I got it out again.  It's pretty basic, you fill a clear container with water and top the water off with shaving cream, the shaving cream is supposed to be a cloud. Then you put a few drops of food coloring (blue is suggested because it is supposed to be like rain, but I usually let the kids choose whatever color they want) on top of the cloud, and eventually the food coloring will saturate the cloud and it will look like it is raining into the water below.

My students had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but they were happy to participate, and even when the experiment was over, they just couldn't seem to walk away from it, so I took advantage of their interest and we started talking about storms - this is when the really learning started!

We talked about how when it storms the air shakes up the clouds, and causes all kinds of energy to build, so we tried shaking up our cups to see what would happen. The clouds sloshed around a bit, but we didn't really see much difference. Then we talked about tornadoes, and how tornadoes form when the wind starts to stir up the clouds.  This is when the kids decided that they needed to stir up their clouds to see if they could make a tornado in their cup.  We got out some stir sticks and watched as the shaving cream mixed in with the water.

At this point the kids decided that their water was too "foggy" and they couldn't see if there was a tornado or not. This of course prompted a discussion about fog, and how it made sense that the water was foggy, because fog is really just a low cloud (that blew their minds!). After watching for a while they noticed that even though they had mixed everything up, there was still a clear white "cloud" at the top of their cups.

They continued to watch as the mixture separated.  Eventually they realized that the food coloring was still out, which of course meant that they had to mix more colors in their cups.  I was so proud of them for not walking away from this experiment when it was "supposed" to be over. The investigation hadn't answered their questions, so they kept going, trying to find new ways to figure out the information that they had really been looking for!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The best art activity ever - Primary color mixing

This activity is one of my all time favorites, it is completely open-ended, and children love it as much as I do.  I start by covering an entire table in white paper. This is important because it really encourages collaboration between the children, and they can see the colors that they have created on the white background.

Then I set out cups of paint - red, blue, yellow, and white (you could also use black, but then everything seems to turn black).  I tell the children at the beginning that they can mix the colors all they want.  They love this! Some times when I do this activity the children spend more time mixing than they do painting, which is totally fine.

I also make sure to tell them that they can mix the paint any way that they want. Some will mix the colors on the paper, while some will mix the paints in the cups.  Either way, the end result is usually the best artwork that I get all year!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sweet Letter practice

Last year my class created our own sandpaper letters and my students were so proud of their alphabet! I wanted to do something similar with this group, so I used some Valentine's day inspiration to make this alphabet a little sweet.

The group I have now is working on lowercase letter recognition, so I wrote all of the lowercase letters on pieces of cardboard.  When I presented the activity I showed the children how to use the glue to "trace" the letters.  Then I gave them sugar shakers that held a mixture of cocoa powder and baking soda (because cocoa powder is expensive!) and they shook the mixture over the glue like glitter.  As the glue dried some of the mixture soaked into it, but the letters still smell delicious! I'm going to put them in the writing center and hope that they don't attract any critters!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Exploring Knowledge Creatively

During our preparations for Valentine's Day, we have also begun our class project for the semester with some very basic discussion of tornadoes.  The boys are fascinated, and when I was finally able to get out our tornado tube they dropped everything and worked with it for an entire afternoon. This was some of the most authentic learning I have seen in months, and at that moment I knew that we had found that coveted project topic

They have a pretty good understanding of the basics, seeing as we get some pretty bad storms in the summer months, and most of my students were affected in some way by a small EF1 tornado that touched down here last November, even if it was just the inconvenience of having to go to the basement, although some lost power for a number of days.

So we started out with a simple question. What does a tornado look like? They have seen pictures, it can be hard to grasp what a tornado truly looks like when you've only seen one in a picture.  That said, I hope that they never actually see a tornado, I have, and it has completely changed my understanding of the sheer power of a large storm system. but their answers to the question were insightful. They noted that they were "gray because the clouds are gray" and that tornadoes have "all kinds of stuff in them because they suck it all up."  They also knew that tornadoes "spin around really fast" and that "they have hail." They were able to name the shape of a tornado, noting that it was a "vortex" (we learned that word from a parent while experimenting with the tornado tube), and that they "look like an ice cream cone, without the ice cream."

With this understanding, we began to consider the materials that we could use to make a picture of a tornado.  The boys requested "anything gray" which we then narrowed down to gray paper for the backgrounds (because of all the clouds), gray and black markers and pens, gray, black, and white paint (the white for hail and lightning of course), paintbrushes, string, glue, and glitter for "all the stuff that gets sucked up."

I set out all of the materials on one table, so that the boys could work at another, but they quickly moved most of the items to the table that they were working at, covering the table in paint, glitter, and glue. Their creative processes fascinated me.  I had printed out some photos of tornadoes that they could reference if they wanted, but only X chose to, and he attempted to copy the photo exactly.  After finishing this picture he chose to create another, from his own imagination, both were equally amazing representations.  B started his picture with big, swirling circles, as if he was looking at the tornado from above. He made sure to add pipe cleaners, which represented the big telephone poles that got knocked over (because this is what happened near his house when the last tornado blew through).  G has always been most interested in the hail that goes along with the tornadoes, again because this is what he remembers from the big storms that we had last summer, so his picture has huge white dots all over it. Here are some photos of their work:

I was really impressed with their artwork, and the fact that you could instantly tell what they were creating.  One of the things that stood out to me was that they were far more focused on the formation of the tornado and the clouds than any of the other details.  I had put out a number of collage materials, thinking that they might want to create houses on the ground, or in the clouds, but they didn't use any of it.

Our next step is to visit the library to look for some books on tornadoes. I'm especially excited about this step because the location of our new school actually allows us to walk to the library! I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our Valentines

If anyone is looking for a great Valentine's Day gift that kids can make, here's what we did this year:

These turned out even cuter than I had imagined, I would love to get one of these (if I had kids of my own, that is).  The bottles came from Scrap 4 Art, one of my favorite places! After cleaning them thoroughly  I dug through the scrapbook paper stash to find paper that was colored on both sides, I stuck with red, but you could do any combination of Valentine's colors.

The kids punched the hearts - they got to choose how many they wanted to put in their jar, so some jars had two hearts, and some jars were full of hearts.  After putting the hearts in the jars I helped them cover the tops with a small piece of foil, and then I tied a bow with a red ribbon.  We added name labels with card stock and some washi tape, and voila! A stinkin' cute valentine jar full of love for mom and dad.

I've tried to keep my class busy with Valentine's day games and activities this week.  They are pumped for our party on Friday, but more than anything they really just want to be able to run around outside.  All of the snow and freezing temps are making us a little stir crazy!

Most of the activities that we have been working on are from this Valentine Bundle:

It's available on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I think that it covers just about everything.  The activities work for quite a few different age levels, and I have used them with young preschoolers, Pre-k kiddos, and I know some kindergarten teachers who use it as well. It has upper and lowercase letter matching puzzles, number work and fun candy-themed number games, cute stationary, Vocabulary cards (those have been the favorite in my class!).  These activities would be great for a class party too!

What are your plans for Valentine's Day? We are having a school-wide party, and then my husband and I are getting dinner, we have big plans to go to 5 Guys :).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The messiest activity ever!

I have a class full of boys, so they aren't super interested in the Valentine's day activities that I have done with groups in the past (however I suspect that may change next week when half of my plans include candy hearts...), but yesterday we did an art project that had them hooked.

I know you've seen this one on Pinterest, that's where I first saw the idea.  I was sure the boys would love it, but I was wholly unprepared for the mess that it would make.  The idea is that you put a piece of paper on a tray or cookie sheet, then stretch rubberbands across the tray.  The students snap the rubberbands in paint, in order to splatter the paint on the paper.

Now, I'm all for making a mess, and my kids know exactly what I'll say if paint ends up on the table, in fact, theyve been known to quote me to each other, saying "it's no big deal, we'll clean it up later." Umm, yeah, this was more of a "I'm gonna stand all the way across the room and take pictures using the zoom on my camera, and when you're done I'll spend the rest of the morning scrubbing paint off of literally every surface in the classroom." But, they did have a ton of fun!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cute Calendar Work

There is some debate over whether calendar is really developmentally appropriate for preschoolers, so I might as well add my two cents.  I do calendar every day for a couple of different reasons.  The days of the week and the months of the year seem like fairly abstract concepts, but when I show the children what they look like on the calendar, they can visualize what all of these words mean.  Number recognition is also something that a lot of my students struggle with, especially now that my Pre-K kiddos are getting into the teens and beyond, the more opportunities that I can come up with for them to use those numbers, the better, so we do calendar.

My students look forward to this part of the day, and they will remind me if we don't get to it right away.  They are at the point where they know the days of the week, but not necessarily the order that they go in, so they love to take their turn telling me what yesterday was, what today is, and what tomorrow will be (and what better way to practice past, present, and future tenses?).

I try to make this part of the day interactive, and I recently found free printable calendars by one of my favorite bloggers (Mollie at Wild Olive) - and the dates are done in dashed lines, perfect for tracing.  I print one calendar for each one of my students, and they each have their own clipboard to keep their calendar on.  Every day we do calendar, then they have to find the date on their calendar, and trace it.

Here are some photos of their January calendars (we got a late start due to the weather):

And here is a link to the February Calendar at Wild Olive!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I'm back!

Hi everyone, I am so excited to be back to this blog of mine! A lot has happened since I last posted, and I have some big ideas for using this little space, so I hope you'll stay with me for this journey.

Because of all of the changes, both in my life, and to my blog, I feel the need to start over a bit.  So here is a little introduction for those of you who are new to preschool ponderings:

I'm Erin. I recently started a non-profit Early Learning Center with a group of incredible Early Childhood Teachers.  When i'm not teaching myself how to use Quickbooks, figuring out payroll, and brainstorming marketing ideas, I teach the Pre-K class.  I have worked with children of all ages, but I love the challenges that Pre-K presents.  These kiddos are super smart, and its my job to get them ready for kindergarten, but also to make sure that they get to be creative and imaginative.

I have also recently started a store on TeachersPay Teachers, where I am able to offer a lot of the materials that I use with my own class.  I will be using this blog to share the ways that my class uses these tools, as well as a lot of the other fun projects that we are working on.

If that wasn't enough, I am also in the middle of writing a book all about implementing Reggio Philosophies in Standards-based ECE classrooms, as well as creating a curriculum for Reggio-inspired Standards-based schools. Whew. Yup, I'm just a little busy, but that's what life's about right?

Hopefully you'll all stick with me and see what I've got to share!