Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Crumpled Hearts

On Monday I posted that I have been having a lot of issues with empathy and children who are generally unkind in the classroom. One of the ideas that I had found was an activity where children crumbled paper to see how their words and actions affected others.  This was an idea that I was really excited about trying with my class, so I wanted to share how it went.

I wanted to make the meaning of this activity as obvious as possible, so I started by cutting each piece of paper into a heart. Then I wrote each child's name on one of the hearts. During circle time I gave each of my kiddos a heart with someone else's name on it. I explained to them that they were holding their friends' hearts.

They were slightly confused, but I continued, encouraging them to look at the hearts, noticing that they were clean and smooth.  Then I went through a list of scenarios; Pretend that you laughed at your friend when they fell down, pretend that you told your friend he could not play with you, pretend that you pushed your friend on the way to get in line, pretend that you took a toy that you knew your friend wanted to play with.  I specifically included many of the scenarios that we have had problems with in the classroom.  After each scenario I told the children to crumple up the heart, and waited patiently as they slowly and carefully opened them back up.  After we had gone through at least ten different scenarios I asked them to lay their hearts on the floor and try to get all of the wrinkles out.

As they were doing this I explained that even though they were being nice to their friend now (as they attempted to smooth out the wrinkles), those wrinkles were still there, and they wouldn't go away.  We talked about how everything that we say and do to each other impacts our feelings, and sometimes we don't forget those feelings.

This activity really impacted my student. It gave them a visual reminder of the affects that their behaviors had on each other.  For the rest of that day, and now two days later, I can look at them and say "are you being kind, or are you crumpling hearts" This stops them in their tracks and I can see the remorse in their eyes. I know that they are visualizing that crumpled heart.  While it isn't going to change everything, it was a very powerful place to start, and I'm so thankful that I did this with them. In fact, it may become one of the activities that I regularly do at the beginning of the school year, because I really think that the visual reminder is a powerful tool.  It has also started to build a sense of community because it has given the children common vocabulary to use with each other to let others know that their feelings have been hurt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What's in my writing center

I took a couple of weeks off from sharing my writing center, my students were really into my Easter options, so they stayed out for a little longer than I would typically keep them.  If the children are choosing writing activities, I'm not putting those activities away!

Here's what I put out for this week:

CVC Word eggs: Taking the hint from my kiddos, I found an activity that would continue the Easter fun without actually being Easter-themed.  These are so easy to make.  I chose a different color egg for each vowel/word family.  On one side of the egg I wrote the word families, and on the other side of the egg I wrote letters that work with most, if not all of the word families. The children can rotate the halves of the egg to create different words. 

Environmental print cards: I borrowed these from one of the other teachers in my building because my kids loved them so much when she had them out.  These cards let all of my students be successful readers, because they recognize every single one. I added strips of paper and markers to the basket so that my students can write the familiar words as they identify them. 

B.O.B Books and Sentences: These are also incredibly easy to make. I pulled out the first three BOB Books and typed up the sentences from each page. I printed them and cut each sentence out.  Now my students can grab a bag that contains the book and each sentence. As they read the book they can find the sentence that matches the one they just read.  In Lieu of Preschool also has amazing free printables to go along with each of the BOB Books sets. 

Short u word family mats: These are from my CVC Word Family Mats, I've been switching them out by groups of vowel sounds and I plan on continuously rotating them so that my kids can keep practicing, but they won't get bored. They know that this is an activity I will sit down and do with them, so they love to pull it out for some one on one time. 

Most of these activities are more reading than writing, but I really believe that these skills go together, I'm a whole language person for sure! Our dramatic play area is also currently set up like a post office - keep watching the blog because I'm planning a post on this - so my kiddos are putting in a ton of writing time that they think is pretend play, I love it!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Taking a step back

I can tell that my students have been spending too much time together (since I teach in a child care center my students can potentially be together from 7am until 6pm 5 days a week, and I am with them from 9am until 6pm every day) because of the ways that they have been treating each other lately. Little ones can be downright mean, and it breaks my heart the way that they talk to each other. I know that some self-centeredness is developmentally appropriate, that doesn't mean that it is acceptable in my classroom.

I do my best to encourage kindness and caring, but I too find myself responding to their behaviors in ways that don't actually teach them to be nicer.  On Friday I'd had enough. I was nearly in tears as I told them how sad I was because of how they were treating each other, and me.  I tried my best to explain that ignoring others when they are speaking to you, talking over people when they are trying to tell you something, purposely leaving others out of games, and making rude comments to each other are not going to get them very far in life.

I went home exhausted and disheartened.  I work hard, but it seems like I am failing to teach them the most important lesson - that we need to take care of each other.  After some serious contemplation about why these things were happening in my classroom, I started looking for ideas that will help me change the emotional climate of my little group.  Here are some of the strategies that I am looking forward to implementing.

This first idea is the one that I will be doing during circle time Monday morning. It can't wait, and I just might have the kind of impact that I am looking for.  The basic idea behind the this activity is that you give each student a piece of paper shaped like a heart, then you list a number of scenarios or situations where someone treats you in a way that hurts your feelings. For every different scenario you ask the children to crumple up their paper heart.  After each scenario they get to un-crumple the heart and see how it has been damaged by this particular situation.  At the end you talk about how the paper is still a heart, but it doesn't look as smooth and clean as it did at the beginning. This is supposed to represent what our hearts look like when people treat us poorly.  I've seen this idea in many different places, but this article on TeachStarter explains it the best.

The next idea that I love is from Teach Preschool. They gave each student a bag containing beads of the same color, each student got a different color.  In order to make a colorful friendship bracelet the children had to share their beads with each other.  It sounds like a really simple idea, but this will be really difficult for some of my kiddos, not only because they will have to share, but also because they will have to ask each other from help and be polite and kind in order to get what they want.

The Upper Elementary has a really great craftivity available in her Teachers Pay Teachers store that I have also been considering. It's called Garden of Goodness. The children write things that they like about their classmates on flower petals, then each student is able to use all of their flower petals from others to create a flower.  At this point my students have a much easier time coming up with things that they do not like about each other, so this would be a great way to re-frame how we think about each other.

The last idea that I have been thinking about implementing is a kindness chain.  My Catch a Star Classroom gives a great description of how she implemented this idea in her classroom.  Basically you start a chain that hangs from your classroom ceiling, you add a loop every time that you catch a student being kind, writing their name and good deed on the loop. When the chain reaches the floor the class gets a reward.  I love this idea because it will help me focus on noticing the positive things that my students are doing, and because it will give the children the opportunity to share the loops they earn with their parents at the end of the day.  I really want my students to be kind because they want to, and because it is the right thing to do, not because they want a reward, so while I do have a reward in mind for them, I may not tell them about it. I think that I am going to encourage them to see if we can get the chain to reach the floor, and then when it reaches the floor I will surprise them with a reward.  I'm hoping that this will help them focus on the intrinsic rewards of being kind - how it makes others feel, and how you feel about yourself when you are kind to others.

I know that this will be a process, but it is so worth it to me, especially since I will have all of these kiddos throughout the summer, so we still have quite a bit of time together. If you have any additional ideas for me I would love to hear them! I will keep you posted on my efforts!

(All photos are from the listed blogs, please follow the links to see their full posts!)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Freebies!

Happy Friday!It's time for another freebie, and this one is very special to me! This freebie is one that I created to celebrate my 100 amazing followers on Teachers Pay Teachers. I am honored that so many think my work is valuable, and I wanted to share something special with all of you to say thanks!

This freebie is designed to take advantage of the fact that summer is coming! Whether you get the summer off, or still work all summer like I do, your class can still enjoy these fun glittery bookmarks. You can enjoy the fact that your students think they are having fun and making a list of all the things they want to do this summer, while you know that they are really doing a writing exercise. Sneaky!

Celebrate with me and go download this cute Summer Bucket List Bookmark freebie!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another Giveaway

Some of my favorite TPT sellers have been celebrating a lot of milestones lately. I have been lucky enough to get to celebrate with them, and here's another one!

Jessica from Mrs. Plemon's Kindergarten is celebrating her 30th Birthday with a giveaway! Take a minute to stop by her awesome blog to enter the giveaway.  You could win one of my All About the Numbers packs, along with some other great products.

After you enter be sure to take a minute to check out the adorable pictures of Jessica's new baby, and leave a comment to wish Jessica a happy birthday!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Do you have big plans for Earth Day? I'll be honest, this one kind of snuck up on me, I wasn't thinking that Easter was so late, and then boom! April is almost over!

My class is going to spend the morning outside (crossing my fingers for good weather) cleaning up that yard around our school. Once we've picked up as much litter as we can find, we"ll graph it using my Earth Day Graph and Write Freebie - yay for freebies! But that's not the point of this post.

I really wanted to share this great quote with you, it puts Earth Day into perspective for me as a preschool teacher. You can find the printable version at Tip Junkie!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Leftovers

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! I had a great time relaxing with my family, the highlight of my weekend was our amazing weather, I spent much of Sunday soaking up some sunshine on my parents back porch and it was perfect!

I don't know about you, but I have a ton of leftovers, and i'm not talking about ham, mostly, I mean jelly beans. Thank goodness I love them, but that usually means I end up eating the entire bag by myself. My solution to this is to take them to school.  My kiddos did a lot of jellybean math last week - patterning, counting, tallying, graphing, but there's always room for a candy experiment. So that's exactly what we did.

I started by filling clear cups with a number of different liquids - I used what I had in my supply closet, so we ended up with 1 cup of water, 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1 cup of a slat and water solution, and 1 cup of a borax and water solution.  I also filled a cup with jellybeans. I let the cups sit on the table until my kiddos finally started asking about them. This is one of my favorite ways to get them hooked on a project, I make it their idea. 

We put one jellybean in each cup and waited to see what would happen. Some of the solutions reacted instantly - for instance, we put a yellow jellybean in the cup of water and the water immediately started turning yellow.  Other reactions took a little longer. I love experiments like this because I can leave them out all day, and the children can return to observe whenever they feel like it. When one student notices something, the entire group re-converges on the experiment to see what has happened. 

There were no earth shattering results to this particular experiment - nothing bubbled, fizzed, or exploded, but we were still able to make observations. Most solutions removed the color from the jellybean completely, leaving a white jellybean sitting at the bottom of the cup. Many of the cups also had the coating of the jellybean (whatever it is that makes them shiny) floating at the top of the cup.  The jellybean in the vegetable did absolutely nothing, which was interesting in itself.  I should note that I used the Starburst jellybeans, so I can't say for sure that other brands would have the same results. 

This is a great activity to show that changes can occur over a long period of time. I would've loved to leave them in the solutions all week to see what happened, but I just don't have a place to keep them. If you try it please share your results!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Holiday Weekend

I am super excited about celebrating Easter this year. Not only did I have a day off yesterday (a beautiful and very rare occurance), but it is warm and sunny here and after the winter that we've had, this is a miracle worth celebrating!

Because I'm so happy about spring, I've got two awesome opportunities for you: a giveaway and a sale!

I'm participating in a giveaway over at Here's an Idea by Lucy (it is amazing to me that she is celebrating 5,000 Pinterest followers, 5,000!). If I've learned one thing, it's that when TPT sellers do a giveaway, they REALLY do a giveaway, she's got over $200 worth of great educational products to giveaway, including my Number and Letter Cards for Activities and Centers.

My store will also be on sale all day Easter Sunday. Hop on over to get 20% off. I've just added some great new bundles, so how's the time to shop for next year, and be sure to check out my cute line of end of the year items!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Freebies

Today is an extra special Friday because I am enjoying a VERY RARE day off! I have vowed to do nothing work or school related today, and am instead spending my day working on crafts projects and getting my house ready for spring (and sleeping in)!

Today's Friday Freebie is one that my students absolutely loved this past week. This one comes from Klever Kiddos, it is a snap cube activity (who doesn't have snap cubes?!) that encourages children to follow directions and problem solve, and then throws in some math facts too.  Students have to build Easter-related items out of snap cubes, following the included picture plans, and then count the number of cubes that they used to build each item.

This is a great activity, that looks like tons of fun to the kiddos, even though I know that they are learning while they're doing it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alphabet book keepsakes

I've started thinking about our annual preschool graduation, and I have a couple of different ideas up my sleeve, but one thing that I always like to incorporate is a keepsake that shows how much the children have learned.  This year my kiddos are going to create alphabet books with their own illustrations for each letter.  We started working on them last week, doing a couple of letters whenever we get a chance. So far they are absolutely adorable.  They are really putting a lot of effort into their books, and some of the illustrations that they have come up with are hilarious.

When they get stuck I pull out my phonetic letter booklets so they can look through some of the pictures and get a better feel for the letter sound, but for the most part, they are coming up with ideas all on their own. Of course this is further proof that they understand the letter sounds - which makes this a great informal assessment too! When they finish illustrating the pages I'll cut them in half to create a separate page for each letter, then I'll bind them with my awesome little Bind-It-All to create cute little books that they'll have forever - or until they decide they don't want all that stuff they made in preschool anymore.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Creative Teaching Supplies is doing a giveaway to celebrate their 200th follower and I got to be a part of it! There are some really great prizes up for grabs, including my Phonetic Letter Books (one of my all-time favorite resources, I use mine at least once a week). There is still time to enter, go check it out at Creative Teaching Supplies!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why you need an address

Most kids learn their address by repeating it over and over and over without really understanding what it means or why they have to learn it.  I really wanted to make this concept a little more meaningful for my kiddos.

Earlier this year we did a great activity - you've probably seen it on Pinterest - Students use different sized circles to represent the planet, continent, country, state, city, and street that they live on.  This was our introduction to our addresses, but we hadn't really revisited the concept.

This time around we drew pictures and wrote simple letters to our families, then we put them in envelopes, and talked about mailing our letters. I wrote their addresses on the envelopes in pencil and they traced over these in black pen.  We talked about how we had to write really nicely so that the mailman (mailwoman, mailperson, I finally decided on postal carrier) could read the address and deliver them to the correct house. Then each child got to like the envelope and put the stamp in the corner. This led to a discussion about stamps, and how they are different than stickers - though I definitely understand the confusion, a stamp would look just like a sticker to a five year old.

After they were signed, sealed, and stamped we walked to the nearest mailbox and each child dropped their letter in.  They thought that their letters would be waiting for them when they got home, so we had a short discussion about the steps that little letter would go through before it showed up at their house.

The parents loved getting mail from their children, and I know that the whole experience helped the children understand why they have an address and one of the reasons that they need to know their own address.  I was so impressed with their writing skills and how carefully they addressed their envelopes.  It was a great project that couldn't have been easier and really met all of my objectives.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Story Problems

I've mentioned before that I didn't have a great relationship with math as a kid.  This has turned me into a teacher who does absolutely everything in my power to make math not only fun, but also as easy as possible. 

I really wanted to try some story problems with my kiddos. I knew that many of them could do the addition that would be required, and I was pretty sure that a story problem would make a lot more sense to them than just throwing a couple of numbers in front of them and saying "add these".  Before I tried anything I wanted to make sure that I could do it in a way that wouldn't confuse any of them, and would make my intent as clear as possible.  

of course this was the beginning of a new product.  I want to share it with you because I really feel that if I had something like this as a kid, it would've made a world of difference.  These are color coded story problems with corresponding color-coded equation mats.  

 The blue circle represents the student, and it contains the number of cookies that he or she has (according to the story problem). The green circle represents the other child named in the story problem, and it contains the number of cookies that he or she has (according to the story problem). The red circle represents the total number of cookies that both children have. This circle is empty and children can either write in the number or use the included cookie shapes to count out the total number of cookies. 

Each segment of the story problem is written in corresponding colors so that the students can visually see which parts of the sentence belong to which circles. For example “You have 1 cookie” is written in blue, so the student knows that he or she has one cookie, and can then see one cookie in the blue circle. 

We walked through two problems as a class, and then I sat with each child and did the problems with them. They were all able to do this successfully, and they were really proud of themselves too! The set that is available in my store includes cookie pieces that can be cut out and used as counters, but we used salt dough cookies instead.  I inherited these from a former teacher and I love them! The children think they are real, which means they want to use them, and fun little manipulatives make math games so much more interactive. 

These color-coded story problems worked so well that I am already planning a second set - this original set has problems that at up to 5, I would love to do another with larger sums. I'm also trying to figure out how to make this work for subtraction, there has to be a way...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Friday Freebies

It's Friday, Yay! Today's freebie is one that I found while working on my lesson plan for next week, I can't wait to use it with my class.  This is a cute Easter themed game from Yay for PreK that encourages children to practice their number recognition skills.  It's called Find the Bunny, and the pieces are designed to fit in a pocket chart.  You "hide" the bunny behind one of the numbers, and as the children identify the numbers they get to check behind each egg to see if they have found the bunny.  When I use this game I'm going to print two sets, so my kiddos have to draw a numbered egg, tell me which number it is, and then find the match.

Enjoy this freebie and check out what else Yay for PreK has to offer.  I have another great Easter themed freebie for you next Friday!

Easter resources link up

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know about a great link up that is taking place over at First Grade Salt Life. Head on over to check out the amazing Easter Resources and add your own!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Young Illustrators

As part of our Week of the Young Child festivities we have been celebrating children's literacy.  Each year one of my favorite activities is to have my students illustrate a book that they know very well.  This year I choose Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." My students seem to gravitate towards this book, and all of them have reported that they have a copy at home, so I knew it was one they were very familiar with.

Our class book turned out great.  Here is my class' illustrated version of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (I did the cover page, the rest was done by my five year old students).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Library play

We were supposed to walk to the library this morning as part of our celebration of the Week of the Young Child, but it rained all morning, so I did what every good preschool teacher would do, I improvised.

I set up my classroom like a library and made each of my students library cards, and we all spent the morning at Ms. Erin's School Library.

It was hilarious. My kiddos spent the entire morning whispering to each other, just like they would at the real library.  They sat on the floor and read with each other - ALL MORNING.  I'm going to do this more often!

It was really easy to prep, in addition to the bookshelf that is usually in my classroom, I took a majority of the books from our little library at school and placed piles of books in different places throughout the room.

I put our ancient calculator out and showed the children how to "swipe" their library cards to check out their books. They thought this was the best thing ever! The library cards were from our collection of old gift cards and credit card samples. I taped their photos to them and wrote "Library Card" in sharpie. Voila!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Liebster Award for Blogging!

I am so touched! Alicia (also known as The Elementary Professor) nominated me for a Liebster Award! This blows my mind because I'm shocked that someone is actually reading my little blog.  This is an award that is given to new bloggers by other bloggers, and in order to accept it, I have to answer some questions that Alicia came up with.  This is great really, because I've talked a lot about my classroom, but I haven't really shared much about myself.  

Here are the questions:
1- What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
I love language arts! I'm a huge advocate for the whole language approach, so I incorporate literacy into everything that my class does. When I see a preschooler's face light up when they read their first words, or write their name for the first time, it makes every minute of hard work worthwhile.  This is why I became a teacher, and it's still my absolute favorite thing about teaching.

2-  When you were a kid, did you already know you were going to be a teacher?

Nope, I actually never wanted to be a teacher.  When I was younger I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and then an Interior Designer.  By the time I got to college I had decided that I wanted to work with non-profit organizations.  My degree is in Human Development and Family Studies, and while I was in college I was a camp counselor and worked for  a before and after school program at a local Montessori school.  After graduation the school offered me a long-term sub position in one of their preschool classrooms.  I fell in love with the students and the work, the rest is history.

3-  If you could have a shopping spree at any one store, what would it be?
That is a very tough question, I LOVE to shop.  I think that I would say Target, because I can find a little bit of everything there, and it's always really cute! 

4- What do you do to make yourself relax on weekends and breaks?

I love to sleep in, if I can squeeze an extra hour or two I definitely will. This is what I look forward to the most on my days off!

5-  If you have a family and teach full time, I'd love a tip about how to balance it all.  Beyond being good at scheduling...I'm already a bit crazy about that?

I teach at a child care center, so I'm with my students from 9am until 6pm.  This is part of the reason that I don't have children yet, I'm not sure that I'm ready to come home to kids after spending all day with them.  On top of working full time, my husband and I both have our own small businesses, we barely get to see each other, let alone our dog!

6-  What is your favorite thing to do at home?

I love to bake, if I can steal an afternoon to myself I will spend it baking.  I'll try any recipe at least once, but cookies are my favorite because I can split up a batch and give them away, then I'm not stuck eating them all myself.  I also love to decorate sugar cookies, and before any holiday you can find me spending hours piping intricate designs onto my cookies.  

7-  What is your must have food or drink when you're in for a long session of planning/grading, etc....

I am a Starbucks addict.  I try to keep it reasonable - three or four days a week is acceptable right?! If I have a ton of work that I have to get done I will park myself at Starbucks until I finish it all. It worked for me in college and it works for me now. My favorite drinks vary by the season and the weather, I like to switch it up but if I could have a pumpkin spice latte all year, I totally would. 

8-  After school in your classroom, music or silence?

Music, definitely. I always have music on, I think Pandora is the best thing ever.  

9-What's one of the scariest things you've ever done?

Open my own school.  The school that I taught at for 4 years closed in 2013, when it closed I partnered with two of my coworkers and we opened a non-profit Early Learning Center in January 2014.  It was a huge leap of faith, and a ton of work. I am learning something new everyday!

10- What is one of those teaching moments that you still laugh about and will forever retell?

I work with very young children, so I get to know their parents and families pretty well.  Most of my funniest stories have to do with students who have told my entire class things that their parents would probably prefer I didn't know. 

11-  If you could meet 1 character from any book in real life, who would it be and why?  What would you with them?

growing up, my favorite books were the Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot.  Mia Thermopolis was the girl that I always wanted to be, she could care less what other people thought of her and she always did the right thing, even when doing the right thing wasn't easy.  She was also slightly naive, and completely up on pop culture and celebrity news, which made her so real to 14 year old me.  I would love to hang out with her, yes, I would pick her over more classic literary characters, because I would feel completely comfortable hanging out with Mia, well except for the whole princess thing...

The next part of this award is that I have to list 11 random facts about myself, so here it goes:
1. I married my high school sweetheart. We started dating when we were 17 and have been married for three years.
2. I have a yellow lab named Allis, she's my 90 pound vacuum cleaner. 
3. I have lived in Ohio my entire life, and I wouldn't change it for the world. 
4. I love to quilt. I learned when I was in high school, and have been doing it ever since. When one of my friends gets married or has a baby they get a quilt to commemorate the big event.
5. Pizza is my absolute favorite food, I could eat it every day of the week (We've been known to have pizza four different times throughout the week).
6. My sister is a teacher too. She teaches kindergarten, so we are constantly sharing ideas and resources.
7. My husband and I are advisors for a local 4H Club. We were both in 4H when we were younger, and we met when we were counselors at 4H camp, so we love to be able to give back. 
8. I have a beautiful work space on our property. My husband renovated an old chicken coop, now it is my craft space/sewing area/office. It is my dream to be able to work there full time.
9. My sister and I graduated from the same University that my mom and my grandma graduated from. Bowling Green State University - Go Falcons!
10. My favorite color is purple, this is one fact about me that my students always remember!
11. My former co-teacher and I just submitted a proposal for a book and I am anxiously awaiting feedback from the publisher!

Now it's my turn to nominate some amazing bloggers! Here are my picks:

The RV Classroom (The Learning Wagon)

Now my nominees get to answer my questions!
1. When did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?
2. What is your favorite thing about teaching?
3. Why do you blog and when did you start?
4. What is your favorite thing to do for fun?
5. If you were not a teacher, what would you be?
6. What is your favorite indulgence or guilty pleasure?
7. What is your favorite thing to watch on television?
8. Share one funny story from your teaching experience.
9. How do you keep learning fun?
10. What is your favorite holiday or special event to celebrate with your students (or family) and why?
11. What is one of your pet peeves? (It doesn't have to be teaching related)

I can't wait to learn more about all of you! For more information about the Liebster award, check out the official rules. Thanks again to Alicia - The Elementary Professor - for nominating me!