Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Freebie

Happy Friday! It's even happier because it is a long weekend, thank goodness! I am excited to just ENJOY this weekend.  A Friday evening to myself (shopping anyone?!), getting away for an out of town wedding on Saturday, back home for one of my favorite local fairs on Sunday and beautifully nothing to do all day Monday.  I hope that your weekend is just as relaxing!

I've spent a lot of time this week talking about dressing and behaving professionally.  I always feel more professional when I am able to be prepared and communicate clearly, so I wanted to share something that I made to help you do both.  This Teacher's Stationary Set is available right here, on my blog and it's FREE yay! So please share with your friends! It is also available as part of my Back to School Math and Language Bundle

This set includes two different sizes of printable note cards, so you can leave a note for a parent or co-worker.  It also includes a printable to do list, separated into three sections - Morning, Afternoon, and Evening, to help you stay organized.  Finally, there is a set of location cards, place them on a ring and leave them near your door so that everyone knows where to find you.  

Download them here and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Recycled loose parts

I'm used to using loose parts in the classroom, I love them. I'm known for using recycled materials in the classroom, really, what preschool teacher isn't? Another thing that I just might be notorious for - I cannot throw away craft materials, I just can't do it.  These facts make the project that I'm currently working on the ideal project for me.

I had a ton of strips of scrapbook paper left from another project, and I had pinned this photo awhile back:

What an awesome idea! I thought that I could roll up the paper and my students could create with it.  I started rolling, taping each new addition to the roll. As I rolled the strips it occurred to me that these would be a great addition to the block area - similar to spools, but smaller.  So I started making a variety of sizes, wrapping each in clear tape to protect them just a little.  I'm not quite done yet, but my students are already intrigued, they can't wait to get their hands on these little paper rolls. I am so excited to see what they do with them.  Here are a couple of other ideas that I found on Pinterest, can I just say WOW!

I will be sure to share photos of the children using these!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Practicing Professionalism

How many times have you heard "Oh, your job is so fun, you get to play with little kids all day!"  Yeah, and can you still manage to keep from rolling your eyes?  I've found that the more professionally I behave, the more that my job, and the challenges it presents, are taken seriously.

I've always worked at lab schools (with ECE students from local colleges and universities), and I've often had students who don't take my work seriously because I am young, and in some cases, younger than they are.  So over the years I've come up with some tried and true methods for being taken seriously, which has helped parents, visitors, and students understand that I am a REAL teacher.

Here are my best tips:

  1. Dress professionally.  This seems pretty obvious, but a lot of people take this one for granted. This doesn't mean that you have to wear dress pants every day, or heels for that matter. It just means that you have to dress as if you take yourself seriously. I wear jeans to school often (we're allowed to wear them every day) but I never wear jeans and a t-shirt, I'll wear a nice blouse, cardigan, or collared shirt. Taking time to put myself together conveys a message to others that I take pride in myself and my work, and that my work is important enough for me to dress nicely to do it.
  2. Be prepared. If you are frazzled in the morning, that's fine, it happens to the best of us. If the morning isn't your best part of the day then make sure all of your supplies are prepared before you leave in the evening.  This will keep you calm and confident and others will be able to tell that you are ready to do your job. 
  3. Make learning obvious.  Post lesson plans, share photos of experiences with families, display children's work, and talk to adults about the activities happening in the classroom.  The more effort you put into sharing learning experiences, the better parents will understand all of the work that you do to prepare, execute, and document learning activities for their child.  When people understand your job, they are more likely to respect your work. 
  4. Be transparent. If you have a visitor, parent, or observing student in your classroom take the time to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.  When procedures and routines are explained then they make sense, and people are less likely to question them.  
  5. Take yourself seriously.  The first step in being professional is valuing your own work, and seeing yourself as a hardworking individual who has earned respect.  Others will not believe that you are professional if you do not believe it yourself.  Yes, there are aspects of teaching preschool that are a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work.  You plan and implement lessons, assess children's learning, determine their needs - both educationally and emotionally. You communicate with parents, create relationships with community members, encourage children to try new things, and fill out a lot of paperwork.  Remind yourself that there are a lot of people who could not do this job (and many will freely admit it)!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Preschool Stains

It is impossible (seriously IMPOSSIBLE) to go a single day in a preschool classroom without getting a stain on something.  It could be the carpet, a child's clothing, the teacher's clothing, dress-up clothes, a nap blanket, or a lunchbox.  If it's in a preschool room, it has the potential to get a little messy.  This is for two reasons;

  1. Small children do not comprehend the word "careful".  No matter how hard they try, they are not completely steady on their feet, and with a lack of balance comes a general unsteadiness that makes carrying things incredibly difficult. This being said, children need to have these experiences.  In my classroom, students know that spilling or dropping things is ok, they also know that they will help clean up any mess that results.  
  2. Preschoolers want to explore everything! This is something that I love about being a preschool teacher.  I love that they get so excited about new things that they literally have to touch them. I want my students to get messy because this is how they learn - they get to feel things squish between  their fingers and get stuck underneath their fingernails, then they have to learn how to get those things off of their hands (which typically turns the bathroom into a disaster).  Messes are totally fine because children learn from the process of making the mess, and then they learn while cleaning it up!
Because we make a lot of messes, I've been collecting tips and tricks for stain removal and easy clean up. Of course, I have to share my tips with all of you!

This first idea is genius - make clean up easy by avoiding the mess all together. Put a plastic bag inside of your paint cups, then you can just remove the bag and the cup will not need washed! Thanks Sharing Kindergarten!

I think that Magic Erasers are miracle products. I use them for everything and I'm always finding new uses.  This list is mind blowing - did you know Magic Erasers could clean up nail polish stains?! They will also get rid of that gross cooked on food that won't come out of the inside of your lunch containers, and take tarnish off of silver.  In the classroom the most common uses for my magic erasers are to get dried glue off of tabletops, remove crayon from pretty much anything, and get scuffs off of walls.  

Martha Stewart is the Queen of all things laundry related, so of course her checklist of stain treatment and removal is AMAZING.  You can print a copy to keep in your laundry room, classroom, or even to give to parents!

This is my all-time favorite stain removal product - Resolve Stain Stick with Spray N' Wash.  I put the stain remover on when I take off the article of clothing, and then throw it on the laundry pile and wash with everything else, just like I usually would.  It has taken care of every stain that I have ever attempted to use it on!

What are your favorite tips and tricks for taking care of messes and stains! I'd love to hear about them, I'm always looking to add to my arsenal!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The best clothes for preschool teachers

Teaching preschool is not an easy job.  While I absolutely love my students, they can drain me emotionally and physically, and they wreak havoc on my wardrobe!  Washable paint is not always washable, and more often than not, I really have no idea where that stain came from or what it is - and sometimes it's better not to know. I'm really lucky because I'm allowed to wear jeans to work - we're expected to be participating in activities with the children, which often means on the floor, or outside making messes, so it is expected that we will get dirty.  Thank goodness that this is understood, but this means I also go through a lot of jeans.

I've always tried to find the best deals on my clothes, but this is especially true for my school outfits. I don't want to spend a ton of money on something if the possibility of it getting ruined is very high.  I put this post together to show you some of my favorite school pieces (read: I wear these at least once a week), and to highlight the stores that I love to shop at - because I can get the best deals!

1.  Target - I love Target's clothing because it is super affordable, but still very cute.  Their pieces are classic with a trendy twist.  I spent the summer in a navy blue Mossimo T-shirt dress, and I intend to wear it through the fall with a cardigan. I just bought a gray sweatshirt dress, and have nearly worn it out because it is so perfect. It is cute and comfortable, it can be casual, or I can dress it up, and it was only $20 (BTW, the dress looks REALLY short in the photo, but I'm not nearly as tall as that model...).

2. Gap Outlet.  Again with the classics.  I fell in love with Gap in high school, and it has had a place in my closet ever since.  Rarely can I afford to splurge on anything in the regular store, my secret weapon is the Gap Outlet.  My favorite pieces from the Gap are cardigans - theirs are perfect, the colors change often and with the season, so it is easy to keep my look fresh. They are also on sale a lot, and can be washed a ton of times without showing a ton of wear.  I also found my favorite chambray shirt dress at the Gap Outlet.  I think that I love this dress because it makes me feel very nostalgic. I was in preschool in the early 90's, I'm pretty sure that all of my preschool teachers owned a chambray dress or shirt of some kind, so it just feels right to wear this to school.  The Gap is also my favorite place to buy leggings (and yoga pants, but that isn't the point of this post).  I like their leggings because they are heavy and they have a wide waistband, plus they are super soft.

3. LC Lauren Conrad at Kohls. I've loved Lauren's style since she first showed it off on The Hills, so the fact that I can buy her pieces at Kohls is just about the best thing ever.  If the Gap Outlet and Target keep me in the basics, then this line keeps my look on trend.  The trick to getting these pieces for the lowest price is knowing when to buy.  It's best if you can wait until they go on clearance, but sometimes that means that your size isn't available.  The LC line releases new collections every month, so after about two months in the store the pieces are usually at their best price.  And then there's always the elusive 30% off coupon. If I can get my hands on one of those then I am definitely using it on something from this line.  My favorites are her sweaters.  They wash and hold their shape really well, and generally combine a classic shape with a trendy element such as an embellishment or popular color.  I also wear LC Jeans religiously, the slim bootcut is the perfect fit, and the black version can pass for a dress pant if necessary.

These are a few of my favorite stores because they have cute clothes and policies that help me get the most for my money. All three offer rewards for loyal customers, and Kohls and the Gap Outlet will let you combine coupons and discounts for even more savings.  These stores have allowed me to look and feel professional without breaking the bank.  Check back later this week because I'll be giving you tips for staying clean among all of those messes, and talking about how to maintain a level of professionalism amongst the runny noses, sensory table messes, and play dough under your fingernails!

[This post was not sponsored by any of the above retailers, I just love them and wanted to share!]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Freebie

It's Friday, which means it's time for a freebie! This one is a great idea from Courtney Keimer. It's a sensory alphabet book, each page has an upper and lowercase letter outline, along with a sensory material that begins with that particular letter.  Students use glue and the suggested material to fill in each letter outline.  I love this because it gives children a concrete example for each letter sound. Instead of drawing a picture, writing a word, or gluing in a magazine clipping, children actually get to handle the object that is associated with the letter sound, giving them a tangible example.

I think that this is an awesome concept, and a great way to teach letter sounds.  You can download Courtney's Multi Sensory ABC Book here!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The ultimate list of tools for the sensory bin

Yesterday I shared my huge list of sensory bin ideas (see the list here).  Today I'm going to give you a list of all of the awesome tools that I like to add to the sensory bin alongside these materials.  Kids love to explore with their hands, but introducing additional tools can add to the learning and help children make meaningful connections, especially when they use the same tools with different materials.  This helps children to learn basic scientific concepts like texture, states and properties of matter, making and testing hypotheses, and mass and weight.

Again, it is important to remember that sensory play should be supervised to ensure that all materials and tools are used appropriately!

1. Measuring Cups
2. Measuring Spoons
3. Straws
4. Q-tips
5. Toothpicks
6. Basters
7. Funnels
8. Scoops
9. Ice Cube Trays
10. Egg Cartons
11. Cardboard Tubes
12. Popsicle Sticks
13. Cups
14. Spoons
15. Tongs
16. Tweezers
17. Chopsticks
18. Muffin Tins
19. Spice Jars
20. Empty Containers
21. Paintbrushes
22. Film Canisters
23. Sponges
24. Spatulas
25. Rolling Pins
26. Colanders
27. Bowls
28. Silicone Muffin cups
29. Pencils
30. Mittens (for snow and ice)
31. Food Coloring
32. Eye Droppers
33. Coffee Mugs
34. Plastic Animals
35. Plastic People
36. Toy Cars
37. Forks
38. Cookie Cutters
39. Bamboo Skewers
40. Shovels

I've found that if I provide tools for the children to use with sensory materials, they are much less likely to make a mess because they are focused on a task.  They want to keep the materials in the bin because they need it all in order to accomplish the task.  I'd love to know what your favorite sensory exploration tools are! List them in the comments!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ultimate list of sensory materials

I have a love/hate relationship with the sensory table.  I fully appreciate the awesome educational opportunities that sensory play encourages, and I love that children will spend FOREVER exploring these materials.  On the other hand, there's the mess.  It doesn't matter how deep the bucket is, somehow, whatever is on the table will end up on the floor.  In the end, the mess is always worth it.  Exploration and discovery always win.

I like to switch out the materials in the sensory table often Sometimes I change the actual sensory materials, and sometimes a remove the tools and put in a different kind of tool to see how the children will use it, and how they incorporate their own previous knowledge. Over the years I've explored a ton of different items with my students.  Today I'm going to share the list of sensory materials that I've compiled, and tomorrow I'll tell you about all of the tools that I've introduced for sensory play.

Many of these materials can be mixed together to create additional sensory experiences.  Sensory play should be closely monitored, for the safety and sanity of all those involved!

1. Flour
2. Salt
3. Cornmeal
4. Vegetable Oil
5. Baby Oil
6. Corn Syrup
7. Water
8. Ice
9. Spices
10. Herbs
11. Dish Soap
12. Soap Flakes
13. Glue
14. Hair Gel
15. Aluminum Foil
16. Waxed Paper
17. Saran Wrap
18. Jello
19. Shaving Cream
20. Kool Aid
21. Canned Pumpkin
22. Frozen Peas
23. Pureed Fruit
24. Dry Pasta
25. Cooked Pasta
26. Rice
27. Cooked Rice
28. Confetti
29. Easter Grass
30. Balloons
31. Sand
32. Dirt
33. Mud
34. Shredded Paper
35. Grass Clippings
36. Leaves
37. Flower Petals
38. Sea Shells
39.  Stones/Gravel
40. Beans
41. Cereal
42. Dry Oats
43. Cooked Oats
44. Tapioca
45. Pudding
46. Pipe Cleaners
47. Pom Poms
48. Cotton Batting
49. Fabric Scraps
50. Sticks and Twigs
51. Gems and Aquarium Stones
52. Nuts and Washers
53. Paper Clips
54. Acorns
55. Pine Cones
56. Feathers
57. Seeds
58. Field Corn
59. Soybeans
60. Marshmallows
61. Gift Wrap
62. Bows and Ribbon
63. Snow
64. Tomato Paste
65. Pumpkin Seeds and Pulp
66. Cranberries
67. Styrofoam Beads
68.  Cinnamon Sticks
69. Candy Corn
70. Jelly Beans
71. Extracts 
72. Candy Hearts
73. Chocolate Syrup
74. Powdered Milk
75. Cocoa Powder

I'm sure that you can think of more ideas, share your favorites in the comments and make sure to check back tomorrow for a list of tools to use with all of these materials!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Boost

I'm not quite sure what it is this year, but I'm not really feeling like it's time for Back to School quite yet.  Yes, the weather is quite a bit cooler, I've definitely picked up a few school supplies (who doesn't love brand new Sharpies?!), and I'm itching for college football season and some high school football games, but there seems to be something missing.

Maybe I'll get my Back to School boost tomorrow, because Teachers Pay Teachers is having a special one day Back to School sale.  This is super special because TPT already had their annual Back to School sale, but being smart like they are, they totally understand that not all teachers go back at the same time, and they want to help out those who may have missed out on the sale at the beginning of the month.

Before every sale I do a run down of the things that I'm planning on buying.  Since it's a quick one-day sale, I thought I'd do an abbreviated version of my wishlist.  Here's what I'm drooling over:

I'm in love with this recent release from Cherry Workshop.  Stitched letters, yes please! As a preschool teacher, I use alphabet letters in a million different ways, I can think of a ton of ideas for these.  Plus, I'm sure I could come up with some really cute printables that would showcase them (because I really need another excuse to make printables...).  They will definitely be going in my cart.

How awesome is this bulletin board set from Simply Kinder?! Not only is it a printable bulletin board (which saves tons of time, since you don't have to design it yourself), but it is also interactive - children stand in front of it on the first day and get their picture taken.  Those photos could be so useful throughout the year.  What an awesome image to place on the front cover of a portfolio, to hang in the classroom, to create a class album, and as a great comparison photo at graduation.  

I would love to know what's on your wishlist, please share in the comments! I'm linking up this post with SLPrunner, go check out some other great TPT products on her blog!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Off to Kindergarten (update)

My big kids are all starting kindergarten this week.  These are kiddos that have been in my class since they were 2 years old, so this is a bittersweet week for all of us.  I wanted to do something special for them as they started a new chapter, and I shared some of my ideas a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to take some time to share the final product!

This is the cute kit that I put together for each family to use on the first day of kindergarten.  Each kit has a small pack of tissues (for Mom and Dad's tears), chocolate hugs for a little extra comfort, and two small felt hearts.  The idea behind the hearts is that the parents keep one heart, while the child takes the other to school, this way everyone has a small object to comfort them throughout the day.

The tags on the kits have the following message:

As you send your child off to kindergarten please know that I’m thinking of both of you!
These tissues are to dry your tears, your little one is all grown up! The Hugs are for a little extra comfort, we all need a hug every now and then! There are two felt hearts, one is for you to hang onto all day, the other is for your child, to remind them that you are with them, even when you are not near. 

Have a great first day of kindergarten, and thank you for letting me be a part of your family!

Of course, I had to share these tags with you, so you can download them for free here! I also added a different tag, to make this little kit more appropriate as a gift from a child's kindergarten teacher on the first day (to help make it easier for Mom and Dad to leave).  Those tags have this message:

I get to spend the day with your child, but I’ll be thinking of you too!
These tissues are to dry your tears, your little one is all grown up! The Hugs are for a little extra comfort, we all need a hug every now and then! There are two felt hearts, one is for you to hang onto all day, the other is for your child, to remind them that you are with them, even when you are not near. 
Have a great first day of kindergarten, and thank you for letting me be a part of your family!

You can download the printable version of these tags from my TPT store (for free!), thanks for letting me share!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freebie Friday

Happy Friday! That,s all I've got - Happy Friday, I am so glad that it's here!

Today's freebie is something that I created that is basically the most useful convenient thing I've ever made (if I may say so myself).  Have you every seen any of the great ideas for projects using paint chips that are floating all over Pinterest? If not, then I'm sorry, but you must be living under a rock.  I love these cute craft, frugal ideas, but I have a couple of fundamental issues with the paint chip craze.  #1 I have a guilty conscious, I know those paint chips are free, but I cannot bring myself to swipe them from the store.  WHenever I grab a handful and stuff them in my bag I feel like a criminal.  #2 All of those projects require planning ahead, you actually have to have all of the paint chips in order to do the project.  Sometimes I just want to be crafty right now!

So I made my own paint chips, and I want to share them with you. Print them whenever you need them, no need to run to the store and smuggle them all out! You can download this great freebie here!

And just in case you feel the need to make something cute, here are a few of my favorite ideas:

Paint Chip Calendar from Raining Hot Coupons

Color Matching Game from Sew Fantastic

Paint Chip Bookmarks from Kids Kubby

Share your favorite paint chip projects in the comments, I'm always looking for new ideas!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Tips and Freebies

I know that I generally do freebies on Friday (don't worry, I'll have one for you tomorrow!) but this is even more awesome than one freebie, so I thought I'd give it a little extra special attention.  I have to tell you about the Back to School Ebook from TPT.  This book is jam-packed with tips from seasoned teachers and freebies from their Teacher's Pay Teacher's stores.  There are a ton of great ideas here (140 pages!) so please take a minute to download the free ebook and click through the links to all of the free resources, I'm sure that you'll find some great items for your classroom!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August Currently

Yes, I realize that August is halfway over, the beginning of the month was a bit of a whirlwind for me.  Just because I've been super busy, that doesn't mean that I want to miss out on a currently! Here's mine for August, you can check out the others at Oh Boy 4th Grade.

Listening: It never fails, my husband chooses a show to watch and then promptly falls asleep on the couch and I end up listening to a show about cars that I neither understand nor care about.  It's probably better this way, when I'm not paying attention to the show I get a lot more work done!

Loving: I started my obsession with Amazon Prime Instant Video last summer, but I now have a full blown addiction because I can stream it on the smart tv.  I am without a doubt a binge-watcher.  Every single episode of Teen Mom 2, yup, I've seen them.  Every season of Dance Moms, seen those too.  The Hunger Games 25 million times, you bet.  I need background noise when I work and this is my favorite thing.

Thinking: I used to be the queen of laundry, I'd devote my entire Sunday to washing, folding, and putting away all of our laundry.  Lately, not so much.  Now I'm lucky if I get it all done in one day, let alone remember to take it out of the dryer.  I blame it on the fact that my washer and dryer are in the basement, but it could also be because I am way to busy to care about laundry.  On the other hand, it may also be because I have so many clothes that I don't need the ones that are dirty - which probably means I have too many clothes... but we won't go there.

Wanting: I am exhausted.  I've had a couple of crazy weeks, and I really thought that I'd caught up on my sleep over the weekend, but clearly I can't recover as fast as I used to.  I keep telling myself I'll go to bed after I finish this one more thing. Then I think of something else that needs to get done tonight.  This girl needs a couple of days to catch up on her to do list AND her sleep.

Needing: Speaking of to do lists, I really need to make one. I'm getting to that point were I have so many thoughts and tasks floating around in my head that I'm beginning to feel like I'm drowning.  I need to write it all down before I go to bed or else all of these thoughts will never let me sleep. So there it is, one more thing to do before bed.

1st day: My school is year round (which is probably why I'm feeling so burnt out at the moment) so we don't have an official "first day".  We will be saying goodbye to the kiddos that go to kindergarten and transitioning classrooms though, and all of that will start to happen on the 18th, so next Monday.

Thanks for playing along with my currently's, I love love love sharing this little slice of my life with all of you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Extending a Portrait Project

Yesterday I shared one of my all-time favorite back to school activities - creating self-portraits.  Today, I want to share some ideas for extending the learning that you've begun with this activity.  If your students really enjoy this activity, pay attention to how they are working, and which aspects of the project seem to draw their attention.

If the children are especially interested in inspecting their own features in the mirror, then you might consider taking close up photos of their facial features.  You could then print these photos and explore them in a few different ways.

  • First you could encourage the children to figure out which features belong to which students.  
  • You could also have them attempt to find all of their own features and put them together to create their face.  
  • It would be great to compare and contrast each of these features, graphing how many students have blue eyes or brown hair.  
  • These photos could serve as great references for drawings - it would be wonderful to see how the children draw their own features when they are able to see them close up.  
  • You could also print out black and white photos of the children and ask them to add color.
  • When the children are done exploring their own facial features, they could switch with a friend, it would be interesting to see how they draw each other. 
This particular investigation meets a number of early learning standards.  It would be a valuable way to teach:

  • Self-concept 
  • Creativity 
  • Engagement and persistence 
  • Problem solving 
  • Data analysis 
  • Spatial awareness 
  • Identifying and creating shapes
  • Social identity
  • Human systems
  • Expressive language
  • Early writing
  • Small motor
  • Body awareness 

On the other hand, if your students are most interested in using the mirrors to look at themselves and others, there are a number of activities that you could introduce to encourage continued exploration.

  • You could introduce mirrors of all shapes and sizes for the children to explore.
  • The class could compare how they look in the mirror to how they look in photographs.
  • You may choose to introduce a number of materials for children to explore with mirrors, paying close attention to how the students use the mirrors with these items.
  • The children could investigate reflection in different levels of light or darkness.
  • The group may explore the reflective properties of different materials - glass, aluminum foil, water, etc.
These activities are ideal for teaching the following concepts:

  • Safety practices
  • Small motor
  • Expressive language
  • Receptive language
  • Social communication
  • Reasoning and problem solving
  • Grouping and categorizing
  • Describing and comparing attributes
  • Inquiry
  • Explorations of energy
  • Initiative and curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Sense of competence
  • Peer interaction

These are only two possibilities for the extended investigation that can come from an activity like creating self-portraits, but they illustrate the varied possibilities for projects stemming from one idea or topic.  When you spend time observing your students to determine their true interests, your projects will have many more valuable learning experiences because they will be tailored to the questions that the children really want to answer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Preschool Self-Portrait Project

One of my absolute favorite back to school activities to do with my kiddos is to have them create self portraits.  I think that encouraging them to take some time to look at themselves, and pay attention to what makes each of them unique, is a great way to help them recognize why they are each an important part of our community.

Children learn a number of things from creating their own portraits - They get to practice taking time to focus on an activity, and pay attention to detail.  They also begin to compare themselves with other students, and learn to recognize their own unique characteristics, as well as things that they have in common with each other (one of our social emotional standards).  When attempting to draw themselves, children have to experiment with spatial awareness to figure out where each of their features belongs on the paper.  They also have to be able to recognize colors and practice the grasp needed to draw their own features on a piece of paper.

The self-portraits that children create can also serve as assessment tools for teachers.  The ways in which children choose to represent their features speak to their developmental levels - the more realistic the child's portrait is, the more likely they are in touch with these features (able to label them, identify where they are, etc.).  Teachers are able to observe children's pre-writing skills, and assess any issues that may be present in this area (Does the child need practice with grasp, would he or she benefit from assistive writing technologies?).  This particular activity can also show teachers how well a student can listen to, and comprehend instructions.

When I ask my children to create self-portraits, I always make sure that there are plenty of mirrors available. It is important for children to be able to see what they look like in order to draw themselves accurately.  My favorite mirrors for the classroom are acrylic portrait mirrors (this one is available on Amazon).  They stand up on their own and are not easily knocked over.  They also don't break easily because they are not glass.

For a base I love to start with these face pads from Discount School Supply.  They make life easy because they are pre-cut, and they include a variety of skin tones, so all students can find one that matches closely.  I usually let my students choose what face they want to use, even if it is not particularly close to their actual skin tone.  It is their portrait, so it gets to look like they want it to.  

Some of the other materials that I like to have available include; markers, yarn in hair colors, foam shapes, and pencils.  If you are going to incorporate collage materials, it is also helpful to have a heavy duty glue, such as tacky glue, that will hold heavier materials.

The most important step of the entire project is making sure to display the portraits in the classroom.  It helps the children feel like they are valued members of the community because you want to display their self-portrait.  It is also fun to display these without labeling them with the the children's names (at least for the first few days), so that parents can attempt to figure out which self-portrait belongs to their child.  

These self-portraits are often something that students are immensely proud of.  This is often because it is the first project they have created at school.  I leave self-portraits on display for as long as possible, and when they are taken down, I always make sure to include them in each child's individual portfolio because they serve as an amazing snapshot for how the child saw him or herself at that moment in time.  

Make sure to check back tomorrow, I'll give you some ideas for extending this self-portrait activity into an insightful self-concept project!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Freebie

Happy Friday! I am so glad that this week is over, it was complete chaos.  While my weekend won't exactly be relaxing, I am looking forward to celebrating a few milestones - My future SIL's bachelorette party, and my nephew's first birthday, not to mention my husband's 27th birthday (which was technically last weekend, but has yet to be fully celebrated).  I may actually be looking forward to next week, when things will calm down and get back to normal!

I am seriously excited about this week's freebie.  I fully agree with the idea that the classroom environment plays a vital role in the learning process.  I also firmly believe that the classroom should be fluid - ever changing to meet the needs of students, and to continuously engage them in learning.  When the classroom stays the same - same furniture, same design, same materials, all year long, then the learning process begins to feel a little stagnant.  This set of Science Lab Design Worksheets from Teaching Preschoolers has my name all over it.  I began my collegiate career studying interior design, it's still a passion of mine, and I LOVE to arrange classroom spaces.

This set includes graph sheets so that you can layout all of the furniture and large design elements, along with a checklist to help you make sure that you've included all of the components that should be available in the space. My favorite feature are the pages for recording your before pictures and inspiration photos, along with additional notes.  This set would have been so helpful when I was serving as a mentor teacher.  I can arrange furniture in my head, it all seems to logically fit into the space, but I know that isn't a skill that everyone possesses, which is where this great FREE product comes into play.  Please take advantage of this amazing idea, I know I'll definitely be using it! You can download it here.