Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Freebie - Candy Heart Sorting

Happy Friday! Can you believe January is almost over? It seems like it has flown by! I'm jumping on the Valentine's day train because I love Valentine's day.  I wanted to make sure that I had a chance to share a couple of Valentine's Day freebies with you, so I'm starting a bit early. 

This Conversation Heart graphing set is the same one that I have been using with my class for the last four years. It is from Pocketful of Centers, and she thought of everything.  The set includes a page for sorting, a page for counting each color, and a page for graphing.  I use these three pages for three days worth of math lessons, each day building on the work that the children did the day before.  My students respond greatly to anything that has to do with food, even if they aren't supposed to eat it, and if it gets them interested in math then I won't complain! Enjoy your weekend, and cross a couple of days off your lesson plan with this freebie. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Preschool Printables for Valentine's Day

I love to celebrate holidays with my students, and Valentine's Day stands out as one of my favorites.  As an adult, you either love Valentine's Day, or you hate it, but little one's haven't yet developed a reason to hate it.  I love that I get to encourage my students to share their love with everyone, and they're happy to do so!

Over the years I've collected a ridiculous amount of Valentine's Day activities, but my favorites are the one's that I've put together for my students.  Each year I've tweaked them just a bit and I am so proud of the collection that I've put together, so I had to share them with you!

Follow the links to download the printables.

Broken Heart Letter Match - What a fun way for preschoolers to practice letter recognition! Children match the capital and lowercase letter to make a whole heart.

Valentine's Day Alphabet Book - A cute book with a Valentine themed word for each letter of the alphabet. This is perfect for practicing beginning sounds and letter recognition.

Love Language Matching - Children match the word "love" in different languages.  This activity is multicultural, and also encourages children to focus on the letters that make up different words.

Valentine's Day Numbers - These numbers can be used in so many different ways.  Each number has the corresponding number of hearts on the numeral, which can be used to help children recognize the numeral and practice one-to-one correspondence.  The set also includes Valentine ten frames, all of the ten frames correspond with the numerals, so the colors of the hearts on the 5 ten frame match the color of the number 5. The ten frames can be used independently, or matched to the numerals.  All of the details considered when creating this set were designed to make sure that children at all ability levels could use the set successfully.

Valentine's Day Vocabulary CardsCute vocabulary cards with Valentine's Day related words (Love, heart, chocolate, kiss, hug, valentine, key, cupcake, candy). Use these vocabulary cards to introduce your students to new words. These are perfect for writing centers and activities. 
This set also includes a set of cards that has pictures and spaces for children to practice spelling the vocabulary words with letter tiles. You could also use the second set to have each child write in the words themselves to create their own vocabulary card set. 

Valentine's Day Counting mats - These are designed to help children practice number recognition, counting, and one-to-one correspondence.  Each mat has a number, and then that many circles inside of the heart.  Children can fill in the circles using colored gems, pom poms, marshmallows, or bingo markers.  I've included the numbers 1-20 so if your class is working on 1-10, you can print those, and if you are focusing on the teens, you can print just the numbers that you want.

Sweet Numbers Game - Year after year this has been my students' favorite Valentine's day game, probably because it's played with Hershey Kisses.  Print two game mats, and both sets of colored number stickers.  The numbers fit on the bottom of a Hershey Kiss, then  each colored set gets put into it's own bowl, and the children take turns choosing a Kiss and matching the number on the candy to the number on their mat until that have filled their entire heart. 

Valentine's Day Stationary - This freebie is perfect for any writing center!

All of these activities are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, and if you want all of them, make sure to check out the Valentine Math and Language Activity Bundle

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reggio inspired writing centers

On Monday I talked about how my classroom is ever-changing. I am constantly rotating materials in my centers, so  thought I would give some examples for different center materials.  Once I gathered a ton of materials for a particular center it was much easier to switch them out frequently.

When it comes to the writing center, my students especially love the following language-related materials:

  • Clipboards filled with PLENTY of paper (my students tend to be quite prolific!)
  • A variety of writing utensils (pencils are always available, but I switch in pens, colored pens, colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc.)
  • Alphabet stamps
  • Dry erase boards and markers
  • Mini notebooks
I also like to include materials that are related to my students' interests or current events, such as:
  • Vocabulary cards - so students can write words independently
  • Project related items - for tracing, observing, drawing, etc.
  • Colored paper or stationary if they want to create something extra special
  • Books with words or pictures that they can re-create
The most important thing to remember when creating a writing center is to make sure that there is room to write - young writers need plenty of space to spread out their tools.  Here are some photos of incredible Reggio-inspired writing centers to get your creative juices flowing.

Each of these blogs give a detailed explanation of these spaces if you need more than a photo, and please check out my Preschool Language Arts pin board for more great ideas!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reggio inspired math centers

Yesterday I talked about how my classroom is ever-changing. I am constantly rotating materials in my centers, so  thought I would give some examples for different center materials.  Once I gathered a ton of materials for a particular center it was much easier to switch them out frequently.

When it comes to the math center, my students especially love the following math-related materials:
  • Scales (authentic bathroom or kitchen scales, as well as balancing scales)
  • Calculators
  • Abacus (I have a Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Abacus that my students LOVE)
  • Rulers, yardsticks, and tape measures
  • magnet numbers
I also like to add things that students can manipulate with each of these items, such as:
  • natural materials
  • pre-cut pieces of yarn or ribbon
  • paper and pencil
  • patterning cards
  • snap cubes
  • beads and pipe cleaners
The most helpful containers to hold math supplies are trays and baskets with multiple sections, so that small pieces can be easily sorted.  Here are some photos of really great Reggio-inspired math centers. 

All of these centers have great ideas that only require easily sourced materials and very little preparation.  Using these 4 photos for inspiration, you should be able to fill your math center for the next 8 weeks!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Creating a dynamic preschool classroom

Do you remember visiting your friends' homes as a child? Their toys were so much more fun to play with that your own, and their bedrooms/backyards/playrooms were WAY better than yours.  You never understood why they wanted to come to your house, but they felt the same way, your stuff was more interesting than what they had.  This is because it wasn't the same old stuff that you played with every single day, your play things were boring because you were used to them, and they were always available.

This idea is true in the classroom too.  My students don't want to use the same materials every single day, nor should they have too - if I keep the same things our all year long, they'll eventually start to use these things inappropriately because they have used them in every other possible way that they can think of.

This is precisely why I have adapted a room arrangement that is fluid and dynamic.  Every two week I like to rearrange my classroom. I move the centers to new spaces, often using different shelving units and different tables to create new spaces.  This doesn't mean that I get new furniture every couple of weeks, but it does mean that I use what I have creatively.  The easel  from the art center might become the menu board in the dramatic play restaurant, and the table from the writing center might move into the block area to encourage children to draw or plan their building creations.

My students love it when I rearrange the classroom, and they often get to help.  They'll push chairs across the room for me, move items to new shelves, and gather materials that need to be put away.  We do all of the hard work in the morning (usually on a Friday), and then I can count on a quiet afternoon because they are all busy exploring the new spaces.

This is a big job.  Not only do I rearrange my furniture, but all of the center materials get put away, and new materials come out.  I try to plan what I'm going to get out beforehand, so that when the time comes to do the job, I know exactly what I need. I often include my students in the planning, asking them what they would like to have the dramatic play center, or what kinds of art supplies they would like me to get out.  Our classroom might look like a disaster while this process is happening, but once it's done everything feels fresh!

Can I tell you a secret? This system has had a huge impact on the way that my students behave in the classroom.  Any teacher will tell you that most behavior problems happen when students are bored.  My students don't have the opportunity to get bored because the classroom is constantly changing.  It also gives me the opportunity to pay attention to their interests and behaviors, and tailor the environment to what works for them.

If I notice that my students are doing a lot of running in the classroom, I can arrange the furniture so that there isn't room to run.  If I notice that the entire class wants to work in the art area together, I can increase the size of that space, and make sure to include enough materials so they can all work together.  If my students are especially interested in the rulers in the math area, then I'll leave the rulers out for another two weeks, but I'll put out different materials for them to measure.

This is a system that I am passionate about because I have seen it work wonders for my students.  Every class I've had has responded positively to new spaces and opportunities for exploration.  It takes a few days for the students to adjust to putting things away in their new places, but it is worth it because my students are engaged in the centers that are available because they know that they have a finite amount of time to explore each center before it changes again.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Freebie - Winter Snap Cubes

Happy Friday! I love a short week like this one, especially when a nasty bug is going around, I'm in need of a couple of weekend days when I can sleep in!

I was so excited to find this freebie, there are certainly more than a few winter blues floating around my classroom (myself included!) so I'm always looking for ways to make winter just a little more fun.  These winter snap cube patterns look like just what we need. These are from Klever Kiddos, and I have the Easter set (which my students absolutely loved last year) so the winter set will be the perfect addition to my math center.  I hope you'll download this set too!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Becoming Young Thinkers

I've been doing a bit of a book study on Judy Harris Helm's Becoming Young Thinkers.  I wanted to share my favorite insights from the book with you, so I've been doodling the quotes that jump out at me.  Here are my favorite quotes from the first chapter, you can see my favorites from the book's introduction here.

Of course, I completely forgot to photograph them before I started adding color, so I don't have the black and white versions this time, but I will with the next set!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Social Studies Activities for Preschool

Remember, the Standards that I use every day, and am most comfortable with are Ohio's Early Learning Development Standards - you can review them here, however I've found that even if your State's standards differ, many of these activities can still be aligned similarly. I've rounded up some great ideas today!

Domain: Social Studies
Strand: Government
Topic: Civic Participation and Skills

For preschoolers, this standard focuses on understanding responsibilities, negotiating social conflicts, and practicing cooperative behaviors - the foundations of being productive, responsible members of society.  Here are some activities that are aligned with this standard; 

Cooperative games with basic materials from Moments A Day

A cooperative art project from Anna Reyner

Practice grace and courtesy during group time from Trillium Montessori

Have the children help you create classroom jobs, the Reggio Inspired Teacher has a great post on this.

This standard is one of those that is best aligned to the discussions that you have with your students on a daily basis - as opposed to planned activities.  It is also a standard that can be personalized, tailoring your discussions to the issues that your students are working on .  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Documentation Display Ideas

Documentation panels are great for so many different purposes, but it can be really difficult to find enough space to display all of them and your students' artwork, especially when you don't have a ton of wall space in the classroom.  Over the years I've gotten pretty creative when it comes to displaying documentation, and of course, one of my favorite places for inspiration is Pinterest.  Here are some of the most innovative display ideas (many of these are for photos, but could easily be modified to accomodate artwork, work samples, or panels) that I've found - I especially love documentation displays that could tie in with the project itself, using project related materials to display your documentation.  If you want even more ideas, be sure to check out my Project Documentation Pinboard.

Branches and photo frames from Only About Children

 Photos and drawings hanging in an Ikea Scarf Organizer from Journey Into Early Childhood 

Black and white photos in black and white frames (talk about aesthetically pleasing!) from Centsational Girl.

A documentation notebook from Prepare to Play

Photo Carousel

Embroidery hoop mobile from Natalme

Really this post could go on for quite a while, I've got quite a collection! I'll end it here, but be sure to follow my Documentation Board to see all of the new ideas that I'm constantly pinning!

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Create a Documentation Panel Using Power Point

I create all of my documentation panels using Microsoft Power Point, this might seem kind of strange, but I've found that it gives me the most freedom when moving and manipulating photos and text. I'm going to walk you through how I do it - and I don't do tutorials because I always miss a photo or an important step, so it must be pretty easy if I'm doing the tutorial!

I hope that my screenshots will make it easy for you to follow along, the first two steps are the most important, and the ones that I tend to forget, so if you can get these, the rest will be easy!

1. Open Power Point and re-size your slide so that it is the same size as the paper that you want to print the panel on. To do this go to the Design tab and select Page Setup

2. Set the size of your slide by changing the measurements.  In most cases it will be 8.5”x11” but you may also choose to create a legal size or larger panel, depending on your printer’s capabilities.  

3. Move the Title Box to the top of the page and type a title for your panel.

4. Move the Subtitle Box off the page, you’ll come back to it later.

5. Insert photos by going to the Insert tab and selecting Picture.

6. Move and re-size your photos until they fit the way that you want them to.  

7. Move the Subtitle Box where you would like to place the text on the page and re-size it if necessary. 

8. Type your text – this can be a description of the photos, a transcript of a conversation between students that corresponds with the photos, or a summary of what the children discovered throughout the investigation or experience pictured. 

9. Add another text box.  Go to the Insert tab and select Text Box, then draw the text box where you want it.

10. Type the standards or early learning guidelines that are aligned with this activity, experience, or investigation.

11. Add another text box and place in a corner of the page.  Type in the date.

12.Print your panel.

See, I told you it was pretty easy.  Now, what you're going to put on the panel, that's all up to you, but I do have a couple of tips;
  • Use photos that really show the children learning - can you see the look on their face, or what their hands are doing? Those photos tell the story.
  • Don't feel pressure to include a photo of every child in your class, over time you will create many panels with many photos of many children, you will include them all over time.  A panel is for those "Aha! Moments" and every child does not have the same enlightening moments at the same time, or during the same activity. 
  • Instead of simply describing the activity (that is what your lesson plans are for), write about how the children responded to the materials, the things that they said to each other, and the questions or exclamations that you heard throughout the experience.  You could also write about the things that they said after the investigation was over. 
  • If you don't want to spend a ton of time moving and sizing photos, you can use my Documentation Panel Templates, there are 8 templates with space for photos, titles, and text.
For more documentation ideas check out these posts