Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Freebie - Environmental Print

Happy Friday! I'm so glad that February is almost over, bring on spring! Unfortunately, just because the calendar says March, that doesn't mean it'll be warm here. It's supposed to be 36 degrees this weekend, and that sounds warm to me right now!

This week I've spent a lot of time sharing ideas for letter recognition and alphabet activities, so today's freebie, fits right in.  I've used this Environmental Print Alphabet set in my classroom for a couple of years, and the students love it. They recognize the brand names, and are easily able to figure out the letter that each brand name starts with.  Go download this freebie from Missy Gibbs and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sensory Alphabet Letters

Last year my class made sensory letters that smelled like chocolate. The kids thought they were fun to make and use for other projects. They were really easy to do and I'm going to tell you how so you can try it too!

I cut cardboard rectangles and wrote a letter on each piece of cardboard.  Then my kiddos traced the letters with glue (we used the glue bottles, but you could use a cup of glue and a q-tip).  I took cocoa powder and mixed in it with cornstarch because cocoa powder is expensive, and this stretched it a little farther! Then I put the mixture in a sugar shaker and the kids sprinkled the cocoa mixture over the glue.

When the glue dried we had letters that not only smelled great, but were also slightly raised so that the children could actually feel the letters.

I loved this activity so much that I put together a list of other sensory materials that could be used to make alphabet letters:

  • Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.)
  • Salt
  • Sprinkles
  • Colored sugar
  • Noodles of different shapes and sizes
  • Cereal
  • Glitter
  • Jello or Kool-Aid
  • Crayon shavings
  • Plastic beads
  • Dried beans
  • Dried peas
  • Rice
  • Herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, etc.)
  • Confetti
  • Sand
  • Flower petals
  • Aquarium stones or gravel
  • Oats
  • Sequins
  • Seeds
I'll be trying more of these ideas throughout the year, it will be interesting to see what materials capture the children's interest, and if they use certain alphabets more than others!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Teachers Pay Teachers Sale

Guess what everyone?! There's a big sale going on over at TPT! It's become a tradition for me to share what I've picked out to purchase during a TPT sale, so here are a few of the items on my wish list:

I've never met a preschooler who doesn't love science experiments, and there are so many out there to choose from. This book of 60 science experiments from Sara Hickman will make planning so much easier!

I have been OBSESSED with Erin Bradley Designs since long before I started making my own classroom printables. I use her graphics on all of my classroom newsletters, and I am so excited that she has a TPT store now! This mega bundle has so many great graphics, I've been drooling over it for months and I can't wait to put it in my cart!

Rebekah Brock always has my back! I swear, parent-teacher conferences give me hives, which is ridiculous because I love my families.  There is just something about sitting down for a conference that makes my mind go completely blank and my hands start to sweat.  Thankfully, I just found this great Conference Survival Pack, and it's got everything - a letter about conferences, reminder notes to send home, an agenda for the actual conference - seriously, 23 pages of conference prep! Love it!

These are exactly the kinds of activities that I love to do with my students because the kids want to do them.  When they are playing with their food (especially the candy variety) they don't think about all of the hard work and learning that they're doing.  This Fun with Food Bundle from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures has all kinds of fun food activities in one great big pack.

Of course, I can't leave my own work out of this line up. I just finished putting together this Seasonal Alphabet Book bundle. It includes 12 alphabet books for different holidays and seasons, a great way to keep consistency in your materials, and switch things up to go with the season, holiday, or topic that your class is exploring.  My favorite thing about these books is that they introduce so many interesting vocabulary words - I could spend days explaining these words to my students, and I have no doubt they would turn around and use them properly in a conversation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Using letter manipulatives in the classroom

Yesterday I showed you the cute alphabet letters that I made with Perler beads, and today I want to share some of the ways that I plan on using these in the classroom.  These ideas can also be done with any letter manipulatives or magnet letters that you already have, so you don't need to make the Perler bead letters (but they are really easy to do!).

Obviously you can simply use letter manipulatives to spell words, but what about taking it to the next level?! Show your students how to place a piece of paper over their word and use a crayon to create a rubbing. This way they can keep the word they've spelled.

Here's a great idea for young preschoolers, it's a simple letter match. Even if little ones can't name all of their letters, they can still look at the characteristics of each letter and attempt to match two letters that look the same.

I'm always looking for ways to practice name recognition.  This idea incorporates recognition (finding their name at the top of the paper), spelling (reproducing their name using the plastic letters), and writing (writing their name while looking at the typed letters and the plastic letters).

These are my CVC word mats, my students love them because they feel like they are really reading on their own.  you can download the Short E Freebie set and use your plastic letters to start sounding out words.

This die is from my Letter Dice set - another freebie! Students can roll the die and find the plastic letter that matched the letter they rolled on the die.

I would love to know what other ways you use manipulative letters in your classroom, share your favorite activities in the comments!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Perler Bead Alphabet Letters

I can't take credit for this idea, I saw it on 1+1+1=1, but when I saw it on my Pinterest feed, I knew I had to try and make my own set of Perler bead alphabet letters.  I picked up the supplies at Ikea when I was there last weekend, and let me tell you, I had a blast playing with them.  I spent the entire afternoon making fun stuff, it felt like I was 10 years old again!

It took a bit of time to figure out the correct shapes for the letters, but once I got the hang of it, I was off and running.

I can't wait to use these at school. They aren't as durable as I hoped, but luckily I have a ton of Perler beads, so if one of my letters breaks I can easily make a replacement. I also love that this is a really economical way to make multiple sets of letters for students to use. I could easily make an entire alphabet for each of my students.  There are also a million ways to use these, stop by tomorrow and I'll show you some of my ideas!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Freebie - Classroom Labels

Happy Friday! When I looked at the calendar at the beginning of the week, I was in shock. The middle of February already?! I'm itching for spring, and it's coming quickly (thank goodness).  If you're anything like me, you're ready to freshen things up a bit, so I've got the perfect freebie for you.

I recently revamped my classroom label freebie. It was one of the first sets that I ever added to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, and it needed an upgrade.  I'm planning on re-labeling my whole classroom (there's just something about new labels that gets me excited, and I know I'm not the only one!), so go ahead and do yours, this set makes it really easy!

Enjoy your weekend, I hope it's wonderful!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kindergarten Readiness

Every year in the spring I am inundated with similar questions - "Do you think my child is ready for Kindergarten?" and "What can I do to make sure my child is ready for Kindergarten?" Unfortunately, these questions can't be answered easily.  There are a number of factors that need to be considered when determining Kindergarten readiness, and on Tuesday I discussed some of the social skills that I generally look for, and I shared some suggestions for parents.  Today I'm going to share some of the academic skills that are helpful for children to know before they go to Kindergarten.

I have to preface this post by saying that these skills are in no way required in order to enroll in Kindergarten.  Most of these skills are covered as part of Kindergarten curriculum, however, if children have a grasp of these concepts before they are introduced as part of the curriculum, they will be able to successfully complete basic activities.  These successes at the beginning of their Kindergarten experience will help build their confidence and help them feel more competent when it comes to school.

In my opinion, the best thing that preschool teachers and parents can do to help prepare children for kindergarten is to simply expose them to basic concepts, such as;

  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Letters
  • Numbers
It is also helpful for children to be able to recognize their own name (because everything in their new classroom will be labeled with their name). That's a pretty short list, I'm sure you've seen some of the same lists that I've seen floating around the internet - they are intimidating, but the most important thing to remember when it comes to academic skills it that children all over the country enter Kindergarten at different levels of academic ability.  As long as we continue to show our children support throughout their academic careers by providing encouragement, and making sure that they have access to all available resources, they will be successful in school.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Social Studies Activities for Preschool

It's Wednesday, and here at Preschool Ponderings, that means time to focus on the standards.  Every Wednesday I choose an Early Learning Standard and share a number of activities that can be aligned with that particular standard.  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: Economics
Topic: Production and Consumption

This standard is all about understanding where our resources come from, and how they get to us.  It also recognizes that we can use our resources wisely to make sure that they last longer.  In many ways, the activities that meet this standard will also meet a number of science standards, but in the case of the social studies standard we are focused on where the resources come from - not how they are grown or sourced.  

Collect stickers off of your family's produce to see where fruits and vegetables come from. 

This video from Sesame Street has Big Bird learning where food comes from.  

Make your own butter from cream, you can get the instructions from Do It and How.

Watch for trucks that drive by your school or playground. What do you think is in them? 
Where do you think they're going?

Set up a grocery store in your dramatic play center. Jamie at Play to Learn Preschool has some great ideas!

Make recycled art to show students how common items can be re-purposed. These cute ideas are from Tinkerlab.

Production and conservation of resources is a process, there are a lot of steps to understand, which makes this a standard that can be revisited at different times throughout the year.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kindergarten Readiness

Spring is coming, and with it, the flurry of parents signing up for Kindergarten screenings. As a Preschool teacher, this means that part of my job is to encourage that them their children are ready for kindergarten, or in the cases where their children may not be ready, give them the tools to work towards readiness, or make a decision to wait another year.

The first thing that I take into consideration when making a recommendation is social skills - here are some things I think about:

  • Can the child complete self-help tasks (hanging up his or her coat, washing hands, etc.)?
  • Does the child interact appropriately with others (exhibits cooperative behaviors)?
  • Can the child follow simple directions (listen to them, understand them, and carry out the related actions)?
  • Is the child able to regulate his or her own emotions in order to communicate them appropriately?
  • Is the child comfortable asking for help from familiar adults?
These skills all speak to maturity, whether children are able to handle their behaviors and complete independent tasks.  Kindergarten classrooms often have more students and fewer adults than Preschool classrooms, Kindergarten also includes logistics such as riding the bus and managing the cafeteria independently.  These factors all require social skills. This doesn't mean that a child should not advance to Kindergarten if he or she has not developed all of these skills, but it should factor into the decision.

There are a number of things that parents can do to help their children develop these skills, here are some activities that I encourage parents to try;
  • Give children responsibilities at home, they can help unload the dishwasher, fold and put away laundry, dust, and clean up after themselves.
  • Children can begin to take responsibility for themselves by getting dressed for bed on their own, helping to pack their own lunch, and picking out their clothes for school the next day.
  • Children can also practice following directions and being helpful at the same time, have them help you at the grocery store using directives such as "Can you help me find the apple sauce? We need the one with the green label".  When children feel like they are being helpful, they will want to listen to your directions. 
  • Give children opportunities to manage their own emotions.  When children get upset let them work things out on their own.  
  • Go over basic safety practices with children, explain who they can ask for help if they aren't with their parents, discuss stranger danger, and help them learn their phone number.  
  • Talk about kindergarten with the child.  If parents have made certain decisions (before and after school care, full day or half day Kindergarten, which school the child will attend) then share these with the child.  The more that families talk about Kindergarten (and the specifics), the more prepared that students will be for the changes. 
I also try my best to reassure parents - choosing to send your child to Kindergarten or wait another year should be a personal choice based on each child's development and family circumstances, but millions of families make this choice each year, so they are not alone.  This is a sensitive issue, but each outcome can be positive. 

In addition to social skills, academic skills do play a role in making this particular choice.  Check back later this week for some suggestions on making sure that children have the academic skills they need for Kindergarten.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Preschool

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, and every year I celebrate with my students.  Exploring Mardi Gras gives my students the opportunity to participate in a holiday that many of them do not celebrate at home, but they can definitely appreciate the basic components of this holiday - sweet treats, parades, masks, and music.

I show my students some photos of Mardi Gras celebrations during circle time. You can find a lot of pictures on Google Images, just be sure to preview them first! It helps to search for children's parades, and my students also love to see pictures from the dog parades, and of the big parade floats.

We always start the day off with a taste test.  We live in a community that has a high population of Polish descendants, so traditional Paczkis are easy to come by (and similar enough to donuts that the children are eager to try them out), but you could also sample beignets or King Cake.

After a sweet snack we decorate masks to wear during our parade.  Last year we decorated pre-made masks that I found at the Dollar Tree, but I've also used masks cut out of paper, and I've found some other cute ideas on pinterest, of course. 

Like this cute one from Mrs. Jackson's Class. I also like to add a necklace-making activity, it gives my kiddos an opportunity to practice some fine motor skills while adding to their costume for the parade.  Last year we rolled beads from strips of paper and strung those, but this year I want to try this Twizzler necklace (from No Time For Flashcards), why not add to the sugar rush?!

We'll put on our masks and necklaces, grab some instruments from our classroom stash, and parade around the school.  Its a great way to finish out the morning and experience Mardi Gras. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Freebie - President's Day

Happy Friday! Today is one of my favorite days, I know a lot of teachers don't like party days, but I love them and Valentine's Day is my favorite of the entire year. I think it's because the celebration with my kiddos has always taken the pressure off my husband :) I get all my mushy love from the little ones and all I expect from him is a card.  I also have some serious girl time planned for this weekend, an Ikea trip with my best friends from high school, which is definitely a reason to look forward to the weekend!

Then, Monday is President's day.  We always have school on President's day, and after a Valentine party, the last thing my students need is another party, but... President's day is special.  No, we don't have a party, but I do like to mark the day and let my students know that it's special.  I created this President's Day Classroom Decoration Sampler to help add a little significance to the day, and so that you could sample my Classroom Decoration sets.  Use this freebie to help your class celebrate patriotism and encourage interest in government!

Have a great weekend, enjoy your Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reggio Inspired Dramatic Play Centers

A couple of weeks ago I gathered photos of some incredible Reggio-inspired Math and Writing centers to share with you. These have been some of the most popular posts that I've done, so I thought I would do a few more centers this week. I shared some incredible science centers, today I want to show you some inspiring dramatic play centers.

My students favorite materials to use in the dramatic play space are;

  • Any kind of costume
  • Authentic items related to the play topic (old cameras, real stethoscopes, old cell phones, hair dryers, bakery boxes, etc.)
  •  Related printables, such as pretend library cards, shopping lists, airline tickets, recipe cards, etc. 
There are a few other things that I like to include to help "set the stage" so to speak:
  • Signage, usually something that students have helped make.
  • Mirrors (so that the children can see what they look like in costume).
  • Books related to the play topic, along with any photos of related locations.
here are some photos of Reggio-inspired dramatic play centers that any preschooler would love to explore. 

These ideas all make me want to change up my dramatic play space!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Social Studies Activities for Preschool

It's Wednesday, and here at Preschool Ponderings, that means time to focus on the standards.  Every Wednesday I choose an Early Learning Standard and share a number of activities that can be aligned with that particular standard.  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: Economics
Topic: Scarcity

This standard is all about understanding that supplies are limited, and sometimes you have to make choices.  When you think about it, this standard is covered in nearly everything that a preschooler does throughout the day, but here are a few activities that specifically target the idea of scarcity.

A very smart scarcity coloring experiment from Alina's Adventures in Homemaking

Make a "Wants and Needs" collage, from I Can Teach My Child

Some other ideas for meeting this standard include:
  • limit the number of students allowed in each activity center at a time (for a day).  Talk to the children about how they may have to choose another center while they wait for space to open up in the one that they would really like to play in. At the end of the day have a discussion about the experience.
  • Do an art project with a specific amount of supplies available. Remind students that others will only be able to use what is left for them, see if your entire class is able to participate, and how many supplies the last group has to use.  Discuss the experience as a large group.
  • Get out one highly sought after toy, encourage the students to figure out a way to share it or take turns without your help.  
This is a difficult standard to plan for because it is such a regular part of our everyday conversations.  I would love to hear about any other activities that you have used to help your students learn about scarcity!