Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DIY Easter Baskets for Preschool

Whether you need containers for an egg hunt, or are just looking for a great fine-motor/art activity to do the week before Easter, DIY Easter baskets are always a great activity for preschoolers.  Here are a few ideas from around the web to help you plan!

A newspaper basket, instructions at Captain Crafty

Paper mache baskets from Vicki Odell

Weave fabric strips in plastic baskets. (Idea from Attic Lace)

Paper bag baskets, easy instructions at Teaching 2 & 3 Year Olds

Paper Plate Baskets from eHow

These are all easy, economical ideas that can be finished fairly quickly. I hope that your students love them!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Preschool Printables for Easter

Can you believe that it's almost Easter? I know it's early this year, but it makes it feel like spring is flying by! I have a ton of great Easter activities to share with you.  These would be perfect for the last couple of days before Easter at school, or for the kiddos at your family celebration to do.

One of my all-time favorite printables is Fill the Easter Basket. It includes 4 Easter basket mats, each of which has it's own list of items for children to put in the basket.  Children have to look at the pictures in the list, find the objects in a group of Easter-related cut-outs, and count out the correct number of each object to add to the basket.  

One of my top spring downloads is the cute Fluffy Sheep Counting Mats.  These mats each have a number and a corresponding amount of circles for children to fill with objects such as marshmallows or cottonballs.  These mats can be used for Easter, spring, or even farm units, so they are multi-purpose and fun. 

This next activity is a great way to practice letter recognition and sounds.  Each Easter basket in the Easter Letter Match has a letter on it, children then have to find the matching upper and lower case letter to put in the basket. 

Vocabulary cards are always a hit in my writing center, and the Easter set is no exception.  My students want to write all about the Easter bunny, and the great stuff that might end up in their baskets, like peeps, chocolate, and jelly beans, and they love that they can do it independently. 

Another activity that can be used all spring long is Flower Petal Counting.  Each yellow center has a number, children count that many petals to create beautiful, mathematical flowers. 

I hope that these activities will make your life just a little easier as your prepare for the holiday.  They're certainly a great way to usher in spring while practicing math and language concepts!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Freebie - Peep Pops

Happy Friday! I know that some of you are starting your spring breaks this week, I get next Friday off, so for me I've got one more short week and I'm ready to celebrate spring!

These free tags, from Creating and Teaching,  are for super easy "Peep Pops" all you have to do is put a Peep on a lollipop stick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and add the tag.  This is a cute treat that I promise anyone can handle, and it will still look creative and DIY.  Share these with your students or the kids at your family's Easter gathering!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Preparing for preschool conferences

April is almost here, and in my world April means parent-teacher conferences.  Since I'm getting ready, I thought I would share my assessments process and all of my materials with you, get ready, this is going to be a long one!

I start with three different assessments - yes, three.  

First, the portfolios.  Each of my students has a digital portfolio, you can read more about them in this post and this post. Their digital portfolios are shared with their parents, so they can view them any time, but for their last conferences before kindergarten I print everything and put it in a binder.  These portfolios include a page for each early learning standard, along with some kind of evidence that the child has mastered (or been introduced to) the standard.  The evidence is either a photo of the child participating in an activity, or a photo of a work sample.  These portfolios are cumulative, so I add to them each month, and by the end of their preschool career they are complete.  

The second assessment that I use is a standards-based developmental checklist.  This includes each standard, and a space to record whether the child is proficient in this standars, beginning to understand the standard, or has not yet been observed attempting the standard. These checklists are also cumulative, and are revisited each year.  It is a great way to show the child's growth throughout the preschool years.  

The third assessment I use is a skills-based assessment.  The standards-based assessment is technical, and while it makes sense to an education professional, most parents find it lengthy and a little complicated.  The skills based assessment shows parents exactly what they want to know - Can their child write his or her name? Do they know their shapes? How many numbers can they recognize? What upper and lowercase letters do they know? Can they rhyme? These skills are meaningful to parents, so I complete a skills assessment for each of my students prior to conferences.  I also like to do these in the middle of the year, it helps me understand what skills each student needs to focus on for the remainder of the year.  Both of these are included in the conference binder for parents to review.  

Before every conference I email copies of each document to the parents so that they can review them before coming in. This saves time because I don't have to review all of the assessments with them.  I also generally include a detailed explanation of each assessment, so that they know what they're seeing.  

The other thing that I lie to do before each conference is write down a short list of skills (no more than 2 or 3) that each child needs to work on, along with a couple of very specific activities that families can do together to help practice these skills.  

To be completely honest, parent teacher conferences stress me out - but doing all of these things (yes, a ton of prep - I know) helps me feel confident that I know exactly what each child is capable of.  This makes it easier to talk to parents about their child's development because I have the evidence to support what I am telling them.  In the end, the one thing that helps the most is to remember that parent-teacher conferences are supposed to be a positive experience, and as long as I'm doing everything in my power to make sure that happens, then I've done my job.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Preschool activities to promote patterning skills

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: Mathematics
Strand: Algebra
Topic: Patterning

There are a ton of activities that you can do with little ones to work on patterning skills.  The general rule of thumb is to start with simple patterns (i.e. abababab), once children understand that patterns repeat themselves, then they can begin to understand that a pattern can be anything that repeats, at this point you can introduce more complicated patterns (i.e. abcabc or abbabb).  Here are just a few ideas for working on patterning skills with your students; 

Patterning snakes (so fun!) from Frugal Fun for Boys

an open-ended pattern provocation from Thinking and Learning in Room 122

Cereal patterns - fine motor and patterning! From Education.com

Dot marker patterns from Peterson's Pad

Understanding patterns is a fundamental skill for deeper math and language concepts.  Recognizing and recreating patterns helps children pay attention to detail and replicate their observations. When children begin to continue existing patterns they are showing that they are capable of thinking critically and using the information they have to answer questions.  Patterning may seem like a simple skill, but this simple skill is a building block for the algebra and reading concepts that children will learn throughout their educational careers. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yoga for the Preschool Classroom

These last couple of weeks have been difficult for my students because it finally got warm enough to go outside, and then it got cold again.  That little glimmer of hope, hope that spring might really be close, makes it even more difficult to stay inside all day.  Luckily, I've found a great yoga program that my students love!

Yoga is the perfect solution to this particular problem because it gets my students moving and uses some of their energy, without getting them all hyped up.  Our favorite yoga program is Cosmic Kids Yoga.  Jamie from Cosmic Kids takes children on yoga adventures, introducing poses throughout the journey.

My preschoolers think these adventures are awesome, and they are more than willing to participate in the 20 minute yoga adventures.  We've only done a couple of the sessions, so for right now I'm encouraging them to follow along the best that they can. As we do more I'll encourage better posture, Cosmic Kids also offers "Posture of the Week" so we can watch those together to make sure that we are doing each one correctly.

The best thing about Cosmic Kids Yoga is that it is a free You Tube channel.  We use my iPad to watch the videos in small groups, but you could use your computer, Smart TV, or any technology that you have available.

Check out Cosmic Kids, and while you're at it take a look at some of the other You Tube channels that we love:
Dance 'n Beats Lab
The Learning Station

Monday, March 23, 2015

Using Process Art in Preschool

Preschool should be all about exploration, which is why I'm a firm believer in encouraging children to express them selves creatively and giving them opportunities to explore art without boundaries. This is why I make every effort to promote process art in the preschool classroom.

Process art places emphasis on the experience of creating the art.  It encourages self expression and creativity, along with opportunity to explore new materials.  The great thing about process art is that the final product is always unique.  It also makes a teachers' job easier because each art experience requires less preparation.

Including process art in the classroom doesn't mean that you have to give up class art projects, it simply means that children have freedom when participating in art projects.  There are a couple of ways to encourage process art; you can introduce materials and give children open-ended opportunities to explore and create with the materials you have introduced, or you can give the children direction (such as "create a flower") and then let the children choose the materials that they want to create with.

Here are some examples of process art that my students have created.  In both cases, I selected the materials, and they chose how they wanted to use them.

I love to display this artwork because it is so meaningful to each child.  They love to share their art with each other because each piece tells a different story.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Freebie - 5 Little Pancakes

Yay for Friday! For this week's freebie I wanted an activity that you could do with all of the Daytime Slumber Party ideas that I shared yesterday.  I was having a really hard time finding any kind of PJ party freebie, so I made one myself.  5 Little Pancakes is a cute little magnet story that you can do with your students, and once they learn it, they can do it all by themselves.  This activity is a fun way to practice counting and number recognition, along with rhyming and intonation. Download this cute freebie here, and then check out my other blog freebies!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the freebie!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to host a great slumber party

Maybe you have spring break coming up and you're looking for something to do with your kids at home, or maybe you just need a fun day at school to shake your class out of their winter blues. Either way, a daytime slumber party is a lot of fun and really easy to pull off without a ton of prep work.  Use these suggestions as a guide for your slumber party.

Stay in Your Pajamas all day! This is the best way to start the day, getting to keep your comfy pjs on really sets the mood for a fun, carefree day.

Why not?! Set a few ground rules (only hit below the neck) and remove all of the breakables, then let them go at it. It's a great gross motor and balance activity, and a fun way to relieve tension. As long as the fun is supervised you shouldn't have any major problems, they are pillows after all.

I'm not generally an advocate for screen time, but every so often a movie is a fun way to relax. Cuddle up with blankets and pillows and spend some quality time watching the movie together.

Breakfast for lunch... sign me up! You can do this in the classroom too, just borrow and electric skillet or a griddle and use a box mix. Clean up is easy and this is sure to be a favorite memory.

Build a blanket fort - or ten! This is one of those activities that you never get too old for, and it's a great problem solving exercise.  My students have been know to build and play in their forts for entire afternoons.  

Read, read, read! Pull out old favorites along with some new stories. Read in large groups, or read in your forts.  There's just something about reading books in your pajamas - it's just like reading a bedtime story, which means they'll always want just one more story, and I can't say no to children who beg me to read to them.  

This kind of party is actually really relaxing (as opposed to some of those other parties that kind of make us want to rip our hair out).  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  (Disclaimer, I actually do this with my class at least once a year, and I'm always amazed with how long these simple activities hold their attention.  This list is really more than enough to fill an entire day). Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Focus on the Standards

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: Mathematics
Strand: Algebra
Topic: Group and Categorize

Algebra is all about patterns, but before you can begin recognizing and creating patterns children have to be able to be able to sort and classify objects by different attributes.  Recognizing the differences and similarities in objects requires children to pay attention to attributes such as color, shape, and size, all of which are necessary for patterning. Here are some fun ideas for grouping and categorizing; 

Sort shape blocks with the help of shape sorting mats. From A Place Called Kindergarten

Sort different sized pom poms (use tongs for extra fine motor practice!) From Prekinders

Sort buttons by color, from About Family Crafts

Sort pom poms by color - these tubes would be so much fun! From I Can Teach My Child

Sort photos of real objects by color. From Living Montessori Now

Sort Fruit Loops by color. From Mess for Less

If it's in your classroom you can sort it. I love to use divided trays and muffin tins to sort small objects because they keep everything in one place.  My kiddos also love to sort food (they like anything that has to do with food), we've done different size marshmallows, colors of jellybeans, even different snacks inside of a bag of chex mix, and different colors of dried beans.  What do your students enjoy sorting? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Snack ideas on the go

This is the time of year when we all seem to be extra busy, there is always somewhere to go and something that needs done.  One way to keep little ones happy through all of this is to make sure they aren't hungry.  I've collected a ton of snack ideas that are portable and sure to keep kids happy.  These are perfect for trips to the park, before practice, field trips, and club meetings.

Make your own fruit leather from PopSugar

You can make snack mix out of just about anything, Frosting and a Smile has a recipe for easy Smore snack mix

Everyone loves a granola bar, make your own with this recipe from Two Peas and their Pod

Have you ever tried apple chips? Learn how at Sally's Baking Addiction. You can do this with bananas too!

If making your own snacks isn't really your thing, then try some of these easy ideas; 

Fill an empty wipes container with prepackaged snacks to leave in the car, that way you'll always have some on hand. Idea from 247 Moms

Create a snack drawer for your refrigerator, then it will be easy to grab them and go. Idea from Little Penelope Lane

Have you seen these snack boxes? They're all over Pinterest (but this one happens to be from Babble). There are hundreds of different things that you could put in one of these, here are some ideas for you; 

small cookies
mini ritz crackers
chocolate chips
fruit snacks
yogurt bites
puppy chow
chex mix
sunflower seeds
animal crackers
teddy grahams

Hopefully this list will help you keep your students and your own children happy this spring!