Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Freebie - Positive Behaviors

I have found the cutest freebie ever! I can't even wait to share these with you - these are Beehavior Beads (they all have a bee theme).  The idea is that you print a bunch of them, laminate them, and punch a hole in the corner of each one, then each child gets a necklace (a ribbon, lanyard, or piece of yarn) and they can collect them as you catch them "bee-ing" helpful.  Such a great idea! Go download your set from Double Trouble.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My lesson plans for the first week of preschool

I'm not in the classroom every day anymore, and one of the things that I miss the most is lesson planning (I know, I'm kind of a nerd), so I thought I'd put together some plans anyway and share them with you!

I try to keep things simple for the first week, instead of planned activities we spend a lot of time exploring classroom centers, and I might pull one or two items from each center for the children to explore at the table.  I also incorporate classroom routines into activities so that I can give the children more opportunities to practice these throughout the day.

Here is my lesson plan for the first week of school - if you click on this link you can download a PDF version that has clickable links to blog posts and products that give more detail about certain activities.  I hope that you find this helpful as you plan for your first week back!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Preschool Activities that Promote Fluency

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: Language and Literacy

Strand: Reading
Topic: Fluency

In preschool, fluency means that children use intonation and phrasing when they participate in shared reading, chants, rhymes, and finger plays.  The goal is that children are able to recognize familiar tunes and repetitive phrases. Here are some great ideas for meeting this standard; 

My class LOVED our Monkey Mitt - It's a fuzzy glove with velcro on each finger, you can get different characters for.  The characters go with familiar songs like "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" "BINGO" and "5 Green and Speckled Frogs."  We found ours at a garage sale, but you can get one on Amazon (affiliate link).

The "There Was an Old Lady" books have a rhyming structure and repetitive story that children can easily follow along with.  Try this activity so children can follow along.

Dr. Jean is the queen of cheers and songs.  Check out her site for some new ideas - she has one for every single theme and topic!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Every child knows this book (or can pick up on it really really quickly), introduce the book and then let the children read it to you, they'll get a kick out of it, while practicing fluency! (Affiliate link).

These are all fun easy ideas for encouraging reading and fluency, and ideas that make every child feel successful!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Day of Preschool Freebie

The first days of school can be a little difficult for everyone.  Children are nervous, parents want your attention, and you desperately want to start your routines off right.  I'm hoping I've got something that will make you end that first day just a little less exhausted!

I put together a freebie to help make the first day run a little more smoothly.  It is designed so that parents can complete the simple activities with their child, giving them something to do while they wait for an opportunity to talk to you one-on-one.  

The freebie includes:
A sign and keepsake photo mat. Parents can take a photo of their child holding the "First day of Preschool" sign, and you can send them home with the keepsake mat to display the photo on.  
Children can draw their parents a special picture to commemorate their first day of preschool.  WHile the children work, parents can take a minute to write a comforting note that you can read to the child after mom and dad leave.  

Easy name tags give children the opportunity to practice writing their names, while also helping you get to know their names. There is also a simple classroom scavenger hunt to encourage children and parents to explore the classroom and find the things that they will both need to be familiar with, like the child's cubby and the bathroom.

These activities are simple enough that parents can lead their child through them, leaving you free for individual conversations with parents and child.  Download your copy and then check out some of my other blog exclusive freebies!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back to School Products for the Preschool Classroom

It's the end of July, I know, how did that happen?! I swear summer gets shorter every year! Many of you are preparing to head back to school (and if you haven't started prepping, you've probably started thinking about it) so I thought I would share some of the things that I've created that might help you out this year - make sure to read the entire post because there are freebies throughout!

Inspire Emergent Curriculum:  This standards-based curriculum is perfect for programs that implement the Reggio Philosophy or the Project Approach.  

Circle Time Mega Pack: Start the year off right by implementing successful, developmentally appropriate circle time from the start.  

Name Card Freebie: These are perfect for helping children learn their names, the freebie includes a new design for each month.  

Picture Schedule Cards: Make sure that children always know what is coming next with cards they can use independently.  This set includes smaller cards that children can use on a ring, or in a velcro file folder.  Each of the schedule cards has plenty of space to include notes specific to your classroom. 

Classroom Jobs Set: Give children responsibility with this set designed specifically for preschoolers.  It includes job tags that children can wear with picture lists of each job's responsibilities.  

First Day of Preschool Freebie: Get rid of first day jitters (and chaos) by planning activities that children and their parents can do together as you welcome them into the classroom and make time to meet with each family.  

Preschool Teacher Resource Collection:  This set includes a Project Work Planner, Question of the Day Notebook, Reflection Checklist, and Classroom Recipe book.  These are all great resources for keeping teachers prepared and organized.  

Infant/Toddler Portfolio Pack and Preschool Portfolio Pack: These portfolio packs make assessment easier, both include portfolio pages for each early learning standard and annual standards-based progress checklists.  They are editable, so they can be done digitally or printed and filled in by hand for each child.  

Back to School Activity Bundle: Math and language activities with a back to school theme.  These are perfect activity centers for your first week!

Happy Notes: Use Happy Notes to recognize the positive things that your students do throughout the day.  Children and parents love to receive these, and they can help you focus on the great things that are happening in your classroom. 

Hopefully some of these ideas will make going back to school a little easier.  If you are looking for more great ideas, check out my pinboards, I'm always adding fun stuff!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Freebie - Name Cards

Happy Friday! Do you feel like your summer is slipping away, or is it just me?! I can't believe it's the end of July already, how did that happen?! I've been trying to avoid the back to school blog posts because I find them slightly depressing, instead I've been trying to focus on tips and routines that will help you throughout the year.  This week was all about circle time, and today's freebie fits right in with that topic.  Yesterday I talked about games that I love to play during circle time, which included games to play with name cards, so here are my free name cards;

These cards are editable, so you can type students names in any font you want, and there is a fun new design for each month, so you can keep the children interested by switching them regularly! Download your set and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Great games to play at circle time

I love to play games during circle time because they keep the children's interest, but I still get to teach specific concepts through the games.  It's a great way to make sure that I am getting time to do large group instruction, but the children think it's a ton of fun.  Here are some of the games that I love to play, these can all be differentiated so that everyone gets to be challenged, but still successful; 

Letter games - I use letter cards to play a ton of games, I usually start the year with capital letter cards, and as we explore letters and the children become comfortable with them, then I move to lower case letter cards.  
  • Give each child a letter and ask them to find that letter somewhere in the classroom.  I encourage the children to get up and move around as they look.  
  • Give each child a letter card and ask them to think of something that starts with that letter (help make the sound if they need you to).
  • Hide the letter cards around the room and ask each child to find one and bring it back to the circle, then they have to share which letter they found.
  • Hold up a letter card and ask the class to think of someone whose name starts with that letter. 
  • Give each child a letter card, go around the circle and ask the children to hold their card up one at a time, as a child holds up their card, ask a different child to make the letter sound, you could also have the other child write the letter. 
Number games - I always start with the numbers 1-10, as the children begin to recognize these numbers I will add 11-15, and then 15-20, so that my students who are ready to move on can practice the larger numbers, while those who need more practice with 1-10 can have that without being singled out. 
  • Give each child a number card and ask them to go find that number somewhere in the classroom. 
  • Give each child a number card and ask them to bring that many of something back to the circle. 
  • Hold up a number card and ask the entire class to count to that number.
  • Give each child a number card and ask them to line up in numerical order (with your help).
  • Hold up a number and ask the children to do that many of a particular movement (jump up and down 5 times, do 7 jumping jacks, etc.).
  • Give each child a number card and ask them to write that number and share it with the group. 
Name games - I write each child's name on a sentence strip or name tag, at the beginning of the year I also include each child's picture on their name tag.  Once the children begin to recognize their names by the letters I will remove the photos so that the children can focus on just the name.  
  • Give each child a name card (not their own) and ask them to give it to the person it belongs to. 
  • Hide each child's name card in the classroom and ask them to find their own name card. 
  • Play a matching game, help the children match each child's picture to the correct name card.
  • Use the children's name cards to transition to the next activity, hold up their name card to let them know they can choose a center.  
Variations of these simple circle time games can last you all year long and provide awesome learning and review for your students. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Preschool activities that encourage reading comprehension

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: Language and Literacy
Strand: Reading
Topic: Reading Comprehension

This standard covers skills such as being able to answer questions about a selection that has been read, identifying characters, understanding the difference between fantasy and reality, and labeling the parts of a book.  So many language and literacy activities that we implement in the classroom have to do with letter recognition and phonics, this standard makes sure that we are preparing children to understand what they read, and enjoy it too!

Here are some great ideas for building reading comprehension skills; 

Make a storytelling bracelet to help children recall different parts of a story. 

Make reading active by taking a story walk

 Make book art

Make character puppets so children can retell the story

All of these ideas can be done with the books that you have in your classroom library, and are guaranteed to make reading fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Making Circle Time Easier (and Developmentally Appropriate!)

 I am all about setting up systems to make everyday classroom activities easier - especially when it means that I won't have to spend as much time planning! I wanted to share my circle time system with you.  It is designed to make sure that circle time is enjoyable for everyone, which means that I am able to get through the content I want to get through, the children are able to move around a little, and the whole thing is over in ten minutes or less so we can dig into our centers.

The first set of printables are for calendar.  I don't spend a ton of time focused on calendar work.  My main goal is to expose the children to the days of the week and the months, so that they are able to recognize some of the words associated with calendar.  I also use the date numbers to practice counting and number recognition.  I love this calendar set because it has the holiday and special day icons, along with the labels for this month, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

I use letter and number cards during circle time almost every day, so I made a set to match my calendar printables.  These cards are for quick games that get the kiddos up and moving, while waking up their brains for the day.  I've also included descriptions of all of the games that we play with these cards, such as letter scavenger hunts and "go bring me this many..."

Singing is always a huge part of my circle time.  Certain songs get sung every day (our good morning song, for example), while others focus on numbers and counting, others encourage movement, and others are just silly.  If we don't do a letter or number game, we'll use the song cards instead.

I also included my Question of the day set (but of course, I made it match the rest of the components).  I like to do Question of the Day during circle because the children's answers often start great conversations, and they help the children get to know each other.  Sometimes it is clear that circle time has gone on long enough, and then I'll do question of the day one-on-one with each child throughout the morning.  I always post the answers because parents love to read them!

All of these materials make it easy for me to plan for circle.  I might tweak the songs to fit a particular season, but other than that it is universal and appropriate for any season, plus I know that the children are learning the social skills that can only be learned during circle time.

If you want more details on my Circle Time Mega Pack you can download a preview here!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Circle Time Idea Round-Up

Circle Time. You either love it or you hate it. To be honest, it's not my favorite part of the day, but it is a lot easier to manage (and much more beneficial for the children) if it's well planned and follows a consistent routine.  I've developed some great tips and tricks over the years, you can check them out here, but I've also learned a lot from some other amazing preschool teachers and bloggers.  I've rounded up everyone's favorite circle time strategies for you, the links below will take you to each blog's circle time posts so that you can learn from them and compile your favorite tips, tricks, and ideas!

Play to Learn Preschool

Teach Preschool

Teaching 2&3 year olds

Preschool Wonders


I"m talking about circle time all week, so be sure to stop back and check out some of my other great ideas!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Freebie - Classroom Planning

Happy Friday! Whether you like it or not, many of you are probably realizing that summer has flown by - we're halfway through July people!  According to my teacher friends and all of the photos on my Instagram feed, many of you are thinking about back to school already, so I thought I'd share a freebie that might help get you back in the game.

This classroom planning set is from Teacher Treasure Hunter, who clearly speaks my language (checklists and to-do lists of course).  It's geared towards elementary teachers, but seeing as it's a freebie preschool teachers won't mind if they don't need all of the components - because they're FREE.  Basically it's one giant checklist to help you consider all of the different aspects of teaching that you will need to plan for this year, and now is a great time to review an prep all of those things, because you have time, and because you can take a break whenever you want!  Go download your copy and start planning, because I know you already have, we can't help it, it's what we do!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reggio-Inspired Standards-Based Preschool Curriculum

I have always been inspired by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy (here are some of my Reggio posts), it has transformed the way I teach, and shown me that I can learn as much from my students as they can from me.  The one issue that I've always had with the Reggio Philosophy is that there is not a written curriculum, which in our state is needed for our Quality Improvement Rating program.  

So, I did what I always do, I made on myself.  This is one of the biggest projects that I have ever taken on, and let me tell you, this thing is comprehensive! I call it Inspire, because it has done just that - inspired me to really pay attention to the way I teach, and the values I have regarding early childhood education, first and foremost that children learn best when they are exploring a topic that truly interests them.  

This Preschool Curriculum is designed for teachers who are familiar with Emergent Curriculum, Reggio Emilia Philosophy, and The Project Approach. It blends these philosophies with early learning standards to help teachers meet all of their students academic and developmental needs. 

The Inspire Curriculum covers;
- The educational philosophy behind Inspire, and the basics of Reggio Emilia
- Approaches to Learning
- Observing children, and why this is important in the classroom
- Creating lesson plans
- Aligning emergent lesson plans with early learning standards
- The teaching methods recommended for Inspire
- Creating documentation, and why it is valuable
- Standards-Based assessment

The curriculum also includes;
- Workbook pages to lead teachers in observing children.
- Sample questions to use during observation.
- Workbook pages that will assist in selecting project topics.
- Web templates and samples
- Explanation of how to use the classroom as a teaching element.
- Lesson plan templates and samples.
- Sample activities for for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
- A checklist to help teachers reflect on learning experiences.
- Infant Toddler Standards-Based Portfolio.
- Infant Toddler Standards-Based Assessment Checklist.
- Preschool Standards-Based Portfolio.
- Preschool Standards-Based Assessment Checklist. 
- Documentation panel layouts.

This curriculum is ideal for teachers who are accustomed to creating their own lesson plans based on the interests and needs of the children.  I hope that you'll explore Inspire, you can get more details and download a free preview here.  

If you are still exploring preschool curriculum, please check out these posts;

Preschool Curriculum Part 1: Reggio, Montessori, and Waldorf

Preschool Curriculum Part 2: Creative Curriculum, High Scope, and Innovations

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Activities for practicing social communication

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: Language and Literacy
Strand: Listening and Speaking
Topic: Social Communication

Social Communication plays a huge role in the life of a preschooler.  They love to talk to others, but there are a few key concepts that must be understood in order for them to master social communication.  Children must be able to carry on a conversation, this requires the child to listen, formulate a response, respond, and then start all over again.  

There are different patterns for different types of conversations, and these are learned through practice, but can also be frustrating for young children who are not accustomed to waiting their turn.  

Here are some ideas for practicing social communication with your students; 

Use question cards to encourage children to "interview each other"

Create an open-ended question ball to start conversations
(Here's a list of 50 open-ended questions)

Record your conversation with the children - they love to see their thoughts in writing

These are all ideas that children will enjoy and great ways to practice social communication. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Preschool Curriculum Part 2

Curriculum is important, it gives you a path to follow as you plan activities for your students. Ideally, a curriculum should help you make sure that your students are receiving a well rounded educational experience. There are so many curriculum options to choose from, should you buy a "curriculum in a box" or follow a loos, theory based approach? How do you decide?

I've had this conversation with enough preschool teachers and administrators to know that it is an important issue, but the decision isn't an easy one to make.  I'm going to share my research with you, so that you can get a better picture of the options that are available.

It is important to note that I am not endorsing a particular curriculum throughout these posts.  this series of posts is not sponsored by anyone and I've chosen the featured curriculum based on it's popularity and the fact that the components are developmentally appropriate for use in the preschool classroom. 

Yesterday's post introduced the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, the Montessori Method, and the Waldorf approach.  Today I'l cover Creative Curriculum, High Scope, and Innovations.  

Creative Curriculum

Creative Curriculum is one of the most popular preschool curricula in the country for a number of reasons; it is ideal for large preschool programs because it is easily paired with a related assessment tool, and it has been aligned with Early Learning Standards in all 50 states.  Creative Curriculum includes certain requirements for the classroom environment and instructs teachers on how to put together the classroom and learning centers.  It also includes developmentally appropriate activity ideas which have been aligned to early learning standards. 

Creative Curriculum strives to help children build confidence and creativity.  It encourages hands on activities and in-depth studies of specific topics.  This document is packed with information about the Creative Curriculum. 

High Scope

High Scope focuses on the interactions that children have with their teachers, as well as the structured routine of the day.  Children become active in the learning process by planning what they would like to accomplish, and then reviewing the experience when it has been completed.  The High Scope curriculum is also aligned to early learning standards, and daily activities cover topics of 8 different learning domains.  

High Scope includes an assesment to track each child's learning and development, as well as a program assessment to make sure that the program as a whole is constantly improving.  You can find more information about High Scope here.


Innovations is a popular choice because the price accomdates preschool programs of every size.  It does not include an assessment or standard alignment tool, but it does include comprehensive child development research and theories to strengthen the teachers' understanding of developmentally appropriate practice.  There is also a teaching guide that provides training on a number of professional development topics.  Click here to explore Innovations.

These curriculum options are just that - curriculum options.  Many programs create their own curriculums using methods and strategies from each of the approaches I have introduced.  The most important thing to remember is that your curriculum (including the activities that teachers implement and the philosophies related to teaching) is developmentally appropriate and provides high quality learning experiences where children are able to interact safely with a variety of materials!