Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Activities to practice syllable recognition

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: Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is all about recognizing the different sounds that make up words, and all of the concepts that are associated with this, including; rhyming, syllables, blending, segmenting, rime, beginning sounds, and ending sounds.  

Here are some ideas for exploring phonological awareness concepts, this week is all about syllables!

Clapping syllables is something that every child in America has learned, add these great activities to your repertoire to help your students develop a better understanding of syllables.   

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Collecting Assessment Evidence

I've been doing a lot of work with assessments lately, and one of the most important aspects of assessment is collecting evidence to support any assessment scores and decisions.  Personally, I think the most difficult thing about collecting all of this evidence if finding a way to organize it all and track what I've gathered and what I still need.  To help myself keep all of that information organized, so I have it when I need it, I put together a evidence collection binder for each student. 

I bound 8 file folders - one for each domain that I collect evidence on, then I taped the bottom of each folder shut so that the evidence wouldn't fall out :).

Then I made checklists and cover pages that list each standard in each domain.  When I put a piece of evidence in the folder - whether it's an anecdotal note, photo, or work sample - I check the standard off the checklist and label the evidence with a sticky note.  

These evidence binders have made my life so much easier, I don't feel like I have notes in 10 different notebooks and work samples floating around everywhere.  I also feel like I am being proactive in my evidence collection, as opposed to rushing around at the last minute.  

I wanted to share these with you so I took my design a step further - I have to collect evidence for two assessment periods, once in the fall and once in the spring - I know there are many programs that are mandated to assess students 3 or 4 times throughout the year so I added a checklist that has 4 collection periods.  

My Assessment Evidence Collection Kit is available in my TPT store if you want to try it out yourself!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Early Learning Standards by State

I am constantly referencing my state's Early Learning Development Standards online because it is so convenient, so I put together a PDF with links to each state's Early Learning Standards so that you can explore your state's standards and other related resources.  This document is also really helpful if you want to view another state's standards, I've done all of the searching for you, so you can just click the link!

As you explore the links please remember that these documents are regularly updated by state departments of education.  If you find a link that is no longer correct please let me know so that I can update the document accordingly!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Freebie - Pumpkin seeds

Happy Friday! This week's posts have all been about bringing autumn into the classroom, and I am loving this season. Today's freebie fits right in with that theme.

Yesterday I shared a list of autumn manipulatives to use in the classroom, here is a fun activity to try with some of your manipulatives, Pumpkin Seed Letters.  This super cute freebie is from A Kinder Kindergarten, and is a fun way to practice those fine motor skills while encouraging letter recognition.  Make and entire alphabet to display in your classroom all season long, or laminate the mats and use them over and over.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Autumn manipulatives for the preschool room

Autumn is my favorite time of year to use seasonal manipulatives because there are so many different options.  The items on the list below are great for math games, patterning, sensory tables, tactile language activities, the block area, and fine motor exercises.

Some autumn manipulatives you can include in your activities and center include:

  • Leaves
  • Acorns
  • Miniature pumpkins
  • Soy beans
  • Corn kernels
  • Popcorn
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Candy corn
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Seasonal confetti
  • Seed pods
  • Orange, yellow, and brown gems
  • Apples
  • Apple seeds
  • Pinecones
I'd love to know how you use some of these items in your classroom, share your ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Preschool activities to practice rhyming

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: Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is all about recognizing the different sounds that make up words, and all of the concepts that are associated with this, including; rhyming, syllables, blending, segmenting, rime, beginning sounds, and ending sounds.  

Here are some ideas for exploring phonological awareness concepts, this week is all about rhyming!

Make rhyming fun with this freebie

Ask children to help you find the rhyming words in favorite poems and songs

Explore the famous rhymes of Doctor Seuss 

Check back next week for some fun activities to promote understanding syllables!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Preschool activities do to with leaves

One of my favorite fall activities to do with preschoolers is to collect leaves.  I give each child a grocery bag and we go on a nice long walk to make sure that we pass a variety of trees and we try to get leaves of all shapes, colors, and sizes.  We have some really great conversations during our walk; we try to decide which leaves have fallen from which trees, and we watch squirrels collect acorns and bury them for the winter.

After we collect as many leaves as we can we take them back to the classroom we start exploring.  Here are some great activities that you can do with your leaves:

What are some of your favorite leaf activities?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ideas for Observing Trees with Preschoolers

Trees offer great opportunities for seasonal observations because;

  1. They are readily available and can often be observed from inside the classroom simply by looking out the window. 
  2. They offer obvious visual examples of seasonal changes.
  3. They can easily be revisited over an extended period of time.
  4. Observing trees is completely free. 
Start your observations by having your class help choose a tree that they want to make "their tree."  Check on the tree every couple of weeks.  During some points throughout the year the changes will happen more rapidly, revisit the tree more often during these periods. 

As you engage the children in observations, consider doing some of these activities:
  • Have the children draw pictures of the tree and post them in a classroom gallery.  Draw pictures of the tree every couple of months and add to your gallery each time to illustrate how the tree has changed (and how their drawings have improved). 
  • Give the children the camera and let them take pictures of the tree.  These photos will give you a better understanding of what fascinates them the most about the tree. They will also give you the opportunity to see the tree from the children's perspective.  Print the photos and add them to your gallery.  The drawings and photos will create a timeline for the tree right in your classroom. 
  • Make lists of the words that describe the tree each time you observe it.  These will help children practice noticing details and encourage new vocabulary.  You can include these lists in your classroom gallery. 
  • Collect leaves, seed pods, bark, berries, and blossoms that have fallen off the tree.  Research these items and explore them with magnifying glasses.  Add them to your gallery with contact paper or shadow boxes, giving the children concrete objects to connect to their observations. You can also include any research materials and discussion questions.  
These activities will create a memorable experience for your students, and ensure that they fully understand seasonal changes!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Freebie: Evidence Checklist

Happy Friday! It's that time of year when the weather is perfect and the last thing I want to do on the weekend is stay inside, so my goal is to be super productive today so that I can enjoy my weekend!

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on informal assessment, and I mention using those observations as evidence for your formal assessments.  Here is a freebie checklist to help you keep track of all of the evidence you need to collect - it's pretty basic, but you can white out the fields if you want to personalize it to your own assessments.  Download your copy here and enjoy your weekend (promise you'll just download the checklist, and then you won't think about assessments again until Monday!)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Informal assessments: What do your students know?

Before you can start any kind of project or theme exploration it is important to know what your students already understand about that particular topic.  You don't want to teach them things they already know, but you do want to be able to build upon the current knowledge and understanding.  So how do you find this information out?

There are a number of strategies that you can use, and all are considered informal assessment.

  • Ask them.  This seems really simple, but, have you ever gone up to a preschooler and said "What do you know about the farm?"  You probably get a blank stare, not because they don't know anything, but because that is a big question for a young child.  They may know a lot about the farm, how do they put all of that information into a simple answer.  They may know nothing about the farm, but they really don't want to tell you that they don't know anything.  Asking specific questions will get you farther, questions like "What kind of animals live on a farm?" and "What else might you see on the farm besides animals?" 
  • Listen to their conversations.  When they talk to each other, what do they talk about? If you are considering a farm project you might add some farm inspired materials to your dramatic play center.  These materials will encourage the children to act out their current understanding, and their conversations will give you insight to their level of knowledge. 
  • Read a story.  Books seem to have a crazy effect on children, they make them want to talk! Read a book about life on the farm, and let the children talk to you about it.  The things that they notice throughout the book will illustrate what is important to each of them about the farm. 
  • Ask them for help.  As you prepare to add topic-related materials to the classroom ask the children for their input.  What kinds of things will you need to make a farm in the classroom.  The answers they give you will tell you a lot about what they know about the farm.  
Conversations can be very informative, and most preschoolers love to talk! Use these conversations to inform your decisions about topics, and write down as much as you can to use as evidence for more formal assessments.  For more great questions that you can use with children, check out my Project Work Planner!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Activities for understanding print concepts

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: Print concepts

Understanding print concepts simply means recognizing that letter make words, and words can be written and then read.  When a child understands print concepts they are able to point out words (though they may not know what the words say), they can hold a book the right when as they look at the pictures or share it with their friends, and they might ask what certain words say.  Here are some activities that can improve print concepts:

  • Go on a word hunt - Ask the children to find words throughout the classroom, when they find a word, read it for them. 
  • Start story time with your book upside down, do the children notice? Ask them why you can't read it like that and continue a discussion about how it easier to read the words when they are right-side up. 
  • Make nonsense words - encourage children to string together magnet letters to create words, then sound their words out the best that you can.
  • Ask each child to bring one item from home that has writing on it.  Do a show and tell of their items. 
These are all fun ideas that will help children understand that letters for words, and words can be read.  What kind of print concepts activities do you use with your students?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Preschool lesson plan webs

I use webs ALL OF THE TIME.  Seriously, I'm a very visual person so it always helps when I can organize my ideas on a piece of paper. Once I can see it all in writing it seems to make more sense, and I am more likely to remember my ideas and thoughts.

There are so many different ways to use brainstorming webs in the classroom;

  • planning for themes or projects
  • brainstorming activities that meet early learning standards
  • planning for IEP or IFSP goals for specific children
  • organizing ideas for classroom centers
  • brainstorming ideas for special events and family activities
The best thing about a web is that it can be revisited over and over again, you can add sections and ideas, and use it as a record of the things that you've already explored or accomplished.  

I tend to spend a little too much time making my webs look "pretty." Because I use them so often, I want them to look nice! So I put together a colorful, printable web that I can print and use any time.  Download your copy here and start planning!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Making time for conscious observation during the day

Preschool teachers spend all day making observations.  We do it so regularly that we might not even realize that we're taking all of those mental notes.  We've trained our selves to recognize fine motor milestones, social emotional experiences, and scientific inquiry throughout the day, but do you ever take the time to just sit and watch your students as they play?

I mean, without considering assessments and portfolios, just to watch the children as they play?  There are so many things that you can observe when you remove yourself from their conversations and interactions.  Taking time to sit by yourself and just observe is incredibly valuable.  It can give you a better understanding of your students interests, opportunity to see how they interact with materials and how classroom centers work (or don't work), and any social emotional skills that you may need to work on.

The hardest thing about taking the time to make these observations is that it can feel counter-intuitive to a preschool teacher - someone who never stops moving - to sit down and just watch.  It helps to make it a part of your daily schedule.  Start with just 5 minutes during free play, take a chair over to a corner of the room, grab a notebook and spend five minutes observing the children and writing down your notes.

When you are comfortable with observing for five minutes try it out for 10 minutes, then work your way up to 15 minutes. These observations are my favorite 15 minutes of the day, and they give me so much insight into what is happening in the lives of my kiddos.  You can do this too, and you can use your observation notes to help you make decisions about class projects, upcoming lesson plans, and as evidence for assessments.

The more that you take time to observe, the more natural it will feel, and the less likely the children will be to interrupt you.  These observations also give the children the opportunity to play independently, which can be a new experience for some children, so it's a win-win!

Try taking time to observe your class and let me know how it goes!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Freebie - Leaf Patterning

Happy Friday! Somehow it's already the second week in September, and because of the strange weather we've had this summer, our leaves have already started to change.  Nothing like messing with my seasons!

This freebie is a cute patterning activity that uses different colored leaves.  This would be a great center or a fun activity to send home for families to work on together.  Download your copy here and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Great autumn activities for centers

Autumn is a great season to explore in the classroom because there are so many natural materials the you can bring into your environment.  This also means that it is really important to have other materials in your centers that are related to those natural materials.  Here are some of my favorite autumn centers;

Autumn vocabulary cards- These are great for reinforcing the new vocabulary words that students are learning.  This set includes the words acorn, apple, leaf, corn, leaves, pumpkin, tree, orchard, squirrel, and turkey and are wonderful for a writing center.

Acorn matching set - This set includes letter matching, number matching, and color matching, making it easy for children to understand what they are supposed to do with the pieces, even when they are included in different centers. 

Autumn alphabet book - Another great way to help build autumn related vocabulary.  This printable book includes a different autumn themed word for each letter of the alphabet.  These are a really fun way for children to explore autumn themes and alphabet sounds. 

Acorn books - Whether your students are telling you silly answers to write for them, or attempting to write their own factual answers, the opportunity to create their own books is a great way to motivate young writers.

Acorn counting set - This activity asks students to count the correct number of acorns onto each tree. It also includes a basket mat so that children can help their squirrel collect acorns and do simple addition when collecting acorns from more than one tree.

Please take a few minutes to check out my favorite autumn centers, and share yours in the comments!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Autumn observations to use in the classroom

Autumn is the perfect time of year to help children practice making observations.  There are so many things happening right outside our windows, encourage the children to sit and watch, or go for a walk and do some exploring.  Here are some things the the children might notice:

  • Leaves changing
  • Leaves falling off trees
  • Summer flowers starting to disappear
  • The air getting cooler
  • Squirrels and birds preparing for winter 
  • Different kinds of plants growing (pumpkins, squashes, mums)
  • Fall or Halloween decorations appearing
  • Having to wear jackets outside
Each of these observations can lead to wonderful conversations about the seasons, and how we prepare for seasons to change.  These kinds of observations also encourage children to pay attention to their surroundings and notice the things that are happening in their world. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Starting a child-led apple investigation

It's almost that time of year - time to explore all things apples and pumpkins.  I don't know what it is about apples, but we can't seem to make it through a school year without some kind of apple activity or snack.  I'm all for exploring these fall favorites, but lets let the children determine what they want to learn.

The best way to start a child-led investigation is incredibly easy; just put some apples on a table and see what happens.  I do suggest a number of different kinds and colors of apples, because these will lead to a number of different conversations.

Young children are curious about EVERYTHING, if you put something new on the table they will want to touch it, play with it, and talk about it.  Here is a list of questions that you can use to aid your discussion:

  • What are they? How do you know they are apples? 
  • Where did they come from? or Where do you think I got these apples?
  • What do you do with them?
  • What do you notice about them?
  • Why are they different colors?
These questions will give you a good idea what the children already know about apples, and what you may be able to teach them.  When you begin a child-led investigation it is helpful to have a few different ideas about the direction the investigation might take, this way you can be prepared for what comes next.  Here are some possibilities for this particular investigation; 
  • If the children focus most of their conversation on eating the apples then you could do a taste test.  Slice all of the apples and make sure that each child gets one slice of each different apple.  Before tasting them, ask the children if they think they will taste different, or the same, then taste them together.  After tasting them, talk about what they noticed.  After this activity you may talk about why apples taste different, and get into the science behind different varieties. 
  • The children may be most interested in the fact that the apples are round, and that they roll across the table.  You could search your classroom for other round objects and see how far each object rolls. 
  • The children may be most fascinated by all of the different colors of apples.  You may bring out a chart that shows all of the different apple varieties, and how many different color apples are available.  You may cut into the apples to see if they are also different colors on the inside. 
  • The children might focus on the fact that you got the apples from the grocery store, so you may want to show the children photos of an orchard so that they can begin to understand that apples grow on trees, this may lead to a study of how an apple grows. 
These are just four possibilities, but they cover the main directions that your discussion might lead. Exploring any of these topics will give your students a better understanding of a common item.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Freebie - Portfolio tags for student selected work

Happy Friday! Even happier Friday to those of you who are celebrating Labor Day weekend! I am ready for a three day weekend, I have a to do list of fun projects that I haven't had time to do all summer, and I'm looking forward to getting it all done.

This week I've spent a lot of time talking about assessments and portfolios to help you get some systems in place. Up to this point I've talked about the work that you can do to begin preparing portfolio systems, this freebie is something you can use to encourage children to take an active role in compiling their portfolios.

Make multiple copies of these Student Selected Evidence Tags and keep them on hand.  When a child completes a piece of work that he or she would like to include in their portfolio you can write down why they chose that piece of work to include in their portfolio and attach the tag to the back of the work.

Children will love that they get to help choose their best work to showcase in their portfolios!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Start your portfolios now!

It's not conference time yet, but it will be soon enough.  Start putting together your student portfolios now, if you do it little by little you won't have nearly as much prepping to do when it is time for conferences.  Here are some of my previous posts on putting together student portfolios;

Preparing for Preschool Conferences

What's in my Student Portfolios

Space Saving Portfolios

Check these out as you start compiling your student portfolios!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


It's September, and I for one and happy about that.  August is always a crazy month, and this year was no exception, so welcome September, it's time to slow down!

Listening: General Hospital is the soap opera I've watched since I was in high school, I've missed a lot here and there, but now I can stream it on my iPad whenever I want so I catch up in the evenings or on the weekends.

Loving: I am so ready for this weekend.  I am looking forward to some time to relax and finish some projects that I didn't manage to get done over the summer. I don't have much on my calendar for this weekend and that's rare, so I'm taking advantage of it!

Thinking: My brain is just a little fried at the moment.  Work has got me busy busy busy, and I love it but I'm exhausted.  I really just want to do absolutely nothing, which is why I'm planning on getting cozy with a book as soon as I finish this post.

Needing: Ugh, it's time to get back into my work out routine, I know it is, but I am so not looking forward to it.  And that's all I have to say about it.

3 goals: #1 Yup, working out.  My goal is three times a week - that's a manageable place to start.  #2 We've been working on an addition to our house since May and it's almost done, but I have a few projects left to finish and I am going to get them done by the end of the month.  #3 When I'm not working I'm stressing out about all of the work I need to get done at home, I really need to take some time to enjoy myself.

What have you been up to? I'm linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade for this month's currently, check out her blog to see what other teacher-bloggers are up to this month!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Taking photos to use in portfolios

A great preschool portfolio includes tons of evidence of growth and development.  Some of this evidence should be work samples and artwork, but evidence can also be photos of children participating in learning experiences, interacting with each other, and exploring their environment.

Capturing these moments with your camera can take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it will be like second nature (and the children will eventually forget that you're taking their picture and stop making those cheesy faces).  Here are some tips for taking great portfolio photos;

  • try to get multiple different views of the same thing - close ups and wide shots can both be useful.
  • Pay attention to facial expressions.  Make sure to get those in the picture, they tell the story of what is happening and how the child feels about it. 
  • Is the child involved in a hands on activity? Snap a photo of what their hands are doing.
  • Don't feel like you need pictures that are of that child alone, feel free to include others in the shot.  These photos show the great social interactions that happen as children are learning.
  • Snap photos continuously, you can always go back and delete the images that you don't want, but you never know when you'll catch an amazing expression or action.
  • Photos don't have to be of exciting events, taking a photo of a quiet moment, such as two children reading a book, is often just as valuable.  
When I upload my photos to the computer I keep them organized in files that work for me. I like to organize the photos in monthly files, which are then separated into different learning domains (literacy, math, science, etc.).  This makes it really easy when I'm looking for portfolio evidence to find September's science folder and the image I'm looking for will be right there.  It doesn't matter how you organize your photos as long as the system works for you. 

Do you use photos in the classroom? Share a link to a blog post or pin that shows what you do with your photos!