Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Freebie - Halloween File Folder Game


Happy Halloween! It's sure to be a fun weekend, but I hope that your Friday won't be too crazy with the parties and sugar highs!


Today's freebie is one that you can put together quickly and file away for next Halloween.  This Candy Visual Discrimination File Folder Game is super cute, so the kiddos are sure to love it, and it works on some serious math concepts that are perfect for this part of the school year.  Download your copy from Play to Learn Preschool and enjoy your Halloween weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween shapes and emotions

Since Halloween is this weekend most of you are probably celebrating today or tomorrow. If you're looking for one more really great Halloween activity for your celebration look no further! This is one of my all-time favorite Halloween sets because there are so many different ways to use it, making it something that every single child in your class can benefit from. 


This shape practice set includes three activities to do with the included printable cards. Children can use the Jack-o-Lantern mats to practice visual discrimination and recognizing shapes. Cut out each Jack-o-Lantern mat and the extra face pieces on each page. Then ask students to match the extra pieces to the shapes that they see on the Jack-o-Lanterns. It also includes a blank pumpkin so that students can create their own Jack-o-Lantern. 



The set also includes Jack-o-Lantern cards that are perfect for matching. Children can look for the matches or play a memory game with them to build social skills. You could also have students sort them by asking them to find all of the Jack-o-Lanterns with round eyes, or all of the Jack-o-Lanterns that have triangles. 


The question cards are perfect for informal assessment. Each card asks students to find a Jack-o-Lantern containing a specific feature. These can be used with the large Jack-o-Lantern mats, or with the matching cards, depending on the size of your group and the children’s skill level. 


Download your copy of this set here!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

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: Letter and Word recognition

This standard is the one most people think of when they consider language and literacy development in preschool.  It covers a number of different concepts, including recognizing environmental print, recognizing letters, and recognizing the sounds associated with each letter.

Here are some activities that will build understanding of letter and word recognition:











Make a letter with letters, The point to each little letter and make the letter sound each time



You can find more great letter recognition ideas on my Preschool Language Arts pin board!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Compare and contrast with pumpkin


What do you do with all of those pumpkin insides after you scoop them out? Sure, they make a great sensory experience, but have you ever considered doing an authentic compare and contrast? Simply put a large scoop or the insides of your class pumpkin on a tray or cookie sheet. Next to it, place a similar size scoop of canned pumpkin.  What do the children have to say about these two scoops of pumpkin?

If they need a little guidance you could ask these questions:

  • Those are both pumpkin, why are they different?
  • What do they look like?
  • What do they feel like?
  • Do they smell different?
  • What else do you notice?

After having a conversation about the similarities and differences pick the seeds out of your pumpkin and puree what is left in the blender.  Now how are they different? How are they similar? 

While your class jack o lantern is most likely not the same variety of pumpkin as the pumpkin in your can, this experience will help the children make the connection between the pumpkin they carved for Halloween and the Pie they eat for Thanksgiving! It is also great practice for comparing and contrast because they can get their hands on it and really feel the difference.  

For some other ways to use up those pumpkins, check out this post from yesterday!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pumpkin Activity round up

'Tis the season for pumpkin everything! Whether you're carving your pumpkins for Halloween or trying to figure out how to use up all of the left-over pumpkins and gourds as Thanksgiving approaches, there are a million different ideas for classroom activities using pumpkins.  I thought I'd share some of my favorites so that you can get all of your activities in one place!

Pumpkin Pie Dough from Fun At Home With Kids

Pumpkin Moon Sand from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Pumpkins, hammers, and golf tees from Exploring the Outdoor Classroom

Describe a pumpkin using your five senses from Gift of Curiosity

 Pumpkin Pie Art from Fun A Day

Make a pumpkin puzzle from Daddy's Tractor

What are some of your favorite ways to use all of those pumpkins?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Freebie - Planner Pages


Happy Friday! I usually try to make sure that the freebie I share with you on Friday is either related to the other posts I've written that week or seasonal.  So I have to apologize because today's freebie is neither of those things.


I know it's the wrong time of year for a new teacher planner, but I saw these free pages, and they were too cute not to share. Plus, they're gold, which is apparently my weakness at the moment, although I suppose it's better that I fell in love with gold planner freebie pages and not a piece of gold jewelry...

Download your planner freebie pages from Student Savvy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Planning your classroom layout

If you've spent any amount of time teaching young children there's a good chance you've also spent a little time drooling over a classroom supply catalog.  It's a lot like pouring over the toy ads at Christmas time when you were a little kid. You know there is no way that you'll get all of the wonderful things that you see on those glossy pages, but that doesn't mean you can't dream!


I just found a tool from Kaplan that I could spend days playing with. It's called My Kaplan Floor Planner.  You enter the dimensions of your classroom, and then you can create floor plans using items from the Kaplan catalog.  It's like playing the Sims with classroom furniture! I can't believe that I didn't know about this, and I really don't know what else to say about it, other than I want to create dream classrooms for hours and not worry about the price tag! 

Besides just playing around, this is a really useful tool.  The Kaplan catalog is fairly extensive, there is a pretty good chance that most of the items you have in your own classroom can be found in it's pages (or something relatively similar).  There is a very good chance that you would be able to create numerous floor plans for your own classroom that you could actually use throughout the year.  This would save so much time when it comes to rearranging your centers and trying new things in the classroom! 

They even have sample floor plans, designed specifically for different age groups.  Their samples take into consideration NAEYC Accreditation Standards, and the criteria for the Environment Rating Scale for that particular age group.  



Give it a try and let me know what you think.  If you need me you can find me designing the classroom of my dreams!



*This post was not sponsored or endorsed by Kaplan, I just found this tool and I really love it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Exploring Rime in 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: 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 onset and rime! Get more info about this concept here.


Break it down with plastic letters



These are definitely higher level skills. While preschoolers shouldn't be expected to master these before Kindergarten, exposure is always a good thing.  You may have some students who are ready for these skills, just another example of the role of differentiation in the preschool classroom!


For more phonemic awareness activities, check out these posts:





Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Explaining Classroom Centers

As preschool teachers we spend a lot of time defending the importance of play.  We know exactly how much learning is taking place in our activity centers during "free play" because we designed them specifically to encourage learning, social interaction, and inquiry.  Parents and family members don't always understand that.



I designed these labels to identify the different types of learning that takes place in each center.  Display them in a photo frame or attach them right to your shelf and parents can rad the brief description while waiting for their children to finish up their work.




I wanted to share them with you, so I designed them in two different color sets, a black and white and a bronze and gold, so they should go with just about every color combo and decor style out there (because if you want parents to pay attention they have to be attractive!).

I also created a parent letter that you can send home explaining the labels, and letting parents know where they can find them so they can check them out for themselves.  Hopefully these will help you reinforce the power of play and developmentally appropriate activities! Get your set here!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Evaluating your Environment


Every so often it's a good idea to take an objective look at your classroom environment.  Do you have everything in your room that you should have in your room? Are the children actually able to access the materials? Does the room feel warm and inviting, or is it a bit too cluttered and chaotic? It can be really difficult to be objective about your space, and that's why I'm a fan of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R).


These have become a pretty popular tool in my state because programs are required to have a copy for our Quality Rating and Improvement System, but until recently I hadn't actually spent much time looking through them.  As the teacher, it is easy to look at your room and say, "I know I need to do that, I'll get to it eventually" or "I know I don't have this out right now, but the children are really into this at the moment."  But when you go through a tool like the ECERS and answer all of the questions, it becomes pretty clear which areas you could work on, which makes improving your classroom a little easier to handle, because you have a clear picture of exactly what needs done.

There are also Environment Rating Scales available for Infant/Toddler Classrooms, School-Age Classrooms, and Family Child Care Settings.  If you're curious how your classroom would score, or maybe you're looking to improve your classroom and want some guidance, I strongly suggest completing one of these tools.  You might be surprised to find some strengths that you didn't realize you had!



* All product links are affiliates. This post was not sponsored by the ERS, it is a tool that I am familiar with and have used in the classroom. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Freebie


Happy Friday! This month is flying by and I'm not sure that I'm happy about it.  The weather is approaching just a little bit chilly and I'm definitely not ready for winter, I want to hold on to fall as long as possible!


That said, I'm also very much looking forward to Halloween, and this Candy Corn Alphabet bunting would be the perfect Halloween themed addition to any classroom! Download the free bunting from Mr. & Mrs. Brightside and enjoy with your class for the rest of the month!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Preschool Halloween Party Activities

The most difficult piece of any holiday party is planning activities that will keep the kiddos busy, but still be easy enough that they can do them independently - because you barely have time to breathe during a party, let alone facilitate games and crafts.  I've put together a list of 10 activities that would be perfect for any preschool Halloween party.


  1. Mini pumpkin relays - challenge the children to place a mini pumpkin on their head and walk a short distance without it falling off.  If they're really good at it see if they can circle around a chair or plastic cone. 
  2. Sensory bins - There are a million different options for Halloween sensory bins, for party day I always suggest staying away from sand, water, rice, and anything that typically makes a mess.  Here is a picture of the bin I put together for last year's Halloween party:
  3. Lacing - this is a mess free activity that can be 100% prepped ahead of time and children can take their finished projects home with them after the party because there is no glue or paint involved, and therefore no drying time.  Check out this easy spiderweb one!
  4. Glow stick beaded necklace - I always try to include a glow stick craft so that children have something to wear to help keep them visible during trick or treat.  These glow sticks are made to hang on a string, so children can add beads or colored pasta to make their own Halloween themed necklaces.
  5. The Mummy Game - What preschooler wouldn't love wrapping their friends up in toilet paper?! Grab a roll and see who can make the best mummy. 
  6. Make a giant spider web - Use masking tape to make a spider web on the floor, the children can walk on the web, pretend they're spiders, or you can get the spiders out of your insect set and let the children play with the spiders on the web.  
  7. Bowling - Here are two cute Halloween-themed options; Pumpkin bowling, Mummy bowling
  8. Make Glue Ghosts - This is my all-time favorite Halloween activity.  It does require some drying time, so you can either do it at the party, or do it earlier in the week and then add your ghosts to the glow stick necklaces. 
  9. Make silly pumpkin faces - this printable set is a great way to practice visual discrimination, shape recognition, and matching.  
  10. Make a snack - I remember making these Popcorn Hands when I was little, it's a great way to make sure kids get a somewhat healthy snack while practicing fine motor skills.  
What are some of your favorite Halloween party activities?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Preschool activities that promote sound segmenting

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 segmenting!


Give them visual cues


Make slide counters to use when counting segments 

These are all great activities for practicing segmenting sounds, check back next week and I'll have ideas for working on rime, or check out these other great posts about phonemic awareness:





Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Using Sign Up Genius for your Class party

In my Party Planning Tips post yesterday, I mentioned a site that is new to me (so probably old news at this point... ha!) it's call Sign Up Genius.  While I was checking out the site I came across their blog post that talks about how to use Sign Up Genius as you plan a class party, and it made me laugh out loud because it is spot on! You can read it here.


The idea behind Sign Up Genius is that you log on, create your sign up sheet (it can be for anything - conference time slots, party treats, field trip chaperones, soccer game snacks, carpool, you name it) and then fill in some additional information, then email the link to parents, who can sign up for whatever they like.  Then you can set up automatic reminders that will be sent via email or text. Plus, you'll receive a notification every time someone signs up for something so that you can monitor all of it.


Honestly, why did I not know about this site?! The free membership includes a ton of stuff - 50,000 pre-made themes, options to collect payments (!!!), automatic reminders, ability to sync with Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and iCalendar, A Thank You tool, and if these aren't enough features you can upgrade to different paid levels.  I am in love with this site - have I said that yet? I am.

I would love to know if you have ever used Sign Up Genius - how did you use it and what do you think?


(This is not a sponsored post, I just really love this site and thought you should know about it!)