Monday, November 30, 2015

Cyber Monday Sale on TPT


Don't you love my fourth grade school picture (1996)?! the worst part is, other than the bangs and much better sense of style, I don't look all that different :) I'm sharing this beautiful picture to let you know that Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting their annual Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale! I love to take a minute to share what's on my TPT wish list with you, so here are the products that I can't wait to add to my cart:


I have been a huge fan of Erin Bradley designs for as long as I've been creating things for my classroom (long before I started me TPT store!) these are recent additions to her store that I have to have.  The labels speak to my OCD organization, and the coffee cups are just too cute!


Cherry Workshop is always adding something adorable.  These snowman math puzzles are the perfect way to explore numbers throughout the winter!


These play mats from Teaching Preschoolers are designed to help little ones build fine motor skills - children can cover the dots using bingo markers, stickers, counters, pom poms, or candies.  You can make the work more challenging by encouraging them to use clothespins, tweezers, or tongs to place manipulatives over the dots.  What a perfect idea for children who are of different ability levels!


It's just not a wish list without something from Pink Oatmeal.  I really just want her entire store.  She has a couple of different Christmas sets, but this one includes yoga, brain breaks, and movement games, so it's a little bit of everything, and perfect for December.  As the weather gets colder, we're less likely to get outside time, so these activities are super helpful!

That's what I've got on my wishlist, here are some items from my store that just might end up on your wish list:


These two bundles include tons of math and language activities that are sure to keep your preschoolers busy. Help them explore the holidays with the Christmas bundle, and then extend the fun through the rest of the winter with the Winter bundle!


I am a huge fan of decorating my classroom for the holidays (or seasons, if holidays aren't an option for you).  These printable decor sets are perfect for keeping my classroom fun on a budget!


This new Invites, Sign Ups, and Reminders set is one that has been particularly helpful.  It includes editable templates for invitations, sign up sheets, and reminder notes for 13 different seasonal parties and special events.  Don't spend your precious time making your parent communications look cute, I've done that for you, just add your info and print!

What are you looking for during the Cyber Monday sale? I'd love to know what's on your wishlist!

(If you want to see more great throwback pics from other teacher-authors, you can check them out here!)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Freebie - Holiday Cookie Party


Happy Black Friday! That's right, Thanksgiving is officially over, so bring on the Christmas craziness!


I wanted to share one of my favorite freebie from last year with you, so that you can use it to start planning your holiday celebrations.  Last year I hosted a cookie party for my students, I made these signs to go with the activity stations.  Download a set of the signs for yourself, and then take a minute to check out these posts all about the party;

Cookie Party Inspiration
Foam Cookies for Dramatic Play
Holiday Cookie Party Recap

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Printable Decorations for Thanksgiving

Whether you're still pulling together your annual classroom celebration, or your preparing for you own family's feast, I've got one more Thanksgiving treat for you!


These Thanksgiving decorations are 100% printable, making them your last minute lifesaver for any Thanksgiving celebration that needs a little sprucing up.  The set includes a festive bunting, name tags, treat bag toppers, a door decoration, and cupcake picks (or they could also be stickers.

I have these decorations available for every holiday because they have changed the way I celebrate.  Everything can be printed when I need more, and if there is something that I want to save for next year, like the bunting, it folds flat and fits in a file folder or ziploc bag.

Please take a minute to check out the Thanksgiving decorations, and the great big bundle for all of your holiday celebrations!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Classroom Gratitude Journal


The easiest way to help children understand gratitude is to talk about it over and over again.  I've created a really cute freebie that will help your students put practice their thankfulness, while recording what happens each day.


These pages can be used to create a classroom gratitude journal.  Each day ask your students what they are thankful for, or grateful for.  In the beginning you'll likely get the same answers again and again - "I'm thankful that we got to play outside" and "I'm thankful for snack time." You may need to set an example by telling the class what you are thankful for each day, but with practice their answers will get more thoughtful, and even more heartwarming.


This is the perfect addition to your character education, a great way to meet social emotional standards, and the perfect way to capitalize on all of that Thanksgiving thankfulness! Download your copy here and try it out with your kiddos as you prepare for the holidays!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Teaching Thankfulness


Thanksgiving is a two-part holiday - first, you've got the historical references, and then there are the social emotional lessons.  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to help children practice being thankful, and for very young preschoolers, this may be the first time they've ever considered the fact they they are lucky to have certain people and things in their lives.  There are a number of ways to help children focus on what they are thankful for this holiday season, here are a few ideas;


Host a food drive.  This doesn't have to be just for Thanksgiving, make it last until your winter break.  Families need help all winter long!  Some of your students may know what it is like to not have enough food to eat, others may not ever have considered that there are families who aren't able to eat dinner.  All of them can learn from sharing what they have with others.  A food drive is a concrete way to show children what it feels like to give to those in need.


Ask parents.  Giving parents an opportunity to write down what they are thankful for can create all kinds of conversations.  Create a display that encourages family members to write down one or two things they are thankful for this year, there's not doubt that the children will ask their parents what they're doing, and what they've chosen to write.  Then you can help the children do the same so that they can share their thoughts when their parents pick them up.  Thankful trees are popular, but you could also use turkey feathers, or if you want to leave it up throughout the holidays a Christmas tree with ornaments, or even snowflakes.


Read about it.  Books can teach all kinds of lessons, we know this very well.  Here are some great stories for teaching thankfulness;
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
Being Thankful by Mercer Mayer
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
Abbey and the Thankful Tree by Madiha Yearwood


Talk about it.  Little ones talk in order to make sense of new information. Conversations can show you what they understand, and leave you with some sweet quotes to share with their families.  These Conversations Starters from Hands on as we grow are designed to get kids talking about Thanksgiving and thinking about gratitude.

What else do you do to help your students embrace the Thanksgiving spirit?  I'd love to hear your ideas, please share them in the comments!


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Thursday, November 19, 2015

NAEYC Conference 2015 session trends


I attend and facilitate a lot of professional development trainings, they're part of my job, so when I go to a conference the sessions aren't usually my favorite part. Don't get me wrong, I love hearing others' experiences and finding ways to use their tips and tricks in my work, but there are a couple of other highlights for me. I love love love exploring the Expo Hall. It is absolutely fascinating to explore new products and see what each company has come up with to capture my attention this year, plus FREEBIES! I also spend ridiculous amounts of time pouring over the conference program.  The sessions available say a lot about the current trends in this field - what topics are popular, what tools/strategies/curriculums are mentioned numerous times, which different subjects are seen the most, and which topics are starting to appear that I haven't seen before.  

I haven't had a ton of time to go through the program for the NAEYC National Conference - I had some travel disasters that got me here later than I expected - but so far I'm noticing a large number of sessions on outdoor play, outdoor classrooms, and exploring nature.  In previous years sessions on the Reggio Emilia philosophy and Conscious Discipline methods have been extremely popular, and this is still true, but the sessions have changed. Five years ago these seminars were all purely informational, and given by the pioneers in each subject, now they are sessions about how teachers are implementing these strategies with their own students, their interpretations of how to use these strategies.  I've also seen a shift from the STEM initiative to an more encompassing STEAM initiative.  Over the years NAEYC has partnered with other organizations to recognize diversity, last year adding sessions presented entirely in Spanish, and this year including sessions in mandarin. 

I realize that a number of the sessions are sponsored by companies that want to promote their products and strategies, but ultimately, their marketing impacts the educational community, and whether we purchase those materials or not, the ideas have a tendency to find a way into our classrooms.  This means that exploring sponsored sessions is also valuable because it is still possible to learn from the background information.  

I'm exploring the expo hall this afternoon, and I can't wait to share the great things that I find. I'll be posting those tomorrow, and I'll be looking for new toys to add to my holiday gift guides, which will be up next week!


Photo from poster session


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Conference Prep - What I'm taking


I've been to quite a few conferences, and they're all a bit different, but my experience has given me a list of things that are necessities for every conference.  Here's what I take with me;


An extra tote bag - you never know when one of your sessions will have freebies or giveaways, and the expo hall is always full of fun samples and there's never an easy way to carry all of it.  This tote from Ikea is perfect because it folds into a little pouch so I can throw it into my purse until I need it.


A water bottle - I'm cheap, there, I said it.  I hat to pay for drinks at conferences, they're always so expensive.  If I take my own water bottle I can fill it as many times as I want and If I'm flying to the conference I just pack it empty so I can get through security.  My favorite is this bottle by Copco. I love it because the entire top part of the bottle twists off right above the purple cuff so that you cas add ice cubes or lemon slices.


A notebook - a notebook is always helpful at a conference, but I take mine a step further.  I create my own notebook with copies of my travel arrangements, hotel reservations, transportation information, and conference registration so that I have all of this information and space for my notes organized in one place.  Last year I used this Vera Bradley Binder, and this year I used my binding machine to create my own notebook.


Your contact information - You never know who you might meet. I've made new friends and had the opportunity to connect with some great business contacts, it is so helpful to have a business card to give them so that they can contact me after the conference to follow up.  I know many teachers who also take return address labels so that they can easily enter giveaways in the expo hall without having to fill out all of their information at every booth they visit. I had my business cards done on VistaPrint.

Comfortable shoes - Attending a conference is a guarantee that you will be walking. A lot. The type of shoes that you wear will obviously depend on where the conference is.  Since it's supposed to be 80 degree in Orlando this week I'm wearing sandals, specifically, these Crocs.


A portable charger - Whenever there are a lot of people in one place it has a tendency to drain your phone battery a lot faster, and there are never enough wall outlets.  These little chargers don't take up much space, but they will definitely save the day, and you can usually find one for less than $10.

Snacks - nothing is more embarrassing than your stomach growling in the middle of someone else's presentation.  Snacks are a must, I try to choose snacks that are easy to carry and don't make a lot of noise when I open them! I love dry cereal, fruit snacks, trail mix, and I always pack a little chocolate too.

What do you take when you go to a conference or Professional Development day? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

It's NAEYC Week!



The NAEYC Nation Conference is this week in Orlando and I'll be there, will you?! This is the third time that I've gone to the conference and I love love love spending time learning from all of these amazing ECE professionals (and the Expo hall is fun too).

NAEYC is at the forefront of developments in Early Childhood Education, and as an educator and someone who educated other teachers, it is incredibly important to me to know where NAEYC stands.  I find myself turning to their position statements all of the time to give direction to my own work.  You can find them using the following link, the information is invaluable for teachers and administrators who are advocates for best practice!

NAEYC Position Statements

For more information about the conference, check out NAEYC's Conference Website.  I'll be blogging from the conference Thursday and Friday, so you can check in here for updates, and be sure to follow my instagram for photos from Orlando!

Here are my posts from last year's conference:
NAEYC Here I come!
NAEYC Expo Highlights
NAEYC 2014: Sessions on my Radar


Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Freebie - Thanksgiving Roll and Graph


Happy Friday! For me, November means Thanksgiving.  I spend the entire month planning and re-planning what I'm going to take to our Thanksgiving celebrations. I search endlessly for new recipes, and inevitably end up making the same old favorites.  Today's freebie fights right in with my monthly theme of food!


This cute roll and graph from Ashley Hughes is all about Thanksgiving dinner.  I can see kiddos loving this game, and learning so much as they begin to recognize the vocabulary and practice recording their data on the graph.  This would be a great activity for large groups or smalls groups, so go download it and add it to those lesson plans!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A cranberry recipe preschoolers will love

Cranberries may not be the first Thanksgiving food that your preschoolers want to try, but this easy recipe just might change their mind - and they can help make it!


These cranberry tarts are made with three simple ingredients;
1 package of sugar cookie dough
chocolate chips
whole cranberries

The only prep work that you will have to do is to cut your whole cranberries in half.  Then the children can help you press spoonfuls of cookie dough into each hole in your muffin tin (you will probably need a couple of muffin tins to use all of your cookie dough).  Mix the chocolate chips and cranberries together in a bowl and the children can sprinkle them over the top of the cookie dough.  Press the chocolate chips and cranberries into the cookie dough to keep them in place, and then bake according to the directions on the cookie dough package (watch the edges of the cookies so that they do not get too dark in the muffin tins).

Let the tarts cool and enjoy the tangy cranberries with the sweet chocolate and cookie!

For more ways to explore cranberries with your preschoolers, check out these posts from earlier this week:
Preschool Cranberry Exploration
Cranberry Sauce Texture Exploration

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanksgiving Activities for Preschool


Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season craziness, you've got fun activities, parties, and family events at school and then throw in all of the stuff that also happens to be going on in your personal lives and sometimes it can be just a bit much.  I have a list of simple Thanksgiving activities that children love and that will save your sanity (this is a repost from last year because these activities are still just as wonderful as they were last year)!


I Spy Thanksgiving  
My kiddos love I Spy books, I think they are great for improving concentration and visual discrimination.  These beginning reader versions also include simple words that encourage early reading.  This will be one of the most popular activities in my classroom until Thanksgiving. 


Thanksgiving Literacy Activities
This set includes four activities that encourage Thanksgiving-themed creative writing.  All of the activities focus on pie, including; How to make a pie, Diagramming the parts of a pie, Designing your own pie flavor, and a class book about your students' favorite kinds of pie.


Foam Thanksgiving Beads 
Beads are great for practicing fine motor skills, and they are an activity that I can put out and my students will be able to do with very little instruction.  These beads are foam thanksgiving shapes, which means they are less likely to roll all over my classroom floor!


Thanksgiving Alphabet Books
These books include a Thanksgiving picture for each letter of the alphabet - they are such a fun way to explore the kinds of things that students might encounter during the holiday, and after the holiday we'll look at them again and see how many of them were actually part of our own celebrations.  (they are also available for AutumnHalloween, and Winter).


Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie 
We'll spend a lot of time talking about food over the next couple of weeks, so we might as well play with it too.  This set is not only fun, but educational - it helps children practice a number of different math skills including sorting by color, sorting by shape, and counting.


Thanksgiving Matching and Counting
This is another activity that encourages a few different math skills. We'll use this set to sort foods, count them, and then match them to the number cards. 


The Thankful Book 
I love Todd Parr's books, but this one is especially helpful because it can be difficult to explain what "thankful" means to very young children.  This book always leads to wonderful circle time discussions.


Thanksgiving Letter Match
My students are all over the place when it comes to their letter recognition skills, so this activity is perfect because I can use it with learners at a number of levels.  For those still working on recognizing capital letters, I focus just on the capital letters, asking them to name the letter and make the sound as they pick up the pie.  Students who have mastered the capital letters get to attempt to match the capital and lowercase letters so that they can put whipped cream on their pies. 


Fake leaves for raking 
In addition to the usual thanksgiving play food that will be in my dramatic play center, I'll also have fake leaves and rakes out for the children.  Their favorite part of this activity is always dumping the leaves all over the floor, which is fine with me as long as they rake them all up!


Thanksgiving Vocabulary Cards
There are always vocabulary cards in my writing center, and as soon as I put out a new set, my students rush over to check them out.  They love to look at the pictures and see if they can guess the words.  Once they know the words they pay more attention to the letters, and they love to tell me what letter each word starts with.  We also practice writing the words and they are always so proud when they are able to write the longest word in the collection all by themselves.  These are awesome for encouraging letter and word recognition and letter formation practice.


Thanksgiving Cards for Families 
I fully admit to being a scrapbook paper hoarder, I can't help myself! The best thing about my little obsession is that I always have tons of paper when we need to make cards.  What says "I'm thankful for you" better than a handmade card? I can't wait to see what my students come up with when I get out this DCWV Fall Paper Stack. 


Thanksgiving Surveys
I have yet to meet a preschooler who doesn't love to talk, so I try to give my students a constructive reason to talk to each other.  These surveys are perfect for collecting data on what students like about thanksgiving. after the data has been collected we analyze it - count how many students like pumpkin pie and how many like apple, estimate which side dish is the class' favorite, or create a bar graph to show how many students like gravy on their mashed potatoes. 

Hopefully this will help you finalize your Thanksgiving plans for the classroom - or come up with some great ideas for the kids that will be visiting your house this Thanksgiving!

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