Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Freebie - Shape Poems

Happy Friday! If you're new to Preschool Ponderings, Fridays around here are also known as Freebie Fridays.  Sometimes I have an exclusive freebie that I've created just for my blog readers, sometimes I share free activities from my Teachers Pay Teacher's store, and sometimes I share amazing free resources from other creative teachers.  Either way, you win because you get something new, fun, and best of all FREE every week!

This week has been all about different ways to learn about and explore shapes, so it is only fitting that today's freebie fits that theme.  These Shape Poems from Amanda Pauley are a great way to help your little ones remember the different characteristics of each shape.  They're perfect for making shapes a little easier for those auditory and linguistic learners.  Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shape art

Both of my posts this week have been all about understanding shapes, but when you're introducing a new concept to preschoolers it's important to have fun with it too.  Here are some great ideas for shape art projects that will inspire exploration and creativity!

What other shape art activities do you do? Share them in the comments!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Comparing and Contrasting Shapes

All of yesterday's shape talk got me thinking - thinking so much that I had to create something new!

I put together this Comparing Shapes set to help you work on some shape comparisons.  Each poster is designed to encourage students to look at the number of sides and corners (also new great vocabulary to introduce!) each shape has.  Once they can isolate these details and use them to focus on the differences and similarities of each shape, they will have a better understanding of what makes each shape.

This set also includes a chart so that after you've explored each shape, you can put all of the information for all of the shapes on the same graph and see them all at once.

Asking the same questions about different shapes, so that children can see the different answers and how they are all connected, can build children's understanding of the topic.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shape Scavenger Hunt

I know it was a little quiet around her last week, but I am back and I have some fun activities to share with you this week!

One of my favorite math concepts to explore with preschoolers is always shapes.  Understanding and recognizing shapes is necessary for more than just basic geometry, we need to understand shapes in order to build spatial awareness.  Shapes also invite comparisons and attention to detail, as well as encouraging children to pay attention to the world around them.

I like to introduce the shape discussion by going on a scavenger hunt for shapes .  This is the perfect intro activity because it is something that will challenge children who already know some of their shapes, while still being fun for children who are new to the concept.

I start the scavenger hunt by giving each child a shape book, and together we go through each shape as I challenge the children to find something in the classroom (or on the playground, in our neighborhood, etc.) that is the same shape.  I'm often amazed by the things they pick out because they are able to isolate shapes that I never would have noticed.

The shape books are nice to have because the children can compare the shape they've found "in real life" to the simplified version of the shape in their shape book, essentially they can check their own work.

You could also extend the learning by sending the shape books home with the children and asking them to find something in every shape at home. They could even bring back photos of the items that they found.

I've got more shape activities to share with you, so make sure to check back this week for more fun ideas!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Freebie - Spring Opposites

Happy Friday! I may have been quiet here this week but I have certainly been busy, and I'm so excited to share some fun new stuff with you!

This freebie is perfect for Spring - Help your students practice their opposites with this Spring Opposites Cookie Sheet Activity from File Folder Heaven.  I love these activities, they are loo prep and can be used over and over. Go download yours and have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Break!

Hey everyone! I don't get a spring break at my job, but for this one week I'm going to give my blog a bit of a Spring Break.  I'll still have a Friday Freebie post on Friday, but other than that it will be quiet here this week. Don't worry though, I have a ton of fun posts planned for next week, so make sure to check in for those!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Freebie - St. Patrick's Day

Happy Friday and Happy St. Patrick's day! I hope that your day is full of just the right amount of mischievousness and sweetness, with all of the green you can find!

Here's a little free green for you - These letter and number cards are perfect for your last minute activities or your bulletin boards download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Irish Culture Resources

St. Patrick's day is a lot of fun, but how many American's actually have any understanding of why it is a holiday in the first place? While celebrating the holiday is a start to introducing children to cultural traditions, it's important to go beyond the celebration and help make sure that the children have an understanding of the Irish culture.

Here are a couple of websites that can help introduce children to Ireland - all are developmentally appropriate and full of photos and videos to give children a better visual understanding.

The opportunity to do a little research and peek into different cultures always encourages wonderful conversations.  Take some time to look around these sites and anticipate some of the questions that your students might have so that you can be prepared to support their curiosity!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

St. Patrick's Day treats

What's a few St. Patrick's day tricks without a couple of treats?! Here are some of my favorite ideas that are easy to pull off and will guarantee smiles from your students.

  1. Lucky Charms Treats - These are your basic Rice Krispy Treats, but you substitute Lucky Charms in place of the Rice Krispy cereal.  You can follow any Rice Krispy treat recipe, my only suggestions are to make sure that the regular marshmallows you melt aren't too hot this way they won't melt the marshmallow shapes in your cereal. 
  2. Fruity Pebble Yogurt Parfaits - It doesn't get easier than layering cereal and yogurt in clear cups.  The rainbow colored Fruity Pebbles will pop agains white vanilla yogurt for a treat that little ones can't resist.
  3. Rainbow Fruit Salad - Fruit salad is honestly one of my all-time favorite treats.  Choose a rainbow of fruit and you'll have a colorful snack that will make kids and parents happy. I suggest a mix of strawberries, raspberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple, grapes, kiwis, blueberries, and apples. Don't forget to cut up any possible choking hazards, and this treat is golden!
  4. Fruit Loops Necklaces - With all of the colored cereals available, you may as well use them! Grab a giant box of Fruit Loops and some string and give the children a fine motor exercise and a snack at the same time.  You can encourage patterning while you're at it. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

St. Patrick's day tricks for the classroom

Part of the fun of St. Patrick's day is the leprechaun mischief. Those leprechauns are quick, tricky little things, which is exactly what makes them so much fun.  There are plenty of little tricks that you can play on your students to make the week just a little sillier.  Here are some ideas; 

  • Mess up your room
  • Leave a path of tiny green footprints (stickers or vinyl cut outs are perfect!)
  • Hide rainbows or little piles of glitter throughout the classroom
  • Use food coloring to turn liquids, like milk, green
  • Put green kool-aid in faucets so the water comes out green
  • Drape green crepe paper streamers across the room
  • Make a trail of Lucky Charms cereal that children have to follow to find a surprise
  • Put classroom supplies in unusual places
  • Swap cubbies or coat hook labels
  • Put all of your chairs in storage for the day
Have you tried anything else and blamed it on the leprechauns? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Printables for St. Patrick's Day

Can you believe that it's the middle of March already?! I am completely fine with that, bring on spring! But this also means that St. Patrick's day is right around the corner - Friday to be exact.

St. Patrick's day is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate in the classroom. This is partiall because it means that we've turned the corner and spring is almost here - I am all about celebrating everything turning green! I also love this holiday because it's magical and whimsical and mischievous, and I fully believe that children need the opportunity to enjoy these special days while they are still little.

If you haven't started planning yet, or you're looking for some activities to supplement your classroom centers, these are a few of my favorites:

Leprechaun CountingUse these cute juggling leprechauns to help students practice counting and number recognition. Each leprechaun has a number on his leg, the children can count out that number of gold coins for the leprechaun to juggle. This set includes leprechauns numbered 1-20.

 St. Patrick's Day Numbers:  Use these numbers to practice one to one correspondence, counting practice, and numeral recognition. Students can match the ten frames to the corresponding numerals, or they can use counters or small erasers to count and cover the shamrocks on each number.

St. Patrick's Day Alphabet Book:  This book is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day while encouraging literacy. Each letter corresponds with a Irish-themed vocabulary word which will help children practice letter sounds. Print one for each child, or a few for a center. You could also have children create their own St. Patrick’s themed alphabet to go along with each of the letters. 

Leprechaun Traps:  This pack includes 6 notes from a friendly leprechaun which encourage students to be creative in their attempts to catch him. There are detailed instructions for each card, so that teachers can easily prepare the materials to be left by the leprechaun. This set also contains four charts which ask students to make a prediction about their traps, and what the leprechaun will do the next day. This is a great activity to encourage creativity, critical thinking, and cause and effect, while exploring basic STEM principles. You can read more about this activity here.

St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Observations:  Give the youngest children the opportunity to practice making observations using real photos of shamrocks. This pack includes a number of questions to ask children as they study the included photos, as well as color gradient strips that children can use to practice matching the colors that they see in the photos, and cropped sections of the photos that children can match with larger photos. 

The pack also includes a list of suggestions for extending this learning experience through exploring your own outdoor space, and ideas for additional games that can be played using the included pieces, As well as a technical drawing activity that encourages students to create a technical drawing using an actual shamrock as a drawing guide.

St. Patrick's Day Memory:  Memory is a great game for all ages! Whether you use these cards with younger students as a simple matching exercise, with older students as a traditional memory game, to hide around the classroom for students to find the matches, or as a tool for partnering students, these cute shamrocks will help add some festivity to your St. Patrick’s day!

St. Patrick's Day Classroom Decorations:  This set includes everything that you need to host a classroom party - purchase the set once and use it every year! The decorations in this set includes a "Happy St. Patrick's Day" bunting, cupcake picks (or stickers), treat bag toppers, desk name tags, and a door decoration. This set also includes templates for a class Shamrock wreath, a craftivity that will allow all of your students to take part in preparing for the class party!

Break up the every day monotony with some of these whimsical activities that are sure to get little imaginations running wild!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Freebie - Professional Development Plan

Happy Friday! This week I've shared a ton of opportunities for professional development - webinars, publications, and really great conferences.  Today's freebie will help you plan and track all of your professional development efforts.

These Professional Development Plans are not only helpful, they're also cute.  That's important because your PD Plan should be something that you want to post and look at every day.  Go download yours and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Amazing Conferences for Early Childhood Educators

I've mentioned before that I consider myself a professional development nerd.  There is just something about a room full of teachers learning new things that I can't resist.  One of my favorite things to do is attend a great conference, and if you've followed this blog for a while you've certainly seen my posts from the NAEYC conference.  Right now is the perfect time to start researching upcoming conferences and planning for those that you'd like to attend.

 Many local AEYC conferences happen in the spring, there are all kinds of specialty conferences throughout the summer, and the big one - NAEYC is in the fall.  If you start planning now, you still have time to save up for the trip and meet the early bird registration deadlines.  Here are a few that you might want to check out:

Association for Early Learning Leaders Annual Conference - Orlando (April)

National Head Start Annual Conference - Chicago (April)

Young Child Expo and Conference - New York (May)

McCormick Center National Leadership Conference - Chicago (May)

National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute - Chapel Hill NC (May)

NAEYC Professional Learning Institute - San Fancisco (June)

Frog Street SPLASH - Texas (July)

Early Educators Leadership Conference - Orlando (October)

Division for Early Childhood Special Education Annual Conference - Portland (October)

NAEYC Annual Conference - Atlanta (November)

Zero to Three Annual Conference - San Diego (November)

Put this one on your calendar for next year: Opening Minds Early Education, Child Care, and School Age Conference in Chicago! (January)

I can't make it to my local AEYC Conference this spring and I'm bummed about it - especially because they just announced that my blogging idol Deborah Stewart from Teach Preschool is going to be there - but I'm already planning for next year's conference schedule and I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Easy Resources

I'm always looking for an Early childhood resource on some topic or another - things to share with families, articles to help teachers that I know are dealing with tough stuff in the classroom, ideas for encouraging best practice, and strategies for managing behavior issues.  The first place that I always turn is NAEYC.

If you aren't familiar with NAEYC then you must be living under a rock - I'm joking, but the National Association for the Education of Young Children is a source I trust completely, which is why I look there first.  Here are some of my favorite publications from NAEYC:

  • Position Statements: These documents help professionals understand topics ranging from teacher education, early learning standards, and curriculum and assessment, to ethical conduct, diversity, technology, and violence. 
  • Young Children and Teaching Young Children: NAEYC Members can receive a print copy of these publication, as well as access to the online version of the magazines, but even if you aren't a member there are still articles available to the public.  I share these articles with teachers all the time, here are some of my favorites: Good Job Alternatives, Spending Time Outdoors with your Child, and Using Technology to Engage Families
  • NAEYC for Families: This blog is packed full of information, and posts are written by teachers, parents, and experts in the field, including Dr. T. Berry Brazelton! Each post is short and easy to read, making them perfect for sending home, posting in the classroom, and adding to your newsletters.  
I rarely find a topic that isn't covered in one of these NAEYC publications, making NAEYC's website my one-stop-shop for ECE resources.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Free Early Childhood Webinars

One of my favorite things about the field of Early Childhood Education is that things are always changing.  This means that I am constantly learning something new about best practices, educational theories and techniques, and innovative strategies.  I am a professional development nerd, I love trainings, seminars, and conferences, and I regularly sit through webinars solely because I find the subject matter fascinating.

I wanted to share one of my favorite professional development resources with all of you and I'm hoping that you will enjoy it as much as I do.  You've got to check out Early Childhood Investigations, the free webinars available on this site are written by experts and pioneers in our field.  Some names that you might recognize include Judy Jablon, Tom Copeland, Louise Stoney, Stacie Goffin, and Ellen Galinsky, and you can learn directly from them.

I also love how diverse the webinar offerings are. You can find everything from including social emotional strategies in the classroom, to trauma-informed care, to implementing engaging staff meetings, and marketing your child care program.  There is literally something for everyone. You can also view the webinars live, which is always fun, or you can view the recordings at any time, so you really could watch them at 4:30 in the morning if that works for you.

I am always learning something new from the experts who share their knowledge through Early Childhood Investigations webinars, I hope that you'll take some time to explore what they've got to offer!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday Freebie - Clip Art Favorites

Happy Friday! This week's posts have been all about saving money, so I wanted to share one of my favorite tips with you - I love love love free clipart! I also fully believe that my clip art collection has made my newsletters, classroom party invites, and important notes more likely to be noticed and read by parents.

Today's freebie is a fun polka dot flag set from my all-time favorite clip artist, Erin Bradley Designs.  You can find more of her work on Teachers Pay Teachers, or on her own site shoperinbradleycom

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Creating a Parent Donation List that gets noticed!

Whether I need specific materials for a class project or there are items that I always need for the classroom (Kleenex anyone?!) Parents and families are always the first people that I ask for help.  Over the years I've come up with some tips for putting together donation lists that get results.

First and foremost you need parents to notice that you are asking for something.  Let them know where they can look for these kinds of messages, and make sure that you always put them in the same spot so that family members don't have to search for them. Use bright colors and graphics that will grab their attention.  I love to use large photos of the items that I'm looking for, so that hopefully parents will remember the photos even if they can't remember all of the items on the list.

It's also helpful to make sure that families have a list or note to take with them, this makes it much more likely that they will remember what you need when they are actually at the store, or even at home looking for the items.  Plus, I like to put out a box or basket where they can put the items that they've collected.  This serves as a visual reminder that they need to bring the items in, and it lets them see what others have brought - peer pressure at it's finest.

Finally, I think that it is really important to switch up your display regularly.  If it stays the same for too long, then parents will stop paying attention to it. When you change the images, background, and even the items that you're asking for regularly it keeps families engaged.  The effort that you put into creating your donation display will be rewarded, families can tell when you've gone the extra mile and will return the effort by responding with the items that you are asking for.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sourcing Recycled Scraps for the Classroom

Some of my favorite materials to use in the classroom are recyclable materials.  They are easy to get and they fit right into my budget - free! The problem is that I usually have to know what I want in advance and spend a good deal of time tracking down enough materials for the entire class to use. I always ask parents, coworkers, and my own family members to help me collect materials, but they aren't always as invested in the collecting process as I am.

All of my collection also tend to take up a lot of storage space, storage space that is already at a premium in the classroom.  So while I've built a habit of holding onto materials that could eventually be used for a project or activity, I've also found a couple of other ways to source recyclable materials.
There are two non-profit retail stores in my area that source and collect materials - these can be materials that corporations can't use, such as surplus food containers, excess label paper, or shipping materials.  But they could also be materials from private donors, people who are cleaning out closets, basements, and garages and just want to get rid of old film cannisters, button collections, wrapping paper tubes, and ceramic tiles.  These are fun places to poke around and discover new trasures, but they are also incredibly valuable for inspiration and project materials.  Both of the stores near me offer special discounts to teachers too!

You can check them out using these links, and then do some research to see if anything similar exists in your area!

The Scrap Box
Scrap 4 Art