Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Making Kindergarten Prep Fun

When parents ask me for ideas to help them prepare their children for Kindergarten, I'm sure they are expecting me to tell them to practice letters and numbers, and help their children learn how to tie their shoes.  There are ways to practice Kindergarten readiness skills that can be fun for the entire family, so often I suggest activities like;

  • Going to the Zoo: Practice staying close to family members while waiting your turn to see your favorite animals, and introduce new vocabulary as you learn what animals eat, and where they are from.
  • Visiting the Science Museum: Explore hands on science concepts while interacting with other children.
  • Attending a baseball game: practice counting and number recognition as the score goes up, look for the seat that matches the number on your ticket.
  • Visiting the ice cream store: Practice making menu decisions and ordering for yourself, help count out the dollar bills needed to pay for your ice cream. 
  • Playing mini-golf: count the putts that it takes to get your ball in the hole and practice adding up your score when you're done, wait your turn to putt and play each hole in the same order.
  • Going camping: Explore new places and practice safety skills while hiking and cooking over the campfire. 
  • Taking a class: Sign your child up for an art class, sports lesson, dance class, day camp, or music lesson.  Learn something new while interacting with new children and adults.
All of these fun summer activities can be extremely helpful when children are preparing to start Kindergarten, and they definitely don't feel like work!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

There are so many different Kindergarten Readiness Checklist out there (seriously, I just did a Google search and it returned 517,000 results) and some are certainly more developmentally appropriate than others.  My all-time favorite list, the one that I consistently shared with my preschool parents is the checklist that was developed by my state's Department of Education.

I love this list because it focuses on health, safety, and social emotional skills. I'm including the images below, but you can also view the list here.

Parents are always surprised by the things that aren't on the list; it doesn't say anything about knowing their letters, numbers, or shapes.  It also doesn't mention sight words, being able to read, or being able to write their name.  I always remind parents that these are things that children will learn in Kindergarten, and while it doesn't hurt to introduce these concepts to children in preschool, the skills listed above build the foundation for academic success.  These are the skills that will help ensure that children are successful and confident in a Kindergarten classroom.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Skills to practice before kindergarten

The most popular question that I used to get asked as a preschool teacher was "How can I make sure that my child is ready for kindergarten?"

Of course there is not one thing that parents can work on with their preschooler, but they usually ask me this question when they don't actually have time for a long conversation.  So I created this workbook to share with parents.  It includes simple activities that are easy for families to do and don't require a ton of materials.

This set includes 10 weeks worth of daily activities, one activity for each week day, which can be completed during the weeks between the end of preschool and the beginning of Kindergarten. The activities are simple, and designed to be easy for parents to facilitate using materials found in every home. Each week follows the same schedule;
Monday – Math concepts
Tuesday – Language and Literacy 
Wednesday – Social/Emotional Skills
Thursday – Social Studies/Civics
Friday – Building confidence

This pack includes three different formats, each containing the same content. Please choose the format that meets your needs and will be most helpful to your families;
Workbook – 1 page for each of the 10 weeks
Calendar – Two 5 week calendar pages
Booklet – Half sheet booklets with one page per week
I’ve also included a parent letter that you can send home to help explain the Get Ready for Kindergarten activities. 

I hope this resource helps your families feel confident in their children’s abilities and level of Kindergarten readiness. I also hope that it makes your job easier as you try to recommend resources and opportunities for each family. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Freebie - Branches of the Armed Forces

Happy Friday! I know that many of you are looking forward to the holiday weekend, so here's a freebie that you can stick away for next year.

These Branches of the Armed Services Posters from the Not So Wimpy Teacher are a great way to introduce some new vocabulary words while celebrating our servicemen and women!  Download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memorial Day Pinwheels

I have fond memories of summer days playing with pinwheels when I was a child and I love that they are so easy for preschoolers to make and explore.  These are a perfect project for Memorial Day because they can be taken to a parade or celebration and they are easy to color coordinate.

Start by collecting the following supplies:

  • Scrapbook paper or colored copy paper (avoid construction paper and card stock because they are too heavy to turn in the wind)
  • Sturdy plastic straws
  • Metal brads
Next, determine what size you want your finished pinwheel to be.  If you are using 12"x12" or 8"x8" scrapbook paper, which is already square, you will not have to trim it down.  If you are using copy paper or 8.5"x11" scrapbook paper then you will have to cut the paper down to a perfect square.  

Once your paper is square, use a ruler to locate the center of the square and mark it with a pencil.  Make a hole here with a push pin or thumbtack.  Then use your ruler to draw lines from each corner of the paper into the center of the square, stopping roughly 2 inches from the middle (see diagram below).

Cut down each of the diagonal lines, and then fold every other corner into the center of the square. 

Overlap the corners in the middle and use a metal brad to attach all of the layers of the paper to your straw.  

Here are some close up photos so that you can see a little better:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Connecting your class with service members

Memorial Day is the perfect time to think about engaging your students in a service project that is directed toward helping service members and their families.  Something that is easy for preschoolers to do is to draw pictures or create thank you cards for servicemen and women who are currently deployed.

After your class has created their cards, letters, or drawings you can connect with the following organizations to make sure that our service members receive them:

This project can also be a wonderful family engagement opportunity.  Set up a station for parents and family members to write letters at drop off or pick up so that your students can share the experience with their entire family.  

You may also consider reaching out to your families to see if they have any relatives currently serving in the armed forces.  If these family members are deployed you can send your letters, cards, and pictures directly to them, and they may even send a letter back to your class.  If one of your families knows a veteran or a service member who lives locally, this person may agree to come visit your class and answer the students' questions. 

These are experiences that will give children a better understanding of the holiday and help them connect it to their own lives.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Children's Books for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is one of those holidays that can be really difficult to explain to young children.  We all look forward to the unofficial start of summer, but we also want to recognize the true intent of the day, which is to honor our servicemen and women who have made sacrifices for our freedom.  Books are my favorite way to introduce this particular day, here are a few that I have used: (all links are affiliates)

Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Martin Golding

F is for Flag by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Barbara Duke

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner

Do you have a favorite book for Memorial Day, or even a favorite patriotic book? Feel free to share a link in the comments!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Freebie - Graduation Song

Happy Friday! Can you believe we're halfway through May?! This spring has flown by!

Today's freebie is perfect for those of you who are still planning your graduation ceremony. This adorable Graduation song from Miss Campos is sung to the tune of "Let It Go" (you know, from Frozen) so your children will have no problem getting into it.  It was written for Kindergarten graduation so you may have to make some minor changes to the lyrics, but it includes a power point with the words so the children can see them as you practice and sing along.  If you've already had your graduation ceremony this'll definitely want to tuck this one away for next year!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DIY Graduation Tassels

Tassels are easy to make and a wonderful keepsake for any type of graduation ceremony.  Check out this tutorial from Style Inked, her step by step instructions make it so easy that you're preschoolers could probably make their own!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tips for a Smooth Graduation Ceremony

No Preschool Graduation ceremony will every run completely smoothly - your performers are preschoolers, they're bound to do something unpredictable, and sometimes these unpredictable moments are the most endearing parts of the entire ceremony.  There are still some things that you can do to help your students prepare and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Here are a few tips that have worked for me in the past;

  • Keep it short - the shorter your ceremony is, the less opportunity for something to go wrong.  You want it to be meaningful without being boring, while your audience is probably happy to sit and listen, your students will only pay attention for so long. Try not to go longer than your typical circle time, this way you know that your children will be able to handle it. 
  • Practice, practice, practice - In order for the children to do what they need to do, they need to know the exact order of events, and practice them enough times that they don't have to think about them too much.  Ideally, you should practice at least once every day for the entire week leading up to the ceremony so that it all becomes muscle memory.  If at all possible at least a couple of your practice sessions should be in the same space that you will use for the ceremony, especially if it will not be in your classroom.  This way the children will have time to get used to a different space, and it won't throw them off when you do the real thing. 
  • Identify where each child will sit or stand - If you are going to have the children sit or stand in a specific order, use their photos to mark these spots and then have them stand on their own picture, or sit in the chair with their picture.  This will give the children a visual cue of where they need to be, and help them stay there. 
  • Use other visual cues whenever possible - If you plan on having the children walk or move anywhere, use masking tape to mark arrows on the floor showing them the way. If you want them to stop in a certain place so that their families can take a photo, put a stop sign on the floor right where they should stop. These will help the children remember what they are supposed to do, even when in front of a large crowd. 
  • Talk to them about who is coming - Explain that there will be a lot of people there to watch them graduate, but all of these people are coming because they are proud of them and excited to watch them get their diplomas.  Make sure that they know that these are all people who love them, which will help prepare them for the crowd while calming their nerves and fears of being in front of such a large group. 
Do you have any tips that have saved the day? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Graduation Decorations

I know that I've professed my love for my printable classroom decoration sets before, but this Graduation Decoration Set is hands-down my favorite.  It coordinates so well with all of the other graduation materials that I use, and the printables included pack a big punch.  This one set includes the following:

  •  "Congratulations" bunting - a perfect backdrop for your ceremony stage or photo area 
  • Hello banner - for making sure that family members can find the ceremony location easily 
  • Cupcake picks- which can also be used as stickers, or as seals for your diplomas
  • Treat Bag Toppers - make ziploc bags look super fancy
  • Name Plates - great for marking the children's seats or reserving tables for their families
Save yourself a little stress and a lot of effort, go download this set now!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Making Graduation Easy

It's that time of year, Preschool Graduation Season! I've hosted my fair share of graduation ceremonies and it is easily one of the busiest, most stressful days of the year.  A couple of years ago I put together a graduation set to make everything just a little easier on myself.  I use all of these materials year after year, which means that I save time on designing materials, and I always know exactly what I need.

I hope that you will find them helpful too - If you've already had your graduation celebration this year, it's never too early to start thinking about next year!

End of the Year Award Ribbons - These Alliteration Awards are so cute! The set includes 27 different ribbons, so you can easily chose something different for each student in your class, and they recognize a wide range of skills, talents, and characteristics so you are sure to find something for every single child.  These are specifically designed to cut down on the time you spend coming up with different award ideas - it's done for you - all you have to do is cut them out and decide which child gets each award.

Graduation invitations - Use the images from this file to create your own graduation invitations. Download the PDF, use the snapshot tool to copy and paste it into a Word document, and then add your text over the top for easy invitations that take no time to put together! Also make sure to check out the Diploma Freebie that goes with this set, it has been updated to reflect this year, and is a great way to tie all of your ceremony components together. 

End of the Year Memory Book - This is one of my favorite activities to do with my students all year long. I love to hear their answers to all of the different questions and see what they remember about the past year. It is also an incredible way to see how much they've grown - the focus that is required to complete the book, and the writing and drawing skills will blow your mind!

I've got more End of the Year materials available, but these are the ones that I've found to be the most meaningful, and the most helpful.  If you are looking for additional ceremony and decoration ideas, take a look at these posts:

DIY Felt Tassel Decorations
Snack Ideas for your Preschool Graduation
Preschool Graduation Decorations
Everything you need to host a Preschool Graduation
End of the Year Memories

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Freebie - Teacher Appreciation Collaborative Project

Happy Friday! I hope that you have had a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week, and that you've received the recognition that you deserve - or at the very least that you took some time to treat yourself!

Today's freebie is a great project that you can file away for next year's celebration.  This Teacher Appreciation Week Puzzle from Teaching in the Tongass encourages each child to think about what they love about their teachers, while working together to create a beautiful mural that the entire school can enjoy.  Go download a copy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quick, Easy Teacher Gift

Do you still need a quick gift for a teacher in your life? Whether you're looking for a great idea for a co-worker, or your own child's teacher, I've got you covered.

I just made these brand new watercolor note cards, and they're editable so you can add your favorite teacher's name in a fun font for an easy personalized gift.

If you want to add a little more, tie the note cards in a ribbon and slip in a Teachers Pay Teachers gift card for a treat that any teacher is sure to appreciate (and actually use!).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Stock up for the end of the year!

There's still time to take advantage of a great sale over at Teachers Pay Teachers! Yesterday I shared what's on my wish list for this sale, today I wanted to share some of the items that I've created that have been really helpful in getting me through the end of the school year!

My Graduation Bundle not only helps me prepare my kiddos for graduation, but it also includes many of the things that I use for the actual ceremony.  Let me do a little of the work for you, so you can focus on the other details!

The Get Ready for Kindergarten workbook is something that I send home with families.  Between end of the year conferences, preschool graduation, and kindergarten screenings, parents tend to get a little stressed about making sure that their children are prepared.  This workbook gives them one very simple activity that they can do with their children every evening until kindergarten begins.  It's a great way to help parents see what skills their children have, and what they need to work on, and it is empowering because they can see what their part in all of this kindergarten prep is.

You can't have a graduation ceremony without decorations, but I've got you covered - my Classroom Decorations for Graduation make it easy to print and cut, no additional supplies needed.  My favorite thing about my classroom decorations sets is how easy they are to give to a parent volunteer to cut out all of the pieces for you.  This set is sure to make your life so much easier!

If you're thinking about making some changes to your curriculum or assessment processes next year you can get a jump start on your research and implementation now. I love the Inspire Curriculum because it is all emergent - the plans come from your observations of the children and their interests. I also love that it includes everything you need to complete portfolios and assessments!

I worked my butt off on these products in order to make my own life a little bit easier, but I share them so that I can make your job easier too! Have fun shopping, and don't forget to use the code for extra savings!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Sale

Teachers Pay Teachers is having their big Teacher Appreciation Sale, and I have a tradition for every sale - I like to share what is on my wish list, and some of my favorite products in my store.

So here are the things that I will definitely be buying during the sale:

My first ever TPT purchase was this Planner from The Modern Teacher.  I love that it is editable, and that she includes so many different layouts and page options to choose from.  I've used this one for years, and now it's time for something new, so I'm trying to decide between this one and this one.

I hate buying cards, so this cure printable Teacher Appreciation Card from Keeping My Kinders Busy is the perfect solution.  I can edit the text to add a personal message, and I can print as many as I need!

I love these Pop Art Sheets from Art with Jenny K, so the Bundle is calling my name! Can I be honest, I'll probably use these more for myself than for the classroom, but I'm ok with that.  They would be fun for holiday parties, activity centers, and I can see them being a huge hit during my 4H club meetings too.

These Graduation Kids from Howywood Kindergarten are going to be the perfect complement to all of the activities in my Graduation Bundle. I can't wait to see how they turn out!

A wish list is never complete without clipart from Erin Bradley Designs and this Spring Bloom Paper Pack (along with quite a few others) will definitely be going in my cart!

What's on your wish list? If you're still looking for the perfect item make sure to stop back tomorrow and check out some of my favorite products from my store that are perfect for this time of year!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week - Don't Forget about Yourself!

I'm all for celebrating other teachers (and fully believe that we need to make time to do this more than once a year) but I also know that no one knows you better than you know yourself - So this year, I'm encouraging you to celebrate all of your own hard work! Take a little time to pamper yourself or indulge in a special treat.  You certainly deserve it, and let's be honest, some of my favorite gifts are things that I've bought for myself!

Whether you feel like making an investment in something you really want, or you're looking to be a little more frugal, here are some of my favorite splurges:

  • Get a mani-pedi!
  • Buy yourself a Starbucks card
  • Upgrade an electronic device
  • Pick out a new book to read for fun
  • Give yourself an evening with your favorite bottle of wine and a great movie
  • Take advantage of teacher appreciation sales
  • Eat dinner alone and enjoy the quiet
  • Buy yourself a new bag (for school or for fun)
  • Pick out a new planner
  • Take the afternoon off
  • Start a project that's been on your to-do list
  • Plan your perfect Saturday and then schedule a day to make it happen
  • Get a new outfit or just buy shoes!
  • Schedule a night out with friends
  • See a movie in the theater
  • Make a new playlist
  • Pick up a pizza for dinner or let someone else in your family cook
  • Sign up for a class you've always wanted to take
  • Make a pinboard and start planning your dream vacation
  • Eat a donut for breakfast
These are all things that I've done to indulge just a little, remember, you can't take care of others until you've taken care of yourself! Have a wonderful Teacher Appreciation week, I hope that you get the recognition you deserve - even if it comes from yourself!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Freebie - Mother's Day Questionnaire

Happy Friday! I hope that the spring weather is making your weeks fly by faster!

Today's freebie is another great idea for your Mother's Day celebration.  I love activities that encourage children to share their thoughts and opinions, just like this Mother's Day Questionnaire from Lisa Markle Sparkles.  Children love the one on one time that they get to tell you about their mom, and moms love to read their children's hilarious answers.  It's a fun little extra to add in with whatever cards you've made, and a great way to help children remember exactly what they are celebrating.  Go download your copy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Easy Photo Cards for Mother's Day

I must admit that when it comes to cards, I am a slacker. This is true in my personal life, and in the classroom.  In the classroom I tend to be the teacher who gets out the collage materials and lets the children go to town, and then hopes that the glue will dry in time to put the cards in an envelope.  If you tend to plan ahead a little better than I do, here are some really cute photo cards that you can try with your students!

These adorable cards definitely won't get tossed with the wrapping paper, I challenge you to try one this year!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mother's Day Keepsakes

If you've been reading Preschool Ponderings for a while, you know that my goal for holiday gifts for parents is that they should be something that Mom or Dad will actually want to use.  I've seen a lot of crazy gift ideas - bracelets made out of toilet paper rolls, candles made out of melted crayons, popsicle stick picture frames - but there are also a ton of really incredible ideas out there too.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Keepsakes with children's photos

Thumbprint art

Things Mom can use at work

Something to drink out of

I would absolutely love to receive any of these gifts, and I'm sure your Moms would all say the same.  Wow them with something that will actually get used this year!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Creative Mother's Day Celebrations

I'll be honest here, Mother's day is not my favorite holiday to celebrate with my preschoolers.  It is a highly personal holiday - each family celebrates very differently, and I don't want any of my students to feel like their family's celebration is not the "right" kind of celebration.  I do however love to throw a party, and I think that these kinds of events allow families to decide who is going to attend, and to help prepare their child for the event before it happens.

I know that Muffins for Moms breakfasts are really popular, because the alliteration is cute and muffins are easy, but if you are thinking about switching it up I have so many great ideas!

My favorite Mother's Day celebration that I've thrown was a coffee shop theme.  We set up the Keurig with a variety of K-Cups, and we added some scones and donuts.  It was a fun little breakfast that parents could take with them, or enjoy with their child, and it was EASY!

I would love to do a Mother's Day Garden Party.  I think that the children would really get a kick out of decorating the playground and putting together tiny little sandwiches.  I also love the idea of not having to clean up the classroom after an outdoor party!

If you'd rather do something that doesn't involve food then try an art gallery event.  Each child could create a portrait of their mom or special adult to share with everyone who visits the gallery. It would be so much fun to have actual photos of the person to hang next to the child created portrait, and then the portrait would become a treasured family keepsake.

I know that breakfast is easy because Moms can grab it and go, and then you can clean up and start your day. But Mom would probably also appreciate if you took care of dinner.  Connect with a local Pizza Parlor and see if they would donate pizzas or coupons for your families, then you could send home packs of napkins, paper plates, drinks, a small dessert and you've got a full meal that mom doesn't have to cook!

Another great event that your program could do for Mother's Day wouldn't even require Mom to stay at your program.  Consider opening on Saturday, or staying open late one evening during the week so Mom can leave the kids with you and spend some "Me time" doing whatever she wants.

There are plent of amazing ways to celebrate Mom, so if you feel like you've been stuck in the "Muffins for Mom" box and you'd love to do something different give one of these ideas a try!