Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Discussing Opinions with Preschoolers

One of my favorite things about working with preschoolers is that they are just starting to form their own opinions about everything - from what they want to wear to school to how they feel about vegetables.  While this makes for interesting conversations, it can also create some friction between classmates as they learn that others don't necessarily share their opinions.

I love to use a question of the day, and I strive for questions that require an extended response because I want my students to think about their answer as they practice the language required for this type of answer.  Often, the children get very passionate about their answers.  I always handle these situations in the same way, by reminding the children that everyone gets to have an opinion.  I also let them know that they may not agree with someone else's opinion, but they do have to respect it.

These little reminders are powerful for preschoolers because it empowers them to be confident in their opinions, while also practicing respect for each other - which is a huge concept for a preschooler to tackle.

How do you handle differing opinions in the classroom? I'd love to hear your strategies!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Building Friendships in the Preschool Classroom


For a preschooler, the scariest thing about starting school can be not knowing who you're going to play with.  It's a very real fear that can cause a lot of anxiety for little ones.  This is why I spend so much time throughout the year encouraging children to continue getting to know each other and making sure that they work with people that they may not have chosen to work with on their own.

I like to start by helping the children find common interests.  We talk about the kinds of toys they enjoy playing with, sports or activities that they participate in, television shows that they like to watch, the people in their families, and their pets.  These are pretty basic conversations that give the children an opportunity to share, and they help me figure out who has similar interests or experiences. Using this information I can start to help children choose classroom activities that may interest them, and group children together, helping them get to know each other as they play organically.

I also use small group activities to group children intentionally.  Sometimes I chose children to work together who are similar - in experience, level of understanding, skill, and prior knowledge - while other times I group children who are very different.  All of these grouping opportunities give children the chance to work together and build common understand as they bond over shared experiences.

There are also a number of simple games that we play which help children see that there are others who think like they do.  One of these is "This or That." In order to play you have to first split the classroom in half.  This can be done literally with a line of masking tape down the middle of the floor, or figuratively with an imaginary line.  Once the room has been split ask all of the children to gather in the middle of the classroom and then give them two choices.  For example, you might say "Would you rather eat cake or ice cream?" Then instruct the children who choose cake to gather on one side of the room, while the children who choose ice cream gather on the other side of the classroom.  This very easy game is a fun way for children to visualize their similarities and differences, and it is sure to create some laughter if you choose silly enough choices to give them.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Helping Preschoolers Feel Comfortable in the Classroom


A huge part of my back to school ritual each year is making sure that my new students feel comfortable in the classroom. When they feel at home they are more likely to build stronger relationships with me, and with each other.  Helping children feel comfortable is also the first step in encouraging them to explore and learn.  Here are some of my strategies for making sure that my students know that the classroom is their room as much as it is mine:

  • Include them in the classroom set-up process.  I rearrange my furniture regularly, to reflect the activities and interests of my students, and each time I move something I ask the children what they think.  Sometimes they respond with observations that never would have occurred to me, and sometimes their ideas about how to use the space are better than mine.  
  • Help them be independent.  I want my students to be able to access materials on their own so that they can get what they want when they want it.  This helps cut down on interruptions when I'm working with children one on one or in small groups because the others don't need me to get things for them.  Simple things like having shelving units children can easily reach, leaving lids off of tubs, and clearly labeling items so everyone knows where they belong can go a really long way towards building independence.
  • Make it feel like home.  Classroom can be just as cozy as a families living room - and in many cases this helps children forget that they are at school, and feel even more comfortable in their play.  I like to include framed photos of my students working together, small rugs, table lamps, and nick-knacks that add to the aesthetics of the room. Additional textiles, such as throw pillows, curtains, and tablecloths give the room ambiance and also absorb excess noise. 
  • Let the children add special touches.  The classroom isn't really theirs until they've left their mark on it, so I make sure to display their artwork on the walls, add class-made books to the library, and offer decor they they can move and arrange, such as vases full of fake flowers.  
These are all simple ideas, but when used together than make a huge difference in welecoming children into the classroom environment!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Freebie - Tech Resources


Happy Friday! This week I've shared my favorite resource books for the classroom, and today's freebie includes a ton of additional resources for you to explore.


oday's freebie is another great resource for teachers, this E-book is full links to different sites that are perfect for teachers.  There are sites to use with children in the classroom, sites that are perfect for communicating with parents, sites that can help with lesson planning, and sites that are ideal for online storage and file sharing.  Download your copy and take some time to explore, you just might find something that will make next year a whole lot easier!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Resource Review - The Wonder Weeks

I know that back to school season is in full swing, but I thought I'd do something a little different this year.  Instead of sharing tips, tricks, and classroom ideas (because I've shared plenty of those already) I thought that I would share some of my favorite resource books.  Everyday this week I'll do a review of a different book that I have read, loved, and use regularly.

These will be books that are part of my own personal resource library and have helped me in some way - whether they've made planning easier, changed my teaching philosophy fundamentally, or helped me understand my students better.  I hope that you will take a few minutes to explore some my favorite resources.  Who knows, maybe you'll even find one that fills a gap in your own resource library! (All links are affiliate links)

I try to keep this blog focused on preschool, but throughout my career I've worked with a variety of ages, and I know that tends to be the case for many of you, so occasionally I share information that is helpful for infant and toddler teachers as well. This particular resource is one that I found as I was looking for developmental information to help me better understand my own daughter - but I would have loved to have it when I was working with infants - The Wonder Weeks


This book was written by a team of behavioral scientists who have identified the developmental leaps that babies experience in their first year.  They've pinpointed the weeks in which each of these leaps occur, and the behaviors that are associated with each, helping parents (and teachers) understand why their baby is especially fussy during a particular week, and offering helpful suggestions.

I have been fascinated by how accurate this information is, and it has saved me from a ton of Googling! The Wonder Weeks also includes checklists for specific behaviors and milestones, so I highly recommend ordering the paperback version so that you can track the development as it occurs.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Preschool Resource Review - Encouraging Curiosity

I know that back to school season is in full swing, but I thought I'd do something a little different this year.  Instead of sharing tips, tricks, and classroom ideas (because I've shared plenty of those already) I thought that I would share some of my favorite resource books.  Everyday this week I'll do a review of a different book that I have read, loved, and use regularly.

These will be books that are part of my own personal resource library and have helped me in some way - whether they've made planning easier, changed my teaching philosophy fundamentally, or helped me understand my students better.  I hope that you will take a few minutes to explore some my favorite resources.  Who knows, maybe you'll even find one that fills a gap in your own resource library! (All links are affiliate links)

Today's resource is a little different because it's actually a book that I wrote - Encouraging Curiosity


When I talk to teachers about Reggio Emilia and the Project Approach the number one argument that I get is that it isn't a practical philosophy for them because they have licensing standards to adhere to and their lesson plans have to be completed in advance.  I had to deal with these same obstacles and was still able to successfully implement this way of teaching, so I wrote a book with the help of my amazing co-teacher all about our experiences.

This book is focused on how to use the Project Approach and still ensure that children are meeting Early Learning Standards and being exposed to developmentally appropriate concepts.  Encouraging Curiosity includes examples of projects that we actually completed with our students - if I can do it you absolutely can too!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Preschool Resource Review - Young Investigators

I know that back to school season is in full swing, but I thought I'd do something a little different this year.  Instead of sharing tips, tricks, and classroom ideas (because I've shared plenty of those already) I thought that I would share some of my favorite resource books.  Everyday this week I'll do a review of a different book that I have read, loved, and use regularly.

These will be books that are part of my own personal resource library and have helped me in some way - whether they've made planning easier, changed my teaching philosophy fundamentally, or helped me understand my students better.  I hope that you will take a few minutes to explore some my favorite resources.  Who knows, maybe you'll even find one that fills a gap in your own resource library! (All links are affiliate links)

The book that I want to highlight today is one that I've shared here before - Young Investigators


When I started my first "real job" at a Reggio inspired school I was given a stack of books to read.  Young Investigators was by far the most helpful, and the easiest to understand.  It includes numerous real-life examples of projects that have been carried out in early childhood classrooms all over the world.  The information is practical and can be easily translated to the classroom setting, which is exactly why I find myself turning to it time and time again, especially when I feel like a project has lost momentum or I'm not quite sure what to try next.

Young Investigators and it's companion Becoming Young Thinkers are my favorite books about the Project Approach, and they have without a doubt changed the way that I teach and interact with young children.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Preschool Resource Review - Wonderplay Too

I know that back to school season is in full swing, but I thought I'd do something a little different this year.  Instead of sharing tips, tricks, and classroom ideas (because I've shared plenty of those already) I thought that I would share some of my favorite resource books.  Everyday this week I'll do a review of a different book that I have read, loved, and use regularly.

These will be books that are part of my own personal resource library and have helped me in some way - whether they've made planning easier, changed my teaching philosophy fundamentally, or helped me understand my students better.  I hope that you will take a few minutes to explore some my favorite resources.  Who knows, maybe you'll even find one that fills a gap in your own resource library! (All links are affiliate links)

Today I want to share one of the very first resource books that I ever purchased - Wonderplay Too.


This book is the product of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, and includes a variety of games, crafts, experiments, and activities that will keep children engaged for days.  I love that it reminds me of the simplest activites - the ones that I grew up doing myself, and the kinds of things that you probably won't see on Pinterest, but that children still love.

I purchased this book at a scholastic book fair when I was in college. At the time I was working with elementary school students at a before and afterschool and looking for activities that were different than the same old things we'd done a hundred times.  I still turn to this book for inspiration when planning, and I love that the activities can be easily adapted for the age group you are working with and the materials that you happen to have available.

From songs to recipes, experiments to pretend play, art projects to DIY instuments, there are hundreds of ideas here for you.  Wonderplay Too is not only a great resource for your own classroom, but it also makes a perfect gift for student teachers, colleagues, or your own children's teachers.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Freebie - First Day of Preschool


Happy Friday! I've been trying to suck the life out of my last few days of summer. I'm back to work on the 14th and it has gone by way to fast!


For those of you who are thinking about going back too, I hope that this freebie will be timely and helpful.  This set includes activities and photo props to welcome your little ones on their first day.  To read more about it, check out this post and then take a minute to download your copy.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

My favorite Back to School Resources

Have you heard?! It's that time again, time for Teachers Pay Teachers' annual Back to School sale.  Yesterday I shared the items that are on my wishlist, but I also like to share the resources that I've created that are super helpful for back to school. Here are a few of my favorites:


Inspire Emergent Curriculum:  This standards-based curriculum is perfect for programs that implement the Reggio Philosophy or the Project Approach.  

Circle Time Mega Pack: Start the year off right by implementing successful, developmentally appropriate circle time from the start.  

Picture Schedule Cards: Make sure that children always know what is coming next with cards they can use independently.  This set includes smaller cards that children can use on a ring, or in a velcro file folder.  Each of the schedule cards has plenty of space to include notes specific to your classroom. 


Classroom Jobs Set: Give children responsibility with this set designed specifically for preschoolers.  It includes job tags that children can wear with picture lists of each job's responsibilities.  


Preschool Teacher Resource Collection:  This set includes a Project Work Planner, Question of the Day Notebook, Reflection Checklist, and Classroom Recipe book.  These are all great resources for keeping teachers prepared and organized.  


Infant/Toddler Portfolio Pack and Preschool Portfolio Pack: These portfolio packs make assessment easier, both include portfolio pages for each early learning standard and annual standards-based progress checklists.  They are editable, so they can be done digitally or printed and filled in by hand for each child.  

Make sure to head over to TPT and get some great resources for your classroom while they're on sale!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back to School Sale!


It's the first day of August and officially back to school season. What better way to ring it in than a sale on Teachers Pay Teachers?! Whenever there's a sale I like to share what's on my wish list, and my list is especially long right now. Here's what I'm excited about adding to my cart:

Four Seasons of Bingo Games from Preschool in Paradise

The Big Preschool Activity Book from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures

Carpet Games for Circle Time from Play To Learn Preschool

Flag labels from Erin Bradley Designs

I'd love to know whats on your wishlist, share the links in the comments so I can find some other great products!