Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Free Developmental Screening Tool

Yesterday I shared some checklists that you can use to introduce families to developmental milestones, today I have a great way to complete developmental screenings.

I just found out that Easter Seals has a wonderful program called Make the First Five Count, and part of that program is to make sure that families have access to developmental screening.  Parents can go to their website and complete an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).  Within a couple of days the results of the questionnaire will be sent directly to their email.  They can also print a hard copy of the screening tool so that they can fill it out and share it with teachers, pediatricians, and other specialists.
I love ASQs because they are easy for parents to understand, they don't take much time to complete, and they provide a comprehensive picture of a child's development.  I highly recommend the tool and I think it's incredible that Easter Seals is making it available to everyone!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Understanding Developmental Milestones

One of the most common questions that I hear from parents is "when will my child be able to..." I usually don't have the answer right off the top of my head because that's a lot to remember, but I always know where to refer them.

Whenever someone asks me about developmental milestones I give them the information for the CDC's Developmental Milestones Checklists.  These one page checklists are perfect for including in your newsletters or reviewing at conferences because they are easy to use and understand.  They are available in English and Spanish, and the website also has photos and videos for each milestone so that families can see exactly what they should be looking for. The CDC has these available for the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1 year
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
  • 3 years
  • 4 years
  • 5 years
The important thing to remember about developmental milestones is that they begin to occur within a specified age range, becoming increasingly difficult as the child gets older.  Teachers and families should recognize that all children develop at their own pace, so a specific child's development may vary.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thanks for stopping!

It occurred to me the other day that I've been posting nearly every day since 2014, but is has been just about that long since I've done any kind of introduction, so here's a little bit about me:

I never wanted to be a teacher. Seriously, I refused to go into education and yet I ended up here anyway so clearly it was meant to be.  My degree Human Development and Family Studies and my first job out of College was teaching preschool.  I have a total of 15 years in the Early Childhood field, including positions teaching toddlers, preschoolers, before and after school, and doing business administration for a child care program. I am currently a specialist with a Child Care Resource and Referral, I get to help programs obtain their quality ratings and provide professional development trainings.

I started this blog because at the time there were a ton of blogs with fun preschool activities, but not very many that were written by teachers who were actually lesson planning and aligning their activities to standards or assessments.  I was looking for a little more information to help me create intentional experiences for my students, and having a very hard time finding it.  So I did what I usually do when I can't find what I'm looking for; I made it myself.  This has also given me the opportunity to share a lot of what I've made for the classroom through both Preschool Ponderings and my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

When I'm not working in the ECE world I'm spending time with my husband and my two month old daughter. I also love to quilt, bake, and craft - DIY could be my middle name! I hope that You find Preschool Ponderings helpful and informative and if you have any ideas for topics that you'd like to see me cover, please feel free to let me know! You can always reach me by using the email option on the sidebar, I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Freebie - Anecdotal Notes

Happy Friday! August has flown by, and while I hate to see summer go I'm definitely ready for Labor Day weekend.  Here's hoping the next week goes fast!

This week I shared some tips and products to help you with assessments, so I felt like an assessment freebie was in order.  This anecdotal note file helps you organize and track all of the information that you need in order to assess and plan for individual students.  Go download your copy and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Using assessment results for planning

Preschool assessments are becoming the new norm, and there are a couple of reasons for this;

  1. Quality rating systems require programs to use them.
  2. Parents want to see that their children are learning and that they will be prepared for kindergarten.
Beyond these main reasons, assessments can also be valuable tools for teachers to use when planning learning experiences for the children in their classes.  Assessments tell you which areas children are excelling in, and where they need continued improvement. You can use this information to select and develop activities that allow children to be successful while still working on necessary skills.  

For example, if your assessment results indicate that the majority of your group has really well developed gross motor skills, but they need to work on social skills then you can plan for gross motor games that require the children to work in pairs or small groups.  

In addition to planning for the entire group, teachers can also use assessment results to plan for individual children.  For example, if you notice that one child needs to work on number concepts, you can make sure to incorporate those skills during your interactions with that child.  You might also choose to make activities available that require the use of those skills, but have to do with a topic or activity that child is particularly interested in.  

Using assessments in this way makes your daily experiences more intentional for your group of students, and ensures that your are working smarter instead of just harder. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My favorite assessment products

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a back to school boost sale today! Usually when there is a sale I like to share what's on my wishlist, along with some of my favorite products from my store. Since I already did that here and here, I thought I'd share my favorite assessment products so that you can see what I use.

Infant/Toddler Portfolio Pack: This product includes portfolio pages based on Early Learning Development Standards for Infants and Toddlers. Portfolio pages cover the following domains; Cognitive skills and general knowledge (including math, science, and social studies), Language and Literacy, Social Emotional Development, Physical Motor Development, Approaches towards learning (initiative, curiosity, etc.), and Art. This pack also includes the Infant Toddler Developmental Assessment Conference Checklist. This file is editable, once downloaded it can be personalized for each student in your class. 

Preschool Portfolio Pack: This product is a ready-made student portfolio. It includes one page for each preschool Early Learning Development Standard, as well as pages for recording artistic learning experiences. It comes with the Preschool Standards Conference Checklist, as well as a cover page for student portfolios. All the teacher has to do is complete each portfolio page with a description of the learning experience and an example of the student's work, or a photo of the child participating. 

This product is entirely editable once downloaded it can be personalized for each student in your class. Portfolios can be saved and edited on the computer, saving valuable space and printing costs.

Basic Skills Assessment for Preschool: This assessment is meant to determine understanding of basic preschool skills. it includes the following; writing samples, 2D shape recognition, upper and lower case letter recognition, letter sounds, number recognition, color recognition, rhyming, patterning, grouped sets, number sequencing, months of the year, and days of the week. It also includes flash cards for use when assessing children. 

Assessment Evidence Collection Kit: Do you have to collect evidence for preschool student assessments and portfolios? Use these labels and instructions to put together evidence collection binders for each student so you can keep track of the evidence you have collected and quickly see what you still need to gather. 

This set includes step by step instructions for creating the binder, as well as cover labels, domain cover sheets which list each standard, and domain checklists so that you can check off evidence for each standard as you collect it. 

This set includes the labels that you need to put together an assessment evidence folder for each of your students. Once complete, this binder will be the perfect place to store all of the anecdotal notes, work samples, and photos that you will use as evidence in formative assessments and portfolios.

You will need 8 file folders for each student. Bind these with a cover page of white cardstock. I used wired binding, but plastic comb binding will work too. The rest of the step by step instructions are included in the download. 

There are a few other supplies that I always make sure to have on hand when I'm working on assessments (affiliate links):

Head over to TPT to score some great deals when you use the code BTSBONUS, and check back tomorrow, I'll share an assessment-related Friday Freebie!

Sharing Assessment Results with Families

Assessment in preschool is definitely a thing - it's a huge part of what early childhood educators do every day, but most casual observers would never know that.  This is because it's not obvious.  As teachers it important to be able to explain this unique assessment process to parents and family members so that they have a clear understanding of how we know what skills and concepts their child has mastered. 

There are two things that make preschool assessments just a little different;

First, preschool assessments should be formative assessments.  This simply means that you are using the results of any assessment to plan further activities and learning experiences. These assessment results help you understand which students are ready for more challenging tasks, and which students need extra support.  This information helps you tailor your lesson plans to specific students, to ensure that everyone is getting what they need the most.

Second, assessments in preschool work best when they are authentic.  Authentic assessments are completed using evidence that is collected regularly in the child's familiar environment.  Instead of sitting with each child individually and asking them questions, teachers observe them as they play and design large group, small group, and individual hands on activities to elicit the information that they wish to learn about the child. 

Authentic assessments are valuable because they provide the highest quality results.  How many times have you asked a child about a subject that you are sure they are familiar with, only to be met with a blank stare, or a completely different answer than they gave you five minutes prior.  Authentic assessments use teachers' observations, children's work samples, and other first-hand evidence instead of traditional "testing."

When families have a better understanding of how assessments are completed, and what they are used for they tend to be more supportive of the practice in general. 

It's also important to remember that even if you share the actual assessment tool with your families, that doesn't mean they understand it.  Educators recognize the jargon, acronyms, and technical terms that assessments are full of, parents don't use these terms daily, so they may need some explanation.  I always encourage parents to ask questions freely, and I answer them seriously. I want all families to know exactly what I'm talking about and leave a conference with fewer questions than they came in with!

How do you explain your assessments to parents? I'd love to hear your approach so feel free to share your favorite blog posts or product links in the comments!

Monday, August 21, 2017

What does assessment evidence look like in preschool?

Preschool assessments are different than the types of assessments we tend to see in elementary classrooms.  They don't require testing the children in the traditional sense, because we don't expect our preschoolers to be able to sit down and answer multiple choice questions.  There are other ways of determining what preschoolers know, and which skills they have mastered.  These other strategies always produce evidence that we can use to support our total picture of a particular child.

So what exactly does this evidence look like? It can take a variety of different forms, including;

  • Artwork that children have created
  • Photos of children participating in class activities
  • Writing samples
  • Cutting samples
  • Quotes from the children
  • Anecdotal notes
  • Video or Audio recordings
Each of these can tell us a lot about the children we are working with.  

Artwork is a visual representation of a child's thoughts. It can provide insight into what children understand, as well as their creative imaginations.  Artwork can also give us clues to other developmental domains - how well the child can use a pencil or crayon (the pressure exerted, how steady the lines are, etc.), their problem solving skills (how they were able to get 3D objects to stick together, or what they did when they ran out of the color paint they needed), and how well they are able to focus on one project (is their artwork very detailed, or was it finished in a hurry?).

Photos of children show their facial expressions as they are participating, they also give us the opportunity to examine skills that we may not notice during the actual activity (how the child is holding the pencil, if they are sitting in the chair correctly, etc.).  Photographs also give us evidence about the child's social emotional skills, for example, is the child standing in the middle of the group or off to the side? Are they working with the other children or are they working alone?

Writing samples not only show the child's writing abilities, but additional skills that play a role in successful writing.  Does the sample show a lot of writing, or is the page mostly empty? This lets us know about the child's ability to focus, as well as their frustration tolerance.  You can also see what level the child's fine motor skills are at by studying the lines that they've made. The same can be said for cutting samples, which show you how much focus and control the child has while using the scissors.

Quotes from the children are one of my favorite types of evidence, because they help us understand exactly how the children are processing information.  They help us to see what stands out as the most important aspects of the activity or the child's day and what concepts they don't quite understand yet. 

Anecdotal notes may be the easiest form of evidence to collect - simply taking notes on what the children do while they are in the classroom.  In order for these to be valuable they must be written in a way that lets the reader know exactly what has happened without passing any judgement.  They should not be an interpretation of the child's actions, but rather a transcript. 

Recordings can be among the most difficult to capture and store, but they give us the opportunity to hear the child's voice and/or see their movements. This allows us to evaluate gross motor and language skills in ways that other types of evidence cannot.

I'll be discussing more aspects of preschool assessments all week, so make sure to check back often.  In the mean time you can find more information in these posts

Friday, August 18, 2017

Freebie Friday - Respect

Happy Friday! The further we get into August, the faster the weeks seem to fly by - summer definitely has a way of disappearing before I'm ready for it to end!

This week I've shared a number ideas for teaching children about friendship, opinions, and respect.  Today's freebie is another related activity to add to your files.  This Social Story from For the Love of PreK is all about being kind. I love social stories for preschoolers because they are simple and to the point - the message is clear and easy to repeat throughout the day so that children are consistently reminded of the expectations. Go download your copy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Social Emotional Activities for Preschool

Social Emotional skills are a huge part of preschool.  Skills like respecting others' opinions, taking turns, and managing emotions are the foundational skills that children need in order to be successful.  These also tend to be the kind of lessons that present themselves in the preschool classroom over and over again, but when asked to put them on a lesson plan, it can be difficult to come up with a planned experience that it actually valuable for your particular group of children.  

Over the years I've created  a number of social emotional activities for my students simply because I couldn't find anything else out there.  When I started sharing activities on this blog the social emotional ones quickly became the most popular, which make me think that many of you also have a hard time finding fun, new social emotional ideas for the classroom.  I wanted to share all of my favorites in one post so that they would be a little easier to find.  This is a pretty long list so If you don't have time to look through all of the activities now make sure to bookmark or pin this page so that you can come back to it in the future!

Emotion Vocabulary Cards and Spelling Practice: Help your students learn about feelings and emotions with these vocabulary cards. These cards encourage students to practice using more complex emotion words, including Embarrassed, Excited, Frustrated, Pleased, Sick, Surprised, Tired, Worried, and Jealous. This set also includes a set of cards that has pictures and spaces for children to practice spelling the vocabulary words with letter tiles. You could also use the second set to have each child write in the words themselves to create their own vocabulary card set.

Emotion Memory Game: This game is a great way for children to practice the recognition of emotions. The images and vocabulary included in this set go beyond basic emotions to teach children increasingly complex emotions, building their repertoire as they age. 

Emotion Practice Set - Recognition and Expression: This pack includes three different sets of cards which are all designed to help children recognize emotions, become aware of how they express those emotions, and then practice the associated facial expressions. 

The purple cards
These cards are intended to help children recognize the emotions that they feel. Read them the scenarios and see what answers they can come up with, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Some of these scenarios may require new emotion vocabulary that the children do not yet possess. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce new vocabulary and define these emotions and give examples of different reasons that children might feel these. 

The orange cards
This set of cards is designed to help children recognize the ways that emotions are expressed. The answers that children give to these questions may be physical responses, such as crying, smiling, or hearing their stomach grumbling, or they may be other feelings and thoughts that combine to create entirely new emotions. Some of the children’s responses to these questions may also lead to additional discussion about appropriate ways of expressing emotions. 

The green cards
These cards are meant to be used with a mirror. Ask the children to make the face that they would make when they are feeling each of these emotions, and after they have made these faces, describe each of them, and talk about why those particular expressions convey those specific emotions.

Emotion Practice - Sorting: Help children practice empathy and recognizing others' emotions using this pack. Each mat includes three different emotions, and a number of suggestions for how a child could help a friend who is feeling these specific emotions. Student have to match the suggestion to the most appropriate emotion.

Emotions - Can you make this face?: These cards are intended to be used with a mirror to help children practice facial expressions which express emotion. Which children are aware their emotions, and understand how to express them, they are better able to communicate their feelings and what they need from others.

Emotions and Feelings Bunting: This bunting is a great way to remind students of emotions, even when you are working on other concepts. It includes 9 different emotions for children to practice recognizing and expressing. Hang the full color version in the classroom for a daily visual of emotions and feelings. The black and white version can be colored in by your students, making it a great group project that everyone can take part in. I have also included blank templates, in both the color and black and white versions so that your class can add additional emotions and feelings as you learn about them. 

Thumbs Up - Social Emotional Skills Game: The question cards included in this game ask children to decide whether the action is a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” decision. Each question card has a picture for thumbs up and for thumbs down, so that children can use a clothespin to clip the correct answer and do the activity independently. This game can also be played with a small group, where the teacher reads the question cards and the children use their thumbs to show whether they think it is a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” decision. This pack also includes multicultural thumbs up and thumbs down cards, which can be attached to a popsicle stick to create paddles that the teacher or the students use to show their opinions. The pieces of this game can be used a number of different ways to help children learn to regulate their own behaviors.

Emotions and Feelings Synonyms: Use these synonym paint chips to introduce new emotions, feelings, and related vocabulary. These strips can also help students improve their writing by encouraging use of more complex, descriptive emotion words. When children have more words to describe their emotions, they are better able to understand what they are feeling, and express those feelings appropriately. This pack contains 27 synonym strips, each strip has 5 synonyms, for a total of 135 emotion words.

What's Bugging You - Social Skills Characters: This set is designed to help children talk about their feelings, and encourage them to practice regulating their own emotions. Each insect corresponds with a different feeling, so that children can talk their feelings through with the appropriate character. This will help them to define their emotions. The opportunity to talk about their emotions with a safe substitute (instead of trying to work them out with a classmate who is also upset) will help children practice these conversations, so that they can eventually engage in them with others and do so successfully. 

In my classroom the “what’s bugging you?” insects are available in the quiet space, where the children know that they can sit alone with them, while they work through their issues. There are a number of ways to use these characters. The smaller versions can be cut out and glued on the end of a popsicle stick, the larger characters can be cut out and laminated so that children can hold them while they talk to them, these larger version could also be used as patterns if you choose to make felt “bug buddies”. I have also included emotion faces, so that the children can match the face that they are feeling to the corresponding character.

Social Skills Strategy Cards: These cards are meant to help children practice strategies for expressing and regulating their emotions in socially acceptable ways. Each card includes a picture to help children visualize different ways to deal with different emotions.

Introduce the cards to your class, and then place them in a space where they are easy to access so that children can use them independently. You may want to include these in your classroom’s quiet space, or put them in an area of the room where students will not distract others as they use them. 

I have also included cards with the visual cues on them so that children can match them as they calm down, or use these cards as they carry out each coping action (i.e. blowing on the picture of the candle).

Social Relationships Vocabulary Cards: Use these vocabulary cards to introduce your students to new words. These are perfect for writing centers and activities. This set includes the words girl, boy, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, cousin, and friend. This set also includes a set of cards that has pictures and spaces for children to practice spelling the vocabulary words with letter tiles. You could also use the second set to have each child write in the words themselves to create their own vocabulary card set.

Social Relationships Pack: This social relationships pack is full of activities to help your students consider the people who are important to them. While completing these activities students will have the opportunity to list peers and adults that are important to them, and give reasons why these people are important. They will also be asked to draw themselves and their friends. These drawings will encourage your students to think about the characteristics that make themselves, and their classmates unique. 

Students will also answer questions about friendship, and what it means to be a good friend, which is a great activity to accompany any discussion about empathy. The pack also includes a "Big list of relationships". This is a great take home opportunity, it asks students to list all of their important relationships. These are broken down into different categories, such as immediate and extended family, friends both in and out of school, and other important adults. This activity is an amazing opportunity for you to get to know your students better. 

The final activity in this set includes two venn diagrams, so that children can compare themselves to a friend and a family member. They will think of some of the ways that they are different from this person, and some of their similarities to complete the diagram. 

This pack was developed so that even the youngest students could complete it successfully with the help of an adult, whether that be one on one with the teacher, and aid, or a parent.

Friendship and Social Skills Cards: These cards are designed to help your students get to know each other better. Many of your students can probably tell you all about themselves, but how much can they tell you about each other? Encourage them to think about their classmates, their physical characteristics, and the things that they enjoy. These cards could be used as a large group activity, a small group activity, or a partner activity. Each card contains a small white circle where students can write the name of the classmate that they believe fulfills the answer to the question. Laminate the cards and your students can fill in the answer circles with a fine tip dry erase marker. 

Physical Characteristics Set: This social emotional set was designed to help children explore the most basic physical characteristics. They can explore what different hair styles and colors look like on multicultural faces, and begin to understand how even the smallest features can make us unique and different. 

This set can be used two ways:
1.Cut out the faces and all of the included hair pieces, and encourage students to use the pieces provided to create different faces.
2.Cut out the faces and laminate them. Students can then use dry erase markers to design their own hair styles, and make the faces look like each other.

Physical Characteristics Vocabulary Cards: Use these vocabulary cards to introduce your students to new words. These are perfect for writing centers and activities. This set includes the words eyes, blue, green, brown, hazel, hair, brown, blonde, red, black, gray, long, short, curly, straight, and skin tone. This set also includes a set of cards that has pictures and spaces for children to practice spelling the vocabulary words with letter tiles. You could also use the second set to have each child write in the words themselves to create their own vocabulary card set.

All About Me Paper Bag Album: This album is a great way to involve families in the classroom and encourage them to share photos that can serve as comforting items for young children. Put the album together by cutting the bottom out of three paper bags, then stack them on top of each other and fold the entire stack in half. Staple the edge of the album and cut out each of the printable pages, glue them to the paper bag pages in the order shown in the finished photos. 

Send one album home with each child and families can add photos and help the children color in the pages. They can also add additional photos in the pockets of the paper bags. When the children bring their albums back they can share them with each other and keep them in a place where they are readily available. Children can sit and look at them whenever they are feeling sad or homesick. 

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!