Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Spider songs and activities

With so many schools closing due to COVID-19, I've been thinking of parents and children who may be stuck at home trying to figure out how to teach and learn together.  Here's my way to help: Story Time Online with Paula.  I hope you find these videos and ideas helpful, and that you'll share them with others who might like them too!  Today let's learn about spiders!

You know about the Itsy Bitsy Spider, but do you know about the Great Big Hairy Spider?  My kiddos LOVE this silly variation!

How else could you rework it with the things you have on hand.... how about the big brown horse climbed up on the barn, or the knight in shining armor climbed up a castle wall?  Get silly and have fun making up your own versions with your children - they'll be using their imaginations and working on rhyming words!

For the preschool crowd, consider making an Itsy Bitsy Spider sensory bin like this one:

Of course, There's A Spider On the Floor is always fun:

Don't have any toy spiders to use as you sing the song?  I searched my toy box and couldn't find a single one this morning, so I made my own.  Here are simple instructions in case your child would like to make their own spider too!

How else could you follow up these spider songs? Here are a couple of my thoughts:

You may also like our Anansi the Spider activity,  these fun spider snacks and our Very Busy Spider retelling activity.

Thanks for stopping by!  If you have requests for songs or stories you'd like me to record, let me know, I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

St. Patrick's Day story, song and activities

With so many schools closing due to COVID-19, I've been thinking of parents and children who may be stuck at home trying to figure out how to teach and learn together.  Here's my way to help: Story Time Online with Paula.  I hope you find these videos and ideas helpful, and that you'll share them with others who might like them too!

First, here's the story of the Farmer and the Giant Potato.

Since the story is about a giant potato, here's a potato song I made up.

Did you or your little one notice that I made a pattern with my potatoes?  Did your little one count along?  What else can you count at home to extend the learning?

Finally, some follow up ideas:

Here's the FREE download I showed you in the video.  Use it with the included letter tiles for your little one to match the letters and build the words, or put them up to help your child see how to write these fun vocabulary words as they write a St. Patrick's Day story of their own.  

For even more hands on learning at home consider cooking potatoes together!  Not only will your child learn how to cook, and develop those fine motor skills and kitchen safety as you do, you'll all have something delicious to enjoy afterwards!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please like, follow, share and comment! 

Friday, March 13, 2020

What you need to know to make it through school closures

With school closings happening to prevent the spread of  COVID 19, many parents are scrambling to figure out how to teach their children from home.  Sound familiar?  Feeling panicked?  Take a deep breath and read on.
What you need to know to make it through school closures

First, YOU CAN DO THIS!  You taught your child to eat, walk, talk, and use the bathroom, and you were probably sleep deprived when you did all that.  While juggling how to teach your children along with all the other things in your life might not be ideal, this isn't permanent, and you can do it.

Next, remember that you don't have to introduce new material, figure out which Common Core State Standards (or other set of standards) to cover, or document it all.  You and your child just need to stay afloat academically, and there are many simple things you can do to make that happen.

What you need to know to make it through school closures

Reading is the most important thing to keep practicing, and it should be fun.  Unless your child's teacher has sent home a list of requirements, this is the time to let your child read for pleasure.  If that means reading their favorite book for the umpteenth time, so be it!  Bored with the books or magazines you have at home?

- This article suggests 7 websites with free online books for kids
- If you hop over to YouTube.com you'll find many books read aloud
- A quick search of TeachersPayTeachers found more than 20,000 FREE printable books including this one for young children from me. 
- I have 27 free resources for preschool - 3rd grade in my TeachersPayTeachers store - and you don't have to be a teacher to use the site!
-Try reading and preparing recipes.  There's nothing quite as motivating as food, and as you and your child cook together they'll also practice counting, measuring, and time (math skills), and experience changes in matter (science).  Bonus points if they want to start cooking regularly!

What you need to know to make it through school closures

Think of all the times in a day when you pick up a pen and jot something down - writing with your child can be as simple as making a grocery list or brain storming activities they'd like to do.  As adults we write for many different purposes - making a list, texting or emailing, writing a story, making a photo album, recording a recipe, journaling our thoughts... they are all valid forms of writing and will keep your children learning and thinking.  Here are some things to consider:

 - Younger children might not write the same way you do - they're learning to listen to the sounds in words and to translate those sounds into letters - and that's okay for now. 
- Writing can be on a device.  Letting your child type an email or text message as you dictate it can be very motivating for some children, as is emailing a grandparent or other family member.
- Everything is more fun when they do it with you.  A reluctant writer might not get anything down on paper if left by themselves, but if you take turns adding a sentence to a story you make up together, it's infinitely more fun.
- Write down family stories together and let your child add illustrations. Bonus points if they want to read this over and over!
- Mix it up by letting them write with fancy pencils, markers, pens, etc, or pull out the magnetic letters, building blocks with letters on them, or cookie cutter letters or letter stamps if you have them. 
- Break out the scrabble and other word games and play - they're still making words and it's waaaaaay more fun than following a journal prompt!
- Print out this free observation journal, then head outside and find something to focus on and observe for a few minutes each day for a week.

What you need to know to make it through school closures

Depending on the age of your child, they may be working on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or all of them.  Their teacher may have already given you suggestions for which facts they need to work on, or ways to practice at home.  Here are a few learning games you can do with a deck of cards or a pair of dice:

- Deal a deck of cards to you and your child(ren).  Agree on the skill you're working on (largest / smallest number, addition total, difference, multiplication).  Count to 3 and both flip a card over.  The first of you to say the correct answer takes both cards and adds them to the bottom of their pile.
- Play a memory game.  Make a set of cards with 2 of each number.  Shuffle, then deal them face down in a grid pattern.  Take turns flipping 2 cards over to see if they match.  If they do, the player who flipped them takes them and gets another try.  If they don't match, flip them back over and the other player gets a turn.
- Play the memory game above, but make a set of cards with pairs that add up to 10.  The goal is to flip 2 cards that total 10... or any other number you agree upon.
- Roll 2 dice and tell the sum or difference.
- Need to work on harder skills like adding or subtracting 3 digit numbers?  Remove the face cards from your deck of cards, and have your child lay 3 cards side by side (to represent a 3 digit number), then 3 more cards side by side below them.  Can they add them?  Subtract them? Multiply them?

Is this everything?  Goodness no - but I hope it gives you a place to start!   I'll be back again soon with more suggestions and resources.  If you haven't yet subscribed, go ahead and do it so you get notified when new posts go live.  Is there something specific you'd like to see?  Let me know in the comments!  We're all in this together, and we WILL get through this!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Help! How should I teach my child to read?

Parenting is hard - maybe the hardest job there is!  Our children are ever changing, ever growing, ever evolving, needing different things of us.  Add a little parental sleep deprivation and a thousand other responsibilities, and how on earth are we to manage it all?

The good news is that you are already your child's first teacher!  They have or will learn to talk, walk, feed themselves and most importantly, what kind of person to be - by watching you!

Someone is learning to be a person by watching you from Paula's Primary Classroom blog

Still, there are things we want to help our children learn that we don't necessarily know enough about to be sure we're doing it "right".  Reading is one of those things, so today I want to share some ideas that can help you teach your child from home.

 (Disclaimer:This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love.)

The most important thing you can do to help your child learn to read is read yourself.  Let them see you reading books and magazines, point out the signs on the freeway and storefronts, let them know that reading is important to you, and read to them.  There's nothing as powerful as snuggling up together with a book and enjoying some time together!

There is no app to replace your lap from Paula's Primary Classroom blog

Learning to read and write is not a quick process, and just like walking and talking, our children go through different stages along the way.  The things we do to help them are different at each stage, so let's look at some of those steps.

Letter learning
There's more to this than just singing the ABC song, although that is a great place to start!  Before they can read, children need to know what letters look and sound like, as well as the name of each letter. 

A great introduction to letter learning is to point out the first letter in your child's name where ever you see it, and to encourage them to find it too.  Have them look for "their letter" while you're driving, when you read with them, in the grocery store, on the cereal box.  Introduce other letters as they're interested in learning more.

It's important to remember that learning is fun!  If your child is tired of a book, tired of a game, or tired of learning, move on to other things for a while.  

We want our children to choose to read and learn, not to see it as a chore.  Forget the flashcards and worksheets unless your little one truly loves them, and instead put magnetic letters on your refrigerator, foam letters in the bathtub, and have crayons, pencils and markers to draw and write with together!

Is your child asking for more?  Check out these basic skill board games that turn letter practice and other basic skills into a game you play together,
play games with letter sounds like these, or try this free St. Patrick's Day word building game where your children match letter tiles to letters.

Early emergent and emergent readers
This is what educators call that magical stage when children begin to understand that letters and strings of letters (words) have specific sounds and meanings, and they begin to read them.  Every child is different, but most children will become emergent readers some time between preschool and first grade.

Early emergent readers aren't ready for most of the books you see at the library or may have at home.  These kiddos are going to read the pictures as much as the words, and the few words there are on each page will probably be repeated on most pages.  Early childhood educators likely have sets of books like this - and your public library may too.  Emergent Reader: Red is a free example you can download and print out to read with your child, and is part of my Emergent readers for color words set.


If your child is in kindergarten or first grade, their teacher may have asked you to practice "sight words" or "popcorn words".  These are words that either cannot be sounded out (like "why" or "two") or that are used so often that taking time to sound them out will really slow a reader down ("the", "and", "is").

You might think you need flashcards to practice these words - and you certainly can practice them that way, but my students have always preferred games like Polar Bear Sight Words and Three Little Pigs Sight Words for practicing.

If your child enjoys coloring, or you need them to practice without you for a short time, sight word mystery pictures can be fun too!  These are worksheets you can print out, and your child can read the sight words and color by code.  As they color each space, a picture emerges.  Try this FREE fish sight word mystery picture with kindergarten words, or this FREE ladybug sight word mystery picture with 2nd and 3rd grade sight words to see if these are right for you! 

If you and your child love them, I have many more sight word mystery pictures available at this link, with words for students from kindergarten to third grade.

As they move from early emergent readers to emergent readers, young readers are honing their skills and it's easy to see that they are indeed reading.  They still need lots of adult support, but they've moved beyond sounding out three letter words like "cat" and "dog" and can tackle slightly longer words with more complex spellings.

Help! How should I teach my child to read? blog post from Paula's Primary Classroom

These children are most motivated to read when they're offered something they're interested in, but still need a limited number of words on each page, and a limited vocabulary.  They may love reading Dr. Seuss books, or the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.  A lot of students at this stage also enjoy reading non-fiction or fables as they begin  "reading to learn" instead of "learning to read".

What if you're still not sure where to start?  Maybe you have more than one child and you want something easy you can do with both of them, perhaps you're really not at all sure where your child is on their reading journey, or you simply want to cover way more than just reading skills.  Good news!  You can cover all of those things while playfully learning and teaching with Bye Bye Summer Slide.
It's a HUGE packet, designed to be used at home to practice kindergarten, first and second grade skills.  It includes 4 game boards to print (and your child to color if desired), and cards for sight words, telling time, money, patterns and much more.  You and your child simply choose a game board and which skill you want to practice, grab a dice, and play!  If you have multiple children playing, each one can use their own set of skill cards, so one child might be working on addition and subtraction, while another identifies letters.

Yes, parenting is hard work.  Yes, it takes time and effort to help your child learn.  No, you'll probably never have ALL the answers - but
YOU can help your child learn to read!

Want some more ideas for teaching your children from home?  Click the pictures below to hear from Kelly at An Apple for the Teacher, and Melissa at Peas in a Pod!



Monday, February 17, 2020

A Whale of a Good Story Time

I've talked about polar bears, penguins, and other polar animals in the last few weeks, so it's time to break out the whale books!
A round up of favorite whale books for children, from Paula's Primary Classroom

Sure, I have a couple of old favorites: Baby Beluga is and always will be a winner, whether you read it or sing it or both, and Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale is still a hit with the kiddos, but I recently found some new favorites too!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love.


Breathe  What a lovely book!  The illustrations are gorgeous, and the spare text tells everything it needs to with only a few words.  When I read this aloud the children were fascinated - and calm.  I read it at a slow pace, taking a few moments to savor the words and pictures of different arctic animals on each page, and found the whole room taking a moment to breathe and slow down with me.  This beauty would be wonderful as a calm down story in a hyped up classroom - haven't we all found ourselves needing to take a few deep breaths and calm the room? - and it is perfect for a snuggle up bedtime read aloud.  I will definitely be reading Breathe again!


Following Papa's Song is my other new favorite! The illustrations absolutely glow, and like Breathe, there are just enough words on each page.  The children were hanging on to every word by the end of the story, waiting for little whale to follow papa's song and find his daddy.  Without making a point of it, this book surely taught my little ones that whales migrate and sing to communicate, while celebrating the close relationship between parent and child.  I don't think I'd read this one as a bedtime story because I did have one child quite worried that little whale was lost, but for the classroom or library story time it's a winner!

Here are a few more whale books that I've enjoyed reading with children.  The Gift is a little longer, more suited to early elementary grades - or at least to children with a longer attention span.  Barbara Lavallee's illustrations are gorgeous as always, and the story feels like poetry.

The Whale's Song tells the story of Lilly doing what her grandmother used to do, and waiting at the end of the pier for whales to come.  Again, this book feels like poetry.  I would read it with kindergarten and first graders, and it too would make a lovely bedtime story, sending animal loving little ones off to sleep thinking about meeting a whale.

The Snail and the Whale almost made the cut for story time, but with time for only 3 books, I left it out this time.  Snail and whale reminds me of Aesop's Lion and the Mouse - you might think there's nothing something so little could do to help something so big, but you'd be wrong. 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/081180447X/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=paulabeckerma-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=081180447X&linkId=ad3264fce71283686c415807e8aa56dc   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0803709722/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=paulabeckerma-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0803709722&linkId=4de55128e9226c22c1acb375204effe1 

Don't forget I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean when you're looking at whale books!  Sure, the focus is on a giant squid, but look where he ends up!  Yup, your kiddos will definitely remember that the squid is NOT the biggest thing in the ocean after reading this one!  I blogged here about an activity my students enjoyed with this book, and created an ocean themed measurement center that can be used with it too.


Finally, another book that I almost chose for story time: The Whale In My Swimming Pool.  This one will appeal to children (because sure, they imagine things like this all the time!), and parents (because we know our children imagine things like this all the time)!  There's a surprise ending, which I won't spoil - you should go grab a copy and check it out for yourself!

I hope you enjoyed this round up of whale books!  Is there something you'd like me to blog about, or a book topic you're looking for?  Let me know, maybe I'll write about it next! 

Happy reading!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Teacher Things We Love Giveaway

Happy Valentines Day!  There are many things that make teacher's hearts pitter pat: watching the light bulbs go off in our students' heads, drinking our coffee while it's still hot, long lunches (you know, like more than 10 minutes)... and then there's these things!

 To say "THANK YOU!" to teachers everywhere, I'm participating in giving away ALL these fun resources to one lucky teacher!  Scroll down to enter!


Prize: Things We LOVE prize pack including: Mr. Sketch Markers, Flair Markers, Personal Laminator, Dry Erase Pockets, Dry Erase Markers, Astrobrights Paper, Ticonderoga Pencils, and a $50 Teachers pay Teachers gift card.

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, A Plus Kids, Smart 2 Heart Creations, TheBeezyTeacher, Teach & Play with Mrs J, Pint Size Learners, Star Kids, Think Grow Giggle, It's Kinder Time, The Fun Factory, The Chocolate Teacher, Kelly McCown, Leah Popinski, Mickey's Place, The Literacy Garden, Little Owl's Teacher Treats, Priscilla Woodard - Tasked 2 Teach, Right Down the Middle with Andrea, Sugar Cube Learning, Paula's Primary Classroom, and The Froggy Factory.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 2/21/20 and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Polar animals: beyond penguins and polar bears

Sure, we all love penguins and polar bears - they're adorable, exotic, kids love them, and they make it so easy to include science learning along with reading, writing and math.  So why doesn't every child learn about moose... mooses?... could that be the hold up right there?  What about lemmings and fur seals and narwhals, oh my?

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love.

I talked about Pebble books from Capstone Press a couple of weeks ago, and have to mention them again.  Life in a Polar Region is beautiful, with full size up close photos of many polar animals, and simple but meaningful text. If you're teaching about non-fiction books you'll appreciate that it includes a table of contents, index, glossary and even on-line resource recommendations, but even if you skip over those text features, you and your children will get a lot out of this book!

Where's Walrus and Penguin is a fun book for younger children who'll love looking closely at the illustrations (there aren't any words) to discover how walrus and penguin blend in.  I see a lot of opportunity to talk about the pictures, and a fun read together session!

To add a walrus and a few other fun polar animals to your math learning - because really, why wouldn't you - check out these Polar Animal Tangrams.

Every child ever has probably dealt with a sibling or friend copying them to be annoying, so Don't Copy Me!, with a puffin as lead character, will have wide appeal.  I wish this one had been around when my children were going through this stage - I would have enjoyed it even more than them!

 Then there's the moose books!  I don't know about you, but I had no idea how HUGE moose can be until I did some research for a moose themed story time!  They can be almost 7 feet tall at the shoulder, with antlers extending even further.  It's little wonder that Ernest the Moose Who Doesn't Fit  doesn't fit into this book!

So surely it must be easy to find a moose?  Not in Looking for a Moose ! There's evidence of moose on every page - if you know what to look for, but on a first read children seldom notice them.  This book invites a second reading, and maybe a third one too... so you know that makes my teacher heart happy!

While we're looking at moose books, we have to include Margie Palatini's Moosekito and Mooseltoe.  This slightly goofy moose.... okay, this very silly moose... runs into all kinds of problems, but with ingenuity and moose know-how he gets through it all.  I love Palatini's humorous style, and if your children can sit through a slightly longer story, they will too.

I read Mooseltoe to a group in December, and we all had a lot of fun making our own moose antlers covered in Christmas bits and bobs.  I raided my old Christmas decorations and wrapping supplies, added a few red, white and green craft supplies, and we went to town!  F. U. N!

Read the Book, Lemmings! is adorable!  First, it has lemmings.  Second, they jump off everything.  Even though lemmings don't really.  Which you'll learn, if you just read the book!  Trust me on this one, your students are going to laugh, say "Oh no!", and ask you to read it again.  What more could we ask of a book?!

Want more lemmings?  I created this Arctic Animal Measurement math center to practice non-standard units of measure during our polar animal unit - and what could be more non-standard to measure with than lemmings?!  It's available for download in my TeachersPayTeachers store, along with many other polar learning activities!

Mama, Do You Love Me? is an oldie, but a goodie.  Children will learn a little bit about many different Arctic animals in this book, along with native culture and Inuit words.  It's a beautiful book for mommies and little ones to snuggle up and read together, and the message is universal. 

Finally, I'm including Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea - even though it's a graphic novel better suited for early elementary rather than preschool / kindergarten - because it's so awesome to have books about narwhals! Children love the dynamic duo of Narwhal and Jellyfish, the graphic novel encourages children who might not otherwise read, and each book includes "sea worthy" facts.  Check one out at your library!