Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with 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!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Teaching Math on a Budget

Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Okay, right off the bat, I know we're pretty much all on a budget - who isn't?!  If you are teaching young children, chances are good that you supply a lot of the materials you use in your classroom, and it can really add up!  Today I thought I'd share a few ideas that I've used to make my own teaching resources for little or no money!

Large graphs for children to work on:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Materials required: a large piece of cardboard, approximately the size of poster board, a yard stick and a marker.  (You absolutely could buy poster board, or if you shop at a warehouse store, try asking if you can have some of the huge pieces of cardboard they use on pallets of cereal to separate the layers.)
Time to make it: 10 minutes tops
What to do: I measured and marked 1.5" intervals along each edge of the cardboard, then used the yardstick to draw lines between the marks.  I wrote numbers on one axis, and ta-da! One large graph.

Venn Diagrams:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Materials required: a large piece of cardboard, a large bowl or plate to trace around and a marker.
Time to make it: less than 5 minutes
What to do: Turn your bowl or plate face down, off center on your cardboard.  Trace the rim with the marker.  Move the plate over to the other side of your cardboard, leaving a large area of overlap from the first circle.  Trace it again.

Sorting trays:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Materials required: a divided tray, I got this one from a dollar store.  I've also used trays from fruit/vegetable/cookie platters, and those are free - you just have to remember to either save them yourself, or to ask your families to donate them if they use them.
What to do: nothing more!
Prep time: This depends on how long you browse at the dollar store!  ;-)

What about manipulatives: the small parts the children are working with.  We all know that those plastic dinosaurs and bugs aren't cheap. What can you do?

Save those lids, corks, bread ties, etc.  I keep a container in a cupboard in my kitchen, and every time there's a bread tie or a cork, I toss it directly in there.  Lids from food containers I put in the cutlery holder of my dishwasher first, and save them when they're clean.  You may also find some awesome lids in the bathroom or laundry room, just save them instead of tossing them out.
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Look in your junk drawer.  Okay, maybe you're perfect, and you don't have a junk drawer, but I'm guessing that somewhere in your home there's a catch-all spot full of amazing little things.  Parts to that one toy your kids had a few years ago, party favors they never even played with, assorted blocks, plastic bits and bobs, rings, craft supplies, tokens from that game place you never go to anymore...  Just be sure to consider the children who will be using these manipulatives, do you need to think about possible choking hazards?  Sharp edges?  Be selective about what will work for your students.
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 You may also have (or know someone who has) a tin of buttons, or beads, or maybe an avid crafter with a lot of left over odds and ends.  Maybe there's a box in the garage with odd nuts and bolts, or old keys, or... go look!  Once you start thinking about and noticing things that are often considered throw aways, you'll find resources all over the place!

So how can you store all this stuff?  Plastic storage containers can be quite expensive, especially if you have a whole bunch of these collections going on!  Check your pantry and your recycling bin!  This is the container I keep in my kitchen to store those lids and corks - it originally had cashews in it, but when the food was eaten, the container got a new life, storing manipulatives.  Many foods come in resealable and reusable containers, everything from lunch meats to rice, fresh salad greens to soup.  If there's something in a useful container that your family uses regularly, you can save them and even end up with a matching set!
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Still not sure you can find a nice variety of things for your kiddos to sort?  Go outside!  Here are some leaves that are in my yard right now.  I see different colors, sizes and shapes.  How else are they the same?  How else are they different?
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Okay, so maybe you don't have time to go outside and collect leaves and things for your children to use.  Not to worry, put the kids to work!  Here I've used a strawberry punnet as a collecting box for acorns.  You can see we found some in different sizes, shapes and colors.  There are acorns with holes, broken ones, whole acorns, acorns with and without caps, some that are still connected to each other, and some that aren't... there are so many ways we could sort, graph or put these on a Venn Diagram!
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I hope you can use some of these ideas in your classroom!  If you have another tip for teaching math on a budget, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Tricks, Just Treats for Teachers - a #Kinderfriends Bloghop

How can it be October already?  Has the start of the school year zoomed by in a blur of craziness for you too?  Chances are good that right about now you are feeling like you are running a marathon, jumping hurdles along the way, and could use a bubble bath, some chocolate, and a massage.  (Maybe I'm just projecting, I know I could use a bubble bath, chocolate and a massage!)  I can't help you with those (not sharing my chocolate, I know you'll understand!), but I do have 3 super cool treats for you, because you absolutely deserve it!

#KinderFriends is getting together again for a blog hop, and we're sending you on a grown-up Trick or Treat mission - at each stop there is more for you to enjoy!  Scoop up these 3 treats from me, and then continue on for lots more.  I hope they're almost as good as that bubble bath, chocolate and massage I'm now dreaming of!)  Thanks for stopping by!

Treat #1: Enter to win a $25 TeachersPayTeachers gift card! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat #2: Enter to win $25 in resources from my TeachersPayTeachers store!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'll contact the giveaway winners on 10/15/16, but I think you all deserve a prize, so here's one for everyone!

Treat #3: Download my newest freebie: How Many Apples Tall Are You?  If you'd like to say thank you, I would very much appreciate you leaving feedback &/ rating it.

Is your trick or treat basket full yet? No?  Head on over to Class of Kinders for some more teacher treats!

Friday, October 7, 2016

What would you do with a $75 TeachersPayTeachers gift card?

That's a really hard question to answer!  My TeachersPayTeachers wish list is only about 7 pages long... there are just so many awesome teacher resources to choose from!  My favorites are clip art, because I use it to create resources - both to use with the kiddos I work and play with, and to post in my TeachersPayTeachers store.  If you're thinking about all the awesome resources $75 would allow you to download, you really need to enter this giveaway - somebody is going to win, and it might just be you!  

Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), 
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 10/13/16 and is open worldwide.
Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back into the Swing of Things #Kinderfriends blog hop

By now you are probably back to school and settling in for a new academic year - at least if you are in the United States.  It's a crazy time of year, with so many things to do, so many things to get ready, and it seems like barely a moment to breathe.  You've probably put student names on 20 different sets of things: locker tags, desk tags, folders, notebooks and more. I'm willing to bet you've already set up student routines and expectations, and are figuring out what ever new system your school has in place this year - there's always something!  You've met the new staff, and you're probably really ready for a nap.  Welcome to the back to school season!

This month the #KinderFriends thought we'd help you start your year with some tips to help you get back into the swing of things, tried and true methods we can share, one teacher to another. Maybe you have an amazing trick or tip you can share too - please leave your best ideas in the comments section below, because if it works for you, it might just help me out too!

One of the things I've learned to do with my students, is to start the complex and difficult subjects as soon as possible, and as simply as possible.  When I taught first grade, learning to count mixed coins was a doozy of a feat for the kiddos, and trying to do it in the 3 week window our math curriculum allowed for it was near impossible.  My solution?  I made it part of our calendar time, and taught it all year long.  Early in the year that meant we learned to count just pennies, then just nickels, and then put them together.  Throughout the year we took more and more baby steps in learning to count money, until the kiddos were experts.  I did the same thing with other concepts that challenged my students, transforming the biggest, toughest concepts into daily 1-3 minute lessons.

I've taken that same concept - breaking difficult concepts down into bite-sized pieces - and applied it to another student challenge: sounding out.  At the beginning of the year I found my students often had difficulty writing anything, because they were learning how to form letters and which letters made which sounds, so the prospect of writing even a complete sentence was overwhelming for many.  I broke the process down, and have my kiddos work on just a few words that all have the same initial letter.  The result?  Successful kiddos! 

Graphing daily with my students is another great way to routinely practice a variety of math skills.  I have a huge selection of graphing activities available in my TeachersPayTeachers store, but this one is designed for back to school season:

I hope this tip helps you to have an amazing school year!  If you are interested in checking out my back to school resources, I'm discounting them 20% from now until Thursday - just search #KinderFriends on TeachersPayTeachers to see all the great back to school resources from #Kinderfriends! 

Thank you for stopping by!  To continue the #KinderFriends blog hop, click here and head over to 1stGradeFireworks for more tips!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September $75 Gift Card Giveaway!

Labor Day has come and gone, and by now I think almost everyone is back in school.  It feels wonderful to back, but overwhelming too.  There are so many things to do, lessons to prepare, items to put children's names on, things to grade, things...!  Wouldn't it be nice if you could just have a couple of activities that don't need prepping? Or maybe you'd really like to enhance your science curriculum this year, but time got away from you. What ever the reason, sometimes it's nice to have another teacher help you out by creating just what you need.  Good news!  TeachersPayTeachers is a global marketplace, staffed with teachers just like you, who totally get what you do every day - and who've created millions of amazing resources that are ready to download and use!  Even better news! You can enter here for the chance to win a $75 TeachersPayTeachers gift card!



Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Co-hosts: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), 

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 9/13/16 and is open worldwide.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck everyone! 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Are You Rocking?

This morning I woke up at 4:30, thinking about making finger puppets.  Sure, I know, most people don't wake up early on Sunday morning for anything so silly, but... I did.  I guess I must be an early childhood teacher!

It's super easy to make!  All you need is one blue pipe cleaner, a few scraps of paper, a marker, scissors and tape - and a little imagination of course! 

I started by shaping the pipe cleaner, from the tail.  A small spiral and then a straight part makes the tail, then the rest of the pipe cleaner was twisted around my finger and then up. I cut out paper scraps to make a face and shoes, and used the marker to add details for the eyes.
Are you rocking? Pete the cat finger puppet craft from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Finally, flip everything over, and use tape to attach the head and shoes to the back of your pipe cleaner.  If any tape shows from the front, you can trim it off.
Are you rocking? Pete the cat finger puppet craft from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Ta-da! Guess who's going to be rocking along when we read our Pete the Cat books next time? Uh-huh, every body, because it's all good!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Differentiating Reading Instruction:Some Simple Ideas

We all know that every child's journey to become a reader is different. What is simple for one may be incredibly difficult for another, some are great with phonics instruction, others seem to sail right through sight words, and others yet can read the words, but have a hard time with understanding what they're reading.  How on earth are you supposed to teach a room full of children who are all unique and at different points on their reading journey?
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

You differentiate.  You may have 3-4 reading groups, you may have 6-7 reading groups (yes, I did that),  you may pull students for 1-1 instruction, or small group instruction with a group that needs to work on a particular concept.  Today I thought I'd show you some simple ways to use a single reading resource many ways, that is, to differentiate.

I'm going to focus today on emergent readers.  UNC defines an emergent reader as:
             "Child on the path to fluent literacy, before conventional reading and writing
             skills emerge. Emergent readers demonstrate alphabet knowledge, a concept
             of what a word is, a sense of story (beginning, middle, end), listening and
             retelling skills, phonemic awareness, and verbal expression."

Here's an example of some text you might use with an emergent reader.  It has a limited number of words, uses mostly sight words, and has pictures that clearly match the sentences.  You'll notice the text has a repeating pattern, in this case, "I see a red __"  The book I took this from has 6 sentences with this pattern, one to a page, plus a final page without the last word on it, for the children to add in their own word and picture.  Once children are familiar with the text pattern from the book, you can have them match the sentences and pictures.  Start with just a couple, and work your way up.
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

You can also separate the words in a sentence and have students pay close attention to each word in order to put the words in the correct order.  This is a great time to point out that sentences start with capital letters (so the word "This" must be first) and end with punctuation (so the word yellow must be last).  Children will look at the first letter in each word to help them decode the word, and need to think about what makes sense.  They may notice that the first word in each sentence is the same, or point out the pattern the sentences are based on.  If they struggle with one of these words, you might want to point out other instances of the word - preferably in a sentence they've already read. 
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

 I find that children are much more likely to engage with the text if they have the opportunity to "play" with it, so I make word and picture cards large enough for students to manipulate easily.  I usually use mine in a pocket chart.  Just think of the fun children can have putting the words in the wrong order to create crazy "sentences" - and the reading and thinking about the words necessary to do so!

If you are working on skills like this with more than one child, challenge them to work together to make the sentences, or to scramble them up for each other.  My students LOVED taking turns scrambling and decoding sentences.  You can even have them dictate and illustrate additional sentences that fit the pattern, and let them scramble and decode those!

As students gain skills and confidence, you can challenge them with more text at once...
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction
... including multiple scrambled sentences.
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

Here I've combined both of these techniques: several sentences need to be unscrambled, and then the matching picture can be found and placed with each one.  Notice that these are still predictable sentences that follow a pattern, and that the pictures still correlate closely to the text.  By varying the number of sentences children are working with, whether the words are in order or scrambled, and whether the pictures are with the sentence or scrambled separately, you can manage the difficulty level for different children - or the same child, on different days.
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

This is the most challenging level I've come up with for this kind of text.  I've scrambled both the pictures and the words for multiple sentences, and have provided the text in book form for students to refer to as they put everything in order.  Look how much more challenging this is than the other ways of differentiating listed above! By the time students can work with the text at this level, they've most likely mastered the sight words used in the text, and will be able to identify those words in other places. (In other words, they're really reading!)
Some simple ideas for differentiating reading instruction

When working with children like this, it's important to look at what they CAN do, and to build on the skills already in place.  A child who already knows the sight words in a text probably doesn't need to match pictures to sentences, just as a child who is working to put a single sentence in order will only be frustrated if you scramble several at once.  You want them to enjoy the experience of working with words, as well as to learn new things!

These techniques will work with almost any emergent reader text, but if you are interested in the texts I've used in this post, they are all part of this resource, including the word and picture cards for children to manipulate:
Emergent Readers: Color Words

I'd love to hear how you differentiate for your emergent readers - share your tips in the comment section below!