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!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Polar Bears

Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
It seems to me that there are two great times to learn about polar animals: in the winter, when they come to mind along with snow and ice, and in the summer time, when the idea of cooling off sounds lovely.  We've done both, and either way, the children love it!

You surely know by now that children's books are a huge part of my planning and teaching!  I try to also include both fiction and non-fiction.  While it's more traditional to tell our little ones stories, I've found that they're very interested in learning how their world works, and find non-fiction fascinating too.
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I love to make this cute polar bear craft with my youngest kiddos, but for my first graders I'd add the non-fiction booklet to it too.  Either way, these sure look cute for a display!
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
We love to do hands on activities!  Here we are, exploring the idea of the arctic ocean, using killer whales, seals, polar bears, Alaskan crabs and more.  Do you see the ice cubes in the second picture?  Some of our animals like to get out on the ice, and float along or rest for a bit.  (Some of our friends like to play with ice and water when it's hot outside too!)
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

We often make hand prints or foot prints to go along with our learning themes, and polar bears are no exception.  We even made narwhal prints, and watched an awesome video about narwhals!
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning to read sight words is an important part of kindergarten and first grade,  so I made this sight word game for us to practice with.  (It includes cards for letter learners, and PP, P and 1st grade sight words, so it's pretty flexible. Who wouldn't want to help those baby bears get to their momma, right?

I've found a lot of children - and adults for that matter - don't realize that polar bears and penguins don't share the ice.  Polar bears live in the Arctic, near the north pole, and penguins (mostly) live in the Antarctic, near the south pole.  Here's a little song I wrote to help the children remember the difference: 
Download it free by clicking on the link or the picture!  If you have a map or globe in your classroom, have a child point to the correct location as you sing each verse.

While you're reading and singing the song, how about some more facts about polar bears and other arctic animals?  I laid them flat for a picture, but they work really well in a pocket chart (but pocket charts don't photograph well, with all the reflections off the plastic).
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I like to use sentence to picture matching activities as a literacy center, and most of my students are really good about working with the materials.  Still, sometimes we need to show written work, or have some kind of accountability for the students, so they all come with follow up worksheets.  Here's one of them:

Another fun, hands on sensory activity to do is to build with ice cubes.  You can certainly use plain old regular ice cubes, chances are good that you have some on hand, or if not, you can buy a bag of ice at any grocery store or gas station.  I like to make over-sized ice cubes, using whatever empty containers are available and headed for the recycling bin.  It's amazing how much fun giant ice cubes are as a building tool, and they take a nice long time to melt too.
Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning about polar bears, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
If you're building with ice cubes, you might also want to show the children a video of how an igloo is built!  I like this one.  After you watch this, be prepared to see a lot of building going on - and have some nice large blocks on hand.

We've also explored how polar bears thick layer of fat, or blubber, helps to insulate them - you can see that post here.

So what other activities do you like to do when you're learning about polar bears?  I'd love to know! 

P.S. Stop back by next week to see how we like to learn about penguins.

Friday, January 13, 2017

12 awesome books about snow!

12 Awesome books about snow from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I love winter.  I also love spring, summer and fall - somehow by the time each season comes around, I'm ready for it again.  I love all the fun things each season brings: snow, green leaves and flowers, long lazy days, brightly colored leaves... so welcome winter!

This month the KinderFriends are bringing you some of our favorite books (you'll want to blog hop and check this out!),
12 Awesome books about snow from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
and I guess I have snow on the mind, because I started pulling out my snow books, and... well, sure enough, I have some favorites!  Who doesn't?!

12 Awesome books about snow from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 I have to start with Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, one of my all time favorite authors, and all time favorite books.  I love her collage style illustrations, how she uses photos of real objects, plus paper crafted details!  She also does a marvelous job of using items from world cultures: amongst the items included in this book you'll find a Bolivian hat, Peruvian sock, African kente cloth, a Guatemalan purse, English silk tie, and a Thai applique heart.  The story stands alone, but so do the illustrations, and you could spend a long time searching for all the amazing little details Ehlert has included.  I'll be reading this book to the children later this week!

You can't have a list of snow books without the classic The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats.
12 Awesome books about snow from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
The little boy in the book, Peter, discovers snow, and explores it thoroughly.  It almost makes me want to go play in the snow too!  I found a cute follow up art activity via pinterest, and drew some silhouettes of Peter to use in it.  I've scanned it, and you can grab it free here.

The "snow" in the picture is a mix of about half paint and half shaving cream, spread around with my fingers.  Your kiddos can add foot prints or lines from a stick, just like Peter did in the story!
12 Awesome books about snow from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

While you are reading about snow, how about some snow themed learning activities?  I recently finished Snow: STEAM learning, which includes 6 activities for science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

Here are some of more of my favorite snow themed stories:
The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs: a wordless book that will have your children reading the pictures and telling the story.
Let's Go Home, Little Bear, by Martin Waddell: little bear is scared of the unfamiliar sounds he hears while walking in the snow, but the real focus is on the loving relationship between big bear and little bear.  This is one to snuggle up and read with your own children, but will also be loved for group story time.
I Have to Go!, by Robert Munsch: What can I say, Robert Munsch totally understands children, and if you ever were a child, or have parented someone who is toilet training, this is hilarious!
50 Below Zero, by Robert Munsch: While you're looking for Robert Munsch books, grab this one too!
Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn Buehner: This lovely book imagines the reason why snowmen sometimes look a little worn around the edges in the morning - surely it's not just the weather, what have they been doing?
Stranger in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick: The authors/photographers spent many winters feeding and photographing forest animals, and turned their amazing photos into an award winning picture book.  You'll want to have birdseed on hand after reading this book, so your children can leave it out for the critters that live near you.
Snowy, Flowy, Blowy, by Nancy Tafuri: In just 24 words Tafuri sums up the months and seasons of a year.  Illustrated beautifully, this deceptively simple book is wonderful for starting conversations about the seasons and weather.

Now, for even more favorite stories, hop on over to Pocket Full of Centers!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Painting on Ice

Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 If you live in the northern hemisphere, you may well be looking out on wintery scenes like these:
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Beautiful, yes, but also very cold.  You and your students may well spend more time indoors during the winter, but that doesn't mean you can't explore the ice and snow!

Scoop some up, add some droppers of warm water and some more of cold paint, and let the kids explore.  It's a fine motor work out, and absolutely fascinating!
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Your students might learn about changing states of matter as they add drops of warm water to the ice. 
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Where does all that paint go when you drip it in?
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Is it underneath the ice?
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
That stuff sure is cold on our fingers!
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
It's a lot of fun to drip paint into the ice!
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
And to add more, and more!
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Quite beautiful really!
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
It's amazing how long this fun can last - maybe even after parents and siblings arrive for pick up, because they may want to join in too.
Painting on Ice, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

If you're looking for more ways to learn about winter, check out my most recent resource:
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Happy Holidays Kinderfriends Blog Hop

Welcome to the #Kinderfriends holiday blog hop!  We know there are many celebrations going on at this time of the year, and thought we'd share some fun ideas about ways to celebrate - and we're throwing in some freebies and a gift for one of you, because who doesn't like holiday gifts?!

Last week I saw a lovely idea for making a hand print menorah, but couldn't find the print out to use for it.  Not to worry, I put one together, and the children made their hand prints, drew on flames, and added a die cut shamash (the helper candle).  My sample isn't nearly as cute as children's hands are, but it will at least give you the idea.  :-)  Want a copy?  Here you go!
Would you like to play the dreidel game while you're talking about Hanukkah, but don't know how?  Today a friend pointed me to this awesome video tutorial - it's not for the little kids, but once you know how it works, you can teach them!  Over the years I've taught this game to many, many preschoolers.  They learn both math and social skills as they play: turn taking, putting one in the "pot", and how to take half: I teach the kiddos to do "one for me, one for you" to do this.  Did I mention the fine motor workout of moving small objects and spinning the dreidel?

I also love to read/sing the children's book version of Feliz Navidad each December.  The catchy tune and repetition helps the children learn at least the refrain in Spanish and English, and it makes great background music as we put together our pinatas.  (Paper sacks with colorful tissue paper fringe.)

I've made a lot of fun resources for Christmas, and some for Hanukkah; you may not have seen these new ones yet. If you're looking for some ready to go learning fun, please check them out! (They're 20% off for the next 3 days, and for more great resources, search #KinderFriends on TeachersPayTeachers!)



There's even a FREE video of Nine Little Reindeer - check it out!

Now, as promised, there's a gift!  We're giving away a $25 gift card to TeachersPayTeachers!  On the off chance you aren't a teacher yourself, enter anyway - you know a teacher who would LOVE this as a present!  (No, don't know any?  I'll take it! Pick me, pick me!) 

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Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you'll hop on over and check out the next stop on our blog hop:

Wishing you the happiest of holidays, and a joyous and prosperous new year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stacked Stars Christmas Trees

Christmas is sneaking up on us, and you're probably planning the Christmas art projects you want to get to with your students - and some kind of year end celebration, report cards, shopping and cleaning and wrapping for your own family, juggling staff meetings and... you're probably short on time and energy, even if you have visions of meaningful lessons and carefully crafted learning activities.  If you have everything under control, please share your tips!  For the rest of us, I thought I'd share another simple holiday activity that takes almost no preparation.

As is so often the case, I found my inspiration via Pinterest.com.  Unfortunately, the pin doesn't go to the correct page on the blog, and it is in French... but here's the pin to show the idea.

To make this adorable stacked star Christmas tree you'll need some light card (I used manila folders), star shapes in several sizes, paint, beads, one pipe cleaner per child, and doodads to decorate with.  We used sequins, but use what you have on hand.  It's also helpful to have small pieces of styrofoam to use as a base for your trees, but florist foam would be another option.

On the first day (it's a 2 day project) the children painted their stars, and we let them dry.  Later I cut the stars out - my kiddos were 3-5 years old, and I guess I wanted the finished product to look a little more polished than it would with 3 year olds doing the cutting.  If you have the time and patience, and your children have the skill, let them cut them out.

To assemble our stacked star trees, we first put one bead in the center of a pipe cleaner, and folded the pipe cleaner over.  Twist the ends together a little, to make one strong supporting "tree trunk".  Make tiny holes in the center of each star, and have the children order the stars by size, from smallest to largest.

Next the children will alternate threading on the stars (from smallest to largest) and 3 beads - the beads separate the layers of stars and give height to the trees.  When all the stars and beads are on, stick the remaining end of the pipe cleaner into the styrofoam or florist foam base.  Have the children decorate their trees with sequins, pompons, or other shiny bits and bobs, then proudly display them until it's time to send them home!


 If you're also looking for some help putting Christmas learning centers together, please stop by my TeachersPayTeachers store and see some of my other holiday activities!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December $75 Gift Card Giveaway

Thank you for stopping by my blog!  As I often do, I'm participating in a gift card giveaway - I think it's a nice bonus for my loyal readers, a little something to say thank you for making me a part of your day.  Teachers and parents put so much into teaching and learning with their kiddos (our own, and those we share a year or two with through school), and finding beautiful resources on TeachersPayTeachers makes our jobs just a little easier.  If you'd like to go on a $75 shopping spree, read on, and enter below! 

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 12/13/16 and is open worldwide.

And don't forget to enter our weekly $25 Teachers pay Teachers gift card giveaway as well!

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!

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Rocking December with Rudolph

I love teaching the letters R and S in December - between Rudolph and Santa, there's plenty of awesome activities, books and crafts, and the children are so eager to do them all!  Today I thought I'd share just a few of our favorite Rudolph activities, besides reading the Classic book by Robert May and singing the Christmas carol that almost everyone knows.

Another fun song for the preschool and kindergarten crowd is a variation on Head and Shoulders: Hooves, Belly, Antlers, Nose.  I found an adorable video of children singing it here, your kiddos will quickly make it their own!  I like to add a red sticky dot to the children's noses when we sing this one - and it makes a really cute picture for their families!

You've probably seen the painted hand print reindeer included in my photo above, I recently found a version via pinterest that also included Santa in his sleigh - that's one to try this year!  While some children aren't eager to have their hands or feet painted, I've found that most do warm up to the idea, and then enjoy the tickly sensation of the wet paint brush on their hands.  It's a fun sensory experience, and a quick one on one time with a teacher - hand prints are one of our favorites!

I've also made the construction paper hand and foot print reindeers for... well, for ever!  I began making these with my preschoolers when my own children were tiny, and each year I still bring out these treasured ornaments - we have a slew of them, one for each year that the boys would still go for it, showing their hands and feet growing incrementally year after year.  These make fantastic gifts for parents, and trust me, even if they have had one every year since their children were born, they'll be thrilled to have another!  (Teacher tip: trace the children's hands a day or two before you want the children to assemble the reindeer, so you can cut them out.  Nap time is a great time to sit and prep for this!)

I wish I could claim the Surprised Rudolph idea as my own, but the idea came from a faithful attempt.  She in turn found her inspiration on Artsonia.com.  Have you met Artsonia yet?  Check out our school gallery, then look around at all the other amazing lesson plans that are there to inspire you!  This cute project not only looks adorable, but gives the children a lot of fine motor practice with scissors
 and glue,
plus tracing around a circle shape, and talking about squares, triangles, rectangles and positional words. 
That's a lot of learning for a holiday decoration!

Let me know if you have some other fun reindeer activities to share - I'm always on the look out for more fun learning ideas!