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!

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!
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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!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Jawsome" Deals for the last week of Oceans of Steals, Deals, and Giveaways

OH. MY. GOODNESS!  This is going to be an amazing last week for Oceans of Steals, Deals and Giveaways!  Amazing discounts? We've got 'em!  Freebies?  Oh yes!  Gift cards to 16 different awesome stores?  Yes, yes, yes!

On Monday 8/8/16 there will be an abundance of awesome resources marked down to just $1!
I'm  offering School Bus Counting and Sequencing, a great back to school counting to 10 resource, and Fire Safety Hundreds Charts.  You can find all of the $1 deals by searching #ManicMonday - but it's for one day only, so don't wait!

Then there's #Two4Tuesday: with each participating seller offering 2 resources at half price.
For this fun day of savings, I'm marking down my Alphabet Mystery Pictures 2 - which includes mystery pictures for every letter of the alphabet, and each one focuses on the letter the picture begins with, as well as visually similar letters.  This is perfect for preschool or kindergarten, and they're ready to print and go - just what we all need that first week or two back at school!  I'm also discounting Rainforest Bingo, a super fun way to learn about a dozen rain forest animals.

On #WildWednesday there will be flash freebies offered throughout the day.  I'm going to offer two fun fall activities, Leafy Letter Learning, and Sometimes it Looked Like...
 To be notified when these items get marked down to free, just like Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten on FaceBook.  I'll let you know when I mark each resource down, and how long it will be free, so you can scoop up these resources and make your fall planning just a little easier!  Here's an extra incentive: If I get 20 more FaceBook likes by Wednesday evening, I'll do one more flash freebie!  (Quick, go like my page and invite your teacher friends to do it too, so you can all get 3 freebies on Wednesday!)

I'm really excited about #ThankfulThursday!  Last week I finally put together a full year bundle of my very popular 100s chart mystery pictures, and I'm going to mark it 50% off on Thursday!
This resource is HUGE!  There are 86 mystery pictures included - and each one of them is differentiated for 3 levels of learners.  This amazing resource has 324 pages of no prep. math learning. There are hundreds charts for all these popular learning themes:
Australian animals,
Fairy Tales,
Fire Safety,
St. Patrick's Day,
Valentines Day.
Purchased separately, these resources cost $59, so it is already an amazing deal at the bundle price of $40, but I'm going to offer it for one day only at half price: $29.50! - that's just 9 cents per page!

To top off the week, we're also giving away 16 $50 gift cards on Friday!  That's $800 in gift cards to fabulous places like Target, Michaels, Kohl's and more!
Enter here - it's super easy, and you just might win!
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Shepherd Who Cried Wolf

Do you remember reading Aesop's fables as a child?  I do!  There are some that almost everyone is familiar with, like The Tortoise and the Hare, and The Shepherd who cried Wolf.
A beautiful retelling of Aesop's fable, with a game and retelling props - super cute!

 Maybe it's because I remember reading the stories and thinking about the morals, that I was really pleased when I recently found beautiful clip art for fables.  Whatever the reason, I bought it, and have started retelling the stories with it.

I made a reproducible student booklet, and props for retelling the story.  (Fables and retelling stories are included in the Common Core State Standards for 2nd grade, so that's the reading level I aimed for - although younger children can certainly listen and retell the story, even if they can't read this version.)

I even made a short video of me using the props to retell the story!  I'd love for you to use this with your students - my kiddos loved watching short youtube videos like this, and I appreciated the opportunity to let another (virtual) teacher into my classroom to help me out for a few minutes.

If you're a regular reader, you know I think it's important to make learning fun, so I've also been making games to go along with the books and story retelling props.  The game I made for this one requires a spinner, so I thought I'd show you two super easy ways to make a spinner in under a minute!  The first one is pretty self explanatory,
A beautiful retelling of Aesop's fable, with a game and retelling props - super cute!
- all you do is put a paperclip in the middle of your spinner background, and use a pencil to anchor it.  A flick with your finger sends the paperclip arrow around.  Talk about instant and easy!

Here's a more traditional way:  Use a pushpin to make a tiny hole where you want your spinner to pivot (can you see it right in the center of the circle?), then put a brad through a paperclip.  Put the brad through the hole - having that tiny hole will let you get the brad through your paper without wrinkling it up or pushing too hard and accidentally stabbing yourself in the finger with a brad.  (Yup, I've done that a time or two!)
A beautiful retelling of Aesop's fable, with a game and retelling props - super cute!

Open the brad on the back of the paper, and you'll have a spinner like this one:

Super simple, and super fun!  How do you use fables with your students?  Do you use learning games too?  Let me know in the comments!

Have a great day!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Back to School Giveaway!

There's something bitter sweet about the beginning of a new school year.  While I always look forward to meeting new children and trying out new resources and ideas to make their learning fun, I definitely miss the late mornings of summer, and the easy living of vacation time.

To sweeten Back to School for you this year, I'm giving away a $10 gift card to TeachersPayTeachers, AND $10 to spend in my TpT store!  Who doesn't like a free shopping spree?!  Feel free to share this giveaway with your friends, and then hop over to TpT to start your wishlist!

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Good luck everyone, and have an awesome back to school season!