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!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cutting shapes for crafts - making it simple

If you work with small children, you probably spend a good amount of time working on crafts with them.  Somehow, all those craft projects seem to need an abundance of cutting!  Sure, the children can do a lot of it, especially if there's a printable pattern they can work from, but what about the other times?  Dark colored paper, and especially black paper, are hard to work with!  What to do?
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!

Here are two tricks that work for me.  I hope they help you and your small ones keep sane and keep crafting!


The first trick is tracing the shapes onto black paper, using a regular pencil.  If you work in good light, the pencil lines show up beautifully - so you can hand those scissors and paper to the children and let them work on their fine motor skills as they do the cutting.  Isn't that a big part of why we do crafts in the first place?
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!

Another trick that works well, and requires even less work from you, is using a printed paper to guide the children's cutting.  I think we've all tried holding a stack of papers and cutting them all at once, and unless you have an incredible grip, the papers all end up turning just a little bit... and the shapes end up skewed.  Here's the solution: staples.

Yes, simply staple the pattern on top of the papers you need to cut out.  The trick is to make sure you staple around the outside of the pattern you want, preferably in several places.  Here I stapled the corners of my white pattern on top of black construction paper, so I could make a black penguin shape for this Penguin rookery craft.  Sure, we could have colored it black, but that wasn't the look I wanted on this project, and practicing scissor skills is so important.
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!
Now it's easy to cut both pieces of paper, and they aren't going anywhere.
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!
Make sure you end close to a stapled area, to keep your papers together until the last possible moment.
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!
Ta-da!
Two simple and easy ways to cut out multiple shapes for craft projects!
Not only do you have the desired piece cut from construction paper, but there's also a lovely white pattern piece.  I'm seeing another art project here, with positive and negative images.... but that's for another day!

Do you have any teacher tricks or life-hacks you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How I store my teaching resources

Someone recently asked me how I store all the teaching resources I've been creating on TeachersPayTeachers.  What a great question!  I'm sure there are a lot of "right" answers, but here's what I've been doing:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/P-is-for-Penguin-50-off-for-the-first-24-hours-2268530
 I print out the resource, and glue the cover page onto a standard 9" x 12" envelope.  I glue the instruction page to the back of the envelope so it's super easy to find.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/P-is-for-Penguin-50-off-for-the-first-24-hours-2268530
You can put the whole envelope through the laminator if you want to, but I have some that were made 17 years ago and not laminated, and they have survived, albeit imperfectly.  :-)

I like to use small zippered baggies to store small pieces, as rubber bands become brittle over time and sometimes end up breaking.  All the worksheets, pages, and even laminated games can slip right into the envelope!  Extra copies that didn't get used? Put them in and they'll be ready for next year!  Examples? In they go!  Small craft supplies you need for the project?  You guessed it, they slide right on in.

I like using envelopes like this because they take up so little space.  You can slip them onto a bookshelf alongside the books you teach at the same time, tuck them into the pockets of your binders, pop them in your filing cabinet - however you organize and store your materials!

Do you have a storage suggestion or solution you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear what you do - please leave me a comment!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holiday sensory bins


I've shared pictures of my kiddos enjoying sensory bins before - 53 times it seems!  It's something that I obviously love, to have written about it and provided these experiences so many times.  This week I had the pleasure of watching kiddos explore holiday sensory bins at our local library story time.  They were fascinated!  Here are four awesome sensory experiences - maybe your children would enjoy them too!

Tinsel, magnet wands, and jingle bells.  So simple, and yet...


"Magic Snow"  comes as a powder, but when you add water it swells up and feels like cool wet snow.  Here's one link to it - I don't use affiliate links, I'm just sharing this to help you find it if your child would enjoy it!  My older son had some many years ago, and LOVED it.  The library hid finger puppets in it for the children to find, but I saw just as many children scooping up hand fulls and arm fulls.

Pine cones and wood shavings.  These have the added benefit of smelling lovely!  These are two very different textures, contrasting nicely.  There were also magnifying glasses in here, which the children used as scoops.

The final bin was of fake decorative snow, little bits of shiny plastic, intended as a holiday decoration.  I watched one child in particular pick up hand fulls, then  stand up and slowly release it back into the bin, so it really looked like a blizzard coming from her hands.  The fine motor workout as she rubbed her fingers to drop the pieces was impressive, but to her it was obviously just pure joyful play.

Yes, it got messy - we had 78 children attend story time this week!  Before putting out the sensory bins we laid down large table cloths, and that did help with clean up.  If the mess worries you, there are many other mediums for sensory bins that clean up quickly: pompoms, nuts in the shell, acorns, popsicle sticks, etc.  You can also take sensory play outside, so there's not a mess in the house.  Two of my favorite outside sensory bin fillers are bird seed and seed corn - any that is dropped becomes bird and squirrel food, and we often have the opportunity to observe them up close as they clean up our messes!

Now, inspired by these fun bins put together by the library staff for our lucky kiddos, I'm thinking about what sensory bins we could make for other holidays.  Dreidels and candles, blue and silver tinsel strips for Hanukkah?  Dried corn or beans with red, green and black candles, a unity cup, and small gift boxes for Kwanzaa?  The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Five Little Penguins, a counting story

Do you love penguins?  These clip art penguins from Sonya Dehart Design were so darned cute, I had to make something fun with them!

Here's what I put together:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Five-Little-Penguins-a-counting-story-50-off-for-the-first-24-hours-2239783


Five little penguins went out to play
On a snowy winter day.
The ice was cold and the clouds were gray,
So one little penguin waddled away.

Four little penguins...
Three little penguins...
Two little penguins...
One little penguin...

No little penguins went out to play
On a snowy winter day.
The sun came out and the clouds blew away,
So five little penguins came back to play!

I made a read aloud book of the poem, with numerals and number words on each page, so young kiddos learning their numbers will really benefit from the book.  The count down poem format really lends itself to flannel board or chalk board display, so there are five little penguin manipulatives to act it out.  Way back when I taught first grade, I used a count down poem and manipulatives like these to introduce subtraction: I displayed the pictures, and wrote the subtraction sentences next to them as we reread the rhyme.  This method really helped children see that counting down is the same thing as subtracting 1.

My favorite part of this set though is the finger puppets I made to act it out as a finger play!
I can't wait to use these with the kiddos!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rest time routines

If you are a parent, you probably have some kind of bedtime routine with your child.  I hope it involves snuggling up to read some favorite stories, and I bet it includes a bath, teeth brushing, and  a goodnight kiss.  We create these routines with our children both for their sake and for ours: children do best with routines.

It makes sense if you think about it.  There are so many things children don't know: What will be for dinner?  Where are we going? Why? Who? What?  A routine lets them know what is coming next, and gives some structure to their days.  It lets them prepare themselves for what is next.

Teaching 3-5 year olds, we needed a rest/nap time each afternoon.  What started out as a pretty simple routine - use the restroom, read some books, then lay down on our nap mats - later became a much more satisfying routine that worked beautifully.

See?

About 10 years ago I read an article in Exchange magazine about "pillow talk".  I'd always had some quiet one-one time with my boys at bedtime, and we had some of our best conversations in the quiet of a darkened room at the end of the day.  To help them find peaceful sleep, we had "happy thoughts" each night.  Each boy would tell me 3 good things about their day.  This sounded a whole lot like "pillow talk".

A few years later, I was trying to figure out ways to calm a child who took forever to close eyes and sleep (and then couldn't be woken for hours!), and saw an article about the soothing scent of lavender.  If you've deal with a child like this, you know you'll try just about anything!  I bought a bottle of lavender scented lotion, and started offering that to everyone at rest time too.

Anyway, here's the routine that evolved. 

First: everyone used the rest room, and picked one book to read.  Yes, everyone.  With 12 students in the class we had to limit the books to fairly short ones, and occasionally we had to do fewer, but most days we had 12 stories!  I'd read the more exciting ones first, and save the calmer, slower, or musical books for last.  It's really nice to end with a song!

Next: everyone went to their mats.  I closed the blinds both to make it a little darker, and to eliminate all the exciting things to be seen outside.

Then: I turned on quiet, calm music, grabbed that lavender lotion, and went from child to child, offering hand lotion and asking for happy thoughts.  Almost everyone had something nice to tell me each day, and it often started, "Mommy and daddy and brother and...."  As they talked they'd rub the lotion into their hands, and we'd have a few special moments, just the two of us in a room full of friends.  Having an adult's undivided attention, even for 30 seconds, is a powerful and often coveted thing in a preschool classroom!  I'd end our minute together by offering a kiss on the forehead.

When everyone had been tucked in, the room was dark and smelled of lavender, and sweet music played, I'd sit on the couch with a book until they fell asleep.  Yes, some children would invent reasons to wiggle, talk, or need the bathroom again (twice!).  No, it didn't always go as planned.  But almost every day we managed to get 12 children to sleep for at least part of the rest time. 

Maybe some elements of our routine  will help you to calm your kiddos and find some peaceful moments in your day.  I hope so!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

You probably already know I love to cook with children.  Yes, it can be messy.  Yes, it's a challenge to manage everyone when your hands are in batter, or eggs, or... well, nothing at all.  Still, it's a fantastic experience for the kiddos, and can cover a LOT of academics while seeming to be only a prelude to eating.  Cooking is fun!

Cooking, by it's very nature, involves reading (the recipe),
measuring (ingredients),
counting (eggs, spoons of spice),
personal hygiene (hand washing, averting your sneezes),
environmentalism (recycle those empty cans, compost the peelings) 
and self help skills (clean up your messes).
Don't forget cool things like learning to use the can opener,
or watching how a bread machine works.

To take that learning just a little further, we often wrote class experience stories, such as our annual "How To Make a Pumpkin Pie" book.  As we enjoyed our cooking experiences, I would take pictures, and when all was said and done, we'd sit down together as a class and brainstorm all the things we had done.  Everyone would tell me the things they remembered, and I'd write them on a chart, then we'd put them in order from first to last.  I would type up the sequence of events the children had generated, and print photos of each activity along with the words.  Slipping everything into page protectors and then a bradded folder made for a quick and sturdy book.   I always put those books in our classroom library, because it's fun to go back and revisit the experience, and it's fun to look at pictures of you and your friends doing fun things - so the kiddos were motivated to read these class books over and over again.

Another perk to making our class experience books was looking back on previous years, seeing our big brothers and sisters doing the same activities when they were little, or seeing friends who had graduated to "big kid school".

In case you've never made a pumpkin pie before, here's how it's done:

Wash your hands.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
 Crack two eggs into a bowl.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add 3/4 cup sugar, 
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills) 
1 teaspoon cinnamon, 
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Stir it all up!
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add a can of evaporated milk,
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
...and stir up some more.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add one can of pumpkin, or the equivalent of home made cooked pumpkin if you are an overachiever.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
While one friend is stirring, other friends hold the bowl steady. We all get turns stirring!
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
When it is really well mixed, pour it into 2 uncooked pie crusts.  The canned pumpkin recipe says to use one deepdish pie crust, but we've always found there to be too much mix to fit.  While the filling is delicious baked in a pyrex bowl without any crust, I liked to use 2 pie shells, so each child had a pie of their own.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Bake at 425* for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350* for 40-50 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack, then serve or refrigerate.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Each year at Thanksgiving, each child made their own pumpkin pie to take home to their family Thanksgiving feast.  Can you imagine the pride these children felt when their families served food they had made?

Yes, it can be messy.  Yes, it's a challenge to manage everyone when your hands are in batter, or eggs, or... well, nothing at all.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving full of pie, children and laughter!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thankful for the memories


Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I'm an imperfect person - aren't we all?! - but I am so grateful for one small thing I definitely did right.  I recorded some of the marvelous things the boys said when they were little, and I am ever so thankful!

For Thanksgiving 2001 I cut out lots and lots of paper leaves, and even added a touch of watercolor paint to them, to record what not only my own children, but also my daycare kiddos, were thankful for.  I thought these leaves would be just right to decorate the Thanksgiving table with, and I still dig them out for the holiday meal.

It's a small thing, but so often the small things turn out to be the big things.  The boys were 2 and 7 years old at the time, and thankful for the cutest things: each other, puzzles and games, playing in the leaves, and "for our army men that died in war saving us."  These faded scraps of construction paper encapsulate my memories of yesteryear, and the innocence of childhood.
Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
A couple of years later I repeated this project, but used precut foam leaves.  Again, these are treasures beyond measure.
Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
My (then) 8 year old was thankful for his alarm clock!  Ha!  At 20, I don't think he cares for it in quite the same way... well... for that matter, now he uses his cell phone.  Wow, some things really do change.  My (then) 5 year old has outgrown Zoobooks and markers, but we are all still thankful for friends, food, and Star Wars.  :-)

We are all older, and the things we are thankful for are different, but I'm going to break out this activity again, and this time I'm going to join in and make a note of the things I'm thankful for too.  Family, friends, work that I love, and memories of small boys who have grown into fantastic young men.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Big Pumpkin

I have to share the neatest felt board that I think I've ever seen:
It's the whole crew from Erica Silverman's Big Pumpkin!  This fantastic story time prop was created by Ms. Sandra at my local library - brilliant!

This felt set would be amazing to me under any circumstances, but it's especially so since Big Pumpkin is one of my favorite Halloween books - and has been a hit with my students for about 20 years.  (It was published in 1992, and I believe I got the book and tape for it in about 1994.)  The very best part of it, to me, is the tape recording of the story.  While you may not ever find (or want!) a cassette recording of the story, you and your students can still enjoy the music by checking out the book on YouTube.


So how might you extend the story, and have some hands on fun with your children?  How about letting the children mix some red and yellow paint to make a big orange pumpkin?

I had my kiddos cut out a pumpkin shape and use black paper scraps to make their own jack-o-lanterns.

You could paint their knuckles orange, and help them make a fist print pumpkin....
We added torn tissue paper grass for our pumpkins to sit in, and when everything was dry the children drew on the faces with a black marker.

Of course, the very BEST thing to do with a big pumpkin, is just what the witch did in the story - make it into pumpkin pie!
I bet you know what to do with the pie!  Delicious!

I wrote a short poem and book about pumpkins for young readers, you can see it in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Want even more pumpkin ideas?  I've blogged about our pumpkin adventures before, check those posts out here.

Wishing you a lovely fall, full of pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scents, and great big pumpkins!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Halloween Fairy

We all know about the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus, but not everyone knows about the Halloween fairy!  I was introduced to her by my oldest son's preschool teacher, Ms. Michelle, about 18 years ago.

The Halloween fairy comes late at night on October 31st, after all the candy has been collected, the costumes removed, and excited but exhausted children are in bed.  If you want her to stop at your house, you need to choose some candy to keep, and some to put out for her.  Just as the tooth fairy exchanges a lost tooth for a special treat, the Halloween fairy leaves healthy alternatives when she takes away the excess candy.  Our fairy was great about leaving us mangoes, kiwi fruit, pineapple... she knew just exactly what our favorite fruits were!  My boys weren't too impressed with the hard candies- or for that matter the non-chocolate candies - in their Halloween loot stashes, so those always went out for the fairy.  When they were very little, they chose 10 pieces of candy to keep, and put the rest out.  (We also only went to a few houses.)  Later we kept more, and eventually, just like the tooth fairy, the boys outgrew the Halloween fairy.

I should tell you right now, my sons have very different opinions about the Halloween fairy now!  At almost 20 (how can that be?!) my oldest thinks the Halloween fairy was an injustice and scam that I perpetrated upon him, albeit with good intention.  His younger brother prefers to remember the mango and pineapple, and thinks it was a pretty good deal.  They are both very healthy eaters, and prefer fresh fruits and veggies over junk (most of the time), so no matter what they think, I have to believe the Halloween fairy did her work well. 

On a cautionary note, a friend once asked me what the Halloween fairy does with the candy she collects.  The sad truth, as I told my friend, is that mostly she stores it on her thighs.  :-)  Some got shared in various ways, but... well... butt.

So how does this work?  For our family, it meant taking out the candy the kids were keeping, then putting the rest back in their sack and leaving it outside the back door, or in the garage.  I've heard she's a pretty resourceful fairy, so she'll probably cooperate with whatever set up works best for your family.  She has also been know to bring small toys, like the spider web shaped bubble blower wand she had one year.  I think her main mission is to promote healthier choices than hoarding a stash of Halloween candy and gorging on it for most of November.

Wishing you a delicious, but also healthy, Halloween!
Paula


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!


Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I often talk about hands-on activities... this week we're going for a feet-on project instead!  Going through some old photos, I found this cute art and writing activity, which is super fun for a classbook or a bulletin board.
 Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten


Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
We used Halloween colored paper and helped each child make a white ghosty footprint on it.  While the footprint dried, each child simply wrote one thing they'd like to eat.
 Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten



When everything was dry, the kiddos added ghostly details and glued it all together.
 Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet!  Halloween writing activity from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Happy Halloween!