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, January 31, 2015

Valentines Day

Are your students getting excited about Valentines Day?  It's such a fun holiday to celebrate - there's good things to eat, crafts to make, and kind words spoken or written.  A lot of the children seem to show up in red, pink and purple clothes, often with hearts on them.  Valentines day can be a lot of fun, and even although I don't have a class of kids to prepare for it this year, I thought I'd share some of the things we've enjoyed doing in the past.
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
One of the things my kiddos have always loved to do is cooking.  There are a lot of fine motor skills and life skills involved, not to mention measuring and counting.  For our Valentines day party I like to have the children bake cupcakes - and they are all too willing to oblige!
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

After our snack, our party begins in earnest.  A lot of parents come and join us, so I like to take the opportunity to show the parents what the children have been learning.  Valentines is a great week to talk about the letter V in preschool, and you can see one of our letter crafts behind this happy kiddo.
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Another way we show off what we've been learning during our party is with a modified game of pass the parcel.  I grew up in Australia, and pass the parcel was a popular party game.  It's a bit like musical chairs, but with a gift.  While music plays, the gift is passed around a circle of children.  When the music stops, whoever is holding the parcel takes off one layer of wrapping.  There are always a lot of layers!
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Between each layer, I put a note on a heart shaped paper, with directions for something for us to all do.  Some are simple and fun, like go hug a grown up (I don't say parent, in case someone doesn't have a parent attending, but of course it's their own grown ups they go to first!)  We also have directions like "say something nice to the person next to you" or "smile at someone you like."  My oldest students are usually able to read these simple directions, but if they can't, there's also former students who come back to visit, brothers and sisters who want to join in and help.
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Other directions include reciting learning songs, jumping up and down while we count to 20 - just quick little things that are part of our daily routine precisely because they help the children learn and remember.
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Of course we have the obligatory Valentines containers.  I use paper sacks that the children decorate at school earlier in the week.  That also is a lesson.  I show them a bag I made years ago.  One side has layer upon layer of ribbon and stickers, hearts and sparkles - way, way too much.  We talk about the word "gaudy", and how you can't see the things that are on there because there is too much.  The other side is what I call "tasteful" - enough decorations, not bare, but not ridiculous either.  Check out their bags, I think all the kiddos hit the target!


Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten


Many of the children write their friends' names on treats or Valentines that they bring.  Sometimes parents help them, but not always.  Either way, they take turns reading the names of their friends, and delivering their Valentines.  Reading names is a great way to begin reading, what could have more meaning than your own name, and the name of your friends?  They see each other's names in our classroom so often that even the 3 year olds can usually figure out each name - even if only by the first letter.  Oh yes!  We practice looking each other in the eye and thanking our friends for each card or treat, no matter how small. It's easy to get overwhelmed in the giving and receiving, but gratitude is not only a social nicety, but I think a big part of feeling happy.

Our Valentines learning gets another boost about a week later.  Those of you who work in early childhood will smile and understand totally!  My husband usually gets me roses for Valentines (I'm a lucky wife!), and I enjoy them as long as they last.  There comes a day though when they are no longer attractive on my kitchen counter, and it's time to move them on.  Not to the compost or the trash can, oh no!  We can sort and graph with them!

Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

But we still aren't done.  The children love to pull the petals off, pretend with them, give each other flowers... those roses still have at least 2 days of learning left in them!
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Eventually we take them outside and inevitably they are thrown up in the air, danced in, gathered and dumped, loved upon until they are no longer even pretty scraps.  Some end up in sandcastles and "soup", others dry up  on the playground and settle into the mulch. 
Valentines Day Fun with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

I've used this activity with my own kiddos for several years, and they love it.  I hope yours do too!  It's an easy emergent reader that has children reading "This heart is ___ (color)" - a simple text to help them work on color words.
This Heart Poem and Emergent Reader

If you're planning your Valentines Day learning, I hope you'll also check out my Valentines Day resources.
Happy Valentines Day everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vroom! Vroom! Transportation Theme

What comes to mind when you think of a transportation unit?  Cars, trucks, trains, buses, bikes... there are so many possibilities, and the children seem to love them all!  Putting this blog post together, I found so many incredible pictures of transportation activities that we've done... so fasten your seat belt!  We're off!  

First stop, outer space.  I found the idea for our rocket ships at crafty-crafted.com and thought it was so adorable!  Most children seem to enjoy having their feed painted - I think it's the tickle-y feeling and the 1-1 time with a teacher... oh yeah, and the paint and craft supplies... We save our hand and foot print crafts in an alphabet binder, which I promise to share with you soon.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 I bought my astronaut costume on the day after Halloween, when everything was on clearance.  The children quite literally loved it to death.  It was used so hard by so many kiddos that it eventually split in the back and the zipper broke.  Any toy or material that the children use until it is unusable is a winner in my book, far better than those toys that just sit on a shelf unused.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 These kiddos are playing one of the games I created for my Astronauts and Aliens games pack.  It includes two space themed game boards, each in both a full color and a printer-friendly version, plus a snap/concentration style game, all focusing on learning the letter A - although you could use the space themed game boards with whatever skill you want your kiddos to learn.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 Another fun idea that I found via Pinterest.com at redesignrevolution.com it's a great idea for recycling bottles and making a high interest toy all at once.  Who doesn't like free toys?!
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

While I do believe play is very important for young children, and have offered my students a lot of time to explore their world through play, I know there is also room for learning more academic skills.  I believe there is a lot of room for those two philosophies to overlap - so we learned about non-standard units of measurement in a playful way, with these transportation themed math manipulatives from Lakeshore learning.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 I also have a collection of vehicle shaped beads, which the children love to sort by shape, color, translucent/non... so many possibilities. 

 Transportation Math 
Maybe your budget won't allow for manipulatives right now.  (I didn't buy mine new either!)  I've put together some math mats and a collection of paper vehicles to make it easy to incorporate math skills into a transportation unit.

This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
You probably already have puzzles on hand for your kiddos - and if you don't, really, it's time to hit up some garage sales and pick some up.  Puzzles allow children the opportunity to learn to match shapes and colors, to think logically, to manipulate the pieces to develop spacial reasoning skills... and they are also fun!

No transportation unit would be complete without cars and trucks, the kind of transportation that our children have the most experience with. 

This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 The children have spent a lot of time "driving" the big trucks around the backyard.  For the children who really need big body play, bending over to hold a truck, and then running full tilt through the grass is pure joy.  When we're done running, we may as well have a car wash, and clean those vehicles up!  (Do you hear the music for "Working at the car wash" in your head now?  Yes, we sang it while we worked!)
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 Another favorite play item that the children love enough to wear out, is our huge cardboard tubes.  People often ask where I got these, as there are so many great ways to use them, but it's not the kind of item you run to the craft store for.  No.  These were scavenged from the curb when neighbors had new carpet installed - the carpet comes wrapped on these awesome tubes.  Silly neighbors, they didn't know what the tubes are for, and tossed them out. (If you work with children long enough, I think you lose all sense of pride, and start picking up learning materials where-ever you find them.)
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
These kiddos are rolling toy cars and balls down the tubes.  It's great fun to put them in the top of the tube, then race to the bottom to see them magically appear!
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 Here are the same small cars and some construction vehicles, and the children thoroughly enjoying moving some soil around with the trucks.  This was lovely sensory play, pretend, and an opportunity to work on co-operation with our friends, as the children built "road blocks", made mountains, and even buried trucks.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
You probably also have bikes for your children, another great big body play opportunity with a transportation theme.  I have the kids wear helmets, not only for safety, but also because our state has a helmet law, and I do believe in starting out as you intend to continue.  Why let a toddler ride without one, then suddenly try to make them wear it later?  Chances are, they'll resist.  My kiddos know that there is not only no riding without a helmet, but you can't even claim a bike until your helmet is on.  Wow, do they move fast to get their helmets!
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!


Trains, trains, trains!  We love trains! Trains sets, block trains, train crafts, and of course, real trains!  I like to approach each theme with a variety of experiences, so there is something that's just right for each child. 
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

Here are a few more vehicle ideas.  I've created an "ambulance" from a children's wheeled cart and some posterboard.  When we learn about the letter A, they drive the ambulance and say "aa-aa  aa-aa" (an ambulance sound) as they drive it.  This idea came from a brilliant presenter and author many years ago.  I recently gave the book to another provider, and the name eludes me right now.  I will remember and post it here!
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
 I found the tractor at funhandprintartblog.com.  Don't you love having so many wonderful ideas at your fingertips?  I so love the internet!  (I'll age myself for a moment.  When I was a teen, the thing I desperately desired was an encyclopedia set, so that when I wanted to find something out, I could just do it, rather than waiting for the public library to open, and walking there to look it up in the encyclopedia!  Okay, dated myself, and revealed my nerdiness.)
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!

Another vehicle the kiddos are all familiar with is the bus.  This is a great thing to talk about when we're reading the Pigeon books by Mo Willems.  I was lucky enough to find a fun Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus board game last year, and the kids LOVED it.  Board games are a great way to practice taking turns, counting spaces to move, following directions, and cooperating with a group.
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
How have I not mentioned food yet?!  Food is another great way to get children's attention and interest.  Coupled with this obviously sweet bus treat picture, that sounds nutritionally and educationally dreadful.  I promise I don't mean bribing or rewarding children with calorie laden junk, (although we do occasionally enjoy a treat).  I'm thinking of food, and particularly food preparation, as another high interest, multisensory approach to learning.  When we made our bus treat (graham cracker, frosting, rollos for wheels, chocolate squares for windows, candy for stop sign) we talked about colors and shapes, and the children worked on fine motor skills and following directions to put their treat together.

Here's a bus themed activity that I created to work on subtraction skills...
Busy Buses
and for children who are beginning to read...
Transportation Sentence Picture Match

I haven't mentioned ships and boats and submarines yet.  Here's an adorable hand print that Ms. Julie came up with for the letter Y.  It's the only water-faring vehicle I can remember doing anything for! 
This blog post is packed with transportation themed learning activities and ideas for early childhood learning!
I haven't gathered any on my Pinterest Transportation Board either,


so I can see that I'm going to have to work on that.  Do you have any favorite transportation ideas you'd like to share?  Please leave it in the comments below.  Thank you for stopping by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Nursery Rhymes


It's been several months since I blogged.  I've fully intended to, and it really surprised me to find myself without a clue what to write about, now that I don't have a class full of kiddos anymore.   It's definitely different, being a teacher without a class, and without all the normal creative supplies that I guess I haven't been without in 21 years.  You know, simple things like paint and blocks and toys.  I probably could, and maybe should, write about the process of letting go of those things, and how much more of me went along with them than I realized.  Who would have thought that the creative side of me depended upon having paint in the cabinet and small children running around?  


Anyway, I have been working away hard on my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and love it!  It's a different kind of creativity, one that uses the computer rather than paper and glue, and while I am very excited about the things I'm creating there, I don't want my blog to be just an extension of my store.  You don't come here for that, or at least, not only for that!  Teaching and learning ideas is what this blog needs to focus on, so I've been at a blogging stand still.  Until now.

This morning I realized that I want to share my TpT creations AND other teaching ideas, and I have enough photos of children and their projects to last a very long time!  Today I want to share ideas around Nursery Rhymes - some I've written about before, and others are brand new.  I hope you find something you can use with your children!

Humpty Dumpty 
I wrote before about a fun egg dropping activity I found at Mrs Kelly's Kindergarten.  She recommends hard boiling an egg, then predicting whether it will break when dropped on different surfaces, and testing to find out.  The children LOVED this activity!


I'll let you in on a secret - this doesn't end well for Humpty!

The Muffin Man
I've always had the children make muffins and a Muffin Man book when we learn about the letter M.  I simply typed up an opening page with the rhyme on it, then each child filled in their name and a type of muffin on their pages, which went:  _____ is the muffin girl/boy, muffin girl/boy, muffin girl/boy, who likes _______ muffins.  If you want the pages already typed up and printed for you, it is included in my Class Books For Every Letter of the Alphabet.



The Queen of Hearts
Q is such a difficult letter to find things for, so we have always taken full advantage of The Queen of Hearts nursery rhyme!  The Missing Tarts by B. G. Hennessy is a fun book to use, as the characters search for the tarts through many different nursery rhymes, and a recipe is included in the book.
 We liked to dress up as royal characters, and we have been lucky enough to be visited by HRH the Queen (a neighbor and personal friend of mine), for whom we practiced our best manners, and made the tarts.  The children love it when adults join on in the pretend!


This Little Piggy or To Market To Market
I created this cute piggy craft for International Mud Day, but it would work well with a piggy nursery rhyme too if you changed the words you put with it.  Adults traced the circles for the body, head and snout, triangles for ears, and squares for legs, then the children cut them out.  Half a pipe cleaner curled around a pencil made a nice little piggy tail!


 Five Little Ducks, or Six Little Ducks That I Once Knew
There are so many possibilities!  The duck hand print is fairly self explanatory, and the construction paper ducks were very simple: I provided either adult or baby duck shapes, and the children tore construction paper scraps (strengthen those little fingers!) and glued them on.  Don't forget to incorporate real animals when you can!



Jack Be Nimble
This is another nursery rhyme that lends itself to a class book.  _______ be nimble, _____ be quick, _____ jump over the candlestick!  As you can see, our candle stick was the non-flammable kind, but that didn't bother the children at all.  It's not every day that the teacher invites you to run and jump inside!


Mary Had a Little Lamb
This one is also included in my class book set mentioned above.  _____ had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.... so easy, and who doesn't like stuffed animals?  Don't have a sheep?  Ask the parents, or try garage sales, it's amazing what you can find!


 Baa Baa Colorful Sheep
I've also mentioned this one before, it's available for FREE here! I made two versions, one with a picture to color, and this one for us to paint our own sheep on.  I provided the black head shape and eyes after the children finger painted their colorful sheep.  It amazes me how different each sheep is when we make this, and the children love reading the books they helped to make.


The Itsy Bitsy Spider
Okay, I'll admit it, I don't think this one is included in any of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme collections, but every child knows it and loves it, so I'm going to include it!  I found this idea in Mailbox Magazine several years ago.  It's simply a house shape, with a bendy-end straw as a waterspout, with a Halloween spider ring slipped onto it.  A little tape at the top and bottom of the straw so the spider doesn't get lost, and as you can see, the children loved to sing the song and act it out.  Coloring our houses and moving the spider were fine motor workouts, and with the song added in we have literacy and vocabulary development too.  Not too bad for a bendy straw and a plastic spider!


If you have children who are learning to read, I do have one more fun nursery rhyme activity to share with you:  My Nursery Rhyme Sentence Picture Match has 12 simple sentences and pictures for young readers to pair up.  It makes a fun center activity, and there is a follow up worksheet included.  My kindergarteners last year LOVED my sentence picture matching activities, and inspired me to start making more of these activities.    



Nursery Rhyme Sentence Picture Match


Of course there are many, many other nursery rhyme ideas that I haven't touched on.  I have some pinned to my Nursery Rhyme Pinterest board,
and I'm always on the lookout for more fun teaching ideas.  Do you have a favorite nursery rhyme activity you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear from you!