Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and 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!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Like Kids Books and I Cannot Lie

What a perfect Linky I just stumbled upon!

Primary Polka Dots is hosting a linky party about favorite Children's books... and this is soooooooo me!  Just a couple of weeks ago I posted this picture of my culled down collection of children's books, and I can't tell you how many times I've written about books that I love to use. 

I am so excited to join up to this linky, and find out more about what other people like too!

The challenge of course, is to come up with a favorite.  Or a few favorites.  Or at least a manageable number of favorites... and that is so hard!  I'm going to cheat a little, and go with some of my favorite categories.

Pop-Up Books.
I adore pop-up books.  I love pop-up books.  I covet pop-up books.  I am not yet in a 12 step program for addicts of pop-up books, but that is because I do not want to give up my obsession!  There are several pop-up authors who stand out to me: Robert Sabuda, Jan Pienkowski, and David A. Carter.  A few years ago my family visited Washington D.C., and I was beyond thrilled to visit a Smithsonian exhibit dedicated to the history of pop-up books.  My very very favorite (at this exact moment at least) is
 Image result for 600 black spots a pop-up book by David A. Carter.  This is volume 3 in a 5 volume set that explores color and art, as well as what it means to be a pop up.  Each book is named after a color: One Red Dot, Blue 2, 600 Black Spots, Yellow Square and White Noise, and those are the only 5 colors he uses in the entire collection.  My favorite page is:

I love to read this book, count spots, explore the pop ups, and then provide the children with strips of primary colored paper, and black circles in various sizes.  No matter how they arrange them on their pages, they always look fantastic, and the children really make a connection with the art and artists.  It's a great time to do this art activity too:

The children made horizontal and vertical lines with black duct tape, and painted primary colors into the resulting rectangles. I really love that they remember the name of the artist Mondrian as a result!

Books to get excited by:
You know the ones, the interactive, fun, exciting, read along, talk back to the character books.  Nothing will get a group of 4 year olds more excited than a read along with The Pigeon or Pete the Cat, except maybe the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems.
They love the interaction and the energy these books, and others like them, provide - and so do I!

Calming Books:
Of course,  there are also times when you need to calm your children, bring that energy level back down, and get calm.  I'm including Mem Fox's Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, because I do so love Mem Fox!  Her books often address big issues in ways that are perfect for little learners, things like embracing diversity (Whoever You Are), death (Sophie, Tough Boris), and getting old (Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge).  Mem Fox is considered an expert on teaching children to read, and she uses her knowledge of young children to create books that appeal deeply to both children and their adult reading companions.

My other book in this category is The Snail's Spell, by Joanne Ryder.  In this book she invites children to pretend they are snails, and walks them through what it is like to be a snail.  I have used this book countless times with groups of children who just couldn't calm down, and reading it slowly and calmly, and allowing time to act out each page has worked every time.

Favorite Authors/Illustrators

I couldn't have a favorite book list without amazing author/illustrators!  Again, how to pick just one?  There are many, more of course than I can fit in one blog post, but here are a few stand outs.

Keith Baker.  You would likely know him from Who Is The Beast? but he has written many others, and his illustrations are always phenomenal.  Every page includes a hidden something to search for, in Big Fat Hen the word "hen" is hidden within the feathers of every hen.  My youngest son spent many many hours searching out the hidden treats in Keith Baker's work!

Jeanette Canyon (artist).  Look at this cover illustration for Over In The Ocean by Marianne Berkes!
Every tiny detail was made with clay, sculpted, carved, rolled out... amazing!  I could spend hours pouring over the illustrations, but coupled with the text, this is a lovely counting book, with enough thought put into it that you will discover nuances in your second and subsequent readings.

Lois Ehlert.  You know her illustrations from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, deceptively simple, and totally engaging.  Fish Eyes (this is my third copy of this book!) is another fantastic math concept book, both a counting book, and an addition book for +1, and also there's a hidden black fish on every page.... brilliant in her simplicity, I love Lois Ehlert's beautiful books and illustrations.

Denise Fleming.  Another distinctive artist whose work I have admired and collected for over 20 years.
     Front Cover    
I admire the way her illustrations seem to glow, and have found that if I point out her style to students, they can recognize her work in subsequent books.  Fleming's text is simple but poetic, and appeals to youngsters and adults alike.  I've written previously about using Where Once There Was a Wood to help students write poetry, and I've made a packet of activities to follow up Lunch, which you can see here.

Sing-along Books
I love to sing.  Those of you who know me, or read my blog often enough, may recall that I once thought I would grow up to be a singer.  Lucky me, I did!  Well, not in the way that I imagined/hoped, but I do sing with my kiddos a lot, and book-songs are special to me. 

Do you remember Puff?  This book came with a CD, so we can read and listen and imagine along.  Beautiful!  When I taught my preschool kiddos, the CD made a lovely transition to nap time, usually after we had already read/sung the book.

Image result for puff the magic dragon

I also love  Image result for this land is your land book a fantastic sing along of the folk song, once again with illustrations that will touch your heart.  Both of these books feel to me like important parts of our culture, things every child should be familiar with. 

No singing story collection would be complete without this one: Ten Sly Piranhas.  I bought this book and tape way back in the olden days (early 90's) when we used tapes in our listening centers.  Every group of children I've taught since then has loved those sneaky fishes, and the large piranha manipulatives I made to go along with the book.  This is a "counting story in reverse" - great for teaching subtraction, but the song is what absolutely makes it a class favorite!  Hop over to YouTube to hear it!

Thank you so much to Primary Polka Dots for starting this linky - now, forgive me, but I need to go check out all the other posts.  I might just find more favorite books!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I LOVE my treadmill desk!

It all started with a neighbor.  One day I realized that my neighbor had lost a LOT of weight, about 50 pounds.  My husband complimented him on it, and found out that he had started using a treadmill desk at work.  A what?  Treadmill desk?  This was just over a year ago, and I had never heard of such a thing.
The ins and outs of using a treadmill desk - and why I love mine!

My husband was spending a great deal of time on his computer, and had been feeling the effects of sitting for long periods of time.  After doing some research, he decided he really wanted to try a treadmill desk too.  Although they aren't cheap, we decided that it was an investment in his health, and bought one.  I'm so glad we did!

Fast forward to me closing my preschool and kindergarten, and spending more time sitting at the computer.  At first it was such a relief to be off my feet, instead of constantly moving about with a dozen kiddos!  It was NOT such a relief to watch how my body changed in response, so I started "borrowing" Hubby's treadmill desk.

When we relocated recently, I got my own treadmill desk so I can use it all the time. For those of you who are thinking about it, or maybe who just know that you're sitting too much and want to do something about it, I'm going to try to address the questions you might have about treadmill desks.

The ins and outs of using a treadmill desk - and why I love mine!

First of all, I have a Life Span desk.  I haven't tried any others, so I can only speak to my limited experience.  (This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love. )

The first thing most people ask about the treadmill desk, is how easy it is to work on the computer while walking.  Believe it or not, it's just fine!  I really expected there to be some coordination challenges - I'm no clutz, but I'm also not the most graceful thing in the world.  :-)  What a great surprise it was to find that I can not only type while walking, but can do fine mouse work, and work with graphics.  The Life Span desk has a built in wrist rest, which is very comfortable, and resting my hands there steadies them for typing and mousing.

Some people ask how long I can stay walking.  That's an ever changing thing.  :-)  When I first started borrowing my husband's desk, I easily did 30 - 45 minutes a couple of times a day.  I set the speed to 1.5 mph, which feels like a nice strolling pace to me.  Upon relocating in June, and really needing to get exercising, I started out with 4 - 5 hours total each day, at 1.8 mph.  Some days that was pushing myself a little hard, and my knees would complain.  Now I walk 2.0 - 2.2 mph, and can do up to 4 hours in one day.  That works out to about 8 miles of walking!

I wish I had thought more about stretching my legs and resting them occasionally throughout the day when I started this!  I've discovered that I feel a lot better if I stretch my legs throughout the day.  Not just a quick excuse for a stretch either, but really giving each muscle group some attention.  Why did I not realize there were muscles that hadn't seen much work in a while?!  I've definitely discovered a few that I didn't remember.

Another thing I wish I had known - and I'm telling you - is that it is so worth it to get the adjustable height desk.  Hubby's is adjustable, but I'm.... frugal.  I really didn't think it was worth the extra money to get the desk that electrically changes height.  When hubby and I shared a desk, we definitely needed to adjust it up and down often, and that made sense.  I thought that since it would be just me using this one, that I didn't need that feature.  Wrong!

After several hours of walking, there are days I want to sit down to work for a while, but I can't easily lower my desk.  Solution?  A tall chair.  Okay, don't laugh at me... here's what I rigged up:
The ins and outs of using a treadmill desk - and why I love mine!
That's a piece of wood set over the treadmill, with a bar stool on it.  Except I'm short, and so is the barstool... and it wasn't comfortable.  I put a ream of copy paper on the bar stool, with 2 chair cushions on top of that, and it's now the correct height.  I'm telling you, unless you want to move bar stools and boards around, get the desk that's made to adjust electronically!

Is anyone wondering about my 2 monitors?  They are fabulous!  Not long ago I would have flat out refused to even consider using something like that, which is to say, messing with my technology so that I have to learn a new way to use it.  I wasn't a technophobe... I just had a very specific skill set, and when you work with little children, everything has to happen 10 seconds ago.  There was never time to stop and think about how to turn something on, or how to get to what we needed.  (Teachers understand.)  Now that I am working full time on my TeachersPayTeachers store, I'm using the computer in different ways, and learning a lot of new things.  Super hubby set this up for me; the two monitors operate as one large desktop.  This is fantastic when I work on products, because I don't have to toggle back and forth between windows, so I'm much more productive.

Do you have any questions about using a treadmill desk?  Has anyone else considered it or tried it?  I'd love to hear your feedback, and if you have questions, I'd love to share my experiences with you!

This post was featured on the TpT blog!

Friday, July 17, 2015

A touch of Texas

A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings
During our recent move, I found all kinds of things that had been tucked away safely, only to be forgotten.  If you have ever moved, you know what I'm talking about!  If you haven't ever moved, you're in for all kinds of surprises when you eventually do!

While many of the things I found were junk, I came across this little treasure too, and wanted to share.
A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings

I can't take credit for the idea, it's something my first grade team did during spring time almost 20 years ago.  I can't credit the right person either, I simply don't remember who suggested it, or where they got the idea.  What I can tell you for sure, is that it was a sweet little project, and that the parents loved it!

You may not be able to tell from this picture, but it is actually a quilted rectangle with several layers to it.  It will take some adult preparation, plus 2 days of student work to complete.

To make it, you need:
  -plain white cotton fabric
  -plain blue cotton fabric
  -iron-on 2-sided adhesive
  -a layer of batting
  -white, green, and blue fabric paint
  -fine brush
  -pretty scraps of a contrasting color
  -embroidery thread
  -a needle.

Cut the white cotton fabric, blue cotton fabric, and batting into equal sized pieces.  Ours were 8.5 x 11".  Set aside.
A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings

The next step needs to be completed for ALL the copies you will make at once.  If you're going to make one project, only do it once.  If you plan to make a class set of 22, you need to prep them all before you cut!  Follow the directions for your iron on adhesive, attaching it to another piece of white cotton fabric - not the one you already set aside, another piece.  After it is fused, cut a smaller rectangle.  Ours was 5 x 8".  This will be the part that gets painted.  You want this piece to look perfect, so trim very carefully!  When you are satisfied, center it on the plain blue cotton rectangle, and fuse it in place.  You will now have all the pieces shown above, ready for your student artists.

On the first student work day for this project, the children will paint their bluebonnets.  They'll paint some small leaves, and a long stem with the green paint and the brush.  Then it's finger print time!  If you can show your students real bluebonnets, or at least closeup photos of them, you'll see that the color isn't consistent over the whole flower.
A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings
There are usually more white petals towards the top, and more blue ones toward the bottom.  We had the children paint the blue fingerprints first, then added white ones in another layer.  Our children were delighted with the results!

The second student work day is for sewing.  I strongly recommend having a bunch of prethreaded needles ready, or you will spend the entire time rethreading while the students wait!  Young children can usually "get" the idea of the needle going down on one stitch, then up on the next, it's a pattern, so you're incorporating some mathematical thinking as well as a lot of fine motor skills as you do this.  Keep the threads no more than 18" long to start, it isn't enough to go all the way around, but it seems to be as much as little hands can manage without tangling.  Layer your pieces: white backing, batting, blue painted piece, and safety pin in place so it isn't going to slip while the children work.

Students sew the embroidery thread around the edge.  It won't look picture perfect, but they and their families will think it is beautiful!  Finish it off by hot gluing a small bow or some buttons in one corner.  (Our bows were tied in fabric scraps 1" x 12".)

If you've read this far, you are a brave teacher/parent, bravo!  Yes, this project does take a lot of adult supervision and guidance.  If you can get some volunteers to help you do this, take all the help that is offered.  The reason we did this, even with all the time and effort involved, is that it is a beautiful memento of those little hands working.  Children are proud of the results, mommies hung them up to display, and everyone remembered what bluebonnets look like, and that they are the state flower of Texas.  These make fantastic Mother's Day gifts a few weeks after the bluebonnets are finished blooming!
A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings

Some of you are thinking about all the pretty fabrics you could use instead of the plain blue one behind the painting.  I know I thought it would look fantastic with a nice gingham.  Here's why we used a solid color: the background shows through and distracts from the painting.
A Touch of Texas: bluebonnet paintings
I know posting this in July is absolutely the wrong time of year for bluebonnets, but if I wait until late March, this project will have found its way back into a cupboard, only to be forgotten all over again.

Here's another Texas learning activity I want to share too.
Texas Bingo Game
This is my Texas bingo game, for reviewing 12 different symbols of Texas: armadillo, the Lone Star, pecans, the Texas Flag, longhorn cattle, cowboys, The Alamo, the Seal of the State of Texas, prickly pear cactus, bluebonnets, Texas, and mockingbirds.  Children love to make games out of everything - it's just more fun that way - so I put this social studies learning into a bingo format.  There are 24 game boards with the colorful outlines, and 24 in a printer friendly format.  I used some cool star buttons as playing pieces, but you could use any kind of small manipulative that's handy.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, bye y'all!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fairy Tales - part one

Oh my goodness!  It really surprises me that I've never blogged about fairy tales.  They are one of the staples of childhood, and have been for... well... probably forever, or very close.

Today's children are often introduced to fairy tales by the Disney movie versions.  You can probably immediately name at least 5 of their fairy tale movies: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled... and your children can probably name a dozen more.  I love the movie versions, and my own children watched them when they were little (and some favorites when not so little).

Of course, as a teacher, I want the children in my charge to do more than sit and passively receive a movie version of the stories.  I want BOOKS!

(True confession, I have a problem with children's books.  When I closed my preschool, I culled my collection - very painful! - and these are the children's books I KEPT.  Could not part with.  No, no children in my home, no classroom.  These are mine, good friends I could not part with.  Same with the two puppies in front of the shelves.)

But I digress. Books have always been, for me, and my generation, a doorway to another world.  Growing up, before VHS and Beta, let alone the internet, movies weren't easily accessible, even listening to music relied heavily on waiting for your favorite songs on the radio.  The most accessible form of media was books: at home, at school, and at the public library.  Books were treasures then, and for me they always will be.

To go along with books, our children also need action and involvement.  Do you remember acting out your favorite stories with your friends?  It was probably outside, because that's where we played the most.  Tammy (my  next door neighbor and best friend) and I played and replayed fairy tale stories.  She was always the princess, I was always the prince.  (I forgive you Tammy.)  There was a lot of running and hiding and tree climbing involved, because that's also just how it was.

Today we're blessed with an abundance of fantastic books that tell not only the traditional versions of fairy tales, but also variations galore.  There are fractured fairy tales, with unexpected and non-traditional role reversals (the wolf as the good guy, big bad pigs), and variations from other cultures and traditions.  Clever people the world over have shared their ideas for making the stories come to life on their blogs and on Pinterest.com.  I have a collection of fairy tale ideas at https://www.pinterest.com/paulaspreschool/fairy-tales/, and I'd love to hear your suggestions - please leave a comment if you have an idea to share too!

I'm going to have to write separate blog posts for different tales, because there are so many fun ways to enjoy them.  I'm going to start with just a few that come to mind today, and will revisit this over the next few months.

Cinderella clean up game
My kiddos LOVED this game!  I put on my very best overdone British accent, and loudly proclaim myself as the evil stepmother, and the classroom as "Filthy!"  "Clean it up, or you can't go to the ball!"  The girls especially loved this game, but plenty of boys joined in on the action too.  I would hand out baby wipes or small cloths, child sized brooms and dustpans, and even get out the vacuum cleaner.  Parents arriving during this game were usually amazed to see how hard the children were working, scurrying around, wiping the floor and putting things away.  "My child doesn't know how to use a vacuum cleaner," was a frequent comment.  Ummmm... yes he does.  "I wish she would do this at home," was another.  I will tell you all my secret: make it fun.  Children love it when we join in and pretend with them.  If a silly accent and ridiculous comments will get the room cleaned up, do it!  Mary Poppins taught us this long ago, it's the "spoon full of sugar that makes the medicine go down."

Cook something to go with the story
We LOVE Margie Palatini's story, Piggie Pie!  You can hear it read on YouTube.com here, but if you can find the recording made to go with the book - do it!  We followed up by making our own version of Piggie Pie - pigs in a blanket.

Don't forget crafts and art projects!  Here we made queens, to go along with our cherry tart cooking, and a visit from the queen.

Here's a fun reading activity I created to go along with fairy tale learning:

 Students read the simple sentences and then match them to the pictures.  We talk about the kinds of characters you can find in fairy tales.
There are follow up worksheets, if that's something you want to use.

There are so many possibilities, and I need to go back through my kazillions of photos to find more pictures of fairy tale fun at school, so I can work on the next installment to blog about.  What's your favorite fairy tale?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Christmas In July

Do you love Christmas? I do!  There is so much to enjoy... a certain jolly old elf...
 ...making and hanging decorations on the tree...
 ...seasonal art and craft projects...

...opportunities to explore the changes in the weather...
... and PRESENTS!
You do like gifts, right?  Well, good news!  I'm participating in the Christmas in July sale on TpT, and we have lots of gifts for you!

Do  you want a sneak peek? 
I have the hashtags up in my store, just waiting for the sale to begin.  Happy Christmas in July everyone!

Friday, July 3, 2015

TpT Sellers Challenge Week 3: Make Your Masterpiece

Like a lot of other teacher-authors, I really love clip art!  There are a LOT of clip artists on TeachersPayTeachers, but of course, I have some favorites!

During the last big sale, I stocked up on clip art, especially from Kari Bolt and Educlips, my absolute favorites, so when this week's challenge came around, I knew just which clipart I wanted to work with!
Community Helpers Clip Art

Don't you love it?!  I looked at a lot of different community helper sets before deciding on this one.  I love Kari Bolt's style, but I also love the beautiful variety of people she includes in every set - men and women, young and old, different races.  She's also lovely to work with - I recently contacted her with a special request, and she was very helpful - and I was able to finish my project quickly.

Anyway, here is my final product!
I'm really pleased to have this one ready for fall, when so many of us teach about careers and communities.  Now, I'm off to work on some more projects to go along with this theme... stay tuned!

Want to see more masterpieces?  These bloggers organized this challenge, you can see more when you stop by one of these blogs!
 http://www.thirdinhollywood.com/  http://www.teachcreatemotivate.com/
Peppy Zesty Teacherista  Sparkling in Second

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rocking In Our School Shoes

See how this teacher had her kids "Rocking In Their School Shoes" like Pete, and how to turn it into a class book. Perfect for back to school!
You've met Pete, the grooviest cat around,  right?
If you have, teach, or know anyone in the preschool crowd, you've probably heard of Pete the Cat.  I've written about some of our "Pete" activities before, and today I'm going to share another.
This particular Pete book is fantastic for back to school time, as Pete visits various areas in a school, much as students can expect to do: the library, lunch room, classroom, and more.  Pete also finds out that they are "all good." You have to love his cattitude!

That week is also a time when students are getting to know one and other, and are learning each others' names.  I decided to use Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes to help my students learn their classmates' names and practice reading.

After we read the book, everyone had a chance to come up to the front and rock out in their school shoes while we sang the chorus from the book.  You don't know the tune?  No problem!  You can hear Eric Litwin, the author, perform it on Youtube.com at this link!  It has a great rhythm to it, and your kiddos will be singing along in no time!

See how this teacher had her kids "Rocking In Their School Shoes" like Pete, and how to turn it into a class book. Perfect for back to school!

See how this teacher had her kids "Rocking In Their School Shoes" like Pete, and how to turn it into a class book. Perfect for back to school!

See how this teacher had her kids "Rocking In Their School Shoes" like Pete, and how to turn it into a class book. Perfect for back to school!

See how this teacher had her kids "Rocking In Their School Shoes" like Pete, and how to turn it into a class book. Perfect for back to school!

After we all rocked out (and I took pictures), each child wrote their name and a description of their own shoes on a page I'd made:

 ________ was rocking in his/her _________ shoes.

There wasn't much writing to do, just their name and one adjective about their shoes, so it wasn't intimidating for a beginning of the year project.  We used the photos to illustrate the pages, and of course, you know when you make a book out of student writing and illustrate with their photos, they want to read it!

Our book was an instant hit in the classroom library, and each time we read it, we were reviewing the names of our friends.

Thank you Pete!

P.S. If you like this activity, be sure to check Are You Rocking? for an adorable Pete finger puppet!