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!
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:

 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.
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:


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!