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!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rainy Learning at Story Time

This week we had a fun, rain themed story time at the library.  It was a beautiful sunshiny day outside, but that didn't stop us from learning about rain and other weather!  (I'm not sure that anything can stop 40 excited children.)

One of our books today was the classic, It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw. I knew it was a classic, but as we prepped for story time today, Ms. Debbie pointed out that this was first published in 1947.  Wow!

The format is super simple: blue pages with white shapes on them, and a catchy, repetitive refrain:  "Sometimes it looked like a ___, but it wasn't a ____."  The last page reveals that all those white shapes were clouds in the sky.

This book inspired our first follow up activity, cloudy finger painting.  This little girl was really getting in to it!
True confession.  We were running low on blue construction paper today, so we pulled out some that had a snowman shape chalked on one side of it, and put the clean side up.  One child flipped their paper and discovered the chalk outline, and pretty soon we had a whole bunch of snowman clouds!


In another portion of our story time, we demonstrated condensation and precipitation.  The demonstration on the left shows water topped with a layer of shaving cream, and we dripped food coloring on top of that.  When the food coloring soaked through the shaving cream, it left beautiful and colorful streaks through the water.

The second demonstration involved very hot water in a clear glass bowl, topped with a pie tin full of ice cubes.  The water vapor (steam) rises, then hits the cold pie tin, just as water vapor in our atmosphere rises until it cools in the atmosphere.  When it cools enough, it turns from steam/gas into rain/ liquid, and precipitates down.  You can see the condensation on the sides of the bowl.  Do you see the little fingers in the pie plate?  This little guy noticed that a lot of the ice was melted, and wondered if it was the condensation or rain?  I had to explain that all that hot steam had melted some of our ice cubes.

You can't talk about rainy weather with children without offering a chance to play in water!
 Our water play area was full of various colanders, and we also had out cotton balls.  The idea is to put dry cotton balls (clouds) in a colander, then slowly add water.  The cotton balls will hold only so much water (just like clouds) before becoming saturated - and then the water falls out.  As it falls through the holes in the colander it can look like rain - if you have cooperative children who want to play with the materials the way you envisioned it.  Other wise, you might have a lot of soaking of cotton balls, pouring of water, and great sensory play.  I'll leave it up to you to guess which way that one went! :-)

Our next activity was a science experiment (scaled down for the 3-5 year old bunch), about things that might blow in the wind.
The children were supposed to predict which things might blow, and then test their hypothesis by using the paper fans to make a breeze.  We talked about how scientists make predictions, or guesses, and then try things out to see if they are right or not - and that when their predictions aren't right, they learn something new and try again.  At this age (and sadly, for much much longer for a lot of us), kiddos want to be "right", so I think it's important that we talk about that it is okay for our predictions to be wrong!  Anyway, we had a lot of fanning going on, and a lot of the feathers and tissue paper ended up on the floor, but those blocks and crayons could not be budged.

As usual, I couldn't limit myself to creating just 3 stations... I get so excited by all the fun things we can explore and play with and learn about... so I brought out the vortexes!
This is a tornado tube in action: it is just a connector for 2 soda bottles, with a single hole in it.  When you turn the aparatus over so all the water is on the top, then move the top portion in a circular motion, all the water in the top forms a vortex as it spins down into the lower bottle.  The kiddos were fascinated!  So were a lot of the grown ups!

A quick note for anyone who might want to do this activity - water bottles and smaller soda bottles didn't work as well as the 2 liters.  We could not get a really nice seal with the other bottles, and had some drips from them.  Also, this is so neat to watch, you are going to want to have enough water that the process lasts that bit longer than it would with a smaller bottle.

For all the fun those other activities provided, this one was clearly the winner: a vortex to spin coins down.
I bought this simple toy at a museum gift shop at least 10 years ago, and it has always been a kid favorite!  It's a table top version of the coin eating vortexes you sometimes see in public places, except with this one you can retrieve the coins and play it over and over again.

There are 5 children sharing a single toy in this picture.  Let me repeat that.  There are   five  children  sharing  a  single  toy.  There were at least five children playing with it the entire time it was available, and they all shared.  Any toy that can achieve that kind of preschool nirvana is a winner in my book!

As our families were finishing up, we had out a graph for the children to contribute to.  Today I asked which weather they preferred, rainy, snowy or sunny.
This time we made a pictograph, and I added the orange lines to guide the children in lining up their pictures.  As the child in the picture above was adding her picture, we noticed that there were 5 votes in each category, and we got to revisit the word (and sign language sign) for equal.

A short time later the results were very different, and a clear choice was established.  I noticed several children who made their choice, went back to our activities, and then returned to check the graph!  They were looking at it, counting the pictures, and interpreting data!  I know, I know, interpreting data sounds a whole lot more complex than checking to see which weather had the most votes - but it is indeed a very early way of analysing data. 
I'm so proud of our kiddos, and their families.  It's amazing what small people can do!




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why graph with kids?

If you are a regular reader (:-) Thank you!), you may have noticed that I talk about graphing with children fairly often.  Looking back over past blogs, you can see graphs about ice cream flavors, what day we brought apples to school, favorite characters, and preferred activities.  We graphed about the weather every day, and I created hundreds (yes, really) of graphs for us so we could do a graph every day after lunch.

So, why would I do that?  Why take up valuable classroom time, not to mention valuable preparation time, for something so simple?  Could it possibly be that worthwhile?  What do children really learn from graphing?



Vocabulary
Children learn language by hearing it and then by speaking it.  They can't learn words they don't hear (or read), and vocabulary is a strong indicator of success in school and in life.  Hearing and using language is very important, and graphing offers opportunities to use a lot of math language!  We all want our children to be successful, so using a rich and varied vocabulary is very important.

Numeracy
When we graph with students, including looking back at the graph and learning how to use the data it contains, we're talking about numbers and their relationships with each other.  Our students count to answer questions like "How many ___", and counting, especially for the youngest kiddos, reinforces the number sequence and 1-1 correspondence (saying one number for each object or mark on the graph.) We use numerals, the written form of numbers.  As an early childhood teacher, I've noticed that children are much more likely to have worked on letters at home, than to have worked with numbers.  They need to be able to read the symbols for both, and graphing provides a real life, hands on, engaging way to work with numbers.  (Especially if you're graphing about something they care about, like ice cream flavors or favorite characters!)

Computation
Math, plain and simple.  "How many more ___ than ___?" is actually a subtraction question.  "How many ___ and ___?" is an addition problem.  Deciding which choice on the graph had the most or fewest (the kiddos often say which one "won" or "lost") involves comparing 2 numbers.  The physical representation of those numbers on the graph makes it a concrete way for young children to learn about adding and subtracting, by counting on and counting down. While you really shouldn't expect a 3 year old to be able to answer 9 - 5 = ?, if you show them a graph with those numbers represented, they can definitely figure it out!  We're preparing their brains for higher learning skills.

There are a lot of great reasons to graph with young children, not the least of which is to spend quality time talking with them, and letting them express their ideas and favorites.  It's pretty awesome that doing something so fun turns out to be really educational and developmentally appropriate too!  If you would like a copy of these graphing posters (without my picture on them), they are FREE on my TeachersPayTeachers store.  I would be honored it you would download them, print them, and then go have some fun learning about graphs with the youngsters in your life!  If you find them useful, taking a moment to provide feedback on TpT is a great way to tell me thank you.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Graphing-Posters-FREE-2400616

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

St. Patrick's day word building freebie

True confession time.  I really like clip art!  I may (or may not) need to be in a 12 step program for my addiction... I mean, I use it for creating teaching resources, so it can't be all bad, can it?

Last week I was playing around with some St. Patrick's day art - see the adorable rainbow and pot of gold? - and decided to make a fun word building activity.  Many of my students really enjoyed manipulating small things, like these 1" letter tiles. (They are great for word building activities!)  I combined the cute graphics with the letter tiles and - tada!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Saint-Patricks-Day-Word-Building-2392921 
I ended up making 4 pages of words, and a follow up page to write the words on.  So simple, so fun, and also, so very happy to share it with you!  If you'd like a copy, head on over to my TeachersPayTeachers store, and download it for free!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fun with Elephant and Piggie!

We LOVE Elephant and Piggie!  And Pigeon! And Knuffle Bunny!  Pretty much all of Mo Willems' books!  Okay... I guess basically I just love books... but Elephant and Piggie are special!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
This week we had an Elephant and Piggie story time.  :-)  Do you see who is trying to sneak in?
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
That silly Pigeon!  Don't worry Pigeon, you'll have your own special day in a few weeks.

Ms. Debbie and I acted out/read There Is A Bird On My Head.  I knew we were having fun with it, but it wasn't until I looked at the pictures one of our patrons took of us reading, that I saw how focused the children were on us.  I think the kiddos may have enjoyed it almost as much as we did!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
Of course we sang and danced, and Ms. Debbie read another book about our cute friends - and then we got to play/learn.
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
I downloaded the Pigeon and Duckling finger puppets from PigeonPresents.com.  Mo Willems has all kinds of awesome resources for schools and libraries to use for his book celebrations, and there are also online games for children to play on his site.  You should definitely check it out!

The children made "nests" from paper bowls and brown paper.  I especially love the skinny pieces of cut brown paper sack, they made awesome "straw" for the nests.  Everyone colored birds and put them in their nests.  Now they can act out the story just like Ms. Debbie and I did!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
Look at those fine motor skills - strengthening little fingers to prepare them for writing tasks as they prepare for school.

Our next station was making Piggie paper bag puppets.  I found the idea here.  There wasn't a pattern for them, and our paper sacks were very small, so I whipped up an outline and made copies on pink paper.  
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
The kiddos cut them out, and added eyes and nostrils to their piggy faces, and ta-da!  Piggie puppets!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!

So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!

Of course we also needed a third activity, a sensory bin.  One of the Elephant and Piggie books is Shall I Share My Ice Cream?, so Ms. Kathleen made us some ice cream dough.  She mixed a large box of baking soda with several packets of frosting mix in (just color and scent, sugar free powdered drink mix would work too), and made us pink and blue "ice cream" to play with.  We kept it in the refrigerator until it was time to play, so that it was cold too!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
We pulled out ice cream scoops and some stale ice cream cones, and our friends had a great time!
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
I often mention that the children have different ideas for how to use things than what we envision, and this week was no exception.  One little girl played with her "ice cream" for so long that the cone began falling apart.  That was a new opportunity to explore, and she crumbled the cone and dough together for a very long time.  As I watched her, she told me she was making it into a "salad".  (I can see a lot of potential for an ice cream salad, she's brilliant!)

So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
I turned poster board into the cover of an Elephant and Piggy book, I Am In A Book, and we took pictures of our friends in it.  When they were all done, Ms. Debbie and I had a turn too!

As the children left, we asked them to vote/graph about which character they preferred, Elephant or Piggie.
So many fun ideas about ways to celebrate Elephant and Piggie: bird on my head hats, we are in a book poster, Piggie puppets, ice cream sensory play and more!
The graph is on the bottom left of our new graphing wall, and you can see for yourself which character had the most votes!  I created some posters to help parents see what we learn from this activity, and am happy to share them with you too.  They are free on my TeachersPayTeachers store, please click and download.

We'll keep building on this wall each week, always talking briefly about the results of the previous week's graph.  When we looked at our Chinese New Year graph, we noticed that there were 10 votes for dragon painting, and 10 votes for tangrams - they were equal!  We learned the sign language sign for equal, and added a great math word to our vocabularies.  I made sure that this week's graph is oriented vertically, because graphs are definitely not always horizontal.  We'll have to have some pictographs soon, and.... well, all that will have to wait.  Stay tuned, and come back next week to see what else we are getting up to at the library!

Need more Elephant and Piggie ideas?  Check out my post about Happy Pig Day  with lots more ideas about celebrating these favorite characters!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Kung Hei Fat Choi  -  Wishing you all a prosperous new year!
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
We celebrated Chinese New Year at story time this week, and as usual, we had a blast!

I got to lead story time, which is sooooo much fun!  I love reading to the little ones, and singing and dancing, and did I mention all the fun things we get to do afterwards?  While I'm sure some people think I'm doing this as an act of volunteerism, I have to admit that getting to hang out and play with small people is an absolute treat for me.

I put together some props to use while retelling the story of the Great Race - the story of how the years of the Chinese Zodiac were named for 12 animals. 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Chinese-New-Year-Story-of-the-Zodiac-2377808
We started with the animals lined up on one side of the felt board, and as I told the story I moved each animal across.  The children helped me figure out which number each animal was, and I put up the numbered cards across the top.  (This modeled the left to right progression of our writing, as well as numerical order - but all the children saw was a fun activity.)  Can you see the dragon puppets flying by the animals in the lower right hand corner?  One of our guests really loved the shiny dragons.

How about these for shiny dragons!?  One of our sensory bins had golden dragons, red tinsel, gold coins, red envelopes, and some other shiny shapes hidden in it. 
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Here's our other sensory bin: pompons with jewels, tongs and clothes pins to work those fine motor skills.
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Here it is in action:
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Those little fingers are working hard, developing muscles that will later help these children to hold pencils as they learn to write.

Block play helps build hand muscles too, while also working on spacial skills, balancing, and learning about 3 dimensional shapes (with an occasional lesson in gravity thrown in for good measure!)
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Painting our dragon scenes was very popular this week, as friends used sparkly paint to create a background, and added dragons on top. At least, that's what I thought was the plan, but as usual the children took the materials furthar and in different ways than we poor adults can hope to imagine: beautiful silhouettes!
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

I was surprised to see that the favorite center this week was actually the tangrams!  This set of 7 shapes can be formed into a square, or any number of other creations.  I read a wonderful book, The Tangram Magician by Lisa Campbell Ernst (no, I'm not affiliated with any book sellers, the link is just for your convenience).  In the story a magician transforms himself into different animals and objects, which are all represented with tangrams.  The kiddos LOVED it!  I put out tangram patterns of all 12 animals of the Zodiac that I made, plus enough paper tangrams for everyone to make their own creation - and they did!
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Here's our graph that we made to show which activities each child liked best.  We looked at last week's graph, and introduced some great mathematical language: more, less, most, least.  Graphing their favorites is an easy way to introduce graphing, and all the math skills it entails - and it gives us great feedback that we can use as we plan future activities.
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Each child went home with a red envelope with a nickel in it (red envelopes with money are a traditional New Year gift), and one of our families brought in delicious New Year cakes that she made for everyone.
Learning about Chinese New Year wth Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 It looks like a very good new year indeed!

For more Chinese New Year activities, please see my Chinese New Year Pinterest board, and see this post from a previous celebration.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hearts for Valentine's Day

For our STEAM story time this week, we focused on Valentines day and hearts.  Yes, the cutesy pink and purple ones to glue on paper and to give to our beloved family members, but also the blood pumping, hard working muscular kind!

Ms. Debbie chose stories for both kinds of hearts, and we did some serious dancing and singing in between them to get our hearts beating hard.  It's so much easier to sit still for a story when you've had a chance to get your wiggles out!

The only difficulty we had with this theme, was limiting the number of activities we had to follow up!

One of our stories was My Heart Is Like a Zoo, by Michael Hall.   All the illustrations were of animals made exclusively with heart shapes - so we offered lots and lots of heart shapes, glue, paper and crayons for the children to create with.
Here are a couple of their creations:

There were also crowns, cards, and a few animals, as well as a whole lot of little fingers working hard at spreading glue and placing hearts - great fine motor skills for our preschool crowd to work on, and a lot of special 1-1 time with our caregivers.

I mentioned last week that a lot of our friends seem to crave sensory experiences, immersing themselves in whatever medium they can (quite literally) get their hands on!  This week we offered sensory slime to meet that need.  I added directions and links to the recipe so that parents and kiddos could easily recreate the experience at home.  Want to make slime?  I found the recipe here.

 I offered 3 different slimes to start with.  Two were made with Elmer's glue and liquid starch - one bright pink, the other white, and a third was made with clear glue and liquid starch, and included heart confetti pieces.  The texture of the one made with clear glue was much lumpier, and the children didn't use it nearly as much as the others.  As you can see, mixing colors with them was almost as much fun as feeling the cold, slimy mess running through our fingers.
 This was probably the most popular of our activities, with not only children playing with the slime, but more than one adult caregiver joining in on the fun.  (And why not?!  I am happy to admit that I work with little children because I get to cut and paste and play and learn along with them.)

We added a math element with this counting activity that I created.  The colorful pompons were a hit with the children, but as you can see below, one of our friends improvised with the marshmallows too! 

Here's what we thought the marshmallows were for:
 - a see-your-pulse activity from http://whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com/2011/02/science-experiments-for-elementary.html
- and a stethoscope experience with both homemade and real stethoscopes.  Unfortunately, with over 100 people enjoying our story time, we couldn't hear our hearts with the home made stethoscopes - but we did see children enjoying them and pretending to be doctors!

For an engineering element, we had recycled heart building blocks.  I found the idea here. This was a lot of fun, but more popular with the few older siblings than the preschoolers. 
To prepare this activity, I cut hearts from all kinds of food packaging that we had at home this week.  Into each heart I cut several small slits - the instructions suggested 1/4 - 1/2".  I double cut the slits, making them slightly wider, and added bright lights to the table so the children could check out the shadows their creations made.  (We didn't do a Groundhog Day activity as such, but Ms. Debbie mentioned the groundhog and shadows as we introduced this activity.)

I mentioned that we did a lot, and had trouble limiting the activities, right?  Yes, there were more!
This was my absolute favorite!  We turned the light table on it's side and put it up on another table, then taped on a set of animal x-rays.  On the table we put normal pictures of the animals, and the children came up and matched pictures and x-rays.  No, not hearts, but bones are pretty cool too!

Outside the door to our story time room we added a graphing activity, which I'm hoping to make a regular part of our routine.  It asked, "Which activity did you enjoy the most today?"  and gave 4 options.  I forgot all about the pompon counting and x-ray activities as I was preparing the day before, so those weren't on the graph this time.  Still, a lot of our families stopped on the way out and talked about which activities the children enjoyed most, and helped them contribute to the graph.  We'll look at it together next time, and talk about what has the most, least, fewest, more than, less than, etc.
Our STEAM program absolutely rocks!