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, October 30, 2016

Helping Children Find their Calm

From now until Valentines Day seems to be a completely, utterly, exhaustingly, exciting time for our children.  There's Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, and Valentines Day to start - and still more holidays and celebrations, depending upon your cultural background.  Holidays and celebrations so often revolve around families and friends gathering together, and when people gather, there's usually food.  Yummy, amazing, celebratory feasts, full of delicious things!  There's also a lot of excitement, lots of build up to each holiday, to having or being guests, to giving and receiving, preparing your home, and to recovering between holidays.  Are you exhausted just thinking about it, or excited with anticipation?

Our kiddos often seem to get "wired" this time of year, so wound up with excitement and anticipation that it's hard for them to slow down, calm down, wind down, find their focus.  If you are nodding your head, and thinking of a couple (or more) children who are really struggling with this, then this post is for you!
Helping children find their calm
With almost 25 years experience teaching early childhood, I've been through this holiday cycle a few times, and have found a few methods that have consistently worked to calm my students.  Here are some of my favorites.

Sing together.  Sure, you'll start out with the super exciting holiday songs the kiddos want, but there are only so many times you can sing Over the River and Through the Woods, Frosty the Snowman, or the Dreidle Song.  When the kiddos run out of holiday songs, or you run out of energy, it's time to tame the wildness in our children by singing something calmer and soothing.  If your students are young enough, try some nursery rhymes - it's difficult to bounce off the walls while singing Twinkle Twinkle!  The slower cadence of the music will help the children slow down too.

Are your kids too old for nursery rhymes?  How about songs made into books, such as When You Wish Upon A Star, Puff the Magic Dragon, Love Me Tender, or A You're Adorable?  (No, I'm not affiliated, just sharing links in case you are interested.)  Don't know the tune, or feel comfortable leading the song?  Try books on CD or look on Youtube.com!

Another lovely way to harness the power of music as you calm your kiddos is to play gentle music as they paint, or do an art project.  I love Eric Carle's I See A Song.  Most of the pages have no words, only pictures, and the book on tape (yeah, I'm old) is a great accompaniment to an art project.  There doesn't have to be a predetermined outcome for the painting/drawing either, this is great as an open ended activity, the part you are planning and working for is the calm that naturally comes with the art and music.

For many years I had a fish tank in my classroom, and still later someone gave me a plastic tank with plastic fish.  When it was turned on a light came on and a motor swirled the water, so the fish "swam" in the tank.  Both the real and the pretend tank were great for calming my class.  I would turn on the light in the tank,  have the children sit quietly where they could see it, and then turned off the classroom lights for 5 minutes.  We would just sit and watch the fish, and breathe.  Added bonus - I got to just breathe too!

Another suggestion is to read either Chipmunk Song or The Snail's Spell, both by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Lynne Cherry.  In both books, the author has the children pretend to transform into the animal in the title, and she gently takes them through what it might be like to be that creature.  I always have my kiddos spread out on the rug, because they'll need space as they act out the story, and I set ground rules before we begin: they have to stay on the floor (no standing up), be careful not to hurt each other, and to be quiet so they can all hear the story.  Every group of kiddos I've ever done this with has ended the stories feeling much calmer than they began them!

My final suggestion sounds counter-intuitive at first: take them outside for some unstructured play time.   Yes, they'll probably run hard and play hard - that is, after all, what children are wired to do!  While at first they'll appear to be even more excited and energized, the great news is that by releasing that energy, they'll actually be much more likely to be able to contain themselves and to focus on your lessons afterwards.  The boys in the photo above are both high energy kiddos - but after letting off steam, they found a few quiet moments to just gaze at the creek.

I know there must be many, many other ways of helping kiddos calm down, and I suspect we are all going to need a few ideas over the coming months.  I'd really love to know what works for you - share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy holidays,

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Teaching Math on a Budget

Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Okay, right off the bat, I know we're pretty much all on a budget - who isn't?!  If you are teaching young children, chances are good that you supply a lot of the materials you use in your classroom, and it can really add up!  Today I thought I'd share a few ideas that I've used to make my own teaching resources for little or no money!

Large graphs for children to work on:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Materials required: a large piece of cardboard, approximately the size of poster board, a yard stick and a marker.  (You absolutely could buy poster board, or if you shop at a warehouse store, try asking if you can have some of the huge pieces of cardboard they use on pallets of cereal to separate the layers.)
Time to make it: 10 minutes tops
What to do: I measured and marked 1.5" intervals along each edge of the cardboard, then used the yardstick to draw lines between the marks.  I wrote numbers on one axis, and ta-da! One large graph.

Venn Diagrams:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Materials required: a large piece of cardboard, a large bowl or plate to trace around and a marker.
Time to make it: less than 5 minutes
What to do: Turn your bowl or plate face down, off center on your cardboard.  Trace the rim with the marker.  Move the plate over to the other side of your cardboard, leaving a large area of overlap from the first circle.  Trace it again.

Sorting trays:
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Materials required: a divided tray, I got this one from a dollar store.  I've also used trays from fruit/vegetable/cookie platters, and those are free - you just have to remember to either save them yourself, or to ask your families to donate them if they use them.
What to do: nothing more!
Prep time: This depends on how long you browse at the dollar store!  ;-)

What about manipulatives: the small parts the children are working with.  We all know that those plastic dinosaurs and bugs aren't cheap. What can you do?

Save those lids, corks, bread ties, etc.  I keep a container in a cupboard in my kitchen, and every time there's a bread tie or a cork, I toss it directly in there.  Lids from food containers I put in the cutlery holder of my dishwasher first, and save them when they're clean.  You may also find some awesome lids in the bathroom or laundry room, just save them instead of tossing them out.
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Look in your junk drawer.  Okay, maybe you're perfect, and you don't have a junk drawer, but I'm guessing that somewhere in your home there's a catch-all spot full of amazing little things.  Parts to that one toy your kids had a few years ago, party favors they never even played with, assorted blocks, plastic bits and bobs, rings, craft supplies, tokens from that game place you never go to anymore...  Just be sure to consider the children who will be using these manipulatives, do you need to think about possible choking hazards?  Sharp edges?  Be selective about what will work for your students.
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 You may also have (or know someone who has) a tin of buttons, or beads, or maybe an avid crafter with a lot of left over odds and ends.  Maybe there's a box in the garage with odd nuts and bolts, or old keys, or... go look!  Once you start thinking about and noticing things that are often considered throw aways, you'll find resources all over the place!

So how can you store all this stuff?  Plastic storage containers can be quite expensive, especially if you have a whole bunch of these collections going on!  Check your pantry and your recycling bin!  This is the container I keep in my kitchen to store those lids and corks - it originally had cashews in it, but when the food was eaten, the container got a new life, storing manipulatives.  Many foods come in resealable and reusable containers, everything from lunch meats to rice, fresh salad greens to soup.  If there's something in a useful container that your family uses regularly, you can save them and even end up with a matching set!
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Still not sure you can find a nice variety of things for your kiddos to sort?  Go outside!  Here are some leaves that are in my yard right now.  I see different colors, sizes and shapes.  How else are they the same?  How else are they different?
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
 Okay, so maybe you don't have time to go outside and collect leaves and things for your children to use.  Not to worry, put the kids to work!  Here I've used a strawberry punnet as a collecting box for acorns.  You can see we found some in different sizes, shapes and colors.  There are acorns with holes, broken ones, whole acorns, acorns with and without caps, some that are still connected to each other, and some that aren't... there are so many ways we could sort, graph or put these on a Venn Diagram!
Teaching Math on a budget, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I hope you can use some of these ideas in your classroom!  If you have another tip for teaching math on a budget, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Tricks, Just Treats for Teachers - a #Kinderfriends Bloghop

How can it be October already?  Has the start of the school year zoomed by in a blur of craziness for you too?  Chances are good that right about now you are feeling like you are running a marathon, jumping hurdles along the way, and could use a bubble bath, some chocolate, and a massage.  (Maybe I'm just projecting, I know I could use a bubble bath, chocolate and a massage!)  I can't help you with those (not sharing my chocolate, I know you'll understand!), but I do have 3 super cool treats for you, because you absolutely deserve it!

#KinderFriends is getting together again for a blog hop, and we're sending you on a grown-up Trick or Treat mission - at each stop there is more for you to enjoy!  Scoop up these 3 treats from me, and then continue on for lots more.  I hope they're almost as good as that bubble bath, chocolate and massage I'm now dreaming of!)  Thanks for stopping by!

Treat #1: Enter to win a $25 TeachersPayTeachers gift card! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat #2: Enter to win $25 in resources from my TeachersPayTeachers store!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'll contact the giveaway winners on 10/15/16, but I think you all deserve a prize, so here's one for everyone!

Treat #3: Download my newest freebie: How Many Apples Tall Are You?  If you'd like to say thank you, I would very much appreciate you leaving feedback &/ rating it.

Is your trick or treat basket full yet? No?  Head on over to Class of Kinders for some more teacher treats!

Friday, October 7, 2016

What would you do with a $75 TeachersPayTeachers gift card?

That's a really hard question to answer!  My TeachersPayTeachers wish list is only about 7 pages long... there are just so many awesome teacher resources to choose from!  My favorites are clip art, because I use it to create resources - both to use with the kiddos I work and play with, and to post in my TeachersPayTeachers store.  If you're thinking about all the awesome resources $75 would allow you to download, you really need to enter this giveaway - somebody is going to win, and it might just be you!  

Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), 
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 10/13/16 and is open worldwide.
Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck everyone!