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!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Are Sharks Scary or Cool? Download this free graph!

 Shark week, math, measurement, graphing, reading, resources, non-fiction
It's shark week - does that excite you, or freak you out a little?  Maybe some of both?  I was thinking about how our students might feel about sharks this week, so I put together a graph to find out.  (Click on the picture for my first freebie, then read on for another!) It's pretty simple, something you could use quickly at the beginning of a shark or ocean unit.  Of course, you could follow up by teaching your students about them, and then revisit the graph.  How many students do you suppose might feel differently after learning about sharks?
Sharks really are scary - to me at least.  They're also incredibly cool and amazing - okay, I guess I have to repeat, to me at least.

Perhaps that's why I've been busy learning about sharks, and making fun resources to use when learning about them.  One of the things that stuck with me is the variety of sizes sharks can be, from dwarf lantern sharks that only grow to 9" long (not scary!) up to whale sharks at 45' long (also not scary, they eat plankton).  Of course, the great white, with all it's teeth, and growing to over 20' long is somewhat more intimidating! Sequencing them by size really gives a whole new understanding of shark sizes.
Of course, we need to practice actually measuring things ourselves (not real sharks, thank you!).  This activity uses fish lengths as a non-standard unit of measure.
For slightly older students, I wrote a non-fiction reproducible reader about sharks.  To make differentiating easy, there are two versions of the text.
For my younger kiddos, I made this patterning center.  I clipped the pattern strips onto ribbon, and the kiddos clip on additional pictures to either match...

...or extend the patterns.
We follow up with cut and paste versions.

Finally, I want to share another freebie with you!  This is a very simple reading center, which I like to put in a pocket chart or on a table.  I hope you'll download it, and I'd so appreciate you leaving feedback after you do!

 I hope you have an exciting - but not too exciting - shark week!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How to Increase Reading Engagement Every Day This Year

How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
I think reading engagement is every teacher's hope; we all want our students to love reading as much as we do.  We want to see our kiddos engaged in reading, choosing to pick up books, talking about what they're reading, eagerly sharing their favorites with each other.  I have vivid memories of seeing my own young children lose themselves in books, laying on a bed or a couch, oblivious to the world around them, immersed in a world that only exists in words... and I cherish those memories.  We know that children who love to read, and choose to read, are going to read, and in turn they'll become even better readers.  Students like this are easy to teach, because they're eager to learn, and know that they CAN learn.  If only there was a way to develop this love of reading in all our children!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
After 25 years of teaching early childhood, I haven't found any magic tricks that always work for everyone, each child is unique after all!  There is, however, something that has served me incredibly well, year after year, with hundreds of children: class books.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it: our kiddos are interested in themselves, and in each other.  They want to share their ideas, they want to smile, laugh, or reminisce together, they want to see their own words and pictures being read by their friends, and they want to see their friends' words and pictures.  Class books meet all those criteria, and as an added bonus, they engage students in writing and drawing, as well as reading.  It's no wonder I love class books!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
There are many ways to create, publish, bind, and share student writing, and over the years I've tried a lot of them!  When I taught first grade, I bought an inexpensive scrapbook with an impressive looking cover, and glued student work into it.  The result was a satisfyingly solid "real" book - and as we only published finished pieces in it, students really worked to make their writing book worthy!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
I also made class books about experiences we shared, such as a trip to the fire station or a pizza parlor.  I took photos of each student during our experiences, and upon returning to our classroom gave each student a page with room for a photo and room to write about our experience.  I'd develop the pictures, and then let my kiddos stick a real photo of themselves onto their page.  Sometimes we'd bind all the pages together and make a class experience book, other times each child would add their page to their own "photo album".  Can you imagine how much they loved to revisit these books?
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
Of course, photos aren't the only way to illustrate a class book.  Oftentimes I'd have my students illustrate their page.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
Sometimes we wrote about an experience as a class, with each student contributing something about the experience, while I wrote on chart paper.  Next we would decide on what order the events of our narrative belonged in, and arrange their individual sentences into a retelling of what we had done.  I liked to type up the story, print it out on multiple pages, and have students work in teams to illustrate the pages.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
You've probably noticed that all of these methods took some effort on my part: taking and developing photos, or taking dictation and then typing up students' words.  Yes, there is definitely a lot of teacher effort in these particular methods, and no, you probably can't manage this every day. Sometimes you need something quick and easy, right?
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
There's another method of making class books that is super easy: printed pages with a prompt, and room for student responses.  I've found this kind of book is one of the best for my youngest students - preschool and kindergarten kiddos whose writing is much shorter, and more difficult to read*.  This kind of book usually has a simple, repetitive text, with room for students to add just one or two words.  It's easier for young kiddos to write, and the repeated text makes it easier for them to read too.  Since the work in these books is their own, and their names, and names of friends are on every page, my kiddos have always LOVED this kind of book.  They read them to themselves.   They read them with their friends.  They read them to their parents at pick up time.  Sometimes I even let them check these books out to take home overnight. Win-win-win!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
If you think you'd like to incorporate class books into your reading and writing time, you can find inspiration many places!  Try pinterest - here's my board about class books to get you started:

I've put together many of my class book ideas into a print and go format.  If you like the idea of class books and want a no-muss no-fuss ready to go resource that also covers every single preprimer word, I hope you'll check out:
Thank you so much for reading this long post - I hope you're inspired to incorporate more class books in your classroom, and I'd love to hear about how they work out for you!

*Unless you're a kindergarten teacher, and can read phonetically spelled words that are out of order, with reversed letters, missing vowels and written in a shaky hand.  Kudos to you then!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Exposed on the beach: life in a tide pool

I love the beach, don't you?  I love the peace I find at the beach, the sound and smell of the ocean, the wind on my skin, the ever changing vista of waves and sand.  It's a perfect destination, and one I don't make it to nearly enough.  Living several hours inland means we can take a beach trip, but it's not a day trip, and takes some planning.  Still, so worthwhile!

tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles
This week my family took a trip to the coast, and I made sure we timed our beach trip to coincide with low tide, so we could do some tide pooling.  I'm fascinated with life, especially the tiny little things that are easily overlooked, so I wanted to take the time to explore, to enjoy, and to photograph.

What would you most like to see, if you went tide pooling?  Jellyfish?  Sea stars?  Fish?  There are so many things that might be in a tide pool: anemones, corals, sea weed, crabs... I've been thinking about tide pools for a while, and have researched a lot of the creatures that live there in order to create resources about them.  I think what I most hoped for were sea stars - they can be so many colors, and can have between 5 and 40 arms!  Did you know sea stars can regenerate an arm if it is lost?  So amazing!

We didn't see any sea stars, but look at all the fascinating critters we did see! There were sea anemones:
tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

These funky green things looked squishy, so I gently touched one.  It clenched.  Someone nearby told me she thought they were anemones - and then I spotted one that was still underwater, and not completely closed:
tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

There were a lot of crabs, both in and out of the water, and this one was crawling over a layer of limpets and what I think may be tiny barnacles!
tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

I had never seen hermit crabs in the wild before, and was fascinated with the number and variety of shells that kept moving around in the tide pools.  Photographing them in the water was a big challenge, until I spotted some in a very sandy spot.

tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

There were so many kinds of sea grass and sea weed, I wish that I had thought to do some research on what varieties to expect before we headed to the beach.  Next time I'll know!
tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

We also saw small fish that darted between rocks - they were very skittish, and we saw clams and mussels, and other shell fish.  We walked the beaches, collected shells and drift wood, and relaxed in the sea air.

tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

There's a lot to see along the shore line, and we were lucky enough to see otters, seals, gulls and more.  This is my favorite photo from the day, because it shows the variety of habitats along the shoreline - and captures the serenity we felt while exploring.
tide pools, ocean, beach, hermit crab, crab, anemone, limpets, barnacles

Are you thinking about a tide pooling trip?  Here are some things to remember to take with you:
 - something to collect empty sea shells in.  Remember not to disturb living creatures, for those you'll want to take your
- camera.  If you have one that will shoot underwater, take it!
- shoes that can get wet, but will also provide traction and support for walking on rocks.
- towels.  Even if all you have to do is brush off sand, you'll appreciate these!
- water and snacks.  You're not going to want to leave!
- sun screen.  Even on a cloudy day.
- a hat and a light jacket or wind breaker, sea air can be chilly.
I'd also recommend researching what you're likely to see, so you can identify and appreciate everything you find.  If you're going with children in grades 1-4, you might find this non-fiction reader informative:
 For younger children, try this one (it has 3 versions, for preschool through second grade levels):

I hope you are able to take a trip to the beach sometime - it really is the best!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Would you love to win 7 great spring resources? #KinderFriends Giveaway

Would you like to win some spring resources?  If you teach, the answer is most likely a resounding yes!  Who doesn't want awesome classroom resources?!  I know my students were always thrilled when I pulled out something "new" - even if it was just new to them. This month the #KinderFriends are getting together to giveaway 7 resources to make spring lesson planning just a little easier for one lucky teacher.

I'll be sending the winner my best selling spring resource:

Have you done tangrams with your students yet?  I like to introduce tangrams with the story:
In this gem of a book, a magician uses the 7 pieces of a tangram to become all manner of things, from a cat to a rooster to a tea set, showcasing just a few of the possibilities tangrams hold.  I've written before about how I use tangrams for Chinese New Year, but my students love them so much, I like to make them available throughout the year.  In my spring set you'll find both black lines (so you can see the answers, and younger students can match the shapes), and colorful outlines to challenge children and adults alike.

I can't decide if my favorite is the snail or the bunny!

Tangrams are so open ended, I love using them for morning work and early finishers.   How would you use these in your classroom?

Enter for your chance to win below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stop by these #KinderFriends blogs to see more fun spring ideas:



Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Homeward Stretch, and April Gift Card Giveaway

It's early April, and if you're a teacher in North America, that means things are gearing up for the end of the year.  How is it that just when you need extra time to cover those last few challenging skills before testing hits, you also have to squeeze in field days, assemblies, field trips, another round of parent teacher conferences, prepping report cards, volunteer appreciation activities, budgeting and ordering for next year, and all the rest?  The last couple of months seem to whiz by, growing ever crazier as each day passes.  What's a teacher to do? 

Well, besides chocolate, caffeine, and dreaming of summer break - all excellent ideas - cutting your planning time by grabbing some ready to go activities that another teacher has put together for you wouldn't hurt.  To help you do exactly that, I've joined with a group of teacher-authors to giveaway a $75 TeachersPayTeachers gift card to one lucky teacher.  Read on to find out how you can enter!


Prize: $75 Teachers pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), 
Co-hosts: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher),  A Plus KidsPlanet Happy SmilesJackie CrewsMs. KAmanda's Little LearnersIt's a Teacher Thing, Teachers CaravanHeart 2 Heart TeachingThe Chocolate TeacherReading and Writing RedheadSamson's ShoppeTeacher GameroomThe Literacy GardenPeas In A PodA Place of Story,Kathryn WattsMickey's PlacePaula's Preschool and KindergartenMM BilingualLittle Smarticle ParticlesPreK Kristin,Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love TeachingTeacher JeanellKamp KindergartenLeah Popinski, Momma with a Teaching MissionTrending Technology in Tennessee, and Teacher Gone Digital.
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 4/13/17 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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Take the Pain out of Spelling Practice

This week a friend mentioned how painful it is to do spelling homework with her daughter.  She's tried a lot of things: writing the words, putting the words in sentences, flashcards, but nothing seems to help, and it's torture for both of them.  Sound familiar?  Well, I'm here to tell you that spelling practice does not have to be painful!  You can also use these fun ideas to practice sight words, math facts, or anything that needs to be memorized. 

1.  Write those words!  "Yeah, done that, hate it," you say?  I bet you weren't writing them in a layer of sprinkles on a cookie sheet!  How about writing them in chocolate sauce or honey on a plate?  (If When you spell each word correctly, you get to lick your finger.)  How about a layer or salt or flour on a tray?  Or using tic tac candies to make each word?  Once you start thinking about it, you'll come up with a lot of fun ways to practice!

2.  Text them.  Tell me your elementary age kiddos don't want to use their phones - or yours!  Have them sit with you while you're cooking dinner/ grading papers/ reading a book, and let them type and text those sight words to you or a family member.  Limited text plan?  Try emailing them!

3.  Learn the sign language alphabet and have your child finger spell their spelling words.  Here's a cute video to help you learn!

4.  Use magnetic letters to make the words on your refrigerator, a cookie sheet, the side of a filing cabinet... so many options!

5.  Write the words in shaving cream.  My kiddos LOVED writing and drawing in shaving cream, so we always did this to clean the tables in our classroom.  Simply spray a blob of foam on the table, then let the children smooth it out on the table top, then write in the it.  A quick hand swipe erases and resets the foam for the next word.  When you're done, your table top will be clean, the room will smell great, and that tricky spelling practice will be done!  (Your child may get some on her clothes, but it's basically soap, so it washes out beautifully.)

6.  Let your child write the spelling word with special writing tools.  Try markers, crayons, colored pens, that special pen on daddy's desk, scented markers... whatever it takes to make it fun.  Can your child write each word in all the rainbow colors?  (Yeah, you just got him to write each word 7 times!)  You can grab this rainbow writing page in my TeachersPayTeachers store, or just write them on regular paper.

7.  Is your child super active, or does he want to live in the backyard after school?  You hate to squash that healthy energy with homework, but it has to get done.  If you have a trampoline, try having your child write each word in big letters on  index cards, and hang them around the trampoline.  She can then jump and spell each word.  No trampoline?  Use sidewalk chalk to write the letters on the pavement, and jump from letter to letter to spell the words.

8.  Invest in a set of letter stamps and a pretty stamp pad, and have your child stamp out the letters.  For many children the lure of playing with rubber stamps will motivate them.  Can't afford rubber stamps?  How about alphabet cookies or pasta?  Or even a set of letters cut from junk mail or magazines?

9.  Grab an old game of Twister out of your cupboard, or at a garage sale, and write the letters on the colorful spots.  There are 24 spots on the game board, so put x, y and z together on the last spot, and then jump from spot to spot to spell the words.  Can't get a Twister game board?  Try making one on poster board!

10.  Play spelling tic tac toe, bingo, or dots, or whatever games your child enjoys, using a spelling word to mark your space.  Your child will read and write the words over and over in each game, enjoy some fun time playing with you, and you'll both agree spelling practice has never been so much fun!

11.  Write letters on toy blocks and build your words.

12.   Paint the words, or make the letters from play dough and spell them out - this feels a lot more like play, and a lot less like work!

13.  Use bath crayons and write in the tub.  If your child loves a long soak in the tub, washable bath tub crayons are the thing for you!  You can also write on the tub in shaving cream, just like I suggested in item #5 - and now your child is practicing spelling words and CLEANING THE TUB!

14.  Write on pretty paper.  Try colorful post-it notes, or fancy letter writing paper, or use regular paper and pop the finished list into an envelope and send it to your favorite family member. 

Brainstorm with your child for even more fun ways to practice spelling, and together you'll conquer those spelling test blues!