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!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Announcing a chance to win something awesome!

It's back to school season, and chances are good that you have a TeachersPayTeachers wish list about a mile long.  You could probably use a little help getting the resources you need to get your classroom off to a good start.  Not a teacher?  I bet you know one!  Here's your chance to win a $10 TeachersPayTeachers giftcard AND $15 in resources from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 (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)! 

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!

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!