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, August 28, 2017

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day

I enjoy a morning walk every day.  The neighborhood is quiet, sometimes I see critters out and about, and I make a point to quite literally stop and smell the roses.  It's a lovely way to begin my day.

One morning this week I saw one of my neighbors out walking, then he stopped, went back a few feet, picked up someone's newspaper from the end of their driveway, and carried it up to their door mat.  It got me wondering.  Does he know the people who live in that house?  Why did he make the effort to move their newspaper closer to their house?  Is it difficult for the person who lives there to make it out to the end of the driveway?  Are they ill?  Elderly? Disabled?

I thought about it as I walked, about how that small, random act of kindness might impact the recipient, and it reminded me of all the good things, and good people in our world.  It's a nice thing to remember, and a timely one.

I also thought about the quote, "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something", by Max Lucado - and a related quote from Lily Tomlin:

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

As we watch the news and see stories that shake us, effect us, and sadden us, I think it's important to remember that every single one of us is a somebody.  We are not powerless, and neither are our students.  We may not be able to do a lot, but we can do something.

Which is why I love these two books!  One Smile by Cindy McKinley follows the people impacted by a small girl's friendly smile, and shows how they each pay kindness forward.  It's simple, sweet, and young children can easily relate to the message.  If your students need to see how they can be kind citizens and impact their community, you'll love this book!  I'd recommend it for students up to 2nd grade.

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Magical Hands by Marjorie Barker will appeal to 3rd-6th grade students.  It's a lovely story of how one man surprises his friends by doing their chores for them early on the morning of their birthdays, and shows how the little things are often really the biggest things of all.  Kindness matters.

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

I've made a point this week to try to practice doing random acts of kindness: smiling at people, stopping to talk to a neighbor, letting someone change lanes in front of me, greeting the grocery store cashier by name, sending a card to a friend... little things that I hope will make a difference.

Is it enough?  No.  Are there bigger issues that need tackling?  Yes.  Will we solve the world's problems with a smile and a little kindness?  If only it were so!  Still, I believe that if we all do something, we can make a difference!  What will YOU do today?

I've looked for the author of these lovely words, and can't identify him/her.  If you know where they came from, please let me know in the comments, I'd like to give credit.  The beautiful clip art is from Kari Bolt.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy

 I started teaching preschool from my home when my second son was born, and his big brother was 3 years old.  I'd taught first grade for 6 years at that point, and thought I knew kids and teaching pretty well!  I'm glad to say I've had some...learning opportunities since then.  😉 One of the many differences was that as a home based preschool teacher, I provided breakfast, lunch and snack to all my students.  I got pretty good at making healthy meals that children would actually eat (gasp)!
How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
When it came time for my own children to start elementary school, I was excited to sign them up for cafeteria lunches, thinking they would get a hot lunch each day, and I would be off the hook for making those meals.  It didn't take long for them to remind me how... delicious...school lunches are.  It was time for me and my children to learn how to make quick, easy, mom-approved lunches that they could pack each morning!

To make a balanced lunch, you have to know what a balanced lunch is - and most of the prepackaged "lunch" foods on the market really aren't balanced.  According to the federal food program that I followed for my preschool, lunches should consist of:

 milk + 1 protein food + 2 fruits/veggies + 1 grain product.  

I knew my children could buy milk in the cafeteria, so I came up with a variety of foods for each of the other food groups, and stocked the refrigerator and pantry.  The best part about all this?  My children quickly learned how to make their own lunches, meaning they chose which foods they had, and generally ate it quite happily.  Your children can do it too!  Here's what worked for us, feel free to modify it to fit your family's tastes. 

Protein foods (pick one)                                    
Hard boiled egg (take the shell off at home)                          
1 oz nuts: almonds, peanuts, pecans, etc.                               
2 Tbspn peanut butter/ almond butter                                    
2 oz cheese cubes                                                                    
1 cheese slice                                                                           
Cheese stick                                                                            
Gogurt (freeze it at home, pack it frozen, and by lunch time it's defrosted and has kept the other food cool!)                                                                                 
4-6 oz yogurt pot                                                                    
Drinkable yogurt                                                                     
Bean dip                                                                                 
hummus dip                                                                                                            
2 oz sliced lunch meat                                                                  

      Fruits and Veggies (pick 2)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
3" peeled sliced cucumber
cut mango pieces
snow peas
raw green beans
applesauce (single serve cup)
single serve fruit cups
watermelon or cantaloupe cubes
apple wedges (add a few drops of sprite or lemon juice to prevent browning)
dried fruit like raisins, craisins or mixed fruit
carrot sticks or mini carrots
banana (I liked to write jokes or messages on it for my son to find at lunch time!)  
bell pepper strips
cut pineapple
100% juice box drink
orange segments

        Grain foods  (pick one)                                                                                               
a slice of bread                                                                                       
8 – 10 crackers                                                                        
Small baggie goldfish crackers                                               
whole grain granola bar                                                                            
flatbread or tortilla with butter                                               
pita bread                                                                                
graham crackers                                                                      
large or small rice cakes                                                          
small baggie breakfast cereal
bagel chips
cold cooked noodles w dressing

Fun combinations
fat pretzel sticks and peanut butter to dip in                                
fruit wedges + yogurt to dip them in
crackers spread with peanut butter                                       
fresh berries in vanilla yogurt
graham crackers spread with peanut butter                          
fruit & cereal to add to yogurt pot = parfait
bean dip + raw veggies to dip                                              
cheese slices + crackers
hummus and pita bread to dip                                              
applesauce + graham cracker dippers
peanut butter + veggies to dip                                                           
mini sub sandwich on hotdog bun
round crackers and sliced hard boiled egg                            
trail mix: small crackers, pretzels, nuts, raisins
rice cake spread with peanut butter/ cream cheese               
small veggie pieces + cheese cubes
round crackers and cucumber slices                                     
cold noodles + dressing + tomatoes + cucumber pieces.

Obviously I couldn't and didn't stock all of these foods all of the time.  There were some pantry items that could sit for a while and still be good, but fruits and vegetables especially had to fresh.  Each week the boys had to decide on a couple of things each that they wanted and would eat 2-3 times during the week.  I usually kept single serve fruit or applesauce containers on hand for those days that they just couldn't make up their minds.

It's also important to have a way for the children to portion their food, so we always had a supply of zippered baggies and small containers for them to put their food in.  My oldest was happiest with a "real" lunch box and small containers of food, and would bring them home so we could wash them.  My youngest son had a true talent for losing lunch boxes (gifted and talented on this one), so he carried paper sack lunch bags.

Either way, they were able to quickly pack and take balanced lunches, and we could focus our morning energy on other things... like finding the piece of paper that needed a signature yesterday, or where the other shoe had gone.

I hope you find this list helpful, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to School Essentials: Freebie and Blog Hop with the #Kinderfriends

Back to school season is a little like a game of hide and seek - there's a countdown, and then, ready or not, here it comes!  It's that time again - at least it is in the U.S. - so the #Kinderfriends thought we'd help you out with some ideas, teacher essentials, tips, tricks, and freebies.

One of the kazillion tasks we have at back-to-school time is putting student names on everything.  Cubbies, notebooks, folders, mail boxes, grade book, desks, individual book boxes, attendance markers, class graphs, journals.... the list goes on and on.  It always seems like I think I'm done labeling supplies, only to remember there's one more thing to put names on!  Just when you think you have it all done, you get 3 new students, and have to scramble to find the supplies to make their names match everyone else.  Teacher tip #1: Make a list of all the places you've put student names, and save 3-5 extras of any special materials you used.  Put them all in a zippered baggie, and store them with your student files.  You'll be so glad to have these when those new kiddos start arriving!

I think everyone knows that setting up routines is a super important part of back to school time!  Our students need to know what to expect each day so Teacher tip #2: is to post a visual schedule.  Our preschool and kindergarten kiddos probably can't read yet, but they can understand pictures.  I've found that making a visual schedule that shows pictures for each of the blocks of time in our day really helps them to understand what's coming up throughout the day.  When will mommy get here?  After math time.  When is recess?  After we do morning meeting and reading rotation.  Whatever your schedule is, posting it will help your little ones know what to expect, and will cut down on some of their questions.

Of course, our kiddos also need to learn a multitude of smaller routines: like how to hold scissors, how to use and put away glue, what we expect for bathroom behavior, where to line up, how to put books back on a shelf, etc.  I like to teach those skills the first week, and even focus on one new skill each day until we've gone over them all.  Teacher tip #3: Setting up expectations for routines the first week will save you cleaning up those glue bottles, or fussing about line behavior all year long.

While we're getting off to a good start, we also need to be thinking ahead to the biggest challenges of the school year.  If you're expected to teach students 30 sight words by the end of the year, or how to write numbers to 100, you can't wait several weeks to get started.  The biggest, most difficult tasks become much more doable when broken down into tiny chunks.  Teacher tip #4:  Break down the biggest challenges into smaller parts, and get started right away.  

Remember, these are little people we're teaching!  Getting started on challenging activities doesn't mean boring drills and worksheets all day long.  You'd rather have fun, and so would your kiddos!  Teacher tip #5 Make it fun! Play learning games, read and write silly stories, incorporate hands on activities and interaction throughout the day.  

One of the ways I like to make reading fun, is  to use reproducible readers with my students.  I love that we can read them individually or in small groups at school, and that I can then send them home for more practice.  I tell my students that when they take their books home, it is their homework to read it to someone at home 5 times.  Each time they read it, they have mom/dad/caregiver/grandparent/sibling - who ever it is - write their name on the back cover.  When they have 5 names on it, they can bring the book back to school and I'll put a stamp or sticker on it.  You might have them store these books in an individual book box at school, or let them take them back home again.  

Since I enjoy using reproducible readers, I decided to make one free for you today! This one has predictable text and sight words, so even the youngest children can be successful readers - and this booklet gets you off to a good start with sight words: I, see, a, red.  Just click on the square image to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store and download it.  If you can also take a moment to leave feedback, it would make my day!
Here's what you get:

If you like this reproducible emergent reader, and you'd like more like this, the freebie is a small sample from:
The full version includes both b&w and color versions, plus a larger pocket chart version for each of the 10 major colors.  Each of the booklets has a different predictable text, and between them students practice 22 pre-primer and primer sight words!  You can find this, and many other great back to school resources in my TeachersPayTeachers store, along with 20 other free downloads!  I hope you find something to help make your back to school season wonderful.

Thank you for stopping by!  For more ideas from the #Kinderfriends, hop on over to:
The Barefoot Teacher

Monday, August 7, 2017

$75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card Giveaway!

Has school started for you yet?  If you're in the U.S., it either has, or soon will!   Either way, setting up and running a classroom can get expensive.  Every month a small group of teacher-authors gets together to make someone's day with a $75 gift card to TeachersPayTeachers.  You could use it for classroom decor, clip-art to put the finishing touches on the things you make for your class, time saving ready-to-go lesson plans, hands on STEAM activities or games for the classroom.  Maybe you aren't a teacher, but you'd love to give a teacher you know something (s)he'd love.  Either way, I hope you have an awesome school year, and that you'll join in and enter our giveaway - good luck everybody!

Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 8/13/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stressed? Here are 25 simple, free solutions

It's been a crazy few months for my family.  We've had 2 graduations, a wedding, serious illness, house guests, a couple of road trips, and business travel. We've been to California, New York and Texas for these life events, and in a week I'm helping my youngest son fly the nest and head off to college - also out of state.  It's little wonder that I woke up this morning feeling completely done for.  Just done.  No energy.  No oomph.  No get go.  Nothing.  Just done.  All I wanted to do was sit... or better yet, sleep.

Since I didn't have the energy to walk the dogs (which is why they woke me at 6 anyway!), and had no motivation to get to work, I ended up taking my bowl of cereal outside and just sitting.  I listened to bees and a hummingbird.  I watched my dogs sniff through the garden.  I admired puffy white clouds against an incredibly blue sky - and I realized that all those things were .... well... healing.

I started to think of ways to relax, to de-stress, and in turn to find my energy and drive again.  Here's what I came up with.

1.  Sit outside and be aware of nature.  Look.  Listen.  Breathe deep and smell the air.

2.  Meet a friend and chat over a coffee.  Or tea, or anything else.  Chat over the fence with a neighbor.  Make a connection with someone you care about.

3.  Escape into a good book.  Or a trashy novel.  Whatever works for you!

4.  Go for a walk, or a run or a swim.

5.  Snuggle.  If you have a spouse, child, or pet, snuggle up.  It's seriously therapeutic!

6.  Turn off your phone, email, electronics, everything, and just disconnect for an hour.

7.  Visit your library, museum or park.

8.  Go window shopping in a place that makes you feel calm or happy.  I used to go to the craft store and caress the yarn, enjoying the combination of soft yarn and soft music.

9.  Nap. 

10.  Journal.  Write whatever comes to mind.

11.  Practice gratefulness.  Make a list of the things you have to be grateful for.  Don't forget the small things, which are actually the big ones: walking, breathing, loved ones.

12.  Perform a random act of kindness.

13.  Phone or Skype someone you haven't connected with in a while.

14.  Exercise.

15.  Indulge yourself with a bubble bath.

16.  Putter around the garden.

17.  Plant something.

18.  Put out a bird feeder in a spot you can watch.  See who comes to visit it.

19.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

20.  Envision your favorite place or dream vacation.

21.  Take photographs - or pull out an old album and revisit old memories.

22.  Volunteer.  Try your library, museum, place of worship, shelter.  Someone needs you.

23.  Listen to music.

24.  Please your senses.  Wear perfume or light a scented candle.  Put on a smooth creamy lotion.  Enjoy a hot or cold drink.  Put on a soft fluffy scarf.  Soak your feet in warm water.

25.  What goes here?  What is it that rejuvenates you?  Each of us has our own way of doing things, our own favorite ways to de-stress, and only YOU know what is the best answer for you.  Whatever it is, I hope you find your calm, relax, breathe, and feel ready to tackle the world again.