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!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Best Back-to-School Blog Posts

From classroom organization to first day of school activities, this collection of blog posts will set you up for back-to-school success. There's something for everyone PreK - middle school. So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite teacher blog posts (labeled by grade) to help set you up for success in the coming school year!

Prek - 3rd Grade

Read all about creating a life long love for reading within each of our students in My Favorite Way to Increase Reading Engagement by Paula Beckerman from Paula's Primary Classroom. She says, "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." Find out what it is HERE!

 K - 6th Grade

Start the School Year Off Right! will help you get ready for the busy season.  Melissa Bonito from Peas in a Pod offers some smart tips and tricks to help set the stage for a smooth school year. You won't want to miss her top 5 back to school tips, and how she goes about teaching classroom procedures!

2nd - 5th Grade

Kelly Malloy from An Apple for the Teacher is full of classroom design inspiration! She offers multiple pictures of her classroom throughout the years. Her latest post, My Students Are Amazing, offers a peek at her classroom door display for September. Hint**There's a freebie in this post!



K - Middle School

In Organize & Transform Your Classroom, Suzy Memeo from StudentSavvy offers tips on creating a space that makes you happy! She will guide you as you come up with your plan, locate the problem areas in your classroom, and tackle them. Her beautiful designs are a must see!



1st - 8th Grade

"How do you see your role in the classroom in terms of the first month of school?"  That was a pivotal question on my job interview many years ago. Sometimes the more things change, the more the stay the same. Whether it was asked during your interview or not, the answer can make or break your classroom management plan. If you don't accomplish anything else during the first weeks of school but to have control of your class, then you have done a good job! It was my answer and the  school superintendent interviewing me agreed! Read more about how Kathleen Guleksen, from A Plus Kids, does just that!

Thanks for checking out the list of our favorite back-to-school posts. I'd love to hear your tips for a smooth year in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

15 of the best farm books and activities I've found

15 of the best farm books and activities I've found - from Paula's Primary Classroom
There are a lot of awesome children's books about the farm and farm animals, and there's no way I can talk about ALL of them - but here are some of my favorites, both old and new.

 This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love. 

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle 
If you have preschoolers and have not yet met this book, you absolutely must find it!  The copy at our library is frequently checked out, because it includes farm animals and trucks - 2 all time favorites with the preschool crowd.

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell
I love Farmer Duck for lots of reasons, not the least being the thankless nature of his tasks (no-one working with small children ever does thankless tasks, do we?).  I think the best part is that Duck answers with a single word every time he's called, "Quack!"  The kiddos love to join in and help me read/perform this one, and I love that!

Rooster's Off to See the World by Eric Carle
This is an oldie but a good one, any children's book collection should probably include something from Eric Carle's amazing list of titles!

Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
Another artist whose work is always amazing, Denise Fleming does a lovely job of combining simple rhyming text, animal noises, and an easily found but sort of hidden goose on each page.  Little ones love finding the goose and of course, making the noises.

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker
Perhaps this is actually a tour of some of my favorite children's book artists, because Keith Baker is another  whose art is amazing!  In each of his books there is something hidden on each page, in this case the word HEN is on each hen in the book.  If you have a child who loves combing the pages looking for hidden treasure, you'll fall in love with all of Baker's work.

Color Farm, by Lois Ehlert
Bold colors, cut outs in the pages, clever use of shapes - fantastic!  This would pair beautifully with the tangram activities I suggest further down this list!

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
I first heard about this book from a child who had heard it elsewhere, and couldn't stop talking about it, for weeks.  Anything that engages a child that long is well worth checking out, and I was not disappointed!  Bonus feature, if you have students who blurt, or need to work on self control, this book is a gentle way to bring that to their attention in a fun way.

Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm, illustrated by James Dean
You can't help but sing along with this song, and adding Pete the Cat makes just about everything better, right?  Do we cry? Goodness no!

Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop by Lisa Shulman
Old MacDonald is a woman in this book, and she has a fantastic set of wood working tools that make awesome sounds.  This one will easily be a class favorite for the great combination of the familiar tune and new sounds and motions you can make with it.

Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.  Click here to watch a performance of the song that the book is based on - I don't know about you, but I think I need the printed words to make it all the way through!

Hedgie's Surprise by Jan Brett
Okay, this is definitely a tour of farm books by awesome picture book artists!  Like most of Jan Brett's books, this one is a slightly longer picture book read, and the illustrations are phenomenal!  I like to point out the action in the frames around the main picture - Jan Brett always includes extra information in these smaller illustrations - it's a great way to engage students further with the book, makes reading the pictures easier for the youngest kiddos, and shows that we get information in picture books from both the pictures and the words.  Working on narrative skills? Students can use these extra pictures to tell more of the story than the text alone provides.

Of course, no matter how many amazing books we read to our students, we also need great follow up activities!

I adore these mixed media cows - an idea inspired by this post (in French). I explain how we made them on our class' Artsonia page. This project lends itself to a discussion of squares, circles and rectangles, worked fine motor skills as we worked with scissors, crayons, watercolor paint and crayons and frankly looked awesome as a bulletin board!
15 of the best farm books and activities I've found - from Paula's Primary Classroom

We combined math, art and literacy for this next project:
I'm really happy that I recorded each child reading their page, and made a read aloud of our class book.  What a neat treasure to look (and listen) back on! If you haven't recorded your students reading yet, having them read their page of a class book is a simple first step - and with only a few words (which they wrote!) for each child to read, it feels more like an opportunity to show what they can do than a challenging task to complete.  Isn't that how we want our students to feel about reading?
15 of the best farm books and activities I've found - from Paula's Primary Classroom

A couple more ways I like to include math learning is with farm tangrams (see how I use them in this youtube video!)...
farm tangrams for 2D math learning

... and hands on math games.



If your students are beginning to read, you'll want some sight word rich text for them - maybe like this one that's available in my TeachersPayTeachers store:

Do you still need more ideas about the farm?  Check out my farm Pinterest board!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West

Howdy friends! Texas Public Schools week just finished up, so I thought I’d share some of the books and activities we’ve enjoyed as we learn about Texas and the Old West!
Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom

I was excited to discover a Wild West story time kit at my local public library.  Have you checked to see what kind of resources are available in yours?  This kit included 7 picture books, a felt story for Click Clack Moo, and a horse puppet.   
Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom

My kiddos LOVED the felt story and the puppet the best!  Here are some of the highlights, including library books and my own personal collection:
Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
Cowboy Camp, by Tammi Sauer.  In this story the unlikely hero, Avery, doesn’t like eating beans, is allergic to horses, and gets rope burn from holding a lasso.  Fortunately for everyone, Avery is able to outsmart the villain, and saves the day.  I LOVED putting on my best western accent… plus jeans, hat, vest and boots… to read this story!  The children really got into it too.

 Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
Since cowboys aren’t only boys, I wanted to include I Want To Be A Cowgirl, by Jeanne Willis.  It’s a quick read, perfect for kindergarten and preschool children, and so important for including girls!  

Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
If you’re teaching in Texas you’re sure to teach your students about armadillos.  In the past I’ve read Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett, and It’s an Armadillo! By Bianca Lavies. 

Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
 While I’ll probably still read those sometimes, I discovered another fun book to teach facts about armadillos: Don’t Ever Cross That Road!, by Conrad J. Storad.  It’s told by an armadillo teacher to his class of young armadillos, and includes lots of facts about them.  It’s the not crossing the road part that anyone who’s driven much in Texas can relate to. (When they’re scared armadillos jump straight up, which doesn’t end well when they’re scared by an oncoming vehicle.)

 Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires is a variation on the Gingerbread Man, with a Southwest feel.  The gingerbread cowboy is made by the rancher’s wife, and is chased by desert and ranch animals: a horned lizard, roadrunner, javelinas, longhorns, and cowboys – before being ultimately tricked by a coyote. This was a fun way to review those animals while anticipating the familiar story in a new setting!

Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom
Waynetta and the Cornstalk  by Helen Ketteman is another fairy tale variation your students are sure to love! It’s close enough to Jack and the Beanstalk to compare and contrast with your students, with plenty of Texan tidbits thrown in: chicken-fried steak, a magic lasso, a giant’s wife who declares Waynetta is “purty as a bluebonnet” and a tiny longhorn cow that makes solid gold cowpats.  If that’s not a recipe for student engagement, I don’t know what is!

Of course we also learned about Texas symbols with this reading center:

…and with this Texas Bingo game and posters.  

This Texas State Symbols booklet was lovely on our desks for Open House night, and includes 3 versions, so it was easy to make sure every child had one at an appropriate reading level.

I also found this adorable cowboy poem and felt board, which makes a great introduction to any cowboy activity:
Simply the Best of the Wild, Wild West from Paula's Primary Classroom

I hope you’ll check out some of these books, and I’d love to hear what new Texan / Wild West books you’ve discovered too!   Let me know in the comments below!

Happy spring y’all!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Ferociously Good Fun with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Friends

Ferociously Good Fun with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Friends, by Paula's Primary Classroom
I'd like to think I'm an innovative teacher, constantly learning new things and sharing them with the children I get to see, but recently I realized something dreadful.  I had sunk into a dinosaur rut!

Perhaps you've been there too - I have so many favorite dinosaur books that I stopped paying attention to new ones.  Between Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp, all the wonderful dinosaur books by Bernard Most, Bones, Bones, Bones, and Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, who had time for more?

Thank goodness I spent a little time recently rediscovering the dinosaur books available!  Now I have some new favorites to share, just in time for my dinosaur theme. 

Ferociously Good Fun with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Friends, by Paula's Primary Classroom
Dancing with the Dinosaurs by Jane Clarke - so cute!  Who would have expected all the dinosaurs to have moves like these?  The ending shouldn't have taken me by surprise, but it did - and when I read it to my kiddos they squealed with joy.  I won't spoil it for you - go read it!

Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman.  I know, I'm really behind, the underpants series has been around for a while.  I have no excuse.  I do wish dinosaurs and cavemen weren't depicted together, but the way the children enjoy this one more than makes up for it.

Dinosaur vs. the Library (and all kinds of other things) by Bob Shea.  If this doesn't get your junior paleontologists excited, I don't know what will.  Simple pictures, lots of roaring, and an adorable dinosaur that every 3 or 4 year old will imagine being.  Prepare yourself for lots of roaring!

Chalk by Bill Thomson. OH MY GOODNESS!  This is a phenomenal book, as is Fossil, also by Bill Thomson.  The illustrations show extreme perspectives in a super realistic way, and tell the whole story in this wordless book.  You'll want to use this with pre-readers, but even adults will enjoy this gem.  I recently paired it with The Book With No Pictures to teach reading skills to kindergarten and first grade students.

Ferociously Good Fun with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Friends, by Paula's Primary Classroom

I started by showing the children The Book With No Pictures, and enough of them had seen it before to know that it's a very funny book - of course they wanted me to read it to them!  Of course I obliged!  (Is there anything better than reading to kids?!)  One of the magical things about this book is the use of font size, color and type to show you how to read it.  Even children who aren't comfortable readers yet can analyze the way the text looks.  Big font = big voice.  Different colors?  Must mean different voices!  Text about a robot monkey is written in a very robot like font - so we read it with robot voices.  I love how expressive the children can be as we reread parts of the book with the font choices in mind!

Late in the book it uses the word "preposterous".  I like to reread that page, and then ask the children what they think that word means.  Have they ever heard it before?  No (at least so far no-one has), yet they all tell me more or less correctly what it means.  This opens up a discussion of context clues, and how good readers can figure out what words mean!

After reading The Book With No Pictures, we read a book with no words: Chalk.  This is important to me because at this age so many children realize the importance of print that they don't necessarily want to read the pictures - but it is such a useful part of decoding text for them!  As a reading teacher I've often told students to look at the pictures for clues, but I don't model doing that often enough, and I think many children begin to think of it as "how a baby reads", or not "real" reading.  By taking away all words, readers get to focus on the pictures and on how they tell a story, creating meaning and telling the narrative.  What great skills!

 It makes sense to follow up our reading lessons with some reading practice, so we work on dinosaur sight word mystery pictures.  Click on the picture and check out this pre-primer one.

My preschool and early kindergarten students also enjoy working on dinosaur words with this word building activity.  With 14 pages of dinosaur words to build, this is a fun, hands on center for letter learners - I slip the pages into sheet protectors (easier than laminating!) and put out our 1" letter tiles.  Ta-da! Instant literacy station!

If you read my blog very often, you know I like to include a free resource in my posts - and here's a free counting, sequencing, and addition activity.  Click the picture to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store and download it - and if you like it, please take a moment to leave feedback so I know to keep offering freebies!

There are a lot of other dinosaur learning activities in my TeachersPayTeachers store - I hope you'll stop by and check it out when you're prepping your dinosaur unit.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Here's Hoping You Have a Wonderful Valentine's Day!

Here's Hoping you have a Wonderful Valentines Day: books, activities and ideas from Paula's Primary Classroom
This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase using one of my links, which helps to support the blog.  All opinions are my own and I only promote brands and products that I have used myself and truly love.

February is upon us, and for teachers that means another busy month of learning, and of excited kiddos who are more interested in candy and fun than whatever plans we might have.  Just as we are recovering from the triple hit of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas / Hanukkah, here comes Valentine's Day to throw us off our schedules again.  What is a teacher to do?!

We outsmart them!  When we know our students have a lot to say about something, we harness that energy and turn it into a learning opportunity!  Thinking about candy?  Okay, let's graph that! 

While we're at it, would you rather have Valentine's cookies or candy?  Did you make Valentines Day cards this year? 
Who could resist?!  As we follow up our graphs with questions about how many, how many more/fewer, which is most popular, etc., we're covering lots of math skills just talking about the holiday. 😉

We also read a LOT of books.  Reading together is probably my favorite part of being a teacher!  I love sharing my favorite books, and it's so thrilling when students unlock the magic of reading for themselves!
Here's Hoping you have a Wonderful Valentines Day: books, activities and ideas from Paula's Primary Classroom

Working on rhyming?  Read Some Things Go Together by Charlotte Zolotow, and have your students make up their own rhymes of things that go together.

Passionate about pop-up books? I adore Love Bugs by David A. Carter.

Kindergarten - third grade students with a sense of humor?  Sam's Surprise by David Pelham has a sister making chocolate covered icky things for her brother's birthday - and gets kids laughing and intently listening to figure out the rhymes!

Do some of your students struggle with being kind to each other?  Of course they do, it's part of learning and growing.  Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat might be just the thing to help students make better choices.

Those of you who know me have to be expecting a Pete the Cat book on this list - and sure enough, I enjoy reading Pete the Cat: Valentines Day is Cool with my kiddos!

Another beautiful book that's worth mentioning is The Invisible String.  I found this beautiful story when I was looking to comfort some of my little's who had lost a pet - it's perfect for that, but it's not the focus.  The invisible string is the love that holds us in each other's hearts, even when we're apart.  If that doesn't speak to Valentines Day, what does?! 

My students and I also really love 100 and 120 chart mystery pictures, so of course I made them for Valentines.  They love figuring out what each mystery picture is, and I love that they're engaged, that it's easy to put them down and come back to them later (what classroom doesn't deal with interruptions?!), and that they're ready to print and go.  Win, win, win!  I've had several teachers tell me they use these in the time leading up to class parties, and that it helps keep their students focused.


In the last year or so I've started using a variation on my hundreds charts: 100 POCKET charts.  Oh. My. Goodness!  This is a game changer too!  Now my students can get hands on practice in small groups during math centers - and they WANT to complete the pictures.  This is what these puzzles look like - and if you catch yourself wondering what the picture is going to be, chances are good your students will too!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy Valentines with your students?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  Thanks for stopping by!



Thursday, January 3, 2019

Books and Activities to make this the Best Chinese New Year

Happy New Year everyone!  While Chinese New Year doesn't begin until February 5th, we teachers like to start early to gather books and materials - so I thought I'd share some of my favorites!

Books and activities to make this the best Chinese New Year - from Paula's Primary Classroom

This Next New Year, by Janet S. Wong:  (links for your convenience, I am not an amazon affiliate).
I like this book for several reasons.  First, it's told from the perspective of a young boy, and is simply told.  Many Chinese New Year preparations and traditions are explained by him, so young children will easily understand them.  I think it's also important that the narrator talks about people from different cultures celebrating lunar new year - this holiday isn't limited to China!

 Dragon Dancing, by Carole Lexa Schaefer:
 Dragon Dancing is also told from the perspective of a young child.  A beautifully diverse school group learns about dragons, then creates their own dragon in art class.  They work together to dance their dragon all over, imagining it's actions through various settings.  This book really sets the stage for imagining and mimicking dragon actions, and is likely to inspire children to cooperate to make their own dragon.  This book absolutely begs for participation from readers!

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
This story is longer than the other two, but the fast pace will keep children listening!  This one has elements of Jack and the Beanstalk and the Gingerbread Man, but is a very different story.  The emphasis is on sharing and being fair, something children usually have strong feelings about.  It talks about Chinese New Year foods and activities, and has a satisfying moral at the end.  If you are able to follow up by serving traditional foods and showing children a real wok, they'll be fascinated! 

My very favorite activity to do for Chinese New Year is tangrams, an ancient Chinese puzzle with unlimited possible answers.  Tangrams look deceptively easy: the puzzle is made up of only 7 simple shapes, but even adults often struggle to make a basic square with them!

Working on spacial awareness, and manipulating 2D shapes are important mathematical concepts, so I like to offer my students both the challenge, and an option to get clues, so they can choose the right level of difficulty for themselves.  Check out this short video explanation:
 If you'd like to use my tangram puzzles, you can find them in my TeachersPayTeachers store here.

There are a couple of lovely story books about tangrams: Grandfather Tang's Story, and The Tangram Magician are both great for introducing the puzzles, and using literature to bring math into your classroom!

I've written before about Chinese New Year sensory bins, painting, and the story of the Great Race, and about making a Chinese New Year dragon blower, today I'd also like to share how to make an egg carton dragon.

 Egg Carton Dragon
You'll need half of the bottom of an egg carton, red paint and a brush, scissors, pipe cleaners, wiggle eyes and glue, and a push pin:
Books and activities to make this the best Chinese New Year - from Paula's Primary Classroom
 Paint the egg carton red:
Books and activities to make this the best Chinese New Year - from Paula's Primary Classroom
 When it is dry, use the push pin to poke holes for the pipe cleaners to stick out of the dragon's head.  Glue on wiggle eyes.  If desired, use a marker to add facial features!  You can also use yellow, orange and red paper scraps to help your dragon breath fire, or add sequins to  make it sparkle.
Books and activities to make this the best Chinese New Year - from Paula's Primary Classroom

Next time I'll talk about fun ideas that are specific to celebrating the Year of the Pig.  Please follow my blog to be notified when new posts are ready.  Until then, Happy New Year!