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, January 9, 2022

A simple recipe for amazing preschool success with your little ones

What does it take to make an outstanding recipe - whether the traditional kind for food, or a recipe for something much less tangible, like success?

I would argue that all recipes need ingredients, and better ingredients will usually yield better results. Of course, there has to be a method for putting those ingredients together, and surely almost every recipe needs to be carefully seasoned. 
A simple recipe for amazing preschool success with your little ones

My ingredients for preschool - beside the obvious preschoolers and adult carer - would have to start with books and music!  So it was this last week, when we focused on learning the letter J.

One of the wonderful things about children is their energy, and rather than fight it, I figured we'd expend some of it by dancing and singing. We exercised to 100 with Jack Hartman's Count to 100, and did the Tooty Ta with Dr. Jean - because no kid can resist sticking out their tongue and bottom while they dance (who can)?! We sang Hello My Name Is Joe, adding actions until we could barely stand, and worked on vocal modulation sang loudly and quietly with John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt while jingling our bells. Were the kids worn out? NO! Were the teachers? Yes, yes we were, but it was only 9:30 am so we kept going.

Do you see the huge pile of jewelry in the box shown above? We put it ALL on and JUMPED JOYFULLY in jewelry.  By the time we were done the kiddos were ready to sit down for a few books (and my exercise ring was closed for the day)! 

Jump Frog, Jump is a great book for an energetic group - the pages alternate between story line and exclaiming "Jump Frog, Jump!" We held our bodies still on the story pages, just waiting to explode our arms up into the air as we shouted at the frog to JUMP! (Little ones can't still for very long, but by alternating still and moving we're working on self control.)

After our stories were done we worked our fine motor muscles gluing jewels onto a letter j.  I had fine plans for making a jack-o-lantern uppercase J another day, but... some days you follow the recipe, and other days you improvise. It's all good!

A simple recipe for amazing preschool success with your little ones

This week we'll be focusing on letter K.  My music playlist includes Katalina Matalina, Old King Cole, Kookaburra, and Polly Put the Kettle On.  We'll be reading about kangaroos and koalas, making a letter K craft with a kangaroo and song, and crafting adorable koala headbands.

A simple recipe for amazing preschool success with your little ones

K is also for kittens, kisses and Kente Cloth, and we'll read about them all. We'll reach into my letter K box to find a king, keys, koala, KitKat and chocolate kisses. I have a karate outfit that the kiddos will take turns wearing, and we'll look for chocolate kisses hidden in the toy kitchen. In case that isn't enough, I'm super excited to have downloaded all the alphabet songs from HeidiSongs, so we'll be singing and dancing lots of letters!

A simple recipe for amazing preschool success with your little ones
If we go back to the recipe metaphor, I'll finish by adding a helping dollop of outside time and free play, and seasoning liberally with joy and love.  I'm pretty sure our recipe is going to be amazing!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

How the "Champion of the World" Conquered Sight Words

 Are you a big sports fan?  How about your students? Whether it's football, baseball, basketball, skating, soccer, tennis or something else, chances are someone in your classroom LOVES sports!

I'm tutoring a first grader who is BIG into sports, and realized the key to keeping him engaged in sight word practice is right there: baseball, football, soccer and basketball.  I did what teachers have always done - went looking for just the right resource to help him master his sight words.  I didn't FIND it, so I MADE it:

Each sight word card includes an image of a child involved in a sport, from karate and canoeing to gymnastics and lacrosse, there are LOTS of choices. I made cards for letters, pre-primer, primer, first, second AND third grade words - who knows how far we might go with this fun theme?! - and made it a game because if it feels playful we're more engaged and for longer. 
To play: He gets a chance to read each word, if he gets it right he puts it through the goal and scores a point. If he misses a word I get to keep it - unless he gets an extra point card and uses it to "steal" my words by reading them. I don't get to read anything unless he misses, so I end up with very few word cards in my hand. Clearly the game is rigged in his favor, and there's an incentive to focus on any words that are missed because he might still get another chance to get them from me. There is nothing more satisfying to a kid than winning a game against an adult!
My student loved the soccer goal, and he loved the basketball goal, and we have practiced sight words, scoring goals for each word he reads.  He informed me one day that he was "The Champion of the World" at our game. (Score a big win for me- he WANTS to practice reading with this game AND he's mastering new sight words!)

Then he asked about a football goal. And a baseball field - with just baseball player cards - please? I guess you know what happened next:

Now I'm trying to think of a way to incorporate making and using a paper football (here's a video I found that shows how to make one, and another video with the rules) as a reward for doing well with this sight word game.  If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Reading sight words is wonderful of course, but we need to read and understand them in sentences, paragraphs and whole stories, not just in isolation.   More sports themed learning to the rescue!

Each of the 18 sentences and matching pictures in this set is heavily focused on preprimer and primer sight words - and sports vocabulary, of course! By limiting how many sentences we work on at a time I can change the degree of difficulty.  Since I'm working 1-1 with my young sports fan we do these on a table top, but they also work really well as a literacy center in a pocket chart - and take up very little space in a busy classroom that way!

Soon we'll switch over to winter sports sentences, and since we're also reading transportation themed sight word readers we'll read and match sentences about cars, trucks, fire engines and more.  I can keep this up for as long as it takes him to master reading! 

So who's winning in this game?  Is it the "Champion of the World", for scoring more points than teacher?  Is it me, for achieving my goal of increasing his reading fluency and skills?  No dear reader, it's better than either of those scenarios, it's a great big win-win!

Saturday, November 6, 2021

30 Fantastic Free Early Elementary Resources You Can Download and Use Today

This week I asked a group of teacher-authors to share their best FREE resources for November for preschool through first grade, and boy, did they come through! Browse through the list, and if you find something that looks promising, click on the picture to go right to the source!  I hope you find some amazing resources to help YOU to make November awesome!



Thanksgiving Emergent Reader Vocabulary Books from Sea of Knowledge

 Thanksgiving Pocket Chart Activities Building Sentences by Primary Inspiration by Linda Nelson


Turkey Cut and Paste Book by ABC's of Literacy

 Fine Motor Activity

Sight Words | Thanksgiving | November from Pint Size Learners


Thanksgiving Table Book from Angie's Schoolhouse



Graphic organizers from Eugenia's Learning Tools :

November Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten from Life Beyond the Gradebook


 Owl Math Addition and Subtraction from me, Paula's Primary Classroom

 Thanksgiving Telling Time Game by Carla Hoff

Addition fact practice from Just Ask Judy for K-1

Download this free turkey-themed addition fact activity. Use it to provide math review or practice in kindergarten, first, and second grades.

 Missing Addends Math Center from K's Classroom Kreations

Thanksgiving Addition or Multiplication Turkey Spinners from Caffeinated and Creative

 Thanksgiving Addition Plus Zero Clipcards from Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas


 Squirrels and Acorns 3D Shape Matching from  Preschool Activities Nook


Thanksgiving Number Bonds Game | Missing Numbers Game from Sweet Sensations 


 Autumn Ordinal Numbers and Positional Words by Laura Martin



Addition with 0 Fast Fact Fluency | Digital Pixel Art for Google Sheets™ from Crystal Mencia


 Ordering Numbers with Google Slides Fall Number Order from Angie Fish

Pumpkin Writing Prompts and Activities from The Education Highway



Turkey Snack from Julie Lee

 Squanto's Snack from Stephanie Stewart


Thanksgiving Turkey Craft - Holiday Table Centerpiece with Casserole Recipe from 1st Grade Pandamania

 Simple Turkey Craft by Teaching Exceptional Kinders


Thanksgiving Table Talk Craft from Roots and Wings

Thanksgiving Pop-up Card Craft and Writing Activity from Learn With Alea

and more!

Thanksgiving Bingo from PlayLearnTeach


 Thanksgiving Preschool Skills Clip Cards from The Stay at Home Teacher - Kaitlyn Renfro

 Turkey Counting Sensory Bin from Literacy With the Littles

 Autumn Maze by Froggy About Teaching Resources

Quirky Turkey Card Game from Tammy's Toolbox

Want even more? Head over to An Apple For The Teacher and find a K-6 roundup from my friend Kelly!

Happy holidays everyone!


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Top 10 Proven Preschool Activities for Pp

Number 1: PLAY!

If you do nothing else this week, please let it be play!  Of course, almost everything I suggest is about playful learning because it is essential for children, and pretty darned important for grown-ups too.

Number 2: Pizza

See, learning about the letter P is fun AND delicious!  You already know I love to cook with children, and what's better for this week than making and eating pizza?! 

Depending upon how much time I want to spend on this, and on the age and skill level of my kiddos, I've had them help me make pizza dough (I cheat and use the bread machine), or I've used something as a pre-made crust.  Both work beautifully, are fun and fairly easy, and you end up with something delicious that your children will want to eat.  Today let's talk about letting children make their very own mini pizzas by using half an English muffin as a crust.

 I like to put out pizza toppings for the children to choose, and invite them a couple at a time to come and assemble their pizzas.  If you want to really talk about the sound of Pp, consider offering pepperoni, peppers, and pineapple along with any other toppings you want.  

It does take a few minutes for a preschooler to scoop up the ingredients they want, and to spread them on their pizza.  They're making decisions, estimating how much they want of each ingredient, and working their finger muscles as they arrange the toppings.  This is a fine motor, sensory, life-skill, healthy eating experience, and that's definitely worth the time it takes!

Make sure you know who's pizza is where on the baking sheet, because they WILL want THEIR OWN pizza!  Bake it until everything is hot and the cheese is starting to turn golden, and then.... well, your child will help you figure out what comes next!

Number 3: Pigs in a blanket

This is another fun cooking activity for your little ones, and you'll just need a can of biscuit dough and some mini sausages.

Let the children cut the pieces of biscuit dough in half, and squish each half.  Lay a sausage on the dough, then roll it up.

Lay them on a baking sheet and bake according to the directions for the dough.  YUM!

Again, if you're not sure what comes next, ask your children, they'll know it's time to eat!

Number 4: Picnic

You might be thinking a picnic takes a lot of planning and preparation, but when you're dealing with children, simply taking your meal outside to eat equals a picnic!  I like to keep a picnic blanket handy so we can make a picnic in just moments.  Have a large box from a delivery?  Instant picnic table! 

There's something magical about getting outside to eat - and of course, once they're done eating, it's time to PLAY!

Number 5: Puddle Stomping!

This is one of my all time favorite preschool activities, and one I think most of my former students remember well, even many years later.  I have a couple of pro-tips to help make this activity go smoothly, even with a group of children.

- Plan ahead.  Before you ever head out the door, make sure you have towels and dry clothes handy for afterwards.  Is your child wearing something that is okay to get wet, or do they need to change into play clothes first? Is the puddle in a place that's safe for bare feet? 

- Set limits.  Is splashing okay?  Are you getting full body wet, or just feet?  What space do you expect the children to stay in?  By thinking this through ahead of time you save yourself having lots of tired, wet children making a mess in your house afterwards!

I like to have the children take off their shoes and socks inside, and then head out. We run, we stomp, we splash... then we look for earthworms that have been washed out, and gently rescue them from the puddles.  We run around some more, and we notice how different everything looks when it's wet.  Take off your shoes and stomp right along with your child - I promise, it's fun!

Number 6: Penguins

Read about them (here's a post about penguin books), craft them, act like them, there are so many awesome ways to include penguins in your learning! Did you know Emperor penguin daddies keep their unhatched eggs warm on their feet? 
Penguins DO waddle, but they also like to slide on their bellies, which is called tobogganing.

They live in colonies or rookeries, and their chicks are fluffy and gray - NOT black and white.  

These are pictures of our penguin rookery - the patterns and instructions are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store here if you're interested, or for a penguin craft and games for learning letter P, check out this resource:

Number 7: Pirates

I've blogged about our pirate activities several times - check those posts out here, here and here!

Number 8: Hand prints and foot prints, of course!

As always, you can find the original inspiration for each of these, and many more ideas for similar crafts on this Pinterest board.

Number 9: Puzzles

Do you and your littles do puzzles together?  Puzzles require children to look for similarities and differences in shape and color, to rotate pieces, to work their finger muscles, to think about what the picture is supposed to look like, and much more.  Start with puzzles with 4 or 5 pieces, and work up to more complex ones.  You can usually find puzzles at resale stores or garage sales for very little money, and your local library may also have some in the play area that you can use while you're looking for books!

Number 10: Letter crafts

Make the letter-sound connection by creating letters that go along with some of the letter Pp activities you're doing this week.  We added penguins to pink or purple lower case letter p, and turned the upper case P into a pepperoni and peppers pizza pie. 

Have a great week friends - peace!