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, January 7, 2018

These Awesome Tangrams Will Make Your Students LOVE math!

You're probably familiar with tangrams, the Chinese puzzle made with 7 shapes that form a square - and any number of other things.  They're fun for all ages, simple enough for a child to use, and complex enough to challenge adults: truly a puzzle for children ages 3 - 103.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
When I first introduce anything to my students, I like to allow them plenty of time to explore and discover on their own.  This is something I was urged to do way back in teacher training, and 25 years teaching has reinforced.  It's amazing what students will come up with when you let them explore and play!
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

Next I display a big tangram shape.  I ask students to tell me what they notice.  This is when I usually hear the names of the shapes, some words about size, and there's almost always someone who refers to the "diamond" shape, which is just the square turned onto a corner.  Being a tiny bit silly (who me?) I ask the children what my name is - Ms. Paula.  I then strike various silly poses and ask again - and each time my name is still the same.  It's the same with the square - turn it any which way you like, it's still a square!

Another great word and concept that comes up at this time is parallel.  For most of the children I've taught, that's a new word.  We look around the room for things that are parallel: the sides of our desks, the lines in the ceiling tiles, bookshelves, and more.  Although this is a brief mini lesson, only lasting a minute or so, I carry it over into the rest of the week by noticing or asking children to notice parallel lines around the school.  Pretty soon they have that concept firmly in place.

The next thing I like to do is to hide my tangram, and provide each child with their own tangram and ask then to make me a square.  I bet you can picture which child in your class will be a smarty and hold up the small square!
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
I challenge them to make a square, and it doesn't take long for someone to use 2 equal sized triangles to do it.  The tangram set includes 2 small triangles and 2 big triangles, so there's more than 1 way to do it - I love telling my students to keep trying and look for another way, it's just the sort of challenge they're eager to figure out!

It's very rare to have a student use all 7 pieces to make a square, in fact, most adults I've met can't figure it out.  I give the children a few minutes to try, and when I sense they're ready, I begin to give them clues.  I show them how to use the 2 big triangles to make half of the square - it's helpful to define the space where the rest of the pieces will go.

These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
A few minutes later I add the square,
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
then the medium triangle. 
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
Eventually all the children get it.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

That's my introduction to tangrams - next comes the part I like the best!  I show students pictures that can be made with tangrams, and challenge them to try to make them.  You can find hundreds of tangram puzzle shapes with a quick internet search, or for simplicity, I have a variety of these puzzles available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
It's ideal to have both the puzzle and the answer key available, because many students will be challenged to simply rotate and match the shapes, while others will relish the challenge of figuring it all out.  I put them back to back in a page protector, so students can easily flip and check.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
Don't have tangrams in your classroom yet, and don't have a budget for them?  No problem!  Download this free print
out, and either cut them ahead of time, or have students cut out their own.  It will save you a lot of confusion if you print them on different colored paper, so students don't mix up their pieces with a neighbor!  5-6 colors is enough - just use what you have available.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

I hope you and your students enjoy exploring tangrams together! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Can You Name This Children's Book?

Who doesn't love children's books?  Chances are good that if you are here on my blog, you share my love for awesome picture books.  After a short hiatus for the holidays, I'm back with my regular Monday series, Can You Name This Children's Book?  Here's this weeks' clue:
Can You Name This Children's Book?  Children's literature series from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
So who knows which book this quote comes from - and yes, the picture is a clue!  Once you think you've got the answer, scroll down to see...

... It's Eric Carle's 10 Little Rubber Ducks.  Stop back by each Monday for another installment, or follow my blog and be in the know.  Have an awesome day everyone!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Can you name this children's book?

Can you name this children's book?  "One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry." - from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Can you hear the music?  Do you want to continue the song / text?  "Hat berry, shoe berry, in my canoe berry."

Need another hint?  This one is by Bruce Degen - it's Jamberry, of course!  To hear the song, check out this youtube video

Monday, December 4, 2017

Can you name this children's book?

Surely you've read this book with your primary grade students - it's The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola.  I've read it during the holiday season for many years, and like to do this beautiful craft project to go along with it!  Wishing you a joyous holiday season!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wishing you a Beauti-Fall Thanksgiving Week

There are so many things that I am thankful for.

My family.  My dogs (who ARE family).  Work that I love doing, and people I enjoy doing it with.  Home.  Friends near and far.  Small children and the joy they bring to everything.  Abundance, and beautiful places to enjoy it.  I could go on, but two doggies and this view are waiting for me, and if we are to be truly grateful, we have to go and immerse ourselves in life, and soak it all up. 

Wishing you blessings beyond measure this holiday season!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Can You Name This Children's Book?

Last week's Can You Name This Children's Book was a bit tricky, so this week I'm making it - I think - much easier.  Using the picture and the quote below it, can you figure it out?
Can You Name This Children's Book?  blog post series by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
If you said Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you're right!  I think almost everyone has read this one, and it's actually one of my earliest book memories - Mrs. Potts read it to me waaaaay back when I was in first grade.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) skills: learning the content

Are you old enough to remember the short films schools used to show when teaching science content?  I am.  They were usually old, grainy, black and white films (and I mean film, on film strips, presented on a noisy film projector), but the worst thing about them was how incredibly boring they were.  That kind of teaching just didn't inspire a whole lot of learning!

 There are so many other, more exciting ways to present content information, and to help our students learn the facts they need to know.  Today I'm going to show you some of my favorites.
STEAM: 7 ways to teach the content, from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

My students love to observe and explore, so I have always included real animals in my classrooms.  My first year teaching I had a fish tank (good plan), raised caterpillars (good plan), had plants in the classroom (good plan), and raised two ducklings (NOT a good plan - they poop a LOT, smell, and need fresh water a couple of times a day).  Since then we've also had tadpoles and frogs, earth worms, various insects, herb, vegetable and flower gardens, a hamster, and an outside area full of possibilities.  Children (and adults) find nature fascinating, and can learn a tremendous amount from observing the plants and animals in our world. Why not provide a way for them to record what they see?

Of course, some things are best learned about at a safe distance (sharks and piranhas for example), or are inaccessible.  When we use awesome pictures and information presented at an age appropriate level, factual content can be fascinating and engaging.   To make it easier to find just the right text, most of my guided reading books include texts at multiple levels.

Even emergent readers want to learn about the world around them, so it's important to find non-fiction texts they can master.  
Solution #3: informational craftivities

 Read and write the room activities can include non-fiction learning...

... and so can logic puzzles....
Solution #5: Non-fiction logic puzzles

... and simple sentence picture match activities!
Solution #6: sentence picture match


If you've been reading this series about STEAM learning, you know I also like to make thematic resources, to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and math.  I love it when everything I need is together, ready to go.

What are your favorite ways to make learning content engaging?  Is there a subject you wish you could find this kind of resources for?  (I'm always looking for ideas of resources to create!)  Let me know in the comments!