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!

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!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

$50 gift card giveaway!

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thanksgiving book round up

If you teach elementary school, chances are good that you love children's books!  If you teach elementary school in the US, you probably love, have, need, and use Thanksgiving picture books.  Here are a few of my favorites!

It's Thanksgiving, by Jack Prelutsky.  My students have always loved Jack Prelutsky's poems, but his holiday collections are some of our favorites!  I got this way back when it came with the book on tape, and we STILL read and sing along to these songs/poems.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving - a classic Thanksgiving story about a class field trip to the farm that turns into a rescue mission. 

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano has a predictable problem, a variety of turkey disguises, and a creative solution.  If you do a disguise a turkey activity, this book is a perfect lead in.

Have you met We Gather Together... Now Please Get Lost! and other books by Diane deGroat?  Students will relate to the class dynamics, to students doing their best to get along but struggling at times.  There's always a lot of humor in deGroat's books that cleverly disguises a lesson on friendship and getting along. 

The Most Thankful Thing is perhaps better for a family reading than a classroom story, as a parent reveals that her little one is her most thankful thing, but this story also lends itself to making lists of the things we are thankful for, and ties in beautifully with this Thanksgiving activity that I do each year.

In The Great Turkey Race 3 bird brained turkeys compete to be the most special turkey, the one that will be chosen for Thanksgiving... fortunately, all works out well in the end.

Over the River is the classic Thanksgiving song that you already know, love and sing along to, with adorable turkeys acting out the story.  This is a fun way to teach or practice the song with your kiddos!

Do your students get excited about sharks, saber toothed tigers, t-rex and piranhas?  I bet you weren't expecting them to show up in a Thanksgiving book, yet here they are in Who Will Carve the Turkey This Thanksgiving?,  just right to engage the 4 and 5 year old crowd. 

10 Fat Turkeys  This turkey count down book is adorable, every turkey has it's own personality, and the recurring phrase "GOBBLE GOBBLE WIBBLE WOBBLE" will have your students joining in as you read.  Unlike a lot of Thanksgiving stories for the primary grades, there's no mention of turkey dinner at all.

There are some book series that I've collected a lot of, and the Arthur series by Marc Brown is one of them.  Arthur's Thanksgiving engages my first graders, and with Muffy saying things like "Vomitrocious", it keeps me entertained too.  As always, Arthur and friends learn something important along the way.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie - it's not what you might expect, it's a hundred times better!  The text is great, but the illustrations by Judith Byron Schachner are priceless!
So what is YOUR favorite Thanksgiving book?  Let me know what I missed in the comments, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

My students LOVE hundreds chart mystery pictures, which is why I've created so many of them.  They love racing to see who can figure out the hidden picture first, they love coloring the pages, and they love working in teams to solve the puzzles.  Change things up a little with addition and subtraction?  Sure!  Solve mystery pictures with base 10 blocks?  Cool!  Recently I came up with a whole new way to do hundreds charts and it is a game changer: in the hundreds pocket chart!

Now I'm asking myself why I didn't think of it before.  We know students need a lot of time and practice understanding 2 digit numbers, but they don't always need paper and pencil tasks.  Somehow they're always ready for hands on active learning though, and my students really love getting to work at the pocket charts.  That works well for me too - I love how little space it takes to use a vertical surface for a center, and that it frees up table tops for things that can't go vertical.

Want to see how these work?  Easy-peasy!

Step 1: print number cards on colored paper.

Step 2: cut on straight lines.
A new twist on an old favorite: hundreds POCKET charts!
Step 3: have students put them in the hundreds pocket chart!

I like to use these as math centers, assigning 3-5 students at a time to work on solving the puzzle together, but that's not the only option!  You can use these puzzles as a class reward too - each time a student is caught being wonderful, you can give them a number to add to the chart.  When it's completed you can give a reward, or solving the puzzle can be the reward.  Want to use them as a whole class game?  Give each student a blank 100s chart, shuffle the cards for a puzzle, then project the cards one at a time as students find and color the number on their charts!

It's easy to differentiate these puzzles too - you can start with an empty hundreds chart and challenge students to figure out where each number belongs (click Papa Bear for video):

or you can start with some or all of the numbers showing so students only need to match the numbers (click big bad wolf for video).

You may be wondering how I store all these hundreds pocket charts, especially since each one has 100 pieces.  I've come up with several different storage solutions, which all start with one extra card - a picture card of the completed puzzle (I include these in the sets I make).  I put it on the top of the pile of cards for each puzzle, so the puzzles are only mysteries to the children - not to me!

A new twist on an old favorite: hundreds POCKET charts!
At first I used rubber bands to keep each set together, and stored them in a small box.

A new twist on an old favorite: hundreds POCKET charts!
I've also used small baggies, binder clips, and even empty candy tins (I do like Altoids!).

A new twist on an old favorite: hundreds POCKET charts!

I think I found my favorite solution yet at the Target Dollar Spot: divided plastic boxes.  Check these out, they are absolutely perfect!
A new twist on an old favorite: hundreds POCKET charts!
So now I have my hundreds pocket charts stored by theme in these divided boxes.  I can easily find just what I want, and my students can get hands on practice with 2 digit numbers as often as we need it!  Can you see why this is my new favorite math station?

                                                                                                   Thank you for stopping by!

If you like the idea of using hundreds pocket charts, but don't have time to make them yourself, I'd be honored if you'd consider the growing selection available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

3 astonishingly easy ways to engage your kids in clean up

Kids engaged in clean up?  Yeah, right!  No-one wants to stop playing to clean up at home or at school - they'd rather play all day.

True, most children would rather play than clean up, but it doesn't have to be an either / or situation - clean up can be playful!  Don't believe me?  After more than 25 years of working with young children, I've learned a trick or two or three, and today I'm going to share them with you!

3 astonishinly easy ways to engage your kids in clean up, from Paula's Primary Classroom

Clean up trick #1:  The Magic Trash
I learned this trick my first year teaching, when a colleague shared it with me.  When it's time for clean up, just announce that there is a piece of magic trash waiting to be cleaned up, and watch your children scramble to find it!  Sometimes I'd offer a prize - at my school it was golden tickets - but no prize is needed if you engage with the kids to make it fun.  Say things like, "No-one has found it yet!", "____ you were close a minute ago!", or "Keep looking!"  If you're excited and engaged, the children will be too.  Make a big deal out of the "winner" who found it, and everyone will want to be the one who finds the magic trash next time.

Clean up trick #2:  Cinderella's step-mother
Which popular princess starts out by doing a whole lot of clean up?  Cinderella, of course!  Give your children a reason to role play her character by turning yourself into the mean spirited step-mother!  I always put on a properly haughty voice, and announce, "You can't possibly go to the ball until all this is cleaned up!"  (Click on the link above to hear how ridiculously silly I can be!) This one works well with a group - I usually give each child a specific task, "You! Clean the shelf!", "Sweep the floor!", "Pick up the toys!", or whatever needs doing.  If you have child sized cleaning tools like brooms, dustpans, dusters, or baby wipes, they'll eagerly play along - and that of course is the whole secret, you've made clean up into a game and you're playing it with them.  Make sure that when the cleaning is done that your little Cinderella(s) get to do something fun - like go outside to play.

Clean up trick #3: The Pirate Captain
Argh, do your kids disdain princesses?  Well maybe they'll listen to the pirate captain instead!  Once again, I recommend talking and acting in character so the kids get into the role play and make this a fun game with you.  I always start this one by announcing that I'm a pirate captain, and I'm taking away all the "loot" or "treasure" from the floor.  I then stomp off and get a bag or a box to put my haul in.  This usually prompts the children to scurry around grabbing all the toys off the floor, but just in case, when I return with the box I point out a toy that I'm taking for treasure, and make a show of marching over to pick it up.  What kid can resist racing to get there first?  Continue the fun by pointing out more toys and attempting to collect them for your own treasure.

With this clean up game I have sometimes managed to collect a few toys that the children didn't clean up, or didn't get to quickly enough.  When that happens I do put those toys out of reach for a few weeks - even though this is a game, if the children don't clean up their toys, the consequence is losing them for a time.  Will I give them back?  Of course!  Will it be today?  Not on yer life, land lubber!

I'd love to hear how these clean up games work with your children - and if you have any ideas to share with me, please leave me a comment.  I'm always looking for new ways to make learning, playing, (and even cleaning up) more fun!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Three tips you need to know about bubbles

Do your kiddos love bubbles?  It's almost certain they do!  You probably don't know these 3 tips for making the most of  bubble play with your children:

1.  You don't have to buy bubble mix, and if you do, you're probably spending too much on it! It's very simple to make AWESOME bubbles with Palmolive dish washing detergent and water.  Simply fill a bottle about 7/8 full of water, then add the Palmolive. (If you put the soap in first and then add water it will froth up.  Trust me on this!)

2.  Children are going to spill their bubbles - but you can control how much bubble mix they have at a time.  Don't fill that bottle to the top until your child has mastered the art of holding a container upright while moving about!

3.  What are you going to do about getting bubble wands if you don't purchase commercial bubbles?  You can make your own wands, find alternatives around the house, or buy cool bubble tools like the ones in the pictures above! 

I hope you and your kiddos have lots of bubble fun and outside time this summer!  Thanks for stopping by!
                                                                                                        - Paula