You know you’re a pre-k teacher when

29 Jan
  • You sing all day, every day. And if you don’t have a song for the situation, you make it up.
  • Your classroom smells like a mix of farts and Play Doh.
  • You sprain your pinky using a puppet.
  • You’ve seen every possible bodily fluid on the floor of your classroom, or sometimes on you.
  • Your students tell you the most random things (“I’m going to marry Sonic so we can dance like daisies.” What?!).
  • You get 100 hugs and high fives a day.
  • You’re at the restroom with your class for about an hour and a half a day, if you don’t have a restroom in your classroom.
  • You live in a world of make believe.
  • You come home exhausted with marker, paint and God knows what else all over you.
  • You have the best job in the world.
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Engaging Parents and Families

17 Dec

I have amazing parents and families. I am lucky to have many caring and involved parents.

They all want to help their children learn and grow. Most of them sporadically complete a few activities from our monthly homework calendar. Several of them have asked for worksheets, but at this age, I don’t believe worksheets are appropriate.

I wanted something else to engage parents further, to help them help their children (while being developmentally appropriate).

So the Resource Cart was born.

To start, I created 10 activity bags: three writing, three reading, three math and one social/emotional. I reinforced the Ziploc bags with duct tape to make them sturdier.

In the bags, I included: laminated instructions with a list of materials on the back and materials for the activity.

Parents and students can check out an activity bag in the morning during sign in. When I first introduced the Resource Cart, I explained the guidelines for checking out activity bags to parents: only check out one bag at a time, take care of materials, etc.

It’s been about three weeks, and it’s been a success! Parents have given great feedback. I have since added five new activities to the cart: two more social/emotional and three fine motor activities.

And I love seeing my students get excited in the morning about checking out an activity or a book. They remind their parents before they even have a chance to sign them in.

If that’s not taking ownership of one’s own learning, I don’t know what is.

Winter and Holiday Activities

15 Dec

It’s the most magical time of the year.

Santa is getting presents ready. Elves are visiting classrooms (yes, we have an Elf on the Shelf). And creativity and kindness are abound.

Our Centers are filled with winter wonderful activities.

Art

  • Cup snowmen – Use cups and white paint to create the body of the snowmen. We recycled scraps of construction paper to make branch arms, hats and scarves.
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  • Watercolor mittens – This week, we’re reading “The Mitten,” so students are watercoloring an outline of a mitten. They are using crayons to draw animals and objects inside the mitten. The wax from the crayon resists the watercolor, so you can see the crayon after it’s painted.

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Science

  • Peppermint experiment – Using our senses to explore what happens when we put candy canes in water
  • Arctic animals in snow

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Reading

  • Five Little Snowmen finger play

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Dramatic Play

  • Santa’s workshop
    • Naughty/Nice List – Students can write classmates’ names
    • Fixing toys – Using tools to build, fix, and paint toys
    • Baking cookies – Using kitchen tools to bake Christmas cookies
    • Stuffing stockings – Cutting pictures of toys out of catalogs and gifting them to classmates by putting them in their stockings
    • Number ornaments – Placing ornaments in number order on our class tree

Writing

  • Writing letters to Santa
  • Making holiday cards for children in the hospital – I did this with my students last year, and they loved it! We mailed 30 cards to Cards for Hospitalized Kids last year. Although my kiddos are excited about getting presents, we’re learning that Christmas is not all about getting. It’s about giving.

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Math

  • Snowman addition – Using paint dotters, students build two snowmen. They count the dots on each snowman and create a number sentence.

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  • Christmas light patterns

We also made name snowmen in small groups and an equilateral triangle tree during large group. They did such a wonderful job on them!

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For our monthly family involvement project, students and families decorated a gingerbread “person.” Some made minion gingerbread, some made Hello Kitty gingerbread, and of course there was an Olaf gingerbread. Why do they love Frozen so much?!?

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Thanks for reading! Check back for more photos!

No turkeys here!

19 Nov

For our November family project, my students and their families disguised turkeys so they wouldn’t get eaten.

Here are some favorites.

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Teaching them about the important things in life — like Starbucks

19 Nov

Pretend and make believe is what I do.

Four year olds will do almost anything if you do it like a robot or a princess. Take counting, for example. Almost every morning, we count the days on our calendar like minions or zombies. They get to be silly. They love it.

So our dramatic play center is extremely popular. This center usually takes the shape of some sort of home setting — a kitchen, a living room or a dining room.

During November, this center is a Starbucks. Red cups and all. My 4 year olds sip on coffee, make pastries and take customers’ orders. They practice using money and a cash register. There are an abundance of math, literacy and language opportunities.

At a parent conference today, I was telling a parent that her son loved going to our Starbucks center and copying words from the menu. As I was explaining to her how great this was, she stopped me and said, “Oh, that’s where he learned about Starbucks. I never take him to Starbucks. I don’t even think I’ve ever told him what Starbucks is, so I thought it was odd that he asked my sister to take him there to get coffee. They went one day, and he got his first little hot chocolate. He was so excited. This makes sense.”

We both laughed.

Glad my students are taking what they learn in class and applying it to real life.IMG_3144

Fanny Frog, the manager of Starbucks 306

Fanny Frog, the manager of Starbucks 306

Writing down orders on clipboards

Writing down orders on clipboards

Fun fall festivities

16 Nov

October was full of exciting pumpkin activities. I tried to incorporate pumpkins and Halloween into all of our centers and many of our large and small groups.


Centers

Art – painting with pumpkins, painting with Halloween-themed stamps, making funny jack-o-lanterns using construction paper

Science – Weighing different size pumpkins using a balance scale, washing pumpkins in the water table

Reading – “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever,” “Click, Clack, Boo”

Dramatic Play – I made a pumpkin patch with different sized pumpkins, straw hats, scarecrows, and hay. To incorporate writing, I posted Halloween words around the pumpkin patch. I gave the students clipboards, so they could walk around the center and write down all the Halloween words they found.

Writing – I posted some fall/Halloween words with pictures on a mini word wall in the writing center. I found some great Halloween-themed paper on Teachers Pay Teachers for free. Students were writing their own scary stories using the mini word wall. I also added some Halloween stickers they could use to decorate their papers. This was great to build fine motor skills, making them peel the stickers off the sticker paper.

Math – Spider ring counting game. I bought orange and black spider rings from the Dollar Tree. I put them in a brown paper bag. My students closed their eyes, picked on ring out, and colored the spider on the printout I put in the center. Once they colored all the spiders, they counted how many orange and how many black spiders they picked. They wrote the number in the box. To add an extra challenge, I had students circle which spider they had the most of.


Pumpkin exploration

The week of Halloween, we spent our large groups dissecting a pumpkin. We counted the lines on the outside of the pumpkin, the seeds inside. We made predictions about what they thought was inside, how many seeds they thought were inside. Their guesses ranged from 1 to 5,100 seeds. I thought that was hilarious. Another day, we voted on how we should carve our pumpkin. My students voted on what shape its eyes, nose, and mouth should be.IMG_3081


Fall party

I found three activities on Pinterest I really thought my students would love.

Pumpkin ghost bowling – My assistant made adorable ghosts using white plastic grocery store bags and empty water bottles. We set up the ghosts, and my students rolled a pumpkin to knock down the ghosts. They had a blast!

Mummy wrap – I had some parents donate rolls of toilet paper. The students paired up and wrapped their partner to mummify him/her. I have never seen anyone have more fun with toilet paper. Such a simple way to have fun.IMG_3105

Graveyard dirt cup – Parents donated chocolate pudding cups, gummy worms, ghost Peeps, candy corn, and chocolate sprinkles. Students decorated their cups and dug in. They got a kick out of eating dirt and worms.

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Happy fall, y’all!

Embracing Blacktober

5 Oct

There’s a hushed term in the teaching community called Blacktober. Mention it to any teacher, and I guarantee you’ll elicit a reaction like this.

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I didn’t learn what Blacktober was until after I had survived it last year. And once I had, I already started dreading next year’s Blacktober. Cue dramatic music.

You’re a teacher, knee-deep into the school year. The honeymoon phase is over. The kids are adjusted to the routines and procedures. Now they’re starting to show their true colors.

You’re dealing with assessments, deadlines, paperwork, behavior issues, along with trying to teach a jam-packed curriculum.

You start praying for a four-day week. You haven’t had one of those since Labor Day at the beginning of September. You think, “Why don’t we get Columbus Day off anymore? Rosh Hashanah? Yom Kippur? Someone celebrates these holidays.” You’re next extended weekend isn’t until Thanksgiving break.

I started feeling the effects of Blacktober Oct. 1. I’m dealing with two kiddos who have extreme behavior outbursts and need a lot of extra support (but that’s a story for another post).

So here I am, the first Sunday night in Blacktober, counting down the days until Thanksgiving break (There’s 46 in case you’re wondering).

I’m attempting to come up with some ways to not just survive Blacktober but also how to enjoy it. Here it goes.

1. Plan activities and lessons you are excited about. Spend a little extra time creating something fun, even if you don’t feel like it because little Johnny has been a real headache lately.

2. Reward yourself with little treats. Whether that’s a Starbucks on the way to work or an extra episode on Netflix, you deserve it.

3. Don’t be so hard on yourself. So what if your lesson didn’t go as planned because one of your students had a meltdown in the middle of your large group. It’s not your fault, which leads me to No. 4.

4. Focus only on what’s in your locus of control. Our students bring in so much baggage with them every day to class. That tantrum or episode they’re having more than likely has nothing to do with you. Help the best you can and get on with the day.

5. Forgive and move on. Don’t be stubborn. These are children we’re teaching. They might swear like sailors and try to act like adults, but they are still developing and learning. As the Frozen ice queen Elsa says: Let it go.

6. Laugh and laugh some more.
And if these don’t work, just pray, pray, pray.
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