September 19, 2012

Three More Freebies! and Show and Tell Wednesday guessed it! I am home AGAIN with a sick little boy! I am praying he is better tomorrow, so I can go to school! Bronchitis is NOT an easy thing to kick though! At any rate, after my two-hour nap (which I desperately needed!), I got back to it on my computer. Today I made three different sets of Clip and Count games. There are sets for fall, spring, and summer. All you have to do is print out the one you want, cut apart the number strips, mount them on poster board (or something else that's pretty durable), and laminate them. Give your little ones the strips with some clothespins and you have a fun and easy game for centers, take-home packs, or small groups! These games will help them with numeral recognition, the counting sequence, one-to-one correspondence, and fine motor skills! I hope you and your little ones enjoy them! Click on the images below to go straight to my TPT store where you can get them for FREE!!

Fall Clip and Count

~FREEBIE~ Winter Clip and Count 
 Winter Clip and Count

~FREEBIE~ Spring Clip and Count 
Spring Clip and Count

I am also excited to be joining Jennifer at Darling Little Learners in her new Blog Hop called "Show and Tell Wednesday." I've linked this post to the blog hop, and you can link up by clicking on the button below! Thanks, Jennifer, for hosting! I always love to link up and see what other people are doing!!

Darling Little Learners

September 18, 2012

The ABC's of Pre-K

I'm home again with my little man today. I can't believe I'm missing 2 days in the fourth week of school! I guess the good news is that I've had time to work on a lot of stuff that I would have been doing at 1am otherwise! Our pre-k parent meeting is this week, and I just finished typing the information packet for the parents. I decided to do "The ABC's of Pre-K" this year. And...I'm not gonna was a little challenging to think of something for all the letters! So, there are a few that are a little bit of a stretch, but it is all information that the parents need to have! I know I always like to see what other teachers give out to their parents, so I've put a link below for you to see what I'm giving to mine. Enjoy!

September 17, 2012


Well...I am at home today with a sick little guy. So, I am taking advantage of this down time and have created two new freebies that are now in my TPT store!

Colors Books for Pre-K/, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. FREEBIE!! 
The first is a set of color books. Each one has 6 different pages that contain real photos of objects that are easily identified as the specific color. The books are not fancy or cute...but I did that on purpose. I wanted something VERY simple that even my 3's would be able to pick up and read. The text is simple and repetitive, and the titles are simply the color word. The set has books for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Feel free to hop on over to my TPT store and download your set! Just click on the image and it will take you there!

Monthly Assessment Sheets for Pre-K/K ~ Name Writing, Self Portrait, Hand Print...FREEBIE! 
The second freebie is a set of assessment sheets that you can use to track your kids' progress throughout the year. Each sheet has a box for them to write their names, draw their self-portrait, and do their hand print. I included September-May. At the end of the year you will have a great keepsake to give to your parents! My plan is to do the cute thematic hand prints for each month to make it something the parents will really want to keep! This one is also in my TPT store, so go get your FREE set! This image above will take you straight there!

September 15, 2012

Literacy is Everywhere!!

After only three weeks of school, our classroom has become a literacy wonderland! We read and write all day, and everywhere we look, we see books, words, and our names with pictures. I try to point out some little literacy tidbit whenever I get the chance, and it already paying off! My little prekinders are noticing all kinds of things about books, letters, words, and names! And, it is so fun to watch! Here are some of the things we have been doing to help develop this love for literacy that is growing in my classroom...

Morning Message
During our morning meeting time, we always do a morning message. For now, I am writing it, but soon will start sharing the pen with the kids. I say the name of each letter as I write, demonstrate putting a finger space after each word, and say the name of the period when I write it. The kids are instinctively echoing me as I name each letter. Most days, the message is basically the same. I always start with, "Dear Amazing Friends," followed by a sentence that tells what day it is and another that tells who the helper is. When something particularly exciting is happening, I add a third sentence to give the kids a preview. This will become standard practice as we get further into the year, but for now I'm keeping simple to develop the routines. Because it is so predictable, they know what I am writing, and I always make a HUGE deal out of what good readers they already are! Once I am done writing, we echo read the entire message. Then, we talk about one or two things within the message. We may find letters that are the same, count the words in a sentence, count the letters in a word, or compare words.

Poems, Shared Reading
Every day we do shared reading. We have a "Happy" poem each month, and we have a nursery rhyme or short poem. Normally, we would only spend one, maybe two, weeks on the nursery rhyme or poem. But, to learn the routines of shared reading, we have used "Jack Be Nimble" for three weeks. I love using the "Happy" poems. The poem stays the same, but the "thing" in the poem changes each month. Right now we have "Apple Happy." Next month it will be "Jack-O Happy." The kids learn the pattern very quickly, and they love to get the pointers and read it themselves during centers. To learn a new poem, I always read it to them first. We discuss any new vocabulary and talk about the overall meaning of the poem. After that, we spend a LOT of time echo reading. Once we know the words pretty well, we start choral reading. To keep it fun and interesting, we read it in all kinds of different ways. We use small voices and tall voices. We do daddy, mommy, and baby voices. We whisper read. We clap, pat, stomp, or jump to the rhythm. Sometimes I just pop something off the top of my head to spice it up. The helper of the day gets to choose a pointer, and I help them point to the words while we all read it together. This early in the year, tracking print is not our strong suit, so I guide their hands to show them how to touch one word at a time as we say each word. Next week the kids will get to take home their poetry folders for the first time, so they can practice reading the poems at home with mom and dad. (You can purchase Kinder Korner's "Happy All Year" file here. It contains everything you need to use these poems in your classroom!)

Name Chart
Names are a HUGE part of what we are doing right now. Each morning, we check the pocket chart to see who the helper is. We start by deciding if the name is a long or a short word. Then, we count the letters in the helper's name and cheer the letters. If the helper was John, I would say, "Give me a J!" and the kids throw their hands in the air and yell, "J!" After we have cheered all the letters, I say, "What's that spell?" and we all yell, "John!" Now that we have done several names, the kids are starting to point out similarities between their names and the helper's name. "I start with a J!" "His name is shorter than mine!" "I have an O in my name!" It is amazing to me how much they are already noticing. We have some great discussions during this time of our day! I also have another set of these name cards on a ring, and we start each day by flipping through them. I hold up the card and say good morning to that child. Then they respond with, "Good morning, Mrs. A." We also have a third set of name cards that attach to a Velcro strip on the bathroom door. When they arrive, they have to find their name card and attach it under the sign that says, "Who is here today?" Even during these daily routines, they are comparing names and talking with each other about what they see and notice!

Class Library
We read books several times each day! This bookshelf holds the books we have read together. When we move on to a new theme or topic, all of these books go into a tub so we have room for the new ones. (You can see the tub of books from the first week on the floor to the right of the bookshelf. The books are all color coded with garage sale dot stickers, and there is a matching dot on the side of the tub.

Big Books
During centers, the kids can read the books from the bookshelf, choose a book from the tubs in the class library, or read one of the big books I have shared with them. Even my 3's love to read class favorites like "Brown Bear."

Name Bags
Another popular choice during centers is our Name Bags. Each prekinder has a big envelope that holds different activities they can do with their names. To start with, there are two activities inside each Name Bag.

Name Bags
Each child has a name frame and a set of magnetic letters. They can match the letters to the printed letters, or they can place them in the blank boxes under the printed letters.

Name Bags
The second thing inside the Name Bags is a tracing card. Each prekinder got to choose a dry erase crayon to keep inside his/her bag. They can practice tracing the letters in their names, then they can easily wipe it off with a tissue! By the way...if you don't have dry erase crayons, get them! I love them! They are so much easier for the kids to use than dry erase markers! Plus, they don't dry out if the lids get left off, and the points don't get shoved down inside them if they press too hard! I got lucky and found mine on clearance at Walgreens last year for $0.99 a box!! Now, I think a box of 16 is $7 or $8, but still well worth it!

Magnetic Letters
And, of course, who doesn't love to play with magnetic letters?!?! These two friends were actually making a pattern with them. Others have sorted them by color, and some were actually sorting them by letter. Even one of my 3's was doing this! They have also figured out that they can get the ring of names from the easel or the name cards from the bathroom door attendance chart I mentioned earlier and find the letters to spell their own names or their friends' names. (The bathroom happens to be right next to the magnetic board!)

It is so fun and exciting to watch them play and learn during centers! The discoveries they make on their own (guided by our discussions during circle time, of course!) are absolutely priceless! I can't wait to see where we are going to be by the end of the year!

The other really big piece of our overall literacy program is writing, but I'll save that for a later post! Stay tuned to see how writing is integrated into every part of our day, as well!

September 8, 2012

Let's Sort!

Before I moved to pre-k, several experienced pre-k teachers described the first few days as "herding cats." I really didn't have an appreciation for exactly what they meant until school started two weeks ago! My 4's weren't too bad. Most of them were in pre-k 3, and the ones who weren't fell in line very quickly! But the 3's... Well, let's just say herding cats is a pretty accurate description! During circle time, I felt like I was playing the Whack-a-Mole game at an arcade! As soon as you get one of them down, another pops up. And, if you happen to have a nanosecond when ALL of them are down, you better bet ready because that means half of them are about to pop up at the same time!

Even with the trials of the first two weeks, I am still LOVING pre-k! They are just so stinkin' cute! I love their little voices and the things they say! I could just sit and listen to them all day long! And, when I have the world's best TA in my room, that makes it even better!!

 In the midst of settling in and establishing procedures this week, we did a quick study of colors. With my 4's, I wanted to do a quick review assess how many of them already know their colors. Good news! Only two of them don't! This made me super excited! I can work with those 2 in a small group and move on with the rest of the class. With my 3's, I wanted to start getting the vocabulary out to them. I didn't need to sit down and actually assess each one to know that only two of them already know their colors. So, we are continuing our colors study next week in pre-3.

 In my 4's class, I brought sorting into the discussion of colors. We started by talking about things that are the same and things that are different. We sorted ourselves to start with. After that, we sorted several different math manipulatives.

We sorted linking cubes. Click here to download a copy of the sorting mat!

We sorted chain links. I made these sorting mats by gluing construction paper onto cardstock, laminating it, and punching a hole in each color block.

We sorted bears. I made these sorting mats by gluing construction paper to cardstock, too.

And, we sorted Goldfish crackers. These sorting mats are just die-cut fish glued to cardstock. One thing I learned...despite what the package says, the purple fish do NOT look purple! They are the same color as red construction paper. So, I really should have had red, green, orange, and yellow fish on my mats! I also sent home a baggie of Goldfish for them to sort and eat. Click here to get a copy of the note I attached to each bag!

The really cool thing this week was that when my 3's saw the sorting mats I used with the 4's, they wanted to use them, too! I was going to bring them out later with the 3's since we are really working on same and different right now, but I gave it a try. They did great! And, they loved it! Every one of them is sorting four colors now!

We read several fun books about colors this week, too! You can get any of them from Amazon by clicking these links!


Stay tuned for a peek into our literacy activities for the week!

August 27, 2012

My First Day in Pre-K

Well, day one is in the books! And, I have to say, I am really happy about how it went! You know how you always have a picture in your head of how you think things are going to go on the first day? Well, I had a picture in my head of how I wanted things to go, but really had no idea how I thought things would actually go since this is my first year in pre-k. But, the really cool thing is that in my morning class, which is pre-k 4, everything went EXACTLY as I hoped it would! My kiddos were great, we rocked right through everything I had planned in the time I thought it would take, I got to spend a lot of time talking with my kiddos to learn a little about them, and we actually dismissed on time! I had SO much fun! We read, we sang, we played, we shared. I couldn't have asked for a better first day!

Now, my pre-k 3 class in the afternoon was still good, but not quite as close to the Utopia I had created in my head! I was hoping for a wonderful, drama free, tear free afternoon. But, I had really built myself up to expect the worst. Lots of people had told me how I would need to get any extra person I could find in the school to be in my room to help me with criers and runners. But, there were no extra hands available, so it was just my TA and me. I was terrified that we were going to have a ton of crying darlings and not have enough arms and laps to soothe them. Well...we only had two that cried!! One stopped pretty quickly after I picked her up and held her for a little bit. But the other...ummm...let's just say her vocal cords are probably REALLY worn out tonight! Before dad left, she was fine. Extremely shy, but fine. But when dad was ready to go, and she wasn't ready for him to leave, I had to scoop her up so he could get out the door. That's when it started... Blood curdling screams for the next hour! I felt so bad for the poor baby! Nothing we tried helped. All she wanted to do was to bolt out the door. So my TA and I took turns blocking the door and trying to calm her down. Finally the poor thing had worn herself out so much from screaming and pounding on the door, that she laid down and fell asleep!! Now, I may be new to pre-k, but I am NOT stupid! We just let her sleep! We woke her up when it was time to go home!!

Once she was asleep, the rest of the afternoon went really well! My kiddos are just adorable! I kept catching myself just smiling and giggling at the things they would say and do! Everyone says that at some point I will get past the "cute" factor, but I don't think I ever will!

So...what did we actually do today? We met Llama Llama to start our day. We read "Llama Llama Red Pajama,  and I brought out my stuffed Llama Llama. We read "If You Take a Mouse to School," and I brought out my stuffed mouse. At the end of the day, we read "Llama Llama Misses Mama." But, I made sure not to read this one until it was time for mamas to come back! We sang "Tooty Ta," "Five Little Monkeys," and "The Alligator Chant." We read "Apple Happy" We learned about and played with things from our math & science center and reading center. And, in pre-k 3, we played with bubbles, which was the favorite activity of the day! If you want to take a look at the books we read today, just click on the links below!

I am so glad today is done! And, I'm even more glad today went so well! I am super excited to see what tomorrow holds! I know I will probably have the same screamer in my pre-k 3, but I am ready for it! I have a feeling this is going to be a GREAT year!!

August 23, 2012

Calendar Time in Pre-K???

So, how many of you have ever used calendar time in your pre-k or kinder classroom? I know I have! It's one of those things you do just do because that's what everyone does. I mean...doesn't everyone do calendar time?? It seems to be such an integral part of any early childhood classroom.

Now, I have a different question...

How many of you have pulled your hair out while trying to do your calendar time? The kiddos get restless...they have NO idea how to figure out what today is...they think Saturday comes after Tuesday...they think "yesterday" means anything that happened at any point in their lives before they went to sleep the night before... Yeah, been there, done that!

But, for some reason, we just keep on doing it. Day, after day, after day... Sure, there are some kids that get it. Sure, there are some skills that we actually can teach effectively during calendar time. But, is it the best use of our time in an early childhood classroom? Is it the best way to get our kiddos to understand the passage of time? Is it the most effective way to teach those few things that they do actually learn?

I say...NO! And, the NAEYC agrees with me!

I am one of those teachers that doesn't do anything that is not purposeful. This means, basically, that I do my homework. I read. I research. I study. Then, I decide what to do in my classroom. So, naturally, when I found out I was moving to pre-k, I was on the hunt for anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding best practices in pre-k. One of the most perspective-changing things I read was an article called, "Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry." You can read it for yourself here. This article (along with some other research I found) really made me rethink how I was using that 20-30 minutes every day that I normally spent on calendar time. So...I started thinking...and thinking...and thinking...

What do I know about prekinders that makes it necessary for me to adjust how I do my calendar time?

#1   Prekinders need to develop the concept of  yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
#2   Prekinders are not able to really grasp the concepts of days of the week or months of the year. They may be able to sing them or regurgitate them, but they don't understand them.
#3   Prekinders need to develop their numeral recognition and proficiency with the counting sequence in authentic, meaningful contexts.

All of this led me to some MAJOR realizations about calendar time!!!

#1   There is really no place for a traditional calendar time in a developmentally appropriate pre-k classroom.
#2   To deepen prekinders understanding of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we need a daily activity that is solely focused on that skill.
#3   To deepen prekinders understanding of the passage of time, we need a concrete, linear representation of the days as they pass.
#4 There are MANY different ways to expose my prekinders to the math skills generally covered during calendar time. does all of this transfer into a real classroom on a daily basis?? Well, let me tell you what I'm planning on doing!

During our math circle time, we will be doing lots of activities to reinforce numeral recognition and the counting sequence. BUT..small groups and centers are where the real development of these concepts will take place. My kiddos will learn to count by counting varied objects during centers. They will learn to recognize numerals by playing games and engaging in different small-group and center activities where numerals naturally occur. They need to be learning and practicing these skills in authentic ways as much as possible.

Now, for the passage of time... This is where it really looks different! Rather than posting a calender and adding a new number to it every day, I have spots set aside to post five different pictures that we will do at the end of each day. During our closing circle time, we will talk about all the things we did that day. Then, we will choose one of them to draw. (At first, I will draw the pictures. In time, the kiddos will take it over!) We will also write a sentence to go with the picture. Then, the next day during our math circle, we have a child-generated representation of "yesterday" that is very real and tangible to them. We can talk about what happened yesterday, what we might be doing today, and what they think we will do tomorrow. The pictures will stay up for the week, then I will move them into a folder to create an ongoing class journal of our year. This will give us a long-term reference for things that have happened in the past. Here is what our picture display looks like (sans pictures, of course!):
Another way we will document the passage of time is by simply making a paper chain that has one link for each day we've been in school. On either side of our picture display, there will be a paper chain. One for pre-k 3 and one for pre-k 4. We will add 10 links to the chain, then it will move up to the wall, and we will start a new one. Every 10 links we will also change the color. As we go through the year, they will be able to see a concrete representation of just how long we've been in school, even if they don't have the concept of the bigger numbers yet.

In addition to all of this, we will be doing a whole-group math journal every day. This is where I can target skills that most of my kiddos need extra help with, skills that we just need repetition with, or problem solving skills. But, my biggest focus will be on the problem solving aspect. I really want to get them thinking about how to figure something out.

So, there it is! No calendar time in Mrs. A's room!