Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Great Giveaway - Participate for Great Resources!

Seventy-seven contributions make up this fabulous giveaway over at Buzz Buzz Buzz! including my very own Simple Addition and Subtraction Word Problems for Beginner Readers ($8 value). Go on over there now to participate in this giveaway. It is a huge one! There are FOUR different sets of amazing products to try and win! Go! Now!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Indoor & Outdoor Recess

I would venture to say recess is the most favorite part of any student's day! It has amazed me though at times when a child expresses their wishes for indoor recess while we are getting ready to go outside. What kid does not want to play outside?!?! There are days when I want to stay inside because it is too cold for my liking; however, I force myself to take them out so we all do not go crazy inside! 

We are a small private school and do not have a gym. Indoor recess means playing with class toys inside our classroom. Not always ideal for 30 minute stretches. For the most part, indoor recess is educational and fun for the children. My classroom toys are purposefully chosen to draw out the creativity in the students during play. I have a bin of animals, a bin of blocks, a bucket of beads, a box of lincoln logs and then a bucket of various toys. I usually only let them bring out any 2 of these items to minimize cleanup time. 
Cleanup time commences with a counting song I turn on and it is supposed to end when the song ends - approximately 2 minutes. Most days they finish on time but some days... well, not so much. It is always a goal to strive for though, right? :) 

The kids continually amaze me with their creations during indoor recess. It usually corresponds to something we are learning about in class. This is always a gratifying thing because it validates their understanding of what I am teaching. One time, they had a rainforest being built. They combined the various rainforest animals on hand with blocks that were built into "trees." There were frogs and snakes everywhere! When we were talking about farms, they built corrals and put the appropriate barn animals inside. 
 
The one personal benefit of indoor recess is that I can continue working on my school things while watching the children at play. :)  I have gotten many things accomplished during those 30 minutes that would otherwise not have happened! Since it is indoor recess and only affects my room and schedule, those 30 minutes sometimes stretch into 40. :) 

My preference though is outdoor recess. The children can be loud and free the entire time. I do not have to constantly remind them to keep their decibel level down to a dull roar. They can get their physical exercise too without realizing it. They run, they climb, they swing, they push others on the swing... all while soaking in essential Vitamin D. Meanwhile, I sit in a chair or walk around monitoring play and conversations. They tend to think I cannot hear what they are saying so sometimes there are arguments outside that I do not hear inside. There are outdoor toys to play with as well but during these winter months, they are content to run and swing and act out lots of pretend scenarios such as pirates on a ship or Mario Brothers! Last year, it was Angry Birds. You can always figure out what the next trend is by listening to these types of play acting. :) 
So what is your preference for recess - indoor or outdoor? and why?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charlotte's Web and Some Pig!

Before my teaching days, I had the privilege of watching two little ones on a regular basis. One of their bedtime rituals was to have part of a chapter book read to them. Reading a bedtime story to children is not an unusual concept; however, reading from a CHAPTER book to 2-4 year old children seemed a bit odd to me. It turns out, their mother had a lot of wisdom. Her daughter has a vocabulary and understanding of life situations unlike other girls her age. Much of this, I believe, can be directly correlated to the chapter books read to her during her early years.

When I started teaching, I remembered the amazing development in that young girl due to her bedtime story ritual. I decided that I would start reading chapter books to my students even though they are only 4-5 years old. While they would not understand everything read to them, I was confident that they would understand enough to enjoy the story line and in the process, build their vocabulary. 

With that goal in mind, we started this year reading Charlotte's Web. This was done in conjunction with our Farm/ Barn themed month and the children loved it! To this day, they will see a picture of a spider or pig and call it Charlotte or Wilbur. They even repeat some of the phrases that Charlotte weaved into her web. Hopefully, the ideas of friendship, self-worth and sacrifice will carry on in their hearts and minds as well. 



We created our own Wilburs as a craft during that time too. They turned out AMAZING!!! Even the parents were thrilled about how great they turned out. As one mom said, "It was surprisingly cute and sturdy... something I don't mind keeping." :) Our results are featured in this post but here are the directions so you can make it in your own classroom or home. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Massive Giveaway!

Check out Realistic-Teacher's Giveaway celebrating her 100th Blog Follower! I have contributed one of my resources to the K-2 (Bundle 3) listing and I would love for YOU to receive it! Join the giveaway between December 2-9 to have a chance to win some great teacher products!

 



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creativity in the Classroom

 This barn was used in the hallway to feature pictures taken during our Farm/Barn month. I sketched out the dimensions for this barn on poster board while looking at a smaller template. I bordered the roof and the door design using black construction paper.

 These are two of the resources I have created for classroom use. We have almost completed the one on the left. It is a workbook focused on determining beginning consonant blends. It has a lot of fun pictures. The students circle the correct blend that goes with the pictures featured and then they use the same blends to complete the words at the bottom of each page. It took a page or two for my students to get the concept but once they understood it, they LOVE doing it!!! I'm almost sad the book is almost finished. :)

The book on the right is learning about Even and Odd Numbers. There are fun coloring pages for each number as well as a cute poem to learn. My students could not wait until we colored the next number. I let them be creative and color it however they wanted to. We have also traced the words in the poem they learned and today, we traced our numbers 0-4. Tomorrow, we will trace 5-9. We do have another section to do before we complete the book but the goal is to be finished before our Christmas break in 2.5 weeks. We will not work on it every day though. 

You can look at previews of each workbook/ resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 Every month, I remove all the dates from my calendar so we have a blank slate for the new month. I base the number squares on our monthly theme. The one pictured was obviously from our Farm/ Barn Month. 



 In an effort to make everything a teachable element, I use a different pattern in the pictures each month. In September, we kept it simple with an AB pattern. October (the one pictured) had an ABC pattern. November has had an AABB pattern.


The students anticipate the next month's pattern with great excitement and it builds as the pattern develops. I have not decided what to do for December's pattern yet but I am leaning towards either an ABCD pattern or an ABB pattern. I will let you know what I end up doing! :)

Some other teachable elements of our calendar time:
1. learning how to count ordinal numbers
2. learning the order of digits when writing numbers 10-31
3. learning various patterns
4. learning how to properly say the date
5. learning how to add 1 to any number
6. learning sequencing in numbers, patterns, days, months and years
7. Learning days of the week & months of the year
8. Learning how to spell the days of the week & months of the year

and... I actually even started teaching the basic concept of multiplication to my class last year using the calendar patterns. :)
This year's class is a little younger though so I do not think they will be ready for it.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Teaching Tip Linky Party

Hadar at Miss Kindergarten is hosting a Teaching Tip Linky Party. Jump on over there to check out everyone's fabulous ideas and tips for the classroom. But first... my tip! :) 

With my little ones, I have mini chalkboards I use as well as dry erasers on laminated charts and worksheets. To easily erase these, I bought packages of toddler socks at the dollar store. Each child has a sock that they wear on their hand that they do not write with and voila! the chalk and/or dry eraser disappears! It's fun and not messy! More importantly - they LOVE it! 


Teaching Tip Linky Party          


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Class Field Trips - But Not During School

This is my 5th year teaching at the Pre-K/ Kindergarten level. I absolutely love the age! I particularly love the 5 year olds because they "get it" and I can usually challenge them a lot more than the younger 4s. A year makes a huge difference!
When I found out I was teaching the 4s again, I decided to focus on themes and fun. My school is a private one and while parents have wished for field trips, the logistical nightmare of carting around any number of 4-5 year olds is daunting - to say in the least. So, I decided that I would create a field trip for each month based on my theme. However, instead of doing it during school hours, I set them up for either a week night or a weekend. 
Week nights are obviously not ideal so I scheduled them primarily on Thursdays or Fridays - with the weekend in sight!!! :) 
September's theme was the circus. Our first outing was on a Thursday night to the circus that had come to town. Half the class showed up and it was the first time most of them (even parents!) had visited the circus. Granted, my students are only 4 years old so they have not had a lot of time in their young lives to experience this adventure. Regardless, I took pride in the fact that I was the one to introduce them to the excitement of a circus. :) 
 Thankfully, none of them tried to do this in the class the next day:

 or these amazing feats:

He is not your normal tight rope walker! He did ride a unicycle on it but then he pulled out a ladder and somehow did this incredible handstand!!!
The couple below continued the jaw dropping action with their stunts on the trapeze. More often than not, they were hanging off of each other (example in picture) by their limbs - feet hooked around each other, necks held in foot locks, etc. 
We got our money's worth, that's for sure!
We moved from the circus to the barn when October rolled around. It has been a great month of exploring everything you might find in a barn or on a farm. It gave opportunity to introduce some special sounds like CH (chicken), SH (sheep),  and AR (barn/farm/farmer). When the children have something experiential to attach to the learning process, it sticks that much more! 
This past Saturday found us at a local farm that was hosting a fall festival. It turned out to be such a wonderful experience!!! Only a few students showed up with their parents but we had such a blast! The farm did a fabulous job at letting the children experience farm life too. They had the obligatory petting option but then the children could help milk a cow, play games using old corn husks, remove the corn kernels from corn cobs on wooden machines, peel and slice an apple the old-fashion way, toss an apple into the cider mill for pressing and watch a machine plane wood! We easily spent two hours doing everything and the weather was absolutely gorgeous - a perfect fall day!


 I am not sure which part the students loved the most but they spent a lot of time petting the baby calves and goats. They also wanted to be sure we saw the 2 week old pigs because we have been reading Charlotte's Web in conjunction with Barn/Farm month. They just had to see "Wilbur"! :) 
The children finished up their exciting morning on the farm by taking a carousel ride on a historic merry-go-round located on the grounds of the farm.

My extracurricular field trip idea has been a fabulous success as far as I can tell. I do hope to get more families involved for future activities. 

Next month is community helpers themed and I have ideas for what to do but if you have an idea you would like to share, please leave a comment below! :)

Also, I would love to hear others' experience with similar situations.  
I did put some thought into my theme planning so October makes sense for the farm. However, I got lucky with the September circus theme and the fact that a traveling circus happened to be in town! I know that a lot of community helper events took place recently due to Fire Safety Week so I missed the timing on that one. Hopefully, I will come up with a fun learning experience before the end of November! :)
December finds us celebrating Christmas and then we have great themes for 2013 including books/ nursery rhymes, transportation, sports/ human body, ocean/ beach, and much more! Stay tuned for reports on those adventures!

Thank you!
Sarah
Love.Laugh.Teach.