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, August 20, 2017

How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy

 I started teaching preschool from my home when my second son was born, and his big brother was 3 years old.  I'd taught first grade for 6 years at that point, and thought I knew kids and teaching pretty well!  I'm glad to say I've had some...learning opportunities since then.  😉 One of the many differences was that as a home based preschool teacher, I provided breakfast, lunch and snack to all my students.  I got pretty good at making healthy meals that children would actually eat (gasp)!
How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
When it came time for my own children to start elementary school, I was excited to sign them up for cafeteria lunches, thinking they would get a hot lunch each day, and I would be off the hook for making those meals.  It didn't take long for them to remind me how... delicious...school lunches are.  It was time for me and my children to learn how to make quick, easy, mom-approved lunches that they could pack each morning!

To make a balanced lunch, you have to know what a balanced lunch is - and most of the prepackaged "lunch" foods on the market really aren't balanced.  According to the federal food program that I followed for my preschool, lunches should consist of:

 milk + 1 protein food + 2 fruits/veggies + 1 grain product.  

I knew my children could buy milk in the cafeteria, so I came up with a variety of foods for each of the other food groups, and stocked the refrigerator and pantry.  The best part about all this?  My children quickly learned how to make their own lunches, meaning they chose which foods they had, and generally ate it quite happily.  Your children can do it too!  Here's what worked for us, feel free to modify it to fit your family's tastes. 

Protein foods (pick one)                                    
Hard boiled egg (take the shell off at home)                          
1 oz nuts: almonds, peanuts, pecans, etc.                               
2 Tbspn peanut butter/ almond butter                                    
2 oz cheese cubes                                                                    
1 cheese slice                                                                           
Cheese stick                                                                            
Gogurt (freeze it at home, pack it frozen, and by lunch time it's defrosted and has kept the other food cool!)                                                                                 
4-6 oz yogurt pot                                                                    
Drinkable yogurt                                                                     
Bean dip                                                                                 
hummus dip                                                                                                            
2 oz sliced lunch meat                                                                  

      Fruits and Veggies (pick 2)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
3" peeled sliced cucumber
cut mango pieces
snow peas
raw green beans
applesauce (single serve cup)
single serve fruit cups
watermelon or cantaloupe cubes
apple wedges (add a few drops of sprite or lemon juice to prevent browning)
dried fruit like raisins, craisins or mixed fruit
carrot sticks or mini carrots
banana (I liked to write jokes or messages on it for my son to find at lunch time!)  
bell pepper strips
cut pineapple
100% juice box drink
orange segments

        Grain foods  (pick one)                                                                                               
a slice of bread                                                                                       
8 – 10 crackers                                                                        
Small baggie goldfish crackers                                               
whole grain granola bar                                                                            
flatbread or tortilla with butter                                               
pita bread                                                                                
graham crackers                                                                      
large or small rice cakes                                                          
small baggie breakfast cereal
bagel chips
cold cooked noodles w dressing

Fun combinations
fat pretzel sticks and peanut butter to dip in                                
fruit wedges + yogurt to dip them in
crackers spread with peanut butter                                       
fresh berries in vanilla yogurt
graham crackers spread with peanut butter                          
fruit & cereal to add to yogurt pot = parfait
bean dip + raw veggies to dip                                              
cheese slices + crackers
hummus and pita bread to dip                                              
applesauce + graham cracker dippers
peanut butter + veggies to dip                                                           
mini sub sandwich on hotdog bun
round crackers and sliced hard boiled egg                            
trail mix: small crackers, pretzels, nuts, raisins
rice cake spread with peanut butter/ cream cheese               
small veggie pieces + cheese cubes
round crackers and cucumber slices                                     
cold noodles + dressing + tomatoes + cucumber pieces.

Obviously I couldn't and didn't stock all of these foods all of the time.  There were some pantry items that could sit for a while and still be good, but fruits and vegetables especially had to fresh.  Each week the boys had to decide on a couple of things each that they wanted and would eat 2-3 times during the week.  I usually kept single serve fruit or applesauce containers on hand for those days that they just couldn't make up their minds.

It's also important to have a way for the children to portion their food, so we always had a supply of zippered baggies and small containers for them to put their food in.  My oldest was happiest with a "real" lunch box and small containers of food, and would bring them home so we could wash them.  My youngest son had a true talent for losing lunch boxes (gifted and talented on this one), so he carried paper sack lunch bags.

Either way, they were able to quickly pack and take balanced lunches, and we could focus our morning energy on other things... like finding the piece of paper that needed a signature yesterday, or where the other shoe had gone.

I hope you find this list helpful, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to School Essentials: Freebie and Blog Hop with the #Kinderfriends

Back to school season is a little like a game of hide and seek - there's a countdown, and then, ready or not, here it comes!  It's that time again - at least it is in the U.S. - so the #Kinderfriends thought we'd help you out with some ideas, teacher essentials, tips, tricks, and freebies.

One of the kazillion tasks we have at back-to-school time is putting student names on everything.  Cubbies, notebooks, folders, mail boxes, grade book, desks, individual book boxes, attendance markers, class graphs, journals.... the list goes on and on.  It always seems like I think I'm done labeling supplies, only to remember there's one more thing to put names on!  Just when you think you have it all done, you get 3 new students, and have to scramble to find the supplies to make their names match everyone else.  Teacher tip #1: Make a list of all the places you've put student names, and save 3-5 extras of any special materials you used.  Put them all in a zippered baggie, and store them with your student files.  You'll be so glad to have these when those new kiddos start arriving!

I think everyone knows that setting up routines is a super important part of back to school time!  Our students need to know what to expect each day so Teacher tip #2: is to post a visual schedule.  Our preschool and kindergarten kiddos probably can't read yet, but they can understand pictures.  I've found that making a visual schedule that shows pictures for each of the blocks of time in our day really helps them to understand what's coming up throughout the day.  When will mommy get here?  After math time.  When is recess?  After we do morning meeting and reading rotation.  Whatever your schedule is, posting it will help your little ones know what to expect, and will cut down on some of their questions.

Of course, our kiddos also need to learn a multitude of smaller routines: like how to hold scissors, how to use and put away glue, what we expect for bathroom behavior, where to line up, how to put books back on a shelf, etc.  I like to teach those skills the first week, and even focus on one new skill each day until we've gone over them all.  Teacher tip #3: Setting up expectations for routines the first week will save you cleaning up those glue bottles, or fussing about line behavior all year long.

While we're getting off to a good start, we also need to be thinking ahead to the biggest challenges of the school year.  If you're expected to teach students 30 sight words by the end of the year, or how to write numbers to 100, you can't wait several weeks to get started.  The biggest, most difficult tasks become much more doable when broken down into tiny chunks.  Teacher tip #4:  Break down the biggest challenges into smaller parts, and get started right away.  

Remember, these are little people we're teaching!  Getting started on challenging activities doesn't mean boring drills and worksheets all day long.  You'd rather have fun, and so would your kiddos!  Teacher tip #5 Make it fun! Play learning games, read and write silly stories, incorporate hands on activities and interaction throughout the day.  

One of the ways I like to make reading fun, is  to use reproducible readers with my students.  I love that we can read them individually or in small groups at school, and that I can then send them home for more practice.  I tell my students that when they take their books home, it is their homework to read it to someone at home 5 times.  Each time they read it, they have mom/dad/caregiver/grandparent/sibling - who ever it is - write their name on the back cover.  When they have 5 names on it, they can bring the book back to school and I'll put a stamp or sticker on it.  You might have them store these books in an individual book box at school, or let them take them back home again.  

Since I enjoy using reproducible readers, I decided to make one free for you today! This one has predictable text and sight words, so even the youngest children can be successful readers - and this booklet gets you off to a good start with sight words: I, see, a, red.  Just click on the square image to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store and download it.  If you can also take a moment to leave feedback, it would make my day!
Here's what you get:

If you like this reproducible emergent reader, and you'd like more like this, the freebie is a small sample from:
The full version includes both b&w and color versions, plus a larger pocket chart version for each of the 10 major colors.  Each of the booklets has a different predictable text, and between them students practice 22 pre-primer and primer sight words!  You can find this, and many other great back to school resources in my TeachersPayTeachers store, along with 20 other free downloads!  I hope you find something to help make your back to school season wonderful.

Thank you for stopping by!  For more ideas from the #Kinderfriends, hop on over to:
The Barefoot Teacher

Monday, August 7, 2017

$75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card Giveaway!

Has school started for you yet?  If you're in the U.S., it either has, or soon will!   Either way, setting up and running a classroom can get expensive.  Every month a small group of teacher-authors gets together to make someone's day with a $75 gift card to TeachersPayTeachers.  You could use it for classroom decor, clip-art to put the finishing touches on the things you make for your class, time saving ready-to-go lesson plans, hands on STEAM activities or games for the classroom.  Maybe you aren't a teacher, but you'd love to give a teacher you know something (s)he'd love.  Either way, I hope you have an awesome school year, and that you'll join in and enter our giveaway - good luck everybody!

Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 8/13/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stressed? Here are 25 simple, free solutions

It's been a crazy few months for my family.  We've had 2 graduations, a wedding, serious illness, house guests, a couple of road trips, and business travel. We've been to California, New York and Texas for these life events, and in a week I'm helping my youngest son fly the nest and head off to college - also out of state.  It's little wonder that I woke up this morning feeling completely done for.  Just done.  No energy.  No oomph.  No get go.  Nothing.  Just done.  All I wanted to do was sit... or better yet, sleep.

Since I didn't have the energy to walk the dogs (which is why they woke me at 6 anyway!), and had no motivation to get to work, I ended up taking my bowl of cereal outside and just sitting.  I listened to bees and a hummingbird.  I watched my dogs sniff through the garden.  I admired puffy white clouds against an incredibly blue sky - and I realized that all those things were .... well... healing.

I started to think of ways to relax, to de-stress, and in turn to find my energy and drive again.  Here's what I came up with.

1.  Sit outside and be aware of nature.  Look.  Listen.  Breathe deep and smell the air.

2.  Meet a friend and chat over a coffee.  Or tea, or anything else.  Chat over the fence with a neighbor.  Make a connection with someone you care about.

3.  Escape into a good book.  Or a trashy novel.  Whatever works for you!

4.  Go for a walk, or a run or a swim.

5.  Snuggle.  If you have a spouse, child, or pet, snuggle up.  It's seriously therapeutic!

6.  Turn off your phone, email, electronics, everything, and just disconnect for an hour.

7.  Visit your library, museum or park.

8.  Go window shopping in a place that makes you feel calm or happy.  I used to go to the craft store and caress the yarn, enjoying the combination of soft yarn and soft music.

9.  Nap. 

10.  Journal.  Write whatever comes to mind.

11.  Practice gratefulness.  Make a list of the things you have to be grateful for.  Don't forget the small things, which are actually the big ones: walking, breathing, loved ones.

12.  Perform a random act of kindness.

13.  Phone or Skype someone you haven't connected with in a while.

14.  Exercise.

15.  Indulge yourself with a bubble bath.

16.  Putter around the garden.

17.  Plant something.

18.  Put out a bird feeder in a spot you can watch.  See who comes to visit it.

19.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

20.  Envision your favorite place or dream vacation.

21.  Take photographs - or pull out an old album and revisit old memories.

22.  Volunteer.  Try your library, museum, place of worship, shelter.  Someone needs you.

23.  Listen to music.

24.  Please your senses.  Wear perfume or light a scented candle.  Put on a smooth creamy lotion.  Enjoy a hot or cold drink.  Put on a soft fluffy scarf.  Soak your feet in warm water.

25.  What goes here?  What is it that rejuvenates you?  Each of us has our own way of doing things, our own favorite ways to de-stress, and only YOU know what is the best answer for you.  Whatever it is, I hope you find your calm, relax, breathe, and feel ready to tackle the world again. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Announcing a chance to win something awesome!

It's back to school season, and chances are good that you have a TeachersPayTeachers wish list about a mile long.  You could probably use a little help getting the resources you need to get your classroom off to a good start.  Not a teacher?  I bet you know one!  Here's your chance to win a $10 TeachersPayTeachers giftcard AND $15 in resources from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Are Sharks Scary or Cool? Download this free graph!

 Shark week, math, measurement, graphing, reading, resources, non-fiction
It's shark week - does that excite you, or freak you out a little?  Maybe some of both?  I was thinking about how our students might feel about sharks this week, so I put together a graph to find out.  (Click on the picture for my first freebie, then read on for another!) It's pretty simple, something you could use quickly at the beginning of a shark or ocean unit.  Of course, you could follow up by teaching your students about them, and then revisit the graph.  How many students do you suppose might feel differently after learning about sharks?
Sharks really are scary - to me at least.  They're also incredibly cool and amazing - okay, I guess I have to repeat, to me at least.

Perhaps that's why I've been busy learning about sharks, and making fun resources to use when learning about them.  One of the things that stuck with me is the variety of sizes sharks can be, from dwarf lantern sharks that only grow to 9" long (not scary!) up to whale sharks at 45' long (also not scary, they eat plankton).  Of course, the great white, with all it's teeth, and growing to over 20' long is somewhat more intimidating! Sequencing them by size really gives a whole new understanding of shark sizes.
Of course, we need to practice actually measuring things ourselves (not real sharks, thank you!).  This activity uses fish lengths as a non-standard unit of measure.
For slightly older students, I wrote a non-fiction reproducible reader about sharks.  To make differentiating easy, there are two versions of the text.
For my younger kiddos, I made this patterning center.  I clipped the pattern strips onto ribbon, and the kiddos clip on additional pictures to either match...

...or extend the patterns.
We follow up with cut and paste versions.

Finally, I want to share another freebie with you!  This is a very simple reading center, which I like to put in a pocket chart or on a table.  I hope you'll download it, and I'd so appreciate you leaving feedback after you do!

 I hope you have an exciting - but not too exciting - shark week!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How to Increase Reading Engagement Every Day This Year

How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
I think reading engagement is every teacher's hope; we all want our students to love reading as much as we do.  We want to see our kiddos engaged in reading, choosing to pick up books, talking about what they're reading, eagerly sharing their favorites with each other.  I have vivid memories of seeing my own young children lose themselves in books, laying on a bed or a couch, oblivious to the world around them, immersed in a world that only exists in words... and I cherish those memories.  We know that children who love to read, and choose to read, are going to read, and in turn they'll become even better readers.  Students like this are easy to teach, because they're eager to learn, and know that they CAN learn.  If only there was a way to develop this love of reading in all our children!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
After 25 years of teaching early childhood, I haven't found any magic tricks that always work for everyone, each child is unique after all!  There is, however, something that has served me incredibly well, year after year, with hundreds of children: class books.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it: our kiddos are interested in themselves, and in each other.  They want to share their ideas, they want to smile, laugh, or reminisce together, they want to see their own words and pictures being read by their friends, and they want to see their friends' words and pictures.  Class books meet all those criteria, and as an added bonus, they engage students in writing and drawing, as well as reading.  It's no wonder I love class books!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
There are many ways to create, publish, bind, and share student writing, and over the years I've tried a lot of them!  When I taught first grade, I bought an inexpensive scrapbook with an impressive looking cover, and glued student work into it.  The result was a satisfyingly solid "real" book - and as we only published finished pieces in it, students really worked to make their writing book worthy!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
I also made class books about experiences we shared, such as a trip to the fire station or a pizza parlor.  I took photos of each student during our experiences, and upon returning to our classroom gave each student a page with room for a photo and room to write about our experience.  I'd develop the pictures, and then let my kiddos stick a real photo of themselves onto their page.  Sometimes we'd bind all the pages together and make a class experience book, other times each child would add their page to their own "photo album".  Can you imagine how much they loved to revisit these books?
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
Of course, photos aren't the only way to illustrate a class book.  Oftentimes I'd have my students illustrate their page.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
Sometimes we wrote about an experience as a class, with each student contributing something about the experience, while I wrote on chart paper.  Next we would decide on what order the events of our narrative belonged in, and arrange their individual sentences into a retelling of what we had done.  I liked to type up the story, print it out on multiple pages, and have students work in teams to illustrate the pages.
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
You've probably noticed that all of these methods took some effort on my part: taking and developing photos, or taking dictation and then typing up students' words.  Yes, there is definitely a lot of teacher effort in these particular methods, and no, you probably can't manage this every day. Sometimes you need something quick and easy, right?
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
There's another method of making class books that is super easy: printed pages with a prompt, and room for student responses.  I've found this kind of book is one of the best for my youngest students - preschool and kindergarten kiddos whose writing is much shorter, and more difficult to read*.  This kind of book usually has a simple, repetitive text, with room for students to add just one or two words.  It's easier for young kiddos to write, and the repeated text makes it easier for them to read too.  Since the work in these books is their own, and their names, and names of friends are on every page, my kiddos have always LOVED this kind of book.  They read them to themselves.   They read them with their friends.  They read them to their parents at pick up time.  Sometimes I even let them check these books out to take home overnight. Win-win-win!
How to increase reading engagement every day this year (with class books!)
If you think you'd like to incorporate class books into your reading and writing time, you can find inspiration many places!  Try pinterest - here's my board about class books to get you started:

I've put together many of my class book ideas into a print and go format.  If you like the idea of class books and want a no-muss no-fuss ready to go resource that also covers every single preprimer word, I hope you'll check out:
Thank you so much for reading this long post - I hope you're inspired to incorporate more class books in your classroom, and I'd love to hear about how they work out for you!

*Unless you're a kindergarten teacher, and can read phonetically spelled words that are out of order, with reversed letters, missing vowels and written in a shaky hand.  Kudos to you then!