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, October 8, 2017

Surprisingly easy ways to teach STEAM skills in early childhood (STEAM learning, post #1)

I think I've always taught STEAM learning, although we certainly didn't call it that back in the early 90's when I started teaching.  Back then it was thematic teaching - building our teaching and learning activities around a topic, and incorporating reading, writing, math, science and social studies skills within that topic.  Learning about apples in the fall?  We'd read about them, write innovations on favorite apple stories, use them in math centers, observe them, cut them up to cook applesauce, and make graphs about which kinds we liked best.  We painted with apples, practiced our scissor skills as we made apple crafts - you know the one, the mostly eaten apple with a core and seeds visible, as well as a stem and skin at the top and bottom.  We displayed them on the wall, or hung them above the children's desks.  Everything was as hands on as possible, and thankfully we didn't have to present any of it in the same format as "the test."  If you're smiling and nodding right now, you've probably been teaching a long time!

One of the hot teaching buzz words now is STEAM learning: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, and incorporating skills for them throughout our curriculum.   Are they important?  Yes!  Can you do it without thinking about it?  Probably not.  Is it going to be hard to include them?  NO!

In this blog series, I want to take a look at some STEAM skills, and show you some of the ways I like to incorporate them.  I hope you find a few new ideas!  Today I want to write about two of the very first, most basic skills:
 Observing and Recording
If you've ever spent time around a child, you know children need to observe and explore everything.  They want to dig in the dirt, find small critters, see what is inside a tomato, feel how bumpy a pumpkin is, taste the honeysuckle, and roll themselves down a hill.  This is science - exploring, investigating and observing everything. 
Developing skills for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & math) - post 1 of 5

 Recording data can be challenging with young children, especially in preschool, before they learn to write.  Photographs are one of my favorite ways to record young children's learning!  Every one of the photos in the collage above went into my students' school photo albums - and provided opportunities to revisit and discuss the hands on experiences we enjoyed.

As children develop their fine motor skills, and begin to write and draw, more options for recording data become available.  They can draw...
They can color in spaces to create graphs...
 They can choose a favorite and color a picture to match...
They can imagine, create, and write about what they see.

Chances are good that you are already doing many of these things in your classroom!  What are your class' favorite activities for observing and recording data?  I'm always looking for new ideas, so please share your tips in the comments!  Finally, please stop back again next week, when I'll write about the skills of sorting, classifying and comparing!

Friday, October 6, 2017

What Will You Do If YOU Win?

True confession time - there are 89 items on my TeachersPayTeachers wish list!  How about you? What's at the top of your list?  What could you do with a $75 TpT gift card?  Here's your chance to find out, simply enter below - someone has to win, it might as well be YOU!

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 10/13/17 and is open worldwide.
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Monday, September 25, 2017

My Favorite Books For Fall - a blog hop with the #KinderFriends

I think every teacher has favorite children's books - maybe a whole lot of favorites!  Still, even knowing there are some books I will absolutely read with my students doesn't stop me from wanting to find more favorites.  I'm a bibliophile through and through, and for all the other bibliophiles out there, the #KinderFriends are sharing our favorite fall books.  Take a look, see what you discover, and if there's something amazing we're missing, leave it in the comments!
 To me fall means leaves, apples, pumpkins, and animals getting ready for winter, so I focused on books about those topics.  

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert is a classic for a reason; it's a beautiful read aloud, full of gorgeous illustrations and information about maple trees.  I can't imagine teaching and learning about leaves without it!  While you're learning about leaves, you have to also check out Leaf Man, also by Lois Ehlert.  This story is illustrated with pictures made from a variety of beautiful fall leaves, of every shape, size and color imaginable.  It lends itself to follow up activities like a leaf collecting walk, and creating images with those leaves.  

I've written about my favorite apple books before, but still had to include 2 on my list this time around:  Ten Red Apples, by Pat Hutchins, and How Do Apples Grow?, by Betsy Maestro.  I like Ten Red Apples for the memorable refrain, and for the math element of counting down.  I love everything about How Do Apples Grow?, especially all the science learning that's included and made understandable for young children.  

When I think of my favorite books about animals in fall, Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming tops the list!  Her illustrations are phenomenal, and each page of this lovely story features a different animal noticing different signs of fall.  There's a surprise at the end when the story comes full circle, but the tone of the book is one of calm, slowing down, preparing to sleep.  If you have a group of children who need to unwind a little, a gentle reading of this book will help them settle down, just like the animals in the story.

I've included one more book that doesn't, at first glance, seem to be related to fall: The Dot, by Peter Reynolds.  This is the story of Vashti, a little girl who doesn't believe she can draw.  When her wise teacher values her mark making, Vashti learns to value it too.  This book has inspired a movement, all about making our marks, and seeing where they'll take us.  You can learn more at http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/.  International Dot Day is celebrated each year on September 15th-ish, so it's not too late to grab a copy of the book, and make your mark - with or without children.  Follow up by reading Ish, also by Peter Reynolds.  

I hope you enjoy these fall favorites, and I'd love to hear which books you'd recommend to me!  If there's an indispensable fall book missing from my list, please let me know, otherwise, I hope you'll continue our blog hop and check out more favorites!  Hop on over to Pamela at Pocket Full of Centers! 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ARRRR You Ready to Talk Like a Pirate?

ARRRR you ready to talk like a pirate?  from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
Did you know there's such a thing as Talk Like A Pirate Day?  It's celebrated (okay, that may be stretching the truth) on September 19th each year.  Now I don't know about you, but I'm all for dressing up, painting a beard on my face, and talking funny like a pirate, especially if I can say I'm doing it for work, for the children.  Who's to say I'm not?

I've found pirate learning to be a great match for learning the letter X - after all, X marks the spot, but isn't used for a whole lot else that makes sense to little kids.  As you can see my students enjoyed eye patches, cardboard hats (I found both of these at the dollar store), and stick on mustaches or tempera paint beards.  Add in a toy pirate ship, some inexpensive compasses and beads, and some cardboard "bones", and you have the making of letter study and pretend play.

I blogged about pirate learning several years ago, and included photos of some of the other pirate learning we've done: digging for treasure in the sensory bin, walking the plank (literally a plank on the floor!), costume play, and crafts.

Since then I've created many pirate themed resources to bring a pirate theme to measurement, reading, addition and subtraction, counting money, patterns, and numbers to 100.  If you're looking for some quick pirate themed lessons, I hope you'll check them out.

I've also gathered lots of pirate ideas on my Pinterest board - you can check that out here:

Finally, I thought I'd share some fun pirate videos that are targeted at the preschool - primary grade crowd.  These will get your students in the mood for pirate fun!  My students loved to dance along to Portside Pirates and to Jack Hartmann's Silly Pirate Song - and they make great brain breaks.  Want to talk about addition?  Try Harry Kindergarten's When You Add with a Pirate.  Ready for a silly story that will have the kiddos giggling?  Try Pirates Love Underpants!

That's it fer now, me hearties, ye've got some pirating to do now! 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Delightful New Book and More Wonderful Cats

There are so many wonderful children's books around, yet it's always a delight to discover a new one! I'm lucky to have come across several really special new books lately, and I hope to share more of them with you another time, but today I'm thinking of one in particular: They All Saw A Cat, by Brendan Wenzel.
In the story a cat walks through the world, and is seen by a child and a variety of animals.  Each one sees it differently, depending upon their perspective and their way of seeing.  What a fun way to introduce the idea of perspective!  You can see and hear the whole book in this short video!

I also found an adorable song version of  this book on YouTube.com, and I can't wait to use it with preschoolers!  This book is destined to be one we'll read to children for years to come.

 Which got me to thinking about other cat books that I love.  No list of cat books would be complete without a mention of Pete the Cat, everyone's favorite blue cat!  If you haven't met Pete yet, stop by your library and check him out.  There's several books about him, and you can't go wrong with any of them!
I've also pulled out some of my personal favorites for this blog post.  Did you ever learn the song Senor Don Gato?  I learned it in Primary School in the 1970s, and had forgotten all about it - until I spotted a book version of it by John Manders several years ago.  Spoiler alert, Don Gato falls from a rooftop and dies, but he is revived by the smell of fish.  I love it, all my students have loved it, and you can find the tune for it easily, but you'll want to consider your audience before sharing this one.

I love the book Grandma's Cat, by Helen Ketteman to introduce children who don't have pets to what it is like to have a cat.  The little girl in the story wants very much to play with Grandma's Cat - so much so that she doesn't pay attention to the cat's body language, and ends up getting scratched.  Grandma helps the child learn how to be gentle and patient, and there's a satisfyingly happy ending. 

For the even younger crowd, I love the interactive Cat, by Matthew Van Fleet.  I first "met" his books when my first born was about a year old, and they are irresistable!  Each page includes textured pieces, but my favorite thing about this moving parts book is that it is designed to be played with by toddlers.  It is STURDY, so small people can push and pull the tabs without destroying the book.

I included the Eric Carle classic, Have you Seen My Cat? because of the lovely illustrations and repetitive text.  Even the youngest children will be able to "read" this book to you, making it a valuable addition to your child's bookshelf.

The last book on my list is done completely in black and white: Kitten's First Full Moon.  Poor little kitten is thirsty, and the moon looks just like a bowl of milk... but how to get to it?  You'll be rooting for this sweet kitten from page one!

Happy reading!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day

I enjoy a morning walk every day.  The neighborhood is quiet, sometimes I see critters out and about, and I make a point to quite literally stop and smell the roses.  It's a lovely way to begin my day.

One morning this week I saw one of my neighbors out walking, then he stopped, went back a few feet, picked up someone's newspaper from the end of their driveway, and carried it up to their door mat.  It got me wondering.  Does he know the people who live in that house?  Why did he make the effort to move their newspaper closer to their house?  Is it difficult for the person who lives there to make it out to the end of the driveway?  Are they ill?  Elderly? Disabled?

I thought about it as I walked, about how that small, random act of kindness might impact the recipient, and it reminded me of all the good things, and good people in our world.  It's a nice thing to remember, and a timely one.

I also thought about the quote, "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something", by Max Lucado - and a related quote from Lily Tomlin:

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

As we watch the news and see stories that shake us, effect us, and sadden us, I think it's important to remember that every single one of us is a somebody.  We are not powerless, and neither are our students.  We may not be able to do a lot, but we can do something.

Which is why I love these two books!  One Smile by Cindy McKinley follows the people impacted by a small girl's friendly smile, and shows how they each pay kindness forward.  It's simple, sweet, and young children can easily relate to the message.  If your students need to see how they can be kind citizens and impact their community, you'll love this book!  I'd recommend it for students up to 2nd grade.

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

Magical Hands by Marjorie Barker will appeal to 3rd-6th grade students.  It's a lovely story of how one man surprises his friends by doing their chores for them early on the morning of their birthdays, and shows how the little things are often really the biggest things of all.  Kindness matters.

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

I've made a point this week to try to practice doing random acts of kindness: smiling at people, stopping to talk to a neighbor, letting someone change lanes in front of me, greeting the grocery store cashier by name, sending a card to a friend... little things that I hope will make a difference.

Is it enough?  No.  Are there bigger issues that need tackling?  Yes.  Will we solve the world's problems with a smile and a little kindness?  If only it were so!  Still, I believe that if we all do something, we can make a difference!  What will YOU do today?

Be the Sunshine in Someone's Cloudy Day, blog post from Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten

I've looked for the author of these lovely words, and can't identify him/her.  If you know where they came from, please let me know in the comments, I'd like to give credit.  The beautiful clip art is from Kari Bolt.