Friday, May 23, 2014

Ahhhh!

I just finished up my first year teaching preschool. I feel like I have all the time in the world now (and I was only teaching one half day class twice a week!). I just looked at some stats on our site here and am surprised at the number of daily visitors! Wow, thank you, strangers. Hopefully, we'll get some new things added soon. In the mean time, here are few old posts that might be useful for you as school is getting out and summer is nearly upon us.
Some Road Trip Tips (which I have actually referenced back to myself, as we're going on a road trip in a few weeks.) Also, Car Games Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
A Summer "Schedule." This is one my favorite things about summer. It's like I get to do mini homeschooling.
We've yet to make our summer "to do" list for this year, but some previous year are listed here, here, and here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love Bug Bands

 This is a simple Valentine's Day activity that I've had success with both in a classroom of first grades at at home. I'm sure the age spectrum is even greater, but it certainly has been liked by the kids I have tried it with ranging from 2 -8 years old. I will be doing this in my preschool class as well as my son's class party at school. The fun thing is that it can really be for any holiday if you have the right stickers. I first saw this in Family Fun Magazine.
 You'll need the above supplies. I used conversation heart foam stickers, strips of construction paper, and cut my pipe cleaners in half.
 The first part is decorating the hand band portion with stickers. One thing I like about the foam stickers is the added work of peeling the paper off the back.
 Between that and just placing the stickers, there is lots of good exercise for those little fingers.
 Once the band is complete it's time to work on the antennae.
 Each pip cleaner is going to be the middle of a sticker sandwich. Symmetrical stickers are best for this part.
 Even when they are symmetrical, sometimes they aren't aligned just so, which is obviously fine.
 I found that taping the pipe cleaner on the headband worked better than staples.
 We saved the stapling for putting the band together (first measure on the child's head).
And a little love bug is made!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Paper Strip Tree

 This post is a project we did last year around Christmas time. It's great for any age. My kids ranged between 2.5 and almost 7.
 When I saw this idea on Whatever... I thought it would be a great way to use a lot of Christmas scrap paper I had left over from another project.
Supplies - lots of patterned green paper, scissors, glue stick, and if you want to save some time, a paper cutter.
I cut out the paper in various widths. I cut those strips into various lengths (something a child could also very easily do). Once we had a pile ready to go, I let everyone chose a background paper.
From there is is just gluing. It might be helpful to lay out the tree before gluing, but winging it is sometimes more fun. Either way will obviously work.
It's meant to go from longest strip at the bottom to shortest strip at the top to look like an evergreen.
We are not picky about that and figure the kiddos should just do what they can. Just gluing down the strips is good work for those cute little hands.
And my little artist had a tree set up to glue, but changed his mind and decided to make his into a shark instead. The point is to create and that he did!
The three individual creations side by side.
I still have papers left over, so maybe this year we will make a wreath like this one featured on Mer Mag

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ghost Party

 So, last year my son who was turning 5 at the time asked me if he could have a ghost themed birthday party months before his birthday. Being the kind of mom I am I said - uh, sure - despite his birthday being around a time more suited for Valentine's or Mardi Gras. So, since it is seasonally appropriate now, I thought I'd share in case you need some Halloween party ideas (or even preschool ideas)!
Here in this photo are the goodie boxes, foam cups for games and bean bags for games and also for take home.
 My son wanted a dark room with glow sticks in the balloons to make it spooky. This doesn't really work at 10 am, so we compromised with ghosts hanging out in a crepe paper mist.
 Our first games involved our bean bags. The original was drawn by my son and i did my best to copy it on felt. Of course I did this the night before the party, because that is what all sane moms, do. :)
 Sorry for the mega blur and creepy faces in the next bunch of pictures. I don't want to post pictures of other people's kids' faces. Our first game was a simple basketball time. Toss the bean bag into a basket - hooray if you get it, try again once if you don't and everyone gets a few chances.
 I laughed at myself for this one since my house is so tiny. We tried the game where you slowly move further apart and see if you can still toss your bean bag to your partner and have then catch it. Not too hard when you max out at like 2 feet away from each other.
 This was a bean bag pass game. When the music stopped the person holding the ghost was out.
 Bowling with the Styrofoam ghost cups.
 I wish I had a picture of the final project. It is very basic. Each kid drew a face on a plain white paper plate. When finished we attached a few strips of white crepe paper at the bottom to make a ghost. One girl loved making them so much she made extras to take home to her siblings.
 Spooky version of duck, duck, goose for us was ghost, ghost, boo!
And for the trip home, goodie boxes with dipped pretzels in a bag with ghost eyes and mouth, plus a elementary school time favorite of mine - a Dum Dum covered in a kleenex like a ghost.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Words From a Rookie

I'm pretty sure I should be bringing my camera to the classroom every day. Despite today not being my best flowing day, there were a lot of fun things we did that should have been documented. I'm going to compile each theme for you as I go. Truthfully, it's not really for you, so much as it is for me to note for next year.
 For now though, a few things I have learned so far as a rookie teacher.
  • The preschool owner told me not to plan too far ahead at first because I would need to know the class and cater to them. Very sound advice. My kids have sort of short attention spans for most of our centers activities, but can sit there for a long circle time. Granted there are a few that don't do as well sitting there period, but overall as a group they really dig that time all together. So, when I plan now, I try to make circle time very full of different activities and songs and engage with them there as we learn about the theme. (Not that I wouldn't try to engage with them if they could only sit for 5 minutes.) For centers I've figured they really like to be in a group still. I try to mainly plan group things and less independent work, though I am working on that.
  • You are going to look like an idiot. You are going to mess up words to finger-plays and songs. You are going to forget where you just put something down a second ago. You will accidentally skip that whole part about teaching them how to hold scissors or about much glue to use. It's ok. The kids don't care. They just love that you love them. (Incidentally, more sound advice the owner gave me when I was still feeling terrified.) They don't care that your tune for a song is wrong or if you are way off key. The parent helpers may notice, but, hey, you are there for their kids, not to perform for them.
  • Don't be afraid. I'm sort of laughing that I am writing this because I was a serious wreck for weeks before my first day. I ran a marathon for the first time the following week and that was way less stressful! I believe that people really can do most of the things that they think they can't do. It just take a little belief in yourself and baby steps.
  • It may be too soon to know how effective what I am doing is, but I am slowing adding things to circle time, specifically calendar time. We've done a days of the week song and now have added a months of the year and a today, tomorrow, yesterday song. They are getting better at the songs the more we sing them, though I still feel like I'm solo on stage. That is one thing that makes teaching only twice a week hard. There are themed songs that we really only sing once and the kids never really get the chance to learn them. I mean, it's not like we're going to try singing about the falling leaves in January. It might work where you are, but we have 4 seasons.
  • I'm also unsure just how awesome this is for them, but based on instinct and what I can remember from school eons ago, but I'm trying to mix up story telling. I will do a finger-play one day and chant/song with movement another. Everyday I read at least one good old fashioned book. I'm not a natural at story telling and need to work more on memorizing the stories I'm not reading from a book. That way when I bust out the flannel board I can focus on being a lot more fun instead of worrying about singing or saying the wrong words.
  • Prepared to be surprised about what holds their interest. Playing with shaving cream was nearly a bust, but they went gaga over Bingo. It may have been the biggest hit yet (well, outside of play dough and the sensory bin.) I would have never guessed that a simple matching game would win out over making a mess.
  • And to bring us back to where we started, document what you do. Keep files on what you do for each theme or center. Be as detailed as you figure you need to be so that when next year rolls around, "future you" will thank "present you" for doing so much prep work. Note what worked, what you might change, or something new to try out next time. I do this for recipes and let me tell you, "future me" loves to know when less oil is better and when some added green peppers instead of cucumbers would enhance the meal.
  • Do what works for you. For instance, I have been working on master lists for songs. I know there are a lot premade lists that exist online, but I need a list of ones that I would actually enjoy singing with the kids. Ones that flow out easily and naturally as we perform the actions together or tap out the beat are going to be more fun for the kids because they can see that I think it is fun. This goes for all different aspects. If you love art, they will sense your enthusiasm as assist them in creating their own masterpieces. If you think science is the greatest thing on earth, they will happily explore and learn with you. It should go without saying, but you will have to to things you don't love too and the kids might not love what you do. Find a way to mix what works for you with those things you don't love as much and it will be a win-win for all. I love organizing things in a way that makes sense to me, even if it is not how it's "always been done." Using what you know about yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses to help you as you plan. Which brings me to...
  • There is always a better way. This might sound discouraging, but it's meant to be the opposite. Someone will always have a cuter idea. They will have a more exciting way to present an idea. Don't compare yourself to them. It's hard not to, but just like you are teaching your preschoolers, you are special and there are things that only you can bring to the classroom.
Hopefully that doesn't read as a bunch of incoherent rambling nonsense to you. I'd like to be helpful to people who might be in the same shoes I was just a few short weeks ago. I am loving what I am doing. It has been way too long I've been able to say that about a job. I'm lucky to have such a fabulous class. And let me admit this too, since I want to be real. I feel a bit like a faker writing this because I am still so new. Teaching young children is something that I think I have always naturally gravitated to, so some of it is not something I learned in a college classroom or even by having my own kids. I am far from a pro and am learning every day.
So, good luck to you on your new journey. And if this is a road well traveled for you what advice would you give?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Diving into Preschool

I would love to say that this is a "how to" post about ways to run your own preschool or doing lessons plans. It isn't. One of our most popular posts put together by my sister Rachel has a lot of ideas for an at home variety of preschool. You can read it HERE. I actually just started a job last week working at a preschool. Having only done co-op preschool with other moms my first day was a bit terrifying. It  was a huge learning experience too. During my college, and even high school, days I observed several different preschools. I have volunteered regularly in the kindergarten classroom for 2 years and 1st grade for one. I have my own kids and work with kids at church. My bachelors degree is in human development. Despite all this useful stuff, knowing about and doing are definitely not the same.
As I am learning and becoming a legit preschool teacher, I hope to share tidbits along the way. You know how I blog though...sporadically.
As I sort though countless books, blogs and CDs and fill my "just for preschool" Pinterest board, I hope to gain useful knowledge for both myself and maybe you too. So, welcome to my journey. I think this will supplement and not detract from what we already have going on here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Squishy Water Bombs

Just because school is starting soon (or maybe you've started already!) doesn't mean the warm weather fun must end. While you are picking up your back to school supplies, make sure to stop in the cleaning aisle to get a package or two of sponges so you can make some squishy water bombs.
I bought 3 4-packs of basic cleaning sponges. You'll need some zip ties and scissors too.
Cut lengthwise into 3 strips.
Stack 'em. Zip 'em. Cut 'em.
I only did 2 layers for mine, but you can use 3 for a fuller ball.
This is a fun one for kids to help make too, not just to play with.
So easy! 
 So fun!
Inspired by this post.