Let’s keep playing in preschool…welcome to a new year!

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I read an interesting article last week,  “The Case for the New Kindergarten : Challenging and Playful (Education Week, June 4, 2014).  In it, authors Daphna Bassok, Amy Claessens, and Mimi Engel bring to light some of the current thoughts on how preschool relates to kindergarten readiness.  “Our research shows that most kindergarten teachers now think academic instruction should begin in preschool and indicate that it’s important for incoming kindergartners to already know their letters and numbers.”  How do you as a parent or educator feel about this?  I am torn.  I agree that in preschool (particularly 4 year old preschool) can and should be introducing the “PRE” versions of these concepts and skills,  in an appropriate and hands-on, play based manner. Can it be done? Of course! Pre-K teachers do this everyday.

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The authors go on to explain the balance that is necessary to meet the needs of todays educational systems and philosophies, without short changing the children and forcing them to do work in a way that their brains just are not ready for. “Rather than focusing on whether academic content has a place in early-childhood classrooms, let’s focus on how to teach it in a way that is tailored to young learners. Let’s focus on creating engaging, fun, developmentally appropriate learning experiences for all kindergartners, acknowledging the importance of embedding enriching language and numeracy experiences within those environments.”

I love the concept of embedded learning, how about you? It is enjoyable  to come up with activities and environments that support the development of a particular  skill. For example, here are some dramatic play ideas that go deeper than what is seen on the surface.

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Additionally, I feel it is equally important to let parents know our intentions.  Let them know why we put out a certain activity or set up a center they way we did.  It is eye opening for many parents to see that we what we are doing goes far beyond play ( although playing with and nurturing children is certainly the joy of our jobs!).


Over the summer I have been working on making some new felt board stories, looking at new curriculum idea and taking a webinar or two .  Etsy and Teacher Pay Teacher have taken off a teenie bit. I am still figuring out how to better market these. I did some writing but not as much illustrating as I had hoped.  My dream is still to publish a children’s book…dream, dream, dream.

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a new felt story added on Etsy

pumpkin set

another fall set on Etsy

valentine set

classic Valentine felt board story…Etsy

Bee tracing game

New Bee unit, 12 pages, on Teachers Pay Teachers

 

So I have been a little busy with this type of work, all the while enjoying the summer weather and all that goes along with it.

New Ideas!

Some of my very talented blogger friends have been posting some great ideas! Karen at Prekinders just posted a wonderful way to cover your easel with colorful wrapping paper. Check out her post here.   Her blog and website is ALWAYS worth checking out! Tons and tons of awesome ideas.

 

Preschool Printables offers some really cute and useful free downloads. Take a look here.  You just download the files, print and cut out, glue half the pieces into a plain file folder, the rest glue onto poster board, and laminate. You may then add velcro tabs and voila! You are ready to play some neat table games.

Well that is about it for now, just a quick update. I will be posting more as we get our rooms and materials ready. Good luck with you own preparations!

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Going Buggy! – our final days of preschool 2014

IMAG0047Ok, so the old saying is true…”time flies”…it really does.  Those first unsure days of school, when we don’t really know each other yet, seem so long ago.  The amount of growth we see in a single school year, with three year olds, is astounding.  Besides the physical growth, the confidence they gain is really amazing.  Many start the year with separation issues.  You know what I am talking about! But with gentle nurturing patience, we see the concern begin to slip away, and be replaced with love of school and friendships.  This is the joy of being a preschool teacher.

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I am not sure our students quite understand what I am talking about when I say “we only have three more days of school left!”  I want to talk about it a little bit, just so it is not a big shock when school actually is done.  Most will move on, a few will be repeating their first, or junior year.

To end our year together we looked at and explored butterflies, frogs, life cycles and growing.  Yes! We went buggy (and froggy) on our last few days of preschool.  Our real butterflies emerged from their chrysalis just in time to let them go before the end of school. What a fun activity, and quite poignant.  Our children certainly have grown their own beautiful wings this year.

Early Math Skills…

Here are  a few ideas IMAG0006for manipulative materials.  We enjoyed these stacking / IMAG0007sorting butterflies from Hearthsong.  Children sorted them by color, and connected them into stacks. We also were busy with a butterfly matching game that supports visual discrimination, color knowledge and can also support social skills if the game is shared while playing! Here is a link to print it out for yourself.  Preschoolprintables.com

Here are a few more very good and usable FREE printables (yay! we love free!)

Play, Learn & Do has a Teacher Pay Teacher store! There are free printables there, check it out!

PreKinders – my favorite go to for ideas and resources, an amazing website! So well organized by themes and chock full of good stuff!

Preschool Mom – many many good printables!

Owens Family – very hungry caterpillar resources

Science With Me – frog life cycle information (you can print and cut out to make your own story)

Here is a little song I made up to sing along with the pictures….

                                                                  (sing to “Itsy Bitsy Spider”)

The little bitty tadpole swam around the pond

He grew some legs, and crawled up on the ground.

He learned to croak and hopped around the bog…

And that little bitty tadpole was now a BIG green frog!

IMAG0004We had this activity at our math center too.  I figured the children could hunt for the bugs, pick them up with tweezers, count them, sort them or what ever they liked.  Some children did do this, and it was great.  Actually picking them out of the paper grass was pretty challenging.  Some children would grab all the bugs and take them to the kitchen.  More than once we found all the bugs and worms in purses in the dress up area.  I think it was a fun and useful activity idea regardless!

We also “went buggy” in our sensory tables – a super easy spot to add bugs! These squishy, stretchy bugs were from a dollar bin.  They were fun, but after a couple of week long uses in water they became sticky and I think, started to deteriorate a bit.  Oh well, for next to nothing we had at least two fun weeks with them.

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Bug and insect art is a boundless category.  There are so many possibilities.  We made bugs using the left over circles cut out from paper plates (from a previous project).  The children folded the circle in half and used dot stampers and pipe cleaners.  We also made “butterfly wings” by painting with puffy paint on one half of a folded sheet of paper – then folding over the over half and rubbing.  This created the mirror image and when unfolded, reminded us of wings.

All over various blogs and Pinterest you can see this project.  Simple bottle printing flowers is interesting for the children to try.  Insects need flowers, right?! We had plant life cycle materials around so this project made sense. Many different drink bottles have a “flower” on the bottom. It’s fun to look for them in the grocery store.  You will be surprised how many do! IMAG0033

This summer I will keep researching new classroom ideas and will post my experiments here.  I am so happy it is summer – aren’t you?!  Here’s to lazy days in the sun and happy days with friends and family.  The summer will fly by too (just like our school year) so enjoy every moment you can.

Best wishes! See you next month….

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Spring is here – happy days in preschool

HSAh Spring…we welcome you with open arms and happy hearts!  What a long and formidable Winter it was. Soon to be a distant memory (thank goodness).  Along with fresh air and daffodils come new ideas for our classrooms and a renewed enthusiasm for learning.  By this point in the year our students have grown so much and are ready for new challenges. What can we learn from the changing seasons? How will Spring inspire us?

Here are a few ideas to inspire you.20140317_091405

Art

A favorite in our classroom is doing a sticky shelf liner mural.  This is new each time we do it, because we use different seasonal materials.  For instance, in the winter we used cotton balls, red cellophane bits, tissue snow flakes and other winter colored bits.  For Spring the teacher found small pastel feathers, tissue squares, shredded paper (the kind used to stuff gift bags), silk flower petals, and pastel cotton balls from the collage drawer (and her own collection). The great thing is, when you are done you can just stick it to a window or glass door. It’s a really lovely effect.b71152dd23f6fb4e39dce6e399659730

4d07679074432b095f03a702e9ec46a4Water colors make me think of April showers.  I love to buy fresh white daisies and let the children dip them into liquid water colors. You can dilute the colors as much as you like to create bold or light colors.  One year I made the mistake of painting on squares of donated cut up matt board. The water caused the mat board to peel and separate. So sad. This year we will use heavy weight construction paper.

It is fun to print flower shapes using unconventional items. The bottom of plastic drink bcelery1ottles can look like a flower, so can round kitchen sink scrubbers, a bunch of celery sliced cross wise, a pepper sliced, hand prints, finger prints, plastic forks and plastic gears, just to name a few. Experiment and see for yourself. The possibilities are endless.

Songs and felt stories

little seedI don’t know who wrote this little poem. It was listed as “author unknown” but is one of those activities we do every year around this time.  You can use the tune to “I’m a little teapot” and act out the words with your small group as your sing them.

Of course you should visit my Etsy shop and TpT store for fun story ideas!IMG_1894

Here is another good shop on Etsy for felt. Felt Resources has many cute and well made stories to share with your class. Here is a good one for Spring!

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What can we learn from Spring

Growing seeds in the classroom is a classic and useful activity. The children love watching their seeds sprout and grow. But what else can we do to demonstrate growth and the changing season?

Here are a few ideas…Spring-time-312

I usually prefer science that is more hands on than just visual, but Deborah at Teach Preschool shows us how to do this experiment with great success. This can also be done with good effect, using celery. I wonder about finding some unbreakable containers for this instead of glass. However, there is something to be said about talking to children on safety rules and careful handling of fragile items.  You have to assess your particular class and decide.laughingkidslearn

Other than seeds you can grow avacado pits (well, that is a seed actually), green onions, carrot tops, pineapple tops etc.  Click on the photo to the right to visit Laughing Kids Learn, and get the full instructions for growing your own carrot.

I like to include life cycle or plant growth matching games to support the information being learned. You can visit my TPT store to buy a very inexpensive plant parts chart or look on Pinterst to be inspired to create your own.  While you are there, check out the free downloadable file folder game with cute lady bugs. Very Spring-y!

bugs and flowersButterflyChartThe butterfly life cycle above is a TOTALLY FREE printable from Preschoolmom.com.  Here you will find many free printables for your Spring manipulative or science center! We love FREE  materials and are always very grateful!

Outdoor play…

How wonderful the fresh air is this time of year. We can truly appreciate being outdoors – what a sensory experience it is after being indoors so much.  The children love to observe that the birds are chirping more, and many varieties have returned to their summer home. Who can spot the first robin?

The tiny buds are visible on the tree branches and flowers such as crocus and daffodils are poking up out of the cold ground. Hallelujah!  Below is a picture of something I hope to have one day. How fun and enriching it would be to have a little raised garden like this, in which to play and explore.

fairyboxgardenDo you take your preschoolers outside when it is raining? We usually do not. However, if the weather is not too cold, I would consider it after reading this blog Let the Children Play. So many fun ideas and good explanations about why this can be beneficial.  I also just participated in a webinar about outdoor spaces and outdoor play that touted similar philosophies.  I am willing to give it a try. I would love to hear from you on this idea!

craftynatureLove, love, love this idea for school or home. So cute, a definite must try. Wishing you a joyful Spring in your classroom ♥ ~ M