Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School Organization with Picture Name Tags

The first week of pre-k and kinder is all about establishing routine.
So many of my little friends come in 
and have no connection to their written name. 
I have started using picture symbols with student names
to help all students identify their names, places and spaces in the classroom.
This works with all children including non-English speakers
and our ESE students as pictures are universal!

The most obvious use of symbols and pictures is with student name tags. 
I actually put our name tags in a pocket chart so my pre-kinders are
able to use this card during small groups and center time-
no matter where they are sitting in the classroom. 

Cubby tags are another great place to use  symbols and names together...
unless you don't have cubbies!
You guessed it, I don't have cubbies in my classroom,
so we put our backpacks over out chairs sideways so they don't fall off.
I used the cubby tags on the back of their chairs so everyone has a home base
in the classroom and a place to park their bags!

I then printed the cubby tags with several on a sheet to reduce their size
and make them more versatile in the classroom. 

These are the perfect size for folder labels, lanyard necklaces, graphing cards,  
and even cafeteria cards with bar codes to scan on the back!

And last but certainly not least, I use the symbol cards
on colored bins for easy water bottle storage!
These would also be great for storing individual supplies at tables!

The picture name tags help my kiddos connect to their names
in a meaningful way while helping me organize our room
and develop routines especially during the first few weeks of school.
The possibilities are endless with Picture Name Tags!
You can find them HERE in TpT.
Be sure to pin this post for easy, back to school organization!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Ways to Practice Student Names

With back to school right around the corner,
preschool and kindergarten teachers are looking for
engaging ways for students to practice their names!

"Why?" you ask.
Students have a strong will to learn their name and 
it makes learning letters more personal to each student.

When my students come to Meet the Teacher the week before school starts, 
pictures of various objects are out on a board and each student is allowed
 to pick one "symbol" to be attached to their name. 

 This practice allows children
 to identify their name and space easily. 
 Students quickly learn each others' symbols 
and names as well and they LOVE this!

The Pre-K Name Tags set includes 40 stand alone symbols, 
Set A and Set B class lists for am and pm classes, 
EDITABLE name tags and EDITABLE cubby labels.  
Students quickly learn their name as it is always connected to their symbol!  

At the beginning of the year, my pre-kinders may have no idea
 what their name looks like or even that it has letters. 

 Our focus in August is to introduce the FIRST letter of their names!  
We start by introducing the first letter of their name with some fine motor fun.  
Later in September, we use it for a model for some dry erase board practice.

 Providing multiple opportunities for name writing is key!  
Provide a model for the student with his or her name and model rainbow writing 
(writing name several times with a different color each time), 
tracing the name with bingo dabbers or watercolor paints, 
or even model paper tearing to cover the child's full name similar to the letter J above.  

Bottle Cap Letters or other letter manipulatives let children manipulate 
the letters in his or her name to order them correctly.  

By using Bottle Cap Letters, you are able to customize each child's name, 
use different colors for each child so they don't mix up their letters 
and teachers can  send an extra set home for additional practice.  

Parents always ask what they can do and 
Bottle Cap Letters provide an activity that is easy to use.  
This is an inexpensive way to provide a home-school connection!

If you are interested in Bottle Cap Letters
you can download it from my TpT store for FREE!

Salt trays and shaving cream are a go to sensory activity for name practice. 
 It works best one on one at the beginning of the year and then small group.  
Both activities have a  dual purpose as they help with letter formation 
as well as letter/sound identification when working with a teacher.  

Children have different learning styles and this activity will help 
your tactile learners connect with letters.

Don't forget to grab your FREE copy of Bottle Cap Letters
if you have not already done so and for future products, 
be sure to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Making the Most of Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting is one of my favorite times of the day.  
I have a captive audience so it is crucial to get their little brains engaged in learning
because I only have their attention for a short amount of time.

The MOST important reason to come to the carpet according to my students was to see who the Apple of My Eye is going to be!  The WHO you say? The Apple of My Eye of course! In my apple themed classroom, that's the helper of the day.  

You might call it your Star Student or even your Top Dog,  Either way that child does EVERYTHING all day so I only have to keep track of one helper. This is the BEST classroom management change that I have made to save my sanity.  The child's name is on The Apple of My Eye chart every day until December and I reveal one letter at a time

We them move onto to our calendar.  In pre-k, we start the year off with our weekly calendar.  We count the number of days at home and the number of days at school.  Dr. Jean's Days of the Week song is a favorite.  This is the first step in counting and number recognition which gets us well on our way to counting up to ten. 

You can find my weekly calendar HERE along with seasonal pictures for each month and the numbers 1-7 for counting each day.  

When we return from Christmas vacation in January, I switch the weekly calendar to a monthly calendar. On the back of each calendar piece, I have the child's name that will be the Apple of My Eye.  (I had a morning and afternoon pre-k class last year so there are two names on each card-one red and one blue.) 

My pre-kinders would be excited to see what the new cards would be each month, but I soon realized we needed a little bit more.  I made a set of monthly calendar cards to include a pattern each month. Upon looking back, I realized that I needed to review the patterns as we moved on so I also built that in. My new calendar schedule looks like this:

We move onto reviewing our schedule for the day.  I have a daily schedule with pictures and words  and within a few weeks of school, the kids know the typical schedule.  It does have to be changed from time to time, and if I forget to turn it back they really let me know!

And to wrap up our quickly moving morning meeting, we incorporate a little literacy.  We work on a poem or nursery rhyme each week together.  While we practice the poems, we work on letters, sounds, rhyming words, vocabulary and concepts of print.  There is so much packed into this short period it amazes me.  

The rebus pictures that are used with the poem allow for students to reread it independently after a few days of practicing it chorally.  We add it later in the week to their Poetry Journal to practice reciting it, tracking print, illustrating it and connecting it to our language skill.  

That about wraps up our morning meeting time.  There are always extra activities that are substituted in throughout the year like out weekly journal starting in January, but by that time my pre-kinders are able to sit for a little longer!

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

5 Ways to Keep our Children Safe in the Face of Danger

I have been glued to the television and computer all day long.
There was ANOTHER mass shooting
with FIFTY victims dead and FIFTY THREE injured.
My prayers go out to all the injured as well as friends and family of all the victims.

My heart is so sad, filled with worry.
Worry for my husband who is there working the scene.
Worry for my community, who has dealt with two shootings in two days.
Worry for our children and the world they are growing up in.

In this past decade there have been numerous school shootings as well.
So what can we do to protect our children, both personal and students?

We, as adults, need to show our children that life goes on.
God conquers evil.
So what can we do in the face of danger?
Here are five ways to keep our children safe in the face of danger.  

Look around for anyone and anything out of place. 
 It is so easy to let a parent walk down the hallway with their child, 
but did they stop in the office first to sign in.  
What is the protocol at your school? 
Make sure it is followed at ALL times, even if it is not convenient.

What is your school plan? Is there a county plan? 
I had to take an active assailant training to prepare myself
in case of an intruder on campus and then take a test.
We, as teachers,  never think things like this will happen to them, 
but I am here to tell you this shooting was too close to home for me.
PLEASE take the time to make a plan or review the one you have.

Just like we, as adults, need to have a plan, 
we need to practice the scenarios with our children.
Will it be scary for them? ABSOLUTELY!
However, if it can save their lives, it is well worth it.
Just like a fire drill, an active intruder drill needs to be practiced.  
Teachers and parents need to have these hard conversations with our children.

I can't even imagine what would go through my head and I hope I never have to test this.
The children in our care are counting on us.
Do we hide? Try to get out of the building?
We are their first defense and these kids are counting on us.
The more prepared we are, the more likely we will be able to keep a clear head. 

What can you do on a daily basis to keep you and your students safe?
I teach out in a portable and I ALWAYS keep my door LOCKED.
Can this be inconvenient? You betcha! 
BUT, it keeps us safely inside the room.
When someone knocks, my students know not to open the door 
if it isn't someone they know and at that point my para professional or I check.
Most importantly, SPEAK OUT, if something isn't part of your norm.


So my friends, please pray for those who lost loved ones, 
the city of Orlando and the people of the USA!
We need to grieve and then move forward...with a plan.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Head Lice, Scabies and Pin Worms, Oh My!

Pre-kinders can be the most LOVING little people around!  
They share EVERYTHING (except maybe their favorite toy)! 
Did I say everything? OK, maybe not everything, BUT definitely
 Head Lice and Scabies and Pin Worms, Oh My!
This is just the tip of the iceberg...

This has been a year for the books! My first year back in pre-kindergarten
 and we ran the gamut of germs and creatures that spread!
So here are my top 5 things to look out for in pre-k!

We had 17 case of head lice this year!

I {almost} died.

But my kids were treated at home and were cleared by our nurse
before they came back to the classroom.
David Shannon has a great book to help kids (and teachers) through this.

Hand, foot, and moth is common in daycare centers and with young children.
My poor little guy was so sad he missed the end of the year festivities.

I did have a little sweetie who was out for THREE weeks
 before she was released by her doctor to return to school.
We wash our hands ALL THE TIME in class!

And the list went on and on this year! Today was the last day of school 
and I am happy to report that a sinus infection 
was the worst thing I caught THIS YEAR! 
 Yes, I am knocking on wood as I type this and thanking God and my lucky stars!  

Personal space is so hard for little friends! They want to hug All. THE. TIME.
Ring worm did not make it to my room THIS year, 
but I didn't want any little creature left out!

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Is Pre-K the New Kindergarten?

Is Pre-K the new kindergarten?
I am here to tell you YES!

With the rigor of new state and national standards being at an all time high, we have watched grade level standards trickle down a grade level or two.  There is more pressure put on these sweet kids, less recess and movement and play is often unheard of in the primary classrooms.

So how do we, in good conscience, teach these mandated standards while using developmentally appropriate practices? Here are 5 TOP ways to keep pre-k fun and engaging instead of frustrating children with standards that are not developmentally appropriate. 


I integrate fine motor skills in the sensory table, literacy center, math table, blocks, art and even the dramatic play area.  The trick is to look for fun ways to develop these little muscles while working on a task. For instance, instead of just counting manipulatives during small group math as we practice counting from 1-20, I give each student tweezers and they need to squeeze the tweezers as they pick up each pom pom as they count and fill their bucket.  


Pre-Kinders LOVE play-dough! You can pretty much make any skill appeal to them if you add a tub of play-dough.  When you make your own and add scented oils or flavoring, engagement is at an all time HIGH!  Some fun, engaging activities include cookie cutters, rolling play-dough, stamping and play-dough mats.  Skills such as alphabet, number and sight word recognition lend themselves well. Students also categorize cut shapes, work on fine motor skills and have conversations all while they think they are "just playing".


Children learn by doing.  There are so many skills that can be taught by integrating art.  During a recent weather unit, I had planned on making wind socks with my students during art.  At the same time, we were working on measurement in math.  Students had to measure the colored streamers so they were each 1 foot long.  I used a ruler to measure a piece of colored tape for each student and put it on the table.  Pre-Kinders had to measure the streamers against the tape by matching up one end and cutting at the other. They didn't even realize they were practicing this important measurement skill!


Pre-Kinders love games! Games are invaluable in my classroom as they provide an outlet for skill practice in a fun and engaging way.  Students enjoy structured activities.  My paraprofessional or I are usually at the table to work on the skill as we introduce the game and kids love going to a "teacher" center.  Games also teach social skills like talking turns, playing fairly and even "you can't win them all"! Board games have been replaced by video games in so many homes so this is a great opportunity to engage kids! 

There are conflicting views about worksheets in pre-kindergarten and the bottom line is you need to know you class and their learning styles.  That being said, if I find a "worksheet" type of activity that enhances our curriculum and will be engaging for my kids, I slip it into a pocket sleeve, add dry erase markers and erasers and leave it at a center for practice.  These are great practice for fine motor activities that also practice previously introduced skills.  Children will have the rest of their school careers to complete more worksheets than they could imagine, so PLEASE, minimize worksheets and provide meaningful experiences for your pre-kinders.

So the bottom line is we probably have NO CONTROL over the standards we need to teach, BUT we do have control over HOW WE TEACH.  Yes, standards such as reading sight words moved from first grade down to kindergarten years ago and now are finding a home in our pre-kindergarten rooms.  Our job is to choose to use developmentally appropriate practices to introduce these skills and the children who are ready will internalize them and then we will need to supplement for the others and help move these children from where they are.   Isn't that what we already do anyways?

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