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. 

ONE


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.  

TWO

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".

THREE


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!

FOUR


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! 
FIVE
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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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Saturday, May 7, 2016

How to bring GOD back in the classroom

The greatest lessons I learned this week were taught to me by God loving children!

Let me back up a little bit and give you some background and I hope you will stay with me.  I am a Christian who LOVES my Lord and Savior! I was blessed with parents who know God and brought me from birth in the Catholic church. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade with the last four years being at an all girl Catholic high school, and I am beyond thankful.

That being said, my faith is still growing and I attend a Christian church now and love where my faith has taken me.  I am, however, a public school teacher and at times it saddens me that I can't share the fact that Jesus loves them with my students.


Today, our voices are stifled in public schools, but GOD is not. Here are 5 ways I have learned to bring GOD back into the classroom.



We, as believers in Christ, need to lead as Christ lead us.  He came to this earth to give us the perfect example of how we can live our lives. So now its our turn to teach, model and love these children that have been entrusted to us.  Yes, that also includes the not so easy to love child...You know the one-the child that pushes every limit and gets under your skin.  He/she needs our LOVE the MOST!



So friends, this year my paraprofessional and I have prayer specifically for our students.  We have been intentional with our prayer and we schedule who we are praying for.  There are days and even weeks that we are more consistent than others, but the good news is God hears our prayers! So yes, we may not be able to pray with our students, but we can certainly pray FOR our students!



My youngest son  sent me a selfie on Friday to ask if his shirt matched his shorts. This was the shirt he received at church two years ago when he was baptized.  It even says NEW CREATION on the back. My first thought was concern that he would be called out on it in middle school.  (Middle school kids can be so mean!) But isn't that what we are called to do? Imagine if the Holy Spirit used Zach or even the message on his shirt to speak to someone.  That is exactly what we are called to do and I am so thankful that my son has the conviction to do it! #proudmama



And yes friend, this sweet little pre-kinder friend taught me a HUGE lesson on Friday too! I was so touched by his honest answer when asked why he loved his mom.  I am sure his mama was having a proud moment too! Children don't know to sensor their conversations to leave God out of public school and their is such power in this innocence!  The Holy Spirit moved me to share his story, our story, our Savior's story with all who are willing to listen.



I believe the most powerful lessons we can teach our kids in the classroom are classified as "character education" but know this: we are planting a seed in these sweet, little children that will grow when tended to.  So PRAISE GOD- against such things there is no law!

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Teacher Appreciation and Currently

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
Are you feeling appreciated?
Do you feel the LOVE?

Teachers Pay Teachers is having their HUGE SALE
 on May 3rd and 4th with 28% off in most stores!
I am so excited to join in as a SELLER and a BUYER because
who doesn't LOVE a deal?

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tammy-Wathen-the-Resourceful-Apple

So you can click on the apple icon or HERE to check out my TpT store! 
Don't forget the code CELEBRATE!
I am also linking up with Farley's FINAL Currently!

YES, you read that right!
To be honest, I haven't linked up in a while...
BUT...
It was such a fun way to get immersed into the blogging community
and connect with others that I am sad to see it go!
So as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation this week,
let's take the time to celebrate with each other
and be thankful for the little people we are honored to teach!

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plant Week & Five for Friday

What a better way to celebrate my favorite day of the week 
than joining up with Doodle Bugs Teaching with Five for Friday?
Jack and the Bean Stalk has definitely been one of out favorite fairy tales and was the PERFECT story to integrate literacy, math (shapes) and science (planting)!  This activity was Pinterest inspired, so be sure to check out my Science board on Pinterest.

We brought a a Milk Weed Plant into the classroom in hopes of finding a caterpillar only to find out we have FIVE caterpillars!  We are very excited to learn all about them. I love the text in this Butterfly Life Cycle book by Amanda Richardson. This product also has a life cycle poster and several other activities perfect for the primary grades. 

Butterfly Life Cycle


Mother's Day is just around the corner. These finger print flowers are a favorite of mine. We will add the stems and fingerprint leaves next week.  I am trying to decide if I should frame them or add them to the front of a card.  It doesn't happen too often that I am actually ahead of the game!



Skill building puzzles have brought life back to the puzzle center!  I found this idea over at The Applicious Teacher years ago and had it tucked away in the back of my mind.  You should check out her post on Puzzles in the Classroom



We are down to the final 28 days of school.  I love that I have the most awesome paraprofessional! She is prepping Alphabet Flip Books for next year and yes, that is the final letter Z is see!!  
Well this week is a wrap! Lots of learning and excitement with our plants and catties:)
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Picture Graphs and FREEBIE

Graphing in the primary grades can be so much fun!  
Picture graphs give my students time to think about their responses 
while using a little creativity.
There are so many ways to incorporate graphing into
monthly activities, themes, science and social studies and special interests. 
 Just in the past three weeks, we have done a graphing mini unit 
and the topics are limitless.
We started with Our Favorite Color graph.
Colored hand prints are always fun and 
would also be great at the beginning of the school year.

I hand wrote a title to get us through the week, 
but soon realized I would love to have cuter go to titles.

We then moved on to a Fairy Tale unit in Language Arts and spent two weeks reading different versions on The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff and Jack and the Bean Stalk. That naturally lead to the discussion of our favorite story and another graph.
I love using authentic drawings to create the graph. 
 It gives the children more buy in
 as they are creating their card as a part of the graph.  
There is a sense of pride and more of a connection.
And once again, I was in need of a title card.  I finally realized that I may 
NOT be the only teacher who could use a collection of graph titles.
Another great graph that could be used now or at the beginning of the year is More Boys or Girls?  Let's just say I have WAY more girls than boys this year!
In the morning class of nineteen students, I have 5 boys and 14 girls!
In pre-k, we have REALLY been working on body parts and adding details.
Some of getting it and others are a work in progress:)

So I created another title and decided I LOVE the print and go easibility 
of these titles.  I print them on card stock 
and decided NOT to laminate them to avoid the glare.
I have put these three graph titles in a little bundle 
and even added a fourth as a sampling of what is to come! 
You can download them for FREE here.
I can't wait to read you feedback to see what you think!
Feel free to leave suggestions for upcoming graph titles.
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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Five for Friday

Happy Friday Saturday Friends!  

Do you know how some weeks feel like they are NEVER going to end?  Yes, that would be this week for me! Coming back from spring break is always hard, but we also had a sick dog, vet visits and I had a student fall on the playground who need stitches!  #heavyheart


So I am looking forward to some down time this weekend and to yes, catch up on some much needed sleep...I am linking with with Doodle Bugs Teaching with Five for Friday.

There is nothing like a little pick me than a new tote and lunch bag from Thirty One!  I love this new summer print and my husband can't believe there isn't any black in it! #mygotocolor


We are working on graphing and what better time than Easter? This week we graphed "Our Favorite Flavor Jelly Bean" and "Have You Ever Colored Easter Eggs?"  Next week we will be using our self portraits to graph "Are You a Boy or a Girl?" and "What Is Your Favorite Color?" with colored hand prints.  We talked about what is a graph, sorting/categorizing  information and comparing quantities with more and less.


Our Dramatic Play area has turned into a Chinese Restaurant.  We have added Pei Wei to go boxes, "noodles" and "rice" made from yarn, chopsticks and a wok set from Melissa and Doug toys. This has been one of their favorite centers to date!

We are working hard on phonological awareness and phonics.  We are in the last quarter of school and are now moving to blending words with the majority of our students.  Our go to resource is CVC Words by Learn to Play.  There are a handful of littles who needs LOTS of practice with letters and sounds. 


Spring is the perfect time for a Farm Unit.  My littles loved exploring farms through literature and hands on literacy and math activities.  You can check out my Farm Unit HERE and it is 25% off through Sunday night!
So don't forget to check out Doodle Bugs Teaching and then get some much needed rest!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Small Group Instruction

Small Group Instruction is by far my favorite time of the day in pre-k!  It is time to teach specific language arts and math skills in a fun, play based way to engage my littles. We have 4 rotations that last 12 minutes each for our classes.  I have 19 students in my morning session and 12 in the afternoon.  I have names and post its on the board to help my para professional and I keep track of the kids and where they belong.  I know I want it to look much cuter...  So please do not throw rotten tomatoes... **This has been on my list of things to do all year.**


My sweet para, Becky, and I rotate daily between Literacy and Math.  Let's just say that Becky is my right arm in the classroom and I am truly blessed!  In between the literacy and math centers are the library/listening center and the computer center. 


We have tried to incorporate all things reading in the library area.  Read-a-loud books that I have shared over the course of the weeks are left on the front ledge and on the easel. 

Large poems from our poetry notebook are available to read with pointers.  The listening center changes every other day as this gives all the children in the group a chance to hear the story. 

Alphabet puzzles are put out occasionally for a quick review of alphabet letters and sounds as well as Alphabet Flip Books.  Our library is stocked with board books of our favorite predictable stories like Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Napping House. 
 

Our math group is one of our four rotations that is guided my Becky or I.  We have a scope and sequence of skills that need to be taught during each quarter of school.  We work on number recognition, counting, measurement, ordinal numbers and patterns.  

We use LOTS of hands on manipulatives, play dough and games galore.  The CRASH game is part of our Farm Unit and a favorite for sure!

What's Under the Cup is another fun game we play in the classroom.The teacher hides the bear under one of the cups.  We were practicing ordinal numbers so the students had to use an ordinal number when guessing which cup the bear was under.  You can put any skill on the outside of the cup- shapes, letters, numbers...the sky is the limit!
  

We are lucky enough to be able to use computers as a rotation in out room.  I have 3 student
computers, 1 computer attached to my Smart Board and on teacher computer on my desk.  We use all 5 during morning small group time.  We started the year with Starfall and the letters taught to date were on the top of the computer for easy reference.  

I later learned that teachers can get a free membership on ABC Mouse.  We tried it during small group time, but the students often wandered off into the land of ABC Mouse so we now save this for Center Time later in the day.  

In January, our school asked us if we would pilot a computer program called Imagine Learning.  So now each student is working on his/her own levelin phonological awareness and phonics. 
 

Small Group Literacy is a blend of phonological awareness, phonics and writing.  We practice building letters and words with play dough to work on fine motor development.  The lock and key matching game is from Lakeshore Learning

The Interactive Alphabet Activities cards are used over and over in so many ways.I added magnets to the back of the small cards to match to the large alphabet letter.  The larger picture cards are used as we build our circle maps, in counting syllables and also in the salt trays to practice letter formation.
We also started writing journals in January.  Some students are working on verbally forming sentences, while others are labeling pictures and then yes, a few are using sound spelling to stretch out words by sounding them out.


The key to making small group time work is to keep the rotation time short (10-15 minutes) while keeling children engaged in hands on activities.  The activity can can stay the same while just changing the novelty with manipulatives and work mats.  Be sure to model procedures and expectations.  Children love this time of the day and don't even know they are learning!

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