Giving Thanks At School!

Tis the season for thinking of others! In my preschool classroom we are always taking time to think about each other and how we feel together. We are developing our listening skills and learning how to take on other people’s feelings, and it is hard work!

There are all kinds of crafty projects that have to do with turkeys, early settlers, and food but teaching children how to be thankful through artistic expression is another challenge. To start, I like to ask children what they know about being thankful or what it means to be thankful for what you have. This opens up conversation and allows me to get an idea for what children already know.

From there, we use our ideas to teach each other about what we are thankful for and what it means to give thanks. We can use our words in a thankful poem, write them down on individual cards for our families and let them inspire us to create open ended art for our loved ones. When children truly begin to take on the feelings of others and think about the important people in their lives,  their artistic expression can become a beautiful thing!

Here are some open ended art ideas we like to do in our class:

  • Paint at the easel while talking about someone we love. have a grown-up write down the child’s dictated words and attach them to the painting.
  • Make friendship necklaces or bracelets using a variety of stringing materials(beads, buttons, cardboard pieces, straws) have the children choose colors or materials that someone else would truly love!
  • Make a friendship fruit salad! Each child gets to choose (or bring in from home) a fruit they enjoy. Everyone helps to cut and prepare the salad together and it makes for a very special snack!

Enjoy this time for celebrating what we have together at school and let us know the things you like to do to show that you care!

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Halloween Math In the Classroom!

What’s a better time of year for fun math activities than Halloween? Costumes, candy and jack o’ lanterns are all fun things to think about, so why not use them to keep math interesting in your classroom! Math games, themed worksheets and graphing activities are all ways to connect the popular Halloween theme into your math program.

Here are some great math activities to do with young children during this fun fall season:

Candy Corn Math – Have your kids: count candy corn by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s. After they group the candy they can eat some too!

Pumpkin Seed Estimation– How many seeds are inside the pumpkin? Estimate, scoop, dry the seeds and toast them for a delicious snack! Then count the actual amount before you eat them. Graph the estimations and compare with the actual number!

Bag of Critters Math Game– Fill a paper bag to the halfway mark with different colored plastic spiders. Try to have at least four different colors for this game. Taking turns, have the kids pick spiders out one by one, graphing how many of each color they get after they have picked ten. After the activity, children can compare their graphs to see who got the most of each color. Recording sheets can be prepared ahead of time.

This preschool number activity could also work with different colored gummy worms. In this case, the kids might enjoy the yucky feel of the worms as they reach into the bag. If the candy sticks together, try adding a small sprinkle of flour before the game begins.

Let us know some of the fun things you are doing in your classrooms as Halloween approaches!

How to Keep Reading in Your Child’s Homework

For years I’ve been teaching young children and watching the homework load increase as each fall semester goes by. Kindergarten children are now coming home with hours of worksheets and rote based work books. This has not yet equated to an increase in achievement rates or higher test scores, so why are we requiring it?

Many school districts have convinced teachers and parents that habits of homework in young children build skills necessary for the older grades when the expectations for heavy homework  kicks in. However, I still believe that young  children benefit from true down time after school and that instilling a love for reading during this time would benefit all children after long days in school.

In order to support your child’s success in school a key component is providing a structured routine for homework. Every family has their own schedules that work best for them, but the best time to complete your homework could be shortly after school has finished. That way your child is not too tired or hungry, and the day’s lessons are still fresh in their mind. Use your after school programs, if available, to help your child complete most of their assignments.

Once your child has completed their assignments, that’s when reading can help to create the down time you all need! Read together and independently and take time to chat about what you read. Take books to bed with you and keep reading to support your child’s work at home!

Back To School: 5 Ways To Promote Literacy In the Classroom

It’s that time again, Back to School for the teachers! With so much to do and lots of things to think about, it’s sometimes overwhelming to focus on decorating your classroom with respect to literacy. The good news is, it’s not that hard! Promoting literacy and language learning can come from the kids! Here’s a few ways you can lay the groundwork for your literacy program by using your students and self-designing your program.

Create Your Classroom Rules Together! Find out from your students what they know about respecting each other and their classroom. Post the rules you all create in a creative way using clear print and even photos of the children doing respectful things!

On-Going Word Walls and Literacy Centers are great language learning resources for students. Take your time to introduce your literacy center, and allow children to explore the space. A word wall is a wonderful way to help children feel success when facing the challenge of writing!

Create A School Community or Neighborhood Map! By identifying with the neighboring community you can promote authentic connections to people and places around your school. You can make a map of the school or the neighborhood and have the children draw and write about the important places that they know! This ongoing activity can help to fuel your social studies curriculum throughout the year.

Create Your Own Notebooks! Instead of giving your students plan notebooks or folders to store their writing samples, have them decorate their own! This type of creativity inspires ideas for writing and promotes ownership over their important work!

Write Your Own Class Newsletter! Have the students help to report about their learning in and out of the classroom through a newsletter to parents. When students feel that their learning is important they will be excited about sharing it with others! A class newsletter is a great way to get everyone involved in writing about the class curriculum!

Enjoy this time of new beginnings and let us know how you promote literacy learning at the start of school!

Children’s Book Week: Inspiration in the Classroom

Happy Children’s Book Week! Starting May 2nd and going through May 8th teachers around the country can be inspired by the celebration of children’s books. Authors and illustrators can be so influential on a teacher’s curriculum and ultimately help to create a love for reading and writing for the students.

Literature in a classroom can be the backbone of the reading and writing program. As a teacher of literacy for many years, I’ve always kept my curriculum focused on author studiesthematic units and fundamentally a wide variety of children’s books. With a rich library of books, a good teacher can support the children as active agents in their own levels of literacy learning.

Children’s book week can come into your classroom in many ways! Here are some fun ideas on how to incorporate the focus in your class:

Challenge the children by having them choose their favorite children’s book from a pool of choices, and graph the results!

Have each child, or children in pairs, work on their own poster design for the week. Display the final pieces in a gallery!

Collaborate with the Art Department and have children self-design their own bookmarks. These can be as simple or complex as you like. Use the nominee from CBW as inspiration for style!

Let us know how Children’s Book Week inspired you!!