We were starting back from Christmas break with a space theme, which goes along well with our Bible lesson about the three kings following the star. Then, on top of the crazy cold weather, we had a glancing blow from that super storm which resulted in a two day week. Not much time for space. I will be giving the kids one last day to play with a few things on Monday before moving on, however.
You can see our space theme sensory bin above. I used black beans as the base. I also included some glow in the dark stars of various sizes as well as the space themed tube. I have included links to similar items below. I get a small commission if you order through my link. I picked up the space tube at Michaels or ACMoore and I am unsure where the stars came from since my director picked them up. I know our pack did not have as many as the example I found online, but they look like the same kind.
So it was the first day back after Christmas break and we had snow dough on the art table and space sand on the writing table. They are nowhere near each other, but near the end of the day I found snow dough in the space sand. I picked out the big pieces and decided the rest were stars. See what we were doing with it below.
I found the cards for this activity at Homeschool Creations. The black sand I found at a dollar store as well as the metal pan. If you do not see black sand at your local dollar store, you can also try your craft store. The smallest size container I see through Amazon is here. I have also heard of people dying sand, but my experience has not been successful at this point.
Above you can see a quick phone shot of one of my questions for this space theme week. It was interesting to see that not every kid thought they would like to live in the space station. Maybe if I had put “visit” the answers would have been different.
Below you can find a few of the items in my shop that I used in my class for my space theme. Please don’t laugh at the cover to my space word wall; it is the very first item I listed for sale in my shop and I no longer have an editable file because my computer crashed shortly afterwards. I am quite disappointed that we did not have time to play my space path game and will figure out some other time to pull it out soon.
We start each day in PreK with a question of the day. Most of them relate to the theme we are working on in class. My students’ parents really like to wait to see which answer their children will pick before they leave for the morning. You can find farm themed questions in this set or in my Question of the Day bundle.
One of the many farm themed books we read during our farm theme is Rosie’s Walk. I found this path game at Making Learning Fun and braved using our large laminator to create it. I used this as a shape review game. I also printed the felt board pieces from the same sight for my students to use in the library corner during the farm theme.
For another sorting and fine motor activity, I had my students match up horse clothes pin legs to laminated colored bodies. I used permanent marker to color the legs since paint does not seem to stay. I used this in assessing my student knowledge of colors as well as pincher grasp. I found the printable horses here.
I try to use my easel in different ways, so for the farm theme I used one side with pattern block patterns. I put contact paper on top of the print outs and gave the students foam pattern block pieces (affiliate link) to stick to the contact paper. It stays sticky enough to be used for a couple weeks, if interest stays. I switched out a couple of the pictures for the second week to renew interest for those who had already tried it the first week. Some of the pattern block pages come from PreKinders and the alligator, which goes with our letter that we were studying, comes from Jessica’s Corner of Cyberspace.
For my farm themed sensory bin, I used a filler of bird seed. I created fence pieces with hot glue and two sized of popsicle sticks. I also added letters to sort the animals. We had some lincoln logs to create a barn as well. As a preschool teacher, I am sure you can imagine what it looks like at the end of each day (or even a few minutes after the kids get to school.) Many of the animals come from a farm themed tube, but others are ones that my youngest daughter outgrew.
One of the fine motor activities that my PreK students enjoy is using the large poke pins. For our farm theme I found a poke pin pig from This Reading Mama. I also pulled out a letter A poke pin page from this set of Miss Helen’s Hippos. I have a few cork board sheets stacked on top of each other to help keep from getting tiny holes in the table.
Another resource I used from Making Learning Fun were these letter tile cards. You can find the letter tiles on Amazon (affiliate link). It did take some work to get them to print out correctly for me because I did not have the size paper suggested. Not sure which story these corresponded with since I printed them out quite a while ago.
During our first week on the farm I had my students work on creating items that would go into our Pumpkin Patch the following week. We created pumpkins from paper bags. Students cut leaves for plants, cut popcorn pieces for the popcorn machine, and cut hay for the hay ride. I was able to have each student take a turn so I could assess everyone’s cutting skills at this point in the year. All of these cutting ideas come from Pocket of Preschool’s Pumpkin Patch dramatic play set.
Next I will show you how the Pumpkin Patch turned out…
We start our day with our Question of the Day. I usually have questions that go along with whatever we are studying, so this past week we have had several questions about community helpers. I thought this one would be one that everyone would say yes to, but that was not the case. Learn something new about my students every day. My community helper themed questions can be found in this set.
To go along with our question, I had put out the play house with laminated flames stuck to it. I also found a set that was meant for play dough play and used it instead to attach to blocks for some block area fun. One of my students had all the fire fighter blocks balanced on the fire truck block and slid it across the carpet to put out the fire.
Our writing center focused on the letter M during the week. We used the Alphabet Stamping Set with some ink pads and my alphabet stamps from Melissa & Doug. This writing center will return in a few weeks with another letter. I like to switch up what is in the writing center and then circle back to something familiar in a few weeks with another letter or theme.
This is a center that I did not expect to be as huge a hit as it was. Part of the reason is probably that I found a couple of different punches that were easier for my beginning of the year PreK students to use. No luck finding a photo of the ones I used online, but the students could line up the letter in the shape and then punch using their thumb and two fingers. There is a similar type punch here. I had a few try out the hand grip hole punch, but we need to work up to that one. You can find one of the hole punch sets here.
I am discovering more about the group of students I have this year. I had several who were interested in trying out the first set of count and clips I put out this year. I have found that some years kids really enjoy these and other years they get ignored. Happily this seems to be a good year for these if this past week is any indication. Students count the bandages and then clip the clothespin to cover the correct number. This set came from Making Learning Fun.
For our sensory bin this week I chose rocks and aquarium gravel. I also used construction vehicles. This makes for a loud sensory bin, but the kids loved playing with it all week. In the past I have used rocks with sand, but since we used sand during the first week of school I wanted to give them a different experience.
And just to keep it real, a look at the bin after a day of play.
What are some of your favorite community helper theme centers?
A trip to Dollar Tree helped me find a bulletin board background in an unexpected spot. I have used plastic tablecloths from Dollar Tree for my bulletin board background before and loved them because they were so easy to put up; the static made me almost not even need to staple them. This bulletin board background is not a tablecloth, though. It is supposed to be a shower curtain. I put a construction paper frame behind my students’ work so it does not feel too busy.
I have two sets of my pet words cards, one full sized that I use in my pocket chart, and this half sized one that I have for my writing center. To make the half sized one I chose to print two to a page, which makes it a great size for small pocket charts or to put on a ring for the writing center. I like having the photos of the animals next to the words when possible as opposed to clip art, which can work great for games and other activities in the classroom.
We start our day with our Question of the Day as students enter the classroom. My pocket chart hangs on the outside of the bathroom door, which is near the entrance of the classroom. I place the student names on the top of the lunch bin cubbies, so that students can pick up their names after dropping of their lunches. My pet themed questions can be found in the Question of the Day bundle or this set.
We got this set of Melissa & Doug pet puzzles last year. They are a bit challenging for our students so we photocopied a finished puzzle for students to lay the pieces on top of to complete the puzzles. I discovered this past week that it was a better idea to have the puzzles in separate containers instead of the container the puzzles came in; otherwise the pieces get all mixed up easily.
Since we did not have much play dough time during the last week I made sure to have some this week with some pet themed play dough cutters as well as some play dough mats that I found at Sparklebox. The students do not always use the mats to make what is suggested, but it does sometimes give them some ideas.
Last week our dramatic play was mostly grooming and feeding, so with Pets Week, I added in the light table for x-rays as well as some veterinarian tools like a stethoscope, eye dropper, shot, and thermometer. I found several of my x-rays here. I printed them on transparencies and then laminated for sturdiness.
These are just a few of the pet themed activities that we did during Pets Week. What are your favorite pet themed activities?
Our first week of preschool was this past week. I was able to finish getting my room all set up with my ocean themed items in plenty of time for our Sneak Peek. I even had a new student enroll after our Sneak Peek and got her name everywhere in the room before school started.
My classroom jobs are placed over the coat hooks in my classroom. I have to decide each year which jobs to use, based upon how many students are in the classroom. I place velcro dots above the coat hooks and move the student names down one space each week to change jobs. This way line leader is always at the head of the line and caboose at the end. It also helps save the wall. I used to move the jobs and ended up taking paint off the wall from moving them down each week. The Helping Hands sign is part of my Ocean Decor Set, which also includes this set of jobs and more.
I purchased a new long green pocket chart for my Question of the Day. I like that it is long enough that students can make one long column of names to answer the question. It makes it easier to visually see which answer has more when we count and discuss during circle time. If you need some questions for your Question of the Day, please check out that section in my shop.
For fine motor and math, I placed ocean animal sorters with matching color bowls and a couple types of grabbers to work on pincher grasp. The sea animal counters are from Lakeshore. The ones I see online do not have penguins, but appear to have sharks instead. We also did a roll and graph with ocean animals.
My sensory bin had sand with shells, sea glass, and shark teeth to discover. Students enjoyed using the sifters and scoops all week. I had to sift through the entire bin of sand to pull out everything I had put in the sand. I would not be surprised if someone discovers a shark tooth out in the playground sandbox later in the year since that is where I put the sand when I was finished.
Since it is the beginning of the year I want the writing center to be simple and fun. My students thought the red, white, and blue sand were sprinkles and enjoyed trying to create the letter on the crab’s stomach. I will admit there were students who also drew designs in the sand with the crabs. The crabs are from Learning Resources, but I found an Amazon link here.
Last year I had my octopus above my classroom all year, so I needed to change it up a bit for this year even though I really loved my octopus. I decided to create a seahorse. Our main craft for the first week were the puffer fish you see on the bulletin board. They were inspired by these puffer fish. With my students we painted the paper plates one day, then added eyes, mouth, fins, and white dots the next day. I ended up doing the cutting since when I was first planning this I had several less students scheduled to be enrolled in my class. Once I saw that the class was larger I knew we would not have time to do the cutting this early in the year without taking too much time.
Monday is the big day for me and the official beginning of my personal back to school. Our family started school at the beginning of the month with my oldest daughter starting cross country practice, so getting to sleep in has been gone for quite a while for me. Monday starts my online college course, so this week is truly my back to school week.
I will be taking a course in Christian Doctrine as I am working towards synod certification in Early Childhood Education through Martin Luther College. This is my last three credit hour course, so I am excited to get it completed.
Back to school for me as a teacher starts Wednesday with work days to prepare my classroom. I am sticking with my ocean theme, so just need to freshen it up and make everything that has student names on it, but we all know there is still plenty to do. I have my calendar all ready with my ocean themed items, like the months you see.
I will also be choosing which question of the day I want to use from my set. I will probably use this one some time the first week.
In celebration of a new school year I am having a giveaway for a Teachers Pay Teachers $10 gift card. Teachers Pay Teachers is also having a one day sale on Monday which I am participating in, so fill your carts and watch your emails as I will send out notice as soon as the giveaway ends.
We started the week with a leftover question of the day from our snow day on Friday. We do a question of the day every morning as we come in the classroom. Many of the parents hang around to see what their children will choose as an answer. We needed to do this question since we still needed to read Green Eggs and Ham as well as have our special Dr. Seuss snacks which were saved from Friday’s “no snow” snow day. If I recall correctly we had a tie in responses with this one, which is unusual.
This week our easel has painting with water on one side and practicing writing words that begin with J on the other. Sometime I use these word sheets with magnets or stamps, but this week I decided to let them write the words with the dry erase markers. I found these sheets on This Reading Mama’s blog. I decided to use water and a brush on the other side because I had put it out a few weeks ago when I realized I had no plan for the other side of the easel and the students loved it and spent a bunch of time practicing letters and drawing shapes, especially some of my friends who are not quick to choose activities involving manipulating writing implements.
In my fine motor and math center I found a Race to the Top game with linking cubes. My students have enjoyed using linking and snap cubes as well as dice games. This one has just enough of a twist from activities we have done recently to keep their attention. Race to the Top can be found on The Measured Mom’s blog. We are using the one that goes to twenty but she also has one up to ten. To get students started with this game I invited one student to play with me. Once we started the game another student came over and asked to play so I let that student take my spot. If one student quits I either jump in to play or ask another student if she would like to play if the student playing cannot figure out who to ask.
This game is best saved for the second half of the year because students need to only count the fish of a specific color, not all the fish. I highlighted the color word with a dry erase marker that matched its color (although I apparently missed the one on top when I took the photo.) You could also put a color word chart at this center. I chose this game because we are reading Swimmy by Leo Lionni as well as Flotsam by David Wiesner.
My large square table is where we do our art and literacy activities. Some of the activities we started the week with included play dough with alphabet stampers (similar to those linked below), Letter J crowns, painting alphabet letters to create a class alphabet book and a chameleon craft on paper towels which we plan to spray later in the week.
Due to a very large number of absences this week we may not end up with a whole alphabet book. I am contemplating what to do since I ended the day with only four out of ten students. It is pretty difficult to get twenty six letters painted with that many absences.
When I decided to do this sensory bin it reminded me of one I made a long time ago for a Vacation Bible Camp. It had been a bin full of shredded paper and my fellow teacher had commented, “Who would have thought that preschoolers would love to play with trash so much?” I had several kids playing with this right away on Monday. A couple boys kept catching pieces with the grabbers I found at the dollar store and bringing them to me to show me which letter that was caught. This Alphabet Pick Up game can be found in Mrs. Jones’ Creation Station. The grabbers were found at the dollar store and were similar to those shown in the photo link below.
Our dramatic play area became a Sandwich Shop this week. I used the foam pieces I had cut last year, placing them in aluminum trays from the dollar store. Growing in PreK has some printables and was my inspiration for the beginning of this center.
On the table for customers are place mats as well as ketchup and mustard. These were also found at the local dollar store. I did not realize when I purchased them that they were meant to be joke bottles. The kids love them because when you open the lids and squeeze them a little string that is red for ketchup or yellow for mustard pops out.
The big addition to the sandwich shop was my drink station, inspired by Play to Learn’s post. The students figured it out right away, although I did have one moment when a student pulled the colored tissue out of it. Another student informed me and I fixed it and explained to the student what it was since I am unsure he had any idea why the tissue was there. To the left of the drink station are trays of crocheted cookies and plastic chips. I have a couple different ways of ordering that I will alternate in this center. One is found at PreKinders and the other was found at Growing in PreK, which was linked above.
After having finished up two weeks of my transportation theme last week I find myself realizing that I really need to crank out a bunch more questions for my Question of the Day Bundle, especially since I need the questions for my classroom fairly soon. So I started with some space themed questions even though we are not doing a space theme this year at my school.
When making my questions I really like to incorporate real life photos so that the questions are interesting as well as possibly showing my students something they have not seen before. I do have a couple students who can read a bit, but for the most part my assistant or I read the question of the day to our students. This year I don’t seem to have too many students who just want to answer what other students are choosing. Last year I had a few who always wanted their names to be next to a buddy’s name, regardless of the answer choices.
One of the student jobs in our classroom is the Question of the Day Helper. That person goes over to the pocket chart and counts the responses and reports them to the circle so that we can discuss them. We talk about most, least, unanimous, and ties. Just today we had a unanimous answer, although it would not have been if all of my students had been there since the question was about whether there was a letter H in anyone’s name.
I just finished up another set of questions for this bundle, with space, hibernation, friends, Valentine’s, and healthy habit themed questions. Since I am very concerned with making sure that the photos and graphics do not print poorly, the latest version of the bundle includes a link to a Dropbox file with set six in it.
January 20 and 21 is a sale day at Teachers Pay Teachers. My Question of the Day Bundle as well as everything else in my shop will be on sale. Make sure you remember to use the code above. You can click through to the sale using the graphic above.