Making the Most of Summer Break

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Summer break has officially begun, although there is still much on my to do list.  I still have two summer camps to finish preparing for and to teach next month as well as a summer conference.  I also want to go through my cabinets at school and reorganize them as well as putting in order the mess that is my “school area” at home.

Then, since I am not just a teacher, but also a mother….I have a list of things that need to happen related to my children.  There is middle school orientation, two different summer church camps, and Vacation Bible Camp that will involve the whole family.  OH, and did I mention the family trips to visit grandparents?

I had to get myself organized so that I would not forget anything so I downloaded a monthly calendar and put in the essentials.  That keeps me from forgetting major events.

How about the day to day, though?  I discovered an app a couple years ago called Motivated Moms to keep track of my day to day housework type chores.  I have now started to use it to also keep track of the teacher projects that I am working on as well as my Teacher Pay Teacher projects.

My life is not filled with the latest and greatest technology, so I use the app with my Kindle Fire and it works great for me.  They have options for Android and Apple products.  It is easy to customize and I like that it has set chores already for each day, which reminds me of some of the things you should do every once in a while, like turning your mattress or changing your filter for your heating/air conditioning unit.

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If you are interested in checking it out, please click the button above.

Now I am off to get a popsicle before I tackle the next thing on my list.

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Preschool Pond Theme Activities

We recently completed our Pond theme in my preschool classroom.  We were lucky enough to get some gray tree frog tadpoles to visit our classroom during this theme.  The tree frogs like to lay their eggs in the water in our above ground pool before we open it for the summer, so we always save some of them before cleaning the pool.  They will continue to live in my classroom through the next month so we can watch them grow throughout our summer camps.

For some reason my sensory bin looks a bit less like a pond this year than last year, probably due to the fact that I was using our new larger sensory bin that is red instead of blue.  The bin has some flat blue glass beads in the bottom, a bunch of frogs purchased from Oriental Trading, some lily pads made from foam, and some tadpoles made with pony beads and a bit of pipe cleaner, inspired by this.  I used brown beads and pipe cleaner since that most closely matched our real tadpoles in the classroom.

Pond Sensory Bin
Pond Sensory Bin

For dramatic play I went for simplicity since we did not have a long time for centers during the week due to rehearsing for graduation.  I found this kiddie pool on clearance at the end of the summer last year and grabbed it to make it into a bird’s nest.  It also makes a great pond.  The lily pads are place mats I found at Dollar Tree.  I already had the frogs.  The ping pong balls are from Dollar Tree as well.  I wrote an alphabet letter on each one and students had to catch them with the net and then place them in the correct spot labeled with the same letter on small paint palettes.

Dramatic Play Pond Area
Dramatic Play Pond Area

Frogs are similar to the ones pictured above, found on Amazon.

I was also excited to find this small garbage can at Dollar Tree and created a frog for a counting game.  The other teacher I work with had some plastic flies.  Students rolled the dice and then used the tool to pick up and feed the frog.

Feed the Frog Flies Game
Feed the Frog Flies Game

We also had a fun catch the bugs game with pink toy noise makers that I also found at Dollar Tree.  I placed a section of velcro on the ends and cut up small pieces of felt for the children to catch with their frog tongues.  You can find out more about this idea here.

For my pocket chart calendar I would use these calendar cards:

 Frog Calendar Bundle
Frog Calendar Bundle

Calendar Bundle Frog Pond Theme

Have you done a pond theme in your classroom?

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PreK Creepy Crawlers Week Fun and Games

 

 

Spider Web Fly Toss Game
Spider Web Fly Toss Game

My PreK students always keep very busy on Monday mornings since there is so much new in the classroom.  This week is our Creepy Crawlers theme.  I was energized from my spring break to discover some new ideas that I am glad to find engaging to my students.  This spider web game was a big hit.

I discovered an idea for the spider web when browsing Pinterest.  I knew I already had a hula hoop that I had found at the dollar store last year, so I pulled that out, along with some masking tape.  The example on Pinterest showed cotton balls, but I thought that black pom poms would look more like bugs or flies caught in the web.

I overheard one of my students saying that it was like a carnival game.  I only had one student try to grab the hoop, which I think is quite a success, especially since that student did not try grabbing it again.  We used up quite a bit of energy playing this game and worked on our gross motor skills.

UPDATE:  Be sure to check the quality of your tape.  Did it again this year and the tape must have been too old.  Hardly anything stuck.

Creepy Crawler Calendar Cards
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Bees and Other Creepy Crawling Critters

Bee with pollen
Bee with pollen

Spent a little time this evening working on lesson plans for my upcoming bugs and insects theme.  Love this macro photo of a bee covered in pollen, although it does make me a bit itchy to imagine that pollen all over me.

Working on a word wall to use next week, so making a list of insects and bugs that I want to be sure to include in my search for interesting photos.

Which insects and bugs do you like to use in your preschool creepy crawling critter theme weeks?

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Preschool Favorite Authors, Sandwich Shop, and Letter J

Question of the Day for Dr. Seuss
Question of the Day for Dr. Seuss

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.

Easel with J words and painting with water
Easel with J words and painting with water

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.

Race to the Top counting game
Race to the Top counting game

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.

Count the Colored Fish
Count the Colored Fish

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.

Alphabet Trash Sensory BIn
Literacy and Art Table

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.

Alphabet Trash Sensory Bin
Alphabet Trash Sensory Bin

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.

Sandwich making station
Sandwich making station

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.

Table set up with mustard, ketchup and placemats
Table set up with mustard, ketchup and place mats

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.

Ordering and Drinks Station for Sandwich Shop
Ordering and Drinks Station for Sandwich Shop

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.

What fun are you having in preschool this week?

Please note that some links are affiliate links.

 

 

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Spaghetti, Please! Healthy Habits Sensory Bin

I have a Healthy Habits theme coming up in my preschool classroom for the next couple of weeks.  The other teacher of four year olds and I wanted to swap sensory bins after a week so I wanted to come up with something fun that was not terribly messy since the other bin involves messy fun with pretend teeth and brushing.

I searched a bit around and discovered a photo of a spaghetti themed sensory bin.  I also looked into using real spaghetti but that seemed a bit too messy for this time around and would probably involve making new spaghetti each day, which I did not really want to sign up myself as well as my fellow teacher to do.

I checked out our pom poms supplies and discovered a lack of large brown ones for meatballs and not much in the way of small ones for cheese so I headed off to the craft store.  Unfortunately there were no brown pom poms to be found there and only mixed sets that might have yellow so I needed another solution.

In comes the pom pom maker I saw in the crochet and knitting aisle.  I picked this Clover brand one up and found it very easy to use.  (You can use my affiliate link to see more details about it from Amazon.)  In the past I have made those cardboard rings to make pom poms and felt like I did not make ones that were uniform or well tied.  So far, so good with these ones.  I will do an update after a week of use by preschoolers to let you know how they fare.


Next up is cutting off white yarn into foot long sections to look like spaghetti.  My yarn actually came from the mill ends section of the local craft store, unlike the white yarn pictured above, since I already had it on hand from another project.  My inspiration used real pasta, but not spaghetti.  Since we have had real pasta as well as real spaghetti in the sensory bin before this year, I wanted to try something new.


For sauce I pulled out some red felt and cut it into organic looking blobs.  We will see what the kids think of that tomorrow when we have our first day of school this week.

Getting ready to cut and laminate the alphabet and number meatballs.`
Getting ready to cut and laminate the alphabet and number meatballs.`

I also created some quick meatballs with alphabet letters and numbers on them for some review activities.  My plan is for the students to pull out a letter with a tool and then make that letter with one of the yarn spaghetti noodles on the plate.  With the numbers I was thinking the students could make a plate with that many yarn meatballs or that many spaghetti pieces.  I found a similar idea for kindergarten students with words on Mrs. Bremer’s Class blog.


Can’t have a spaghetti sensory bin without this song. I need to remember to teach this one to my students tomorrow.

I am looking forward to seeing what my preschoolers think of this spaghetti sensory bin tomorrow.  What is in your sensory bin this week?

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Back After the Blizzard and Finished Our Penguins

Penguin with a side view
Penguin with a side view
Another penguin creation
Another penguin creation

Aren’t their feet cute? I am so pleased with how these turned out with the addition of the feet using painted fingers and just a bit of the hand.  I tried having the papers turned upside down or sideways so the fingers would be pointed the direction that made sense.  A few students decided they wanted their hands to be pointed a particular way and I went with what they wanted since it is their artwork.

Sponge penguin preschool craft
Sponge penguin preschool craft
Another penguin friend
Another penguin friend

One student had great fun doing a count down to placing her hands on the paper,”…..5, 4, 3, 2, 1″ and splat, onto the paper.

My checkerboard penguin friend
My checkerboard penguin friend

Now if I could just figure out awesome art projects like these for every theme.  That is one of my goals, to keep adding more open ended projects that really make my students think and create because they always turn out in surprising and awesome ways.

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Transportation Art in Preschool

I have a few art projects that I really cannot wait to do each year because they always end up being very unique each year and for each student.  One of those projects was inspired by Deep Space Sparkle’s project for kindergarten.  Since I have preschoolers I altered the project a bit to take away the cutting requirements, although you can see by my examples that some of the kids ended up using scissors to get the shapes they wanted.

We started out by painting paper.  I gave the students several color choices and asked them to choose one.  The first color started with a large brush and students were instructed to paint the entire page that color.  Once they finished I asked them to choose a second color.  For the second color they were given a small brush and instructed to give the paper lots of dots.  With lots of dots the paint would not get mixed and we would get an interesting set of papers for the second part of the project.

Painted paper after punching some circles
Painted paper after punching some circles

Once the paper was dry I punched a bunch of circles out of the sheets since we were planning on making a Things That Go! class book and I knew many of the creations would need wheels.  I then took the rest of the paper and cut it into various sized rectangles and a few triangles.  I put the shapes in different containers so that the students could choose the ones they wanted to make their book page.

circles

I provided my students with some clip art of various transportation vehicles as well as having the book Alphabeep, A Zipping Zooming ABC available that we had read earlier in the week.  (Affiliate link)

Some students decided right away what to make and used the shapes available to make their vehicle.  A few decided that the shapes they had were not right and got out the scissors.  This involved lots of cutting to attempt to get an octagon for one student’s school bus and involved so many pieces and parts that the helicopter almost did not get off the ground.  My friend who wanted to make the helicopter needed me to push all of his cutting to the side, which helped him get back on track and create his masterpiece.

Schoolbus --- Can you see the stop sign on the right between the wheels?
Schoolbus — Can you see the stop sign on the right between the wheels?

Once each student decided he or she was finished I asked the student to tell me what I should write about the vehicle.  I then typed those sentences up and put together our class book so that we could read it aloud over and over.  My students like to stand up when I read the page that they have illustrated.

Rocket
Rocket

I whipped up a quick cover for our book, thanks to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah‘s clip art.  The student’s artwork went into page protectors.  A few students had to have their sentences placed on the back of the page before since there was no room to place the words without covering their creations.

Things That Go! class book
Things That Go! class book

For more transportation ideas, please check out my Pinterest board:
Follow Laura’s Lily Pad’s board Transportation Theme on Pinterest.

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January Projects for the Fridge or Bulletin Board

I am really enjoying the snow days, but am itching to get back to school to finish our sponge penguins.  We still need to add the feet to them.

When I saw this project on Teach Preschool’s site I knew I wanted to make them.  This is the third year and each year has been different.  The first year I had a student who made a large letter H in a AB pattern and then added eyes, beak, and feet.  Last year one of the first students started swiping with the sponge and that was the end of the sponge look, but they still ended up looking very unique.  This year the students understood the concept so they did actually sponge their penguins.

For this project I found dollar store sponges and cut them into squares.  I used blue ones for black paint and red for white, which I think helped the kids keep straight what they were doing since we did not end up with any sponges in the wrong paint.  I also have some examples of penguins both face on and in profile for the students to look at while creating.

I am planning to have them use their hands to make some feet for the penguins when we finally get back to school, drawing some inspiration from Mrs.Hodge’s example.  I think we will probably have the fingers facing down and not paint the whole hand.  If it goes well, I am sure I will take some more photos.  I thought I had photos of all of the cute in progress penguins but only found one photo on my memory card.  Not sure how I messed that up.

What art projects have your students been working on lately?  Do you have any projects waiting to be finished at school during all of these snow days?

For more ideas for a Polar theme, please check out my Pinterest board:

Follow Laura’s Lily Pad’s board Polar Animals on Pinterest.

 

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What a teacher does when stuck home in a blizzard

Crocheted Hobbes
Crocheted Hobbes

Since it has snowed most of the day yesterday as well as all day today, I have had the chance to work on several projects around the house.  Some of them are related to teaching and some are related to family.  The crocheted Hobbes is for my youngest daughter who shares my husband’s love for Calvin & Hobbes.

I worked on the crocheting part of the project over Christmas break since that is the part of the project I enjoyed doing.  The whole putting the pieces and parts together part of the project is not my favorite.  It involved me taking apart most of the parts at least once before being satisfied with how it was turning out.  I found the pattern on Ravelry.

While I was working this morning on a game for my Polar unit the girls got bundled up to take the dog out since he refused to go by himself.  Once out in the back yard the dog had to leap like a deer in order to move around in the snow that was already up to his chest.  (You will notice he is on a rope, which is because he has great leaping ability and unfortunately learned to leap the fence.  The rope is attached to a clothesline that goes across most of the yard so that he still has the majority of the backyard available to him to run.)  We have gotten quite a bit more snow since then in addition to some blowing and drifting.  I anticipate at least one snow day before we head back to school.

Arctic Adventure Path Game
Arctic Adventure Path Game

My girls were kind enough to play my Arctic Adventure Path Game with me to test it out since the snow days have kept me from trying it out with my students like some of the other Polar themed items that I have been creating.  I also discovered that printing on draft mode still looks good for this project, although I do need to be in the room with the printer or it shoots the paper out and who knows where it might land.

PolarGameBoardslide4small

You can see one of the two game boards here.  The other has lowercase letters so that you can choose which skill to work on with your students.  There are also three different sets of game cards so that you can work on letter sounds, matching same letters or matching capital and lowercase letters.

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