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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Waiting for Phase Two

Well, today was Day 9 of our new school year.  Usually Day 9 is still a pretty hectic time in a new school year, but I must say that things are moving along quite nicely with the new batch of Little People.    With the exception of some bad words, some marginal defiance, and one Little Person taking off some clothes, things are very calm and together.

If only it could stay this way.  The truth is that this only Phase One of our preschool enrollment.   For some reason we started out this year with a lower number (currently 14), but will increase our number as soon as new students complete enrollment in the next few weeks.  Since our maximum in the class is 24, we could have as many as 11 new students join us.

Ah, the great unknown of 11 new Little People.  Will they be docile?  Angry?  Meek?  Rebellious? It's all just so - unknown.

So, while I am kind of marginally anxious about Phase Two, I have decided to put all of my efforts into training those in Phase One as much as we can.  And then they can train the new ones with their shining examples.

That's my plan, anyway.  I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I'm Collecting for Preschool

As the new school year continues to get going, I find myself looking ahead to the months ahead and all of the fun projects that the Little People will be doing .

Some of these are projects that I have never tried before, and some are repeat projects.  I decided this past Saturday (as I was straightening things in the garage) that one could tell what some of these projects are by looking at what I'm collecting as the year goes by.

Two of those things are plastic lids and cardboard boxes.

The boxes are so that we can do box sculptures again in the spring like we did last year:

However, I am making a change and am only collecting boxes that are no bigger than cereal boxes.  In fact, I'm only keeping the smallest cereal boxes.  This will keep the box sculptures smaller and more in-control.  The Little People can still use lots of boxes, but it won't results in such tall, tall (and hard to keep standing) sculptures.

 The other thing I'm collecting is plastic bottle caps off all sizes.  There are just a myriad of things you can do with these, as seen here in my Pinterest "Plastic Caps" board.  One of the projects I'm looking forward to the most are these Bead Strands, where you basically gather all sorts of leftover plastic caps and flowers and beads and marker lids  - kind of like a "leftover item serve out".  You  poke holes in anything that doesn't have a one.  Then you left the kids string them on ribbon and you come out with the most wonderful up-cycled suncatchers.

Here is a clip from my tutorial "Decorating Your Classroom Tree", which tells all about how to do this project:

Actually, I think this is one of the best collections that I could have:  saving up things that we would ordinarily put in the our recycling bin to made into something wonderful.   Cheap, resourceful and fun all in one package.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Balloon Wreath Winner!

Well, the odds were especially good for the people who entered the balloon wreath giveaway this week.

Here is the random number generator:

This means that Devon Burch is the winner.  Devon, I will be emailing you to get your snail mail address so I can send you your balloon wreath!  I will also be making you some custom-made "Happy Birthday" labels to go along with your wreath.  Congratulations!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Celebrating Birthdays at Preschool

It's a pretty common knowledge among preschool teachers that almost almost every day at preschool is exciting.  Whether it be a "Johnny finally used his words without hitting Suzie" day, or a "Johnny forgot all words and hit everyone he came near" day, it's always exciting.

However, some days go even beyond exciting, and fall into "Special Occasions".  Whether this be a birthday, the birth of a sibling, or some other significant event, these days are worth marking.  As a teacher, it is worth it to come up with some special routine or habit to mark these special days.

One of the easiest days to make special are birthdays.  Not only because everyone has one, but also because parents are often eager to help make these days special.

In our room, we mark birthdays special in several ways.  One way we do this is through our birthday wreath.  This is a balloon wreath that I made following directions I found on Pinterest.

To personalize the wreath, I used my Publisher software to print out cute labels with everyone's name on it (as seen above).  Then on the day of the birthday, we put the balloon wreath outside our class door to greet the children as they arrived so they could see whose birthday it is.  Later in the day we take a picture of the birthday girl or boy beside the wreath.  Later, this picture (and the actual label) became part of that child's memory book from the school year.  (More about our memory books later).

This year I have the goal for us to have our birthday wreath travel a little bit around the school, as we carry it to different parts of the school to honor the birthdays of some of our favorite school people: the cafeteria lady, the custodian, the principal, etc.

This year I am considering an additional birthday tradition.  One involves displaying a Birthday Ribbon Banner.

This is a 7-foot banner made of cupcake and other colorful ribbon strips (you can find them for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers of my Teachers Notebook store.  It would be easily displayed in our classroom on the day of someone's birthday.

My plan is to add each child's birthday picture to the banner as their birthday comes about.  That way the kids can see whose birthday has come and gone.   An easy way to do this is with a "Birthday Photo Holder", which I also sell in my Teacher Stores.

If you want to show your children the sequence of their birthdays in a year, you can attach one Birthday Photo Holder for each child in the order that their birthdays will come in the year.  While the card holders are "waiting" for the birthdays (and pictures) to arrive, the holders could just have each child's name and birthday date placed where the picture goes. Then, once their birthday has arrived, you can slip in a picture of the birthday boy and girl.  That way the students will have a visual tracker of whose birthday has passed, and whose is coming up next.

What I especially like about this method is that once the school year is over, you can use these pictures as part of a "keychain" album to give to the kids at the at end of the year.  Kind of like a "Keychain Album Memory Book".

Tomorrow I will post more about the different "Keychain Album" pages that are available in my Teacher Stores.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Balloon Wreath Giveaway

Today is the beginning of my second of three giveaways in honor of the new school year.  But first, before I talk about this week's giveaway, I need to announce that the winner of last week's giveaway.  I had just a few entries, but on the positive side, that gave each entry a very good chance to win!

 The winner of that giveaway is Lynda Donovan.  Lynda,  I will be emailing you with with the details of your win.  You will receive my "Making a Classroom Tree" and "Decorating Your Classroom Tree" tutorials, along with either a set of tree leaves, or a garland of your choice from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

This week I am giving away a 14" balloon wreath, covered with 400+ balloons, plus colorful, springy pipe cleaners.  This wreath is perfect to hang on a classroom door (or house door) to announce a student's (or family member's) birthday.  Along with the wreath, I will make a class set of "Happy Birthday" labels, so that you can have one to use for each person's birthday.

To make it fair to the people who entered the drawing last week (and already did some of these things), you can choose one of the following ways to enter.  After you do one of the them, please leave a comment on this blog telling me which one you did. Please make sure that your username/sign in ID is correct so that I can contact you if you win.  Or you can leave an email.

Please choose the one you like the best:
Giveaway Details:
  • This giveaway will be closed on Saturday February 25, 2012 by 10 pm PST.
  • The winner will be announced on this blog on Sunday, February 26th.
  • The winner will be notified by email/through their Sign In/ID and has 5 days to respond
  • If the winner does not respond in 5 days, a new winner from the original entries will be chosen.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random Generator. 
Good luck!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Organizing Classroom Manipulatives

One of my "Back to School" projects this year has been to organize all of our containers of plastic manipulatives at school.  Up until now we had a huge shelf of containers with no labels, which made it quite hard for anyone to put things away.  Plus, I knew that it's best for the kids to have things labeled, and that was one area that we scored low on the ECERS last spring (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale).  Those factors combined with the fact that I in general am prone to label anything that will sit still long enough made this a fun and useful classroom job.

My first step was to measure the container that the label was to go on.  We actually have a variety of containers that hold our manipulatives, but since they're all about the same size, I could pick one size to fit all.

I then made the labels in Publisher and typed in the name of each object.  While doing this I quickly found that it was kind of hard to find a name for all of the odd building toys that we have in our room.  Even a virtual stroll through several online catalogs left me lacking on some names.  So, I basically just made them up according to what the objects looked like.  I figured that the most important thing was to have the actual object on the label.  Once that was there, it didn't matter if one type of manipulative was called "Connecting People" or "Linking People" or "Plastic People".

I then cut and laminated the labels and attached the objects.  My first thought was that I would poke two holes through the label and use a tiny zip tie to tether the object to the label.  However, this proved quite tricky, and in fact was quite daunting to the teenagers who were helping me with the job.  I considered hot glue, but in the past have found that hot glue will peel right off of lamination.

Finally, I decided on glue dots.  If you haven't used these before, they are wonderful.  They're not for everything of course, but in situations where you want to stick two things together without mess, they're perfect.  They are especially nice to use with three-dimensional objects.  I used them not only to stick the objects to the labels, but also to stick the labels to the basket.  

Now, there are a few places that I will use the pictures of the objects instead of the real things. These are in cases where the real objects are too big to stick on.  Or in my containers that are right beside the carpet where the kids sit.  I figured it might be way too tempting pull of a matchbox car that it right at eye-level beside you while sitting during story time.

Regardless, I love how these labels are working, and how it will allow teachers (and kids) to find and put away objects more easily.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Organizing the School Filing Cabinet

In that frenzied time this past June called "Closing up the Classroom for the Summer", I decided to give myself the summer job of cleaning out the my file drawer at school.  Well, really it was more because I need more "tuck things away" space for the art supplies I had ordered for this new school year.  So as a result I decided to empty out the files in the top drawer of the my filing cabinet into a big sensory tub, thinking, "Oh, I'll take those home and organize them this summer."

Guess what?  Summer is six days to over, and those files have sat in the garage all summer.  I did at least straighten them up from their Willy Nilly sprawled-out status from the sensory bin.  I also covered them, as I seem to live in Pollen World here in central California, and I didn't want to bring any excess garage pollen into the house once I finally got around to - bringing them in the house.

And guess what?  Today is that day, so here they sit in my living room - (almost) pollen-free, but still unorganized.

Actually, I'm kind of motivated to do this job, because a)I really do like to organize things, and b)since this is my third year at this particular job, I feel like I have a better feel about what papers I really need in this filing cabinet.

One of the first areas I started working on was the "Calendar File".  We actually use several different calendars during our school year, but all of them use small pictures to mark the days.

In the past two years I stored these little pictures in a cute little bag like this:

However, I can't tell you how many times I sat on the classroom floor in front of the calendar  the past two years trying to look for the pictures I needed for that week/month.

Therefore, I have now moved them to a notebook like this:

I already had the plastic page protector - I believe it was originally intended for slides, but the ones you can buy for baseball cards would work as well.

I then sorted out the pictures.  I have the ones that we pretty much use every month:

Every Monday - Friday on our calendar is marked with a "School Day" picture, and every Saturday and Sunday get a "Stay at Home" picture.  Then when there is a special day off (such as Labor Day), I add a "No School" picture, to show that we were supposed to be at school that day, but it was a holiday.  (This helps the Little People differentiate between a weekend and a holiday).

Most often I will get a transparency marker and write the name of the person having the birthday on the birthday pictures (they're all laminated).

Also, we have a nurse picture, because we are lucky enough to have a wonderful preschool nurse that comes to visit our class once a month to talk about important health and safety issues.

 The second page are the "Special Occasion" pictures, that might get used once a year:

Although unfortunately, due to budget cuts we won't be using any Field Trip stickers this year, and we lost our 6-week music program and our monthly "Harvest of the Month" visits (not pictured) last year.  However, I'm keeping the pictures just in case...

Hopefully this system will save some time on those "Make Up the Calendar" days in the near future.

Now onto something else in those boxes...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Giveaway!

To celebrate the beginning of a new school year, I am conducting "Three Sunday Giveaways".  Today and the following two Sundays I will give away something fun and exciting from my Teacher Stores!

Today's giveaway is the "Tree Kit Giveaway".  The winner of this giveaway will receive all of the following:

Interested? There are three ways to enter this particular giveaway:
  • "Follow" this blog, and then leave a comment telling that you did so.  Please make sure that your username/sign in ID is correct so that I can contact you if you win.  Or you can leave an email.
  • "Follow" me in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store  and then leave a comment here telling that you did so.   Please make sure that your username/sign in ID is correct so that I can contact you if you win.  Or you can leave an email.
  • "Follow" Teaching the Little People on Pinterest and then leave a comment telling that you did so.    Please make sure that your username/sign in ID is correct so that I can contact you if you win.  Or you can leave an email.
Giveaway Details:

  • This giveaway will be closed on February 17, 2012 by 10 pm PST.
  • The winner will be announced on this blog on Sunday, February 18th.
  • The winner will be notified by email/through their Sign In/ID and has 5 days to respond
  • If the winner does not respond in 5 days, a new winner from the original entries will be chosen.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random Generator. 
Good luck!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Starting Tomorrow:

More Items on the Store Shelves

I want to say that I realize that my blog has become a little "shop heavy" the past few weeks, meaning that it is heavy on showing the items in the my teaching store and light on actual ideas and topics.  However, that will change in a week or so as I run out of time to work on putting more items in the store and need to turn my attention to actual children.  (Got my class list yesterday - 17+ new Little People are on the way.)

In the mean time, here are a few more items in the store:

Some song cards to allow the Little People to pick the first song of Music and Movement time when they are the Song Helper. You can find those here and here:

Some Playdough Math/Counting Mats found here and here:

 Even some FREE Playdough/Counting Mats found here:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Picture Alphabet Flashcard Banner

Here's another banner going in the teacher store today.  This one is a picture alphabet banner about five feet long.  It is made up of small (playing-card size) flashcards, tied together with brown gingham ribbon.  There are very cute pictures on the front and there is an  upper and a lower-case letter on the back of each card (see picture below).  I can envision it draped across the top edge of a bulletin board or by a classroom window...very cute.

Here is the back of this garland.
You can find this garland here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Preparing for a New Batch of Preschoolers

As the first day of school quickly nears, I  find myself preparting for a new batch of preschoolers.

This Friday I will receive my class list, so I can then start doing all the things one does to get ready for them:  address and send their "Meet the Teacher" invitation postcards, write their names on their cubby labels, fill in this year's birthday chart, etc.

At the same time, I need to clear out some of the old spaces to make room for these new Little People.  For example, just yesterday I sat looking at all of the picture files from the last school year on my computer, wondering if it was time to send last year's Little People memories off to clear space for the new ones.

Naturally, my hesitation in this is in more than clearing computer memory.  Those Little People from last year were so - together.  They knew the routines and the Ins and Outs of our days at preschool.  They had developed into Little People who had learned (for the most part) that yes, their caregivers were going to return at the end of the day.  They had learned (again, for the most part) to use their words with each other, and had developed fair amounts of self control as they went about their preschool days.

Of course, with the exception of our one repeat student, this new batch of kids will most likely not be together at all.  They will be clueless and nervous, and so, so young.  Then there's the Unknown concerning this new batch - will they be Screamers? Criers?  Biters?

It's all so -  unknown.

What I do know, however, is that it never fails to amaze me to see how far each batch of Little People comes during the months of a preschool year.  Which means that whatever state they will come to me in on August 20th, their potential is huge - and even the state that they arrive in will be in some form precious. (If we keep with the "batch" metaphor, they're still cookies after all - no matter what flavor they turn out to be, they're still good.)

So let them come - I am ready.