I've moved! You can now find this blog at www.teachingthelittlepeople.com. Please bookmark this new site and come on over!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Free Internet Resource for Name Labels in Preschool

As I mentioned a few weeks back, my class of Little People started out small this year (14 students) , but is now increasing little by little (now up to 19).  Obviously, as I get new Little People I have to do several "new student" tasks to welcome them and help them feel a part of the class.

One of these is making a name label for them for our job chart.  Here is a (fuzzy) picture of it:

Both my name cards and my job pictures came from the Environments website, and I was able to customize them with my students' names for free!

When you go to the website, you will need to set up a log in profile to  access the label-making tools.  (I usually would rather not do this, but I think the free printables available are worth it.)

Once you do that, click on the "Resources" tab at the top of the page:

Next, click on the "Just for Me" Label Maker words (see them highlighted below):

From here, you can go to several different interesting places.  However, to make your name labels, go to the "Name Labels" area.  (This is also the page where you will find the job chart signs and lots of other interesting things.)

I like the "Standard Name Labels Image Right" option:

Your next option will be fill in the names that you want on your labels:

Once you fill in a label name, you can click on the camera (see camera circled above) to see the picture options.  Pick the one that you want for each student name:

Fill in all of the names and pick the pictures that you want for each name:

Click on "Preview" and you will see the labels as they will look when you print them.  However, in order to see the "Print" box shown below, you will need to disable popups for this website:

You can not save the labels, but instead must print them right from the screen as shown.  Therefore, you will want to be at your printer and have the paper that you want to print on as you are doing this.

I love that you can customize the labels for each child - I use a picture that starts with the same letter as their name.  The only time that this has been a problem is when I have a year with lots of one letters.  For example, this is a big "J" year for the little People, and so I could use a few more "J" pictures.

However, for the convenience, the "cuteness" level, and the price, this resource can't be beat!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Using Graphs In Preschool

A while back, I talked about the four things that I wanted to have more of in my classroom in order to promote more math opportunities:

There were:
Sorting & Classifying Opportunities
Using Math Mats
Grid, Line and Path Games

Today (finally) I'm going to talk about graphing.  One of the reasons that I like graphing so much is that it gives my class a real-life, relevant reason to use math concepts.  Once we graph something, it only makes sense to count elements from the graph, as well as to compare and contrast them.  Plus, it gives everyone a chance to participate - there is a piece of everyone on every graph, and their piece is important.

Really, there are two main things that you have to consider when you make graphs.  One is subject matter: What are you graphing?

The second is format:  How are you going to display your graph?

Subject Matter:
I try and find a way to make a graph with every unit.  Admittedly, some units are harder than other. It can help to have some basic questions that you can apply to any unit:

Graph Format:
As far as what graphing format to use, you have several options.  My favorite graph format is using a pocket chart.  Lots of different pocket charts will work, but this one is my favorite:

It's actually a hundreds pocket chart, but it's great for graphing because it gives you a 10 x 10 array of pockets to utilize.

I also sometimes use my "calendar" pocket chart:

Of course, regular pocket charts will work.  For this personal graph of "Things I Like/Don't Like", I used a small Target pocket chart with a piece of masking tape down the middle to make two distinct areas:

Sometimes we use the white board:

Or some chart paper:

Or regular posterboard:

Once you have your subject decided and know how you will format your graph, you want to think about what elements you will use on your graph.  Will you write the students' names on die cuts and put them in your pocket chart?  Will you use magnets with student names on them?  Or will you just write their names (or even better, have them write their names) on a piece of paper?

Graphing Elements:

As you can see from the pictures above, I use a variety of graphing elements.  Since I am trying to graph more this year, I have made name cards for my students that will just fit in the columns of my "calendar" pocket chart.  I also utilize names on popsicle sticks with magnets on the back.  (I can use both of these elements for many different graphs.) Or sometimes we just add the student names to relevant die cuts or labels.

I like to make printable headings and category signs for my graphs, and have placed several of these in my Teacher Store:

However, you don't have to have any kind of printable, or fancy anything.  Just grab a large piece of paper, a marker, and a stack of post-it notes for the students to put their names where they want.

No matter what kind of graph we make, I try to allow the students to place their names on the appropriate place on the graph by themselves as much as possible.  They stick their labels on, or put their names in the column that they choose.  As the year goes on, I encourage them to write their own names whenever possible.  This makes the graphing more relevant to them.

When we're done with our graphs, we like to put them outside our classroom door for the grownups to see and admire.  Plus, it tends to spark some conversations between the Little People and their grownups about the subject of  the graph, and what their choices were.

The way I see it, Graphs = Math + Expressing Personal Choices + Extra Language Practice with their parents - what more could one ask for in a preschool experience?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rethinking my Center Time Decisions...

I found myself rethinking one of my most basic "center time" decisions today - the one about how many children can be at one center at a time.

The truth is that I'm one of those teachers who doesn't like to put restrictions on how many kids play at one center at a time.  We don't have those handy charts in our room showing how many stick figures can be at each table.  I don't provide keys or name tags to be able to play at a certain place (with the exception of objects like tents where the Little People can actually hurt each other as they pile in on top of each other without restriction, and occasionally brand new toys during their first days out in the room).   In general, I just don't like to restrict their choices like that.

However, today, in the midst of much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I began to rethink that.  The flannel board manipulators were shrieking about who got which piece.  The manipulative builders were elbowing newcomers to the table out of the way as they encroached upon their building area.  The carpet players were in an uproar, pulling out their most high-pitched voices to protest that others were driving their cars on their road. In fact, I had one Little Person plant himself in the middle of the Carpet City as Godzilla would have, holding up what he thought was a "No Passing" sign and hollering, "NO!  NO!  This is a CONSTRUCTION ZONE!"  (It was really a Hospital sign, but that in no way decreased his vocal and emotional intensity.)

Yes, in the midst of this, I began to think about what it would be like to have controlled amounts of children in each center.  I could train the Little People to follow and respect the Center Restrictions.  I would tailor each center to have just the right amount of people in it.  Everyone would have equal access to the materials.

In fact, I could just increase my number of centers so that only one or two children could be in each...

Or, we could just set the timer and rotate everyone through the centers.  Everyone could start in one place, and would have to stay there until the bell rang - then they could move as a group to the next...

Perhaps while I was at it, I could try and help the Little Person who seems to think that all toys that he has touched during the course of a day are his and squawks in anger if he returns to a previously-visited center and finds someone has moved "his" toys.  Perhaps I could just set up a separate play zone for for him...no -  for everyone, with enough toys to occupy them, and then I could prevent the kids from crossing into someone else's zone...

Obviously, these ideas (while marginally attractive) are bordering on ridiculous.  The fact is that I don't limit centers because a)I don't want them restrict their choices, and b)I want them to learn how to get along with others, no matter how hard it is.

Obviously, I'm not going to toss out one really cool dump truck out on the carpet in the midst of them and tell them to share.  I'm going to provide many, many interesting choices, and then I will sit down beside them as they figure out how to navigate their play paths.  I'm going to watch carefully as some learn that they would rather go find something else fun to do than become squished at the sand table.  I'm going to teach some deep breathing techniques to those who return to previously-played-with toys and find they have been transformed into something else.  I'm even going to do some deep breathing myself as they forget and fight and feud and need to be reminded all over again.

Because that's what we do at Center Time - and at school in general.  We remind and reinforce and readjust.  And one day the Little People will get it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Colors of Us

One of my favorite parts of the "All About Me" units is our handprint wreath.  This is the second year that I've made it with the Little People, and it has turned out really well each time.  In my new "All About Me" Unit in my teacher stores, you get the printable center for the wreath, as well as instructions for making it (as seen below).

Plus you get lots of other things.  Here are the thumbnails:

You can find this pack here and here.  Thanks for looking!

All About Me in Preschool

As we move from the "All About Me" theme in our room to "Apples" next week, I decided to show you all the fun "All About Me" work that we have displayed on our bulletin board.

The bonus to this picture below is that it's interactive!  Just move your mouse over the dots to see the descriptions:

I love our "All About Me" unit for several reasons.  The first reason is that we just do some fun things in this unit.  However, since this is one of the first units of the school year, all of this work is a baseline for home much they will develop during the rest of the year.

Here are some prime examples:

Circle Self-Portraits
 I love seeing the range of development on these "Circle Self-Portraits" (above).  You have everything from all features added to just squiggles for features to a "head-within-a-head".

Then there are these drawn self-portraits below:

We actually do these both at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year, and display them side-by-side in their end-of-the-year memory books.  It's amazing how much difference we see in the span of just a few months.

So in essence, our "All About Me" theme is learning "All About the Little People" just where they are today.  They're young, they're learning, but they're growing and changing and developing everyday.

I can only imagine how they will be in a few months...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Idea of the Week in Preschool

I was happy to figure this out this week:

You avoid the slipping and sliding of newspapers since the sheet fits snugly over the table.  Plus, it absorbs extra spills or messy spots.

A nice discovery to make working with the Little People a little bit easier.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hugging and Letting Go in Preschool

Like most teachers, I have several common phrases that I say many times a week, if not daily.  You know, those little verbal nuggets of wisdom that preschoolers seem to need to hear often.  Things like, "We can all be friends in preschool", and "Hands are for helping, not hitting". One of those is the phrase "Hug and Let Go".

I believe I first started saying this when my own children were little.   It's meant to be a protection against over-aggressive hugging.  You know, when kids hug each other, and keep hanging on as they hug some more...and then they get all over-excited and the hug becomes tighter until all of the sudden both huggers are on the floor - and then are either silly and out of control, or hurt and just not feeling the Hug Love anymore.  The truth is that there is a very fine line between a hug and an assault when you're in preschool.

So, as a result we often say, "Hug and let go!" when we see the Little People hugging each other.  And apparently they're taking this phrase to heart, because I hear them repeating it to each other as well.  In fact, today one of them apparently not only took it to heart, but also mixed it up with another common phrase we say: "We hug our friends at school, but we don't kiss our friends."  (another nugget of preschool wisdom).   We were on our way to the cafeteria when she gazed around serenely, as if in deep thought, and suddenly stated, "We hug and we let people go at school, but we don't kiss them."  "Why, yes," I answered.  "That is right."

And then there was the Little Person at school today who at the end of playground time was wandering around moaning plaintively, looking altogether distressed.  Despite the fact that he was completely disregarding that other important phrase of "We Use a Talking Voice at School (Not a Whining Voice), I went ahead and bypassed that fact to ask him what was wrong.  

"Ohhhhhh," he moaned.  "I need to find someone to hug so I can let goooooo!"  Well, okay.  I never really thought of the hugging being just the means to the end, but as long as letting go is the end, I suppose that's okay.

His sad quest to find some to (hug and) let go of ended up in quite the Hug Fest as we talked about good ways to ask someone if they wanted as hug, and as many other Little People piped up that they liked hugs.  So there was lots of hugging all around.  

And lots of letting go, as well.  And sometimes, that's what matters.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Talking About Our Families in Preschool

This week we are displaying some of our work projects from last week's Home and Family Theme.

For example, today we displayed our "Our Families" chart outside for all of the grownups to see:

This is always a kind of tricky activity, because we complete it largely with the information that the Little People supply us about who lives in their house.  Sometimes we double check the list of names with the official files, but largely we let them tell us what family members live with them.  

Before we start the activity, we cut the black paper rectangles and lots of white squares.  We do draw "face" circles on the squares to provide a starting point for the drawings.  I have to admit that this is against my nature to add anything to their pictures.  However, I was persuaded, and admit that it works okay like this.   It adds some structure, and makes the activity more meaningful when we compare and contrast all of the families later. You definitely can see the different stages of their drawing development in these little portraits:

Then we put their family "strips" on the chart paper from smallest to largest and talk about everyone's different families.  We discuss how some are big and some are small, etc.  We talk about the presence of siblings or grandparents living in the home.  After we discuss, we put the chart outside for the grownups to see.  Sometimes it is only then that we discover that "Roger" is not a sibling or the uncle that we thought he was, but instead is the family dog or cat.

Once everyone has had a chance to see the big family chart, we then take the families strips off and send them home, where (hopefully) the family discussions continue.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reminders of Students That Have Come and Gone

Do you have any physical reminders of students that have come and gone through your class?  No, I'm not talking about physical scars, or the possible involuntary wince that comes whenever a specific name is mentioned in casual conversation.

I'm talking about actual, physical objects.  Mine are my clothespins.  I use clothespins in different ways in my classroom, the most noteworthy being name markers on our behavior chart.  In actuality, this behavior chart is more a rule-definer for the beginning of the year than it is a behavior-tracker for the rest of the year.  When we move names to "Uh Oh" during these first few weeks, it in general lets the Little People know that they have really crossed a line in their behavior.  Then I usually find that as they settle in to the year, we will go weeks at a time without even pulling out the behavior chart at all.

Regardless of they ways I use the behavior chart, I always find myself with a good number of loose, named clothespins at the end of the year.  I suppose that I could send them home with the students as a little "End of Preschool" Souvenir, along with the wish "May you ever remain on 'Good Job' for the rest of your school experiences".

However, I do not, and as a result, these names end up in our family clip container.  See, here are some of them:

Then, as I go on my way around the house, I am always a little surprised to see a former student holding the chip bag closed, or preventing the brown sugar from drying out.  Then sometimes I get a warm rush of, "Awww, Jacob.." or perhaps a slight shake of the head with some other name.  Quite honestly, it keeps me praying for a some of them that I feel especially need it.

Whatever the reaction, I find that I like keeping them around.

At least...most of them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gathering Collections for Sorting

Last week I talked about wanting to provide more opportunities to sort and classify different collections in my preschool classroom.

This weekend (after I wrote that) I set out to see what kind of "Collections" I could find at two of my favorite selling venues:  Yard Sales and Target.

It actually turned out to be a rather slow yard sale day, despite the fact that the weather was fairly nice, and the fact that yard sales happen here in my area year-round.  However, as I drove around I noticed there were lots of soccer games going on at all the local schools, so I figure lots of people were out cheering for their children instead of selling their things.

I did manage to find one nice item in the form of a game.  I actually think board games are one of the best places to find odd item collections, because you can usually find them very cheap and they usually have very interesting game tokens.  Plus, even if some the tokens are missing it makes it even more of a bargain, but still valuable for you. On Saturday I found this game:

It came with all sorts of plastic tools:

Later that day I went to Target to check out the newest Dollar Spot items.  I was thrilled to find these:

They were $2.50 each and each had either 120 or 150 pieces in each box.  I might use them for Sorting Collections, for Sensory Bins, or as tokens for Grid Games.

I also found these bags of erasers for $1.00:

They also had cute ghost and skeleton erasers, but I skipped over those this time.

I also found these wonderful sorting containers for $1.00, as well.

So all in all, it was a good Math Supply day between Yard Sales and Target.

However, don't forget that you don't actually have to buy all of your collections.  You can also ask your students to bring some in.  In fact, I love Deborah at Teaching Preschool's idea for providing Take Home Math Bags to her students to bring in 10 random items each week.  They count them, sort them, graph them, and even make collages with them.  LOVE this idea.

Happy Collection gathering!