Jun 19 2013


Preschoolers and Urban Farming

IMG_4603 IMG_4547 IMG_4545 IMG_4741 IMG_4448 IMG_4447This is a short post about the new things I am trying out in my preschool. Since I last wrote, I moved my preschool to my home. At first, this was a purely economical move as the price of heating and cooling my rented space was astronomical. It ended up being a blessing though as I am able to now incorporate hands-on learning that I couldn’t before.

 

My step-son is in FFA and needed a “farm” type of project, which posed a small problem-we live in town (a VERY small town, but still in town). My husband decided that chickens were completely doable and so he and my SS built a coop, and a house (here is the link to a video a local news station ran on our project:). With this small project, we started to think that we could do even more, like growing vegetables, and this is where the school idea crept into my mind; wouldn’t it be great if my kiddos could learn all about reading, writing, math, and self-sustenance? Wouldn’t they gain experiences that might make their learning “stick”?

 

So far, it has been a hit with my kiddos. I am only teaching two sessions-two hour blocks-of a summer academy right now, but my kiddos LOVE the mini-farm they help me with. They beg to feed the chickens each morning and collect the eggs. They run out to the squash plants (planted in a recycled tire) to check the blossoms. They know that the blooms on the tomatoes with turn into fruit. They are so excited to see the tendrils on the cucumber plants growing longer each day and reaching up the trellis.

 

Moving to my home and letting my students work with me has been a HUGE part of our summer together-I know they are learning as they ask to read about growing pumpkins and growing orchards of apples. The only problem? The kiddos are convinced that I’m going to buy them a mild cow:)

 

Enjoy the pictures…Happy Teaching!

 

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Nov 14 2012


Teaching Reading Fluency Using Vocaroo–Preschool Edition

It is a well-known fact that fluency is a big predictor of reading success. Recording the voice of a reader will help him understand what he sounds like, and increase fluency. I used the free program Vocaroo for several years in middle-school and, as an experiment, I tried it with my preschoolers. It was a HIT! They love reading and listening to their own voices.

Take a listen to these preschoolers at work…The girl just turned 4 this week and the little boy is 4.5 years old.

 

 

Audio recording and upload >>

Record music with Vocaroo >>

 

Happy Teaching!

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Oct 24 2012


Reciprocal Teaching in Preschool–Teaching Each Other to Read

This is a great example of reciprocal teaching in my classroom. We use the technique quite often (I teach a new skill and a student takes over to act as teacher. He then teaches the skill to another student). I have had amazing results so far.

 

The students in the clip are both 4. The boy has mastered several sight words and has learned to read the book, “Cat and Dog”. He is now teaching the girl to follow each word with her finger, and read the book. Before I caught the lesson on my phone, he reviewed the sight words with her! I LOVE IT!!!

 

 

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Oct 24 2012


5 Reasons to Teach Writing in Preschool

By writing, I don’t mean learning to trace letters or numbers…I mean reflective writing based on literature models. Can that be done in preschool? Yes, it can be taught in preschool, but it looks much different than it looks in upper grades.

 

I know that writing is just as important as reading…why? Because while reading is the passive form of taking in information, writing is the active form of GENERATING information. It’s obvious which takes more thought to accomplish–which is more difficult. Here are the REASONS I teach writing to the preschoolers in my class:

  1. Writing teaches thinking and questioning- You really have to know what you’re talking about to write, right? Of course you do or it is very evident. Preschoolers know this too; they know when they don’t know enough about a subject to write about it that they have to research and find out more. This is thinking in action. Can a three-year-old realize that he needs to know more? Yes! They start asking questions to fill in the blanks. How would they know they didn’t know enough if they hadn’t tried to write? They probably wouldn’t!
  2. Writing encourages proper grammar usage and correct speech- I am an English/Writing major and incorrect speech is particularly irritating to me…I just can’t help it. So, even though I am constantly correcting spoken words, it seems that small children don’t internalize that. But, they DO internalize correct speech when they are made to write it. Correct grammar usage is a by-product of writing in my preschool.
  3. Writing makes a child synthesize information- Children have to be able to really understand a topic to write about it…they have to process all the information from a text to be able to pull out pieces to talk about or make connections. There is no way around it…writing forces synthesis.
  4. Writing makes children confident in their academic abilities- There is no better way to make a child feel confident about his abilities that to have a real piece of work to praise. Writing is like a beautiful piece of art that can be analyzed and touted! My children are never as happy as they are when they complete a piece.
  5. Writing is F-U-N- Is there really anything more interesting to a child than himself? Nope…and they LOVE to talk about themselves as well as write about themselves! I am never disappointed in what the children have to say about themselves. And, they can go on, and on, and ON.
I told you it looked different in preschool, but I can’t help to think that these first attempts at writing reflective and personal pieces will pay off for an elementary, middle school, and high school teacher several years down the road:)

Using “special writing paper” to write reflections on The Little Red Hen.

Writing is a must in my preschool class…I can’t help but think it stretches their little brains to amazing new places.

 

Happy Teaching!

Writing personal narratives…they were mostly symbols with occasional letters and numbers.

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Oct 23 2012


Teaching the Habits of Good Readers to Preschoolers

All good reader’s have similar habits: they choose books based on their likes, they skim to see if the book matches their taste, and they read a few pages to make sure it’s the book they’re after. Good reader’s question their books and make connections.

 

Preschoolers modeling the habits of good readers.

 

 

We can do that in preschool too! I model the habits of good reader’s by picking up books off the shelf and making observations in front of the children. I skim the pictures to see if it is interesting; I preview the book by looking at the cover and reading the inside dust jacket and the back of the book. In this manner, my preschoolers are starting to make decisions about what they read too. I also give them one piece of invaluable advice: If you hate the book, you DON’T have to read it:)  

 

Learning the habits of good readers is an upper-level skill and makes for a great day at preschool.

 

Happy Teaching!

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Oct 22 2012


Questioning and Making Connections in Literature–The Pre-K Classroom

Questioning and Making Connections with literature are very valuable skills for creating better readers, I’ve always known that, but did you know they are great for pre-readers too? Yep! Here’s how I approach those techniques in my preschool class:

  • Introduce a text (We just read Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown so I’ll use that as an example).
  • As we flipped through the book before we started, (a pre-reading skill that works to entice readers into the story) the children noticed that the illustrations looked like Goodnight Moon. Ahhh! Very observant children!
  • I asked the children to generate some ideas about what the book was about. Why would a bunny run away? What would his mom or dad do?
  • As I read, the children immediately started making connections (I’ve seen a mountain before! I have been fishing! I have seen a sailboat!) and so we rolled with that for several minutes.
  • When we did finish the story, there was such a sense of satisfaction among the kiddos! They were very invested in the ending.

The Runaway Bunny…a great text for upper-level reading techniques!

As I finished the book, not one child was left without some personal connection to this book. Now, how many children do you think were personally invested in this story? EVERY LAST ONE. How many could retell the story without difficulty? EVERY LAST ONE. How many could “write” a reflection or use this as a mentor text for a personal narrative? EVERY…well, you get it!

Upper level skills with tiny tots…a GREAT day in preschool!

 

Happy Teaching!

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Sep 23 2012


Several Ways to Teach Number Recognition

Filed under Lesson Plans

I thought I’d share with you a few of the ways we have been learning our numbers in preschool. My children (ages 3 and 4) can all count to about 20…the problem is, they didn’t recognize many of the numbers. So, that has been my direction for a week or so; to teach my kiddos how to recognize and then write their numbers. Here are a few of my methods.

 

I used a permanent marker on snap blocks to match numbers to numbers written on sticky notes.

 

The children used numbered wooden blocks to match sticky note numbers. They then pulled out the bears to count.

 

We sorted a deck of cards by numbers (I pulled out the non-numbered cards).

 

The children put foam numbers into the hopscotch pattern.

 

The children then played hopscotch…FUN with numbers!

 

Happy Teaching!

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Sep 19 2012


I Finally Differentiated my Classroom!

Woohoo! Yes! Yes! Yes! I did it…I finally understand exactly how to differentiate and am doing it daily with great success. Are you ready for the secret? Well, if you’re a public school teacher and reading this hoping to accomplish differentiation with 125 kids, you’ve come to the wrong place. And that is the sad part; I couldn’t teach to every child until I left my old life as a middle school Language Arts teacher. I couldn’t teach 120 to 150 kids (yes! I had 147 one year!) in a different fashion. Most kids got the same from me–and I just couldn’t do any better no matter how hard I tried.

 

 

It is disheartening, that while many say they can differentiate and I’m sure a few super-people do, mostly it’s just handing out a different form of a worksheet. In the best cases, it’s doing what a teacher friend of mine did, “separate your gifted and let them teach themselves while you work with the middle and lower.” 

 

I hated that I was forced to teach all kids pretty much the same way. Yes, writing does sort of differentiate itself, but, much of the time, my high kids were bored, my middle kids were satisfied, and my low kids were lost.

 

But, with my new career that has all changed. Teaching in a small preschool has opened my eyes to creating a classroom where everyone can learn…everyone DOES learn. And the amazing fact is, I know where each of my kids are academically and socially. I also know that I’ve said this before…that I knew where all my 120 kids were. But, a sad truth, I didn’t. I couldn’t! It wasn’t that I was lying, I could tell whose paper was whose without a name on it, but I couldn’t really get the depth of knowledge of each kids because I had too many. I now have 10 and I KNOW them.

 

Yes, I have 10 kids and that is all. I know exactly what each can and cannot do. E-X-A-C-T-L-Y what each can do, and now I can push them to go further. I direct one to the writing station because she is “almost there” with writing complete words. I can take one to the rice and bean sort, or the paint table because he wants to write, but has limited motor skills. I know that one of mine came in writing his name and is now learning sight words, and since he is fascinated with math facts, is learning to count money and to count by 2′s. And, I one loves the writing center and can barely be torn away long enough for art! She is destined to be a storyteller!

 

I’m not trying to yank anyone’s chain, or call anyone to the mat for saying they ARE differentiating with a large number of kids. I just know how difficult it is and wonder how in the world it can be implemented completely. Maybe there is an answer to teaching in over-crowded schools and giving each kid exactly what he needs…I just couldn’t do it.

 

This little guy is working on sight words, but struggles holding a pencil. Here he is using fine motor skills in transferring small items through a funnel.

 

In my mind, you have to have small classes. You have to know your kids…everything about those kids. Then, and only then, can you really set up a classroom that works for every kid at every ability. Small classes…tiny, tiny classes. That’s where it’s at!

 

Happy Teaching

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Sep 14 2012


Have your Pre-K Students Write Their Own Biographical Sketches

If you’ve read my blog, you know I am PASSIONATE about writing. And, my move from secondary ed to Pre-K did not dim that passion. I have, however, had to make many changes in my methodology. This week I am attempting to have my kiddos write their own book…i.e., The Book of Carter. Here’s my reasoning behind the task and how it turned out…

 

My kids love to tell me about themselves; and I love to hear about them. I thought that this natural conversation would be an easy walk into writing. It was! You can see by my pictures below that my kids had a TON to say about their lives! I encouraged three areas to write about: Their favorite colors, their favorite animals, and how they like to spend their time. As you can see, two of my kiddos can write letters, while the others are still in a more symbolic stage. You’ll notice that I also incorporated some fine motor skills in the lacing (binding) of the books. It was F-U-N and I hope this continues to encourage writing in my little ones.

 

3 year old student lacing his book…his letters are on the bottom right.

 

4 year old binding his book…his name is clearly written (twice!).

 

4 year old…she wrote “I love you” on the back of her book.

 

4 year old student…she wrote “favorite” and then displayed her favorite colors.

 

Happy Teaching!

 

 

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Sep 10 2012


There is No One More Green than a Teacher

Filed under Lesson Plans

Recycling and reusing. We hear this ALL the time, but I’ve realized that it is now my mantra as a preschool teacher! These kiddos use resources, and A LOT of them. Here are just a few ways I utilize reusing objects from my everyday life to teach children:

Fine motor skills; using an old baby formula tub and scoop. The children loved scooping rice from the container into an old ice cube tray.

 

An old frame without the broken glass was reused to take our “First Day” pictures.

 

We literally crafted with trash! We first looked for the recycle symbol and learned that many things can be recycled. We decided to reuse in this instance though and made crafts from trash:)

We reuse old cookie sheets as magnetic letter holders…I had an old one and found a few at yard sales.

Happy Teaching!

 

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