Sunday, September 22, 2013

Preschool Goes Postal...

For the past two weeks my classroom has explored one of the oldest institutions in our country, The Unites State Postal Service.  We learned about stamps, letters, envelopes, and postcards. We turned our dramatic play area into the Preschool Post Office. We were able to get USPS boxes, envelopes and mailing labels donated to us from our local post office.

The children had lots of fun, packing boxes and mailing them to friends across the room. I think they got the most enjoyment out of stuffing envelopes! Which is  a great fine motor activity that also strengthens hand-eye coordination.
 For art activities we decorated our own stamp with the number 44 on them. We learned that each stamp costs 44 cents.  (number recognition/pre-math). I showed then children numerous pictures of stamps from the past and they were amazed at some of the pictures that have donned the faces of postal stamps in years past. I must admit, so was I. We've had some really cool stamps over the years.

We also learned about postcards. My co-teacher brought in postcards for each of the students and we learned that we didn't need an envelope to mail a postcard. We decided to make our own post cards, using a postcard template that we glued to a sturdy piece of cardboard. The children then decorated the front of the postcard with magazine cut outs from Ranger Rick and other kids wildlife magazines. The children had fun designing their own post cards while strengthening their cutting skills and other fine motor skills. They also were encouraged to write messages on their postcards and most of the children made wonderful squiggly lines (pre-writing) and also practiced writing their name. Fun and learning all together.

For a an open-ended process art activity we painted with bubble wrap. I cut the bubble wrap into squares and then taped the edges to make a bubble wrap glove. It was neat to see where the children took this activity. Some of the children didn't use the bubble wrap to pant, they simple popped the bubble wrap and then used their hands to paint. Others had fun seeing the texture and prints that the bubble wrap glove left behind. Colors were mixed and imaginations were free. It was really great sensory/art activity.

 One of my favorite activities that we did this week is one that will stick with me forever. In our weekly newsletter, we asked parents and grandparents to write letters to their child and send it to the school. My co-teacher and I were amazed at the amount of letters the children received. We used an old metal mailbox as our preschool mailbox and after rest time everyday the children would check to see if the red flag was up. If it was, that meant that some lucky preschoolers had received mail. During our afternoon snack time we read the letters to the children. (Well, we attempted to read them it was a little difficult through the heartwarming tears the letters brought to our eyes)

After we read the letters we taped them on a bulletin board for the children to look at through the week.

I think what I enjoyed most about this activity was that the parents whom I didn't think think would send letters, actually did. (Lesson in humility for me) Those letters were the most heartwarming and special because it reminded us the special bond between parent and child. And the pride that each child exuded as we read THEIR letter from THEIR loved one was so special that it reminded me of the importance of a handwritten letter and that letter writing is a lost art. It also reminded me of how special it is to see familiar handwriting on a piece of paper. In an age of email and texting, I wonder how many children would actually recognize the handwriting of a loved one? I know one of the strongest memories I have of my mother is her handwriting. She had the most beautiful penmanship. I remember finding a letter from her shortly after she passed and I will never forget the feeling that flowed through me. I still have that letter safely put away and I pull it out sometimes when I'm missing her. Can you recognize your mother's handwriting? Can your child recognize yours? Hmmm!

Lesson Learned: The importance and impact of handwritten letters. 

*Also, The US Postal Service was established on July 26, 1775 by Congress. Benjamin Franklin was made the first Postmaster General.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday's Wacky Words...

Me: "What was your favorite part of today?"

Child:  "Getting stuck in the toilet!"

Me: "What?"

Child: "Getting stuck in the toilet. You know the game we are playing outside. I'd get stuck in the toilet and [friend] pulled me out!'

Me: "Oh!" 

Yup, I went into college debt for these kind of conversations! 

My New Classroom... What's Been Going on in Preschool.

Its been a couple weeks since I've posted because  its been a whirlwind settling into my new school and getting adjusted to a new schedule, new students and new co-workers. Its been very busy these last few weeks but it has also been very productive . I've been very excited to share pictures of my new classroom with you and to let you know some of the things I have been doing!

When the children enter the classroom they are excited to find their name and put it in the pocket letting us know that they are "here today!" Each child is able to find his or her own name which aids in name and letter recognition, further strengthening their pre-literacy skills. Some of the children even try to find Ms. Candy's and my name and put them up for us.  *This also helps us keep a head count of who is already at school and who is missing, not that we'd ever co-teacher and I are professionals!

After they "sign in" in the morning, depending on what time they arrive, they go straight to free play. Certain activities are set out for them, but they can almost always do whatever the "In Preschool We CAN..." can Popsicle sticks say. Sadly, this hasn't been utilized as much as it was when we first started, but it is always at reach for a quick reminder of what the children can do in preschool. It is also a good option to pull out for those kids who are bored, you know, that child who "can't find anything to do in the whole entire classroom!" Whip out your "CAN" can!!

Before we truly begin our day, we all meet at circle rug and find out what jobs we are going to do today! We are "Handy Helpers" We have nine classroom jobs and each child has a hand with their name on it. Again, strengthening those pre-literacy skills. 

After job designation we have breakfast quickly followed by morning meeting. This is our morning meeting area. In our morning meeting area, we have our calendar, our Choice chart and our Classroom Expectations.


Our Exploration Choice Time chart has each of our work/exploration center choices listed with the number of people allowed at that center at a time (number recognition, counting skills and word recognition) At end of morning meeting each child puts their picture under which activity they are going to do, then they move their picture before moving to another center. *This also teaches turn taking and promotes good communication skills.

               Classroom Expectations/ Rules are posted and we spend a lot of time giving daily reminders of what we CAN do in our room. I would love to say I came up with this all on my own, but I didn't! I got it off Pinterest. However, I did change the wording!

I am enjoying my new classroom and my new bunch of small human beings! Yes, they are human, I'm also quite the fan of my new co-teacher, Candy!  I'm sure you can imagine how much fun the children have saying our names and connecting the fact that they rhyme! Its almost like we are one person, BrandyCandy. Oh well, more pre-literacy!

Lesson Learned: With change comes creativity!  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"I CAN" Week in Preschool.

"In Preschool, I CAN...."
Traditionally for the first week of preschool I plan an "All About Me" week, but this first week of school I did something a little different. I planned an "I CAN" week.  Using some ideas I found on one of my favorite blogs,, I decided to spend my first week at a new school with new students focusing on all the things that they CAN do in preschool. The concept allowed me to implement some expectations for them, while also laying basic ground rules for the classroom without focusing on all the things that the kids CAN'T do.

Each day during our morning meeting we began filling  our "I CAN" can with all the things that we can do in preschool written on Popsicle sticks. I asked each child to tell me one thing that they can do in  preschool and then my co-teacher would write it on a Popsicle stick and then allow the child to put the stick in the can. Now, we have a can full of all the things we 'CAN' do in preschool. When I catch a child doing something they shouldn't be doing I grab the can and ask them if what they are doing is something we 'CAN' do in preschool. When they say no, I have them pull out a Popsicle stick and I read what is written on stick to them and then encourage them to do that activity instead of what they were doing. Its brings the focus back to what the kids CAN do in preschool instead of what they can't.
Continuing to draw on the "I Can" analogy, my co-teacher and I collected a bunch of cans in many different shapes and sizes and put them in all the centers. We used cans to build in the block area, we used cans in our water table, and we even used cans to paint with. Using cans in each center area allowed us to introduce the centers to the children and help them learn all the things they can do in each area.

Here are some activities that my preschoolers did during "I Can" week...

"I Can Paint!" We used cans of many different sizes and rolled them paint and made cool looking pictures. Some of my students rolled the cans on the paper, and some children used the cans as stamps and made circles on their paper.

Along with cans, we also learned that we CAN paint with other obscure objects such as cotton balls attached to clothes pin. This exploration allowed the children to work on color recognition and sorting skills. It was also a really great way to strengthen fine motor skills.  Best of all, the kids LOVED it. It was new and different and therefore interesting.

There are many ways to promote the concept of CAN in a classroom and the important lesson to be learned here is that children need to know what they CAN do instead of what they can't do. One of my favorite quotes is from Scott Noyes, "Say Yes when you can and No when you have to!"  This concept of focusing on what children CAN do has changed my entire way of classroom management. And when they are doing or want to do something they CAN'T do, I try to remember to give them a clear and simple reason as to why they can't. Then I'm sure to follow up with an idea of something they can do instead. This idea leads to the ultimate goal I have for my students and that is SUCCESS! I want my students to feel successful while they are in my classroom, and if I'm lucky and am doing my job well enough they will feel successful when they leave my classroom.