Exploring groundhog day in preschool

We made a few work boxes for Groundhog Day that we are planning to use tomorrow. But since there is a snowstorm going on right now, it looks like we may not have school tomorrow…

This first work box is to work on a little eye-hand coordination and some pretend play. The clothespins are our groundhogs and the construction paper covered cups are our holes in the ground.

This next work box is a shadow matching game. The children simple match the black shapes to the white shapes. We can talk about shadows, shapes, and opposites with this simple activity.

The focus of our third work box was a little groundhog sensory play…

We simply filled a container with brown pom-poms, cups and spoons for the children to play with, sort, and and manipulate!

Here are a few other Groundhog Day activities you can check out…

Shadow Theater from The Amazing Mess

Shadow Stomp from The Amazing Mess

Groundhog Shape Craft from Almost Unschoolers

Shadow and Light play from StrongStart

O is for Octopus in preschool

A drawback to being an administrator in a preschool program is that often times I have to actually “administrate” and when I do, it pulls me away from the classroom. So when this happens, I often only get to see what the children made after they are finished rather than while they are in the process. I still thought I would show you some of the terrific things our preschoolers made during our letter “O” week…

The children made Cheerio octopuses which you can read how to make at Little Learner’s Lounge!

This class made these adorable toilet paper roll Octopuses which you can read how to make at Crafts N Things!

The teacher told me that if you have the children cut the legs before you paint that as the paint dries, the legs will curl up naturally which makes each octopus a little more unique…


Unfortunately, what I can’t show you is some of the play the children enjoyed liked our Cheerios sensory tub! Perhaps they will still have it out tomorrow – I will try to go back into the classroom and take a peek.

Available on Amazon


N is for newspaper in preschool

This week, we used the newspaper in a variety of ways to help us explore the letter N…

The newspaper is a great way to explore letters and numbers and other language and literacy concepts.

We laminated one large page from the newspaper to search for letters and numbers…

We searched for titles and talked about some of the different parts of the newspaper such as the headline!

We looked at the graphics on the page and guessed what the story might be about…

Then we moved on to the comics. Cut apart some of the more child-friendly comic strips and you have a unique sequencing activity…

We explored newspaper in other ways too. We used our fine motor skills to tear newspaper into pieces….

And we glued newspaper pieces to the letter N!

We also did some newspaper painting and printing. I did not get a photo of our students painting with newspaper brushes but I highly recommend you click here and see the idea we used from House of Baby Piranha!

In case you missed it – check out Deborah in the news!

Perhaps you have other ideas too that can be done with newspaper…

Activities to promote development and Deborah in the News

I had the opportunity to be on Fox 59 Morning News!

I was pretty nervous and we had to move so fast that I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say! LOL!  I wasn’t able to actually get a copy of the video so I taped it from my daughter’s television so I could share this with everyone:)

I have blogged about some of the activities I show in the newsclip – you can see the vinegar and baking soda experiment here and you can view the picture frame activity here and you can view how to make colorful rice for sensory play here !

I was told to bring lots of props and I had fun choosing ideas that would be fun and colorful! I have been invited back to present once a month as long as we can come up with some ideas the producers like. So I have to get thinking!!

I finally got my 2 and 1/2 minutes of fame!!!

Fun with colorful bubble science in kindergarten

As I have mentioned many times before, I love all the ideas you can find on other blogs but there are times that I will read an idea but not really give it a chance. Sometimes, it isn’t that the children aren’t ready to try something new or different – the problem is that we as teachers aren’t always ready to try something new or different.

I can’t tell you how many times I have read about using vinegar and baking soda for simple science fun in preschool but I simply didn’t give it any thought. And then I came across this post by The Mother Huddle, and suddenly I can’t wait to give it a try!

Perhaps it was the way she set it up or explained it or added color that made it more appealing to me. Or perhaps I am growing as a teacher and realizing that I need to branch out of my comfort zone a little more. Or perhaps I knew that this was a perfect idea for this particular group of children. In any case – I just couldn’t wait to give it a try. It is so fun to be excited about what you are planning!

I didn’t do this exactly as described by Mother Huddle because I had too many children and not enough time but we did pretty close to the same way. I started by gathering clear plastic cups, spoons, vinegar, baking soda, food color, and water. I filled one cup with just a little bit of water and the rest of the cups I filled with just about 1/2 cup or less of vinegar. Next, I set out the spoons and put a few drops of food color in each one then covered them all with the baking soda. You can get more specific directions from Mother Huddle.

Then I demonstrated for the children what we were going to do. I asked the children to make a hypothesis about what they think will happen when I put the spoon into the cup.  We talked about what the word “hypothesis” means – one of our Kinders already knew the answer to all my questions!

The children were surprised to see that the water turned blue! I let the children smell the water and they noticed it really had no odor. Then I gave each of the children a cup of vinegar instead of water and asked them to smell their liquid. “Did it smell the same?” I asked. “No – they yelled – it’s gross!”

Each child took a spoon and mixed it in their liquid. Before they took their turn, they made a hypothesis about what they thought would happen to their powder and what color they thought it would be. They began to see that if they looked carefully, some of the color showed through on the spoons and they could use this as a clue for their hypothesis.

When the children stirred their spoons in their liquid, the bubbles were produced! OH BOY – did they love this!!  They didn’t know that was going to happen. We noticed that water did not have the same effect as the vinegar on the powder mixture.

Once everyone had a turn, we let them continue to add more baking soda “powder” to their colorful cups of vinegar and watch it bubble up again.

We continued until everyone had several turns and spoonfuls of powder to mix in – then I ran out of powder! I used up one full box of baking soda and 2 jars of vinegar…

Once we were out of baking soda – we talked about the cause and effect of the mixture. We had only one spill over because I put too many cups in one container and one of the cups spilled over the edge of the cup and the container – oops!

We also passed around the vinegar bottle to smell it.

It was a super fun day and experience for me and the children! Yes – this is a keeper to share again with another group of children soon!

By | January 26th, 2011|Categories: Cognitive Development, Science and Nature|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Add the picture after you frame it up in preschool

Today, the kindergarten class tried out our new window markers….

Only we didn’t use them on the windows  – instead we used them on the glass cover of a picture frame…

In some of the picture frames, we inserted pre-drawn shapes like circles or dots or even a house and the children drew over the shapes on the glass…

In other frames we left the white paper background blank so the children could just draw freely…

I thought trying the picture frames would be a nice twist to the use of window markers and learned a few things along the way…

Like it is easier to clean the glass frames if you use a baby wipe or a slightly damp paper towel. If you get it too wet it runs all over the place…

And if you buy too cheap of frames like I did, the glass starts to slide around a bit but that really didn’t keep us from enjoying the process. I got my frames at target for $1.

The children liked having a variety of backgrounds in the frames to use as a starter drawing…

Both boys and girls equally participated and took their time with their drawings…

The crayon version of the window markers gets all over your hands after a bit of heavy coloring but washes off easily with soap and water…

The children liked that you could prop up your frame for display after they finished coloring…

The colors were bright and vibrant and the children had a really good time with this idea…

I purchased the window markers, window crayons, and the frames all from Target….

To see how these actually work on windows – check out this post by The Artful Parent!

By | January 25th, 2011|Categories: Drawing|Tags: , |21 Comments

Really cute but not so fun in preschool

Last week, I visited a class that was making doves as part of their study of peace and MLK. As I observed this class, it was clear to both the teacher and I that this project was a cute idea on paper but pretty worthless when it came to process…

That’s the tricky thing about selecting activities for preschoolers to do. What may seem like an idea that fits perfectly with your theme and may even look adorable when it is all done, just isn’t all that fun for kids…

The teacher had prepared the doves by cutting and folding all the paper plates. I think the children could have probably cut and folded their own paper plates but for some reason this was already done for them. Perhaps it was because there would only be a limited amount of time and too many kids. Hmmm, time and numbers of children needs to be considered when choosing an activity…

The teacher also stapled all the pieces together while the children looked on. Hmmm, perhaps another something that the children could try to do…

Now this post isn’t to dog this teacher. I have seen this class engaged in wonderful activities throughout the school year. This just wasn’t one of those days or ideas that was working quite as planned and the focus on the process was lost in the midst of trying to expand on the concept of peace.

The teacher mentioned that she had thought about having the children paint their doves white but since the paper plates were already white – that just didn’t seem to make sense either…

Hurray! There was something to do. The children put glue on their beak and eyeballs and stuck them to their folded paper plate doves…

Have you ever just had one of those days where what you planned seemed so cool but you ended up doing most of the work?  The doves ended up being quite cute to look at on the table but the process didn’t lead to much discovery or creativity.

As teachers, we are always learning to look past how cute an art activity looks in a book or photo and instead think about what will the kids will actually get to do.  There really needs to be something for them to do!

By | January 22nd, 2011|Categories: Professional Development|Tags: , , |16 Comments

Using trays in the preschool classroom

In some of our classes, the teachers like to use trays to help with classroom management or organization…

Trays can provide children with their own work space…

Trays can help contain lots of pieces…

Trays can be set up to invite different kinds of play, exploration, or creativity…

Often times, teachers will use a tray system to give guidance or set limits when the need seems to be present…

Trays can be useful for many reasons but I don’t recommend placing everything on a tray. Sometimes, children need a large canvas to work with or may wish to work closer together. I think it just depends on the children and what works best for that particular activity.

But I do recommend trying trays for some of the reasons listed above. You may have other ideas for trays too…

By | January 21st, 2011|Categories: Classroom Management|Tags: , |23 Comments

Labeling your baskets and shelves in preschool

Part of setting up a child-centered classroom is taking the time to organize materials so that children can easily find where they belong.

One way to help keep the classroom organized is to add labels to the baskets. Adding labels with the words clearly printed on them also helps to promote the print-rich environment. Where possible, it is also a good idea to add pictures of the items that are in each basket to your labels – especially in the younger preschool classrooms.

On these shelves, you can see that I attached yellow construction paper squares to the shelves so that the children could see where the baskets belong. In the photo below, I added green construction paper rectangles to help the children identify where to put the green baskets.

I want the children to be able to put toys in baskets and baskets on shelves without having to rely on teacher directives. I am still working on the labeling process in this classroom and although I don’t have all the baskets labeled, the children will at least know which shelf to put each basket back on after playing.

Do you have any tips for labeling or organizing shelves and baskets to share?

By | January 19th, 2011|Categories: Classroom Management, Classroom Setup|Tags: , |17 Comments

Parent involvement in early literacy is the key to academic success

Parent involvement in early literacy is the key to academic success by Dr. Erika Burton of Stepping Stones Together

Early childhood education sets the stage for future academic achievement.

Whether you choose a pre-school setting, home school your child, or a combination of both exposure and parent modeling of literacy skills before, during and after the preschool years is essential.


A study conducted last spring in over 27 countries and over 20 years confirmed that having over 500 books in ones’ home is more important to a child’s projected academic success than a parent’s education. There are few studies to date on parent involvement in early literacy skills and development when reading with them. Yet, educators know that the number one predictor of lifelong academic achievement is parental involvement.

What are some best practices to help your child learn beginning literacy skills?

Where do you start if your child does not know their letters or sounds?

  1. Expose your child to literacy in natural occurring situations– Point out stop, speed, and washroom signs
  2. Label your house– Make a project out of writing and taping the words for things around your house that your child can see, touch, and repeat every day.
  3. Alphabet fun– Play with the alphabet out of order through developing letter of the day, week, or month and try to incorporate meals, toys, pictures on the internet, books. Have your child help you. Take pictures and/or develop a book for each. Develop opportunities for your child to make each letter cutting them from sponges, or forming them using play dough or even dye in snow!
  4. 4. Sound fun- Make up songs, games, or dances using the sounds of each letter in the alphabet. Buy a puzzle or game that says the sound of each letter as a review.

Where do you start if your child is ready to read?

  1. Investigate- The first reading steps are always the most nerve wrecking. Make sure your child is ready. Does your child know their letters and sounds?
  2. What are the signs of a child ready to read?– Does your child pretend to read books, ask you what words say, attempt to sound out letters in words, know words are devised of letters and spaces indicate new words? Has your child told you they want to learn to read?
  3. Start and stop when your child is eager- Beginning reading is hard. Consistency in small chunks of time works best. Always make sure they are having fun and within their frustration threshold.
  4. Use a repetitive simple text book- Allow your child to select an easy reader that can be completed in one sitting of 5-10 minutes. Research suggests choice is important in reading motivation.
  5. Picture walk- Predict and preview each page in a book using picture clues to identify story details
  6. Model- Do an initial read through of the book allowing your child to see best beginning reading practices of pointing to each word with your finger.
  7. Guide them- Allow your child to read the text helping them when necessary with difficult words in context.
  8. Review and discuss- Ask story questions related to vocabulary, connecting the text to your child’s experiences, and to check for basic reading comprehension.
  9. Write- Have your child share as you transcribe or bravely attempt to write their thoughts on characters, problems, situations and their experiences with each story.
  10. Review high frequency words- Review words such as; a, the, and, this… however you see fit.
  11. Consistency- Work daily through these steps whenever possible.

Guest Writer Biography

Dr. Erika Burton founded Stepping Stones Together to provide parents with an easy-to-use and reasonably priced online reading program to help parents instill a love for reading with children ages 3-7.

In 2005, Burton co-founded Orion’s Mind, an Educational Company with an overarching mission to close the educational achievement gap in Chicago. The company started with two employees. Orion’s Mind is one of the largest supplemental education providers in Illinois behind Chicago Public School’s own supplemental curriculum called Aim High. The company serves thousands of Chicago Public students in grades K-8 each school year. Orion’s Mind is also the largest supplemental provider in Waukegan, Illinois, Public Schools for grades K-8 students.

Dr. Burton earned her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a minor in research and supervision from Loyola University in Chicago in 2004. She completed her master’s degree in Elementary Education from Aurora University in 1998 and her Bachelor’s Degree in 1996 from The University of Arizona.

Burton worked closely from 2005- 2009 to  develop and revise curriculum, develop and facilitate the instructor and lead instructor trainings, and the instructor supervision program designed to ensure consistent and successful implementation of the Orion’s Mind curriculum.

While obtaining her professional degrees, Burton taught second grade in a bilingual classroom in the inner city of Los Angeles, first grade on the west side of Chicago in a restructured school, third grade at Holmes Elementary in Oak Park, IL, and later served as an Assistant Principal at River Grove Elementary School.

Burton has continued to support teachers as an adjunct professor for Roosevelt and National Louis University with a focus on teaching educational leadership, action research, early childhood and elementary education. She is dedicated to closing the educational achievement gap working with teachers to develop strategies to help all students achieve measurable results. Burton was awarded grant money in 2007 by National Louis University to ensure teachers use action research to better serve their students.

Burton presented at the 2007 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference in Orlando, Florida, the National Louis University’s Imagination conference in 2006 and the ASCD’s Midwest conference in 2006 focusing on multi-disciplinary approaches to learning.

Her most recent publication was in Burton, E. (2009, August). 21st century focus: brain learning. Southeast Educators Network, (11.2).

Why was Stepping Stones Together Created?

Stepping Stones Together was designed to address a needed resource I could not find when searching for a parent/child beginning literacy program to help my own children, and to provide highly motivational reading resources for parents and caregivers to help their child who is ready to read. I wanted to meet the needs of busy parents, being one myself, and make it easy to use, and it was designed with realistic daily practice commitments in mind. This program can be completed within 15-20 minutes each day, and within just 60 days, you should see a noticeable improvement in your child’s beginning reading skills.