Let’s Play the Put-Away Game!

During the first week of preschool, we spend lots of time exploring the things we can play with in our classroom, the things we can do in our classroom, and the ways we can help take care of our classroom. A simple way we introduce the children to the things in our classroom and help them realize that everything belongs somewhere once they finish their play is by inviting the children to play this simple “Put-Away” game…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

To set up the “Put-Away” game, we set out different items from around each center of the classroom on trays. For our pre-k, each tray held a different type of item and there were 10 items on each tray so every child would have something to put away from each tray.  We realized after playing the game this way that it would be better if each child had their own tray so we repeated the process later with the pre-k and our preschool class by giving each child their own tray of objects and the process worked like a charm!

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

On each child’s tray were small things that I had gathered from around each center of our classroom. Things like pencils, scissors, animals, blocks, watercolor paints, pompoms, light table toys, and so on. We intentionally chose small objects that would be easy for the children to overlook as being available to them and more challenging to remember where they belong after play…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

To play the “Put-Away” game, the children simply found their own tray and then began searching around the classroom to find where each item on the tray belonged. The teachers stayed available to give hints or support where needed but our pre-k children were all over this game and needed very little help in the process…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

This was such a simple game but super effective in both helping the children notice things they hadn’t noticed before in the classroom as well as helping the children realize that everything has a place where it belongs…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Not on the trays were a stack of books for the children to also put back on our bookshelf…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

As the children put things away, they also spent time helping each other and talking with each other about the things they were finding or which basket something might belong in…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Also not on the trays were little pieces of paper sprinkled around our large group carpet that needed picked up and thrown in the trash…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

I think it is important to note here that the children had played in the classroom for two days BEFORE we introduced this game so the children were already familiar with the classroom set-up and the more popular items like blocks and cars. I think it is best to give the children a couple of days to explore the classroom first so that when the “Put-Away” game is played, they are not overwhelmed by the tiny details of the classroom and are more ready for the process…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

The pre-k children did a remarkable job at the Put-Away game and enjoyed the process. It was kind of like going on a scavenger hunt only a little bit backwards from the traditional scavenger hunt. In our preschool class (which include our young 3’s and 4’s) we modified the game just a little bit. The children still had their own trays with their own name on the tray but instead of hunting for where things belonged, we held up the basket and said “If you have a _______ on your tray” then come and put it in the basket you will find right here!”

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

The children would then find the item on their tray and then come and put it away in the correct basket or jar or shelf…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Just like our PreK, the preschool age children began noticing things they hadn’t noticed before and did a remarkable job sorting through the things on their tray and putting them all away…

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

I intentionally made sure that every tray had all the same items to keep the children from being confused. If we called out “Who has a pom-pom?” Everyone had a pom-pom….

Learning where things belong in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

So there you have it! Our simple “put-away” game!

 

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Tips for finding resources for your preschool classroom

I recently had the privilege of taking part in the Bam Radio Show “Teacher-Funded School Supplies: Reducing the Burden Without Harming Kids”  with Rae Pica, Terry Heick and Cynthia Henton. The premise of the show was founded on the fact that almost all teachers use their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms. The discussion on the Bam Radio show provides insightful ideas on where schools (and teachers) can find classroom resources for less cost or for free. You will want to visit the Bam Radio show to listen to the full conversation but in the meantime, I thought I would highlight a few ideas for finding resources that I have personal experience with over the past five years…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

When I start out a school year, I have a budget set aside for purchasing resources like paint, construction paper, glue, and any other resources that I feel like are a must have in my classroom. For the rest of the school year, I look for resources that will either be low cost or free. Here are some tips from the show and my own experience for finding these kinds of resources…

Virtual Community Garage Sales

Garage sales are certainly a great place to find good deals but one of my favorite places to keep an eye out for toys, furniture, books, and other types of materials is on Facebook. In my county there must be 20 or more different Facebook groups set up for members of our community to sell items to one another. It is similar to a garage sale only everything is managed online. The seller posts a photo of something he or she wishes to sell along with a price and folks respond if they are interested in buying it by leaving a comment.  Then arrangements are made from there between the buyer and the seller.   As a general rule, in a community site like this one, you have to know someone else in the community to get added to the group. The groups are secret or closed so that folks can monitor who joins the group with the goal of keeping it only open to the members of that particular community.  There are teacher markets where teachers sell items to each other for a fraction of the original cost and lots of parents also join in and sell items. Most items are in very good condition.  Everything from lesson plan books, children’s books, art easels, children’s chairs and tables, blocks, games, puzzles, bulletin board pieces, and more are sold in these groups so I check them often…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

 

One of my favorite finds on the Community Market was this telephone booth that I gave a whopping $12 for. Other virtual garage sale type spots include Ebay or Craigslist although I honestly haven’t ever shopped either one of those but still, they might be worth checking out. Just remember that with any virtual buying and selling, you need to be smart about it, use good judgement, and stay safe…

Tips for Finding Resources in the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Goodwill

I stop by our local Goodwill store every so often with a list of things I am collecting or looking for. Last year, I was on a mission to purchase light weight tin pots and pans for my classroom. Other finds I have picked up at Goodwill include unusual pieces of furniture, children’s books, wooden trays, old telephones, and old records…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

My students enjoy listening to the records I pick up from Goodwill.  Some of the records are children’s stories or songs while others are classical music or musicals…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Parent Donations

I recently had a teacher ask me if it was “okay” to ask parents to donate items to preschool. In my mind, asking parents to help donate items to preschool is certainly okay but you do want to keep in mind the following….

  • Keep the process of donating items fun for parents rather than something they feel pressured or obligated to do.
  • Be clear about what kinds of things you are looking for. Do you need shoe box lids, bottle caps, egg cartons, paper towel tubes, or other?  Then put a general note up or send out an email letting parents know what you are collecting, what you plan to do with your collection (if you know), how many you are looking for or how long you plan to collect the requested items. The more you explain what you need and why you need it, the better parents will be at saving and donating the right type of things for your class.
  • Be clear about what you can or cannot accept as parents may truly not know the difference. For example, if you tell the parents you are looking for toy donations you may get lots of toys like stuffed animals, battery operated toys without the batteries, and so on. You don’t want to become the Goodwill drop off center so be clear about what you can or can’t use in your classroom.
  • If you are going to accept donations then find a way to actually use them and then let parents know about it so they will see that you appreciate their donations and are putting them to good use.

Finally, be open to parents who come up with fun ideas and would like to donate the items needed for their idea. Last year, one of my parents donated an amazing butterfly kit which I wrote about here. I adapted my “lesson plans” so that the kids and I could enjoy the process of observing the life cycle of a butterfly. I have had other parents donate some pretty amazing supplies for both indoor and outdoor explorations but my parents are very good about making sure what they donate will really be a good fit for our classroom and teaching philosophy…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Crowd Funding

One way to get enough funds together for a specific supply or project in your classroom is to set up a classroom kick-starter project. Want to learn more about the power of crowd funding or Kickstarting a classroom project campaign? Check out DonorsChoose.Org!

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

DIY for the Classroom

One of my favorite ways to add resources to the classroom is through Do It Yourself projects(DIY). Pinterest is FULL Of DIY projects you can use for the classroom!

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Repurposing for the Classroom

I also love repurposing/upcycling resources the children and I have saved throughout the school year to use for art or games or math or science…

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Community Resources

And last but certainly not least is to tap into your local community resources. Resources that have been donated to me include pizza boxes from Pizza King, Walgreens and Hallmark have saved envelopes and paper tubes for me. And I love going down to our local recycle collection center to find shoe boxes, cardboard boxes, and other recycled goodies like these large cardboard spools!

Tips for Finding Resources for the preschool classroom by Teach Preschool

Bam Radio Show

Now don’t forget to hop over and listen to the Bam Radio Show for more tips on this topic!!  Just click here to listen on the Bam Radio Educator’s Channel or here to listen on ITunes!

Tips for finding Resources for the Preschool Classroom by Teach Preschool

Teacher-Funded School Supplies: Reducing the Burden Without Harming Kids Rae Pica with Terry Heick, Cynthia Henton, Deborah Stewart

 

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The collection jars for preschool

I have spent this summer going through all the materials I have collected over the past several years in order to get myself completely organized before preschool starts back up.  All summer long, I have been purging, tossing, cleaning, and sorting, and then deciding on how best to keep my things so they will be easy to find and easy to put away…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I love to collect jars of all types and sizes. I collect anything from old peanut butter jars to glass mason jars to plastic jars of all sizes. When I can find a good deal on a nice set of plastic or glass jars, I will purchase a set to use in my classroom or to use as part of my storage system or for both.  The plastic jars shown in the photo below are perfect for our math materials the children collect through out the school year. So I will keep them empty until the school year begins…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

Here is a photo of the math jars once they start to fill up with all of our math tokens…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I mostly like to only collect clear jars so the children and I can easily see through them. On occasion, I will find a jar that I just can’t resist like these plastic mason jars from Walmart.  I found them on clearance about a week ago so I decided to add just a few of them to my collection…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I use the jars I collect to store lots of small pieces that we can use for DIY games, art, sorting, counting, graphing, estimating, fine motor activities, sensory play, water play, and whatever else I might come up with throughout the school year….

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

Some of the things I collect and keep in the jars are things I have collected over the years like lots and lots of lids…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

Some things that I put in the jar are specialty items like this set of sparkly pompoms. Now that I have this set of pompoms sorted in my jar collection, I will remember to use them and know where they are when the right moment or idea strikes me…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I use some of the jars to keep sensory materials like this left-over colored rice…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I use this big old plastic tub (the lid is missing) to keep my wooden blocks that I will use to make DIY drawing dice or dice for games or perhaps even for an interesting art activity. Again, I don’t necessarily have a plan for the use of these things but I like to know where they are when a plan does pop up…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

Instead of talking about every single jar I have and what’s in them, I have put together a couple of collages for you to just take a look. In the past, I had these things in baggies or boxes and pieces were scattered from one place to another. Over the summer, I have been able to put all like items together so I can do a better job finding and using the resources I already have on hand…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I also have lots of small jars that I will use both in the classroom and for storing materials.  These small jars are all glass but they are a heavy glass (unlike baby food jars) and work well in my outdoor classroom. I have wooden floors in the outdoor classroom and have found that these jars can topple over or even drop down on the wooden floor without them breaking but I still teach my students to handle the jars with care. I think because the small jars are real glass, my students naturally do a better job taking care of them and paying attention to what they do with them….

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

As you can see, most of my jars are for collecting small items we use as “loose parts for play” or for math, art, and anything else we find them useful for. And for anyone that might be concerned about choking, it is important to note that the students in my classroom are well past the “put everything in your mouth” stage but still, we remind them and keep an eye out just in case someone is tempted…

The collection jars for preschool by Teach Preschool

I have just a few areas of organizing I need to do this week and then it is time to start setting up my classroom for the new school year. I am excited to get started now that I feel organized again. It has been a long summer of getting things back in order!

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By | August 4th, 2014|Categories: Classroom Setup|Tags: , |3 Comments

A new gadget for preschool

I just love new gadgets and so when I came across a stapler called a “Staple-Free Stapler” I just had to give it a try. So I bought two!…

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

I bought mine from Staples Office Supply. To make it work, you slide the edge of your gathered paper into the slot (just like a stapler) only you need to slide it in as far as it can go and then punch down firmly with the handle. It is fairly easy to punch as long as you don’t over do it on the paper…

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

The gadget will make a hole and then fold the paper over to bind the pieces of paper together….

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

If you don’t press firmly enough (put a little pressure then let the handle go) the fold wont be as good…

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

I experimented making a few little books from scrap construction paper squares I had on hand.  If I give the papers a really good tug, then they will pull apart but if I gently tug (normal type tugging) they stayed together fine…

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

I think my preschool class will be able to learn how to use this next fall and will enjoy getting to explore the new gadget in the process. I want to add this to my writing center to encourage more book making or other types of creativity…

A New Gadget for Preschool shared by Teach Preschool

So there you have it, my new find. A staple-free stapler. I am excited to share it with my new class!

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By | June 12th, 2014|Categories: Around the Classroom|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Five simple classroom lessons we can learn from a plastic Easter egg

While observing my students and my grandsons explore plastic eggs this week, I was struck with the many lessons a plastic Easter egg has to offer me as a teacher and thought I would break my thoughts down into five simple concepts to share with you…

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

1. Choose function over fancy

I can go out and buy the fanciest, coolest looking plastic Easter eggs in the world but in end what I really want is for my students to be more interested in finding out what is inside the egg and anxious to pop it open to find out. When selecting things for our classroom shelves and baskets, we need to think about what we want our students to actually do with these things rather than focus on how cool they look on our shelves.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

I have some pretty cool looking (and expensive) blocks sitting in my garage right now but every time I bring them into my classroom, the children pick them up for a few minutes and then just toss them aside (just like the fancy Easter eggs). So even though those blocks sure look beautiful sitting on my shelf, they serve no purpose if they are not contributing to the process of keeping my students engaged in quality play and exploration. Now I am not saying that we can’t have cool looking things out on our shelves but I am saying that the reason we have them there can’t be only because they look cool – they must also be a valuable resource in keeping children engaged in their play.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

2. Build curiosity

Plastic Easter eggs naturally invite curiosity. Whenever my grandson sees a plastic egg siting around, the first thing he wants to do is open it up. I can tell him that there is nothing inside it. He can shake it and not hear anything rattle inside it. He can feel it and know it feels empty and yet still, he just can’t resist the temptation to open it up and see inside it. We want everything in our classrooms to build curiosity just like an Easter egg. We want the things on our shelves to invite our students to ask questions, wonder, test, and try.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

3. Foster exploration

Plastic Easter eggs also foster exploration. A plastic egg can be opened, closed, stacked, filled, emptied, sorted, painted with, used as a scoop for sand and water. This is what we want to see happening with the things in our classrooms. It is hard to get in the mindset that a block may end up being used as a roller at the play dough table because as teachers, we see things differently than young children and think a block is only for building. But it is important to give children the chance to explore the things in your classroom in ways you do not expect or that might be out of the ordinary.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

This doesn’t mean that your classroom has to become a complete free for all but it does mean that you need to be aware of your decisions when you see a child constructively exploring an item in a way you would not have considered or expected. Often times, some of the most remarkable ideas and learning occurs when children and teachers learn to use materials in ways that hadn’t been considered before.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

4. Promote developmental skills

Plastic Easter eggs naturally promote fine motor development as the children use their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination to pull an egg apart and put it back together. Depending on the way a plastic egg is being explored, there are other kinds of development happening as well. For example, when a child is guessing what is in an Easter egg, he or she is using listening skills to hear what might be inside the egg or mathematical thinking is being promoted by feeling the weight of the egg.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

Just like a plastic Easter egg naturally promotes all types of skills as the children are given the freedom to explore and play with the eggs, so too should the other things we select and keep on our classroom shelves. Be observant of your students and learn to recognize what types of development are taking place while your students explore the things around the classroom so you can verbalize to parents and for yourself what types of growth and development is taking place through a child’s play.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

5. Rotate materials

After all the Easter celebrations, most of us will pack up most (if not all) the leftover plastic Easter eggs and put them away until next year. Although you can certainly leave plastic Easter eggs out for play all year round, there is no doubt that by making them only available for a short season of time will keep the children more interested and excited to use them the next time you pull them out for play.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

And just like plastic Easter eggs can be brought out for a season then put away for a season so to can other items in your classroom. HOWEVER, you must know the difference between which materials should stay out and which should be rotated in and out of the classroom. That is really a whole other discussion in itself because it isn’t all that simple. Sometimes, children need time to build their interest and skills so rotating an item (like blocks or your easel and paint) out of the classroom doesn’t give them that opportunity. Other times, items (like plastic Easter eggs) are seasonal and need to be removed to keep them fun and inviting the next time you bring them out.

 Five simple lessons we can learn about the things we keep in our classrooms from a plastic Easter egg

As you get ready to pack up the plastic Easter eggs in your classroom, let me encourage you to take a look around your classroom and reflect on what is sitting out and available for your students to do next. Do you have things out that build curiosity, foster exploration, and promote developmental skills? Do you need to stop rotating something or give the children more time to build their skills in using it? Can you find something similar to a fancy and expensive item you have been saving for and use that instead? Are you too worried about things only being used in one specific way and in one specific area or can you relax a little and discover along with your students a potentially new and great idea using the materials you already have?

No doubt about it, there are many things to consider and think about when choosing items for your classroom and how best to use those items to facilitate play and  learning!

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The reflection table

I love to find things to use in my classroom that invite curiosity or to renew interest in an old activity. Today, I want to introduce you to what I like to call “the reflection table.”…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

To set up our reflection table, we simply put a light weight full length mirror on the table for the children to work on.  There are non-breakable full length mirrors that you can use in the classroom as a reflection table or in your dress-up area or other parts of the classroom available at many education stores…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

Whenever my students walk into the classroom and notice that the reflection table is set up, they can’t resist the opportunity to walk over and look at their own reflection…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

Observing the children talk to each other and examine their own and each other’s reflections in the mirror is one of my favorite reasons to set up the reflection table….

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

But like I mentioned before, I also like to use the reflection table as a way to put a new spin on activities or to add a new element of interest or exploration to a process like our colorful rainbow reflection cutting table…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

Or as a writing center…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

For our class, the focus of the reflection table isn’t so much on trying to create reflections as much as it is providing a new and interesting canvas for our students to work…

The Reflection Table by Teach Preschool

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The outdoor classroom

In my previous post, I shared with you the setup of our indoor classroom and this is a little overview of our outdoor classroom…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Our outdoor classroom is set up inside a screened-in porch and is generally used for all “messy” types of sensory play such as sand and water…

Water Table

On one end of the room is our water table. The water table is sitting closest to the door so we can easily bring buckets of water in to fill it up the water bins or dump out the water after play each day…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

We change the color of water or what tools are available to play in the water each week and sometimes daily depending on interest or what unit or process we are exploring. The water table is always open and ready for play every single day…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Sensory Window

Next to our our water table is the sensory window. The sensory window is also open for play every day and we change up the tools and materials used there to invite continued interest in play and exploration…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

The children prefer to use our spray bottles (filled with clean water), shave cream, paint brushes, and window scrapers on the sensory window more than any other tool for play we offer…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

There is easily room for four children to play at the sensory window but we do not limit the number of children. The children naturally begin to regulate their own time, use, and space for play throughout the entire outdoor classroom environment…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Sand Table

The sand table is at the opposite end of the room and near our back door. We keep it stocked with plenty of play sand that I purchase from Walmart. Some weeks the sand is dry and on other weeks the children add water for wet sand play….

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

We will add more sand as needed and we rotate the types of tools that the children can select to use for play in the sand. Sometimes we put the sand in a tub with edges and other times on a flat surface such as it is now…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Easel

On the other side of the outdoor classroom you will find our easel and discovery table. We provide fresh paint at the easel every day for the children to work with. In the beginning of the year, we have lots of group painting going on which naturally keeps the focus on the experience rather than on “making something to take home.”

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

As time goes by, and depending on the day or age of child, we will begin to see more intentional types of painting going on…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Discovery Center

Our newest addition to our classroom is our discovery center. This is one long table with shelves on the back so we can set out a variety of materials tools and supplies for the children to explore and discover…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Because the discovery table is brand new, I will be talking lots more about it but for now, let me just say that this piece of furniture brings a new level of complex play and exploration to our outdoor learning environment that is beyond measure…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Center Table

And the final area to our classroom is the center table. The center table is changed every day depending on what we are exploring or what new process or materials I would like to introduce to the children…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

Sometimes, the children will have a special request such as in the photo below. The children wanted to make necklaces so I quickly grabbed my basket of straws and string and added it to our center table…

The Outdoor Classroom by Teach Preschool

About the Outdoor Classroom

As you can hopefully see, the outdoor classroom is filled with many different kinds of hands-on experiences for the children to explore.  Unfortunately, once the weather gets too bitter cold, we have to shut down the outdoor classroom but we wait and do that when we know that it is absolutely necessary then open it back up as soon as the weather begins to warm back up. 

The Outdoor Classroom

The Furnishings

All the wooden furniture in the outdoor classroom was custom built by my husband (except the easel) over the past three years. I hope to have him build me an easel next although the easel we are currently using is excellent. When we do build something, I design what I think will fit well in the classroom by drawing it out on a piece of paper then my husband and I sit down together to talk about what the purpose of the furniture is for, how it will be used, where it will actually fit inside the classroom and then we begin to measure the space and make plans for constructing the furniture.

The Outdoor Classroom

 

I do not have any plans or blueprints for the furniture we make to share as each piece is simply something we invent and modify to fit the spaces in my classroom and my husband (who is a carpenter by trade) tends to do lots of the work by sight rather than print.

Clean Up

The outdoor classroom is a major undertaking for us as teachers. To provide the kinds of opportunities I hope to give my students, it is worthwhile to me but it isn’t a low maintenance process. I would say that my assistants and I spend three times as much time setting up, cleaning, covering, wiping down, sweeping, and so on the outdoor classroom as we ever have to do in our indoor classroom. But again – it is extremely worthwhile in the overall learning experience that I can provide to my students.

The Outdoor Classroom

Kids Clothing

My parents are the most dedicated and profoundly accepting group of parents I could ever ask for. I do provide aprons for the children to wear when they play in the outdoor classroom but I do not insist they wear them UNLESS I know that it is absolutely necessary. My parents know that they need to send their children in old play clothing so the children will feel free to explore their environment without the constant worry that they will get wet, sandy, or messy. Over time, we do teach the children to have an awareness of when they might want to grab an apron and put it on so they can learn to take care of their own things but it is done naturally and without pressure so that we do not detract from their natural joy in play and exploration.

The Outdoor Classroom

Inspiration

I write about my outdoor classroom in hopes that you will be inspired to try new things too. The experiences and equipment and materials do not have to look the same as they do in my classroom rather they can be modified to fit your own classroom or outdoor space but sometimes just seeing what others are doing helps bring us all new understanding of how children learn; ideas for how to present the materials; motivation to try something or make something new for the classroom; and inspiration that keeps us excited about teaching young children!

The Outdoor Classroom

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By | September 1st, 2013|Categories: Classroom Setup|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Our classrooms are ready for preschool

If you follow my  blog regularly, then you know that I have been off for a few days. This was our first week in preschool and there was much to be done but now that school has started, I have SO much I want to share with you! Over the next few days, I will try to get caught up on all my blogging obligations and also start sharing the happenings in my preschool classroom. For this post, I want to simply share a few photos of my classroom setup in hopes that when I talk about what we are doing, you will have some sense of what the environment is like…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

To begin with, it is important to remember that I have two classrooms. The photo above is my indoor classroom and the photo below is my outdoor classroom. Today, I will highlight the centers in my indoor classroom then moving on to the outdoor classroom in my next post…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

The Indoor Classroom

Be sure to keep in mind that our space is very limited so I have to try and include as many different kinds of learning centers in the classroom while at the same time, keep an adequate amount of the space for the children to comfortably work within.

The Multi-Sensory Center

This is small space that has a combination of tools and supplies which I will change up periodically…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

For now, we have items in the center to promote play involving magnets, lights, and felt…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

Lots of small pieces in this center for the light and magnet board but my students are old enough to explore them safely…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

Writing Center

I have the writing center stocked with common tools the children would explore that promotes creativity, drawing, cutting, book-making, and pre-writing skills…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

Block Center

Our block center is filled with a variety of different types of blocks, cars, people, animals, and accessories…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

I am still adding to the block center so some of the baskets are sitting empty but the kids haven’t been worried about it because there are plenty of materials to keep them busy for now…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

There have been times when it seems the majority of my class has decided to join in on block play so it is for this reason that I set the block center up near our large carpet where we also have circle time…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

Reading Center

Our primary reading center is a combination of books, puzzles, and games set up on a four sided library or bookshelf available at Guidecraft

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

I like that the bookshelf has a variety of spaces to display books or other items so that I am not limited in how I use the shelf and that the shelf has wheels so I can move it easily to a new spot if I have the need…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

Play House Center

The play house has a collection of really unusual dolls (donated by my mom), blocks, and fabric squares for the children to build their own furniture and set up spaces inside the house…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

During our first week, I have sat with the children on occasion to show them how they can use the materials to set up their house…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

But the children have had lots of their own ideas too and sometimes like to add their own dolls so I am mostly just observing the play that takes place in order to see what changes might need to be made…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

This is the basic lay out of my indoor classroom. In addition to the centers, Mr. Hayden (my teaching assistant) and I provide additional materials for the children to explore at our tables each day…

Ready for Preschool by Teach Preschool

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By | August 31st, 2013|Categories: Centers, Classroom Setup|Tags: , , |32 Comments

Getting the most value out of a bookshelf in the preschool classroom

There are days that I wish I had more space in my indoor classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of my indoor classroom. I love setting it up to be warm and inviting and I enjoy the challenge of turning small spaces into valuable spaces. Today I want to share with you a few ways I try to get the most value out of the bookshelves I have in my preschool classroom…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

I only have three stand-alone bookshelves in my indoor classroom. Each shelf was custom built (by my husband) to fit comfortably in my classroom. Before building my shelves, I did my homework. I measured how tall and wide I wanted each shelf to be. The measurements were based on the average height of a three and four year old and the amount of floor space I would have available…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

I think it is important that each shelf can stand up in the middle of a space without having to worry about it tipping over. My shelves are extremely sturdy and heavy to move around. They are sturdy enough for me to stand on them to change a light bulb or one of my students to climb on top of it without it tipping or breaking (although  my students do not climb on my shelves). Because my shelves are so sturdy, I can set them out in the middle of a floor to help divide my classroom into smaller, intentionally designed spaces (centers) for play…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

When painting my shelves, I painted the sides and backs with one coat of magnetic paint and a second coat of white paint on top. I think I should have used two coats of magnetic paint but I was in a hurry and only used one. I can place magnetic items on the sides or backs of the shelves for the children to explore but nothing too heavy or it will fall off . On this shelf are magnetic sentence strips with the children’s names on them – the rest of the names are spread out around the room on other shelves. The children can go and get their names and then put them back on the side of a shelf when not in use…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

On the back of every shelf, I also like to add something like a felt board, magnetic board, or anything else I can think of to make every part of the bookshelf a contributing part of our classroom environment…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

I label my shelves and baskets to some degree but not nearly as much as I possibly could. It all depends on how much time I have and how often I change things up. I use sentence strips for labeling and tape them in place with clear packing tape…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

I also use the tops of my shelves for different purposes. Sometimes, I set out different types of supplies the children can use on top of the shelves…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

And other times, I set out different types of tools for play on the tops of my shelves…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

Everyday, you will find someone exploring some type of play, science, math, or creative process on the top of our shelves…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

We also built small shelves for our walls to display books, artwork, or light table supplies. The shelves are low enough for the children to reach and they help us keep our floor shelves available for other types of activities…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

And we also use small baskets or file folder holders on our wall like the one shown below that holds our journals…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

Every shelf has a purpose it its design and the goal is to make sure that every shelf is designed to bring value to the classroom environment and the children’s experience…

More than just a bookshelf by Teach Preschool

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Links to Grow on

A new bookshelf in my preschool classroom

Simple ideas for classroom set-up

Building bookshelves for the preschool classroom

Preparing for the first day of preschool

This is just a quick post to wish those of you getting ready to go back to preschool a VERY blessed year!  It took me all day, but I am pretty much ready to go. I had a few things I still wanted to do but you know how that goes – it is a work in progress…

Tomorrow, I will share more about my completed classroom – but these are a few of the little things we have all set and ready to go…

Journals

I purchased simple blank books for our journals.  Mrs. Courtney added everyone’s name to a journal and they are all set to go…

Math Bags

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you probably know all about our math bags.  We will be doing math bags again and I will share more on them as we go along.  If you want to read up on the previous year of math bags, you can start by clicking here: Math Bags. Mrs. Courtney added each child’s name to a math bag and my job was to prepare the parent note to go home with the math bags.  Ummm, I will do that in the morning…

Story Telling Box

I also made myself  two little story telling boxes. Well, they could also be called treasure boxes but I am calling them my story telling boxes for now because I want to really focus this year on helping my students express their own ideas, thoughts, and stories.  I am hoping the story telling box will get us off to a good start…

Okay – like a said, this was a quick post to wish everyone well and share a short update!  Have a great year in preschool!

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