A multipurpose interactive bulletin board

No matter how large or small a classroom is, there is always a new way to make the more out of your space.  My indoor classroom is relatively small and so it is important to use each area of our classroom to its maximum potential without it becoming cluttered or congested.  Today, I want to share with you our multipurpose interactive bulletin board…

Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

We have lots of large wonderful windows in our classroom which I love but this also means we only have limited amount of wall space.  I use the wall space wisely so to offer as much as I can to the children while still keeping our environment attractive.  On one wall we have what I refer to as our name or snack board doubled with our directions board.

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

At the bottom of the board, there is a line of pockets and each pocket has a child’s name on it.  We use this for the children to pull out their names throughout the day.  Each morning the children remove their name from their pocket and put it on our classroom attendance chart…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

On some days, the children put their names back in the pockets after they have eaten snack and on other days, the children put their names back into the pockets before they go home.  It all depends on the day…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

The top of the board is called our Directions Board.  It takes exactly 4 sheets of large construction paper to cover the top half of the board. I tape four sheets of construction paper together and create different sets of “directions” for the children to follow depending on the day and the activity planned for the table directly below the board.  Currently the board has our heart display which was shared last week on the blog…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

However, when we need the top of the board for a different display, we simply staple a new display right over the top of the heart display then take the new display down when we are done. Like the classroom map below, we only needed it up for an hour of our day…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

The reason I call the top of our board a directions board is because we have been working with the children on learning to “read” and follow simple directions by creating displays to add to the board.  The children are getting very good at following the directions on the board.  The processes that accompany the directions are open ended but there are always steps that can be given on the directions board to help the children understand what the process is all about…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

For the board above, we were working on drawing lines with a ruler.  The children made snowflakes but their snowflakes didn’t (and wasn’t expected) to turn out exactly like the one on the board. Since was our first time using the directions board, I did choose to show the complete process so the children understood how to read the directions and what the process looked like from beginning to end. It is important to note that the focus of the board is about reading and following directions – not controlling their freedom to explore.  If the children head off into a direction that wasn’t on the board – we go with it.  The children are given all the space they need to interpret the directions in their own way or with their own creative spin during the process..

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

With each new display I made for the Directions Board, I add different elements like numbers to identify steps in the correct order or complete sentences or different objects that illustrate what the directions are.  The children learn to start from the left side of the board and follow the steps to the right side (promoting left to right reading progression) and to look for clues as to what the words might say under or over each word (or sentence) on the board (deductive reasoning or predictable print)…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

During morning circle, we do a brief review of the board. I ask the children to look at the board tell me what they think might be the first thing they are to do. For our students who are almost ready to read, we read the words aloud with them or for them. Those who are not readers, love to think they can read and always tell me what they think the words on the board say and for the most part, they get much of what the board says pretty darn close…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

For me personally, I love the directions board. It helps me think through how to share a process in simple steps and yet keep the process open ended so the children can interpret the process in their own way.  It also makes me prepare more completely for a process, think it through a bit, and make sure it is reasonable for the children to do entirely on their own…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

With each new display, the children are getting better and better at following the directions entirely on their own. The older children follow it easily, the younger children took about two weeks before they even remembered to look up and see that they could follow what was on the board.  I am also getting better at recognizing what to add and what not to add to the board so that it is all about the needs and abilities of the children in my class…

Multi-Purpose Interactive Bulletin Board by Teach Preschool

Using a bulletin board for more than just one purpose can help those of you with smaller classrooms to do something extra for your students.  You just have to think outside the box a bit!

Available on Amazon

Links to Grow On

Bulletin Board Ideas on Pinterest

Taking the Word Wall Beyond the Wall by Teach Preschool

Parent Boards in the Preschool Classroom by Teach Preschool

We can vote | Election Day

Today is Election Day, 2012 and everywhere you go in our community, you will see campaign signs lined up and down the street; televisions tuned into election day news; adults standing in line to cast a vote; everyone guessing who the winner will be; waiting  to find out what the final count will be; and all of this now has us waiting for the final results…

Community, signs, rallies, choosing favorites, making decisions, standing in line, voting, predicting, counting, finding out results – Hmmm – we know how to do all that too! And so we did.  Come and take a look at our election day in preschool only you wont have to wait for the results!

Meet the candidates

Al Alligator  – he is a very green alligator who seems kind of grouchy. He snaps at everyone when he speaks.

Georgia Giraffe – she is a very tall giraffe who speaks with a kind soft voice.

Getting to know our candidates

Georgia Giraffe  says, “If I win, I will reach up high into the trees and give everyone an apple to eat.”

Al Alligator says, “You better vote for me or I will make everyone go to bed early and no one will get to eat their supper!”

Waiting in a line to cast a vote

Oh my goodness – we had to wait in a line to cast our vote!  Just like the grown-ups do!

Casting a vote

Everyone placed their “X” next to the candidate they liked best and then folded up their ballot and dropped it in the ballot box….

We took turns voting behind the curtain so our votes would be private…

Tallying up the results

After the votes were all in (and after snack of course), we counted up the total number of votes for each of our candidates. Poor Al Alligator, he only got 4 votes but Georgia Giraffe invited Al Alligator to be her helper so everyone wins! Hooray!

Getting to know the Candidates

Throughout the day, many of the children spent time getting to know our candidates…

Making Campaign signs

One of the most important parts of a campaign sign is our names so we decorated our names for our very own campaign signs…

Posting our campaign signs

We put our signs out so all the parents would see them at the end of the day…

A Preschool Rally

Celebrating our big election at the end of the day!

We hope you enjoyed our preschool version of Election Day, 2012!

By | November 6th, 2012|Categories: Special Occasions|Tags: , , , , , |19 Comments

Tools for play inspire the desire to write

Mrs. Courtney and I spend a lot of time working out which tools for play we want to make sure we put together for the kids to use in our classroom….

Our primary goal in planning each day is to come up with different processes that not only promote growth and development, but also inspire growth and development…

Along with any process or play activity, we consider what type of growth and development might be inspired by this process and what kinds of tools for play can we add without it becoming too cluttered on the table and yet still keeping it interesting and inviting for the children…

Part of inspiring children is to bring in processes that the children are already showing an interest in. My students have been asking me to set out the telephones for play since the very first week of school so I went and dusted them off and we set them out in our outdoor classroom…

The telephones inspire conversation and imagination and role play all by themselves but I wanted to also inspire the children to do a little writing so I added clipboards, pencils, and paper to the table as well…

The telephones partnered with the clipboards, pencils, and paper did indeed inspire the process of writing in my classroom….

Some of the children are writing numbers and letters that I can recognize and others are not yet at the point where their writing can be “read by the teacher” but the important thing to keep in mind is that the children, regardless of developmental readiness, are each inspired to write something…

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Links to Grow on

Everyday Dramatic Play by Teach Preschool

The Amazing Action Alphabet phonics program review and give-away

I like to provide an organized phonics program to my students throughout the school year as well as natural opportunities for introducing and exploring the sounds of letters. Last year, for our organized phonics program, I implemented the simple but super fun program called The Amazing Action Alphabet ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Action Alphabet flip chart comes with a CD of songs to sing-along with each letter of the alphabet.  The songs are lively and fun but I must confess to you that we did not use the CD along with the chart as suggested. Instead, we played the CD during our center time for the children to listen and sing along with while they played…

For each Letter that is Introduced in the Alphabet Action Flip Chart, there is a specific sound and motion the children are to make. The sound is the sound of the letter and the motion is a physical reinforcer of that letter sound. For example, for the letter C the children held out their hands and moved their fingers to “c, c, cut!”…

Because we are a mixed age group class of children ranging from ages 3 to Pre-K, we needed to keep our phonics program short and active so everyone enjoyed the experience. On Pre-K day only, we would quickly review all the letters with the children and they amazed me at how they easily remembered every sound and every action…

We gradually worked our way through all the letters throughout the school year and even did a very quick run-through of all the letter sounds and actions for our parents on graduation day…


We will certainly be using The Amazing Action Alphabet flip chart and CD again this next year in my classroom!

 

Disclosure: I received The Amazing Action Alphabet flip chart and CD to review and provide this give-away. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are 100% my own.

 

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By | July 31st, 2012|Categories: Give-Aways|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Taking the word-wall beyond the wall

In my pre-k class, our word wall isn’t your traditional word wall, it is a set of words chosen throughout the year based upon words that come up in different units we are studying, words of particular interest to the children, or words that seem to be the most meaningful to the children (like their names)…

I suppose one reason we also are selective in which words go on the word-wall, particularly in my classroom, is because we have very limited wall space for displaying words on a word-wall.  However, our word-wall is only one way we introduce and talk about words throughout the school year. For this post, however, I just want to focus on the words that we add to our word-wall and how we take them beyond the wall…

Just about every word that we add to our word-wall is emphasized in or selected from a children’s book or one of our classroom magazines that we are currently reading. For example, we read “The Cloud Book” by Tomie DePaola for the word cloud and we talked about the different kinds of clouds in our Clifford the Dog classroom magazine….

For each new word that is chosen to add to our wall, I print the word out on sentence strips for the children to keep with them during other activities that will also emphasize the word…

For almost every word we add to our word-wall, we print it and illustrate it (if possible) in our word-wall journals…

The word-wall journals are introduced into the classroom about half way through our school year as a blank book and then the Pre-K children begin adding words and illustrating those words in their journals about once a week the rest of the school year…

In our word-wall journals, the children primarily use only pencil (or colored pencils) for their drawings and to print the words. Then the children will go back and use crayons if they wish to color in their illustrations…

While writing and drawing in the word-wall journals, I use the opportunity to talk about the words. For example, I might bring up the number of sounds (syllables) a word has or how we can connect those words to make a sentence. It all depends on what the children are ready for as we go along each week….

In addition to our classroom literature and word-wall journals, we also take the word-wall beyond the wall by bring the words into our art…

For example, our students painted carrots to emphasize the word “carrot” and they painted watermelons to emphasize the word “watermelon”…

The goal of our word-wall and beyond experiences is to create meaning and memories with these words as well as give our pre-k students the opportunity to build vocabulary, explore the printed material, and offer up opportunities for discussions about how words are used in our everyday world.  Although I do not have a formal plan for teaching my pre-k students how to read, I do find that our word-wall and beyond experiences invite an enthusiastic interest in the reading and writing process…

Oh, and I should mention that we start our word-wall off with our names and our names are always present throughout the entire school year in various places for the children to see and use anytime they would like each day…

There are many other  ways to use a word wall so keep in mind that this is not a word wall tutorial. For me, the word wall is always a work in progress but perhaps what I shared today will be a source of inspiration for you as you consider the possibilities for taking your word wall beyond the wall and into other parts of your classroom experience.

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By | July 16th, 2012|Categories: Language Arts|Tags: , , , , |20 Comments

A year long study of the alphabet

For as long as I have been teaching, I have routinely included the letters of the alphabet into my planning each week – commonly referred to as “The Letter of the Week.” I took photos of this process all throughout the year and decided to share the photos and our experience with this process with you…

You can find different variations of “The Letter of the Week” process all over the web. The basic idea behind “The Letter of the Week” is to systematically focus on the shape and sound of at least one letter of the alphabet each week all through out the school year…

In our classroom, this process is very routine.  Each week, the children come to school and find a paper cut-out of the letter on the table along with bottles of glue and items that start with the sound of the letter. Then the children glue the materials to their letter as we talk about the sound and the name of the letter…

When choosing which items to glue on the letter, I like to select items that truly start with the letter of the week like beans for the letter “B” or cotton for the letter “C” but there are some letters that I always have trouble with like the letters “E” and “X”…

By the time my class got to about the third letter in our alphabet process, the children were pretty much self-sufficient in the process.  The children would head over to the table and gather up their own materials and get to work…

However, my students would often forget to glue their letters to the construction paper or whenever they did glue the letter to the paper, it was often glued upside down or backwards…

Because this process was very routine, I could easily see progress in the children’s ability to manage the glue bottles and to complete the entire process with little or no instruction from me beforehand…

The children also began to anticipate which letter would be next and if I didn’t set out a letter on any given week as expected, the children would often ask me when we were going to start on our new letter…

Although this process done alone does not help children recognize the shape or sound of a letter, I have always chosen to include this process because I have always believed it helps to facilitate conversations about the letters of the alphabet and that it gives the children opportunities to explore art tools and other materials along the way. In addition, I have always believed that the routine and consistency of this process helps young children to build confidence as long as the process can be open for each child to interpret the process in their own way rather than being told they “have to do it a certain way”…

This process ran smoothly for quite awhile throughout our school year and then about a little over half way through our letters, my younger students started getting bored with this process. I still set it out and made it part of their routine because – well because it is what I have always done….

My oldest students still seemed to enjoy the process and they continued to ask for it but my threes (now turning four) were done with it. By the time we reached the letter “S”, some of my younger students would pretty much refuse to give it a try…

And by the time we got to the letter T, all of my students had pretty much lost interest in this process. So we skipped the letter T…

But still, I really wanted to finish our set of letters so we wrapped up letters U through Z in one big letter project about 6 weeks before the end of our school year….

After we wrapped up our letters we moved on to do all the other things my students had enjoyed throughout the year like making slime, playing in our sand table, exploring nature, cooking up play dough, playing games outside, exploring waterbeads, examining bugs, and all those other wonderful experiences that my students enjoy…

“The Letter of the Week” is a process that looks very “preschool.”  It looks cute in photos, it looks age appropriate, and it looks academic.  In fact, there is nothing wrong with gluing cotton on the letter “C” or beans on the letter “B.”  However, I have discovered that deep and meaningful learning goes beyond just putting into place processes like “The Letter of the Week.”  Instead, meaningful and long lasting learning comes when young children are given creative, interesting and engaging opportunities to explore their environment  through play, discovery, investigation, questions, trial and error.

I share my experience with you today so that you will take the time to consider, reflect, and evaluate the processes you choose to use in your classroom or with your preschooler at home. Consider whether or not it is a process that deserves to be at the very top of your list of priorities. I say, if it is working and the children are finding the process interesting and inviting – then stick with it. If the children are starting to get bored, then change it up. If the children are clearly not enjoying the process anymore, then do something else!

 

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By | June 18th, 2012|Categories: Language Arts|Tags: , , |32 Comments

Building block literacy and story telling

Over the past school year, I have watched my students go from building simple block structures to more complex block structures. The children’s play with blocks has also went from playing side-by-side with blocks to working together to build their structures…

We recently read a book during our circletime about building with blocks titled, “Changes, Changes” by Pat Hutchins.  This book has no words in it and upon first glance, it can seem like such a simple book to walk through together…

But each page of the book is filled with simple to complex structures built from blocks and as you read along, the blocks change into something new and as they change into new structures, the blocks tell a story along the way…

I am glad we didn’t read this book earlier in the school year because my students would not have been quite ready to build on this book the way they are now…

Having had lots of opportunities all throughout the year to build with blocks on their own has given my students the experience and tools they need to appreciate the complex building patterns shown throughout this book…

After reading the book,“Changes, Changes” by Pat Hutchins we created a few of our own block pictures then used them to tell a short story…

The children were told to count out a certain number of blocks first and see what they could build with them. I noticed that the children preferred to build up with the blocks on their canvas while I preferred to lay the blocks flat on my canvas…

This led to a discussion on horizontal versus vertical.   I don’t think I would have ever planned a lesson on horizontal versus vertical but when you find those teachable moments where there is genuine interest, you will find that it is a good time to introduce new vocabulary to the children’s library of language…

This simple exploration of blocks on our canvas also led to a discussion on how people use basic shapes like our blocks to build all kinds of man made materials like the houses we live in.  One child concluded that “all roofs are actually just triangles.” …

After we spent a few minutes in discussion and building with blocks, we finished off our circletime by making a few simple AB patterns with our blocks.  The students in my class are quite proficient at making patterns with just about any object we use in our classroom…

Adding the blocks and canvases created a very interactive and interesting circletime experience and gave the children time to share their block stories or creations with each other….

In my next post, I will share how we extended our exploration of blocks into the writing and art experience too…

Available on Amazon

Links to Grow on

DIY Estimating and Counting Easy Block Puzzles from In Lieu of Preschool

Yarn Block Painting by Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, Oh My!

Sorting by shapes and colors by Crayon Freckles

Stamping with blocks from Teaching Two and Three Year Olds

A day of exploring carrots

“The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss is a wonderful book for young children and our class has enjoyed all kinds of carrot activities to follow up our latest reading of this book…

We began by reading the book during circletime…

Then we passed a real carrot around the circle to explore the smell, color, and texture….

To extend the book into our play,we explored carrots in the water table as we made some “carrot soup”…

 

We cut and weighed carrots over on the measuring table…

We wrote the word “carrot” and drew a carrot in our word book journals…

And we used some of our real carrots to practice printing in our salt tray…

We played a game that is like “Doggy, doggy, where’s your bone?”  Only we changed the words to say, “Rabbit, rabbit, where’s your carrot – somebody took it and hid it!”  One child would leave the group and hide his or her eyes, then a child in the circle would hide the carrot in his or her lap. We would all pretend to be hiding the carrot in our laps. When we would say the poem out loud, the child would come back and try to guess who really had the carrot.  It often took many guesses but by process of elimination, the children would figure out who had that carrot.  We used a pretend carrot for this game and the children LOVED this game…

And finally, we ate carrots for snack and created beautiful handprint carrots at the art table.  If you didn’t read my previous post on how to make a handprint carrot, then I invite you to hop back over and check it out by clicking here!

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Upper and lower case letters in the salt tray

My pre-k class has made some wonderful progress on their letter recognition and writing this year and one way we explore the writing of our upper and lower case letters is through this simple salt tray activity…

I already shared this salt tray before but to expand on the idea a bit, we added two squares of paper in each tray and invited our prek students to use one square for the upper case letter and one square for the lower case letter…

The paper that is in each tray is just regular construction paper. I did not laminate this paper because it makes the surface too slippery for the salt to separate clearly when the children are writing.  It works better on the plain paper.  We have used thesesame sheets of construction paper for many weeks now…

I set out cut-up sentence strips with upper and lower case letters on them.  The children simply choose a letter then print the upper case letter on one side of the salt tray and the lower case letter on the other side of the salt tray.  This is a very simple process and my pre-k students are very, very good at it…

Then they shake the tray to erase the letter and start again with a new letter…

After they are done, they pour the salt back into the box and at the end of the day I stack the salt box, scoop, and trays up until the next week. We have the salt trays out every Wednesday during our morning center time…

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By | April 25th, 2012|Categories: Letter Recognition|Tags: , , , , |4 Comments

Promoting communication skills in preschool

In my classroom, even the quietest children have something to say when you hand them a telephone. This may look like just a bunch of old phones to you, but it is actually one of the best ways to get kids talking, role playing, and using their imagination all at the same time…

I have been collecting phones off and on throughout the school year.  I started out the school year with only four phones but quickly discovered that everyone loves to talk on the telephone in my classroom so I have been adding to the collection when I happen to find a phone that someone is getting rid of…

There are days when my classroom looks like a preschool telethon.  I keep all the phones in a basket on one of our shelves and about once or twice a month, the children like to drag them out and play telephone…

As I listen to my students talk on the phone, I can hear a lot of their parents doing the talking. The children often even stand or use body language like mom or dad or they use language that sounds like mom or dad. I bet mom and dad have no idea how much their children are listening to and watching them as they talk on the phone…

But the best part of playing with the telephones is that everyone is talking. They are communicating. Sometimes, they are communicating with each other through some sort of role play…

And other times they are only having a conversation with their imaginations. I hear the children talking like secretaries, moms, dads, teachers, doctors, and other people or occupations that are familiar or interesting to the children as they talk on the telephones…

We also have a few cell phones (no batteries included) available for play. I will find the children having conversations in just about every corner of the classroom (even under the tables)…

Most of the time, I just observe as a child goes walking by me with a cell phone or cordless phone in hand while talking up a storm.  I rarely notice what is being said, but what I do notice is that the children are quite intense and focused on their imagined conversations. I do not interrupt them in the process.  Besides, my mom taught me that it was rude to interrupt someone when they are on the phone…

The use of telephones promotes all types of learning as well as growth and development. As the children play, they often use paper and pencils to jot down a few notes or they will dial a certain number many times until they can get someone to answer the phone. In other words, we have a little vocabulary, communication, dramatic play, pre-writing skills, number recognition, and fine motor skills all in action at the same time….

I am still on the look out for unique or old fashioned phones to add to my collection but I don’t want to discount the modern day phones because the modern phones and cell phones are what the children see the people in their world using. I want to be sure that I am doing my best to promote play with tools that are realistic in the children’s daily lives…