Insecting It Out!

I am so loving being back in the classroom! It’s been way too long to do what I love.

This week my class and I are studing all about insects and boy have we been buzzing around for the past two days. We have collected and inspected and our room has turned into some great exploration stations! Below are some great ideas to do with your little bits. Of course, we are using caution with the real ladybugs, caterpillars and ants!

Ladybug Exploration Station

Spider Exploration Station

Honey Bee Exploration Station

Insect Sensory Bin

Itsy Bitsy Spider Sequencing Tray

Children use tongs to seperate the eggs (beans) from the honey (rice) for fine motor development. This tray (chip and dip)  came from the Dollar Tree for a buck!

Exploring for insects!

The weather here in Florida has been just right for bug catching, so today we caught three ladybugs, one caterpillar and put them into our bug containers. Just a reminder, no bugs were harmed during this process! What a way to start off SPRING!

Until next time…go teach the children!

My New Preschool Classroom

I have almost completed my new classroom. It’s small, cozy and so cute. Wanted to share with you all.

The classroom is still a work in progress, but we’ve come a long way in two days! It was basically bare when I moved in, so a lot of work has went in to what we have at this point. I still need to add a little rug to the homeliving area and a little window treatment among some other final touches, but I am glad to have gotten this far.

Your preschool classroom can be all you want it to be! It can be a place of great learning for early childhood children, so make it fit them. If something needs to be changed once they play in the space, then that can be done so easily. Always prepare your room with them in mind.

I love this room so far because it’s so cozy, inviting and warm. Like many of the cooks on the cooking shows say that they wish you have smellivision, I wish you had warm and fuzzy bloggerism!

Until next time, go teach the children!

Falling into Sensory Play

I love this time of the year here in Florida. We have the best of both worlds; cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon. I know it’s confusing for fashion, but for a girl that does not like cold weather, it’s my cake and pie, too!

It also causes a creative fever for teachers and so today my Taylor and I put on our sweaters and went exploring on our property for all things turning fall for a sensory box to add to my classroom. You can go cheap with these things and they keep kids exploring and engaged!

We started with a  cardboard box that held drinks and added rocks to the box.

Then we began to explore the back field where we began to find some things fallish. It’s hard here at this time of the year, but we found what we needed.

It doesn’t take long before our box is full and I have to stop myself from adding any more. If you are able to take your children on a nature walk to find all things fall, this is a great hands-on activity that teaches exploration, scientific thinking, classification and much more.
All in all my new sensory bin for the week didn’t cost me a thing except a beautiful walk in the yard with my daughter, which I’m willing to pay.
Keep in mind that sensory play is one of the most extraordinary tools you can use in an early childhood classroom. It is calming, focus-effective and introduces or enhances spatial awareness for children.
The end result is beautiful and I can’t wait to take it and share it with my little kiddos!

Moving in the Write Direction

A while back I had written about writing programs in the preschool classroom with the intention of following up and blogging just a bit more on the subject. After my trip to Tampa and presenting at One Goal Summer Conference, I am geared up and ready to write!

As we are quickly approaching the new school year (crazy, I know), as early childhood teachers we want to begin thinking on how we can build on what we have already done, make it better and engage the children with much more anticipation for learning. The key is your passion as a teacher and the difference you make is up to you. You have the power to change what is going on across your state, in your classroom and in the minds of your children and families that you serve.

The key to a successful writing-rich class is inspirational materials! What better way to motivate children to write than to inspire them.

I want you to understand that if you engulf them with print, access to materials and different mediums and the time to initiate, engage and complete, they will be great writers.

Writing is a process and if you want them to be able to write you must start with the scribble! Scribbling is the first attempt of object to symbol relationship. They may see a cat in their little mind and then write the word cat in a scribble. As they are thinking it, they will write it. They may even draw the cat (which you may not be able to see it) and then write it (again, you may not see it).

As they begin to go through the different writing stages, you will begin to see symbols forming into actual letters. You will be able to begin decoding their writing.

I lke to st bi alk
(I like to sit by Alec.)
Don’t take their scribbles for granted! This is the beginning of a beautiful writing experience.
Below are some pictures of activities that children can experience. Think above and beyond the paper and pencil when it comes to materials and think multiple mediums (rice, flour, beans, sand, etc.) and unexpected tools such as some of the ones you will see below.

cookie sheet micro scaffold for one child
Above in the pictures I have taken the blue rice medium, paired it with magnetic alphabet pieces, word family cards that they can use to spell out words and then write them down on their notebook.

 Here I have again scaffold the tray for one child: purple sand, red alphabet pasta, a notepad, tongs, tools, and a sifter for easy clean up. Here the children could use the cards to find words or just pick out letters.

I also want to share with you a secret! Anything can become a writing center and it can be anywhere in the room. Other than you standard, stationary writing center have mobile writing centers that can go anywhere in the room and even outside. This encourages more writing and more creativity from the children. Below I have taken a box from a computer keyboard that is very sturdy and made it into a mobile writing center.

I love the magnetic drawing boards. These are so inexpensive and you can get them just about anywhere. I like to pair them with other materials. Below I have paired them with cards and trays. This activity is scaffold for two children with two of each materials.

Another way to encourage children to write is to write letters to each other, family members, etc. We all know they like to write letters! So come up with creative ways to implement letter writing. Here I have used a Purex All In One detergent box stuffed with envelopes and used as a mobile mail box around the room. There are so many things that you could do with this in your classroom. Get really creative with getting the children excited about send some mail!

There so much more to say about writing, so I will leave you with these thoughts. Surround your preschoolers with materials in their classroom that they can’t resist. Be creative and have a well-balanced method of open-ended and teacher directed writing. Please don’t ever make children sit for long periods of time and be forced to write. You want them to come back day after day with a motivation and persistence to write. Go non-traditional, think outside the box and give them the support that they need to become successful writers.

Until next time, go teach the children.

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Tiny Tips for Little Bits

Last month I facilitated a professional development training that took me out of my comfort zone! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being in an infant room and I could stay in there all the day long, but to train others about infants was totally new to me. My thought was that all you do is play with them and nurture them and give them what they need throughout the day to be happy babies. From there, Tiny Tips for Little Bits was born!

Hey I can train on how to love them, feed them, read to them and all that good stuff. And so I did. Infant rooms are the heart and soul of an early childhood facility. This is where it all begins; where needs should be meet, where social stimulation should grow and where brains should have the fuel to take flight and soar.

An infant brain IS like a sponge, but it doesn’t always absorb everything. It can also miss out on many developmental learning opportunities if not feed the right stimulation. Did you know that if an infant has poor stimulation to an event, that it’s brain may not choose to experience that stimulation again? Say for instance, if a baby is not properly nurtured during a feeding time-is mistreated or abandoned during this time-the infant could eventually not show a positive reaction to feeding time. What if that infant is never loved and cuddled with? Is there a possibility that infant will not choose to be affectionate? The brain is a mystery at times, but the one thing we do know is that if you have negative experiences, it’s most likely you will react negatively to those same experiences in the future; infant, child, or adult.

That’s why as teachers, caregivers and parents we understand the importance of infant development and choose to give those babies experiences that nurture them and allow them to progress physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.

I had the most fun during the workshop and it was an on-the-floor workshop! Where else would you train infant teachers? I think my theme for the night was how to entertain and teach infants with a bag. Teachers were amazed at the difference a bag made when it came to story time and what fun homemade finger paint can be.

I demonstrated a story time with the teachers showing them how to peek an infant/toddler’s curiosity with a story in a bag. By putting the objects into a bag along with the book, it supports the curiosity of the infant/toddler. If you have crawling babies, this works wonders!

Always use the same bag for each experience (i.e. story time, play time, etc)so that they become conditioned to know what is about to happen. Have enough objects (puppets, babies, stuffed animals, rattles, etc.) to hand to each infant. You want them to know that as you read, they will get to hold something. This give them the ability to be involved in the story, not just getting read to.

Have a song that you sing to gather them to the quilt (I think you should always have a quilt or something for them to gather on, otherwise it’s wide-open space). The quilt provides spatial awareness. Then as they begin to gather, ask about what is in your bag and then begin the story telling process.

You want to first peek with curiosity by changing your voice and asking, “Ohhh what’s in my bag today?” Gestures and voice tone go a long way to get the attention of children.

The importance of having an object for each child is to introduce and nurture the concept of self regulation. Children who know that they will get a turn will self regulate until their need is meet. By beginning at the infant stage with self regulation, you are preparing them for developmental milestones that they will encounter over the next few years. Social abilities thrive on self regulation and when a child can self regulate they can have many more successful learning experiences.

Every step from an infant room to a prekindergarten classroom is vital to the success of a child. It’s very important for teachers to see and understand that experiences should begin in the infant room and those experiences should be a continuum for years to come.

You will make many impacts as an early childhood teacher, don’t you want those impacts to bring a smile to the face of a child…

Until next time, go teach the children!


Coming In July, Early Childhood Consulting for North and Central Florida

Starting in July of 2011, PB&J Preschool Consulting Services will be up and running and ready to serve the early childhood community of North and Central Florida.

PB&J will specialize in helping early childhood centers reach their full potential for quality care. Services include, but are not limited to: learning environments, room arrangements, child assessments, playground assessments and implementation, in-service professional development training, assistance with QRS, portfolio development, and much more.

Visit the “consulting services” tab for more information. Feel free to email me with any questions that you might have regarding what I can offer to you. Consultations can be personalized for your specific needs.