Wednesday, August 21, 2013

All preschool teachers have different ideas and things they do to help their day run a little smoother with the kids. Our day is filled with all kinds of different things going on and sometimes you need some help to get it all done. So this post is about all the things that we do in my classroom that help it run a little smoother for the kids and myself! :)

In my cabinet I have these sets of plastic drawers. I have a drawer for each day of the week and for my attendance book and lunch count papers. I like the drawers better than the file racks because if I have anything for the day that has small pieces then I don't have to worry about them falling out. I can put everything we need for that day in the drawer and it's all ready to go!
I love this idea! I have been using this for the past three years and it works out great. I use stretchy book covers that you can buy for cheap during back to school sales. I put one end of it over the chair and put their pencil boxes in the other side. It's a great way to keep their pencil boxes off of the table an easy for them to get to.

In my classroom I do not have any type of cubbie for them to put their stuff. I do have a rack to hang the backpack on though. Each morning my kids will come in and take their lunchbox and folder out of their backpack and put it in their cubbie. Whenever we finish our work they will also put that in their cubbie. It makes it very easy at the end of the day to grab up the papers they have and put them in their folder.

I can't tell you how many plastic shoe boxes I have bought over the past couple of years! I use them to store my center items and toys. When you work at a Christian school a lot of times you are sharing a room with church Sunday school. So each week I have to put ALL of my things away so that the church can use the room and then on Monday I have to put ALL my things back out. In order for my cabinets to not be a crazy mess I put each thing in a shoebox and label it with exactly what is inside of it. I will also label what letter the item in the box could be used for.
Example: "don't break the ice" game -Letter I for ice, Letter P for polar bear, Winter, Letter C for cube
I saw this idea posted somewhere on pinterest but I can't seem to find where I pinned it from to give them credit for this! It is a brilliant idea though. I simply glued tacks to the back of clothespins and then put my birds on the front. This way I can put their latest art work up on display right away and do not have to constantly staple them up!

These are my quiet critters. They live inside of their home which is this kleenex box. Quiet critters come out each morning while we are doing our morning work and watch they kids. Each one sits on the students name tag. They don't like to be touched or picked up though because it scares them. If you do a great job on your work and you do not get too loud and scare them then they share some of their candy with you that they have in their house. If you do get to loud though then they jump back in their box! The candy treat is just a small piece. I love these guys because it gives me a chance to check roll, do health checks, check backpacks, talk with a parent if they come in, and take lunch count (and yes all of this has to be done each morning) without having to try to get them to quiet down or sit down. 

This little potato head has been apart of my classroom for a couple of years. This was another idea I saw on pinterest at one time. If we are walking down the hallway and someone gives us a compliment then our line leader for the day gets to put one piece on mr. potato head. After he is all put together we get to have an ice cream party! The kids love this and always do their best to get a compliment! 

My sucker tree!!! My kids think this is the greatest thing. At the end of the day if they have stayed on happy face all day then they get to pick a sucker off of my tree! It's a big deal to get a sucker off of the tree and they love getting to choose their own instead of me just laying a sucker out for them.
So these are some of the tricks I use in my classroom to help my class through the day! It's things like this that really do help your day run just a little bit smoother!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Week one

Tomorrow will be exactly one week since school started for us! It doesn't seem like it has already been a week at all though. Things in class have been going very well. I really do have an amazing group of kids!
A lot of this week has been about learning the school routine and getting used to being in my class. We will continue to do that for the rest of this week as well. The kids are loving all the centers and are catching on pretty quickly to how to respect and play with the toys. In my class I want them to have fun and play but at the same time I want them to learn how to be respectful of the toys and how to clean up after themselves when they are finished. I always make a big deal about each toy and will show them how fun they are to play with but that we don't want to throw them down or step on them because then we won't be able to play with them anymore. I know mistakes will happen and toys will get broke at some time (they are only three) but I do not think it is okay for a child to purposely mess up a toy.
Our learning centers for this week all have to do with different colors. I will go around and play with them in each center and ask them "Oh this is a neat toy what color is it?" They will always look up at me and tell me and then go back to playing. I know a lot of people think that learning takes place during learning time while a teacher is teaching and the kids are sitting and listening but it's so much more than that for a three year old. You can tell them all day long that an apple is red but they understand and get it more when you give them an apple to play with, or let them sort apples in fine motor center, cut up apple slices and let them weigh them. In my class I do go over what we are learning during our circle time but the learning center time is where I believe what we are learning truly sinks in for them.
I have a cute example of a little bit of what I am talking about. I work at a Christian school and I love being able to share God's word with the kids in my class. I want our bible time in my class to be a time that the kids enjoy and not just me sitting and reading the bible story to them. For one they probably are not listening and more than likely they will not remember what I said after about two minutes. This morning we were talking about creation and how on the 1st day God created the light. I told them that God said "let there be light" and there was light. I then went on to ask if they thought WE could do that, so I went and turned off the light and let each of them have a chance to try to get the light to come on with just their words. Of course the light didn't come on and I explained that it didn't come on because we are not God and that only Gods words could make light out of darkness. They had a lot of fun with this and they truly understood the story. I didn't just sit there and read to them I involved them in what we were learning about. At the end of the day as we were talking about our day I asked some of the kids what they had learned that day. Without me even starting the conversation they begin talking about how God said "let there be light" and there was light. I asked one kid "why cant I do that?" he looked at me very seriously and said "Mrs. Stephanie you are NOT God and only GOD can do that". I knew at that moment that they got it. Yes that's a simple story and a simple statement but they had remembered from early that morning because they were part of the story and not just being told the story!
Teaching preschool is so much fun and honestly I would be completely embarrassed if anyone actually could see how ridiculous I probably look each day while we are in class. I make BIG statements when I talk by using my hands, I get down on their level, I exaggerate my stories and make a big production out of the smallest things, and always have some crazy dance moves and silly faces (that I refuse to let anyone else see besides my class) :-)  I love days like today though when I can walk away knowing that my kids learned something and most of all they had fun doing it!
**Next week is shapes! I'm excited to change up the centers some and see how they do**

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My classroom learning centers

I am so very excited to be able to share my learning centers for the new school year. I have spent a lot of time studying and preparing each of the centers in my room. I teach 3 year olds and so I don't have a lot of things out for the start of school. I allow plenty for them to play with but toys that are easy to play with and that I can teach with. The first two weeks we review colors and shapes so the items in my center will all be things that are colorful or involve shapes. I use my centers as part of my teaching so I want everything to flow together. A lot of these first few weeks will also be getting them used to learning centers in my room and how they work.

These pictures are on overview of my room and how it looks. A while back I had seen a classroom on schoolgirlstyle where she decorated with birds. I had thought of the idea before and loved how she made birds nest to hang from her ceiling. I went with the idea and incorporated it into my classroom. I made all the birds myself using scrapbook paper and a template that my husband cut for me. I made the nest out of brown tissue paper. My primary colors are blue and green.
 I love my footprints this year. This is a huge help when lining up to leave the room.
 These is my parents spot. It's just an area that I will keep information for my parents as well as a way for them to see what is going on in the week. The board area will also hold the monthly calendar and the lunch menu. You will also see my sucker tree that the kids get to choose from at the end of the day and our special Mr. Potato Head. I use him as a tool for walking in the hallway the correct way. If our class gets a compliment when we are walking down the hallway then the line leader gets to put a piece on Mr. Potato Head. When he is completely done then we get to have an ice cream party! The kids love it!
This is my learning area. I used a lot of resources off of teacherspayteachers. It is a great site! It is important to note that my learning center is facing away from my center toys. It is way too distracting if they are sitting in the middle of a center while you are trying to teach.

An overview picture of my learning centers. You will see each of my center signs. I made them all myself out of foam board and duct tape for the border. I used vinyl letters to make the words. My centers are spaced apart giving each one plenty of space.

Fine Motor Center: In this center I have placed toys that are colorful and have shapes.
-Mr. potato head
-paper dolls
Science Center:
-magnet toys
-sensory bottles

Library Center:
-book to do with colors or shapes
-puppet are with small puppets

Block Center:
-wooden blocks
-little people
-playground and school play set
-tool bench

Art Center:
-color stickers
-colored pencils
-colored paper
-trash can for sticker pieces


Dramatic Play:
-this is regular home living toys
-cooking utensils
-plates cups
-food items
-kitchen clean up items


I really do enjoy setting up each of these center. I am excited to show my class the center and be apart of learning all sorts of new things through the year.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What is a learning center?

I have worked with preschool aged children for 12 years and have seen many different classrooms with learning centers. Most of the time however preschool classrooms are not fully taking advantage of how a learning center can benefit your classroom if done the right way. A learning center is NOT an area with random mismatching toys on a shelf. It is NOT toys thrown in a large basket that just get dumped out. If you walk into a lot of classrooms you will see a teacher sitting in a chair watching a room full of 3 year olds play. More than likely it will be very chaotic and loud. Some kids may even be fighting because there is too many trying to play with one toy or even becoming aggressive with the other kids because they are tired and bored of playing with the same toys for the past 2 months.

However if you walk into a classroom where learning centers are set up a bit differently you may see a different picture. Instead of a teacher sitting in a chair simply observing her class you will see a teacher who is actually in a center with the kids playing right along with them. You see what most preschool teachers don't realize is that the kids playing in your room will listen so much more if you are on their level talking to them instead of standing above them and talking at them. You will see a room that has kids playing and having fun but in a calm atmosphere. The kids are each in an area playing with toys that go along with what they are leaning that week and are also neatly organized for each specific center. If a teacher is willing to make the extra time to put this kind of set up in place it will make a huge difference in the class. The thing is it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to do this. It just takes doing a little rearranging of your room and some organizing of the things you already have.
Most classrooms have at least 6 different centers but it's recommend to have 7. The basic centers are the same in almost every classroom:
Block center-this center will have wooden blocks and different things that have to do with building and putting things together. You can also bring in tools or cars with a track. I will also bring in
different things such as a barn or animals or maybe a gas station depending on what we are learning
for the week. It's always good to rotate your toys out but make sure you always have the blocks out.

Dramatic play- a lot of the time this is known as home living center. However since I do change this center out quite often I prefer dramatic play. This center is a place for kids to really use their imagination. They can pretend to be a mommy or daddy or cook a gourmet meal for their friends, it's also a doctors office, animal hospital, barbershop, bakery, grocery store, and anything else we can imagine. I will bring in the different toys that encourage the play but I love watching them play and really become the part!

Library/book-this center is one that is pretty easy and often gets overlooked but you really can do a lot with it. You obviously want to have books for them and a comfy place to sit and read. Be careful not to overload the book center. You want just enough books out for them to have plenty to choose from but not where they are just getting thrown around. In addition to books you can have a puppet area and reading boxes.

Art-this center is a chance for kids to be free to create whatever kind of masterpiece they would like. Our art center will have markers, crayons, scissor box, colored pencils, paint and numerous odd supplies. Of course I don't have all of this out at once and I make sure they know how to use them.

Science/nature-this center can be a lot of fun. One of the most popular for this center is magnet play. Sensory bottles are also great. Bringing in plants or a small animal to observe is also great! We have also done experiments in the center

Fine motor/manipulative-this center is a chance for kids to work on their fine motor skills. Anything that helps them work with their fingers is great. Examples are matching items using tweezers! Sorting bears, lacing cards, stringing beads are great ideas as well.

ABC-this is an optional center that isn't normally in centers. Its a lot like the supplies in fine motor except they are all alphabet related

Computer-this is also optional. Not all centers have access to computers but it can be a great tool if it is.

When choosing your centers make sure you choose ones that you will easily be able to work into your classroom and the age that you have. I wouldn't put scissors and open paints in a room full of young 3 year olds. Make sure it is all age appropriate!

Our school will be starting next week so I plan on taking pics of my room for this year and how I have arranged each of the centers and organized them.  I absolutely love this time of year. I love the fresh new feel if the room and how excited the kids are!!! I can't wait to start the new year with alley new kiddos!!!!

Where to begin...

I wanted to start this blog as a way to document all the different activities that we do in my classroom through the year as well as different things I have learned that help in a preschool classroom! I am very passionate about learning centers in preschool classrooms and think they are a vital part of the learning day. I want to share different ideas for learning centers and how to coordinate them along with your teaching. In years past I have had trouble finding center ideas that go along with what I am teaching for the weeks so I started coming up with my own ideas. In my classroom I will switch out the center toys to incorporate our weekly lessons. Through this blog I will share what we are learning for the week and what's in each of our centers. I hope if you are a preschool teacher that you will find some of the ideas helpful!