Get Ready for December!

December is a comin'! 

I love the Holidays, but man... the first part of December (before break) is stressful.

I start thinking of all the things I have to do....

√ parent gifts

√ themed centers

√ holiday parties

√ thematic units

Then, you also have your family and friends to shop and wrap for. Don't forget to put up the lights and the tree. There is also cooking and baking to do and Hallmark movies that need watching... all on top of the regular house chores and the chauffeuring of your own children to after school activities.

Exhausted yet?  Yeah, me too.

I honestly felt like I need a graphic organizer to map out all the craziness....

So, I created one.  Keeping myself organized is what keeps me sane. If you can feel me on that one - I'll share!

Click here to grab this 'December: Save my Sanity Preschool Teacher Planner'

*While you are there, click the green star  to follow the Lovely Commotion store!

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Assessing Preschool Math Skills

Assessments... I don't know about you, but that word makes me a little ho-hum...

Assessments drive instruction.  So, are they necessary in an early education program? Of course.  Even though assessments help me see a bigger picture... data has just never been my thang.  

Plus, when I think of the words 'testing', 'screening' or 'assessing' I think of bubbles, scan-trons (dating myself) and scores.  I never appreciated being reduced to a test score and I by no means want this for my students.  Academic learning isn't everything afterall.

But, even just the thoughts of testing make me want to run far away (and I loathe running). Probably because testing makes me think of the long, tedious, mind-boggling episodes of my youth.

Yeah... that ^ kind of testing was SOOOO not happening in my classroom.

Surely there is a way to make assessing students more 'play' friendly.  And it turns out there is- GAMES!

So, let me share with you some games we...

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Tips for Teaching Name Writing

Helping children to learn to write their names is one of the biggest topics I see questions on.

We want to make sure our students are prepared to enter Kindergarten knowing how to write their name, because let's face it - many kindergarten classroom don't work on that skill much anymore.

So, if your students are ready to start the name writing process, here are my BEST TIPS:

  1. Use golf pencils or crayons broken in half. They are a good size for little hands and will make holding them less tiresome.
  2. Start with the first letter alone.  This makes the start of formal handwriting a little less intimidating.
  3. Create tracing paths for the letters in the names using a yellow marker or grey (when printing). This allows students to see their stroke on top of the yellow/grey letter.  Ditch the dotted letters or letters with arrows- keep it simple.
  4. When moving past the tracing of the first letter, draw or print a square for children to keep their letter inside. This gives them...
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Sing It, Don't Yell It

There is one classroom management strategy that I can NOT live without.

When I was in college we had a lab school on site. I both trained and worked in the early childhood program there.  It was an amazing experience and I learned SO much.

It was such a serene place.  No one was yelling at the children to get them to behave.... which was a stark contrast to a daycare program I had to observe in for a research project...

At first I just assumed that since the teachers in the lab school were certified teachers, and the teachers at the daycare were not that this must be why one environment felt tense and the other not.

But, it took a trip to another daycare center to see what the real difference was.  See at this center, no one was yelling. No teachers were getting upset and it had the calm and serene vibe, just like the lab school did.  The teachers at this daycare center, did not have education degrees.

So, it was then I learned that the level of education the...

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A Curriculum Guide to Help You Plan

Does lesson planning make you feel  or  ?

You are not alone my friend.

You plan activities and lessons but if you don't have your year mapped out, you don't know which skills you are covering and not covering.

I had this problem.  Had great activities and lessons but I didn't feel secure that I was getting in all.the.things.  I may have done multiple patterning activities, but never actually planned anything around categorizing.  I was just flying by the seat of my pants... which wasn't a good feeling.

That is when I decided to map out my year.  Now, please don't get me wrong... just because I have a yearly pacing guide does NOT mean that it is set in stone. For one, things happen (like snow days and a national pandemic ).  But, also each class is different.  They have different needs, interests and strengths.

So while yes, I do map out my year - I consider it a working document.  It helps me plan and fit in all the things, but...

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STEM & Preschoolers - the WHY

STEM, STEAM, STREAM...  these acronyms are big buzz words in the world of education.

The idea behind STEM (science, technology, engineering & math), STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & math) and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art & math) is to educate students in these disciplines in a cohesive way (rather than singularly). 

The focus placed on STEM in the classroom is also due to a lack of people going to school for and getting trained for STEM-related jobs.

While the main reasoning sounds good enough for educators to take some time to focus on STEM, that's not why it is important to me and my preschoolers.

The biggest WHY I have in providing STEM opportunities for my students is Intellectual Learning.  

Lilian Katz (an awesome early education trailblazer) wrote about the difference between Academic Learning and Intellectual Learning in an article called Lively Minds.  

She explains Academic Learning as...

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Is it Time to Start Small Group?

Over the summer I shared my thoughts and ideas on small group learning in a 5-Day Preschool Small Group Series.  I shared 5 reasons WHY you should be doing small group, how to effectively group your small groups, creating a small group schedule, activities to do in your small group and tips to organize your small group.

But, today is all about the question: Is it time to start small group?

As the school year starts, our focus is on getting to know our new little students. We are teaching them procedures, rules and practicing routines.  We are playing with students to get to know them and helping children learn how to use the materials in classroom centers.

At the beginning of the year, these things are the most important things to be doing.  So important that I choose to not plan much in the way of small group activities.  I'd rather lay a strong foundation of relationships and expectations than have to do it all year long.

So, back to the question at...

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How to Use Circle Time Games

My preschoolers and I have been loving our Circle Time Games!  I love that my students are practicing important skills and the kids love that the games are fun.

What are Circle Time Games?

Circle Time Games are simple, quick and engaging skill-based games that you do with your class as a whole group during circle time.

^ That was a lot... let's break it down....

During each Circle Time I plan a game to play. The games are all based on a skill that preschoolers need to learn. We play that one game after doing our normal Circle Time routine (greeter, weather, well-wisher, calendar, etc.).  The games only take about 5 or so minutes to complete.  So, they were created to play during circle time and to review and practice important skills.

  

Are there enough games for the whole year?

Sure is!  Right now there are 3 Circle Time Game Packs: Fall, Winter and Spring.  Summer is coming soon.

The Fall pack has a set of games with a School theme and a set of...

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Bringing Literacy Into Your Fall Unit

Have you tried bringing a Literacy Unit into your Thematic Unit?
 
It's what I have been doing for the past year and I love it!
 
What makes a Literacy Unit different then just reading a book during your thematic unit? And why should you be incorporating Literacy Units?

Let's look at bringing a Literacy Unit into your Fall or Autumn Thematic Unit.

Many times when we have a thematic unit around fall or autumn we focus on reading themed books.  The books might revolve around apples, pumpkins, leaves, and fall in general.

We also bring that thematic flair to the art center by adding leaf and pumpkin cut-outs. Or, we bring Autumn into our sensory tub with leaves and acorns. We tote in pumpkins for the science center and we might even bring Fall into our Drama Center by creating a Pumpkin Patch

In addition to thematizing the centers, our lessons also focus on the theme at hand. It might be opening an apple, taste testing it and graphing. Or, it might be creating a...

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Analyzing Preschool Assessment Data

One day I was getting ready to do a whole group alphabet activity.  It was a simple 'swat the letter' game where you call out a letter name or sound and students take turns whacking the letter card with a fly-swatter. I was trying to decide which letters I wanted to focus on for this activity. I knew that I couldn't focus on all the letters of the alphabet because that would become too tiresome and I would let loose the ants in my kiddos pants.  

But--- which letters do I choose?

I needed to know, as a whole, which letters my students were struggling with the most.

That sounded like a data nightmare. -data is not my favorite thing, fyi-

But, now my curiosity was peaked.  Which letters on average were giving students trouble?  While were at it... which numbers, shapes and colors were learning curveball culprits as well?

So, even though -data is not my favorite thing- I made it work.  I created a template that can be used in Adobe Reader (free btw)...

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