freebies

Planning Preschool Small Group (free planning kit)

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Do you assess your students progress throughout the year?
Assessment is a common practice that helps educators see the progress of student growth and also see where more support may be needed.

Have you put your assessment results to work?
Much of the education world is focused on assessments.  From computerized testing to state testing to school district/center requirements- assessment is just a way of life for teachers.

While assessment may seem long, extensive and sometimes exhausting we have to remember WHY we assess in the first place.

Watching the growth of a child throughout the year is one of the biggest rewards a teacher can get.

But, what if our assessments show that some of our children need a little extra support in certain areas?
Our job is to provide that support, of course.  But, what is the best way to do this in a child-driven, child-centered approach?
 

My students thrive in a play-based classroom environment.  I see this in day-to-day observations and I also see it when it comes to assessment.  But, sometimes I have students who are just not quite there yet.  The reasons could be many...but, it is my job to help my students anywhere they need...

So, enter Small Group Time.

It is a time for me to spend with those children who need extra support in a certain skill.

But, what do we do during small group time?
Here is the important part for me.... we could do worksheets, flashcards or drill and practice.... but we don't.  We don't because I understand that this is not the best way children learn.  So, what do we do?  We play games and do hands-on activities. Simple right?  Well, I do choose the game/activity based on the skill we are working on, but I try my best to make it a hands-on, non-boring activity.

How do I know which students to group up?

This is where your assessment comes in. Take a look at your class as a whole.  Is there an area that all students are struggling with?  If so, some extra attention to this skill during whole group time would be beneficial.  But, most likely you will have a couple students that need extra practice in a certain skill.  For example, you may have 3 students who need support in naming numerals.  This would be a small group.  These 3 students meet with you to play games and do activities to practice numerals.
 

Here are some other tips when it comes to small groups:

  • Keep your time-frame flexible: some children may not be able to attend to the task for more than 5 minutes.  Take this into account.  Making children push farther than they are comfortable with might make them resist this small group time, which is not the goal.

  • Don't lock children in.  Groups are fluid. Some children may grasp the skill focused on in the small group faster than others.  Pulling them out of that group, may be necessary to keep them from getting frustrated or bored.

  • Keep a log for each small group to note the skill, activity and progress of students. (free one in the planning kit below)

  • When it comes to what other children are doing... having small group time during free play is the best option for me.  Sometimes this can make children want to hurry through the activity to get back to what they were doing.  This is understandable.  We have two free play times and I always do our small group during the second free play time, as this seems to alleviate this problem.

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Need more tips?  Would a small group log be helpful?
Download your Small Group Planning Kit (it's free)

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4 Lesson Plans you Need for Your Play-Based Classroom

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Oh yes, Benjamin Franklin, you got it.

When we don’t plan out our intentions in our classroom, we can easily miss the mark. Being intentional and goal-driven when planning is the key to being successful. Ever feel like you are just picking up activities from here and there with no clear path of where or what you are doing?

You might need to get your plan on!

Here are the 4 Lesson Plans you NEED for your Play-Based Classroom (and a free printable)!

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#1 : Circle Time Preschool Lesson Plans

Circle Time isn’t always a time that teachers think to plan. But, without planning circle time, you might find that you aren’t sure what to focus and what you have focused on. Planning circle time is quite an in-depth process, so much so that I have a free webinar and a course developed to help teachers plan this time to be a successful as possible.

Here are some of my top tips:

  • Shake it up! Don’t let your circle time get boring… if circle time is boring, children are not engaged and learning isn’t happening. Don’t just do the same ol’ songs, and activities each day.

  • Consider what goals you are actually trying to meet with this time. Can you break those goals into two groups - core/everyday & add-in/just for a short time ? This may help you plan out what skills you might change out throughout the year.

  • Less is more at the beginning of the year. Plan only a quick and easy circle time at the beginning of the year to help students build stamina. Later in the year more things can be added.

#2: Whole Group Planning

I love whole group time! Our class comes to the carpet area and learns together as one whole group. To plan this I consider several different types of activities:

  • Read Aloud (each one of my whole group plans contains a read-aloud)

  • Activity or Game: this might be a sequence or re-telling activity based on the read aloud. Or, we might do a class game, song, movement activity or experiment.

Whole Group Planning Tips

  1. Consider the amount of time that your students can sit at the carpet before becoming restless and plan activities and read-alouds accordingly.

  2. Make sure your activity is engaging and involves student interactions. Students will quickly become bored with your activity if they are not contributing in a hands-on way.

#3: Small Group Planning

Small group time can be conducted many different ways. In our classroom, we have small group learning time during our free play center time. Doing it this way allows us to pull just a couple of students to work on skill specific activities or participate in a open-ended art invitation that is easier done with only a couple of students at a time. To plan this time, I consider several different options:

  • Open-ended art invitation: is there a process art invitation that I want to set up that needs teacher assistance?

  • STEM challenges: some STEM challenges require smaller groups and teacher assistance

  • Assessment: do I need to pull one student or a group of students to complete an assessment?

  • Skill-Based Activities and Games: after assessments there may be a students that need a little extra practice in a certain skill. I can take this time to work with those students in a fun and engaging way.

  • Name Writing: we do not do sign-in books (you can find out why here), so I take time individually with each student to learn the correct strokes needed to write their name.

#4: Center Activities Planning

Planning centers? In a play-based classroom, much of the focus is on learning through play in centers. So, we must carefully plan the things we want students to learn in these centers. To plan centers, I list out all my classroom centers and list any changes/additions being made to the center that week.

This does NOT mean that I completely change up a center- we still have ‘core’ materials in each center and what I add each week is in addition to these core materials. For example, our block center has core materials like blocks, cars, animals, etc. But, during our Dino unit I make sure to add toy dinosaurs and during our All About Me unit, I make sure to add blocks with student pictures added.

Here are some of the centers I plan and the changes I consider:

  • Art Center: stamps, stickers, stencils, paper shapes, foam shapes different painting materials, different canvas materials (different types of paper, foil, wax paper, etc.) based on our current theme or season.

  • Block Center: consider adding materials that students can build with or use as building accessories that reflects the current theme or season.

  • Science Center: we change up our science center every month - you can learn more about what we cover in my Science Center Kit.

  • Sensory Center: this center gets completely changed out based on the theme. For example, during our Winter unit, we use white rice, fake snow and polar animals. When we are in our Thanksgiving unit we use dry beans, craft feathers and little acorns.

  • Library Center: each theme we add a different set of books based on the theme. We also have a tub of ‘favorite’ books that children love to read over and over!

  • Math Center: we like to add familiar games that we have planned during small group into our math center for students to play independently. We also like to change out puzzles, manipulatives and tools.

  • ABC Center: we like to add any alphabet games we have played through the week. We also like to change out the manipulatives to keep it fresh.

  • Playdough Center: add/change cookie cutter, playdough tools and playdough mats

  • Drama Center: We ditched the ‘house’ area and re-create our drama center based on theme. Every drama center is created to encourage imaginary play, peer to peer relationships and each includes a writing component. You can read about some of our favorites: Winter Wonderland, Spaceship, Beach, Rainforest and Pumpkin Patch

  • Writing Center: add theme specific vocabulary cards and we change out writing center materials often to keep students engaged.

*Get the FREE Guide to Preschool Centers here!

Let’s lay it all out!

I have a FREE Preschool Planning Weekly Overview for you in the Resource Library!

 
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Fall Scavenger Hunt Freebies

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Here in the midwest - autumn has arrived!
We are gearing up for our Fall Fruit and Autumn themes - some of my personal favs!

One of our favorite activities at the start of fall is to head outside on a hunt for all things Autumn.  The children LOVE this scavenger hunt and what better way to introduce children to the aspects of fall than finding them in nature?!


We place our Fall Scavenger Hunt checklist on a clipboard, grab our golf pencils and jackets and head out the door!  We are all feeling very official with our clipboards as we explore to find the fall elements on the list.  The squirrel is always the one thing on the list we struggle to find.  Turns out squirrels run away from super excited fall hunting preschoolers - who knew ;)

Once we have found everything on the list, I have students find several of their favorite fallen leaves to take inside.  They clip the leaves onto their clipboard.

Now that we are inside, we create leaf rubbings by placing the leaf under a piece of paper and rub a naked crayon over them.  You can really see the veins in the leaves - very cool to see and talk about.

Then, I take those leaf rubbings and bind them into a book, using the 'Our Leaf Rubbings Book' cover.  I put it in our classroom library and let children explore the rubbings at the literacy center during center time!

This is such a beloved activity in our classroom, so I wanted you to share the printables needed with you, so you and your kiddos can enjoy it too!
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Get your own copy of the Fall Scavenger Hunt and the Leaf Rubbings book cover for free!

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Helping Beginning Readers- Decoding Strategies

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Learning to read is not an easy task!  Just ask any primary teacher and they will tell you- the English language isn't always easy.  As a parent of a now beginning reader, I am thankful that I have a degree in Reading and Literacy and experience teaching reading first hand with first graders.  Truthfully, without this knowledge I would feel lost!  So, I can only imagine how parents feel that are told to just have their children read nightly.  It is just not that easy.  So, I created this graphic to help my fellow parents help their new readers.  Many times these strategies are called decoding strategies, ya know to help children decode the words they are trying to read.

Click here to download your own copy of these decoding strategies.

reading decoding strategies

Get your Lips Ready: Focus on the first letter, getting your mouth ready with the first sound.  We always start with the first letter in the word!

Look at the pictures for clues: Many parents I have come in contact with think that allowing their child to look at the picture is cheating and often cover it up.  But, beginning readers need all the tools in their toolbox- including this one.  Picture are an important clue as to what is going on in the story.  The picture combined with the first sound can give new readers a big clue to what the word is.  Please let them use pictures to aid in learning to read!

Look for chunks: Is there a part of the word that is already known?  Use that prior knowledge to help decode the word that is unknown.  For example, if the word 'and' was already known, then the word 'hand' could easily be decoded.

Flip the Vowel Sounds: If a short vowel sound doesn't work, try the long vowel sound.  It may not always work, but it is another tool in the reading tool box.  The English Language is confusing- kids need all the help they can get!

Re-read and Try Again: Once a child has stopped at a word to sound it out, try going to the beginning of the sentence and re-reading it.  Sometimes when kids are working on sounding out they lose what the story is about.  Re-reading can help!

Stretch out the Word: Pull the word apart and sound out or chunk each sound.

Hop over the Word: Sometimes, skipping the word and re-reading the sentence helps bring clarity to what the word might be.

Does it Make Sense?: Does what was just read make sense?  Sometimes, children will look at the first letter and just guess.  Most times, these sentences don't make sense!

I hope this has helped some parents out there!  Please let me know by leaving a comment below.  Also, please share this post to help other parents with newbie readers!