Ditching the Paper Newsletter

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Raise your hand if you send a newsletter to parents!
{raising my hand}

The importance of communication is huge.
If we want parents to work with us, we must communicate what is going on in the classroom.  Newsletters help us do just that.

In the past, I always created a newsletter on the computer, printed it out and send it home.  I also send the pdf in an email to parents.

It seemed to work at time.  Parents knew what was going on in the classroom.

Then, the last couple of years, this seemed to change.

I was hearing more and more parents saying, 'oh, I didn't read that' or 'i didn't know today was picture day'.

It wasn't for lack of trying.  I had sent the info home on paper and in pdf form in a email.

They just weren't opening it.  They weren't opening the backpack and finding the paper nor were they opening the pdf newsletter in their email.

It dawned on me why this might be...

Our society now is busiest it has ever been.  No one can keep up.  If I want our classroom information to be read by parents- I had to make it as quick and easy as possible.  So, I thought about how I like to receive info. It definitely wasn't in paragraph form.  Nor, was it in a pdf that I had to open on my phone.  So, I crafted an email that I myself would read easily.

Here's what I now do instead:
I put everything in email form.  I don't attach a pdf of the newsletter.  I just bullet point everything. This makes our news easy to scan.  I also bold and underline the stuff I do not want them to miss.

Yes, it's working.

This year, I relied on this type of newsletter and thus far and I have not had any uninformed parents.  It's been awesome.  But, I am aware that sometimes, we as teachers, run into a parent that just isn't going to engage no matter what we do.  But, hey... at least I tried!

Bonus... this bullet-pointed newsletter is much easier for me to write up.  Plus, I don't feel like it is a waste of time because it is actually getting read!

What types of things I include:

  • Upcoming Events: this is the first thing on my bullet-point newsletter.  I want to make sure my families are seeing these events (if nothing else)

  • New/On-Going Points of Importance: things like conference sign up, items we need in the classroom or reminders (like making sure the kids have gloves)

  • Current Theme: I layout our current theme and I bullet point some of the books we will read, activities we will do and center changes.

  • Ask your child...: Many parents mention how getting information about the school day is hard to do.  So, include an 'Ask your child' section with a question they can ask their child to spark conversations about the day. For example, 'Ask your child about the gingerbread cookie experiment we did.'

  • At Home: Here is a great place to bullet point 2-3 things that parents can help their child with at home.  It many be academic or simple self help skills.

Do you use newsletters?  Have you found simplicity is the way to go?

Share your opinion in this Facebook Post.

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?
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Process Art- Beyond the Paintbrush

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Do your preschoolers love painting?
Painting at the easel or the table is a core activity that preschoolers love doing.

Painting with paintbrushes is beneficial, but we, as early childhood educators can take painting a step further.

Move beyond the paintbrush and invite children to paint with unusual tools.
When children paint, they are opening a world of creativity by using their senses to create.  

When children are challenged with unusual painting tools, children must make choices on how to use the tools.  They predict how the tool will re-act and plan-out on their project within the constrains of their canvas.

That is a lot of problem solving!

On top of problem solving, painting with unusual tools makes those fine motor muscles adjust and adapt to get the desired result.

But, what kinds of unusual tools can we present to children to paint with?

Here are just a few ideas:

Take a look around your house or classroom... you can find lots of great tools!

Toothbrushes : much like a paintbrush, but the bristles are in a different location in relation to a traditional paintbrush.

Apples: cut them in half and apples make a hardy stamping/painting tool.  Potatoes do too!

Forks: utencils are great for painting because they already have a handle.  But, you can get different patterns and textures by using a fork!

Cars: anything with wheels- especially if those wheels have grooves!  This painting invitation is a huge hit.

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Squeeze Bottles: use lots of fine and gross motor muscles to operate and paint.

Corn on the cob: the corn cob takes a horizontal approach and two hands- promoting hand-eye coordination.  Rolling pins work well too!

Q-tip: a paintbrush without the bristles that makes perfect little dots.. need I say more!

Medicine Droppers: just water down the paint and get those fine motor muscles working.

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Want more ideas?

Why we Still Use a Calendar at Circle Time

Oh, circle time....
that time of the day that seems to be another one of those things that preschool teachers 'just do'.

But WHY?

I have really been pushing myself to be more purposeful in the classroom.  Which means, taking a hard look at some of the things we do as early childhood teachers that we have always done or that every teacher does.

One of these is calendar at circle time.

Many teachers are doing away with the calendar at preschool circle time because young children don't quite understand the concept of time in days, months and years.  We know this to be true because to a preschooler everything happened yesterday!  So, if children don't grasp the idea of time why on earth spend time doing the calendar together?

Here is my calendar WHY:

  • We are counting with 1-1 correspondence in a meaningful way

  • We are practicing counting orally to 30 or 31

  • We are moving with left to right, top to bottom progression

  • We are beginning to recognize numerals

  • We are exposing children to the vocabulary of days of the week and months of the year

  • When we mark special events on the calendar, we are helping children visualize a countdown to that event

  • We practice patterning

Overall, we are introducing the idea of what a calendar is and how it helps us, so that later when a calendar is present, children have schema for what is a calendar is.


Do you have a calendar?  Do you agree with the use of calendars at circle time?

Come join the conversation


Do you need a Patterning Calendar Set?

Check out this one!

How to get your Writing Center Rockin'

Writing in the Early Childhood classroom is important.

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Even though preschool writing may not look like traditional writing, it is an important part of the literacy process.

But, have you ever struggled with getting your preschoolers to go to the writing center?

Yep, me too. When given the choice, my traditional writing center with pencils, pens and paper was not too appealing when up against a sensory tub full of sand or a grocery store in the drama center.

My traditional writing center was just not cuttin' it.

The goals I had for my writing center are for children to get a writing utensil in their hand and make marks that are meaningful to them.  I want children to enjoy this experience and I want to throw a little fine motor in there too.

So, I knew- it's time to start changing it up!

My plan was to draw them into the writing center with new, exciting and different materials.  I knew that if I could draw their attention in, they would come and write- as a preschooler can- and my writing center goals would be met.

 But, what kinds of new, exciting and different materials can be added?

Here are just a few ideas:

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Start out simple...

Adding clipboards makes everything more exciting!  Clipboards are a tool children don't get to use too often, making them exciting!

Think beyond white paper...  envelopespost-it notes and index cards are also tools not available to most children on a regular basis- making them exciting and new.

Move beyond just pencils.  Ballpoint penshighlighters and smelly markers make interesting writing utensils for children to explore.

Then, start collecting more writing tools and activities...

Boogie Boards are a fun way to encourage writing, and it erases with a push of a button!

Wooly Willy is an old-school magnetic fun board.  I like it because it gets a pencil-like tool in children's hands and they make strokes to move the magnets inside.

Water Wow is a big hit in our classroom.  You fill up a tube with a paintbrush on the end.  You use the brush on the special cards- we have alphabet cards- and images and colors appear. 

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Need more ideas?

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