Pre-K Take Home Work

Hey teachers,

My school, like many of yours probably, is talking about the potential of shutting down. In the event that my school is to close for precautionary measures, our teachers need to have 10 days of take-home work ready for students. This is a bit stressful for all teachers, but it left me SO nervous about prepping materials! I finally came up with a plan and wanted to share it with you — as well as the materials that I have prepped!

First, I had to think of how our day was scheduled so that I could get the right amount of work to send home. Our day is filled with many small moments of learning, but I always plan for one whole group lesson and two small group activities each day. That makes it pretty easy — three activities for each day, 30 total to send home! Of course, literacy would include letters and sounds, and math would include numbers and counting. To make them engaging, I decided to create puzzles for each topic to count for the “whole group” lesson. Why puzzles? It is the most play-like activity that I could mass produce, is something that we often do in centers anyway, is low prep for parents, and can easily be differentiated at home.

Now for small group work, which is more focused. Last week, I printed Planning Playtime’s March Preschool Worksheets to fill in small group gaps while we complete our mid-year assessments. I am so glad I have this handy, because I was able to pull some pages from the pack that would work for my take home plans! Also, Michaela from Especially Education is super incredible and listed her Spring Cut and Paste pack as a Freebie on TPT to help out teachers that are going through this planning process too — I definitely will include some of those pages too!

To keep everything straight, I am making a little calendar with “assignments” (also so parents can sign off that they completed work that day) and numbered these worksheet pages 1-10 to correspond with a day to complete. Assigning work for each day is mostly for my planning — I want to ensure that the number of literacy and math activities are balanced — but also because I know that some parents may try to push their children to sit and do too much work at once if it is just in a packet. I know they mean well, but I don’t expect that in my classroom and want to ensure that the “workload” reflects our day as much as possible.

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Other things that I will send home are an alphabet chart, crayons, white board markers / erasers, a laminated paper for writing and name practice, and a Creative Clips coloring book by Krista Wallden (her Transportation book, since that is our current unit!).  I made a note to parents asking them to continue exploration of concepts through conversations and games (I Spy with colors or letter sounds or shapes, Simon Says with opposites, etc), and encouraged them to read with their child. Here’s hoping that in the unfortunate event that we close down, our students will continue to have fun learning at home!

If you’re in the same boat as me, you can grab aFREE copy of my number and letter puzzles here! They are very basic but will work in a pinch!

Happy hand scrubbing,

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All About Meals & Snack

Meals

Hey, teacher friends!

You know when you think that you have come up with a great solution to a problem but hesitate to do anything about it? I get that. I have that feeling so many times throughout the school year. You have probably noticed on Instagram and in past blog posts that when this type of dilemma comes up, I try to crowd source more information! For example, last year I needed to revamp my entire mindset and practice around meeting time in Pre-K. I love this online community of educators because, being a Pre-K teacher, I never get to interact throughout the day with grade level teachers. If I have an idea or struggle with something, I know I can take to Instagram stories to get some feedback from other early childhood educators.

Back to my latest struggle: an overwhelming feeling of not having enough time to get everything done this year. Sticking to a packed curriculum, trying to provide enough time to play, rushing through meals so we can spend more time in the classroom, and then balancing small groups, whole group lessons, AND centers? It is too much to do in just three hours! Thankfully, throughout this school year, I’ve been able to remedy some of those struggles, but meal times and snack prove to be the W O R S T. Just a little background: in our Pre-K program, I have two sessions – morning and afternoon. Each is three hours long, and each has a meal time (breakfast in the AM, lunch in the PM). I also have always had a snack time built in to our daily schedule, right at the end of the day.

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Gearing Up for Spring Cleaning with CCEI

Happy February! 

It has been a WILD time in Pre-K lately (though, tbh I think I could say that every month) and I am finding it so hard to keep up with it all: the 100th Day of School, Valentine’s Day, mid-year assessments, and the constant threat of inside recess. I am beyond ready for February break — I definitely need to rest and reset my tired teacher brain! Even though I absolutely love my littles and being in the classroom with them, the breaks allow me time to practice some intense self care that lets me be my best teaching self. Kind of like a little ‘spring cleaning’ for the teaching soul!

Though I am lounging and sleeping for 70% of my break, I do take the time to get some professional development and classroom planning done. The only difference with doing these two things during a break as opposed to during school is that they are on MY time (and are usually completed in my pajamas). During my February break, I am so excited to rethink our morning meetings in Pre-K, plan our Transportation unit, and check out ChildCare Education Institute’s catalogue of professional development courses.’

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What is CCEI? ChildCare Education Institute® provides high-quality, online training courses and programs, applicable to those who work in an array of child care settings, including center-based care, Head Start, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, after school environments and more. Over 150 English and Spanish training courses are available to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start Requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credentials. CCEI, a Council for Professional Recognition CDA Gold Standard℠ training provider, is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and is accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET)

CCEI is my go-to for professional development. Their catalog of courses is HUGE and covers a wide range of topics — basically anything a teacher could want and THEN some! Being able to complete courses on my own time is incredible, because I feel like my schedule after school  is always changing from day to day. I don’t have to worry about being at a certain place at a certain time! The courses themselves are easy to navigate and include high quality content that give practical advice –they get what it is like in a classroom of kids and the suggestions reflect the ‘realness’ of teaching!

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 If you’re like me and like to throw some cozy professional development into your “teacher soul spring cleaning” routine, I have found some CCEI courses that can hugely benefit you in the classroom!

CCEI954: Building a Team Environment 

This course presents guidance and strategies for increasing employee satisfaction and reducing turnover through strong teamwork and an appropriate organizational climate. Participants will learn about the benefits of teamwork and the importance of empowering their employees.

ADM109: Developing Leadership in Early Care and Education

This course examines what it means to be a successful leader in the field of early care and education (ECE) which includes after school or out-of-school-time care. While there are certain universal qualities to any good leader, regardless of profession, leaders in the ECE industry face some unique challenges and responsibilities that are not covered in typical corporate leadership books and seminars.

CCEI770: Making Time! Time Management Skills for Administrators

This course outlines effective time management skills for program administrators or directors. Participants will learn how to prioritize deadlines, set goals, and use time more effectively. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to clearly state their job purpose, list three types of formal and informal planning and create strategies for using time more efficiently.

NFS101: Nutrition and Food Service in Early Learning Environments

This course is designed to provide information to assist food service staff, caregivers and members of program leadership develop positive, healthy nutritional programs for young children. Participants will also gain a greater understanding of the requirements of the USDA Food Program and meal planning in an early childhood education setting.

ADM110: Technology and Social Media Policy in the Early Care and Education Environment

This course examines the impact of digital technologies, the Internet, and social media on the early care and education environment and offers recommended strategies and best practices for using various technological tools. Program policies are a central focus of the comprehensive course, with emphasis on crafting policies that best promote effective, high-quality care.

ADM100: The Eco-Friendly Child Care Center, Part 1: Green Lifestyle and Environmental Health

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of what constitutes an eco-friendly child care environment, with a major focus on the hazards of environmental exposure and recommended practices for maintaining a safe, healthy environment for young children.

ADM101: The Eco-Friendly Child Care Center, Part 2: Environmental Education and Sustainability

This course offers strategies for developing and implementing a sustainability plan at a child care center, including activities for promoting environmental awareness in young children and increasing family involvement.

PROF104: Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education

This course provides an examination of what it means to reflect on daily teaching practices and why it is an important practice. The course offers several models of reflection and reflective thinking strategies to help ECE professionals establish a reflective practice. Participants will also discover ways to plan for reflection when working with colleagues, children, and families.

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Easy to access 🗸

Wide variety of options 🗸

Practical information 🗸

Professional development certificates printed on demand 🗸

Take it from me, ChildCare Education Institute is the way professional development should be! If you’re not totally convinced, here are the hard facts:

  • 99 percent of students say they would recommend CCEI to others
  • Over 5 million online course hours completed
  • CCEI has graduated over 15,000 early childhood professionals from CDA and other certificate programs
  • Web-based coursework, available 24/7/365
  • 30 hours of new content added each year
  • IACET CEUs awarded for completed coursework at no additional cost

So, if you have a February break coming up or are thinking ahead to Spring Break in March or April, let ChildCare Education Institute help you tackle your teacher spring cleaning to-do list!

 

Happy resetting,

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[This post was made possible through a paid partnership with ChildCare Education Institute. Though I was compensated for my time, all thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.]

O is for Organizing

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This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

One thing that I have learned in my years of teaching is that you have to adapt your ways when needed. Sometimes you have to have flexibility with your coworkers or your teaching techniques, or even your lesson plans. One thing that has been ever-changing in my classroom is how I store center activities, read alouds, and lesson materials that follow our curriculum. I have tried different ways of storing these things and, even though it would work for me for a little while, the natural accumulation of more and more materials each year called for a change in my storage strategy.

For clarification, I just want you to know that when I say materials or center activities that I reference in this post, I mean printed materials and things that I have prepped from Teachers Pay Teachers. Games, manipulatives, and other physical materials are usually stored in my classroom closets. Storing those items has also been a work in progress over the years — I’ll be posting about that next time!

My two years of teaching, I would store materials for each letter in Iris Project Cases. They work very well and fit in my closet perfectly. They were pricey (up to $6 per case), but I bought a couple at a time when I found them on sale on Amazon or at Target and it took two years to get enough bins for what I needed. Eventually I had one case for each letter, and then at least an additional 6 for special themes or events.

For my picture books, I was hesitant to mix my own personal books in with the ones that I inherited with the classroom. My thought process was that if I were to move schools after a couple of years, I wouldn’t want to have to go through all the books. I decided to keep them in a separate spot, but because the shelving situation in my classroom isn’t ideal for books (built ins were taken out before I was hired and they were replaced with metal storage shelves), I kept them in crates.

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I decided that the classroom books would be best used the classroom library, since they weren’t the best quality and I wasn’t attached to them. I did need to sort them, though, and after trying to use paint stirring sticks from Lowes but not having it work like I needed, I bought the cardboard Ikea magazine boxes. I sorted the books by topic / curriculum themes, and loved how it worked out –I still use them to organize the books for our library!

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So, this was all working for a little while. But then our school needed to purchase a new Pre-K curriculum, which brought with it sooooo many new things that needed storing!

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I had bought rainbow plastic book bins but never had a great use for them. I eventually realized that I could get 8 (one for each curriculum unit) and sort the materials from the Iris boxes to the bins as I taught. I quickly realized that I would need double the amount so that I could have a separate bin for the unit books, too. After a little shopping spree and a year of slow sorting, I ended up with shelves fulled of color coded organized goodness!

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So, flash forward to last spring when I was in year two of teaching a new curriculum and merging materials in from the past one. The gorgeous rainbow bins were overflowing! I need MORE SPACE to store all this stuff, but I didn’t physically have any open spots in my classroom to house it all. After a loooong brainstorm, I decided that I could put my collection of books in the book bins and relocate the curriculum materials to the crates using hanging files. I gave it a test, and it was PERFECT! I added Astrobrights cardstock to label the files, color coded by week of course, and it was more than enough space to hold a whole unit’s worth of materials AND books. Now I am slowly reorganizing each unit as I get to them. This one looks a little messy filled, but I had only sorted by week and didn’t organize the materials for weeks 2-4 (I typically put each activity in a Ziplock gallon sized bag, but am excited to try plastic zipper envelopes soon!)

Ta-da! I keep the crates on the wire shelves until I need a unit. Then that crate lives next to my teacher table for easy access, and I can just pull one week’s worth of materials out at a time when I’m planning, rather than digging through an overflowing book bin.

Like I said, each of these tactics did work for me at some point, but I needed to change things as my collection of materials grew. If you’re struggling to find a way to keep everything in order, don’t give up! Sometimes just swapping the contents of bins you already have will make a huge difference!

Happy organizing!

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T is for Thanksgiving

[this post contains affiliate links]

What do you do when you have a two-day week and in between units? Phone it in.  Plan some fun, festive review activities and have FUN! I am taking this opportunity to finish up small group activities, read the Family books that we haven’t gotten to yet, and make some really cute Thanksgiving crafts! Here is a short round up that includes my two FAVORITE Thanksgiving activities from TPT, links to my favorite books in our classroom library, and a FREEBIE activity that I will use as review for my littles!

Activities

We traditionally have a two day week the week of Thanksgiving, so I have grown used to filling those days with crafty activities. Two things we always do are a directed draw and turkey hats!

I love directed draws in Pre-K — I never think my students can do them, but I am always pleasantly  surprised with how good they come out! The step by step directions are a great way to review lines / curves / shapes with this age group, and it helps them practice their fine motor skills! My go-to for directed draws is The Happy Teacher’s Palette. She has so many great drawings, and you can find her Directed Drawing Turkey here. The steps are clear, easy to follow, and perfect for the Pre-K age group. My tip for directed drawings are to use permanent markers, card stock, and clipboards to draw as a whole class and then let students paint with Kwik Stix or tempera paint!

Another must-do for my class is a turkey hat! I always use Teacher Laura’s Turkey Headband Freebie. It takes a lot of prep, but it is SO worth it! It isn’t too detailed, so littles can easily put it together (mostly) independently. I have also learned that they turn out best when you use sentence strips and AstroBrights paper!

Books

When I finally pulled the Thanksgiving books out for our classroom library, I noticed how dated they were and that they weren’t age appropriate for Pre-K. I also only had five Thanksgiving books, so I knew that I needed to put my Scholastic Bonus Points to use filling our shelves! You can see some of the books that I bought in my Amazon store — all in the ‘Thanksgiving’ list! My absolute favorite is Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson. We read it and then each child fills out a place mat with a picture of what they are thankful for. I laminate it and send it home for the holiday!

Freebie!

This post is short and sweet — hopefully like the week! If you are in the same boat as me, I hope these books and resources above help you out! As I mentioned, I am doing some review activities with my students since we will be between units and I wanted to share my letter matching activity with you! My students will match the letters that are on the feathers with the correct turkey. It is and easy, independent center that will keep them engaged while we work in small groups! Because it is a review activity, it only includes the letters that we have focused on so far: A, C, I, M, N, P, S, and T. You can grab your free copy of it here!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Holidays Around the World 2019

Note: this post contains affiliate links

It’s November. I am sure that many of you are gearing up for Thanksgiving, but I’m thinking even FURTHER ahead to prepare for December and all the holidays that come with it! Last year, I went posted week by week for the entire month of December, showcasing all the holidays that we celebrated and what activities we did for each one. Didn’t catch them the first time around? You can read about the Why & How here, Week 1 here, Week 2 here, and Week 3 here.

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Back to School with CCEI

I don’t know about you, but my Back to School To Do list was LONG. It took over a week of working each day to rearrange the furniture, set up all the materials, and label everything. All the prep work that goes into teaching before school even starts is incredible! When making my to-do list and planning for the school year, I always find a couple of professional development opportunities that I can complete. Thankfully, ChildCare Education Institute makes those items on my to-do list easy to accomplish! Their catalogue of online courses cover such a wide variety of topics that there is ALWAYS something interesting to learn more about! Best of all, CCEI’s courses fit into your busy schedule accessible 24/7/365. For example: at home, in between filling in your teacher planner and cutting out bulletin board letters (speaking from experience on that one!)

ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), the industry leader for online professional development, offers courses that cover the latest in everything from technology and STEAM to bullying, attention disorders and more. I have taken two courses through ChildCare Education Institute in the past: SOC103: Gender Bias and Stereotypes and CCEI122: Active Learning in Early Childhood. Recently, I took the course CCEI640: Creating a Multicultural Environment from ChildCare Education Institute, which focuses on the importance of teaching tolerance and compassion — something that I feel like is a prominent topic in today’s educational community. I always work hard to make sure that my students see themselves reflected in the materials and books that I have in my classroom, and teach them about other cultures. That is why I was really excited to take CCEI’s course Creating a Multicultural Environment to learn how to do this better. I was happy to see that teaching about other cultures and having the exposure to other cultures in a classroom is important, but I was surprised to learn that it is even more important to focus on how you teach it to students. I knew right away that I would be learning a lot from this course and that it would be beneficial to my teaching and students for the rest of my career!

This course provided me with so much new knowledge of culture, including great descriptions of the different sublayers of culture and the true meaning of multiculturalism. Through this course, I also learned about “tourist culture” and how this is a common way that multiculturalism is taught — something that I need to be more aware of in my own teachings! One of the most important things that I was able to take away from this CCEI course is the information about anti-bias education and how to create a “non-bias” environment. It was an amazing refresher for me as this new school year begins!

Don’t know where to start with your ChildCare Education Institute journey? CCEI has compiled a list of 10 trending topics that ECE teachers are studying today (that they wouldn’t have 10 years ago) and courses that

 

  • Trauma Informed Care: ECE providers work with diverse groups of students from all walks of life. Statistics show that 26% of children living in America will experience some sort of trauma in their life prior to the age of four. CCEI offers SOC108: Establishing Trauma Informed Practices in Early Learning Environments which focuses on ways to incorporate trauma informed practices into the environment and interactions with children.  
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can prevent instances of undesired behavior, increase focus and engagement and promote a feeling of ownership and empowerment for children. As an additional benefit, classroom communities tend to be more empathetic and kind. CCEI offers SOC106: The Value of Mindfulness in Early Childhood which explores calming and reflective approaches when working with young children. 
  • Spirituality: CCEI’s CHD109: Supporting Spiritual Development in Early Learning Environments is based upon the work of Deborah Schein, author of the book titled Inspiring Wonder, Awe and Empathy – Spiritual Development in Young Children. The course explores what spiritual development is and why it is important to overall development. Participants will also learn how to create moments within their learning environments that promote spiritual development in young children.
  • Caring for Allergies: Child food allergies are on the rise in the United States and continue to be a public health concern. CCEI’s CCEI119: Food Allergies in the Early Care Setting online course provides an overview of food allergies and basic safety principles to employ in the early care setting. Upon completion of this course, teachers will be able to provide a safe environment for children and staff who suffer from food allergies, identify the eight major food allergens, list the theories associated with the rise in food allergies and identify the importance of food labeling and packaging.
  • Dual-Language Learning: In some areas, non-native English speakers may make up the majority of a classroom. It is important for all early childhood educators to be prepared to meet the challenges of guiding a child toward English fluency while maintaining fluency in (and respect for) their home languages and cultures. CCEI offers CHD102: Dual Language Learning in the Early Childhood Environment to provide early childhood professionals with strategies and tools for helping young children develop language and literacy skills in English.
  • Attention Disorders: CCEI offers courses like SPN102: Attention Deficit Disorders to help child care providers understand the symptoms, subtypes and common treatment strategies associated with attention disorders. 

 

  • Diversity and Inclusion: CCEI’s CCEI640: Creating a Multicultural Environment online training course helps teachers define the goals of multiculturalism, plan and implement an anti-biased classroom, incorporate multiculturalism into learning centers and other classroom activities and promote cooperative social skills in diverse classrooms.

 

  • Bullying in the Classroom: Although bullying has been around for years, today’s teachers are more proactive about reducing bullying. CCEI’s GUI100: Bullying in the Preschool Environment online course helps teachers bring empathy and compassion to the classroom as a way of reducing bullying behaviors. 

As always, I was very impressed with CCEI’s course and I highly recommend you try it today. The website is easy to navigate and find the courses that you need (and want!) to take — they provide very in depth details of each course so that you know exactly what you will be learning! The courses themselves are organized, filled with valuable content, and well paced with mini-assessments after each section. I love CCEI because they are designed for working professionals and there isn’t any fluff in their lessons, they don’t waste your time and its content is highly beneficial. FINALLY, high-quality and accredited professional development made for ECE teachers!  Check out one of their free trial courses for new CCEI users today!

 

Why do I continue to learn through CCEI? ChildCare Education Institute® provides high-quality, online training courses and programs, applicable to those who work in an array of child care settings, including center-based care, Head Start, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, after school environments and more. Over 150 English and Spanish training courses are available to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start Requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credentials. CCEI, a Council for Professional Recognition CDA Gold Standard™ Comprehensive training provider, is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and is accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

  • 99 percent of students say they would recommend CCEI to others
  • Over 5 million online course hours completed
  • Graduated over 15,000 early childhood professionals from CDA and other certificate programs
  • Web-based coursework, available 24/7/365
  • 30 hours of new content added each year
  • IACET CEUs awarded for completed coursework at no additional cost

So, as we make our way through these first months of school, remember that there is always something new that you as a teacher can learn that will make a positive impact on your students. Also remember that when it comes to teaching today’s learners, ChildCare Education Institute has you covered with courses to keep you in the know!

Happy learning,

[This post was made possible through a paid partnership with ChildCare Education Institute. Though I was paid to share my experience with CCEI, the thoughts expressed are my own]