First Week Back! (Freebie)

Whew! My first full week is behind me! It was a BLAST! I cannot begin to tell you much fun it was!
 I have to admit that being able to get down on the floor and just play helps a lot with the stress! I've been caught in the midst of singing, dancing or playing with blocks more than once this week by other teachers, admin and parents. I'm not embarrassed at all, just loving having fun!

This first week we practiced procedures, a LOT. I mean, we went to centers, played for a bit, then cleaned up and came back to carpet to talk about it. Rinse and repeat. By the end of the week we were doing 20 minutes in a center and clean up is going well too! Except for block center. I'm still trying to figure out how to make cleaning up that center go well. The OCD teacher part of me wants all the blocks stacked by size and shape while the other part of me says forget it, that takes too much time, lets just dump them all in a bin. Which way do you store your blocks??

I have to say, we are aces at hallway procedure. Maybe because we are still haven't grasped walking and talking at the same time? I don't know, but goodness, my class is quieter in the hallway than any of the older kids! We are very proud of ourselves, and I know in time we'll also figure out how to walk on the correct side of the hallway - I'm thinking of going in this weekend and putting down masking tape. Do you have anything on your hallway floors to help keep a straight line?

One of our favorite activities this week was our "magic" water color name painting. We did this activity after reading Chrysanthemum and graphing how many letters were in each of our names. I had written everyone's name their paper with white crayon and they used the water color paint to reveal it. They needed a bit of help to really cover the page in color rather than just dab it here and there, but when they realized that letters were showing up they were amazed. I felt about 10 feet tall as they were gasping and giggling at each letter revealed!

We're also in love with our Pipe Builders from Lakeshore Learning.. Color me astonished, I had no idea that these little babies would be such a big hit. Some of my kids like to build straight up - building towers taller than they are, while some build convoluted mazes.

This week I received my gift from the Reddit Teacher 2014 Gift Event. I received a classpack of Crayola Crayons! I am so excited! How cool of a gift is this?!

Some other random bits of fun:

I loved listening to these girlies with their puppets. Right now we don't have our puppet theater out, and I only have our people puppets on display right now, so that the kids can ease into learning how to play at this center and tidy it up correctly. This proves the "less is more" theory - even with limited puppets, the kids have a blast and their conversations are priceless!

 Here are two of my sweet friends using magnifying glasses to examine the floor. Our custodian keeps it pristine, so they didn't find much, but I loved seeing them slither on their bellies as they talked about what they might find!

Here are two of my kiddos at Reading Center which only opened on Friday. I have to put the cds in and find the matching book, so I wanted to make sure the other centers were well established before opening one that would take some teacher help.

I now have proof that there is no germ like a pre-k germ! After 3 years of never getting sick, I have come down with a head cold! I'm talking fever, stuffy head, runny nose and general crappy feeling. And of course Sullivan caught it too! We're hoping its a quickly conquered bug!

Of course, this cold put the kibosh on my weekend plans of organizing my garage and getting things back in order after the BTS craziness. Not to mention I promised that we'd open our Sand & Water table center and I still haven't decided what to put in it first. I have all sorts of great ideas for it for throughout the year, don't get me wrong. I just haven't figured out a beginning-of-the-year-less-is-more-easy-clean-up idea for starting it up lol. What do you put in your Sand table first thing?

I'm hoping to be over this cold by tomorrow so I can share my plans for next week with you - I have a bunch of cool things I want to do, if I have the energy to get them sorted tomorrow!

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering about the ice cream game seen in one of the classroom setup photos I shared. It was a freebie I made a loooong time ago! I got the little bowls at the Dollar Tree, and had to make a game to match. 
Like many of my early freebies, I had it up on Scribd, but I just put it in Google Docs for convenience! You can grab it here.

Classroom Set-Up Pictures!

Here it is - finally finished! My room makes me so happy every time I walk in my door! This is a picture-intensive post, so I'll try not to add too much text (but forgive me if I go on and on - I'm really proud of my room - everything in it is completely me!)

Here's the view from the front of the room. I tried to keep everything kid-height since I'm teaching pre-k this year.The caddies on the table match the colors on my carpet so the kids know which row to sit in (except orange is yellow - I couldn't find an orange caddy, but I love these so much I don't think I'll ever change!)

 When the kids came to our Meet The Teacher the night before our first day, they found their star on my door. That was their first hint that we had an outer space theme going! Each time we enter or leave the room the kids try to find their star, which is helping with name recognition!

Do you see the focal point of my room?! That gorgeous Solar System Space Canopy in my Reading Center! Everyone who comes in immediately comments on it, and the kids gravitated towards it first thing!

Here it is close up! I received the Space canopy, blue pillows and inflatable space shuttles from Oriental Trading Company!

The kids love it! The pillows are washable, so I don't have to worry about them harboring any "friends" and the canopy is just the right size for3-4 children to hang out and read together.I'm currently hanging it from my ceiling, but I have a plan in place to mount it from the wall kind in case the Fire Marshall objects.

Doesn't that corner look so inviting?!

Here's the view of the opposite corner - our Pet Center in the back right, our Listening Center along the back wall and our new Lego Table!

I have a lot of books on cd that have felt pieces, so I placed a felt board at Listening Center so the kids can follow along with the pieces as they listen. Those number posters are from my Outer Space Classroom Poster Pack!

Here's our Pet Center, with our hermit crabs! The kids are fascinated by them! I'll post more about them soon!
Notice the clothespin on the bottom of the sign? It helps me manage how many kiddos are at each center! I put 2-4 stickers on the bottom of each center sign depending on the maximum number of kiddos I wanted at each center. Each child places their clothespin on a star when they go to a center. If all the stars are covered, the center is full and they have to go to a different one! The signs all say what the child is learning at that center - great for parents and admin who may not know the benefits of "play"!
This is our far wall, with ancient blinds that no longer open. Perfect for hanging my alphabet line at a more child-friendly height!

I used clothespins to attach the Alphabet cards to the blinds - now I can remove them easily - in case I want to spotlight a letter during a lesson!

Here is the opposite side of the room - complete with my husband who gave up a Sunday afternoon to come put that horseshoe table together for me! Notice that our easel, sand & water table and art cart all have wheels? In order to maximize our tight space they're usually pushed against the cupboards, but are pulled out for center time!

We have our color posters by the sink.
Do you see where I spilled water on part of my clip chart and the ink bled? It was right before our Meet The Teacher event and I wanted it on the wall to explain to parents, so I laminated it and threw it up there anyways. Amazingly, it's not bothering me as much as I thought it would!

Here is our Block Center - the rug was $15 at Ikea! Right now they're only playing with the train, until we get used to doing Centers and I pull out more items for them to play with. The train was also an Ikea purchase! Just $14!
This is our Dramatic Play Center - right now it's a kitchen - with just a few dishes for the start of the year. I'll add food once we get our procedures down! Dolls will come out after that. The wooden table and chairs were also from Ikea - $20 for the set!
This is our Writing Center. Right now we/re just using dry erase markers and boards. Don't you love the rocket ship boards? I was so excited to get those since they matched my theme AND were on clearance at Learning Resources. Later on we'll pull out the paper, cards, pencils, smelly markers etc.

Our Science Center is just 2 shelves for now. I got some great magnet kits for later on. Right now the kids love looking at everything with the magnifying glasses! Those birds play actual recordings of real bird and I have a dried deer antler on the top shelf too.

This is our Math Center. This darling is making a pattern with mini erasers.
Also at Math Center at these adorable ice cream bowls and pom poms. We're practicing counting and color recognition with them. I have eaten about 100 pretend bowls of ice cream and its only day 4!

Right now we only have our easy puzzles out - and they're still hard for some of my younger kiddos. I do love that my two Shure brand puzzles each come with a book!

For the first few days we didn't have internet access, so these Jack Hartmann videos saved my sanity. Since I'm in a new room I have a new laptop so I have nothing downloaded on it yet - these videos were our brain breaks while doing the inevitable waiting as schedules changed and things like lunch ran late!

How cute is this?! This is my son Joshua, showing how I took my pre-k kiddos' picture on the first day. The background is an Outer Space tablecloth and he's wearing an Astronaut Helmet , also from Oriental Trading!

Whew! Lots of pictures, right? I tell you, I am so happy with my room, and my little pre-k kiddos are absolutely precious! It's only day 4 but I can already tell we're going to have a blast this year!

(Disclosure: I was provided products by Oriental Trading Company in return for my honest review. This review is based strictly on my opinion. Others may have a different opinion or experience with the products listed above. I was provided the samples free of charge by the company and I provided my honest opinion. No other type of compensation was received for this review.)

Setting Up For Back To School

Well, it's here. The day I have been dreading eagerly anticipating all summer. Teachers start back tomorrow, doing four days of professional development and then Friday the students start back. I've been trying like a crazy woman to get my room ready and I had a couple of strikes against me from the start:

My room. It's small - like really small. So small I didn't know how I would fit all of my stuff in it. Then the district bought me more stuff. Which was good cause I needed it, but bad cause the room is small. It's also old. People, I'm a bit very shallow. I like shiny, new things. My room I just moved from was new - I was the first teacher in it, the kids and I kept it nice and even two years later it still looked new. It was large, it had tinted windows so I didn't need dusty, old blinds and we had great natural lighting. It had tons of storage. It was a dream room.

Well, the dream is over. I moved into an old, yucky, dirty room. A room with old, nasty metal blinds that can't go up and down any more. I'm the kind of person who is easily influenced by her surroundings. Put me in a nice room and I'm cheerful and raring to go. Put me in an old, yucky, dirty room and I get depressed. I asked for it to be painted over the summer and it wasn't. There was nasty contact paper on top of the shelves - and the edges were ragged and hanging down. I had nasty, ragged, hanging down contact paper edges people! I looked at that room and wanted to cry! How was I supposed to make this a fun, happy place for pre-k?!

Well, it took some doing, and I don't think Better Classrooms and Playgrounds is going to be putting me on their list of Top Ten Most Beautiful Classrooms, but it isn't an old, yucky, dirty room any more. This is because I had help:

 My daughter, Moira, stripped that nasty contact paper off, then my husband painted it for me - a nice, high gloss black that should clean well.

Sullivan unpacked and inspected all of my dinosaurs for me to ensure they all still remembered how to roar.

My district bought me a bunch of stuff from Lakeshore Learning - not everything that was on my dream list, but enough that it was like Christmas when I was opening all of those boxes!

Sullivan made sure each box was empty before we threw it away.

Moira and Steven even painted my bookcase to match my Space theme!

I have spent the last 4 days in my room - totaling at least 20 hours, cleaning, purging, organizing, dusting and reorganizing. I spent about an hour just unpacking my brand-new pre-k sized chairs:

 (yes, I did get Steven to come lower all of my tables lol)

I hung up my alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors from this pack today:

I'm waiting on a horseshoe table to be delivered, then I can finalize the locations of all my centers and put up my center signs:

I still have to cut out and laminate my clip chart:

I have to decide what to put in my Sand & Water table to start out the year.

I have to put my books onto the bookshelf once the paint is dry.

I have to put together some kind of Back to School packet for the parents and kiddos for Thursday night.

But, other than that, I'm ready for the school year to begin.

My room still isn't new, but it's clean now, and filled with a ton of fun stuff. Everything has it's place in the cabinets, and I learned that some of my stuff just isn't necessary. I'll share some more pictures later this week and I think you'll agree, my room is a cheerful, fun place for pre-k!

Who Lives Here? and Penguins Book Talk Linky!

I was at the Dallas World Aquarium this weekend with the family. In addition to their regular gift store, they had a small store with just books! You know I couldn't leave without grabbing some for the classroom!

First up, an adorable flip the flap book,  Who Lives Here? by Nicola Davies:
It is a perfect read aloud when you are studying habitats! It has simple,repetitive text but offers great info about each of the habitats and the animals that live there. Each set of pages starts off with "Who Lives Here?" and a beautiful illustration of a habitat (it includes jungle, pond, grasslands, ocean and Arctic).

Then the next page has four flaps. As you flip each one open, you see a picture of an animal and it tells you where they actually live. The last flap shows the actual animal that lives in that habitat:

The next page shows the animal in his habitat and give additional information about it:
There is a label on each of these pages as well, so you can point out the features of non-fiction texts!

I also grabbed another non-fiction book: Amazing Animals: Penguins. I love penguins, so I have a ton of penguin books, but this one caught my eye because of its awesome photos.

Then I checked out the text and I was hooked! I loved the "most" and "all" statements, I can totally see doing a Fact/Opinion activity based on this!

I also liked the non-fiction text features - it has an index, pronunciation guide, definitions for vocabulary words and photo captions. It is written in a very clear and concise manner, with simple text, but still has a ton of information. The full page pictures are gorgeous and will keep everyone's attention too!

 If you want to pick up either of these books, Amazon has very good prices on them!

I'm linking this post up with Mrs. Jump's Class for her Book Talk linky - go check out some other wonderful books!

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