St. Patrick's Day Freebie & Giveaway!

Oh my word! I have had a whirlwind past 5 days - including a visit to The Ron Clark Academy, attending the EdExpo 2015 AND numerous flight difficulties - I'll be posting about ALL of that in the next few days (we might be getting snow tonight - I'm super excited about the possibility of actually getting caught up if I get a Snow Day!)

Tonight though, I have a WONDERFUL new book to share with you all. AND, you get a chance to win your own copy!! Some of you know that I celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a BIG way in my classroom. We always make leprechaun traps, have a leprechaun visit, and do a ton of St. Patrick's Day activities. In fact, if you look over to your right on the sidebar you'll even see a list of some of my favorite St. Patrick's Day books from Amazon. You can also grab my FREE "How To Plan A Leprechaun Visit" over at TPT! It has a bunch of ideas for your leprechaun visit, including writing prompts and a homework letter.

So, knowing how enthused I am about all things St. Patrick's Day, imagine my delight when I was offered a chance to review a new book "Silly McGilly" written by three New Jersey sisters- Eileen Cowley, Michelle Dougherty and Victoria Coffey

It comes with an adorable soft, plush leprechaun doll. 

The story tells about how leprechauns - who make shoes for fairies - take a rest in March and travel the world.
Each one goes and performs different tricks. 

McGilly plays small tricks that make children smile. By placing the plush doll in the window, you let McGilly know that you want him to visit.

The thing that I LOVE is that the book mentions tricks that could be played at home or in a classroom! Also, YOU hold the power to decide what sorts of fun Silly will have in your home or classroom, and how often Silly will visit; every day in March, once a week, or just the day before St. Patrick’s Day!

The text is both simple and rhyming, and the story flows naturally. The illustrations are colorful and appealing to children.

The back of the book has suggestions for home and school tricks, with a website for even more ideas.

Want to WIN your very own "Silly McGilly"? Check out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good fortune to all of you!  

Read Across America 2015

I'm using our day off (hooray for President's Day!) to get organized for the remaining 62 days of the year. I'm not counting down because I'm eager for the year to end - quite the contrary! In fact, this has been the BEST year of my teaching career! I'm loving my littles, we're learning so much and every day is fun, fun, fun! I think this year took 5 years off my age - just from all the Go Noodle exercise, the singing, reading and nap time-relaxing plus hugs from 20 of the very best 4 and 5 years olds ever! If you ever get a chance to do a year in full-day pre-k, go for it!

But I digress, we were talking organization, right? Well I organize by theme/occasion. And next up is Read Across America which falls on March 2nd this year. That means all those lovely Dr. Seuss classics come out - what a great reinforcement for rhyming! Plus reading (or watching!) The Lorax is always a great prelude for a Plant Life Cycle Unit! So for all of you who are preparing in advance, here are some suggestions for a great Read Across America 2015!

Can't cook in the classroom or don't want to do the same old scrambled green eggs and ham?

Try making Green Deviled Eggs and Ham Sandwiches!
Super simple - just add green food coloring to your normal deviled eggs recipe. You can add green food coloring to the mustard on the sandwiches too! 

Need a super simple craft idea for the week?
Easy-peasy and cute Red fish, blue fish idea from this pin!

Start collecting milk jugs now for this fun recycle craft!
from this pin!

Need to work on Composing Numbers? This Circus Cat Ten Frame pack will help!

Working on Word Families? Check out this Circus Cat Word Family Game:

Want to win a Circus Cat product from my TPT store? Just Rustle Up a Comment below and leave the link for the product you want! I'll choose one comment to win on 2/20/2015! I'm off to tackle a pile of paperwork in my computer room - reorganizing that room is my next big project!

Valentine's Fun!

We had a ton of Valentine's Day themed fun this week:

The kids loved our Valentine Shapes emergent reader - I passed out the picture cards and then as we read each sentence the child with that shape Valentine would come up and add it to our pocket chart. Most of my kiddos have the 2d shapes down pat, but I have a few new ones for whom it's good practice. The 3d shapes are proving a bit trickier, so we'll continue to practice those as well.

I try to only do one paper a day with my kiddos, because I know its not the optimal way for them to learn. On the other hand, the cutting and coloring is good for developing those fine motor muscles and I know once they get to Kinder they're going to need to be familiar with sitting and completing worksheets (sigh!). The kids enjoyed this Valentines' Day beginning sound practice sheet though :)

This Valentine number puzzle was a hit as well - my kiddos clamor for number puzzles and I have noticed that it is really helping those who are a bit shaky with their number recognition!

We had a lot of fun making sets with this simple game. I wrote the numbers 1-10 on heart shaped boxes and then added a bucketful of heart shaped scatter crystals (Dollar Tree and Hobby Lobby purchases). I added this to our Math Center activities and it was a hit! The best part was that the kids worked independently for several minutes filling the hearts before I had to come and check their work, so it took very little time on my part - which was good because it is assessment season!

My favorite thing this week was our Sensory Table. I bought foam heart stickers and wrote every student's name on them, along with alphabet letters and numbers. Then I added Valentine's bubbles, bouncy balls, rings, necklaces and bracelets. I spread the goodies out in 3 bowls and froze them in layers.

The kids used sponges, bottles, basters, scrub brushes and ice cream scoops to try to melt the ice to get out the goodies. Our rule was that each child only kept one thing each time they went to the center. I also popped the ice back in the freezer between center times to make sure it didn't melt in between times.
The kids had a blast working their goodies out of the ice, but also giving them to others! I had said each child could only keep one item, but I never mentioned anything about giving away items. So sure enough, when they managed to pull out more than one thing within their allotted center time, they would rush over to a friend to give them the goody! Such love was in our classroom! I watched carefully and saw that everyone was being included in this gift giving! If someone really wanted an item but couldn't get it out during their center time, when that item popped out of the ice during the next center time it was immediately taken to the child that wanted it so badly. I spent less than $10 on the goodies, and they provided so many RAKs that it was totally worth it!
Oh! and the best part about the foam stickers was that they still stuck! When they were pulled from the ice, the kids read the name and the sticker was rushed to the appropriate child who then proudly peeled the paper off and wore it the rest of the day! I had thought for sure the stickiness would dissolve in the ice, so this was a pleasant surprise! One note though - frozen bouncy balls crack rather than bounce. We learned this the hard way! Once they thawed they were fine, but the first few ended up in the trash :(

During our parties, I always like to make a special treat. This keeps the kids focused and in their seats which makes the party more manageable for me! We've been watching the Sesame Street Alphabet Podcasts, and the kids LOVE it when Cookie Monster eats the letter of the day in the videos. So when I saw this pin, I knew I had to incorporate this treat into our party! For math we created this Cookie Monster emergent reader, so the treat was doubly appropriate!

 How adorable is that?!
Each child got a spoonful of blue frosting, a rice krispie treat, 1 mini cookie, 1/2 a flattened tootsie roll, and candy eyes.

Oh and our Castle Blocks are still going strong, check out this little lady! She was so excited that she made the castle from the back of the box all by herself. She's got some seriously strong spatial sense - I see an engineering career in her future!

I'm off to get started on sub plans. I'm attending the EdExpo 2015 in Atlanta this weekend so I'll be gone Friday and Monday - gotta make sure I have enough planned to keep my kiddos busy for the sub!

Do You Want To Build A Castle?

Recently I was contacted by Lakeshore Learning to review one of their new products for 2015. When I get opportunities like this I try to pick items that will a) appeal to my kiddos (of course!) and b) meet a need we have in our classroom. The need that I saw in our room was a lack of variety in our Block Center. Sure we have hard wood blocks & people, vehicles and signs, but we only had that one type of block. And, honestly, I wasn't happy that it was a boy-dominated center - meaning my little girls hardly ever went there. Sure they got some building play in at our Lego Center and with our Pipe Builders (best purchase EVER!), but that's not the same as block play.

So when I saw the Castle Blocks, I fell in love:
I knew my little girls would be drawn to them - who wouldn't be?! They're vibrant & colorful, and the images almost seem to pop off the bricks!
The blocks are printed on all sides, so there's no back or front to worry about - our castles look fabulous from any side! There are several different shapes, from bridges to cylinders, cubes, pyramids and the blue tower pieces. These were great for reviewing our 3d shapes!

The back of the box has some building suggestions for different size castles, which might be nice for children who are intimidated by having to create, but generally my kiddos preferred to create their own castles. We did keep the box to store the blocks - they fit back in easily (oh miracle!) and the box is sturdy enough that it should last us a good while. All 60 blocks can be cleaned up and put neatly in the box in less than 3 minutes by my kiddos!

The best thing about the blocks is that it takes very few to make a convincing castle,
So for those kiddos who aren't ready to collaborate, they can happily build with a few pieces while the rest of the group builds a larger structure.

Now, you can't see it in these pictures, but the girls' attendance rate at Block Center went way up. In fact, girls had a hand in creating every castle pictured! That's something to cheer for right?!
 Every castle is unique & gorgeous!

Symmetry is a natural product of building with these blocks!

My favorite part is asking the kids who lives in their castles. One kiddo retold the story of  Beauty & the Beast, while another child's castle was occupied by Flynn Rider & Rapunzel!

Other stories included a family vacation at a haunted castle, a fairy godmother's house and even
the home of a good knight who fights the monster under the bridge! Oh and the castle where the king lives from Humpty Dumpty - loved that!

The castle doors are open, please come inside!

We've been using these blocks nonstop for a few weeks now, and they still look like new - that paint is on there to stay! Honestly, I haven't found a single flaw with these (but I would love some little wooden people to go with - we started putting some Lego people in the Castles and the imaginative play was awesome!) 

If you've fallen in love with these Castle Blocks like I have, click here for a 20% Off  Coupon for anything at Lakeshore Learning!

Disclaimer: I was provided the product free of charge for an impartial review. The opinions expressed are based on my own experience with using the product in my classroom.

Number Sense & Phonics Fun!

Time is flying! Do you know we only have 67 days of school left this year?! That means I am ramping it up and trying to sneak every bit of learning I can into our days!

This week our dry erase boards came in super handy! I am lucky enough to have a class set and I'm so grateful because I don't know what I'd do without them! Of course we use dry erase markers to write our numbers and letters on the front, but check out what you can do with the back!
This group of 4 kiddos went to our Letter Center. The independent activities there are magnetic letters and baking sheets and our PlayMais letter mats. I also sometimes bring out another activity (like last week's penguin in the snow) depending on who is at the center. This group was perfect for my latest idea - two high-flyers and two of my strugglers. I knew having the high flyers there would help support and engage my strugglers so I grabbed our dry erase boards, a can of shaving cream and my
Penguin Alphabet Match-Up Cards.
Each board got one squirt of shaving cream on the back. I used the back so that the letter we wrote would show up better than on the white surface of the front of the board. I showed the group the picture card first so they could identify it and determine the beginning sound. Then they guessed which letter made the sound and wrote it on their board - then I produced the letter card and we saw if they had gotten it correct!
My high flyers were great at the game, but not so great that it made the other two feel inadequate. There were plenty of letters that my strugglers knew how to write, so they weren't discouraged.
Once they had written the letter we thought of other words that started with the letter, to reinforce the sound. We got through the whole alphabet (randomly of course!) in one session and having friends at the center, plus the fun of writing in shaving cream kept their attention for the whole time! Once we cleaned up and the kiddos got to pick a new center I had kids clamoring for their turn at Letter Center, so that engagement just kept going! (In the morning we do 2 center sessions, cleaning up in between. In the afternoon we have one session)

The fun with the boards and shaving cream didn't stop there! I've also been working with one sweetie on number sense and one-to-one correspondence. She's almost got it, so I try to give her targeted one-on-one practice several times a day - even if only for 5-10 minutes at a time.

One day when she chose to go to Math Center, I grabbed a board, the shaving cream and some polar bear erasers that we used for counters. I told her a number and she would have to pick that many bears out of the bucket and then write the number. She tends to count faster than her little fingers move, so I had her spread the bears apart to reinforce that each one only got one number and touch.

When I stopped by Playdough Center one day, I quickly commandeered her playdough to make some spheres (sounds so much better than balls, right?). Then she had to count them and stamp the number using our Lakeshore Dough Stampers. We played for a few minutes and then I moved on to someone else, having gotten in some quick quality practice that she loved.

Our goal is to count to 20 by the end of the year, and 95% of my class is already surpassing that. This little sweetie is getting there, but she tumbles some of her teen numbers together, so its hit or miss if she gets them in the right order (thus why mom says she can count to 20 at home - sure she might be able to do it once, but consistency is the goal!). That's why I brought out my Winter Ten Frames Pack!
I used numbers 11-20 with her since she has 1-10 down pat. We put the cards in order, and then she counted the fish on each ten frame card, giving her more 1-1 correspondence practice! Once she determined the number of fish she looked for the number card and if she couldn't identify it, she started at the top row, counting from 11, until she found the correct number. Again, a simple, low prep activity that took only about 10 minutes and yet was great targeted practice for her! Once we finished with the ten frames, she was free to choose an independent activity at Math Center and I was able to go give someone else some one-on-one attention!

Since our Penguin Alphabet Match-ups were such a hit, I created a Valentine's Day edition too! You can grab them for 20% off here! In fact, all of my Valentine's Day items are 20% off to help you prepare for this week! Just click the picture to go check them out in my TPT store!

Have a great week!

100th Day in Pre-K!

On Monday we had our 100th Day of School celebration! Interestingly enough, the two kindergarten classes celebrated their 100th Days on different days last week. Somehow, no one could agree on how many days we have actually been in school!

Since it was also Groundhog Day, we started the day out by reading Let's Celebrate Groundhog Day which is a great nonfiction book for pre-k to 1st grade kiddos.

We made our predictions using my free Groundhog Day Class Prediction Graph pack. My pessimistic kiddos were spot on about their predictions with 2/3s of the class predicting more winter!

Once we had that out of the way it was time for some 100th day fun in the form of 3 new centers:

First up we had Q-tip painting!
The object was to put 10 dots of paint in each square to equal 100 dots. This was a great way for me to assess who still needs practice in making sets and who breezed thru the activity with zero help! The sheet is from Mrs Payton's FREE 100th Day Hooray pack. The kids love anything with paint, and the Q-tips made it that much more engaging!

Our other new center was building with 100 sugar cubes. I'm proud to say that no one was caught nibbling! The kiddos started out with very conservative building ideas, but with experience they were soon astonishing me with their creations!
During our morning center time, the kiddos experimented with basic wall designs.

By the end of our afternoon centers, they had progressed to more complex structures!
One of my 4 year olds built this wonder of symmetry and balance!

Our 3rd special center activity was building with 100 Solo cups. I bought the small size to fit my kiddos' little hands easier.
At first, this little sweetie's focus was on how many cups is in 100, so she tried spreading them on the ground around her.
Soon though, the kiddos were experimenting with various structures.
I loved this little guy's idea to stack the mouths of the cups together.
This smarty got the award for perseverance! His tower was knocked down no less than 3 times by careless classmates, but instead of getting upset he calmly started over each time. He couldn't reach the top layers and had to stand on a chair to place the final 3 cups!

During Math time each kiddo brought 4 crayons to the carpet and we completed this freebie from Fun Classroom Creations together as a whole group. It was a great way to see who had enough mental stamina to follow along for the whole activity, and who had difficulty transcribing what they saw me doing onto their own paper.

The culmination of our day was creating 100th Day hats and eating ice cream! (also from Mrs Payton's FREE 100th Day Hooray pack)

There you have it - simple, fun 100th Day ideas that weren't expensive and required little prep! Those are the best type of celebrations, don't you think?

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