Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fall coloring pages!

Fall coloring pages are here! I'm so excited about these fun new designs! These autumn themed pages make great time fillers and present plenty of doodles & fun to color! Coloring pages include scarecrows, apples, leaves, and pumpkins. There are also a couple of roll & color apples and pumpkins...12 pages included! Download here!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Art Center

Welcome back to the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! Every other Thursday (through November) we are highlighting unique learning center ideas. This week we are going to take a look at our art centers

My classroom consisted of individual art, group projects, and artist studies. Students created art in my classroom to express themselves and their creativity, to display a unit of study we were learning about, to learn about a particular artist/medium/technique, and to teach others about beauty in recyclables/nature/everyday items. 

I am certified as an early childhood teacher AND as an art teacher! I have always LOVED integrating art into my pre-k teaching curriculum. I am actually not teaching this year (so I can actually focus on my art career.) I've been given a new career opportunity, but I will greatly miss the fun art projects we have done in the classroom! I am continuing my Pre-K Tweets blog and I look forward to sharing with you my ideas, diy's, photos, products and experience from my very own teaching career. 

It took me quite a few years to build up the courage to have a "free art center" in the classroom! A free art center means to me is that all materials in the center are available and encouraged for students to use freely. Before, I did the traditional four kids at the teacher or teacher assistant table making a craft of some sort with googly eyes no less. Over the years, I learned more and more about process art and tried to encourage students' creativity in that way. We did still do the occasional Mother's Day look-a-like crafts and maybe an animal paper plate craft or two. But I think students' "got the most" out of or "best learning experiences" out of our free art center play, group projects, process & expressive art, and artist studies. 

Our art center consisted of cube shelving from Target and a table & chairs. In my last classroom, the art center was placed in the middle, centrally located, and close to the sink. Students were welcome to visit the art area during morning arrival (we also had breakfast and table toys going on) and during center time.  

We also had an art easel that could be used for watercolor painting and as a dry erase board. In this photo it is on display for Meet the Teacher night. Usually, the easel is closer to the art area and to the sink. I really liked this easel because it was on wheels and had a drying rack underneath!

As with all my centers, I themed them according to what the season was or what topic we were studying. Here, in the photo above, the art center was set for Valentine's week.

For art material storage I used mason jars for students to practice sorting marker colors. (A friend of mine used colored scrapbook paper to wrap around metal vegetable cans for her color sorting of markers/colored pencils.) I also used plastic Dollar Tree bins and baskets from Save-on-Crafts. 

During the first few weeks of school the art center is pretty bare looking as with all the other centers. During the first week it only has blank paper, coloring books, and crayons. I never introduce a new center or center item (like markers or scissors) before explaining, modeling, and practicing expectations with students. 

Creating art, expressing through art, and art appreciation is SO important in early childhood! Creating art stimulates small and large motor development through painting, drawing, pinching a crayon, dropping sequins, etc. Art helps children to gain self esteem, become proud of what they created themselves, and art also promotes decision making skills. Art allows students to experiment, make predictions, and learn from observations! Art provides an outlet for children who might not express themselves verbally.  Social skills are also practiced, such as sharing & taking turns, in the art center.  

I integrated art appreciation and introduced to new mediums/art techniques through "artist studies."  For pre-k, I showed a power point about an artist that told short interesting facts about the artist, showcased his/her art works, and asked higher level thinking questions of the students about the artists' works.  Questions does this painting make you feel? What can you think of that looks similar to this sculpture? How do you think the artist created this piece?  I also asked questions many shapes do you see in this painting? How do you think the artist made this color? Which one of these sculptures is your favorite? I would also place posters, framed art, and children's fiction/non-fiction books about the artist in the art center.

We then would begin a group project or individual art pieces. Sometimes the art would look similar and sometimes we were more selective in our choices. Also, sometimes the project would be short and sometimes (particularity a group process art project) would take weeks). It really depended on the students' interest as with any of our art projects. Some of the artists we studied were Monet, Chihuly, Mondrian, and Kandinsky.

The art center should grow into an area that encourages creativity/choice making by providing a wide range of materials! 

Here is a list of art center materials that remain in the art center permanently:

- markers and crayons
- pencils and colored pencils
- plain white paper
- glue sticks
- stencils and tracers
- a cutting tub with scrap paper/scissors
- vocabulary (for labeling drawings if students want to)
- books about art and artists (for motivation and inspiration)

Here are a few of my favorite art books! 

Here is a list of items that I rotate in/out of the art center:

- punches (like hearts, circles, stars..great for fine motor!)
- newspapers (for painting..easy to get from parents)
- coloring books (great for fine motor practice, also good 
morning arrival activity)

I also like to bring out something fun (especially on a rainy day) like a paint spinner, crayon melter, or introduce a new technique (like painting with yarn blocks)! 

The teacher's role is to act as a guide during art engagement. Students might need direction and motivation to make choices and decisions. Teachers can also build self esteem by saying things like "tell me about your did you think of that?" instead of "It's beautiful! Good job!" Students will be proud to tell about their art works and what parts they like about it! 

During art engagement is an optimal time for teachers to document student learning with photos or quotes! New discoveries are made everyday in the classroom through art. Documentation is a way for students to look back and see what they have learned. Documentation is also great to keep in students portfolios and show at parent/teacher conferences. 

Displaying student's art they have made in the art center is also important. The simple act of displaying a students work let's them know they are important and part of the class family. I hung my students work in the hall (command hooks/string/clothespins), on the classroom walls (command hooks, twine, clothespins) and from the ceiling off of branches and a wagon wheel.

I love art and the art center is one of my absolute favorites! I encourage you to encourage your students creativity by arranging an art center in your classroom! 

Now, hop on over to 
Fun in ECSE and learn about the art learning center importance and environment!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Welcome to School!

Download these First Day of School posters & COORDINATING gift tags just in time for Back 2 School! Posters and tags are designed for pre-k through 5th grade! They also have an EDITABLE date so you can use them year after year! 

For the poster, I placed it in a painted dollar store frame! I also glued a fabric flower to the frame for an added touch! Take photos of students (or your own child!) holding this sign on their very first day of school! Posters come in white or chalkboard style! 

Tie these cute white or chalkboard style first day tags to goldfish or a sweet treat as a welcome gift for Meet the Teacher night or to give out on the first day of school! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Blocks Center

Hi friends! I've been invited to participate in Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! The series will run through November and will highlight unique learning center ideas...the first topic we will talk about is the blocks center! The blocks center is a very busy place in an early childhood classroom! Ideas are being brought to life and a child's imagination is on display. Students are practicing a variety of skills through exploratory and constructive play!

I've had many different setups of block centers in my teaching career but I like this one the best! (pictured above and below)

This learning area provides plenty of space for students to build, construct, create, and PLAY!  It is welcoming, organized, and has plenty of different blocks and "loose parts" to build with. I've always liked to set up my learning centers as an invitation to play.  Once, when I was in elementary school, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied, "I want to be a teacher so that I will get to set up the blocks center!" Don't you just love those students who (out of the kindness of their hearts) like to voluntarily help to clean the blocks center? 

I can't imagine an early childhood without a blocks center or construction area!  This learning center allows children to propose questions like what happens if? tall can I build it? ..which is larger/smaller/shorter/taller? ...what changes can be made to make this structure better? Math and science connections are being formed by doing instead of watching. 

Imaginary and/or realistic plans are then carried out and experimented with. Pretend play usually occurs, stories are invented, and props are described to one another. Verbal and social skills are being practiced in a playful environment. Children are learning how to share, cooperate, and take turns.   

The blocks center is also important because it allows creativity to bloom and transform! I posted vocabulary picture cards and cool around the world building photos in our blocks centers. We also had clipboards in the center for the past couple of years. Students can get inspired (if needed), draw their "plan," and build! We also followed the construction of a hobby farm throughout the year! Photos were posted in the blocks learning area.

I've always themed my block learning area to whatever we were studying about as a class. Blocks centers do not have to have a theme at all. I feel it themes give extra emphasis into the learning topic and helps get students more inspired to play as well! Plus, my little friends have always been excited with I switch out the manipulatives and toys in the centers! 

These are the items I like to include in my blocks area:

A variety of blocks - Different sizes and shapes..wooden and soft blocks.

Baskets - I like them because students can take them out of the shelves and carry the baskets around with them to clean up. I also think it helps organize and keep the center looking tidy. 

Real pictures of buildings - Sometimes students need a little help getting inspired! 

Vocabulary cards - I've had many students who like to label their projects! I also believe in posting environmental print. Students get excited to see familiar signs, logos, and store names and therefore get excited about reading!

Clipboards, paper, and pencils - To draw out plans and make "Construction in Progress" signs...and to label their creations!

Books - Books about construction, vehicles, the theme we are studying, and construction ABC/number books. Students also like to use maps, diagrams, and real estate magazines as references! 

Vehicles and people - Children will turn anything into a truck or superhero...but toy matchbox cars and character people are fun too! I painted "clothespin people" (and superheros) to add to the fun in our blocks center! (used acrylic paints!)

Other items to consider:

Stuffed animals, Beanie Babies, and puppets...

Interesting and recycled parts like egg crates, pvc pipes, boxes, and toilet paper rolls.

A "loose parts" basket. For example, during our spring theme our "loose parts" basket contained small plastic insects and fake flowers. Students could use the loose parts as an addition to their constructions. 

I believe the teacher's role during block play is to act as a guide or facilitator. Instead of simply asking, "What is it?" when coming across a construction in progress...say, "Tell me about it" or "How did you think of that?"  Teachers can ask as motivators and ask students what their next plans are and what materials do they think they might need. 

Teachers can use time in the learning centers to ask questions and encourage students to problem solve! Teachers also can use center time to document, take photos, and record student learning with anecdotal notes. 

I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into the blocks learning area of our classroom. Be sure to stay tuned for all the amazing classroom ideas to come during the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series!

Now hop on over to Fun in ECSE for more blocks learning center ideas! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

First Day of School Gift Tags!

Pair these tags with a bag of treats (and fun ribbon!) for meet the teacher night or use as a first day of school gift! This download includes tags for Pre-K - 5th grade and prints 12 tags on a page. The date at the bottom is EDITABLE so you can use these back to school tags yearly! Grab them HERE!