Thursday, September 15, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Math & Manipulatives 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 the math/manipulatives center!

I have always had a designated "math center" in my classroom. The math center is a fun and engaging area full of hands on games, math storybooks, and manipulatives. 

This is a photo of my beginning of the year set-up for the math center. As you can see, it is pretty empty! That is because I have always introduced & integrated each and every math game/manipulative slowly into the center.  These items should always be modeled and practiced before students do them independently. You will spend less time during centers teaching students how to do the games and more time observing/documenting learning! Also, when we have showcased new center games (during group carpet/circle time) it builds up excitement and students are eager to try out the new centers. (I've always rotated centers seasonally and with the topic of study we are learning about.) 

The photo above was taken when centers were in full swing! Baskets and containers make it easy for students to collect, organize, and clean the center when finished. Because procedures were taught and reinforced so much, my assistant/nor I rarely had to ask students to straighten centers..believe it or not!  The math center contained a variety of items including:  board games, loose manipulatives, literature, vocabulary, and pocket chart games. 

The photo above was taken during our spring unit! Activities included: a bird matching game, Grouchy Ladybug book with telling time clock, a bird path/dice game, tactile number tracer boards, a flower petal numeral matching folder game, a caterpillar dice drawing game, chick number counting eggs, caterpillar graphing game, loose flower/bug manipulatives for sorting and counting, and insect/spring themed counting books. 

The math and/or manipulatives center helps students to practice math skills such as:

 - counting
- patterning
- sorting
- graphing
- measuring
- less than/more than
- number order and sequencing
- number writing/identification
- color/shape recognition
- use new math vocabulary

The center also helps students to:

- build spatial awareness
- work on fine motor skills
- practice social skills 

The math center environment and materials should include:

- a table or work space 
- shelving with easy access of materials 
- hands on games (games students can play alone, with a partner or in a small group)
- literature that relates to numbers, patterns, shapes, colors, math stories, etc.
- math vocab. (number cards, shape cards, number words)
- loose manipulatives (unifix cubes, pattern beads, pattern blocks, manipulative building toys) so students can freely count, stack, sort, and pattern with. 

Other items you might consider:

- Plastic/wooden trays & cups/bowls for game storage
- Baskets for manipulative toys and books
- Spinners (made from q-tips and paperclips)
- Dice (large, small, and some with numerals and some with number dots)
- Game pieces that are fun & unique (sea shells, mini erasers, plastic acorns, fake leaves...)
- Board games that are geared for early childhood 

- Plastic page protector sheets (for games so students can write on them with dry erase markers..great for when you don't have time to laminate...and you can store all your math games in a 3-ring binder)

The teacher's role during math/manipulatives center time (and during other center play) is to monitor, encourage, engage, observe, and document.  Teachers should monitor behavior, social interactions, and game play/manip. procedures. 

The teacher can encourage students to try out new activities. The teacher can engage students by providing a variety of fun games/manipulatives that reach students of varying skill levels. I've always tried to enhance my math center by having different games geared toward lower level, middle level, and higher level learners. I've also included a variety of games that include multiple math skills. (ex. a graphing game that includes rolling a dice, identifying number, counting, writing, etc.) 

The teacher can use this center time to observe and document student learning of new math skills. Center time is a great opportunity to see student learning in action! 

Stay tuned for more learning center fun during the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series!

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

Organization & Tin Can DIY

Hello friends! Today I thought I'd share with you a few tips on how to "organize in style" in the classroom! I've also put together a fun tin can DIY for you at the end of this post! 

Are you a new teacher overwhelmed with lack of storage and space in the classroom? Are you a returning teacher and needing some stylish storage advice to update your room? Perhaps you are headed back to school this week and are looking for a few quick organization ideas to start the new school year off. 

When you start planning classroom organization you think of cute labeled bins, matching colorful containers, and a place for everything/everything in it's place, right? Classroom decor, storage, and organization ideas have come along way! There are so many kinds of boxes, bins, containers and even items you can create to store your classroom supplies!

When setting up your classroom you will have to think about literacy, math, & science manipulative storage, arts & crafts storage, curriculum storage, etc. You will have to keep in mind ease of access for students to grab materials. You will also have to think about long-term storage. What will you do with items that are not used everyday? 

My very first new teacher purchase was to help me organize my new classroom... bright plastic bins from the dollar store! They were inexpensive, useful to hold art supplies/manipulatives, and fit just right into my classroom storage cabinets. 

I created labels, laminated the labels, and attached with Velcro. Velcro is SO useful in the classroom and I love it so much for labels. I often switch labels around and move things around to different size containers and Velcro makes things non-permanent! These bins have lasted me quite a few years!

If you are searching for some cute and EDITABLE labels you might want to check these Pre-K Tweets Chalkboard Labels out. They are new for fall and oh-so-cute! 

Another idea I like to use for storage is plastic shoe boxes. They are transparent and stackable!

I purchase my shoe boxes from The Container Store. I love them because they have clear lids and are inexpensive. I also like that when I need more I can just order them online AND I know they will have the exact size I need. I don't have to go hunting back to a store looking for the matching boxes with a turquoise lid or the same exact size.

I have used these storage boxes in my art supply cabinet in my classroom and also for craft supply storage at home. 

For a stylish and matching look, attach chalk board stickers (can be purchased from a craft store) and label with a white paint pen!

My go-to staples for classroom organization are: baskets, bins, crates, and mason jars!

I search home decor aisles, discount stores,, and garage sales for these kinds of containers!

Mason jars are great for your writing or art center storage! You can paint them (or leave them plain) and students can practice matching like colors into the jars. 

Sometimes you have to think out-side-the-box about classroom storage for supplies! I've often had to get creative and think of other uses for things. 

I purchased this silverware caddy on clearance and I've used it in the classroom for my desk supplies and also during art projects!

I love things that serve double-duty and that I can borrow for other uses!

For crayon tubs, I found the perfect containers (with handles) in the hardware store...of all places! Students can easily grab them for activities and take them to group tables. 

I've had classrooms where I did not have enough shelves or bookcases. I needed additional large storage for learning centers...

Stacked crates make great mini book shelves or book cases. As you can see in the photo, they are the perfect height for pre-k. I easily zip-tied the crates together so they were attached non-permanently in case I needed to use them for something else. 

I've also brought in additional storage shelves. 

These cube shelves are easy to put together and hold tons in the art center! 

Themed items are organized by season and into large plastic tubs. I created laminated labels from scrapbook paper and Velcro-ed to the tubs. I've stored items not currently in use in classroom closet and in my garage. But let's face it, even with a classroom closet (which a lot of classrooms don't have), there is just never enough room! I've collected a ton of games, toys, manipulatives over the years and I can honestly say I've used it all..every year!  I've stored many of these organized tubs in my garage and just pull them out when the theme/season changes!

And now...for the Pre-K Tweets organizational DIY: Tin Can Containers! 

Tin Can Containers DIY... Tin cans come in many sizes and can be so useful in the classroom! They can hold writing utensils, art supplies, and even Box Tops! Learn how to craft stylish tin can containers for your classroom...

Select paper that matches the theme or color scheme of your classroom. I chose this colorful chevron scrapbook paper by The Paper Studio from Hobby Lobby. 

Remove the labels from the clean empty cans. Be sure there are no sharp edges left over from your can opener! If there are, you can cover them with colorful duct tape.

I use the string/yarn to wrap around the can to measure what length size for the paper. Then I hold the string up against the paper to figure out the length. You might not have enough length paper for large cans and will have to use 2 pieces. 

Measure the height of the can, too. You want the paper to fit just inside the top and bottom rings/ridges. Cut the strip of paper and measure it against the can just to be sure before you start taping/gluing. 

I used double stick tape to attach the paper strip to the can. Hot glue or a glue stick will work as well. I find the tape is easy to use and really holds the paper on! I found it easier to put the tape on the outside of the can first and then wrap the paper on top. (Instead of putting the tape on the paper first.)

Then, label and dress up your covered tin cans! Chalkboard stickers work well. You can also use chalkboard tape or construction paper. Use a paint pen or chalk maker to write. I like to spray or paint a clear coat of acrylic sealant to the label so the wording doesn't rub off. You can also run the label through a laminator.  

You can also add fun clothespins or ribbon to dress up the tin cans! So fun..and inexpensive! 

Here's a few cans I made for my classroom last year. Students loved getting to insert their box tops in the (empty coffee) can! The other can is covered in a burlap ribbon. 

I hope you love this Tin Can Containers DIY as much as I loved making it. Let me know in the comments section if you would enjoy more Pre-K Tweet's DIY's and also feel free to share YOUR classroom organizational ideas! Happy teaching!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Writing 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 the writing center

The writing center is a very busy place! Young authors are creating, writing/drawing, and telling stories to each other in a fun environment that is meant just for them! For a few years I had my writing and ABC center combined. In this classroom (pictured above) I had a dedicated "writing learning center" with a few ABC games, books, and tools added. In the same room I had a separate ABC center (with more games), art center (which students could write in), a reading area, and more learning centers.   

My writing center in this photo had a table, shelf cabinet (to hold items and to block off the other center), a shelf (actually a kitchen sink shelf) on the table, room to display, and a rack to hold ABC books.  We always go through and practice/model new writing center tools/activities as a class. Center time will run so much more smoothly when students know expectations and procedures. 

The writing center helps students to practice handwriting, pencil grip, and motor skills. Students gain self esteem by pretending to be authors/illustrators and are proud of their work! The writing center also allows students to independently practice literacy skills like letter recognition, vocabulary, oral language, handwriting, etc. As with all learning centers, the writing center allows students to practice social skills by sharing materials, practicing taking turns, and forming ideas with others!

In our classroom we had a designated "share time" for student authors!  Students would "turn & talk" to a partner about a story or picture they wrote about during centers or during journal time. This time spent sharing helped us to point out characters, setting, and tell the beginning/middle/ending to stories!

Rotating materials and bringing out new tools helps keep the writing center fun and engaging! Our classroom parents were always willing to stock our writing center with scrap paper, junk mail envelopes, greeting cards, etc.

To help you build, stock, and enrich your writing center, here is a list of materials I have had in our writing center:  

- A variety of writing materials: pencils, markers, colored pencils
- A variety of papers: scrap paper, colored paper, index cards, old greeting cards
-Emtpy stapled together stacks of paper for book making.
- A word wall, vocabulary chart/poster, and/or vocabulary cards..students love to copy words and label their drawings! 
- Bulletin board to display student work, an author study, or vocab. 
- A few ABC letter games (like matching cards, bottlecap matching, etc.)
- Handwriting tools (I stocked my writing center with an extra set of Handwriting Without Tears materials like chalkboards, doodle boards, white boards, and letter sticks.)

In addition to those materials listed above, I also like to incorporate books into each center. For the writing center I have a few books that stay in there year round and then add a few fictional ABC books that rotate with the theme. 

Here are a few of my favorite books for the writing center! 

I love to showcase student learning around the classroom! If you don't have room in the center to display student writing, consider alternate areas in the classroom. During our bookmaking study, we displayed students' books in our classroom library. They loved sharing and "reading" each other's stories! 

Also, if you don't have room for a word wall/vocabulary in your writing center, have it nearby so students can add familiar and new words to their drawings/writings. Students also love to write their friends' and teachers' names! 

The teacher's role is to provide materials that encourage creativity/ideas, motivate students to "do more" than they think they can, and of course document student learning in centers.  Sometimes students can get stuck on what to write/draw about or have trouble even just starting! That's one reason, among others, why I keep books and vocabulary for inspiration in the writing center. Highlighting authors and doing author studies during group time can enhance student writing/drawing too! Teachers can encourage students to "add details" like more colors, grass/sky, letters, and/or words. Teachers can motivate students to express themselves and use verbal language skills to tell about their drawings/writings. Teachers can document, take notes, and observe students in the writing center and see where students are at with motor skills, social skills, and literacy skills. 

Stay tuned for more learning center fun during the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series!

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE for more writing learning center ideas!