Learning Through Play

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When I was a little girl, one of my favorite past-times was to get any kitchen utensils my mother would let me take, and head out to find the nearest mud puddle to become my latest restaurant. I would spend hours “cooking” up mud creations. Perhaps that is why the sensory table is a must in my classroom. The thought of kids touching, moving, squishing, rubbing, and manipulating raw materials is important to me. I know first hand the learning that is going on at that moment.

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It is through play that young children make sense of the world in which they live — a time to learn, discover, and to be — spontaneous; a time to be active participants in their own learning.

In a school and/or homeschool settings, the benefits of play needs to be recognized before grabbing for that convenient worksheet. According to Professor Doris Fromberg,

We need to consider that young children learn in quite different ways [than adults]. They learn by comparing physical experiences, by interactions with other people and their own feelings. And they learn an enormous amount through their imagination.... Play is what pulls together the logical and creative parts of the brain.

In an academic setting, we need to take advantage of the natural way children learn and grow, and include play in our day! The easiest way to begin adding play into your day, is to bring in a sensory table, assemble a dramatic play station, and find a corner for a block center. These center areas are perfect to foster natural child play. In these areas, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they’re learning.” (Fred Rogers). Another easy way to incorporate play into your day is by building a science center. Build it, and they will learn! Children love to explore, touch, discover, smell, and inquire at this center. Their natural curiosity and excitement for learning is about all you need to add as curriculum.


You might enjoy our podcasts on teaching using child’s play in mind. Here are a couple to get you started.

 

Many of our products are based on teaching through play.. We love to get play in our day!

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Developing Oral Language Using Nursery Rhymes

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Nursery rhymes are a very effective way to build important language skills. Not only are the rhymes filled with complex words and thoughts, children naturally love rhythm, movement, poetry, and song. What better way to practice language than within the safety of spontaneous chants, rhymes, and songs. The reciting of rhymes improves memory and metacognition along with other skills that are great for brain development.

Nursery rhymes help build memorization and sequencing skills. Rhymes help children with articulation, pronunciation, sound discrimination, pitch, intonation, mouth and tongue development, and much much more. Rhymes can increase comprehension, vocabulary, and reasoning skills.

Rub a Dub Dub Three Pirates in a Tub!

Rub a Dub Dub Three Pirates in a Tub!

Nursery rhymes are becoming a lost art. Twenty years ago, you would be hard pressed to find a kindergartner who didn’t already know most of these great rhymes. Today’s kindergartners come to school knowing very few. It is up to us, their teachers, to bring the magic of song and rhyme into their worlds. We can also introduce them to new rhymes from different cultures. The website Mama’s Lisa’s World is a great resource for songs and rhymes around the world.

I like to focus on one rhyme for a day or two. I teach the rhyme and then show alternate versions in books and song using books and videos. Here are two videos of Nursery Rhymes from different cultures “A la vibora” from Mexico and “Arroz con leche” from Peru.

Old King Cole a Merry Old Soul!

Old King Cole a Merry Old Soul!

Humpty Dumpty Can I put you Together?

Humpty Dumpty Can I put you Together?

With each rhyme, I have students act it out as we sing or chant it. I keep those videos to later string together to make a production to put on my classroom’s private youtube channel. Kids love watching it again and again. Another way to showcase your nursery rhymes and deepen oral language practice is by presenting a class or even grade-level play featuring Mother Goose herself.

There are so many activities you can incorporate into your daily academics using a Nursery Rhyme twist. Kids love when the song or poem spills out into their daily learning. Kids love playing a game of Old King Cole Gathers His Fiddles when they practice rhyming words, or The Cow jumped Over the Moon, where numbers are compared.

Our thematic unit contains many fun activities your students will love: Poetry, fingerplays and songs, shared or close reading activities, math games, language games, art projects, writing activities, and class-made or guided books.

So, dust off those nursery rhyme books! Research is on your side. "Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by hear…, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

-Fox, M. (2001). Reading Magic. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.


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Apples Thematic Unit

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I picked a few apples in my garden this afternoon. Not only did I get a delicious bite, but I got that excited feeling that goes with thematic teaching. An Apple Thematic Unit is always fun, engaging, and rewarding!

Apples this time of year, are everywhere! Kids are seeing them on trees, in stores, at farmer’s markets, on street corners, and even in their school lunch! Because of this, students immediately connect with the content, are ready to learn more, and ready to enjoy some academic learning with an apple twist.

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I like to start every thematic unit with a planning tool, to guide the learning. You can easily make your own, or use the one we provide with every thematic unit.

The place to start planning is with quality books. There are tons of quality “Apple” themed books available perhaps in your own classroom, school library, or public library. After the books are gathered, look for some great songs and fingerplays to bring excitement to the learning. We always include several songs in each unit to get you started. Here is one that kids love to sing. It is simple, yet filled with learning. It is sung to the tune of Bobby Shafto.

This song can be adapted to include other things made from apples, and more.

It can also be used as a warmup to an apple tasting test… “Do you like apples?”

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Our apple unit is filled with scripted — easy to use— lessons that are strategically linked to Core Standards. This makes these lessons so easy to prepare and deliver! Teachers are busy! Our goal is to help you with one less preparation! Here are a couple of examples of included lessons that are made for active learners.

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Our thematic units are complete! All areas of the curriculum are included!!

Apple sequencing.

Apple sequencing.

Apple fingerprint tree. Great for portfolios.

Apple fingerprint tree. Great for portfolios.

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Tons of apple games.

Tons of apple games.

Apple science center.

Apple science center.

Apple tear art.

Apple tear art.

Apple writing.

Apple writing.

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Independent activities.

Independent activities.


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STEM Insect Lessons For Kindergarten

One of my favorite parts of teaching kindergarten is how easy it is to incorporate STEM into the curriculum. Kindergartners have a natural curiosity about the world around them and a love of the natural world. My Science Center is one of the easiest areas in my classroom to prep and one of my student’s favorite places to be during the day!

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And it is so easy to incorporate that science into other academic areas in my classroom, making STEM a truly cross-curricular type of teaching!

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As part of our insect explorations, my students make observations about plastic insects in the sensory center, and observations about real insects that they have brought from home for our “Bug Zoo”.

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During our Insect STEM explorations we practice sorting with pictures of insects, we play concentration with insect pictures (to develop working memory), we hunt for insects during recess, we label insect parts, we make insects out of shapes (and other insect art), and we construct two different types of insect traps in order to determine which one will work better.

We play math and reading games with an insect twist, sing insect songs, play insect PE games, and much more!

If you would like to try these activities in your classroom, you can find them below. You might also like to try other great STEM products.


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Why Begin The School Day With Inquiry and Play?

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“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” -Fred Rogers
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Setting the tone for the school day in a play based way prepares students for a day of learning. Through play students develop self regulation, deepen social competence, increase oral language and vocabulary skills, explore, discover, create, negotiate, problem solve and much much more!

I love starting the school day with “Ready To Go” tasks. These tasks can simply be manipulatives on a table for free exploration or prepared task cards with the materials already gathered. No matter the configuration, the purpose is to provide play-based activities that students can immediately go to as they enter a classroom. Starting the day in such a way provides students with structure and routine. It also gives them the immediate feeling: “I am safe at school.”

Starting the day in this play-based way is a great way to deal with staggered entrance of students, teacher must-dos (such as attendance and lunch count) and helps decrease the anxiety levels of both students and teacher with the transition of home to school.

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If you have table assignments, it is pretty easy to simply take pictures of areas around your classroom and lay a photo on the table so students know to go directly to that area, or simply sit the task activity on their table so they can start working immediately as they enter.

If students aren’t assigned a space, you can simply make a chart, as the one below, to get your kids going! This chart, if made with a lot of velcro, is very flexible to change student groupings and activities that meet their needs.

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Find out more about great ways to start the school year off here by listening to our Podcasts. Here are a few with a back-to-school theme…


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How Can Teachers Encourage Play-Based Learning?

Photo by  Skitterphoto  from  Pexels

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

A Guest Post

By Holly Gilbert, Content Specialist for Playworld

It’s hardly a surprise to anyone that children love to play. There’s a reason every kid longs for recess, after all. Fortunately, the benefits of play-based learning have long been touted in the educational sphere. Play allows children to explore new concepts, exercise their curiosity and creativity, and learn to interact with each other in an unstructured environment. 

Finding the right balance of play and structure can sometimes be challenging, however. Teachers need to find ways to encourage kids to take the lead while still gently nudging them in the right direction. The following ideas can help you reinforce concepts you’re introducing in the classroom — and the students won’t even realize they’re learning.

Creating Learning Centers for Play

Organizing the classroom’s physical environment into different learning areas helps students engage in meaningful play. Teachers can set up literacy centers, building areas, little science labs and spaces for dramatic productions.

When doing so, make sure you’re keeping play areas well-organized. A rowdy building section might be disruptive to avid readers, and overcrowded play centers can lead to fighting. Some structure and boundaries can keep these learning centers productive while still making sure they’re fun.

1. Reading-Based Activities

When you’re focusing on specific books and stories, you can bring them to life throughout the classroom. Learning centers can include puppet stages featuring characters from your student’s favorite book or letter-writing to protagonists. Children can practice new vocabulary and language skills by applying literacy-based lessons to their playtime activities.

2. Math-Based Activities

Math allows for a wealth of options when it comes to structured play. Basic math concepts like addition and subtraction can be practiced with counters, but they can also be connected to real-world applications with a make-believe store, plastic kitchen with measuring cups,  or game table.

3. Social Studies Activities

Learning to form a community and interact with the wider world is easily reinforced with play. Students can focus on government, commerce and towns with some learning centers that allow them to practice getting involved in these structures. Maybe children can explore maps at a mini travel agency, dress up in period wear or build cities out of blocks.

4. Science Activities

Science and play share a major similarity: they’re both cause-and-effect activities. Science activities help children understand the importance of asking “why,” even if they’re not quite prepared for the answer. Teachers can encourage this curiosity by setting up stations where students can explore sounds, touches, and nature. Creative ideas may include a classroom garden or a mystery box with different textures inside.

The Wonder of Play in the Classroom

There are a million and one ways for teachers to encourage play-based learning, and the above only touch on some broader ideas. The important takeaway is to be strategic about blending curriculum concepts with free-time activities.

When children engage with learning through play, they’re not just taking in information. They’re also developing emotionally, socially, and physically by practicing vocabulary, social skills, and fine motor movements. Let them take the lead, and they’ll be engaged in the classroom even without the recess bell.

Are We Missing the Point of Forky?

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Warning: Contains Spoilers for Toy Story 4

I recently took my grandchildren to see “Toy Story 4”. At the beginning of the movie, a very distraught Bonnie goes to kindergarten orientation. During the orientation, the teacher asks the children to make pencil holders, and Bonnie, alone and afraid, begins to cry. Always reliable, Woody sneaks out of her backpack (where he has been hiding) and quickly grabs some art supplies from the trash and dumps them in front of Bonnie. Bonnie opens her eyes, then proceeds to make a friend for herself from the discarded supplies that she names “Forky.” With her new toy in hand, she is able to find the courage to make it through the rest of Kindergarten Orientation.

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Bonnie’s resiliency reminds me of all the Kindergarten students that I have worked with throughout the years: children who, when given some paper, scissors, and glue, can craft you an imaginary world of their own creation. Children who see beauty and power in their own abilities to create. This creativity allows them to feel a sense of control in a world that often presents them with nothing but chaos. I’ve seen this creativity in my granddaughter, who created this masterpiece out of green paper, discarded hole punches, and tape, then presented it as a Mother’s Day present. And, like Bonnie and Forky, she would be devastated if she ever found that her masterpiece had wandered off into the trash.

With all this in mind, I was surprised to see stores selling prepackaged kits allowing children to “make their own Forky” and teachers planning to spend their Kindergarten orientation times helping children build their own Forky toy. It seems so ironic that a toy a child made out of trash to comfort herself is now being sold to other children in a package that assumes there is only one way to make ones own odds and ends toy; a craft that was originally a creative endeavor has been turned into an assembly line project. The idea of buying a store bought version of a toy that celebrates childhood creativity for upwards of $10 is so ridiculous that one man proved it by building a version of the talking $30 Forky toy for $12.

Creativity, and outlets to foster it, are important for the development of a young child. My students enjoy trips to the art room, quality guided drawing activities, but their favorite art time — above all—is the times my well-stocked art center is available for free expression. Students love to create. Those special opportunities for free expression are not only a gift for a rich, memorable childhood experience, but lay a foundation for the ability to create, take chances, experiment, and think out of the box for lifetime experiences that lie ahead.

So don’t waste your money on a “build your own Forky kit” or start out your kindergarten year by building assembly line toys that mean more to you than the children. If we really want to recreate the kind of experience that Toy Story 4 celebrates in it’s opening moments, we should open up our art cabinets, our scrap piles, and our garbage bins to our students from day one and let them see what they would like to create. I think we’ll be surprised by the amazing “friends” they come up with on their own.


Teaching Deep Rather Than Wide: Developing Automatic Readers

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The kindergarten years are important years where solid foundations are laid - foundations on which future academic success are set, if you will, in foundational stone. During these early years it is of upmost importance to teach deep — not wide!

Kindergarten foundational standards must be over-taught; they must be practiced again and again and again to bring students to the level of Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN). The ability to rapidly name a letter, a sound, a beginning sound, a segmented word, sounds in a word, a rhyming word, etc. has proven to be a stronger predictor of future reading success than even the associations of how letters fit together to form words. RAN is “the seemingly simple task of naming a series of familiar items as quickly as possible and appears to invoke a microcosm of the later developing, more elaborated reading circuit.” (Denckla & Rudel 1976). Further studies on RAN have led researchers to determine that the ability to rapidly name and produce early reading concepts builds the working memory and eye function that connects orthography and phonology! (Journal Scientific Studies of Reading 2018).

“If you do not build a foundation properly, it can be dangerous and very expensive to repair”. Lillian Katz
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What does this mean for an early educator of kindergarten? This means less is more! We must make sure that our students are being “over-taught” the things that will lead them to achievement, rather than moving from those important skills too early, rushing into skills that belong to, and must stay in the 1st grade! Kindergartners need to have an instamatic mode of kindergarten core standards. Think of young learners as apprentices. Young apprentices work to learn something really well! They develop mastery; then and only then, they move that mastery to the connection of other skills and understandings.

RAN in short is automaticity! The ability to recall something without conscious thought. In reading — the ability to save brain power for comprehension —- the ability to focus on content. If such automaticity is achieved, students rapidly make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn without noticeable effort! Here are a few ways to develop RAN with your emergent readers.


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  1. Don’t overload a reader with too many concepts at once, thus, jumbling the pathways to the brain. When too much information is given, it becomes difficult to retain.

  2. Teach skills using a timeline for reading success. The sequence of skills does matter, just as when building a house you pour the foundation before building the walls. If you are lucky, you have a curriculum to use as a guide. Follow it — it is there to help keep you focused on what needs to be taught.

  3. Remember achieving automaticity is not automatic. Rather, it requires repeated practice time and time again. Skills can be practiced over and over again in fun and engaging ways. Even when the skill appears to be mastered, it must be reviewed time and time again in a spiraling fashion. If the learning is fun, kids thrive with repetition.

  4. Take frustration out of the situation. For example if a student is struggling with naming 52 letters in one minute, practice rapid naming with things like common objects, colors, etc. This allows a child to feel success with automaticity —- getting an idea of exactly how automatic naming feels.

  5. Teach skills using fun and games. Students do not respond well to worksheets or other kill and drill models. So, pull out the games and allow students to practice automatic naming in fun and creative ways. Turn those worksheets and flashcards into fun and creative games.

  6. Guide students to make connections with beginning reading concepts. Make alphabet books, create poetry and rhyme, match words with the same beginning, middle, or ending sound — create a “Why we Match” book. Provide opportunities for manipulative play with early concept materials.

  7. Know your grade-level standards. If it is not a standard, save it for the enrichment of advanced students as they become completely automatic with their own grade-level skills. Have you noticed drops in what a child could do at the end of kindergarten in relation to what they know at the beginning of 1st grade? This drop can be directly correlated to the lack of automaticity with the given skill in kindergarten. The child could produce the skill, but not automatically. He/she was still using up too much brain power to produce the results. For example, if a child can ride a bike at the end of kindergarten and lays it on the lawn until the beginning of 1st grade, will they be able to ride the bike as easily after the summer break? Yes! Because the skill of riding a bike is automatic — no brain power needed.

You will be amazed at how students thrive when automatic brain-power of kindergarten-level standards is the focus in a kindergarten classroom — enveloped in an environment where pushed-down curriculum is not welcomed, where students are allowed to learn at a development pace and truly apprenticed in early reading Kindergarten-Level skills.


Read or listen to more here:


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Simplifying May Protect a Child's Mental Health

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My husband and I just went through the process of dividing my Mother-in-Law’s things between her children in preparation of her living in a nursing home. All I could think as we sorted through it was that, in the end, it was just stuff. Why do we need it all? The experience encouraged me to simplify my life; eliminating that extra stuff that is filling spaces in my house, not filling spaces in my heart.

A few of my most precious childhood “things,” a half century later.

A few of my most precious childhood “things,” a half century later.

While decluttering my own life, I think about the childhood of students I serve and compare it to my own childhood. I remember having about 4 dresses, one pair of shoes, a few pair of socks and undergarments, one sweater and one coat. As far as toys go, I had one barbie doll, a Raggedy Ann, a tape player (because all I ever really wanted to be when I grew up was a radio DJ), a couple board games, and a few precious books. If I wanted more toys, I created them out of paper, pencils, sticks, or whatever else I could find. I was immersed in childhood, I ran, I climbed, I used up lots of band-aides and I explored the great outdoors.

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I was reminded that childhood has not changed that much since my days when I watched my Granddaughter at a restaurant recently. Without any toys or tablets to keep her entertained, she took a pair of plastic forks and turned them into dancing people that performed for the family on the table. However, the world children are growing up in is changing. Now environments are artificially created for children though hours-upon-hours of sedentary video game playing, lavishly designed play-dates and classes, an arsenal of toys, clothes, stuff, and more stuff. According to a book by Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting, this world of too much is propelling children into the realm of disorder. A child who is systematic may be pushed into obsessive behaviors, a dreamy child may lose the ability to focus, and a child that jumps from thing-to-thing, game-to-game, task-to-task, ultimately looses concentration and whole brain function.

An interesting study was conducted by Payne in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorders. Within four months a staggering 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. These children also increased in cognitive aptitude by 37%. This study demonstrates in a very real way that for children less is more! They need time to create their own activities, time to sit by a creek and meditate, time to watch an animal, time to read a book, time to gaze at the clouds, or the stars, time to think, explore, create. Children need to be “…immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations:” (Payne 2016).

Simplifying and filtering the unnecessary protects childhood. Yes, we can provide children with enrichment, opportunity, and possessions, but these things should be done with purpose and thought. Childhood serves a purpose! It is there for a reason. Childhood is the time to protect young minds from the adultness of our complex society; it is a time to protect little minds so they have the opportunity to grow into healthy and happy adults.

It’s a beautiful world! Give children the space, time, and opportunity to enjoy. Declutter the too-muchness in a child’s life. This will give our children a resiliency that will help them create genuine peace in their hearts.

So, as I personally load another box for Good Will, I plan to stick my feet in a puddle and enjoy this beautiful world a little less encumbered.


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Farm Thematic Unit

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I can’t think about a farm thematic unit without a little John Denver flying through my head.

“Well life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain't much an old country boy like me can't hack
It's early to rise, early in the sack
Thank God I'm a country boy…”

The smells, the sights, the sounds, and yes, even the joys of manure pies are among farm-life fun that I am always anxious to share with my students.

A farm theme is a great example of how starting with a general idea can mushroom into many smaller themes. Actually every facet of a farm could lend itself to thematic instruction. After I present the broad theme of the farm, I let my student’s interests guide the way to the facets that most interest them.


As with all themes, I like to start with quality literature. My favorite place to begin a thematic quest, is with my classroom, school, public libraries and places like amazon.com. One of my favorite books to begin a farm study with, is my all-time favorite, Mrs. Wishy Washy. This tale by Joy Cowley has been loved by all of my students for nearly three decades. They always beg for it again and again. Additionally to a farm study, it is a great book for an author’s study later down the road, as she has written so many great versions, and additional stories for this great character.

This fun song encourages students to further enjoy Mrs. Wishy Washy and her farm. The original Mrs. Wishy Washy story does not have a cat, but imagine my students excitement as a cat is introduced in other stories like Mr. Dishy Washy, and Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Tub.

The song also makes a great pocket chart song. With it's simple lyrics, students can easily build the song in the chart after it has been introduced and sung as a group.

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After you have selected the books, the songs, and the fingerplays, it is time to include all cross-curricular elements into the learning. Our thematic unit is packed with ideas! We have done most of the planning for you. We even include your own planning guide.

Contents Include:

Literacy Lessons

The Muddy Farm: Naming Alphabet Letters (or Sight Words)

Potato Truck Bingo: Alphabet Letter Identification

Barnyard Flash: Reading CVC Words 

Down on The Farm: Segmenting Words into Phonemes

Where's The Chick? Matching Sight Words

Independent Activities

Writing Words: CVC Words

Digraphs on The Farm: Identifying Digraphs

Math Lessons

The Auction: Making Sums of 10.

Farmyard Flip: Greater Than/Less Than/Equal To

Farm Patterns: Extending and Creating Patterns

This Little Piggy: Counting Items to Match a Given Number

Pigs In The Mud: Subtracting Objects

Independent Activities

Farmer Fran: Connecting Numbers 1-20

Number Barns: Reading and Writing Number Words

Guided Reading Books

The Farm -Level A 

The Farm- Level C

Class Made Books

The Farm

Science

Making Ice Cream: Changing Liquid Into a Sweet Solid

Is It Alive? Classifying Living & Nonliving

Writing

What I Know About Farms

Farm Animals

Farm Word Wall

Art Projects

Make a Shape Farm

Art School: Drawing Farm Animals
Songs/Fingerplays

Grandpa's Farm

The Wishy Washy Farm

Old MacDonald

The Rooster


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Body Positivity

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The day G. told me that she doesn’t like her nose because it “isn’t cute” is the day I started writing this book. Our bodies are ours alone. They need to be honored, cherished, and loved. Do we all look the same? No. Do we all have magazine worthy bodies? No. But that isn’t what being “Me” is all about!

As caring adults in a young child’s life, it is imperative that we build body positivity. This lifeskill needs to be fostered, developed, and nourished. In today’s society, children need to feel their own value and self-worth rather than the reflection of air-brushed magazine role-models. We are all special in our own special ways.

The book I created for little G., and all children like her, is available here for you to use with your classroom filled with students, or your own children. You can find the book in its book form here: https://www.blurb.com/books/9330794-my-body-is-an-instrument, or find black and white or color copies here, with a couple companion worksheets below.


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Our Planet Earth Thematic Unit

Celebrate Earth Day, Arbor Day, or any day when it comes to saving our planet and celebrating Earth!


I love to celebrate Earth Day when Spring is awakening the beauties of the earth. Whether you celebrate our planet for a week or a day, take note of this special day.

Take a walk, plant flowers, or pick up litter with your students. Have a discussion around the concept of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Play a game, construct or paint a replica of the Earth. Whatever you do, it will help your students develop a greater awareness of their role in taking care of our Planet.


Here are a couple of books that I like to enjoy with my students.

Here is a fun activity my students always enjoy:

First: Cut out a blue circle.

  1. Glue some irregular green shapes onto the blue.

  2. Place a pair of hands (trace hands or use die-cut hands) so they are holding the “earth.”

  3. Make a sign (i.e. The earth is in our hands.) to place between the hands.

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For more detailed directions of this project or other Earth day learning games and materials, check out our Earth Day unit. For ideas, songs, math and reading games, literacy activities, and a construct project, check out our Earth Day unit.

You may also want to use your Earth Day Thematic Unit as a springboard to the study of space, or as an introduction to Earth Science: Plants, rocks and dinosaurs.


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Teaching Students to Work Cooperatively

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Today’s world is one of instantaneous inter-connectivity. Working collaboratively is an essential skill that must be taught, nourished and fostered in order to succeed in such an environment.

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Working as a team does not come naturally to an egocentric kindergartner. It is something that must be taught and practiced. Intentional teamwork activities allow students to work together for a shared benefit. Such activities will not only provide collaborative experiences, they will build many other social and emotional aspects of a student's self including:  Self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, responsibility, decision making, caring about others, contributing, relationship skills, and more.

Today we had a lesson on teamwork. After learning the vocabulary words opinion and decision, we did some role-playing that provided opportunities for students to practice coming to a group consensus.  We then read the book “What’s The Big Idea Molly?

Next I divided the class into groups and asked the groups to each make an animal that lives in the jungle.  I then reminded the students to listen to each other’s opinions and decide how they would construct the animal.

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At the conclusion of the activity we had a debriefing. I asked the students what types of strategies their group used to complete the animal.  I listed their responses on a chart.

This was a great activity. And only one child cried! He was pretty mad that his group made the lion a girl lion instead of a boy. This was a great opportunity to talk about consensus. Even though it was not his opinion, he could support the group decision. And, everyone loved the finished product!

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Duck Thematic Unit

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Who doesn’t love adorable ducks! I love bringing the excitement of these friendly fowls into the classroom. If you have a farm store in your community (you can even find them in larger cities), it is easy to find baby ducks waiting for you right in the store. If I have a family ready to adopt the ducklings, I will purchase them, but I find the farm stores are generally more than happy to let the ducks visit your classroom for an extended visit, to only return back to the store to find their permanent home.

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If you are unable to secure live ducks, never fear. There are many ways to study ducks without the live examples living in a corner of your classroom. There are dozens of videos, books, and more to help you create a duck-like atmosphere.


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Pond Thematic Unit
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Tracking Print

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Did you know that Level A and Level B books were created especially to teach children to track print? It’s true! These two beginning levels have a specific purpose. To train a child’s eyes to track print on the page using their finger as a guide. In this way they experience important concepts of print: that print moves from left to right, how to hold a book and turn the pages, and how to identify individual letters and words. After a child has learned to track print, it is important for them to move immediately to Level C, to start learning word attack and decoding skills.

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There are many fun ways to teach children to track print. I’ve just found a new one, thanks to Etsy seller, The Meticulous Whim. She makes adorable finger capes that I use to help the students practice tracking with their super hero helper, their finger!


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Pond Life Thematic Unit: Frogs

Life in a pond is filled with some of the most fascinating characters you can find. Consequently it makes for a great thematic unit!. Frogs, duck, turtles, alligators, butterflies, dragonflies, and other pond life are among some of my favorite creatures to study, because they are not only fascinating, but pretty cute!

The study of pond life offers great opportunity for building vocabulary such as Living — Nonliving, life-cycle, observation, record, habitat, pond, environments. These vocabulary words are a great springboard for active experience with scientific principals.

Frogs

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Today I am going to talk about Frogs! Frogs are easy to purchase! Did you know you can even purchase one on Amazon? I have purchased each of these in the past and they are quality products. You have to send off for the frog friend after the container’s arrival (which comes pretty quickly), so allow ample time for the purchase before you need the little frog friend to come to your classroom, or home learning space! These frogs are really hearty, have a long life, and grow quite big!

Bring in some cute songs, fingerplays, and videos to enhance the learning.


There are tons of examples of thematic fun you can add into your curriculum when it comes to frogs. Here are a few examples: Construction Frogs, Write about frogs, Frog subtraction or addition, Frog Frosties, Frog on a Log, Frog songs, Frog science.

Create a science center. A place for students to learn independently the joys of scientific discovery.

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Add the academics. This pond thematic unit and supporting writing activities will have everything you need for frog fun, and strategic-academic learning that is linked to common core standards.

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Enjoy learning about animals and insects that live in a pond as your use this engaging "Developmentally Appropriate Thematic Unit" about Pond Animals.

Life in a Pond is filled with authentic play-based learning activities that your students in your classroom and/or homeschool setting will love. All activities are strategically linked to Common Core Standards.

Contents include: 

Songs/Fingerplays

Five Little Ducks

Oh I Want to Be a Frog

The Little White Duck

Art Projects

Handprint Duck

Fingerpaint Ducks Portfolio Sample

Frog Construct

Science

A Frog’s Life: Sequencing Map

A Duck Grows Up: A Science Booklet: Duck’s Life Cycle

Kitchen

Frog in a Pond

Frogs on a Log

Guided Reading Books

The Pond

A Frog Grows

Writing

Pond Word Wall

Writing Prompts: The Frog, Ducks

Writing Center Activities: 

How To, Write It, Label It

Math Activities

Hopping Frogs: Solving Equations

Where’s My Mommy: Matching Equations to Decompositions

Frog Subtraction: Subtracting Objects

Turtle Race: Adding and Subtracting Fluently 

Teen Duck Lotto: Matching Teen Numbers to Quantity

Literacy Activities

Frogger: Decoding CVC Words

Pond Phrases: Reading & Matching Phrases

Turtle Snap: Decoding Nonsense Words

Punctuation Pond: Choosing End Punctuation Marks

Pond Hunt: Write the Room Sight Words

At the Pond: Writing 3 and 4 Sound Words

Pond Sort: Word Family Picture Sort

Pond Theme Independent Writing Practice

Spring Thematic Unit

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Great for Guided Reading. Spring Guided Readers!

Students love these Spring themed guided readers. Paper books allow for authentic reading experiences that extend into the home as students take their own books home to share and keep.

Spring themed guided readers make learning to read fun and engaging! Kids LOVE these paper Spring time of the year themed guided reading books!

Contents Include:

The Lamb and the Lion

Welcome Spring

The Hat and the Famous Cat

St. Patrick’s Day

The Little Seed

The Bunnies

Related Products

Pond Thematic Unit

Pond Independent Writing Center Activities

Spring Themed Guided Readers

Spring Themed Intervention Games

Lamb and Lion Spring Themed Activities

Guided Reader Sets

Fable Themed Guided Readers

Picture Book Themed Guided Readers

Back To School Themed Guided Readers

Colors Themed Guided ReadersFall Themed Guided Readers

Halloween Themed Guided Readers

Apple Pumpkin Themed Guided Readers

Bear Themed Guided Readers

Christmas Themed Guided Readers

Winter Themed Set 1 Guided Readers

Winter Themed Set 2 Guided Readers

Ocean Themed Guided Readers

Pirate Themed Guided Readers

February Themed Guided Readers

Space Themed Guided Readers

Farm Themed Guided Readers

Dinosaur Themed Guided Readers

Spring Themed Guided Readers

End of School Year Themed Guided Readers

Guided Reader Complete Bundle

Sight Word Readers

Sight Word Readers Volume 1

Sight Word Readers Volume 2

Wonders Sight Word Readers

Wonders Sight Word Readers Units 1-5

Wonders Sight Word Readers Units 6-10

Guided Readers For Readers Theater

Readers Theater Bundle

Readers Theater Little Red Riding Hood

Readers Theater Henny Penny

Readers Theater Little Red Hen

Readers Theater Jack and the Beanstalk

Readers Theater The Three Little Pigs

Readers Theater The Billy Goats Gruff

Readers Theater Elves and the Shoemaker

Readers Theater Orchestrated Script The Gingerbread Man

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Make your writing center effective, challenging, and fun, by using these ready to use writing center materials.

Frogs: Can, Have, Are Anchor Chart
Frogs: Write a Story
Ducks: Can, Have, Are Anchor Chart
Ducks: Write a Story
Label-It I Can Chart
Label-It Student Worksheets
Make a List I Can Chart
Make a List Student Worksheet
Pond Life Word Wall
Write a Story I Can Chart
Write a Story Prompt Worksheet
Write The Room Anchor Chart
Write the Room Word Cards
Write the Room Worksheets
QR Sight Words
QR Letters
Write CVC Words

Related Products
• Back To School Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Billy Goats Gruff Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Christmas Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Dinosaur Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Fall Themed Independent Writing Practice
• Fall Writing and Literacy Activities for Pre Kindergarten
• February Get Your Kids Writing Activities
• Halloween Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Insect Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Jack & The Beanstalk Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Little Red Hen Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Ocean Themed Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Pond Theme Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Space Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Spider Bat Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Sticks and Curves: Developmental Handwriting Worksheets
• Thanksgiving Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Three Little Pigs Writing and Literacy Center Activities
• Winter Theme Independent Writing Practice
• Zoo Theme Independent Writing Practice

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Product Description

This Spring Themed "Developmentally Appropriate Thematic Unit" is filled with authentic active learning activities that will thrill your classroom or homeschool students as they learn important academic skills.

"It's a Spring Thing" is strategically linked to the common core standards. It is divided into areas of literature, music, art, literacy, math, worksheets, science, creative writing, word wall, and guided reading. The activities are clearly written, easy to use, and need limited amounts of preparation. 

Contents Include: 

Literacy Games

Lambs & Lions: Naming Letters Quickly

Let's Go Fly a Kite: Naming Sight Words Quickly

Abracadabra: Decoding CVC Words

The Bird's Nest: Building Familiarity With Punctuation Marks

Odd Duck: Word Families

Independent Literacy Activities

Spring Words: Distinguishing Between Similar Words

Math Games:

Fly Away Birdie: Solving Subtraction Problems

Spring Fling: Solving Addition Problems

Runaway Chicks: Solving Mathematical Problems Using 5-Frames

Chicks Together: Developing Mental Math Using 5-Frames

Bountiful Bunnies: Decomposing Numbers

Independent Math Activities

April Showers Bring May Flowers: Decomposing Numbers

Who Is Ready For Spring?: Connecting Numbers 1-43

Hippity Hop: Connecting Numbers 1-47

Songs/Fingerplays

Springtime

March Wind

Put Up Your Umbrella

Science Projects

Jello Mixing: Mixing Colors Tactilely

Color Mixing: Making Secondary Colors

Paint Mixing: Recording Data From an Experiment

Art Projects

Lamb & Lion: Portfolio Sample

Under the Umbrella

Vase of Flowers: Artist Study

Easter Bunny Hat

Writing

What I Like About Spring

The Easter Bunny

Guided Reading Books

Mix It Up

Pond Thematic Unit

Pond Independent Writing Center Activities

Spring Themed Guided Readers

Spring Themed Intervention Games

Lamb and Lion Spring Themed Activities

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Treating Children With Respect and Encouragement.

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As I walked by a classroom yesterday, I heard a teacher yelling at a student with a very forceful voice and exaggerated body language. This immediately took me to another place and time, the time when Mr. Black karate chopped me so hard in the back of the neck that I peed my pants instantly in front of the entire class. Why, you might ask? Because I ran on a corner of the grass instead of the sidewalk. You see, Mr Black, had a very strict rule that grass was not a place for children. I was playing tag with my friends and in the chase, I took a short-cut across the grass to place the tag. And there he was — I froze in fear. He chopped, and I peed. “Go clean yourself up he growled.” (I wonder how my head stayed attached to my body with that forceful chop).

I still fully feel the deep humiliation and shame that a small first grader should not have experienced. Still, 50 plus years later the experience brings tears to my eyes. I spent the remainder of that school day in soiled clothes, watching the clock. When I arrived home I went up to my bedroom and put on my pajamas and crawled in bed. I told my mom that I was sick. I was simply too ashamed to tell her the truth. “Come down and I will make you some supper.” My mom said as she lovingly put her arms around me and took me down the stairs to each some of her delicious cinnamon rolls.


We live in a perilous world. A world filled with disadvantage, sadness, and inequity. A world where a young child does not always go home to a clean house with warm cinnamon rolls and  loving reassurance from a caring family. Sometimes a loving and caring adult at school is the only safe person in a child’s world. William W.  Purkey, the author of Invitational Education, addresses a 12 to 1 Ratio (Blue Cards: Positive, beneficial, rewarding interactions --  Orange Cards: Negative and/or toxic feedback and interaction) . According to Purkey's research, "Each person (even those with the best of circumstances) require at least twelve blue cards (positive experiences) for every one orange card (negative experiences) just to "make it through the night." This ratio indicates the strength of orange cards (negative or toxic experiences), and the actions needed to counteract them. When too few blue cards are received, or too many orange, the ratio falls "below minimum" and terrible things begin to happen. Individuals begin to lose self-esteem, optimism, and hope. This loss is coupled with the appearance of pessimism, hostility, and terrible anger. "Nobody likes me, respects me or cares about me, so I don’t like, respect, or care about others either."  When children have experienced trauma, the ratio of blue to orange needs to be a staggering 19:1!

Teachers: Please give out the blue cards freely!

"The reason the blue and orange card metaphor is a valuable one, is that it serves as a constant reminder that everything people do, and every way they do it, is either positive or negative, beneficial or lethal, inviting or disinviting." says Paula H. Stanley of Radford University, VA (Read her full article here).

Purkey reminds us further in his research that everything counts!  "The way a phone is answered, a letter written, a word spoken, an office painted, a colleague treated, a policy established, a program implemented is either helpful or harmful."

Maslow (1970) captured the essence of the blue and orange card metaphor when he wrote: “Let people realize that every time they threaten someone or humiliate or hurt ... or dominate or reject another human being, they become forces for the creation of psychopathology, even if these be small forces. Let them recognize that every man [sic] who is kind, helpful, decent, psychologically democratic, affectionate, and warm, is a psychotherapeutic force even though a small one."

Teachers please treat your students with the caring and kindness they deserve. Be the kind of teacher who sends a child home happy and full of positive experiences. These blue card experiences have lasting effects, that can change the pathways of life. Thank you to the countless educators who are handing out blue cards to the point of exhaustion! A kind and caring adult makes all the difference in a child’s life.


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Zoo and Jungle Thematic Units

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Two of my favorite thematic units are the Jungle and the Zoo. These two units are such great companions! I begin with the study of the jungle and then move into study of zoo animals.

Kids love learning about animals, their habitats, and way of life. These fun units weave academic concepts into STEM in fun and engaging ways. Exciting and engaging academic content is also enhanced with this animal based theme. My kids love playing games such as Monkey Food, Zoo Zap, and Zero Zebras to practice targeted skills.

I begin by purchasing a roll of jute and then ask my students to construct large leaves. I staple the leaves to the vines (jute), and weave across the ceiling of our classroom, or learning space. The magic immediately begins at this point. As we create snakes, toucans and more, the vines come alive with jungle life. Many of the students become so engaged with this transformation, they ask to take supplies home so they can create a jungle space in their own home.

Next we move to the transformation of our dramatic play area. This space will now be filled with safari costumes, books, pictures, and realia of jungle animals. Binoculars, sketch pads, and more. I love to have my students involved in the set-up. The space has so much more meaning than if it is magically transformed in the evening when they are at home.

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Because we house animals in zoos to study and learn from, the science center is a great place to set up a zoo with a lot of STEM benefits. I have dozens of small plastic zoo animals that I place in the sensory tub, a box of small blocks of varying sizes and shapes, and some other zoo-making supplies. My students love creating and re-creating a zoo each time they step into the science center. I have plenty of books and photos of real zoos, paper pencils, and more, to help those creative juices flowing.

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There is always time for some high quality art projects. Creating the animals of the jungle is not only fun, but is a great way to extend reading experiences and build story comprehension skills. These activities below have been created at the end of each animal study.

Hopefully, you have a zoo close to your home you will be able to take a field trip to enhance the learning. These field trips are some of my fondest memories of time-spent with my students. Since I no longer live field trip distance from a zoo, I now take them there virtually by visiting kids.sandiegozoo.org. Although it is not quite the same as that real-life, up-close experience, it is the next best thing. The live video cameras do allow students to see the animals interact with each other in their zoo habitat.

The learning games in our high-quality thematic units are academically challenging in a play-based way, and reach across the curriculum for inner-connected learning. Here is what people are saying about these units. “Wow!! This is an amazing interdisciplinary packet. The children thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities that we used. It was a great resource for me. It is so well organized.”


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And don’t forget to top off your study of amazing animals by celebrating with my all time favorite Ms. Frizzle as she takes that bus to the rain forest. *Full episodes are generally found on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime.

St Patrick's Day Thematic Unit

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My mom told me that she wanted to name me Kathy, but she went with Kathleen because I was due on St. Patrick’s day. I also took a DNA test that told me I’m 4.9% Irish, so I guess there is nothing to do but embrace this lighthearted holiday, which is based on a patron Saint in Ireland that died in 461. Wow! That is a long time for a celebration to survive. The community where I currently live has a giant St. Patrick’s Day parade, started by a an Irish settler in the community four decades ago. His goal was to give opportunity for everyone to act like a kid again, which is something I do every day!

Gather The Books

What better way to celebrate the luck of the Irish than a great thematic study of the holiday! The best way to start any thematic unit is by finding great books! Here are some of my favorites.


Find The Music

There are so many great songs you can use to bring St Patrick’s Day to life in your classroom. One of my favorites to use is Michael Finnagen! This Singlish version is a lot of fun! Search Youtube and you will find many other great versions.

It is also a lot of fun to teach your students an Irish jig to an original tune. Students especially love keeping their arms straight throughout the dancing. Again, you can find many other jig examples on Youtube.

Plan The instruction

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Planning all of the thematic learning across the curriculum is not only fun to do, it makes sense for the students! There are so many things that you can do with the connection of luck, green, leprechauns, gold, money, rainbows, and even parades.

Of course, don’t forget Leprechaun traps! My favorite way of dealing with the construction is to have this a take-home-project if possible. I find that some great creativity ensues. For those who don’t bring a box from home, I simply let them construct something simple at the art table during centers or free choice — they are just as happy.


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And if you are lucky, you might just catch that leprechaun as it is trying to get out the window!


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Go Bonkers ESGI Extended License & More: Use Code KathyBonkers

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