What the 70% of “Prepare” Looks Like

A few days ago I mentioned that my current ration between resting and preparing this summer is about 30% to 70%.  See:

I think one of the reasons that I’m so high on “Prepare” this summer is because I am moving to a new classroom in the fall.  No, not the classroom that I had last school year from October until June, or another preschool classroom like I had before that.  This will be another new and completely different classroom.  Which is a another long story in and of itself, but suffice it to say that it’s a change that I’m pretty excited about.   It will be a brand new program in a brand new room that will be – most importantly – mine to run how I want.   So I’m pretty happy to do some preparation to make the new classroom and experience run well.

I would say that my “Prepare” is largely split up into these categories:

  • Home organization
  • Classroom material creation
  • Teacher Materials Organization
  • Teacher Store Organization
  • Teacher Store Product Creation
  • Computer/Laptop cleaning and re-filing

Sadly, “Meal Planning” hasn’t made it into the “Prepare” list yet.  However, there’s still time…

New Items on the Teacher Store Shelves – at 50% off the First 24 Hours!

I have two new items going into the Teacher Stores tomorrow afternoon.  That means that they will be 50% off the first 24 hours that they are in the stores!

The first item is a set of new vocabulary cards.  These are “Around the House” cards.  At 50% off, these cards will be only $1.50!





Each of these cards are 4.25″x 5.5″, and they print four to a page.  Just copy, laminate, and use!

The second item going in is a set of printable step-by-step instructions for students to follow to make alien headbands!  During the first 24 hours in the store these instructions will be only $2.00. The thumbnails look like this:

How-to-Make-an-Alien-Headband-Thumbnails-Page-oneHow-to-Make-an-Alien-Headband-Thumbnails-Page-twoHow-to-Make-an-Alien-Headband-Thumbnails-Page-threeI will add the links once the items are up in the stores, but you can look for them tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, July 24) in my Teachers Pay Teachers and my Teachers Notebook stores!  Thanks for taking a look!

The Summer Break Teacher Quandary: Rest or Prepare?

Ahh, the middle of Week 7 of summer break.  With 3 more weeks (actually 2.5) to go before I have to officially be back at work, I am officially on the downhill slide of summer break.

As much as I love summer, I admit that I regularly struggle with what I call the Summer Break Teacher Quandary.  It’s basically the decision a teacher has to make of what serves him/her best during these long, work-free weeks: rest or prepare?

The “rest” scenario is where you do as little school-related as possible.  You get away.  You turn your mind away from it all.  You might be lounging by the pool doing nothing or you might be pretty busy, but either way, you aren’t thinking about school.  You’re recharging.

On the other side, there’s the “Prepare” option.  Despite what you might think, this doesn’t exactly mean spending their summer making lesson plans.   Prepare can mean a lot of different things.  Basically, it’s focusing on doing any kind of things that in the end are going to make the next school year run better.  It might be cleaning out your garage so that you can actually access your teacher boxes easier.  Or it might be finally sorting out some unit files so that they’re are easier to pull ideas from.  Or perhaps it’s working out some meal plans so that you will actually know what’s for dinner at when it’s 5:00 and you’re just leaving school after a long IEP meeting.

These two options remind me of my college days when I had a big test the next day that I wasn’t really ready for.  Around ten o’clock the night before the test, I would often be faced with a similar scenario – would it be better for me to stay up really late and do some test preparation (cramming), or for me to get a good night’s rest so that I would be rested and better prepared (to guess) the next day?  I have to tell you that I chose the “Rest” option 99% of the time – mainly because I loved sleep and hating staying up super-late.

However, now as an adult teacher on summer break, I find that I choose both.  I do some resting, and some preparing.  And I would guess that most teachers do the same.  I think it’s probably the balance that makes teachers feel best ready to tackle a new school year.  Because of course, the right balance of Rest vs. Prepare can go a long way in greeting the new school year bright eyed and ready.

This summer so far I am about 70% prepare and 30% rest.  What about you?  What are your percentages in the Summer Break Rest vs. Prepare Quandary?


We were doing our regular thing outside today with the morning class when one of the other teachers called me over.  “You have got to see this,” she said.  “Little Johnny has been working away with the sidewalk chalk.  And he even wrote something!”

And lo and behold, she was right.  There on the sidewalk was a whole series of drawings – there were lots of butterflies (we has released our nine butterflies to the wild just a few minutes earlier), plus a  few other random drawings.  And right up there with them, written boldly in chalk were these words:

And this even from one of my Special Needs students.  “He’s brilliant!” I thought.  “Look at this fantastic example of literacy right on our sidewalk.”  And I whipped out my phone and took a picture to memorialize the feat.  If someone ever comes down to our room and starts fussing about how we’re not meeting our IEP goals sufficiently, I’m going to whip out this picture and show them the data to prove otherwise.

At the very least, even if I don’t need to use the picture to prove anything, we can certainly use it as our current preschool mantra:  No poop, Little People.  It’s clearly written, right there on the sidewalk.

Of course, I must also add that the author of this message denied any knowledge of what it actually says.  But he paused long enough before denying knowledge that I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what it says.  Which really makes him even smarter in my eyes than he was before.

Sidewalk brilliance.  Right before our very eyes.

A Plastic Bag Kite Kind of Day

Today was a cool and windy day, which is weather that we don’t always see in April (considering that it’s been in the nineties here the last few weeks).  This gusty weather made it perfect kite-flying weather.  And because I have not yet brought my kite to my new school, we flew plastic bag kites instead.

This method of kite-flying was actually perfect for today, as it is Earth Day.  Turning plastic bags into kites is a great way to recycle them, and this went well with our discussion of taking care of our world.  Of course, when another teacher was playing with one of the kites she thought it would be great fun to lift the kite up in the air and say, ‘Hey!  Let’s see what happens when we let go!”  And away, away flew the kite, over the playground fence and out into the adjacent four-lane road.  Then she declined to go and bring it back, which most likely negated all of our talk about taking care of the earth and not littering.  (Do as I say and not as I do, Little People.)

But perhaps the Little People did not really notice, since they were so absorbed with frolicking with their kites.  (Well, with the exception of the student whose bag floated out into the street and is now most likely tangled in the axle of someone’s car on that side of town.  Or even worse, lying in a pond somewhere threatening to tangle up a duck…)

Yes, the Little People loved the kites.  Even the one Little Person who, bless his heart, has a new pair of pants that are at least two sizes too big for him.  Big enough, in fact, that they kept falling around his ankles as he ran around the playground if he let go of them.  After three or four times of this happening, he just tired of messing with them, and just tried to run around with his pants down.  We kept saying, “Johnny, stop!  You must pull your pants up.”   And then we got some of the extra yarn and made him a yarn belt.  So he could fly his plastic bag kite worry and breeze-free.

So, fun and recycling all around on Earth Day.




“New Product Discount” Going into Effect for TPT Store Followers

With my new job there have been things that I like, and things that I did not like.  I suppose that is bound to happen when you add a new teacher to a co-teaching setting where things have been rolling along the same way for quite some time.   Some of the things that I did not like have been changeable, and some – at least so far – have not.  I have really had to think hard about what things were the most important to me to be changed right away, and which I need to wait on.   I am trying my best to pick my battles, so to speak, and am addressing the things that are most important to me first.  The rest I am adjusting to, trying to adapt to, or just biding my time on.

I have been able to deal with some of the things that are not (at least yet) changeable by putting my own “spin” on them.  Take our “morning circle”, for example.  I realize that I am weird in this, but I am not really a teacher who likes to do a lot of the morning routines that many preschool teachers like to do.  I don’t think that preschoolers need to spend a lot of time talking about elements of a traditional calendar, as (in my opinion) most preschoolers can’t really understand many time concepts.  I don’t really think preschoolers need to arrange words on the board to make a weather sentence, and I don’t think they need to add correct punctuation.  I also don’t think we need to count how many boys and girls are at school every single day.  (Have all the boys stand up, and count the boys.  Then have all the girls stand up, and then count the girls…)

However, these are rituals that seem to be important to my coworkers, so for now I am rolling with them.  Or at least trying to make them a little more interesting – if not meaningful for the Little People.  For example, I have decided that we can go beyond counting just boys and girls each day to bring in some new vocabulary to teach the kids.  So on my days to lead we count those wearing stripes/no stripes.  Or we count teachers/kids.  Or we count short hair friends/long hair friends, which leads to meaningful discussions about these concepts and the comparative concepts of “longer” and “shorter”.

Regardless of what we’re doing in our room, I always feel the need to add more visuals to our teaching.  I find that we do some many activities routinely by just talking about things when we could be showing visuals to help our students understand.  Not only our special-needs students, but also our second-language learners.

So, with that in mind I went to work on the computer and came up with some visuals for our “Count the Kids” time.  Now I can show pictures of the concepts we’re talking about, such as “straight” and “curly” and “zipper” and “no zipper”.  I also added some pictures that I am calling “Transition pictures”, which will help show concepts that we talk about during transitions.  (Such as, “Everyone with ponytails please go line up.”

Here is what the thumbnails look like:

When you buy this set you get all of the visuals above in two sizes:  5.5″x 8.5″, and 4.25″ x 5.5″.  You can see these items in my  TPT and my Teachers Notebook stores.  You can also download a preview of these items at either store.

But wait – there’s more!  Starting with this product, I am giving each of my new products at “New Product 50% Discount” the first 24 hours they go on the store shelves.  To get alert on my new products, just follow either my Teachers Pay Teachers or my Teachers Notebook store.


Working on Cutting Skills with a Ribbon-Snipping Bin

When I came into my new classroom last October, I noticed that most of the cutting the Little People were doing were cutting pre-copied straight and curved lines on copy paper.  And while this can be good practice, there is so much out there to developing cutting skills than attempting to cut the same copied lines week after week.

Really, kids who are still developing cutting skills need the opportunity to practice skills that will lead them to good cutting skills – and then they need to opportunity to apply the “pre-cutting” skills they are gaining to actually cutting lines on paper.

Because of this, I have been trying to bring in a wide variety of these pre-cutting opportunities to my new Little People.

This week I put out a ribbon bin.  I used curling ribbon, as this is easier to snip than cloth or satin ribbons.  At first I thought I had to place the spools of ribbons outside the bin, and then have the Little People pull the ribbon from the spool into the bin and snip it off.  However, after having eight or nine Little People swarm the bin and clamor for their turn to get ribbon from the spools, I realized this was silly.  Instead, I just cut yard-long pieces of the ribbon and dropped them down into the bin along with several pair of scissors.  I didn’t curl the ribbon more than the gentle curls it already had, although this would have been a nice (and appealing) touch.

All in all, it was a very attractive bin to the kids.  And it gave me a good look at how the Little People were able to hold ribbon in one hand and snip it with the other.

In fact, I saw lots of different scissor (and ribbon) holds in the snipping attempts:

For some of my Little People, I need to help them hold the ribbon so they could do the snipping.  With some of my more advanced students, they just abandoned snipping all together and moved to tying the ribbon in knots (see in photo above).

Either way, it was fun to see how one bin of inexpensive ribbon could host a wide range of skill practice for the Little People.


Meeting Preschool IEP Goals: Working with “More” and “Less”

Now that I am the teacher of 18 Special Education preschoolers, one of my biggest responsibilities is meeting IEP goals.  To do this, I have mapped out all of the goals I need to cover, and focus on different ones throughout my days and weeks.  Sometimes I work on teaching the concepts behind the goals, and sometimes I assess progress made on the goals.

One concept that is on several of my students’  IEPs is showing understanding of the concepts of “more and less”, as well as other size comparison concepts (longer/shorter, taller/shorter, higher/lower, etc.).  While these are fairly easy concepts to work on throughout the day with various manipulatives and natural learning situations, I found that I needed an easy, all-in-one way to assess how much my students know/are learning about these concepts.  As a result, I created some printable pictures to use for this purpose that are now in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook stores.

There are two sets of pictures.  The first set is a “More & Less” set that has 14 pairs of matching pictures.  One picture of the pair has more items, and one has less.

These pictures come in two sizes: a half-page size at 5.5″ x 8.5″, and a full-page size  8.5″ x 11″.  I use and prefer the half-page size, since it makes a very handy book to carry around and use in the classroom.

When I put my More/Less pictures together, I assembled them so that the coordinating pictures face each other in the book.  That way the student can see both of the pictures at the same time when they turned the page:

As I go through the pages with the student, I just ask about one concept (either “more” or “less”).    Then when I go through the book a second time, I ask the other concept.  (With the pages above, I ask, “Which field has more/less soccer players?”)

If I am using this book as a concept-teaching activity (as opposed to an assessment tool) I will have the students count the objects on each page, label them with the correct number and compare the amounts.   Included in this printable set are some “How Many?” cards, as well as numeral cards up to 18.

The second type of pictures are “Size Comparisons” pictures.  Unlike the More/Less book, it covers three different size comparison concepts. Out of the 20 different pictures, 7  cover longest/shortest, 10 cover tallest/shortest, and 3 cover highest/lowest.   Each page of this book has a sentence printed on it with the two choices being assessed for that page.  When I work with this book, I initially go through and ask only the first of the two choices on each page, and then the next time through I will ask the second choice on each page.  

So, for the page above (and all the following pages in the book), I will just go through asking the first word of the two given in each sentence (in this case “longest”).  Then the next time I go though the book I will ask the second choice in each sentence (“shortest”).

This helps me keep data about how the students answered. (I either count the number of correct answers as we go through, or I make quick tally marks on paper).  

The “Size Comparisons” pictures also come in two sizes:  a half-page size at 5.5″ x 8.5″, and a full-page size  8.5″ x 11″.

Hopefully this (or something similar) can help you in working with “more” and “less” concepts with the Little People that you teach!

Here are the product thumbnails:



New in the Teacher Store: Fun Forms for Dramatic Play Centers – Food Themes

I just put a new item in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store tonight – just in time for the big sale they’re having over the next two days. (I have all of my items 20% off, plus you can get an additional 10% off with the promo code TPT3).

These are called “Fun Forms for Dramatic Play Centers”.  They’re basically black and white printable forms that are easy to clip to a small clipboard and add to your dramatic play center to promote writing in that center.

This set is “Food Themes” and include themes for a Tea Shop, Sandwich Shop, Pizza Restaurant and a Fruit and Vegetable Stand:

I got my small clipboards from Office Max.  I used some Command hooks to put my clipboards up right in the center:

(I do realize that the Space forms are up right above the babies that are clearly in “Home” center.   The Space Station had already been taken down before I got a chance to display and photograph them.)

And as you might guess, I have a Space set of forms coming soon.  Along with a grocery list, “chores” list, Veterinarians Office forms, and possibly more after that.  Fun!

The Food Themes set has 40 different 5.5″x 8.5″ forms (10 for each theme).  You can find it here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and once you’re there you can even download two of the forms for free as a preview.  Thanks for looking!


Adapting Apple Printing for Preschool Special Education

One of the interesting parts of my new job these days is finding ways to adapt various preschool activities so that all of my students (both special ed and general ed) can access them.   My new preschool classes are inclusion classes and between the 10 special ed students and the 10 general ed students in each class, I have a wide range of abilities in all different areas.

It’s always rewarding to me to find a way for each child to be able to do an activity on their own – with or without an adaptation.

Here’s a quick hint regarding doing apple printing with young children.  Often the students (and the teachers, quite frankly) can have trouble manipulating the apple during the printing, as apples are naturally quite rounded and slippery.

To help with this, push a pipe cleaner all the way through the apple, close to the cut surface:

If you have a soft apple, you won’t need any assistance to get the pipe cleaner all the way through.  If you have a crisper apple, you might need to do this first with a thin dowel or thick wire to make the hole, then thread the pipe cleaner through.  Once the pipe cleaner is through, twist the ends of the pipe cleaners together as shown.

This will give your student a “handle” to hold the apple with.  If needed, the student can slide their hand between the pipe cleaner and the apple, causing the pipe cleaner to “hold” the child’s hand close to the top of the apple, and eliminating the need for them to actually need to grasp the pipe cleaner at all.  Just a lift of the arm will bring the apple up from the paint/paper and down again to the desired location.

This obviously could be used on a variety of printing projects – in potatoes, or other fruit, for example.

Just another way to help all students access all activities – one activity at a time.

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