Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pattern Blocks for Christmas

Pattern blocks are a type of math manipulative that you commonly find in primary grade classrooms and beyond. They are great for learning geometry and a fun way to build spacial awareness as well. I blogged about pattern blocks back in the summer - here

Pattern blocks are a great teaching tool to have at home for your children to play and learn with. I started this post as a way to share this link for making Christmas themed pictures using pattern blocks:  
(That should be where I stopped typing but instead...I wrote a short dissertation. Clearly I'm stalling on my holiday to-do list!)

I thought I'd re-cap some of the toys that we play with at our house that use pattern blocks and offer a couple good websites for free printables of templates for pattern blocks. All of the products listed can be bought at or locally at most toy stores. It's actually quite amazing the selection of pattern blocks that you can buy at Amazon - wood, foam, see-through, magnetic, template sets, kits, etc. (Hop over there if you aren't familiar with what pattern blocks are!)

Melissa and Doug makes a wooden set - "Pattern Blocks & Boards" which has pre-printed images that the child lays the blocks onto. This has been a favorite toy for years! To extend my kindergartners learning with this I have him record the number of each of the shapes that he uses to create the picture.

Melissa and Doug also makes a toy for younger children (2+) called Beginner Pattern Blocks. These are great for wee little ones because the blocks fit into place and do not slide around. Each pictures requires less tiles and they are simple to solve. My daughter is an expert at this and loves to sit and play with it. The other set is still a bit frustrating because the tiles slide but she plays with both now.
Mightymind Set - is a activity set that has 32 colorful design tiles that store in a plastic tray. It has  sequentially numbered puzzle cards for the child to build increasingly difficult pictures. Clearly people have known about this toy for some time since "over 3 million sets have been sold in 20 countries around the world" but I just discovered it this past fall. It's marketed for ages 3-8 but my 2.5 year old enjoys it and my six year old finished it quickly. I like that it gets increasingly more difficult as they take the color and outline supports out from the cards as they get progressively more challenging. The brochure for the product states, "MightyMind encourages and entices a child to think, explore and discover the fascinating way simple shapes can be combined to form intricate delightful pictures and designs. Children learn to solve puzzles without assistance. No language or reading is required."  I think this is a great set to buy but the blocks are smaller than free templates that I found online. The tiles are plastic and I prefer the M&D wood ones, but this company also offers a magnetic set which would be fun on the go.

Another choice is make paper pattern blocks using card stock. The drawback is the paper ones shift when making patterns and they don't have the same feel as wood one.
The paper ones do make fun craft projects, though I'd advise an adult precuting the shapes so building with them comes out symmetrical. Here's a site for paper pattern blocks.

Also check out Heidi's blog post about using pattern blocks to build letters -

Other good sites for free pattern block templates:

One of my favorite preschool websites has a wealth of pattern block templates:   (These come in both color and black and white so you can offer differing amounts of support.)
One of my favorite Kindergarten bloggers Mrs. Wills has free pattern block templates. Just click on the picture and it takes you to her Goggle docs for free. These are smaller than the pattern blocks that I own but I love that it challenges my son to 'free build' using the template as a guide. It doesn't allow him to just lay the tiles on tops of the template so his mind is working at another level!

This site is geared for slightly older children but lovely designs.

Links to other learning using pattern blocks -- quilting, snowflakes, symmetrical building, art

Of my....I think I will be spending more time with pattern blocks this winter! But back now to my holiday to-do list!
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Animal Tracks

Introducing the Theme
The term 'tracks' may be new to some children so begin by explaining that 'tracks' are like saying "footprints". Tracks are the footprints that are left by animals feet when they walk.

Get the children thinking by asking, "When are some other times that you have made footprints? If you walk on plain grass do you leave footprints? How do we make footprints?" (walking in mud, on the sand at the beach, playing in snow, doing a craft when are feet are painted, or walking after we have mud or dirt on our shoes.)

Read aloud - Footprints in the Snow. This is a simple text and  is a great introduction to animal tracks for preschoolers.

Another excellent read aloud for preschools is Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee

After reading, explain to the children that in the winter, snow makes it very easy to see what animals have been walking around. The animals feet leave a 'footprint' or 'track' and that track is often frozen so you can examine even days after it is made.

Outdoor activities:

* Winter Walk: Taking a winter walk looking for animal tracks can be quite the adventure for young children. Explain that in addition to tracks people also look for tree scarring and scat (animal droppings). Look for real animal tracks (even cat tracks are fun to find). Any time that tracks are found look around the area closely without disturbing the tracks. Take a photograph of the tracks so that you can print and make a book of your discoveries. Look for other signs of animal activity - chewed acorn shells, scat, and scratches in bark.

* Give each child their own 'Animal Track Pattern Cards' to wear as necklace. ( used to have one from Curious George but the link is no longer active. Another printable version can be found in the Project Season book from Shelburne Farms. If I find a good free printable I will come back to link to it.)

*Follow the Footprints activity: Make animal footprints that are to scale of the actual size of the animal. (I am using Deer & Moose this year.) Laminate the sheets for durability. Before the students arrive, put the footprints out in the outdoor space. Then have the children track the prints down and follow the animal. {If there is snow on the ground, stomp out human footprints in various sized boots instead.}

Indoor Activities:
Water Table - put a thin layer of real snow in the water table. Add a few plastic toys encourage kids to make tracks in the snow. (If no snow is available use a thin layer of flour in a shallow pan, placed inside the water table to catch most of the spills.)

Play dough - make a batch of homemade play dough and leave plain white. Put a variety to plastic animals at the play dough table and encourage the students to make tracks in their dough.

Kid Tracks - roll out 8 feet of easel paper on the ground. Paint the children's feet have them walk the length of the paper. Have 3-4 kids on one sheet, using different colored paints. Display the easel paper in the classroom.

Blocks - add white cotton batting as pretend snow, pretend woodland animals

Sensory Table - bring a bit of the forest into the classroom by having a wide selection of natural materials  (pine branches, pine cones, small branches, dried plants, etc.) Possibly hide some woodland animals amongst the branches.

Science Center- display an animal track identification poster on the wall, have a tracking manual, small tracking cards, and other animal resource books. Animal Tracks matching cards that are age appropriate can be found at -
Writing Center - have a photocopy sheet of a simple landscape and small rubber stamps of animal tracks. Encourage the kids to make tracks in the 'snow' since the paper is white.

Actual Size Rubber Stamps - trace animal tracks onto black foam that has an adhesive back. Cut out the shape and mount onto a scrap piece of 2x4 or small lumber. (Be sure to sand any rough edges.) Assist the kids in using ink pads to create tracks onto paper. I made moose and deer prints in actual size to show the size difference.

Book Center - have a variety of winter themed books including age appropriate books about tracks:
Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam; Who’s Been Here?: A Tale in Tracks by Fran Hodgkins, Footprints in the Snow by Cynthia Benjamin.  

Additional Resources:
Online Animal Tracks game -
Online Animals in the Forest counting game -

Monday, November 28, 2011

Animals In Winter Booklist

Animals in Winter is one of my favorite themes to teach. Below you will find my booklist. I would like to annotate the list but am running short on time, so I will mention just a few highlights! Since I currently teach preschool, the list is more geared for a younger audience, and includes some cute bear books that aren't technically about winter! The little @ symbol indicates this title is available at the wonderful St. Johnsbury Athenaeum so my local friends can check them out!

Wishing you a warm and joyous Winter!

Alborough, Jez. Where is Teddy?
Arnosky, Jim. Every Autumn Comes the Bear. (also includes pictures of ravens, bobcat, raccoon, chickadees, deer, bunnies, fox, & grouse. Simple text make it a great preschool read aloud.) @
Arnosky, Jim. Wild Tracks!  @-JNF 591.47 (amazing book with fold out pages of life sized tracks.
Arnosky, Jim. I See Animals Hiding.
Atkins, Alison. There Were Ten Bears in a Bed.
Bancroft, Henriette and Richard Van Gelder. Animals in Winter.
Benjamin, Cynthia and Jacqueline Rogers. Footprints in the Snow.
Berger, Melvin & Gilda. What do Animals Do in Winter? How Animals Survive the Cold
Boring, Mel. Rabbits, Squirrels, and Chipmunks.
Brown, Tom. Nature Observation & Tracking.
Burns, Diane and Linda Garrow.Tree, Leaves, and Bark (Take Along Guides)
Carle, Eric and Bill Martin, Jr. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
Crossingham. What is Hibernation?
Dendy, L. Tracks, Scats, and Signs.
Denslow, Sharon Phillips. In the Snow. (chickadee, sparrow, cardinal, crow, squirrel, bunny, mouse & possum. Very simple text and engaging illustrations.) @
Dodd, Anne Wescott. Footprints and Shadows.
Dorros, Arthur. Animal Tracks.
Fisher, Ron. Animals in Winter.  @-JNF 591.5 FIS
Fleming, Denise. Time to Sleep.
George, Jean Craighead. Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here.
George, Lindsay Barret. In the Snow: Who's Been Here?  @
George, Lindsay Barret. In the Woods: Who's Been Here?  @
George, William T. Winter at the Long Pond.
Glasser, Linda. It's Winter!
Hall, M. Hibernation.
Henkes, Kevin. Old Bear.
Hodgkins, F. Who's Been Here? A Tale in Tracks. (includes tracks from: cat, turkey, moose, skunk)
Holmer, Marilyn F. Beaver Stream  (very informative, beautiful illustrations) @
Jones, Jennifer. Who Lives in the Snow?
Kennedy, Jimmy. Teddy Bears' Picnic.
Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Winter (Discover Nature Series)
Lehn, Barbara. What is a Scientist?
Levine, Lynn and Martha Mitchell. Mammal Tracks and Scat: Life-Size Tracking Guide. **
London, Jonathan. Froggy's Best Christmas (froggy, beaver, turtle & bear get to experience their first Christmas since they woke up from their winter naps.)
Meadows, M. Hibernation Station.
Messner, Kate. Over & Under the Snow. (includes information on: red squirrels, shrews, deer, deer mice, voles, shoeshoe hares, bullfrogs, beavers, red fox, chipmunk, black bear, and bumblebees.) @-soon!
Miller, Dorcas. Track Finder: A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America.
O'Donnell, Elizabeth Lee. Winter Visitors. (counting book of animals sneaking into a girls home)  @
Preller, James. Wake Me in Spring.
Rosen, Michael. We're Going on a Bear Hunt.
Ryder, Joanne and Lynne Cherry. Chipmunk Song.
Salas, Laura Purdie. Do Polar Bears Snooze in Hollow Trees? A Book about Animal Hibernation.
Sams, Laura. Stranger in the Woods - Photographic Fantasy. @
Schaefer, Lola. Deer.  (Great pictures, clear language that answers kid's common questions about deer.) @
Selsam, Millicent E. Big Tracks, Little Tracks.
Souci, Daniel San. North Country Night.
Stall, Chris and Steve Whitney. New England Animal Tracks.
Stewart, Paul. A Little Bit of Winter.
Waddell, Martin. Owl Babies. @
Walters, Catherine. Time to Sleep Alfie Bear. (Set in the summer but a great book to share if you are learning about bears; @-book on CD.)
Wilson, Karma. Bear Snores On.  @
Yee, Wong Herbert. Tracks in the Snow. (A great story to introduce young children to tracking. A girl follows tracks around her home and discovers that they are her own tracks from the previous day.)
Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon.
Yolen, Jane. Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep. (black bear, frog, bat, snake, turtle, gopher, skunk, badger, beaver, mouse, toad, & chipmunk) @

Do you have other books that you like for teaching about animals in winter? I'd love to hear them if you do!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Preschool & Kindergarten Websites, Blogs

I'm working on creating an interactive list of all my favorite websites and blogs, organized by age group or topic.This post is my first installment. As I add the websites I will post them as a blog post and add it as onto my teacher resources page. Hopefully I will have this project finished by the New Year!
(I'd love to hear ways you keep your favorite sites organized as well.)

Preschool Websites & Blogs:

A wonderful website full of ideas and activities to do with preschoolers.

Another wonderful preschool website full of great activities~

I love all the updates that TeachPreschool posts on FB and her website is a great resource too~

I've recently discovered Activity Village and love some of their printables! "...thousands of free colouring pages, kids crafts, educational resources, puzzles, printables, jigsaws, sudoku and lots more fun, free activities for kids!" Normally I don't print many worksheet type activities but I love their 'how to draw' printables!

One of my favorite sites to find quality (and free) printables to use with my themes is 2TeachingMommies. They're work is engaging for young kids  - I love the number sequence puzzles, pattern sets, and matching activities!

Homeschooler blog for Tots that I love. Lots of great ideas for using tot trays, themes, lapbooks, and activity packs and she even hosts a weekly link up with a bunch of other 'tot school posts'

Tot Tray inspiration through pictures. I love the ideas here because it make assembling activities for young preschoolers & tots so easy!

 Kindergarten Websites & Blogs:

I had the pleasure of finding Fran's blog this summer during a Math Work Stations Linky Party. I love her approach to teaching kindergarten and love reading humor her filled posts. She has lots of freebies on her blog, and great products to purchase at TpT. Check her out at

Who else is going to open up their weekly lesson plan books and give you a free 'Peek at my Week'? DeeDee does just that and the document is hyperlinked so with a click of a mouse you can have the same activity in your classroom! I read this each week and salivate over her variety of activities and organization! Definitely check out ~~  ://

Great free printables are availagle at:

Another wonderful kindergarten blogger who I've been following for the last year. Her weekly posts give great insights into teaching a variety of levels with a huge class size.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Printable Math Games

My son loves math and he is always eager to play new games. Instead of buying board games or packaged products, I've decided to be on the look out for FREE printable math games online.

Today I found a new website that has a variety of math centers and games with free printables in PDF form. There are about 30 activities to choose from. It's not listed the age range but it looks like Kindergarten -1st grade work. I haven't tried out any of the games yet so I can't blog about specifics that he liked...but I'll keep you posted!

For games for children to play online, our new 'go to' website is - which has K-5 grade work for both literacy and math.

Friday, November 11, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness, Days 1-11

November 1: I'm thankful for all the homes in town that hand out candy to trick-or-treaters so all of us living further outside of town can come bring our kids to mooch.
November 2: I'm thankful for amazing deals on diapers on Amazon. (I'd be even more thankful to say potty training was done and I was saving hundreds of dollars...)

November 3: I'm thankful for pretty dresses and fashionable hats for little girls.

November 4: I'm thankful for all my blogging friends and the amazing freebies they share.
November 5: I'm thankful for weekends and work schedules that allow our family to be together as much as we are!
November 6: I'm thankful for my son and all the hard work and effort he is putting into learning to read.

November 7: I'm thankful for our Music Together class that encourages me to sing and dance with my daughter.
November 8: I'm thankful for green grass.
November 9: I am thankful for the unseasonably mild fall we've had and all the extra sunshine Vermont has received this November!
November 10: I am thankful for my well organized "honey do list" and even more thankful for a loving husband who has gotten the fall list finished!
November 11: I am INCREDIBLY thankful for that quiet hour during nap time and before the school bus arrives!


Scarecrows are a fun theme to study in the fall. It ties well with the harvest season and avoids the scary aspects of Halloween. My plan was to do a mini scarecrow unit with my own children during the month of October but somehow time slipped away too fast.
Now we are into November and we are working on our food & nutrition unit (both at preschool and at home with my kiddos) and next week I will start reading all of our Thanksgiving books.
So I thought I'd do a small blog post of the scarecrow resources I found, but never used. Then next year I have all my resources already lined up!

Scarecrow Song from Dr. Jean

Scarecrow, scarecrow, turn around.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, touch the ground.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, wave in the breeze.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, touch your knees.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, touch your toes.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, touch your nose.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, dance up and down.
Then sit quietly without a sound.

(Say this line softly as you model how to sit down and put your hands in your lap.)

Lots of other fun scarecrow & fall ideas from Dr. Jean -

Wonderful printables (including a tot pack) for a scarecrow unit here-

Scarecrow songs and guided drawing here -

Cute edible Indian corn ideas here-

I love the hand and footprint crows at this post-

Great idea for making scarecrows while teaching 2D shapes -

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Short Vowel Printables

I have been searching the web for some free printable activities to reinforce short vowel sounds. My son is doing well with reading words with short vowels but continues to mix up vowels in his writing.

This is common but I thought reinforcing spelling of the short vowels would be a good idea. We have been doing word sorts, spelling sorts, and writing simple sentences with short vowel words. He is very strong with short a and o, but is 'using and confusing' short i and u. I have purposefully left short e to the last vowel we work on since it is typically the hardest for children to master.

I think he will enjoy working on the printable worksheets from the website listed below. In particular I think the "Word Builder" sheet which is like a spelling maze would be fun; and I know he'll like the "word bank" sheet because we did a similar activity this summer. Typically my philosophy is that we can learn without workbooks and worksheets but sometimes I think they are useful. And it's so funny that when I do bring out a worksheet he gets so excited because it isn't our norm!

Check out the FREE short vowel worksheets here:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Graphing Resource- Free!

I was searching online for a free printable M&M graph when I came upon a little goldmine!

This link has a great collection of spreadsheets set up in Excel that you can add your own data to and it automatically creates a graph of the data. This would be great for using on a Smart Board so kids could see how the data is transformed into a graph.
What great tools for teaching simple spreadsheets, data collection & graphs for younger kids!! The Thanksgiving Foods graph would be fun to do this time of year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Post Trick-or-treat Activities

Our children had a very successful  night of trick-or-treating. This year we got an early start, thinking that our two and a half year old wouldn't last long. Well our little "Princess Peach" was excited about the process and was in no hurry to stop! She had the cutest little way of saying "trick or treat", followed by a "more candy" when it was time to head to the next house!

Trick-or-treating in New England generally involves lots of layers and bulging costumes over top of snowsuits. This year we were bundled up but were pleasantly surprised by the mild temperatures (mid-40s and no rain). So the combination of good weather and and a happy toddler meant my sons dreams of trick-or-treating for as long as possible came true. Sadly that meant our candy collection is ridiculously large. 

When we got home we weighed it and found we had collected 4.72 pounds of candy. Ummm, that is a dangerous amount of sugar to have in the house. So my first thought was ---I had better come up with some fun activities so we don't end up eating all of these candies. Of course the more educational the better. So here are the activities that I have come up with so far.
 I'd love your feedback of ways you use up the candy at your house!

Math Activities:

SORT - logical first step with any candy collection is to sort it.

GRAPH - lay out the candy in a type of bar graph to see which type we have the most. Record the highest numbers onto a paper graph.

PAPER GRAPHS - In the past we've made graphs at Valentine's with conversation hearts and with M&Ms. It's always fun to do this with several packets and compare. Here's a free M&M graph:

WEIGH- we used a kitchen scale to weigh the candies but a balance scale would be fun to play with as well.

CANDY STORE - today we are going to get out the cash register, a pretend candy vending machine and some of the candy. Each of the kids will get 6 cents to spend per day. Most the candy is 3 cents each, so they will get to buy two treats per day. (My son is learning how to skip counting by 3's and my daughter can count to 3, so that number will work for both of them.)

Science Experiments:

Floating S - take a bag of skittles and put them into a shallow bowl of warm water. Let them sit in the water until they begin to dissolve. Eventually some of the letter S's will float up to the surface of the water. Do not stir the water since it makes the edible dye dissolve. Also notice how the colors from the skittles stay separated at the bottom of the water. Out of a small packet of skittles we had 3 S's float to the top. We left the container on the table for a couple of hours and found a strange waxy cloud at the top, which I presume is the outer coating. When my son noticed it he said, "Yuck, we eat this stuff!" (ahhh, music to a mommy's ears)   

M&M Chromatography - declare that all plain brown M&Ms are to be saved for a very important science project. Then go to this website-  -- to find out how. All you'll need is brown M&M's, coffee filter paper, and water --- oh, and willing kids to give up some their M&Ms.   

Sink/Float - take a small container filled with water and experiment with a variety of candies. Record your observations on paper.

Gingerbread House Idea:
I suggested that we save a portion of the candy collection to decorate our annual gingerbread house. I think knowing that the candy is going to be seen in a few weeks and will be used for a fun projects makes storing it away an easier task.

A small portion of our candy loot will be donated to Daddy's classroom. We have done this for a number of years and my son is happy to send off anything sour, strawberry flavored, or that is too sticky (like Laffy Taffy).

Ideas from other folks:
"Halloween Fairy" comes at night and takes all the candy but leaves a book.
"Candy for Troops" - dentists in some towns pay kids $1 pound (up to 5 pounds) for their candy and then mail it to the troops.
"Store out of sight" so that kids just forget about it. (likely works for only younger children)

I'd love to hear you good ideas too!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Children's Literature for Food & Nutrition Theme

General books for Food & Nutrition Theme

Corn is Maize by Aliki

Eating Pairs: Counting Fruits and Vegetables by Twos by Sarah Schuette

Eating the Alphabet - Lois Ehlert

Farm Alphabet Book by Jane Miller

Food Alphabet by David Drew

Growing Vegetable Soup - Lois Ehlert

How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freyman

Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak

To Market, To Market

Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Yoko by Rosemary Wells  (sushi, International Food Day)

Books about underground vegetables:

Carrot Soup by John Segal

Carrots, Carrots, Carrots! by Kristin Marder

Eating the Alphabet - Lois Ehlert

From Eye to Potato (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: How Things Grow)

Growing Vegetable Soup - Lois Ehlert

One Potato: A Counting Book of Potato Prints

Rabbit Food by Susanna Gretz

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

The Giant Carrot by Jan Peck

The Life Cycle of a Carrot by Linda Tagliaferro

Tops & Bottoms by Jane Stevens

Vegetables in the Garden - A First Discovery Book.


Books about Fruit:  

A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti

Eating the Alphabet  by Lois Ehlert

Fruit  - A First Discovery Book.

Fruit by Sara Anderson

Fruit Shapes by Susan Banta

I Like Fruit by Lorena Siminovich (board book)

I Want my Banana by Mary Risk

Oliver’s Fruit Salad by Vivian French


Books about Bread:

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Bread Comes to Life by George Levenson

Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris

Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley

Little Red Hen - by Paul Galdone

Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza - by Philemon Sturges

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven

What Was It Before It Was Bread? By Jane Belk Moncure


Books about Cows & Dairy Products:

Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin

How to Speak Moo!  By Deborah Fajeman

Kiss the Cow! By Phyllis Root

Milk - From Cow to Carton by Aliki

Milk to Ice Cream (Welcome Books: How Things are Made)

No Milk! by Jennifer Ericsson

Out and About at the Dairy Farm by Andy Murphy

The Milk Makers - by Gail Gibbons

Books about Beans & Protein: (Still working on this section!)

Growing Beans  by Peter  & Sheryl Sloan (uses egg shells)

Books about Soup & Friendship Stew:

Alvie Eats Soup by Ross Collins

Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed

Growing Vegetable Soup - Lois Ehlert

Little Red Hen Makes Soup - by Rozanne Lanczak Williams

Stone Soup- by Jess Stockham

Tumbleweed Stew (Green Light Readers Level 2) by Susan Stevens Crumme

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vegetables from Underground

Leading up to Thanksgiving I will be teaching a food unit in my preschool (ages 3-5) classroom. I plan on posting lots of ideas to share with all my blogging friends as a way to say 'THANK YOU' for all the resources you've shared with me this year. (Especially the Math Work Stations linky crew.) I feel very grateful to have a professional learning community that spans the globe!

*Opening Circle - Ask the children - “What are some of your favorite vegetables?” Draw responses onto poster board.
Read aloud - Vegetables in the Garden - A First Discovery Book. Show the children how the transparent pages reveal another picture underneath.

Another excellent read aloud would be - Tops & Bottoms by Jane Stevens is wonderful book to read aloud to talk about the difference between vegetables that grow underground and above. The smart Rabbit does such a good job of tricking the bear with what they are harvesting.  It’s good to talk about how the Rabbit made sure he thought things all the way through. The lazy bear did NOT think things through so he kept getting tricked by the Rabbit. Help kids brainstorm how this applies to their lives, which is more age appropriate for a 5 year old.

*Discovery - “Today our focus is learning about plants that we eat that are from under the ground.” Show a picture of a carrot growing. Discuss the concept of above/below ground.

“Which part of the carrot plant do we eat?”
Then show a picture of a potato plant, garlic and lettuce. “Which part of these plants do we eat?”
Pass around a bulb of garlic. Explain that garlic is planted in the fall and harvested the next fall. Break open several bulbs and give each child 1-2 cloves to plant.

*Active Game - Play Hot Potato or do a Relay Race using carrots as the batons.

*Snack Ideas -

Carrot Taste Test - fresh vs. cooked

Ask if any parents would lend a juicer machine so the class could sample fresh carrot juice.

Brainstorm other ways that carrots can be eaten - carrot muffins, carrot cake, carrot slices (rounds), cut with wavy cuter, shredded carrots (like in coleslaw), carrot juice, mashed carrots).

 *Sensory Table - freshly dug carrots to wash. The green tops will be left on and kids will have safety scissors to trim the leaves. I think this activity will really reinforce the concept of ‘under ground’.

 *Play dough Table - have brown, orange, green play dough available. Encourage kids to make pretend underground veggies - carrots, potatoes, etc.

*Water Table - sink or float with root vegetables 

*Science Center - take the top of a carrot, trim the leaves away. Use toothpicks to prop the carrot in a shallow dish of water. Observe for several days to see if it grows. Measure the leaves. 

*Art-print making with underground vegetables - potatoes, carrots, turnips 

*Easel painting with orange, green, brown paints  

*Math - ordering by size small, medium, large. Have three different sized carrots and help children order them.

Try hiding seven paper potatoes (numbered 1-7) around the classroom. Kids go on a potato treasure hunt. As they find them they bring them to the table to match them to the number line.

Counting rhyme to learn - Begin by showing the kids how to hold their hands in a fist. Have the kids stand in a circle with their fists out with their thumbs facing the ceiling. Tap one fist as the rhyme is repeated, the fist that is landed on when you say 'more' has to put it behind their back. Keep repeating until there is just one potato remaining. { To make this go faster and so there are several winners, divide the class into 2-3 groups (depending on adults) before saying the rhyme.}

{I made a rebus rhyme of this to send home but can't post it since I used clip art from Microsoft.}
 One potato, two potato,
Three potato, four;
Five potato, six potato,
Seven potato, more?

  *Writing Center - precut carrots and potatoes and brown construction paper

*Mr. Potato Head ~ the kids will be excited to dress up our own spuds!

*Farm themed toys & books added to existing centers in the classroom.

* Closing circle - What is one thing you have learned about underground vegetables today?

Books about underground vegetables:

Vegetables in the Garden - A First Discovery Book.

Tops & Bottoms by Jane Stevens

Growing Vegetable Soup - Lois Ehlert

Eating the Alphabet - Lois Ehlert

Carrot Soup by John Segal

The Giant Carrot by Jan Peck

The Life Cycle of a Carrot by Linda Tagliaferro

Carrots, Carrots, Carrots! by Kristin Marder

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

Rabbit Food by Susanna Gretz

From Eye to Potato (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: How Things Grow)

Online Resources:

Lots of potato ideas here -

Growing a Sweet Potato here -

Mr. Potato meets Play Dough - this looks exciting!

Homemade Hundreds Chart

Proud of his homemade hundreds chart.
I hope he loves math later in life as much as he does right now!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hundreds Tile Board & Fine Motor Activity

I found my son working on his hundreds tile board with his new chopsticks!
How cute is this?!?

(If you are looking for one of these, Amazon has several different options. I think the magnetic version might be a better choice than just this plastic one.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interactive Hundreds Charts

My son loves to work with the hundreds chart so I went looking online for some new resources. Currently he is learning how to count by 3s using the hundreds chart so I started my search there.  I ended up finding a great site that has an interactive hundreds chart, which can be used for all sorts of number sequences!

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is a goldmine of resources. Be sure to bookmark it if you haven't already!!

This Hundreds Chart is a great tool to use to demonstrate skip counting. There are three modes which can be found BELOW the chart - practice, show and animate.

Practice mode-  allows the child to counting by clicking on numbers in the chart. If the child clicks correctly, the number becomes highlighted in blue, but if it's incorrect it is highlighted red. To start over just click clear.

Show mode - when clicked all the numbers in the counting sequence are highlighted immediately. To change the sequences use the arrows to change the number to "count by" or change the number that you "start at". I love how visual this is for demonstrating skip counting!

Animate - when clicked the numbers in the sequence appear one at a time. It is slow enough that child could practice counting orally before (or at least with) the numbers as they appear.

I also love the "Starting at" button which allows you to change the number that you begin the counting sequence. For instance, my son can easily count by 10s to one hundred if he begins at 10, or by 5s starting at 5, or by 2s starting at 2. This button allows you to start at another number and skip count, which is a higher level of thinking. Try counting by tens if you start with 13...or by fives if you start with 4 ---- definitely a lot harder!

This would be an even greater tool if you could interact with it on a touch screen. If anyone reading knows of one, I'd love to have the link. (Well I guess that I'd also need an iPad or SmartBoard too!) But for now we are going to have fun with this FREE interactive hundreds chart that can just be used on the PC. Enjoy!

Other Interactive Hundreds Chart Games & Activities:

Fill in the missing numbers on a hundreds chart game =

Answer questions using the hundreds chart =

Paint different colors onto the hundreds chart, and can print out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Educational Apps

We have an iPod touch that we let our kids play with occasionally. Though we know there are lots of great apps out there for children we really haven't invested the time to find them. I find looking at the iTunes App Store an overwhelming task and seem to spend less time on there the longer I have my iPod. Today I stumbled upon a website,  which is a great place to read reviews of educational apps for children. They categorize them by Ages 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 and write reviews that have been kid tested!
So I read some of their reviews for my kiddos and decided to buy Licking Letters. It only costs 99 cents so it's worth the investment! I thought this might be a fun way for my son to get some practice spelling. I am guessing that he's going to really enjoying dressing the frog in crazy outfits, which is the reward for the tokens you earn.

I also downloaded Mermaid Waters which is a free math app geared for preschoolers. I am hoping that my 2.5 year old enjoys the number recognition and counting activities. The review says that there are various levels of difficulty so maybe we will get a bit of mileage out of the app with both kiddos...but it may be a bit to easy for my kindergartner. Either way, it's a FREE.

How about you...what apps do your children like?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cut Up Sentences

Doing "Cut Up Sentence" activities are common in kindergarten and first grade instruction. Its a wonderful way to work on directionality of text, building sight word fluency, and learning how to construct a simple sentence. It's helpful for children to apply their sight words in the context of a sentence instead of just in isolation on flash cards.

My motivation for doing this activity is to encourage my reluctant kindergartner to WRITE. I am hoping as he becomes comfortable with this type of sentence writing that his own writing will blossom. He has the sounds he needs to write, but if he knows a word isn't spelled correctly he gets quite upset!

The way I am using Cut Up Sentences with my son:

  1. Let him choose a sentence from a book that we have read.
  2. Write the sentence onto a firm piece of paper such as card stock or the back of a cereal box. (For now I am doing this step but soon this will be his job as well!)
  3. Read the sentence together.
  4. Let him cut the sentence into individual words.
  5. Have him rebuild the sentence, and laugh at all the silly ways the sentence could be arranged.
  6. If it's a tough sentence, I keep the book open so that he can refer back to the original sentence for support.
  7. Once the sentence is reconstructed, I have him read the sentence aloud to check it.
  8. I point out how the beginning of the sentence is always capitalized and the final word has the punctuation. I often ask him to count the number of words in the sentence.
  9. The final step is for him to write the sentence into his journal or onto a sheet of paper. (Of course this is the step he grumbles about!)

Several sites have printable versions of cut up sentences (CUS). I prefer 'harvesting' one sentence from a book we've just read, since it has more meaning for him. But today I printed off a few sheets for him to practice on his own.

The website that I like the most for CUS is --  Click on the "Cut Up Sentences" tab below the title. This site has a bunch of free printables. I think my son will enjoy drawing a picture to go with his sentence since he hasn't done that before!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spiders, Spiders, Spiders

Currently I am teaching about spiders in my preschool classroom (ages 3-5). I thought I'd compile my spider ideas into one blog post so I could reference it in the future. Keep in mind, we didn't do all these ideas....if we had we'd be learning about spiders for a full month or more!

Lucky for me I have a great test audience at home - my 6 year old son and 2.5 year old daughter! The photos are my kiddos testing out the projects for preschool!

Weaving Webs:
1. Paper plate with whole punches along the edge. Tie a string onto one hole. At the other end of the string attach a small piece of pipe cleaner, this will be used to weave the web and when finished attach a spider ring to the pipe cleaner. This is great for fine motor skills. For younger children make sure the string isn't too long or it becomes frustrating for them to weave.
My preschoolers had a lot of fun with this project and they were extremely excited to take it home to play with. Next time I'd like to have some flies to attach as well.

2. Foam trays with small notches cut out of can be used for weaving webs as well.
3. Glue three tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks together to form a star. Attach a string to one and weave the web by looping around stick, pulling straight to the next, looping, pulling straight, and continue until finished. This could also be done by using small branches or sticks from nature!
4. For older children you could teach them how to make a dream catcher. (This site has a good tutorial - ) Comparing a real spider web to your homemade dream catcher would be interesting.

Spider Hand prints:
1. Spread paint evenly over the fingertips of one hand (not the thumb) and upper portion of the palm. Press onto a piece of paper. Re-coat the same hand and turn the paper so the second set of prints form a spider's body and other four legs.
{While you have their hand covered in brown or black paint, consider making an extra print of their entire hand including the thumb to make it into a rake or extend the paint up onto their forearm to make a nice tree. These both would tie in nicely to a fall theme! And you get more mileage out of the paint.}
2. Trace hand prints (as above) onto craft foam. Cut out and add a magnet. Let the child decorate a spider face. Add the date for a keepsake craft. We made these several years ago and it's fun to pull them out of the fall decorations each year to see how their hands have grown!

Web Painting:
1. Marble Rolling Webs - cut a piece of black paper and lay it into a shoe box lid or cardboard tray. Add a small amount of white paint and a marble. Allow the child to rotate the tray creating lines of paint. {Add either salt or glitter to the paint so that it glimmers when it dries.}
2. Frisbee Marble Rolling - same idea as above except you cut the paper in the shape of circle and use a Frisbee instead of the tray. This requires more dexterity and is better suited for older children.
3. Tire paintings - take a toy car or truck. Roll the wheels through a small amount of white paint. Then have the child push the car around on black construction paper. To make it look more like a web, show how to paint from one edge of the paper to the other. This project is best if first done on small paper, such as a half sheet of construction paper. Once the child gets the idea, a large paper or even poster board makes a nice display!
4. White glue drizzled onto black paper makes a fun web. Be sure that children have the ability to squeeze the bottle and move around the paper to create the effect that you want. Otherwise, a large puddle of glue is what you will end up with.

Sensory Bin Ideas:
1. Spider Not Spider - After explaining the difference between spiders and insects, have them go on a spider hunt in this bin. I used a collection of plastic bugs, foam spiders, and base of shredded green paper & shredded brown wallpaper. Having just one type of spiders made it easy to distinguish spiders and therefore made this an independent activity for the younger kids. The older kids had fun sorting and naming the other insects as well!
2. Spiders & "Black Bean" Flies - The spiders were plastic rings from the Dollar Store. I planned on cutting the ring portion off, but it seemed too sharp for my 2 year old to play with, so I left the rings on. For the flies, I added three bags of dried black beans. I also planned on adding dried spaghetti as webs, but my children were playing so nicely with this bin that I never added it. This bin was a big hit with the preschool kids as well!

3. Water Table with Spiders - as simple as putting water and plastic spiders into a bin. My children at home loved it. At preschool we added a few mesh scoops for kids to rescue the floating spiders!
4. Cooked and cooled spaghetti - let children play with a small amount in a bowl. Once their interest wanes, suggest dipping a piece of spaghetti in white paint and dragging it across construction paper to create another type of web.
5. Hiding Spiders - take artificial spider webbing, which is found with Halloween decorations. Add one or two bags of the webbing to a tray. Add a collection of plastic spiders, spider rings, and flies (or other insects). As the kids play in the bin the spiders and fly get tangled in the web. It's quite a job to find all the hidden critters and even harder to remove them once they are embedded in the web. I think when we are done with this tub I will let my six year old son use scissors to help free all the trapped critters!

6. Spider Web Dramatic Play Box - to make this I wove a yarn web by attaching binder clips to the top lip of an oversized cardboard tray. I added one spider and one large fly and showed the children how to play "Spider & Fly" with a friend. It was great fun to hear the stories they told as played! Several of the preschoolers explained to their friend that only the fly could fly in the air and the spider had to stay on the web. It's so much fun hearing kids use their new knowledge in their play dialogue.
Of course the web was slowly deconstructed but still lots of fun & learning was happening.

Spider Art:
1. The classic paper spiders with accordion legs are a not to be missed project. If you are making these with a large number of kids, it is easiest if you pre-fold sheets of construction paper into a fan and then cut the legs the desired width.
2. Headbands - make a headband from poster board or painted cereal box. Attach eight accordion folded legs.
3. Number 8 - cut out a number eight and explain that spiders have 2 body parts (abdomen, cephalothorax). Glue eight legs onto the abdomen, suggesting that 4 go on one side and 4 on the other.
4. Cut out a spider body and legs. Allow the children to build their own spiders using the pieces. Felt or craft foam make this fun, but construction paper or card stock would work as well. Help children count the legs. Explain that some spiders have as many as 8 eyes. By not gluing or attaching these pieces, children can build it over and over again, almost like a homemade spider puzzle.

5. Egg Carton Spiders - cut egg cartons into sections with 2 egg cups. These two cups represent the spider's two body parts. Use cardboard egg cartons since they are easier to paint or decorate with markers. Add pipe cleaner or paper legs, googly eyes, and any other details you might like.
Another option is to use just one egg cup and attach a pom pom. That's the way I decided to make them this year since they turn out so cute! (see picture below)
6. Glove/ sock puppet - I was brainstorming a fun puppet and thought that taking a pair of black gloves, stuffing the fingers, sewing them onto a black sock and then embellishing it would make a great little puppet. I haven't gotten past the brainstorming phase, but if I ever do...I'll come back and add a photo to this post!
7. Water Spout and Spider Craft - perfect for retelling the Itsy Bitsy Spider! Decorate a paper towel tube as the water spout. Attach a string to spider and thread the string through the tube. At the end of the string attach a popsicle stick so that it will stay assembled. The stick also makes manipulating the spider seem like real puppetering...almost like a child's first marionette!

Spider Inspired Snacks:
After working with three year olds, I have decided there are less messier snacks than cupcakes! So I'm now on a hunt for more creative themed snacks that use healthy foods.
1. Plum spiders: Take a plum and add 8 chow mein noodles for legs.
2. Raisins make perfect 'flies' and can be added easily to any other snack. "Oh look, a fly landed on your cheese stick!" "How many flies are in your yogurt?"
3. It's good to explain to kids that spiders do not ingest their prey, instead they drink it. To illustrate the point, I made a bunch of laminated fly clip art. Then laminated them and punched a whole into it. This made it easy to insert a straw, and it could be used multiple time.
We tried drinking 'fly juice' from our straws. The drink could be anything but I chose lemonade in clear cups. I think the color and tart flavor added to the experience.

4. Gushers - we practice eating flies by putting one 'Gusher' fruit snack into our mouths. We gently bit into them and sucked the juice out. Talk about exciting!!!
5. Curds and Whey - most children do not know what curds & whey are so be sure to explain. Making real curds and whey is even more fun. (add link)
Follow this with a tastier snack by serving cottage cheese and some sort of fruit. Be sure to get out your tuffet too so you can act out Miss Muffet! Maybe hang one of your homemade spiders for a full retelling of the tale!
6. At the end of our 'spider study' at home, my kids had a special spider picnic. We had: fly juice, fly raisins on graham crackers, and curds & whey with shredded apple! They were very excited for this special celebration!

Science Activities:
1. Having pictures and posters of a variety of spiders makes learning characteristics even more fun
2. Catching a live spider to observe is great too. Just be sure to release it after a few hours.
3. Going on a nature walk and looking for spiders and webs is lots of fun. If you take a sock filled with cornstarch, you can make the web more visible by lightly sprinkling it. This also makes it more fun to photograph! Explain the importance of not disturbing the webs. Taking a photograph is a much better way of capturing the web.
4. Spider Food - Looking at bugs is fun for kids of all ages. Whenever we find a dead bug we put it into a medicine jar and add it to our 'dead bug collection'. I brought out my collection to share at Nature Preschool and the kids were VERY impressed.
5. Yarn Webs - Form a circle with a few friends and take turns throwing a ball of yarn to each other. Talk about the characteristics of webs.
6. This past summer we found a web full of tiny baby spiders. My husband taught me this great trick. If you get close to the web and blow on it, the baby spiders quickly disperse. My children were delighted watching how many baby spiders were there and could not believe how fast they moved.
7. If you have access to a spider plant with lots of babies, try planting them. Your child will have fun watching their very own spider plant grow. Add a popsicle stick with a pretend spider attached to the pot so they will remember the name of their plant.
8. How do spiders know when a fly is on their web? Though they have eyes, spiders primarily use their sense of touch. We played a game using this homemade mat (table cloth and painter's tape) to practice finding the fly. After gently shaking the mat the child who's turn it was had to slowly feel around for the fly. Of course at home my sweet girl thought it was much more fun to dance and sing "Ring around the Rosie"!

Nursery Rhymes & Songs:
1. Little Miss Muffet
2. Spider On the Floor
3. Itsy Bitsy Spider

Books for Read Alouds:
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Spiders by Gail Gibbons
The Big Bug Search by Ian Jackson (not exclusively spiders but lots of fun)
Are You a Spider? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
Spider on the Floor (Raffi Songs to Read) ISBN 0-517-88553-0
Spinning Spiders by Melvin Berger

Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham - Copyright 1967 -- This is a wonderful picture book to share with children to teach the important role spiders play. I found my used copy on Amazon and my children were amazed to learn that 'this book was made before Mommy was even born'.

Aaaarrgghh Spider! by Lydia Monks -- I was disappointed with this book. The review made me think that it would be good for teaching children about being kind to spiders. However the flushing the spider down the toilet, walking it on a leash, and having a house overrun by spiders made me feel like this book was not a good read aloud for teaching about being kind to spiders!

Other spider resources on the web:

Eric Carle's Very Busy Spider page -

One of my favorite websites -

Another favorite website. Spiders are just a small part of her bug theme -

DLTK is my 'go to' place for age appropriate crafts! This link takes you to all their Miss Muffet related ideas!

S is for Spider - coloring page:

Lots of great ideas at this site. I like the Itsy Bitsy Paint Stick Flip and Rhyme idea, and the Spider Math Mats too!

Lots of great ideas here -

Even more fun ideas here -

A fun gross motor activity that requires just painters tape and few pretend spiders -

Indoor spider web game. I love this idea but I would NOT teach my child to 'kill the spider' as she did.

If you are teaching Kindergartners this is a great resource for spider themed printables - you'll need Scribd to print them.

Spider Webs from Coffee Filters -