Snapshots from my classroom

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Most Supportive Bloggers

Posted by Eilis on January 5, 2012 at 11:45 PM

Ms. Coe at Little Miss Kindergarten is having a linky party to thank Most Supportive Bloggers.  I am using this great opportunity to thank two of the best Pre-K bloggers.

Karen at Prekinders is amazing.  She offers so many great ideas and printables for early childhood classrooms.  She helped me personally when I first started this site.  It seems funny now, but at the time I had no idea how to save a document as a pdf file so I could upload it here.  I guess my computer was an antique....  Anyway, she was so helpful about telling me where to download free software to do it and how to use it.  Since then, she has generously linked to my site several times leading to many new visitors for GrowinginPrek.  I really appreciate that.  

Vanessa  at Pre-K Pages is wonderful.  I got to know Vanessa "virtually' this summer when she generously included GrowinginPreK in the Literacy Beginnings Book Study.  Vanessa has been sharing great information and printables for many years.  She took it to the next level when she organized the summer link up so early childhood teachers could share their ideas on emergent literacy from the comfort of their own computers.  

Thank you both for being so supportive!


Cooling Down in January

Posted by Eilis on January 4, 2012 at 10:55 PM

$9.99 igloo tent from IKEA - Two kids at a time go in to read winter books.

                                                                                      Our coffee filter snowflakes 

Warning:  this song is very catchy.  I heard it over and over all day today.....


I printed these adorable calendar pieces (ABC pattern) at  They are a free download in her Teachers Notebook store.

Thanks to a hand-me-down dry erase board, I finally have the vertical writing area that I have wanted ever since I attended a Write Out of the Box fine motor skills workshop.

Valentine Exchange

Posted by Eilis on January 3, 2012 at 12:15 AM

The Pre-K Gingerbread Man Exchange was a big hit!  Several of the teachers who participated want to do a Pre-K Valentine Exchange.  I love Valentines as much as I love gingerbread men so.... let's do it!  I will make lists of approximately eleven classes.  That means you will mail one paper valentine to each of the other ten classes on your address list.  If you would like to mail out and receive about 20 valentines, you can be included on two lists.  

The rules:

If you wish to participate, you will receive a list of addresses by email around January 25th.  Please mail your Valentines on or before Febuary 1, 2012.  You will mail one Valentine to each class on your list.

Please have your students decorate the front of the  paper Valentines.

Please do not glue any food to the Valentines or mail any candy.  This is strictly a paper, glue, doily, lace, sticker, glitter, fun foam, markers, crayon, etc. type craft.  It is fine to include a photo of your class.  

On the back of the Valentine please name your school, city, and state so it will be easy to plot on a map for those who chose to do so.

I organize the lists on Google docs.  For this reason, I will only respond to emails sent to me at  Please do not use any links on this website to reach me.  Those emails go to my personal email and will not be included in this project.

Please be sure to include ALL of the following information in your email:

Your name

The exact way you want mail to you addressed.  If you are having the Valentines mailed to your school,  this might look like:

Valentine Elementary School

Attn:  Mrs. R's class

333 Street Name

City, State, zip code.

If you choose to have the Valentines mailed to your personal home address, please type (home) so I will know that you have not left out the school name, class name, etc.  

Please state clearly whether you want to be included on one or two address lists (sending and receiving about ten or about 20 Valentines).

Please email this information to me by midnight on January 20, 2012 to be included.




Posted by Eilis on December 14, 2011 at 7:40 AM

Several of these ideas came from my wonderful teaching partner, Catherine.  She credits Barbara for the "My Gift for Jesus" idea.



The Legend of the Candy Cane  ties some Christian symbols to the candy cane.

You can print this mini-book at



The kids sequenced the words.  I added the real candy canes just before they took them home.  This could also be done with candy cane stickers.

 We also did some beaded candy cane ornaments from a kit.


I printed, laminated, and added magnets to these adorable Nativity pieces from Activity Village.

You can print your own here:

Merry Christmas!


More December Fun

Posted by Eilis on December 8, 2011 at 9:40 PM

We are really enjoying the Pre-K Gingerbread Man Exchange.  This photo shows gingerbread men from List 1 and List 2 since I put another Pre-K class from my school on list 2.  The kids are getting a nice introduction to Geography as we plot the gingerbread men by state.

About sixty Pre-K classes participated in the exchange this year.  Many have suggested a Valentine exchange.  I will organize one in January to take place in February 2012.  Please join this site and/or like the Facebook page if you want to be notified when we start the Pre-K Valentine Exchange!


Remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season....

Here is an art project we did this week:

The Snowman

Posted by Eilis on December 7, 2011 at 8:50 PM

I do a snow/snowman theme in January, but wanted to share this Walmart find right now.  The Snowman dvd  is in the table of $5 dvds near the check out lane at my local Walmart.  It runs about 30 min. long.  If you are not familiar with it, there are very few words, just beautiful calm music and wonderful animation.  It fits into December, because there is a visit to the North Pole towards the end of the story.  I used it for a calm indoor recess this week when the weather kept us in. There is also an easy reader of the story which makes a good follow up to watching the dvd.

December Fun - on and off the lesson plan

Posted by Eilis on November 30, 2011 at 2:00 AM

Anna Dewdney really puts her finger on how hard it is for preschoolers to wait for Christmas in Llama Llama Holiday Drama! Follow the link and scroll down to see a video of her reading the entire book.

A wise preschool teacher once told me that she put a Christmas tree in the dramatic play center for the kids to decorate and undecorate to their hearts content since the Christmas tree at home is usually "hands off."

The kids love this activity!

When I saw this picture, I had to laught at the poor Grinch in the upper corner.  Is he pouting?  Is all the Pre-K Christmas spirit just too much for him?

I usually do the gingerbread graphing activity in a pocket chart.  This year I decided to add it to our Big Math Journal.  You can print the words here:

We made Christmas cards for senior citizens today.  Older students will be delivering them when they sing Christmas Carols.  Someone asked if she could glue on an extra die-cut gingerbread man left over from making the emergent readers.  I told her no, because I only had a couple.  I suggested that she could trace around it and draw on candy buttons if she wanted to.  Well, that ended up being the most popular activity of the day.  Funny how we spend so much time planning and the biggest successes are often unplanned!

In another great moment of spontanity, today one student brought in a lizard his older brother had caught in their backyard.

We re-read one of our favorites, A Color of His Own, in honor of our visitor.

Getting back to December....

How great is this?!  A group of creative bloggers is linking a different kid craft for each day of December until Christmas! 


Peace, Love, & Joy!


Gingerbread Man Emergent Reader

Posted by Eilis on November 30, 2011 at 1:10 AM

This is always one of my favorite literacy activities.  I originally found it here:  I contacted the original author  Kim Lengning who has graciously allowed me to attach my version here.  I am extra excited this year because my school now has the die-cut gingerbread man that is just perfect for this project.

I work with a small group of kids since the tearing needs to be closely supervised.  Each book requires six gingerbread men.  The crunch, crunch, crunch page uses scraps left over from the previous pages.

Here are the printable pages:


Posted by Eilis on November 19, 2011 at 9:15 AM

The Indian Corn is really growing!  I have taken it home over the Thanksgiving break because the water gets cloudy.  I have been changing the water every couple of days.

I picked up this "blender" at Target for our "making butter" project.  It has a little metal sphere inside.  The cream turned into butter VERY quickly.  Each student took one quick turn to shake it while everyone else worked on their pasta necklaces.  Then we enjoyed our fresh butter on bread.

Lots of fine motor work and patterning practice with colored pasta necklaces:

Here are some pictures from the Thanksgiving book we made.  I found this idea at

It was a big project spread out over many days...but I LOVED the results.  The kids were eager to find out which page we were doing each day and became very familiar with Pilgrims, Native Americans, the Mayflower, etc.  




I bound the finished books with three one-inch binder rings.

And last but not least... here is my favorite Thanksgiving read aloud:          

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bible Stories

Posted by Eilis on November 12, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Did you know that there are easy readers of Bible stories?  I just discovered them at my local Christian bookstore.  My kids are really enjoying this one while we are studying the story of Baby Moses:


They tie in to the stories and pictures in the Beginner's Bible:

but there are more pictures and the writing is structured for beginning readers.  I find they are great for read alouds.  There were only a couple at the Christian bookstore that I went to.  I checked Amazon and found many more:



Fall GrowinginPreK update

Posted by Eilis on November 11, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Our pumpkin is thriving:  

It was starting to mold, so we have planted it outside the classroom window as last year.  Fingers crossed...

Here's our new fun science project:

We found this idea here:

I tried several local grocery stores for Indian Corn without luck.  Finally, I tried a garden center near me.  They had them! They were 1.99 each and already dry.  I figured that we plant dry seeds, so why not dry corn?  On Monday, we put the cob in a plastic shoe box with about an inch of water.  I am happy to report that five days later, we have six roots growing on the bottom!  We are looking forward to see what happens next. 

The Gingerbread Exchange Part Two

Posted by Eilis on November 5, 2011 at 11:00 PM

Update 11/11/11 (don't you just love this date?!) All five lists are full.  Check back in early November 2012 for the next one!

Goodness this Pre-K Gingerbread Man Exchange project is popular!  I  have compiled and emailed four lists of 11-12 classes so far.  I have heard from several more of you wanting to join since.  I want  everyone to get to do this, but I can't spend any more time tracking down zip codes, school names, etc.  I will compile another list if you:

1.  Contact me at by Tuesday, November 8 at midnight.  

2.  Provide a COMPLETE address that you want the gingerbread men mailed to.  

Run, run, as fast as you can....

Pre-K Gingerbread Man Exchange

Posted by Eilis on November 2, 2011 at 8:30 PM

11/3/11 Update:  Wow!  I have heard from 36 of you so far.  I am going to make three groups of 12.  Luckily, there are three Pre-K classes at my school, so I will get to see a gingerbread man that you have sent to my school, even if it is not to my own class.  I will compile the lists of addresses this Saturday.  I am still willing to make one more exchange of twelve classes, but I have to cut this off somewhere so...the deadline to email your address to me at is going to be tomorrow night (Friday, November 4th) at midnight.

Last year I joined in a gingerbread man exchange. The kids LOVED making paper gingerbread men to mail out to other classrooms and then LOVED getting paper gingerbread men in the mail. We made a bulletin board with a map to plot where our gingerbread men came from.  I had two problems with the exchange I participated in last year. It ran very late (we received many of our gingerbread men on the last day of school before Christmas vacation) and the exchange combined with another one which meant it got very big and included elementary classrooms. I would like to organize a Pre-K one this year. I will be limiting it to 12 classrooms (hopefully spread out all over the country). If there is more interest, we can look into forming a second separate exchange.

Last year my class read The Gingerbread Cowboy and decorated our gingerbread men to look like the book character. This year we will be decorating die cut gingerbread men (thank you to my principal who purchased a gingerbread man die cut for us to get me to be quiet for a while....).


Sign up by emailing me at  Please provide the address you want the gingerbread men mailed to.  

Send one paper gingerbread man decorated by the children to each of the other eleven classrooms by Friday, December 2, 2011.  

Along with each gingerbread man, include a BRIEF note mentioning a FEW facts you would like to share about your state or school.  (Examples might include the name of a local team, your school mascot, how many kids are in your class, etc.)

Please email me at with questions or to sign up.  As soon as I have twelve participants, I will email each one a list of addresses to mail the gingerbread men to.

Making Healthy Food Choices

Posted by Eilis on November 2, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Our theme this week is "food" and we are trying to teach the kids about the importance of choosing healthy foods.  A read aloud that I find helpful for introducing this theme is The Berenstein Bears and Too Much Junk Food.  


Here are some printable cards to sort in a pocket chart:

We also read this version of Stone Soup 

and made our own in a crock pot.  We started with three clean river stones and chicken broth.  We added cans of vegetables that the kids brought from home  If you want people to come from all over the building to see what smells so good....add chopped onions.

Favorite Read Aloud Linky Party

Posted by Eilis on October 28, 2011 at 7:40 AM


Swimming into Second Grade is hosting a Favorite Read Alouds Party.

My current favorite read alouds are 

  and  by Mo Willems.

My Pre-K kids really relate to the situations in these great stories.  The use of real photographs mixed with cartoon type illustrations is very appealing.  Since we also love the Pigeon books by the same author, we were tickled to discover a picture of Pigeon on one of the pages!  I think the fact that the main character is older in the second book than the first is also very clever for young audiences.

I haven't purchased Knuffle Bunny Free yet....but it is definitely on my wish list.

The pumpkin project (revisited)

Posted by Eilis on October 14, 2011 at 7:05 PM

I have been getting lots of questions about the pumpkin seeds growing inside the pumpkin.  We started the pumpkin project for this year today.  I sure hope it is as successful as it was last year.  Anyway, my first post may not have made it clear that we only opened up the pumpkin, added a little soil and water, and watched the seeds (which were already inside the pumpkin) grow.  The pumpkin we used was intended for making pumpkin pie.  I am not sure how well a big pumpkin would do.  Here is a picture of today's "before" soil:

We left all the "guts" and seeds as they were (except the few that came out with the lid).

Here is last year's plant when it sprouted:

You can find pictures of the full grown plant growing outside our window here:

And as I mentioned previously, I LOVE to read the book Pumpkin Jack to my students several times while we observe the pumpkin life cycle.

Kiwi Crate Craft Kits

This year's scarecrow

Posted by Eilis on October 13, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Our school has a fun tradition of each class making a scarecrow to stand in front of the school for our Fall Festival.  This year my class chose to make one of our favorite book characters:


Five Senses Activities

Posted by Eilis on October 13, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Here are two of the activities we did this week in learning about how we use our five senses:

We tried to guess whether the liquid in the glass was water or vinegar.  We discovered that we had to use our sense of smell....

We also tried to guess sugar and salt by appearance.  We labeled our guesses and then did a taste test to find out....

Little glue containers

Posted by Eilis on October 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM

I love to do TLC Art with my class.  This week we made the scarecrow from the fall/winter Pre-K book.

 TLC has the students use one finger to apply dabs of glue, instead of working with the squeeze bottles.  They suggest using margarine lids for the glue.  I have also seen teachers use little plastic cups for the glue.  This week I discovered that the disposable Glad lids are perfect for this: 

The circle indentation makes a perfect well for a little glue!

If you found this helpful....please like GrowinginPreK on Facebook.  

Letter Pig at a better price

Posted by Eilis on October 9, 2011 at 2:40 PM

  I use "Letter Pig" in my classroom for phonemic awareness.  If we are working with letter P, the kids feed him things that start with the letter p (pencils, pens, paper, etc.) and then say "poink, poink" instead of oink, oink. (Letter S: soink, soink, etc.)   They LOVE it.  I purchased my pig trash can years ago at The Container Store. I saw a slightly smaller (perhaps better) version of it at Garden Ridge Pottery for $6 yesterday.