Snapshots from my classroom

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Organizing Letter Tiles

Posted by Eilis on June 18, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Sometimes I see an idea on Pinterest...and there is just no stopping until I have used it.  This is one of those times.  I saw this storage box idea.

I thought about the letter tiles 

that I use at the beginning of the year for names and just knew I needed a similar storage box.  For one thing, it will be so much easier for the kids to find the letters they need.  I also love the idea of the kids learning to put the tiles back in the appropriate sections.

 I found it at Jo-Ann's today. It was $7.99  (less my 15% teacher discount).  It's a Jewelry Designer NO SPILL Organizer by Darice.  We sure will test the NO SPILL part... but it really does close securely.  It has 32 sections (so a few will be empty).

 I added these stickers (both inside the compartments and on the lid).  I like associating a beginning sound photograph with the letters.

And here it is

I was surprised to realize how many of some of the letters I have.  I know I have at least two sets but previously they were all dumped in a plastic shoe box. I will probably put some of them away to improve the odds that the kids put them into the right compartments.

You can find the stickers at teachers supply stores or follow this link to Amazon.

More Number Puzzles

Posted by Eilis on June 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.  I am finally catching up on things.  What do you think of GrowinginPreK's new look?  I have been playing with it for the last couple of days, but thought it was time to put some new printables up.  The fire engine number puzzle has been one of the most popular printables on this website.  I made a few more incorporating photos of real animals. I like to print these on cardstock, laminate, and then cut  using a paper cutter.

You can print them here:

Shark Puzzle

Alligator Puzzle

Zebra Puzzle

Please be sweet and leave a comment if you use these.


Earth Day Idea

Posted by Eilis on June 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Here's another great idea that was shared at the "Little Hands Investigating Science" workshop that I attended recently.  (Previous Post)  

These adorable dancing bugs are currently at the Dollar Tree.  

They are powered by a little solar cell.  What a fun way to demonstrate solar energy to young learners.  I picked up a couple and plan to bring them out next April when we do our Earth Day unit.  I may put one in a box and one in the sun to show the difference.

Cheap Mini Tongs

Posted by Eilis on June 10, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I found a very affordable set of 12 mini tongs in the party section at my grocery store.  The whole bag was $1.57.  They are disposable quality, but really should hold up to lots of classroom use.  I plan to have the kids pick up little things with them to develop fine motor skills.  I included a crayon in the photo to show how small they are.

The answer to a good question: I purchased them at H.E.B.  The brand is "unique."

Dollar Deal for Dramatic Play Center

Posted by Eilis on June 10, 2012 at 3:20 PM

I found this metal sign (complete with ribbon) in the party aisle at Walmart for 97 cents. There are several different designs.  Just add your own magnetic letters and you have a cheap and easy sign for the dramatic play center.


Posted by Eilis on June 9, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I attended a very inspiring training at Region 4 in Houston this week.  Maria Gonzales and Diana Morales from Aldine I.S.D. presented "Little Hands Investigating Science."  They teach at a Pre-K only campus that has 600 or more students - imagine!  Their campus has a permanent science room  which they visit to teach science lessons and rotate the students through science centers.  They shared many great hands-on activities that we could bring back to our classrooms.  There were many great make and takes.

One was this print and cut out car.  We attached a large paper clip to the car and used a magnetic wand behind the cardstock "road" to manipulate the car on the track.  Fun and easy!

They also shared this sentence strip magnetic activity.  Four items are taped to a sentence strip.  Note the inexpensive magnetic wand!  They just attached an adhesive magnetic dot to a tongue depressor. They send these items home with their students to share  what they have learned about magnets. (The magnet is attracted to some of the items, but not others). They emphasized telling students not to touch anything electronic with the magnets.  I would only send these magnets home if I could speak directly to the parents first.  It would make an excellent activity for an open house night.

These activities inspired me to creat a an interactive emergent reader about magnets.  You can print it HERE.  I laminate each page and then tape (the top only) of a snack size plastic bag  with the appropriate item in it.  I attach one magnetic wand to the book using a short string.  On each page the kids can test whether the item is attracted to the magnet.  If it is, the bag will lift up as the magnet is held over it. (The bag pictured is a sandwich size bag with the top half cut off).

I took this picture before laminating, binding, and attaching the magnet because I find that the lamination doesn't photograph well.  

I would love to hear your comments!!

End of the Year T-shirt

Posted by Eilis on May 17, 2012 at 8:55 PM

This is the fingerprint t-shirt we made for our end of the year celebration.  The fish designs were inspired by Ed Emberley.


Ocean Ideas

Posted by Eilis on May 8, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Today we added jellyfish to our ocean wall.  We made our jellyfish by placing four pieces of ribbon along the bottom of a rectangle of contact paper.  Next, we sprinkled a few pieces of glitter on the sticky side of the contact paper.  Finally, we folded the contact paper in half and trimmed off the corners.  Lots of adult help needed....but the results were pretty fun.  I let the kids play around with their "jellyfish" for a while before we stapled them to our growing ocean mural.

Also, we are now ready to work on 100 piece puzzles.  I have usually been able to do this from December on...but this is the first time it has really taken with this class.  Anyway, I have a dollar store ocean themed puzzle set up a tray, and everyone works on it when they finish early or during center time.  It is coming along well!  There is so much to be learned about teamwork, cooperation, sharing, etc. while doing a large puzzle with a group of children.

Parts of a flower

Posted by Eilis on May 6, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Here's this year's version of the labeled flower.  Last year we used a yellow paper plate for the flower.  The kids cut all around the plate to create the petals. This year (inspired by Pinterest) we made a loop from a strip of construction paper.  The 3-D effect really popped on the bulletin board.

Ocean Theme

Posted by Eilis on May 3, 2012 at 7:05 PM

It's May!  The end of the school year is quickly approaching.  I love to end the year with all things ocean.  This year I created some printable calendar pieces (ABC Pattern) using adorable clipart from KPM Doodles.  

You can print them HERE.

Here's this year's ocean wall (so far).

I found the Rainbow Fish pattern at DTLK.  

I found the hermit crab pattern at the Best Kids Book Site.

There are more ocean theme ideas on GrowinginPreK's Ocean Page.

Here are a few Ocean themed books that I love to include in this unit:


And More Dinosaurs

Posted by Eilis on April 26, 2012 at 6:00 PM

How cool is this T-rex skeleton?  We cut him out from a printable on Sparklebox.  It was a little tricky since the kids needed to cut around the pieces, not on the lines.  Putting the pieces together again was also a challenge, but everyone did a great job.  We used black poster boards from a dollar store (cut in half) since the assembled skeletons didn't completely fit on a large sheet of construction paper.  Another solution would be to reduce the copy size of the dinosaur pieces. 

Spring Ideas

Posted by Eilis on April 24, 2012 at 10:45 PM

I stopped by a friend's classroom on my way out this afternoon.  Desiree teaches three-year-olds.  I just loved these ideas I saw in her room, and I asked if I could share them here.

Today her kids painted patterned caterpillars using their thumprints.  Look at the way she stores small amounts of paint for the project - little disposable condiment cups.

Her students also made these adorable critters:


And, she was busy attaching this plastic grass to the wall to make a spring mural out of all of the art.

It's plastic grass that Hobby Lobby sold for Easter decorating.  Guess what - it is now 90% off.  I am going to run and get some tomorrow!

Thanks Desiree for letting me share your ideas!

Dinosaur week continues

Posted by Eilis on April 24, 2012 at 10:20 PM

I saw this adorable idea for measuring a dinosaur's footprint on Pinterest.  Original Source

First we estimated how many Unifix cubes long the footprint would be.  Our guesses were pretty wild.  Then we counted to find out.  Next, each child guessed how many Unifix cubes long his/her shoe was and we checked.  This activity kept everyone's attention for the entire time!

We also added some plastic dinosaurs and real rocks to our sensory tub.

I saw this idea HERE (of course via Pinterest).

I probably should have replaced the rice with pebbles, but the kids didn't mind!  I loved the idea that this kept the dinosaur toys in a contained area. 

We also made some "fossils" with Playdoh.

Some fun dinosaur books we enjoyed that incorporated dinosaur facts:


We also used the following books to revisit manners and classroom behavior:


There's still more dinosaur fun ahead in our classroom!

It's Going to be a Dinosaur Week

Posted by Eilis on April 22, 2012 at 6:10 PM

I haven't done a "Dinosaur" theme in several years.  I have found and/or created some new materials to freshen up what I had.

I found that I could create my own bingo cards on Sparklebox.  I chose to make the cards with easy sight words that my class is working on right now.  The possiblilities are endless though:  numbers, color words, student names, etc.  Unfortunately the print seemed to be set up for slightly longer paper.  I probably could have reset something, but was in a hurry, so....I chose the purple dinosaur design.  It didn't really matter that a little of his right side was cut off.  His head is intact :).  I also find it is easier to have all the cards printed in the same design so the kids don't care which one they are handed.

I will be reading If the Dinosaurs Came Back (a favorite since my own kids were four years old!)

and having the kids complete and illustrate pages to a class book innovation.

You can print the page I created here.

I have also printed a great emergent reader that I found on Hubbard's Cupboard.

Yes Day!

Posted by Eilis on April 21, 2012 at 10:15 AM

We are really enjoying Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  In this fun book, there is a special day each year when the answer to every question is yes!.

 Each time we read the book, the kids wish we really had such a day.  This led to us deciding that we should make our own version of the book.  Each child came up with a question and illustrated their question.  We had everything from "Can we eat chocolate Easter eggs for dinner?" to "Can I have a million bucks?"  Our class book is a new favorite in the book center.

Counting by Tens

Posted by Eilis on April 20, 2012 at 9:55 PM

My class is enjoying a counting activity that we have been doing when we line up this week.  The children take turns (from first in line to last) holding up ten fingers counting their part of the tens to 100.  (Jack says ten, Mary says twenty, Ann says thirty....)  We have performed our show for other classes waiting in the hall, much to the delight of my class.  We have also raised the bar by having Mrs. Meyer jump into the line so that everyone has to adjust their numbers and we end on 110.  I am hoping to try this with fives soon.  Each child would say five, ten, or fifteen, twenty, etc.

What has been working in your classroom?

Even better than a Dollar Store deal

Posted by Eilis on March 25, 2012 at 5:50 AM

Look at these cute magnifying glasses that I picked up in the Easter section at Walmart this week.They were 97 cents each.  Yes, they even magnify


Happy Spring!

Parent Valentines

Posted by Eilis on February 16, 2012 at 11:10 PM

Better late than never...

Just wanted to share pictures of the Valentines we made for parents this year.

And my new favorite Pre-K Valentine's Day read aloud:

A mystery, glitter, and new vocabulary words all wrapped up in one book!

Pre-K Valentine Exchange

Posted by Eilis on February 13, 2012 at 10:55 PM

The Valentine Exchange is wrapping up. We had a bigger response to the Pre-K Valentine Exchange than to the original Pre-K Gingerbread Man Exchange! The cards are beautiful.  Here are some pictures:

I will have some more pictures to post tomorrow.  We would love to see yours.  Please email them to me at

Update 2/15/12 

Thanks Mary Robertson for emailing a picture:


Posted by Eilis on February 8, 2012 at 7:35 PM

I had one of those moments today.  The kids have been making a journal entry each day since we started back in January.  We eat lunch in our classroom, and it works beautifully to have each child work on his/her journal as he/she finishes lunch (before starting free choice centers).  I am able to spend a few minutes with the kids teaching them how to invent their spellings.  I have one child who started late in the year and does not yet know the names or sounds of half of the letters.  I can dictate letter names to him to work on this.  I have other students who are beginning to read and do their writing completely independently.  Most fall in between.  They tell me what they drew and I help them hear the sounds of the words they want to write.

Anyway, our schedule was interrupted by unexpected guests from another class today.  As the kids finished lunch, I gave them another activity to do since the guests would not have journals and frankly I had too many kids to do what we usually do.  My kids were really disappointed.  I discovered that they really love their journal time.  I knew it was really helping them to "get" reading and writing.  I didn't realize how much they enjoy the activity.  Wow.

Here are some samples: