Category Archives: Preschool Pursuits

Hands-On Math

One thing our Pre-Kindergartner loves is to sort. I used to wonder if she was “too old” for this type of activity, but then I reminded myself her finger muscles are still developing strength and sorting is a form of recognizing differences and similarities. Recently I’ve begun to make the sorting more challenging for her, and she asks to do this again and again. I also realized that I can tailor this easy-to-implement activity to her own unique level.

Here she is sorting objects by color. She asked for the various manipulatives and then decided on her own the best way to sort them would be by color. While it wasn’t challenging for her, she had fun and it kept her busy and using that brain and those fingers for a good half an hour while I worked with her bigger siblings. After she finished, we talked about which muffin tin had the most and which had the least items, and we worked in some adding and subtracting until she was done.

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First Day of School 2015

This is our 6th year of homeschooling. Our oldest son Curly is in 10th grade, and I am going to wax on about him for a moment because I rarely do. When we began this journey, he was starting 5th grade. Now I realize his high school years will be over in the blink of an eye. He recently took the ACT for the first time and he scored in the upper 20s! We are all so proud of him, and this was just a “practice” for him. He is very determined to score a 30 next year, and he did say I could put in print that he scored a 32 (out of possible 36) on the English portion. We might have had more than a few heated discussions over the years about the importance of his language studies, but even he admits it has all been worth the hard work.

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I’m beyond proud of how hard this young man works and the man he is becoming more of every single day. He loves the Lord and has such a servant heart about him. The Lord could not have placed a more capable, trustworthy, diligent, respectful or loving young man as the oldest child in our family.

Today marked our first day back to school and our first school day ever in the year 2015. I thought it worthy of a post, plus I figured my few readers might be wondering if I was ever coming back. I did toy with the idea of shutting this blog down, but I do love to write and for now this is my platform. I have come full circle in this homeschooling journey especially as of late when I was striving to determine along with my husband the Prez what would be the best decision for our son Mo regarding his schooling. A wise mother and veteran homeschooler told me years ago: “All you really need to teach your children at home is your Bible and a library card.”

And all these years later, I have to say she is right. In truth, all you really need is your Bible, but I will readily admit I love books and my kids do too. This evening, my husband gladly fixed breakfast for supper because I asked him if he would, ¬†so I could take Mo on a little date to the library. He has been asking me to take him for days, and really, what Momma can deny a 12-year-old boy a trip to the library? He chose three books, one he needs for his new on-line language class, and two for pleasure. One of those pleasure reading books is 800 PAGES LONG. Oh, how I’ve missed seeing this boy of ours so excited over reading. 800 PAGES. He was like a kid in a candy store at the library tonight, and what Momma doesn’t love an hour of time alone with one of her children when she has six to spread herself between. Here he is reading his new science text: Apologia General Science. My heart swelled seeing him rocking in the glider under my favorite blanket that he loves to curl up under too! LOVE.

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Today, the 3rd graders (and our little PreK tag-a-long) worked on mostly our tutorial classes, which start back on Thursday. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving Craft: A Thankful Book

I am thankful for Pinterest. ūüėÄ

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I am also thankful our three littles still love to do art projects and craft with materials on hand.

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I am thankful for the sweet words they chose for their thankful pages in these precious books!

I am thankful for crafts that are keepers!

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Though we can’t ever be too thankful, I will share a bit more about this little project that consumed some of our morning. I can’t take credit, so let me credit the original source and please click over there for detailed instructions and much better photos LOL!

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I did make some adaptations, because I was out of rubber bands and hadn’t saved any environmental cardboard (great idea though!) for the colored feathers.

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OK, aside from the fact no one should run out of rubber bands e.v.e.r., let’s focus on the positive. I’m instinctive and immediately went for the loom bands for a *temporary* fix until the Prez comes home tonight with the appropriate rubber bands.

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I also pulled out our scraps from previous projects for the colored feathers, and they went to work making them out of torn paper, torn tissue paper, cut-up pieces of felt, cut-up cardboard and parts of a pop-tart box that was discarded in the recycling trash can yesterday.

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As I noted above, please go to B-inspired Mama for detailed step-by-step instructions.

This craftiness was perfect to me because:

  1. it requires writing and/or narrating (for little ones you could write it for them as they narrate their story)
  2. it encourages thinking creatively as the story is written/narrated
  3. it encourages  illustrations from various mediums (markers were their preferred choice but colored pencils also work and paint would as well)
  4. it serves a purpose other than just another craft (that could potentially end up in the round file tomorrow‚ÄĒthis one definitely won’t!)
  5. it required the use of scissors, glue sticks AND liquid glue
  6. my kids ages 9, 9 and 4 all LOVED this project which is really my ultimate goal.

So what are you thankful for today? PLEASE share in the comments! I love to hear from you!

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PreK with Li’l Bit {Week 6}

Pre-Kindergarten with Li’l Bit is going well, especially when I think back to this time last year. She still doesn’t relish a choice of things to do. She’d rather have a blank canvas, whether it be beans and things with which to pour, put, place, ponder or a piece of paper and dabs of paint with brushes, marbles, q-tips, or her fingers to make a masterpiece!

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This last week, we concentrated on the Letter C and though we spent time on some indoor activities, in all honesty we spent a lot of time OUTSIDE just enjoying the beauty that this Fall is becoming!

Here’s a brief look back at our week:

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While working on multiplication flash cards with my 3rd graders, I encouraged Li’l Bit to take the scraps of paper (NEVER throw away those laminated scraps!) and make a collage in her little book. She had so much fun making a colorful sunflower and¬†cutting¬†grass from the green strip of paper! Continue reading

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PreK with Li’l Bit {Week 5}

Last week we studied the Letter T in PreK with Li’l Bit. It was kind of a short week in that we had to cut out early on Tuesday for an afternoon orthodontist appointment in our old town (45 minutes away), early on Wednesday for an afternoon therapy appointment an hour away (normally it is¬†a different town half an hour away), and then we also had the plumbers here with the septic issues, painters here all week working outside and ‚Ķ it was just a crazy week of having to go here and there and everywhere.

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Top to Bottom: PaTTern Blocks Memory Match, “Taking a Trip” made a suitcase and cut out Things to Take; Tracing T words like Tree and carroT and putting on the T page in our alphabet book; cutting out Traced lines; one-to-one counTing with doTs

 Running from appointment to appointment with our three younger children (and sometimes the big ones) in tow is just life sometimes with multiple children with multiple needs and an old home that sometimes has old-house issues. Alas, we still managed to have lots of learning with the Letter T in the spotlight. For our Bible story, we read about Abraham and Lot and how they traveled with tents and how Abraham let Lot choose which land in which he wanted to settle.

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Top to Botton: Highlight of the week–finding a Tree Frog in the yard; studying letters and words with our naTure letter cards; Telling a story in a book made with big bro and big sis; played Chutes and Ladders and looked for the letter T everywhere; narrated stories for Tiger and Lion puppets made last week; had stories and one day of school in a “tent” built over her rug; and tried to Train our hens to lay some more eggs!!!

Li’l Bit can tell me what sound EVERY SINGLE LETTER makes, which thrills my heart. She is already figuring out words by looking at the beginning and ending letters, and she is reading many CVC words. Truth be told, if I pushed at all I think she’d be reading well within 6 months. I’m just not interested in pushing, but I am putting a pallet of choices in front of her! I plan to share more about what we’re doing with pre-reading in another post.

This week, we’re exploring the Letter C and learning about colors and Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. I will post more about that this weekend hopefully. If you are looking for more Letter/Alphabet activities, please follow my Pinterest board: A is for Apple (and other ABC Ideas).

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Why Can’t I Multiply Myself: Meeting Needs of Learners of Multiple Ages and Abilities

Over the last five years, I’ve had students as young as 4 and students as old as 16. In fact, this year, I again have a 4-year-old in my class and for the first time ever I have a 16-year-old in my class. In all honesty, I don’t call the place where I teach a classroom. Instead, I refer to it as our library.

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When I think of what I hope to happen over the course of our days of learning, I think of scenes from a well-functioning library: students of many ages and abilities coming to a central location to learn at their own pace and from resources created for their unique levels and interests.

I will share four ways I have implemented a successful learning environment for students from preschool to high school.

 

1. Since I can’t multiply myself, I make myself available at specific times for specific students.

 

Many teachers do this everyday. You are most likely meeting with small groups or individual students over the course of a typical school day.

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Each morning, I begin with my most needy student, who happens to be the youngest in my class at age 4. When I spend one-on-one time with her first, the rest of the day is always smoother and more productive. This time always includes reading a few books together, some of my choosing and some of hers, and on Mondays we also begin a new letter focus for our week.

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After our focused time together, I encourage her to peruse¬†independent activities from her workboxes. I won’t lie. She has been my most difficult student to embrace¬†independent learning, but with time and patience she is learning this time can be rewarding and fun.

At the same time I am working with my little Pre-Kindergartner, my oldest, who is in 10th grade, is busy working on the laptop, which is shared between my four students. Also during this time, my two 3rd graders are working independently on reading to themselves, listening to an audio recording of a book they are reading along in, and/or grabbing one of their own workboxes from their ELA or Math shelves.

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After my time with the PreKer, I move into group time with my 3rd graders, which could be a math lesson, a spelling lesson, a writing workshop, science or history lesson, or a combination of a few of the above. Since we homeschool, we definitely don’t do a group lesson on each subject every day, but we do spend time on each subject every week for a targeted time of learning new content. On this particular day below during a Math Group lesson on multiplication, we were working on a wonderful Multiplication Array activity shared by Elementary AMC.

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I have found posting a daily schedule for all to see not only helps my students to not say constantly, “Will¬†you help me with this?” It also helps ME to stay on task and be present and available when I have said I would be.

 

2. About those workboxes, they are necessary, needs-based, functional, and fulfilling.

 

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My 10th grader has obviously moved beyond the workbox, so I’ll leave him out of this topic. I have used and continue to use workboxes with my elementary students as well as my preschool student. I don’t have a huge budget, which I’m sure is the case for 99.99999% of teachers everywhere. I needed a way to have a work¬†surface¬†and workbox storage for my then 2nd graders. I turned to Pinterest of course. I used Cubeicals from Tar-Get and a table top purchased from a secondhand store to make a large work¬†surface¬†with space for 18¬†Cubes¬†underneath. The green bin on each side is mine, and I use it to store things for the following week.

For my preschooler, I repurposed an old shoe cabinet (cleaned up of course) and some cloth bins that used to be in my closet!

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My 3rd graders have two sets of workboxes: one for ELA and the other for Math. They also have color-coded boxes, so they know where to go for their things and where to return those things. Often, they have similar or the same items but not always. In this way, I can differentiate as needed when I place new items in their workboxes before the start of each week.

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 I use two resources available for FREE on TpT to help them move through their boxes each day: Math Rotation labels and Daily ELA labels. I printed both 3 to a page to fit my space and I use painted clothespins, which correspond to each student by color, for managing the available choices each day.

3. Use common resources with specific additions that meet individual learning goals.

 

You may be scratching your head here. Let me give three examples. I have these photo blocks that I purchased along with a membership to access cards to fit them. The cards range from preschool level to upper elementary, so on any given week I can pull out these blocks to include in our workboxes. Then I just add cards accordingly for my preschooler and my 3rd graders.

In the photo below, my Pre-Kindergartner is working on one-to-one correspondence.

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 My 3rd graders were working on adding three or more two-digit numbers. If you need an active math center, this might be a good option! The blocks are active but they are QUIET. Each of these activities were included in their work boxes and were clipped with Math Games on our Math Rotations board.

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 I created this game for my preschooler to work on number recognition and counting, however when trying to work with multiple students of different ages and abilities I have found simple games such as this can absolutely be used with a bit of differentiation among players.

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While my Pre-Kindergartener was just naming her numbers and finding that same number on the board to which to move, my 3rd grades were working on multiplication facts! They would draw two cards while she drew just one. She named her number and found that space. They found the product of their two cards and chose one of the numbers to move to on the board. It made learning fun and achievable with these multi-age learners.

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Finally, I made Math Manipulative boxes for our students this summer. While each box contains the same “ingredients” if you will, my students can use them at their own ability levels and as tools during their independent learning times.

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If you’d like more specific information about these boxes, you can read about them HERE.

 

4. Using assistance is key to our success in this unique learning environment.

I will share just two of a few ways I use assistance in our learning adventures: technology and a tutorial. For those in a more traditional classroom, you may be wondering what is a tutorial and what does it have to do with classroom needs. A tutorial is a one-day-a-week (or sometimes two days) program where I drop off our students for a full day of rotating classes with same-age peers and tutors who guide the students in that particular subject. At tutorial, our students are exposed to various teaching styles, to a more traditional classroom environment, and lastly they are accountable to someone other than me.

While classroom teachers aren’t using a tutorial, you may very well be in a setting where you rotate and teach certain subjects. I like having someone to assist me in this teaching adventure, and I hope you have a team approach in your classrooms as well!

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As far as technology, we use the computer and my iPad along with several websites, particularly the following:

‚Äʬ†Tumblebooks¬†(this is free to us as we have a library code; perhaps your school or local library has one as well)

I love that my students can follow along as each book is read. I also love that this site works beautifully on a tablet device! Each book has the appropriate reading level already assigned and they are divided into story books, language learning, chapter books, fiction, and non-fiction.

‚Äʬ†IXL Math (and Language Arts)

We use this exclusively for math review and practice. I love that it features individual student accounts and that at any time I can view and/or print a report for each student’s progress. While it is divided by grades, students are allowed to use any grade level or multiple grade levels, which makes differentiation a breeze. Also, the CCSS are included and state standards as well for those who need this information for reporting purposes.

This site isn’t free, but there are no ads and they do offer discounts through various ways such as school licenses and through sites specific to homeschooling like Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

‚ÄĘ Reflex Math

Again, a paid site but to me it is worth the cost for the absence of ads and the reports it generates in addition to its intuitiveness. Each student works on fact families at their own pace in addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.

Both IXL and Reflext Math have a built-in rewards system, which can be extra motivation for reluctant learners or those with a competitive spirit!

In addition to these sites, we use the computer for keyboarding practice and writing through typing. Even my youngest learner can find her way around the iPad. One other tip I’ll add: each of my students has their own set of headphones that are comfy and make it possible for them to use these devices anywhere in our library without disturbing students around them. I also set up a blog where my students can access free choice websites during independent tech time. You can find it here.

One last piece of advice: don’t underestimate the resources available for FREE from your local library! If you have a listening center in your classroom, you may be missing out if you aren’t checking out the wide range of audiobooks available at your local library. These work well on tablets and/or your desktop computers, and your students will be polishing up those reading skills if you also pair them with the actual book for them to follow along!

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While you are working one-one-one with a student or small group of students, other students can be working independently on a device or computer with many options for ELA or math or a combination of both!

I hope you have found some helpful information in this article that perhaps you can use in your own classroom among your students. With just a bit of creativity and stretching, we can teach children of different abilities in one room, and in the process our students learn that all of us have something to offer and we can all learn from one another!

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PreK with Li’l Bit {Week 4}

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After a short week during Labor Day Week, we jumped back into our God’s Little Explorers preschool learning about the Letter Z using the Bible story of Noah and his ark full of animals, many of which are also found at zoos today.

Li’l Bit’s favorite activity of the whole week was making her very own salt try for practicing writing and exercising those little finger muscles with a tactile activity! First, she painted a rainbow on a piece of cardboard. I didn’t tell her what order to put the colors, so I was impressed that she followed the ROYGBIV color order! Of course, we reviewed color names. She knows them all except she gets pink and purple mixed up sometimes. Continue reading

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Pattern Blocks and ABCs

We’ve had our fair share of summer schooling, and we’ve had our fair share of summer lovin’ fun! The two phrases don’t seem to be synonymous with some of my students!

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I love to find ideas on Pinterest. The key is to actually implement or at least try out those ideas. The two I’ll share more about below actually worked and are some I’ll keep in my bagbin of tricks for my official PreK sweetie. Continue reading

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Now I Know My ABCs: Blog Product Swap

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My Li’l Bit, who is 4, is very interested in the ABCs, and more importantly, she understands completely now that each letter makes certain sounds and that those letters make words! She was so excited today to try out a new ABC Letter Sound activity! She was able to try this fun resource out thanks to Green Apple Lessons, who sent it our way! Julie and I along with other awesome TpT sellers participated in a Blog Hop hosted by Cara’s Creative Classroom!

This resource kept my incoming PreK student very engaged and she asked me with a smile on her face, “Do I get to keep this, Mommy?” I assured her she could!

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It was so beautiful in our neck of the woods today that we decided to test it out on the back porch! Li’l Miss decided to first put out the letter cards in alphabetical order. Her 8-year-old sister suggested this, and Li’l Bit thought it was a great idea! With Li’l Miss’s help, Li’l Bit soon had all of the letter cards lined up in ABC order.

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I made sure the picture cards were in random order. The very first card she picked up was a zipper for Z, and Li’l Bit said, “Oh, zip … that’s a Z sound!” She was off to a great start! She loved figuring out which letter each picture card belonged to as she pulled card after card. Each letter card has a corresponding picture card.

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Since we were outside on the steps, which she chose as her learning space, she was was able to work on gross motor skills too! She just knew she could get the umbrella under the letter U card by twisting around, and she did!

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After she was all finished, she broke into an impromptu rendition of the ABC song! She asked me one more time, “You are going to put this in my ABC center box, right, Mommy?” I said I was and she was a very happy and proud 4-year-old girl!

photo 3This ABC activity would make a great activity for early finishers, center time, small groups, or even in a speech therapy setting. The possibilities for using these cards are endless! Please check out this ABC Letter and Sound activity and many other early and elementary education learning resources at Green Apple Lessons TpT store!

Be sure to continue reading the other blogs linked below for more practical, kid-tested, and high-quality products from some stellar stores at Teachers Pay Teachers.


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Summer School Plans

It is June, and so we are done with the 2014-2015 school year.
Sounds simple, right?
Not so much.

images-1I have a lengthy to-do list, not so much number of items but more the time involved on some of the line items, including:

  1. Turn in grades and attendance to our cover school by June 15.
  2. MAJOR clean-up in library
  3. MAJOR reconfiguration of *some* areas of our library (namely an area for Li’l Bit that will actually keep her interest and ENGAGE her)
  4. Archive school notebooks/papers/reports I will keep. Throw out what we won’t keep.
  5. Begin planning for next school. I will have a 10th grader, two 3rd graders, and one PK4 student.
  6. Purchase needed curriculum for next year (I’ve already begun this thanks to my TpT success and my PayPal account–thank You Jesus!).

Continue reading

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