Sunday, December 28, 2014

EZ Ways to Use Those Holiday Leftovers!

Happy Holidays! I hope you are all enjoying a restful break. Today I want to share some easy ways you can take some of the holiday leftovers into your Early Childhood classroom to create some engaging learning activities. 

As teachers (especially primary and early childhood teachers) we tend to have some hoarder tendencies...but it's only because we know there is a learning opportunity in almost anything! Am I right? Less waste, more's a win win! In my post today I'm going to offer ideas targeted for pre-K and K but you can take the idea and easily modify it for first, second and even third grade.

Let’s start with holiday cups. If you threw a party at your house or you still have leftover cups from your classroom holiday party, don’t throw them away! Depending on how many you have you can do several things with them.

If you have a lot, you can place them in a math center for stacking and building. The cups can be used in your sand table or sensory table for scooping and measuring.

For a math station you can number each cup with dots or a numeral and have kids place pom poms or counters in each cup to match. In the photo above I numbered popsicle sticks with sets of either 3 or 4. I arranged the dots in different patterns so kids will have to count each dot and they will also have to understand that 3 doesn’t always look a certain way, sometimes three can be three dots side by side and sometimes it might be 1 dot here and 2 dots over there. This is the foundation for composing and decomposing numbers. For this center kids grab a popsicle stick, count the amount and place it in the correct cup. Cheap, easy and purposeful!

Napkins or Wrapping Paper

I loved creating napkin books with my kids, they are so easy and the kids really like them. All you have to do is staple blank pieces of paper inside the books and the kids can do anything with them: stories, lists, counting books, vocabulary books, sequencing, etc.

In the photo below I used wrapping paper to create a book.


Leftover holiday gift bags are great for counting, sorting, or as a prop in your dramatic play center. To use them for a sorting decide on what you want kids to sort and label the bags appropriately. In this picture I made a rhyming game, you can pick up cards for the rhyming game here.

Greeting Cards

When I taught kindergarten we always saved our leftover greeting cards and used them during our measurement unit. We would have kids use tile manipulatives and measure the height of the cards. Place a sticker on each card with a letter so kids can record how many tiles tall each card is. You can also use the cards to teach area and perimeter. You can pick up a greeting card measurement sheet here.


Holiday plants are very popular in most areas. In south Texas we are big on poinsettias. I always have some hanging around the house after Christmas. If you have some that you can keep alive (I’m a notorious plant killer….eek!) bring them into your classroom. They make an engaging piece to add to your science center. Place the poinsettia there with magnifying glasses, art supplies and paper and let kids observe the plant. You can have them touch and smell the plant and record their observations.

This activity can also be done with parts of leftover Christmas trees!

Holiday Plates

I always have a random assortment of leftover plates. Depending on the size and strength of the plate you can either create lacing cards, counting cards, subitizing cards or even puzzles.

I hope you got some ideas to take back to your classroom this January. How do you reuse your leftovers?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Using Poetry in Kindergarten: Why It’s Awesome and How You Can Use it to Teach Everything

Hello friends! I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. I’m SO excited to blog today! It’s becoming a rarity that I get time to myself to share ideas and creations with you. My two little boys take all of my time, but they are completely worth it!

Today I’d like to share how I used poetry in my kinder room and why I think every teacher should use it. I started using poetry because I found that a lot of my students couldn’t rhyme and when I would try and sing nursery rhymes with them, they had never heard of them. I remember growing up and learning nursery rhymes at home and it being a pretty common thing. Times are a changing because kids aren’t exposed to them as much anymore. Good or bad, it’s just how it is.

Knowing that my kids had not grown up with nursery rhymes I figured I should probably start there to give us a base. So I started teaching them, using one rhyme a week. Humpty Dumpty was always a favorite of mine, the kids love that silly rhyme. Now I bet you’re wondering how I fit it all in because we all have so much to cover in such little time, right? I would use the nursery rhyme as either my phonics/phonemic awareness lesson, sight word lesson or comprehension lesson, it just depended on what I needed to teach. That’s the beauty of using poetry, you can do anything with it. Here is an example of what it might look like in a week:

Shared Reading: Read aloud Humpty Dumpty (I always wrote the poem on sentence strips and placed in a pocket chart), model reading with rhythm, have kids listen to you sing the rhyme twice and ask them to chime in with you. Talk about the poem, what they visualize, what the poem sounds like, what does it remind them of? (In this shared reading activity I’m modeling fluent reading, I’m emphasizing rhyming words and then I’m strengthening comprehension by asking them to tell me what they visualize and make connections. I didn’t add pictures the first time we read the poem because I wanted them to visualize the poem first.)

Phonemic Awareness: Reread Humpty Dumpty for fun using choral or echo reading. Use purple highlighter tape to highlight the rhyming words. Ask students to help you identify the words that rhyme.

Sight Words: Reread Humpty Dumpty, emphasizing rhyming words (whisper the rhymes or say them with silly voices). Use yellow highlighter tape to highlight sight words for the week.

Phonics/Phonemic Awareness: Highlight some beginning sounds such as H and D. Have kids help you create a list of words that begin like Humpty and words that begin like Dumpty. What’s nice about this lesson is that you are teaching both phonics (beginning sounds) and phonemic awareness (alliteration).

Students get their own copy of Humpty Dumpty to place in poetry binders or poetry notebooks. They use purple crayon to highlight rhyming words and yellow to highlight sight words.

Another version of this is to send home a “poem in a bag” that students can have to practice retelling and singing the rhyme with their parents. If you send it home in a paper lunch sack with the poem on the outside and the retelling pieces on the inside, the kids don’t have to bring it back, easy peasy! (You could also use the poems in a bag for RTI!)

I truly feel that using poetry in my classroom everyday helped my kids to become strong, fluent readers. My personal belief is that poetry is so important in building prosody that it deserves more than just a few weeks a year, I think it should be a staple in all classrooms.

If you’re at a campus where kids can take home poetry binders on Friday to read to their parents and you know they will bring the binders back on Monday, you should totally try it! Your kids and parents will love them and it will give your kids that extra practice with familiar text that they need. If you’re at a campus where you won’t get the binders back, use the poems in a bag and it’s a win-win.

I created a nursery rhyme pack that includes 13 weeks of nursery rhymes, retelling pieces, pocket chart pieces, poems in a bag and more! You can view it here.

If you want a nice sampler check out the Humpty Dumpty unit here.

Do you use poetry in your classroom? What does it look like in your room?