January 22, 2014


I don't really talk much about my preschool because being a mom and a wife is my number one priority, but teaching my class is such a big part of my life, too, so I wanted to record a few things  about my preschool (a few things turned into a novel . . . oops! someday I'm sure I will be grateful for this detailed record).

My preschool doesn't have a name because all the names I like have been taken. It really is just a combination of not being creative enough and being too picky to come up with something I like. So it's just preschool, of the multi-age variety (3-5 year olds), that I teach tues/wed/thurs mornings, and I am called Ms. Laura.

I started out with 4 students three years ago. This year, I have 10 students each day, but 13 students total (and a short waiting list).

I have created my classroom based on my philosophy of how young children learn with the goal to foster independence, responsibility, social skills, motor skills, literacy, math skills, language, curiosity, and a love of experiencing and learning about our world.  I've pulled ideas from my college classes, internships, my own kids preschools, and my subbing and teaching days. I've come up with a way to do things that works well for me right now (every year I tweak things to improve).

Teaching preschool motivates me to vacuum my stairs (though it's getting harder and harder to tell that I really do clean my carpets often . . .) and forces me to wake up bright and early.

My own children scoot out the door and onto buses by 8:50am, our sweet, wonderful friend, Sundi, arrives to watch L (not too long at all and she will be ready to join us) and then my students start arriving at 9:20am.

Students place their belongings into their basket and sign in (the way we sign in changes throughout the year and changes depending on the kiddo--finding our names, tracing our names, or writing our names). They read books from the basket (these change out each week) until everyone arrives and it's time to begin our day (until about 9:35).

Each student is assigned a day once or twice a month to bring snack for the class. If it is your snack day then during morning procedures you set up the snack area.You are also the Helper for the day (lead calendar, choose a song, etc.) and bring an item for show and tell.

When the music comes on (I have a song for each transition time--they are each soft, pretty songs with no words), we put all the books neatly away and follow the Helper up the stairs and around the circle. We copy whatever the Helper does with his hands (up high, roll arms, behind back, etc.). When the music goes off we sit down where we are to begin circle time.

We start by greeting each other by passing the bumble bee as we sing "Hickety, Pickety Bumble Bee Please say your name for me" to each person. The person says his name and we clap, tap, stretch, stomp or chop our names (the Helper chooses how we repeat the names).

Then we talk. I either ask a question and the children each have an opportunity to say something or Squawker comes out. I use the program Word Time from Handwriting Without Tears and Squawker (the puppet) and our Helper introduce two new words that we discuss and talk about.

The helper chooses a song from the Singing Tree (songs rotated monthly and correspond with our theme of study/holidays) and we all stand and sing it with actions.

Then we sit on the mat for calendar. The helper points to the days of the week as we sing the song. We count the days until we get to today. We repeat "Today is . . .". We have begun a study of weather so we are currently tracking the day's weather on a bar graph. The helper does this. Then we count in Spanish to the number we are studying ( a new number every two weeks-ish). We may also do a number activity--a rhyme or game highlighting that number. Next, we focus on the color of the month and learning the color name in spanish. We may point to something of that color or touch something or stand if we are wearing it, etc.

We turn our eyes to the letters. We review all the letters we have studied so far by singing the abc song or rotely saying each name and sound as we also fingerspell the letter (ASL). We might play a game in which I say a sound or letter name and one person uses a pointer to identify the correct letter. Then we work on the letter of the week. One do one of three things 1) read the corresponding Alphatales book 2) I make up a story using the objects from the letter tub stressing the beginning sound of the objects and the letter 3) I model how to correctly form the letter and then everyone takes a turn writing it on the whiteboard (then we count the letters or we turn the letters into a word by adding another letter (H-i---Hi).

We transition into work time around 10am by sitting around the mat again. I introduce any new work making its appearance that day (on average 2 or 3 things) and then we begin work time. During work time, the kids move around the room choosing the activities they want to do and who they want to do them with.

 Here are the choices:

Sensory tub: each month something new appears in the tub (rice, shaving cream, water, noodles, etc.) and I add different materials to work with while there
shaving cream

farm play in popcorn kernals

Art: I'm not very good at "cutesy" art projects, but all projects are kid made and I try to give a variety of materials and mediums and outcomes (paint, watercolors, cut and paste, collage, stamping, dot art, lacing, etc. ; here's a sample of what you can do if you'd like to or just here are the materials and make what you'd like). Sometimes there are have-to's for everyone to do and sometimes I let them choose to do the art or not.
cloud art
Book Corner: come here to enjoy a tub of books related to our study for the month. Also, some beginning readers

Writing Table: HWT's letter practice for the letter we are studying or make your own cards or notes with other paper. Use the date stamp to mark your work.

Word Work: build the letter of the week and do the matching work. Once your work is checked, you can use the IPad to use Starfall for the letter. At this table I also bring over a magnetic board and letters to do word building (like during our study of the farm we spelled "pig").

Self-serve Snack: count out your snack and sit at the table to eat

There are 8 works on the shelf based on 8 areas. these works on done on "work mats" to define your space and keep things tidy and organized

Letter of the Week: sound sorts, letter finds, puzzles, letter sorts, etc. focused on the letter we are studying
draw a picture tile, say the beginning sound. place H words on the Heart
circle only the upper/lowercase F's with dry erase marker; F puzzle
mailing the M cards

Numbers: identifying, counting, etc.

roll the number cube and add that many links to your chain
Math: work based on our study for the month (shapes, time, patterns, etc)

racing a 1 minute timer or a 30 second timer to complete this clock puzzle

Literacy: work to practice rhyming words, match upper to lowercase, review a variety of letters, practice beginning or ending sounds etc.

search through the beads to find the letters, match upper to lower
Theme: worked based on our monthly study, like the farm, our bodies, transportation, etc. Often this is dramatic play--puppets, tub of dress ups, etc.
sorting farm animals from other animals
weather work--forecast the weather by picking a weather card and dress for the weather

 Life Skills/Fine Motor: buttoning, zipping, twisting, turning, folding, transfer, etc. work

transfer work

use dropper to place three raindrops on each umbrella 
button Elmo's shirt

Sensory/Science: work based on colors, the senses, science concepts and studies, etc. (magnets, sort by color, match the sounds, etc.)

Manipulatives: free play to build and create with blocks, gears, circle stackers, duplos, magnetic shapes, etc.


During work time, I also pull kids aside to work on letters and reading, or whatever skills they need.

Work time ends at 11am. The music comes on and we must be cleaned up and sitting down by the end of the song.

I read a story out loud. Most stories do relate to our monthly theme. The story is followed up by a lesson. Like if we read a story about rain clouds, we might act out the water cycle. Or if we have been studying graphs, we might make a big bar graph of our favorite thing to do with our families. We might brainstorm what we know about a certain topic. Or we might do a rhyming picture match game as a group. Get the idea?

Group time is followed by music and movement (m&m). Each month I have a different prop or focus, like bean bags, rhythm, balance, a tunnel to crawl through, instruments, Christmas songs, etc. We do different songs or activities based on that. We also turn on music and play freeze dance. Often we dance and sing to songs on CD, like A Tooty Ta or Tony Chestnut. Sometimes we stretch and do jumping jacks and push ups.

After m&m, the Helper for the day sits in the blue chair and shares an item they brought from home. I encourage them to bring things related to something we are studying. After they tell us what they brought and anything else they want to say about it, they get to answer three questions from the kids. We say "thank you, friend" with our words and in sign language. The music comes on and they grab their water bottles to go downstairs to get packed up. 

On the way down the stairs, I either put a cute sticker or an "Ask Me'' sticker on their shirt. On an Ask Me sticker I write something specific that they child worked on that day for the parents to ask them about and (hopefully!) get a bit of a conversation going about what they did at school.

We pack up and spend the last 15 minutes (or until parents pick up) playing outside. School is over at 11:50.

We go on field trips once or twice a year. We went to the zoo last year after studying zoo animals and so far this year we have gone to take a gymnastics class while studying our bodies.

We celebrate birthdays by sharing pictures of the birthday child and singing happy birthday. They can pass out a treat when we go outside.
the birthday box

We cook once a month. Though with 10 kids this is proving trickier than years past, but so much fun and such valuable things to learn while cooking.
making pumpkin pies for our thanksgiving feast
 We celebrate the holidays.

placemat for our Thanksgiving feast of colors, each child brought a different color of food. we sorted and feasted. we weaved the other side of the placemat

While I rely a lot on my own brain for ideas on art projects and new works, I do have some resources I turn to, like books I've gathered over the years, my files from teaching days (things passed on from teacher to teacher), and the Prekinders website. I also google for a few ideas here and there.

And that is my preschool. I feel lucky and blessed and happy to do something that I love (teach kids) in a setting that I love (my own home) and still get to call myself a stay at home mom (because being mother is by far the job I love the most).

chelsea :: stock said...

Proud to be the parent of one of the original four students! I miss this preschool so much.

Stefanie Hyer said...

Yay! Finally you posted this! Thank you!! Now please add a post of things you do at home to teach your own kids! Or work on scripture stuff or teaching to cook or whatever you do! You inspire me always!

Holly Decker said...

you are flipping amazing. i wish i was you. amen.

Jacqui said...

Move here so macie can do preschool with you!