Teacher Ideas

Teacher Ideas

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Printables & Freebies
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Classroom Ideas

A World of Colors

It's that time of year that the world around us is popping with lots of color. Our family has been able to spend a lot of time in the yard recently, and we're loving it! Children Mack's age are taking so much in as they explore the world around them. They are feeling, touching, smelling, seeing, eating (some things they shouldn't!), and really getting to discover life. This has been such a fun age for us to hear Mack's version of all the things he is learning day to day. I try hard to remember to point out to him the variety of colors that make up the environment around us. While walking, reading, and driving, we interact with a rainbow of shades. He is learning to point them out to me too! In honor of the colors that surround us, we headed to the porch for some painting. I started the project by taking a paper plate and cutting it to mimic an artist's palette. Then I drew four circles, and outlined them in different colors (green, red, blue, and orange). I put a little squirt of each color of those colors of paint on a different paper plate and we talked about the shades. 

Then he matched them up to the circles on the palette(with my help of course). We also talked about the shape of a circle as he was using his little fingers to fill in the areas. It was a great teachable moment that was fun and easy (as easy as paint can be with a 19 month old!). 

He was quite proud of his masterpiece and I was proud of my little artist!

For a colorful review for your little ones visit Marcy's TPT Store 


A Poet Tree

It's hard to believe that April is winding to a close, but you still have time to celebrate National Poetry Month. Dust off that mini Christmas tree that you have stuck in a closet, and make a "Poet Tree" out of it! If you don't have a Christmas tree handy, cut some branches off of a tree outside and spray paint them a fun spring color. Stick them in a vase or jar with some rocks to keep the branches in place, and you'll have a tree fit for some fabulous poetry in no time.
It's always fun to see Christmas lights during what feels already like summer days outdoors. My students were curious at first, but once we started hanging poems to the branches, the tree came to life. Lots of children and adults are reluctant poets. I find that it's best to introduce them to fun books of poetry first and then have them take baby steps while writing their own. You can also head outside for a nature walk outside and then compose a haiku. On their walk have children use their five senses so when they get inside to write it's not so difficult to think of the perfect words. Children often have a misconception that all poems needs to rhyme. Now that's a lot of stress! If you point out that poetry is very creative and there are not set rules, that puts young writers at ease. If you need a poetry portfolio to use in the classroom or at home, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers site. This portfolio will guide you and your children through four basic forms of poetry. Have fun with it, and remember to make a place where your talented poets can display their original work!

Charlotte's Web of Words

My name is Amanda and I have a confession, I've never read Charlotte's Web. Can it be that an elementary school teacher, not to mention the daughter of two teachers, a lover of animals, and the wife of a former farmer, hasn't read this American classic? Yes, it is true. However, in honor of Charlotte's 60th birthday this month, I am reading the book to my class and loving it! Most of my students have read it some years ago so they are amusing me along the way. Laughing when I laugh, saying "awww" when I say "awww", tearing up when I tear up. You know what all good audiences do. Like every good teacher I don't just let them enjoy a wonderful story, I make them learn something new as we go. Since Charlotte, Wilbur and the barnyard crew are typically introduced to children in second or third grade, I decided to focus on the rich vocabulary E.B. White uses throughout the book.

 We also have been learning about animal adaptations in science, so the life of an arachnid lent us great study material. Through our reading we learned that Charlotte is an orb weaver spider as opposed to a sheet web spider. In addition to a spider's adaptations, we discussed their habitat, diet, and life cycle. Then we got to painting. I simply gave each student a black sheet of construction paper, a Q-tip, and some white paint. They designed an orb web, defined vocabulary words from the book, and there you have it a web of words that would make Charlotte proud! 

 To finish off the activity we made spider cookies from Oreos, chocolate frosting, black licorice, and Mini M & Ms. My little biologists were quick to point out that most spiders have six or eight eyes. They are so technical aren't they!! I think they were just trying to get more M & Ms out of me! Adding new words to our vocabulary, and extending our life science knowledge gives this book even more reason to be one of my "new" all time favorites! 


Self Potraits

I'm always looking for creative ways to teach writing lessons. Some children are natural born writers, and others need a little direction. I've found that children are often better writers than they think they are. Sometimes it just takes some out of the box teaching! When teaching creative writing such as narratives or poetry, it's important to include a lesson on similes and metaphors. Great authors gift us with the use of similes and metaphors to allow the reader to compare and visualize objects that they are writing about.
If you need a quick review on these types of figurative languages, just remember that a simile typically uses like and as to compare two things that are generally not alike. Whereas a metaphor implies a comparison between two things. The student's backpack was as messy as a pigpen. (example of a simile) My stomach was a swarm of bees when the teacher passed out the test. (example of a metaphor)
I've found that a fun way to teach the difference between these two is to have student create a self portrait using similes and metaphors. Their task is to compose a combination of five to six similes and metaphors that describe their face, hair, ears (you get the point). They then have to play the part of artist and draw a self portrait that coordinates with the sentences they came up with. Look at these great student examples for inspiration. We framed our portraits with Christmas cards that were about to be tossed. That makes this a great Earth friendly project too! Students could use their moms as their muse and turn it into a cute Mother's Day gift!

Mommy & Me Mondays: Keeping little hands busy with a mini aquarium

Like most women I wear many hats.  Probably too many at times!  The hat that fits the best and is comfy and cozy is the one of Mama.  That is what my 19 month old Mack calls me.  He is a wild and crazy little boy who is constantly wanting to play and explore.  It’s tough at times to switch hats between teaching 10 and 11 year old students to this little guy, but I’m up for the challenge!
Mack is a counting machine these days.  He loves to count everything around him, as long as it falls between two and 16.  For some reason he isn’t really into the number one.  We’ve been reading Audrey Wood’s Ten Little Fish to hone our counting skills.  Her rhyming words and the book’s illustrations inspired me to make an Aquarium Bag for Mack.  I’m always looking for a quick project for he and I to do at home that doesn’t involve a trip to the store for materials, or extensive setup and cleanup. 

To make your own Aquarium bag with your little one just grab a gallon sized resealable bag, clear dish soap (fill bag about ¼ of the way full, a few drops of food coloring, sequins, pearl beads, small sea shells, or anything else that inspires you!  Mack helped me count out these different ocean objects and we sealed it up!  We headed outside on a beautiful day to play with our mini aquarium.  Mack loved the bubbles the soap made, and all the colors.  If you lay the bag flat it makes a great surface for writing with your finger on.  Mack and I practiced counting out loud as I wrote the number with my finger on the bag.

It’s simple, educational, and fun!  Just what we all need on a Monday!  The hat of Mama is important and rewarding.  Remember that you are your child’s best teacher.  Look around your house or your community and see what experiences you can share with your child this week.



Lil Sprouts celebrate Earth Day with the Lorax

Simply Sprout hosted a Lorax party for Earth Day where our preschool friends learned about conservation, recycling and keeping the earth clean. They learned a few lessons from our friend the Lorax and had a lot of fun along the way.

Learning to Recycle with the Lorax

The little ones learned all about different recyclable materials and how to sort like objects. They sorted the paper, plastic and metal and put them into the corresponding bins...they caught on so quick! I see a lot of future recyclers in our midst.This is definitely a job they can help with around the house.

Painting with Recyclables

Our little friends painted personalized canvases using recycled materials. They each got their very own canvas, and chose their paint colors. They used plastic bags to apply the paint onto the canvas and then paper towel rolls to apply circles onto their painting. When they were all finished we removed the painters tape to reveal their masterpieces. They turned out simply beautiful....we definitely have some budding artist in our group!

 The last of the "Truffula Seeds"

The kids decorated their own pots and planted the very last of the "truffula seeds!"
They practiced identifying their colors and made their own swirl paper using liquid starch and craft paint. They loved seeing how their designs floated right on top of the starch. Even our littlest of sprouts got in on the action.

 To make the swirl pots just pour some liquid starch into a shallow container, add a few drops of craft paint. Have little ones create a swirl design using a toothpick. Then take your paper insert from the pot and float on top of the starch, pick up gently and set aside to dry. While our little ones waited for theirs to dry they listened to our inspiration story, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

"Truffula Tree" Cupcakes

 For treats they made "Truffula tree" cupcakes with coconut and cotton candy among other things. The lil sprouts iced their very own orange cupcake and added a little bit of coconut flakes ( dyed green of course) They put their cotton candy tufts onto the end of the straw and added it to their cupcake. They washed their cupcake down with a little bit of Lorax Lemonade!

On the way out our little friends took a treat with them to remind them of all the fun they had today learning and exploring!

 Our Little Loraxes learned a whole awful lot!
It was lots of fun and educational too! A perfect way to celebrate Earth Day!
Be sure to check back for future simply sprout "Lil Sprouts" events. The themes vary and they are offered each month at various places around Tallahassee. Please email us for more information simplysprout@gmail.com


The Whole World in Our Hands

We celebrated Earth Day in our classroom by making a piece of recyclable art and terrariums. Creating and growing are two of our favorite things around here at Simply Sprout, and what better time of year to celebrate them than Earth Day! In our house and classroom we have a scrap paper baskets. My students' goal is to always use the scrap pieces of paper before we get out new construction paper. Their task was to make a mosaic globe, and a piece of paper to mount their art on from the scrap basket. They did a great job! First they cut circles out of paper from the recycling bin. Then we reviewed that they would need their stack of paper to be around 70 percent blue and 30 percent green from the scrap basket. Some children chose to add ice (white) at the polar caps, and different shades to represent a variety of terrain.
After ripping their scraps into tiny pieces, they started gluing. All that I told them was that they would need to cover the entire circle. Once they were finished with their mosiac, they traced their hands on old paper that was left in my classroom almost a decade ago! I pulled out the pastels and they wrote, "I've got the whole world in my hands." On the back side of the artwork, students wrote out Earth friendly habits to share with their families. They brainstormed ideas like turning the lights off, playing outside, picking up litter, taking shorter showers, planting flowers, and much more. So sweet and such a reminder that this generation is going to do great things to cherish our Earth. Later in the afternoon we headed outside to make terrariums. Another wonderful way to honor the Earth is by repurposing soda bottles into mini ecosystems. We filled them with small pebbles to represent bedrock, soil, seeds, organic material, and some students even put living organisms in their terrariums. We have been learning a lot about the living and non-living components of ecosystems. It's important to point out to children that the soil, sunlight, air, and water are vital to any environment. These things make it habitable for the living things like plants and animals.
Engage children by asking them questions like: "Do you think you're terrarium needs water?" "What does your plant need in order to grow?" "How long do you think it will take to see a seed sprout? Have children make a hypothesis, allow them to observe each day, and finally draw conclusions. We left our terrariums in our classroom green house that sits outside our back door, and we're looking forward to checking on the growth inside them. Terrariums also make a wonderful visual for children to see the water cycle in motion. The great thing is that you can continue to add items to your terrarium and see the wonder on child's faces as their mini ecosystem thrives. Get your free printable below for your ecologist at home! Happy Earth Day to our Lil Sprouts!


Celebrate Earth Day with the Lorax

Dr. Seuss' Lorax has quickly become a classroom favorite of mine. It's silly tone teaches us all about a serious subject,  our environment and pollution. The Lorax and his beautiful Truffula trees are such a colorful inspiration for Earth Day, and they are the perfect inspiration for a sensory bin. We have mentioned the benefits of sensory bin exploration  in previous post. So in case you missed it let me give you a brief description.
A sensory box is a contained area where kids can explore and play through utilizing their 5 senses. Helping them to understand the world around them, and how it works.
Sensory boxes are inexpensive and fun to create, taking very little time to assemble.
It's easiest to pick a theme and colors and start from there. Start off by introducing The Lorax to your little ones by reading the book or watching the movie which is still in theaters.
To Make your sensory bin find a shallow open container that will be easy for your little one to reach into and explore. Add colored rice, you can find out how we make ours (directions for colored rice) . Remember to stick with your color theme. I used the colors from the Truffula trees, orange, yellow and pink. They are vibrant and welcome curiosity and exploration. Add some items like the ones pictured above. Black and white paper striped straws (Truffula tee trunks), you can find these online at The Sugar Divas. I also added glitter pom poms in orange, yellow and pink ( these resemble the tops of the Truffula trees from the story). I also added some soft fuzzy yarn. I found the perfect shade at my local craft store that combined all three inspiration colors. (This soft colorful yarn represents the "Thneeds" from the story.) Fluffy, soft and fun for curious little hands.  I always like to add cups, scoops and small spoons so my little ones can fill them up and practice their fine motor skills, as well as spatial relationships which are skills they will need later on in the classroom. 

Adding words to your Sensory Bin

Activities to introduce beginning reading skills

Another item you can add are plastic or wooden letters, just make sure they are small enough for your little ones to handle, refrigerator magnets work great. Add the letters to spell a few sight words from the book. Have them find the hidden letters from the sensory bin and match them to the cards pictured below. 
You can get your own copy to print at home at our  Teachers Notebook store. Once your child matches all of the letters to the cards have them search for those words in the story of The Lorax. These beginning reading skills will help them learn how words and stories are constructed and how letters have meaning, a critical concept for early reading.

Fun in The Kitchen

Bento-logy is one of my favorite go to sites for fun foods for my little ones. Their Lorax lunch is so creative and fun and is sure to inspire the littlest of Lorax lovers. Who wouldn't want to save the trees after eating this cute lunch.

For dinner try this colorful version of pasta alfredo.

Cook pasta in boiling water as usual separate into 3 bowls keeping the water,  add a  few drops of neon orange, pink and regular yellow food coloring to dye your noodles.
Add a few drops of neon blue food coloring to your favorite alfredo sauce. Add asparagus and broccoli as little trees...serve to your little ones and watch them giggle!
Kids love to explore with food new tastes, smells and textures intrigue their curiosity so go wild and get creative in the kitchen.

Learn with the Lorax

 For some classroom fun please check out our Lorax Primary Pack Complete with suessified grammar activities, writing prompts, and math fun. There are activities for everyone!

Be sure to check back this weekend for some more fun with the Lorax. We are hosting another Lil Sprouts event for our preschool friends this Saturday from 3:30 - 5:00. We will be celebrating Earth Day with the Lorax. Our Lil Sprouts will be creating their own monogrammed canvas painting with recycled objects, they will practice their sorting and color skills with an Earth friendly recycling game, they will even get their own" Truffula seed" to take home and nurture in a custom designed pot. Don't miss this fun event please visit our simply sprout facebook page to signup by this Thursday April 19, 2012. 
Please feel free to invite a friend!
For information on upcoming Lil Sprouts events please contact us at simplysprout@gmail.com

Litter Bugs

We can't seem to get enough of this Earth loving theme! Here's a quick project that makes great reuse of your trash. Does your family recycle? We sure hope so. If not, what better time to start this healthy Earth habit! This activity is an excellent way to engage children in a conversation about recycling. Point out how your family or classroom sorts items to be recycled. Let the little ones look through the recycling bin and choose some items to re-purpose and make into a Litter Bug!

Wash items well and put children's creativity to work. They can design their own recyclable animal using items like water bottles, fruit cups, newspaper, scrap paper, discarded craft items, cereal boxes, etc. Make sure that you have markers and a hot glue gun (for adult use of course) handy.

Encourage children to make up a story about their newly discovered animal. Have them brainstorm about what kind of habitat this animal would call home. For older children you can ask them to list any adaptations that this animal has in order to survive.

A great lesson about recycling that is quick, creative, and makes this mother and Mother Nature smile!

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