Sunday, February 17, 2019

Visuals for Behavior Expectations

I hear often about the importance of using visuals with students with special needs. It's true that visuals provide a good way to communicate with these kiddos, as some of them do better with processing an image than the spoken word. I like to take visuals one step further, and use them with all early childhood students. My classroom is made up of students with special needs, and those who are at risk, including a high number of ESOL students. I have found that all of them respond positively to visuals!

Quick-Reference Visuals for Behavior | Apples to Applique

Visuals provide the advantage of actually showing students your expectation. I also love that they can be used to give a direction while you are still teaching. Often, in the middle of a lesson, I will hold up a visual to a student who is off-task, while not missing a beat with my instruction. This is why I LOVE the quick-reference design of these visuals in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Quick-Reference Visuals for Behavior | Apples to Applique

Another powerful thing about visuals is that they lead to fewer power struggles and defiant behaviors. Students don't feel as challenged when presented with a visual as they do with a verbal command. They don't feel as much like they were called out in front of their peers; in fact, often times their classmates don't even notice the direction has been given, since the teacher is able to continue seamlessly with instruction. While this doesn't hold true 100% of the time, and of course some students will still choose to not listen, I have found that, by and large, a child who is calmly shown a visual to "sit" or "be quiet" will respond better to it than being told verbally to "sit" or "be quiet".

Quick-Reference Visuals for Behavior | Apples to Applique

I attach these visuals to my lanyard so that they are always ready to go. When needed, I usually hold up the visual and give it a tap, then when the student complies I give a quick smile and a thumbs-up. We have an entire exchange without any words, and without them feeling embarrassed in front of their classmates. It's quick, easy, and effective. 

If you have any experience with using visuals for behavior expectations in your classroom, I would love to hear about it! Drop me a comment below!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Question of the Day

I am always on the lookout for ways to increase the rigor in my Pre-K classroom. I have found time and again that my little learners are capable of so much more than people realize. They can understand more than people give them credit for, and I love expanding their minds with new knowledge. I found this anonymous quote that says, "A mind when stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions". That is powerful! I want to help my students expand their minds as much as possible early in life, to give them more capacity for learning in their future.

Using a Question of the Day in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique

One easy way I do this in my classroom is through the use of a question of the day. On the surface, it sounds simple enough. I post a question on the board, and the students vote on their answer. But it encompasses so much more than that! Of course they cannot yet read it independently, so I read it to them while pointing to each word. This provides good exposure to print, and helps them learn basic print awareness skills, like reading from left to right, the fact that print represents spoken words, and that letters are grouped to form words. All of that, just from reading to them, and we haven't even gotten to answering the question yet!

Next, they get to think about answering the question. I give them questions that relate to things we are learning in the classroom, activating some prior knowledge first thing in the door, or questions that focus on skills they need to practice, such as letter recognition. I strive to use questions that do not have a set right or wrong answer, or at least, not the same right or wrong answer for every student. For example, we are currently in a unit about plants and gardening. I avoid questions like, "Which of these is one of the needs of a plant? Sun or rocks?" The reason I avoid these types of questions is that once a few kids answer, the rest of them will not stop to process the actual question. They will simply see where everyone else has put their counter, and follow suit.




Using a Question of the Day in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique

Another way I use the Question of the Day to increase rigor is by changing the method by which the students vote. Early in the year, when they are still working on name recognition, I have magnets with each of their names on them. They have to locate their name, and then use their magnet to vote.

Later in the year, when they have mastered recognizing their own names, I switch it up. I have them vote by placing a cube in a balance, and we talk about how we know which side has more. My mathematician stacks the cubes to count the votes and we compare to see which tower is taller or shorter.

Using a Question of the Day in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique


Currently I am having them vote by placing magnetic counters on a ten-frame. This gives them real-life practice with using a ten-frame; I watch as they vote to make sure they start in the top left corner, and fill in each space in order. When the class mathematician counts up the votes, we talk about strategies for subitizing using a ten-frame; i.e., "I see the whole top row of the ten-frame is full. How many is that?" "Can we count on from five to see how many we have all together?" "Wow, I love how Nyla subitized! She saw the ten-frame was full, so she knew ten friends voted for roses without having to count each one by itself".

To increase the rigor even further, we then talk about the concepts of greater than, less than, and equal. One of our Pre-K standards is comparing quantities, and once they have that down, I take it one step further by introducing the greater than and less than signs. This part is obviously not a Pre-K standard, so we don't spend a lot of time on it, but now my kids have been exposed to it and know how it works (yay for the good ol' "alligator mouth" analogy!). When they are introduced to these math symbols again a little later in their education, they will have some prior knowledge to access from their time in Pre-K, and be ready for greater challenges!



One of the most difficult things for me was coming up with a fresh new question every day. I finally took the time to compile a giant master list, and made a Question of the Day kit with more than enough questions to get through the entire school year. I even color-coded it, so it's super quick and easy to implement. Find it here!

Have you used a question of the day in your early childhood classroom? I would love to hear how it works for you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Using a Writing Center to Empower Students

I think we all understand that writing is powerful; you can do so much with it. That's one thing I want my students to know, even as young as they are. I think as early childhood students are learning how to write letters and words, the idea of why we write can be so abstract to them. They learn their letters and how to write their names; we try to teach them the connection as we read books, that the words they are hearing are written down with letters--the same letters they are learning to write. Giving them the opportunity to write themselves brings it all full-circle, so that writing is no longer something that just adults do.
Using a Writing Center to Empower Students | Apples to Applique

The writing center is essential in making that connection. It helps kids to see the power that writing gives them, and that it goes so far beyond writing their names and their ABCs. I think that's my favorite feature of my writing center: all of the visuals included to empower students and help them to see all the things they can do with the written word!

Using a Writing Center to Empower Students | Apples to Applique

Each student has his or her own journal, and every day during learning labs time, they are given the opportunity to add to their journal as they desire. Sometimes I provide some kind of prompt or challenge, especially at the beginning of the year as they are first getting comfortable with journaling. Most of the time, however, it is just a place for them to put their own thoughts to paper. Even though they are not able to truly write yet, they are learning that they can use symbols and pictures to represent what they are thinking.

Using a Writing Center to Empower Students | Apples to Applique

Perhaps even more importantly, they are learning that their thoughts and ideas have value. Their journals are kept in a special place, and only they are allowed to use them. When they show me what they draw or write, I ask them open-ended questions to get them talking, and never make assumptions about what I think they might have drawn. I also try to not assign aesthetic value to it with remarks like, "What a pretty picture", but instead use comments such as, "Wow, I see you used so many colors!" or "I can tell you worked really hard on that!" One phrase that works well, especially if I am unsure of what they have drawn, is saying, "Tell me about this", pointing to specific elements in the picture.

Using a Writing Center to Empower Students | Apples to Applique

When students see that their writings and drawings are treated as being important, they begin to see that their thoughts, ideas, and feelings, as well as their representation of them, are also important. When children see that adults value their thoughts, and allow them to have ownership over the expression of them, it empowers them and builds their self-confidence. This helps in establishing a strong foundation for healthy social-emotional development.

Find my writing center kit here, with all 16 of the "I Can Write" visuals, as well as 20 organizational labels!

Writing Center | Apples to Applique

Writing Center | Apples to Applique

Writing Center | Apples to Applique

Writing Center | Apples to Applique


Happy writing!




Saturday, November 24, 2018

North Pole Dramatic Play Center

*Note, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on my links, I make a small commission at no charge to you!**

So, I thought my Pumpkin Patch Dramatic Play Center was my absolute favorite ever...until I created this. A North Pole Dramatic Play Center!

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

After all, what is more magical to a child than Santa's Workshop at the North Pole?

I wanted it to have all the details. Signs for different areas, such as the workshop, mail room, and gift wrapping area...

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

...as well as the reindeer stall and tree farm. Bits of realia added in make it all come alive!

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

I found the darling plush reindeer here, and fun little trees and gift bags at the Dollar Tree! I even reused the hay bale from my Pumpkin Patch Dramatic Play Center (notice it's still in the cellophane--ha! There was no way I was going to give my 3- and 4-year-olds free rein with a messy bale of hay!)

Of course, the North Pole has to have an area to bake Santa's favorite cookies...

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

...and you can't bake cookies without Santa's favorite cookie recipe!

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

On top of all this great print awareness, there are also opportunities for writing included! There are gift tags and gift order forms, and even a letter to Santa template. Download the letter to Santa template for FREE!

Santa's Workshop Dramatic Play Center Printables | Apples to Applique

To see everything that is included in this center, check it out here in my TPT store!

I hope your students love it, and that you all have a wonderful holiday season!





Thursday, October 25, 2018

Escape Rooms for Early Childhood

Escape Rooms for Pre-K and Kindergarten | Apples to Applique

Escape rooms and breakout activities are all the rage right now! And for good reason; they encourage movement, collaboration, and problem solving. These activities tend to be geared toward older kids, but what if I told you they are awesome to use with younger students, as well?

I've taken the concept of an escape room and simplified it to make it appropriate for Pre-K and kindergarten students. Each game has options for playing as a whole group, small group, or even individually. Depending on the activity, I also offer options for differentiating as needed. I made them flexible enough that you can play them in one session, or over several days, depending on the amount of time you have and on the attention span of your students.

Each game has a story line to follow, so kids can really engage with the activity and activate their imaginations. I chose a specific skill to target with each game, making this is a great way to give kids a chance to practice and demonstrate understanding of a certain skill.

Escape the Apple Cider Stand focuses on matching numbers to quantities. There are four activities: matching cards with pictures of apples to apple crates with numbers, writing numbers of objects in a ten frame (options for writing and tracing included, depending on the level of your learners), filling ten frames to match numbers, and a "write the room" activity to match the number of objects in each picture to the correct numeral.

Escape Rooms for Pre-K and Kindergarten | Apples to Applique


Escape the Pumpkin Patch focuses on rhyming. There are four activities or puzzles for students to solve: matching rhyming pictures, generating rhymes, finding objects that rhyme, and a rhyming "write the room" activity.

Escape Room: Thanksgiving! works on sequencing. The story is about preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, and the activities focus on ordinal numbers and putting steps in order, which is great for building listening comprehension skills. The activities are cut and paste sequencing, putting step cards in order, pocket chart sequencing activity, and a "write the room" activity.

Escape Rooms for Pre-K and Kindergarten | Apples to Applique


Escape the North Pole may be my favorite one yet! What 4- or 5-year-old kid wouldn't love to be part of a story about helping Santa get ready for Christmas? This escape room focuses on shapes. The four activities are identifying and coloring by shape, drawing shapes (includes an option for tracing for kiddos who need it), matching shapes, and a shape "write the room" activity focusing on shape attributes (with an option for differentiation included).

These activities are so much fun, and I really tried to make them as simple as possible for you, with no special locks or boxes required. All you provide are some manila envelopes to hide the clues and puzzles in. And of course, each one includes clear setup instructions.

More great escape rooms are in the works! Check out my growing bundle to get the 4 listed here, plus 8 future breakout activities, for one low price! The price will go up each month as a new escape room is added, so buy early to save the most money!

I hope you enjoy trying out these activities with your students; I would love to hear how it goes in your classroom!