Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Easy Classroom Setup with Fun Classroom Decor Bundles

It's mid-July and we are now past Independence Day, which means it's the time of year we start seeing back to school stuff everywhere. I know that makes us teachers do a deep sigh, as we just want to enjoy our last few weeks of summer. However, this is also a great time to start getting things ready for the next year before the insanity of in-service and professional development starts.

I've been working on projects like purposeful morning work for the entire year, (get yours here!), and setting up task boxes for small groups. I'm really excited about my new task boxes, and plan to share them with you after I'm back in my classroom this fall.

Make classroom setup a breeze with classroom decor bundles in a variety of themes! | Apples to Applique

All of that purposeful planning takes time, so today, I wanted to share lots of classroom decor and organizational items in several fun themes to make your classroom setup a breeze. Whether you want something whimsical and cute, or a little more sophisticated, I have decor you're sure to love!

I offer the components individually, and also as part of money-saving bundles. Each of my themes is available in two smaller bundles; one is geared toward early childhood, with things like alphabet, shapes, and color posters; the other, called my teacher organization bundle, has labels, name plates, and the like, and is appropriate for all of elementary. Or, save even more and buy the complete bundle, with all of the resources in each theme! There are also some great coordinating freebies like welcome banners and file, grade, and copy labels, so make sure to check them out in my TPT store!

These classroom decor items make classroom setup so simple--just print and go, and you've got a totally coordinated classroom, with everything from job charts to birthday calendars to teacher toolbox labels. Many of the components are even editable, to make life easier for you! What's better than a darling, coordinated, welcoming classroom with as little effort as possible? That classroom environment is so important, but easy setup allows you to focus on what's truly vital: planning quality education for your learners.


Currently, I have 9 themes available in my store:

Classroom decor in a classy yellow, teal, and gray theme | Apples to Applique
Yellow, Teal, and Gray--my bestselling theme! It's simple, pretty, and classy. Great for upper elementary!

Classroom decor in a clean and fresh chalkboard theme | Apples to Applique
Chalkboard decor is all the rage right now! I love this clean look for any grade level.

Classroom decor in a primary color theme is perfect for early childhood | Apples to Applique
Is there anything more classic for early childhood than primary colors?
Popcorn theme classroom decor is perfect as-is, or when paired with circus animals or movie and film decor! | Apples to Applique
I love this versatile popcorn theme! Use as-is, or pair it with circus animals or movie and film decor!

Mischievous Monkey Classroom Decor | Apples to Applique
Who wouldn't love some mischievous monkeys to liven up their classroom?

This comic book theme classroom decor is fun for all ages without being too cutesy. | Apples to Applique
This comic book theme is fun for all ages, and a hit with teachers whose style isn't so "cutesy".

Candy Shop decor lends a whimsical feel to your classroom! | Apples to Applique
Check out this Candy Shop themed decor to lend a whimsical feel to your classroom!

This colorful classroom decor bundle is fresh and bright! | Apples to Applique
This colorful decor pack is fresh and bright!

This black and white classroom decor is perfect for when you don't have access to a color printer, but still want a cute room! | Apples to Applique
This black and white classroom decor is perfect for when you don't have access to a color printer, but still want a cute room!

I hope you enjoy these classroom decor themes, and if you have any ideas for future themes, leave them in the comments!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Pre-K Morning Work for the ENTIRE School Year

Pre-K Morning Work for the ENTIRE School Year | Apples to Applique

I have been working so hard on this resource since school got out, and I am thrilled to announce that it is finally live! Throughout the school year, I spend way too much planning time finding morning work that covers the skills my students need to practice, finding myself piecing it all together a page or two at a time. This year, I decided that one of my big summer break projects would be to create an all-inclusive packet of morning work that covers literacy, math, fine-motor, and science skills.

I also knew I wanted it to be no-prep and low-mess. I say "low" mess because there are cutting practice sheets included, where students practice cutting on a line, but there are NO cut-and-paste activities!!! Pre-K kiddos do not need to be messing with glue first thing in the morning, am I right? Somehow they even make huge sticky messes with glue sticks, so I decided to avoid those types of activities all together.

Pre-K Morning Work for the ENTIRE School Year | Apples to Applique

This packet has 200 pages of activities--more than enough to give your students something new every morning! Of course, you can also repeat pages as often as necessary to meet your students' needs.

Pre-K Morning Work for the ENTIRE School Year | Apples to Applique

What I am most excited about in this packet are the editable name activities. Type in your class list ONE time, and automatically generate 4 different name activity pages for each student--how cool is that?! Such a time-saver, too; I used to type in each kid's name multiple times for tracing practice. Now it will only take about 5 minutes to have sheets ready for my whole class.

I can't wait to put this to use this fall in my classroom, and I hope you find it useful, too! Get your morning work packet here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Interactive Activity

As I mentioned in my last post, summer is a time I love to create new activities for my students! This is actually a project I made a few summers ago, but I realized I never blogged about it, so here you go! (I apologize in advance for the terrible photo; it was taken a long time ago, and the actual activity is packed away in my classroom, so I can't retake it right now).

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Interactive Reading Activity | Apples to Applique
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Interactive Reading Activity

Apparently I am all about literacy activities involving old syrup bottles these days, haha!
For this activity, I chose to use an old Mrs. Buttersworth brand bottle, since it's shaped like a woman. You could really use any type of canister or container that will fit tongue depressors. I've even included two labels for that purpose, one with the wording "Old Lady" and one with the wording "Old Woman" so that you can be consistent with whichever version of the story you have.

The prep on this is pretty simple, and once it's done, you'll have this activity for years! Just print out the animal labels and glue or Mod Podge them to tongue depressors. Honestly what took me the longest was getting the label off the syrup bottle! I finally found an awesome tip about using peanut butter--sure enough, it took off all of the sticky residue! Of course, I then washed it VERY well to make sure there was no trace of peanut butter left, what with peanut allergies being common in the classroom. I'm pretty sure it was the oil in the peanut butter that broke down the adhesive, so if you're concerned about it, you might try another type of oil first.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly Interactive Reading Activity | Apples to Applique
This book was my favorite version of this story when I was little.
I was SO EXCITED to find it at a used book store several years ago.
Of course, any version will work with this activity!
This activity can be used to keep students engaged during the actual reading, as they can come up to put their animal in the Old Lady canister as it occurs during the story. It can also be used as a retelling or sequencing small group, as the students can work on recalling the order after they hear the story. My students absolutely love both options, and get so excited when it is their turn for their animal!

I like that this activity not only works on sequencing and retelling, but it is also easy to incorporate some letter recognition and beginning sound phonological awareness. "We need the bird. What sound do you hear at the beginning of b-b-bird? What letter makes that sound? Do you have that letter on your stick?" Of course, there are pictures to help scaffold the learning, too.

Get this activity here, and I hope you continue to enjoy a productive yet restful summer!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Pancake Letter Recognition and Sight Word Activities

Summer! Such a wonderful time for us teachers to relax and refresh--and plan for the coming school year. I know I started making plans before the school year had even ended. The last month of so or school this year, I kept looking around my room, thinking about what worked well this year and what I would like to change, how I could rearrange things to make them more efficient, and what new ideas I would like to implement. Now that I have some "time off" (I say that loosely, because we all know summer is when teachers get planning and prep done for the next year), I am creating new things to add into my rotation of learning labs, literacy stations, and math stations.

Today I've got two fun activities for you. The idea for these has been rolling around my brain for a while, but I just finally got them completed! They're essentially different versions of the same game, one for letters and one for sight words.

Pancake Letter Recognition Activity | Apples to Applique
Get this fun letter recognition activity here!
 
Pancake Sight Word Activity | Apples to Applique
Get this fun sight word activity here!

These games require a little one-time prep (cutting out all the pancakes and making the syrup bottle), but once that's done you'll have something fresh and new to add to your literacy stations. This is the perfect kind of activity to prepare during the summer; turn on your favorite show, kick up your feet, and relax with a drink while you cut out the pieces.

This game is super easy to use in a small group. There are multiple ways you can play it--you know I love games that allow for differentiation! (For other activities that allow for easy differentiation, check out this letter game, this egg matching game, this compound word activity, and this bakery dramatic play center!)

Pancake Letter Recognition Activity | Apples to Applique

For the letter game:
-Teacher calls out letter, and student puts “syrup” on the correct pancake
-Teacher calls out sound, and student puts “syrup” on coordinating letter
-Student puts “syrup” on a letter and states either the name or the sound
-Student puts “syrup” on a letter and thinks of a word that begins with that letter.
-Use with only uppercase, only lowercase, or both, as needed

Pancake Sight Word Activity | Apples to Applique


For the sight word game:
-Teacher calls out word, and student puts “syrup” on the correct pancake
-Student puts “syrup” on a word and reads it
-Use with as few or as many words at once as will best meet the needs of your students
-Includes both Pre-K and Kindergarten sight words, for a total of 92 words. Mix and match to meet your students' needs.

Easy and fun, and what kid doesn't love pancakes, or getting to play with a syrup bottle?!
Speaking of that, to make the syrup bottle, I simply adhered the included label with packing tape. Then I threaded a short piece of brown yarn through the opening. (I tied a brown button on the end to both weight down the yarn and to keep it from slipping back through the opening). You could just as easily use an empty syrup bottle without the yarn, and just have students touch the top of the bottle to the pancakes.

This activity could be used over and over throughout the school year, both as you are introducing new letters/words, and as a review activity. It will also make a handy tool to assess students' knowledge. I love activities that help me assess their knowledge, but don't feel like "testing".

I hope you and your students enjoy these activities! Happy summer break!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Using a Question of the Day to Increase Rigor in Early Childhood

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 to Increase Rigor 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 write 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. The trickiest thing with writing questions is that I strive to come up with 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.

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.

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

Later in the year, when they have mastered recognizing their own names, I switch it up. 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".

Using a Question of the Day to Increase Rigor in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique
Yeah, yeah, I know a tomato is technically a fruit...
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 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!

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


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bakery Dramatic Play Center

I have had this dramatic play center in the works for a while, and am so excited to finally have it up and listed in my shop!

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

What kid doesn't love pretending to cook? The kitchen is always one of the most popular learning labs in my classroom.

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

This bakery center is particularly awesome, because it can be used as-is, with play food, or you can really extend the fun by using it with play dough!

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique


Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

It includes recipes for kids to follow to make their favorite bakery treats; the recipes allow them to practice following step-by-step directions and simple how-to texts. Of course, there are pictures for each step to allow pre-readers to join in on the fun, or to provide scaffolding for emerging readers. I bound the recipes together to create a cookbook, and it is just adorable!

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

The menu, order pads, and guest checks allow for differentiation, as there are different options included. The menu is included with and without prices listed. The order pads use pictures only, which students can simply circle to indicate the customer's order.

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique


Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

The guest checks include lines for students to write the price of items ordered and total them at the bottom, allowing for math practice through writing numerals and performing simple addition.

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Both the ordering sheet and guest check include a full-color sheet, which can be laminated and used again and again with dry erase markers, and black and white half sheets, which are easy to copy and staple together to make ordering pads like they would see in an actual restaurant. 

This set also includes a shop sign, open and closed signs, and a daily specials board with interchangeable pictures, as well as the menu, ordering pads, guest checks, and recipes.

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

Watching kids engrossed in dramatic play is one of the cutest things in the world to me. I love how much they get to use language, and it's entertaining to see how they emulate the world around them. They notice so much more than they usually get credit for!

Bakery Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

I hope you and your students love this new bakery dramatic play center! Get it here, and tell me about your favorite dramatic play centers in the comments!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Early Childhood Classroom Scavenger Hunts

Early Childhood Classroom Scavenger Hunts | Apples to Applique
You know when you try something new with your students, unsure of how it will go, and then they blow you away with how well they do? That's exactly how scavenger hunts have gone in my Pre-K classroom. They are my new favorite activity to do with students! It gets them up and moving, and working together.

Early Childhood Classroom Scavenger Hunts | Apples to Applique

The first time we attempted a scavenger hunt, I was sure it was going to be a disaster. I put the kids in pairs, showed them how to check things off their list, and turned them loose with a clipboard and a pen. Then I waited for mass chaos to ensue...and it didn't. Maybe it was because they felt grown up using pens and clip boards, maybe it was because they were able to use some critical thinking skills, or maybe it was because they felt I trusted them and rose to the occasion--whatever the reason, my students worked hard! They synergized and found all of the items on their lists, very methodically checking off items. It was the cutest thing ever, and definitely one of those "this is why I teach" moments.

Early Childhood Classroom Scavenger Hunts | Apples to Applique

Since that initial success, I have made scavenger hunts to target many different skills. I have a scavenger hunt for colors, 2D shapes, 3D shapes, textures, beginning sounds, rhyming words, and functional pairs. They provide a great way for students to demonstrate understanding of a topic, and, just as importantly, the kids love them! Yes, the kids need a little guidance as most of them are not yet able to read the words, but there are picture clues on the sheets to help out. The visuals on the page really assist them in completing the activity more independently. Additionally, the words used in the beginning sounds and rhyming hunts are all sight words or simple CVC words, so some students are able to complete them all on their own, depending on their level. My students who need a little more help check in with me when they are ready to search for their next item, then go off on their own to find it. That gives me the chance to make sure they are on track as they go, but gives them the freedom to show what they know. And they know a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for!

Get your scavenger hunts here, and enjoy watching your little learners show off their skills!


Friday, January 5, 2018

Teaching Leader in Me in Early Childhood

I am super proud to be part of a Leader in Me School! It is an excellent program, one that I believe will help establish a solid foundation for students' entire lives. The Leader in Me is built on the principles of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Franklin Covey.

Teaching Leader in Me in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique

One of the cool things is that, as the program grows in our school, the upper grades get to build on foundations laid by teachers the years before, and expand more on them. However, in Pre-K, I am a child's first teacher. I am the one laying the foundation for the very first time. Every year I start fresh, and I can't build on the work done by another teacher. This has been a unique challenge to me as I seek to embed these skills in the lives of my students in a deep and meaningful way.

Here are some tricks I've learned over the last several years of teaching the Leader in Me to Pre-K students. Many of these ideas would be just as applicable to kindergarten or first grade students, too.

Note: Due to copyright restrictions, I do not offer any 7 Habits or Leader in Me materials in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The things pictured here are things I created solely for my own classroom use. If you like something you see, I encourage you to try making a version for your own classroom!

7 Habits Clip Chart for Leader in Me | Apples to Applique

Help students recognize the habits in action by having a 7 Habits clip chart. I ditched my old behavior clip chart and use this one purely to recognize good behavior. When I see kids working together, for example, I say, "Wow, I see these two friends using great synergy! I'm moving their clip to 'Habit 6: Synergize' on the chart!" Their clips get to stay on the chart for the rest of the week. I also give them a wristband to wear so they have a visual to take home and tell their parents about.

7 Habits Recognition Bracelets | Apples to Applique

Ideally, I want the students to begin pointing out the habits they see exemplified by their friends, and ask to move their friends' clips. This is such a powerful way to connect the habits to their everyday lives.

Choose Your Weather Check-In System | Apples to Applique

We use a "Choose Your Weather" check-in in my classroom, as well. (Sorry for the weird photo angle). Every day, students come put their name on whatever kind of day they are having. This brings up some great conversations about being proactive and choosing to have a good attitude, as well as how to begin with the end in mind, and what choices we can make if we want to have a "sunny" day. Of course, because I am also a huge proponent of helping children feel and understand their emotions, I also tell them that sometimes we all have "stormy" days, and that's okay. Something I say to my kids often is "It's okay to feel angry, but you still have to make good choices." Then we talk about appropriate versus inappropriate ways to handle our anger.

Another vital thing is to give every child a chance to be a leader. We have our class leadership roles, which rotate weekly. Every student, no matter their age or ability level, gets a turn in every role. I have been shocked at how my little ones, even my 3-year-olds, rise to the occasion and show that even the tiniest kids can be leaders. I have non-verbal students who lead our daily recitation of the 7 Habits by leading the class in the accompanying actions; I have kids who I didn't think could handle a certain leadership task just blow me away by how seriously they take their responsibility. I have learned that every child is capable of so much more than I think, and that when I give them the chance to step up and shine, they do.

Classroom Leadership Chart; every student gets a chance to lead! | Apples to Applique
While I don't offer this exact leadership chart due to copyright reasons, you can find many similar ones here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

One of my favorite things has been watching my students find opportunities to lead that I didn't think of. I have the 20 assigned leadership roles, but my students find so many other ways in which to lead! When they come up with those new ideas, I let them keep that role permanently.

For example, I had an ESOL student who was very hesitant to talk in class. However, she noticed everything, and started taking it upon herself to get the doorstop and put it under the door for me whenever we needed to leave the classroom. It was a perfect opportunity for her to take ownership of something in a way that made her feel comfortable; she didn't have to speak to see a need and take care of it. That became her daily responsibility for the rest of the school year. I didn't want to take her feeling of leadership and empowerment away from her by rotating that role with other students.

I had another student who took it upon himself to help all of the other students with the soap dispenser when it was time to wash their hands for snack. Typically I took care of this task, and had never even thought of delegating it to a student. This child started doing it one day, and then kept on every day after that. This was a student who had some behavior challenges, so having his very own responsibility really gave him a feeling of importance and control.

I could go on about how much I support the Leader in Me program, and how I believe it is effective, even for the youngest students. I hope these ideas help you as you implement the Leader in Me in your own early childhood classroom. I would love to hear other ideas from you as well, so leave me a comment!