Wednesday, June 29, 2016

4 Step Process To Planning A Preschool Theme From Scratch

Sometimes we limit our planning by starting out with a theme name in our heads and then try to come up with ideas for each interest center but become stalled for ideas.  Perhaps you have a great idea for a theme to write up for preschool.  

Or, better yet, your PRESCHOOLERS have come up with a great topic of study, based on THEIR interests, but where and how do you begin?  I use the IPOP method (yup, totally made that up!)

I.P.O.P.  is an acronym I use to describe the brainstorming process of theme writing, while keeping the purpose of themes in mind.
=Interesting, fun and exciting theme choice.
=Printing any and all ideas that come to mind about that theme name.
=Organize ideas into interest centers
=Plan daily and weekly lessons

Working Together as a Team

Ericka, a PreK teacher from Texas, shared a quote with me.  It was one that her former principal used to say, 
"Great teachers aren't made; they're borrowed from the teacher next door!"
So share your knowledge and ideas with each other!  Accept each other's ideas and ways to teach!

Let's look at each step of planning a theme and then I'll give you a resource to go to for more details.

IPOP Overview

Plan A Theme- I in IPOP:  Choosing and Interesting topic

So, where do you start with choosing a theme or topic?

You start with your children's interests!

Think about what your children seem to be fascinated with lately. 

Don't look too hard, just think about their daily conversations.  

These conversations will lead to you come up with an amazing list of themed topics!

Plan A Theme- The 1st P in IPOP:  Printing ideas

Get out a large piece of chart paper.  

Print your topic name in the middle.

Print your ideas all around the paper.

Do NOT try to separate it by interest center.   
Again, that will limit your thinking!  

One idea might be used in several areas of your classroom. We'll sort that all out in the next step.

Plan A Theme- O in IPOP:  Organize ideas into interest centers

In this step, you will list the names of all of your Interest Learning Centers.  

You will then assign each center a color and shape.

Don't worry, it's all covered in the article I'll give you the link to in a minute!

You will use these colors (of markers or highlighters) to circle (or "rectangle") each idea with the Interest Center the activity would fit well in!

You might find that some activities fit well into more than one interest center.  


Use both colors/shapes!


Plan A Theme- The 2nd P in IPOP:  Plan daily and weekly lessons

The first step will be to take your list of items from the previous step (the ones you highlighted) and list them in your planning book in the appropriate area.

Keep in mind that you may have had one activity that could be used in two areas, such as felt blocks being using on your flannel board and also at your math center!

Take each activity from your highlighted list and assign it to an interest center.  

Do this for every activity you came up with in the planning stage. 

If an activity can be used in many ways or in many areas, list it in all of those areas.

You may also find during this transfer that you and your co-worker(s) come up with even more activities.  GREAT!  Add them to your planning book or form!

And there you have it!  A theme complete!  Of course, there may be enough activities left over to make this into a 2-week theme!

This is how I write up new themes every time!  It will take you less and less time the more you go through the process.  But, honestly, the process is important. 

If you don’t let yourself become creative, you will sit in front of a planning form and plan the same activities which will feel stale after a few years!

Let yourself get excited about planning preschool lesson plans each and every time you plan!

And HERE You Have It!

And now here you have it!  Here is the beginning of the 5-part series that will take you step by step through this process.  Each page is complete with images so that you can see the step in action!

About the author
Cheryl Hatch has taught and directed preschool programs for over 20 years.  She is the Creator and Owner of Preschool Plan It, a website dedicated to sharing preschool themes, activities, articles and training with early childhood educators.  She volunteers as the coordinator and teacher of the MOPPETS program in her town (a preschool program for the M.O.P.S.--Mothers of Preschoolers Program).  She has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education.  Cheryl has been an active, integral member and leader within the Teachers.Net Early Childhood community for many years, moderating live chats and providing peer support on the Preschool Teachers Chatboard.  You can read Cheryl’s articles, activities and themed preschool lesson plans at 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Enjoy the Experiences

 "Hurry.  Music is over.  We have 15 minutes to get to the library story hour."

A familiar statement, far too often.  Rush along to the next activity.  Then, we wonder why they get bored easily or become attention deficit.  Please slow down!

As Summer begins, there are many wonderful experiences we can have together with our children.  We should make time to enjoy them.  Our expectations should not be to get them to a lot of activities but rather on the quality of the experience itself.  Take the time to talk about the music class, helping to reinforce what the brain learned.  When we rush to the next activity, the brain doesn't have time to digest. And, like our stomachs after a meal, our brains need to do the same with the information.

In this interview,
 JeffJohnson asked me to discuss how these music activities help children learn.  He is a recognized and respected expert on play.  His wife would say it's because he still hasn't grown up.  I hope he never does!  I also hope that you find the child in you and find time to play this Summer.  And, not just with your children.   
                 Please listen and comment.
YouTube Interview on Music and Learning     #JeffJohnson #MusicwithMar.                                    
It is not healthy for adults or children to be overscheduled.  Our brains and bodies need downtime. Childhood is not a mad rush to squeeze in as much as possible.  It is a time where, through play and interaction with loved ones, our brains begin to learn and get ready to learn the 'harder stuff' (ie math, reading).  No one should be pushing to make sure the children learn those things now.  I was  happy to see this article circulating on Facebook.  Every parent / teacher should read it!!!!!

                               Scary Article about Kindergarten expectations

When planning your Vacation activities, please consider a music class.  Music is a wonderful experience for children.  In one music class, children are exposed to music AND........
And what?  And books and cultures and dance and sign language.  Reading readiness, Math readiness, social skills, exercise AND.......

         Bonding with your child!

We at Music with Mar. like to say that coming to music class is getting 5 or 6 classes accomplished at one time.  We hope every experience at a class, (whatever music, art, yoga or gymnastics class you attend) is an enjoyable experience and that you take the time after class to absorb all of it before rushing off to the next thing on your Summer Schedule.

Maryann "Mar." Harman
Find me on Facebook.  Be sure to like the Brain Facts.   Brain Facts on Facebook

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Small Magnet Boards (and More!)

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

Have you ever purchased something "just because"? Several years ago we were in a large discount store, just browsing. Browsing is usually when I get into trouble, financially that is. 

We found some white square burner covers. (Do you know burner covers? They are made to cover the burners on a stovetop to keep them clean and protected. Or something like that.) Well, I saw them and I knew we needed to have them. We purchased them. I didn't have a plan for them but I knew they could be useful in the classroom. (Our burners did not need covering!)

And use them we do. Most often we use them as magnet boards. I've written about our large magnet board (the oil drip pan). But we like using these boards because they are small and can be easily used on a table top. (Make sure the burner covers are metal for this!) 

We use them with our magnet letters.

And magnet shapes.

And even with face pieces. To make your own face pieces, cut eyes, noses, and mouths from magazine faces; glue the pieces on heavy paper; attach magnets to the backs. Or you can draw eyes, noses, and mouths on heavy paper, cut apart, and add magnets. Our kids enjoy using these to make silly faces on the magnet boards.

But these burner covers can also be used as dry erase boards. We pull them out when we need additional boards for kids to use. (Other ideas for dry erase boards)

And, since the burner covers have a lip so they can fit over the burners, they make great shallow trays. Flip them upside down to hold counters, art supplies, or just about anything.

I'm sure we could add these to the dramatic play kitchen and the kids would use them in all kinds of ways. Or place with the blocks for building. Or tap on a burner cover with a pencil or spoon as a rhythm instrument.

These are great repurpose items. What are your ideas for using them?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Singing and Dancing - OUTDOORS!

  The sun’s in the sky, the breeze is gentle and what could be better than singing and dancing outdoors!  It’s Miss Carole of MacaroniSoup here, and I’ll keep this blog short and sweet.

  Are you still teaching this summer?  Day camp, year-round school, park district program, youth librarian, daycare provider – get outdoors and lift your voices to the sky!

Children love to sing outdoors – it’s freeing!  Plus there’s often more space for movement and dancing.  

SO, what can you do?  Find a performance venue presenting local professionals – libraries, park districts, or city cultural events.  Perhaps you could meet at the venue that day, or if you’re lucky it’s walk-able!  (I’ll be touring in the Denver area in a few weeks – check my website calendar for specifics – as well as performing around Illinois.)


Take your students outside your own location – a small patch of grass can be a great place for a circle dance such as B-I-N-G-O!” or "Here We Go Looby Loo!"  Need a refresher on that one? It was the topic of my February 2016 blog!

The Shaker Hop!

Bring instruments outdoors and get “The Shaker Hop” going (check it out on my April2016 blog)  – or just shake your sillies out, or have a Marching Band or Parade!

Everyone knows “The Hokey Pokey” – put your hand in, put your hand out…children of all ages love it!  Go on - it's in your head!  "You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around
  That's what it's all about!"
You can use my version - no lefts/rights and not too fast - on my "Sticky Bubble Gum" cd.

Singing in the Rain - "tongue out

Oh Oh!  There’s “Singing in the Rain”, too!  I wrote all about that in my MARCH 2016 blog.  
   “Children” of all ages love this one!
"Singing in the Rain" - bottoms up!

Jump Jim Joe - round you'll go!

Go on – swing your partner in “Jump Jim Joe!”  Find out more about this one in my January 2015 blog!  It's the second song I highlighted in my topic of songs that promote friendship/good social behavior!


Yours for an OUTDOOR Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens


For staff development workshops, keynotes, family concerts or school events - call or email Carole - she travels!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Snail Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now  

Today, I have some Montessori-style activities inspired by my 2½-year-old granddaughter and other kids in our neighborhood. Their love of the snails they find brought about my latest theme of snails. You'll find lots of free snail printables in my Free Snail Printables and Montessori-Inspired Snail Activities

Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired snail activities using free printables for preschoolers through first graders. You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing

You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities. At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Snail Pin Poking Activity

Snail Pin Poking Tray

Free Printable: Snail Pattern from Pattern Universe 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft Tray, colored construction paper,  Wood-Handled Puncher from Montessori Services, and a Felt Pad from Montessori Services (Note: The Montessori Services felt pads are now black so they don’t get dirty as easily.) 

(Read the push pin warning and why I recommend using the wood-handled puncher.)

Pin poking activities are very popular in Montessori schools and homeschools. Punching out the snail is a good way for young child to develop fine motor coordination and work on the pencil grip needed for writing. It's also a wonderful activity for developing the ability to concentrate. If desired, the child can decorate the snail once it's punched out. 

Snail Color Matching Snail Color Matching Tray Free Printable: Color Matching File Folder – Snail Theme by The Laminating Co-Teacher at Teachers Pay Teachers 

Free Printable: Montessori Color Matching Cards from Montessori Print Shop  

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray and Montessori Services basket

This is similar to last month's car color matching. Even though it has smiling snails (which don't fit with the Montessori emphasis on reality), it's a very cute color-matching activity with isolation of quality. That is, the snails vary only in color ... not in shape or size. 

Snail Color Matching Layout 

For the layout, I'd just lay out one column of color tablets and then have the child match the second column (unless color tablets haven't been presented before. If not, I'd give the introductory color tablet presentation). Then the child can match the colored snails to the color matching cards (color tablets) and finally add the colored words to the layout. For older children, you could print out the extra set of color words that are on a white background.

For our floor layouts, I always use a Montessori Services hemmed work rug.

Feed the Snail Counting Game

Feed the Snail Counting Basket Free Printable: Snail Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For this activity, I used a Montessori Services basket, laminated leaves from a bush outside my home, and a small bamboo condiment cup to hold the leaves.

You could just use the printable to make a number basket with one number and the correct number of leaves for your child or students to count. Or you could have a matching activity with snail numbers and sandpaper numbers. 

Playing the Feed the Snail Game  

For this activity, Zoey and I played the Feed the Snail Game, a game I made up that I knew Zoey would enjoy. I turned all the numbers upside down on a rug. Then Zoey would draw a number, say what it was, and count out the correct number of leaves to "feed the snail." Zoey loved the laminated leaves and the concept of feeding snails. She did the activity for quite awhile. 

Letter S Basket and Sand Tray

Letter S Basket and Sand Tray  

Free Printables: Snail Letters for S Letter Basket and Sand Tray (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For the letter s basket, I used a basket with small objects beginning with /s/ sound. I like introducing the cursive letter along with the manuscript one, so I included the cursive s card. I used a variety of objects starting with /s/. You could just say the phonetic sound as you or your child removes an item from the basket: for example, "/s/ sack, /s/ saxophone..."  

Some of the objects are ones I had at home (especially Safari Ltd. TOOB objects), although most are from Montessori Services (they have individual phonetic objects or a whole set available).  

For the letter s sand tray, I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. You can use whatever tray or container work best for you, though. For the sand, I sterilized sand from outdoors by baking it for 30 minutes at 200F. You can also buy sand on Amazon.

Snail Game for Beginning Blends

Snail Game for Beginning Blends  

Free Printable: Game for Beginning Blends from The Measured Mom 

For this activity, I used a a Multicraft tray, dice, any type of game pieces (I used glass gems), and a small bamboo condiment cup to hold the pieces. 

You'll find directions for playing the game at The Measured Mom. If you'd like to play it as a cooperative game, you could use one game piece and simply take turns moving the piece. 

Making a Snail Enemies Wheel 

Tray for Making a Snail Enemies Wheel  

Free Printable: Snails Study and Lapbook by Wende at Homeschool Share 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, Fiskar scissors, a glue stick, and brads to connect the two wheels. 

Not only is this a good activity to help kids work on cutting and gluing skills, but it's a fun introduction to snail predators. 

More Free Snail Printables  

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free snail printables from around the blogosphere: Free Snail Printables and Montessori-Inspired Snail Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables

You'll find find animal classification resources in this post at Living Montessori Now: Montessori-Inspired Animal Classification.
Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!

I hope you're having a fun summer ... and preventing summer slide at the same time! :)
Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Living Montessori Now Button

Friday, June 10, 2016


The process of learning is amazing to behold.  Especially when you have the opportunity to collaborate for years with creative and progressive programs. One such organization is Child-Parent Centers, Inc., an exemplary Head Start program in Tucson.  

This blog is dedicated to their children, teachers and parents.

Enrique C. Feldman, Founder
Global Learning Foundation, Artist,
and Children's Book Author
I had taken a break for a from my blogging with so many wonderful projects which have taken my complete focus.  Those projects are surfacing now and so am I!  To preface all the beautiful images you're going to see, which are examples of children's work with materials, I want to make something very clear.  This blog and the children's work it highlights are much more than cute & cool.

The work you're seeing is the byproduct of weeks and in some cases months of:
  • Teachers asking children great questions
  • Children and Teachers having authentic conversations
  • Exploring with materials before deciding on which ones to use
With that in mind... up, up and away!

The role of materials is essential to creating invitations for any aged learner to explore, consider, strive and eventually THRIVE!  Take a good look at the first image below.  Which do you think the child started with?  Which one took longer?  Why?  Notice that I love to use questions, even with you, the reader... why do I choose to do that?  (I encourage you to use the comment section below)


As adult learners we quite often ask questions starting with "What?"  Nothing wrong with that and certainly, sometimes it is a great word to use.  What about why?  lol... couldn't help myself! 

What would the world look like if we asked "Why?" more often?  For example, with the next image, I could ask a infinite number of questions.  How about this one...

Why do you think this child chose to create this structure/image?  Is there a central focus, and if so, was this done on purpose?  Hmmmmm.....  I can hear you thinking and I love that sound... silence... the sound of thinking!  Let's remember to embrace the silence once we ask a question.  Many of us adults ask a question, followed by the sound of our own voice, again speaking.... I know I do sometimes.... embrace the sound of thinking, that glorious silence, especially when working with young children.


Now hold on....these are pretty big words for preschool children, right?  Not really.  There was a time when I would have thought so.  In my many years of working with children, my experience has shown me that:
  • When you embody the thing you are learning, you can learn anything, including advanced vocabulary.
  • When you offer any aged learner the chance to learn with different approaches, you elevate their level of engagement.
  • When you offer different ways of experiencing the same concept, you by default introduce the idea of "transference of knowledge" (understanding how concepts make sense in different areas of study).

3D and 2D

#Whynot? The ever popular fortress image!  I know I loved forts when I was little... but wait, is this a fort?  What else could it be?  How many different things could this represent?  And, do we take the time to have these kinds of conversations with our youngest learners.... how about our older learners?

The ability to see images in our own head in both 2D and 3D is very closely related to our ability to visualize.... so, is this just an image of a fort?  I think we should all think about how empowering this kind of work can be for learner and teacher/parent!


So what is a young child thinking when they choose a color?  Did they know that the blue and the red would provide fantastic contrast?  Did they first explore other colors?  Does that thing in the center turn or twist?  If so, why?

Are the questions we ask more important than the "answers"?  I have my opinion and I encourage you to consider your response.


I wonder what this child knows about balance?  I wonder if the word "Fulcrum" was introduced?  I wonder if they first saw something like this in real life.

Should we keep wondering?  Should we model wondering?


Depending on your personality type, you might be wondering, "but what are the exact steps to take when having children work with blocks and creating visual art?"  May I suggest a different question? Perhaps...

  • What kind of materials do your children enjoy the most?
    • Have you asked them why?
  • What kinds of real life objects excite your children the most?
    • Have you asked them why?
  • Can you find materials and objects that interest your children?
    • Can you connect these materials and objects to words, math, and science?
I wonder and I hope you do to!

I'm looking forward to my July 10 blog, which will be a very special one indeed, titled "The Art of Living".... and now that I think about it, my August 10 blog will be just as special, titled "Sam the Ant - the hero in us all!"


Enrique C. Feldman
Founder, Global Learning Foundation
Performing Artist and Composer
Author, Living Like a Child
Creator, iBG, Intellectual Brainwave Games (coming soon)
Co-Creator, The Inner Journey Theatrical Show
Co-Author of Sam the Ant, a new kind of children's book series (coming soon)
Producer, Kaleidoscope (Children's Album in consideration for a Grammy 2017)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summertime Fun Round-Up (And a few Father's Day Links)

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.

Summertime!!!! School has been out for a couple of weeks here in Georgia. I see a lot of parents posting on Facebook looking for economical ways to keep the kids busy this summer. Today I'm sharing some of my more popular posts about summer activities from here on PreK+K Sharing and from my personal blog little illuminations. 

This post has some ideas to keep the kids engaged during road trips. Car rides can be fun, but sometimes kids need a little help finding the fun on a long trip. Check out the travel ideas in Travel Activities For Kids...and a freebie!

Looking for ways to incorporate literacy skills into your summer activities? Simple Summer Literacy is just the post for you!

Vacations are expensive and require a lot of planning. There are lots of ways to have fun by simply planning a "stay"cation! I have a friend that takes her boys to a local hotel for a night or two as a special "stay"cation. They use the pool and eat at the breakfast bar and generally have a great little vacation without ever leaving town. Sometimes, they even invite a few friends! 5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Summer "Stay"cations might help you plan a local outing without breaking the bank or leaving town!

And a few more "stay"cation ideas are here in "10 More Summer "Stay"cations on a Budget".

Need more ideas for summer activities? Go to the search bar at the top of this page and type in "summer". A ton of posts from PreK+K Sharing authors will come up with oodles of summer activity ideas!

I know that Father's Day is coming up in a couple of weeks and many of you will be searching for cute ideas to help children make a gift for dad, so I thought I would share a couple of links here for Father's Day, as well!

**from little illuminations: "Father's day Ideas from Around the Blogosphere!"

**from PreKinders: "Father's Day Activities For Kids"

**from Pre-K Pages: Fathers Day Ideas

    Happy Summer and Happy Father's Day! Enjoy!

 Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!

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