Loose Parts Play

Time for open-ended play is one of the greatest gifts we can give children, and there is no better way to increase their creativity.  When children are given toys to play with that have an expected finished product, their creativity is limited. This is not to say that there is no place for these types of toys in a child's education, but with loose parts, a child's creativity has no limits.  And the best part is that there is no age limit!  As a child grows and learns, they can use the same loose parts in completely different ways that are appropriate for their developmental stage!

Another great reason to use Loose Parts is that they are such an easy way to incorporate open-ended play into a child's day. Loose Parts can included items such as rocks, buttons, shells, yarn, beads, etc.  Children can use these items to create patterns, pictures, play scenes, and pretty much anything else they can imagine!

"As long as materials can be moved, redesigned, put together, and taken apart in a variety of ways, they are classified as loose parts."
Simon Nicholson, founder of the idea of Loose Parts

Nicholson also states in his theory of loose parts that, "In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it."

In my classroom, the students have opportunities for Loose Parts Play at the light table and also in our sensory bins, but I'm also adding a few more options this year.  I added these cork trivets from IKEA, and the students have loved creating faces and different patterns using the trivets as a base.

Loose Parts are a great way to increase a child's creativity through open-ended play., www.justteachy.com

Loose Parts are a great way to increase a child's creativity through open-ended play. www.justteachy.com

Loose Parts are a great way to increase a child's creativity through open-ended play. www.justteachy.com

Right now in our Loose Parts center, we have:
*Cork Trivets (from IKEA, but I ordered mine on Amazon)(affiliate link)
*Shells (collected from the beach)
*Beaded Necklaces (cut into shorter pieces)
*Colorful Glass Stones (Dollar General or these on Amazon)(affiliate link)

Loose Parts Play, www.justteachy.com

Do you use Loose Parts in your classroom?
  I'd love to hear about it!

Reading Aloud

If a parent or teacher were to ask me right now which one book I could recommend that would rock their world, I know exactly what I would recommend!  It's actually two books that I just cannot keep to myself!  They are both on the subject of read-alouds and are perfect for parents, teachers, or anyone who knows and loves kids!

The Read-Aloud Family, by Sarah Mackenzie
The Read-Aloud Family, www.justteachy.com

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease
The Read-Aloud Handbook, www.justteachy.com

  The Read-Aloud Family is a very easy read and directed more towards parents.  This is the one I read first, but since she referenced The Read-Aoud Handbook so many times, I knew I had to read that one also!  I devoured both of these books as quickly as I could while soaking up all of the great information and taking pages and pages of notes!  In the back of both books, each author gives a list of recommended read-aloud books.  

Besides all of the great data and research in these books that show how beneficial reading aloud is, I think one of the biggest take-aways for parents and teachers to know, is that children can listen to books well above their reading level.  Children will be able to enjoy and lose themselves in a story when the hard work of decoding, figuring out correct rhythms, cadence and voice are done for them.  They will be able to "hear and understand stories that are more complicated and more interesting than anything they could read on their own.  The last thing you want 1st graders thinking is that what they're reading in 1st grade is as good as books are going to get!" - Jim Trelease

Many parents and teachers may worry that they aren't exposing children to the absolute richest literature out there, but remember this quote from Sarah...

"Even if your child doesn't read the literary giants or encounter the best of the classics, he will remember that you read to him." - Sarah Mackenzie

The quality time you spend with children is the most important thing in the world!

These were just a few jewels of wisdom from these two books, and like I said, I can't recommend these enough!  So do yourself a favor, and grab one, or both, of them!

I'll leave affiliate links here for both if you would like to order them from Amazon.


Have you read either of these?  
I'd love to hear what you thought!

Visual Discrimination

One of the biggest skills that I believe Pre-K and Kindergarten students can benefit from the most is Visual Discrimination.

Visual discrimination skills enable children to be able to identify color, shape, size, orientation, and position, and are vital in the success of our students.
These skills not only help with reading and writing, but also with social interactions such as reading facial expressions and body language.

Paying attention to detail is an important part of developing good visual discrimination skills.  So I created a few activities to use in my classroom, to work on this.

In this Popsicle Stick Design activity, students will need to pay attention to the color, orientation and position of the popsicle sticks on the cards to be able to recreate the design with real popsicle sticks.
Visual Discrimination, Popsicle Stick Designs

With the Poms & Cups activity, students are looking at picture of a cup filled with different colored poms and having to recreate what they see using the real poms and cups.  I like to also add some tongs or tweezers for the students to use to transfer the poms, so they are also working on those fine motor skills!
Visual Discrimination, Poms & Cups

Visual Discrimination, Poms & Cups

 This next activity might be a good test of patience for little ones! (Hint: Make sure your dice have nice, flat sides for easier stacking!) 
In the Stacking Dice activity, students look at the pattern of dice on the card and then recreate by stacking the real dice. 
Visual Discrimination, Stacking Dice

If stacking the dice proves too difficult, the students can always just lay the dice in a line beside the card. :)
Visual Discrimination, Stacking Dice

Each of these activities is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking on the pictures below.
Visual Discrimination, Popsicle Stick Designs        Visual Discrimination, Poms & Cups

Visual Discrimination, Stacking Dice

 I also have all three of these activities bundled together at a discounted price.
(click on picture)

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Visual Discrimination Activities: Poms & Cups, Popsicle Stick Designs, Stacking Dice.  Also great to develop fine motor skills!  www.JustTeachy.com

Using Positive Affirmations to Promote Growth Mindset

One of the best things I started in my classroom was teaching about Growth Mindset.  My students are really loving it, and I'm loving hearing them using what they've learned in their conversations with their friends.  (Just today, I overheard one of my students tell another, "I'm making progress.")!!!!!!!

Positive Affirmations for Growth Mindset, www.JustTeachy.com

Positive Affirmations for Growth Mindset, www.JustTeachy.com

Basically, students with a Growth Mindset believe that their talents can be developed through hard work.  They don't believe their abilities are set in stone, and are therefore more likely to achieve greater goals than students with a fixed mindset. 

Right now, my growth mindset lessons consist of me introducing our positive affirmation of the the week, and reading a book that demonstrates that affirmation.  After the book and a short discussion, we make a circle on the carpet.  I ask a question pertaining to themselves and the affirmation, and then we take turns answering the question around the circle.  For example after reading the book Whistle for Willie to go along with the affirmation, "I work hard and try my best", I asked the students, "What is something you can work hard on today?" 

We review the affirmation throughout the day, and only have one per week so we can really concentrate on it.  I have all of the affirmations I want to use hole punched and bound with ribbon so I can just flip to the one I want to use and hang it up to display.

Positive Affirmations for Growth Mindset, www.JustTeachy.com

These half-page posters with all of the affirmations I use can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Of course as I find new amazing books, I will be adding them to my lessons, but for now, here is a list of all of the affirmations and accompanying books I am currently using in my classroom.
(with affiliate links)

“I can do hard things.”
The Dot, by Peter Reynolds

“Mistakes help me learn.”
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken

“I work hard and try my best.”
Whistle for Willie, by Ezra Jack Keats

“I get better every day.”
The OK Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

“I make good choices.” 
"I have the power to choose."
What Should Danny Do?, by Ganit and Adir Levy

“I am brave.”
I Am Brave, by Suzy Capozzi

“I am a problem solver.”
“I try new things.”
The Koala Who Could, by Rachel Bright
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires

“I spread kindness everywhere I go.”
I Am Kind, by Suzy Capozzi
The Caring Me I Want To Be, by Mary DiPalermo
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler, by Margery Cuyler
Pass It On, by Sophy Henn 
Be Kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller 

“I am a good friend.”
Stick and Stone, by Beth Ferry
How Full is Your Bucket?, by Tom Rath
A Book of Friends, by Dave Ross
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister
Llama Llama Time to Share, by Anna Dewdney
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev

“I have a positive attitude.”
Be Happy, by Monica Sheehan

“I do the right thing even when no one is watching.”
What if Everybody Did That?, by Ellen Javernick

“I can handle it!”
I Can Handle It, by Laurie Wright
When Sophie Gets Angry, By Molly Bang

“Feedback helps me grow.”
Thanks for the Feedback, by Julia Cook

“I won’t quit until I’m proud.”
The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires
The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss

“I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to try.”
Ish, by Peter Reynolds

“I have self-control.”
My Mouth is a Volcano, by Julia Cook
My Words Roar!, by Mary DiPalermo
Stay Cool at School, by Lori Lite

“I listen to my heart.”

“I can overcome challenges.”
After the Fall, by Dan Santat
When Sophie Thinks She Can't..., by Molly Bang

I also shrunk all of my Positive Affirmation posters to mini-size, and I tape the affirmation we are learning that week to the top of this little mirror.  We then pass it around the circle and each child repeats the affirmation as they look at themselves in the mirror. 
Students repeat the Positive Affirmation as they look at themselves in the mirror!

 Positive Affirmation

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Handmade Math Manipulatives

Many years ago when I was student teaching, one of the Kindergarten teachers had boxes of manipulatives with work mats that were so much fun for the students to use during math.  I knew I had to make some to use in my own classroom.  The best part is how easy and cheap they are to make since they pretty much only involve beans, felt, and construction paper.

Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.comMath manipulatives, www.justteachy.com

Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.comMath manipulatives, www.justteachy.com

Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.comMath manipulatives, www.justteachy.com

Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.comMath manipulatives, www.justteachy.com
(Yes, these have all seen better days, and they were made long before cute clipart was a thing!  But it just goes to show that things don't have to be perfect or beautiful, to be effective!)

These manipulatives and mats are great to use when learning about counting, addition, and subtraction.  
When using these for counting, you can have number cards to display how many manipulatives the students should put on the mat.  For addition and subtraction, the students love making up their own word problems and acting them out to find the answer.

This school bus is one I like to use during small groups.  It's great for counting,  one-to-one correspondence, one more, one less, ordinal numbers, addition, and subtraction.
Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.com

These are some examples of prompts I'll give when using the school buses:
1)Put one person in each window.
Count the people.
Count the windows.
What do you notice?

2)Put a person in the 1st window.
Put a person in the last window.
(Continue naming different ordinal numbers.)

3)Put one person in a window.
Add one more. Now how many do we have?
Add one more person.  Now how many do we have?
Continue adding one more and telling how many until all windows are full.

4) Repeat the same as above, but start with all windows full, and take one away for "one less".

5)The buses can also be used for addition and subtraction story problems.

Math manipulatives, www.justteachy.com

Take Home Book Packs

The best way to ensure success in school, is to get kids reading!  If we can get the parents involved and show students from a young age how much fun reading can be, then we've done our jobs.  Take Home Book Packs are a great way to strengthen the home-school connection.  These packs provide quality time for the families to sit and enjoy reading books together and to have fun completing activities that go along with the books.
Take Home Book Packs, www.JustTeachy.com

 For these packs, I chose classic books that I know families will enjoy reading together. (Affiliate links are listed below for easy shopping.)
Books for Take Home Book Packs, www.JustTeachy.com
Books include in these packs are:

Each pack that goes home contains one book and two activities for the families to enjoy together.  The families get to keep the pack for the whole week so they can read and do the activities as many times as they would like, and also because I know how busy the weekdays can be with after school activities!

I've had different types of Book Packs throughout the years, but this year I updated the activities and gave the covers face lift so they all look a little prettier!   
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com       Corduroy Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com

The Missing Mitten Mystery Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com        The Mitten Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com

If Your Give a Mouse a Cookie Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com        If Your Give a Pig a Pancake Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com

The Snowy Day Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com        Where the Wild Things Are Take Home Book Pack, www.JustTeachy.com

The skills covered in the activities are:

Letter Recognition

Beginning Sounds
CVC Words
Sight Words
Number Recognition 
Number Order
Counting by 10s

Counting Backwards from 20
Sorting Objects
Story Retelling

Of course, participation in the Book Pack Program is optional, so I send home an information sheet with a permission slip at the bottom for the parents to return if they would like to participate. 

To keep track of who has which Book Pack each week, I have a simple spreadsheet with the name of each pack down the side, and I write the student's name next to the pack they select to take home.

My new Book Packs are available now in my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you would like to make some for your students!  
Take Home Book Packs, www.JustTeachy.com
(click the picture to go my TpT store)

Take Home Book Packs, www.JustTeachy.com