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There are a lot of awesome children's books about the farm and farm animals, and there's no way I can talk about ALL of them - but here are some of my favorites, both old and new.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle 
If you have preschoolers and have not yet met this book, you absolutely must find it!  The copy at our library is frequently checked out, because it includes farm animals and trucks - 2 all time favorites with the preschool crowd.

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell
I love Farmer Duck for lots of reasons, not the least being the thankless nature of his tasks (no-one working with small children ever does thankless tasks, do we?).  I think the best part is that Duck answers with a single word every time he's called, "Quack!"  The kiddos love to join in and help me read/perform this one, and I love that!

Rooster's Off to See the World by Eric Carle
This is an oldie but a good one, any children's book collection should probably include something from Eric Carle's amazing list of titles!

Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
Another artist whose work is always amazing, Denise Fleming does a lovely job of combining simple rhyming text, animal noises, and an easily found but sort of hidden goose on each page.  Little ones love finding the goose and of course, making the noises.

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker
Perhaps this is actually a tour of some of my favorite children's book artists, because Keith Baker is another  whose art is amazing!  In each of his books there is something hidden on each page, in this case the word HEN is on each hen in the book.  If you have a child who loves combing the pages looking for hidden treasure, you'll fall in love with all of Baker's work.

Color Farm, by Lois Ehlert
Bold colors, cut outs in the pages, clever use of shapes - fantastic!  This would pair beautifully with the tangram activities I suggest further down this list!

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
I first heard about this book from a child who had heard it elsewhere, and couldn't stop talking about it, for weeks.  Anything that engages a child that long is well worth checking out, and I was not disappointed!  Bonus feature, if you have students who blurt, or need to work on self control, this book is a gentle way to bring that to their attention in a fun way.

Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm, illustrated by James Dean
You can't help but sing along with this song, and adding Pete the Cat makes just about everything better, right?  Do we cry? Goodness no!

Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop by Lisa Shulman
Old MacDonald is a woman in this book, and she has a fantastic set of wood working tools that make awesome sounds.  This one will easily be a class favorite for the great combination of the familiar tune and new sounds and motions you can make with it.

Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith.  Click here to watch a performance of the song that the book is based on - I don't know about you, but I think I need the printed words to make it all the way through!

Hedgie's Surprise by Jan Brett
Okay, this is definitely a tour of farm books by awesome picture book artists!  Like most of Jan Brett's books, this one is a slightly longer picture book read, and the illustrations are phenomenal!  I like to point out the action in the frames around the main picture - Jan Brett always includes extra information in these smaller illustrations - it's a great way to engage students further with the book, makes reading the pictures easier for the youngest kiddos, and shows that we get information in picture books from both the pictures and the words.  Working on narrative skills? Students can use these extra pictures to tell more of the story than the text alone provides.

Of course, no matter how many amazing books we read to our students, we also need great follow up activities!

I adore these mixed media cows - an idea inspired by this post (in French). I explain how we made them on our class' Artsonia page. This project lends itself to a discussion of squares, circles and rectangles, worked fine motor skills as we worked with scissors, crayons, watercolor paint and crayons and frankly looked awesome as a bulletin board!

We combined math, art and literacy for this next project:
I'm really happy that I recorded each child reading their page, and made a read aloud of our class book.  What a neat treasure to look (and listen) back on! If you haven't recorded your students reading yet, having them read their page of a class book is a simple first step - and with only a few words (which they wrote!) for each child to read, it feels more like an opportunity to show what they can do than a challenging task to complete.  Isn't that how we want our students to feel about reading?

A couple more ways I like to include math learning is with farm tangrams (see how I use them in this youtube video!)...

... and hands on math games.



If your students are beginning to read, you'll want some sight word rich text for them - maybe like this one that's available in my TeachersPayTeachers store:

Do you still need more ideas about the farm?  Check out my farm Pinterest board!  Thanks for stopping by!

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Howdy friends! Texas Public Schools week just finished up, so I thought I’d share some of the books and activities we’ve enjoyed as we learn about Texas and the Old West!

I was excited to discover a Wild West story time kit at my local public library.  Have you checked to see what kind of resources are available in yours?  This kit included 7 picture books, a felt story for Click Clack Moo, and a horse puppet.   

My kiddos LOVED the felt story and the puppet the best!  Here are some of the highlights, including library books and my own personal collection:
Cowboy Camp, by Tammi Sauer.  In this story the unlikely hero, Avery, doesn’t like eating beans, is allergic to horses, and gets rope burn from holding a lasso.  Fortunately for everyone, Avery is able to outsmart the villain, and saves the day.  I LOVED putting on my best western accent… plus jeans, hat, vest and boots… to read this story!  The children really got into it too.

 
Since cowboys aren’t only boys, I wanted to include IWant ToBe ACowgirl, by Jeanne Willis.  It’s a quick read, perfect for kindergarten and preschool children, and so important for including girls!  

If you’re teaching in Texas you’re sure to teach your students about armadillos.  In the past I’ve read Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett, and It’s an Armadillo! By Bianca Lavies. 

 While I’ll probably still read those sometimes, I discovered another fun book to teach facts about armadillos: Don’t Ever Cross That Road!, by Conrad J. Storad.  It’s told by an armadillo teacher to his class of young armadillos, and includes lots of facts about them.  It’s the not crossing the road part that anyone who’s driven much in Texas can relate to. (When they’re scared armadillos jump straight up, which doesn’t end well when they’re scared by an oncoming vehicle.)


 
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires is a variation on the Gingerbread Man, with a Southwest feel.  The gingerbread cowboy is made by the rancher’s wife, and is chased by desert and ranch animals: a horned lizard, roadrunner, javelinas, longhorns, and cowboys – before being ultimately tricked by a coyote. This was a fun way to review those animals while anticipating the familiar story in a new setting!

Waynettaand the Cornstalk  by Helen Ketteman is another fairy tale variation your students are sure to love! It’s close enough to Jack and the Beanstalk to compare and contrast with your students, with plenty of Texan tidbits thrown in: chicken-fried steak, a magic lasso, a giant’s wife who declares Waynetta is “purty as a bluebonnet” and a tiny longhorn cow that makes solid gold cowpats.  If that’s not a recipe for student engagement, I don’t know what is!

Of course we also learned about Texas symbols with this reading center:

…and with this Texas Bingo game and posters.  

This Texas State Symbols booklet was lovely on our desks for Open House night, and includes 3 versions, so it was easy to make sure every child had one at an appropriate reading level.

I also found this adorable cowboy poem and felt board, which makes a great introduction to any cowboy activity:

I hope you’ll check out some of these books, and I’d love to hear what new Texan / Wild West books you’ve discovered too!   Let me know in the comments below!

Happy spring y’all!
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I'd like to think I'm an innovative teacher, constantly learning new things and sharing them with the children I get to see, but recently I realized something dreadful.  I had sunk into a dinosaur rut!

Perhaps you've been there too - I have so many favorite dinosaur books that I stopped paying attention to new ones.  Between Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp, all the wonderful dinosaur books by Bernard Most, Bones, Bones, Bones, and Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, who had time for more?

Thank goodness I spent a little time recently rediscovering the dinosaur books available!  Now I have some new favorites to share, just in time for my dinosaur theme. 

Dancing with the Dinosaurs by Jane Clarke - so cute!  Who would have expected all the dinosaurs to have moves like these?  The ending shouldn't have taken me by surprise, but it did - and when I read it to my kiddos they squealed with joy.  I won't spoil it for you - go read it!

Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman.  I know, I'm really behind, the underpants series has been around for a while.  I have no excuse.  I do wish dinosaurs and cavemen weren't depicted together, but the way the children enjoy this one more than makes up for it.

Dinosaur vs. the Library (and all kinds of other things) by Bob Shea.  If this doesn't get your junior paleontologists excited, I don't know what will.  Simple pictures, lots of roaring, and an adorable dinosaur that every 3 or 4 year old will imagine being.  Prepare yourself for lots of roaring!

Chalk by Bill Thomson. OH MY GOODNESS!  This is a phenomenal book, as is Fossil, also by Bill Thomson.  The illustrations show extreme perspectives in a super realistic way, and tell the whole story in this wordless book.  You'll want to use this with pre-readers, but even adults will enjoy this gem.  I recently paired it with The Book With No Pictures to teach reading skills to kindergarten and first grade students.


I started by showing the children The Book With No Pictures, and enough of them had seen it before to know that it's a very funny book - of course they wanted me to read it to them!  Of course I obliged!  (Is there anything better than reading to kids?!)  One of the magical things about this book is the use of font size, color and type to show you how to read it.  Even children who aren't comfortable readers yet can analyze the way the text looks.  Big font = big voice.  Different colors?  Must mean different voices!  Text about a robot monkey is written in a very robot like font - so we read it with robot voices.  I love how expressive the children can be as we reread parts of the book with the font choices in mind!

Late in the book it uses the word "preposterous".  I like to reread that page, and then ask the children what they think that word means.  Have they ever heard it before?  No (at least so far no-one has), yet they all tell me more or less correctly what it means.  This opens up a discussion of context clues, and how good readers can figure out what words mean!

After reading The Book With No Pictures, we read a book with no words: Chalk.  This is important to me because at this age so many children realize the importance of print that they don't necessarily want to read the pictures - but it is such a useful part of decoding text for them!  As a reading teacher I've often told students to look at the pictures for clues, but I don't model doing that often enough, and I think many children begin to think of it as "how a baby reads", or not "real" reading.  By taking away all words, readers get to focus on the pictures and on how they tell a story, creating meaning and telling the narrative.  What great skills!

 It makes sense to follow up our reading lessons with some reading practice, so we work on dinosaur sight word mystery pictures.  Click on the picture and check out this pre-primer one.

My preschool and early kindergarten students also enjoy working on dinosaur words with this word building activity.  With 14 pages of dinosaur words to build, this is a fun, hands on center for letter learners - I slip the pages into sheet protectors (easier than laminating!) and put out our 1" letter tiles.  Ta-da! Instant literacy station!


If you read my blog very often, you know I like to include a free resource in my posts - and here's a free counting, sequencing, and addition activity.  Click the picture to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store and download it - and if you like it, please take a moment to leave feedback so I know to keep offering freebies!

There are a lot of other dinosaur learning activities in my TeachersPayTeachers store - I hope you'll stop by and check it out when you're prepping your dinosaur unit.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!
Paula
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Happy New Year everyone!  While Chinese New Year doesn't begin until February 5th, we teachers like to start early to gather books and materials - so I thought I'd share some of my favorites!



This Next New Year, by Janet S. Wong:  (links for your convenience, I am not an amazon affiliate).
I like this book for several reasons.  First, it's told from the perspective of a young boy, and is simply told.  Many Chinese New Year preparations and traditions are explained by him, so young children will easily understand them.  I think it's also important that the narrator talks about people from different cultures celebrating lunar new year - this holiday isn't limited to China!

 Dragon Dancing, by Carole Lexa Schaefer:
 Dragon Dancing is also told from the perspective of a young child.  A beautifully diverse school group learns about dragons, then creates their own dragon in art class.  They work together to dance their dragon all over, imagining it's actions through various settings.  This book really sets the stage for imagining and mimicking dragon actions, and is likely to inspire children to cooperate to make their own dragon.  This book absolutely begs for participation from readers!

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
This story is longer than the other two, but the fast pace will keep children listening!  This one has elements of Jack and the Beanstalk and the Gingerbread Man, but is a very different story.  The emphasis is on sharing and being fair, something children usually have strong feelings about.  It talks about Chinese New Year foods and activities, and has a satisfying moral at the end.  If you are able to follow up by serving traditional foods and showing children a real wok, they'll be fascinated! 


My very favorite activity to do for Chinese New Year is tangrams, an ancient Chinese puzzle with unlimited possible answers.  Tangrams look deceptively easy: the puzzle is made up of only 7 simple shapes, but even adults often struggle to make a basic square with them!

Working on spacial awareness, and manipulating 2D shapes are important mathematical concepts, so I like to offer my students both the challenge, and an option to get clues, so they can choose the right level of difficulty for themselves.  Check out this short video explanation:
 If you'd like to use my tangram puzzles, you can find them in my TeachersPayTeachers store here.

There are a couple of lovely story books about tangrams: Grandfather Tang's Story, and The Tangram Magician are both great for introducing the puzzles, and using literature to bring math into your classroom!

I've written before about Chinese New Year sensory bins, painting, and the story of the Great Race, and about making a Chinese New Year dragon blower, today I'd also like to share how to make an egg carton dragon.


 Egg Carton Dragon
You'll need half of the bottom of an egg carton, red paint and a brush, scissors, pipe cleaners, wiggle eyes and glue, and a push pin:
 Paint the egg carton red:
 When it is dry, use the push pin to poke holes for the pipe cleaners to stick out of the dragon's head.  Glue on wiggle eyes.  If desired, use a marker to add facial features!  You can also use yellow, orange and red paper scraps to help your dragon breath fire, or add sequins to  make it sparkle.



Next time I'll talk about fun ideas that are specific to celebrating the Year of the Pig.  Please follow my blog to be notified when new posts are ready.  Until then, Happy New Year!
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Join me in prepping for the TeachersPayTeachers site wide sale by entering this gift card giveaway!






a Rafflecopter giveaway
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If you teach elementary school, chances are good that you love children's books!  If you teach elementary school in the US, you probably love, have, need, and use Thanksgiving picture books.  Here are a few of my favorites!

It's Thanksgiving, by Jack Prelutsky.  My students have always loved Jack Prelutsky's poems, but his holiday collections are some of our favorites!  I got this way back when it came with the book on tape, and we STILL read and sing along to these songs/poems.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving - a classic Thanksgiving story about a class field trip to the farm that turns into a rescue mission. 

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano has a predictable problem, a variety of turkey disguises, and a creative solution.  If you do a disguise a turkey activity, this book is a perfect lead in.

Have you met We Gather Together... Now Please Get Lost! and other books by Diane deGroat?  Students will relate to the class dynamics, to students doing their best to get along but struggling at times.  There's always a lot of humor in deGroat's books that cleverly disguises a lesson on friendship and getting along. 

The Most Thankful Thing is perhaps better for a family reading than a classroom story, as a parent reveals that her little one is her most thankful thing, but this story also lends itself to making lists of the things we are thankful for, and ties in beautifully with this Thanksgiving activity that I do each year.

In The Great Turkey Race 3 bird brained turkeys compete to be the most special turkey, the one that will be chosen for Thanksgiving... fortunately, all works out well in the end.

Over the River is the classic Thanksgiving song that you already know, love and sing along to, with adorable turkeys acting out the story.  This is a fun way to teach or practice the song with your kiddos!

Do your students get excited about sharks, saber toothed tigers, t-rex and piranhas?  I bet you weren't expecting them to show up in a Thanksgiving book, yet here they are in Who Will Carve the Turkey This Thanksgiving?,  just right to engage the 4 and 5 year old crowd. 

10 Fat Turkeys  This turkey count down book is adorable, every turkey has it's own personality, and the recurring phrase "GOBBLE GOBBLE WIBBLE WOBBLE" will have your students joining in as you read.  Unlike a lot of Thanksgiving stories for the primary grades, there's no mention of turkey dinner at all.

There are some book series that I've collected a lot of, and the Arthur series by Marc Brown is one of them.  Arthur's Thanksgiving engages my first graders, and with Muffy saying things like "Vomitrocious", it keeps me entertained too.  As always, Arthur and friends learn something important along the way.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie - it's not what you might expect, it's a hundred times better!  The text is great, but the illustrations by Judith Byron Schachner are priceless!
So what is YOUR favorite Thanksgiving book?  Let me know what I missed in the comments, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!
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My students LOVE hundreds chart mystery pictures, which is why I've created so many of them.  They love racing to see who can figure out the hidden picture first, they love coloring the pages, and they love working in teams to solve the puzzles.  Change things up a little with addition and subtraction?  Sure!  Solve mystery pictures with base 10 blocks?  Cool!  Recently I came up with a whole new way to do hundreds charts and it is a game changer: in the hundreds pocket chart!

Now I'm asking myself why I didn't think of it before.  We know students need a lot of time and practice understanding 2 digit numbers, but they don't always need paper and pencil tasks.  Somehow they're always ready for hands on active learning though, and my students really love getting to work at the pocket charts.  That works well for me too - I love how little space it takes to use a vertical surface for a center, and that it frees up table tops for things that can't go vertical.

Want to see how these work?  Easy-peasy!

Step 1: print number cards on colored paper.

Step 2: cut on straight lines.
Step 3: have students put them in the hundreds pocket chart!

I like to use these as math centers, assigning 3-5 students at a time to work on solving the puzzle together, but that's not the only option!  You can use these puzzles as a class reward too - each time a student is caught being wonderful, you can give them a number to add to the chart.  When it's completed you can give a reward, or solving the puzzle can be the reward.  Want to use them as a whole class game?  Give each student a blank 100s chart, shuffle the cards for a puzzle, then project the cards one at a time as students find and color the number on their charts!

It's easy to differentiate these puzzles too - you can start with an empty hundreds chart and challenge students to figure out where each number belongs (click Papa Bear for video):

or you can start with some or all of the numbers showing so students only need to match the numbers (click big bad wolf for video).

You may be wondering how I store all these hundreds pocket charts, especially since each one has 100 pieces.  I've come up with several different storage solutions, which all start with one extra card - a picture card of the completed puzzle (I include these in the sets I make).  I put it on the top of the pile of cards for each puzzle, so the puzzles are only mysteries to the children - not to me!

At first I used rubber bands to keep each set together, and stored them in a small box.

I've also used small baggies, binder clips, and even empty candy tins (I do like Altoids!).


I think I found my favorite solution yet at the Target Dollar Spot: divided plastic boxes.  Check these out, they are absolutely perfect!
So now I have my hundreds pocket charts stored by theme in these divided boxes.  I can easily find just what I want, and my students can get hands on practice with 2 digit numbers as often as we need it!  Can you see why this is my new favorite math station?

                                                                                                   Thank you for stopping by!
                                                                                                                      Paula


If you like the idea of using hundreds pocket charts, but don't have time to make them yourself, I'd be honored if you'd consider the growing selection available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
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Kids engaged in clean up?  Yeah, right!  No-one wants to stop playing to clean up at home or at school - they'd rather play all day.

True, most children would rather play than clean up, but it doesn't have to be an either / or situation - clean up can be playful!  Don't believe me?  After more than 25 years of working with young children, I've learned a trick or two or three, and today I'm going to share them with you!


Clean up trick #1:  The Magic Trash
I learned this trick my first year teaching, when a colleague shared it with me.  When it's time for clean up, just announce that there is a piece of magic trash waiting to be cleaned up, and watch your children scramble to find it!  Sometimes I'd offer a prize - at my school it was golden tickets - but no prize is needed if you engage with the kids to make it fun.  Say things like, "No-one has found it yet!", "____ you were close a minute ago!", or "Keep looking!"  If you're excited and engaged, the children will be too.  Make a big deal out of the "winner" who found it, and everyone will want to be the one who finds the magic trash next time.

Clean up trick #2:  Cinderella's step-mother
Which popular princess starts out by doing a whole lot of clean up?  Cinderella, of course!  Give your children a reason to role play her character by turning yourself into the mean spirited step-mother!  I always put on a properly haughty voice, and announce, "You can't possibly go to the ball until all this is cleaned up!"  (Click on the link above to hear how ridiculously silly I can be!) This one works well with a group - I usually give each child a specific task, "You! Clean the shelf!", "Sweep the floor!", "Pick up the toys!", or whatever needs doing.  If you have child sized cleaning tools like brooms, dustpans, dusters, or baby wipes, they'll eagerly play along - and that of course is the whole secret, you've made clean up into a game and you're playing it with them.  Make sure that when the cleaning is done that your little Cinderella(s) get to do something fun - like go outside to play.

Clean up trick #3: The Pirate Captain
Argh, do your kids disdain princesses?  Well maybe they'll listen to the pirate captain instead!  Once again, I recommend talking and acting in character so the kids get into the role play and make this a fun game with you.  I always start this one by announcing that I'm a pirate captain, and I'm taking away all the "loot" or "treasure" from the floor.  I then stomp off and get a bag or a box to put my haul in.  This usually prompts the children to scurry around grabbing all the toys off the floor, but just in case, when I return with the box I point out a toy that I'm taking for treasure, and make a show of marching over to pick it up.  What kid can resist racing to get there first?  Continue the fun by pointing out more toys and attempting to collect them for your own treasure.

With this clean up game I have sometimes managed to collect a few toys that the children didn't clean up, or didn't get to quickly enough.  When that happens I do put those toys out of reach for a few weeks - even though this is a game, if the children don't clean up their toys, the consequence is losing them for a time.  Will I give them back?  Of course!  Will it be today?  Not on yer life, land lubber!

I'd love to hear how these clean up games work with your children - and if you have any ideas to share with me, please leave me a comment.  I'm always looking for new ways to make learning, playing, (and even cleaning up) more fun!
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Do your kiddos love bubbles?  It's almost certain they do!  You probably don't know these 3 tips for making the most of  bubble play with your children:

1.  You don't have to buy bubble mix, and if you do, you're probably spending too much on it! It's very simple to make AWESOME bubbles with Palmolive dish washing detergent and water.  Simply fill a bottle about 7/8 full of water, then add the Palmolive. (If you put the soap in first and then add water it will froth up.  Trust me on this!)

2.  Children are going to spill their bubbles - but you can control how much bubble mix they have at a time.  Don't fill that bottle to the top until your child has mastered the art of holding a container upright while moving about!

3.  What are you going to do about getting bubble wands if you don't purchase commercial bubbles?  You can make your own wands, find alternatives around the house, or buy cool bubble tools like the ones in the pictures above! 

I hope you and your kiddos have lots of bubble fun and outside time this summer!  Thanks for stopping by!
                                                                                                        - Paula

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