7 Tips for Entertaining Kids During Holiday Gatherings

Guest Blog by Nadia | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Fun with Mama

With the festive holiday season quickly approaching, you may be wondering how you can entertain the little ones while still giving yourself some ample and much needed adult time. Here are some fun suggestions on how to keep the kids entertained during holiday gatherings—whether you’re hosting at home or celebrating somewhere else. An added perk is that many of these activities encourage learning, creative play and opportunities for children to socialize even more during these events!

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1. Bring your own toys.

Bringing a few of your children’s toys from home is a great way to help them feel a bit more comfortable—especially if your gathering is someplace they haven’t been to before. Choose toys that are easy to transport, don’t make a mess and can be used without a lot of setup. A favorite of ours is the Dot & Learn Activity Pack, filled with fun and educational activity pages that combine art and learning. From counting and number recognition to the alphabet and rhyming, there are so many activities that my daughter enjoys!

2. Create a sensory bin.

You could theme the bin according to the holiday or according to your child’s interests. All the kids at the event would naturally be drawn to the bin, and it would be a wonderful social boost for your child too.

Here I created a winter-themed sensory bin using Lakeshore’s Speedy SnowWashable Sensory Beads, the Classic Forest Animal Collection and the Little Hands Fine Motor Tools. I also added a funnel and some paintbrushes to encourage more creative play. It is always a good idea to add in cups, spoons and other tools. We love that the Little Hands Fine Motor Tools set includes tools that work on a child’s fine motor skills at the same time.

3. Set up a craft station at the gathering.

We love these Pop & Wear Letter Beads to give to friends and family. They are easy enough for younger kids to use and they don’t have to worry about holding a string to string the beads onto. It’s super-convenient that there’s no string needed. You just pop the beads together! Children can make gifts for their friends or family using the kit.

 

4. Bake together in preparation for the gathering.

While this may not be something you do during the event, baking in preparation will get kids excited about the upcoming gathering, and they will be so happy when family and friends eat their special creations.

We used The Amazing Chef Cooking Set, which provided all the tools we needed (minus the ingredients) to create a special cake. It’s a great way for kids to practice important skills, like measuring ingredients, cracking eggs,  peeling and slicing, and more!

5. Create a cookie-decorating station at the party.

We baked cakes before the party using the Sweet Treats! Letter Molds, and then I bought some icing for the kids to decorate the treats with. I love how simple this was to prepare and that the icing packaging kept it from being messy.

You could extend this activity by having the children spell out holiday-themed words.

6. Have a parent-and-child dance-off.

My kids and I love having dance parties. This makes for the most wonderful giggles and family memories. Put on your child’s favorite music. Add in some funky costumes and hairstyles. Then dance! You could also play freeze dance, a wonderful way to help develop a child’s auditory processing skills, build teamwork and have fun!

7. Create an activity idea jar.

Task each adult attending the event to come up with one activity idea for the kids. Write down the ideas, put them in a jar and have each child draw an activity from the jar.

I hope these activities inspire some love of learning at your next gathering. Happy holidays!

5 Ways to Bring Kindness Into Your Classroom

Guest Blog by Michelle | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Apples & ABC’s

Parents and teachers love to focus on reading, writing and math, but it’s just as important to teach social skills! Here are my favorite ways to bring kindness into the classroom.

1: Start the year with kindness.

To set the tone for the year, I like to teach kindness, friendship and inclusion as early as possible. This year, I started by talking about how we should treat each other in the classroom. Then we discussed feelings. I used Lakeshore’s Moods & Emotions Mirrors to provide examples of different emotions.

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The children shared what makes them experience the feelings on the mirrors—proud, angry, happy, shy, sad and scared. Then my students flipped the mirrors over and practiced expressing these emotions!

All the kids said they feel sad when their friends are mean to them. This was my chance to discuss ways to make our friends happy instead of sad!

We talked about ways we can spread happiness and make everyone feel like part of our big classroom family!

2: Read about kindness.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is one of my favorite ways to spark discussions on friendship and kindness. In the book, a little fish learns that sharing his beautiful, shiny scales with others makes him happy.

I love the big book version because its giant size lets the whole class easily see the pictures. I invite kids to come up and point to the text, and we do fun activities, such as picking out sight-words.

As I read, I pause to check for understanding…and to discuss how the pretty fish feels after sharing his sparkly scales. Then I ask the kids to talk about how they feel when they share. I also like to remind them how wonderful it is to spread kindness and make friends at school.

3: Play interactive games.

Encourage your class to practice sharing with an interactive game, such as the Lakeshore Magnetic Fishing Set. We played during small-group time so I could show students how I wanted them to work together.

We sat in a circle, and each student got a turn to fish. We practiced counting the fish (including the total we had in the end) and naming the colors with each catch.

As we played, we talked about sharing and waiting patiently. We even cheered for our friends while waiting our turn.

I loved seeing my students take pride in rooting for each other!

4: Create task cards.

Kindness task cards are a great way to help older students learn social-emotional skills. I created these cards after witnessing some not-so-kind behavior in my class last year. The cards feature 16 different scenarios that actually happened in my class…and that I wish I could go back and change.

To play, students draw a card, read the scenario and then respond with an idea for showing kindness. The cards also come with editable slides so students can invent their own scenarios. This is a great circle-time activity. I like to use colored containers to keep the cards organized and easy to put away.

5: Work kindness into your decor.

I love to hang kindness quotes around the room—it’s one of my favorite ways to set an expectation for positive behavior. I use quotes as bulletin-board titles and as accents to fill space on the wall.

Quotes are great reminders that we are one giant family and need to support and respect each other.

Academic success is very important, but so is treating others with respect and kindness. We want our classroom to be a safe place where we “stick together,” build each other up and can be ourselves.

You can grab these Bulletin Board Templates in my Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store. In addition, here’s a great lesson plan for teachers: First Day Friendship Building.

5 First Learning Activities for Toddlers

Guest Blog by Susie | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Busy Toddler

Do you ever wonder what to teach toddlers? How do you get them ready to learn about the world?

Don’t worry—learning activities for toddlers don’t have to be complex or “fancy.” Play is the best way to help toddlers learn. I keep activities light and simple by focusing on five basic areas: sensory play, sorting, artistic expression, gross motor development and fine motor control.

There’s nothing better than a quick, easy toddler activity, especially one that is full of learning!

Sensory Play

Sensory play is incredibly important for toddlers because it lets them learn while they explore and engage with the world!

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I put together my favorite sensory activity using a bag of rice and a few scooping tools, such as Lakeshore’s Stack & Nest Sensory Toys. The setup is simple, but it will help toddlers build problem-solving skills and learn about capacity, cause and effect, and spatial awareness. Yes, little ones can get all that from a bin filled with rice!

Here’s my own toddler building fine motor skills as she pours and plays!

Sensory bins make a perfect early learning activity for toddlers!

Sorting

Sorting activities are worth their weight in gold! Sorting is a complex skill—one that toddlers will use throughout their lives.

Sorting is powerful! When toddlers sort, they analyze data, make decisions and organize objects by attribute.

A “toy sort” is one of my favorite activities! I like to use a variety of shapes and colors, so Lakeshore’s complete set of Classic Hardwood Learning Toys is perfect! To set up, I removed the pieces from the boards and placed them onto a cookie sheet to keep the pieces contained.

Then I challenged the toddlers to sort the pieces and place them back on the boards. Finding the right place for all the different shapes and colors takes focus and concentration, so this is a perfect learning activity!

Artistic Expression

Open-ended art activities are an important and valuable part of childhood—and that includes toddlers. That’s why I like to think beyond sitting and coloring when I prepare an art activity.

To shake up art time, hang paper right on a wall. This helps toddlers build up their arm muscles and gets them moving as they create. What an easy way to make art time even more valuable!

Gross Motor Development

Gross motor skills are used for big movements, including running, jumping and climbing. There are tons of fast, easy and exciting ways to help kids boost gross motor skills. You could have a dance party or set up an obstacle course outside.

To prepare a quick gross motor activity, I love to cover our family room with pillows and have my kiddos run around. This activity promotes balance, problem solving and spatial awareness.

Fine Motor Control

Fine motor skills are used for small movements—usually those involving hands and fingers. As toddlers grow, their fine motor skills naturally improve, but it’s important for toddlers to actively practice these skills since they’ll need them for writing and other tasks throughout their lives.

I love to promote hand and grip strength with transferring activities. Using a pair of tongs, my daughter moved the soft-sewn pieces from Lakeshore’s Learning Letters Washable Activity Book into an adjacent muffin tin.

As my daughter transferred the pieces, I talked to her about the letters on the pockets of the book. I love incorporating additional skills, such as alphabet knowledge, into a simple activity!

Remember—learning activities for toddlers don’t have to be extravagant. Play is the most important ingredient in any toddler learning activity!

Lakeshore Awards Philadelphia Teacher with Dream Classroom

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in our Complete Classroom Giveaway Contest’s BIG REVEAL—the moment we presented one deserving teacher with a brand-new classroom! We received thousands of essays from amazing, hardworking teachers across the country, each with a unique story that they hoped would earn them a fully furnished $15,000 classroom.

Meet Ms. Lynch, Grand Prize Winner

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Ms. Lynch is a kindergarten teacher at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary, a 100-year-old school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her essay won our hearts and scored top marks in all criteria from our judges. This kind, talented and incredibly dedicated teacher builds strong connections both inside and outside the classroom. In her winning essay, Ms. Lynch wrote, “I am a huge believer that no teaching can get done without a strong, solid foundation. That foundation is built on trust. Children are more intuitive than adults when it comes to reading people. I need to build authentic relationships with my students before I can teach them.”

The Transformation Begins!

Within hours of sharing the exciting news with Ms. Lynch, our team of classroom design experts was ready to get to work. The new school year was right around the corner, and we wanted Ms. Lynch’s classroom to be ready to welcome a new kindergarten class of bright, young faces.

Ms. Lynch told us she wanted to create a warm, inviting learning space filled with colorful furniture, ample seating and lots of hands-on materials to support her students. She dreamed of having plenty of STEM and sensory materials, a bustling dramatic play center and a comfy, inviting reading area. Our team met with Ms. Lynch and created a custom 3-D layout of her new classroom, complete with a list of products specifically selected for her students.

Bringing the Classroom to Life

And now, without further ado, we’re incredibly excited to share the experience of bringing Ms. Lynch’s dream classroom to life!

Here’s where it all started…

On delivery day, the Lakeshore team took care of everything! They unloaded the boxes, assembled the furniture and set up the materials.

We knew we wanted to add color to brighten the space, so we brought in the A Place for Everyone Classroom Carpet, Rectangular Kids Colors™ Adjustable Tables, Kids Colors™ Stacking Chairs and even some Wobble Chairs to add a flexible seating option. Then we topped each table with coordinating classroom caddies filled with supplies to give students everything they need to create, draw and write. To encourage hands-on learning, we arranged tons of engaging math and language materials in a Classic Birch 20-Cubby Storage Unit.

Creating a Cozy Reading Space

For the perfect chill-out space, we created a relaxing library and listening center consisting of a Classic Birch Help-Yourself Bookstand, cozy pillows and seats, and our Comfy Couch Listening Center. We also filled a Help-Yourself Book Bin Storage Center with a variety of leveled fiction and nonfiction books, including our It’s a Multicultural World! and STEM Stories Hardcover Libraries.

Dramatic Play

Ms. Lynch believes in the importance of play and creative expression.

“I believe that early childhood educators owe it to students to be able to play and explore,” she told us. She especially loves having her students act out their favorite stories.

We created a vibrant dramatic play center to capture the imagination, inspire creativity, and boost language and social-emotional skills. Ms. Lynch’s center includes a Pretend & Play Market, a Butcher-Block Table and Chair Set, a Help-Yourself Dress-Up Center and our Lakeshore Career Costume Set.

To see even more of Ms. Lynch’s classroom transformation, check out this video of all the special moments along the way—including the final reveal of the Complete Classroom!

Seeing the excitement on Ms. Lynch’s and her students’ faces was the only thank-you we could ask for. It was truly a pleasure working with Ms. Lynch and the helpful administration at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary.

On behalf of the entire Lakeshore team, we want to thank Ms. Lynch for all she does to make an impact on the lives of her students. Here’s to the start of an amazing school year. We hope this new space will be enjoyed for many years to come!

Lakeshore is the exclusive provider of the Complete Classrooms® service, which includes complimentary classroom design, delivery and installation for new and expanding school programs throughout the country. To learn more, visit www.LakeshoreLearning.com/CompleteClassrooms.

Classroom Decor Ideas Students and Teachers Will Love

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Are you excited yet overwhelmed by all the classroom decor options out there? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve browsed countless themes and color schemes to bring you the only list you need to decorate a classroom that’s fun and engaging for everyone.

Our collections are available in our stores only—so you can experience the colors and designs firsthand…and coordinate on the spot with Lakeshore’s friendly staff. Click here to find a store near you and plan your visit.

Pete the Cat Collection

Get your cool cats ready to learn with a Pete the Cat theme!

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Decorating Tips:

  • Welcome students with a decorated door. We spruced up our door with a homemade Pete the Cat, musical notes and blank CDs!
  • Play with color. We combined yellow and teal Fadeless® Paper to create a bold color scheme.
  • Accent store-bought decor with handcrafted elements. We crafted giant buttons from paper plates and pipe stems. The buttons really brighten up our calendar and welcome board!

Woodland Friends Collection

Bring a touch of the outdoors into your classroom to inspire young imaginations!

Decorating Tips:

  • Add texture. We made bushes and trees out of tissue paper and layered a grassy border over the bulletin board.
  • Incorporate personal touches. Have your students bring in photos to post on the bulletin board. We placed kids’ pictures over tent-themed bulletin board accents to bring our “happy campers” message to life.

Kindness Theme

Always in style, kindness is a great theme to incorporate into your classroom decor!

Decorating Tips:

  • Add a hands-on element to your bulletin board. Our bulletin board encourages kids to write ideas for showing kindness. We even added little buckets to collect their ideas! To attract kids’ eyes, we selected a vibrant Rustic Pencils Border and used Superbright Tagboard for the message.
  • Use leftover materials to create finishing touches! We designed a banner using leftover tagboard and hung it over the bulletin board.
  • Display books related to your theme. We used Neon Connect & Store Book Bins and Plastic Book Baskets to create an inviting display of books about kindness.

STEM Collection

STEM thinking will come naturally to the whole class with this decorating theme!

Decorating Tips:

  • Create a bulletin board that inspires. Our bright bulletin board reminds kids to use STEM thinking. Plus, kids go crazy for the scientist with wacky hair! We even set out a write & wipe board for displaying a STEM question of the day.
  • Provide design materials to encourage creative thinking. Place miscellaneous materials in your STEM area so students can make their own inventions. You can even teach students the basics of the design process with our Design & Play STEAM Kits, which allow kids to create, customize and test real-working vehicles.



Dr. Seuss Collection

A classic Dr. Seuss theme never fails to make kids smile!

Decorating Tips:

  • Stretch your bulletin board sets. We started with the Dr. Seuss Giant Cutout Bulletin Board Set and added lite blue Fadeless® Paper, a Poppy Red Chevron Border and tissue-paper flowers. We even cut out our own letters to create on-theme messages!
  • Help kids get to know each other! Using the Dr. Seuss School Selfie set, we created a bulletin board to help kids learn who’s who.

Visit your local Lakeshore Learning Store for these collections—and more!

Starting School: Tips for a Successful Transition

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

People have always said that kids grow up fast, but the idea really hits home when it’s time for kindergarten. The first days—and even months—of school can be hard. Parents struggle with seeing their babies growing up, while children worry about navigating their new lives as students.

During this emotional time, children look to their parents for comfort. Luckily, there are plenty of ways parents can ease kids’ fears! Here are some of our favorite tips for making the transition to kindergarten as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

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Before Kindergarten Begins

Get to know the unknown.
Visit school before the first day. Be sure to meet the teacher, see the classroom and walk around to help kids get to know their new surroundings. If you’re lucky enough to meet other families, we recommend setting up playdates. Allowing kids to establish friendships with classmates will help them feel a sense of belonging.

Establish a routine.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests starting a school routine early to ease the transition from free summer days to jam-packed school schedules.

Before the first day of school, do a practice run to see exactly how much time kids will need for each step of the routine. Watch for areas where kids need more support or practice, such as getting dressed and tying shoes.

Start a storytime tradition!
Read a story every night to comfort children with happy thoughts, soothe them to sleep and help them adapt to an early bedtime. You can even use Lakeshore’s Story Wands to initiate engaging conversations and increase listening comprehension.

Story Wands

Prepare for school with educational games.
Playing educational games as a family helps kids get ready for school, and it proves that education is important to you! Lakeshore’s Are You Ready for Kindergarten? Game Show® covers all the bases. Kids get to become game-show contestants and win pretend cash when they answer questions correctly. When you’re done playing, you can enter the results online to get an assessment and free activities to help kids build skills where needed.

Another great resource to help children develop skills for kindergarten is Lakeshore’s Transition to School Backpack. It features a three-month calendar filled with skill-building activities!

Transition to School Backpack

At the Beginning of the Year

Engage in conversations.
Ask children about their days and have them share what they learned in school. To get more than a one-word response, ask children open-ended questions that begin with “how” or “what.” If children respond with a short answer, follow up with another question, or use a teacher’s favorite prompt: “Tell me more about that.”

For example, if your son or daughter tells you their day was “fine,” keep pressing and ask them to share their favorite part of the day. This will demonstrate your sincere interest in hearing about school!

Throughout the Year

Establish—and stick to—an after school routine.
Once school is in session, it’s important to establish an after school routine. Check kids’ backpacks and school folders each day for communication from the teacher and for papers that need to be signed and returned.

Help children grow accustomed to nightly homework by setting up a dedicated work space. If children don’t have any assignments, reinforce what they learned in school with our Family Engagement Packs. Each pack includes easy-to-follow instructions and materials for hands-on games that get parents involved with the learning process. This kind of at-home family participation can have a positive impact on student achievement!

Family Engagement Language Packs – Preschool-Kindergarten – Complete Set

We hope these tips help make the transition to school easy! Don’t forget to encourage children to share ideas, ask questions and try new things! And most of all, don’t forget to enjoy watching your young students flourish!

References:

  1. Strasser, Janis, “Transitioning to Kindergarten,” National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accessed August 2017, https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/transitioning-kindergarten
  2. “Saying Goodbye to Preschool and Hello to Kindergarten,” National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accessed August 2017, https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/saying-goodbye-preschool-and-hello-kindergarten
  3. “Twenty Ways You Can Help Your Children Succeed at School,” Colorín Colorado. Accessed August 2017, http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/twenty-ways-you-can-help-your-children-succeed-school

Four Ways to Implement Cross-Curricular Instruction

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

The climate of education is changing. Facing demands from rigorous state standards and high-stakes testing, teachers nationwide are racing to cover more subjects and skills than ever to help students succeed in school and in life. Today’s students are expected to master good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic while also developing 21st-century skills in critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.

How can teachers hope to cover all these standards, subjects and skills, you ask? Through cross-curricular instruction!

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According to a long-standing definition from Heidi Jacobs, cross-curricular instruction is “a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic or experience.”

The demand for cross-curricular instruction signals the end of subject compartmentalization (for example, spending 15 minutes on history and then 30 minutes on math) and calls for lessons that let students think critically across multiple disciplines. After all, to meet 21st-century demands, we must plan 21st-century lessons!

But don’t worry—it’s not as hard as it sounds! Here are four ways you can easily use cross-curricular instruction in your classroom—and get students building important 21st-century skills!

1: Start with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)!

Get started with cross-curricular instruction by encouraging students to use skills in four different subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—to solve problems and develop critical thinking with Lakeshore’s Real-World STEM Challenge Kits. In addition to covering multiple disciplines, the kits take the tedious planning and preparation out of whole-class cross-curricular instruction. Teachers don’t even need to decide where to start or figure out what materials to gather—each kit comes packed with everything students need to complete the challenges. Plus, detailed lesson plans make it easy to focus students’ learning and explain the STEM concepts behind each challenge.

Real-World STEM Challenge Kit – K–Gr. 1

As an added bonus, each kit includes careers cards that help kids connect what they learned during the challenges to the real world. The cards might even inspire kids to consider studying STEM disciplines as they move through school and life! This is important because the U.S. Department of Commerce expects STEM occupations to grow at a higher rate than other positions in the future.

2: Graduate to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

Integrate even more focus areas—including art, STEM, literacy, creative expression and social-emotional development—into your cross-curricular instruction with a comprehensive STEAM kit from Lakeshore. Our Fairy Tales STEAM Kit combines classic stories with hands-on STEM and literacy activities that students are sure to love! Students read the stories, animate the puppets, answer questions and complete each STEM challenge—building language, creativity and even engineering skills as they go.

Fairy Tales STEAM Kit

3: Try project-based learning.

Project-based learning is another great way to get students using skills from multiple subject areas. I love this type of learning because it provides hands-on, relevant learning that doesn’t feel like just another assignment—and it benefits students at all levels. According to research from the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning helps students boost important critical-thinking skills, including synthesizing and evaluating information.

Lakeshore’s ready-to-use Whole-Class Project-Based Learning Kits allow the entire class to dive right into meaningful, real-world projects. Teachers simply introduce a topic to the class by posing a question about a real-world problem. Then students conduct research and apply what they learn to create a project, such as a digital slide presentation or a newsletter. And a one-of-a-kind project isn’t all students have to show for their work! As they complete projects, students develop skills in researching, reading informational text, writing using evidence and working with peers!

Whole-Class Project-Based Learning Kit – Gr. 1

4: Combine STEM and project-based learning.

Once you’ve implemented a few separate STEM and project-based learning lessons, why not try combining the two? It’s easy with our Global Challenges Project-Based STEM Kits! The kits help students develop skills in many content areas—college and career readiness, digital literacy, technology, science and engineering practices. That may seem like a lot to absorb, but a project-based approach could actually make information easier to understand and remember—studies have shown that project-based learning boosts students’ performance on content knowledge assessments.

Each kit includes an attention-grabbing card that introduces a modern-day problem. Students have to use STEM and research skills to create a meaningful project designed to solve the problem. As students work through each kit, they’ll build and test a model home that runs on solar power, create a working solar still to desalinate water and build a working oil containment boom.

Global Challenges Project-Based STEM Kits

We hope these ideas take some of the stress out of implementing cross-curricular instruction this year—and we know your students will love these engaging new ways to learn!

References:

  1. “Cross-Curricular Connections in Instruction: Four Ways to Integrate Lessons,” by Melissa Kelly, last modified March 31, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/cross-curricular-connections-7791
  2. U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” by David Langdon, George McKittrick, David Beede, Beethika Khan, and Mark Doms, Issue Brief #03-11, Economics and Statistics Administration (Washington, D.C., 2011), http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf
  3. “Summary of Research on Project-Based Learning,” University of Indianapolis: Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (2009). Accessed July 2017, https://www.bie.org/object/document/summary_of_research_on_pbl

Classroom Organization: Tips & Tricks from Real Teachers

Posted by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Have you started thinking about organizing your classroom for the new school year? It’s hard not to during back-to-school season, right?

To help you set up the best classroom ever, we reached out to a few of our teacher friends in the hopes that they’d share some insider secrets. We hope you find these tips and tricks as helpful as we did!

Michaela, Especially Education

I’ve always dreamed of turning my small special education classroom into the Pinterest-worthy learning space of my dreams, so I was thrilled to discover that my Lakeshore Learning Store had plenty of resources to help me best use my space. It took lots of work (and rearranging), but now my classroom is just right. Here are some tips I learned during my organizing adventures:

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Tip 1: Segment small spaces with room dividers.
On Instagram, I field tons of questions about my Easy-Clean Room Dividers! They keep distractions to a minimum and help segment my small, boxy classroom. Our dividers have endured quite a bit of wear and tear since we purchased them, but they’re still in excellent condition. (They may be lightweight, but they’re also tough!)

These are an absolute must in any special education classroom! They even come in Calming Colors®.

Tip 2: Make storage bins your friends!
One of the easiest ways to bring organization into the classroom is with storage bins. I use bins for just about everything: storing picture books, individualizing independent work, organizing completed work and more. I always consider durability when I purchase classroom items, so Lakeshore bins are the only bins I buy.

Tip 3: Choose fade-resistant paper.
I love bulletin boards, but I despise setting them up. Butcher paper is my archnemesis!

I used Fadeless Paper® back in August, and it lasted all year—so I only had to set up my board once.

And why stop at bulletin boards? I also use Fadeless Paper to hang window banners and decorate my classroom door.

Tip 4: Save time with magnetic letters.
When I discovered this Classroom Magnetic Letters Kit, I knew I had to have it. I love everything about this set: the red vowels, blue consonants, easy-access storage box—and multiples of each letter.

These have saved me so much time—and stress—during small-group instruction since I don’t have to search through a bucket full of jumbled letters.

Marine, Tales from a Very Busy Teacher

A teacher’s work is never done! Even during summer break, I am constantly thinking about ways to rework my classroom. This summer, I’m rethinking my classroom organization with some of my favorite Lakeshore products—and these clever strategies:

Tip 1: Use clear boxes to create classroom centers.
Centers help me keep my classroom routine running smoothly! To create them, I simply label clear bins, fill them with supplies and place them in my classroom library for students to access at any time.

I even have some centers prepped and stored so it will be easy to switch things out as my units change!

Tip 2: Brighten up with neon book bins.
When I saw these Neon Connect & Store Book Bins, my teacher’s heart was so happy. These colors fit my classroom theme and provide a bright feel, and the interchangeable labels make organization easy. They’re also incredibly versatile.

Tip 3: Organize technology with pocket charts.
I love using pocket charts for more than managing assignments! I use the Polka Dots Storage Pocket Chart* to organize classroom technology, including headphones, headphone splitters and more. I even label each pouch so students know exactly where to find materials.

Tip 4: Organize data with pocket charts.
I love using the Chalkboard Brights Pocket Chart* to organize classroom data on an informal level. The chart is my “ticket out the door” system for formative assessments. I set up the pocket chart in an easily accessible location and record the day’s lesson objective in the top space. Then I use bright sentence strips to write those objectives in the form of a question and have students record answers on smaller sentence strips that can be placed right in the chart.

Jodi, Clutter-Free Classroom

To succeed in the classroom and enjoy my work, I seek out ways to save time and get organized! Here are some tried-and-true organization methods that worked well for me as an elementary teacher and continue to make my teaching days run smoothly as a homeschool mom.

Tip 1: Simplify the distribution of materials with supply caddies.
With handy compartments and built-in handles, these caddies make it easy to give students what they need—whether they’re working on the floor, at a desk or at a table. Using caddies is so much easier and faster than having students find and gather items themselves!

Having everything ready and organized will even decrease off-task behaviors and distractions—and increase student engagement and success.

Tip 2: Set up project centers and workstations.
Many teachers think they don’t have the space for project centers and workstations, but Lakeshore’s Heavy-Duty Paper Trays & Lids make organizing and managing centers easy in classrooms where space is limited. Each stackable plastic tray holds papers and supplies, and the lids are perfect for keeping materials contained and organized. I even have my children use the sturdy lids as work mats.

Tip 3: Practice color-coding!
Color can be much more than a decorative touch! Color-coding is a proven method of organization; it makes it easy to find things students need quickly. Here are some color-coding tips:

• Use colored tape on the spines of books and journals.
• Coordinate notebooks, folders and binders to match your color system.
• Use color-coded containers for storage, collecting work and housing related materials.

Who’s ready to start organizing? Click here to find a store near you and plan your visit.

*Available in stores only.

Create the Perfect Environment for Social-Emotional Learning

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

Children need strong social-emotional skills to thrive in school—especially during critical early years.

However, many children enter kindergarten without essential social-emotional skills. In order to gain a better understanding of this problem, researchers Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta and Cox surveyed more than 3,500 kindergarten teachers. The findings were startling, with teachers citing that many students had difficulty following directions, struggled to work in groups, possessed poor social skills and experienced trouble communicating.

These skills, while nonacademic, impact a child’s school readiness. Children with challenging behaviors are more likely to struggle in school, while children who are emotionally adjusted have a greater chance of early school success.

What does all this mean? It’s important to foster the development of social-emotional skills to help students succeed not only in school, but also in life! These tips will help you embed social-emotional learning into your instruction.

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Tip 1: Create a calm, organized atmosphere.

According to teacher and education expert Megan Dredge, “Your classroom environment speaks to your students before you utter a single word. What is your classroom saying?”

Don’t underestimate the power of your classroom environment! Your space needs to welcome students, keep them engaged and get them excited to learn. If your classroom or schedule is disorganized and chaotic, your students will respond accordingly.

Create a classroom environment that is calm, organized and predictable by developing consistent routines and procedures that produce stability in the classroom. Doing this helps students know what to expect and how to prepare. I love using charts to establish routines. Some of my favorites are Lakeshore’s Daily Schedule Chart and Literacy Centers Management Chart.

It’s also important to organize materials where students can access them and put them away. Resources like the At-Your-Seat Storage Sack and Classroom Supply Caddies are perfect for ensuring that students’ supplies are always within reach.

Tip 2: Develop and model rules and expectations.

As you set clear rules and expectations, involve children in the process to help them better understand the rules and why they are important. Keep the rules simple, clear and positive. I recommend setting no more than five rules—sometimes less is more!

No one likes to be told what not to do! Instead of creating a list of don’t rules, find a positive directive that achieves the same result. Consider the difference between “Don’t talk out of turn” and “Raise your hand to talk.”

To help children master the rules, make sure they are clearly displayed on a bulletin board or chart, such as the News & Rules Charts.

Tip 3: Provide opportunities for children to build relationships.

Communication and collaboration are crucial 21st-century skills, but they don’t develop automatically. Help children strengthen these skills by modeling clear communication, demonstrating positive collaboration and providing opportunities for interaction. Get started by setting the tone for your students and providing examples for how they should behave.

After you’ve set clear expectations, give children the chance to practice their communication and collaboration skills! Pair children up and model proper greeting techniques and good listening skills—including making eye contact, smiling, nodding to show understanding and asking follow-up questions.

Sentence stems provide support for students starting a discussion or responding to a partner. Pick up some Accountable Talk Reading Discussion Starters and a Let’s Get Talking! Prompt Box to help students enjoy enriching conversations!

Tip 4: Teach students conflict resolution skills.

In many cases, students lack the skills to resolve conflicts with others. In fact, many student conflicts that could be solved independently end up requiring teacher intervention and interrupting valuable instruction time. Teaching students about conflict resolution enriches their social skills and saves time in the long run!

KidsHealth®, a top provider of physician-reviewed content on children’s health, recommends discussing potential conflicts in everyday events and allowing students to explain how different reactions can de-escalate the conflict or make it worse. This will help kids make better choices when real conflicts come up!

Plus, there are plenty of products that make it easy to teach social-emotional skills. Lakeshore’s Social-Emotional Learning Kit for Kindergarten-Grade 1 is a great way to help children understand emotions, relationships and conflicts. The Social Studies Leveled Readers help students learn about fairness and following rules. There are even Moods & Emotions Mirrors and a Moods & Emotions Poster Pack to help students understand what different emotions look like.

We hope you’re excited to set students up for future success by establishing a classroom focused on developing social-emotional and behavioral competence. Just remember to be explicit in your teaching, patient and positive—and continue to model, model, model!

References:

  1. Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J., “Teachers’ judgments of problems in the transition to school,” Early Childhood Research Quarterly (2000): 15(2), 147-166. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222299485_Teachers’_judgments_of_problems_in_the_transition_to_school
  2. “Facts About Young Children with Challenging Behaviors,” Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior (2003). Accessed June 2017, www.challengingbehavior.org
  3. Raver, C., “Emotions Matter: Making the Case for the Role of Young Children’s Emotional Development for Early School Readiness,” Social Policy Report of the Society for Research in Child Development (2002): 16(3), 1-20. https://www.cde.state.co.us/cpp/emotionsmatter
  4. “Cool Teaching Quotes by Yours Truly,” last modified April 13, 2013, http://www.megandredge.com/cool-teaching-quotes-by-yours-truly/
  5. “PreK to Grade 2: Conflict Resolution,” KidsHealth® in the Classroom (2016). Accessed June 2017, http://classroom.kidshealth.org/prekto2/personal/growing/conflict_resolution.pdf

Lakeshore Staff Picks—Summer Reading for Kids

Posted by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Summer is a great time to get little ones reading! Lakeshore’s Research & Development Team has specially selected each title to appeal to children just beginning to discover the wonder of reading. And our experts should know—they are former teachers with years of classroom experience! Each book they chose helps develop and nurture essential skills in children—from early literacy and reading skills to social-emotional lessons on empathy, kindness and perseverance. Read on to learn what books they recommend and why!

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury (24 months to 7 years)

Recommended by Meghan Bruggeman

Children splash through a river, cross a tall field of grass and more in this exciting adventure featuring alliteration, word repetition and bouncy illustrations inspired by nature!

Why I Love It: This book is filled with predictable text, so it’s super-fun to read aloud. The repetitive language allows children to easily join in and “read,” even if they are not yet fluent readers.

Children can even act out the characters’ actions as they face obstacles throughout the book, such as walking through “thick oozy mud.” Engaging in a story this way really brings it to life! Plus, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt touches on story sequencing, vocabulary and descriptive words. It’s packed with educational value!


Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (3 to 6 years)

Recommended by Parker Swanson

Children will love this heartwarming tale of Gerald the Giraffe, who thinks he can’t dance—until he listens to his own unique song!

Why I Love It: The excellent rhythm of Giraffes Can’t Dance makes it read like a long, playful poem. Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees take kids through a range of emotions as they get to know Gerald the Giraffe.

The book provides the perfect opportunity to discuss feelings and emotions with kids. It even helps kids develop empathy! When poor Gerald is teased for his lack of dancing skills, he is never alone—my students would be right there, compassionately sharing his distress. And near the end of the book, when Gerald starts dancing, my students would jump with excitement. I loved seeing how this story helped my students truly feel what the protagonist feels! This book is also great for discussing how teasing and bullying make others feel.


How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends?* by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (3 to 6 years)

Recommended by Bethany Hernandez

Dinosaurs are the perfect way to capture children’s attention! In this story, charming dinosaurs help kids connect with the text as they explore the book’s message about friendship.

Why I Love It: Young children may not know how friends should behave with each other or why certain behaviors are inappropriate or hurtful. How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? makes these concepts easy for kids to understand and apply to their own relationships!

It’s my go-to book for encouraging social-emotional expression and interaction!


The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (3 to 6 years)

Recommended by Alison Glaser

An encouraging and reassuring book to comfort little ones headed off to school, camp…or any place that’s unfamiliar and scary.

Why I Love It: The Kissing Hand is a heartwarming, beautifully illustrated story. I used to read it to my own children when I had to be away from them. I kissed their hands and reminded them that they always carry my love—even when I’m not around.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (3 to 6 years)

Recommended by Eric Chyo

The easy-to-follow rhyming text has a pleasant pace that captivates children—and encourages them to wonder what they’ll see next!

Why I Love It: Eric Carle’s artwork is a visual treat! I love observing the details up close, seeing the thick brushstrokes and layered shapes that form recognizable animals. Plus, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? has a strong rhythm, with the words following a musical, repetitive pattern.

As my sons grew older and started decoding words, they loved reading this book independently because they already knew the rhythm and pattern of the story. I have great memories of my boys exuding confidence as they read the book aloud without any help!


The Day the Crayons Quit* by Drew Daywalt (3 to 7 years)

Recommended by Emily McGowan 

When Duncan opens his box of crayons to discover letters accusing him of not using the crayons correctly—all written by the crayons themselves—Duncan has to figure out what he can do to make everyone happy.

Why I Love It: This book is full of humor and emotion! I love reading it with my kids—they laugh so hard at the idea of their crayons being alive!

Every time I read The Day the Crayons Quit, I’m struck by its powerful message of empathy and treating others with care. It helps little ones understand their emotions and discuss them in a safe way. I can’t think of a more valuable lesson!


Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (4 to 8 years)

Recommended by Juliana Born

This inspiring book tells the story of engineer-extraordinaire Rosie—and her never-give-up attitude!

Why I Love It: This book gets kids excited to build their own inventions! After reading Rosie Revere, Engineer, your kids might start rummaging through your junk drawers to find materials for their creations. But Rosie Revere, Engineer does more than just inspire creativity. It teaches kids that failure is a part of learning—an important message for little (and big) perfectionists everywhere!


We hope your kids enjoy these educational summer reads! Find a Lakeshore Learning Store near you to stock up for a summer of reading.

*Available in stores only.