Parent Teacher Conferences, Organizing Books, Preschool Science Interest Center

Welcome to the seventh issue of the Preschool Plan-It Primer, a free monthly newsletter from Preschool Plan-It!

My hope is that you find information in each newsletter that is helpful to you- the Early Childhood Educator- as you work with this wonderful group called Preschoolers!

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November 2011, Issue # 7

In This Issue:

New News

Parent Teacher Conferences

Tips & Timesavers: Organizing Books

Interest Center Focus: Preschool Science Interest Center

What’s New? Search It, Find It, Plan It!

New News Hi everyone! First, I must apologize for not sending out a newsletter for a while.

In July, we relocated from New Hampshire to Nebraska! After much consideration and prayer, I accepted a position as Pastor of Christian Education and Outreach at a church on Omaha, Nebraska.

We drove out here at the end of July. Since then we have been acclimating to our new environment and settling into my new position.

Our girls are still back east in their jobs and school and that has been a big adjustment as well. We do have family here and it has been wonderful to get to know my Midwest cousin, who has become more like a sister to me!

Thank you all for your patience in waiting for this long overdue newsletter!

Parent Conferences

Do you hold annual or semi-annual parent teacher conferences? Many states mandate them, however, whether or not your state or province mandates parent-teacher conferences, I highly recommend that you hold them at least annually!

This is a great way to get to know the parents and build a relationship with them. Having this relationship early on in the year helps you not only to better know (and therefore plan) for your students, but also helps form a foundation of respect before you have to meet with the parents for other concerns or issues that may come up throughout the year.

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning and holding parent teacher conferences:


1. Be clear about the purpose of the conference

This is a time to get to know the parents, find out their concerns and hopes for their child and to let the parents know what and how their child is doing in preschool. This is not a time to discuss a specific issue in depth. A second meeting should be planned to discuss issues or concerns in details.

2. Set a specific amount of time for each meeting.

We have found that 15 minutes per family is more than enough time to cover the basics and talk with each family.

3. Send a brief survey to each family asking if they have any specific concerns they'd like to discuss at the conference

This allows you to be prepared for questions or concerns they have. You can discuss the concerns briefly at the conference and follow up with details at a later time if needed.

4. Ask families to attend the conference without their child or provide child care.

It is best to NOT talk about the child in front of the child. What may seem like everyday discussion to adults can be un-nerving to children. They know you are talking about them and that places a lot of stress on them. If parents must bring their children, provide for activities for the child to do in a different room than the conference is being held. Of course, be sure the activity is supervised by another provider!


1. Keep in comfortable.

It may be an every year occurrence for you, but it is the first time parents have met with a teacher for their child in many cases! Make this an informal and comfortable meeting. Don't sit behind a desk, that is very intimidating for parents! Have comfortable ADULT sized chairs facing each other. Perhaps have a small side table for your papers or folders that you may need.

2. Have a clear outline of what you will discuss.

Try to keep to the points you want to make, covering any concerns that the parent may have told you about in the preconference survey. This will ensure that you stay on track and not forget to talk about what you had planned to.

3. Provide a copy of a developmental progress report

This does not need to be a "report card". Simply a list of items that you are working on in the classroom and whether or not you have observed those items in the classroom with this child. Be certain that the items on this list are developmentally appropriate. If an item is not, it should not be on the list. Anything on this report parents will assume their child should be doing.

For example. If you have listed "prints first and last name" or "ties shoes", parents will think that is a goal for their 3 year old, and it should not be! You can always write in "ties own shoes" under a heading of "self help skills" or write in "prints first and last name" under "fine motor" or "writing" skills.

4. Leave time for the parents to talk!

Parent teacher conferences are a great time to listen and get to know family dynamics as well as the family's hopes, concerns and expectations for their children. We can learn a lot be learning to listen!

5. Respect the clock!

If you have scheduled each parent for 15 minutes of time, stick to that! There is nothing worse than sitting outside the classroom for 35 minutes past the time of a meeting, especially when the parents have children at a babysitter's or with them! I recomend setting a timer to keep you on track!

6. Begin and end positively.

We all tend to remember the first and last things discussed in conversations. The same is true for parent teacher conferences. The parents are digesting a lot of information when you are discussing developmental goals. Begin and end the meeting on a positive note. You could share a funny and cute story about their child to begin the meeting and end with how excited you are to have their child in the group.


Remember that conferences are very big deals to parents, no matter how informal they are. You are setting the pace for your relationship with this parent for the rest of the school year! Affects of Unemployment on Preschool Children

TIPS and TIMESAVERS: Organizing Books: To Theme or not to Theme!

As time goes on, preschool teachers add endlessly to their collection of preschool books. Organizing books, however, can be daunting!

Like you, I have tried a few ways to organize my preschool books. You will need to choose the way that works best for your classroom. Here are the two ways I have handled organizing books.

Theme Filing

Organizing books by theme can be very handy if you tend to plan similar themes each year.

1. Gather some manila folders, one for each theme that you use.

2. Label one folder for each theme name.

3. Place these folders, alphabetically, on the shelves you will be storing your books on.

4. Sort your books by these themes. Then, alphabetize the books by title within each theme.

5. Place the books for each theme to the right of its corresponding folder.

You will find that some of the books you have may go well with several themes. You could purchase multiple books, however this is costly!

Instead, file the book with the theme that is primary for this book. Then go to the other theme labeled folders that the book would also go with and print the name of the book on that folder and where you have it filed. Now you will know where to find other books you may need for multiple themes.

Here is an example. The book It's Mine by Leo Lioni can be used for the themes of Friends, Frogs, Fighting and Pond Life. I primarily think of Friends for this book.

Therefore I place it in the "Friends" theme section of my books.

I now go to my folder next to my "Frogs" section an print "It's Mine by Leo Lioni--filed under Friends. I do the same thing on the folders for "fighting" and "pond life". Alphabetical By Title

You can also file all of your books alphabetical by title (I avoid by author because there are so many and I do not know all the authors by heart!).

In addition to this, you will need a book list printed out so that you can scan the list each time to plan a theme.

Computerized Listing

Once I figured out how to use databases and spreadsheets on the computer, finding books became much easier. Many databases or spreadsheet programs allow for you to sort each column alphabetically.

You therefore set up several columns on the spread sheet. I had columns for Title; Author; Theme; subtheme 1; subtheme 2; etc. I then list each book with this information.

For example:

The first row across might be the book It's Mine under the Title Column.

The next column, author, will list Leo Lioni.

The next Column, theme, will list friends

The next column, subtheme 1, will list frogs.

The next column, subtheme 2, will list fighting.

The next column, subtheme 3, will list pond life.

Add as many columns as you need to list each subtheme.

Now, when you go into your spreadsheet, you can sort each column alphabetically and find the books you want for a specific theme, author or title.

Are there other ways that you handle organizing books? Send me the details through my website! I'll add it (and your name) to this article to share with your cyber-colleagues!

For more ideas for teachers such as organization,

CLICK HERE to go to the Teacher Timesavers Page

INTEREST CENTER FOCUS: Preschool Science Interest Center

What do children learn at the Preschoool Science Interest Center

Activities in the Science Center help children:

Observe, questions, problem solve, explore, and describe items from their environment.

They will also learn about the Scientific Method!

1. Hypothesis: The celery stick will turn blue from sitting in blue water.

2. Procedure/Experiment: Place a celery stick in blue water and observe over time.

3. Data/Results: The celery stalk and the leaves turned blue!

4. Conclusion: The water is absorbed by the celery.

Scientific inquiry is part of who preschoolers are! They are curious and want to find out why!

How should the teacher prepare for a Preschool Science Interest Center Activity?

Many activities can be introduced at circle time, such as showing them how to use a balance scale and then place the scale in the interest center.

You can also tell the children what they will find in the Science center and let them explore on their own.

Other than having the materials already at the interest center before the school day begins, there is no other preparation needed.

Many activities here will be in place for a week or more to allow ample time for the children to observe the items over time.

Materials for the Preschool Science Interest Center

The materials to have on-hand are limited only by your imagination! Here are some basic items that are great to have around!

balance scales, color paddles, prisms, dirt/soil, cookie sheets and muffin tins, magnes and magnet wands, plastic bottles of different sizes, magnifying glasses, spoons, measuring cups and measuring spoons, funnels, a minute timer, craft sticks, paper cups, rocks, sand, sea shells, tweezers, tongs, pipettes, journals for each child and of course, clean up items such as a broom, dustpan, clots and water.

Below are a couple of Preschool Science Activities for your interest center:


Introduce a balance scale and how it works to the children. Demonstrate how to use it.

Introduce the words Heavy, heavier, light and lighter. Provide different items to weigh using the scale.

Color Scientists

Materials Needed: clear cups with different colors of water (using paint to color or food coloring); pipettes; a clear cup for each child; a large bin for waste water.

The children use the pipettes of put different colors of water into their own cup to create new colors.

Encourage the children to guess what color they will make by mixing the colors they are choosing!

Will It Stick? Magnets

List random classroom items (or pictures of them) on a chart. Ask children if the item will stick to a magnet or not?

Let them try using a magnet wand!

Themed Materials

Below is the link to my THEMES page for theme related science center activities


WHAT’S NEW? Search It, Find It, Plan It at !

The following pages were added to the website since the last newsletter:


Fall Leaves

Fall (General Theme)



Comments? Ideas for future newsletters? Feedback? This newsletter is written FOR you, so I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Until Next Time,