Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever

One of my favorite stories to read during the month of October is The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll.  It is our catalyst into all things pumpkin and Halloween, so it is usually the first book I read before diving into learning all about pumpkins.  Since the story talks about growing a pumpkin, it's a great way to get my kinders thinking about how a pumpkin grows, what it needs to grow, etc...  There's also so many opportunities for text-to-self connections and discussing real vs fantasy. Have I mentioned I love this book?!

Three years ago, I created a book companion. It is a compilation of activities that I used with my kindergartners and first graders over several years. I just updated the entire packet, adding several new pages and tweaking those already made with updated fonts and clipart. 
Here's what I've included and how I incorporated the activities into my classroom.  
 These activities are pretty obvious! Your standard reading response sheets; story map, story sequencing, text-to-self connections, character trait bubble maps, character comparison venn-diagrams, etc...


The week following our study on the book, I introduce my kindergartners to the story Pumpkin Faces.  This emergent reader focuses on students writing and recognizing the sight word 'see' and I offer two version for differentiating between students who are ready to write the word independently and those that still need a little support.
We read the book together several times and work together first to put the story in order in the pocket chart before placing this activity into the center rotation. The emergent readers are placed into their book luggage for the remainder of the month for reading during read-to-self and buddy reading!


I included anchor chart ideas and labels that I used every year with my students. Simple and effective learning!
We completed the brace map the week after reading the story as we began to dive into learning more about pumpkins.
The Great Pumpkin Exploration was also completed the following week during our pumpkin unit.  Just wanted to share :)
I also included a fun little rhyming activity and recording sheet that you can use in a literacy center or use as a small group activity.
The math sheet, Fill the Pumpkin, is one of my students favorite math tub every year.  It's a simple game of roll the dice, count, fill in corresponding number of squares. Player with the most squares filled in wins. Easy!
I printed this game on cardstock and laminated. Then, had students use expo markers to fill in squares. Simply wipe off when finished!

I just love this time of year and all things pumpkins!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Teacher Week - Sanity Savers

Next up for Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin' focus on what keeps us SANE throughout the year.  For me, this was easy! Below you will find four things that I use/used on a daily basis.

 Do I even need to explain?
 You may get tired of hearing about these beautiful little bottles of oils, but they are GAME CHANGERS!  Kiddos giving you a headache; rub a little Thieves behind your ears and on the back of your neck. Want your kiddos to be a bit more calm? Diffuse Lavender in your classroom.  Need to clean your desk from all those nasty germs, but despise the smell of cleaners? Spray some thieves (and a little lemon for tougher germs) and clean away!
I start every day with a little Stress Away and Joy on my wrists.
Love these little bottles of beauty!

 I had to learn the hard way. Thankfully it was only my third year teaching and I didn't have quite the large files I have now!
If you spend your money on nothing else...get an external hard drive.  
I back up everything. Anything I create for school, my clip art, important forms, etc... I take it with me everywhere, can plug it into any computer and bring up whatever I need.
It's the best investment in my opinion!


If you have not heard of GoNoodle by now then you may just be living under a rock.  Living in Florida, the weather is very unpredictable and ever-changing. You can head to school in the morning wearing clothes for a hot, sunny day and an hour later you need a rain jacket, umbrella, rain boots and a canoe and paddle! For these days, we use GoNoodle as our indoor recess. 
We love GoNoodle for brain breaks! Teaching 5 and 6 year olds requires lots of moving around and GoNoodle totally takes care of that in a super fun way that has every kid engaged! Love me some GoNoodle!
Get them wiggles out!!!!

I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of really good ones, but I'll leave that for the rest of the amazing educators who are joining in on Teacher Week to share their ideas.
Click below and save your sanity!!
Blog Hoppin

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Classroom Design

Since I am not in a classroom this year, I have compiled several ideas from my classroom over the past seven years, as well as several other wonderful teachers'. These teachers have created masterpieces in their classrooms that help keep organization throughout the year, while making it easily accessible to students, and -of course- extremely engaging!

The classroom library is always my favorite area in every teacher's room. When done right, the creativity that is used to engage students is impeccable! Due to 'fire codes' I was refrained from decorating my classroom to any extent other than a palm tree (thanks to Deanna's wonderful idea/tutorial), 2 mini aderondacks and some pillows.

  (library in 2013)

See. I had to make the most with what I was allowed to do. I actually had to take down the 'floating' beach balls. I also used the kids cubbies as our classroom library.


I also love using this organization system to help me and the kiddos keep all the books where they belong and easily accessible!
I am currently working on a Plain Jane Library Organization kit! :)
 OBVIOUSLY, this little packet needed an update!

Now for some inspiration...
The colors, the rug, chairs, the black bulletin board area that will soon be filled with reading strategies/anchor charts...love it all! So cozy and inviting!

I love how Lindsay made her library area an large, open space. It seamlessly falls with the rest of her class and, again, looks so comfy and inviting!

I love the bench that Maria added to her library, the gorgeously bright and engaging colors, and those floor mats! Perfect for those kiddos who want to grab a book and curl up somewhere else in the classroom.

I also love this idea from Learning in Wonderland! No more bothering you with broken books during your small group time. :) 

 I also first saw this lovely bench on her Instagram feed and fell in love!!!
I will most certainly be using this in my next book nook area.

 In my previous school, the standards for this area of our classroom seemed to be ever-changing. 

Inspiration for my next room:

 Growing Kinders NAILED it!

 Learning in Wonderland has a quick video on her blog and Instagram that shows you how she displays and uses her objectives board. Simple and keeps them all in one place. Gotta love that!

 Jessica from The Teacher Talk created an area in her room that allows for students to place their name in an area they would like to focus on. 
This idea is so much better than placing your kids clothespin on a learning scale/rubric. Love, Love, LOVE this idea!!!!

This, to me, needs to be the most inviting and organized place in your entire classroom.  I spend a lot of my day with my kids 'on the carpet.'  I want this space to be open, safe, and set up so that I can snag anything I need at the drop of hat! I always set my room up to have a pretty open area, but never really got it figured out... Here's some inspiration:

Regan Tunstall

Everything always seems just so functional in Reagan's classrooms! :)

Deanna Jump 

Open, simple, students can easily move around, lots of room for learning games, etc...  Deanna has a wonderful organization packet that is filled with awesome ideas on how to organize your whole classroom, but my big takeaway was organizing my rolling cart!  Check it out HERE.
Palm tree directions found HERE

 For me, space was limited and I just couldn't 'see' where to functionally place a writing wall/area in my classroom. SO, I used a folding back board! My area was not very functional.  It worked, but not the way I wanted.
Here are some much better examples on how to successfully impelment a writing station...


I absolutely love Deedee's Writing Station packet
It is perfect for building confidence in your emerging readers/writers.

Simple and all the materials are stored under the table! 

I could spend hours looking though other teachers classroom photos to find ideas to use and implement in my own classroom.

Now you can, too!
Click either link below to see how thousands of other teachers have designed their classrooms.