Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Professional Development Reading List

Happy summer folks! It's only the beginning of July, but here in SoCal we've already experienced a massive heatwave (temps over 100!). Of course our AC broke so I cannot be happier that the temperatures are finally creeping back to normal. For three days this was us in front of the fan:

As a teacher, summer is when I certainly enjoy my free time. I am definitely hanging out by the pool, binge watching tons of TV, and hitting up mid-day exercise classes (which I love because most of the time its only a handful of people and you get great personal attention from the instructors). Still, I like to be organized so I am making sure I am doing something each day in preparation for the upcoming school year.

Before school ended in June, our admin gave us a chart to list any professional texts or articles we have read over the summer. We are supposed to record our biggest takeaway from our reading and indicate whether we would recommend it to our colleagues.

So without further ado, here is my list of titles I am digging into this summer:

1. Out of the Classroom and into the World by Salvatore Vascellaro 

I received my masters in elementary education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. It was the best decision I ever made for countless reasons. All of my courses were interesting and relevant. One of my favorite classes was a children's literature course, taught by one of my favorite professors, Sal Vascellaro. Two of my favorite memories of that class was practicing oral storytelling, and the final project. By the end of the course, each of us had to write and illustrate a children's book for a specific age range. Sal is passionate about experiential education, and writes about how to integrate a curriculum around field trip and out of the classroom experiences!

2. I Learn from Children by Caroline Pratt 

While taking classes for my masters,  I taught as an associate teacher at one of the handful of  progressive independent schools New York City. Many of these progressive schools were inspired by the work of Caroline Pratt, who founded the City and Country School. I was fortunate enough to attend some workshops at City and Country so I was excited to receive this book at one of those events!

3. Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or "Fat Envelopes" by Madeline Levine, PhD

Although this book is geared more towards parents, I am interested to read it from the perspective of a teacher.

4. A Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky 

Everyone knows the marshmallow test, right? A kid is in the room with ONE marshmallow. They can eat the marshmallow in front of them, or they can wait for a longer period of time and then get TWO marshmallows. Galinsky continues to research other important social-emotional skills that are an important part of early learning experiences.

Are there any titles you think are worth reading? Let me know!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Planning a Party with Paperless Post

I can't believe that another year of teaching Kindergarten is almost done!

With that in mind, I am beginning to plan my class end-of-year party! Planning a party can be stressful. Add 16 Kindergarteners who are ready for summer vacation and their families (including younger and older sibs) to the mix and it becomes stress level 6 billion!

I want to share a few tips and tricks that I use to make sure the planning (and the party itself) goes smoothly!

First things first: THEME

In the past, I have invited families to join our class for an ice-cream party. However, storing the ice cream in our tiny staff freezer and all of the melting made me a little bit nuts.  I decided to change things up this year with cookie-decorating party! No school freezer required!

Now, for the INVITATIONS

I've noticed that many parents rarely check their child's cubby, so putting a paper invitation inside seems unproductive. With everything, from school events to field trips, email is best. I'm all about the presentation, so I used Paperless Post to send cute invitations to my class parents via email! There are so many adorable designs to choose from. I ended up going with a sprinkle blasted card to go along with the cookie decorating theme!

So stinkin' sweet, right? That was the easy part. The harder part is organizing the supplies, decorations, and of course, the cookies!

Making the COOKIES

I love to bake from scratch, but when it comes down to it, shortcuts are always the better option when there's a large crowd! For sugar cookies, I always buy the easy pre-made dough (check out how I used it to bake cookies for Chanukah!) Sugar cookie dough freezes really well, so I am going to make the dough over the weekend and freeze it until it's time to defrost, roll out, cut and bake a day or two before the party. I have 16 kids in my class, so I will most likely need to make four batches of dough to accommodate everyone.

Since it is a party to celebrate summer, I ordered these cute cookie cutters from Amazon. I am particularly excited about the pineapple shape :) I'm pretty sure the kiddos will like the fish, sun and octopus shapes as well!

Gotta have the FROSTING

Again, I'm taking the easy route here. You can buy a case of eight 10 oz. containers of Pillsbury Vanilla icing at Dollar Tree! The day of the party, I will mix in a different food coloring to each tub so students can choose what colors they want their cookies to be. And we can't forget the sprinkles!!!!

Ask the PARENTS-

 I've done a lot of work! Time to hand over the baton. I plan on asking the parents to sign up to bring items like napkins, tablecloths, plates, plastic knives for frosting application, drinks and cups. And guess what? You can include the sign up on your Paperless Post invitation when you get to the "add details" section of your design!

Check back in a couple of weeks to see photos from the party! I can't wait to celebrate the end of the school year!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

My Five Favorite Alphabet Books

Teaching Kindergarten, I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year re- familiarizing (or sometimes familiarizing) ABC order with my kiddos. One way I do this is by reading fun ABC read alouds. I've compiled a list of my favorite titles for you below!

1. Feelings to Share from A to Z

I love this one, especially for the beginning of the school year. At this age, children are just beginning to practice expressing  and identifying their feelings. What a great way to teach about emotions while reinforcing ABC order!

2. The Sleepy Little Alphabet 

Kids think this one is hilarious! I like it because it helps kids differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters. In this story, the lowercase letters are the "kids" and the uppercase letters are the "grown-ups". The lowercase letters do not want to go to bed at bed time so the uppercase "grown ups" get very frustrated!

3. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

You can't have an ABC book list without this one. A classic!

4.  Z is for Moose

Get ready to have your kiddos laughing out loud! This ABC book is a silly one. Moose is so excited to be featured in the ABC book, he rushes onto pages waaaaay before it's his turn. When it finally is Moose's turn, he finds out that he isn't featured for letter M after all! With the help of a friend, Moose finally finds his place in the ABC book.

5. LMNO Peas 

So many kids have difficulties with this section of the ABC's. I can't tell you how many times I do assessments during the first half of the year where students recite "LMNO" like it is ONE letter! This is a great story that describes different occupations in ABC order. It doesn't hurt that adorable little peas are doing each job! This series has many wonderful installments. Another favorite of mine that helps teach the months of the year is Hap-pea All Year!

Do you have any favorite ABC read alouds? I'd love to find some new titles!

Friday, May 18, 2018

I Still Exist, I Swear!

Remember me? I won't be angry if you don't. It's actually kind of embarrassing how long it's been since I last shared with you....#bloggerfail

A lot has happened since I last posted in....January 2017. I finished my first year as a Kindergarten teacher at my new school! Hubs and I bought our first home and moved from Irvine to Laguna Beach! We went to Italy! Teaching Kindergarten started up again!

I can't promise that from now on there will more consistent posts, but it feels good to "get back out there". Here's what I'm hoping to blog about over the next month or two:

School related:
* CVC/Sight Word lessons and activities
* A "how-to" on writing report card narratives
* Planning for an admin observation

Lifestyle related:
* Must listen to podcasts
* Stitch Fix clothing reviews
* Book club reads

I'm curious to hear from readers what you're interested in. Pipe up people!

Ok, see ya again realllllll soon!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chanukah Baking

Happy New Year! Here's to a great 2017!

I have been enjoying my winter break so far. Even though we  had a late start (our last day was December 22nd), it means that I don't have to head back to school until January 9th! It is always such a long stretch between returning from winter break and the next vacation, so I'm thankful for the later  January start.

Besides a long weekend in Santa Barbara for New Years, my vacation has been pretty low-key at home. It has been so nice just catching up on sleep, reading and watching TV, and going to exercise classes in the middle of the day (hello #RHOC).

One of my goals for this break was to do some baking. Holiday times are filled with delicious baked goods and I wanted to create some of my own! I finally ordered some Chanukah cookie cutters from Amazon because I was determined to make sugar cookies this year! I'm not going to lie, the idea of rolling out dough seems really daunting to me. Drop cookies, brownies, cupcakes--count me in. For some reason, the idea of a rolling pin makes me nervous! I decided to make this process as foolproof as possible and used the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix.

After adding the extra ingredients to the dry mix (just some flour, eggs and melted butter),  I used a non-toxic disinfectant to clean up my counter--the last thing you want in your cookies is the taste of cleaning product! Then floured my surface and my rolling pin and began rolling out the dough:

After I rolled out the dough, I cut out my Chanukah shapes using the cookie cutters and laid them out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet:

I let them bake in a 350 degree oven for seven minutes. They came out perfectly golden!

After allowing them to cool, I used white and blue frosting to decorate the menorahs, dreidles and stars:

I've now conquered my fear of using a rolling pin for baking! Perhaps next year I will make my dough from scratch!

Speaking of baking with shortcuts, another Chanukah treat I have always said I would make were Sufganiyot-- Jelly donuts in layman's terms. Again, the idea of frying something in hot oil was a little bit scary for me, but I have such good memories of enjoying warm, sugary jelly donuts at Chanukah as a kid that I decided to face my fear!

I bought a candy thermometer so I could heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees accurately.

While the oil was heating, I popped open a can of refrigerated biscuit dough and separated the discs onto a parchment paper lined pan. I kept the pan in the fridge until the oil was ready.

Once the oil was at 350, I used a slotted spoon to drop two discs of biscuit dough at a time into the oil, turning over once after 45-60 seconds.

I then used a cooling rack to allow the fried donuts to drain the extra oil while I continued frying the rest of the batch.

I happened to have blackberry jelly on hand, so I used that as my filling. I used a pastry bag with a tip to poke a hole into the donut and fill it. You could also use a toothpick or chopstick to poke the hole and scoop some jelly into a Ziploc bag. Cut off the corner of the bag and fill the donut that way as well!

I dusted each donut with some powdered sugar:

Happy belated Chanukah everyone! Yum!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Letter of the Week

Obviously, I have been absent from blogging for the past few months. I was definitely focused on transitioning to Kindergarten life! Between setting up classroom procedures, organizing math and literacy centers, planning with my #kindersquad for the Halloween parade, Thanksgiving international feast and Winter concert, and of course, bonding with all of my Kinder Kiddos, I haven't had a whole ton of time for blogging.

Now, I have a glorious two-week vacation and finally have a chance to sit down and BLOG, yo!

What I've really enjoyed in Kindergarten this year is Letter of the Week. I love going on Pinterest to find fun read-alouds and projects to do with my class each week. Check out my Letter of the Week board to see some project and book ideas!

Here is the short-list of my favorite Letter of the Week books and crafts that I've done in my classroom this year:

M is for Mobiles of the Moon

Who doesn't have a zillion wire hangers lying around? I put mine (and some parents') to good use by creating moon mobiles with the kids. I made crescent moon and star templates on yellow paper. The Kinders practiced their cutting skills by using the templates to cut out the shapes. I then punched holes in each shape and the kids helped me thread string through each shape. I simply tied each piece of string to the hangers and viola! Beautiful moon mobiles!

P is for Panda Bear

All kids love Eric Carle's Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? The repetitive phrasing allows students to join in and say the names of the animals as you read. The kids loved making cute panda bear faces to go along with the book. We used mini paper plates, and again I allowed the children to practice cutting skills by using templates so they could cut out the ears and eyes. By the way, since moving down to Kindergarten I will tell you now: GLUE SPONGES ARE AH-MAH-ZING. No more messy glue clean-up or dried out glue sticks to deal with. The Kinders love using them for all their projects. It is what the used to glue the ears and eyes onto their little pandas!

R is for Roads

The children in my class love playing with matchbox cars, so it only made sense that we make road maps! They had so much fun playing with their cars on their roads before we hung them up in the classroom. One of my favorite books to read in connection with the letter R and the theme of roads is One Hole in the Road . It is a fun counting book with very cool illustrations.

U is for Umbrella

I knew when we got to the letter U, I would of course read Umbrella by Taro Yashima. It is a great story about patience and responsibility. We don't get a whole lot of rain in Southern California, but this past week we actually had two straight days of rain! WHAT THE WHAT?! Anyway, the kids used watercolor to paint a template of the top of an umbrella and a lower-case u that would eventually become the handle of their umbrellas. Once the watercolor paint dried, the kids cut out the shapes and glued them on to blue backgrounds. I love all the color combinations and mixtures that the Kinders used with the paint!

V is for Volcano

I was not about to have a room full of Kindergarteners and an exploding baking-soda volcano. I know my group now, and that would be a mess! So instead, we read a fun book called Volcano! and used extra scraps of red, yellow and orange construction paper to create a collage of an exploding volcano. It was great to see a lot of the Kinders add details like lava rocks and magma that they learned about from the book into their collages!

B is for Blueberries

As a kid, I always enjoyed hearing the story Blueberries for Sal. It was so fun reading it to my class and hearing them laugh when the baby bear and Sal "switch places" and follow the wrong Mamas! The children created blueberry baskets by gluing a template of a fruit basket onto white paper. They then used blue finger-paint to create fingerprint blueberries coming out of the basket. Good enough to eat!

Well, those are some of my faves so far. I will probably do another Letter of the Week post later in the year with some of my new projects! What are your best letter of the week ideas? I'd love to hear form you!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back to Kindergarten

Hello friends! I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing summer. I know I did! I turned the big 3-0 (eek!). To celebrate, my friends and I went to a super fun brunch in Costa Mesa at Plums CafĂ©. I highly recommend the coconut French toast, and some bellinis, of course!

I spent three weeks back east with my family, where I babysat for my little nephew in DC and got to spend two weeks at my ultimate happy place, the Outer Banks!

My husband finally got to meet his little nephew!

This summer was all the sweeter because I went into my vacation knowing that I had an amazing new opportunity coming my way in the fall! After a year in a quasi-limbo state of teaching (part-time homeschool extension program, part-time Kindergarten), I finally secured a full-time teaching job at a fantastic progressive school after interviewing for a position this past spring.

I am continuing on in Kindergarten (something I never thought I would be doing). So far, I have loved getting to know my new "K-Squad" of teachers, along with the other teachers and admin at the school.

My new classroom is kind of a funny shape  (almost hexagonal), so it was definitely a challenge setting it up. I also had a lot of things that needed to be purged/given away from the classroom's previous teacher. And of course, I had to find places to put all of my fantastic #dollarspot finds :) I think I did a pretty good job!

How much do you love the stained glass window on the door?

I bought some cute banners, like the felt "Welcome" one that I hung over the door, along with some polka dot felt letters that I used to decorate the pencil and notebook paper banners with "Hola" and "Write". My school is bilingual, so I get to use my Spanish regularly! I collected some plastic containers to use as book bins. I downloaded these Spanish book bin labels to help organize books by topic.

Speaking of books, I absolutely LOVE my reading corner. I had recently bought new bedding for our bedroom at home, so I took the throw pillows from our old bedding set and brought them into my classroom to make reading time extra cozy!

I also repurposed this pedestal sink storage unit as a cart (of sorts) to hold all of our pencils, markers, and crayons. I tried to put similar color families in each container for the markers and colored pencils...we'll see how long that lasts :-P

I'm looking forward to sharing more about some of the fun things I have planned for the first month of school with all of you! Stay tuned!
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