Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

I've had that David Bowie song stuck in my head since last night. You see, we had a "potluck supper" at school last night, we were told that a local church was hosting it for the staff. Turns out it was the Vacation Bible School commencement so there were tons of people, a band and lots of prayer. They even had the staff come up so they could lay hands on us and pray for the new school year. All of that kind of made little Catholic me uncomfortable, but I was given to understand that it would not look good if we didn't come/participate.

Anyways, down to the changes. We finally got to have a quick meeting with the new principal. We brought up a few subjects such as what her dress code would be. My school is usually super casual - jeans every day, t-shirts, shorts and capris etc. New principal says "Dress to impress." and "Sandals are okay but flip flops are out." I never wear flip flops, but I do wear sandals so that is good! Not sure how fancy I need to be "to impress" though - should I run out and buy dress pants and blouses?? Our school is Title I and I always felt like dressing too nicely was kind of a barrier between teachers and parents. Of course we have to look nice, but wearing really nice clothes kind of emphasizes the economic differences imo. Not to mention that kindergarten teachers are stain magnets between all the arts and crafts and small children hugging us!

The big worry though is that right now we only have 39 kindergarten students. Enrollment is the 8th and 9th so we might still get more, but as it stands now we would need at least 30 more students to justify keeping all 3 kindergarten teachers. I'm not sure how they're going to decide who gets to stay in Kindergarten and who moves to a different grade level. I have spent all summer working on adopting the core curriculum standards for kindergarten, I would hate to have to change grade levels with so little notice!

So, please cross your fingers for me that we pick up more kindergarten students - I love my team and I really want all of us to stay in kindergarten together! If anyone has any advice on the dress code I am open to it! I hate to sound like a Negative Nancy, so I hope this post is not coming off that way, I am thankful I still have a job in this economy!

Just for fun, here are the pictures of my classroom, before I set anything up. I can get into school starting on the 2nd!

My back wall (and Joshua).

my front wall w/my Smartboard

my side wall - all windows up top and 2 shelves underneath down the whole wall.

My other side wall, this is my cubby area.

The sink area on the cubby side wall.

The door to the bathroom off my back wall.

My rear door, my son Robbie, and my magnet board.

As you can see, I still need to move all my stuff in and decorate, I will post more pictures when I get it done!

Pet Peeve linky party

Alisha from The Bubble Blonde is having a Classroom Pet Peeve Linky Party. Now, I'm sure that these will not even come up this year, because this year is going to be the best year ever! (positive affirmations might work, right?!) but, here are my top 3:

1. "He did it first!" or "He was doing it too!" Oh my goodness! I really cannot take this one. I had a little guy who went through this stage during the 4th quarter last year. Suddenly, every thing he did was because someone else (who I never saw) was doing it. Seriously, even if the entire class was standing on their chair, you're still not supposed to do it!

2. "He cut me!" I absolutely cannot stand it when kiddos say this in line. First of all, where do they learn it!? Most of my kids don't even go to pre-k, so where do they pick this gem up? I always respond with "Does he have a knife or scissors? No? Then I guess he didn't cut you right?"

3. Disappearing pencils. I have a basket for sharpened pencils and one for pencils that need sharpening. It always amazes me that I can sharpen 20 pencils one day and the next day no one has a sharpened pencil but the "needs sharpening" basket is empty. I suspect that some of my pencils must be sneaking home with my kinders, but actually I can't get too upset about this one because at least they are writing right?

Kissing Hand Linky Party

Mrs. Perea from Kinder Eagles is having a Kissing Hand Linky Party. Like me, she is planning on doing a week of activities related to it at the beginning of school.  I love Kissing Hand because it goes so well with my new classroom theme of "A Forest of Possibilities: Mrs. Knopf's R.E.A.D.Y. Raccoons." I cannot wait until I get the banner I ordered from Vistaprint ~ it is so cute! Anyways, here are 2 freebies that go along with this theme. My forest word wall cards and my raccoon themed classroom placemat. I glue the word wall cards on a poster board, add stickers and laminate it so my kinders can refer to it throughout the theme period. The placemat I glue to the front of a manilla folder. I write each child's name on one in dotted print and then laminate. This way they can practice writing their names with dry erase markers and they have a reference tool right in front of them. They store unfinished work inside the folders and keep them under their table caddies when not in use.

I also have a forest themed unit for sale at TPT with 4 math activities, 1 life science activity and 3 language arts activities.

I'm feeling crafty!

Oh my! After looking at all the beautiful things people have been posting on their blogs lately, I became inspired to try to release my inner Miss Crafty. Unfortunately, my inner Miss Crafty is very shy and often gets overwhelmed by Miss Impatient. I seem to be one of the few teachers out here in bloggyville who is not naturally skilled at any number of crafts. Then I saw this Lollipop tree at Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade Tidbits the other day and thought it was something that I could handle. I headed over to the Dollar Tree to see what I could find and look what I made!

I think it turned out super well, considering my past history with crafts! The box came with the lid, I just used a hot glue gun to stick it to the side like that. Then I cut a foam cube to fit inside the box and stuck in the lollipops. Voila! Of course, it's less of a "Lollipop Tree" and more of a "Lollipop Box" now, but I still like it!

Then, I decided to make my "Random Name Generator Bucket" and since they had the boxes in different colors, I had to grab another one for this project.

I used jumbo craft sticks, spray painted them blue and silver and hot glued a decorative stone to one end. When I get my class list I will write a name on each stick. Then, I'll use the sticks to randomly call on children throughout the day. After a child's name is pulled, I put it back in the box, stone side down. When all of the sticks are upside down I know that everyone has had a turn and I flip them all back over. Super easy, but great for when the Smartboard conks out and I can't use my computerized RNG lol.

I am still working on some other things, but our local teaching store is having their annual back-to-school sale. Normally we get 20% off the prices every day, but during the sale we get to pull a slip out of a hat to get a different % off. I am really hoping for that 40% off slip. Cross your fingers for me!

Back-to-school Party and a Reminder!

There's going to be a Back-To-School Party over at Effective Teaching Articles next week! Every day next week she will be giving away printables and having drawings for prizes! Head over each day to see what's new!

Kelly @ From Kindergarten With Love is having a giveaway for an adorable thermal zipper tote from Thirty One. I think I might bring lunch more often if I had something this cute to put it in!

Also, only a few more days before my Donorschoose Gift Card Giveaway ends. Make sure you enter here!

Sneaky Snack

How funny that I wrote this the other day and then I find that Mrs. Bainbridge is starting a linky party on this very subject!

Like Mrs. Bainbridge, I send home a snack calendar every month. I just use this site to get a blank template, add in the names and some pictures that go along with our themes that month and print it out! During snack, I prefer to let my kinders socialize, since they don't get many chances to just talk throughout the day. We spend about 20 minutes on snack - from pass out to clean up, so it really doesn't take up that much time. Plus, I get to do Sneaky Snack which you can read more about below.

Original Post

I went grocery shopping today, which doesn't seem like a hard task until I tell you that I took all 4 kids and I stayed under budget! I'm pretty sure I must have forgotten some things though, since with all the "extras" the kids put in the cart I should have been way over lol.

Anyways, while I was perusing the aisles I found some Scrabble Junior fruit snacks by Kellogg's. Naturally I thought of using them for my Chicka Chicka Boom Boom unit, so I bought a box to see what kind of activities I could put together. It turns out there are about 9-11 fruit snacks in a pack, and 10 packs to a box. Which is not bad, except that out of 63 fruit snacks (6 packs) the only letters I got were A, C, D, E, G, O, R, S, T. Not a whole lot of variety there! Obviously this would not be a good idea for a project where you need all the letters of the alphabet, so I will be using them for Sneaky Snack.
What is Sneaky Snack? Basically, it's when I provide a snack that will engage my kinders' minds and allow me insight into how they are thinking about what we're learning. With these fruit snacks for example, children can sort by color or letter, make patterns, count, identify letter sounds etc. Our school is Title I and most of the families struggle financially, so I try to make sure that each child only brings snack once a month. If there are more school days in a month than students or if someone forgets their day, then I bring in snack. Since I usually bring snack about 5 times a month it has to be relatively inexpensive, plus quick to eat since I only give them about 15 minutes for snack time.

 To me there is nothing better than to pass out snack and have children start applying what we've been learning. When I pass out the snack it's important that I not say anything ~ thus the Sneaky part ~ if I initiate the activity it kind of skews the results as the children become conscious of the fact that I'm teaching or evaluating them. By letting my kinders initiate an activity with the food, I find that I can often get a good indication of which children have gotten a concept and which ones are still struggling. It's a great informal assessment, so I have a separate notebook where I can jot down how they "play with their food". There's always something that they come up with! Some other Sneaky Snack foods are colored Goldfish crackers or Froot Loops (think sorting, patterning, counting) and pretzel sticks (think making letters, tally marks, or shapes). I've even had kinders break into song when given fruit cups (color word song that is!).

Classroom Theme!

I have decided on my classroom theme! I am super excited, because I knew I wanted to change it up this year, but I couldn't think of a theme I wanted to do. Well, actually I did think of this theme, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of stuff out there for it so I was discouraged. Then, I got an email from Vistaprint about their sale right now and decided to play around with different pictures and sayings. I ordered 100 postcards, 10 note cards, 2 banners, a shirt and a stamp all for less than $20 with shipping!

Here's what I came up with:

A Forest of Possibilities:
Mrs. Knopf's R.E.A.D.Y. Raccoons
(Responsible, Eager, Adorable, Determined Young Raccoons)

Yep, a forest theme! I found tons of resources for rain forest themes, but very little for a deciduous forest theme! I will just have to be creative I guess, but I am recruiting all the help I can get so if you have any ideas please leave a comment for me!

After that, I found this website which takes pictures from your computer and enlarges them into posters. The result is fabulous! You can choose how many sheets of paper wide your poster will be, then just print it out! The bigger you go the more pixelated it becomes. Here's an example:

Picture I used:

I haven't taped this one together or added the border yet, but here's what it looks like just laid out:
2 Sheets wide.

Thus, for just the cost of ink and paper, you can take any picture and make it as large as you want! I can think of all sorts of fabulous ideas for this, I can't wait to get in my classroom and start working now!

What's Your Room Look Like? Linky Party!

Jennifer at Empowering Little Learners is having a linky party asking about how your room is set up. I am jumping in it just to make everyone feel a little bit better about their progress!

You see, all of my classroom stuff is currently in a storage unit about 3 blocks from my school. I pay $65 a month to keep it there! When I say all, I mean all by the way! Everything came down off the walls and was boxed up and dragged out by my darling husband (who can't understand why I need so much stuff to teach kindergarten lol!). The only thing left were the tables and chairs and a locked cabinet dedicated to Title I materials.

The reason for this is that our school hosts several weeks of summer school, then a couple of weeks of Vacation Bible School AND provides free lunches to all kids ages 0-17 all summer long! That means there are a lot of people coming in and out of the school, plus a lot of different teachers using my room! Anything that is mine that I don't want to "walk away" needs to be taken out of the room. Even my alphabet and number line comes down so that whoever uses my room can put up their own things. Personally, I might try to take my chances with my stuff still being there come August but an empty classroom is not negotiable f you want to check out in May!

Now, usually I take everything home and store it in our garage and try to organize it throughout the summer. However, this year we had a fire at our house on April 23rd. Luckily no one was home and all the animals got out ok, but the house is unlivable. Due to issues with lead paint and asbestos based siding the contractor has not even started working on the house yet! So, we are currently in a 3 bedroom rental home that is a bit cramped for a family of 6. There is no way I could cram all of my school stuff in here too, thus the storage unit. Since it's been 100+ degrees here every day this summer, I have been avoiding my storage unit, having no desire to keel over from heat exhaustion!

Therefore, when I finally get back in my room (sometime after August 6th) I am going to have to start from scratch putting everything up and cleaning off the dust of 3 months of storage! So, if you have anything set up in your room or have started to organize, you are miles ahead of where I am lol.

As soon as I get into my room I will post pictures and updates, but for now I can serve as a reminder that even when you think you're behind, there's always someone who's much more behinder lol!

In the words of Dr. Seuss:

When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!

Giveaway Gallery

Alright, a few more giveaways I've found that I couldn't resist passing along!

Ashley at Just Reed is also having a giveaway, this time for 3 of her author study files on TPT and a free lesson plan template from Mrs. M at A Teacher's Plan. I could definitely use a free pre-made lesson plan!

Leigh at Precious Perks is giving away some personalized polka dot decor! Super cute polka dots, I love the clipboard caddy, I can think of lots of things that could use some polka dot punch in my classroom!

Christina at Mrs. Bainbridge's Class is having a giveaway to celbrate 300 followers! Enter for a chance to win one of her flippy sets - I'd choose the holiday set :)

Mrs. Coe from Little Miss Kindergarten is having a giveaway for $50 worth of Artskills products! I'd love to light up my bulletin boards this year!

And, finally don't forget to enter my giveaway for a DonorsChoose gift card here!

Are you a Math Teacher?

During our 3 day workshop on adopting the Core Curriculum the question came up as to whether we kindergarten teachers considered ourselves to be "math teachers". My initial reaction was no, simply because there are so many other things that I teach. Then someone asked if we consider ourselves to be "reading teachers" and automatically I said yes. Do you see the disparity here? I think a lot of teachers are more comfortable with reading than math. If I asked what your hobbies were, a lot of you would probably mention reading. It's something we're comfortable with, something we enjoy. Not to mention, there are tons of resources for it! I don't use a math series or reading series (3 kindergarten teachers and only 2 reading sets and 1 math set = excuse for Mrs. Knopf not to use them lol) but it's amazing how much easier it is for me to find quality phonics/phonemic awareness activities than math material!

This year I am going to focus more on math - not that I didn't before, but this year I want a new depth of knowledge that I didn't require before - even the Title I math assessment doesn't require depth! After this year I want to be able to say "I am a math teacher." and mean it. Sure I "only" teach kindergarten skills like number sense and patterning, but if it weren't for kindergarten then the upper grades would have a much more difficult time lol!

So, here is just a taste of my new math units. When I have it all together I will post them on my TPT store, but I wanted to let you all see this small piece now and hopefully give me some feedback!

Click here for the penguin themed cards and here for the lion ones!

BTW, my giveaway still has a few more days and not a lot of entries - check here for your chance to win a DonorsChoose gift card!

New blog design!!

I have a new blog design! I have been playing with this all night, so if you visited and saw a hot mess then I apologize. I think I am happy with the final product though! I really like my new button, I hope it actually works! Please let me know what you think, I would love to hear some new opinions, my daughter and my husband are tired of having to look at my blog every 5 minutes as I tweak things!

Giveaways Galore!

Mrs. Larremore from Chalk Talk: A Kindergarten Blog is having a giveaway featuring 3 items from Mrs.Ablanese's TPT store! Looks like some interesting units, be sure to check it out!

Randi at Hoppy Kindergarten is celebrating 50 followers with a free item from her TPT store! It's only for 24 hours so hurry!  I like her Woodland Noun Sort :)

Pocket Full of Kinders

Pocket Full of Kinders is having a fabulous giveaway with 3 different prizes! I am loving the clip boards!

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance at one of 3 $10 Donorschoose gift cards! Check it out here!

Fabulous Fall Freebie Linky Party & Thoughts from Great Expectations

Fun 2B in First is having a Fabulous Fall Freebie linky party!  What a great way to get ideas (free!) for Back-to-school! I am going to combine this post with my GE experience to kill two birds with one stone :)

Last week I spent 4 days in Great Expectations workshops. I absolutely love going to GE because it gets me ramped up for the new school year. This year I was fortunate enough to take Allan Johnson's classes on differentiated learning and raising test scores through brain-based learning. Both workshops were fabulous and I brought home some great activities to introduce into my classroom. Here are just a few ideas:
Synergy - in order to build the classroom community we have to think like we're all on the same team. One great way to emphasize that we need everyone in the class is to use a Touch-n-Glow ball. You have everyone stand or sit in a circle and hold hands. Place the ball between 2 people and have them each touch one of the metal contacts, this completes the circuit and the ball lights up and makes noise. If anyone in the circle lets go then the circuit is incomplete and the ball will not function. Thus we need everyone working together in order to accomplish anything.
Bounce - this game can be adapted to practically any subject. Using a ball that lights up, play a game where students bounce the ball back and forth while reviewing what you've taught. For example you can use math facts and have the students bounce the ball to another person in the circle. Whoever has the ball says the next step in the problem. For example, student 1 says "3", the next person might  say "plus", the next person says "4", the next "equals" and the next says "7". This also works with reviewing spelling words, with each student saying the next letter. I plan to do letters and sounds!
Little Honda - Have students stand in lines of 3 students. Make sure they know the ordinal number for their position in line (1st - 3rd). Play "Little Honda" by the Beach Boys. Each line moves about the room waiting for the chorus (they can walk or dance, as long as they are not running or bumping into other lines). When their position is called they move to the front of the line while the person who was in front goes to the back. It's a fun way to get the kids moving while they still have to focus to hear their cue to move up in line. Not only does this reinforce ordinal numbers (something my kinders struggle with at first) it's also a great stress reliever because everyone ends up laughing and getting their energy released in a positive way. Here are the lyrics for the chorus:
First gear, it's all right (honda, honda, go faster, faster)
Second gear, I'll lean right (honda, honda, go faster, faster)
Third gear, hang on tight (honda, honda, go faster, faster)
Faster, it's all right.

Finally, I will be adding some new scents to my Scentsy! Allan recommended peppermint, basil, lemon, cinnamon and rosemary scents for promoting alertness while chamomile, lavender, orange and rose promote calmness and relaxation. He told us about a Texas teacher who was allowed to have her Scentsy on during state testing since she always had it on while she was teaching. This aided the students in recalling what they had learned and test scores went up. Since I teach kindergarten I don't have to worry about high-stakes testing in my grade-level, but there are still things I need to teach and have my kinders remember!
My freebie for Back-to-School is my list of Farewells. I borrowed this idea from The Virtual Vine and added some clip art since my kinders can't read at the beginning of the year. As I let children out at the end of the day, they point out the farewell they want me to use. This gives me a quick second to scan the crowd outside so I can make sure their parent/sibling/guardian is there to pick them up, if not I direct them to wait next to my door. My kinders love choosing their farewell everyday. Some will do the same one all the time, while others like to mix it up. I put up only 2 pages at first so half way through the year I can switch them out for new ones to try to keep it fresh.

Donorschoose Giveaway!

Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

I love, love, love Donorschoose! I have had 21 projects funded though this organization - from field trips to art supplies, even an incubator and brooder so we could hatch chicks this year! I am starting to think about new project requests to put up for the upcoming school year. I am definitely asking for another field trip to the Zoo - it's the highlight of Spring for my kinders. I am also going to ask for some more dies for our ellison machine - we are woefully lacking! After that I am drawing a blank, I may have come to the end of my wish list!

Therefore, I'd like to help out other classrooms that may be in need. I will give away three $10 Donorschoose gift cards to lucky winners on August 1st! You may use the gift card for your own project or just search through the project list for one that speaks to you :)

Here's how to enter:

1. Follow my blog and leave a comment below.
2. Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment below.

That's it, easy-peasy lemon-squeezy! On August 1st I'll use the random generator to pick 3 people to win!

New Year's Resolution Linky Party

Another prompt from Clutter-Free Classroom! This time she's asking about those "New Year's Resolutions" we all make before we go back to school.

My first year of teaching I went crazy overboard with staying late. I'd be in my classroom working until about 6:45 every night (not to mention weekends!) At that time, I had 3 of my own kiddos at school with me and the "baby" at daycare. If I hadn't needed to pick him up by 7pm I probably would have stayed even longer! Now, part of the reason was because my husband was in Korea for a year, so there was not much to rush home to. The other part is that I easily become obsessive and I really wanted to make my classroom work! Of course, spending all of that time was not healthy. My middle son ended up with pneumonia, I had severe bronchitis and strep twice and my youngest had behavior issues from being left at daycare so long (plus not seeing daddy!) Obviously this was not a year I wanted to repeat!

During my second year of teaching I made a vow that I would not spend as much time at school. My husband was home and really didn't like the idea of me hanging around school all the time. Some days I was even out of there by 4:15 and I never went in on weekends! Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well either. I was less prepared for lessons, and I wasn't happy with my classroom organization.

This year my resolution is to strike a balance between those two years. My youngest will be starting kindergarten this year (oh how time flies!) so I'll have all 3 of my boys at school with me. My daughter goes to middle school but takes the bus back to my classroom at the end of the day. So, I will have all 4 kids in the classroom at the end of the day. Obviously they are not going to want to hang around too long, so I have to have a plan in place so that I can maximize my time. I am hoping to leave by 5pm every day and spend one Saturday afternoon at school a month. Here's what I came up with for my schedule:

Hopefully this works out for me, but I feel better at least having a plan. No more of those nights when I'm running around like a crazy woman trying to monitor my kiddos, help with homework and do 20 other things all at the same time - and only doing about 1/2 of it well!

So, have you made a resolution? Head over to the linky party to see what everyone else is vowing to do or not do this year!

Whole Lotta Linky Day 5!

Woot! It's the last day of Clutter-Free Classroom's week-long linky party! Todays' prompt is:

Letter Writing
Write a letter to the author of a blog you admire. Be sure to include a link to the blog and the reasons why you enjoy reading it.

One of the bloggers I most admire is DeeDee Wills from Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

Dear Mrs. Wills,

I am a big admirer of your blog (and you!). Not only are you a military spouse like myself, you are also raising a teenager and teaching kindergarten (I am amazed you have any energy left)! Your blog is filled with great ideas and many freebies. Your idea to have a linky party for Debbie Diller's Math Workstations book was awesome! I have really learned so much from all of the posts, and I think my kinders will benefit greatly this year from a newly inspired and prepared teacher! Thanks for so freely sharing all of your marvelous thoughts with us, I appreciate being able to look to your blog for ideas (love your "baby diapers"  btw!)
Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer @ Herding Kats in Kindergarten

Whole Lotta Linky Day 4!

Wow it's Day 4 of Clutter-Free Classroom's Prompt of the Day Linky Party! I've been having a lot of fun with this, so let's see what today's prompt is:

Share a recipe that you often make during the school year. Bonus points will be awarded if your recipe freezes well or can be made in a crockpot.

Hmmm! This one is a bit harder for me. I am not a morning person, so I am rarely up in time to throw anything in a crockpot before work. I've tried getting it all ready the night before, but I usually end up forgetting to turn the crockpot on before I leave the house! But, I do have one recipe that would freeze just fine, if I ever decided to make 2 batches at once, which come to think of it is a very good idea!

Mrs. Knopf's Shepherd's Pie
I learned this recipe from my mother and have adapted it over the years.

2lbs ground beef
1lb bag frozen peas & carrots (you can use canned veggies if you prefer)
1lb bag frozen corn
12 servings mashed potatoes (I cheat and use instant mashed potatoes, but it's even better with the real thing, use 2-3lbs of real potatoes)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Worcestershire sauce (my family loves it so I use a lot, but you might want to use this sparingly if you're not familiar with the taste)
salt & pepper

1. Brown ground beef with minced onion, season with salt, pepper & Worcestershire sauce to taste.
2. Layer cooked ground beef in bottom of 13x9 inch casserole dish.
3. Layer veggies over ground beef.
4. Prepare mashed potatoes as usual, then layer over top of vegetable layer.
5. Bake for 30 minutes at 375.
6. Pull out of oven, sprinkle with shredded cheese and return to oven to bake until cheese it melted.

The thing I love about this is that the layers don't mix very much unless you want them to. My kids prefer to eat the meat, veggies and potatoes separately while my husband mixes it all together lol. If your kids aren't picky like mine then you can mix the veggies in the pan to cook with the meat and then it will take less time in the oven. Hope you like it!

Whole Lotta Linky Day 3!

I'm continuing with Clutter-free Classroom's week-long linky party! Today's prompt is:

Who is your favorite children’s author?

Hands down, my favorite children's author is Mo Willems. I love his Pigeon books. They are favorite read alouds in my class, the illustrations are so simple and yet my kinders bust out laughing each time. The kids really identify with the Pigeon, but they also love turning the tables and getting to be in charge! The books are so interactive that all of my kinders get involved, when I read these books I am guaranteed to have every one's attention!

Then there's also the Elephant & Piggie series! I'm telling you, there's no way to run out of material if you're doing a Mo Willem's author study. Elephant & Piggie books are high interest, contain a lot of high-frequency words and have engaging, almost comic-book-style illustrations.  

As if that wasn't enough, Mo Willems has also written the Knuffle Bunny series which is just too precious. The illustrations are amazing - he takes black and white photos and then layers his cartoons over top. It is also fun to talk to my kinders about how this relates to real life since the main character "Trixie" is based on the author's daughter. They also love seeing how Trixie grows from book to book. The final story, Knuffle Bunny Free, brings me to tears every time!

Mo also has a website with some fun stuff - the kids just loved playing the Hot Dog dress up game on my SmartBoard. There are also plush animals to go along with his stories - great for having the kids do some retelling!

And how about these window clings!
 GelGems Mo Willems' Pigeon
Check out this video of Mo talking about his books too:

In short, Mo Willems writes high interest books that my kinders can relate to, with simple yet compelling graphics. There's enough stuff out there to flesh out an author study easilyso I always plan for 2 weeks! 

Hope you enjoyed this post, I can't wait to see what tomorrow's prompt will bring! Make sure you check the other responses at the linky party too!

Whole Lotta Linky Party Day 2

Here's today's prompt for the linky party from Clutter-Free Classroom:
“Based on the illustrations alone, my favorite picture book is _________.”

Oh this is a tough one! There are so many beautiful picture books out there,
from the deliciously detailed to the sublimely simple.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

But for me, my favorite picture book is:
Good Dog, CarlCarl's Afternoon in the ParkCarl's Summer Vacation

Ok, I know that's 3 books, but since they're a series, I think I should be allowed to choose all of them!  I love, love, love these books! These 3 are my favorite "Carl" books. I don't think there's another picture book out there that can compare. These books have a minimum of text (usually just a line on the first and last pages) but the story flows seamlesly through the illustrations. My children all loved these - here were books that they could "read" to me, just by looking at the pictures! Now, I have to admit, I might be a little bit biased because Carl looks an awful lot like my darling dog:

But, aside from me being a huge rottweiler fan, I really do believe that Alexandra Day's illustrations make the "Carl" series a must-have. By the way, just think of all the writing activities you can do with one of these books - the lack of text lends itself to having students interpret te illustrations and write their own versions.

Prompt of the Day Linky Party!

What a neat idea for a linky party! This week, Clutter Free Classroom is hosting a "Prompt of the Day" linky party! Today's prompt is:

"How I'm Spending My Summer"

I had a house fire at the end of April and my house needs to be rebuilt pretty much from the ground up. So part of this summer has been dealing with insurance agents and contractors :(

Last week I volunteered to be one of the kindergarten teachers who pilots the core curriculum this year. About 15 of us took three days last week to go through the standards, create a scope & sequence and pacing calendar for math & language arts. Not to mention share resources and ideas! We came up with some pretty good stuff and I am not sweating core curriculum as much any more, I think it will work great in my classroom this year!

This week I'm heading to Great Expectations training! This is my 3rd year attending and I am excited! I always come away with great ideas and a new enthusiasm for getting back in the classroom! I will be posting more about it later in the week.

Since money is tight due to the house fire (not to mention teacher salary + military salary = not much lol) we are holding off on a real vacation. But, we have gone down to Arlington, TX twice now. We got season passes to Six Flags over Texas and it has been so much fun! My youngest is tall enough for most rides, and he loves the thrills! On the way home we always stop at the Lego store for the kids, the Warhammer store for my husband, and Target for me! 

I've also been working on organizing my theme boxes, adding to them as needed. I've found some great things as I've been blog stalking, plus I've created some of my own. Not to mention, I started this blog! It was something I've been wanting to do for a while and I am thrilled with the responses so far.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow's prompt is, remember to check out everyone else's responses at the party!

Giveaways Galore!

I have come across several giveaways and have to share them with you, they all have great prizes!

 Mrs. Bee is teaming up with Miss B. to have a bee themed giveaway! How cute is that?!

Yearn to Learn is celebrating 200 followers with a giveaway for her awesome task cards. Check it out!

Frog Spot
Melanie at A Blog from the Pond is having a giveaway for $100 worth or merchandise from her Ebay store!

Classroom placemats

Last year we did not get a list of student names until about 15 minutes before our Meet & Greet! I was frantically trying to fill in a Welcome Poster with each student's name and label cubbies in the moments before parents started walking in the door. I think it's so much more inviting for a child to see his/her name throughout the room so that a sense of belonging develops from day 1. This year we have a new secretary and principal and I am crossing my fingers that we get class lists in advance!

In addition to labeling the cubbies and having a Welcome sign, I also make placemats from manila folders and run them through the laminator so that it holds up and so we can use dry erase markers on them.  Here is the front of my placemat:

I write the child's first name in the space, using dotted font. We use the folder as a reference throughout the day. Inside the folder I use a handwriting practice page generator like this one to print out a page where the students can practice writing their names. One page is just first names, the other is first and last names. The students keep their folders at their tables, this way if they don't finish their work they can just place it inside their folder and we don't have to worry about losing pieces or having papers get messed up at lunch time (we eat in our classroom). Also, if a student finishes early they can get out a dry erase marker and practice writing their names.

So, that's three places in the classroom that I have the student's names visible from day 1. Do you put their names any where else?

I couldn't teach without...

Mrs. Lamb is having a fun linky party over at Views from Room 205. There are a lot of things that I use every day that I really couldn't teach without. Here are my top 5:

1. My SmartBoard: one super benefit of teaching at a Title I school is access to technology and I love my SmartBoard. In fact, my projector went down in April while all the techs were busy with fixing testing equipment/computers for the high schools, so I had to do without my SmartBoard for the rest of the year and it was miserable! I am crossing my fingers that they remember to come reinstall it before school starts!

2. Mr. Harry Kindergarten : I love Mr. Harry! He is my go-to guy for youtube videos for my classroom. He makes the best songs and videos and I wish I could attend his class one day! Here is one of his transition songs:

3. My new laminator! Our school ran out of lamination in January and couldn't buy any more for the rest of the school year. I did not realize how much I laminate until then! I am forever printing fun games and activities off my computer (mostly from stalking teacher blogs!) and I hate not having them laminated because they just don't last! This summer I bought myself a home laminator and it is awesome! The lamination is much thicker  and more durable and the cost of the film packets is not too expensive!
4. Dry Erase boards and markers! I have a class set of boards and we are forever using them. This is how we practice forming our letters and numbers, we do guided drawing on them, even draw story problems! Oh, and Staples often has their brand of dry erase markers on sale, 5 for $1 so I keep my eyes out for them too!
Write & Wipe Lapboard

5. My Scentsy plug-in! I love walking in my room and smelling my favorite scents! The plug-in is small enough that the scent doesn't dominate the room, plus I have an outlet above child height so they never
accidentally bump it. Not to mention that the Fire Marshall ignores it!

Head over to the party to check out what everyone else considers essential!

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