Preparing for the 2nd Semster!

Now that the rush of holiday preparation is over, this is the perfect time to sit down and reflect on what's going well in your classroom, what you may want to tweak and what needs a complete overhaul. With just a little thought and preparation over the break, you can go back to school in January recharged, revitalized and ready to really impact the lives of your little learners!
Classroom management: Check out my Top Ten Classroom Management Tips as a jumping off point, or try one of these books from Amazon, all have great advice and might help inspire you! If you have a Kindle Unlimited Subscription, many of them are free!

Whether you use a clip chart, PBIS, individual sticker charts, or nothing at all, you need to find a system that works for your classroom. Sometimes this will change from year to year - or you may find that something that was working fine suddenly tanks - especially when a new student is added to the mix. It's okay to change your behavior management system - as long as you introduce it to your students just like you would at the beginning of the school year - setting out expectations, consequences and rewards in a clear, concise manner so that students know what is expected of them. And, give it time to work - one bad day does not mean that your system is flawed - it means your students are testing it to see if you're going to stick with it or if they can slide around it!
Take this time to learn some new call backs or line up songs too! A fun song or chant can make a world of difference in your transitions! New ones are always useful as even the best become "stale" and lose their effectiveness when the kids get tired of them!

Set-up: Whether you're considering going to alternative seating, getting rid of your teacher desk, or just thinking to move things around to improve the flow of your classroom, now is the perfect time to pop into your classroom and try it out. Personally I have a "runway" in my classroom that I've been meaning to fix - a straight aisle down the side of the room between my tables and centers that almost begs my kiddos to run. I need to scoot some things over to eliminate that "runway" - nipping the running problem in the bud!

Tackle that closet: This is also a good time to come up with an organization system for materials. Pull everything out of that closet and purge! Or, organize your read aloud books so that you can grab them in a flash! Basically just take a little time to file what needs to be filed, organize what needs to be organized and throw away (gasp!) what you really don't need to hold onto any more - I know that's a hard one for us teachers, but even a little will help! Stores will also have a plethora of storage containers at this time of year - so stock up and create a system that works for you!
Plan ahead: Feel like just staying in your pajamas and binge-watching Netflix? Go ahead - but occupy your hands with cutting out centers and activities for the next few months! Not only will you be more prepared for the New Year, but you won't be as tempted to snack! Browse TPT for sight word games, Penguin emergent readers, Valentine Center ideas or Life Cycle materials for the Spring. You'll be glad that you got ahead of the game when you're not having to stay up late during the school week to get materials ready!
Find New Material: Here's a no-cost idea that will make a huge impact on your classroom! First, if you haven't signed up for GoNoodle yet, do it now! It's fabulous and FREE and will have your kinders enthusiastically singing and dancing along! Check out this post for how I use some of the different GoNoodle songs for different purposes in my classroom! Next, browse youtube for content videos as well as brain breaks and clean up songs. Check out my Top Ten lists for my favorite Language Arts videos, Math videos, and Clean-Up videos. And stay tuned for a list for Social Studies and Science too!

Relax - make sure that you don't spend your whole break thinking about school - try to set up some time just for family and friends. Maybe relegate the school stuff to just the afternoons, or an early morning or two! Remember, coming back to school relaxed and ready to make it to Spring Break is the goal so don't feel guilty about just taking some time for fun!

Hopefully you can take your break and use it to not only destress and unwind, but also make your classroom an even better learning environment for your students! It's never to late to make a change or try something new!

12 Days Of Christmas Giveaway!

Penguin Emergent Readers

I'm part of the 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY --- DAY 12 over at ZipADeeDooDah Designs! You can win a $30 TARGET GIFT CARD & $20 TPT STORE CREDITS as well as my Penguin Emergent Readers that cover early math topics like positional words, counting and shapes!

1. Herding Kats In Kindergarten (
(LOOK! It's ME!)
Featured Item: Penguin Early Math Emergent Readers:

2. Time 4 Kindergarten - $5 TpT Store Credit:…/Time-4-Kindergarten
3. Inspire Me, ASAP - $5 TpT Store Credit:
4. ZipADeeDooDah Designs - $5 TpT Store Credit:…/Zip-a-dee-doo-dah-Desi…

PRIZES: $30 Target Gift Card & $20 TpT Store Credit or Featured Item

Check out all the great contributors, and then hurry over to enter - the giveaway is only live for 24 hours!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

A Comprehensive Look At Different Versions of the Gingerbread Man!

Compare and Contrast Gingerbread Man Stories

I love Gingerbread - eating it, smelling it and reading about it!
Each December I read as many Gingerbread stories as I can - comparing and contrasting each one to the "original". My students LOVE it, because a lot of the stories are predictable and seeing the silly cookie get eaten up by the fox makes them feel superior - THEY know not to trust the fox lol! They also love it when the cookie ends up outwitting the fox - yay for the underdog!

Here are the stories I read: (by the way, if you click on a link and make a purchase, Amazon will give me a a few cents - I save it up and buy books for my classroom! My students thank you!)

The Gingerbread Boy: This is the classic tale with the little old lady baking the gingerbread boy and using raisins for his buttons. This is the one we use as our "original" story and compare all the other to.

The Gingerbread Man: This version does not have a river, but it does have a little boy who opens the oven when told not to! The fox still gets the cookie in the end, after he escapes from a wolf and bear!

 The Gingerbread Man: This is close to the original version, and the cookie does get eaten by the fox, but there is no river to cross. Beautiful illustrations AND a recipe for gingerbread cookies on the last page!

The Gingerbread Boy: This is a modern take on the classic! The gingerbread boy runs through New York City - being chased by a rat and construction workers among others! It ends in Central Park, with the fox gobbling up the gingerbread after tricking him while crossing a fountain!

The Gingerbread Bear: A National Park is the setting for this story, and the cookie is baked by a mom for her little girl. The gingerbread bear is eventually tricked by a Park Ranger (the little girl's father) and ends up being shared among the family, campers, a wolf and a chipmunk.

The Gingerbread Girl: One of my favorites! The gingerbread girl listens as the old couple talk about what happened to the gingerbread boy (her brother) as she bakes in the oven. When she gets out, she sets out to outwit the fox and succeeds! Plus she stays and makes the old couple happy and brings them lots of visitors!


The Gingerbread Cowboy: A Southwestern twist to the classic tale! The cookie is baked by a rancher's wife, and escapes from javelinas, cattle and cowboys before getting caught by a tricky coyote!

The Gingerbread Baby: I'm a sucker for this one, because not only does it have fabulous pictures (as always with Jan Brett books) but the Gingerbread Baby eventually makes it to freedom! The little boy in the story creates a gingerbread house for the gingerbread baby and saves him - which leads to a sequel that is also a must read!

Gingerbread Friends: When the Gingerbread Baby is lonely, his friend Mattie creates a gingerbread wonderland for him - complete with friends! The last, fold-out page is fabulous - I'm trying to think of a way to enlarge it and create a poster that my kids can actually put their hands on - they love the illustrations and want to pore over that page every time!

The Gingerbread Pirates: Warning! This one has Santa Claus, so if you're looking for a version that doesn't reference Christmas, this one isn't for you. On the other hand, I love the fact that the pirate captain is trying to save his cookie crew from being eaten by Santa! Not a classic version, with no fox or old lady, but still a must-read in my opinion - the ending is awesome!

The Gingerbread Kid Goes To School: In this version, a principal brings this cookie to school for his lunch, but he escapes and runs around the school! The kids love this one because it's set in school and the tricky person who catches the cookie is a kid!

The Gingerbread Man Loose In School: Love this one! Not only is it a school setting, but the gingerbread cookie doesn't get eaten in the end! This is a great one for a beginning of the year school tour as well!

Now that you have a bunch of stories to compare and contrast, here's a freebie Venn Diagram to use! Just click the picture to download it for free on Google Documents - I use the full-color version on my SmartBoard, and give the kids the b&w copy!

Check out my TPT store for more Gingerbread activities, including a few freebies like my Fresh Baked Number Bonds!

Thanksgiving Experiments, Sensory Table & a Giveaway!

Happy Sunday! It's just 7 more school days until Thanksgiving Break! I can't believe how fast this year is flying by! We've been packing in a ton of fun and learning this November, and I have lots to share:
In our Sensory Center we have corn cobs and seeds. 
I'll be adding acorns on Monday - freshly harvested by my own children lol!
The kids loved taking the corn off the cobs - those will be recycled in our Art Center as a paint "brush"! They also used the sieves to separate the seeds and corn. After this picture was taken I added a wire basket whose holes were just big enough for even the corn to fall through! As the week progresses we'll be adding measuring cups, more sieves and containers. These help us work on concepts of volume as well as size. Plus, taking the kernels off the cob is great for fine motor muscles!

Corn is elsewhere in our classroom too! 
We're attempting to have our Indian corn grow in both a container of water AND a container of soil. 

We watched this time lapse video of a seed growing to help us learn about roots and shoots:

At home, the students are working on their "Disguise a Turkey" projects. and yes, often the parents do the bulk of the "work", which doesn't bother me AT ALL. To me, this project is more about sparking conversation between children and parents. Having the family plan together which disguise to do and what to make it with. Maybe shopping for materials, or scrounging in drawers and cupboards. The parents NEED to be active participants in this project - for me, the whole point is to get the parents involved in something their child is doing for school. Giving them a topic of conversation: "Did your teacher like the Turkey Disguise we made? What did you friends make? Which one is your favorite? If we do this again next year, which disguise will you choose?" so that they're children realize that mom & dad (grandma, whoever!) care about their education and want them to do well! The turkey project is low risk too - there's no right or wrong answer, the child is going to be thrilled with whatever help they get, and the teacher is going to welcome any disguise!
You can grab this freebie in my TPT store!

We're also working on letters and sounds of course, and my students are blowing those out of the water! Kids that came in not knowing even one letter of their name now know 20 letters! Everyone is making progress, and it is so heartening to see it! So many times we as teachers get bogged down in the politics of teaching, the long hours, the workload that seems to get bigger each year etc. Yet seeing the growth in my students, that they are learning so much and reaching their potential, while still loving school and rushing to hug me in the morning, well, that makes it all worthwhile!
Our main resource is this:
My Alphabet Sounds pack contains center activities and no-prep printables for each letter of the alphabet! There are so many pieces that you can use in whole group, small group lessons or one-on-one too! Since we don't have a reading curriculum, this is what I use to teach letters and sounds, and it works!
Want to win this pack? Enter the Rafflecopter drawing below!

Fall Activities in the Classroom

Fall in the Pre-K Classroom Means Red Ribbon Week, Leaf Collages and Lots of Turkey Activities!

We won our Red Ribbon Week Door Display!

The kids painted their paper towel rolls and helped make the wheels. Then I took pictures of them holding a paper "steering wheel" and printed them on cardstock after removing the background on my computer (tutorial here). I cut a slit in each cardboard tube and inserted the picture and hot glued it into place. The "track" was just a free-hand drawing (by me! I am slowly getting more artistic as I age somehow!) that I cut out of black paper and then I painted the stripes on by hand. It is so stinking cute and I love seeing it every day! During a recent parent conference, one of my students kept insisting that his mother "Come see my car!" and practically dragged her into the hallway to see it lol!

We had a pumpkin in our sensory table for a few days. The children were fascinated, but most were reluctant to really dive into the "squishiness"! We did have a few takers though, who helped collect the seeds for roasting and used sporks to scrape out the insides!
We took our first walking field trip and it was so fun and easy I'm kicking myself for not doing it before! My new partner had the idea and seemed confident that we could walk 40 four year olds over 6 blocks away to the pond on our local University campus. We used shower curtain hooks tied to jump ropes to help corral everyone, and once we got to the campus, we collected leaves, acorns and seed pods in paper bags.
When we got back from our trip we made Fall Collages by gluing the leaves to big sheets of paper!

We have dived right into learning and I am so proud of my kiddos! We are working towards being in the "Math Club" which means they get their name on this bulletin board:
Each grade level sets their own criteria  for "Math Club Membership'. For pre-k it's rote counting to 20 and writing numbers 0-10. We do so many counting songs and activities, plus write our numbers on dry erase boards once a day, that I know most of my kiddos will have their names on this board before Christmas!One of our favorite counting activities is Roll & Cover, which also helps with subitizing!
We've also started working on letters and sounds and I am so blown away by this group of kiddos! Even my ones who came in with 0 letter recognition now have made huge gains! Again, we do a lot of singing and dancing, plus a lot of games. During free choice centers, I have language arts activities available like:

On Friday, one of my higher kiddos was already blending sounds together! It really is amazing how much they soak up, especially since most of our day is spent playing and singing/dancing! I'm breaking out my Terrific Turkey Pack again next week - my kiddos last year loved all the different activities, so I'm sure it will be a hit this year too!

Next week I'll also send home our Turkey Disguise Homework Projects! These always turn out so cute - and the parents always surprise me with their creativity. Some may quibble because the parents end up doing a lot of the work, but I figure the time spent together and conversations as they're creating the disguise are the real value of this project! You can grab my Turkey Disguise letter for free here!

Also, all of my Thanksgiving packs are on sale this weekend 11/7/15 - 11/9/15! Check them out!

Have a great weekend!

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