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January 22, 2016

Just Right Books

Can you believe that we are now in the middle of Kindergarten?! Crazy. The year always seems to go fast and slow at the same time.

This week I took running records on my students to see where their Guided Reading Level (GRL) is. Now, this is the first time I have every done this because we do not guided reading books at my school. So - I used the free trial for Learning A-Z. I printed off as many reading levels as my free subscription allowed and started there.

I have also placed an order on Scholastic using my points in order to get some GRL books. Now - don't get my wrong. My reading series came with readers for each story and are low, middle, high. We also have decodable readers that my kids can read independently based on the phonics skill of the week. BUT none of those have a GRL - so I am like flying in the dark!

I leveled them as best I could and will be sending a note home to the parents to let them know where their child is at. I also am encouraging them to purchase leveled readers through scholastic to encourage independent reading. I am loving how Scholastic has a little letter to the parent's in the Just Right Books catalog.

In February I am going to be sending home book bags and a read every day folder. It is a great TpT freebie to use in your classroom. Another great FREEBIE is this letter that explains what the levels mean. I would edit it because the intervention terminology, in my opinion, would panic parents. Actually, my students who are still AA, will not be getting a letter home that tells what reading level they are. I will simply generate one that explains how to help their child. 

So here are a few pictures of what I send home to parents for how to select leveled readers. Feel free to use them for your parents. I basically showed them step by step on how to find the guided reading levels and how to search for independent readers for their child. 

What level do you expect your students to be reading at by the end of K? I saw some expect level D. I would love any input!

January 16, 2016

Savory Saturday

Happy Saturday all! I hoe this day is finding you well. I woke up to a rainy morning and was so excited! Because when it's rainy I don't feel guilty about relaxing lol. Not that I should feel guilty anyway. I started my morning with a cup of coffee and a new book.

This morning m recipe for you is breakfast! Most of my mornings are prepped ahead of time. But Saturday's give me the opportunity for take my time and cook something delicious. I am excited about today's post because it is whole 30 compliant. It is amazing what http://whole30.com/ has done for me. It made me appreciate my relationship with food so much more. It really made the idea of good food and eating right click. The biggest reason I strive to eat right is because of the impact it has on my body. Tendinitis pain in my wrist...gone. Sensitivity in my feet....no more! Overall better gut feeling?.....oh yes!

So now what did I make? Well I busted out my Whole 30 cookbook, turned to page 249 and made sausage patties from their bangers and mash recipe.
I have to admit. I don't really measure my spices. Whoops lol. But I like bold flavors, so it's okay. The quantities are small in this recipe 1/4 tsp of sage, garlic powder, thyme, and onion powder with 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Add a dash of salt and pepper and there you go! The recipe calls for lemon zest. I didn't have it so it didn't go in. But I am sure it would had a pop of freshness. Form into 6-8 patties and pop into the freezer while you finish your prep.

I chopped up some sweet potatoes and sautéed them in coconut oil with cinnamon. Added some eggs fried in coconut oil with red pepper and garlic powder and I have a filling dish!


January 13, 2016

Celebrating MLK Jr.

My discussion in my classroom began with their curiosity. Monday morning we were sitting at calendar and someone asked "what is that?", while pointing to the MLK Jr. holiday card. So here began our lesson on Dr. King. I touched very much on the surface about how he was a man who saw something wrong in the world and tried to change it.

Dr. King is a topic I try and go as in depth with as possible. I use him to introduce civil rights to my class. He is a gateway for my kinders to so many brave and wonderful individuals. 

Each day we spend a little time on him. Over the break I have my students complete a text to self study of Dr. King. The book provides background on MLK Jr. and then they are asked to describe their own experiences. I cannot find where I downloaded my version from, but here is another FREEBIE source. 

I love teaching with The Crayon Box That Talked because it is easy for the kids to relate to. Before reading I tell them to take our one crayon. I tell them to draw the sky, the sun, people, and a house. Of course I get giggles when I ask what is wrong with their picture. I explain it would be so boring if we only had on crayon to use. After reading we create our own crayon - and of course we use any colors we want. We create a self portrait and discuss how boring it would be if we were made with just one color or skin and the same face!

This year I brought in two eggs. I had my students describe their differences. I then asked them what they looked like on the inside, while cracking them open.

While the eggs may look different, they are the same on the inside. And on the inside is what truly matters. I explained how we are all different (because it would be boring if we weren't) and continued into how we are all the same on the inside. We have a heart that is full of love and kindness. That is what is most important. When we recorded how people are like eggs, their response was "They have different shells." I loved that! 

If you do the egg observation, this is a great freebie for your students to record their results. (Shout out to Katie Mense!)

Using technology in your classroom? You may enjoy this digital flip book!

Martin Luther King Jr.  Digital Flip Book

Books I Love:

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Why I love it: Gorgeous illustrations to accompany Dr. King's most famous speech. I purchased the copy that contains his original speech. (I play it in my car every year)

Confession: I have an obsession with Kadir Nelson's paintings. I try and purchase all of the books he does illustrations for. In my undergrad my one professor was related to him, so cool!

Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport

Why I love it: Kid's can easily relate. A beautiful book that speaks on love. How to combat the hatred of our world. (it is on Scholastic Book Clubs - go get it!)

The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf

Why I love it: it is a great way to teach how all crayons are important. Because it would be so boring if we only had one color to use. The same goes for people. How boring it would be if we all looked the same. God may each of us in his image, therefore we are all beautiful. He does not make mistakes!


Martin Luther King Jr. NatGeo
Why I love it: Because nonfiction is the way to go! Kids connect to what they can relate to. This is also on Scholastic Book Clubs! 

When we return from the Holiday, we will be making a peace headband for them to wear home.

January 12, 2016

Gingerbread in Kindergarten

I know, I know. But, Kristen! You're supposed to teacher your Gingerbread unit in December. Yeah, well. I didn't. haha! I chose to move this unit to January because I was doing SO much in December. (Holidays Around the World Unit) I didn't want to just glaze over it. So now in January we are diving in deep. 

I loved turning my classroom into a gingerbread house! My aide helped me put it up this year, which was huge! Made all the difference.

For our art project of the week we made some adorable gingerbread cookies. 

So on to this week. There are so many great resources online and TpT for Gingerbread. I did not need to make much to accompany my unit. Click here to grab my differentiated ten-frame center.

When I do a themed unit I try and plan my centers to around the theme. Obviously, this week in gingerbread. Click here to see what the centers looked like for the week.

I had to restructure my day a bit and teach science earlier so they could observe what happens when the cookie is in the water. This will inspire them to keep him, dry during their stem activity.

For one of our math problem solving we used this freebie from the Moffatt Girls (because she just rocks!)

We also reviewed ordinal numbers with this freebie from Kindergarten Smiles. To save time I cut the letters out for my students. This way we could get right down to our learning. Since I did this, it also helped them review letter identification, "find the e". A sentence strip turned out to be perfect for this project. Except my cookie didn't fit, so for the kids I will shrink it a little. (I ended up using this as my teacher led math center so I could identify strengths and weaknesses with my students.)

Here is the recipe I found for my play-dough.

My floor was a mes the first time because I forgot to put down a table cloth. Whoops. Oh well, they had a blast! ( And the play dough stayed soft!! WIN!)

January 11, 2016

Main Idea with The Snowy Day

This week during ELA we are focusing on the main idea of our read alouds. I will be using two read alouds this week to drive home the understanding of main idea. We will first read our Reading Street story Hide, Clyde all week. Although I really wanted to read The Lion and The Mouse all week, but Clyde is such a fun character with a problem! So we are able to review two skills. I will definitely be utilizing The Lion and the Mouse at the end of the year because I also do a reader's theater with my students for this story.

The main idea in Hide, Clyde is that sometimes we may need to learn how to do something new.

I will also read The Snowy Day, a personal favorite. Friday is the day where I use a new read aloud to review and apply the skill that we are practicing during the week. 

Check out this cute freebie from Smitten with First.

I used this story to assess my students this week. Grab my freebie here.

Throughout the week I focus Monday through Thursday on our story of the week. While we are spending 4 days on the story during my literacy block, we are read only reading it in its entirety about two times. The remainder of the time we are analyzing the story.

I can not believe that next week we take our Unit 3 assessment in reading. That means we are half way through the year. EK!!

January 9, 2016

What Happened When I Brought Play Back Into Kindergarten

Part of teaching is reflecting. If you aren't doing it - you need to. Reflection helps you drive your teaching. You think about what is working and what isn't working, and therefore how can you make it better. 

Over my Christmas break I read a lot of articles about how to improve my classroom. One thing that I found was a common discussion among Kindergarten teachers is the aspect of play in the classroom. sadly - recess is being taken out of schools. Yes you read that right. Thankfully this does not impact my school, but it does happen else where across the country. Yes, you read that correctly. Less recess. To which I say, "are you kidding?!" Kids need to play! They need to socialize and interact with their peers. AND give themselves a mental break from learning. Forbes did an article last year on this topic, read it here. Not only does Forbes argue that it makes no sense, but Scholastic says recess make kids smarter. Read their article here

When we returned in January I decided to make a change. I had an option. Give my kids extra play first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. I chose to do in the morning. If I would have implemented it at the end of the day I would run the risk of not getting it in. So here is what is happening in my room. 

My school day begins at 8am. My students beginning arriving around 7:45am. As soon as they come in they have their routine: unpack book bag, place F.I.S.H folder in the bin and hang up the coat and backpack. Now, in the first half of the year that would have been followed by taking out their folder and beginning their morning work. Why morning work? To give them something to do. In previous years this was a coloring sheet or something to that degree. This school year it was academic review. 

I will be honest - I liked my morning work. My aide would do it with them and it was great review. And it gave me time to get my snack order and attendance ready. 

This is now what my morning work looks like. The kids do their routine and then they go....PLAY! Yep. My students head back to their toys and play with each other. Now, let's reflect - has anything changed?

Here is what I am seeing

I will be honest, I was a little nervous about this at first. What would happen? If it wasn't working, how would I break it to them that we couldn't do it anymore? Well, thankfully I do not have bad news. Here is the best thing: I have gained more instructional time! YES! Since they come in and play they are not asking what they should do or if I could help them. I get my paperwork ready, my aide checks their folders and as soon as that bell rings, we are right into our learning. Oh - and I since I explained to them how it will work, as soon as that bell rings - they clean up. RIGHT AWAY. The other morning the teachers we meeting quick and I came in after the bell rang. Guess what I saw. The room cleaned up and my kiddos standing for prayers. WOOHOO!!! I was over the moon.

Bringing play back is hands down the best thing I have done. 

January 8, 2016

Kindergarten Germs Lesson/Lab

For my science standards I need to teach that pathogens are living things. For each activity we need to conduct a lab. For germs I will be doing glitter and lotion to show how proper hand washing is necessary to keep from spreading germs.

To first show how germs go everywhere, I held a bag of pom poms in my hands and pretended to "sneeze" without covering my mouth and threw them everywhere. (They just about fell off their chairs laughing. My aide included! They ran after the pom poms with glee. UNTIL I explain that those are my germs. EW!)  This showed them how we need to use our "Chicken Wings" to cover our mouth and nose when we sneeze or cough. We discussed how we spread germs to others and that can cause us to get sick. We went through our living things chart to describe and identify how germs are living things.

 Now, of course the students used soap when they washed their hands. But why do we need soap?! For the last part of the lab I demonstrated the need for soap.

We placed water into a dish. I then sprinkled on the germs (pepper). I had one student dip their finger into the water. Nothing happened, well, if anything they now have germs on their finger. I then instructed another student to dip their finger into the soap and then put it into the water. Abracadabra! The soap repelled the germs!

January 6, 2016

Engaging Our Readers!

Hold the phone! I just saw an awesome idea on Periscope that I really want to share with you and recreate in my classroom. Hope King over at Elementary Shenanigans had an awesome idea to engage readers. She teachers upper elementary at the Ron Clark Academy and she essentially raffled off books. 

What happened was that the kids got to put their name into bins that corresponded with a particular book. Hope then was going to pick a "winner" to read the book first.


So here is how I am going to engage my little ones. With our reading series we have a book that we focus on for the week. As I am sure you all do, as well. 

SO - here is my thinking. I am going to look ahead in my plans and see what reading skill we are to focus on. Then, I am going to pull books that will work with that skill. For example. Cause and Effect - Pete the Cat! I will pick 4-5 books that will work with that skill and then have the kids pick the one that we read for the week. Majority rules.

What a super way to engage readers. Here you are giving THEM the choice. How exciting for them! I tell my students all the time that our classroom is a family and that I learn from them too. Why don't I add just another way to show them. Let them drive their learner. Oh wait, isn't that the goal!?

I am so excited and can't wait to give this a try. I do not have my next unit at home. If I did, you best believe that would be my project tonight! Stay tuned to see how it works.

If you want to watch her scope. And you should! You can watch it here

Happy Teaching!

January 5, 2016


Baby, it's cold outside. So it is time to learn about some animals that love the cold! What better animal than the penguin?!

This week we are doing all things PENGUIN!

For this unit I created this little research book. So what is inside our research book? Lets take a look!

First thing we did was make a list of all of the things we already know about penguins and included it on their KWL. [I am also recording on the smart board the same sheets they are using.] 

From there we began reading about penguins and working our way through the book during the week. 

During our writing center I modified this awesome snow globe writing activity from The Science Penguin. Get her FREEBIE here.

On the cover I had the students illustrate a setting for the penguin based on their habitat. 

Then on the next page they had to write about where penguins live. It turned out super cute!

During the week we read Tacky the Penguin. Tacky is an eccentric penguin that others find odd, until he saves the day! The craft that I use for Tacky is no longer available. Here is another that may be useful for you. In my book I have a page to compare and contrast Tacky with a real penguin.


Penguin Research Book

To bring it all together we did a little science exploration. We used a blubber glove to experience how animals stay warm in the arctic. And practiced passing a ball "our egg" to each other on our feet. 

Oh, and don't worry - they all got to compare themselves to the size of an emperor penguin. We then had three groups, as tall as, shorter than, and taller than. Quick five minute activity that they LOVED!

I hope some of these activities are useful for you and your own penguin studies! {One modification I would make for next year is to have them draw their own penguins inside the snow globe.}

Don't forget you can grab my research book here. I can honestly say that I loved this week! And my students were really excited about it as well! 

Happy Teaching!


I have now updated this product to be digital! This is a perfect way to integrate technology into your classroom.  Be sure to check it out here!

Digital Penguin Research Report

January 4, 2016

New Blog Design

I am so excited to share about my new and WAY improved blog design. I worked with the fabulous ladies over at Blogs Fit for a Queen.

You guys, if you need a blog designed, these are the ladies to do it! They we FANTASTIC to work with and helped me reach the perfect design. 

I can not thank them enough. Check out their work and some other really awesome blogs.

January 3, 2016

Sunday Scoop

First Sunday Scoop of the New Year!

Exciting, but it also means tomorrow is Monday and break is over. NOOO! I have really been enjoying this time to relax. But I am excited to see my kiddos.

3 Have to do:
1.Don't we all really have to get into plan mode lol. I have so been into TpT and my blog over break, but today is back to lesson plans.
2.EKKK! My Osmo is in. I am beyond excited to use it in my centers.
3. Started a Whole 30 on the 1st and have to get focused for the week.

2 Hope to do:
1. Find a penguin toob. I found some arctic ones but we are doing penguins with this week and I really want them in my sensory bin. 
2. The final season. I am so devastated. We just got into and totally binged on all the seasons. I am so attached to these characters. 

1 Happy to do:
Lunch and movies with my aunts, mom and nana. Should be a good day. We are going to see Joy. Did anyone see it yet? 

Here is a taste of my new blog design. It should be live tomorrow. I am so excited about it!! It's gorgeous!

Link up with us at The Teaching Trio!

January 2, 2016

Savory Saturday

Welcome back! So since I have had a few days off, I was definitively cooking more. When I was thinking of what to share with you I thought I would share a recipe that was getting a lot of attention on my pinterest board. (follow me here

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I am all about stuffed peppers! They just hit me in the best spot. My favorite is buffalo chicken stuffed peppers, but that is for another day.

So I noticed that this recipe was being pinned almost every day. Maybe because the weather is finally cooler. Let me tell you, I live in PA and it was at least 70 on Christmas. There is so much wrong with that! Anyway. On to the food.

I try and eat a Paleo diet, so for this recipe I cut out the rice. I don't feel like I missed anything by doing that. 

So, for years I was cutting my peppers wrong! Did you know that if you slice it from the top versus cutting off the top you get more? Duh, Kristen.

I also did not have any diced tomatoes in my pantry(clearly I need to go shopping). So I used cherry tomatoes and extra broth.

Verdict? Delicious! And that greasy deliciousness in the broth from the ground beef. It totally hit the spot. I am sure if I added rice that it would make the soup stretch further, but that's okay. 

I was also able to use two of my favorite tools in the kitchen. My garlic press saves my life almost daily. No chopping for me! And my scrapper is perfect for getting everything off the cutting board without using my hands. 

What are some kitchen tools you can't live without?

I hope you make an enjoy! Follow me on pinterest for more yummy recipes.

Happy cooking!

January 1, 2016

Kindergarten Winter Math and Literacy Activities

Is it really time to start thinking about January already?! Where did the time go. I am going up to my classroom today to put the final touches on the room and to make sure my centers are ready to go.

I feel like it is so wrong to be in my room over break. Yet, it feels so right?! The peace and quiet. The room is fresh and reorganized. And, the copier is all yours! Can I get an amen?!

I created a few centers to get me through the first week and back into the groove. This packet includes 2 literacy centers and 3 math centers. My classroom will be focusing on comparing numbers, so this packet is perfect! Download {here} to get you year started off on the right (and easy) foot.


You might also like this activity to use as a CVC center.
Snowflake Literacy Center FREEBIE

Happy teaching!