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March 29, 2019

Picture Book Madness

The past few years I have done a Tournament of Books designed around March Madness. The Brown Bag Teacher has a free display printable.  This year I decided very last minute that I wanted to do a tournament with my students.. It took me about 2 hours to select the books and prepare a digital bracket for my students to view on our smart board.

If you have been following me you know that I am passionate about being representative to cultures and abilities in my classroom. With that in mind, I knew I wanted to bring that into my book selection. I also knew that I did not want to purchase any books for this and pulled from my own selection. There were two books that I wanted to use that I checked out from my public library. Support your local library!

The Process

Each day I read the contenders for the day. Now, you could have read these books throughout the school year and then simply voted, hardly any work! I wanted to take advantage of reading as many new books to my students as possible. 

After we read the books we voted for our winner of the day. The original process of reading all the books took 8 days and took us from our sweet 16 to our elite 8.

Once we had our Elite 8 we voted pretty quickly to get to the winner. I did not want to rush them in their selection so each morning during morning meeting we voted down to the final 4 - this took 4 days.

All together this took just over 2 weeks. In approximately 14 days but students read 16 new to them books. They analyzed the stories, had thought provoking conversations, connected books and interacted with authors and illustrators via Twitter. Was this tournament worth it? 100% and I will continue to do it every year.

The Contenders

Below are the book pairings that I created. All of my students voted for their favorite book of each pair. I told them that it would be hard because I loved all of the books I picked. It was awesome seeing their reactions and hearing their opinions.

We voted in a secret ballot. I gave each students a ticket and had them come and place the ticket on the book they wanted. Why? Peer pressure is still crazy and I want them to vote for the book they loved, not just because their friends loved it.

I was very selective with my books as I wanted to show representation of all characters, races, faiths, cultures, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and abilities. These are also hard topics that should or not should be talked about in school, but picture books are an easy way to just plant the seed of - we are all different and we should respect others.

 The Night Gardner was the first book we read. Honestly, it got applause from my kinders afterwards. I TRULY suggest you purchase or add this to your library check out list. It is a must read.

Gosh, How do you even begin to choose?! Peter Hamilton Reynolds - thank you for your talents. 

 For these two we had the same author competing against one another. (Which if you have never interacted with Samantha Berger, you must, she is a gem of a person!)

 These two books right here are just works of art. Rafael Lopez is truly incredible. As soon as I showed my students Maybe Something Beautiful a scholar made the connection to the gray city that was in The Curious Gardner - y'all! I didn't even plan that, but it worked so well.
 Pairing these two was hard, I wanted to continue with the theme of representation so I used Mela and the Elephant. I was nervous because I thought it wouldn't stand a chance against a funny book. But I stuck with it.

Again, a happy accident, King for a Day celebrate the spring kite festival and we read it on the first day of spring! Charley Met Emma is brand new and a must add to your library for the purpose of teaching our children it is okay to be different.

The Winner

I'd love to know what books you have used in your tournament. Below you can see how my students voted for all of the books. And the winner is....

Winner will be announced after voting.

March 4, 2019

Favorite Recipes of February

This year I will be sharing some of our favorite recipes with you! I plan all of my meals for the week and do my grocery shopping based around that. I no longer spend hours in the kitchen on a Sunday to be prepped for the week. So, most of the meals I am making are easy/quick.

Eating Whole 30

I did my first Whole 30 a few years ago and think I have finally started to figure out my Food Freedom.This month my mom and boyfriend actually got on board with doing a round with me. All of us needed/wanted to lose weight but the biggest thing was changing habits after the holidays. When I am not on a Whole 30 round, my meals stay structured around the plan. All the recipes I am going to share with you are labeled as Paleo/Whole 30 but the way I see them is good food with clean and healthy ingredients.


These are my most simple meals. As a teacher I have 20 minutes to eat and do anything else that must be done before the kids come back.

This Greek Salad is so delicious and easy. I roast a whole chicken over the weekend and then have so much meat for lunches. I keep it simple with olives, cucumber, greens, EVOO, red wine vinegar and Greek seasoning. 

Zuppa Toscana

This soup is so easy and delicious. I have made it so many times that I no longer use a recipe and make it my own. Here is a a good recipe to start with.

Chinese Food Fridays

One of my favorite food bloggers shared how her family keeps one meal a week the same to keep things easy. For example - taco Tuesday. This month every Friday was inspired around Chinese takeout and they were my favorite meals!

General Tso's is my go to take out. This didn't mimic it exactly but I loved it and honestly felt so much better eating this and did not have any tummy troubles afterwards!

I have discovered the key to making the chicken taste like take out thanks to this recipe - tapicoa flour! This can always be made quickly for me as I always have bags of frozen stir fry, chicken and coconut aminos on hand. 

Special Meals

Valentine's Day came around during my latest Whole 30 round. We stayed in and cooked and honestly, it was as good as a restaurant thanks to my steaks being such great quality. I also sauteed some mushrooms in ghee and red wine vinegar and my tastes buds thanked me. 

Be sure to check back next month to see what I am loving! We will begin Lent this week so I will be getting creative with seafood and meatless dishes!