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!

February 13, 2019

Being More Mindful About My Money

It is 2019 and my word of the year is MINDFUL. Mindful about what I put IN my body. Mindful about what I put ON my body. Mindful about how I spend my money. This is the year that I want to have financial freedom. Why? For my future. Everything I am doing now will impact my future quality of life and the quality of a family's life. I wish I would have started this earlier but to me, better late than never.

Mindful Spending

This is kind of embarrassing that I am not better with my spending. I am always thrifty and conservative when it comes to spending. However, this month was the time I finally was going to break it all down. And boy was that scary. I was in a shock at the beginning of the month when I went through and wrote out all my spending, particularly on food.

Spending Fast

In January I decided to put myself on a spending freeze. The only money I was spending was on the necessities. Now this wasn't too hard, except when it came to my classroom. But here we are half way through the month and I am doing pretty good. Each month, inspired by The Budget Mom, I am going to make a financial goal. March will be no eating out more than 26 days. This will include buying coffee.

Budget Binder

So with all of my new goals for my money I needed to be organized. I am a teacher as many of you are, and I live paycheck to paycheck, so again the goal is to have financial freedom by paying off debt. 
I took one of my snow days and I put together my new love. My Budget Binder. 
I will be writing down every amount I spend. Seeing it on paper is exactly what I need to know the damage I could be doing. 

Cash Envelopes

I will be implementing the idea from The Budget Mom about using cash envelopes. Cash envelopes will be used to help control the amount I spend. I went through and created an expense tracker and expenses such as food will be used as cash. Anything that I have left over will good into envelope for the next paycheck and then into savings at the end of the month. By using the cash I will not be able to get out of control using my debit card and spending more than I have planned. Each pay day I will be taking out the cash I budgeted for that pay. Note - I do work a 2nd job and actually get paid every week. The paycheck for my part time job is going right to my debt and then savings for travel. Take a look at my tracker below.

I did not do this for my first paycheck of the month which is why the left is blank.

Meal Planning

I have always meal prepped since I started eating Paleo a few years ago. It is just easier. Well now I am kicking it up to high gear and doing some major tracking. I will plan what I am eating for each week. From there I will write out the ingredients I need for each recipe. If I have the ingredient on hand (by checking out my inventory) I will mark it off so I do not accidentally buy it.

Any ingredients I need I will shop for using my grocery app. By shopping through the app and adding only what I need I am saving time AND money. There will be no impulse buys and no buying a sale item. I am notorious for buying pantry items when they are on sale. While this is not terrible because I can add it to my inventory, it could hurt my budget for the week. I use Butcher Box as my meat source so 90% of what I need is produce or pantry items.

First: Plan the Meals

Search pinterest, Instagram and cook books for those recipes! I am doing a Whole 30 the month of February so all my meals are compliant. I found myself getting bored of my meals when I would batch cook my meal prep. So I am changing it up and cooking dinner every night. My advice? Keep it simple. My meals may be a little more complicated, but I LOVE cooking. Surprisingly after working all day and going to the gym I still want to cook, it is my stress reliever. So I am going to embrace that as long as I can.

Next: Write Out Ingredients and Shop From Your Inventory

I write out my ingredients so I know exactly what I need.

This is HUGE. By shopping from what I have I save A LOT of money.

Finally: Grocery Shop

I write out my entire list and add it to my grocery app. I was able to buy almost everything from there except for a specialty item or 2. Shopping in the app is so nice because I can easily read the ingredients and compare prices. Note: if it is your first time using the app search for a discount code. Mine was $10 off my first order. Helped my budget!

As you can see I did not need to buy any meat because I planned my meals around my freezer. 

My total for ordering online was $47.10 before my $10 off. I purchased some seasonings which made it cost more. However, I allowed myself $100 for this paycheck. So I have $62.90 to spend on the following week. Since I am using the app I will not take out all of my budgeted cash for my envelope.

So why do this? Because I want to be in control of my money. I want to be able to allow myself a budget for the things that are important to me. By budgeting I can have money for my Beauty Counter and Butcher Box orders and not feel like it is taking away from my savings because I also budget for that.

If you give this a try I would LOVE to hear how it works for you, or any suggestions. If you would like my binder printables grab them here.

Come to Life Books New Releases

Last year when I went to Book Con I came across Little Hippo Books. These new augmented reality books just blew me away!! I have shared about them before but I want to remind you how great they are BECAUSE there are new books!

How They Work

These Come to Life Books utilize augmented reality. You use your device by downloading the Hippo Magic App. Each page that has the Hippo Icon will be able to come to life for you and your little ones to interact with.

Why I Love Them

These books get reader's excited! Having these as an option in my classroom is perfect for my students. I always teach my students there are three ways to read a book: read the pictures, read the words, and retell the story. Little Hippo has several fairy tales that children will be familiar with, therefore they can easily retell the stories and read the pictures. Adding the extra component of augmented reality makes them even more engaged.

New Releases

When I saw that they were releasing new titles I was so excited! I love sharing these with my friend's children and I know you will love them too. 

January 22, 2019

Multicultural Children's Book Day 2019

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators.


I have two books that I am excited to share with you!

The first is from Language Lizard and I will tell you now, that I am over the moon with them. Their books are exactly what I have been looking for to add to my classroom library. At the beginning of the year I put out on Instagram that I needed some help in finding bilingual books to add to my collection that were other than Spanish. Well thankfully, here is my answer. 

While the book I received from Language Lizard is not completely appropriate for my Kindergartners due to the killing of the thieves at the end, I could certainly skip over those parts. Since this is a popular story I was curious as to what other options they would have. Their books are written in over 50 languages and I was pleasantly surprised to find a strong selection of books. As a bonus, you can find free resources and lesson plans on their website.

Finally a wonderful book from Tim Tim Tom. If you have a child that is bilingual or has two languages in the home this is the a company you NEED to consider purchasing books from. All of their books are offered in two languages. Bilingual and multilingual books are truly hard to come by and Tim Tim Tom takes their books to the next level by allowing you to personalize them to your child. 

Rafael and The Dolphin is about a child who can swim in the big pool by himself for the first time. While he is swimming he encounters a friendly dolphin, chats with sea creatures and helps a sea turtle. Was it a dream or a magical adventure? My book creation was inspired by a friend who I instruct in swim lessons. If you would like to add this book to your collection you can find Underwater Adventure here.

Since you can personalize your book I designed my character off of him and chose Italian. This is a book that I am over the moon to bring into my classroom because I have a student who speaks Italian and they love to share their language with us!

I HIGHLY recommend you looking into both companies as they are doing amazing things to reach our multilingual children and families. 

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Medallion Level Sponsors Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild, Super Platinum: Make A Way Media GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV, Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press, SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls, BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini, Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Claudia Schwam, Lori DeMonia, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE. Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media!

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media!

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details. FREE RESOURCES From MCBD Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians, and Educators: Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

January 1, 2019

Simple Christmas Activities in Kindergarten

Okay teachers, we made it. We have finally earned our well deserved break. The last week of school before break is NO JOKE!

While I love all the fun activities we do before we leave for winter break they are EXHAUSTING. I love my job, honestly, I would never do anything else. But those days before break I was in bed by 8:30 most nights.

Our students are typically off the walls because they are excited for break just as much as we are. So to compensate we plan all the fun things. However, this is more work because our students are off their routine and ultimately makes one tired teacher.

This year I decided to keep things simple. For example, my team was making gingerbread houses one day. FUN! Or so it sounds. I have never made houses with my students before. Why? Well for one that is a lot of messy work. 2nd - EW. You build the house around a milk carton. The kids can't eat that! Or at least they shouldn't. So I saw an Instagram post by KinderCraze and just knew that I needed to not conform and make myself go more crazy. The alternate? Decorate Christmas Tress.

Decorate Christmas Trees

This was my teacher win of 2018, hands down. Not only was it practically zero mess, but my class of 5 and 6 year olds were SO engaged. The focus they had on spreading the icing was amazing.  

The Materials

Tree decorating materials

I have 19 students and used:
3 cans of frosting
Green food coloring
2 Packs of sugar cones
2 bags of sugar cookies
1 bag of m and m's
Plastic cups - I ordered these and have enough for next year.

The Plan

Ahead of time I used food coloring to make the frosting green. I used frosting and attached the sugar cone to the sugar cookie and also then used the frosting to attach it all to the lid of the cup. I did this a day ahead of time. The next day I passed out their cups with their cone inside (so clean, sanitary and easy to transport home on the bus.) I gave each student a dixie cup of frosting and and a thick Popsicle stick. While my students were coating their tree I passed out some candy for them to decorate the trees. I was so impressed at how hard they worked and how creative they were. I had one student who was a frosting pro and other doing awesome patterns. Some even used a candy as a star on top. (Note - I'll bag a bag of the regular next year so they can each have a yellow).

The Outcome

Super cute trees to decorate the outside of our gingerbread classroom! I think these are much more age appropriate for my Kindergartners. They didn't even know what they were missing by not making a house. 

After we made our trees we went and saw the gingerbread village the 3rd graders did. They were super impressive!

Parent Gifts

In addition to keeping yourself sane and doing simple things - let's talk parent gifts. I always like to make sentimental gifts with my students for their parents. (Also - do not feel guilty if you do not make gifts with your students. It may not be appropriate, affordable or possible. Do NOT FEEL BAD). Last year, post Christmas I purchased ornaments, ribbon and boxes in anticipation of my gift this year. I helped them make the ornament with ribbon to show their height. Simple and a super success.

Another ornament I make every year is the hand print reindeer. I laminate the handprints with my personal lamination because it is thicker. Then my students help place on the eyes and the nose after I hot glue. I give them the choice of a red or black nose and tada! Simple and so CHEAP!

A few days before the start of break I send home their boxes filled with these special ornaments. 

I truly love the holiday season, however, I can not burn myself out because I have my own loved ones to give my energy to. While I did things cheap and easy, I do not feel that my class noticed or missed out in any way. We had a special week and I hope they treasure that!

Student Gifts

This idea goes hand in hand with the parent gifts, do not feel obligated. Maybe you can't afford it (zero zero shame in that!) or it is not appropriate for your school community. I have found that my favorite gifts are coloring books for my class. This year I gifted them two Scholastic Dollar Books I purchased earlier in the year, one for them to work on reading and one for the family to read together. (The reality of the family reading them together is that it may not happen. So I read it to them first.They love following along and reading along with their own book). My mom very kindly bought them all a coloring book and new box of crayons. Ultimately about $4 a student was spent. The first thing my students opened was their crayons. That moment filled me with so much love that I nearly cried. You guys, they screamed they were so excited and yells of thank yous. It was a magical moment that made the rest of the unwrapping even more special.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. These words hold true in so many things. You students love you and you love them. That love does not mean you need to spend lots of time or money. In addition, not doing any of this will make you less of a teacher and they will not love you any less. 

August 13, 2018

Golden Pineapple Awards

Do you incorporate Character Education into your classroom daily?

I began my teaching career in a Catholic School. The main reason being that it was hard for me to get into Public School in PA. However, I believe in Catholic Education and am a product of it myself. Those years at my little school were some of the most trying, most special and most rewarding. Teaching Kinders about God's love certainly brought me closer to Him and made me stronger in my faith.

At my school we did a student of the month for each grade based on a virtue for the month. When I transitioned into Public Education I wanted to use those same virtues in my teaching. I am a strong believer in teaching morals and values to our students. So was born The Golden Pineapple Awards.

Why a pineapple?

Simply because of this quote: stand tall, wear a crown, be sweet on the inside. Everything I want to instill in my students. 

The Awards

I dedicated a spot in my classroom to showcase our student of the month. These awards make it super easy for you to begin them in your own classroom. Click here to see them on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Golden Pineapple Student Awards

Using the Awards

The same way I teach so many things is going to be the same way I teach about these values: using picture books. I will begin each month by reading a picture book for that value. We will then discuss what it will look like in us and our classmates. I will explain that those are the traits I will be looking for in my student of the month. 

Below I have included lists of the picture books I will utilize to teach each value. I will begin the year in September with the Peacemaker award as I focus on a lot with peace for September 11th and International Day of Peace. From there I do not have an order. I will pick the value that I feel my students need most.

How to Get the Books

If you are looking to purchase the book for your classroom library you can click on the covers. You will be redirected to Amazon. However, I highly suggest you ask coworkers and check the library before buying.
Also, when in doubt - any book by Maria Dismondy is a fabulous addition to your character education read alouds. You will see many of her books featured below. 


There is so much heartache in this world. At times we can appear to be a nation divided. I stand by teaching my students all year long how to be good individuals. Peacemakers are important in the classroom and the world. 


When something is hard it takes all we have to not give up. We need to consider all of the things we wouldn't have if we just threw in the towel when we were met with a roadblock. You can simple google "Famous People Who Failed Before Succeeding", and you will be presented with prime examples to share with your students. 


When we are considerate of others we learn to not always put ourselves first. 


Working together will help you achieve a goal so much faster!


To be generous does not mean giving of just your money. Show your students how to be giving when they have extra. There are so many people in this world and by considering others we make the world a better place.


How can kids respect us if they do not truly understand what it means? Also, I think it is SO SO important that we model respect to our students. Just because they are small humans does not mean they deserve any less. 


We need to understand what it means to be a friend. How often do we see kids want to be friends with someone who does not treat them kindly? This breaks my heart which is why I also teach my students to stand up to others.



It is so important for our students to be able to put themselves into someone else's shoes. However this is HARD for kids and adults. Modeling empathy through read alouds is a great start to having them make connections. 


If you say you are going to do something, you need to stick with it. Teaching our students to be accountable for their actions will carry them in responsible adults.


In my experience, students are quick to not tell the truth if they think they are going to get into trouble. I always tell my students that I will be more hurt if they lie to me.


We all have a job to do in this world. It is important to help out students recognize the impact they make each and every day.


November isn't the only time we should be teaching our students to be grateful. Be grateful for what you have and help those when you can. 


I find that kids can do this more easily than adults. Maybe we can learn something from them. If we see something wrong, we should try and fix it. 

Image result for If You Plant a Seed


If we hold on to anger and frustration it does not do any good for anyone. Sometimes it takes courage to be kind and forgiving, but it is worth it. 

This list will continue to grow. Have any that should be included? Comment and let me know!

Looking for more books on character education? Check out this list from Scholastic.