Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Kinder Happenings...

Fall Weather Walk Wreaths

We are studying weather in Science and the weather has FINALLY changed in North Carolina.  I've had this Fall "weather walk" on my plans for weeks, but my students kept reminding me that the leaves were still green on the trees ... and they were still coming in sweating after recess, so I figured it had to be put off for a few weeks.

First we went outside and searched for Fall findings.  Luckily, out school has a great campus with lots of trees and paths through the woods.  Each student had a brown bag to collect their Fall items in.

Then, the following week in centers, I let the kids dump out their bags and create a fall wreath.  I created the wreath by cutting out the center of a paper plate. 

First, the kids got to choose fall-colored paints to paint the background of their wreath.  Then, using liquid glue, they chose the items from their bag and created a wreath.  My wonderful Teaching Assistant (pictured above with the kids) operated the hot glue gun if it was needed for larger items like pine cones.

We displayed the fall wreaths outside our classroom and the kids can't wait to bring them home and share with their families.  Although we didn't link this activity to literacy, it was a great activity for seasons, weather, and even ORGANIZATION!  Yes, we all know it's hard for those Kindergarten kids to collect things, save them, and organize them to use. :)

Pattern Ice Cream Cones
OK, so it's not "Fall-Related" but it's too cute not to post.  Ways to differentiate: Have lower level students create a pattern that matches yours OR give them the ice cream scoops and have them create the pattern.  Higher level: They choose their own colors and have to come up with a longer, more complex pattern.  Higher level kids also have to label theirs with letters.  Let me know if you want the template!

Owl Craft

Just a Decorating Thought...

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars ... Ahhh-mazing ...

Warning: Do NOT be intimidated by all of the steps! If you gave all of your ingredients out to begin with, cooking won't make you want to pull your hair out!  Make sure to have a few bowls out and ready because this recipe has a few different mixtures.

    I tried this recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything ... I'm not a big baker - I'd rather be cooking up dinner, so I decided to branch out and make something from scratch. (If I was a big baker, I'd be twice the size- I can't say no!)  
   These bars are the perfect fall treat, especially if you're a cheesecake fan like me.  The combination of creamy + crunchy is perfect.  I ended up bringing some into school so I wasn't tempted to eat them all!   I recommend making these when a group is coming over- or someone else to help you get rid of them!

Here's the recipe!... *Oh yeah... it's taken from Paula Deen, so like I said in the beginning- head straight to the gym! :)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 

Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel topping:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Use your hands to get a better mixture going.

1/2 cup caramel topping **I didn't use the caramel topping- spare me the calories!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold and enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Decorating...

My colleague, Ms. Gretchen Pegram, and I are the chairs of the school social committee.  With the help of our committee members, we came up with the idea of a PLC pumpkin decorating contest.  We wanted to boost teacher morale and throw in a little friendly competition -- Winner gets coffee & donuts on Halloween.  This isn't about the classroom and it doesn't have any real curriculum connection, but I thought the pictures would be fun to share.  We were so impressed with what the teams came up with!...

Fun With Shaving Cream...

If you've never let your children play with shaving cream, I suggest you do as soon as possible!  You can get the stuff for a dollar a can, but you'd think you were spraying out liquid gold.  We use shaving cream to practice sight words, letters, numbers, etc.  It's a great way to keep the kids engaged.  You can also use it as a reward for your whole class or certain students.

I also tried the mixture of shaving cream + Elmer's liquid glue this year.  In the past, this center was created with cotton balls.  I saw the recipe for shaving cream paint on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a try. THE KIDS LOVED IT!  We took a "cloud walk" outside first so the students could brainstorm ideas for their pictures.  

a cake...

a frog...

*The cloud poem was adapted from Mrs. Schmelzer's Blog

The Joys of Centers...

   If you are a Kindergarten teacher, I'm sure you feel my pain.  You just got done making your centers for the week and before you know it, it's time to make the next ones.  Staying ahead of the game can be hard when you're swamped with faculty meetings, IEP meetings, PLC meetings, lesson planning, and don't forget trying to have a life! :)  I feel like each year I'm changing the way I organize and plan my centers ... It might be a slight case of ADD or just that I haven't figured out what's right for my brain yet.  (or a little bit of both)  

   This year I wanted to make new center icons so that I'd have a solid set of them for years to come.  I was sick of using the ones from literacy books that didn't exactly match my centers.  And, to make matters worse, these poor little kids get so confused ...  They needed more concrete pictures.  So, here's a "freebie" for ya-  Some center icons I created.  I hope you can use or edit them to your liking. :)

Centers/Play Icons

Math Center Icons

If you are a teacher who uses the Daily 5 during your center time, you might like these icons:

Daily 5 Center Icons

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Of My Favorite Things About Teaching...

...Decorating my door for the holidays/seasons/months :)  ... It's the little things in life, isn't it?

If this is something that stresses you out as a teacher, CALM DOWN!!  1.  It's not worth the worry- you have enough in your life as a teacher.  2. Door designs are SO simple!

Here are my tips:
1. Involve your students SOMEHOW.  I teach Kindergarten, so usually- this is only them writing their names (like on the ghosts below) or coloring in something I've given them.  It makes the door a little more personal, but BEWARE... Too much "kid work" can send it overboard and make your door look sloppy. 

2.  Hit up the dollar store or the Target dollar bin... You will find some seasonal cut-outs and letters that you don't even have to create!  This is where I found my "Halloween" images and my caution tape below. 

3.  Pick the perfect background color.  Your decorations need to pop against it...If you are planning on writing your kids names on pink hearts, please don't pick a pink background.  Simple, right?

4. Speaking of simple, S.I.M.P.L.I.F.Y!  The door below may seem complicated, but it really wasn't.  Choose larger, bold items to hang on your door, not every Halloween decoration you've ever gathered.  It will save you time and make your door look a lot cleaner.

5.  SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!!!  Everything but the cut-out ghosts with kids names was used on my door last year, meaning this thing took me all but 5 minutes to create this year.  If you create something you love- laminate, file, baggie- whatever you have to do to save it for next year!!

Up close...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Kindergarten...

...It's probably a little more colorful than where you work. :)

Enjoy some of these classroom pics!

Outside our classroom...
*Turn a children's book into a bulletin board*
I am in love with this, so it will probably stay up...forever.

Gotta get that behavior in line!...

Last Year's...

Spicing Up Our Entrance...

Our entrance was looking pretty drab, but had great potential, so Sam and I have been putting our energy into it lately.  We started with building a coat rack using a piece of wood from Lowe's, some silver hooks, and a can of spray paint.  Throw in a handy neighbor to cut the piece perfectly, and you've got yourself a project...
and a little extra change in your pocket!  

Naturally, I couldn't just stop at the coat rack.  

So I headed to Michaels and rounded up some frames, scrapbook paper, and some neat little bronze keys for decoration.  And here's how they were made:

-Cheap Michael's wooden frames, spraypainted
-The "804" is made from scrapbook letters
-The damask print is scrapbook paper
-The "L" was made with a brown paint pen

-Inside pattern:  I copied and pasted an image of a pattern I liked in a Word document over and over.  You just have to be careful about how the edges of each picture match up.  Honestly, it took about five minutes from opening up the document to holding the piece of paper in my hand.  This is a GREAT way to create your own "scrapbook" paper.  I always find it so hard to find the right piece at the store...Problem solved.
-The "Welcome" was done free-hand with a paint pen, but if you're not as steady with the pen, just print out a font you like and trace over it with the paint pen.


Last Week's Entrance Project:
*life is good* photo wall
We picked up the photo ledges at Ikea during a trip to Charlotte and weren't really sure how we were going to use them.  We have in our house what Sam calls "frame overload" ... so we needed to control them all in one space!  The best part-- only half of the frames used were actually purchased for the project...All of the other ones were laying around the house or in closets.  It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint does to things.  Once again, I used scrapbook paper to back some of the pictures to add a little more life to the frame.


*This used to be in our bathroom and I loved looking at it every day.  When we made the photo shelves, it found a new home...And I love it.  
To all of you teachers out there- always remember, even when you come home with glue in your hair, EXPO markers on your pants, and you are dying for your afternoon cup of coffee (because it's necessary most days)... LIFE.IS.GOOD. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First Things First...

In a world where there is a blog for everything, why create one!? Well, for starters, I'm beginning to feel a little guilty for "blog-borrowing" everything. So this is my effort to start sharing what I bring to the table in the creative world. If I'm trying to think of an activity for my classroom or a new DIY project for my house, my first step is to search the blogs (Work smarter, not harder, right!?) It's about time I start giving back...
I teach Kindergarten and although I cannot credit myself with the copyright of even half of what goes on in my classroom, I CAN think up some damn good, super cute ideas...and even follow some of them through! :) But who wants to read a blog all about teaching? Thanks to my in-your-face Italian family headed by the cutest grandma you'd ever meet, I grew up learning to cook and actually love to be in the kitchen...It's where I'm most comfortable.
The decorating piece of the puzzle is where I'm really trying to channel my inner martha-stewart. My husband, Sam, and I bought our first house last June and ever since, we have been decorating our way into making it HOME.

So ... My goal is to blog about the creative outlets of my everyday life that I *think* people would want to steal and try on their own. And to give Momma Kell a little peek at my life in North Carolina. :)