Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apple Play Dough for Math Manipulatives and a FREEBIE

I LOVE celebrating Johnny Appleseed's birthday!  It is like the official kick-off to fall!  I have lots o traditions in my class.  I spent my weekend getting ready for it!  I just finished some apple play dough and it smells DE-LISH!

Play Dough Pan - See the scratched up bottom and sides?
Before I tell you about the apple play dough, let me tell you about my play dough pan.  I got married when I was WAY too young.  I was 18 (told you too young!), and my new mother-in-law game me a set of Pampered Chef pans as a wedding gift.  At the time, I worked at a preschool.  My kids were doing a beach theme, and I decided to make sand play dough.  I cooked it in one of my new Pampered Chef pans.  As I stirred, I could hear it scrrrrrratch, scrrrrrrraaaaatch, sccrrrrrraaaaattttch the bottom of the pan.  Years later, I went to a Pampered Chef party and saw how expensive those pans were.  OOPS!!!!  That is now my "play dough pan".  It is just perfect for all types of play dough!  Please don't tell my mother-in-law and if she should ever stumble across this post, I AM SORRY!!!  I KNOW BETTER NOW!!!  Ok - back to the apple play dough!
This is one whole batch!  I made 3.
Here is the recipe: (I got it from

  • 1 cup flour
  •  1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tbsp apple fragranced shampoo
  • red or green food coloring
    Step 1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, salt and cream of tartar. Pour in the water, oil and shampoo
    Step 2. Add a couple of drops of your chosen food colouring and whisk in.
    Step 3. Place over a medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball.
    Step 4. Turn out onto a clean surface and leave to cool for a few minutes. Knead until you have a smooth ball. Store in a resealable bag or closed container in the fridge.

    This play dough made a very small batch, so I made red, yellow, and green.  It smelled great while it was cooking.  The only bad thing is my 3 year-old was pretty mad that I was using her shampoo!  I LOVE play dough!

    I am going to use this for math manipulatives this week.  I am going to tell them word problems and have them act it out with the play dough.  I am going to use this with small math groups and give each student a small bag of each color.  "If you have three red apples, six yellow apples, and 2 green apples, how many do you have all together?"  "Joey made 10 play dough apples them smooshed four of them.  How many were left?"  "Johnny has 3 apples.  Sally has 1 less than Johnny.  How many do they have all together."  I like word problems so I think adding play dough to them will be SUPER FUN!

    I also made a fun Apple Life Cycle Crown that I wanted to share with you. Click the link to download!  These crowns are SUPER easy to make.  The apple life cycle goes around the band of the hat.  This crown is similar to my Phonics Crowns and Alphabet Crowns

     I have lots of other apple stuff in the works!  I will blog about it soon!  Have a fun week!

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Managing Good-Fit Books

    I LOVE read-to-self and good-fit books!  These are ESSENTIAL for all first graders!  When I first read CAFE and The Daily 5, I was really overwhelmed.  How could I manage this?  How could I set it up?  Where am I supposed to store all these books?  I have solved all of these problems in my classroom and this runs so smoothly now!  Here is how I made it work for me -

      I purchased a "book pouch" for each of my kiddos.  We have used these for the past three years and they are still in EXCELLENT shape!  They were about $5 each.  They are from Really Good Stuff.  Click here if you want to check them out!  I give my kids blank 3x5 index cards to write their names on and decorate.  These fit perfectly in the label.

      Leveled Library Mobile Storage CartI ordered a cart to store my leveled books in. I also have tons of other books in my classroom library. The books in the library can be looked at whenever my kids are reading in the library. The books in the cart are not to be messed with unless we are switching books. Click here if you are interested in ordering a cart like this.  The cute signs above my cart are from Chart Parts by Andrea Knight.  I love everything in this set!

      I put cute stickers on the front to label.  Easy and it works!

      I went through my books and looked them up on Scholastic's Book Wizard. This is a great tool that allows you to type in the title of a book and it will give you the reading level. I printed labels with letters and put them on the front cover of the books as I leveled them. By putting my books in the cart, I was able to see which levels I needed more of.   I also stamp all of my books with my name so that they don't get lost.

       When school starts, I don't know what level my kids will be, but I want them to practice read-to-self right away. I bought 30 copies of some books that I found in Scholastic's book orders for only $1 each. Before school starts, I stuff the pouches with a whisper phone (which I made out of PVC) and three books. They all have the same three when school starts. We use these to practice the three ways to read.

      My goal the first week is to listen to everybody read.  I just pull a level C and open to any page and listen to them.  I will move them up or down depending on if this level is too easy or too difficult.  Once my kids are placed in a level, I let them choose eight good-fit books from the cart to put in their pouches.  Eight books for each student sounds like a lot, but in the early levels, the books are so short!  Kids that are in level M choose fewer books because they take much longer to read.  I always record what level I put them in so that I can monitor their progress.  Click here to print this form!

      My kids store their book pouches inside their desks.  I TRY to get them new books every week, usually it is closer to every other week.  Kids get so excited about getting new books for their pouches.  Once this system was established, it is really simple to maintain.  I love that they are excited about books and they are practicing reading at their individual levels. 

      Kids reading books makes me a happy teacher! 

      Monday, September 16, 2013

      Reading Rugs - Read-to-Self for the Holidays

      I keep my bags in a large tote and swap them out seasonally.
      Doormats and gift bags from the dollar store.  4 centers = $8
      I started "Reading Rugs" last year, and they are always a huge hit with my kiddos.  I found the cutest little rugs at Target in the dollar section.  (They are actually $3.)  These are small rugs (about 2 square foot).  I bought 4 rugs and 4 bags.  I put seasonal books in seasonal bags.  I have trick-or-treat bags for Halloween and gift bags for Christmas, etc.  The books in the bags range from level A to level O.  I want these bags to have a little somethin' for everybody. 

      We use "reading rugs" as a part of Read-to-Self.  The kids grab a bag and a rug and go find some place to sit and read.  I sometimes put fun pointers in the bags too - witch fingers in the Halloween bag, plastic icicles in my winter bag, toothbrush in my dental health bag, etc.  These are totally fun and I feel like I am USING all these fun holiday books I always buy.
      The kids are always SUPER excited to go to this center.  By changing out the rugs, bags, and books, the center is always fresh and exciting.  Plus, kids LOVE holidays and seasons!  This really gets them motivated to read. 

      When the season is over, I just put the rugs in the bags with the books and put them in a cabinet until next year.  When the holiday or season rolls around again, all I need to do is take them out!  I LOVE IT WHEN IT'S EASY!!!  If you are interested in doing this in your class, you can find Halloween and Thanksgiving rugs at Target right now.  I have also found some fun rugs at the Dollar Tree.  Place mats and squares of fabric also work.

      Check out some of my rugs!!!
      Just found these cute Thanksgiving/Fall rugs at Target!


      My Dr. Seuss bag includes a fun hat to wear!

      Here is an entire center - rug, bag, and books!
      Valentine Rugs

      St. Patrick's Day Reading Rugs


      Saturday, September 14, 2013

      Phonics Hunts and Hats!

      Every week, my kiddos work on a different phonics sound.  We start with short vowels and work our way up to vowel teams and digraphs.  This year, I created some fun crowns to use with our sound of the week.  Here is what I am loving about these crowns -
      • Only 1 page per kid!  The entire project and the directions are on one sheet.  I don't feel guilty about wasting paper!
      • Educational AND Cute!  They have to fill-in the missing sound to complete words that feature the sound we are working on.  When they are done writing, they can color, cut and glue.
      • No prep for me!  I literally showed my firsties how to do this ONCE and they have done it independently for the past 3 weeks.  LOVE THAT! 
      • The kids look so darn cute in them!
      I give my kiddos 20 minutes to complete the project.  When they are finished, they take out their "Word Work Notebooks" (these are just spiral bound notebooks that we use for lots of word work activities) and go on a hunt for the sound we are working on.  They can look in their reading books, good-fit books, and dictionaries.  This is nice because early finishers always have something meaningful to keep them busy.  My kids have always done these word hunts.  The crowns are adding a new level of fun because they make us "experts" on the sound.  When we wear our crowns, they help our brains find even more words than we would have without them. 

      The set of hats comes in short vowels, long vowels, r-controlled vowels, and digraphs.  It is available in my TpT store.  Click here to check them out! 

      My kinder teachers loved them so I made another set that feature all the letters of the alphabet.  Click here to find my Alphabet Crowns.

      Thanks for reading!  Have a terrific week!

      Monday, September 9, 2013

      Celebrating 4.0 with a Raffle for 4!

      Hooray!  My TpT store has a 4.0 rating with 4,000 votes!  I think this is worth a little celebration!  I am giving away 2 TpT gift cards for $10 each and 2 winners can choose any product from my store for FREE!  Thanks to everyone for helping my little store grow!  Good luck in the raffle!

      a Rafflecopter giveaway

      Saturday, September 7, 2013

      Free 9-11 Watch, Think, Color Games

      This is the last slide of the Watch, Think, Color game.
      I think it is so important to NOT forget about the tragic events of September 11th.  Can you believe it has been 12 years?  Most of our students were not even born.  They may not understand the devastating impact this left on so many lives.  I have little firsties.  Their sweet, young hearts cannot understand this kind of cruelty.  I do not talk about the ugly nitty-gritty stuff with my little ones.  I do not want to frighten them or confuse them.  They are too young to understand the severity of the day.  While I don't want to show them news footage of the event, I also don't want to ignore it.  We acknowledge the day by discussing it as a day of love.  On September 11th, remember to hug your mom and dad.  Don't fight with your brother or sister.  Be kind to others.  I have designed some Watch, Think, Color games that show 9-11 in a heart. 
      The end of the game shows a picture of the towers. 

      Whether you teach older children who already know about the terrorist attacks or little guys who are not able to understand this tragedy, this is a terrific way to acknowledge the day.  I am offering these designs for free download the week of September 11th only.  After this week, the games will be taken off the TpT market until next year.  The games are currently available in Number Sense to 120, Expanded Notation, and Multiplication Practice.  If there is a WTC skill that you would like to request this design in, please let me know in the comments below or on my facebook page.  I will try to make it for you.

      Tuesday, September 3, 2013

      Bill Martin Jr. Author Study

       I love doing author study with my firsties!  This is a great way to get them interested in books!  This is a picture of my author study board.  There is velcro on the wall and on the back of all my authors.  The sign that says the author's name is actually just a border that I laminated to make a frame.  It is stapled on the bottom and both sides, but it is open on the top.  I slide the name of our author into the frame.  I use gallon size zip-loc bags to display books.  I cut the top off the bags and staple them on both sides.  This board is super easy to update! 

      My author study lasts between one week and four weeks depending on how many books and activities I have to with with the author.  If I have a class that is really enjoying an author, we may spend more time on it than a class that is not that into it.

      This week, we are celebrating the works of Bill Martin Jr.  I have had the pleasure of meeting several great authors.  I always ask them if I can take a picture with them because this helps my kiddos understand that books were written by REAL people.  Unfortunately, I was never able to meet Bill Martin Jr.  He worked with John Archambault on several of his books so I use this week to share a picture of me with John Archambault.  It is as good as I can get! 

      We do some fun activities this week.  Of course we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  We make a story bracelet.  This is SUPER easy and the kids just love it!  We read the story then I pass out pipe cleaners.  We go through the story again and I give the kids a bead for each character.   We use a larger bead for brown bear because this is also the title of the book.  We use a heart for the teacher because their teacher loves them all.  We use stars for the children because they are all stars.  After the beads are on, we just twist them into a bracelet that is loose enough to be pulled on and off.  Kids seriously wear these for weeks! 

      OF COURSE we do the Brown Bear Watch, Think, Color Bundle!  This set has nine games - one for each character.  These games are designed for number sense to 120.  This is perfect for the beginning of the year!  After my kiddos have done all of these games, most of them are ready to move on to another skill in WTC games.  I use this set to get the kids accustomed to the games and they become VERY familiar with the patterns on the hundreds chart and how to locate numbers to 120.  These games are also nice for the beginning of the year because there are not many colors used in each design.  This is the perfect way to train them to play Watch, Think, Color.  We use the finished pictures to make books for each student.

      We also make a "First Grader, First Grader, Who Do You See?" class book.  This is great for sight words and predictable text.  The kids just write their names and the name of a classmate.  I have to tell them who to write to make sure that the pages will flow in order.  I use their number order to make this easy.  (Do you number your kids?  This makes SO many things easy!)  To do the pages, I have the student who is number 1 write the name of number 2.  Number 2 writes number 3's name and so on.  The last student writes Mrs. Morrison.  I make a page and write "First Graders".  I add a class picture with all their names as the last page in the book. I laminate the pages and bind them.  My kids take turns taking the books home to share with their families.  This book will be sent in a tote with "Brown Bear" and some activities.  Once all the kids have had a turn taking the book home, it goes in our library.  Click here to download the pages used to make this book!

      We read "Chicken Chuck" and then made our own blue feather headbands.  This was a spur of the moment project.  I just cut sentence strips in half and stapled feathers to them.  I was able to whip out 24 hats in less than 5 minutes.  Those are my favorite kinds of projects!  The kids loved wearing them and they looked cute when I sent them home. 

      Thanks for reading!  Hope you have a happy week!