Thursday, January 3, 2013

Catching Up, Part II

Follow Me on Pinterest In December we do lots of activities to go along with Jan Brett's The Gingerbread Baby.  There are so many great gingerbread packets available on TPT.  There are many I would love to own, and I have a difficult time restraining myself.  My all time favorite packets were created by Fran Kramer.  They're jam packed with wonderful activities.  Click here to check out her literacy activities. 

Her math activities can be found here.

Our culminating activity is to make individual gingerbread houses for each child in class. WH spends the day helping to make the houses.  He makes the best icing!  My partner gave me the recipe the first year we worked together.  Previously I used eggs.  However considering all the problems raw eggs can cause, I don't think that's a good idea anymore.  The recipe calls for Wilton's Merengue Powder in place of eggs.  It's pretty pricy, so I always pick it up at Michael's with one of my 40% off coupons. If you click on the link you will find a picture of the can and a recipe, but it's not the one we use.  Here's our recipe:

1 box confectioner's sugar
5 TBSP merengue powder
1/2 cup water.

Put the merengue powder and sugar in your mixer bowl.  Start the mixer on slow and then begin to add the water.  After incorporating all the water, beat on high until it's thick and glossy. About 7-10 minutes.  If it gets too thick, you can always add a little more water.

First thing in the morning, the kiddos attach their milk carton to a 6" cake base using a generous dollop of icing.  Then they put up the graham cracker walls and roof.  Paper plates can be used in place of cake bases.

After the houses sit for an hour or so, we decorate them.  It's the MOST fun!

Last year WH and I found the cutest gingerbread trays at Winco.  They have 6 compartments and a lid.  We bought three in order to have one tray for every two children.  It makes it easier for the them to reach what they need.

I like to wrap the houses before sending them home.  In the past I used Saran wrap, but it's very hard to work with.  So this year I looked for an alternative.  I found these terrific gift basket bags at Michael's.  They are the best!  Wrapping took a lot less time this year.  We just plopped the houses into the bags and tied them up with ribbon.  

When shopping, it was really tough to choose a size.  I ended up buying the large bags.  You can see that they are a bit big.  Next year I'm going to purchase medium bags. 

This project is costly.  It does help to pick up the cake rounds, bags and merengue powder throughout the year as I get discount coupons.  I bought the ribbon just before Christmas when they put it on sale for 70% off.  It's sitting in my studio waiting for next year.  I also like to do the shopping for the candy and sugar.  It's just easier than trying to explain what I need from each family.  The parents are always happy to give me a few dollars and let me do the work.

I just read about a shop in NYC that sounds fantastic.  I'd love to be able to do my December candy shopping at Dylan's Candy Bar.  It's the creation of Ralph Lauren's daughter, and it looks like an amazing place to visit.

I can't seem to upload the video for Dylan's, so I'll have to make a separate entry for it.  

I hope your new year is off to a great start!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catching Up, Part I

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My district has approached full day kindergarten in a unique fashion.  For the first trimester, we work with our partner and our students come for half a day.  Beginning second trimester the kids come to school all day.  I love blogging, however after we go full day, I'm out of steam by 3:00.  Hence, I'm pretty far behind here at throothelookingglass.  So I'm going to post a few pictures and ideas from the past couple of months.

I don't know about you, but report cards create a great deal of stress for me.  It's tough to assess and keep the little ones engaged, productive and reasonably quiet.  This year I came up with a simple way to assess sets.  First, I placed numbers on the flannel board.  When I called on a child, they took their name card out of the pocket chart and placed it in the felt tray.  (Placing the name tags in the tray reminded me who had made the sets.  I do have memory problems from time to time:)  Next they used felt critters to make a group for each number.  After completing the task, they went back to whatever they had been doing before I interrupted them.  When I had a moment I pulled them back and we went to the board to go over their work together.  Afterward, they cleared the board and returned their name card to the pocket chart.  Then I called the next child on the list.  It worked really well for me.

This apple is another example of a project I found on Pinterest.  The apples were so cute, but the pockets were empty.  I didn't want to send them home empty, so I asked my WH to create apple seed number flash cards to put inside.  Using the seed from KPM doodles Johnny Appleseed digital clip art , he put the numerals on one side and a group to match on the back.  I sent a note home with them asking the parents to review them with the kids as part of their nightly homework.  They can also be used to practice number order and to name the missing number.

We took a trip to the pumpkin patch a week or so before Halloween.  My grade level colleagues and I purchase the little pumpkin faces kits from Oriental Trading and have the kids decorate their pumpkins before taking them home.  It's great fun.

We don't have a Halloween party per se, but we do make treat bags and decorate cookies.  Here are the treat bags.  I got the idea from Pinterest.  I love that site!

This year we have a nice group of moms who volunteer regularly.  They're terrific helpers and I love them all.

While cruising through Pinterest one evening in early November, I came upon the cutest Veteran's Day craft activity.  It is necessary to have parental supervision when putting this project together.  We did it in stages.  It took three days to complete.  Day one  we made the head.  Day two the kids wrote.  Day three we put it all together.  They were so proud of their finished product.

One of the fourth grade teachers at our school sent out an email asking for student work to send to soldiers in Afghanistan a week or two after we made these cute little fellas.  The children willing contributed to the care package.  I hope the soldiers who received them enjoyed them.  The kiddos  were so proud to have their work sent off to cheer up the troops.  

My husband and I are working on some activities for January.  I look forward to sharing them with you. 

Enjoy what's left of 2012!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Follow Me on Pinterest It's late afternoon.  My dad just left and I'm sitting here thinking about how blessed I am.  We had a very quiet and peaceful Christmas day.  Dad came for dinner.  My wonderful husband cooked and it was delicious!

We exchanged gifts and sat around reminiscing.  In February it will be five years since we lost mom.  I didn't expect my dad would last very long without her, but he is part of the greatest generation and does what needs to be done.  I'm so proud of him.  They were 3 weeks shy of their 62nd anniversary when she went to sleep in Jesus.  I'm thankful she is no longer suffering and I'm thankful for the faith that sustains us.  We know this separation won't be for long.  I'm so grateful to Jesus for coming to earth and giving His life so that we might enjoy eternal life with Him and our loved ones should we accept his invitation.

I only put up one tree this year.  I don't remember school ever being as crazy as this year has been so far.

The ornament at the bottom center of the picture has a photo of our Fluffy.  We lost him in October.  We lost our 17-year-old, Schmoopy, in February.  We miss them both.

Here's the gingerbread tree.  I usually put up a fruit tree as well as one with coffee ornaments.  Hopefully I'll get them up again next Christmas.

Even though we still have our dear little Indiana, I didn't have the heart to hang the kitty stocking.  Fluffy was the only one who actually enjoyed the little treats we purchased for them all.

This morning, our precious Indiana was content to sit on a chair watching my husband cook dinner.  He also likes to sit in the kitchen window and observe the finches feasting.  I enjoy watching them too.

Last week I dressed the table with a linen cloth and napkins, my Lenox "Holiday" china, Waterford crystal, candlesticks and a centerpiece.  About an hour before my dad arrived I started thinking about the linens and cringed at the idea of laundering and ironing them.  So I took it all off and re-set the table with our everyday dishes and snowman placemats.  Nobody even noticed!  I will put the Christmas finery back this evening.  I enjoy looking at it.

I have a nice little collection of Santas that usually adorn the free surfaces around the living area of the house, but I only set out a handful this season.

I love birds.  I have them scattered all over the house. The little fellow on this bowl is one of my favorites.

All my trees are fake, so I like to have a touch of the real thing somewhere.

I wish you all the best of the holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Columbus Day

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The weeks just fly by and I'm having a hard time keeping ahead of things.  I was hoping to finish the Columbus products by now, but we're still working on them.  I do have a freebie to share with you.  

It's a BittyBook for Columbus day.  You can find it at my TpT store. Just click here.  It's simple and repetitive.  It affords the kiddos another opportunity to practice reading sight words and learn a few historical facts.

Below you will find several single pages for easy viewing.

This is the front cover.

This is the last page.  

I hope you find this useful.  Enjoy using it with your little ones!


Friday, September 21, 2012


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The weeks are flying by and next Wednesday we will celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day.  It sure got here quickly this year.  The kiddos and I have been having a great time with Go Johnny, Go!  We've been reading the big book daily and they're doing a great job of memorizing the text.  This coming week they will get their own copy.  They've been asking for it all week. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll find it right here.

With the cost of everything on the rise and the resources to purchase them on the decline, it's tough finding materials that don't use a lot of paper and ink.  This year I thought I'd try to create teeny, tiny books for my little people using the smoosh book format.  We call them BittyBooks.  The first is a retelling of Brown Bear.  I incorporated Open Court sight words into the book and it turned out really well.  The only problem is that there weren't enough pages to print all of the characters, so I wasn't able to include the gold fish.  Even so, it works.  This week we made a book to complement Go Johnny, Go!  It's a BittyBook and it's about the life cycle of the apple tree.  It's a freebie available at TpT, so check it out here!

The children have already accumulated a large quantity of books that we've made in class.  Storage has always been an issue for me.  I have used gallon-sized zippered baggies in the past and they are such a nuisance, in my opinion.  So this year I went in search of a solution to my book storage problem.  After searching Dollar Trees and 99 Cent Stores I came upon plastic shoe boxes at Target.  They're the perfect size and they're stackable, even when loaded up with books.  At .97 cents each, the deal was sealed for me. The next thing I needed to figure out was how to label them.  I didn't want to put names on them because I'd like to be able to reuse them next year and beyond, if they hold up.  I came up with the idea of labeling them using numbers and characters from Brown Bear, Brown Bear...  In my room, the children are broken up into 4 groups.  The groups are: red birds, yellow ducks, blue horses and green frogs.  

I numbered the children in each group from 1-6, so the labels have both a picture and a number.   I printed out the labels and cut them to size.  Next I brought out my trusty Xyron sticker machine and turned the labels into stickers.

(I have a book box too, and here's a picture of my label.  :)

Finally I affixed the stickers to the boxes.

They fit beautifully on one shelf.  

Now reading is a happier time in my classroom.  No more struggling with book bags.  When it's time to read, the table managers go to the shelf and pick up the stacks of boxes.  They pass them out.  The children take out the books they need and stow the boxes under their chairs until it's time to put them away.  No more ripped bags, no more struggling to place the books back in the baggies properly. No more headaches!  I love happy endings, don't you?

Happy Friday Everyone!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Go Johnny, Go!

Follow Me on Pinterest Autumn is my favorite season, and the legend of Johnny Appleseed is my favorite folk tale.  I loved the books Fran Kramer used to make.  She would make an 8.5" x11" color version for the teacher and a smaller black line book for the children.  I decided I needed to write my own kindergarten-friendly version of Johnny's story for my class.  We uploaded it today and you can find it right here.  

Here are a few sample pages to give you the flavor of the book.

I took my teacher copy to school last week and the children loved it.  They especially like the refrain, "Go Johnny, go!"  I can't wait to pass out their copies.  They like having their own smaller version of the books we read in class.

This is a sample of two pages from the kid version.

And this is the last page in their book.  I want to get as big a bang for my printing buck as I can, so I included a list of the sight words from the book and I've asked the parents to review them frequently with their children.

We begin week five tomorrow.  It doesn't seem possible! 


Monday, September 3, 2012


Follow Me on Pinterest I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a bit nervous regarding the common core math standards. Particularly "composing and decomposing numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones,"  otherwise known as K.NBT.1.  In our assessment booklet, the children are given a number sentence frame that looks like this:    __+__=17  Above the number sentence frames there are two empty 10 frames.  The children are expected to put 17 objects into the 10 frames and then fill in the blanks as follows:  10+7 =17  Oh my!

So last week we got busy.  I made 5 frames to begin with.

I gathered together number tiles and counters and placed them in the little lunch boxes I purchased at Target several years ago.  I put them aside until center time.

When the kiddos got to the table, the first thing we did was review the color and number flash cards.  Next, they placed their number tiles in counting order.  Even though we only went to 5, it was a difficult task for some of them.

Then, using number flash cards and counters, they made groups to match numbers.  The cards were in random order.  Their counters were placed on the graphics below the 5 frame.  After I showed them a number, we counted together.  As we counted, they slid their counters up in to the frames until they had the correct number of counters. 

It was slow going the first day.  The next time we did the activity, some of the children were able to work independently.  They put their number tiles back into the lunch boxes and drew tiles to determine how many counters were needed to make a group.  

We'll do this activity again tomorrow.  We've been off for three days.  I hope they remember something!

I hope you all had a lovely Labor Day!