Cute Clip Art

Okay so I have a little problem.  I can't stop buying clip art!  Scrappin' Doodles has such cute stuff that I just can't tone it.  Here are some of my latest favorite finds:

Aren't they adorable?  I love that some of the designs are multicultural (although I would love it if they all were!).  I have already started making some super cute things with this clip art and can't wait to share it with you as soon as I'm done.  Woo hoo!

Click {HERE} or on the picture below to find some magical clip art for your classroom.  Also, here is a top secret 15% discount code: SEPTEMBER2011.


My First Blogging Award!

I started writing this post about two weeks ago and didn't finish it.  Oops!  That's what the first few weeks of kindergarten will do to you.  Here it is, finally...

Yipee!  I am so excited that Mrs. Davis from Carried Away in... KINDERGARTEN! AND Jody from Camp Kindergarten chose me for...
 The Versatile Blogger award!

 The rules for this award are:
*Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post
*Share 7 things about yourself
*Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs

Thank you so much, Jody and Mrs. Davis!

Here are 7 things about me:
1. My amazing boyfriend sent me flowers at work today to wish me luck for the first week of kindergarten.  It also happened to be my half birthday.  Isn't he the sweetest?!?

2. I love baking.  It is so relaxing and makes me happy, even though it's terrible for my waistline!

3.  If I had to teach another grade besides kindergarten, it would definitely be second grade.  First grade scares the living daylights out of me.  I think that anyone who teaches it deserves a medal.

4.  There were squirrels living in the ceiling and walls (and eventually back porch and kitchen cabinets... yes you heard me!) of our apartment last March.  Those little twerps ate a whole box of my teaching things!  They are gone now, but this is the biggest reason why we are desperately trying to buy a house and bail on this place!
5.  There is nothing I love more than a good pedicure.  Having my nails done just makes me feel good!
6.  I am what you might call a crier.  I have been known to cry during particularly sappy commercials, TV shows and when a child reads for the first time (okay, that was more like misty eyes.  I don't want to scare the little ones!).  I even cried during the episode of The Office when Michael proposed to Holly and set off all of the fire sprinklers.  It was SO not romantic, but I couldn't help myself!

7.  My BFF Kendra got engaged a few days ago!  I am so excited for her, and that I get to be her Maid of Honor!   WOOOO HOOOOO!

Here are fifteen recently discovered blogs that I love:

A Teeny Tiny Teacher
The Teacher Wife

Chalk Talk
Creating & TeachingRoom-Mom101



What's Cooking? Wednesday

I am starting a new feature on Wednesdays... What's Cooking? Wednesdays!  This is a linky party for everyone to share their favorite recipes for busy teachers.  I will leave it open for a whole month so that you can find all of the recipes in one place and add more whenever you are inspired.  The only rules are that the recipes need to be fast, easy and delicious!

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

This is one of my very favorite meals, and it is so easy to make!  I often use rotisserie chicken meat if I don't have any leftover chicken breasts in the house.  The original recipe is from Kevin and Amanda.  I have modified it so that it has less fat and calories.  We also use wheat tortillas instead of regular.  Enjoy!

Pam spray
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies, drained
1 (8 oz) pkg Neufatchel cream cheese, softened
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
8 (8″) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded low fat Monterey Jack cheese
1 pint half and half

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13" glass baking dish with Pam. 
  2. Spray a skillet with Pam.  Add Rotel tomatoes and sautee for one minute.
  3. Stir in the Neufatchel and chicken.  Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted.  
  4. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of each tortilla.  Roll up the tortillas and place edge side down in the baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle liberally with the Monterey Jack cheese, then drizzle with half and half.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover the dish, and continue to bake for 15 more minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Let sit, then enjoy!

Link up your favorite, easy peasy recipe below:

Management Monday - Center Time

Hey, all!  I thought that today I would share my very favorite management tip.  I use this for center time in my Pre-K classroom, but I feel like it could be used in a lot of different ways: indoor recess, math groups, guided reading, literacy centers, etc.

Here it is... the infamous center board!

This is a great management tool that I finally figured out and implemented after much trial and error.  I love it because you can very easily open or close centers depending on your needs, and it limits how many children can go to each center.  For example, four children can go to dramatic play, five can go to writing but only two can go to easels.  It also eliminates a lot of fighting and whining, as well as the need for "turns lists."

Here's how it works.  At the end of morning meeting each day, I explain the centers for the day and model any new centers.  Then I give each child their picture, two or three at a time.  The "Star of the Day" always gets to choose their center first.  They choose their center, and the next few children get their picture and make a choice.
Rules for the Center Board
  1. Children can NEVER touch anyone else's picture
  2. Teachers can move children who are uncooperative or are starting to grow roots in any given center
  3. The teacher will choose ONE helper to take the pictures off at the end of center time.  I always let my Star of the Day do it.
This system helps to foster independence and decision making in my students.  They love that they have so much choice in where they will play, and I love that I don't have to be involved 23,484,325 times a day!  Of course, if I notice that someone has been in one center all morning, or that another little one LIVES in the block center, I will encourage them to go elsewhere.  

In case you are wondering "Do these kids play all day?" the answer is no!  There are literacy and math opportunities throughout all of the centers.  Also, we have small group time where the children are rotated by me, and work with myself and Ms. C on very specific skills.  They also must start in the writing center at least once a week.  We have a separate math time, read aloud time and songs/wordplay/letters.  Does this make sense?  I feel like I'm rambling a little too much but you get the idea!

How to Make the Board

Foam Board
Construction Paper
Contact Paper
Laminated photographs of each center
Velcro Strips
Velcro Dots
Laminated photographs of each child

1. Glue 10 construction paper rectangles to the foam board (as seen above).  
2. Cover the board with contact paper.
3. Apply one strip of rough velcro to each rectangle.  In the right hand column, the strip should be to the right.  In the left hand column, the strip should be to the left.  See the top photo for clarification.
4. Apply one strip of soft velcro to each center photograph.
5. Apply appropriate amount of rough velcro dots to each center.  This will vary from classroom to classroom and center to center.  
6. Apply one soft dot to the back of each child's photograph as seen below.
7. Sit back and marvel at how smoothly your classroom runs itself!

  • Last year I cut my children's photographs to 1.5 inches square.  They were too small.  This year, I did 2 inches square.  They were too big.  Next year, I will try for 1.75 inches square.  I'm starting to feel like Goldilocks!
  • ALWAYS use the thickest lamination possible for this project.  I splurged a little to buy 10 millimeter laminate for my little machine and am SO glad I did!
  • It took me about an hour and a half to do this project last year, but this is the second year using the same board so it was totally worth it.  The only damage was one bent corner.  It has also saved me at least $20 in Advil purchases, so I figure it's well worth it. 
  • Put the board in an area of the classroom where a little bit of traffic won't interrupt anyone else.  I have it attached (with velcro, of course) to a bookshelf at the edge of my block area.

Inside My School Bag Linky Party

Abby at The Inspired Apple is having a linky party.  I have about a billion bags (don't all teachers?) but this one is my absolute favorite.  Honestly, it is in serious need of washing and I am too embarrassed to post an actual picture of it!  My boyfriend bought me this L.L. Bean Bag a few Christmases ago and had it monogrammed in a pretty script.  It is super duper sturdy.  The website says that it can hold up to 500 pounds.  Jeez!  I love how the canvas stays super stiff and nothing ever spills out of it.  

I have the model with longer straps so that I can sling it over my shoulder.  These bags are handmade in Maine (my favorite state), and L.L. Bean has a LIFETIME replacement policy.  I was once in line returning something there, when the man in front of me returned a pair of boots that he had bought in 1972.  And they replaced them!  NO I AM NOT KIDDING.  This is why I buy from this fabulous company.
The first thing inside my school bag right now is my lunchbox, also from L.L. Bean.  You can spill anything inside of this baby (and trust me, I have) and it wipes right off.  I also throw it in the washer from time to time.  Love it!  Also, can you tell that I am just a bit pink obsessed?  I can't help it... I always have been!

Aside from about 13 pencils and 14 Crayola markers (both thick and thin), here's what is in my bag:

My curriculum.  We use Real Math Building Blocks for math and Opening the World of Learning for literacy.  I honestly love both of them!  They give you some great material to use, books and lesson plans and thematic centers but also gives you the flexibility to tweak it for your students' needs.

My snazzy zebra pencil case, which I love because it's super durable and fun.  Of course, my heavy duty Scotch tape which I use for everything from hanging things up to faux laminating.  I also love these Staedtler Lumocolor pens.  The case can be bent so that the pens are propped up.  Fun!  Also I have a random stapler floating around in there.

This is my Brown Bear Brown Bear idea binder.  It's hard to tell from the glare off of my cell phone camera.  Also, the October Scholastic flyer.  These are my two projects for tonight: prepping Brown Bear centers and typing up a welcome to book clubs letter.  I always give a few suggestions to help parents decide what to get.

Last but not least two books for the grad class I am taking now.  I thought I would have time to do some reading during my lunch... HAHA!  Of course, I was completely swamped today and didn't even crack them open.  Oh well, at least my biceps got a little extra workout from lugging them around.

There are tons more items floating around in the bottom of my bag, including but not limited to:
  • Love notes from my students last year
  • Gum
  • Paperclips
  • A very crumpled to do list
  • Two pads of Post-Its with random scrawls and notes to myself

Open House

Tonight we had Open House at school and oh my word I'm EXHAUSTED!  Oh well, it's nothing that a glass of Riesling and a slice of double chocolate banana bread can't cure.  SO DELICIOUS.

Anyway, here's the deal with Open House.  At our school it's a pretty casual event where parents can drop in, tour the classroom and see what we have been up to for the last week and a half.  I love this format because it's a little less stressful on us.  However, it can get a little awkward when you are trying to talk to 10 parents at once while making sure that little brothers and sisters aren't completely trashing the classroom.  I found this fabulous activity on Deanna Jump's blog, and thought it would be perfect for tonight.  First, it motivated the kids to come because they got to give it to their parents as a gift.  Second, it gave them a little activity to do so that I could circulate and talk to everyone.  Fabulous!
 The kids broke the puzzle apart, put it in a ziploc bag and signed their name on the super sweet poem.  Love it!  The best deal on puzzles that I could find was from Amazon.
 I found these super cute bookmarks to give to the parents {HERE}.  Somehow I can't find the original blog that posted this, so if you know where I got this please let me know so I can give credit.

Here are the two displays outside of our door.  Remember this adorable owl display that I got this summer?  You can't really tell, but each child's name is written on an owl's belly.  Cute!

Here are the adorable Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees that Ms. C made with the little ones.  Adorable!  More Chicka Chicka Boom Boom coming tomorrow.  In the meantime, HERE's what we did last year.

I am super paranoid about the "big kids" unclipping our work so I made this little sign to remind them to be respectful.

Sweet dreams!

Names, Names, Names

This is our second week of K1, and we have been focusing on names like crazy.  My least favorite thing in the whole wide world is when kids say "Hey YOU, want to play with me?" or "Him hit me!"  The first few days of school we did a few simple name games each day, because I wanted to make sure they had our routine completely down.  We would say our names in a regular voice, a monster voice, a squeaky mouse voice, jump up and say our name, sit down and say our name, etc. 

This weekend, I found this fabulous idea at Kinder by Kim. I love that it uses pictures as another tool to teach names.

Personally, I wanted to have a fewer words so that my four year olds could focus first on recognizing their new friends' faces.  Here is my version:
We sing it to a tune that is kinda sorta like "Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?" with my own little twist to make it work.  You can download the text for free on my TPT page by clicking {HERE}.  All I ask is that you pretty, pretty please leave feedback on my account.

I cut the words so that they were 2 1/2 inches high, and the construction paper so that it was 3 inches high.  Then glue them, laminate them and you are ready to go.  I love how this also teaches that there are spaces between each word!  I plan to make name cards for each child to use instead of the pictures when they are ready for a bit more print.

I also came across a great post at Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten through Pinterest.  I was in love with how fast and easy this activity was to prep, and the kids were in love with the Do-A-Dot markers!  Just cut white construction or drawing paper into 6 inch by 12 inch strips and write their names using pencil.  Voila, you have a fabulous, fun center.  Tons of my kids wanted to make more for their mommies, daddies, brothers and sisters.

I said to one little girl "Wow!  Your name looks so beautiful just like a rainbow!"  She replied "No, it actually doesn't look like a rainbow.  Rainbows are red, orange, blue, indigo and violet."  Don't you love it?

More Brown Bear, Brown Bear Freebies!

I had a few emails about my Brown Bear, Brown Bear class book freebie from a few weeks ago.  Readers were wanting to make the Brown Bear book with different age groups and grade level.  This download has covers for Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade.  I hope that covers it :)  You can download the rest of the book {HERE}.  Enjoy!Brown Bear, Brown Bear Covers

The First Week of School

It has been a very hectic, crazy and fun week in our classroom!  It is probably too late for most of you to use this year, but I wanted to post my lesson plans for the first week of school to give you a taste of what we are up to.  Please remember that our students are FOUR when they come to school.  Many of them have never, ever been to school before so we need to keep it super simple and very repetitive.  I also highly recommend finding a format that works for you and doing all of your planning on the computer.  For my first two years of teaching I hand wrote everything.  It is SO much easier to copy and paste my plans from last year into my new format each year.  It saves me tons of time, and I can easily adjust and tweak my plans to suit my students.  I simply used Microsoft Word and created a table that works fabulously for me.

I know that this is a little hard to read, so feel free to download the PDF (for free!) at my TPT Store.

Here is a quick explanation:
*We use the Opening the World of Learning (OWL) curriculum.  We do not use it for the first two weeks of school in order to establish routines, explore the environment and learn how to care for materials.  OWL Centers are our developmentally appropriate version of literacy centers.

*All of the books we read this week are about the first day of school, or about separating from loved ones.  If you have never read Owl Babies, you should!  It's perfect for kindergarteners who have a bit of separation anxiety.  Usually we have math centers in the afternoon, but we will not be starting that until next week.

*For the first week, we will read an additional book that goes along with our theme and do some gross motor movement instead.  This gives us an opportunity to help students stay organized and practice packing up.  I have found that this pays off in the long run and helps them to become independent much more quickly.

*Songs, Wordplay and Letters, lovingly referred to as SWPL (pronounced swipple) is a great opportunity for phonemic awarness and other emergent literacy skills.  During the first two weeks, I teach two new songs per day.  We practice each song about three times.  The first time, I sing it very slowly and they do the accompanying hand motions.  The next two times we do it to music.  We also review the songs on and off throughout the week during transitions.

I hope that this is helpful... I would love to answer any other questions that you may have!

My Vistaprint Order is Here!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE getting packages in the mail.  I feel like a little kid on Christmas when I come home and there is something on my porch, even if it is something that I picked out, paid for and have been obsessively tracking for days.  That is why I am so excited that my Vistaprint order *finally* arrived!

Here is what I got with my $50 living social deal, plus a little more (I just couldn't stop!). 

 I love these notepads more than words!  It is so easy to just jot down a quick note with ALL of your contact info handy.  A sidenote: I know that many people do not give out their cell phone numbers.  For me, it works!  I always end up using my phone to call them anyway, so I really don't mind them having my number.  Occasionally I will send them a quick picture message to show them what their child is doing.  They love it, and in five years I have never had anyone misuse it.

 I am loving this stamp.  It adds a splash of color to important papers that might be overlooked otherwise.

Cute address labels for my welcome to school letters and any other correspondence that I will need to do throughout the year.

 This is the front and back of our new "Now I Know My ABC's!" certificate.  It's really a postcard, but they will love that it is colorful and glossy.  I plan to use these when children have mastered all of their letters.  We will make a HUGE deal when presenting them with the certificate.

This ADORABLE poster will help show off all of the hard work that the little ones are doing.  I think it is a pretty snazzy way to jazz up our hallway displays.  I also love that it is made out of a material that it is a little more resilient than a regular poster.

Last but not least a little notepad for my personal use.  I love to jazz up my to do lists!


I feel like a terrible, horrible blogger this week!  School for the "big kids" began on Thursday, and my little ones start tomorrow.  The fabulous Ms. C and I have been cranking out the classroom, trying to get it as close to perfect as possible.  I should have taken a video to show you how far we have come from this horrifying state, but in my working twelve hour days every day this week haze, I completely forgot. 

ANYWAY, I promise to be a better little bloggerina, and I can't WAIT to let you know how fabulous my twenty one newest little friends are tomorrow!

Pinterest Inspired Project, Part Two

I am so excited to finally be done making this display for the yucky basement walls outside my classroom.  Yesterday, you saw how I made the cute clothespins.  Today, I am making the paper background.

1. Cut scrapbook paper into 10" by 12" rectangles that coordinate with your cute border.

2. Glue scrapbook paper onto sentence strips.  I chose to put either five or six pieces of paper together in order to make it easier to transport to school.
 This is the view from the back.
3. Reinforce with packing tape.  I love Scotch heavy duty shipping tape.

4. Glue on your border and reinforce with tape.  I tried to overlap the border and the paper as little as possible in order to leave more room for the display.
 View from the back:
5. Laminate

6. Attach the clothespins to your display using a hot glue gun.

7.  Hang it up.  I used industrial strength velcro, regular velcro and adhesive foam squares.  Better safe than sorry!
Enjoy!  Now you have a super cute and easy display for all of your little ones' hard work.  I can't wait to jazz it up with a title, a few cute cut outs and my kids first kindergarten drawings!