Squishy Color Fun

We are currently learning all about "The World of Color" in our curriculum.  I forgot how much I loved this unit!  This year I have totally jazzed it up with a few new activities and my little ones have been loving it.

Here are a few of our core texts for this unit.  My favorites are Dog's Colorful Day and The Lion and the Little  Red Bird.

First activity on our agenda?  Playdough color fun. 

I made my favorite "World's Best Playdough" recipe and did not add any food coloring, frosting mix or anything fun.  The result was white, snoozapalooza playdough.  The good part?  It takes less than ten minutes.  You can also have parents help you make playdough.  Check out my old post on that (including a freebie recipe and letter download) HERE.

First they made a ball of playdough, and stuck a finger in it to make a hole.  I added one drop of food coloring to their ball.

Then began the squishing and squeezing.  They were DELIGHTED by this, and I loved the fact that it snuck in tons of fine motor goodness.

Using thumbs....
And why not use a rolling pin, too?  Actually, this way worked the best of all.  I loved the trial and error involved, though.  They were just so engaged!

And here is the finished product.  See how pretty it is?  Tomorrow I will give them two small balls of playdough {one blue and one yellow, etc} and have them combine the two to see what happens.  So much fun, so little time :)

Hall Pass Linky

I am loving the concept of this super cute linky.  Things have been super busy in my neck of the woods, which is why a am super a bit late to link up!

PRODUCT - Why is it so hard to pick just one favorite product?!?  Since it is so hard to pick, I think I will go with my latest greatest product... All About Patterns.  It is 150+ pages of awesome math centers to use with hands-on manipulatives, plus recording sheets, objectives, anchor charts and so much more.  Did I mention it's Common Core aligned?!?  Also, it's on sale from now until Sunday only!  You can click {HERE} to read my blog post all about it, or {HERE} to check it out in my TPT store.

AREA - My absolute favorite area in my classroom is the library.  I am so lucky to have this amazing space built into my classroom!  It used to be the library, and this wonderful nook is just made for enticing little ones to snuggle up and read.  Please bear with me... it is very round and curvy with gorgeous fluorescent lighting (ha ha) making it extremely hard to photograph.

And here are some close ups of my favorite little areas within the library.

SIGNAL - My signals are nothing super special.  One that my whole school uses (and I LOVE that the whole school uses it... it makes it so much easier during specials, when they have a sub, etc) is to say "1, 2, 3, Directions!"  The kids know to put their hands on their head and look at the teacher.  Works like a charm every time.  We have a modification called "Messy Hands Directions" where you put your hands straight up in the air to avoid getting playdough, paint or any other lovely mess all in your hair.

My new favorite is Shari Sloane's The Clean Up Song.  It is about two and a half minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to push my kids to clean up and get to the rug by the time the song is over.  Plus it's catchy and we all sing along, making clean up time (dare I say) fun!

SANITY - Well, some days I don't have much of this.  Would it be bad if I said that a glass of wine at the end of a rough day is definitely my happy spot?  No?  Okay phew.  In other news, my co-workers keep me sane.  I love being able to swap stories, make people laugh and rest assured that everyone else's kids are just as crazy as mine!  When they go on a coffee run and bring back some of my favorite Dunkin' Donuts deliciousness I love them even more.  Last but not least, the million little hugs that I get on the daily from my little friends definitely keep me sane as well and remind me that I have the best job in the whole wide world.

GIGANTIC Patterns Unit!

I was sitting at home recently, oh you know just perusing the Common Core Standards as I am sometimes known to do {dork alert!} when I realized that there was no standard for patterning in the CCSS.  "NO patterns in the CCSS?" I thought, "This cannot be!"  I looked through again and again.  I checked the pre-K standards (it's a Massachusetts thing).  Then the kindergarten standards.  Then the first and second grade standards.  No patterns to be found!  THEN I saw it... the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  Standard 8 says "Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning."  Hmmm... I thought, that sounds a whole lot like patterns to me.  If you don't know what I'm talking about you can check it out {HERE} on pages 8 and 10.

The next night we happened to have a lovely 3 hour math professional development at school, given by a math education professor.  I had the chance to ask him about why on earth they took patterns out of the Kindergarten curriculum.  "It's so important!  They love it!" I argued, tapping my foot.  He said that they did not take it out, no sirree...  Patterning now falls under the category of Standard 8 for Mathematical Practice.  Yipee!

I got super inspired from there, and spent approximately eleventy billion hours making this:

 Not to be a dork {again} but I am SO excited about this.  I know it's going to do wonders for my little ones' understanding of patterns... how to make them, the different types of patterns and how to find the core unit of a pattern.   I included tons of visuals, movement, sounds and so much more!

Let me break it down for you.
Because young children learn so well when they are using actual objects, I designed this unit to go along with four types of manipulatives that can be found in most early childhood classrooms: counting bears, pattern blocks, linking or connecting cubes and buttons.  If you don't have these things, you can usually beg/borrow/steal them or purchase them pretty inexpensively {here, for example}.

Learning objective poster (middle)
This includes student friendly language AND Common Core alignment

Anchor Posters
There are twelve anchor posters total (six for counting bears and cubes, six for pattern blocks and buttons).  These can be displayed one at a time while students are learning about and mastering a particular pattern. 

All you have to do is cut each pages= into three strips, and they are ready to go!  Kids will use these with manipulatives to make patterns.  There are 12 strips for each type of pattern (AB, AAB, ABB, AABB, ABC and ABD) and all four types of manipulatives for a grand total of 288 pattern strips!  I punch a hole in mine and pop 'em on a binder ring by type for easy storage.

This build a pattern game is super fun!  Students draw a pattern card (top left) and the corresponding number of manipulative cards.  Then they build the pattern!  For example, if a child draws the AABB card, they will then draw two cube cards (pink and blue).  Then they will build a pink pink blue blue pattern.  The dots on the pattern cards tell them how many manipulative cards to draw.  This game is great to work on following directions, social skills and turn taking as well as patterning. 

For each type of manipulative, there is also a variety of recording sheets and practice sheets.  On the recording sheets, students will draw the patterns they made in their math center.  The comprehension check sheets are differentiated for students who are new to patterns or struggling with them, and those who have a higher understanding of patterning.  Not shown are build a pattern sheets where children cut and paste their own pattern.

I have also included a student objective with CCSS alignment for finding the core unit of a pattern, and an anchor poster for that as well.  
Last but not least, my students' favorite... sound and movement patterns!  Just cut them up into flashcards, and students explore patterns in a whole new way.  Students draw two or three (or four or more!) cards, then either make the sound or act out the pattern.  For example, if they choose Roar and Woof, they will all say "roar, woof, roar, woof" or "woof, woof, roar!"  They loooooove this.  The movement cards are great for brain breaks too, because it gets their wiggles out while learning an important skill.  Personally I love to use these during indoor recess or as a time filler.  This is also a great way to meet the needs of your aural and kinesthetic learners.

Thanks for reading all of that!  I hope you like it :)
You can check out this unit in my TPT store {HERE}.  It is on sale for $7 through this Sunday only {normal price: $10.00}.  It is 156 pages of goodies, so that is only 4 cents a page.  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me!


I was so excited when I was out shopping today {yes, I am on February vacation... don't hate me!} and I found these beauties.  Bunch of Branch pencils are made from (you guessed it) real tree branches.  They are absolutely gorgeous, and functional too.

 The best part?  The price tag!  $4.99 for 10 pencils.  I have seen these online for so much more than that.  I got them at HomeGoods.

 I just love how they bring nature right into the classroom, in such a functional way.  I can't wait to bring them to school!

I know right where I will put these little pretties... in my science center!  Do you have a science center?  I am in love with mine.  It is teeny tiny, but it does the trick.  I think that having one set place for science and nature shows a level of respect for nature and sparks curiosity in my littles.  The kids love bringing in things to add to our center, and I love how excited they get when there is something new there.

Here is the science center in action.  It is quite crowded here because the girls have pulled items off of the nearby science shelf to explore.  Here they are making observational drawings of shells and a slice of tree trunk (in one girl's hand) to add to our class science notebook (just a binder with sleeves inside).  I didn't ask them to do this, they just grabbed paper and colored pencils and started drawing and WRITING.  Be still my heart!  

And here it is a bit less crowded.  They are practicing how to use magnifying glasses to observe details (you mean you can't just squish it right on top of your eyeball and walk around the room?)

I love to add new things from time to time, and to keep it looking clean and inviting.  For example, I put out an amaryllis bulb with a sign that said "What is it?"  The kids speculated for a day or two, and wrote down their guesses on a class recording sheet.  My favorites?  "Cousin of an onion" and "Monster claw."  Then we planted it and watched what happened (you can see it in the pot on the table).

 Then of course we planted the bulb, watered it and are watching it grow.

I forgot to take a picture of how my sweet little science center looks when nobody is using it.  The little stools you can see in some of the pictures are actually plant stands from Ikea.  I love them because they are a natural material, are sturdy enough for even grown-ups to sit on them, and fold right up so I can put them away if I want to.  This is my second year using these little puppies and they are still going strong.

What are your favorite fast and easy ways to incorporate science and nature into your classroom?

Valentines Math Freebie

We had another snow day today {AND another one tomorrow, I just found out... ugh!} because the city is having trouble clearing streets, and catching the bus would be pretty dangerous with the mile high snowbanks.  In case you think I'm exaggerating, here is the snowbank at the end of my driveway.

Keep in mind that I am 5'11, and it is up to my chin!  That is only the snow from our driveway... the snowbanks on sidewalks and parking lots are even worse.

Anyway, a surprise snow day has given me a bunch of extra time to whip up some things that I have been wanting to make.  Here is a math patterning freebie for you.  It is differentiated with an easier and harder version so that you can choose which one best meets the needs of your students.  The best part is that you just print and go... no cutting, laminating or assembly required.

Click {HERE} to download

Snowpocalypse & Show Us What You Bought

Okay, so before we get started on the whole teaching thing, let's talk about how cRaZy this snowstorm was!  We live outside of Boston, and got 30 inches of snow in less than 24 hours.  THIRTY INCHES!!!  What?  There was a 24 hour driving ban across the whole state.  Here are the highlights in our neck of the woods.
Our little house after we shoveled for a few hours.  It's safe to say it's time to invest in a snowblower!

Our front door and steps.  Wait, what steps?!?

Mr. Man in action.  Thank God for him... I helped for about an hour and a half and then went inside and baked while he finished up.

And here's how helpful I am when shoveling :)  I also look dead sexy in my shoveling outfit.  I'm considering just wearing this ensemble at all times.

And now to the teaching related portion of our show...

Admittedly I am a week few days late for this linky, but better late than never!  I bought more during the Super Sunday TPT sale than I thought I would.  It is so worth it to have brand new clip art and ready to go units.


Number Practice Sheets by Katie Pipkin 

What are your favorite TPT finds?

Five for Friday

It's my first time linking up with Five for Friday.  Yay!  In case you don't know, it's five random things from this week.

1. This was the view out our front door a few hours ago.  This is just the beginning of the snow... winter storm Nemo is supposed to drop two feet or more on us by tomorrow.  It is so crazy out now that the Governor issued a no driving order.  Anyone caught driving in the entire state of Massachusetts after 4pm will receive a large fine AND up to a year in prison.  Craziness!  Needless to say I am snuggled up on my couch with snacks, a glass of wine and a delicious dinner in the oven.  I love snow days!

2. This is the super cute MLK Art that my kids did when I was out for surgery.  How adorable is that?  The activity went perfectly with Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport.  The book is propped up in the corner on a plate stand.  After reading the book, the students chose their own "Big Word" (adjective) to describe Dr. King.  I love how colorful they are.  Click {HERE} for more ideas for Dr. King and a freebie.

3. And here is the African American history month art they did with our amazing para.  Aren't they cute?  Each little one made him or herself and dictated a wish or thought they have about making the world a better place.  It really helped them to connect to the MLK books we had read.  I just love how it looks like they are trying to give you a hug!  Both the MLK project and this project are from Color Me Kinder.  We used {these} multicultural faces instead of the model included in the packet.

4.  I finally got around to laminating and posting these adorable class rules from Cara Carroll.  At the beginning of the year we had a big conversation about rules.  I chose the six posters that matched up to the rules my kids came up with and mounted them on ribbon.  It was so easy!  I literally taped a strip of ribbon to an ugly pipe in my room, then taped the mini posters on top of the ribbon.  Cute and easy... two of my favorite things!

5. We started learning about Chinese New Year.  We have quite a few Vietnamese students at school, who also celebrate.  How cute are these dragons from Blue Skies First Grade?  It was the perfect project for my parent helper to do with the kids.

Unfortunately the blizzard put our lantern making plans on hold, so hopefully we will get to that next week.  Here are my new favorite books to teach about Chinese New Year.  The illustrations are so bring and colorful... the kids love them.