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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Sensory Bin

Ugh I know it's been awhile.  There's lots going on in my house right now...hopefully I can start being a better blogger soon!  For now, here's the Thanksgiving sensory bin I created for my son.  He absolutely LOVES it!  Basically, I raided the dollar section at Target (as always).  There may be 1 or 2 things from a craft store too.  He plays with it daily.  He tells me he wants to play "rice" haha.

 He really enjoys all the small things in there such as the rice, tiny plastic leaves, fake cranberries, and small felt pumpkins.  They are great for scooping up with his trucks!

Yes, that is orange rice.  Where did I get orange rice? Nowhere.  I had to make it.  I found a recipe for pumpkin spice scented rice at Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails.  I did find that after following the directions, my rice still smelled like disgusting wet rice.  I had to add more spice which in turn meant adding more food coloring.  Messy, stinky, but in the end, it smelled good.  My only complaint (I feel dumb for not thinking of this before) is that my dog wants to eat it.  I can't blame him.  It smells good.  So, I suggest either not doing this if you have a pet or keep a watchful eye on everything.  We usually put my dog in his crate and my son knows the lid has to go right back on when he's done.  He's also very careful about spilling it.  I just make sure to pick up any stragglers because of the dog.

Here's a sneak peek at some of the things I have for his Christmas sensory bin (not everything in each packet ends up in there...that would be a LOT of erasers haha).

I haven't decided what I should do as the main component.  I try to avoid rice.  I really meant to do dried corn or even popcorn for the Thanksgiving one...butttt I forgot!  I thought about cotton balls (snow) but I want to save that for a winter bin.  I MIGHT do cinnamon scented rice or at least put some cinnamon sticks in it.  Another idea is those clear or white stones you can buy to put in a vase.  I might do those and maybe I could find some that are red or green as well.  Or beads!  Ugh so many ideas and so little time to shop!  What's in store for your Christmas sensory bin?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From the Imagination of an Almost 3 Year Old

I've become quite accustomed to cars being all over my floor and I am fully aware that it's only a matter of time before I have TWO boys contributing to the mess.  Today was probably the largest car mess in my house I have ever seen...and I helped :)  I couldn't help myself.  My oldest woke up soooo happy (if you follow my posts you know this is rare lately).  He's been overall so much happier lately.  I think it's because I've made myself more aware of my own stress level and how I react to it. I firmly believe it was unfortunately rubbing off on him.  Back to my story.

He woke up SO happy.  I just wanted to squeeze him and keep him in my pocket all day lol.  He asked me with a huge, excited smile "Would you like to play cars with me?"  I paused, about to say "No, mommy needs to get ready for work right now."  That's my usual response.  But I thought twice and just looked at that smile.  Instead, I smiled back, grabbed the baby, and we all sat on the floor.  It started with my son separating the cars by their type and job.  This is what it ended up being:

 Here are some close ups of how his imagination works.

 This is his fire station.  He put all of his emergency vehicles there.

Here is his truck stop/junkyard.

The school buses along with some visitors apparently haha.  I took these when I got home from work so there was some mixing (or throwing) since the morning.

Mommy stepped in and drew a quick parking lot on the back of one of those obnoxiously large coloring sheets.  We needed something to do with all of the "regular" cars!

My personal favorite the "around town" picture I drew a few months ago.  Again, on the back of one of those large coloring sheets.  I drew his favorite places, Walmart, Target, Stop & Shop, the gas station, Dunkin Donuts, the park, and our house lol.  HE LOVES THIS!  Can you say FREE ENTERTAINMENT?

Last, but not least, the construction site...and a dinosaur.  Perhaps an archeological dig?  Just kidding, but I wouldn't be surprised!

You're probably asking yourself, why did she post this?  Well, for several reasons.  The first being, pre-schoolers are fascinating and have incredible imaginations.  Second, hours of fun can be pretty simple.  Third, sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, stop and play cars.  Should I really have been getting ready instead of doing this?  Probably.  Cramming everything in when my mom gets here is tough.  But, I would have missed on some quality time with my son and a wonderful way to start my day.  I left for work feeling relaxed and happy.  Enjoy your children.  They grow so fast.  And don't get mad about the cars all over the floor.  One day, they won't be all over your floor. That will be a sad day.  Enjoy today and watch where you step ;)


Monday, November 11, 2013

Rainbow Loom

Warning:  Corny joke ahead.

Well folks, I've hopped on the bandwagon.  Haha sorry I had to!  What does that mean?  If you have any school age children or work with them, then you know what I'm talking about.  Colorful rubber band bracelets made by a rainbow loom kit.  Why am I doing this if I have two children under age 3?  For one very big reason:  My students LOVE them.  They can't get enough of them.  Some of them are fortunate enough to have the kit or be able to get the bracelets.  Most of my kids can't.  I decided I wanted to add them to my prize box.  I knew buying them individually would be very expensive and since I like things like this, I bought the kit :)  My husband thinks that I'm nuts.  I think I'm awesome haha.  If you haven't seen this kit, you start with these:

The kit comes with a package of random colors.  You can also buy the bands separately.  Don't do what I did and just assumeee Amazon was the cheapest way to go.  I bought a few colors for around $5.00 (some slightly less, some slightly more) only to discover Michaels (a local craftstore) had them for $3.99!  MAD.  This is what the actually loom looks like:

Now you can get seriously crazy with these things by complicating the design, adding an extension loom, etc.  But I have two little ones and I'm seriously lucky I even have the 2 minutes it takes to make the simple design bracelet.  And to be quite honest, my students were super excited and grateful just for that!

I added a few to my prize box on Friday.  My lucky few who earned enough check marks that day were so excited to see them in there!  It was also nice to see the kids who already had bracelets hold back and choose something else.  They were eying them but I was proud at their choice.  I plan on making glow-in-the-dark, school colors, and town color bracelets...after I play with my babies and do my real work!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Conversations With 5th Graders About Reading

We all know how much 5th graders love to talk...about everything except what you want them to!  My group is pretty good and we have had some great conversations.  Now that they've been with me awhile and they're "used" to me, they seem to be getting bored.  I found this on TPT (of course).

They are these great cards by iHeartLiteracy.  You can download this product here.  They are Reading Comprehension Sentence Starters that come in 6 categories; Predict, Connect, Clarify, Question, Comment, and Synthesize.  I used them as conversation starters to discuss what we are reading.  Currently, we are reading this:

This text is from Reading A-Z.  Some of the cards don't really go with this non-fiction piece so we set them aside.  They were a great way to get my students to really think about and reflect on what we are reading.  Some of them had difficulty with what the card was asking them.  I thought that was actually a good thing because they would have had difficulty with it as a test question.  Talking about it while reading allowed us to address what the difficulty issue was.  We helped each other respond should someone be stuck.  I was happy with the result.  It can be a quick activity and be a nice break away from our typical discussion!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pocket Chart Letters and Sounds

While browsing Amazon tonight in search of magnetic letters or letter tiles I noticed something. OMG are educational items massively overpriced! Ugh! With that in mind, I finally decided to make my own pocket chart letters and sounds (another thing I was looking at). 

Here's what I came up with: 

*3 of each lowercase consonant (blue) 
*3 of each lowercase vowel + y (red) 
*3 of each uppercase consonant (blue) 
*3 of each uppercase vowel + y (red) 
*1 of each l-blend bl,cl,fl,gl,pl (orange) 
*1 of each r-blend br,cr,dr,fr,gr,pr (pink) 
*1 of each s-blend sc,sk,sl,sm,sp,st,sw (aqua) 
*1 of each n-blend nd,ng,nk,nt (lime green) 
*1 of each digraph ch,sh,th,wh,ck (gray)
*1 of each bossy r ar,er,ir,or,ur (black) 
*1 of each talker ai,ay,ea,ee,ey,ie,oa,oe,ue,ui (green)
*1 of each whiner au,aw,ou,ow,oo,oi,oy (purple) 

 I'm super excited to start using these on Monday!  Of course, I need to go and buy more laminating pouches and probably more ink with the way I've been printing things!  Head to my TPT store to purchase this!  Happy Friday and keep checking back for more!

Five for Friday (Linky Party) 11/1

Whoa!  November already! Crazy!  Let's start it off by linking up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for their great linky party!


On Saturday, we took advantage of the membership my dad bought us to our local aquarium.  They were encouraging folks to come dressed up and meet Spiderman.  Since my son LOVES their meerkats and is a meerkat for Halloween, we had to go!  Here's my meerkat watching the fish.

My second graders finished up with Reading A-Z Initial and Final S blend lesson.  They did really well with it. I'm excited to see that it was a good idea to break away from the LLI kit for a bit to focus more on decoding.  Wrapping up R blends soon then heading back to LLI to see how it goes!
Took some time to do some much needed catching up/organizing of all my copies, things I've laminated and needed to be cut, grading, etc.  It's amazing how everything piles up!  Not enough storage in my cubicle for this madness!

Happy to see my wordhouse is doing well!  The kids are responding very well to it.  They are so excited to participate!

Trick-or-Treat?  Hopefully you picked treat because this is the stash we gave out!  Our neighborhood is quite a happening place since we have a couple of "haunted houses" in people's yards.  It goes fast!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Impromptu Lesson

I mentioned on Friday that I did an impromptu activity with my Kindergartners using Dot Markers.  I had been meaning to actually create this activity on the computer but with my two little ones, it's hard!  I finally just drew (very poorly I might add) a bubble gum machine with gumballs inside.  

Each student (I have 5) and myself had a sheet with different uppercase and lowercase letters.  I would then choose an uppercase or lowercase letter card (ones I already had laying around).  If you had it you got to dot it with your special marker.  Well, they were just beside themselves lol.  They LOVED this activity and my poor drawing skills.  They were so unbelievably excited to be using the Dot Markers!  So was I!

 Even my one little friend, who tends to give me a run for my money, sat and actively participated.  My favorite part was how well they were doing telling me what letter it was and if it was uppercase and lowercase.  It was good to see that they are slowly but surely getting it.  Now if they could just do it when I formally assess them!  Perhaps all formal assessments should use Dot Markers?  ;)  If only it were that easy!  Anywho, I'm working on making this a nice printable.  Hopefully it will be done this weekend!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five for Friday (Linky Party!) 10/25

Yay! Super excited for my first linky party! I'm linking up this week with Doodle Bugs Teaching for their awesome linky party!

On Sunday, we (my husband, 2 little boys, mom, and dad) all went to a local orchard.  My dad's company was hosting an event there that weekend aka free stuff (still managed to spend some).  It was so fun spending time with my family...even if my toddler was a cranky pants.

Tuesday was fun.  Our school went pink!  Days like this are really important.  My fourth graders were asking some great questions about the day and about cancer.  I wish I had all the answers but I think it was great that they were even having a discussion about it.
My mom took the kids to Walmart this week.  Then came home with some groceries for me.  She ROCKS!
My Kindergarteners couldn't have been more excited about my impromptu Uppercase/Lowercase matching game.  They had never used Dot Markers before so they were just beside themselves!
"They're going to Neverland!"  That's what my son informed me as we sit here watching Peter Pan for the umpteenth time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Syllable Sorting

My firsties are a tough group for me this year.  I have all boys.  5 of them to be exact.  Keeping their focus (especially with my behavior issues) is tough.  I've found that they respond well to anything hands on.  We are also using Leveled Literacy Intervention Kits by Fountas And Pinnell (not too sure how I feel about them).  Several of the lessons have had syllables as their phonics part.  The kids, and myself, are bored with the pictures they have us sorting.  I decided to make my own activities!  So far, I have created 4 different themed syllable sorting activities.  I used these super adorable graphics from The Pink Cat Studio's store at TPT.  The boys loved it! It was perfect for small group.  They liked clapping out the syllables and looking at the different animals.  You can find the four different versions at my TPT store.

Here are my firsties enjoying the Aquarium Syllable Sort!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Letter Names

My kindergarten cuties are having a tough time with letter names.  I came across this problem at my previous job as well.  They can tell me some letter names, but none of the 5 can tell me each letter.  My favorite is that they can write their name but can't tell me how to spell it!  We have a lot of letter work ahead of us.  To help them with this I created a cute matching activity.  It will help them to match uppercase and lowercase letters.  This can be done in a small group, center, or independently.  We will be doing this in our small group so that we can discuss the names and sounds as well.  The images are acorns.  The top half is the lowercase letter and the bottom half is the uppercase letter.  I will try to post pics of them using it soon!  If you are interested in this activity just click on one of the images below.  It will lead you to my TPT store!

Freebie Friday #5

Ugh.  Sorry everyone!  I know I've been slacking.  We're having a tough time with my 2 1/2 year old.  He refuses to go to bed and we're usually fighting with him until after 10!  MADNESS!  In other words, he's sucking up any small amount of time I might have to get work done.  Today's freebie is a cute stationary border.  I know it's not as fun as past freebies but I'm hoping it will get better!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sleep Sacks

As many of you know, there hasn't been much sleep happening in my house lately.  My husband and I are lucky if we get 3 hours straight with a total of MAYBE 4 hours of sleep.  Our 4 month old hasn't been a great sleeper and my toddler stopped sleeping when we brought the baby home (he had also gone to the hospital himself for a few days).  Our baby has especially hated that we switched him to his crib instead of his snug as a bug bassinet.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVED this thing and so did both of my babies.  But alas, babies grow and well, furniture doesn't.  He was NOT happy about this transition.  Not one little bit.  On top of the rough time we were already having, things just got worse.  My husband and I never see each other.  By the time he gets home it's bedtime for the kids.  That could take hours.  Then one or both of us is falling asleep with one of them.  It's sad.  But...there's a glimmer of hope. I bought one of these babies.

I used to laugh at these.  I thought they were ridiculous.  I still think they're kind of funny.  However, I was desperate.  Our baby is in our room.  We hate it.  But we didn't have a choice.  His crib is in our room until he learns to sleep better.  Then his little baby booty is off to his brother's room (this is all being reconsidered because we feel big brother's not sleeping anyways and might actually sleep if he has a buddy).  Our room is FREEZING COLD.  Little one would be very cold when I would pick him up during the night. I'm thinking this is PART of the reason why he's so miserable.  So I bought a nice fleece one.  I don't swaddle his arms in but you still wrap the part around his chest.  He's so warm and fuzzy at night I almost don't want to put him down (ALMOST haha).  

Friday night we decided he would have to "cry it out."  It sucked.  I hate it.  But it worked wonders for my oldest.  Well this one hates it.  He cried 45 minutes but actually fell back asleep.  Then he slept amazing!!!!  The next night we had the sack and it happened again!  AND AGAIN LAST NIGHT!  I'm probably jinxing myself lol.  But that's okay.  At least I know it's possible.  I really don't have much advice for those of you going through this extremely tough phase.  Just know that you're not alone.  And guess what, it does suck.  And it's okay to cry about it.  I just had my glimmer of hope and I'm sure yours will come soon! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Freebie Friday #4

Man is this a total TGIF moment!  Unfortunately I'm sitting here listening to my baby's first night of "crying it out" aka "Mommy's crying."  But that's a post for another day lol.  Here is your freebie and boy is it a GOOD one.  This one is exclusively for my wonderful followers.   You won't find it on TPT!  It's just for you my lovelies!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I've started my new job and am creating new products.  This one is an alphabet puzzle.  Students must match each uppercase letter with it's lowercase buddy along with a picture that represents their beginning sound.  I suggest printing it off on cardstock and laminating.  It's the best way to keep them intact!  It's my weekend project to use with my Kindergarteners on Monday.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Tiny Mouse for Tiny Hands

Earlier this year, I decided that my son really should learn to use the computer, especially a mouse. He's so used to finger swiping with my phone that I thought I should teach him to use a mouse. In my opinion, I don't think they will even be around much longer. Everything's finger swiping and with schools becoming more equipped with iPads, I think the mouse will be harder to find.  

I started off by trying to get him to use our mouse.  Well that was a big fail.  First off, he had no idea what I was even talking about or trying to teach him (I think he was too little).  Second, his hand was just way too tiny for our mouse!  After a few failed tries I decided to search for a more child friendly mouse.  I began searching Amazon and came across this...

It looked perfect!  We ordered it and when it arrived we couldn't wait to try it out.  It really was perfect for my son's hand.  I was sure it would work!  I was wrong.  The mouse was fine but, my son wasn't grasping the concept.  He loved playing on  He just had no idea how to use the mouse.  The picture in my head of my son navigating his way through the site vanished.  UGH!  Was I really going to have to sit here and do all this every time he wanted to go on the site I just paid a ridiculous amount of money to join?  Well...yes lol.  I did.  For a few months.  It's really hard to do that while caring for my baby as well.  One day recently I finally decided to give the mouse another try.  This time, it "clicked" (pun intended haha).  He understood what it was for!  I sat beside him with my hand on our wireless mouse, waiting to assist.  I assisted a bit at first but eventually I let him take over.  

For someone who has been using a mouse most of her life it was extremely difficult to sit back and let him slowlyyy move the mouse and slowlyyy click the button.  He figured it out doing one of the toddler coloring activities on the website.  I think since the arrow turned into a huge marker, it really help him see where to move the "arrow" and what to do with it.  Literally with in a few days he figured out how to navigate through a portion of the site.  I love that whatever you hover over or click speaks to you or flashes.  It really helps him.  Whenever he exits out of the art part it asks if you would like to save your work.  He always orally responds "yes," nods, and clicks the correct button lol.  Too cute!

I'm thinking of changing the arrow to something larger in general.  Perhaps it will help him more.  I think the fact that the mouse is smaller and has two color coded buttons (saying "click the left button" means nothing to him but he understands "click the blue button") really helps. also has a mouse tutorial.  He did awful that first time we tried it. We haven't tried it again but watching me, playing the art activity with the large marker, and playing the pop the bubbles/balloons games have really helped him grasp the concept.  I will let you know if I discover any other helpful tips or sites!