Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

It's a typical stereotype, but every fall I go a little nuts for all things pumpkin and apple. This year I decided to manifest that stereotype in some cop-out pumpkin spice pancakes! 

Most of the time, I make pancakes by mixing up some Aunt Jemima box mix with different ingredients. I've done yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, various fruit or chocolate chips...this fall, I decided to try pumpkin spice. 

I followed the basic directions on the box to make the batter, but then I added a couple teaspoons of Trader Joe's pumpkin butter, a dash of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla extract. 


Perfect fall weekend breakfast. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Even More Apples

Among many other things, my mom instilled in me the very strong habit of picking apples every year. 

Without fail! 

It's always fun, always worth the effort, and I get to make delicious apple treats for weeks thereafter. This year, I went with just Sister, and I'm kind of glad because it was a bit of a fiasco. 

We usually go to Solebury Orchards in New Hope, which is a bit of a hike, but they have a great vibe and some extremely delicious apple cider donuts. However, this year they were completely mobbed when we showed up. The trees were fairly picked over (we theorize that they were about to switch over to new rows, because the rows available were picking were almost empty, but there were rows of trees a few yards away full of beautiful apples and signs that said "DO NOT PICK"). We, however, rose to the occasion and I channeled my inner Katniss to climb some trees. 


It ended up being a blast, but we were a little miffed at the availability of apples, and apple cider donuts. We got some cider ice instead, some beautiful pictures, 

Pretty sister. 

and skedaddled with our bags of treetop apples. 

Do you have any favorite fall traditions? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apples, Apples, Everywhere!

Our first science unit in kindergarten was all about the 5 Senses. We covered what they were, how they worked, and practiced using them with various objects and experiences in the room. We discussed how good scientists have three jobs--they have to observe the things around them, collect information about those things, and then communicate what they’ve learned.

Then we took our awesome scientist skills, and applied them to apples. Yum!

We read the books The Tiny Seed, and Ten Apples Up on Top. I know there are lots of other good apple books out there, but I’m just starting to build my library. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

We made stained glass apples,

Our apples had black "frames," but I didn't snap a picture.

And we explored actual apples from the grocery store. We used all five of our senses--seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and finally, tasting!

We described them, like good scientists, so that others can learn from what we know.

And, like good scientists, we made predictions--we guessed which color apple (red, yellow, or green) we would like the best. Each student took a slip of paper in the color of their guess. Then we tasted! 

If the students made correct predictions, they kept their slip of paper. If the results from our experiment surprised them, they could change the paper.

I emphasized at this point that science is less about being right or wrong, and more about learning new things. It’s always ok if our predictions are wrong!

We graphed the results.

Next, we made diagrams of our apples. These are ripped pieces of paper, and I printed out labels (our handwriting is still iffy!) so we could continue to communicate our learning. Didn’t they turn out adorable!?

The culmination of our Apples unit had two parts. (As you can see, we covered a lot of ground here! This took us most of September to accomplish.) We visited a local apple orchard, where we took a hayride, picked pumpkins, learned about how orchard workers pick apples, and picked apples to take home with us. I picked extra so we could have a special treat.

Crock pot applesauce! We made a recipe (which tied very neatly into our Sequence of Events unit from language arts) and let the apples simmer all day. Our classroom smelled fantastic.

Just FYI, it definitely took longer than three hours. More like five.

You will not believe how many times over the course of the day
students informed me that they were certain it was ready. It never was. 

It was the perfect--and delicious--way to finish off our apple unit!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back to School, A Little Late

When I said a few weeks ago that the school year had hit me like a ton of bricks, I wasn’t really employing hyperbole.


Anyway, I tried to warn you that posts may be delayed/fewer than usual/nonexistent, and I wasn’t just being self-deprecating. Any good teacher knows that the day starts long before students arrive, and continues way past when they get on the bus to head home. Add into that tutoring two previous students, stuff with church, and, you know, trying to be married and keep a household semi-functioning (which actually takes time), and there’s precious few moments left to blog.

Enough of the excuses. I just felt the need to explain myself, and justify the weekend hours I spent running errands, spending time with family, and reading a book instead of on here.

I wanted to round up a few of the resources that I found invaluable as a new teacher in the first week or two of school. Those first few days define craziness, and it all flies by in a blur of learning names, needs, and personalities, trying to teach classroom routines and procedures, and maybe, if you’re really lucky, actually getting some learning done.

This is an actual photo of my first week “plans.” I downloaded the plans template from Pinterest, and edited them to my needs and liking.


Then I made loooong lists of possible activities for those first few days. I tried to tell myself to relax, just take things one step at a time, and not sweat it if we didn’t actually get that much accomplished. After all, I’m not only new at this myself, but I’m teaching brand new 5 year olds!

Of course, I had to make myself fairly detailed plans for the first day, so I wrote it out on a piece of notebook paper. That only lasted two or three days, and now I’m quite comfortable fleshing out plans in weekly format.

Yes, those are my actual plans for this week. Luckily there are no coffee stains this week. ;-)

In those first few days, I tackled the following:
  • Teaching classroom routines (this could be a whole post in and of itself...hmm, note to self…). I focused on everyday routines, such as unpacking in the morning, snack and lunchtime routines (we eat in the classroom), lining up and walking in the hallway, sitting on the rug, and packing up in the afternoon. This list really helped me decide what to teach right away.
  • Get-to-know-you-activities and crafts. This included making self-portraits, morning meeting activities, and a graph of the letters in our names.
  • Practicing centers and other classroom usage. I have a very hands-on, interactive teaching style, so my room is full of ways for students to learn independently. Nothing makes me happier than seeing students play math games, choose good books from our class library, or practice their handwriting--WITHOUT REALIZING THEY ARE LEARNING. I absolutely believe learning should be fun, and kindergarten is the perfect place to practice that. Anyway, I taught my kiddos how to use the library, the math and literacy centers, and the art center.

Blurry literacy centers...I change out the materials every few weeks to make
sure we are practicing new skills! 

After three days of this stuff, the children felt comfortable in the room, and seemed ready to move on to actual learning! So we launched in our phonics program (we use Fundations, by Wilson Reading), our language arts (Foundations and Frameworks) and some math (Everyday Math). The fact that we had practiced so many routines and procedures meant that we could focus on the content.

In the first week and a half or so, did lots of simple activities to get used to the way learning happens in kindergarten. Those activities usually included a book, of course! The ones I am definitely planning to use again are:

  • First Day Jitters (talk about and make lists of how we feel on the first day of school)
  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (alphabet review, where to find things in our classroom)
  • I Like Me! (make our self-portraits)
  • If Everybody Did (talk about our classroom rules, and role play how we act in kindergarten)
  • Pete the Cat: Rockin’ in My School Shoes (for fun--play the song from youtube!)
  • Chrysanthemum (by Kevin Henkes, count the letters in our names and make a graph showing how many letters are in our names)

These covered several days, and let us get plenty of practice in using our materials, and our minds! Plus, they give us some cute things to hang around the room for back to school night.

Any other teachers out there have any “go-tos” for the first days of school? It’s such a tricky balance of letting the children adjust and breathe, and trying to get them used to the new schedule and (sometimes) rigorous expectations!