May 14, 2016

Hosting an End of the Year Family Day!

Hey, everyone! This weekend I am teaming up with a bunch of bloggers around the country who have spring fever, baby! We are ready for summer vacation but are filled with ideas and freebies to get you through the last few weeks of the year.

This week was a special week for my kiddos, as we welcomed our families in to our classroom for our annual Family Fun Day! I used to do a Mother's Day Tea and Donuts with Dad, but over the years my students have had different family compositions that made me decide to change it up. Instead of celebrating each individual parent, I invite the families in to have an end-of-the-year family day to wrap up what we've done this year!

Here is a look at what we do for Family Day and some ideas to get you started!


I send home this invitation a few weeks in advance. You can download a free, editable invitation by clicking here!

The kids made the flower arrangements out of fake flowers and plastic cups. Underneath their picture frame is their small moment writing piece from Writer's Workshop. Their small moment stories were a moment that was spent with their family. In the large manila envelope is all of their artwork from art class this year.

We made hanging picture frames out of scrapbook paper and popsicle sticks, and the kids posed for an adorable photo with our chalkboard. We used Mod Podge to seal the photo and the scrapbook paper to the popsicle sticks.

This year we made this adorable craft from Mrs. Jones's Kindergarten class. You can download the free tags on her blog!

You can never go wrong with interviewing 6 year olds and finding out how they feel about their families! I interview the kids and type up their responses. These are always hysterical! Here is the list of prompts that I use.

Last but not least, I make a class video on iMovie of all of the photos I have taken throughout the year. I am a bit excessive with taking photos of our learning...this year our class movie was 36 minutes long! Cara over at The First Grade Parade has a great list of music to add to an end of the year slideshow. This year I used:
  • Photograph by Ed Sheeran
  • If You're Out There by John Legend
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
  • Never Grow Up by Taylor Swift
  • Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye
  • The Best Day by Taylor Swift
  • Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney
Check out the next stop on our Summer Blog Hop by visiting Jenn over at Teach Love Autism! 

May 1, 2016

Inspiring Learning Spaces: Phase 1

Have you ever stopped to think about how much has changed in education over the past 50 years? Technology is the most notable change, as many classrooms now are brimming with iPads, Chromebooks, SmartBoards and QR codes. However, with all of the changes and progress we have seen in education, there isn't a lot to show for it inside the four walls of a classroom. I know what you're thinking.. "Umm, what about Pinterest? My classroom is cuter than it's ever been!" But despite chevron labels and pom poms hanging from the ceiling (don't hate, I'm right there with you!) our classrooms are still pretty standard. If you're in denial, I want you to consider this: when you envision a classroom, what pops into your head? If you were playing Pictionary and the card you picked was "classroom", what would you draw? Most people would draw a classroom with rows of desks and a teacher at the front. 50 years ago the teachers had all the knowledge and the students were there to receive that knowledge. That is no longer the case.

classroom environment

Education is drastically different now than 50 years ago and so are the students, yet our classrooms still look the same. The kids still walk in the door in the morning and sit in their hard backed chairs (which have probably been in the room for 30 years) and we still stand in front of them barking out orders in front of a board (but now it's interactive, YAY us!) Do you see where I'm going with this? If we always do what we've always done, we will always get what we've always got. Once I began researching more I found that tons of teachers had caught the same bug! I have since seen dozens of teachers looking for flexible seating on Donors Choose and on Pinterest. Trailblazing teachers like Kayla Delzer of Top Dog Teaching have been leading the pack with innovative and creative ways to make the classroom environment student-centered, comfortable, technology rich and engaging for students.

I was inspired to change my learning space at a technology committee meeting in my district in November. I left  that meeting motivated to go back to my classroom and rethink everything within our four walls. The idea to inspire our learning spaces came after some of our faculty members attended a conference and heard David Jakes speak. We were shown videos that were similar to an Extreme Home Makeover, but with classrooms. Based on the book and philosophy of The Third Teacher by Cannon Design, these videos showed how teachers can remake their classroom to meet the needs of the 21st century learner, without spending thousands of dollars on new furniture and a class set of iPads. In their book, The Third Teacher, they explain that in every classroom there are three teachers: the teacher, the students and the physical learning environment.

A few things really resonated with me after the meeting. First, we need to rethink the classroom environment that we create and challenge ourselves to really meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Second, we need to be always willing to change and progress. Just when you get excited that your classroom *finally* got iPads...consider this! The technology your students are exposed to now is the WORST technology they will use in their lifetime. Third, our students don't know a world without iPhones and touch screens and WiFi. Students today view WiFi the way we view electricity. We never drive to work in the morning wondering if there will be electricity when we get there.

inspired spaces

Over the next few months, I am going to be sharing a series of posts on inspiring your learning space and reimagining your classroom environment, without breaking the bank! My hope is that you will join me and become as inspired as I became as you piece together your classroom this summer. Each post will challenge you and give you ideas on how you can change your learning space without spending a fortune (because what teacher has extra money to spend in the summer?! Or ever? Ha!) I hope that you will share these Inspired Truths with teachers in your building. It's becoming quite contagious in mine.

Inspired Truth Number One

How much of the room belongs to your students?

Somewhere in my research I read a statistic that said 80% of the classroom space should belong to the kids. WOW. That was like a punch in the face to me. I am embarrassed to admit that when I read that statistic, probably 40% of my classroom belonged to me. What do I mean by "belonged?" I mean that 40% of the classroom was full of MY filing cabinets, my desk, my computer, my shelves lined with bins that were color coordinated of MY supplies and MY stuff. Things my kids didn't touch. Of course it is all "for the kids" because I am the teacher, but did I really need to be taking up all that space to stay organized??? The next day, I got rid of my teacher desk and purged a TON of things from my classroom that I did not need.


Follow the same mentality that went viral this year with the popularity of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If it doesn't spark joy, thank it for it's service and get RID OF IT! We are teachers, I know. We are hoarders, packrats, thrifters, up-cyclers and re-users. But for crying out loud it is TIME to get rid of the manuals from your reading program in 2003. Are you really ever going to melt down all of those crayons and make them into valentines? Is it necessary to have 3 bins of counting bears and four different types of base ten blocks? Will you realistically ever use the scraps of borders that don't even match your current classroom theme? Do all of those markers even WORK? When was the last time you put in one of those VHS tapes? Speaking of which, when was the last time you used the VCR? Or the TV? Or the 150 puppets that you inherited from the teacher who had this classroom before you? Is it necessary to have an entire bookshelf dedicated to thesauruses?!?! Do yourself a favor, find a recent education college grad and pawn all of this stuff off on her. She will be thrilled, and you will feel an enormous weight lifted off of you. You can donate gently used school supplies to churches, youth bureaus and other school districts. Get rid of all the things. Make room in your classroom for the space that your students need to be 21st century thinkers. Share your photos of what you purge on social media and hashtag it #inspiredspaces so I can see how much you've done!

Stay tuned for Phase 2: The Great Furniture Swap!

February 28, 2016

Read Across America- A Peek at My Week ( & FREEBIE!)

Why do the weekends go by so fast? I swear it was Friday 10 minutes ago! I don't normally look forward to Monday but this week I am excited to get back to my classroom and dive in to Read Across America Week! You can learn more about Read Across America Week by clicking here.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year and one of my favorite units to teach my kids. Every year when we celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday and Read Across America, I am reminded how important read alouds are and how much my students enjoy them. It's sad that read alouds are often the first to go when we are trying to fit everything else in. Dr. Seuss's stories are the best for read alouds because they are silly, funny and full of tongue twisters. I can still remember my dad reading me Fox in Socks when I was a little girl. He had the whole book memorized by the time I was 5 years old. I used to make him read it over and over again. How many books can we say that about?

Here's a look at what I have planned for my week and what I have done in the past. A few years ago I decided I would focus on one book per day and try to plan activities that were based on each book. This year I am excited to add What Pet Should I Get? to my plans! Have you read it? My Nana and Poppop gave it to my son when he was born and we love it! We read it during bath time because that's the only time he sits still long enough to listen to a Dr. Seuss book. I whipped up a writing response sheet for a shared writing activity on Friday. You can grab it at the bottom of this post!

If you're teaching about Dr. Seuss this week, make sure you check out the Seussville website. There are tons of resources there and lots of interactive activities!   

Happy reading!


I'm kicking off our fun-filled week with The Cat in the Hat. Some say I'm crazy for dressing up like the Cat in the Hat tomorrow, but I really just like an excuse to wear all black. :)

Finger painting fun! We follow up this activity with writing in our journals. "If the Cat in the Hat came to my house, we would...."

Strawberry banana "hats"! This year I might make fruit & yogurt parfaits instead, the kids weren't crazy about the kabobs (go figure)! I saw some cute pictures on Pinterest of layering the berries with vanilla yogurt.


One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

On Tuesday we will complete a class graph! How cute is the blue jello with Swedish Fish inside? We will also discuss the parts of a book cover and make our book cover project. 


This book cover project is super easy! I just print out the cover of the book and have my students cut it up and label the parts: author, title, illustration, award. 


Green Eggs & Ham and Fox in Socks


Every year I show my students my copy of Fox in Socks from when I was a little girl. That "5" written in the upper left hand corner was from my days playing school and library. No surprise there!

My kids go crazy for this simple card game. We play a different version of it during every unit. It's quite simple. Pick a card, read the card, keep the card. If you draw Green Eggs or Ham, you lose all of your cards! I like having multiple versions because my kids are all at different levels. We play with letters, sounds, sight words and nonsense words. 


The Lorax

I know many of you save The Lorax for Earth Day, but I just can't wait. Here's a picture of my DIY Lorax costume! 


The Lorax craft is made from orange paper plates, yellow tissue paper and strips of orange construction paper! All of the supplies can be purchased at Hobby Lobby.


What Pet Should I Get?


Click below to download this freebie!

You can grab most of these activities in my Read Across America unit! 

Here is a preview of what's included:


January 2, 2016

How to Make Fruit & Cheese Kabobs- Writing Freebie!

Happy New Year everyone! Today I'm sharing an activity (and a freebie!) that I will be doing with my class this month as we continue to fine tune our sequencing skills and our how-to writing. I love doing a hands-on activity before we do how-to writing. I have some very concrete learners and it makes a significant difference when they can actually DO what it is that they are writing about. Making any sort of kabob is a good way to practice patterns, sequencing and fine motor skills. For the past three years I have had students with peanut allergies so this is also a great way to use food in the classroom without worrying about nut allergies. I always call home to my allergy parents to make sure they feel comfortable with the activity first. They have always been happy to have their child involved in a safe food activity at school, since those are few and far between for our allergy kids!

Whenever I do a cooking activity with my class, I try to prep all of the materials beforehand. For an activity like this, I suggest divvying up the ingredients onto plates or into bowls so each child has his or her own set of ingredients. Then you also avoid any sticky fingers from contaminating the ingredients. Yuck!

Depending on the level of your kiddos, you can talk about kitchen safety while you prep the ingredients. I always teach the kids about washing produce, knife safety and clean hands.

You can play with the food and make different kabobs to hone in on different skills and modify to match the needs of your class.
Here are some different ways I have used kabobs: 
  • For some learners, the fine motor manipulation of pinching the foods and sliding them on will be the bulk of the activity. 
  • Ask them to make a particular pattern (AB, AAB, ABA, ABC). 
  • Make it a listening and following directions activity. Tell them what order to put them in. After you are done, show them your kabob and see if their kabob matches yours.  
  • Ask students to verbally describe the pattern they made.
  • Ask students to describe someone else's pattern.
  • Have students work with a partner on giving directions and conversational skills. 

I hope your little loves enjoy this activity as much as mine!

To download the freebie, click the image below!

October 1, 2015

Fall Craftivities

Happy October! How does September go by so fast?? I suppose that's a good thing since it's the month I usually block out of my memory each school year. I have a wonderful new group of kiddos this year and I am looking forward to a great year together. This year I have 12 kids (yes, 12!) which is the most I have ever had. I finally have girls this year (woo hoo!) and I have an awesome new aide in my class this year. All in all life is good in our classroom. It's feeling like fall at home now too. This week the temperature has dropped a lot in Buffalo and the leaves are starting to change. Tonight my family and I went to get pumpkins and mums for the porch since it's officially October. My brother is getting married on Saturday so we are hoping for a beautiful October day for them!

Over the next two months our theme in the classroom is apples and pumpkins! We will take a trip to a pumpkin patch and we will have our Apple Investigation Day in a few weeks.

Here is a visual tour of the crafts we will be doing this month. Our October crafts are some of my favorites!

Paint Swatch Monsters
I love these little guys SO MUCH! We made them for the first time last year and they turned out so stinkin' adorable. Yes, Home Depot has a photo of me behind the counter for stealing so many paint swatches. I use foam pieces for the facial features and of course, googly eyes!

3-D Pumpkin Diagram
We make these fun pumpkins when we dissect a pumpkin and learn about the parts of a pumpkin. I got this craft from my sweet friend, Sarah, who moved to another school last year (wahhhh). I miss her and her creativity every day! On the inside of the pumpkin we glue that confetti grass that people use in gift baskets for the pumpkin pulp. 

Thankful Turkeys
As you can see, I wasn't kidding about my paint swatch hoarding problem. I love making these paint swatch turkeys when we start talking about being thankful. At the top of each feather the kids write one thing they are thankful for.

Thankful Pumpkins
This adorable craft came from The Moffatt Girls. It is so easy and looks great on display in the hallway above our cubbies! I always have parents tell me they used it as a centerpiece on Thanksgiving.   

Shape Witches
This craft came from my old teammates and is a fan favorite in kindergarten. Each of the pieces of the witch are different shapes and when it's assembled it looks like she is flying into the wall. The kids get a kick out of it!

September 1, 2015

Teaching Social Skills in an Elementary Class

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may remember that last year I posted photos of my weekly social skill lessons. I got a lot of questions about how I teach social skills so it's about time I addressed it!

Last year I started teaching social skills to my group of kindergarteners and first graders using the skillstreaming approach to social skills instruction. Skillstreaming is a method of instruction that contains four main parts:

1. Modeling
2. Role-playing
3. Performance feedback
4. Generalization

There are entire programs, camps and schools that are based on the skillstreaming model because it is research based and it works! My little version is a compilation of lessons and ideas that work for an elementary classroom with a limited amount of time! I set aside 30-45 minutes on Monday to teach social skills and we practice it all week for approximately 15 minutes per day.

To introduce and model the social skill of the week, my aides and I act out the skill together. Depending on the group, we can use a bit of humor and act out the WRONG way to do something (always gets some laughs!) and then act out the RIGHT way to use the social skill.

After the skill has been modeled, my students get to come up and act out the skill. This takes a bit of practice and modifications for certain students but they LOVE it! We practice role-playing every day that week to secure the skill.

Performance Feedback
After the students role-play, they are given feedback on their performance to show that they followed the steps of the social skill correctly. I give green points (Class Dojo) and a whole lotta enthusiasm to get them pumped up about their performance!

Generalizing the social skill is the whole idea behind teaching social skills! We want our kiddos to go out into the world and USE the skills, so when they can generalize the skill across all areas of their life it means that they have actually learned it. To encourage generalization, I point out that my students used a social skill and provide immediate reinforcement. For example, if a student asks a question appropriately I will say "You get a green point for using a social skill!"

Stay tuned for a YouTube video of me teaching social skills to my students in a few weeks!

Interested in trying social skills in YOUR classroom? You can get my social skills lessons for 30% off TODAY ONLY! 

August 2, 2015

10 Tips for Creating a Useful Classroom Website

Hey everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend. I meant to get this post out this morning but in typical 3 month old baby world, I am just getting around to the finishing touches on it tonight. Can you believe it's August? It's very bittersweet for me. I miss teaching and am excited to go back to work, but I also wish I could stay home with my baby all the time! We have had such a special summer. I went into my classroom this week to get a little bit done and I feel a lot better now. Since I was on maternity leave last year I did not get to pack up my classroom or do my usual end-of-the-year list of things to make my summer easier. I still need to go in and send copies out, get prepped and organized for my new class. At least my classroom is mostly set up now.

Tonight I'm talking about making a classroom website that works! Does your school require a classroom website? Do you get to choose what is on it? In my school we are required to have one but the minimum requirements are pretty minimum, meaning we have lots of room to make it our own. Here is a look at what I feature on my classroom website and how it works for my class and my parents. Since I am a kindergarten and first grade teacher, my classroom website is a tool for parents.

1. Homepage with Important Info At-a-Glance

When you enter my classroom webpage I include all information that a parent may be looking for. Telephone number, email, social media and a link to my "What's New?" page.

2. What's New?

In place of a traditional newsletter, I include the What's New page on my classroom website. It has our text reminders embedded into it, our Instagram photos streaming on it, and a list of upcoming events, themes and important information for parents to know. 

3. Meet Mrs. Hornung

I include a biography of me that helps families to get to know me better!

4. Meet My Team!

My students spend a lot of time with my paraprofessionals. I think it is important for families to be able to contact them and get to know them a little better too.

5. Important Documents

I love having important documents like this on my classroom webpage for anyone to be able to access. When I have families tour my classroom I always direct them to my website so they can read more about the way that I run my program.

6. Academic Information

I post links to curriculum information, our homework and grading policy and tips for parents. I also include suggestions for apps, websites and materials.

7. Classroom Wish List

Enough said!

8. Classroom Job Descriptions

9. Our Favorite Books

After we read theme related books I like to post the most popular ones on our website. I often have parents ask me what books their child enjoyed or if I have suggestions for books. 

10. Frequently Asked Questions

Having a FAQ section is a great way to answer a lot of questions or include a lot of information in one page.