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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

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!

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!

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: 

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!

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.

Modeling
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.

Role-playing
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!

Generalization
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! 






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. 





Cannoli Dip

Last weekend we had our son's baptism party at our house and I made this delicious cannoli dip as an appetizer. In a world full of taco dips, cannoli dip is a breath of fresh air. Easy and delicious, it has become one of my standard go-to recipes thanks to my sweet friend Sarah who introduced me to cannoli dip a few years ago! I've played around with different combinations of cheeses and think I finally got my proportions right. It is a great dip to serve to mix up the appetizers at a book club meeting or it can be a great dessert to serve on a dessert bar after dinner. 


Yields 3 cups

Ingredients

8 oz. mascarpone cheese
15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Strain the ricotta cheese with a cheese cloth or absorbent paper towels by squeezing the moisture out. The ricotta will hold it's shape when it is strained. Here's a great tutorial with photos on how to properly strain ricotta!
2. In a standing mixer, whip heavy cream and vanilla extract with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. 
3. In a bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and ricotta cheese. 
4. Fold in the confectioner's sugar until combined. 
5. Fold in the whipped cream and the chocolate chips. 
6. Garnish with mini chocolate chips or chopped pistachios.

I use graham crackers but you can use broken up waffle cones, animal crackers, Nilla wafers or fresh fruit for dipping! Sometimes I even just use a spoon. Enjoy! 




Easy Like Wednesday Morning

Happy Wednesday to you my friends! Today I'm talking about morning routines. Like it or not, back-to-school is just around the corner- some of my friends are already back in session this week! I start to get that back-to-school jones around the first week of August. There really is nothing like a new year, a clean and organized classroom and a fresh group of kiddos who have no routines in place!

So how do you set the tone for success when you are still developing routines in September?!

Mornings in every classroom can be hectic, especially during the first month. Any teacher will tell you that the more independence that happens in the morning, the better the day goes. I am a firm believer that good routines in the morning set the tone for a smooth and successful day. Here are a few ways that I keep our mornings smooth right from day one.

1. Morning Business


In my classroom the kids have to take care of their morning business before they can begin morning work. Morning business includes:
-hang up your coat
-hang up your backpack
-change into sneakers (during the winter)
(Nobody is allowed inside the classroom until these three items are completed.)

Once you enter the classroom:
-put your folder in the basket
-sign up for lunch
-drop off library books (on library day)
-get started on your morning work

2. Morning Work


I LOVE morning work and it works really well for my students. One of the biggest challenges with morning work is choosing work that the students can be mostly independent with. When you are trying to take attendance, submit your lunch count and check folders, it is hard to help a student who is struggling. In September my morning work is easy-peasy (especially because I still don't have a grasp on how much my students know!) Most of the work involves tracing, coloring and following simple directions.


3. Me Time


I swear this is one of the secrets to productivity in my classroom. After students complete morning work I give them "me time". Me Time isn't free time and it's not computer time. It is time when the students have three choices:
-Scrap Monster
-Puzzles
-Books

I'm very specific with them about these three choices so that they understand Me Time is different than free choice time.

Our Scrap Monster is our glorified recycling bin which my kids have free reign over. I throw everything in there from envelopes to old sheets of stickers. They love to dig around and find new items and use them to draw pictures, make crafts or just play with paper (fine motor!).

Me Time is great because it gives the students something to work for in the morning and it also gives them some self-directed independent time in a mostly teacher-directed workday. For many of my students on the Autism spectrum, it provides a lot of self-soothing time for them to be able to sit quietly and complete a puzzle or draw a picture without being disrupted.

Selfish teacher bonus...it also keeps them busy while I am running around the classroom doing my own morning business!

4. Let's Get Visual!


Using visuals can really help your students to become more independent in their morning routines. I have a visual checklist in the hallway that my students can look at before they enter the room and pictures of their Me Time choices so there is no question about what they are allowed to do. One of my favorite visuals in my classroom is my lunch choice visuals. Thanks to these I don't have to repeat the lunch choices 1000 times before 9:00am! As if you need another reason to go out for Froyo, I keep the spoons from Froyo places and use them as our lunch choice sticks. They come in all different fun colors and they are durable so they last the whole year. You can grab these lunch choice visuals on sale TODAY only! There are 90 lunch choices included. Worried that your school's specialty choice isn't included? No problem. Each purchase comes with 6 custom choices!










Quinoa Fried Rice


Quinoa Fried Rice

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main dish

Ingredients

3 cups of cooked, cold quinoa
3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce or Bragg's liquid aminos
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil
1 cup of frozen edamame (or peas)
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced carrots
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
green onions for garnish
salt & pepper, to taste
Optional: scrambled egg

Cook quinoa in advance. I cook a pot of quinoa at the beginning of each week so I have it on hand for easy, healthy meals all week.

A little tip about cooking quinoa: I always soak quinoa for 10-15 minutes before cooking and rinse it well to get rid of the chalky-ness that it can sometimes have. I cook it like pasta by putting it in water, boiling it and removing after it has reached its desired texture, then I drain it. This prevents it from getting mushy and overcooked.

To make the fried quinoa:
Sauté carrots and onions in the olive oil until the carrots become slightly tender and the onions soften. Add shallots, garlic and edamame. Add the quinoa and soy sauce and stir until everything is mixed together and coated. The quinoa will stick to the bottom of the pan so keep stirring until it is heated. Add the sesame oil, stir, and remove from heat. Garnish with green onion. YUM! How easy is that?

We had it as a side dish with grilled teriyaki shrimp and salmon but since quinoa is high in protein you can have this as a meal by itself! It's an easy-peasy weeknight meal. My husband liked it so much that it might just become part of our weekly menu. Enjoy!




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