Fourteen in '14!

I've been having such a blast reading everyone's 14 in '14 blog posts that I've decided to join in on the fun! I hope you enjoy reading about my highlights of 2014!
 I rang in the new year one year ago with my best friend and boyfriend in Boston. It was a great night filled with friends and fun! What a great way to kick off a new year!
 In February, I celebrated my little cousin, Michael's, first birthday. I was originally unable to go home for this, but it wound up working out. It was so nice to see my whole family and get to spend time with my little puppy who was slowly getting sick.
 In March, my brother, Mike, came to visit my classroom and teach my kinders about germs and other doctor-y stuff! They loved asking him questions! He also brought masks, gloves, and disposable stethoscopes for us to try out on each other. We all had a blast listening to our friends' heartbeats! This was also a perfect addition to our nonfiction unit.
 In May, my mom came to visit my classroom! She helped us plant flowers and read us The Seed by Eric Carle. She only planned on visiting for the morning, but she was having so much fun that she stayed the whole day! It was great getting to show her what I do every day.
Also in May, Niko graduated from Quinnipiac University with his doctorate in physical therapy. I'm so proud of him! 2015 will bring his physical therapy boards… cross your fingers!
 In June, I celebrated the ending of my first year as a teacher. It was an amazing year with many ups and downs, but I have grown into a better teacher because of it! I couldn't have asked for better people to spend my first year with!
 In July, Niko got me an "IOU" puppy as a birthday present after the passing of my dog in March. 2015 will bring with it the addition of our new puppy, and I can't wait! {Literally, I have a countdown!}
 Also in July, I got to celebrate one of my close friends' weddings. It was fun spending the night with my close college friends.
 I also started this little blog in July of 2014!!! AND I made my first TPT sale!! It was such an exciting month! I'm so thankful for how my blog and store have grown, and for all of the amazing teachers I've met through both!
 In August, I was lucky enough to take our annual cruise with my parents. It was a great way to relax before the new school year began! {Although, I spent the majority of the time making to-do lists while laying on the beach!}
 At the end of August, it was time for the new school year to start! I spent all summer planning and prepping to make this year even better than the last!
Sometime in the fall, I took the plunge and chopped my hair off! I've had long hair ever since I can remember, and it was a very scary experience to get rid of it! {I even had to have my good friend, Erin, accompany me to the salon so I wouldn't chicken out!} But now I love it, and I'm so glad that I cut it!
In October, I helped one of my very best friends {and twin!}, Jackie, celebrate her bridal shower! I am so very excited for her and her fiancĂ©, Mike, to get married in March! 
Finally, this past summer, I helped to create one of the best new collaborative teaching blogs out there, The Primary Pack. I am so in love with all of the amazing new friends that I've made as a result of this community, and I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!
I hope you've enjoyed my top 14 in '14! Don't forget to link up your own post with Miss Kindergarten!
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Don't Panic! 5 Minute Student Gift!

Happy Winter Break to all of my friends who ended school today! For me, I have two more days next week. So, it was my goal this weekend to complete my students' gifts. If you read my blog post a few days ago, you know that I've been collecting my favorite, easy DIY student gifts. Now it's time to reveal what I made this year… gingerbread play dough!!!

Last year, I made candy cane play dough. I loved it; they loved it, but I wanted to change it up a bit this year! So, I shopped around the grocery store and grabbed those holiday-favorite spices!

Dry ingredients: 
2. Flour (2 cups)
3. Salt (1 cup)
4. Cinnamon (1 tbsp.)
5. Ginger (1 tbsp.)
Step 1: combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.
Step 2: Add the wet ingredients (2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil, 1 cup water)
Step 3: Mix well until it forms a ball.
Step 4: Knead by hand until smooth.
Now it's time for the packaging! I bought small Betty Crocker tupperware so that my kiddos can store their play dough in an air-tight container. {Also so that it doesn't dry out by the time I give it to them on Tuesday!} For me, one batch made enough for 10 gifts.
Here's my little packaging station. I got cello bags from The Christmas Tree Shop, ribbon from The Dollar Tree, the tupperware from The Dollar Tree, cookie cutters from The Dollar Tree, and I printed up some cute gift tags on card stock.
First, I put the tupperware in the center of the cello bag and tied it with about an arm's length of ribbon. Next, I slipped a cookie cutter on one end of the ribbon, and a gift tag right after it. I made a double knot around the cookie cutter/gift tag. 
The last step was to curl the ribbon! Here's the final product! My apartment smells AMAZING, and all of these little gift bags lying around make me super happy! Making the play dough took about 5 minutes, and the whole process {including wrapping 16 gifts} took about a half hour. I definitely recommend trying out this fun holiday gift, even if you're not in a pinch!
Enjoy your weekend!
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Winter Fun In The Classroom!

Hi friends! Sorry I've been MIA… there's so much prepping and planning to do to make sure that I squeeze what seems like a whole year's worth of winter and holiday fun into two short weeks, AND to make sure that I have things in order for when we return from break! Anywho, we've been having lots of wintery fun in our classroom, and I'm here to share what we've been up to!
We kicked off our winter fun with some GIANT gingerbread man glyphs. The original template wasn't a glyph at all, but I always feel kind of guilty for leisurely making crafts {Am I the only one??}, so I turned it into a glyph so that my kiddos would have to listen and follow directions! Also, it makes a darn cute hallway display, and as a glyph, it looks like there's a lot more educational value to it {let's go with that!}
You probably can't read the text because I still take photos on my phone {if anyone would like to buy me a nice camera, I'd love you forever!}. Here's how the glyph went:
~frosting: blue for boy, red for girl
~buttons: number of siblings
~eyes: white if you like gingerbread, yellow if you don't or have never tried it
~nose: white if you like snow, yellow if you don't
~bow: green for 5 years old, red for 6 years old.
We had a BLAST making these cute little guys. They really are giant- I had to have some of my students work on the floor because 4 of the gingerbread men couldn't fit on one table!

Next up, we're combining our 2D and 3D shape unit in this fabulous little holiday shapes book. The idea came from my teammate Barb's son when he was in kindergarten, and we spent an entire lunch period reworking it so that it was to our liking. I think it came out fabulous! Here are some of the sample pages..
The last page of the book reads "10 good friends singing with me." We haven't made this one yet, but there will be a photo of the student, and he/she will draw ten friends in the background. This is the part I loved so much from Barb's son's book!
Here are some of the kids' first two pages drying after they sprinkled the cinnamon onto their slices of "pie." Our room smelled sooo good for the whole afternoon! 
We've also been practicing our letter sounds and letter writing, and this time, I decided to incorporate some holiday fun! I used my Festive First Sounds page from my Winter "Wonderfull" pack, and we had a blast!
Instead of using this as a small group activity or in a literacy center, I chose to do it whole group. I put the presents under our document camera, so that they showed on the SmartBoard. My kiddos sat at their seats, and wrote the first sound when they saw the image on the SmartBoard. It went much smoother than expected, but I did make sure to do the images in order because the numbers were harder to see from so far away!
Can you tell we're having fun? They showed me that they were ready for me to change the image by putting their hands on their head. I love when I see my kids having FUN with something that I created!
We have also been reading nonfiction books about winter to incorporate our nonfiction reading unit and our science curriculum. Today, in preparation for Winter's arrival on Saturday, we created our winter trees! First, we had to color our trees brown.
Next, we used popsicle sticks to spread small amounts of glue onto our trees. {As you can see, I found a great use for all of those left over Halloween plates… glue plates!!}
The last step was to tear pieces from the cotton balls and glue them to the tree! I found it so odd that the harder you pulled on the cotton ball, the less successful you were in tearing it apart!
And voila! We now have beautiful Winter trees that are hung up with our Winter anchor chart. My kinders were so proud of their trees!
We've also had some winter magic spread into our guided reading groups! Here's a peek at our magical winter pointers. The only person who's allowed to speak during guided reading is the person with the pointer. Everyone else has to use their magic reading finger to follow along… works like a charm! Thank you, Dollar Tree!
And last, but definitely not least, are these wonderful ornaments from First Grade Blue Skies! We used pom poms, glitter, and winter themed stickers to decorate ours, but next year, I definitely want to try using different strips of paper. These are by far on my list of favorite crafts to do and they just make me so happy to see them hanging up!
Thanks for stopping by to check out how we've been having some winter fun in our classroom! Be sure to check back on Friday to find out what I'm making my kiddos for presents this year!
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Making Reading Magical

If you're like me, the most exciting and magical thing about the holiday season is seeing wrapped presents tucked beneath the Christmas tree. Not only do I love getting gifts (who doesn't!), but I love GIVING them even more! Last year, I wrapped all of my gifts that I had bought for others, and kept them under my little Christmas tree until it was time to drive home for the holidays and bring them with me. Just seeing the gifts each day made me burst with joy! 
I wanted to capitalize on that magic and find a way to incorporate it into my classroom. I decided to gather all of my favorite holiday books and wrap them up just like presents! I used a few different patterns of wrapping paper, and even placed a few of them in boxes before I wrapped!
When I brought them into my classroom, I just set the pile under my easel. Each day during our read aloud time, my helper of the day got to choose one book to unwrap. That was the book that I would read to the class for our daily read aloud. 
This was such a simple thing to do, but it really added some magic to our read alouds. My whole class was so excited to unwrap the day's book, and it was so wonderful to see the joy on their faces when the day's book was revealed! This year is no different, my kiddos are filled with anticipation and wonder!
This year, I got another idea! I invited some parents into our classroom to be our guest readers each day during our read aloud time. I set up a schedule with the parents, but instructed them to NOT tell their children when or if they were coming in to read! After we unwrapped our daily read aloud book, our guest reader would come in and read it to us! My students LOVE seeing their grown ups (and sometimes older brothers or sisters from our school!) and are so surprised!
Have you done something similar? Do you have a fabulous idea for the holiday season? I'd love to hear all about it! Happy Sunday!
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