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A Simple Allergen Free Modeling Dough for the Kindergarten Classroom

Hello Friends,
As we all know, modeling dough is a staple in kindergarten learning centers. Right??? So many awesome things happen in the dough center, so when you find out that you have a little one in your class that has an allergy to the wheat that is used in commercial Play-Doh, you have a bit of a panic attack!

BUT.... the most wonderful thing about the parents of kids with allergies is that they almost always have a solution for you! My little guy this year has allergies to these foods: wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, and dairy. You would never know it, though... he is a strong, healthy young boy. I attribute this to his proactive parents who are on top of everything that will keep their son safe, but also allow him to participate in normal kid activities.

So... enter the solution given to me by my little guy's Mom - this SUPER modeling dough recipe! No cooking, only two ingredients, and easy to make. It smells wonderful, is soft and pliable, and lasts!
It is made from corn starch and hair conditioner. That's it! It was so fun listening to my little ones discuss what they thought was in it and that "it smells so good!". This is a fun, fun modeling dough and I highly recommend it....

Until next time!


Easy and Fun Craft for Showing Kids How a Solar Eclipse Works

Hello Friends,

Just a short post to share a fun and easy craft for showing kids how a solar eclipse works. We start school on Friday and our first full day of school will be Monday, August 21 - the day of the eclipse! Yikes! Our whole school will be wearing the "special" glasses and I wanted my little ones to understand why we have to wear them and what is happening, so this is what I came up with....

I chose blue as the background for this craft because the sky looks blue in the daytime and I want my kids to understand that this is happening during the day. This is a piece of 12" x 18" blue construction paper cut in half.

1. Cut a large yellow circle onto construction paper. The diameter of my circle is 8 inches. Glue the yellow sun to the top of the blue paper. I made my paper vertical, but it would probably also work horizontally.

 2. Cut a circle with a diameter of 7 inches onto black construction paper. I chose black because the moon looks black during a solar eclipse. Do NOT glue the black circle to the paper. You could also make the black circle the same size as the sun. I wanted to keep my circle smaller because we are having a partial eclipse of the sun in my area. If you are having a total eclipse, make your moon's diameter large.

3.  Punch a hole in the very top of the blue construction paper. Punch a circle in the tops of the yellow sun and black moon. Insert a large sized brad.

4. Add the words by gluing them in the appropriate places. The kids can now move the moon in front of the sun showing how the moon will be blocking the light from the sun for a few minutes. This shows them why it is important to not look directly at the sun without protecting their eyes. They will still be looking at the sun! It also shows why it will look like night for a short time.

If you would like the words for this easy craft, click the image below. It will take you to a Google doc link. Please know that some schools block downloading a google doc that it is not within your district. If this happens to you, try downloading at home.

Until next time!


Purging My Classroom - Organizing Over Twenty Years of Teacher "Stuff"

Hello Friends,

I have been teaching for over 20 years and this summer, I made the decision to purge. On July 1, I walked into my classroom and started pulling things out of shelves and cupboards. If I hadn't used it in 3 years, it was gone. It took almost a month to purge, but the freeing feeling that it has brought to me has been amazing. I thought that I would share a bit of what I did... warts and all! LOL!


This was extremely hard for me!  I am obsessed with picture books and I have HUNDREDS of books in my classroom. The problem was that I had so many that when I needed a certain title, I couldn't find it because it was buried in a box among a ton of other books. So, what did I do? I purchased another book of the same title.... ugh.... For example, I had FOUR copies of "The Rainbow Fish." Yes, FOUR copies. So, I kept one title of each book (unless I was using it for a small group reading book) and put the extra books in the "give away" pile.

Here is a photo of the mess....

Ugh.... When I look at these photos, I cannot believe the mess I made! LOL....

But, I persevered and continued to sort and purge. I divided the books that I wanted to keep into two groups - teacher books for shared reading and books for my classroom library. I put my shared reading books into plastic boxes with lids.

I added a label to each box. The labels were easy to do. I inserted a text box into a Power Point document, chose a font I liked, and typed a subject. I added a border and attached the labels to the boxes with clear packing tape. Such an easy way to make a label!

I put the books that I did not want on the tables in my classroom.  I sent an email to teachers in my building saying that they could come in any time and take what they wanted. A third of my picture books were taken from the teachers in my school! After that, I put the extra books into U-Haul boxes and donated them.

The next job was to take the classroom library books and arrange them. This is not my leveled library. This is my classroom library which is simply picture books of all levels divided into categories.  If a child wants to enjoy a book that is beyond or below his/her reading level, I am okay with that. I simply want them to enjoy books. The thing that I AM particular about is that kids put their books away in their proper places INDEPENDENTLY.

I organized the books by subject. For example, some bin titles are FAIRY TALES, FAVORITE CHARACTERS, NON-FICTION, FICTIONAL ANIMALS, FICTION, SEASONS, HOLIDAYS, EARTH and SPACE, DR. SEUSS, PETS, TRANSPORTATION, ABC BOOKS, RELIGION, HABITATS, ALL ABOUT ME.... I gave each label an alphabet letter and added the subject to the label.  Once again, I used Power Point to create my labels. I chose a bold font that I liked. To find the photos for the labels, I googled images and copied/pasted them into my Power Point document. I printed them and attached them to the boxes with clear packing tape. (As long as you are only using the images for personal classroom use, you can google images. You CANNOT use these images to create resources that you sell.)

THEN, came the tedious part. I added white sticker dots to each book within the white boxes. Using a sharpie marker, I wrote the letter of the tub in which the book belonged. For example, every book in the FAIRY TALE bin has a white sticker label with the letter A on it. When my kiddos take a book out of the library, they know where to put it when they are finished. Every few weeks, I ask my teacher helpers to go through the book bins looking for books that have been misplaced. This has eliminated so much angst on my part - books put away and organized - woo hoo!

I love my classroom library and know that my students will love it, too. A fun beach umbrella, comfy chairs, and book buddies add character to this comfy area!

Next up... toys..


 In our kindergarten, we still have FREE play. We describe free play as the ability of children to make choices in an exploratory way within their environment. We strongly believe that children should be given some time during their day to just play. Play enables children to learn social skills such as sharing, cooperating, decision making, and creating. When our students come to school, they put away their coats and backpacks, enter the classroom, and find a toy in which to play. They learn how to ask if they can play, share toys, and create i.e. Legos, blocks, or markers on paper. This little peanut was so proud of her zoo structure that she wanted me to take a photo and text it to her Mom!

We do free play at the beginning of the day because we KNOW that this is what kids want to do when they come to school. Making them wait a couple of hours before they can play and interact with their friends does not seem fair. Being able to have time to greet their friends and make free play choices starts their day happy. Our free play lasts for 25 minutes. When it is time for free play to be over, though, I want toys put away as soon as possible.

I know that many early childhood teachers like their toy boxes labeled with the contents of each. I used to be particular about that, too, but am not so much anymore. The thing that drives me nuts, though, is the time it takes to find a shelf in which to put away their toy box. I know that it is a problem solving challenge to allow them to arrange the boxes until they fit, but for me, it just takes too long and I would rather use that time for morning meeting. My toy shelves are small and my boxes are inconsistent sizes, so it does make it difficult to fit them all on the shelves. 

So.. this was my solution.... I arranged the boxes on the shelves in such a way that they all fit. THEN, I created number labels in a Power Point document (just like I did for the library labels) . I printed the labels and attached them to the boxes. All the boxes that fit on shelf one were labeled with a NUMBER ONE. All the boxes that fit on shelf two were labeled with a NUMBER TWO and so forth until all the boxes were labeled. I should add that BEFORE I added labels to the boxes, I sorted through them. I gave away toys that were never used. I threw away broken toys and games missing pieces. I consolidated similar toys and gave a large wooden block set to our preschool that took up a TON of space on the shelves.


My organization for math and literacy boxes is no different from what many Early Education teachers do. I sorted and labeled boxes according to what was inside. My math boxes have a BLUE lid and my literacy boxes have a RED lid. This helps my kiddos return their boxes to the proper places.


This year, I splurged and purchased crayon caddies from Lakeshore Learning. I have always sorted my table crayons by color, but created my own DIY containers. They worked fine, but by the end of the year, they were a mess and I usually ended up throwing them away. I am hoping that these caddies will last a few years and be worth the expense. I placed a paper cup inside each section to protect them from crayon rubbings. 


I am terrible about organizing my "stuff" in May. Historically, I shove things anywhere and everywhere, just to get it up off the floor for maintenance to clean the floors. These photos show you what I encountered when I got to school in July.... ugh.... I am really baring my soul by showing you these photos, but they make me realize how important it is to purge. Because we use our Promethean board for almost everything, there was no need for me to continue to save posters from 10 years ago. I DID try to keep them sorted throughout the year in large Ziplock bags, but by the end of the year, this is what it looked like.... yuck....

And these were my reading and math storage shelves... once again.... ugh....

........ and...... my loose paper shelves.... oh my.....

So..... I took EVERYTHING out of the cupboards and began my purging routine. I threw away unusable paper, gave away learning games that I had not used in three years, and searched through folders and boxes replacing lost parts and pieces. What I look at now is a breath of fresh air!

 I labeled tubs by month and placed within them seasonal/monthly math and center games. It will be awesome to be able to take down a box and find what I am looking for without reinventing the wheel every time because I am unable to locate something!

I attached large sized binder clips to their cubbies. I have been doing this for many years and I love the simplicity of using them. Far across the room, you can see their book boxes which are labeled with their names and placed in numerical order.

This is the FIRST time that I will have a teacher's desk! I know many teachers are getting rid of theirs, but I am hoping that this area will help keep me on track with things that would otherwise end up in a pile on a table somewhere!

I am using Katie Mense's CAN DO centers for Early Finishers during our literacy block.  I used them towards the end of last year and I LOVED them! 

So... if you made it all the way, thank you for sharing in my journey. It was such a soul fulfilling one for me. It is true that time flies and as we continue through this journey, it really is important to stop, look around, and remove the "stuff" from your life. I am so excited to share this space with my kinders. Now..... I need to do the same thing with my house! Well......Maybe next summer.... LOL...

Until next time!


The Great Bubble Challenge - A Fun Idea for Exploring Surface Tension in the Classroom or at Home!

Hello Friends,

I am not teaching summer school this year, but I know that some of you are, so I thought that I would share this little science freebie.  I did this with my kinders in the classroom last year.... I actually would NOT suggest doing that, though! LOL.... Our classroom floors got super slippery. It is sooo much more fun to do the activities outside.

 You need bubble solution, different types of liquid soaps, glycerin (or corn syrup) and a small container such as a muffin pan.

Take your kiddos outside and give them commercial bubble solutions. Have races and see whose bubble can survive the longest.

Next, give your students different kinds of liquid soap and let them explore mixing them. I give my students mini erasers to put into each section of a muffin pan. This helps them remember which solution is which when they are testing out their solutions i.e. "The solution in the watermelon section lasted longer than the one with the pineapple."

You can also give your students different types of wands to see if they make a difference in how long a bubble can last without popping.

Click the image below to take you to the freebie in my TPT store. Enjoy!

Until next time!


Alphabet Crafts, Alphabet Posters, and Alphabet Directed Drawing Resources

Hello Friends,

I have been spending my summer doing many things that are not school related ..... gardening, reading (for fun), working on my quilt, cooking..... I have also suffered a bit of a writer's block when it comes to my blogging. I would sit down to start a post and then start to daydream or think about chores or hobbies that needed to be done. When that happened, I would close my computer and think about other things. One school related activity that I HAVE done, though,  is work on new resources for my classroom this year.

I have always done an alphabet book with my kinders and I plan to continue this tradition. This summer, I wanted to create crafts that were slightly different than what I have been doing. I enjoy having them create things from paper with just step-by-step directions and very few templates. BUT, when we are doing our alphabet books, we tend to run into a time constraint and many of my little ones do not finish. So, this year, despite my feeling that all creations must "come from the soul", I plan to give my kinders a few templates to speed up the process. I had to ask myself "What is the goal of this project?" Is it to create art or practice a letter sound? Obviously, it is to practice a letter sound, so I am not going to feel any guilt giving them a tracing pattern!

 I have read numerous research articles about how important it is to keep your alphabet letter/ sounds study consistent. My colleagues and I have had several conversations about this thought. We start the year using the Jolly Phonics series. We like how Jolly Phonics uses hand motions to practice sounds. We also use parts of Reading Street. Our handwriting curriculum is Handwriting Without Tears. All three systems teach alphabet letter identification in different ways and different orders. A few years ago, we sat down and pondered as to how we were going to introduce alphabet letters. We finally decided that the alphabet book that our kinders create would be in alphabetical order. This would introduce and reinforce ABC order. We do ONE letter a week in our alphabet book, but do a daily letter in Jolly Phonics, so trying to sync them altogether just does not work. Plus, because we do so much in our daily literacy centers, we decided to not focus so much on the ORDER in which letters are introduced; rather the mastery.

When introducing alphabet letters, I am very aware of the varying skills of my students. Some of my students are only ready for letter identification and sounds. Some of my students are ready for a bit more. So, when giving them their paper upon which to create their alphabet craft, sometimes I will differentiate the words. For example, for "F = frog", I might have my little learners practice reading "The frog" or maybe just practice handwriting. My stronger learners who are ready for more might need a sentence such as "I can see the frog. It is green and little." I created an editable template that can be differentiated for these learning differences.

One area that I really like to keep consistent, though, are my alphabet letter posters that hang in my classroom. I like that they are the same as the letter craft in their alphabet book. When I do this, my students know which letter comes next and what craft they will be doing. Last year, I experimented with two alphabet lines - one with realistic photos and the other with make-believe photos. I LOVED having both photo styles available for my students. Every time we practiced a letter or made a craft, we would ask the question "Which poster is a photo of a real animal/thing and which is a make-believe photo?" We discussed why the photos were make-believe i.e. Do inchworms have a smile? Are hippos purple? These posters hang in my classroom and match the alphabet crafts in our alphabet book.

 The problem I had last year, though, was that two sets of alphabet posters took up a lot of space. So, this year, I am going to see how it works to have both sets of photos side by side on the same poster. I have also labeled the photos REAL and MAKE-BELIEVE on the posters. Hopefully, this gives me more wall space! The alphabet crafts and the wall posters match and hopefully this consistency will aid my students in our alphabet study.

Another activity that I love to do with my students is directed drawing. I have been doing directed drawing with my students long before it became a buzz word in the educational world. I remember loving Ed Emberley books. It has always amazed me at how easy it is to draw by simply looking at shapes and lines. Many times, my students have asked me to draw the steps out for them which I have gladly done. This summer, I decided to take those simple steps and put them into a directed drawing resource. They are all hand drawn by me, so they are very simply done! This resource is an ABC book, but it does not correlate exactly with my alphabet book and alphabet wall posters. I print and laminate posters and then put them at the writing table.

This resource is in my TPT store and if you download the preview, you will get the A = alligator poster free as well as the half-sized drawing paper.
So that's it for now, my friends! I am presently working on m organizing my books and files in my classroom. I will share photos from that project soon!

Until next time!