Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Elephant and Piggie Photo Board

We love the Mo Williems books. Our latest photo board represents Knuffle Bunny, Piggie, Elephant, Duckling, and Pigeon. 

Apple Crisp

I found this recipe online at: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/winning-apple-crisp
I just changed a couple of things. 

1 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled outs
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups of peeled, chopped apples
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. 

Press half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 9x9 in pan. Place the chopped apples on top of the crust. 

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, water, and vanilla. Let the mixture boil and thicken. Add about 1 tsp of cinnamon when you remove from the heat. 

Pour the filling on top of the apples. 

Place the remaining crumb mixture on top of the apples. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. 

Serve with ice cream if you would like. 

This recipe is very sweet, but delicious. 

The Kissing Hand Book

The day before Rachel started Kindergarten, I read her The Kissing Hand book. We then shared a kissing hand cookie. I just used sugar cookie dough from the store to make the hands. I then took a little bit of the extra dough and colored it red to make the hearts. 

She told me today that whenever she is missing me she just puts her hand on her face and she knows that I love her and am thinking about her too. :) 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Easy Jam Cheese Danishes

After making about 10 different kinds of freezer jam this year, we thought we should try some different recipes. My mom found this one to try. It turned out amazing and was very easy. 

2 packages of crescent roll dough
1 8 oz cream cheese (softened) 
4 Tbsp butter (separated)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Your choice of jam (about a tablespoon per danish)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp milk

Open the package of crescent rolls, but don't unroll the dough. Use a knife to cut the dough into slices (We did 6 slices per roll.) Lay each slice on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Use your fingers to create a well in each of the slices. 

Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and add the 1/4 cup brown sugar. Stir that together and brush on each of the slices of dough. 

 Combine the cream cheese, 2 Tbsp butter, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla. Place a scoop of the mixture in the dough. 

Then add a dollop of your favorite jam flavors. Here we have peach, raspberry-peach, and blackberry-raspberry-peach. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes. 

Mix the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla together to make the glaze. Top the danishes with the glaze after they come out of the oven. These are delicious warm or chilled! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse Party

We decided to have a little fun for the solar eclipse (even though we will only see about 80% coverage in our area). 

I went to the Dollar Tree and got all of the decorations. I covered the table with a black tablecloth and the kids covered the tablecloth with star and space stickers. I also found yellow plates at the dollar store. Also on the table is Eclipse gum, Oreos showing the moon phases, and sponges I cut into stars, moons, and suns. (The sponges and the glow in the dark paint will be used to create galaxy paintings and t-shirts) 

Also on the table is a sample of one of the crafts the kids will be making. I taped a circle to a piece of black cardstock and outlined the circle with chalk. Then, using my finger, I spread the chalk around the circle. Remove the taped circle when done. 

Another craft we will do is this...The kids will glue a yellow circle to a piece of black cardstock and decorate the sun's rays in any way they want. Then they will glue a strip of paper to a black circle and attach the moon to the sun sheet with a brass fastener. I decorated the moon circle with chalk. 

We also made some moon dough yesterday. This is just baking soda, water, a little black paint, and some glitter. We formed the dough into balls and let them dry in the sun. Today, we will make the "moon rocks" erupt by squirting vinegar on them. 

We covered all of our windows with glow in the dark shapes I found at the Dollar Tree.

For some eclipse food, I baked these brownies in a circle pan, put a mason jar lid on top of the cooled brownies and sprinkled some powdered sugar on top. Then I spread the powdered sugar around the circle. 

These are sugar cookies with chocolate frosting to show the stages of the eclipse. 
We will also be making our own little pizzas for lunch. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Moana Birthday Party

For Rachel's 6th birthday she wanted a Moana theme party. To make a photo area I constructed a boat out of a cardboard box. I made a flag pole out of toilet paper rolls and a piece of fabric. I cut out the red circle design from cardstock and hot glued it to the fabric. The flag pole was hot glued to a cardboard base. The background was two backdrops I found from the dollar store. I also found a decorative net from the dollar store and hung it over the boat. The fish are cut from cardboard. The ceiling was covered with a blue tablecloth from the dollar store. I placed cardboard turtles and fish on top of it and put a light up there to make it stand out more. The paddle is made from toilet paper rolls and a piece of cardboard. I covered it with wood grain masking tape. Maui's hook was made from cardboard as well. I used a Sharpie to draw on the designs. I covered the bottom of the hook with brown yarn. I did use some extra stain we had to make the boat look more realistic. 

The boat was also used as a spot to open the presents. The whole set-up cost under $10. 

We also made a paper mache volcano. I cut the top off a water bottle and glued it to a cardboard base. I wadded up some paper and set it around the bottle.  

Then I mixed one cup of flour and one cup of water together. I dipped strips of paper in the paste mixture and arranged the strips over the wadded paper. I let it dry overnight. 

The next day we painted it brown and added some red, orange, yellow, and copper accent. 

We made it erupt with baking soda and vinegar (colored red with food coloring). 

Close up of the hook.

Close up of the paddle.

Then I made this cake. I found the Moana topper from Amazon. The rest is all fondant. 

Rachel really wanted a pinata, so I found a mermaid pinata at Wal-Mart, and because we were having her party after the parade that day, I collected the kids' parade candy and stuffed the pinata. (It was a win-win for everyone. She got her pinata and I didn't have to buy extra candy we didn't need!) 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Christmas in July Party for Kids

We held our second annual Christmas in July party today. This year, we added some fun and did Christmas Eve in July too. Yesterday we took a trip to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth and watched Elf. This is the photo board we made for the two-day celebration. 
When the kids woke up today, we had tree waffles. 

We made fake snowballs out of equal parts of cornstarch and shaving cream. 

I made a pan of brownies and cut them out with a circle cookie cutter. I frosted the brownie circles, added a marshmallow, some fondant for the scarves, buttons, and nose, and frosted on arms and a face. 

Then we made frozen hot chocolate. (I put two packages of hot chocolate mix, about 15 ice cubes, and about a cup of milk in the blender. Then I topped each cup with Redi-whip. This made three cups of frozen hot chocolate.)

Christmas wouldn't be complete without some presents. (Our Elf on the Shelf even came back for the celebration today. He is sitting on our summer tree.)

For dinner we made candy cane cheese bread. 

We wrote letters to Santa for the Elf on the Shelf to take back to the North Pole. 

We finished the day watching Christmas Vacation. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Strengths Finder 2.0 for High School Students

After doing personal growth literature circles with my juniors, I realized the impact this type of book has on their lives. With just over a month left in the school year, I went to Barnes and Noble looking for a quick read aloud I could use for the rest of the year. One of the employees suggested I look at Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

In this book are the 34 most common human strengths/traits. The book challenges the reader to focus on their strengths instead of spending all of their time and energy on their weaknesses. I also explained to the students that one of the most common interview questions they will hear is, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" We decided that if the students could do a personal reflection on these 34 characteristics, they would have a really great answer for that question when the time comes.

So, I created a Google spreadsheet listing the 34 traits. Every day I read the descriptions of two of the strengths out loud. In their spreadsheet, students reflected on the following columns: Yes, that's me...No, I don't...Maybe this is me....Someone I know that fits this description...Ideas for action. We discussed the qualities of each strength and students took notes in these columns while I read. (This took about 10 minutes at the start of class.)

After we reflected on each of the strengths, I had the students go through their notes and pick their top 5 strengths. Before they settled on their top 5 for sure, I separated them into random groups of their peers and they discussed the strengths each of them had chosen and whether they saw those strengths in each other and if they would have chosen different strengths to fit them.

Then I gave them the essay they would be writing for their final exam. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yPYaSxTgtThXryJ_7tCdsxV7h8jRd5Ua1uaBIq4Qg7Y/edit?usp=sharing

Students could organize their essay in any way they saw fit to hit all of the requirements. I have never enjoyed reading essays more than I did for this assignment. Every student poured their heart into this piece. And of my 75 juniors, none of them had exactly the same five strengths. This was such an eye-opening experience not only for my students, but also for me. I did this exercise with them and found it so beneficial for my own personal growth. I am encouraging our entire staff to do the same. (A lot of students picked staff members they thought had the same strengths as them!)

And because this was a final exam, I didn't see the students after I graded them. So, this was a great way for me to email them as a final wrap-up for the class and to give them feedback on this powerful piece.

Using Common Core to Motivate ELA Students Beyond the Classroom

The Common Core standards we use in our English classes definitely give some freedom when it comes to the books we choose to teach and the creative approaches teachers can take when trying to motivate students inside and outside the classroom. 

This past year, I was moved to 11th grade English (which gave me the same students for a third year in a row). One of the positives to that is I knew the students' strengths and weaknesses and was able to create meaningful lessons that gave them the skills they need to succeed now and in the future. This post is dedicated to one of the units I tried. 

When most people think about English classes, they immediately think about the "classics". But, that doesn't always hold everyone's attention and the common core doesn't require teachers to just teach the same books that have been taught for years. There is a lot of flexibility. So, I asked myself, what types of books do adults read in their careers and how can I prepare these students for life outside of high school? 

I didn't have to look very far past the nightstands in my house to find some ideas. I created a list of potential books I would have students choose for their leadership/personal growth literature circle. I bought most of these books used online. 
The initial list: 
The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Drive by Daniel Pink
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Mindset by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven
The End of Average by Todd Rose


Students created reading calendars at the beginning of the unit. They all had 12 days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in which they had to have a chunk of reading complete when they entered the room. For about 30 minutes of each Tuesday and Thursday, literature discussions took place. Each student in each group had a different role for the reading assignment that was due that day. They all also filled out a response log for each reading assignment. Students took turns discussing the important points/quotes/stories they found in each reading selection. At the end of each literature circle discussion day, they were encouraged to highlight some of the features of the book they would like to include in their final project. Two weeks (two days per week) at the end of the unit were dedicated to working on final projects. 

I gave the students a lot of flexibility when it came to the final project. The only thing they couldn't do was Google Slides or PowerPoint. 

I had students creating audio and video podcasts, writing blogs, creating children's stories related to the content of their book, doing live Twitter feed presentations, creating board games, crossword puzzles, etc. 

I can't even explain the impact this unit had on these students. The ownership these groups took with their books and the content was amazing. Students saw the purpose in their reading and made more connections with the readings than I could have ever imagined. 

Purpose statement for the whole unit along with common core standards: 

The success of this unit, led me to one of the most powerful lessons I have experienced in my classroom throughout the past 12 years. 

See the next post discussing the impact of Strengths Finder 2.0 in a classroom of juniors.