Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle and Craft

 Hello Friends,

I know that many teachers do their butterfly unit in the spring, but we do ours in the fall. That is because we raise Monarch butterflies in our school garden in August and September. We grow common milkweed in our garden and use the leaves to feed our caterpillars. We look for eggs and caterpillars on the milkweed and bring them into our classroom to observe and watch their growth. It is such an amazing experience for my kinders.

When the butterfly emerges and we set it free, we do this simple craft.

This resource is free (for awhile) in my TPT store if you would like to use it. Just click the image below to take you there!

Until next time,


Crockpot Applesauce Recipe to do with Kindergarten

 Hello Friends,
I posted this applesauce recipe a few years ago. I thought that I would give it a face lift and republish it since it is that "apple time" of year!  One of our objectives for our science/social studies curriculum is for our students to understand that resources are used to produce goods. So we use the apple to demonstrate that we must purchase or grow goods to produce a product. It is also a food that our little allergen kids can still eat!

The most awesome purchase I made last week was an apple corer/peeler/slicer! Wow, wow, wow! Making applesauce was a breeze this year! I brought small groups of children over to pick out an apple - red, green, or yellow. I stuck it on the apple corer and within SECONDS the apple was ready to be put into the crock pot! AMAZING!!
Look at the pile of apple peeling! 

After we cut the apples, we added the water, the cinnamon, and the sugar. The children who wanted to participate took turns stirring. Then I plugged in the crock pot and let the apples cook for 2 hours. It made our classroom smell delicious!

When the children were in music class, I put the apple mixture into a blender and spooned into small paper cups. When they returned, they taste tested the applesauce. All but 3 loved it! It was cute to hear comments such as "This tastes like real applesauce!"

This is such an easy cooking project to do! I would highly recommend the recipe!


Reflections of a New School Year... Change is Part of the Process....

Hello Friends,
It has been awhile since I have blogged. So long as a matter of fact, that Blogger contacted me to ask if I was still blogging because I had not logged into my account for so long! LOL...... It HAS been a long time and part of the reason is that I simply needed a break. Everyone needs a reset every so often and that was me. I needed time to step back, reflect, and simply enjoy pressure free days for awhile. But, I am back in school and ready to begin another school year and thought that I would share with you a few thoughts as we all start a new school year.

I have been teaching kindergarten for 23 years. I have loved every minute of it. Throughout my many years of teaching, I have found that change is part of the process. One area that I have decided to focus upon this year is the first six weeks of school. I am fortunate to have a principal who strongly believes that the first six weeks of school are critical for setting the tone for the remainder of the school year.  She has encouraged us to use the first weeks as foundational weeks.. to not stress over academics as much as to set routine, structure, and classroom community. I have always taken the first few weeks of school to do these things, but usually after 2 or 3 weeks, I have jumped into guided reading groups, math pages, and sight word books. This year, I made the decision to trust in the process of "The First Six Weeks of School" and use those weeks to build the classroom community that I have always envisioned.

 We just finished our first two weeks of school. In times past, I would be writing lesson plans for guided reading groups that would begin the day after Labor Day. I would quickly remind my students of the "practice" that we did in the previous weeks, show them the pocket chart with their names and work groups, and prepare to call them back to the reading table for our first guided reading instruction. As I reflect on the past, I remember how frustrated I would become when I would see a student wandering the classroom, not knowing exactly what to do or where to go. I would have to leave my reading group to re-explain to this student the procedures for how to look at the pocket chart to find their centers. I might have to re-explain a center or remind a group of kids how to work cooperatively and respectfully together. That would leave the group at the reading table unattended, which as we all know, causes all sorts of challenges. This cycle would go on for many days; even weeks... Eventually, they all got it, but it took many days to "get." And, honestly, what was I thinking? To expect my students to know what to do after only 2 weeks and AFTER a long weekend is crazy.... Our principal reminded us that it takes 27 times of repetition for our human brains to understand and retain information. Wow.... I was giving my students 27 minutes of practice with the expectation that they would know what to do when first put into learning groups. What an unfair expectation that was...

 So... this year.... I am taking things S-L-O-W-L-Y. I am not allowing myself to stress over the fact that it took an entire week to complete a craft or that it took us 25 minutes to complete 15 minutes of morning meeting. I am allowing my students to explore the classroom and to get to know the people that will be a part of their lives for the next nine months. My teaching has evolved throughout my 23 years of being a kindergarten teacher. I firmly believe that even though something worked for me 20 years ago (and worked well), it will not necessarily work for me now.

Free explore has always been a part of my center rotations, BUT in the past,  I would give them a day or so to free explore and then get out the alphabet mats. I would say in my "sweet teacher voice", "No, sweetie, we are not making rings and snakes anymore. We are using the playdough to make letters and numbers."  When kids would make snakes and rings at the play dough center, the child that really HAD been listening to the directions would more often than not, tell me that "(Name of child using the play dough incorrectly) is using the play dough to make snakes and rings." And of course, I would have to jump up and handle that problem; once again leaving my group at the table unattended.

This year, I thought....  What difference does it make if they do not use it to form letters, numbers, or words? If they want to make a ring or a snake, why is that a problem? They need to play with the elements that will soon become the tools to their learning.

Fun counters for math are played with before they become tools for math tubs...

This year,  I am giving my students more than a day or two to explore. We are using our first few weeks to explore and learn the process for sharing. I already feel more relaxed and I know my students do, too.

  Another area that has changed tremendously for me in these 23 years is my classroom environment. As a kindergarten teacher, I have always provided spaces for my students to work. But most of them involved chairs centered around some kind of table. I attended a workshop a few years where the presenter said some words that have never left me. They were "How many of us spend six hours a day sitting at our dining room table with our feet on the floor and our backs straight?" I would venture to say that NONE of us do! She then went on to say "Then why do we expect our students to sit at a table or desk in a straight chair every day and hour that they are at school?" As teachers, I know for a fact that we have a terrible time sitting through keynote speaker speeches. We wiggle. We push our legs in front of us. We get up to use the bathroom. We doodle. WHY do we think it is alright for our students to be stationed in straight back chairs every hour of every day?  If we want our students to learn, then their environment must be conducive to learning. I am totally on board with the flexible seating wave that is being embraced by many educators.

 Lastly, as an teacher who has been in the education world for many years, I cannot stress enough how important it is to re-evaluate our teaching strategies yearly. When I first started teaching kindergarten, I thought that I was ahead of the game by teaching my students 15 sight words - let me repeat..... FIFTEEN sight words. Now, we teach our kindergarten students 65 sight words - let me repeat......SIXTY FIVE sight words. That's crazy... BUT.... my students do it. By the end of the year, they know 80% to 100% of them. In the past, my students were content to use posters and word tiles as a creative way to learn. Now, our student's brains are wired to gather information at lightening speed. Cell phones are thrust into their hands as babies, where their eyes and brain decipher the information quickly.

Because our student's brains work differently, we as their teachers, must use these changes to help them learn. In the past, my students would be okay with a packet of cute worksheets that they would use markers/crayons to complete. Nowadays, worksheets do not work.... I will repeat that.... nowadays, a packet of worksheets does not work. Our kids need to use their five senses more than ever to learn. To create words and understand letters, they need to feel them. They need to manipulate their learning materials. And THEN.... they can complete a RECORDING sheet... not a worksheet. A recording sheet gives the teacher an idea of knowledge learned. BUT... not every center needs a recording sheet. What is the goal of our teaching? For our students to learn a concept, right? If they have learned it and can show us that they have learned it through hands-on activities, why do we need a piece of paper from them to prove it?

So...... as we begin a new school year, let's remember why we do what we do. Our job is to provide an atmosphere of learning that suits the needs of our students. Changing the way we teach is part of the process. What worked beautifully for us 10, 5, or even a year ago might not work for our students this year. Evolving, changing, and keeping up with current trends is vital to our job. Embrace the challenge.... and slow down.... teach your kids how things work before they are expected to do them independently. And most of enjoy the work that you do.... The growth that we see in just nine or ten months is incredible. Love the ride!

Until next time!