Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Cake & other Cake Ideas

Baking is not one of my favorite things. However, I am known to occasionally make cakes and decorate them. Nothing too spectacular, mind you. My cake and frosting is out of a box, and  by decorating-I mean adding tons of candy. Most of the people in my family don't like Pumpkin Pie (they are crazy!) so we have some type of chocolate dessert. This year I volunteered to have "A" and me make a chocolate cake decorated like a turkey. The original idea is by Betty Crocker but you can see another version at Lifehackers as well. I have done it years past and the brilliance is candy covers a multiple of sins. Just get creative and use what you got. For example, my cake feet didn't work so I just added more candy! It is a great family tradition for my boys to help put on the candy (as they sneak some of course).
I taught "A" how to crack eggs-he was so proud!
Of course you have to let them stir!
The finished cake (candy corn, M&M's, and Reese's Pieces)
Sneaking the candy-he has a MAJOR sweet tooth!
With other holidays coming up here are some other cakes I have done in the past:
Birthday Train: Another Better Crocker Recipe. I have used this same cake and decorated it as a Christmas Train. I don't have a picture but the candy on the train below is similar to how I did it. However, I think I frosted the cars green, red, and white. Great for your Polor Express lover.
This is not my cake and uses a train mold. Just wanted to show the x-mas candy idea (which I have done). This is done over at As I See It.
Thinking of doing something like this for this year. However, thinking gum drops, red licorice ropes, and other fun things. I love choosing how I am going to decorate. This also shows that if I am going to make it I have to be able to cut it from a normal cake molds or fancy tools for me.
Okay I lied, I do have a heart mold. This cake is by freakgirl but ours is very similar. In fact, "A" makes this cake for me every Valentines Day or Birthday...with lots of red gummy hearts on top.

That is some of our ideas. The point is to be creative and have fun with it. Do any of you decorate cake with candy? Love to hear what you tried!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kindergarten Feast

In class today, "A" and his 5th grade buddies had a Thanksgiving feast. Well sort of a feast: pumpkin pie with whipping cream, popcorn, muffins, and apple juice. "A's" class were the Native Americans and the 5th graders where the pilgrims. I spent Monday cutting out butcher paper and then folding it in half. Then after cutting some fringe and a large triangle the kiddos had a Native American vest to decorate. They then made cute hats with construction paper strips, one feather, and geometric shape sticker. They looked so cute!

Aren't they so cute? So glad to be witness to it.

Turkey Collage

"A's" homework assignment was to make a turkey collage. The only rule was that you couldn't color. We played around with different ideas, but ultimately he chose some feathers and buttons. I love, love, Love how it turned out!

Top 10 Picture Books about Friendship

I haven't been able to do a Top 10 list lately and thought I better squeeze some in before I get too busy with Student Teaching in January. I love books about friendship. I always get warm feelings after reading this books, and so I wanted to share some of my picks with you.

1) Otis by Loren Long. I LOVE this book. The illustrations are so stunning I can't even stand it. Otis is a tractor who is friends with a baby calf. This is a story about their friendship and how as Otis attempts to be replaced on the farm they soon discover there are somethings only friendship can do. There is a second book called Otis and the Tornado. It is wonderful too.

2) Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love the author (creator of the Opus comic) and this story is so heartwarming it will leave you gasping. Pickles is a circus elephant trying to escape a bad situation only to discover Peter, a lonely pig. Pete recently lost his love and is holding on to her memory. After resisting he finally lets Pickles into his life and their friendship and love is boundless. Be warned there is what appears to be an extremely sad climatic moment that may be too emotional for wee little ones. However, it has a happy ending and the adult romantics in us will love this book. Oh, and there is some cool introductions to some famous works of art so pay attention to the illustrations.

3) Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt: If you haven't read any of the Scaredy Squirrel books you should. They are funny and a little out of the norm in the way the are written-which appeal to kids. Scaredy Squirrel lives up to his name. He is afraid of everything so he always tells you all the ridiculous things he is afraid will happen and all his emergency preparedness plan to prevent those things from happening. However, nothing goes the way he intends and in this story it is a good thing because he finally gets to have a friend. These books plain fun and cute. P.S. I love everything Melanie Watt does and her Chester books are a riot!

4)Big Al by Andrew Clements: Al is the nicest most sweetest fish in the sea, but no one knows that because he is also the ugliest fish in the sea. Of course, he gets a chance to prove himself and the other fish are forced to look beyond his appearance. Very sweet story. Have your child look at the inside over pages in the front and back after the story and talk about the differences in the pictures for some comprehension questions. There is a second book with Big Al in it but I haven't read it yet.

5) Friends by Helme Heine: These farm animals are the best of friends and do all sorts of things together. They are always working together as a team and lend a helping hand. When bedtime comes they have to be apart, but no worries they can see each other in their dreams. This book is really appropriate for your preschool age children or early elementary. A sweet, simple tale.

6) Enemy Pie by Derek Munson: This is a truly important tale to share with your kiddos. Some times we have people that don't act like friends, in fact they can be enemies. What do we do then? This boy asks his Dad to make his enemy pie, which his Dad agrees to on the condition that he has to spend the day with his enemy while he bakes it. At first he is giddy imagining all the awful ingredients Dad is throwing in, but by the end of the day he realizes he actually likes his enemy. Oh no! This is a great book about being kind to your enemies and you may just make friends out of the process. Great for elementary kiddos.

7) Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller: A baby gosling and caterpillar become fast friends but when nature calls they must part. They don't understand the separation and saddened  by the loss of their friend. As they get older and change they meet new friends who remind them of their long lost pal. Wait, it is their long last pal, put it took them awhile to recognize one another. I love confusion that they felt. Something most books don't cover but a really realistic side to things. A great way to have some deep discussions with your children.

8)Swimmy by Leo Lionni: This is a classic tale about a guppy that was born black when the rest of his siblings are red (diversity tie-in). He is faster than his family and is able to out swim big fish, all though his family isn't as lucky. Quickly he finds a new school to join and he helps them to band together to appear like one giant fish fight the larger fish of the sea. Being different is great and has it's advantages and if you stick together we can fight off anything. Bonus: Read with Big AL and compare the two fish stories. Better yet watch Finding Nemo and see if your child can build the connections as well.

9) Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker: This is a newer book and I got it fully expecting it to be kind of lame (can you say-judge a book by it's cover). I loved it! The square cat is sad and confused why he is different from all his round friends. However, his wonderful friends make him feel accepted and special. I highly recommend this book and expect it to become quite popular as people catch on to it.

10) Gerald and Piggie series by Mo Willems: This series is about the best example of best friends ever. This duo is so smitten with each other and their escapades are recorded in numerous books. Mo Willems is a children book genius (he also writes the Don't Let the Pigeon books). He has this knack of writing as if he is speaking directly to children. I have done these for read-alouds to huge crowds and they never disappoint. Really delve into the characters and get crazy with them. Your child will be giggling non-stop.  Some of my favorites: Watch Me Throw a Ball, Can I Play too?,Listen to my trumpet, and There is a Bird on Your Head. They are all superb though, read them seriously do it :0)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fine Motor Skill Racing & Sight Word Parking

I will be the first to admit that it is really hard for me to get on the floor and play with my boys. I would like to think that if I had a girl it would be easier. I could easily see myself setting up dollhouses, having tea parties, and dressing up like princesses. However, racing a train around a circle track or pushing cars back and forth-my brain will not slow down for. There is a lot of guilt wrapped around this, so in attempt to get down and play with cars I made a racing track out of butcher paper. One wavy path and one zig-zag path, both having a start and stop. "A" chose different Matchbox cars and Ready, Set, Go we were racing each other. What he doesn't know is that this is a great way to work on fine motor skills. Plus, it was an experiment on which was quicker (zig-zag or curvy). He then chose to put a strip of paper across the two to act as a bridge. Of course, if he crossed the bridge and I happen to be on the other side he could bonk me off. He had great fun and have Mom doing it with him made it so much better!
Then to add some sight word practice in I made a parking garage (actually just spaces on a piece of paper). I wrote all the sight words he is really struggling with. At first I would call out, "Can you park in the HERE parking spot", and he would then drive and park. Once he filled up the spaces he called out the words for me to park in. That is great because it not only taught him to guess a word based on the beginning sound, but he had to read them aloud as well. It was just a great way for me to assess his understanding. He absolutely loved this and wanted to play it 4-5 times, three was my limit ;0). There is always next time though!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Lapbook & Research

Since I started doing lapbooks last February I didn't have a Thanksgiving one yet. I thought it would be a great way to introduce the holiday to "A". Normally I get the printables from Homeschool Share, but they didn't have one. Which is shocking because they have everything else. After searching for awhile I came across this website, and it just has lots of suggestions of places to go. So this lapbook is a hodgepodge of stuff...and I don't really know where I got everything. I know some probably came from 1+1+1=1. Forgive me if I didn't credit you and just let me know and I will add it.

Research Used:

Books:Uncle Sam &Old Glory: American Symbols, Pilgrims of Plymoth by National Geo, Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (really cute text that is part of a series), and Thank You, Sarah (not shown but in my Top 10 Fall books post)
Websites: PPlimoth website is awesome to look at primary sources and see both sides.  This other website talks about the symbols .
Completed Lapbook
I always include a video so you can see under the flaps

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Magic Tree House

If you are looking for a good chapter book to introduce your emerging readers look no further! I normally recommend children who are ready to start reading chapter books start with the Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne. There is over 45 books that have a brother and sister duo (Jack and Annie) go on adventures in a magic tree house. All they have to do is look in a book and wish to go there. Some of the places they go are dinosaur time, the rainforest, ancient Egypt, old Japan, the World Fair in Paris, Pompeii right before the volcano explodes, the ice-age and more. There really is something for all interest and because the characters are both a boy and a girl it appeals to both genders. If the child finds a book that really interest them Mary Pope Osborne's husband wrote a non-fiction companion to the books so they can do a little research! Each book is about ten chapters and is at a 2nd grade reading level.

Well, my son is NOT at a 2nd grade reading level. However, he has at the age he will sit for chapter book read-alouds. Some books I have done as a read-aloud are Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (my favorite book of all time), The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Beasts of Clawstone Castle, and Because of Winn Dixie. That being said sometimes he wants to hear a story when I am not able to read to him. What then?- books on CD of course! This is my favorite thing to do in car rides. I put the speakers on the back and pop in a book on CD. I normally choose stories that are only about an hour to read, so they hold his attention and he doesn't have to recall too much information when we have to pause the book. Our favorite books to hear in the car-the Stink series (Judy Moody's brother),  the Dinosaur Cove series, and Magic Tree House (of course). We get a collection of eight stories on five disks from our local library.
Whenever I do a read-aloud I try to do some comprehension component. I was thrilled to find that Magic Tree House has a pretty great website. You give your child a log-in and then you put in your email address. Then they have their own tree house they can decorate. You also can go on a mission (a game) that has you go to four different locations in their books. Answer questions, earn points & medals, and then a cool artifact to decorate your tree house with. Here is my son's tree house and the objects on the right are from his missions!
On top of the game and tree house component the website has a passport. For every book you read you answer three comprehension questions. If you get them right you get a stamp in your passport. They have it for all the books and the non-fiction companion books as well. Here is one page of my son's passport so far:

So if you are looking for something to hold your child's attention, and a fun learning component to go along with it, I highly recommend these books and the website. I do have to say that the comprehension questions are only knowledge base in the Bloom's taxonomy (I will write a whole post about this-I promise). What this means is that your child is just recalling information and not a lot of critical thinking is taking place. That is really my only negative comment about the whole thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Inside a Pilgrim's House

As I was finding printables for a Thanksgiving Lapbook (will post soon) I ran across lesson plans that are created especially for ESL/ELL students. What is great about these type of lessons is that they are great at developing language and aiding in the ability to communicate. These are all great skills for our young children to learn as well, since they are also learning language acquisition.

As most of us adults know, a huge part of communicating and language is learning to listen. Adults listen about 50% of the time they are communicating, but for children it is closer to 90% of the time. Learning to listen is a valuable skill to be taught to children (and some adults too). Part of listening is being able to hear directions and be able to decode those directions so that you can do what is asked. Following directions is something that all people use almost on a daily basis. As a way to teach this skill I found a printable of the inside of a pilgrim house. Then I gave step-by-step direction to "A" to tell him how to recreate the inside of the room, including straw on the floor, hook and pot in the fireplace, and table in the corner. Even though he was learning a valuable skill he enjoyed  wondering what would come next. To him it was like a puzzle he was coloring one place at a time. It was really cool to see how it turned out and how well he was able to listen.
Even if it isn't Thanksgiving and you aren't using this pilgrim house to teach following directions you can do this with just about anything. In fact, just get a picture from your child's coloring book. Then give instructions on what to color. Start with single instructions and then as they get older give multiple steps at a time. Make it fun and have them color things in an unsuspecting way (the tree purple with pink polka-dots), and at the same time they will be learning a valuable tool!

Thankful Turkey Craft

This is certainly nothing new... I just wanted to make a turkey craft where my son wrote what he is thankful for on the wings. I found a printable of colored wings that say "I am thankful for..." at DLTK. I love that this website is free (which is becoming rarer now days). After we printed out the wings and Aiden got busy writing his blessings (house, food, to be alive, family, etc) I wrapped a toilet paper roll in brown card stock. Then I cut out a round head, comb, and waddle. Aiden made a face with a beak and then we glued the feathers to a half-circle to be taped to the back of the tiolet paper roll. Our thankful turkey is pretty cute sitting on a place of honor if I say so myself!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sight Word Grid Game

Ahh, it has been impossible to blog lately. In fact, it has been impossible to do much of anything! I am finishing up the last task before I begin Student Teaching in January. I am so grateful to have a month off to enjoy time with my family. I normally trying to hide my homework from the boys but these last two weeks they have seen Mommy working her tail off to complete all my coursework.

I do have some Thanksgiving things in the works and will share them (hopefully before the actual holiday). Other than that we are still plugging away at those sight words. The most recent thing I did was put the sight words on a grid numbered 1-6 for the rows and A-F for the columns. (easily done in Excel). Then taking two dice (one with left normal and A-F stickers placed on the other) he rolls to figure out which word to read. It is a little funner than a worksheet, but relatively easy for me to throw together with little to no time on my hands.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bee Hive Investigation

My mom gave "A" a bee hive that had fallen. He was chomping at the bits to dig in and explore. After covering the table with paper I pulled out the hive, but told him we needed to think like true scientist. First he had to guess what bee it belonged to. He thought the nest belonged to a yellow jacket. Then I told him he needed to record his observations with drawings and I would take notes. It was a relatively small nest. We looked at the paper surrounding and found striations (lines of different colors). It had three layers, soft, and easy to break. Inside was a honeycomb with a darker middle hanging down. This was hard to break. We noticed some white balls on some of the combs. "A" tried to break through by stabbing it but found it extremely difficult although it looked fragile. However, we could easily pull it outward. Inside was a bee exoskeleton. We also observed some black pointing things in some of the uncovered combs. We pulled it out and couldn't make out what it was. We could tell that it was extremely smelly (decomposing smell) and then I saw a part move. At this point I felt we had enough observations (and was getting grossed out) so we discarded of the hive.
Our found hive. After investigation we found out it was a wasp nest.
Magnifying Glass-an important tool for observations
Recording data
This is out of focus but the little thing on paper is a bee exoskeleton (later we found out an unhatched bee)
The small black thing we found out was decomposing and dying larvae.
After the observation we did some research to make sense of what we discovered. After scouring the internet these are Our Findings:
  1. The nest belonged to a honeycomb wasp
  2. The paper surrounding is actually scrapings of wood that the queen bee attains from fences, sheds, carports, etc-not trees! She then mixes it with her saliva to make a paste. There is a type of wax component because it is waterproof.
  3. Although it is called a honeycomb wasp that is for the shape of the hive. They do not make honey. Each comb holds one egg, that hatches to be a worker bee larvae 
  4. The wasp in North America is called a Yellow Jacket. 

Did you learn something? We sure did!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Sensory Bin

I have seen some really cute harvest sensory bins but I wanted to focus more on the upcoming holiday. I had all these ideas of finding adorable turkeys, pilgrims, Native Americans, and other decorations I was sorely mistaken. The clerk told me at the store that people don't really decorate for Thanksgiving so they only carry Christmas items. Huh? Um OK! So I had to find some more natural elements. I chose corn for the filler and I found actual Indian corn kernels to add more color. I also included small Indian corn cobs, seed pods, plastic gourds, fall leaves, rocks from "A's" collection that fit the color scheme, a piece of drift wood to act as a scoop, and other elements. I have also started to add cups and scoops for "A", since that is his favorite way to play with it. I also put scarecrows, Native American dolls,  a toy horse, and Scrabble tiles that spell "THANKS". I want "A" to focus on that simple word all month! We will see if his sensory bin will help with this endeavor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Popcorn Sight Words

I found the game POP for Sight Words recommended in either the Family Fun magazine or Scholastic for Teachers. I immediately wanted it for "A". The thing is it ranges from $10-$20 and with me Student Teaching (AKA not bringing home any bacon) it wasn't in the cards. I decided to make one for myself. Cost-$1.99!!!
The one for sale by Learning Resources
 "A" got sent home his first set of 25 sight words. I typed them up with a popcorn graphic in the background. I typed each word twice (one with a capital letter for the beginning and one with a lowercase letter). I also typed 6 popcorn with the word Pop on them. I then printed it out on card stock that I had around the house. I cut them out and put them in foldable cardboard popcorn boxes that I got in a set of 4 for $1.99 at Target. The great thing is when the next set of words comes home I will add them to the already existing ones. It grows as his learning does.

My very own version
The way you play the game: Each person draws a card from the box (without looking). The say the word and add it to their pile. If you grab the word Pop you have to put your pile back in the box. The person with the biggest pile wins. This game could go on FOREVER, so we put a time limit on it. What is great is the Pop cards even out the playing field. My son actually won even though he is an emerging reader because I kept drawing the Pop. The ratio of Pop cards should be about 1:10. When you put your pile back don't include the Pop cards-set the used ones aside.

I have seen other variations of this game with apples with the Pop being Rot instead (those have a worm on them). I also think there is a version with Firecrackers or something with Pop being Bang. Look around and search what you like best, but my son is learning his sight words!

P.S. I just found an online game version of this exact same game at Fun4the Brain called Popcorn Words.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

7 Days of Love

With my hubby away it has been a great time for me to work on some things and try to renew our relationship. I love my husband and truly believe we were meant to be together. That being said we have had our tough times. A lot actually! Ten years of life's challenges can do that to a couple. Why am I telling you this totally honest portrayal of our relationship? Because we all experience it but no one talks about it and then we think our relationship is different or more broken than others. Friends that isn't true. Relationship and especially marriage is hard. What it boils down to is how much you are willing to persevere and work at it.

So in an effort to really work on showing my hubs I love him I have been sending him little love gifts, notes, and packages while he is away. I am also making it an effort to just text how much I love or miss him with no other stuff attached to it. The Dating Diva's blog has been instrumental in awesome ideas to show your someone special you love them. I just sent my hubby this cute seven day pill box filled with sweets (his fave gum, M&Ms, and Hershey Kisses) with a strip of paper for each day. The strips have love quotes and love notes-the Divas give you a free printable. That way he can open the box for the day and get a little love every day of the week.

I hear and have felt, "I can't send and do this stuff. I just don't feel that way anymore." That is okay. You may not be head over heals in love like you once more...doesn't mean you won't someday in the future. You won't feel exactly the way you did when you first met-that was a different time and place, but you can feel something different and wonderful. My motto: Fake It Til You Make It. I guarantee if you start going out of your way to do these little acts of love eventually you will feel it.