Favorite Books for FALL

I am so happy to be blogging with my friends to bring you some of our favorite fall books.  I have some super books to tell you about.  For your convenience, you can find these books on Amazon using my affiliate link by clicking on the cover image.  If you purchase through my link I get a teeny tiny percentage.  Just trying to make things easy for you.  I hope you love these books as much as I do!

The beginning of the school year is a time to get to know each other and begin building our classroom community.  It is the perfect time to teach about diversity and why we value it!  This is the perfect book to help teach this concept:

Ling Sung is the main character in this diverse pre-school classroom with students and teachers from many racial backgrounds.  He doesn't want to go to school because he thinks all the other kids can do special things and he can't.  One day he uses paint brushes to eat a cookie like they are chopsticks.   His teachers and classmates are so impressed!  He teaches them all how to do it.  The story shows us how we all have different strengths AND we can learn new things from each other.  It's a great message about why we value diversity.  I found this book years ago when I was teaching in an inner-city school in San Francisco.  It was one of the only books at that time that actually reflected the kids in my class.  I still read it every year because it touches on a universal theme of feeling "not good enough".  All my young students benefit from hearing this story and realizing that we all have something important to contribute in our classroom community.  I also love this book because I now teach in a school that is not very diverse.  I want my students to see images of kids from all different backgrounds.  It's crucial!  This is still in print and you can grab it by clicking on the picture above.

This is another book that I just adore.  It truly represents a diverse urban community that reflects my childhood memories of San Francisco.  One of the ideas it touches on is wanting things other people have that we don't.  There is a reason this book has won so many awards.

It's a great addition to your books for teaching diversity, but this book also has so much more to offer.  The wise grandmother in this story continues to remind CJ (and us ) to be grateful for what we have, to see beauty in the world around us even when it's not immediately apparent, and connection with people is the real treasure in life.  I LOVE the positive messages in this book.  I also love it because the images and story accurately represent the city life that so many children live.

OK, I am totally OBSESSED with this book.

I saw it a few times on Instagram and when I saw the last page, I knew I had to have it.  It's based on Wonder by the same author, R.J. Pelacio.  It is soooooooo good and it's perfect for young students.  I used this book to help teach about kindness this year.  That is another important beginning of the school year lesson.  Be kind.  It's our number one classroom rule.  It was hard for me to read this book without crying the first few times.  I even read it at Back to School Night for parents because it delivers a powerful message is a beautifully simple way.   It set the tone for the year...

Here are some of the other activities we did to learn about kindness in my classroom:

We talked about how we want to be treated and what the kids in the pictures are doing during the sorting activity.  We also talked about how it feels when we are kind to others.  I made an anchor chart for the kids to give ideas of how they can be kind.  We are going to do this activity later in the year when we need a refresher on kindness. 

After the sorting activity, the kiddos drew a picture of how they can be kind on a writing response paper.  Since it is early in the year for kindergarten, we took dictations for ours students' ideas.  This is my teacher example paper:

Some of my students are having trouble with sharing...  especially the marbles with our marble race building toy.  We are working on it.  If you would like these materials to do kindness activities with your class, you can grab them right here:  Kindness Activities - Social Emontional Learning

I LOVE fall so much!  It's my favorite season and it's officially here!  I hope you can use these books with your little learners this season.

This book is PERFECT for doing a geometry unit in the fall.  I always try to introduce shapes sometime in the fall so we can do review throughout the rest of the year.  It's also nice to take a break from the huge numbers 1-10 unit.  That unit always seems like it takes months to finish and this is a fun way to mix things up.

This book takes you on a trip to the farm at harvest time so you can find lots of shapes along with pumpkins and apples too!  The illustrations are lovely.  I think you and your students will enjoy it too!    

These fall trees are a fun art and math project you can do as an extension activity with the book.  They were made using pattern block die cuts in fall colors.   Students just used oil pastel to draw the trunks and branckes.  Then, they glued on the shapes for leaves.  You can use these trees to learn about shapes and you can also review attributes!  These trees can be graphed by color OR shape.  We graphed these by shape above.  You can grab those pattern block graphs here:  Graph for Pattern Blocks  

Now that fall is here, I am starting to think about Halloween.  Our little friends have already been thinking about it for weeks!  I love this book because it incorporates the fun of Halloween and the pumpkin lifecycle through the story of a young boy who loved his jack-o-lantern.

If you don't have Pumpkin Jack in your collection, make sure you grab it.  You can even read it after Halloween because that's when the story begins.  Here is a fun extension activity you can do with your students to learn about compost and garbage...

We used our kid made classroom jack-o-lanterns for this science experiment.

The day after Halloween, we  filled one up with garbage...

and buried it in the ground.

Then on Earth Day, we dug it up to see what happened.  If you do this with your class make sure you put in some trash that is compostable and some that isn't.  It makes a huge impact to see very little left except for plastic wrappers, baggies, etc.  I got this idea from Catherine Reed, The Brown Bag Teacher  on her Instagram feed.  I tried it with my students and it was a huge success!  

I made these recording sheets for students to make a prediction and then record the results from our experiment..

This activity and recording sheets were just added along with some other things to my Earth Day Activities - Conserving Natural Resources product.  If you already own this, go re-download.  If you don't you should go check it out.  It's a super helpful science resource you can use all year.

I know this seems like the blog post that will never end.  I'm just enjoying writing today and I am such a huge picture book addict, that when it comes to sharing books, I can go on a bit.  This is my last fall favorite for today:

This is an engaging tale told with rich language and beautiful illustrations.  The main character is an older woman living alone who HATES pumpkins.  When one simple action and a lot of ignoring causes a huge pumpkin patch to grow in her yard, she turns this seeming disaster into a festive celebration.  Our little students get to see a character change over time and decide for themselves how she feels about pumpkins at the end.  This is an older book that is still in print for good reason.  I don't see it out in the world much, but I own it and love this addition to my fall collection.  It's a great October read that isn't spooky or completely Halloween based.  

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Hope you found some books and ideas that will help you have a fabulous fall in your classroom.  Keep on reading for more great books over at Elaine's blog...  

Happy fall!
Happy teaching!

Back to school Essentials FREEBIE blog hop

It's time for back to school and I am so glad to be joining my friends for another blog hop!  We have lots of ideas and some FREEBIES for you to have a great start to your school year.  These are some of my back to school essentials.  Most are items I just can't live without and some I could live without, but don't want to, so they are essential too.  Keep reading to grab a FREEBIE before you hop along to the next blog.

Please tell me I'm not the only kindergarten teacher who orders three sizes of pencils...

 I love Ticonderoga because the lead writes better, they are made in the USA, and I like having all my pencils the same color and style so that there are less issues around choosing which pencil to use for students.  Over the years, I have just learned that you get what you pay for.   Why three sizes?  My little people in kindergarten are just learning to write.  Every little hand is different and for some kiddos the big fatties are the best.  Others with tiny hands really prefer the regular ol' skinny ones.  The Laddie pencils are in between...  just right for others.  I want them to have what they need to become good writers.  So, three sizes it is!

These markers are also an essential supply for my classroom.  Not just because they are Crayola... which are the best.  But more importantly, it is necessary for kids to represent themselves and their friends as they really are.  I am always encouraging realistic drawings with lots of colors.  When it comes to people... peach and brown just don't cut it.  These are in our marker cups all year long.  I love when a child says "I need skin color"  and I hand them about 5 different choices.  Throughout the year, it always makes me happy to see pictures that have people of all colors in them.  #diversity #representationmatters.   Multicultural markers for the win! 


This is a VERY handy item.  I have been using these for so many years I can't even remember where I first found them.  This is a dry erase 22" by 28" poster.  I glued flat magnets to the back so it would stay up on my magnetic white board.  You could also just tape it up too.  I use this every day to write a morning message to my students.  It is an important part of our routine and it is a great way to teach and practice concepts of print, sight words, reading strategies...  lots of important literacy concepts.  It is also a GREAT way for students to practice reading in a low stress environment because we are all doing it together!  Yay!  Here is what one of mine from a few years ago looks like written out on the  board:

We were doing an ocean unit when I wrote this.  I like to draw little pictures for my kiddos when I have the time.  The known sight words are in green.  Sometimes after we read the message, I have students come up and find letters, words, chunks, or punctuation to review what we have been learning.  It's also easy to differentiate on the fly because you can ask students to circle different things depending on their level.   I get these at my local teacher supply store and they last me for 2-3 years.  You can grab one at Amazon with my affiliate link here: Trend Enterprises Notebook Paper Wipe-Off. Chart, 22" x 28" (T-1095)

And of course... BOOKS!  I am an admitted picture book addict, so I really think you can't ever have enough books in the classroom.  Here are a few of mine set up for BTS 2017! I have included an affiliate link to Amazon below so you can grab my new favorite.

You can see a mix of old classics with some new ones too.  This year, I got two new books... How to get your teacher Ready by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish...

... and  School's First Day of School.  I LOVE this book!  The newly built school tells the story about the first day and it is so sweet!  I highly recommend it.  I am going to read it on the first or second day this year.  I still haven't decided.

I also think it is important to have a few things around your classroom that make you happy!  If it's flair pens, get 'em!  Colorful classroom decor?  Do it!  We work hard teaching little learners and it's important for us to have some things that keep us positive, make us happy, and help us to love our jobs even on those tough and tired days.  These are a few goodies I got for myself this year...

 I know I'm a little late to the washi tape party, but Oh my goodness, they are so much fun!  And these sweet planner stickers make this teacher happy!  So if there are some little things you want to brighten up your life for back to school, I say go for it!  For those of you that know me, you also know that shimmering little pencil is one of my essentials too!  They are a bit more expensive, but oohhh!  I just love them soooo muuuuch...  You can grab some too: 72 Pencils Total (6 packs of 12 count pencils)Dixon Ticonderoga Black Wood-Cased Black Writing No. 2 Soft Noir Pencils ,Holographic Design

My last tip is that  taking care of ourselves is essential!  Having a drawer somewhere in your classroom for some energy bars, chocolate, and other yummy but healthy snacks will help make those days at the beginning of the year easier.  You know that time of day when you need to stay another hour but lunch is gone and you just need a little something to keep going?  Sometimes there are unhealthy things in the teacher room calling my name...  That's when a nibble of organic dark chocolate, some nuts, or a Larabar hits the spot.  When you have a snack stash, it's there for you ready to go.

These are some products I have made to make my life easier for back to school.  These save my time and sanity during the first month of school, and I hope they help you too!  So learning letters and sounds is the first order of business in kindergarten.  There are many learning activities to help with this, but here are a few of my essentials:

These ABC Letter-Sound Picture cards help my students learn letter sounds and support us with many other learning activities.  We love to use these for games and sorting pictures by beginning sound.  They are also really helpful for making these little books:

This little book is so helpful for learning letters, sounds, and beginning reading strategies like pointing as you read.  Yay!  You can find it here: ABC Book!  Student made Emergent Reader.   Each day we learn a new letter and then students make a page for the book as a center activity.   Students can choose to draw a picture of something that they already know begins with the letter.  This reinforces a strong letter-sound association for him/her.  On letters that aren't yet known, the cards above come in handy with ideas for ideas to go in the book.  I have adults write the words so they are neat and legible.  This is the first book that goes into our book boxes and my little kinder students feel so successful reading it!


This is how I teach the letters to my students.   Each day we add to this Kinesthetic Alphabet chant with a new letter and then students make a page in their books for that letter.  The book above comes with a version to match this alphabet chant where kids can just color in the picture.  But, for kinder students I recommend giving them the choice about what to draw (for reasons above) as long as it begins with the right letter.

So... doing a kinesthetic alphabet chant is nothing new.  I have been doing my own version of this in one way or another since my very first year of teaching...  um...  20 years ago. (yikes!)  But, I have tweaked it over time and continue to teach letters this way because it WORKS!  It is visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  It takes less than ten minutes to do the whole chant once it has been learned.  I also have a visual reference with these same letter characters on my wall, and on my alphabet charts that are always out for students when we are writing.  I also use these charts in my guided reading groups to review letters and sounds as needed.  They are ESSENTIAL!  and FREE!

You can grab them in my TpT store right here:  Alphabet Chart for Students  It also comes with a bonus blends and digraph chart too!

I copy them on colored paper and laminate them.  I put a word wall chart on the back with high frequency words needed for writing.  I hope these are a big help to you this year!

Hop on over to my friend Cristina Mc Crone over at Primary Besties:  Back to School Essentials #kinderfriends

Thanks so much for stopping by!

2017-18 Calendars are here!

Are you starting to think about next school year yet?  I hope not!  If you are a teacher, I hope that is the last thing on your mind.  But, honestly, this is the time when we reflect about went well, what we want to do better, and new things we might try next year...  or maybe you are thinking about vacation, baseball, and beating the heat. 

These calendars are the first thing I do each summer for back to school because I have so many teachers who depend on me to make calendars for their students each year.  We all use these for kids to learn and practice writing numbers to 30 in our classrooms.  This is an activity teachers have been doing for years and it is one of the few things I have NOT kicked to the curb since common core came along.

When CCSS came along, there were so many new activities to try, new curriculum to implement, and I felt like there was not enough time for everything...  especially in a partial day kindergarten.  There were so many old activities that just had to go.  But this activity is still my go to for monthly number writing.   There are so many concepts we work on each time we do this...  of course the actual handwriting of numbers, which is TRICKY for little learners.  And of course there is the rote counting and remembering the number order.  We also do a lot of work on the order of numerals in the two digit numbers.  We look at patterns that can help us remember.  Kids also learn to use tools in the classroom to help themselves.  Many students work on perseverance, focus, and time management as well.

Even though I really do like my adopted math curriculum, it doesn't give the kiddos as much practice with number writing as they need.  So this is an important area to supplement.  If I don't send them to first grade knowing this, then I have failed.  My friend next door teaching first grade still does this in her room every year too.   The kids benefit from fine motor practice and double digit number practice.  Did I mention that the families LOVE getting these at home each month?  I have parents comment on them all the time.  I even have kids tell me where they put the calendar in their homes.

OK, so... clearly this is a tried and true learning activity.  Are you doing these in your classroom?  If not, why?

Is it because you don't have time to think up an art project each month?  I've got you covered!  My calendar product comes with art ideas for the entire year with details about how we did the project.  I update it each year with new projects.  It also has links to my Pinterest boards so you can search for new ideas.  Is it because you don't want to have to buy a new download each year?  Got you covered there too!  My calendar product is perpetual, so you automatically get a new download each year.  Just go into My Purchases on TpT, find the calendar product and download again!  Easy Peasy!

So, if you own my Calendars for Number Writing ~Perpetual~  go download it and grab your new calendars.  If you don't have it yet, you might want to consider investing in it.  I have a commitment to make these calendars through 2028, and will probably make them well after that.  The price will be going up when the school year begins, so I hope you get it this summer to save.

Let's look at some adorable seasonal art and then I will show you the new calendar set for 2017-2018.

This apple is adorable!  We did an apple unit that year and we talked about the variations in colors even on apples from the same variety.  I thought it came out beautiful!

This baby jack-o-lantern is so cute.  This little guy didn't want to do lots of cutting, but I thought he was really creative with how he did the eyes and the tiny vampire tooth.  You can find more fun and funky jack-o-lanterns on this blog post: It's Pumpkin time!

This was a fun project for November!  We just did a construction paper collage on cut paper plates for the pie.  The napkin is construction paper too.  We glued on a fort to make it complete!

This is one of my favorite projects for December.  I always have several colors of paper available so kids can make candles any color they like.  That way we honor any family celebrations or lack thereof.  The greens are just ripped paper glued on in two shades of green.  You can do ripped red paper for berries, or glitter berries too.  The flame is gold glitter.

This is my new favorite winter art project.  We did these last year for December and they all came our just beautiful.  This was a two part project.  First, kids make a tissue paper collage on card stock using a glue-water mixture.  After this dried, they cut out triangle shaped trees and glued them on the dark background paper.  Lastly, they dotted on white tempera paint using cotton swabs to make snow.  Each one came out as unique as the child that made it, but they were all lovely. 

This project was a water color resist using white oil pastels on white paper.  Kids cold draw trees, houses, snow people, snowflakes, etc.  It was an open ended winter drawing.  Then they painted over the drawing with winter sky colors like blue, purple, etc.  It is always an experiment doing water color resist with young kids.  They have to press hard with the pastels.  I just loved the way this one came out.  I like the colors and how it isn't "perfect".  It is beautiful.

I just adore these love bugs!  They made great art for our calendars a few years ago.  I used Ellison die cuts for the hearts and circles.  I cut some of the circles in half for the wings.  We had lots of different colors available for our little artists.  We also used googly eyes and oil pastels for details.

This spring calendar was also done with Ellison die cuts.  We have the flower die at school.  I made lots of those in yellow and white and the kids used tissue to make the little centers for the flowers.  They are supposed to look like daffodils... even though they aren't really accurate, they are still pretty flowers for March.

OK, this is the last one...  Earth Day art for April!  This earth template and the little Everyday is Earth Day sign are FREE in my TpT store.  They are part of an Earth Day writing activity  You can grab them right here: Earth Day FREEBIE!

Oh my goodness... that is a lot of art!  So even if you don't use my calendars in your classroom, I hope you found some ideas that you can use!  Here are my Calendars for Number Writing 2017-2018:

Thanks for stopping by!
Happy teaching!