Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday (2 days late!)

I love Mailbox Monday. :)

"Merry Christmas to the best teacher in the world." Darling.

I am constantly finding these tiny scraps of paper in my mailbox with the sweetest messages. :)

Yes, that is an apple, banana, watermelon tree!

That's me.... I'm fishing, and apparently having a bad hair day!

Cute, cute, cute -- in her words, "That's you and me!"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The essence of a kindergartner

I was finally able to put it into words this morning. I was talking to my mom, and I was describing how I felt yesterday. I said:

"I think it bothers me so much because they were kindergartners. And, the thing about kindergartners, is that as much as the world and culture may change around them, they will always be kindergartners. To me, they are one of the only groups of people who do not change with 'the times.' Whether they are kindergartners in Nebraska or New York, there is a certain set of characteristics every five-year-old shares. All I could think about yesterday, was they were just like these kids."

What is the essence of a kindergartner? It is the way they...
  • Look on the first day of school -- a mixture of nerves, fear, excitement, and curiosity. 
  • Walk slightly off-balance because of their new backpacks.
  • Laugh out loud at a funny story.
  • Raise their hands and cover their mouths simultaneously in an attempt to hold in what they have to say.
  • Fall into your arms when someone hurts their feelings.
  • Sing while they're swinging... and coloring... and lining up... and going to the bathroom.
  • Run. Everywhere they go.
  • Light up when they realize they just read a book on their own.
  • Count everything.
  • Talk just like their teachers.
  • Tell you how it is - with no filter at all.
  • Compliment their teachers everyday.
  • Hold their library books with pride.
  • Gasp at every surprise.
  • Love to get messy.
  • Smile on their way in the door every morning.
  • Trip over their shoelaces, get up, and just keep on running.
  • Proudly hold out their pictures to show you, with two hands and a smile.
  • Have no sense of time or age.
  • Trust the world around them.
I know that's what bothered me the most. That they were kindergartners -- just like kindergartners everywhere. The last two points are what hurt the most. For, to a kindergartner survivor from yesterday, that trust has been stolen... and there is no way to explain just what "forever" means. 

"Only the best die young," they say. And for this tragedy, it is true.

Can't catch me... I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Every December, I do a unit on the Gingerbread Man with my kinders. It's one of my favorite units of the year-- and every year it grows! Here is a recap of a few of my favorite things from this year:

First, we read about 10 different versions of the story -- from the original "Gingerbread Man" to "The Gingerbread Girl" to "The Gingerbread Pirates." The kids loved every one of them -- and the different versions provided the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast. For each version, we identified the main character, setting, chant, other characters, and the ending. 

Later that week, we decorated cookies and graphed our "first bites."

I'm not going to lie to you... the cookies looked pretty gross! Ha ha! But the kids loved every minute of it.

After taking our first bites and adding them to the graph, many students were given the opportunity to "defend" their choice. For example, one little guy said: "I bit off his head so he couldn't see where he was going! That way, he couldn't run away from me!" 
Math + cookies = fun, fun, fun!

One of my favorite parts of the unit was our "science experiment." In all of the versions of the story, the Gingerbread Man never wanted to get wet in the river! Why?... we wondered.

So, of course, we had to find out. First, each kinder was given a cookie. We drew what he looked like before his "swim."

We added our cookies to a cup of water (one cup per group), and waiting for a minute or two. As you ca see in the background, we also had a quick snack while we waited. :)

When we tried to take them out... they crumbled into pieces!

And, we drew the results. Great fun -- and the kids were very surprised by the results.
Click HERE or on the picture above for a printable of our Gingerbread experiment worksheet.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Today is one of those days I know I will never forget. When I walked into an eerily quiet teacher's lounge at lunch, I knew there was a tragedy.

I knew because I remember the last time it was that quiet.

I only stayed for a minute, because I knew I had to teach for three more hours. I knew I had to put on my happy face for a classroom full of kindergartners.

But, it was impossible not to think about it. For, after all, they were a classroom full of kindergartners.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked down the hall to the cafeteria to two tables packed with ridiculously happy and energetic five-year-olds. I smiled as I told them to pick up their trays and line-up.

But, as we headed back to our classroom, and they all rested their head for quiet time, their innocence overtook me. 

I looked at them -- and I looked at the door. I could just imagine how it happened in Connecticut. 

For, after all, they are just kindergartners. Happy. Innocent. Beautiful. Full of life.... and absolutely defenseless.

I walked by each table and gave each of my students a little hug.

I put on my happy face, and we decorated gingerbread cookies after quiet time.

The day went on, but I know I will never forget the way I felt today. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All I want for Christmas...

Mrs. Anderson: "What do you want for Christmas?"

A sample of responses...

"A bodyguard."

"A butler. They can do like anything for you. You don't even have to get up!"

"A ninja."

"A brother."


Hmmm... not sure many of those will be filled. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Tis the season

Is there anything more beautiful than kindergartners singing Christmas carols?

Answer: No.

I love the holiday season with my kinders. Their joy and innocence is at its absolute best in December. The mixture of true belief, the promise of Santa, and simple joyful cheer cause the most darling sparkle in a child's eye.

This year has been difficult to "get into the spirit" -- at least if you live in Omaha! After four years of living here, I have learned to equate December with feet of snow. December brings the buzz of snowblowers in the early mornings, a frisky dog running in from the yard, and the 15-minute battle with snow gear before recess.

But, not this year. In fact, today, on December 12, my kinders were digging in the sand with shovels and buckets. This just does not feel like Christmas in Omaha!

In addition, every year, Christmas is a strange time for a couple with no children (like us!) Yes, I love the holidays. Yes, we put up a tree and our stockings. But, besides wrapping up an unnecessary amount of dog toys and treats, Christmas feels a bit disconnected at home with no children. 

But, I'm lucky. I have 17 little bright lights to bring my Christmas spirit to life. Even the biggest Scrooge among us couldn't help but light up when you see a five-year-old pumping her legs on a swing, singing "Frosty the Snowman" at the top of her lungs.

My kids breathe air into my life -- and remind me of the simple joys in life. Snow, or no snow, my Christmas spirit lives in my students. And I know, no matter what the weather, December will always mean joy, cheer, and unbridled excitement in a kindergarten classroom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quotable Quotes

My kids seriously crack me up. I never laugh during the moment... but I always giggle later. They are so honest and so hilarious. 

A few memorable quotes from this week...

Female student: "Whew. That was good exercise. I'm sweaty."
Male student (looking shocked): "Um, girls don't sweat."
Female student: "Yes they do."
Male student: "No, they don't. And they don't fart either."

[This little guy has only sisters - and he adores them. Too funny!]
Student 1: "I like all our books."
Mrs. Anderson: "Thank you. I love books, too. That's what I'm asking Santa for this year -- some books."
Student 1 (looking puzzled): "You still ask Santa for things?"
Mrs. Anderson: "Of course I do!"
Student 2: "That's because she's not like a real grown-up. Y'know... she's not a big grown-up yet."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Trim the reading tree

I love this new workstation -- and so do the kids. This is one of those ideas I wish I had thought of 4 years ago!!!

Simple and festive.

  • Pick a felt ornament from the bucket.
  • Read the "star word" (sight word).
  • Put in on the felt tree (felt sticks to felt!)
  • Record the words on the paper tree.

I made the tree with a large triangle of green felt and hot-glued on a yellow felt star and a brown felt trunk.

The ornaments are simply felt shapes with "puff paint" words. 


Click HERE or on the picture above for the printable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Red Kettle

It's Red Kettle season. I can't walk past one without dropping something in. I just can't.
There's something about a ringing bell and a red kettle that just makes it feel like Christmas.

But, the Red Kettle always reminds me of something else -- my husband. It brings me back to a sentimental place.

I know. Weird. But this is why...

It was 2007, and we had been dating for about 6 months. I was still living in Kansas and he was living in Omaha. I loved making weekend trips up to "the big city" to see him. We always did lots of things together -- out to dinner, the zoo, walking downtown, etc.

This Saturday night, we were going to see a movie. And I can't see a movie without candy. I have a serious sweet tooth.

So, we headed to Hy-Vee nearby to pick up some candy before the movie (I carry this giant purse for a reason!). Tyson and I were chatting at the check-out counter as he paid with his debit card. The checker handed Tyson the receipt with the $20 cash he withdrew. I grabbed the candy, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tyson fold the bill into a tiny square and put it in the palm of his hand.

As we walked out the door, hand-in-hand, Tyson dropped the tiny square in the Red Kettle and just kept walking. He turned to me and said, "I can't walk past a Red Kettle without dropping something in. I didn't have any change."

That's the day I knew I was going to marry him.

And I did.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bear Snores On project

If you have not read Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, stop reading this and go check it out. No, forget that -- go buy it! It is a classic. Bear is hibernating and sleeps through a forest party in his den. 

It's one of my all-time favorite teaching books. It has rhyming text, repetitive text, surprise endings, great sequence... and best of all, Karma Wilson has a whole series featuring Bear and his friends.

Our school is having a special community day at a local store. The store is "revealing" window displays for each classroom. Each teacher chose a Winter-themed book to decorate a tri-fold board to display in the window. 

My class chose Bear Snores On... and we are SO proud of how it turned out!

I made the characters in the den, and each kid made a snowflake for the sky. The whole class worked on the trees and snow for the den [shaving cream + Elmer's glue]. 

Kindergarten Thanksgiving -- Part 2

MORE Thanksgiving goodness...

We make these bracelets to tell the story of The First Thanksgiving. Each color represents a part of the story (white for the Mayflower's sails, blue for the ocean, green for the new land, black for the hard winter, brown for the turkey, red for the cranberries, yellow for the corn, and orange for the pumpkins).

The kids LOVE it, and I love how it helps them remember the story. You can find the poem to go along HERE on Dr. Jean's website. 

After our feast, we wrote a list of the foods we ate, drew our plates, and labeled them. They turned out awesome -- and their parents loved seeing what they tried!


Lastly, we compared foods the Pilgrims and Indians ate at their feast and the foods we ate at our feast. The kids loved hearing about the foods they ate at the first Thanksgiving (picture on the left). But, we had a lot in common (middle picture)!

11 more months until next year. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kindergarten Thanksgiving

I absolutely love Thanksgiving in kindergarten. I'm kind of obsessed with it -- and it has turned into a huge two-week unit every year. It is quite a production, and it's one of my favorite times of the year.

Here's a re-cap of some of my favorite parts:

We started the week by discussing what it means to be thankful. After reading books, the kids each decorated a leaf with something they're thankful for. We all loved our Thankful Tree!

Later in the week... the kids could use the tree for ideas when we were writing...

 ... like when we did these adorable thankful turkeys.


With my Team Time (older students), we made these Thanksgiving plates with a "recipe for caring." We drew our favorite Thanksgiving foods and labeled them with acts of caring.

And then, of course, it was time to learn about and celebrate The First Thanksgiving. (This is my favorite day of the year!!!)

There is something so sweet about a long table of 30 kindergartners. It's nostalgic and heart-warming. Their little manners and wide eyes simply melt my heart.

Each kid made a cute patterned placemat...

...and of course, dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians!

We filled up each kid's plate with all the traditional foods... turkey, potatoes, rolls, corn, green beans, stuffing, pumpkin pie... we had it all!

Thanksgiving in kindergarten never fails. The kids try new foods, use their best manners, and absolutely love the feast. And, I get to gawk at how stinkin' cute they are. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday Mailbox

Monday mailbox... a few days late!

 More beauties from my little artists - they just crack me up! [Translation provided for those of you who do not read "kinder writing" fluently.]

That, of course, is me on the left. :) My talk bubble says "I love K-State Purple." Above her head: "I love you Mrs. A." Too cute.

On the back... "Mrs. A, K-State Purple is my favorite color." ATAGIRL!

Even though she has a Nebraska shirt on... this picture just made me laugh! I love the details.

Now, this picture perplexed me for a few minutes. As you can tell, this little girl is an amazing artist. I just couldn't figure out the "boobs" on the men! Then, I realized... we've been learning about the Pilgrims, the Indians, and the First Thanksgiving. Now, although still hilarious, it makes more sense! Note the blond pilgrim with her tongue out... of course, she's sick because she doesn't have any food! So cute.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to cook a turkey

For your reading pleasure... a step-by-step "recipe" from my kindergarten class.
This is how you cook a turkey… 
By: Mrs. Anderson’s Kindergarten Class 2012 

1. Get a turkey (shoot one with a bow and arrow, buy it at the store, or get one from a farm) 
 2. Get the turkey ready (pull the feathers off, take the legs off, take the arms off, take the beak off, cut it in half) 
3. Make it taste good (salt, broth, green stuff, brown sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and pepper) 
4. Put it on a tray 
5. Put it in the oven (12 degrees for 2-91 minutes… until the oven goes BEEP!) 
6. Take it out of the oven 
7. Cut the turkey (using a sharp knife or a sword, cut in on it’s back down the middle, cut 2-14 pieces for everybody or 45 pieces if it’s really big) 
8. Squeeze the turkey (and spray it with chicken juice) 
9. Set the table (with silverware, plates, napkins, chicken nuggets, corn, the turkey, mashed potatoes, and drinks) 
10. Eat it (with a fork or your hands!) 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The First Thanksgiving (pt. 3 of many)

A few memorable quotes from this morning...


Mrs. A (while reading a pilgrim book): "Boys and girls, what do you think he is hunting for?"

Student 1: "Turkey?"

Student 2: "Deer?"

Student 3: "Dinosaurs?"  (after all... if was as long time ago!)


Student 1: "Did you know Friday is Black Friday?"

Student 2: "Yeah, everybody wears black."

Student 3: "And they have an extra Thanksgiving!"


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another inspirational read

Another inspirational read for you. Yet another reason why I do what I do... and why I'm reaching for the goals I'm reaching for.
Professionals can make a difference in the lives of parents of children with special needs.

You have the opportunity to…

…not be intimidated when we blow off steam. The great challenge for you is to give us the opportunity to fall apart once in a while.

…decrease our profound sense of loneliness. You will often be the ONE person who will say, “Tell me more.”

…help us know our child. Help us know how to say the words, how to tell others. You can take us into our children’s lives.

…help us recognize and celebrate our victories. They are often too small for the “normal” population to appreciate. You know that awful sounding “grunt” make by our child is truly a miracle. Often it is only you who knows that a new movement is significant and indicates a renewed sense of hope.

…remind us how far we have come. You can highlight these changes and celebrate the growth.

…allow us those moments when our souls fall into deep despair.

…give us space to be in that dark place. It is one of the greatest “interventions” you can give us.

…help us feel hope. We must feel hope if we are to get to our next appointment, or to face the next birthday party, or to use the words “special needs.”

Take the opportunity.
[Adapted from: Fialka, J. (1996). You can make a difference in our lives. DEC Communicator. 8.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The First Thanksgiving (pt. 2 of many)

Student 1: "Mrs. Anderson, if the Pilgrims came on the Mayflower... how did the Indians get here?"

Mrs. A: "Well, the Indians already lived here in America."

Student 1: "Yeah, but where did they come from?"

Student 2: "Did they come on a boat, too?"

Mrs. A: "No. They lived in America for a very long time before the Pilgrims came."

Student 2: "Oh, so maybe they came on a boat a long time ago."

Student 1: "Or, maybe they walked."

[Very inquisitive... very intelligent questions! And so difficult to explain! Just the way I like our discussions to be - challenging, student-directed, and natural.]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A unique insult

A child coming to me crying and pointing a finger at another child is a frequent occurrence. So, naturally, this is not something that surprises me. However, I have to say this was the most unique one I've heard in a while...

Student: "Mrs. Anderson! He said something really hurtful!"

Mrs. Anderson: "Well, why don't we use an 'I Feel' statement with him?"

Student: "Okay. (Turns to other student) I feel sad when you say I want to marry Lady Gaga."

Lady Gaga has officially become an insulting word in my classroom. :) Hilarious.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thai Chicken and Noodles

Comfort food (n): Food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being; typically with high carbohydrate content and associated with childhood.

This recipe is one of my comfort foods. It fits all the above criteria. 

  • It makes me feel good -- and just makes me happy when I'm eating it.
  • Carbs. Yum.
  • I visited my aunt every summer when I was a kid, and every time she made this dish for me. It always reminds me of her.
  • My only copy of the recipe is on a faded piece of newspaper... and there's soy sauce spilled on it.
See? Comfort food.

It is soooo good, and super easy. Plus, it proves you CAN make something delicious with Ramen noodles!

Keep reading below for the recipe and more pictures...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The First Thanksgiving (pt. 1 of many)

The discussions have just begun...

Student: "Mrs. Anderson, did you know that the Indians only ate mashed potatoes? That's it!"

I have no idea where that came from... but it made me laugh out loud.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bowling for sight words

This literacy workstation has been a hit in our classroom this week! And, the best part is... it's fun for everyone. It's a great "inclusive" workstation because my students with disabilities can work on motor and eye-hand coordination, while other students work on reading and writing star words. Perfect.

My classroom bowling pins happen to look like turtles, but you could use regular pins, empty cans, pop bottles, etc. Anything works! Just label your "pins" with targeted sight words, copy the recording paper, and away they go!

Click HERE or on the picture above for a printable of the recording paper.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Memorable quotes from this week

For some reason, my kinders were extremely funny this week. Must be the election -- it seemed to be making everyone nuts! :)

A few memorable quotes from this week...

Mrs. A (on election day): "Well, boys and girls. We will not be going to the gym today for lunch because there are some grown-ups in there doing something very important. Does anyone know what they're doing?" (we were a polling site)

Student: "Working out?"
Mrs. A: "We are going to be doing this activity in the hallway by the office. We all know the office is an important place, so we need to be quiet. What kinds of important things do they do in there?"

Student 1: "Write letters."

Student 2: "Talk."

Student 3: "Have a lot of lonely time."

MORE kinder presidential chatter

A summary of what my kinders know about the president. All of the responses are student-generated... and some of them just made me giggle! :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kinder presidential chatter

It's safe to say I know each and every one of my students' parents' political stances.

We had a "mock election" at school today -- and it was wonderful. I can't wait to hear our school's results on Wednesday!

My favorite parts:

  • The discussion about the president's job.
  • The hilarious things the kids said about the president and/or election.
My students' favorite parts:
  • The sparkly American flag pencils they got.
  • The "I voted" stickers.
  • Putting the ballot in the "special box."

It was so much fun -- and I loved giving the kids this responsibility. It really empowered them, and they were so interested in the president and the election (in other years, my students are not really interested in the president at all).

It fueled some great questions...

"Are we voting for a new principal?" (answer... "No, just a president.")

"Does he move into the White House tomorrow?"

And, of course, sparked some great quotes...

"Barack Obama makes people not believe in God."

"My mom said Mitt Romney only likes rich people."

"Mitt Romney has like a million kids."

Just a priceless day all around. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Embrace the madness

Halloween week in kindergarten = madness.

Fight the madness?

No, embrace it! I'm all about channeling that excitement and energy into some positive, cognitive experiences.

Here's one way we did it...

On Nov. 1, each kinder was invited to bring 4 treats from their night of fun. First, we sat in a big circle and sorted our candy by many, many attributes (all student-generated attributes... chocolate/no chocolate, one piece/many pieces, color of wrapper, etc.).

Then, we ate our candy, kept the wrappers and sorted them by beginning letter.

We ended up with a fun class book -- A-Z Trick-Or-Treat. The kids love "reading" this book at the library center.

I got this idea from a teammate of mine who got it from another teacher! All I can say is Thank Goodness! It is a lifesaver the day after Halloween!

Some letters had a lot... some had none (so we made up our own candy!)

Like I said... embrace the madness. :) It might lend itself to a great lesson!