Thursday, November 27, 2014

Snowmen at Work: A Christmas Book Inspired Craft

I’m joining in with a few of my friends to bring you an amazing collection of holiday themed books and some inspired crafts and activities.
December is always a wonderful time of year, full of joy and wonder for young children.  To capture this, I recently read Snowmen at Work by Caralyn Buehner to my kindergarteners.

The book takes place at Christmas time as it begins to snow. A little boy went to bed after making a snowman and woke to find it had snowed a lot overnight. He wondered if his snowman could have shoveled the walkway and then began to imagine about what jobs snowmen might have. Jobs like a dentist, a mechanic, a grocer, a baker, and even a teacher. The illustrations are very colorful and the snowmen look as though they are lit up from inside. The expressions on the snowmen/women/animals are so priceless. Each page has a hidden mouse to find. He is so tiny and does something different on each page. Each page is so completely full of detail, you could spend minutes on each one. I especially love that the story is written in a rhyme format which helps the readers to predict what the author will say. Each page highlights a different community worker job the snow people can do. The author creatively found a way to fit the job description exactly to something only a snow person could do on the job. I especially love that this plays on the idea that little children can understand that snowmen might be able to come alive like Frosty the Snowman, but it takes it one step further by imagining the jobs a snow person might be able to do. My students thought it was a clever book and I'm sure your students will too.

After reading Snowmen at Work, we then completed this fun craft: A Sock Snowman
My son made one of these in his preschool class. It turned out so cute, we still have it fifteen years later and he always insists I put it out with the Christmas decorations. His is still packed away in our decorations for a few more weeks, so I have created another one to teach you how to make one with your students/children. 

Here’s what we did:
1) Get a white sock. I would recommend a tightly woven cotton sock over the cute, fluffy, fleece one I used here because the ends of the rice can pierce through the fleece (though only a little came out).

2) Fill it almost to within 1.5 inches of the top of the sock.

3) Put a rubber band SECURELY around the top of the sock. Place a second rubber band midway through the body of the snowman. You can make the head smaller than the bottom of the snowman. You could also make the snowman body have three spheres instead of just two, but I like the way it looks with two. (By the way, at Easter, if you slice this top extra part from top to the rubber band on two sides, they will turn into floppy bunny ears. You can round them a bit and the look JUST like bunny ears.) In this case, just kind of roll the top down and inside out to the bottom of the first rubber band to form a cap.

It begins to kind of resemble the Pillsbury Doughboy. You can find a large ribbon or use cloth of your choice to make a scarf. Tie it around the middle rubberband and fashion it the way you would like your scarf to look. Choose another color sock for the hat.

I rolled the sock inside out halfway. I then re-rolled the bottom of the sock inside out so that it formed a hat.

I placed the hat upon his head and added eyes and a mouth. You can use just about anything to create a cute little face. I did not, but you could also add buttons down his front. 

The hardest part of making this snowman was filling the sock with rice. You can use a funnel to make the process easier. You may need an adult to help hot glue on the face and tummy buttons, but as you can see, this is a project that your student can do most of by themselves.

Students also enjoyed completing my Winter Math Journal.   
Students are given a prompt and have a space in which to draw their math problem. After completing the drawing, they fill in the number sentence under their picture. Early finishers are encouraged to go back through the journal and add an extra phonetic sentence to each picture.

To celebrate all things Christmas, I am giving a copy of my Winter Math Journal.

You enter via this Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You might also enjoy.... 

Click on the links below to see what book inspired activities my friends have created for you.

Don’t forget to enter their giveaway too for your chance to win.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My New Favorite Pencil Sharpener

It sits in the corner in the back of my classroom. A fitting place for something so annoying. I try so hard to ignore it, but I can not, no matter how hard I try. I had such high hopes for that brand new electric pencil sharpener. It hasn't even been in business for more than 2 months, yet it doesn't really get those pencils that sharp. I wish it had an automatic sensor to determine when the pencil did get sharp because some of my five year olds just stand in front of it, holding onto their pencil and endlessly run the motor. I think it mesmerizes them. 

Recently, I visited a co-worker's classroom who actually giggled and said, "I want to show you my new coolest classroom tool." She showed me an amazing pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.
I was a bit skeptical. It looked similar to other sharpeners when it was closed, but then she pulled it open to insert the pencil and I was intrigued. I watch her sharpen a brand new pencil in less than 9 seconds to a needle-sharp point. And it was soooooo quiet compared to the drone of my electric sharpener. When she emptied it, the drawer slid open and came out easily. When replacing the drawer, it didn't matter which end you pushed in. It fits no matter which way you turn the drawer. There is nothing to line up and miss such as what happens when the drawer is pulled out of my electric sharpener.

This sharpener works fine as a stand alone on a desk. You simply have to hold on to the top of the sharpener while you spin the handle around. However, it comes with a clamp that you can use to attach it securely to a surface. 

I have attached mine on a shelf in my classroom, far away from the back corner of my classroom. The students have begun to love this sharpener more than the electric one, so I have started to using it as a motivator. Students who are following directions in class and trying their best can choose to sharpen their pencil on this sharpener themselves. I LOVE that students don't get caught up with staying at this sharpener as it has a built in way to stop once the pencil is sharp. The top slides in as the pencil sharpens and stops once it returns to the body of the sharpener. At that point, the handle will just swing around, but the student won't receive any tactile response anymore, so they slip their pencil out and get back to work.

This is a fabulous sharpener. As I weighed the pros and cons of the sharpener, I began to think about the time it takes to sharpen the pencil and guessed that with the hand crank, using this sharpener would take longer than my electric sharpener. What do you think happened when I timed both sharpeners? I was surprised to find that they each took about the same amount of time. I sharpened both in about 8-9 seconds. 

Students can now sharpen their pencil in a short time without disturbing the rest of the class or my lecture time. I LOVE this sharpener and highly recommend this product to all of you.

This sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies is a tool loved by all who get to try it. If you get a chance to try one, you won't be disappointed.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kids Make Videos to Teach Procedures

It seems like just about the time that the school year ends, my Kinders have just about gotten the classroom routines and school policies down. And then the school year ends.

Now, as the next school year begins, the process of teaching and training the newbies starts again. In the ten years that I have taught kindergarten, I have noticed that when the newbies come in, they are often more enthralled in the newness of everything in the classroom than they are with the talking head teacher, so I came up with an idea to engage them in learning the new routines and policies. I had kindergarten students create videos to teach them so that they did not have to sit for a long period of time and listen to me try to abstractly tell them about their new life in kindergarten.

I had the kindergarteners use one of my Flip video cameras to video their friends. I asked them to be careful not to include their friends faces. At times, that was difficult for them to do the entire time, so I did have to do some editing in Windows Movie Maker (which is free on my PC and very easy to use). I was able to add music and text with that program.

In the video our class created, the students go through various episodes of hand washing. I know we have all seen our students do the quick "run through" by just rushing their hands under the water and running. We have also seen our students pump the soap dispenser empty and splash soap all over the mirrors or themselves when they think no one is looking.

One thing I would change in this video would be to have the students turn off the water and not waste the water while they were soaping their hands.

I have probably one of the funniest "hand washing" episodes to tell you about. Hand sanitizer stations were set up around our campus. They worked by just running your hand under them and they were not originally installed with a tray to catch the gel that fell. They happened to be installed at the perfect height that allowed my students to walk under them and take a sanitizer shower!! It took me awhile to figure out why they were coming back to class with more than their hands cleaned! The trays were installed shortly thereafter, so no more sanitizing showers.

One more funny: I know you NEVER miss a hand washing in your classroom, right? Right :/ Well, one day, we did, and we were in a hot foot rush to get to lunch on time, so I handed everyone a baby wipe as they lined up. They each dropped their wipe in the trash on the way out the door and received a little squeeze of hand sanitizer. One little boy said, "No thanks, Mrs. Aronen, I don't want any HAND FERTILIZER today." I LOVE when they mix up their statements like that.

I would love to hear how you introduce classroom routines and school policies at the beginning of the school year. I need all the help I can get!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Doctor and ME ABC written for the youngest patients

Do your students get worried about visits that they have to take to the doctor's office? Periodically, mine do! 

My Doctor and Me ABC is a sweet book you can add to your classroom library. Written by Dr. Stephanie Cox, a family physician from Des Moines, Iowa, this adorably illustrated rhyming ABC book shows a variety of things that a little patient would see at the doctor's office. I love that each page focuses on one thing only, such as C is for Cough or L is for lung and gives information about that one topic in a fun to read rhyming format. We all know our students love the opportunity to guess what word will come next when listening to a book written with a rhyme format, so this book is fun for little ones to listen to.

Each page is illustrated with a cheerful child. I can see all students relating to this book, as the illustrations include children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The illustrations are clear and not complicated by background drawings. They simply allow for the child to focus on the one topic shared on the page.

Dr. Cox wrote this book to help children with their fears about going to the doctor's office. She has infused her years of working with children of all ages into this book. She also wrote this book to teach children more about healthy lifestyles and the human body. The fun rhyming tempo of this book is sure to draw your students into the story.

This book is truly a wonderful addition to the classroom library and a health and wellness unit for the classroom. If you would like this book in your classroom library, it can be found at Amazon in an 8.5 x 8.5 softcover book or a kindle version for under $10.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rekenreks for Numeracy: Create Your Own for Only Pennies!

I recently attended a conference for Singapore Math. In many of the classes, I learned about a wonderful tool that brings the concept of numeracy from an abstract concept to a concrete concept for young students. 

It is called the REKENREK.

This type of rekenrek is based on ancient similar devices such as the abacus. This version was created in the Netherlands. When counting from 0 to 20, you would use a two string rekenrek like this. Each string has 10 beads. The first 5 are red and the second 5 beads are white. The reason for this is for something called "subitizing". The eyes are trained to recognize that the red ones are 5 and so the child doesn't have to count them out one by one when working with the 5 red beads. Using this model allows the student to count by 5's when counting to 20. Students can use these beads to create numbers in groups of 5's and 10's.

To use the rekenrek, you begin with all beads slid to the right side like the picture above.

For a kindergarten classroom, you would want to create an individual rekenrek for each child. However, since we do not begin with students counting from 0-20 at the beginning of class, you would create one and simply cover the bottom row with a folded 3x5 card to block it out to only work with the numbers 0-10 like below.

Creating your own rekenreks is very simple and inexpensive. Pony beads are sold everywhere including Michael's and Hobby Lobby. However, I found them very inexpensively at 

To make a rekenrek, you will need:
     1) plastic canvas
     2) 10 red pony beads
     3) 10 white pony beads
     4) 2 pipe cleaners
     5) optional: 1 folded 3x5 card

1st) String 5 white beads and 5 red beads on each of the two pipe cleaners.

2nd) String the pipe cleaners through the back of the plastic canvas.

 3rd) Twist the ends of the pipe cleaners together so they are secured. You can either bend the ends down or you can snip the ends off.

4th) adjust as needed so that the lines are fairly straight and the beads can move smoothly.

The rekenrek is turned like this to begin using.

I have a new board on pinterest called Singapore Math. I have pinned many ways that you can use these rekenreks in your classroom.

If you are using rekenreks in your classroom, I am using them this year for the first time and would love to hear how you use yours.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Free Father's Day Craftivity Gift

Father's Day is soon approaching and I have a fun and easy craftivity for your child to create. This project can be created for a father or for someone who is like a father. When you download the free shirt template, choose which version is perfect for your needs. Here is our class set that we created in the last week of school.

Click on the picture to receive your free template

This is a 3 page packet. It includes one tie that can be written on for "Dad", one that can be written to someone "like a Dad", and one that is left blank for anyone the child would like to write about at Father's Day. 

This can be simply written on and colored as is. Students can create a head out of construction paper to depict the person they are writing on the tie about. This would make a terrific Father's Day display!

I copied this template onto white construction paper. I had the children cut the middle out of a paper plate for the head. We started by drawing an "L" in the middle for the nose. I did this as a reference point for where to put the eyes. I told them to draw two long jellybean ovals at the top of the "L" and showed them how to color the middle in with their father's eye color. The students added a black circle in the middle for the pupil. They then added their own style of mouth. I then asked them to think about what color hair their father had (if they have any, LOL) and draw the eyebrows that color. I then had them use the eyes as a reference point for where to draw the hairline (if their father had shorter hair...if they didn't, we discussed how to personalize this part for their father.)

I "interviewed" them to ask them what they'd like to write about how special their dad (or the person who is like a dad to them) is. I wrote it on a Post-It for them and they took it to their desk and near point copied it onto the lines of the tie. They then used a black Sharpie to trace over their words.

Next, they used colored pencils and colored the lines of the tie and the collar of the shirt any color(s) they wanted to. I had them color in the suit coat part with black crayon because it had a larger surface. They then put glue along the back of the shirt collar and on the front of the chin on the face and put the head onto the shirt.

Finally, they glued the entire project to a bright colored paper and wrote, "Happy Father's Day!" on the bottom.

I hung them up for one day on our board so that everyone could enjoy each other's. However, we didn't want any Dads to see them early, so we packed them into the Friday folders and sent them home to be saved as a gift for the big day. I think the sweetest part of this was watching how many of them drew in "those pokey things that stick out of his face"! I did have to rescue one project. The son said his father is tan...which he kind of is, and the father has light brown, almost blondish hair and the boy colored the father's skin dark brown and his hair dark brown. Fortunately, crayon is pretty easy to erase from construction paper, so we did a little rescue with the crayon and it turned out pretty good.

I hope you get a chance to try this project.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FarFaria Reading App GIVEAWAY (2 winners)

Here is an iPad opportunity you will NOT want to pass up on! 

How would you like access to more than 600 incredible and colorful children's stories, with five brand new ones added EVERY week for free for 3 months?

Farfaria is an amazing iPad app that was created for children ages 2-9 that provides an incredibly engaging reading experience. Every single story in this app can be differentiated for different levels of reading abilities and is leveled according to reading level with a badge right on the book cover. One option for reading the stories allows for the iPad to automatically turn the pages as the story is read by a cheerful narrator. Another option allows for the reader to swipe their finger right to left across the page and the narrator reads the book to the reader. The final option allows the reader to turn the page and do all the reading themselves. My students love the "Read to Me" option because the narrators are so upbeat and many of the stories include background sounds and/or music.

I LOVE to "grab" the corner of the page and let it "peel" part way across the iPad to give them "sneak peaks" of what comes next in the story. My students literally beg me to hurry and turn the page.

The "homepage" of FarFaria is designed similar to Disneyland in which you can access different genres of books in different "lands". Here is one example.

Every one of the books on FarFaria can be saved as a "favorite" to be read offline later. I like to save the books as favorites because most of the books are so well received by the students that they usually ask to see it again the next day. Some of their favorites are "Grumpy Cat" and "Monkey Ninjas".

Before I tell you how you can win one of 2 free 3 month memberships that are good for use in the USA and Canada, check out the FarFaria Demo that will give you a look at what I am sure will be one of your new #1 "go-to" apps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also try the FarFaria for free on your own. You can download the app and read one free story every day with no obligation to pay. If you like the app, you can purchase it for $3.99 a month or $39.99 for the year. 

In my classroom, I do not have Apple TV to show the whole class what is on my iPad, but I have found an awesome work-around that allows me to share FarFaria with everyone at once. I open FarFaria on my iPad and place it under my document camera. Students can then see the story unfold before them up on the large classroom screen through the LCD projector. I have translucent pointers that I use to point out details or point to words I want them to practice with in the story. My students give this app 46 thumbs up! 

Good luck on your entry!


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