Friday, December 28, 2012

3,2,1 Cake Gifts

I've written about 3,2,1 cake before HERE, but I thought I would share how I put it together for an easy gift idea.  I gave 3,2,1 cake mixes to my kids' teachers, the bus driver and the room moms in my class.  I put the mix in large mason jars.  I tied a ribbon with a tablespoon to the jar and included the following poem for my room moms (unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures...)

I made it in a cute card but unfortunately can't access it from my home because it was a publisher file (I'm on a mac now).  I hope to remember to save it as a PDF so I can put it on here later to save you some work should you want to use it.

Below, is the poem I made for the teachers and bus drivers (and then I had the "What you do:" part too).  I also gave them some candy and gift cards.

I wanted to give my mother-in-law some 3-2-1 cake too since I had been talking about it and I think it's perfect for someone who wants a taste of cake (without baking the whole cake).

For her, I bought a plain white mug and drew on it with Sharpie markers.  I then baked the mug at 350 for 30 minutes so that it would never come off.  I also liked how I packaged her cake so thought I would share it.

I got a little jar pictured above from Meijer (Target stores have them as well).  Then I used clear contact paper to cut labels.  The reason I did this was because if she wanted to change the flavor ever, she could just peel off the label easily (without that yucky stickiness that comes from stickers!).  I used Sharpies on these labels too so the writing wouldn't come off.  There were four sides on this jar that just seemed to need something to me, so I made the following labels.  

Have fun!  And if you haven't tried, 3,2,1 cake... I still think you should!  :-)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teaching Visualization (I love this!)

Last year, I was teaching my first grade students about visualization or 'making movies in your mind' whenever you read or hear text.  One of my teaching partners had a song that she used to play and have her students illustrate.  It was a wonderful idea, but to be honest I wasn't a huge fan of the song.

I was driving in the car one day and one of my daughter's favorite songs came on the radio and as I listened, I thought now THIS is a perfect song for teaching visualization.  The song is catchy and it certainly tells a story from the beginning with a lot of great detail!

When I got home, I bought the song on iTunes and typed out the lyrics.  I put a few sentences on a page and printed out the entire song.  My big kids (Ali in first grade and Joe in second) took the pages, read the words and drew what they saw happening in their mind based on what they read.  

When they were done, I used iMovie (though you could use any computer program that lets you make videos) and I turned their pictures into a video (which they loved).  It was such a huge success that I did it with my own students (who also loved it) and shared the idea with all of my teaching friends.  The truth is I think that all grade levels would like this.  I also put all the pages into a classroom book that my students loved reading (again... and again... and again...).

If this is something you may want to try, feel free to click HERE and download the pages that I use. If you watch the video, you will notice that I did draw a zigzag line down the conversation portion of the song to show the two characters talking on the phone.

You can click HERE to watch the video on YouTube and buy the song or just watch it below.  The song is called, "The Princess Who Saved Herself" by John Coulton.  

I've also done this using the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" but it didn't turn out quite as cool.  I'm always looking for more great kid songs to do this with.  I think the key is finding a song that tells a story and doesn't have too long of a chorus (like Yellow Submarine...).  If you have some ideas you use, I'd love to hear them (and steal them).  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkin Gutter (Coolest thing EVER!)

I was walking through Meijer a few weeks before Halloween and I stumbled across this.  It is called the Pumpkin Gutter and claimed that it could gut a pumpkin quickly and easily without damaging the seeds (not damaging the seeds being a high priority for me because we LOVE eating them).
It was on sale for four bucks, so I thought it worth the gamble and scooped one up.

After cutting the hole in the top of the pumpkin, all you do is attach this baby to a drill and run it along the inside and bottom of your pumpkin.  It says in the directions not to go fast but I did (which just made it go faster... the seeds were still perfect!).  I also was able to use it without anyone holding on to the pumpkin.  The best thing to do is just try it and see what works for you.  After using this, all we had to do was scoop out the insides and separate guts from seeds.  I think it cut this activity by at least an hour for me.  And bonus, it was super easy to clean!

I highly recommend one!  Here is the link to their page:

(But try to find it cheaper.  I got mine for only four bucks remember, and it was worth every penny!).



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sums to 10 (with free PDF)

Math can be difficult for a lot of kids.  It's much easier when they memorize and understand those numbers that add up to 10.  It will help them later with larger numbers too.  This is a great idea on how to build number sense.  I stole this from my coworker Leanne.

All you really need for this is large lima beans, two sharpie markers- different colors (use green for one of your colors if you want to use my PDF file), and snack bags (to hold sets of 10 lima beans for each student).

On one side of the lima bean, color one color and on the other side, you will color the other color.  Please notice that Sharpies take a moment to dry so you should probably do this with paper underneath (or you'll be scrubbing your workspace like I had to).    I did three sets at a time and that seemed to give the one side more time to dry.

Then put the sets of 10 into the bags for students.  I played this with my students and you will need to make some extra beans.  Some students lost beans and only had nine (of course the random bean was found later).  It's just a good idea to keep some extras on hand.

And finally, here is how you play...
Roll your 10 beans.
Count up how many greens.
Then count up your other color.
Make a number sentence and graph it.
(The picture above shows 4+6)
I told students to start with the green number always so they learn turn-around facts.  My students were beginning to count the first number and automatically recognize what number needed to go with it to make 10 (YEAH).  I used this in first grade but it is good practice for anyone who wants their students to be more automatic with sums of 10.
You can click HERE to download the PDF that I made of the graph (and directions).  I have to say that I don't understand this 'selling' worksheets things from teacher to teacher.  If I've already made it, why have you recreate the wheel?  Anyone could make this, but by clicking on what I've already done, I've just saved you some time.  My coworker drew out the graph using pencil, but since I like things 'pretty', I typed it out. I noticed that my PDF, cut off some of my borders around the directions, but they're easy enough to draw in if you'd like... or you can just make your own!
Steal Away!  Your kids will love this!

** Please note**
I saw an error on my PDF.  I have two 10+0 boxes and no 0+10.  I will do my best to fix it tomorrow but if you're really excited to try this, you can just white it out easy enough~ so I am leaving it for now.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loving Laundry (when my kids can do it)

 I sometimes feel quite passionate about things I like and was recently thinking about how thankful I am for these Tide Pods. They are just little pods filled with detergent.  I know it sounds silly... it's just laundry detergent, but it truly has made my life so much easier.
I know that there are great ways to save money on detergents (and make your own), and I'm usually 'that girl', but these little lovelies have changed the way laundry is done in my house... in that it's done by MY KIDS!
 My 7 and 9 year olds are able to wash their own clothes and that has been wonderful. We had tried having them do it with detergent but things became messy and I felt I should still oversee the whole process...  Now, they bring their own clothes down, throw the clothes in the washing machine, throw in a pod, start 'er up and voila!  One less load for us to do.
Of course we were still doing laundry for the Littles and then we realized our 5 year old wanted in on the game (he will probably regret this later). Sure enough he was able to start and do a load all by himself (probably from watching the Bigs).  The only problem is that he sometimes wants to wash just one item (at a time!) which isn't too great if you have a septic (not to mention water bills).
I think anyone with kids needs to get these pods! It will make your life easier trust me!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Painting Windows (FUN!)

When I was young, my mom used to always paint this wonderful Christmas Tree on our large dining room window.  I loved it.  I didn't actually paint on a window though until I got my own house.  We have a Christmas tree in our front window, so I had to come up with another holiday to break out the paints~ and what better holiday than Halloween?
This is an activity your kids can do too.  Our (almost) three year old even painted a bit this year but he didn't have the attention span to finish.
All you need is:
Washable tempera poster paints
and something to put paint in.
(I used paper bowls, not very green... but...)

If you're doing this with little kids, I highly recommend YOU do the outline of the pumpkins.  I let my kids decide if the pumpkins would be scary, happy, etc... but I didn't let them paint the outline.  Partly because I'm a control freak.  Next year I may let my Bigs do this part (after I have a glass of wine or two).

Let the black (or whatever color you paint with) dry FULLY before you unleash the kids on the pumpkins.  If it's wet, it will smear really bad when more paint goes on.

While we were waiting for the pumpkins to dry, I painted a witch on our front door.  She was fun!

She also looks really cool from the inside of the door too... like she's waiting for us to come out.

When the outline is fully dry, it's time to unleash the kids!  I would definitely give them their own bowl (or whatever) to hold the paint.  This can get messy and if they can keep their bowl near where they are working it will be happier for everyone!

I told you this can get messy... I do love WASHABLE paints though!

Here is what the window looks like from the outside. I did have to help my littlest one's pumpkin out a bit.  He painted pretty hard so his pumpkin lost an eye.  It was OK, because I just turned him into a pirate.

I knew that was going to be your next question... Super easy~  Just some dawn soap, warm water and a good scrub with a sponge.  Keep towels by though because it will get wet when it's clean up time!  Still I promise you, it comes out easy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

French Bread Pizzas

I don't cook.
Okay, I can cook some great Sloppy Joe's, Spaghetti Salad and perhaps a few other things but in general, my husband cooks and I clean.  It's a good thing.
Every now and then though I have to cook and my kids like pizza so I make these.  They are super quick, super easy and when I add one more ingredient (not pictured), I make them super healthy.

All you do is cut the bread, cover it with sauce, cheese and all the fixin's (duh)!
Place them on a pan (no spray needed) and that's it!
How easy is that?
I put garlic, onions, mushrooms and peppers on mine, but these were for my kids and they don't like all that good stuff yet.  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and cook them for 7-10 minutes and they're done.  My kids LOVE these! They have a bit of crunch to the outside and yummy softness in the inside!

And now to tell you about the hidden ingredient that I have used in the past... SPINACH!
My kids (though good eaters usually) are not big on the veggies if it's not edamame, cold carrots or green beans. Spinach is loaded with goodness and so I puree it and put it down UNDER the red pizza sauce and 9 times out of 10, they don't even notice.  It's true! You can't taste it, so you should do it on your own pizzas too...

Here is another variation.  I got some yummy bread from Costco and made these tasty guys.
And bonus, they're cheaper and better than grabbing a hot and ready!
Try it!

A MUST HAVE book for Kids

As a teacher, I have many favorite books I love to share with my class but the one that gets the most use is the one pictured above.  I think that this is a must have book~ not only for the classroom, but for your home (if you have younger children).
You may be familiar with the "Bucket Books" (and there are many), but if you aren't, here is the gist:

Everyone has an invisible bucket.  When it's full we feel better, we're nicer... etc.  When it's empty we feel crummy and sad and sometimes even mean.  The idea is to be a bucket filler and a bonus is that when you fill other people's bucket, you feel good about it and fill your own.

Of all the bucket books, I like THIS one the best. The story opens with a boy who is annoyed by his younger sister (and being a girl with a younger brother, I can relate). He yells at her and she gets upset (you know how this ends if you are a parent, teacher, or were ever a kid...). His Grandpa tells him about the invisible bucket we all have and how it works and he thinks his grandpa is nuts (as most older kids would).

The next day he wakes up and he can see his bucket.  His day gets off to a horrible start and little by little his bucket dips and drops of goodness fall out.  What I like about this book is it also does a good job of explaining how when you are feeling lousy (empty bucket), you can get mean and want to dip into other people's buckets by being mean to them.  I consider myself a pretty nice person, but I can get pretty nasty when my bucket is empty.

I don't know about you, but I am very aware of when I am at my ropes end and the next person to set me off is going to get it.  When I feel this way I warn my kids, my husband and even my students.  I don't like having an empty bucket but everyone has one from time to time.

The good thing about it is the empty bucket doesn't have to stay empty and the book goes on to show that.  You can turn your day around and simple choices you can make can make your day better.  Of course these choices can be hard to make when your bucket gets completely empty so it's important to understand your 'bucket' and how close you are to empty.  Like I've said, I've spent a lot of time being me and am well aware of my bucket and because I love my kids, husband and students I warn them when I'm entering that danger zone.

In class if I am waiting for students' attention, I can just tilt my head to the side and those students (who are trying to fill my bucket) will say, "Drip"... They have become aware that their actions not only affect themselves, but they affect others, even me.

I love this book and I find myself grabbing it when we're having a bad day and revisiting it.  My students have even said, "Mrs. Doran, I think it's time to read the bucket book."

And if you think you'd like to read it to your students (or children), you can find the book by clicking HERE.

(And bonus, as I type this the book is currently under $10!  That should fill your bucket!)

Finding a "Just Right" Book

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians, is a MUST HAVE book if you are teaching your students how to find a 'just right' book.  If you are a teacher of elementary students and don't have this book, you need to click HERE and get it!

When I teach about finding a "just right" book, I start with a brown paper bag.  Paper bags in my classroom equal mystery and students will perk up just because they want to know what's in the bag. It's a great way to get students attention and keep it!  

I start by telling my students that I am going to go for a run while they are out at recess and I need to change my shoes.
I pull out a a shoe clearly NOT good for running and all my first graders laugh at the thought of me running in a wedge sandal!  They tell me, "No Mrs. Doran!  You need a tennis shoe!"  I laugh and tell them they're right and thankfully I have a tennis shoe in my bag and then I pull out my toddler's little tennis shoe and again they burst into laughter!
The point is to do something and do it well, you have to practice with something that is a 'good fit' for you.  And just like you need comfortable shoes to run in, you also need comfortable books to read in.

The shoe example is great because students can understand that you need to have an appropriate shoe to run in.  Once they think about this, it's easier for them to make the transfer to reading.

After I finally pull out the "Just Right" shoe, I read Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians about the importance (and how to find) the "Just Right" book.
Don't forget to go get the book... Click HERE.

Cleaning Liquid Chalks off a Chalkboard

I was one of those teenagers who had quotes from songs and books all over her room.  I am no longer a teenager, but I still have favorite quotes that swim around in my head.  We recently remodeled our kitchen and I wanted a chalkboard on our pantry door, not for shopping lists~ but for words I love.
I got the chalkboard and bought some liquid chalks (because I think they look nicer and I liked the bright colors).
I loved it!!! Until it came time to clean it... (Ehhh!)
I tried cloth (awful), water (not much better) and then I tried google.
No one had any great ideas to clean liquid chalk off chalkboards.
I found everything from using lemon juice, Dawn detergent, ammonia, vinegar... 
Nothing worked and I was so upset.

Then I saw they sold a special "liquid chalk remover" on Amazon and when I read the comments someone said, "Don't bother!  Just use Windex.  Same ingredients!"
I was so excited because now that I use just soap and water to clean my windows, I had PLENTY of Windex, just sitting in my cleaning closet.
I tried it.

It wasn't wonderful, but at least it got it off.  I had to use some pressure but I did get the vibrant colors off.  You could still see it though, so I thought perhaps I should use some chalk the way one would to 'prime' a chalkboard.

I let it sit for a while... and prayed some...
Then got the Windex back out and...


So now I can "Write On"
and not be afraid it will stay on!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hanging Shelves EASILY!

Having recently redone our kitchen (and repainting our family room), we are now in the process of hanging things back up. I absolutely HATE hanging shelves (and pictures with two hooks). I always measure, use my level to draw a line on the wall, but somehow it seems my measurement is always off slighting and it's a pain!

I saw this idea on Pinterest and it was the perfect time to try it out.  All you need is your shelves, a level, nails/screws and some tape. That's right... NO PENCIL OR RULER!

Rip off enough tape to reach from one hole to the other. You will need to make sure that your tape is the same level.  For example, I used the top of the screw to be the top of where I put my tape.  Stick your nail/ screw through the tape where the nail will be.  

Then all you have to do is remove the tape and put it on your wall.  This is where the level comes in.  Make sure the tape is level.
Then, just put your nails/screws through the holes you marked and hang your shelves.
It's THAT easy!

Classroom Management Ideas

The hardest part about teaching is never the curriculum... it's classroom management.  
When I taught third grade, I used "Doran Dollars"~ an economy system where students were 'paid' for jobs they did (after applying and interviewing for 'said' job) with money that they designed (they voted in their favorite design).  Just like they were paid for their jobs (and could earn bonuses), they also had to pay for things and did have 'fines' if they did not get something turned in on time, or broke a rule.  Every so often I would have auctions where students could bid on dollar store toys, candy, lunch with me... etc.  I absolutely loved it, and so did the kids! It was something I stole from my awesome coworker (Sheryl), who is wonderful.

When I went back to first grade, there was no way that I could manage the economy system (or maybe it was just because it scared me to try).  Either way, I asked around and got some other management ideas.  The teacher's class I took over (Kelly) and my kids kindergarten teacher (Caron) had a card system and seemed to really like it.

The way it works is every child has a number (alphabetical order).  I have a pocket chart with each student's number and inside their pocket are four cards~ a green, yellow, red and red X.  Obviously this is first graders so they get more reminders than my third graders ever did, but after two reminders or so I have them "pull a card".  I don't contact home unless they pull the "Red X".  Each day they start out fresh again with a green card.

I got to thinking that this was working well but I needed to keep track (record) how they were doing each day and I wanted to reward all of my students for doing well.  I decided that every time my students have 5 green cards (they don't have to be in a row) they can visit my "Prize Bucket" (candy and dollar store treats).  So I found some calendars in an old book I had and made some copies.  At the beginning of each month, the students color their own calendars (you can't see on the picture below, but there is a picture on the other side). I keep all of their calendars and each morning, I mark what color card they had with a letter.  I usually go through and mark the non-greens (since usually there aren't too many) first and then I go through and let the class know how many more 'greens' they need to go to the prize bucket.  When they go to the prize bucket, I mark that by putting stickers over the five greens. This only takes minutes and is a great way to start the day.

At the end of the month, I record my entire class's behavior by marking in my book how many yellows, reds and Xs they had. I reference this during report card time.  I have found this really informative because there are students that  need reminders, but don't necessarily need calls home all the time.  By sending these calendars home each month (and encouraging parents to ask their children what 'color' they were each day), I have found that there aren't any surprises at report card time.

No surprised makes happy parents.
And happy parents= a happy teacher.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3,2,1 CAKE!

 This summer my mom made the kids a "Magic Mary" cake.  Her friend Mary told her about it and it was perfect because it is lower cal (my mom has lost a ton of weight through WW).  The cake is really called "3,2,1 Cake" though "Magic" would be an appropriate name!
3,2,1 Cakes are perfect for someone who wants a little cake in a minute (literally).
All you really need to buy are two things:
1 box cake (of your choosing) and 1 box of Angel Food cake.
Take the mixes and then mix them together in a bowl.
Now for the magic...
In a mug add
3 T of mix
2 T of water (stir well with fork)
and 1 minute in the microwave and
 You can add whatever you'd like for a topping.  I prefer frozen Cool Whip because it's yummy (and the "Lite" variety isn't too bad for you).  My kids love the chocolate variety but I prefer carrot cake so we have both mixes stashed in the pantry.  My kids like their cake on a plate but I eat mine right out of the mug!
If you'd like, you can add raisins or candy or other things to "spice" up your cake.  This is definitely something you're going to want to steal and try! I sure am glad I did!