Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dalmatian Costume

Since my new classroom is dog-themed also, I am just adding to the fun decor that came with me. In going through costumes the other day, I came across this flannel dalmatian costume I'd made my son, Ger, when  he was little. So, I brought it to school and put it on a a stuffed doll and sat it in the director's chair - pretty cute, especially since we are approaching Halloween. ( I haven't decided if he will stay after halloween or not, but I think he will.)

This can work for many different classroom themes. Think about your theme and if there are costumes that would easily work into your creative decor.  An animal-print theme could have any of the jungle animals costumes to match, like the do-it-yourself lion costume I just saw on Pinterest.  A Harry Potter-themed class would be easy to find, buy, borrow, or make one of the characters, muggle or otherwise. Dr Seuss classrooms are big now and that would be fun!

Even if your classroom doesn't give you any ideas for a costume to match your theme, you could dress up a stuffed doll as a mad scientist for the science section, or a colonial girl, or something to match the book you might be reading.

I'd love to hear about your ideas! Your students will notice your imaginative ideas and even come up with their own. My students pull this little dog up into their small groups so he won't be left out......

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How's Your Weather?

When students come into the classroom in the morning, they pick up the clip with their name on it and clip around the edge of the "How's Your Weather?" chart. This gives teachers a heads-up on their emotional weather. Equally important, it gives each student a quick opportunity to self-assess the climate they are starting the day in.

Most days everyone is on SUNNY or CLEAR - that's why I made them larger and on opposite sides of the chart. The other choices usually get noticed so teachers can go by and (in a few seconds) have a little conference:
"I see that you're STORMY today..."
"Yes, everyone was rushing around at home this morning. It made me cranky."
"Everyone has mornings like that sometimes. I hope you can just go from here and get SUNNY."

Sometimes students move their clip to a better emotion later in the day but it's mostly just a morning thing.

At the first of the school year these choices were put on a whiteboard space and students would write their name on the board, but I knew there had to be a more efficient way, so this is what I did:

I drew up a plan. I cut posterboard for each area and glued it to a posterboard. I put the question in the center since there's no clip-action there. The last thing was to put duct tape on all four sides all the way around. It's folded back halfway. This was to reinforce the poster where the clips will be moved so it will last. The poster is now on the whiteboard with big magnet clips.

YOU can make it to match your classroom theme or colors easily. Attach a photo here and share because we would all love to see them!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Paleo Pumpkin Cake in a Mug

I haven't had a Ghirardelli Dark chocolate chip in so long.... and I was thinking about how good one of those would be this morning....with 2 slices of uncured bacon and a mug of coffee...... but I'd promised Ger - no chocolate chips in the house. So, I made a Pumpkin version and I didn't miss those chocolate chips at all!  We are gearing up around here for Central East Regionals 2013,  and I will be a sugar-free spectator, in my Crossfit Countdown shirts - - - can't wait!

I rubbed coconut oil inside my big coffee mug.
I added the dry ingredients and STIRRED:

1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

(I stirred with the fork I was going to eat it with)

Then add the wet ingredients:
2 TBSP local honey ( if you use raw honey, heat it a bit first; Pure maple syrup or agave will work, too)
2 drops real vanilla
1 egg
3 TBSP pumpkin (from a can - this is what makes it so moist)

1 heaping TBSP dried goji berries (optional; dried cranberries would be nice, too)

I stirred again, making sure I'd stirred all the almond flour up off the bottom of the mug.

I put it in the microwave for 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Dessert for one. Or, breakfast, with bacon and coffee! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Story's a Handful

First graders were working on finding the problem and solution involving the main character from stories they'd been reading.  We took this information and applied it to writing our own short stories.

I had them draw around their hand "as if it were a big puffy Mickey Mouse glove." Then they cut the hand out and turned it sideways.

next they directed their imaginations to the task of making up a story with a MAIN CHARACTER, a PROBLEM, and a SOLUTION. They were to share their ideas with the students at their table.

Then I showed them the pink poster with the directions:
1.  BOX the main character.
2.  UNDERLINE the problem.
3.  CIRCLE the solution.

We shared them with each other and did tiny illustrations. We put them in the hallway for a while, but not long, because the 1st grade Talent Pool students couldn't wait to take them home!

I think our stories were much more interesting than if I'd just said, "Write a short story."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Make Themed Word Searches

As a year-end review activity, I asked these first grade to students to think of BIG words that they were certain they could spell correctly.  I passed out Post-It notes and had them generate lists together at thier tables.

While they were busy with that, I taped down a big piece of grid paper (cut from a roll) at each table.  Their curiosity was stirring now!

I took them to the carpet and had them get our 3 class ipads and open  a word search ap in the "vocabulary games" app folder. We talked about word searches and how you hint for WORDS on the LIST that are hidden in the GRID....... They are started saying, "WE are making a word Search!" and "That's what the big graph paper is for!"

We talked about all the ways  that words can be hidden - vertical, horizontal, forward, backward, and "crooked" which means diagonal.

The last thing we talked about was how the words go in first; THEN the empty boxes are filled in with random letters... " but not just a bunch of Qs in a row." ( This is such an entertaining class!)

They went back to the tables and attacked the project! One of them asked what we were going to do with them when we finished. They thought we could trade them with other tables and work each others. I said that was one great idea, but we could also choose to have the second graders find their words..... I got a resounding "YES!"

The second graders enjoyed them, but immediately wanted to do their own word searches. (That's what I wanted them to say.....) I told them they could take it up a notch since they were a whole year farther along in their education.

I explained that the first graders worked in groups of 4 to make a word search of BIG words, but THEY were going to choose a non-fiction book from the Jr Greatbooks collections and make a word search with important words from their book choice. I gave them Post-it notes and half a sheet of graph paper each.

                                                       They attacked their project, too!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Abel's Island Map

Whenever I read Abel's Island with a group of students, I tell them beforehand that we are going to make a map of Abel's Island, to show our understanding of the setting and all the details we can remember. As we read through the chapters, the students will say, "Oh! We have to pause and put the hollow log on our maps!" or "The book and the pocket watch!"

After we get the maps moving along and are at least half-way through the book, I give them a small piece of card stock. They choose grey or beige. I have them draw Abel but I don't have them glue him down. They bend the bottom of the card stock so that their mouse will stick up from the map. They take their time through the days deciding where they will ultimately glue down Abel.

Something about this project brings out such creativity and artistry! It also helps to build a love for this book, and great AR scores!

You can adjust this idea to many different books.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dr Seuss Door Decoration

I love this photo. It's Accelerated Reader Day. It was the first time our school had taken part in this event and it was a success! Students competed to see who could get in the most AR tests on this day. There were prizes for the classroom, the grade level, and the individual students. Our PTO helped with it and our lab support person headed it up and made it wonderful! The students loved it. It also fell on Dr Seuss' birthday, so the younger students that come to visit my class made sure they had read as many Dr Seuss books as possible, and taken the ARs.

A while back, we'd had a door decoration contest for Dr Seuss on his birthday, sponsored by our library.  My students and I had chosen which book cover we wanted to draw and Marvin K Mooney, Will You Please Go Now? won. We took bulletin board paper and laid it out on a table with paper under it so the Sharpie wouldn't bleed through onto the table.

We drew with posterboard-sized Sharpies so that we would be able to use watercolor "Biggie Cakes" without the black lines smearing. I'm glad I hadn't thrown it away because it was the perfect time to put it back up on the door again.

When we'd had the door contest, I'd had students design their own "Dr Suess-like character and illustrate him or her, and write about it. These had been displayed all around the doorway. They were so creative!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Perimeter and Area Dogs

Since I have a Dog-Themed Classroom, I had the students review their knowledge of perimeter and area by creating dogs on graph paper. They could also choose to do other themes and we had a creative assortment of robots, clowns, fashionable girls, and one plumber with a plunger!

Students wrote the perimeter and area of each individual shape they drew as they went along. A few had time to also work on the perimeter and area of the entire drawing!

What's your classroom theme? You could make this a project for your class, too. Children can be so creative when given a chance!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cat in the Hat Testing Poem, Part D

This is the last section of my poem for the testing pep rally. Let me know how you might use it to motivate your students. Don't you just love The Cat in the Hat? We do!

 THE NIGHT BEFORE TESTING, Part D   by Dinah Pike Houston

They broke the clock that mom likes best
 And made ALL MANNER OF FUN of our TEST.
Well, I do not like it,  not one little bit...
I knew Ms Houston would have a fit!


Mr Cat, think of something to do!
We have got to get rid of Thing 1 and Thing 2!

"Oh, dear, you did not like our little game?
Fine, then, we'll go, what a shame, what a shame!"

And so, my brother slept through all the mess
But, I knew I would do my BEST on the TEST!!!!!
                                             -copyright 2007, Dinah Pike Houston

Feel free to insert your teacher or principal's name where I have "Ms. Houston."
Also, the capitalized chant parts are for all the students at the testing pep rally to say together. They will love being part of the action!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cat in the Hat Testing Poem, Part C

Plans are moving along for our school's "Testing Pep Rally." It's always the Friday before our state testing week. We are going to be doing my The Night Before Testing and probably do a completely Dr Seuss theme for the entire event. (We are Seussed up from our shoebox float parade yesterday - we had 92 entrants and they were so creative!)


He jumped around and said he didn't want to go,
I'll show you another good game I know!"
Then he ran our and then, fast as a fox,
The Cat came back in with a big wooden box....

He picked up the hook and I saw something new - 
Two Things. (He called them Thing 1 and Thing 2.)

Once again I heard the voices that were saying NO,
Saying that I should really make them GO!


They grabbed some kites to fly in the house.
They ran all around like a cat after a mouse.
They TRIED to get me to play video games ALL night!
And, when I wouldn't, they wound me up tight!

One more section to go. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dinah's Cat in the Hat Testing Poem, Part B

Good morning and happy birthday to Dr. Seuss! This pic is from a national conference session where we performed my poem. I think this is the one we did in San Antonio.

Here's the B section of the poem. There's one section where the audience takes part, reading the words of the voice of reason, in my head. When we do it with schools, it's the students who say this part. You could throw the words up on a SmartBoard, or make a poster someone could hold up, or prep the students beforehand.


B.) I got up from my desk and walked across the floor.
Suddenly The Cat in the Hat burst through the door!
"Why, oh why do you sit there like that?
The test doesn't matter!" said The Cat in the Hat. (gasp!)
"Let's go upstairs and jump on your bed!
We'll jump so high you'll bump your head!"

But I remembered what I learned at school And I heard a voice that was really, really cool:

I told him quite politely I was trying to score a four
And I would not be swayed even if I were a bore!
"Let's play, don't study! Let's eat some junk food!"
You know Mr Cat, I don't like your attitude.....

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dinah's Cat in the Hat Testing Poem, Part A

In honor of Dr Seuss' birthday tomorrow, I will be posting my Testing Poem, a little at a time.  It's been performed at our school during a "testing pep rally" which kicked off the start of our state testing. This photo is from when my principal, 2 colleagues, and I shared it at a National Reading Styles Conference a few years ago.

Does your school do testing kick-offs? Do you pay big buck for people to come in and do them, or do you do them yourselves? We have done so many things, all fun and motivating.

So, if your school wants to do my poem, with teachers, or students, feel free. Let me know how it goes!  We had a blast with it and will be doing it this year. Check back often - I will be blogging it in chunks - a couple of stanzas at a time.


A.) The sun did not shine, It was too wet to play,
So I sat and studied on that cold, wet day.
My brother was napping; how could he sleep?
Tomorrow starts our TESTING and it gives me the creeps!

I planned to turn in early, and wasn't hardly nervous...
But I was really wishing someone would turn down the furnace.
I'd been getting "test ready" and was proud of my work
When all of a sudden, I felt a big JERK!!

( All 4 sections of Dinah's Cat in the Hat Testing Poem are on this blog now.  I hope you enjoy it and read through it with your students.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Waldo, Attendance Gnome, and Wilma

This is Waldo and Wilma. They are married. I know. I helped to plan the wedding.

Someone at our school district office had the great idea of using Waldo, a garden gnome, as a monthly Traveling Attendance Gnome. Whichever school in our district would have the honor of hosting Waldo for the month at their school.

My school is competitive. As soon as our students got Waldo in our building, they liked having him around. I immediately had the idea of getting a female garden gnome, just for our school. I knew the students wouldn't like when they lost Waldo. They would still have Wilma...... and they could fall in love eventually..... and get married. So, I went to Hobby Lobby and this is the gnome that I thought Waldo would fall for.

It's working. We have Waldo a lot. We have great attendance and we all probably agree that attendance is connected to learning. Your school might want to consider a spin off this idea!

This is a shot of the wedding. Our music teacher played wedding music at the keyboard while the students filed into the gym. Some of them even dressed for a wedding! Whole classrooms made gnome hats to wear. The kindergarten girls were flower girls and dropped flower petals as they came in. We'd had invitations sent out to parents. Our district director of pupil personnel walked Waldo into position near the REAL minister, who is the dad of our music teacher. I was honored to walk Wilma up to the stage. I also helped by painting gold rings on them.

You might also notice the attention to details in their attire. I bought stick-on glittered black felt at Hobby Lobby and somehow made him a tux.  I would hate to admit what I cut up (from my costume closet) to save money while I made her a beautiful wedding dress with lace, and a 14-foot train. It was worth it - they looked beautiful for our students.

You might also notice that Wilma had on a different colored dress and hat in the first pic that when I first picked her up at the store. I paint her a new dress on now and then - we don't want Waldo to get bored......

 When he is at another school (not often...) he's been known to send her a Valentine, or call her on the phone during our morning newscast. We try to keep attendance in the minds of our students!

The different schools have made some amazing spectacles when Waldo changes schools - but that's another blog post!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Foam Frames for Matilda

        Aren't those frames beautiful? Colorful? You know, I almost threw them in the garbage can!

A while back, I was cutting out foam base-ten blocks on the Ellison machine because the yellow plastic ones are so noisy. The 9 x 12 inch foam pieces had already been cut into 4 equal pieces ready to go into the machine for units, rods, etc. But, the outer part was just sitting there waiting to be thrown away..... so I got to thinking how they could surely be used for something.... and I put them into a Walmart bag and stored them in my classroom.

Then, I had a student group reading Matilda, by Roald Dahl. They were writing a limerick about one of their favorite characters, and sketching a small illustration. that's when I thought about the bag of foam leftovers - they were in the shape of little frames!

So, the students took a few minutes to try different frames over the top of their sketches. They chose colors they thought looked good. They glued the frame onto the paper and when it was dry, cut off the paper that was sticking out around the edges.

Then they chose where on the limerick to place their framed illustration. They loved the finished products and they didn't cost anything! We put them in the hallway to share with everyone at school. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dog Theme Classroom Favorite Books Display

The 5th Grade Gifted and Talented Reading class has been voting books into the "Favorite Books" list for the year.  Each student designs a cover illustration for the book as part of the homework assignments and has one week to finish. Then, I take the illustrations to other teachers in our building to choose their favorite "book cover."

 The next day I show the students the top 5 choices (just to build momentum....) and then announce the choice. The winning cover is presented in class to applause. Then it is framed and added to the wall display.

The students take this assignment very seriously because the artwork will be on the wall in the front of the class for the rest of the year. They have said that they are trying to make it very difficult on the teachers who choose the winner for each book.

Since our classroom is decorated in Dog Theme, we have "ARF" Favorite Books as the slogan. Students took over this idea. One student choose a dog photo and drew the silhouette on black tagboard. He cut it out and it looks like the Jack Russell puppy it's supposed to be! A small group of girls took over the poster with the slogan. (They were quite creative with the silvery lettering for "ARF." They didn't have an R, so they made one from an upside down "J" and a piece of another letter.)

Here is a close-up of The Witch of BlackBird Pond and The Keeping Room.

Here are winning illustrations of The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker and My Brother Sam is Dead.
Aren't they beautiful?

The next cover illustration to join the wall display - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry will be voted on tomorrow but I couldn't wait to post this. I'll add the photo in soon - it's going to be a tough decision!

So, here is our winning illustration for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. There were so many great ones. I think having this display is keeping them engaged in the learning. They want to read a lot so that they can get another book illustration in the display.