December’s Special Days

December has been a busy month in Kindergarten! We enjoyed the Winter Concert at the beautiful Music Academy of the West.

Then, we had our Elves Workshop. The Kindergarten Elves were busy on this day!

The grand finale to our Gingerbread Literacy Unit was a Candy Land-themed party, complete with five fun learning centers!

Once we completed each activity, students earned a cookie lollipop!

And now, it’s off to Winter Break! Here are some great ideas if you are looking for ways to keep your child learning during our two weeks off!

It’s Winter Break….Now What?





It’s Winter Break….Now What?

Two weeks off is a wonderful time to recharge, rest, and reconnect. Two weeks away from school is also a long time away from class routines and skill building. So, what fun things can you do at home to help your child keep the skills they have learned this trimester fresh? Read on!

  1. READ! Read to or have your child read daily! They have worked so hard to learn their letter sounds and the concept of blending….keep the practice going. For ideas on decodable books for your child to read, take a look at this blog post from last month:

    Learning to Read: The Magic of Phonics and Decodable Text!


  2. Practice writing numbers up to 50! Will you go to the beach or the snow? Have your child grab a stick and practice writing numbers up to 50 in the sand or snow! Remind them that with the tricky teens, the number one is always in the tens place, even though it sounds like the number in the ones place goes first…. fourteen is written 14 and not 41. Another great way to practice writing numbers is with shaving cream on a tray or table or using steam on a bathroom mirror or glass shower door.


3. Practice writing words and spelling using your child to write using their best guess spelling! Encourage them to write thank you notes for gifts received. Have them write the grocery list! They might even write a daily journal entry detailing what they have done each day during break. Students have learned the proper sequence of strokes for printing each alphabet letter. Ensure they start printing each letter from the top down and use the expected pencil grip. Here are some resources to help young writers:

4. Strengthen Fine Motor skills. There are many fun ways to strengthen your child’s fine motor skills. Try having them eat goldfish crackers with chopsticks or tongs. Create a playdough cookie or cupcake bakery. Play games that require them to use their hands. Here are some tools that we use in class:

5. CHALK! Children love chalk! Give them a smooth surface outdoors and a bucket of chalk; their imagination can go wild! Make mosaics by taping masking tape to the ground in a pattern and then fill in the spaces with different colors of chalk. Remove the tape once finished, and you’ll have a beautiful design. Have your child draw a track for their Hot Wheels cars. Write math equations to solve on the driveway!

6. Play some board games. Playing board games helps children learn how to win or lose. Some of my favorites include:

7. Play card games! Card games are a great way to practice math skills like counting, matching, ordering numbers, etc. We love playing:


So, enjoy the two weeks, and see you in 2024!


50 Days of Learning!

It’s hard to believe we already had 50 days of learning in kindergarten! When we returned from break yesterday, students entered a 50s-style diner and were ready to rock and roll.

Everyone came dressed in costume!

Ms. Herrera wore a poodle skirt that her mom made many years ago!

We started our five-center rotations right away. I changed the activities up this year, and I have to say, these 50th-day centers were the best yet!

Kindergarten Diner: At the diner, students used 50s-style cars to zoom the number of syllables in words. They then colored the correct number of cars as there were syllables and recorded the word.

Here are the cars we used:

Locker Room: In the Locker Room, students looked at letterman jackets with images. They had to identify the beginning sound in each picture and match it to the corresponding letterman jacket.

Sweet Shop: Students at the Sweet Shop had to scoop ice cream! Using a double ten frame, students chose a cup of ice cream (pom poms) and scooped each onto a ten frame. They then counted how many scoops there were and recorded the two-digit number.

We used these melon ballers as scoopers….this was a great fine motor strengthening activity!

Bubble Blowing: This is always a fun center! Students learn how to blow a bubble! Then, we created a class graph showing how many students could and could not blow a bubble. The first step is chewing the gum so it softens. We had BIG pieces, so it took a lot of hard work!

Next, we flattened the piece against the roof of our mouth and then moved it to our tongue. Finally, we blew a little air into it!

Here are our results:

Shake, Rattle, and Roll: At this engaging center, students rolled two dice. Then, the number rolled on each die was recorded and added together. A fun hack to keep the dice from flying everywhere is to put the dice into little containers from the Dollar Tree. Take a look:

Early finishers had so much fun playing this ice cream game. It is another fun way to strengthen fine motor skills!

In the afternoon, students learned how to dance the Hand Jive!

And we enjoyed root beer floats! Yum!

I am excited to see what the next 50 days bring us!


Learning to Read: The Magic of Phonics and Decodable Text!

Kindergarten is an amazing year in a child’s education. It is the year when young children develop important social and academic skills. I continue to be grateful that I am given the freedom to teach the curriculum in the ways that best suit my students’ needs. These needs change each year, so naturally, my program changes to address my current students.

What doesn’t change each year is the excitement both parents and children have about learning to read or strengthening decoding skills. For over 20 years I have been collecting decodable books that span early reading levels to more challenging ones. Once students begin blending sounds, they immediately bring home a nightly reading activity that is at their reading level. I continuously look for books that are truly decodable, meaning these books have words that are phonetically regular. 98% of words in the English language are phonetically regular, and presenting students with books that are phonetically regular gives them the opportunity to practice the skills of blending sounds, building fluency, and strengthening reading comprehension. (Phonetically irregular words include was, the, said, they.)

I have divided my decodable books into four different levels: pink, red, yellow, and green.

Books in Level Pink have few words on a page. Most words are decodable CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. If there is a word that is not decodable, the word is typically repeated throughout the book and there are very few phonetically irregular words included in books of this level.

Level Red books begin to have more words on a page. They continue to be mainly decodable CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with a few phonetically irregular words.

Level Yellow books introduce beginning and ending digraphs and blends as well as double consonants and words that are plural. Books may have two or more sentences on a page with a few more phonetically irregular words.

Level Green books have words with long vowels, including CVCe (like bake or tale) and CVVC (like main or feet).

I have found that once a student is comfortable reading Level Green books they are typically ready to transition to leveled readers.

So if you are looking for books to have in your home library that your child can really read, here are some links to some of my favorites!



Friday Fun!

We enjoyed our second Friday Fun of the year!. Two of the activities had a five senses sense of sight theme, which is the sense we are currently exploring. First, students made sun catchers using pony beads and these small pie tins. They carefully arranged the glitter pony beads inside the tin.

I plan to cook the tins in the toaster oven later today. Once baked, the plastic beads will be melted and a beautiful sun catcher will emerge! (When the plastic is melting, it can be quite stinky….so I always plug the toaster oven into an outlet outside the kitchen!)

Update: Here they are!

Here are the supplies I used:

Another sense of sight activity today was making kaleidoscopes! The students had so much fun assembling and decorating these!

Our third rotation was the Listening Center and the fourth was a math activity! Students used these adorable, little grocery carts filled with mini fruit erasers, and they had to stock the grocery store shelves with a specific number of pieces! It was so much fun watching the students load the carts, deliver the fruit, and count the number they were to put on a shelf.

These items are guaranteed to bring many hours of engaged play for young children! In addition to the fruit erasers, I have mini cupcake erasers that the students will use at a later date to stock the bakery shelves!

The Hungry Thing

Just like I love using children’s literature to teach social-emotional skills, I actively use books to teach academic concepts! One of my favorites is “The Hungry Thing.”

When a Hungry Thing comes to town, he is very hungry! He asks for common food items using different beginning sounds, causing the townspeople to have to figure out what it is he wants. This book helps students develop a very important reading skill called phonological awarenessPhonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of words, including syllables, onset–rime, and phonemes. Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. For example, the Hungry Thing asks for “shmancakes.” The townspeople wonder what are shmancakes?! They soon realize that “shamncakes….sounds like fancakes…sounds like pancakes…!”

Students delight in listening to this story over and over again! This naturally leads to many, many activities that help develop and strengthen students’ phonological awareness. We play listening games, like:

“Count the number of words in this sentence: The Hungry Thing Came to Town.” (5)

Or “Tell me what word is missing: He wore a sign around his neck. He wore a _____ around his neck.” (sign)

“Do these words rhyme? hamburger/shamburger?” (yes)

“Say Gum. What word rhymes with gum?” (mum, tum, lum…)

“How many syllables do you hear in pancake?” (two)

“Leave out a syllable. Say townspeople without people.” (towns)

“What is the first sound you hear in the word cereal?” (/s/)

“What is the last sound you hear in the word chicken?” (/n/)

“What sound is in the middle of the word gum?” (/u/)

“What word does this make? /wh/ /ea/ /t/?” (wheat)

“Tell me the sounds you hear in the word chicken.” (/ch/ /i/ /ck/ /e/ /n/)

“Let’s change some letter sounds. Say cookies. Instead of /c/ say /l/.” (lookies)

Another activity is feeding the Hungry Thing rhyming words. Students choose a set of picture cards that rhyme. They say the rhymes and then feed the Hungry Thing!

Students can then illustrate their own food item, but they have to change the initial sound when feeding it to the Hungry Thing! So pizza may become feetza!

For added fun, I created this quick art project. Students use one color marker and make a scribble monster. Then using a black marker, they add hands, arms, legs, and feet. I found these cute stickers that

the students use for eyes and a mouth. Look how fun their creations are!

The next step, to make the Hungry Thing relate to our lessons, is for students to choose a food item for their Hungry Thing to eat. Can you figure out what they ate?

I am beyond excited about how these turned out!!

This book, “The Hungry Thing” provided my students with so many different learning opportunities. Students looked at “syllable soup” to identify how many syllables each food item has. They also identified the beginning sounds of the food items!

You can play this game at home! Have your child grab a food item from the pantry and practice feeding the hungry thing on a stick (included in your Friday Folders this upcoming week.) It won’t eat cereal…but pereal. No bagels…but snagels!


First Days Read Alouds

Those first days of school can be filled with lots of teacher talking and procedure learning. Why not make it a little more fun by adding engaging read-alouds each day?! Students LOVE listening to a good book, and I LOVE reading a good book! Here are some of the stories I have or plan to share with my students:

1. “Don’t Hug Doug”

I use this story to introduce greetings, keeping our hands/feet to ourselves, and boundaries/consent. Each day, when they enter the classroom, students have the opportunity to choose from eight different greetings. Some of these greetings include a high-five, a bow, a micro finger wave, and a hug. The students let me know which greeting they prefer, and we start the day by honoring their choice.

2. If Everybody Did

In this funny book, we see the hysterical consequences of everybody doing their own thing. This read-aloud provides a great opportunity for us to begin exploring classroom expectations. What if everybody shouted my name because they needed help? What if everybody ran in the classroom? To keep students engaged during this read-aloud, I sometimes have them all try it out….”Everybody tell me your favorite color.  One, two, three…..” It becomes clear that if everybody talks at the same time, I have no way of hearing anybody!

3. “Boo Who”

This is the sweetest story that encourages inclusion. “Boo is new. And even if the other kids are welcoming, it can be scary being new, especially for a shy ghost who can’t play any of their games. (“You tagged me? Oh, sorry. I couldn’t feel it.”) Can Boo find a way to fit in and make friends with the rest of the group? From the creator of Rex Wrecks It! comes a funny story about feeling invisible — and finding a way to be seen and appreciated for who you are.” As we were reading, students brainstormed activities we could do that would include Boo.

4. “The Name Jar”

Names are so special and so important to who we are. In this story, a new student is struggling because her peers can’t pronounce her name. Having grown up with a challenging-to-pronounce first name, I am extra proactive in honoring pronunciations of students’ names. After reading this story aloud, students engage in many name activities.

Students make a name crown.

They graph the number of letters in their name.

They use a giant pokey pin to poke the letters in their name. This is great fine motor practice too!

Here is a link to the pins we use in class.

5. “Chrysanthemum”

This is another great book that celebrates unique names.

6. Elmer

“Elmer” is a must-read. I have read it the first week of school each year for the last 15 years!

“Elmer the elephant is bright-colored patchwork all over. No wonder the other elephants laugh at him!

If he were ordinary elephant color, the others might stop laughing. That would make Elmer feel better, wouldn’t it? David McKee’s comical fable about everyone’s favorite patchwork elephant teaches readers to be themselves and celebrates the power of laughter.”

After listening to this story, I walk students through creating a guided self-portrait using only a pencil. We then outline the image using a Sharpie. While I cut out students’ drawings, they glue colored pieces of tissue paper on white cardstock to make a patchwork background. Once dry, I take the self-portraits and glue them onto the patchwork creations, making a beautiful work of art!

Next week, I look forward to using literature to teach academic concepts….I will share more about this particular lesson soon!


New Year, New Learning Tools!

I just finished unpacking (and putting away!) ALL of the supplies I ordered for our upcoming school year!

Click the link below to watch me unpack!

I am very excited to begin using many of these learning tools. Take a sneak peek below:

Mini silicone tongs…these are super useful and a great help in strenthening fine motor skills. We use these tongs all the time during our Morning Exploring activities and during the sensory bin activities during Language Arts Centers. Because of the silicone, the mini hands really grip the item that the student is picking up, which means a lot less frustration since the items won’t fall out of the students’ grasp!

These markers are a brilliant invention for children who struggle to put on the marker caps. No more dried out markers or lost caps!

Pop-Its are well-loved in my classroom: students love to use them, and I love how hands-on they are. I ordered these ten frame Pop-Its that I know will be used daily!

How about these rainbow shaped alphabet Pop-Its?! I plan to have students use them during the independent learning activity during Literacy Centers. Using picture cards, students will pop the initial sound in words. For added differentiation, students will pop CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and ultimately pop words with long vowels.

I am very excited to add a second light table to our Literacy Centers (and math centers too!) I ordered SO MANY light table manipulatives that will support a variety of reading and math activities. Transparent letters and numbers, pieces to build letters, transparancy film that I used to copy CVC pictures for students to spell…the list goes on and on!


I also purchased acrylic scatter that matches some of the themes we explore in kindergarten. These manipulatives can be used with the light table for solving math equations, counting syllables, mapping words, or building letters.

Oceans!         Dinosaurs!        Hearts!

On hiatus since COVID, I finally brought back the sensory table by creating individual sensory bins. Used as an independent center during Literacy Centers, I prepare five sensory bins so that each student in the group can have their own. I ordered so many fun bin fillers! The colorful straws are a two-for-one activity….students will first cut the straws into little pieces as a Morning Exploring activity that strengthens fine motor skills. Then, I will use the little pieces in our sensory bins!

Stay tuned for a blog post regarding the new books I purchased for the upcoming year! I have so many new things to share!

100th Days Smarter!

It’s hard to believe we have been in school for 100 days already! That’s 100 days of friendship! We created a lovely coloring book where each student wrote an adjective to describe each student in the class. Look how cute these turned out!

With 100 days of learning achieved, we of course had to celebrate this milestone! So, I set up six 100-themed centers!

Students stacked 100 cups.

Using stickers, students made a crown, placing ten stickers on ten strips of paper.

I LOVE how these turn out every year!

We love beading in kindergarten! At this station, students used ten different colored beads to make ten groups of ten for a fancy necklace.

The 100th Day is a perfect time to play with the 100 chart. I copied these on cardstock, laminated them, and then cut them up like a puzzle. This station was easy to differentiate, as I could make it more challenging by cutting the grid into more pieces!

Students worked to write 100 rhyming words….nonsense words are allowed!

Finally, students used 10 different colored polka-dotters to fill up a gumball machine with 100 gumballs!

Our school tradition is to have each student EK-4 bring in a collection of 100 items. Take a tour of the collections the kindergarteners brought in:

Here’s to 100 more! (Just kidding….we have about 65 days of school remaining!)

Dino Day 2023!

Dino Day 2023 was a roaring success! We started the morning by welcoming our families into the classroom to witness firsthand the kindergartener’s hard work throughout these past six weeks.

The student’s reactions to the classroom makeover were precious!

Each student’s research report was laid on each table, with their dinosaur sculpture, a dinosaur stuffie they designed and sewed, and an iPad so parents could watch their child’s final project!

Here are some examples of the finished projects:

We used the website PebbleGo! for the research portion of the project. I then snapped pictures of each student’s artwork, sculpture, sketches, etc., and uploaded those to an app called Shadow Puppet. Students decided on the order they wanted their pictures, and then they read the information they had researched. I just love how the final project turned out!

After we finished with the parent share part of the morning, we started our Dino Day learning centers. To be official paleontologists, students had a safari hat and a special badge!

I also prepared a packet for each paleontologist to use at specific centers.

As always, I created a visual organizer to help students find their way to each activity. Take a look at what we did:

For more details about each center, read on!

The dino craft station was dinosaur scratch art. The students ALWAYS love scratch art!

The Dino Dig center was nice and messy! Students chose a dino egg and then chiseled it away. After all their hard work, they unearthed a dinosaur!

Next up, students used pattern blocks to create dinosaurs. For an added challenge, they counted, tallied, and recorded the type of pattern blocks they used.

After that, students met with me to create dinosaur sticker stories. They each chose an entire sheet of stickers to create a story! Once the stickers were selected, students wrote a story. Any extra stickers were used to decorate their safari hats!

Lastly was the dinosaur toss, where students tossed bean bags through numbered holes and then wrote and solved addition equations. They had SO much fun with this center!

We ended the day with a herbivore and carnivore feast! Students watched each other’s presentations for the first time while snacking on veggies and dino nuggets.

There were big smiles all around! I have to say I was super impressed with the amount of veggies (fruits!) that were eaten!

We have just a week and a half more of this unit. Next, the kindergarteners will dive into learning about the oceans!