Sunday, December 8, 2019

Christmas STEM: Design a Sleigh for Santa!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links, 
I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique

I've shared before about how I love doing STEM in the classroom. I love how engaging it is, that it is hands-on 
for kids, and how they have to exercise their problem-solving skills and creativity. 

I really like it when I can connect a STEM activity to something we read. 
Anytime a lesson crosses different subjects, it gives kids a more complete, well-rounded educational experience. 
I came across a gem of a Christmas book recently, called The 12 Sleighs of Christmas
It's not a well-known read aloud, to my knowledge; none of my teacher friends have heard of it, anyway. 
It tells a cute story, in rollicking, rhyming text, about how Santa's sleigh needed repairs, so the elves took to 
building him all kinds of fancy new sleighs.

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique

At the conclusion of the story, I had my students work in pairs and design their own sleighs for Santa. 
I had them work with a partner because it provides invaluable opportunities for social emotional growth having 
to share and advocate for your own ideas, listen to the ideas of others, and to learn how to blend your ideas 
together for a result both parties are pleased with. For some of my students, this was the most valuable part of
the lesson. I had a few students who only wanted to work alone because learning to collaborate is difficult!

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique

I had them sketch their designs first (find the freebie here in my store!) and think about what supplies they would 
need. The only parameters I gave them for their designs was to use no more than about a foot of tape, which I tore 
off and gave to each group. (I've discovered in my STEM adventures that access to too much tape solves too many 
problems too easily and hinders creativity).
I just gave them cheap and recyclable materials, with the exception of these wheels, which are perfect to have on 
hand for these types of activities. 

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique

As usual, I was blown away by the work of my kiddos! The way they brought their ideas to life was amazing--and adorable.

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
This student went with a car design

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
This was a canoe, and the little balls of foil and tape inside were bags of toys.

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
I loved the Santa and reindeer this team added to their sleigh

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
This group included a magnet so they could pull the sleigh. Genius!

Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
I could not get over how adorable this was, with the Santa made of red craft sticks and the plastic-spoon reindeer harnessed to the front!
Christmas STEM Activity: Build a Sleigh for Santa! | Apples to Applique
This group included spoons to serve as a combination of runners and a snowplow!
This has been one of my favorite activities of the year, by far, and it was a favorite with the kids, too. 
I look forward to continuing this tradition every year. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 
Don't forget to snag your free planning and response sheets here!

Happy Teaching!



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms


Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique

You guys know by now that I love using escape rooms with my students. They make such a great way for students to get up and moving, and to collaborate together while learning.

I am so, so excited for the newest addition to my line of escape rooms: Christmas Around the World!

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique

These provide a fresh new way to learn, thanks in part to the element of imaginary play, as students pretend to take a journey. First, they scan a boarding pass to reveal a secret destination. When they scan the QR code, a map of the country they are "visiting" comes up, along with a simplified explanation of holiday traditions in that country.

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique

Students are presented with a question to answer or a sentence to finish. Just like my other escape rooms, the answer has four letters, and they will earn one letter with the completion of each task.
Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique
When they are finished reading about the traditions, they earn the first letter. The next task is to discuss some of the holiday symbols they just read about. They take turns rolling a pocket dice and naming or describing the symbols and customs. This earns them their second letter.

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique

Next, they complete a write the room activity, where they find pictures of holiday symbols and write the names. When this activity is finished, they earn the third letter.

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique

The final task is to create a booklet which includes information about the holiday. At the conclusion of this task, they earn the last letter and win the game.

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique


As they win the game, the included story cards say they are now ready to join in the celebration. An enriching follow-up activity would be to have a themed snack or mini party afterward, so they can celebrate the holiday in a small way.

All of my Christmas Around the World escape rooms are available for purchase separately, so that you can focus on just the country(ies) you want.

Currently, these are the countries I have available (with more in the works):
The Netherlands
Sweden
England
Italy
Australia
Mexico

They are also all available in this money-saving bundle. I plan to add more to the bundle, so buying early saves you the most money, because you will get all future additions for free!
The other fun thing about the bundle is that it includes a FREE bonus file, which has a student passport and stamps.

Christmas Around the World Escape Rooms | Apples to Applique
Isn't this the cutest?
For every new escape room you complete, students get to paste a stamp into their passport. The passports and stamps are included in both color and black and white.

I am so looking forward to using this interactive format to study holidays and customs from around the world with my students.

What other countries would you like to see included? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I will receive a small compensation at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique
 
My district adopted Wonders reading curriculum this year. There are so many components! Leveled readers, decodable readers, vocabulary cards, high frequency cards, interactive readaloud cards...as I opened box after box, I quickly became overwhelmed with the idea of keeping it all organized and easily accessible.

Now that we are a quarter of the way into the school year, I have perfected an organizational system that really works for me, and makes my weekly prep a breeze. I'm sharing it here in hopes that it will help someone else who is overwhelmed with the task of organizing all of these materials.

Since there are six units, I went with a rainbow color-coded system. This goes well with my classroom decor, and, if you've read my blog before, you know I'm a bit of a nerd with my color coding (see my first grade classroom reveal post and my Pre-K organizational post). You can easily use this system without color-coding, however! It would work just as well with a uniform color scheme, as long as everything is labeled.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique
EDITABLE binder covers and spines found here!

I purchased three-ring binders and cubby bins in the six colors I was using. I found the binders at Target, and the cubby bins (with the exception of orange) here on Amazon. Confession: I really, really wanted orange cubby bins that matched the rest of my set, and the only ones I could find on Amazon were transparent. I finally ordered these directly from the Storex website. They were super pricey compared to the others, but I haven't regretted it. In fact, it makes my teacher-heart happy every time I look at my shelves. I told you, I'm a nerd when it comes to color coding.

I divided up all of the leveled readers and decodable readers by unit, and then put them into the cubby bins in order by week.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique
I used these EDITABLE blank labels to make them pretty!

It took a bit of time initially, but now they are ready to go for small groups for the entire school year. Bonus: the ESOL teacher who comes in to support some of my kids knows exactly where to find them, and I don't have to remember to set them out for her each day.

The real time-saver is my binder system. It took quite a while to set up, but now it's done--forever! I have one binder for each unit, which has tabs inside for each of the five weeks in the unit. Behind each tabbed page is a page protector.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique

I divided all of the materials by week--the high frequency word cards, the visual high frequency word cards, the vocabulary and oral vocabulary cards, the small group cards--and placed them inside the page protector.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique

Now, when I'm planning, I just flip to the tab that has the upcoming week's materials, pull everything out, and put it in my rainbow drawer unit, with the exception of the small group cards. Those go into the bin with the readers so my small groups are literally grab and go.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique


Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique
I put the interactive readaloud cards for the week on top of the unit, as they are too large for the drawers.
So fast and easy! When the week is over, I slide everything back into the page protector and then flip to the next page. I love not having to dig through cards every week!

My only problem is that the interactive readaloud cards are so big, they don't fit in my drawers or my binders. It's not a big deal, however, as I keep them in a box with a few of the other resources, such as the large letter-sound cards. I keep the interactive readalouds in order by week, so at the end of the week I put the ones I'm finished with in the back, and then the current week is always at the front. So there's no digging through anything for those, either.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique

The other resources are stored neatly in boxes or crates and are also readily accessible.

Organizing Wonders Reading Curriculum | Apples to Applique
These little crayon boxes are perfect for those tiny word building cards!

I could easily have added the photo cards and letter-sound cards to the unit binders, which may be a great suggestion if you use them frequently. Personally, I utilize a lot of the online resources for those things. However, it still only takes me a minute to find these in the event that I need them.

I love having so many resources to use, as long as I don't have to waste hours every week trying to put it all together. This organizational system has been very helpful to me, and I hope it is to you, too!
Do you have any tips for organizing Wonders? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

5 Favorite Halloween Read Alouds

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you! Thanks for your support!

Favorite Halloween Read Alouds | Apples to Applique

I am a self-professed children's literature snob. There are few things I love more than a good children's book--one that is rich in text and story line, beautiful in illustration, and just begs to be read again and again. So, when I find a good read aloud that meets the quality and multiple-reads criteria, which is also loved by my children or my students, I have to add it to my collection!

Just as I love wonderful children's literature, there are few things that irk me more than a poorly written or illustrated book for kids. To be honest, most "insert popular children's character here" books fall into this category for me. They serve their purpose, and if they will get kids reading, then great! When I'm looking for good read alouds, however, you won't find me gravitating towards "Popular Children's Character's Halloween". I want books that can stand on their own merit, and not get by with a subpar story line just because it features a well-loved character.

Okay, now I'm going to step down off my soapbox and tell you about my five favorite read alouds for Halloween! These books have been tried and tested both with my own kids and my kids at school. Some are more popular, some are a little more obscure, but all are sure to be enjoyed by both you and your kiddos.

Here they are, in no particular order of favoritism.

1. Pumpkin Jack

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0807566667/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=appltoappl0f-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0807566667&linkId=7342a6162565c5ada42c1d66a202a5b5

This book has gorgeous illustrations, and tells an endearing story about a boy and his jack-o'-lantern. The story does a wonderful job of incorporating information about the life cycle of a pumpkin naturally into the story line without it feeling forced. You could easily extend this book into a science lesson about life cycles.

2. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0690045840/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=appltoappl0f-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0690045840&linkId=7263df8bba6bef2cdd46a466bd64e335

This book is so much fun to read aloud! With repetitive text that includes some onomatopoeia, kids can get in on the telling of this story! The little old lady comes across some various items in the woods that each make their own sounds, and I love to do certain actions with each of the sounds as they occur in the story. My students always ask to read this one again and again!
I also have a FREEBIE and a sequencing activity that can be paired with this book!

3. Bone Soup

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544668367/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=appltoappl0f-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0544668367&linkId=6449e6572de983320a55537edaf896f4

This fun retelling of the classic story "Stone Soup" is a hit with kids, who delight in the gross things added to the soup. What's not to love about a soup made with creepy things like eyeballs? This book lends itself well to skills like retelling and sequencing. It also makes a perfect "first, next, then, last" writing prompt: "What would you put in your bone soup? How would you make it?"

4. Room on the Broom

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0142501123/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=appltoappl0f-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0142501123&linkId=2b2d94218a3d98ec001412652d49894f

This book is probably the most popular on this list, thanks to the movie version. I almost left it off the list since I'm sure most people have heard of it, but I just couldn't; it is popular for good reason. The rhyming text just rolls along as the witch meets several new friends who end up saving her from a dragon.

5. Big Pumpkin

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0689801297/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=appltoappl0f-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0689801297&linkId=7f702508ffe8143c2158e51d90a7a5fe

This endearing book tells the story of a witch who needs help picking her giant pumpkin, and meets some new friends along the way. One unlikely source of help ends up having the problem-solving skills needed to make sure the pumpkin is made into pumpkin pie in time for Halloween. The rollicking text has just enough repetition to allow kids to be a part of the story telling. The moral of working together and everyone having an important role to play add in a nice social-emotional component.

What Halloween books would you add to this list? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

African Grasslands Room Transformation and Activities

Notice: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you! Thanks for your support!


African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique
African Grasslands Room Transformation!



I did my first room transformation last week! I know room transformations have been around for a while, but when I taught Pre-K I had students with special needs who would not have been able to handle a room transformation well. Now that I am in first grade, I'm getting to explore new teaching methods, and this one was a winner!

We have been studying how animals adapt to their environments. Since I already had my mind on all things safari after creating my STEM Safari system, I decided to transform my room into the African grasslands!

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

It seemed like such a fun theme...until I realized how hard it was to decorate based on a place known for its abundance of grass and few sparse trees. When I searched for ideas, everything that came up had vines and jungle vibes. The teacher in me was a little surprised that so many decor packs designed for birthday parties and the like depicted lions and zebras in a rainforest-esque environment. When I went on safari in South Africa a few years ago, I was amazed to see how similar the grasslands looked to my native Midwestern United States--not at all tropical. Since the entire purpose of this room transformation was to depict the actual environment to which the animals have adapted, I couldn't use any of the pre-made decor packs that made it appear as though these animals lived in the jungle or rainforest.

The best solution I came up with was hanging green streamers vertically on the walls. I also put green butcher paper on my tables, and had envisioned hanging green streamers vertically off the edges of them. Long story short, I unexpectedly ended up having my one-year-old at school with me while I set up, so the streamers hanging off of tables didn't actually materialize for me. :)

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique
I found this backdrop which added to the look quite a bit.


African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique


I cut grass out of green butcher paper and attached it to my door. My husband had the great idea of adding some animal tails sticking out of it--it was easy and didn't require too much artistic ability, but really completed the look! This would also look cool on walls around the classroom!

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

I hung a banner outside my door and put footprints in the hallway leading to my room.

I couldn't get over the idea of how adorable it would be to have my students wear safari hats, so I found some here, and set them on their tables.

In the morning, I dressed in khakis and an oversized button-down shirt. I played safari sounds in the background to help set the scene (this video was perfect!) and projected a picture of a baobab tree on the SmartBoard. When I greeted my children, I acted the part of a safari guide, saying, "Welcome to the African grasslands! Come join me on safari!" I got weird looks from the first few, as they asked, "What's going on...?" but then their eyes widened as they stepped into the classroom. They were thrilled!

I had themed lessons planned for the entire day. I began by reading aloud Here is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy.

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

We did a write the room activity with spelling words, some color by code addition sheets, an animal adaptations presentation and booklet, a STEM challenge, and more. It was certainly a memorable day, and the kids hardly realized they were learning. I heard lots of "best day ever!" comments throughout the day.

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique


You can find all of the printables for the room transformation here!

This set includes:
  • Printables, instructions, and resource suggestions for transforming your room
  • Science activity: Animal adaptations presentation and booklet
  • Social Studies: My region and Grasslands compare/contrast with Venn diagram
  • STEM challenge
  • EDITABLE spelling word write the room activity
  • Writing assignment
  • Math activity: color-by-code addition worksheets in 3 different levels
I hope you love doing this grasslands room transformation; I know your students will!