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!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

STEM Safari

Every once in a while, I create a product for my classroom or my TPT store that I get just giddily excited about. Products that are unique and that I know kids and teachers will both love. I felt this way when I released my escape rooms for early childhood, and I'm feeling it again with my latest project: STEM Safari! I've been working on it for weeks, and I am thrilled that it is finally live!

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari is an organized approach to implementing STEM in your classroom, and so much fun!

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

Each STEM session, a student picks a challenge card to complete. There are 5 different types of cards:

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

1. Elephant Engineering (engineering challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

 2. Cheetah Challenge (challenges with specific parameters in place)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

 3. Rhino Riddles ("How can you...?" challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

4. Warthog Wonderings (reflection questions and challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique


5. Buffalo Building (free choice building).

I wanted to prevent students from always picking the same type of card, such as the free choice building, which is, of course, valuable, but doesn't do as well with developing problem-solving skills. To do this, and to encourage my students to try new things, they each have an Animal Checklist.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

Every time they complete a specific type of challenge, they check it off. When they have completed all 5 of the different challenge types, they color in one country in their STEM Safari Africa map. Then they "journey" to a new country and start again with a new animal checklist! This way, the fun just keeps going, but they have a way to track how many challenges they have completed.

There is also a STEM Safari Journal included, which helps build their reflection skills.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique


Any of the Warthog Wondering cards that say "write about it" can be completed in their STEM Safari Journals. There are also a few "design" challenges in the Elephant Engineering cards that can be completed in their journals. As they continue their STEM Safari journey, the reflections they have completed in the journal will help them polish their problem-solving and engineering skills.

I love doing STEM projects with my students! It is amazing to see what they can accomplish with a few basic supplies and some open-ended directives.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

However, storing all of these supplies can be a challenge. Included in the STEM Safari kit are tons of supply labels with photographs, to help keep everything neat.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique
Here's a close-up example of a supply label.

I even included some editable labels so that you can customize them for any supplies you have on hand!

I really hope that your students enjoy STEM Safari as much as mine do! (Click here to purchase!)
There's just something about open-ended, hands-on learning that gets kiddos excited. I would love to hear how you use STEM in your classroom; drop me a comment below!

Happy teaching!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

First Grade Classroom Reveal!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links, I'll receive a small commission at no cost to you!

You guys, I am in love with my classroom this year! I love how all the decor came together, and I love the overall "feeling" when I walk into the room. It's bright, cheerful, and welcoming.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Seriously how perfect is this lamp?! I found it in my parents' basement and had to "steal" it!

Our school theme this year is "Just Be...", as in "Just Be Respectful", "Just Be Kind", etc. so I painted the "Just Be...You" banner to hang above my windows. After I put it up and put the shapes posters on either side of it, I thought it still needed a little more color. This rainbow bunting was exactly what I needed!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

I opted to get rid of the rug that was in here when I arrived and just use carpet spots. They're amazing!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
My shelves look so bare because I was waiting for our new curriculum to be delivered! I didn't get a close up, but I used these Storex cubby bins for my leveled readers that you can see in the corner, and they are perfect!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
My word wall cards make me happy!
My room is such a hodge-podge of things that came together perfectly. This crate bench was given to me by another teacher who didn't want it anymore.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Positive affirmations to encourage my students (and myself!) every day! I brightened up this space with these watercolor dot decals and I love it!


First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

This focus wall is quick and easy to change! I bought these dry erase pockets because I wanted one of each color, and didn't need a whole ton of extras. Oh, and isn't this bulletin board trim amazing?! I was ecstatic when I found it!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
These Storex book bins are great for my classroom library! Confession, though: I ordered the orange bins directly from the Storex website because I really wanted orange, and I needed 6 colors for the 6 units in my reading curriculum.
My bookshelves look a little sparse here, but I am happy to say that my shelves are now fully stocked, thanks to some generous donations through Donors Choose for a new classroom library!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
You can find the number posters here!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
I didn't plan out the spacing very well on my job chart, haha!
Here's a close up of my classroom schedule and job chart.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Rainbow class calendar! It can also be used in a pocket chart or as a linear calendar.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Rainbow weather and seasons set!
First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
My teacher toolbox is a lifesaver, especially when working with paras or subs! Get the editable labels here, and check out this post for step-by-step instructions on how to make it!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Have you noticed I'm a tad obsessed with my color-coded organization? Editable binder covers and spines here!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Editable lunch attendance system here!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
The idea for this headphones organizer is not new with me, but it has worked perfectly! Find it here!
First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

I always want my students to know that I love them and want the best for them. When they leave my classroom, they are left with this goodbye message. 

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

My school uses the Zones of Regulation and has the students check in daily. I check in, too, and we talk about our emotions a lot throughout the day. (Due to copyright restrictions on the Zones of Regulation, I cannot offer this check in system for sale. I created it for my own personal classroom use.)

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

Display outside my classroom door. The paint splotches are attached to clothespins where I will hang student work throughout the year.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

We have these display cases outside our doors, so of course I had to hang a trauma-informed poster!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

Morning greeting choices are all the rage right now, and I can see why! My students love it, and I love how it allows me to make a connection with each child every day in a way that is most comfortable for them. Find this set here!

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique

I've saved the favorite part of my classroom for last! This area is my peace corner. It's an area where students can go to self-regulate.

First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
Right above my peace corner is my birthday calendar. Students love seeing their pictures and being able to see when their friends' birthdays are! Find the birthday calendar here!


First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
I always want my students to feel safe and loved, especially when they're upset!
First Grade Classroom Reveal! | Apples to Applique
My peace corner has a basket of items to help students calm down and regulate.

So there you have it, my new classroom! I know the bright colors can be overstimulating for some kids, so I have to balance that by keeping everything very neat. I work hard to keep it organized and free of clutter. Clutter stresses me out, and I think it can also stress students out. So far all of my new friends seem to be settling in well and enjoying our new space; we're off to a great start to our school year!

Want all of the rainbow decor? Get the bundle here and save 20%!