Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM

Basing STEM off of favorite read-alouds is my new obsession; it is the perfect way to integrate reading with science, technology, engineering, and math. In my post about Halloween Storybook STEM, I took four of my favorite Halloween read-alouds and created STEM challenges to go with them. Now I've done the same thing with Thanksgiving stories.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Finding quality Thanksgiving stories is not the easiest task; for some reason, there are tons of picture books about Halloween, and billions (more or less) about Christmas, but Thanksgiving? It tends to get skipped over. 

Thanksgiving itself brings up the issue of the importance of being culturally and historically sensitive, so I do not want any books focusing on "the first Thanksgiving" or relations between pilgrims and indigenous peoples. Most of these are not historically accurate, or they make light of the tragedies endured by indigenous peoples. This criteria in itself eliminates the majority of Thanksgiving books written for children.

Adding to the problem is the fact that I am a self-professed children's book snob; I don't love character books to read aloud to my kids. I'm not going to read "[Inset favorite book character here]'s Thanksgiving" as a read aloud; those types of books, in my opinion, are the equivalent of movie sequels: the quality is lacking and they are usually just a money-grab.

In spite of this strict criteria, I have managed to find some true gems of books. 

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is decently well-known. It focuses on the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is one of our country's most beloved Thanksgiving traditions. After reading the book, students create their own parade float or balloon based on a character from a book or movie, or on an animal. For extra fun, you can put on your own parade for parents or other classes before having your class Thanksgiving meal. (This year, thanks to Covid, you could create a virtual parade, with pictures of each child's creation put into a slideshow or video).

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf is such a sweet story. I love that this story focuses on a community that gathers each year to create their own unique tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in the woods. Having students work together to build forts is a perfect follow-up to this story. To make it even more fitting, you could have them create forts using only items they find in nature--or, better yet, if you live in an area where it is not too cold, have them build forts outside!

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg is a book that I am surprised is not more popular. I had to do some digging to find this one, and I wasn't even able to find a complete read-aloud on YouTube. I went ahead and ordered it and was completely delighted--and so were my students! The story is told from the perspective of an immigrant family who is celebrating their first Thanksgiving in America. It is funny, involving a turkey chase down the street, and heartwarming, as the family figures out how to celebrate this American holiday while keeping their own traditions and culture alive. I highly recommend it! 

The STEM activity that accompanies this story challenges students to come up with a way to transport a turkey--just right for integrating pulleys, wheels and axles, etc.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin is an older book, first published in the early 1970s, but it is delightful and timeless. I can't believe I never got to experience this book as a child! The values imparted in this story include giving to those in need and not judging people by their appearance. The story also involves a family recipe hidden away behind a brick in the fireplace, which leads into the STEM project of creating a secret compartment. What kid doesn't love the idea of a hidden compartment?

I hope your students love these Thanksgiving books, and that the accompanying STEM activities help the stories come alive for them.

You can find Thanksgiving Storybook STEM here in my store or here in my TPT shop.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Planting Lifelong Foundations in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique

Monday, November 2, 2020

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

Lately, I have been learning a lot about approaches to use with students with dyslexia. One thing I continue to hear is the importance of phonemic awareness. I've started including more phonemic awareness activities in my whole group instruction, because I believe it can benefit all students.

As I was reading about common strategies that do not help students with dyslexia, and can even be harmful, I realized that I was guilty of using some of these techniques in my classroom. One that I was surprised by was the boxes shaped like letters, which are supposed to help students identify the shapes of words. In theory, this sounds good, but it is actually harmful. 


Shaped letter boxes are NOT a good strategy for dyslexia | Apples to Applique

Unfortunately, all of the small group phonics task cards I had purchased for use in my classroom used these types of boxes, which I had thought were effective. Of course, when we know better, we do better, so I could no longer use these task cards with my students. That meant that I had to make some new ones based on my current understanding of phonemic awareness.

I have created some CVC task cards with touch points for each sound in the word. Students identify the picture and say the name, then touch the dots one at a time, saying a sound for each touch.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

Next, they write the letter that makes the sound they hear at each touch point.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

The cards are self-checking, so the kids can flip them over to check their work, and then circle the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to keep track of how many they got right.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

I wanted there to also be an ongoing tracking system to help kids remember which decks they need to practice and to motivate them to continue practicing. My students love earning items in online games, so I thought of a way to put this in paper form by creating scene builders.

Each student has a folder with a tracking sheet. They color in a star for each time they practice all 15 cards for one of the vowels.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

After coloring in all three stars for one of the vowels, the kids earn an object to add to their farm scene.

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards for CVC Words | Apples to Applique

This system is fun for kids and is based on best practices for phonemic awareness. It is easy to implement as an independent center, great for teacher-led small groups, or for kids to use with a partner.

You can get these cards here in my store or here in my TPT shop. I hope they help you create easy, meaningful small group work to develop solid phonemic awareness skills!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Halloween Noun Town

Posts two days in a row? I'm just as surprised as you are. 😆

This is going to be a short post; I told you all yesterday how much I love fall in the classroom, and today I just had to share one more reason: Halloween Noun Town!

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique

I think noun towns are so cute, and I love that they are student generated. We have been learning about labels as a text feature as well as nouns and verbs, so this project was perfect!

I started by hanging up a nearly blank background. I did add two items so they could have a visual and better understand what we were doing.

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique

They took the idea and ran with it! I laid down some parameters (no blood, no weapons, no characters from horror movies), and they did the rest. They drew their pictures, cut them out, and added labels. I love how it turned out!

Halloween Noun Town | Apples to Applique

I want to do this for all the things, now! I'm thinking we might need to make a "Verb 'Burb" next--or maybe I'll call it "Superb Verbs".

Tell me about your favorite noun town themes!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Pumpkin Science and Halloween STEM

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

This is one of my favorite parts of the school year. We're in the swing of things, my kids and I have developed a relationship, and we get to start all the fun stuff. Last year, I shared some of my favorite Halloween read-alouds. This year, I took a couple of those favorite Halloween stories, and a couple of new ones, and created some STEM challenges to go with them.

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

After reading Room on the Broom, kids create their own broom that can fit the witch, her cat, and her cauldron. The broom needs to be strong enough to hold the weighted-down pieces, and yet made of lightweight materials.


Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

In the Haunted House is a fun book with a lilting rhyme. Kids enjoy seeing the spooky things inside the house and then building their own haunted house.


Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

Walter's Wonderful Web is a book I stumbled across this year for the first time. I originally purchased it for my two-year-old, because of the subtitle which says "A first book about shapes". However, it doesn't come across as "babyish" and I have no qualms about reading it to my first graders. It is a charming story about a determined spider trying over and over to build a strong web. The kids then try making webs in various geometric shapes to see which one is the strongest.

Halloween STEM | Apples to Applique

The Big Pumpkin is a fun story about a pumpkin that is too big to be moved. What better way to follow up this story than by engineering a machine to move a pumpkin?



Speaking of pumpkins, we recently finished up a week of pumpkin science and investigation with this fun writing prompt and craftivity. As much as I love crafts, it is important to me that they be purposeful. This one met that criteria perfectly! After writing about pumpkins, the kids create a 3D pumpkin mini-book which has pages about the life cycle, the interior of the pumpkin, and sensory words to describe the pumpkin.

Find the Halloween Storybook STEM here in my store or here on TPT.

Find the Pumpkin Science Craftivity here in my store or here on TPT.

Do you love fall activities in the classroom as much as I do? I would love to hear your favorite!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Digital Shape Detective Activity

I am so excited to tell you all that I have made a digital version of my popular shape detectives activity!

Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique
I love, love, love the printable version, and how it enables kids to be active while they search for shapes in their environment.

Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique

But we all know the importance of digital activities this year, with many districts and students doing remote learning, and the fact that many districts are not allowing students to share supplies this year.

Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique

In keeping with the spirit of the original shape finders, I kept this digital activity simple. The kids locate as many of the shape as they can in the pictures, but they do not have to click on each one they see; they simply move the shaped magnifying glass over the picture to see what they can find. It is just pure play and exploration! 


Digital Shape Detective Activity | Apples to Applique

Lower level learners can easily find the few big, obvious shapes, while higher level learners can take their time searching for the smaller, less obvious ones.

I hope your little explorers love it!

Find "I Spy: Shapes" here on Boom Learning, or here in my TPT store.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Run an Election Project Based Learning

     I am not a fan of politics, especially during a presidential election year. However, I believe it is vitally important to teach children about the election process. I may not be excited for the election, but I am excited about this Election PBL! 

Run an Election: Project Based Learning | Apples to Applique

Project-based learning is amazing! It is one of my favorite ways to teach, because it just makes sense. The subjects are all integrated and kids get to utilize critical-thinking skills while solving real-world problems. It makes for such an authentic, contextual approach to education.

I typically create resources for early childhood, but this particular PBL is more appropriate for upper elementary learners.

It is a fully integrated unit, containing all of the following:

  • Social Studies: Civics: Elections and Government
  • STEM: Building a ballot box; Designing a polling station; Designing a polling booth
  • Math: Budgeting; Scheduling; Graphing
  • ELA: Reflective and Persuasive Writing
  • Art: Designing advertisements
  • Technology: Creating a commercial
  • Public Speaking: Debate and speech

There is so much included in this unit, but I have broken it down into 20 manageable tasks. I've included tips for differentiation, which include the ability to easily eliminate specific tasks to better meet the needs of your students.

I hope this unit is useful for you as you teach your students about the elections process! You can find it here in my store or here on TPT.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Build a City: Mapping Skills Activity

Hi, Teacher Friends! I hope your school year is off to a great start! We have been in person the last three weeks, and it has been wonderful. Yes, things are different with trying to keep 6-year-olds socially distanced and wearing masks, but they have been rockstars, and it has been fantastic to be back doing what I love!

I usually like to do lots of hands-on centers throughout the day so that kids can collaborate and learn all the important social skills that come with working in a group, as well as apply content in a more age-appropriate way. That has been more of a challenge this year, for sure! I have been trying to get creative with individual centers that don't involve a screen, but one day a week we have digital Boom centers. 

I try to balance it so the kids don't get too much screen time, but they also get to use technology enough to become proficient in it. I typically start digital centers a little later in the year, but considering we may have to go remote at a moment's notice, I want my kids to learn all of our online platforms while I'm there in person to give support.

The kids love Boom cards--they are always asking to play "those games"--and I love that they give the kids immediate feedback and that I can see data on how they did. It is quick and easy to assign different decks to each kid, so, during reading, for example, I have some kids working on basic sight words while others are working on blends and other skills.

This particular deck focuses on mapping skills, which is one of our first grade standards. Working with cardinal directions can be tricky for 6- and 7-year olds, so I love the immediate feedback they get with this Boom deck! There are few things as damaging to a child's understanding as practicing something the wrong way.

This deck focuses on the directions north, south, east, and west, as kids take on the role of helping design a new city. It makes a no-prep and engaging way for your students to practice their mapping skills, and works just as well in-person as it does with remote learning.

Find "Build a City" here in my TPT store or here on Boom Learning.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

DIY Teacher Survival Kit: 2020 Style

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I will receive a small compensation at no cost to you.

Teacher Survival Kit | Apples to Applique

Getting ready to go back to school is totally nerve-wracking this year, and wrought with so many emotions. I am excited to be back in the classroom, which is my happy place; I've missed it terribly since March, when we transitioned to remote learning. I can't wait to meet a new set of kids to love and learn with, forming a tight-knit community. I even miss the little things, like putting up new bulletin boards and decorating for the holidays. My teacher-heart is thrilled to be heading back!

Mixed with all of the excitement, however, is a feeling of unease. Will we be able to help the kids understand the importance of social distancing? Will we still be able to foster the same feeling of community when the kids have to stay so far apart? Will our school have a coronavirus outbreak? Will our students and staff all stay healthy?

Understanding these mixed emotions, I decided to make a 2020 style Teacher Survival Kit as a back-to-school gift for my teammates. My teammates are the most amazing people out there; we work together so well and they inspire me to be the best teacher I can be. We are very close, and always give each other little gifts for occasions like this. However, this gift would also be great from a student to a teacher!

Most of the things included are often seen in teacher survival kits, but some I selected specifically for 2020:
Chocolate (always a necessity! These Dove dark chocolates are my favorite, and I love the little affirming messages inside each wrapper)
Stickers with inspirational messages (I purchased different styles to match my teammates' classroom decor; the ones pictured I found from Happy Honeycomb Studio on Etsy)
Travel hand sanitizer that can be put on a lanyard (Because, 2020...I purchased these holders)
Lotion (to combat the dryness from the frequent hand washing. I purchased this lotion with a calming lavender scent, because goodness knows we need a little calm this year!)
Box of Blessings (this little deck contains 101 blessings for teachers)
Emergen-C (not pictured, but I added it in after taking the photo. Teachers can always use this immune system boost in a good year, but in 2020, we need it in bulk!)

Last but not least, I found these adorable Teacher Survival Kit bags to package it all in.

Teacher Survival Kit | Apples to Applique

Hopefully these goodie bags will bring a smile to my teammates' faces as we face the uncertainties of this upcoming school year.

Is there anything else you can think of that should be put into a teacher survival kit, especially this year? Let me know, I would love to hear your ideas!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

I can't even begin to tell you all how excited I am about this new product line: digital escape rooms for phonics skills!

I fell in love with making escape rooms for early childhood a couple of years ago; they are a great way to get kids using their imaginations and having fun while they learn.
Then COVID-19 hit, and we were suddenly shoved into a new way of doing things. Along the way, I discovered Boom Cards, and all of the possibilities they have! They are interactive, self-checking, and engaging, which is perfect for distance learning, independent centers, or even homework.

So, I decided to merge the two things to create Boom Card escape rooms. I am obsessed with them! Using the Boom platform has enabled me to add cool touches like sound effects, and kids love them! My daughters and my nephews have tested them out for me, and one of my nephews asked his mom if they could learn everything this way from now on. If that isn't high praise, I don't know what is!

As I am teaching first grade now, this new line is designed for kids slightly older than the students for whom my printable escape rooms are designed. Each digital escape room focuses on one phonics skill. This first one, Escape the Train, is all about l-blends.

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

The game begins with students receiving a mission to board a train and unlock a case containing a secret message. Students find clues on the train and complete 4 different l-blends activities.

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

At the end of each activity, they earn one letter to use in unlocking the case.

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

After all 4 letters have been earned, they put them on the lock in the correct order to open the case and read the message.

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

Escape the Train: Digital L-Blends Activity | Apples to Applique

The bit of mystery, idea of a secret mission, and engaging photos and sound effects draw students in as they play; they hardly even realize they are learning!
Pre- and emerging readers can play independently, because audio directions are included, making these activities ideal for centers or extra practice.

You can find Escape the Train here in my TPT store or here from Boom Learning. Make sure you follow me to get notified of each new addition to this line; each escape room will have a different skill focus and a new setting to keep things fresh.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Calculate It! Number Talks FREEBIE

Calculate It! Number Talks FREEBIE | Apples to Applique
    Back in February, I was working on finishing up and listing all of the number talks I had been using with my students, with a plan to get them polished up and bundled by spring break. Then, of course, COVID-19 changed things and I shifted my focus to distance learning.    
    I am so excited to say that all of my number talks are now finished! I am pumped to start next school year with an entire year's worth of number talks ready to go.

Calculate It! Number Talks FREEBIE | Apples to Applique

    I've already talked in previous posts about how amazing I think number talks are, and how they completely changed my math instruction. I love them, the kids love them, and I am constantly amazed at the amount of critical thinking my students display as they work through the various problems. My class this past year took ownership of their learning and pride in showing their strategies to their friends; they even got upset when number talks were finished for the day! If that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. ;)

Calculate It! Number Talks FREEBIE | Apples to Applique

    I've listed each of my number talks separately so you can purchase one to cover a particular skill, and I also offer them all together as a money-saving bundle if you're ready to go all-in. However, I wanted you to have the chance to experience number talks and see if they're a good fit for your classroom and teaching style before purchasing, so I've listed a sample pack as a FREEBIE! This sample includes 2 slides from each of my 12 number talks, for a total of 24 FREE number talks! Just like with the full version, the freebie includes a version for both PowerPoint and Google Slides™.

    I'm confident that your students will love Calculate It! Number Talks as much as mine do, and I'm excited for you to experience how engaging and rigorous number talks can be! Get the free sample here, and then please come leave some feedback to tell me how it went in your classroom!
    Keep teaching with heart and passion,


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Baking Shapes: Identifying and Classifying 2D Shapes

I told you in my last post that I have fallen in love with Boom Cards. In case you haven't heard of them, they are digital task cards that are interactive and super fun!

    This game is all about 2D shapes. It covers classifying shapes by number of sides or vertices...

Baking 2D Shapes: Digital Task Cards | Apples to Applique

...or the lack thereof.

Baking 2D Shapes: Digital Task Cards | Apples to Applique

    It covers identifying 2D shapes by name.

Baking 2D Shapes: Digital Task Cards | Apples to Applique

    It also has students identify whether shapes are opened or closed.