Monthly Archives: August 2013

Back to School Cards

Back to School time is always a flurry of activity that can be full of stress and excitement for both kids and teachers.  Sometimes after the initial rush is over, it can seem like a bit of a letdown.  So now is the perfect time to make some Back to School cards!

Back to School Card

Back to School Card

For one thing, you might actually have time to make them now that things have (hopefully!!) settled down somewhat.  Also, kids and teachers alike might need a much deserved pick me up right about now, and getting a back to school card might just do the trick.  (If things are still too hectic for you to have time to make cards right now, I’m so sorry – I’ve been there.  Perhaps someone should send you a pick me up card!)  You could send a Back to School card to a college kid – getting mail is always a highlight in college!  You could even tuck a gift card for Target, a bookstore, Starbucks, or a frozen yogurt shop inside the Back to School card for an extra treat.  You could also use Back to School cards as invitations to a back to school party for kids to get acquainted with friends in their new classroom.  Or just start planning ahead now for Back to School time next year.

Making Back to School cards does not have to be a big ordeal.  To make them, just gather some school themed papers and stamps (like these from Stampin’ Up a few years back).

Back to School Papers and Stamps

Back to School Papers and Stamps

I’m sure any craft store would have several different options for a Back to School theme!  Cut and paste and experiment with different designs until you find one you like.  Be creative and have fun!  A great way to relieve some of the Back to School time stress and make it a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Ice Cream Cones that WON’T MELT in Hot Summer Weather!

Make them into cupcakes!  These darling ice cream cone cupcakes are perfect for a last hurrah of summer!  When I was little, there was a restaurant in town that always had cupcakes in ice cream cones.  I thought they were the best thing ever.  My 9 year old mind boggled as to how such a thing was even possible.  So obviously, I was so excited when I found lots of “how to’s” for ice cream cone cupcakes all over Pinterest.  http://pinterest.com/alwayswonderful/

I thought that they would be really difficult to make, so I put off trying them.  I finally decided to give it a shot though, and I found they are actually quite easy!  I just used a cake mix and store bought frosting to save time.  As you can see, my ice cream cone cupcakes turned out great!

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Here are a few tips to make sure your ice cream cone cupcakes work out perfectly:

  • Make sure you get cones with flat bases.  Just stand them in regular muffin tins for baking.
  • Fill each cone with batter up to the point where the cone begins to flare out.
  • Bake them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I was very worried the cones would burn, but they didn’t!
  • When it is time to test the cakes for doneness, use a skewer instead of a toothpick.  If the skewer comes out clean, they are done.  The toothpicks just aren’t long enough to test the cake down in the cones!
  • When they have cooled, frost them using a decorating tip.  You make want to practice once or twice to make sure you get a good ice cream “swirl” shape.  Sprinkle jimmies on the tops to make them look even more like ice cream cones.
  • The ice cream cone cupcakes didn’t melt like ice cream would, but they did start to get soggy the next day.  Some of the cones began to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!  I would suggest trying to serve them the same day they are made.  If you want to save some until the next day, you might want to try storing them in a container that is not airtight.  That might help a little with the sogginess.

I hope you enjoy these fun summer treats!

 

August/September Author of the Month: Kevin Henkes

In my classroom, I always love to have an “Author of the Month.”  I choose a different children’s author each month, and we read books by that person and do activities that go along with the books.  The kids always LOVE the Author of the Month books.  They rush to check out the books for themselves in the library, and they always look forward to seeing who the next new author will be.  It really helps them to be excited about books for the whole school year.  (By the way – Author of the Month doesn’t have to be just a classroom thing!  You could always do this at home with your own kids, focusing on a single author for a month.  You could even start a book club for your kids and their friends and have monthly parties to celebrate different authors.)

I like to start the year with Kevin Henkes as the Author of the Month for August and or September (depending on when school starts).

Kevin Henkes Books

Kevin Henkes Books

If I had to pick one (and PLEASE don’t make me pick just one!) Kevin Henkes is probably my favorite children’s author.  His books are perfect to get the school year off on the right foot and create a good classroom community.

Kevin Henkes Bulletin Board

Kevin Henkes Bulletin Board

Here is a list of the books and activities I like to use:

  • A Weekend with Wendell – After reading the book about a naughty mouse, make a list of rules for the classroom.  Perfect for discussing why good behavior is so important!
  • Wemberly Worried – Read this book about a mouse who worries about everything at the end of the first day of school and discuss how children feel their first day went.
  • Chrysanthemum – After reading this book about a mouse who gets teased about her name, make a list of nice and mean words (or put ups and put downs) and discuss how only the nice words will be used in the classroom.  Then have kids interview each other in pairs and introduce their partners to the class using words from the nice list.
  • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – This book about a precocious mouse who has trouble using self control is perfect for reviewing the rules on the second day of school.  Review the classroom rules the kids wrote and discuss which ones Lilly broke.  Another fun activity with this book is to have kids survey what they want to be when they grow up (like Lilly discusses in the book) and then use cheese balls (like they eat in the book) and graph paper to make graphs of the survey results.
  • Chester’s Way – This book is about some very particular mice who like things just so.  I like to use it as a springboard for the children to share some of their favorite things with the class as a way to get to know each other.
  • Julius the Baby of the World – Another good book for getting to know each other.  It is about families, so after reading it kids can share about their families.
  • Owen – This story about a little mouse and his favorite blanket is a good introduction to a first homework assignment.  Kids can go home and write about their favorite toys.  Homework isn’t so bad when it’s all about toys, right?
  • Lilly’s Big Day – Lilly the mouse is back again and in a wedding in this book.  After reading it, kids can write about their own special days.  This makes a good initial writing prompt to help assess where kids are with their writing skills.
  • Sheila Rae, The Brave – This book about a mouse who overcomes her fears is a good introduction to having kids write goals about what they want to accomplish for the school year.
  • At the end of the month after kids have come to love all the different Kevin Henkes characters, have them invent their own mouse characters!  Give them patterns and have them trace them on “mousey” colors of paper.  Then have them add embellishments to their mice to create new and unique characters.  After that, have the kids write stories for their new mice.  My experience is that when kids have little “characters” to inspire their writing, the writing they produce is amazing!  These stories can be assembled together into a great class book that kids will like to look back on fondly as they move through the school year.
Make Your Own Kevin Henkes Mice

Make Your Own Kevin Henkes Mice

Late Summer Sunflowers

Late summer can be a tough time for finding fun things to do with kids.  If they are still on summer break, all of the summertime activities that were once fresh and exciting back in June are all “been there, done that” by now.  If kids are back in school already, they are thinking about all the last bits of summer fun they are missing.  (Besides, with school starting so early these days, it feels to soon to jump right into apples and other fall topics that are traditional for the start of school in September.)  Well, to solve both of these dilemmas, let me suggest sunflowers – perfect for late summer fun in any setting!

Eve Bunting’s book Sunflower House is a great place to start.

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting

It is a cute story about kids who plant sunflowers and then play in them as they grow.  You could easily get a whole day of activities from this one book!

After reading it, have kids map out plans for their own sunflower houses on post-its.  Be sure to stick the post-its to next spring’s calendar so you remember to actually plant the seeds!

You could talk with kids about how sunflowers grow so tall.  Make a model of a sunflower and have kids estimate how tall it is.

Sunflower Model

Sunflower Model

Then have them lay out sunflower seeds to see how many it takes to make the length of the whole sunflower.

Sunflower Seed Measuring

Sunflower Seed Measuring

You could also have kids “dissect” sunflower seeds and look at them with a magnifying glass.  (Everything is more scientific and exciting with a magnifying glass, right?)  Better yet, if you can get a whole flower head from a sunflower plant, have the kids examine that!  Be sure to have the kids sample sunflower seeds or sunflower butter as a snack too.

Finally, have kids glue sunflower seeds to construction paper to make designs or mosaics.  The possibilities are endless.

Whether in school or still out on summer break, sunflowers are happy flowers that can definitely brighten the end of summer blahs.