Grad School Chronicles: Week 16

Week 16 brought loads of families into the classroom!  Open house took place, and although it was fun to meet the families of the children I am with each day, it was really strange being a visitor in the classroom instead of the teacher.  I had a feeling that would be the trickiest part of participating in a practicum experience.


What are my thoughts for the week?

I can tell by the behavior of the students in this class that the end of the year is approaching and the temperature outside has snapped to HOT!  I have a feeling many of my teacher friends are seeing the same thing unfold in their classrooms.  :)

Grad School Chronicles: Week 15

Week 15 brought a professional development training that was 100% dedicated to number talks.  I wish number talks existed when I was in elementary school.  I have a feeling I wouldn't dislike math nearly as much if I had been expose to the subject in a way that left me feeling comfortable to make mistakes while learning.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of number talks, you can pick up the Number Talks book over on Amazon.


For kindergarten, number talks typically start off with simple little dot cards.  They look a little something like this...

Briefly show the class (as a whole group) one card, place it in your lap upside down after the brief showing, and ask children to make a hand signal when they are ready to share A) how many dots they saw and B) how they saw the dots.  It's so interesting to hear how children see groupings of items.  They may see two here and three there, when I see a completely different total number of dots in all AND noticed the dots in a pattern a completely different pattern.  There is so much more to it than what I have explained here in this little weekly update.  If you are looking for a way to work mental math strategies into your math block, be sure to pick up a copy of Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.

The idea is to build mental math strategies.  I see this as not only a way to build number sense, but it also builds confidence within the classroom community.  It's pretty cool.

What are my thoughts for the week?

  1. I love the concept of number talks and can't WAIT to learn more about them.
  2. I really enjoy working at this particular elementary school and will be sad to say goodbye when my practicum is over in December.
  3. I feel extremely anxious about my first observation.  It takes place Monday afternoon. 

A to Z Summer Write the Room Activities


Thanks for your interest in my A-Z Summer Write The Room Packet. I had such a great time coming up with A-Z summer words for my students, and they had the best time reading, writing, tracing, counting, and getting the most from the activities included in this packet. Parents have been excited to see how letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z (and sometimes other letters) are worked into our classroom word wall each season. My seasonal Write The Room packets have been very engaging for families, which tends to encourage reading more at home (always a huge plus!).


Click the image to preview and purchase this downloadable packet.
This packet includes:
- 28 word wall / pocket chart cards
- Table top word chart (I place mine in acrylic sign holders!)
- 3 differentiated levels of word recording sheets 
- “My favorite summer word” write, draw & tell
- Beginning letter match up
- Syllable count and match
- Syllable count and graph
- Spin and spell (with recording sheets)

Words of Focus:
August, baseball, castle, daisy, extreme, flip flops, grass, hammock, ice cream, June, July, ketchup, lotion, mustard, nectarine, ocean, pool, quench, relax, September, summer, truck, U.V. rays, vacation, watermelon, explore, yard, zucchini

Classroom Ideas:
Print, cut, laminate, and hang the word wall cards around your classroom . You can post the cards in your writing area, a pocket chart, or hang them around the room (walls, doors, cubbies, backs of shelves, etc.). Students can use them to spell & read each word by pointing with their finger or with a pointer. They can record/write the words on the recording sheets provided in this packet.

My students take great pride in writing and reading key words of the season. I hope your students looooove these activities as much as mine do.

Find more of my seasonal WTR packets HERE!

Have a great summer!

Grad School Chronicles: Week 14

Well, having three weeks off between semesters was lovely.  Back to reality I go.  Week 14 of grad school kick started the first of three phases of practicum experience.  The last time I participated in a practicum experience was...ahem...twenty plus years ago.  I have actually been dreading this phase of the program because I am a control freak an experienced teacher, and I wasn't at all sure how stepping into a classroom would be if I couldn't be the one running the show.  Guess what?  IT IS SO AWESOME!!!!

My cooperating kindergarten teacher has been very welcoming, and we seem to be working well together.  I have only been there a week, which means I am still learning the ins and outs of the school and the daily routine.  (It is always stressful for me to be "the new person".)  The twisted part of it is, I know I am not the one in charge or responsible for report cards, assessments, deadlines, etc., but the teacher in me can't let go of that feeling of responsibility.  It's an illness, I swear.

Throughout my practicum experience, I have a goal of harvesting at least one idea per week that I would like to add to my "will be doing this in my next classroom" list.  One idea I am walking away with from my cooperating teacher is this simple little name card / paper stand, which is a simple 4 1/2" to 5" long wooden block with a partial slit cut on top.  There is one block for each student.  Each block is clearly marked with a printed mailing label name tag that can be yanked off at the end of the year in order for the block to be reused the next school year.  (Placing a name on each one prevents kiddos from fighting over the blocks.)  As children come through the classroom door each morning, the first thing they do is A) grab their name tag from the pocket chart that sits near the door and B) place it in the wooden block on their table.  Their name tag resides in the block throughout the day.  This helps support them with writing their first name at the beginning of the school year, their last name mid-year, and also acts as a name plate to designate each student's spot at the table.  I also noticed students propping up laminated alphabet charts and sight word lists in them.  It is such a cool idea that will become one of my next cheap and easy DIY classroom summer projects.  Check it out...

Name card holder (that also holds a number various laminated signs for student support).

What are my thoughts for the week?

  • I am exhausted!  It has been months since I have worked in a classroom as a pre-k teacher -- every part of my body is telling me so.  
  • It has been wonderful to NOT sit all day long typing assignment after assignment for grad school.  My FitBit is showing numbers I have not seen in many moons.  :)
  • This entire week has served as a reminder as to why I need to hustle and wrap up this degree.  It is also making me question why I chose an unlicensed early childhood education degree program twenty plus years ago.  I really thought that was the way to go back then, and I learned a great deal about teaching pre-k and kindergarten.  As a matter of fact, I can't say I have learned any new information pertaining to early childhood education since entering this graduate program.  That tells me what I did learn the first time around was solid information.  However, not having a teaching license severely limited my opportunities over the years.  With the license I will gain from this program, as more and more pre-k classrooms open in public schools, I will be able to teach in those classrooms.  What a great opportunity ahead of me! 

The Tiny Seed & the Plant Life Cycle

It's spring! It's spring!  After a looooooong, rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest, I look forward to spring like you would not believe.  One of my favorite spring themes in the classroom is the plant life cycle, and The Tiny Seed is a fabulous way to introduce the concept to young learners.  So what is the very first thing we do when it's time to think about planting seeds, watching trees bursting with buds, and see a glimpse of sunshine in the near future?


From there, a lot of hard work takes place.  I mean...a LOT of hard work.  So what exactly did we do that was so much fun and kept my little learners super engaged?














I've created multiple teaching resources that focus on the plant life cycle, and each one was made with the pre-k and kindergarten age range in mind.  If you are in the market for some new teaching resources, please take a peek at my online store!  

Click HERE to check out my spring teaching resources!
Happy planting...

Counting Butterfly Spots Emergent Reader {Math & ELA}

Thanks for your interest my Counting Butterfly Spots Emergent Reader. I send my emergent reader books home for families to read together. I have found doing so helps build much stronger literacy connections between home and school.


Click image to preview.
This download includes:
- Black and white, ink-friendly pages
- Four to six 8.5”x11” sheets of paper per book
- Six versions of the book (see preview) 

Book Versions Include:
- Counting 1-5 with numerals
- Counting 1-5 blank spots for writing numerals
- Counting 1-10 with numerals
- Counting 1-10 blank spots for writing numerals
- Draw your own spots (1-5 & 1-10)!

Simply print pages the pages you need (depending on which version of the emergent reader you choose), cut along the mid-page line, and staple together at the gray staple marks to create a book for your students. 

Depending on the version that best suits the needs of your class, students will count or draw the spots on each butterfly and color them in with crayons, markers, or bingo daubers. 

My students take great pride in reading their mini-books to anyone willing to listen, and the books have served me well when it comes to getting families more engaged in reading at home. I hope your students love it as much as mine do.


Preview and purchase this versatile packet by clicking the link below:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Counting-Butterfly-Spots-Emergent-Reader-Mini-Book-PK-K-2539126

Happy spring counting!

Frog Life Cycle Science Journal Observation Pages {FREE}

I have a new FREE packet over in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  This one contains a "fact or opinion" about the frog life cycle journal page, as well as the frog life cycle daily science journal page I use in my classroom.  If you're reluctant to put together science journals for your preschool or pre-k class, please give it a try!  Last year, I put together one journal that the entire class shared, rather than creating a journal for each student.  At first, I wasn't sure it was going to work out, but it was so much fun to share the journal and take turns adding our thoughts and drawings!  Who knew?

Click the image to pick up your FREE copy of the frog life cycle science journal pages!


After catching a tadpole in my backyard pond, our class was able to begin the frog life cycle unit!  It was so much fun.  The timing of this unit is a bit unpredictable for me because I am never certain when I will find tadpoles in the pond.  However, I do my best to remain flexible enough to allow ample time for this awesome unit each year.  It is sooooo worth it!  Students love watching the tiny tadpoles grow.  We record our observations each day on a Frog Life Cycle science journal page by writing and drawing pictures of what we see.  This is such an amazing time for children, in terms of vocabulary growth.  There is so much rich vocabulary that can be introduced while observing frogs.  From the proper terminology of the life cycle itself to words such as shallow, elusive, quick, swiftly, abrupt, lazy, enormous, gigantic, shrinking, etc.  Uhhhh!  I miss my little learners and my classroom!  Can grad school be over already?  Please????  Pretty please?!?!?!?!


Lily pads and plastic "jumping" frogs in the small sensory table provided hours of fun!  I added wine corks as "logs"!


Students observed Tad the tadpole each day.  We recorded our daily findings on a Frog Life Cycle journal page!




Of course, we HAD to sing and act out Five Little Speckled Frogs and use the balance beam as our "rolling log"!

Pick up your FREE copy of the science journal pages  by clicking the link below:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Frog-Life-Cycle-Science-Journal-Observation-Pages-PK-1-FREE-2531954

Teacher Appreciation Week SALE!




My entire Teachers Pay Teachers store is marked 20% off.  Save on EVERYTHING May 3rd and May 4th! You will save an ADDITIONAL 10% when you use the promo code CELEBRATE.  That is a 28% savings in all!  The sale runs May 3rd, 12:01 am ET - May 4th, 11:59 pm ET

Be sure to check out the sale: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Heather-Cacak

Happy savings!

Butterfly Life Cycle Emergent Reader {PK-K}

Spring has SPRUNG here in the Pacific Northwest, and I wanted to kick off the season with an engaging and fun emergent reader that combines science with ELA standards!  The Butterfly Life Cycle mini book is ready for you to enjoy with your students (preschool through kindergarten)!

Click here to preview and purchase this emergent reader mini book!
I created this little reader a couple of years ago.  My students enjoy it so much...I wanted to share it with my teacher pals.  After reading my "teacher copy" to the class, which is simply a student copy I color and laminate, I have students make their own book to send home for families to read together. I have found doing so helps build much stronger literacy connections between home and school.  Because the packet includes five versions of the same book, I am easily able to differentiate my materials depending on the needs of my students.  

This download includes:

  • Black and white, ink-friendly pages
  • Three 8.5”x11” sheets of paper per book (creates a six page mini book)
  • Five versions of the book (see image preview below for details) 


Details of the five versions include:
1. Single life cycle stage vocabulary words
2. Focus on life cycle stages vocabulary PLUS sight words: I, see, & the
3. Focus on life cycle stage vocabulary PLUS sight words: here, is, the, & are
4. Independent word/sentence writing featuring plain lines 
5. Independent word/sentence writing featuring handwriting lines 



Simply print pages the pages you need (depending on which version of the emergent reader you choose), cut along the mid-page line, and staple together at the gray staple marks to create a book for your students. 

My little learners take great pride in reading their mini-books to anyone willing to listen, and the books have served me well when it comes to getting families more engaged in reading at home. I hope your students love it as much as mine do.  Be sure to purchase one of these packets to support your spring butterfly unit. 

Here are a few ways we observe and learn about butterflies in my classroom with support from the Butterfly Life Cycle emergent reader:


We made butterfly statues and read a LOT of books about butterflies!

We observed caterpillars and witnessed metamorphosis first hand.
We also wrote and made books about the life cycle of butterflies.

We made our own butterflies and waited...and waited...until...

...beautiful butterflies emerged!

My Butterfly Life Cycle emergent readers are a fabulous way to send some of the butterfly love home.  Children loooove telling adults all about what they do at school. but they often cannot recall or verbally explain what took place.  Emergent readers are one way to help families make connections between school and home.  You can purchase a copy of the printable emergent reader mini books by following this link to my TPT store: