Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sweet Treats: Kindergarten Tailgate Party

Preparing for a successful Back-to-School Night, Open House, or Kindergarten Tailgate Party can be stressful and time-consuming. This sweet treats kindergarten tailgate party is an easy, fun way for incoming students to meet their teacher, to play games, to build crafts, and to enjoy a delicious popsicle!

Oriental Trading has a number of party themed products that are perfect for any school event and/or occasion. As you're planning your event, be sure to check out the wide range of products that Oriental Trading has to offer. Let's grab our supplies and start planning!

What You'll Need:
School Days ABC Stand-Up
School Days 123 Stand-Ups
Elementary Graduation Archway Stand-Up
Patterned Frozen Treat Ornament Craft Kit
Spa Party Fringe Tableskirt
I Scream For Ice Cream Tablecloth
I Scream For Ice Cream Luncheon Napkins
I Scream For Ice Cream Garland
I Scream For Ice Cream Centerpiece
Ice Cream Bean Bag Toss Game
- Popsicles

Planning the Event

It's another great year of kindergarten with my kindergarten team! We had to get matching shirts from A+ Images, Inc. that say, "Keep Calm Because Kindergarten Rocks!" 
Each kindergarten teacher was designated a color (green, blue, or red). We asked our incoming students to also wear their teacher's designated color as well. This makes it easier for us to spot our students and for students to meet their peers. How amazing are these School Days ABC Stand-UpSchool Days 123 Stand-Ups, and Elementary Graduation Archway Stand-Up? These were a perfect addition to our tailgate and they were great for photos too!

Each table was decorated with an I Scream For Ice Cream Tablecloth and Spa Party Fringe Tableskirt to give it a true sweet treats vibe. Popsicles were served with I Scream For Ice Cream Luncheon Napkins. It was a perfect day for a popsicle!

The craft table was a huge hit! Students loved creating one of three popsicle crafts from Oriental's Patterned Frozen Treat Ornament Craft Kit.

The students loved playing this Ice Cream Bean Bag Toss Game and playing on the playground. It was definitely an excellent evening!

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of my students at this event. It was a great way for students to meet their teacher, see their classrooms, and to play with their peers. Be sure to check out all of Oriental Trading's products for your next event.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School: Parent Appreciation Gift

It is back-to-school season for many teachers! As we are busy preparing for the upcoming school year and getting our rooms ready, it is important to not forget about the caring, supportive parents of our students!

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. Any purchases made through one of our links earns us a small commission, which helps to support the blog so we can continue sharing content like this with you. All views and opinions expressed are purely our own.

In order to foster positive relationships, I believe that open communication among the teacher, students, and parents is important. After all, communication in the classroom defines the learning process, and it is necessary to communicate in order to influence learning. This gift idea is the perfect way to show your students' parents that they are teachers too, and that you appreciate all the work they do at home with their child!

I love Laura Kelly's Sizzix Bigz Die - Apple #2 that she made for Ellison Education! This die makes cutting out apples a breeze! Let's grab our supplies and get started!

- Sizzix Bigz Die - Apple #2
Sizzix Bigz Die Set - Badges (4 Die Set)
Sizzix Bigz Die Set - Pet Shop Flashcards (4 Die Set)
- White cardstock
- Scrapbooking paper
- Adhesive roller
- Felt and or colored card stock
- Googly Eyes
- Colored pencils, markers, or crayons (Optional)
- X-acto Knife
- FREE: "Parents are teachers, too" Printable

I used my Ellison SuperStar Machine to die cut the Sizzix Bigz Die - Apple #2 from felt. Using the Sizzix Bigz Die Set - Pet Shop Flashcards (4 Die Set), die cut the snake from the set using felt or card stock. Add googly eyes and a mouth to your worm. I used an X-acto knife to cut a slit into the apple for the worm. This makes a great craft for your students to do on the first day of school and bring home to their parents!

Print out the printable and adhere it to some colorful scrapbooking paper or card stock. This gives it a nice border and makes it stand out. My favorite part about the FREE "Teachers are parents, too" printable is that it comes with a black and white lined version. Have your students color the apple and make it their own!

Laura Kelly has some amazing card kits that are also perfect for giving to your colleagues, principal, or as a thank you card for those beginning of the year gifts. Check out The Laura Kelly Shop for all her back-to-school products! My favorite is this back-to-school card kit!

Personalize your cards by adding a special message. Homemade cards are so much more meaningful and they are great for your students to create, too!

Have a fantastic school year and don't forget: An apple for a teacher is really nothing new, except when you remember, parents are teachers, too!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Follow Directions Activity: Delicious Dirt Cups

As a kindergarten teacher, I always try to create a learning environment that is engaging, interactive, and inspiring for my kindergarten students.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. Any purchases made through one of our links earns us a small commission, which helps to support the blog so we can continue sharing content like this with you. All views and opinions expressed are purely our own.

With all the new mandates and standards it is difficult to find time to allow my students to learn through play. However, I always try to design my lessons with one thing in mind: What we learn becomes a part of who we are. This dirt cup sequencing and following directions activity is a great activity to start the school year! I always use The Baker's Party Shop for all my baking essentials! Let's grab our supplies and get started!

What You'll Need:
- Party Pastel Rainbow Ice Cream Cups: Stripe
- Party Pastel Rainbow Nonpareil Sprinkles
- Oreos
- Instant Chocolate Pudding
- Gummy Worms
- Milk
- Melting Chocolate
- Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
- FREE Printable: Dirt Cup Sequencing Cards

The ability to follow directions, especially oral, multi-step ones, is an important kindergarten skill. It can also be a difficult skill for kids to master and often requires a lot of practice. I always start the year off with explaining the importance of following directions. This activity is a great way to show the importance of following directions! However, before I start my activity I always read a story!

1. Diary of a Worm

One of my favorite stories to read with this activity is Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. This is a great way to get students excited about creating dirt cups! 

2. Modeling

Before I allow my students to create their dirt cups, I always model what is expected of them. However, I always throw in a twist. I use the sequencing cards to have the students explain what to do for each direction. For instance, when I showcase the sequencing card that demonstrates pouring part of pudding mixture into the cup, many of my students will say "Pour the pudding." So what do I do? I pour the pudding onto the floor. Yes, that's right. This teaches my students the importance of providing detailed directions such as, "Pour the pudding mixture into the cup."

3. Independent Practice

After modeling what I expect from the students, I send them back to their seats. At each table I have all the supplies needed to create their dirt cups and the free printable sequencing cards to assist them while they create their delicious dirt cups. I absolutely love the worm dirt snack clip art set from Jen Hart DESIGN. The sequencing cards allow the students to work together to put each card in order as they assemble their dirt cups. 

4. Delicious Dirt Cups! Enjoy!

Their favorite part of the activity is eating their delicious dirt cups! This activity is a great way to focus on sequencing while explaining the importance of following directions and working together.

Be sure to check out all of the amazing products that The Baker's Party Shop has to offer and remember, everything is better with sprinkles!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mindset Book Study: Chapter 3 - The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment

As educators we often seek the knowledge and resources to become more successful and effective teachers. We set yearly goals for ourselves, our students, and our colleagues. We continually strive to be the best educators we can be to ensure that our students are meeting the learning goals/objectives. We thrive on commendation and recognition for our hard work from our administrators, colleagues, parents, and principals. However, have you ever thought about the impact that feedback and positive praise can have on our students' mindset? Well... let's talk about it.

As educators, we strive to praise our students for their accomplishments and their ability to learn. However, in chapter 3, Dweck discusses the real ingredients of achievement and what makes some people achieve less and some more. Take a moment and think about some common phrases you use when you praise your students...

I praise my students for even the smallest accomplishments. Praising one's efforts communicates to others that they can grow their abilities, cultivate talents, and grow intelligence. However, prior to reading this chapter, I did not know that praise has an effect on our mindset.

What is fixed mindset and growth mindset?

Fixed Mindset - The belief that intelligence is innate and cannot be changed.

Growth Mindset - No matter who you are, you can become a great deal smarter. Students feel smart when they are working on something difficult and can make progress. A growth mindset encourages people to develop their minds fully by embracing challenges and avoiding limiting thoughts which might hold them back. 

Take a moment to watch this interesting study on the effect of praise on mindset:

Students are reticent to take risks and more often than not their performance declines. On the other hand, when students are praised for their effort, their performance improves and their effort and motivation increase. Take a moment and think about these questions:

  • If people have such potential to achieve, how can they gain faith in their potential?
  • How can we give them the confidence they need to go for it?
  • How about praising their ability in order to convey that they have what it takes?

Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset? 

Take a moment and think about where you are as an educator. Whether this is your first year of teaching or your twenty-fifth year of teaching... Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Dweck states, "The growth mindset lets people use and develop their mind fully. Their heads are not filled with limiting thoughts, a fragile sense of belonging, and a belief that other people can define them. I believe this is what we want for our students and for ourselves. Give your students the gift of growth mindset! I want to leave you with a question: How can we create an environment that teaches the growth mindset to adults and/or students? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Read these other blog posts about chapter 3: 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Parent Volunteer Cherry Man Celebration

Parent volunteers are so important in the classroom! Without parent volunteers, my centers would not run smoothly and efficiently. They are seriously the cherry on top, and I will be forever indebted to them for all their help! Today I am excited to be partnering with CherryMan and the Laura Kelly Design Team to bring you three recipes to show your parent volunteers how much you appreciate them! 

Now you might be thinking... A male kindergarten teacher that can cook/bake!? Well, not quite. I've partnered with my sister-in-law (Julie) from Country Fresh Cooking to bring you these delicious recipes that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth! Julie is an amazing chef and a Spanish teacher, as well. Here is what we will be making today:

Click on the links above to download a FREE printable PDF of each recipe! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end and check out all the other great recipes made with CherryMan products. Let's get started!

Basil Infused Cherry Limeade

What's better on a hot summer day than a refreshing sip of basil infused cherry limeade?

Cherry Limeade

2-liter bottle of lemon-lime soda
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
One 10-ounce jar of CherryMan maraschino cherries, with juice
Thin lime wheels for garnish

For Basil Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 basil leaves


1. Start with the simple syrup by combining 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 2 basil leaves in a medium-size pot.  Give the basil leaves a slap before adding them in (sounds weird, but totally works to maximize the basil infusion, so give it a couple slaps).  Over medium heat, bring to a simmer just until sugar is dissolved.   Remove from heat, discard basil, and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. In a pitcher, combine the lemon-lime soda, fresh lime juice, CherryMan maraschino cherries with juice, lime wheels and simple syrup.  Stir gently and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

3. Add red sugar sprinkles to the rim of your glass milk bottle. Simply spread lime juice around the rim and dip into a bowl of red sugar sprinkles. Add lime wheels and CherryMan maraschino cherries (with stems) for garnish. 

Cherry Chocolate Cake Pops

Who doesn't love chocolate? These cherry chocolate cake pops are sure to be a decadent delight at any event!

Cake Batter

1 box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix
1 ¼ cups of hot water
3 eggs
1/3 cup of butter
1 tbsp baking cocoa

Cake pop “glue”

1 jar of CherryMan Maraschino Cherries and juice
1 tbsp of cornstarch
1 tbsp of water
1 cup of Nutella

Cake Pop Assembly

2 packages Candy Melts - white and chocolate
24 white cake pop sticks
sprinkles of your choice


1.  Preheat oven to 350°. Open the boxed chocolate cake mix and dump it in the bowl of a stand mixer. 

2. In a medium-size pot over low heat, melt the butter.  Then whisk in the baking cocoa and the hot water. Whisk over medium-low heat for 20 seconds.

3. With the mixer on low, add the butter and the cocoa-water mix into the dry cake, mix until just combined (to cool it down a bit). Then, gently whisk in 3 eggs, ONE at a time.

3.  Divide cake batter between 2 greased 9” cake pans lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool to room temperature or cool in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Pulse one jar of cherries (with juice) in a food processor to chop the cherries.  Do NOT pulverize them. 

5.  Put the cherry mixture in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and water and stir vigorously until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Add to the cherry mixture.  Stir occasionally and allow to thicken; approximately 5 minutes.  Cool completely.  This can be stored in a mason jar overnight in the refrigerator.

Forming the Cake Balls

1.  Crumble cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. 

2.  To the crumbled cake, add the cherry mixture and the Nutella.  Work cake with a large wooden spoon to combine cake and cherry-Nutella mixture.

3.  Next, using a 2” cookie scoop, scoop out a small amount of cherry cake mixture and roll into a ball.  Place on a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Continue making little balls until all of the cake is used up.  Freeze for an hour or overnight.

Cake Pop Assembly

1.  Over a double boiler, melt one package of the candy melts.  Stir frequently with a whisk until smooth.

2. Working in batches of 3 or 4, remove frozen cake balls from freezer.  Dip one end of the stick into the candy melt (just a tiny bit), insert into the flat side of the cake pop.  Replace and repeat with remaining 2 or 3 cake pops.

3.  Next, dip the whole cake pop in the candy melt using a spoon to help coat the whole cake pop.  Tap cake pop gently on the side of the bowl to remove excess candy melt coating.  Add desired sprinkles immediately.  Place cake pop in a cake pop stand or a styrofoam block to dry. 

4. Repeat with remaining cake balls, working in small batches.  Leave the remaining cake balls in the freezer so that they don’t get too soft while they are waiting for their turn.  You can use a variety of Candy Melt colors if desired.

Makes approximately 30 cake pops.

Check out the inside of that cake pop! Delicious! Is your mouth watering yet?

When you are finished making your delicious cake pops, place them into a small pail with crinkle cut paper fill.

Add that special touch to your cake pop bouquet by adding one of Laura Kelly's personalized stamps by Expressionery onto a tag.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Cupcake Batter

1 box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix
1 ¼ cups of hot water
3 eggs
1/3 cup of butter, melted
1 tbsp baking cocoa

Cherry Cupcake Filling

1 jar of CherryMan Maraschino Cherries
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp of water

Butter Cream Frosting

3 cups of powdered sugar
½ stick of butter, softened
2 or 3 tbsp of heavy whipping cream.

1.  Start by making the batter for the cupcakes.  In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, dump in the chocolate cake mix.

2.  Place the butter in a medium sauce pan and melt over medium-low heat.  Add the hot water and baking cocoa and whisk for 30 seconds or so. 

3.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the hot mixture to the cake mix.  Give a couple quick pulses and shut off.  With the mixer back on low, add the 3 eggs, one at a time until just combined.

4.  Use an ice cream scoop to portion out the cupcakes.  Bake cupcakes at 350° for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cherry Filling

1.  Pulse jar of cherries (with juice) in a food processor to chop the cherries.  Do NOT pulverize them. 

2.  Put the cherry mixture in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and water and stir vigorously until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Add to the cherry mixture.  Stir occasionally and allow to thicken; approximately 5 minutes.  Cool completely.

3. Use a cupcake corer or a knife to carve out a small portion in the center of the cupcake.  Add 1 tbsp of the cherry mixture to each cupcake.

Butter Cream Frosting

1.  Mix softened butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Add 2 or 3 tbsp of heavy whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy.  Use a piping bag or a knife to spread on the frosting.

Makes approximately 18 cupcakes

Look at these delicious CherryMan Maraschino cherry-filled cupcakes! These are sure to be the hit of any party! Plus the buttercream frosting is delicious!

Setting the Table

Set the table for your parent volunteers with all things white and red to fit that perfect cherry theme! Oriental Trading has a number of items perfect for your event!



You can enter to win a Cherry Man Prize Pack and a $100 Visa Gift Card! 

Check out these other CherryMan Recipes:

Chad Boender is an official member of the Laura Kelly Design Team. Products or compensation may have been received to support this post; however, the opinions, designs, images and concepts are my own.

Have a CherryMan Cherry-ific Day,