How do you SPICE up your required curriculum?

I love being a part of Facebook Kindergarten groups. We live in such a interactive world where we can share ideas and lean on each like no other time in history. Goodbye to the age of shut your door and your door, open your mind, and open your browser to a whole new age of teaching!

Recently I've run across a lot of "I have to" teach this curriculum posts from teachers. While I want to say....I'm with ya sister....I also know that having a required curriculum doesn't have to tie your hands. I love our scope and sequence and I use all our stories as a guide for further research. Every story is a new opportunity for new learning, you just have to know where to look. I just finished up one of my favorite stories of the year, If You Could Go to Antarctica. Here are a few ways that I spice up this story.

Use Questions to Guide Instruction

I fell into this one by accident but it really made me open my eyes to what can be done with a required curriculum. After reading If You Could Go to Antarctica my first year we made a good ol' KWL chart and talked about all the things we knew about Antarctica. One of my kiddos said that polar bears live there. A few argued with him so I used it as a teachable moment and we decided that we needed to know MORE before we could agree on this.

We spent the week reading more stories about penguins (which we knew lived there because it was in the book we read), Antarctica, and some books on polar bears. I used this opportunity to do a week worth of penguin activities and learned all about penguins. At the end of the week the class decided that polar bears couldn't live there because they would be the penguins predators and everything we read about penguins said that seals were their predators. It was like one of those magical moments in the classroom where everything falls together, angels sing, and you sit in a circle and sing kumbaya.

A fluke? Nope, it works out that way every. single. year. I always worry that no one will add polar bears to the chart but it never fails, they always do!

Use Your Small Groups to Your Advantage

I try to keep our small groups pretty focused on our goals. You can read more about how I put my groups together HERE and I just posted over at KinderTribe about activities I do in our small groups. During a really exciting story week though I use these little readers to keep the theme going. We read the little reader and do a sentence building activity together. I love the weeks we get to do these!

I made these all to go along with themes throughout our curriculum. That is how I spice it up! Thank you for stopping by today and have fun with what you 'have' to do. 

Melting Heart Crayons

I make these every year for my kiddos and they love them every time. This year I found a (faster) way to make them. Well, maybe not faster but probably more efficient.  
Here's how I made them in the past and I've included the updated more efficient ideas! 

First peel the crayons.  (This is the hardest part!) is the update: I don't use brand new crayons anymore. I make sure to keep all of my old crayons and I even have kiddos help me peel them throughout the year. 

Next, break the crayons into smaller pieces and place in a heart shaped muffin tin.  You can do any color combinations you like but I just use a regular box of crayons and mix them up.  24 crayons makes 9 of these heart shaped crayons perfectly!

Put in the oven at 200 degrees until all the crayons are melted.  Like this:
At this point I put them in the freezer to let them cool (quickly) and because I only had one of the pans and I have to do this 5 times to make enough for my whole class.  It only takes a few minutes for them to cool and then they pop right out but it takes forever when you have to go through the whole process 5 times. 

So this year I found the silicone hearts like this: 

And I am hoping they work in the microwave....that would really speed it up! 

Here is a link to the Valentine page I used to give them.  You can click on the pic to download from Google docs. 

The kiddos love these. They are really strange to color with and it is always a surprise what color you will end up coloring with but they are fun and the message is full of love. The best part is because I bought the tin years ago and I don't remember what I paid for them it is a practically free gift :) Happy Valentines day, start these early if you want to hand them out on the 14th! 

Here are some more Valentine products from my TPT shop! 

Counting Collections Valentines Day Edition

Ahhh! Counting Collections is my very favorite thing to teach (I know I say that about everything but for is true). There is nothing better than watching an entire room of kinder students persevere and work towards counting a collection. Of course most of our collections go up to 100 (shhh, dont' tell) but some have even more and some a little less. I blogged about this fun week in kindergarten HERE if you want to see the 'regular' edition.

Here is the video I watch every year to get inspired to teach this unit. It's from the Teaching Channel and if you haven't signed up for their emails you should! They have great PD videos available on a weekly basis.

I found some really fun Valentine's Day props to add to our counting collections bins. I have been searching for these for FOREVER! Silicone ice cube trays in the shape of a heart! I've been looking ever since I found these pumpkin trays.

 They weren't a dollar like their pumpkin counterparts but I was able to cut them into two different 10 frames. I had 4 cute little leftovers too....I'm still figuring out what to do with those!
 I found heart gems at the Dollar Store. I've been searching for those for forever too! The students will fill the ten frame, make a pile of ten, and repeat until they get 10 piles of 10. Of course I let them figure all of that out on their own. It's fun to hear them try different ways to get to 100. Some of them use the 10 frames and some choose not to. It's different every year.

I also found these really fun little spiky balls to add to our collections. I couldn't resist even though they were $1.98 a bag (at Walmart, in the Valentine's stuff). There is something oddly therapeutic about putting your hand in a bag of these. Sensory bin necessity for sure!

Those are the extras I added to our counting collections bins. If you look at my original post I keep all of my collections in pencil pouches.

I didn't put them away last year, I left all of the pouches full of items and ready to go so this year I have ZERO prep! Woohoo! Yay me! (That is a serious cheer for me's not very often that I actually plan ahead to save myself time!)

That's what we will be doing this week and then the Valentine's collections will stay in our math tubs the rest of the month. I can't wait because I know the kiddos will love these!

100 Day Projects

The 100th day of school. It is a special day, a milestone in the classroom and really a reason to celebrate the fact that we can count to 100!! After's in the standards so use this as an excuse to party away!

We have some special things that we do on the 100th day of school but I will be honest, in a half day program we are really just trying to squeeze it all in! One thing I always invite my students to participate in is our at home projects. Parents may be a little frustrated with me, but the kiddos certainly did enjoy bringing these beauties in! 

The jar projects were new for me this year. Great idea!

We had 100 paper airplanes, 100 army guys, 100 stickers, and 100 tiles!

A tutu with 100 pieces! 

There were so many, I couldn't take pictures of all of them but they were all super special. Their little faces beam when they bring in their projects to share. Of course it is completely educational too because this week we will connect this to our counting collections. I have some really fun things to share later this week for that. Stay tuned!

Pin this post for later: 
I included a letter to send home to parents in this packet for the 100th day of school and it is full of really fun easy prep options for that special day. Have fun teaching (and partying) friends! 
Click on the pic to see in my TPT store