Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thai Chicken Pizza

Pizza combined with Thai food is a win-win in my opinion.  It combines two of my favorite things:  pizza and a spicy, Thai flavor.  I love taking something ordinary like pizza, and changing it up to make it unique.  

Thai Chicken Pizza
2-3 chicken breast cutlets (for a small Udi's gf pizza crust)
1 bottle Thai Peanut Marinade & Dipping Sauce (I use San-J brand because it is gf), 1/2 cup for marinade and 1/8 cup for pizza
1 prepared pizza crust (I use Udi's gluten free frozen pizza crust)
2/3 cup mozzerella cheese
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small red pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 handful of cilantro
1/4 cup chopped peanuts


  • Marinate chicken breast cutlets in Thai Peanut Marinade for 2 to 3 hours.

  • Place marinated chicken strips in grill pan on high heat.  Sear chicken on both sides.  Put chicken on baking sheet, cover with foil, bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Juices should run clear. Set aside to cool.  Once cool, slice chicken into thin slices.

  • Put about 1/8 cup of the Thai Peanut Marinade & Dipping Sauce onto pizza crust and spread around.
  • Put chicken slices, then cheese, red onions, red peppers on pizza.
  • Bake in oven as directed for pre-made pizza crust.  Udi's brand suggests to bake the pizza crust at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes.  I baked mine for 7 minutes.
  • After removing from oven, top with cilantro and chopped peanuts.

Slice and enjoy!
Serve with a salad for a complete meal.

Check out my other blog post "Mexican Pizza" for another fun twist on a favorite dinner menu item.  


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Brain Break- "What is it?"

Sometimes kids just need a brain break.  After working on curriculum all morning, their brains are full and their bodies are restless.  That's when it's time for a brain break.  I can usually tell when my students need one and I use brain breaks to get them energized for learning again.  Brain breaks take only 5 minutes and can help your students refocus for the next lesson.

Here's one of my favorites (and a favorite of my students too):

Brain Break:  "What is it?"
  1. Choose an object in your classroom.  It can be anything small that students will be able to easily pass around.  I've used an eraser, a marker, a scarf, an umbrella- anything!
  2. Gather students in a standing circle.
  3. Tell them you are going to pass the object around and tell them they need to use their imagination.  You will begin by modeling this sentence structure:  "This is _____, but it's not really a ______. It's a _______!  Remind them that ideas need to be school appropriate.
  4. Tell students they must listen carefully because ideas cannot be duplicated.
  5. Pass the object around the circle and let your students' imaginations soar.  Believe me, they will come up with some interesting ideas!
Here's an example of when we used an eraser for "What is it?":

One student said, "This is an eraser, but it's not really an eraser.  It's a skateboard."  The student put the eraser on the ground and pretended to skateboard.  Another student said, "This is an eraser, but it's not really an eraser.  It's my cell phone."  This student then pretended to talk on the phone.  Another creative student said, "This is an eraser, but it's not really an eraser.  It's a colony of hairy stick people."

It's a great brain break and a great way for students to use their imagination.  
I plan to feature different brain breaks each week.  If you have a great one, please share in the comments section below.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Spinach & Mushroom Quesadilla

Some nights, it's a good idea to have a meatless meal.  An easy spinach and mushroom quesadilla offers a nice way to incorporate veggies into your diet, and you won't miss the meat.  My husband claims he doesn't like spinach, but when I put it into this delicious quesadilla, he doesn't even notice.  

Spinach & Mushroom Quesadilla
flour tortillas (2 per person)- I use corn tortillas for my husband since he eats gluten-free
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 container mushrooms
1 frozen package of spinach (you can use canned spinach- just drain well).
2 tablespoons butter
1 package shredded Mexican cheese blend
Cooking spray

Makes four servings.

Prepare the spinach according to package directions.  I used a microwave steamer package.  It took only 6 minutes in the microwave.  After cooking, let it sit for one minute, open the package, and drain on paper towels.  Make sure you squeeze all the moisture out using a paper towel.  

Clean your mushrooms by taking a paper towel to wipe off any debris.  Cut woody stems off mushrooms.  Slice onions and mushrooms.  I use an egg slicer to slice the mushrooms.  It's quick and easy and you can have a whole bunch of sliced mushrooms in a just a nano-second. 

Using a pan on medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter, saute mushrooms and onions until tender.  Add drained spinach to mushroom and onion mixture. Stir together.  Set pan aside.  

Spray grill pan with cooking spray and heat pan to medium.  Place one tortilla in pan, sprinkle tortilla with shredded cheese, then top with about 1/2 cup of spinach, mushroom, and onion mixture.  Spread around evenly.  You should have enough for four servings, so divide it out.  Then sprinkle more cheese on top.  Add the other tortilla.  When you have grill marks and the quesadilla is lightly browned, flip it over so the other side can brown.  

I like to add sour cream and salsa verde as toppings and serve it with a small bowl of black beans.  

Here's how I made the black beans.  It's so easy.  Just saute 1/2 cup green pepper, 1/2 cup onion, and 1 teaspoon minced garlic in sauce pan.  Add 1 can of Ranch Style Black Beans.  Then add 1 teaspoon ground cumin.  Let simmer for about 15 minutes while you are grilling the quesadilla.  Makes 4 servings.

Enjoy this yummy dish with spinach as the starring role.  


PS.  Here are a few of my tricks....Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

Want to know how I get great grill marks for panini sandwiches and quesadillas?
Put some water in a pot and put it right on the sandwich or tortilla.

Pizza cutters aren't just for pizza.  Use it to cut your quesadilla!  You'll have perfect slices.
Ok...those are all the tricks I will divulge for today.  Enjoy and keep checking back with The Teacher Dish for more great recipes and ideas for teachers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Brain Break- "Hello"

Sometimes kids just need a break.  Their minds are full and their bodies are restless.  Here's a great brain break to use when your students have been sitting and working for awhile.  Brain breaks only take about 5 minutes.  This brain break gets them up and moving and allows them to use their imagination.  

Brain Break:  "Hello"
  1. Divide students into two lines- Line A and Line B.  Place them on opposite sides of the room.
  2. Tell them that they are going to greet one another, saying "hello" in a special way.  One person from each line will walk and meet the person from the other line in the middle of the room.  The two students will say hello in their given "character". Then return to the end of their line.  For example, the first person from Line A will greet the first person from Line B, and so on.
  3. Here's the twist.  The teacher calls out a fun way for them to say "Hello" to their classmate.
  4. Some of the ways you can have them say hello include:  a little old man or woman, a busy waiter in a fancy restaurant, a business person on a busy street in New York City, an alien, a robot, a pizza delivery person, a hip hop dancer, a ballet dancer, etc...  Use your own imagination to come up with a fun way for them to act it out as they greet one another to say "Hello".
  5. Students from Line A will greet students in Line B until all students have completed the designated "Hello".  If you  have an odd number of students, a student may have to go more than once.  
  6. Repeat the same procedure with a different character, or save it for another day.  Trust me, they will want to do it again!
This brain break is hilarious.  My students really get into the characters.  It's a fun way to break up the day and give their brains a break for a few minutes.

If you have a great brain break, please share your ideas in the comments section.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chicken Taco Soup

When autumn weather hits, this is the soup that I crave.  Chicken Taco Soup is quick and easy and tastes great on a chilly night. Plus, you'll have leftovers for lunch the next day, or another meal. You can even freeze the leftovers. Last night I used part of a rotisserie chicken that I bought at Sam's Club to make my Cheater Chicken Caesar Salad.  Today, I'm using the leftover rotisserie chicken to make taco soup. It's a two for one!  It saves time, money, and nothing is wasted.  This soup is so hearty, it's all you'll need for dinner.  

Chicken Taco Soup
2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
* If you have time, you can also cook 3 chicken breasts.  Just boil the chicken breasts until done, cool and shred.  Or if you don't have a rotisserie chicken on hand or chicken breasts, you can use a can of diced white chicken breast.
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I use 1 teaspoon minced garlic from a jar)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (You can also use Rotel tomatoes)
1 cup of green chili salsa (salsa Verde)
1 small can of green chilies (4 ounces), rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth

shredded cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

Saute garlic and onion with olive oil in soup pot.  Add cooked, shredded chicken and taco seasoning.  Stir ingredients together.  Add green chilies, tomatoes with juice, green salsa, black beans, kidney beans, and chicken broth. Combine ingredients.  Let simmer for 45 minutes.  Top with garnishes of your choice.

Makes about 6 servings.

I love one-pot wonders.  This soup is so easy.
Just open a can of this and that and dinner is ready in minutes.

Let soup simmer for about 45 minutes.
The aroma in your house will be fantastic!

Garnish with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, and tomatoes.
This is truly one of my favorite soups.  If you are having friends over, the recipe can be easily doubled- just remember to use a bigger pot!  This recipe is so easy and delicious. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheater Chicken Caesar Salad

I'll admit it.  I am a cheater.  I cheat whenever I can.  I wish I could say that I slow roast my chicken all day long, shave my own Parmesan cheese, and that I whisk up my own Caesar salad dressing, but I can't.  I cheat. 

This Cheater Chicken Caesar Salad is the best recipe cheat on a busy weeknight and the best part is you can have dinner ready in minutes.  My husband and I love to eat salads for dinner.  We make them entree size and add a protein of some kind to the greens.  For this salad, I use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from Sam's Club. It saves time and I can use the leftover chicken for another meal.  

Some other cheats include Ken's Caesar Salad Dressing (it's creamy and tastes great) and pre-shaved Parmesan cheese.   I also buy pre-made croutons, but omit them from my husband's salad since he eats gluten free. My husband says this reminds him of a restaurant salad.  

Cheater Chicken Caesar Salad
1 rotisserie chicken, cut slices from the chicken breast
(I used slices from 1 chicken breast)
1 bag hearts of Romaine lettuce
Caesar salad dressing, 4 tablespoons
Shaved Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup

Toss ingredients together with salad dressing.  Make sure lettuce is well coated with dressing.  Makes two hearty entree size salads. It tastes great when served with crusty bread or a dinner roll.

Here's a great gluten-free find at the grocery store.  Udi's French Baguettes. The package contains two baguettes.  One-half of a baguette is a serving. Bake it in the oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes and it comes out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Delicious!

Use the leftover rotisserie chicken for another meal. Just bag it up and save it for the next meal. I plan to make Taco Soup with the leftovers.


Look for my Taco Soup recipe, and other easy recipes, at The Teacher Dish.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Morning Meetings: A Positive Way To Start Your Day!

One thing that I know for sure is Morning Meetings have helped me build a positive classroom community during the past 15 years.  

I used to call these gatherings with students "Community Circle" which was based on Jeanne Gibb's Tribes book.  It doesn't really matter what you call it, it is the same concept.  A time to gather students together and build relationships.

For me, it's a quick way to get "face-to-face" time with students, build relationships, practice positive behaviors, and practice speaking and listening skills.  By including this short 5-10 minute time, I feel more connected to my students.  Students may come into the classroom in a bad mood and by the end of Morning Meeting, this positive time with classmates will turn their day around.  It's a wonderful gauge of how they are feeling on a particular day.

So often, we get so wrapped up in all the curriculum things that we HAVE to do, that we forget the most important thing- building relationships with students.  Build a relationship with a student and I promise you they will do their best to learn in your classroom.  Kids crave this personal connection.

Over the years, I have adapted the morning meeting to keep it simple and easy to do.  For morning meetings, I gather them in a sitting circle in our group area.  It usually ends up being more like an oval because I have so many students, but that's OK.  Sometimes it even looks like a weird amoeba.  I also ask that students face one another and not have their back to anyone.  This reinforces inclusion of all students.  No one ever feels left out.

Before Morning Meeting choose an object to pass around.  It could be a squishy ball or small stuffed animal.  I keep a big basket of items and students love to choose the pass around for the day.

I ask students to adhere to certain mutual agreements. It is important to establish these agreements right away.  Take time to practice, practice, practice!  You may even want to post these agreements in your classroom.

Morning Meeting Agreements
  1. Use attentive listening.  Listen to the speaker with your eyes, ears, and heart.  Track the speaker with your eyes.
  2. Show mutual respect.  Do not speak unless it is your turn and you have the pass around object.  Pass the object respectfully.  We also respect other people's right to privacy.  What's said in the classroom, stays in the classroom.
  3. You have the "right to pass" and always have the "right to participate".  There are some days when you may not feel like sharing and that is OK.  If you choose to pass, then you must be a silent observer.
  4. No put downs.  We don't laugh at others or call other people names.
  5. Appreciate others.  If someone gives you a compliment, say "Thank you".
Below is the schedule that I use.  I keep it the same each week so students know exactly what to expect.  Believe me, they get used to the schedule and if you vary it, they will balk about it.  Before each share time, I model how to answer the question and then pass the object either to my right or left.  I always let the person know which way I will pass so they have time to prepare what they are going to say.  

Morning Meeting Schedule

Weekend Report:  Students tell about their weekend.  I ask them to keep it at 30 seconds or less.  As a teacher, you can gain valuable information during this time.  You will find out how students like to spend their free time and it may spur another conversation later in the day.  Many times, students may find out they have something in common with another student.

Show or Tell:  I did a post on this earlier, but basically students bring in an item to share, tell something, or demonstrate something.  It's old school, but effective for getting to know your students.  Even big kids love it.  Check out my post "Show and Tell is for Big Kids Too" to learn more about this and the positive effects it can have in your classroom.

Compliment Circle:  Students may choose to "give, get, or pass".  Students may "give" a compliment to a friend, a group, or the whole class.  They may choose to "get" a compliment.  When a student wants to get a compliment, I ask that three students raise their hands to give this student a compliment. The student may choose one of those three people to give him or her a compliment.  When receiving a compliment, I remind students to say "Thank you."  You may have to have a mini-lesson on how to give compliments and how to respond to compliments.  

Surprise Topic: It could be anything.  Tell about your favorite food, animal, book, movie, etc... Or it could be based on something that you are learning in class.  You may even have a jar with topic ideas written on small pieces of paper.

Peak or Pit:  Students tell about their high point of the week (Peak) or their low point of the week (Pit).  Again, as a teacher, you will gain valuable information about your students during this share time.  

During morning meetings, students may share information that may be sad. For instance, they may have a family member who has passed away, or a relative who is gravely sick.  They may share happy moments of their life.  It is ok to let them open up in this safe environment, but be sure to establish guidelines of mutual respect.   If you feel a student needs to speak more in depth about something going on in their life, please refer them to your school guidance counselor who can help them in more serious matters.

Here is my well loved and used TRIBES book.  It has great ideas for
how to establish community building time in your day.  
Morning Meetings are a great way to build a rapport with your students and encourage a supportive, positive learning community.  

You can get more ideas in The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete, Morning Meeting Afternoon Wrap-Up by Donna White, or TRIBES by Jeanne Gibbs.

Do you use Morning Meetings in your classroom?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section below!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yummy Alliteration...Three Ole's For Taco Tuesday!

Ahhhh, yummy alliteration!  Who can resist that?  Taco Tuesday is a staple in our home.  During a busy week, I know I can count on Taco Tuesday.  I don't have to think about it.  Tuesday rolls around and I know we're having some version of a taco or tostada.  And believe me, there are lots of variations. 

Get the recipe for homemade taco seasoning in the recipe section below.
As promised in my blog title, I will share delicious and easy recipe ideas for busy teachers, or anyone who wants an easy meal for their family.  On busy weeknights, I try to keep it simple, yet delicious.

There are many variations for making tacos.  You can easily change the protein from ground beef to ground turkey, chicken, pork, steak, shrimp, or fish.  You can make it vegetarian and add beans or grilled veggies.  If you want to make your ground beef stretch a little more, you can add beans to the meat mixture.  Sometimes, I like to add black beans, especially if I'm feeding a large crowd.

The outer shell can be changed from a hard, crunchy taco shell to a soft flour or corn tortilla.  My husband has to eat gluten-free, so I always use corn-based products for him.

Really, you can add just about anything to a taco or tostada.  Some of the things I like to add include lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, green onions, black olives, sour cream, salsa and avocado.  The possibilities are endless.

Taco Tuesday is great for entertaining.  Put all the toppings in small bowls and let your guests top their tacos or tostadas with what they would like.  It's easy and fun!  
Ingredients for Taco Tuesday.
You can also make taco pizzas, taco salads, or nachos.  For taco pizza, just use refried beans (or you can use my special bean recipe- see below) and salsa instead of pizza sauce.  Bake pizza crust in oven as directed. Then top with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and anything else you'd like. It's always a hit at my house.  Refer to my post called "Mexican Pizza" for the full recipe.  For taco salads, I line a bowl with tortilla chips, then top with salad mix and ground beef or chicken.  Then I add in all the extra toppings. We love to have nachos for movie night, or when there's a big game on tv.  I just line a cookie sheet with tortilla chips, add taco meat or chicken, shredded cheese. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts.  Then add your cold toppings such as tomatoes or black olives.  It's oooey-gooey good!

Here are a few recipes you can use to add some OLE! to your Taco Tuesday:

Loaded Tostadas
tostada shells
1 can chili beans- blend in food processor (see tip below)
taco sauce
shredded lettuce
shredded cheese
diced tomatoes
black olives
green onions
sour cream
sliced avocado

Instead of using refried beans, I use a can of chili beans that I blend in the food processor.  I discovered this by accident when I was making tostadas one night and realized I didn't have a can of refried beans.  I had a can of chili beans and decided to make my own version.  It turned out great.  The beans come out smooth and creamy with a zippy flavor.  Now, I use them all the time.  Plus, it only takes a few minutes to make.

Directions:  Blend beans in food processor.  Spread bean mixture on tostada shells.  Add spoonful of taco sauce on top of beans on each tostada. Bake tostadas in oven as directed on box.  After removing from oven, add lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, a dollop of sour cream, black olives, green onions, and a couple of slices of avocado.
Zippy bean mixture for tostados, Mexican pizza, or burritos.
2-3 ripe avocados
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro- pull leaves off and chop coarsely
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt (or to taste)
1/2 lime- juice only

Dice the avocados.  Add diced tomatoes, chopped onion, chopped cilantor and lime juice to diced avocados.  Add salt to taste.  Mix ingredients together.  I like to mash some of the avocado, but leave some big chunks of it in the guacamole.  Serve with tortilla chips or top your taco or tostada with guacamole.

This recipe can be altered to your taste.  Add more or less of anything.  I have a group of friends who come over for Taco Tuesday and I have to alter this to fit their tastes and dietary restrictions.  One is allergic to onions.  One doesn't like tomatoes.  And, one doesn't like cilantro. So, when they come over, it ends up being mashed avocado!  

Here's a tip for avocados:  Cut avocado in half, remove the pit.  Use your knife to do a crosshatch pattern. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado into your bowl. When you scoop it out, it will come out as diced avocado!

Cut avocado in half.  Make a crosshatch pattern in half of the avocado.  Scoop out using a spoon.  It will come out as diced avocado.  If you just make straight lines, it will come out as sliced avocado.  Pretty nifty trick!

If you are taking the guacamole to a party. Double the recipe and put the avocado pits in the mixture before taking to the party.  It will keep the guacamole from turning brown.

Easiest Salsa Ever
1 can Rotel Tomatoes
1 can Mexi Stewed Tomatoes
2 green onions
1 handful cilantro

Blend ingredients together in food processor.  Refrigerate.  Stays fresh for about three days.
My friend Kristi shared this recipe with me and I've loved it ever since.  It so easy and always turns out great.  You can adjust the amount of onions or cilantro to suit your taste.

Best Taco Seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine ingredients in small bowl.  Cook ground beef.  Drain excess fat.  Add taco seasoning to ground beef. Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup water to meat mixture. Stir and let beef mixture simmer on low heat. Add to taco or burrito shells.  

My friend Sonya shared this recipe with me years ago.  It is so good.  I like using it because my husband must eat gluten free and there are so many seasoning mixes that contain gluten.  Of course, if you don't have any dietary restrictions you can save time by buying a package mix- no judgement here!
Ingredients for taco seasoning.
Look for more easy recipe ideas at The Teacher Dish.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Easy Breakfast Sandwich

Let's face it.  Mornings can be hectic.  I'm not a morning person, so I need a quick and easy breakfast to start my day.  I learned about this recipe when I was in home economics class in middle school.  It is so good that I've been making it ever since.  I've adapted it over the years and recently added the Canadian bacon.  I love the combination of the sweet and salty ingredients. My husband loves it and gives it a two thumbs up.  I am sure kids would love it too.  You can even make the sandwich the night before, wrap in foil or put in a baggie, and you have breakfast on the go.  It's easy and delicious.

Easy Breakfast Sandwich
2 slices raisin bread (I use raisin cinnamon swirl bread, and gluten free raisin bread for my husband).
1 slice cheddar cheese (swiss cheese would also taste great).
1 slice pineapple
1 slice Candian bacon, sandwich style
1 tablespoon butter (or you can use cooking spray).

Makes one serving.

Directions:  On top of one of the slices of raisin bread, layer a slice of Canadian bacon, a pineapple slice, and a slice of cheddar cheese.  Top with the other slice of raisin bread.  Butter the outside slices of the raisin bread. Place in a grill pan on cook on medium heat until toasty and cheese is melted.

Wrap in foil for a breakfast on the go!

I hope you enjoy this yummy and easy breakfast sandwich.  

Layers of sweet and salty ingredients make the perfect breakfast sandwich.

Look for more easy recipes at The Teacher Dish.

- Karen (aka "The Night Owl")

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Show and Tell is for Big Kids Too!

A couple of years ago a student in my fourth grade class wanted to bring something to show his classmates.  I hesitated saying yes because I wasn't sure I wanted to take the time for him to do this.  And I thought, what kind of junk does he want to bring from home?  Well, I finally relented and said yes. In order to be fair, I asked the rest of the class if anyone else wanted to bring something in to show.  Of course, almost every hand went up in the air.  

So, I asked,  "How about next Tuesday?".  The room erupted in a unanimous, "Yes!"   "We'll call it Show and Tell Tuesday".  Everyone was in agreement that it was a great idea.  And that's when it all began.  

We continued Show and Tell Tuesday the entire year.  Kids brought in lumpy backpacks and mysterious packages.  They were always thinking, "What am I going to bring next week?"  

Every time I would remind students about Show and Tell Tuesday, they would excitedly tell me about the things they planned to bring.  It's something the kids truly looked forward to.  We learned so many things about one another. We learned about places we'd been, things we liked, and everything in between.  I learned that taking time to show these precious things wasn't wasting time at all.  In fact, it was time well spent.  It was a great time for me to get to know my students and for them to get to know each other. During this sharing time, my students also practiced listening and speaking skills.  

I've continued Show and Tell Tuesday at my new school with my new group of fifth graders.  At first, when I announced that Tuesday would be Show and Tell, they looked a little confused.  "What?  Show and Tell is for little kids." they said.  I replied with, "Really?  You mean, you don't have something interesting you'd like to share with the class?"  Then I could see it.  The wheels turning in their heads.  Their eyes lighting up. I could tell some of them were already planning what to bring.  

I gave them four guidelines:
1.  It can't be fragile.
2.  It can't be expensive.
3.  It has to fit inside their backpack.
4.  It can't be alive.

Tuesday finally rolled around and they were READY!  We gathered on the carpet in a circle.   We took turns, one by one, and showed our items.  We had a variety of items... from medals... to hats... to a plastic dragon.  Some brought their backpacks and waited to pull out their beloved object until it was their turn.  I think they wanted it to be a surprise.

My fifth grade class loved Show and Tell.  They are already planning what they are bringing next Tuesday.  Now you see, Show and Tell isn't just for little kids.  It's for big kids too.

Karen's Famous Guacamole

2-3 ripe avocados
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro- pull leaves off and chop coarsely
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt (or to taste)
1/2 lime- juice only

Dice the avocado.  Add lime juice, diced tomatoes, chopped onion, and chopped cilantro to diced avocado.  Add salt to taste.  Mix ingredients together.  I like to mash some of the avocado, but leave some big chunks of avocado in the guacamole.  Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.  Or you can top your taco tostado, or burrito with guacomole.

This recipe can be altered to your taste.  Add more or less of anything.  I have a group of friends who come over for Taco Tuesday and I have to alter this to fit their tastes and dietary restrictions.  One is allergic to onions.  One doesn't like tomatoes.  And, one doesn't like cilantro. So, when they come over, it ends up being mashed avocado! 

If you are making this for a party.  Double the recipe and put the avocado pits into your bowl along with the guacamole.  It will keep your guacamole from turning brown.

Here's a tip for cutting avocados:  Cut avocado in half, remove the pit.  Use your knife to do a crosshatch pattern. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado into your bowl. When you scoop it out, it will come out as diced avocado!  If you want to make slices, just cut straight lines and scoop it out.  Nifty trick!

Keep checking The Teacher Dish for more easy recipes.

- Karen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books Dealing with Big Issues- Bullying & Gossip

Bullies and gossipers.  Oh boy, I just have one word- "Ugh".  Unfortunately, you will probably encounter them at some point in life.  So, I have a few books to help you facilitate some meaningful class discussions on these two topics.  

Bully by Patricia Polacco
Well, I happen to love ALL things Patricia Polacco, but this book really is wonderful for opening up discussions about bullying, and especially cyber bullying.  The story centers around Lyla who is the new girl in town.  She immediately forms a friendship with another new kid named Jaime.  Lyla joins the cheerleading squad and is befriended by a group of popular girls who make fun of other students on Facebook, including Lyla's friend Jaime.  Lyla recognizes bully behaviors when she sees them.  I won't give the rest away, so you'll have to read the rest yourself.  It's a great story about a girl who is brave enough to stand up for her friend.   

One by Kathryn Otoshi
Such a clever book that uses colors and numbers to teach an important life lesson.  In the story, Blue is the quiet one.  Red is the hot headed bully who likes to pick on Blue.  The other colors- yellow, orange, green, and purple don't like it when Blue is picked on by Red, but they aren't sure what to do or what to say.  So, they do nothing.  That is until One comes along and shows them how to stand together and make their voice count.  By using colors and numbers in such a simple way, Kathryn Otoshi, teaches readers about acceptance and how it takes just ONE person to make a difference.  

Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna
Yes, that's right.  Madonna.  You heard me right.  THE Material Girl.  In case you didn't already know, Madonna, along with writing a billion hit songs, also writes children's books.  And, good ones at that.  This particular one is fantastic for teaching about gossip and spreading rumors and how they can cause harm to others reputations.  The story is about Mr. Peabody, a teacher and coach, from a small town that gets ostracized when rumors are spread about him.  Mr. Peabody takes matters into his own hands, squashes the rumors, and teaches the boy who spread the gossip a valuable life lesson.

All three of these books are great for interactive read alouds.  They are memorable books that teach valuable life lessons to students.  


"We The Kids"- Creating Class Constitutions

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to create a class constitution.  Students need to know the expectations and procedures for your class.  You can call this document a class contract, a constitution, or class expectations.  It doesn't really matter, but expectations need to be discussed and clear to students.  It helps if they are a part of this process because if they are included in writing the expectations, they are more likely to follow them. Get them involved!

Before writing the class constitution, I read the book We The Kids by David Catrow.  We discuss the benefits and importance of the United States Constitution.  This book discussion leads to the discussion of creating rules and guidelines for our own classroom.

After reading We The Kids, I ask students to think about their "ideal" classroom and get a picture in their mind.  I ask students to brainstorm and come up with ideas for this question:  "What does an ideal classroom look like, sound like, and feel like?"

Using chart paper, I create an anchor chart with the title, "What does an ideal classroom..." Then I add three columns for the following categories:  looks like, sounds like, and feels like (see photo below). Students brainstorm and offer ideas for each category while I jot them down.

After reviewing their ideas as a class, students help create the wording for the class constitution.  I have included some examples of the documents that my students have created in the past several years.  Remember, these are student-created!  Students can come up with some GREAT ideas!

After you write your class constitution, you can have each student sign a copy. I have taken the signed copy to a copy center and had it enlarged to poster size, so I can display it in the classroom.  You can also make copies for each student to keep in their school binder.  It is nice to have copies on hand, or on display, so you can refer to it when needed.  

Getting kids involved in writing their own classroom constitutions helps to empower them, build ownership, and create accountability. If you have a great idea for class constitutions, please share in the comment section.  Thank you!

- Karen