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Making Pancakes: A Literacy Lesson Plan for Early Learners June 5, 2012

Posted by Jessica in Uncategorized.
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Making Pancakes: A List of Ingredients

Kindergarten: Summer 2012

**Ideally I would like to complete this lesson in small groups while other children are engaged in other literacy centers and activities.  I have written this lesson as a whole-group activity and it can be adapted to be in a small group setting.

Objective and Purpose:

Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

~ Common Core Standards W.K.2.

The student will use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose a list of ingredients he or she could use to make pancakes.

**This list will be used in later lessons to make an accordion book using drawings and writing to explain how to make pancakes.


Anticipatory Set:

The teacher will engage the students by discussing the following:

Show me a thumbs up if you had breakfast this morning.

I had _____ for breakfast this morning.

I would love to know what you had for breakfast this morning.  In fact, I think I will make a list of the breakfast foods we had this morning. 

Let’s start by adding what I had for breakfast.

The teacher will use a marker to draw a picture of each breakfast item she had this morning on a post-it  and sticks it to the wall/board to begin the class list.  Teacher adds a word labeling the picture underneath the picture).

If you would like to share what you had for breakfast this morning, raise your hand.  When I see your eyes on me and your hand raised, I will know that you want to share with the class and will give you the talking stick so you may come up and share.

The teacher will give children a chance to share what they ate this morning.  Students who wish to draw it on a post it and add it to the class list will be able to do so.





Why lists are important:

  • Lists are very important to what we do every day.  Sometimes if we do not make a list, we do not remember everything we have to do. 
  • I make lists when I go to the grocery store so that I do not forget the things I need to make dinner for my family.  If I wanted to make macaroni and cheese, but forgot to buy the cheese, I would be in big trouble with my little boy when I got home.  He couldn’t have macaroni and cheese without the cheese!  Then it would just be macaroni!


  • Lists help us remember things that are important.  When you make a list, it is for a reminder to help you do things.
  • Lists can be made by writing words.
  • Lists can be made by drawing pictures.
  • We are learning to write words.  Sometimes it will help us to add a picture with our words.
  • Sometimes if we do not know exactly how to write a word, a picture can be an important reminder of what we wanted to write. 
  • We can draw a picture of the word and use our letter sounds to try to spell an unknown word later.

What we are going to do today:

  • I am going to share a story with you today about a lady who obviously forgot to make her list when she was supposed to gather the ingredients for her meals from her farm or from the grocery store. 
  • We want to be able to make a list of the ingredients she wanted to include in her pancake recipe so that later, we can make our own list.
  • You have a job as I read.  Show me if you can rub your tummy like you’re hungry (teacher demonstrates).  You rub your tummy like this.  When you figure out something she forgot to put on her list in the book, I want you to rub your tummy.  Do you think you can do that?

The teacher will read the wordless picture book, Pancakes for Breakfast, by Tomie DePaola, stopping to discuss items that the woman needed to make her pancake breakfast.

  • Thank goodness she had nice neighbors who were able to help her get the yummy breakfast she wanted.  If she made a list, she would have been able to make her own pancakes, though!
  •  Let’s take a picture walk back through the book and make a list of the ingredients she would need in order to make her own pancakes.  As we go through, I’m going to get volunteers to help make the list together.

The teacher will guide the students back through the book, helping them recall the items they identified earlier that she needed to make her pancakes. 

The teacher will model making a list of ingredients with pictures and words using markers and post-its, as follows:


























































The teacher will provide input concerning making a list:

  • When you make lists, they are to help you remember, so you can use anything that will help you remember.
  • Often, lists are made up of words.  Sometimes when I don’t know a word, I try my best to spell it with letters and letter sounds I do know, but I add a picture to help me remember what I wrote.

Check for Understanding: The teacher will use a checklist to monitor every child’s response to the following questions (See attached list of questions/Students for quick assessment which will be used before and after dismissing for Guided Practice)

  • How do lists help you?
  • How could a list have helped the lady in the story?
  • How can you make a list if you can’t spell some words?
  • What kinds of things can a list help you remember?
  • What other things could you add to your list of ingredients to make pancakes?


Guided Practice:

  • You are going to make your own list of ingredients to make pancakes.
  • At each table you will find some markers, post-its, and paper to make your list like we did together.
  • Each of you has a copy of Pancakes for Breakfast at your group’s table.  You can start by looking through our list of ingredients and looking back in the story to make a basic list of ingredients for pancakes.
  • You can be creative by adding some ingredients to your list.  You could make chocolate chip pancakes by adding chocolate chips.  You could make pink pancakes by adding pink food coloring.  You could even make pickle pancakes by adding pickles.  Pick one of your favorite foods and make a list of ingredients for your very own favorite kind of pancakes.
  • When I call your table, you will be able to begin working on your ingredients.  Feel free to ask your friends for ideas or help.  I will be helping you too.

The teacher will call each group so that they may go to their table to begin working.

The teacher will circulate among the tables, listening to conversations and viewing the children’s work.

The teacher will stop to talk with each student to quickly Check for Understanding of those who did not answer the questions presented in group time so she has a complete set of data.

The teacher will use the data to reteach/clarify the concept if needed before providing Independent Practice.



Independent Practice: (To Be Completed in a 2nd Session)

The teacher will review some of the children’s lists of ingredients for pancakes.

The teacher will read Peanut Butter and Jelly by Nadine B. Wescott.

The teacher will lead the class in discussing their favorite food ( hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, pizza, etc.) and the class will make a list of them.

The student will identify one of his or her favorite foods.

The student will make a list of at least 3 ingredients they would use to make his or her favorite food by using pictures, words, and explanations.


The teacher will use the following product-based assessment to check for understanding and learning:

Did the student’s list…

  • Contain 3 ingredients?
  • Contain 3 pictures and/or 3 written explanations?

2 of 2 = Mastery, Extend Learning

1 of 2 = More Practice, One-On-One Instruction

0 of 2 = Reteach


  • Students can make a list of ingredients needed to make another favorite food.
  • Students can publish their pancake ingredients on their blog.
  • Students can make their own menu of different types of pancakes they would have in a pancake restaurant.

**Students will use this list of ingredients for our next project in which they will compose an informative/explanatory text, naming their favorite food and explaining how they use the ingredients to make it.

The Kid Whisperers March 28, 2012

Posted by Jessica in behavior, early childhood education, management.
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You may know one. There are teachers out there whose classrooms function calmly in a storm of 30 little bodies…60 grabby hands…300 wiggly fingers. My son had such a teacher last year. I will call her Mrs. S.

If I could follow Mrs. S covertly, observing her every move to soak up her strategy without being slapped with a restraining order, I would. As it is, I grill my son daily and hope to keep learning about her magic methods in third person as I scramble to make sense of behavior management genius through the eyes of a six-year-old.

“Here’s Your Sign”

In the past I have usually used sign language as a way of “quietly interrupting a lesson” if a student needs to go to the bathroom.  If are in the midst of reading a story, helping another student, conducting reading groups, this will be the time you are interrupted by one child after another wanting to go to the bathroom.  It is such a relieve when, instead of being interrupted by “Ms. So-And-So!, Ms. So-And-So”, I can scan the room and see the sign for toilet.

With a nod of my head, I continue my reading group (min-lesson, assessment, or story) without verbal distractions from the group.

Bathroom needs are not the only interruptions you will have, as you may know.  By using signs you can consistently minimize distractions and interruptions.  So following I will share some handy-dandies that I have stolen learned from stalking observing Mrs. S.


For the little boy who cannot sit still on the rug, the little girl who is whispering to another student during instruction, or the child who is playing with toys on the shelf, make eye-contact, give the teacher stare, and sign:  Self-Control

ASL Self Control

This can also be useful for the class who has gotten way too excited.  Use an attention-grabbing sound (I suggest a rain stick) to bring their little eyes back to you, establish that eye contact and teacher stare, and go for it:  Self-Control


Our one-on-one instruction is the ESSENCE of differentiated education in this day and age.  Many interruptions make it nearly impossible to complete a short, 5-10 minute personalized or small group mini-lesson.  Teaching your students the help sign and giving them a nod to acknowledge it while jotting their name quickly on a note pad tells them, “You’re important and you’re on my list… right after I finish this”, minimizing interruptions and maximizing work potential for teachers as well as students.

Stop It…Now

So many uses!  “Stop” is the forerunner for the teacher who wants to give a child a warning, but continue to teach the lesson.  “Stop It… Now!” is so much more emphatic… and she can reserve it for those “You’ve gone over the line moments.”  Be serious if you use it.  Your students will also start to use it in their own conflict resolution, a real win-win.  Begin with “Stop”.  Move into the entire phrase.


Learn from the best.  Watch the masters.  It has made such a difference in my classroom.  Try it.  Tell me about it.  Did you come closer to becoming a kid-whisperer?

create your homework February 21, 2012

Posted by Jessica in Bloom's Taxonomy, early childhood education, homework.
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Homework should not be something we give to our students because we did not have time to get to part of a lesson in class.

Homework is intended to be practice of concepts already covered in class.  An effective teacher will use completed homework to assess her teaching skills and student mastery to guide further instruction within a unit.  I like to take the issue a step further.

I initiated a once-a-month program called “Create Your Homework”.  Every month students get to choose (or they can be assigned) something we have studied in class and create a homework project based on his or her understanding of the topic.  Examples of types of projects I have seen or suggested include:

  • Cooking projects using standard measurements we have studied in class (cups, teaspoons, etc.)  This is also a great way to incorporate fractions (1/2 tablespoon, and so on).  Write the recipe and instructions for how you completed the recipe, what tools you used, etc.
  • Draw pictures or take photographs of a weekend activity you do often with your parents (going to places such as church, the park, or doing common activities such as walking the dog or going to soccer practice).  Make into a presentation and retell the story for the class.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

I have found that during these projects you have the flexibility to allow children to choose or create their own topics or, at times, you may also assign topics to each individual child to allow additional practice and to check for mastery.

In order to appreciate the benefit of Choose Your Own Homework, let us look at one of the above-topics:


Insect (Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer)

Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

A teacher could send home a worksheet asking the following questions:

  • How many legs do insects have?
  • What is special about insects’ skeletons?
  • List the 3 body regions of an insect:
  • What are antennae?
  • Do all insects have wings?

There you have it:  traditional homework which involves basic recalling of facts.  In Bloom’s Taxonomy your students will only be accessing the first level: Knowledge.  This level includes identification, recalling information, and knowledge of major ideas.  As teachers we know that this does not necessarily demonstrate a complete understanding.  We want to extend their learning and use as many levels of the taxonomy as possible to check for mastery: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

Think back to the example of “Create Your Homework” we are currently discussing:

Cut out pictures from magazines of examples of insects.  Label any special characteristics that make each insect a part of the insect family.  Are any of them alike or different from one another?  Based on what you know about insects, create your own insect.

We are asking our students to apply the specific knowledge of the characteristics of insects by using said characteristics to find examples of insects in original sources.  They are demonstrating comprehension by transferring this knowledge into a new context.  We are then asking them to analyze their findings by separating the idea of the insect into its component parts and seeing patterns among our examples.  Finally, we are asking them to take what they know about insects and create a new creation that follows the same patterns they have identified; to synthesize the information.  For children who are ready, we could extend the assignment into evaluation by giving various pictures of “imaginary bugs” so that they may examine each and judge them on the basis of whether or not they fit the criteria for belonging to the insect family.

This approach checks for basic knowledge as well as a student’s ability to use that knowledge.  Our goal is never to have our children memorize useless facts, but to understand new concepts in relation to their world and be able to use the knowledge they gained to become successful.  We are teaching them to become critical thinkers.  Our homework assignments should be useful to that end.  Practice and quizzes have their time and place.  They will always be part of the homework routine.  Let us challenge ourselves as educators, though.  Let us extend our fact-checking into a functional check of our students’ thinking skills.

You may discover, as I did, that students begin to extend their own projects into different realms, making connections across the curriculum.  These are the connections for which we strive.