Monday, September 12, 2016

Food Allergies and Celiac Disease in the Classroom

Food.  It's everywhere.  Think of a special event in your life and most likely food is a part of that memory.  Food nourishes us.  Food is social.  Food is EVERYWHERE!  Yet, imagine if your survival depended on avoiding certain foods.  This is exactly what so many of our children deal with on a daily basis at school.  This blog post is written for all our students who have food allergies or have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and their teachers.  My hope is that this post will help educators understand their role in this food-based society.
Food Allergies Celiac Disease School

Food Allergies

The statistics can vary, but 1 in 13 children have food allergies.  The most common food allergens are:  peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish.  However, children can be allergic to any type of food.  Reactions vary from minor to life-threatening.  I can't remember a year when I didn't have a child in my classroom who did not have food allergies.  And it seems to be more prevalent today than when I first began teaching.

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is NOT a food allergy.  It is an autoimmune disease.  1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac Disease.  If you know someone who has Celiac Disease, they must avoid gluten (wheat, oats, and barley).  It damages their intestines and can cause a myriad of other health issues from stomach problems to developing other autoimmune diseases.  My daughter Tessa was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2002 at the age of 9 1/2.  I remember coming home from the doctor and typing "Celiac Disease" in the search menu of Google and feeling completely overwhelmed.  Avoid wheat? oats? barley?  It was everywhere and in everything.  Our daughter had already been diagnosed with Down Syndrome,  Type I Diabetes, a thyroid disorder, and now this.  Avoiding gluten back in 2002 was extremely hard.  It was before "gluten free" became a health fad.  Gluten was everywhere.  Fast forward to 2016 and there are so many gluten free options, which make our lives so much easier.

How Can Teachers Help?

Understand that food allergies and Celiac Disease are life-threatening issues that touch all of our lives.  We, as parents, are not over-reacting.  Our children must avoid these foods.  Please do not look at it as an inconvenience.  We need you to be on board with us.  We thank you for your understanding, care, and time that it takes to learn about us.

Educate yourself about food allergies.  There are so many wonderful websites that have pages dedicated to teachers dealing with these issues in the classroom.  Here are 2 of my favorites websites with direct links for educators.  They are quick reads.  Bookmark them.  Pin them.  Print them out.

Food Allergy Research and Education
Celiac Support Association

Communicate with your families.  We are problem solvers.  We must do it every day.  There isn't a day that goes by when I can "pretend" Tessa does not have Celiac Disease.  I can come up with a solution for most every situation that occurs in the classroom.  But I need your help.  I have to know the plans for what is happening at school.  Here are some things we (parents of children with food allergies or Celiac Disease) need to know about in advance.

  • Birthdays (Cupcakes, Cookies, and Snacks, OH MY!)
  • Parties (What food will be served?)
  • Field Trips (Will I need to pack a lunch? snack?)
  • Lessons Involving Food  (What are you preparing?  What is the educational benefit?)
  • Art Projects (Wheat is in finger paint, play dough, and starch along with other art supplies and food related projects.)
  • Sensory Table (Allergens lurk in many of your sensory items)
Playdough is a staple in the early childhood classroom.  Here is a link for gluten free play dough from the Celiac Family.  While you are there, check out all of the wonderful resources for teachers and families.

Substitute flour with cornmeal (some children may be allergic to corn) or rice. Avoid putting tree nuts in the sensory table during the fall, if you have a student allergic to tree nuts or peanuts.

Pasta is another favorite in the sensory table.  Here is a link to my blog post contribution to the Preschool Spot with a fun activity using gluten free pasta.

Stamps, stickers, and envelopes can have wheat on the back side (sticky part).  Do not let students lick stamps to put on envelopes in the pretend center.  

Be Prepared for having the student with food allergies or Celiac Disease in your classroom.  Each child should come with a health plan designating steps to take in case of an emergency. Here is an example of a health plan for children with food allergies from FARE.  This is an excellent website discussing 504 plans, IEP's and other supports from Kid's with Food Allergies.  Your school should have a plan in place for dealing with food allergies and Celiac Disease.  Things to consider are cross-contamination and exposure to these allergens or gluten from other sources.

Be Inclusive.  Choose alternatives for food-related activities if possible.  Do not use food as a reward. Plan an extra recess or special activity in class.  Games and centers are great alternatives to food.  When planning lessons, think of the objective.  Can it be accomplished without food?

WANT TO DO MORE?  I love this link from FARE.  They have a program called Be a PAL  which helps your other students understand food allergies and how they can help their friends.  Make sure you have the parents' permission to discuss the child's food allergies with others.

Thanks for joining the conversation.  You can check out our Face Book live with Vanessa Levin from PreK Pages on Monday, September 12, 2016 at 7:00 CDT.   Please leave a comment and share your tips or links to other online resources.

We appreciate YOU!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Leprechaun Movement Activity

Need a fun movement activity for St. Patrick's Day? Let your little ones pretend to be a leprechaun to this fun rhyming poem.
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Turn around. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Touch the ground. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Stand on your toes. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Touch your nose. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Hands in the air. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Hands on your hair. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Arms out wide. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Sit and hide. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Give a clap. 
Leprechaun, Leprechaun 
Hands in your lap. 

  • Start the poem by standing up. 
  • Follow the directions in the poem. 
  • On sit and hide, have the children sit in criss-crossed or learning position and cover their heads pretending not to get caught being a leprechaun. 
  • Finish the poem by having them put their hands in their lap. 

 This works perfectly because it gives them movement opportunities and ends with them in learning position. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Have fun working with rhyming words while having a brain break too.

Would you like a printable version of this poem?  Click HERE for your FREE printable.

This adorable clipart is by Krista Walden from Creative Clips.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Math and Science Fun with Balance Scales

Is is a math center?  Is it a science center? It's both!  Make this fun DIY balance scale for your classroom.  It's so easy to make that all of your students can have their own balance scale.

Materials Needed
  • 1 extra long popsicle stick (Michaels or Hobby Lobby)
  • 2 binder clips
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 Biggie Bead
  • 1 clothespin
  • 1 mini rubber band
  • optional (4 black magnetic discs)
  • Slide Biggie Bead onto the pipe cleaner.
  • Place it in the middle of the pipe cleaner.
  • Slide the mini rubber band onto the long popsicle stick and place in the middle.
  • Wrap the pipe cleaner around both ends as seen in picture below.
  • Place binder clips over both ends of the pipe cleaner to secure.
  • Place clothespin on Biggie Bead.
  • Discuss with students how to make their scale balance (hang equal) by keeping the bead/clothespin over the rubber band.
  • Use suggested objects below to weigh.
(affiliate ads are included in this post to help show the items used in this project)

Place a round magnetic black disc (see link below) on front and back of binder clips.  Have your students compare sighing paperclips and magnetic discs. Give your students play dough and let them create different shapes to weigh.  Use linking chains, plastic spoons, crayons and other items to weigh too.

Want to Do More?

Recycle Starbucks lids or small cups and use to weigh other objects.

1.  Hole punch lids in four different places.
2.  Attach pipe cleaner through one hole and string through binder clip
3.  Attach the pipe cleaner in the opposite hole and secure.
4.  Repeat steps with 2nd pipe cleaner.
5.  Follow the same directions for the other side of the scale.

Let the weighing fun begin!  

Can you think of other objects to weigh?  Leave your ideas in the comments section.

Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Structure and Function - The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function.
  • Develop a simple model based on evidence to represent a proposed object or tool. 
Math Standards:
  • Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight.  
  • Directly compare two objects with a measure attribute in common, to see which objects has "more of"/"less of" the attribute.  For example, which objects weighs more.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Teaching CVC Word Families

Do you struggle with teaching CVC word families to your students?  How about teaching them to blend phonemes?  I've been working on a project for a couple of months and it is finally finished!

Preview a sample of my new mini-video bundle.  There are 12 videos for teaching 12 different word families.  They focus on the sounds the letters make and blending those sounds to make new words. They also teach the phonemic awareness skill of substitution of the first sound.

Copy the printable on colored card stock and then either laminate or place in a pocket protector.  Use these sheets during small group instruction.  Sing, chant, spell, and blend over 60 words.
CVC Words


Use these sheets for independent practice or for assessment.  The flip books can be placed in a center to complete and then used during small group instruction to do word work. Send the flip books home for students to read with their families.

You can learn more about this product HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

YouTube Songs for the First of School

Are you ready for school?  Here are some great Back to School videos on YouTube.

First up!  Patty Shukla!  Love, love, love this song. This one is so catchy and has a great theme. Be responsible - be safe!  Thanks Patty for your great songs and videos. I have a link to her songs on Amazon at the end of the post.

The next one is about feelings.  You can do the same thing with your students.  I always read books about feelings at the first of the year.  We discuss them and then I take pictures of my students making these expressions.  I then turn the pictures into a video presentation through Animoto.  Children love acting out the different emotions.  Children just love being DRAMATIC!

Next is Harry's Kindergarten.  It's about the rules of the classroom in a rap version.

This next song is about feelings too. Young children need to express how they are feeling. They need lots of practice naming the different emotions and how to deal with them.


 Next is a song by Jack Hartmann. It is called Here We Go - The Directions Song. Our young children need fun ways to learn how to follow directions. Put directions to music and dance and let the fun and learning to follow directions begin.



Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wikki Stix Activities

Do you like Wikki Stix?  Wikki Stix is great for building names, ABC's, sight words, and word families. It is also a perfect fine motor activity which makes it a win-win for the early childhood class. As a teacher, I loved that the children stayed engaged, but I didn't like the sticky mess or organizing it.  Then, I came up with a simple way to use wikki stix.


Materials Needed:
  • 1 inch notebook with plastic pockets
  • Wikki Stix
  • scissors
  • ABC chart
  • painters tape
  • plastic tub

  • Place a strip of painters tape across the middle of the notebook (right side).
  • Place ABC strip inside pocket on left side.
  • Cut Wikki Stix pieces in half.
  • Arrange Wikki Stix pieces by color on the right side.
  • Ready to use!

  • Place in a plastic tub with a lid.

And there you have it.  No more Wikki Stix mess on the tables.  It stays on the notebook and will last through the whole school year.  Storing it in the tub help keeps it pliable. I also place a package of baby wipes beside the tub and remind my students to wipe their hands before they build words.


You can also use one notebook for storing the Wikki Stix and give the students black clipboards as a place mat to manipulate and build words.  This takes up less space, but they have to share the wiki stik.  Either way, when center time is over,  have your students put the Wikki Stix back on the right side and sort it by colors.  Easy Peasy!

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(affiliate links included)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Back to School Songs and Games

I have some new games, songs, and books ready just in time for school!  And they are on sale through Wednesday, August 5, 2015.  Remember to enter the code BTS15 to receive 28% off the original price.  Keep on reading.  There is a FREEBIE ALERT in here too.


Young children learn best through a multi-sensory experience. If they can sing it, they will remember it. Knowing letter-sound combinations is crucial in learning to decode words and read.  Just turn on the mini-music videos and let them sing away :) As a request from many buyers, I put 6 together in a BUNDLE.  I've also updated some of the videos with new clipart and fonts over the past year.  

Learn about the rules at school from the Gingerbread Friends.  This packet contains 2 books along with multiple versions (color, black & white, 2 teacher books, 2 student books, and 2 power point versions) and a poster set of the rules. It also comes with a mini-video and mp3 song.


This is a fun book to use at back to school to show how to make friends.  This packet contains a teacher book, 2 student versions for differentiation, and clipart to build an anchor chart with your students.  I've included both the color and back and white options.


Back to School Game

This a fun game to play the first week of school.  It is supported with picture clues so even young children can play.


I designed these games so children can play them independently and practice their fluency at the same time.  There are picture clues to support them in reading and finding the correct words.  I copied mine on colored card stock and laminated for durability. I also included other ways to use these cards including word sorts and in Read & Write Around the Room.  Recording sheets are provided with all packets except the Alphabet Fluency Card Game and Blends Packet.

Alphabet Fluency Card Game

This comes with 4 different versions.
Uppercase & Lowercase
Uppercase & Lowercase with Picture Supports

Blends Fluency Card Game

Help your children master their letter blends with this card game.

Short Vowel Fluency Card Game

Play, read, sort, and record with this fun game.

 Short Vowel "an and at" Card Game

Focus on two frequent word families using the short a sound.  These games make great literacy centers to use on the floor, table, or in a pocket chart.

Silent e Rule Card Game

Play, read, sort, record!  The picture supports help students self-check their work.

Two Vowels Together Card Game

Children need repetitive practice learning the 2 vowels together rule.  This game will provide them with the practice they need in a fun way.

Phonics Fluency Card Game Bundle

Purchase the bundle and SAVE!  I combined all of the phonics card games above into one bundle.  Once you teach the rules to the game, your children will be independent in playing the other versions.

If you haven't been to my store in a while, drop by and visit.  I've added more mini-videos and activity packets this past year.  You can search in the drop down menu under most recent to see the newest packets.

Thanks for stopping by!