I am definitely on a budget, and this week seems tighter than ever. You will see that reflected in this week's menu (please remember I only plan 5 dinners a week, as we tend to either eat out on the weekend, or figure something out last minute). I find stews and soups are the best when you are on a budget.

Remember, it's so much better making your own dinners. You have better control of what you are eating, and it tends to be so much healthier for you. I always create a menu for myself so when we do our grocery shopping, I know exactly what I am getting (which makes grocery shopping, something I hate, faster and less expensive).


Monday: Tortas with Ham

     *This is fast, easy, and delicious. I like to make this when I low on energy, or short on time*

1 bagget per person
4 slices of ham per bagget
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced onion
cheese (optional)
guacamole (optional)
Jalapenos (optional, for heat)


Toast baggets in the oven
Spread baggets with mayonnaise and guacamole
Layer with ham and cheese
Top with tomatoes and onions and jalapenos

Directions for homemade guacamole:

Use 4-5 ripe avocados and smash with a fork
Add just a touch of mayonnaise, and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Use a squeeze of lime juice to keep it from browning

Tuesday: Chicken noodle Soup

    *This is the best homemade chicken noodle soup. My family loves it. It's filling, hearty, and healthy. It's also a great dish for fall.*

4 Carrots (I like to dice them as they cook faster that way)
2 slices of onions chopped
4 celery stems (diced)
3 potatoes (diced)
3/4 small bag of noodles (I use fideo noodles)
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3-4 garlic cloves minced
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 dried chili pepper for heat (optional, and some chilies are hotter than others, so you really need to know your chilies) 
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Dice all your vegetables
2) Put a pot of water to boil. Add bouillon cubles, and herbs and spices, tomato sauce, and garlic. Boil.
3) In a separate pot, put your chicken breasts to boil.
4) When the soup begins to boil, add your vegetables and bring to a simmer.
4) I typically allow my chicken soup to cook 1-2 hours because the longer it cooks, the more flavorful it becomes.
5) After chicken breasts have cook (about 30 minutes), place them in a bowl and use 2 forks to shred them. Wait until about your last 20 minutes of cooking the chicken soup to add the chicken.
6) Once you have added your chicken, and the soup is almost done, add the noodles (fideo noodles take about 3-5 minutes to cook), and then serve.
Fideo noodles


Wednesday: Tuna Melt

 *Here is another fast and easy dinner*

Canned tuna (I use about 4 cans, but I have a family of 3)
onion (just a couple of slices, diced)
salt and pepper
Sliced bread
Sliced cheese
French fries

I am sure we have all made tuna melts before, but here are the directions in any case:

Mix tuna, mayonnaise (just a touch, about a tablespoon, and depending on how much tuna you are using),  onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Layer with a slice of cheese.

Add the mixture in between your sliced bread, butter the outside of the bread, and toast.

I usually make french fries to go with this. Tomato soup is another nice side to have with it.


Thursday: Lentil and vegetable soup

  * a new dish I have not yet made*

I plan on making this exactly the way I make the chicken soup, except I will not have chicken, and I will use pasta shells instead of fideo. I will, however, provide you with the link that inspired me to make this dish (its recipe is different than the way I plan on making mine).

Click here for the lentil recipe, or just follow my chicken noodle soup recipe instead


Friday: Chicken tender loins
Pinned Image

* I have never made this dish before, but it looks delicious. I will include a link to it that explains all the ingredients needed, as well as provides the instructions*

I am making mine with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Click here for the recipe

 Maple Leaves clip art  Fall really has come at a very opportune time for my class. We have been working on a unit of "Changes" since the second week of school. So many different topics fall under this focus, such as our bodies, intellect, our lives, and nature (which is where we are currently at). What a great lens from which to view fall: change! The leaves fall, the wind blows, the colors change. The weather becomes colder and cooler, and it's the perfect time to take out the sweaters and scarves and bundle up.
  It just so happens that fall really is my favorite season. Perhaps this is why I am so motivated to really vamp up my unit. I recently started to think about how I can create an even better unit, really embracing more of fall, like Harvest, Thanksgiving, seasons, etc. Since I teach internationally in Mexico, I have never really done thorough studies involving Thanksgiving with my students, but from a global, multicultural perspective, I think I really do have a duty to enlighten my students in this area. So, I would like to bring this into our focus on changes. In addition, since we have many Koreans at our school, I would also like to include the Korean harvest celebration, "Chusok".
  I am curious to know how all of you are embracing fall in your own classrooms. What activities will you be doing, or have done already, with your classes? I look forward to hearing from all of you.

   school ruler

   I have often thought that as teachers, we really should have a focus, like a specialty area. I know many of us do. Some of us teach British lit., or chemistry, still others are special education teachers. Still, within those specialized areas, we still should have a focus. Not every doctor is a brain surgeon, after all, and so we too should specialize in some area of teaching. Perhaps this is more challenging for the elementary teacher of multiple subjects. Where does one begin?
  My area of focus has been creating and maintaining a positive classroom climate. This is an area that should be important in all classrooms, and for all teachers (and I am not suggesting it isn't). I have chosen, though, this area to be one in which I put much concentrated effort, thought, and practice into. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this was the area in which I studied and researched in graduate school. I chose this as a research area because I was very troubled as to how I would reach the students in my current district (at that time, many of the schools I was involved with were low-income, and I was presented with challenging students).
   After studying and researching this topic, I made a commitment to myself to continue this study. It wasn't enough to stop with it at graduate school, but I needed to further my understanding by continuing to actively pursue it in my own classroom. As such, this is what I do on a day-to-day basis. Since students cannot learn until they feel comfortable and safe, I feel this supersedes any other necessity in the classroom.
  During the summers I continue to read research on the topic, even going back to my own findings. In the classroom, I actively reach out to my students to build those ever-important relationships to ensure students feel safe and care for. I take time to listen to my students and hear their pleas. How quick are we to disregard what they have to say? With a tender heart, I try my best to always listen to each of my students. Is it draining? Yes. Time consuming? That too. Well worth it? Definitely.
  What about the rest of you? What do you focus on in your teaching? How do you actively work on that focus daily? I would love to hear from you.

Graphics by:

    Click to viewThis past week (still this week, really, since today is Friday) was an extremely short week. With Tuesday and today off, we have 3 short days to finish our study on changes in nature. Last week's focus and this week's focus was on plot, visualization, ed words, and ar sounds in language arts. We examined our focus question (or big idea) through Frog and Toad, and other such literature that depicted nature.
    We also began our study on creation, which tied in oh-so-nicely with our focus question (I love integrating, especially when I can make it work!). We were able to look at all things in nature that God created, right as we were studying changes in nature. I found many wonderful songs and short videos that went right along with our study, which really helped to enhance student understanding on the topic.
    My kids also engaged in a week-long writing project (recall that our week-long consisted on three days), going through all steps of the writing process. They wrote a fictional story, set in a garden (anything goes with that assignment, the only requirement was the setting).
    This was essentially what we did this past week. It was a short, fast week, but we were able to tie up the study on our focus question, and we will be ready to start anew once we return from our two-week vacation.
   What about the rest of you? I would love to hear what you have been doing in your own classrooms. Click to view

 Maple Tree clip art  I love sharing and hearing about what is going on in our classrooms. How true is it that as teachers we are so busy, in our own little world even, that we are somewhat clueless about what's happening in the classrooms around us? I know this is true for myself. I am even going to create this as a series, and would love it if you participated by creating your own so we can all all. If you do, just leave a comment saying you created your series, and I will be able to check it out (and so will others).
  This past week was a short week since Friday was an in-service day. We were able to pack in lots of learning in the meantime, however. For reading, we just finished our short study on theme, enveloped within our big idea of "changes that are exciting". I was so excited because my students were able to pull from their readings and connect to their own lives. It's not always easy for students to look beyond the text to the bigger meaning, but I really try to get students to think bigger than the literal text. With everything they read, I ask them to apply it to their own lives. In a way, I ask them to form a personal relationship with that text.
   We just started a new chapter in math where we are focusing on adding double digits, data, and graphs. It as been somewhat of a struggle for some of them as we have looked at different ways to make a number, asking them to make a ten into ten ones. Thankfully, only a few of them are still struggling with this concept, and I am continuing to work with those students in math centers to help them develop the concept.
    In Bible, we just finished learning all about families, how families are chosen by God, and how believers are part of God's family. My students worked really hard on being responsible and helping as good family members in their own homes.
    What about the rest of you? Since this week isn't over, you can share what your kids did last week.

    Rockin Teacher Materials is hosting a linky party on word work. Although the linky party asks to share one activity, I feel compelled to share my entire word work packet. The word work packet lists about 20 different word work activities for students to do (some include play-doh spelling, spelling art (where they write their words and make designs with the letters), and other such fun activities). The kids absolutely love the activities, and since there are 20 different activities, they are not always doing the same thing, so they don't get bored.
    I spent the first several weeks going through each word work activity with my students whole-class. About a month into school, I felt my students had a good enough grasp on the activities that they could be left to work on it alone. Now what I do (which was my initial plan all along) is pull a group to work on phonics during this time, and the other students work on their word work packet.
   Since we focus on spelling patterns in our spelling words, I find that the different study practices within the word work packet truly help the students in their identifying those patterns. On our last spelling test, every student got over 100% except just one student. I think that alone speaks for the success of the different word activities.

Get a copy of my Word work packet  for free.

      Color Crayons The beginning of the year is always tricky when it comes to assessing. Most of the students have not been studying or thinking about anything school-related over the summer, and tend to assess lower than normal. My students started the first weeks of school very low in math. I was actually scared that I had so many low students, and without an aide in my class, I didn't know what I was going to do.
     I recently wrote a post commenting on the benefits of math centers, which really is my answer to helping meet student needs. Since we have now been doing math centers for several weeks, I thought I would comment on how much improvement I have already seen in my students. The benefit of doing centers is that you get to focus on small groups of students at a time. Depending on how much time you have alloted, you might get to work with anywhere from 2 to 4 small groups a day. My time contsraints allow me to work with only 2 small groups a day, so I work with my lowest group, and my middle group, but what a difference that time makes! I track student progress between quizzes and exams to see what they are struggling with, and where they need to go. Though many students tested very low at first, everyone has improved. Most students have improved by 30% or more. Those who have so far shown a lower percentage improvement are those who started pretty high initially.
   Girl with Books I am so pleased with the improvement of my students that I really wanted to share it with all of you, and use this as yet another reason to plead for math centers and small groups. Its effectiveness really is astounding.

What I Eat To Feel Great Part 1: The Genesis of My New Diet

         This started as a podcast episode, but I just had to turn it into a blog post as well. To preface, I am not qualified to give a...