Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School Goals, Winners, and PA Blog Hop Freebie!

I'm linking up with I Heart Recess for her Back to School Goals Linky!

Personal: Killer B and I decided that we should spend more time out and about on the town, and less time in front of the TV. So we're making it happen!

Organization: My organization goal is huge. As I've mentioned before, I'm moving rooms. Right now all of my teacherly possessions are in one of three places. In boxes stacked in my new classroom, in boxes stacked in closets in my spare bedrooms, or spread all over my living room. Sooo much to do.

Planning: I read Teach Like a Pirate this summer and (what I'm writing here sounds uber-snobbish, forgive me) I couldn't help thinking throughout the whole book that it was full of great ideas that I already knew. I suspect a lot of you readers out there felt the same way. BUT, that being said I would recommend it to other teachers. I think it serves as a great reminder of why one should teach, and how one should plan. I'd like to make sure that I try to implement these ideas even more than I have in the past this coming year. 

Professional: One of the big things I could improve on is filing ideas. I am awful at saving my ideas for the future. I have my lesson plans from prior years, but there are so many little things that I don't write into my plans. Inevitably the next school year comes around and I think to myself, "What was that alternate for 'Class-yes' that we used last October? It was so fun...aargh!" 

And my math games and centers are a mess. I have a clean slate with my new grades and room, so I want to start filing the right way (with future years in mind) this year!

Students: My goal is really just to have a classroom for my students where they feel safe and happy and want to come each day. The rest will follow.

Motto: Of course, I believe it is key that an educator loves what he/she does. If you aren't loving it, something needs to change.

On another note, I have some winners for my 350 Follower Giveaway! I've already notified you through e-mail! Congratulations! I'll be putting together something bigger for 500! 

A while back I had the pleasure of meeting some great teachers from around my state in person. It's funny because I felt like I already knew many of them from reading their blogs! 

Among the discussions ranging from blogging tips, math workshop, and stories of some of our favorite teaching moments, Wendy brought up the idea of a Back-to-School Blog Hop to showcase us PA Bloggers and reward our readers with some freebies! Of course, we all love before you knew it, Andrew had whipped up our blog hop button and we were on our way!

The freebie I'm contributing to the hop is inspired by a pin I saw on pinterest that linked back to the fun Keepin it Kool in Kinderland blog. Last year I attended a workshop and while I was out my kids apparently told the sub they were not who they actually are. Not a huge deal, kind of funny, but preventable and possibly ripe for problems. Never again!

Click the image to get it!
So I whipped up this editable powerpoint template for making a photo class list to stick in my sub binder! Type in the names, drop in the photos and "send them to the back" behind the frames, drop in a digital paper to make it look fancy, send it to the back, and wah lah! 

So, now that you've grabbed up my freebie, dropped a healthy rating on it on TpT, (and maybe decided to hit the "follow me on bloglovin' button), head on over to the next stop on the hop, which is with Wendy from Read With Me ABC!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Made its!

I'm linking up for the 4th Grade Frolics' last Monday Made it for July. I can't believe July is practically over! Sigh! So much to do, so little time.

My first Made it is pretty simple. I did some of the ever popular mod podged clipboards. I had paper that fit almost perfectly, but left a stripe at the top and bottom that was perfect for washi tape. So I taped that part and mod podged over it too. It worked well! And not having to line up two sheets of paper or put ribbon in the middle made it easier.

I've also been working on a lot of decor items for my classroom. I made up these new daily schedule cards and nameplates to match the rest of my classroom's new color scheme. 

I made them in two styles, one with stripes and one with chevron pattern. They're fully editable! And they're just $2.00 in my store

This is my October template!
A while back I put together a new set of monthly newsletter templates for this upcoming year as well. I made a custom clip art image to go along with each month.

I went ahead and made them in both color and black and white. One of the first things I do is set up an e-mail list for my parents, because I send most of my correspondence that way now, including the newsletter. Every once in a while there is a parent who wants hard copies, so I just copy and paste the text onto the black and white version for easy printing. The set is just $4.00!

In other news, have you heard about the 8 great days that are coming over on Jivey's facebook page? Between July 31st and August 7th, Jivey will be hosting a giveaway a day! That's a lot of chances to win something from some of my favorite bloggers!  While you're on facebook, hop on over and follow my page as well!

Also, be sure to come back on Wednesday because we're having a Freebie Blog Hop hosted by the PA bloggers that met up recently! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Smorgasbord Randomness!

So it's a good thing that Fabulous in First hosts this fun Sunday Smorgasbord linky, because everything I have to blog about right now is kind of random.

I've been reading everyone else's back to school posts with a mixture of jealousy (I know, easy to say that now!) and relief. I'm a crazy planner, and I love to be ahead of the game. I'm moving classrooms AND grade levels this year, so I feel like I'm already weeks behind the curve. Right now my school is being cleaned, so I can't get into my new room and work. So that's where the jealousy comes from. The relief is that I still have a few weeks of summer to get my act together.

So, time for some randomness! If you follow me on instagram, then maybe you've seen my growing addiction to one of the latest craft trends, washi tape! As a long-time crafter I've been using colored/patterned craft tape for years. But I always bought it online with a very specific use in mind. But now that washi tape is becoming popular, I can find it in stores easily. Before I knew it I had accumulated these 18 rolls in the matter of a few days. 

While working on non-teaching related crafts I've ended up with lots of scraps, so I randomly started doing this to my keyboard. Now it has become a craft of its own and I'm using it as an excuse to buy some more varieties of tape to finish off the last 13 keys I plan to do. (I'm not going to do the letters and punctuation I don't think.) See how this problem is growing? I've found myself washi taping all kinds of things. It's out of control.

You could tell the mailman was wondering
why I was delivered 3 giant boxes that weighed
almost nothing!
So, I did a donorschoose project last year and acquired a bunch of brand new beanbags for my classroom. And when I moved my stuff into my new classroom (all in boxes, stuffed in closets...stress) I discovered that the exiting teacher had left behind 4 large black beanbags for me too! The problem? They're all flat as pancakes. So, that's why I went ahead and ordered these big bags of bean bag pellets from Walmart online for $12 a pop. I couldn't find any in person. It looks like a lot of stuffing, but I'm curious to see how far it goes in the beanbags. 

I broke down and solved a problem that I've dealt with every few years for my entire career. I don't know if everyone else deals with this or not, but I have been buying and replacing these blue cardboard mailboxes every 3 or so years because by that point they're collapsing and broken. I bought some new ones the year before last with classroom funds, but since I am moving rooms and grades I had to leave them behind, leaving me in the position of either buying the same blue ones or investing in something else. 

I decided to try out this plastic set from Staples. I bought two of them, but put them together to just make one big set of mailboxes. It's still only about 2 feet tall. I'm pretty happy with how sturdy they feel, and I'm looking forward to not having to worry about replacing mailboxes ever again. Of course, spending another $110 out of pocket was the trade off. Shhh...don't tell Killer B!

Now I just need to find a durable and reasonably priced solution to book boxes. My magazine files are BEAT. I'm thinking about doing plastic shoeboxes in their desks. Thoughts? Solutions? Help!

Have you seen this documentary yet? If not, it's on Netflix instant streaming right now and well worth the hour and 40 minutes. Killer B and I watched it last night. To see how some of these community members and educators handle (or not handle) bullying is heartbreaking, but eye-opening. It's a good reminder that this stuff is happening everywhere, every day.

On a lighter note...

Today is the last day to sign up for my 350+ follower giveaway! I'm going to put together one of those fun "everybody wins" giveaways if/when I finally hit 500!

I hope you've stopped by the great Grades 4-6 Pins board on Pinterest. The $50 TpT gift card is still up for grabs for the rest of today! Go enter if you haven't already (the rafflecopter is in my last post), and thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to follow my TpT store!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Contest!

I'm excited to be one of the collaborators on this Pinterest board!

We know that you're thinking about all of the items on your TpT wishlist as you are switching into back-to-school mode. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a TpT gift certificate to use? Well, it's your lucky day! These upper elementary bloggers are going to help foot the bill!

Here is what you need to do to enter for a chance to win a TpT gift certificate:
  • Click the picture above or {here} to take you to our collaborative board.
  • Follow the board.
  • Find the pin description that contains the special code.
  • Enter the code in the Rafflecopter.
  • Easy-peasy!!
  • Contest ends Sunday, July 28th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In other news, we recently had our PA Blogger Meet Up. We got together at a great little riverside restaurant, with a great view and great weather. It was great to meet some of the other local bloggers out there, and we all agreed that we need to make it an annual event. Everyone left with goodies and smiles on their faces.

Besides Killer B and I there were bloggers from:

Definitely made me miss teaching first grade.  :(

Be on the lookout for a surprise from us PA Bloggers later this month!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Workshop Wednesday - Prep for Writer's Workshop

So, even though I don't go back to school for almost a month, I can't help but start to get excited about "BTS2013" when I sit here and read about all of my favorite bloggers prepping their rooms and getting ready to meet their kids!

I'm chiming in one more time for Jivey's Workshop Wednesday Linky! This time I'm going to talk a bit about how I do Writer's Workshop, and then I'd like to present something to you, my fabulous readers, and ask for input. One great thing about having 350+ followers (enter the giveaway!) is that I can ask 350+ people for help all at the same time! ;) 

So, first a brief explanation of what I do. I begin about 80% of my writer's workshops by reading a mentor text. Most of the time it is a short picture book, or a piece of a picture book that exemplifies a certain trait that I want my kids to emulate. I say 80% because some days we simply take time to "Just Write." 

What I do most days is pretty simple really, and nothing ground-breaking. I do about a 10-15 minute mini-lesson using my mentor text, model some writing along the way, engage the kids in a discussion on the topic we're looking at, and then send them off to write while I circulate and hold writing conferences with students. So the biggest prep I do is procuring books and ideas for mentor texts, and preparing a conferencing notebook. I travel to the kids during conferences, so I usually carry a clipboard and a sheet of labels to take notes for myself. Then I stick the label on their page later.

My writer's workshop is independent of the writing they do during Daily 5 and Science/S.S. time. I'll be doing the Mentor Sentences Units that Jivey has made with my kids this year, and while I plan to tie those into my mentor texts, that will happen whole group in a separate 15 minutes later in the day, after our reading block.

Anyway, in my room I'm a fan of referring to the Six Traits and I have in the past had the ever popular VOICES posters displayed in my room. This year I'm going full out and creating one of the VOICES boards for my room similar to the one I use for CAFE. In the past I've given my kids a VOICES menu similar to their CAFE menu only it focuses on writing strategies, obviously. Here it is:

I'm making the menu a freebie on one condition... I would love it if some 3rd-5th grade friends out there would take a look and see if anything is missing from the menu... I don't want it to be too cluttered or repetitive, but obviously I'd like for the menu to include more strategies if there are some to add. There are currently 30 strategies on the menu. Any suggestions will be taken into consideration and then I'll update and repost the menu as a freebie again!

The menu as it stands, along with my VOICES headers, and the 30 strategy cards for the current menu are available in my TpT store for just $3.00! (You can't even get a Big Mac for that!) Of course I'll update that file if/when I make adjustments to the VOICES Menu.

Thanks for the help! Be sure to check out all the other great ideas in the linky!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 things I've learned...advice for new teachers.

I'm tripling up and linking up with the "Loving Wisdom for New Teachers" Linky from Fabulously First, the Let's Get Acquainted - Teacher Advice Linky from Flying into First Grade, and this linky from Miss Kindergarten:

To do a little linky alchemy, my ten things are in the form of advice, gleaned from my observations and personal experiences + mistakes + successes over the years. (Also, I've thrown in some photos to break up my wordiness.)

Me as a fresh-faced first year
teacher! Bwahaha! Look at that
cool guy...
Well, this next year will be my lucky 13th year of teaching and I have definitely noticed some trends, and learned quite a bit in that time. I'm going to try to not repeat too many of the great ideas I've already read in these linkies. If I do repeat a bit, sorry! I'm afraid some of these will come off as preachy or know-it-allish, please know that that's not my intention! I've definitely even been guilty of a couple of these. But that leads me to my first one...

#1 - Don't ever think you've mastered it. I once worked with a guy who told me that he was planning to move into a principal position because he had "completely mastered" teaching. He'd been teaching for all of 5 years. I refrained from punching his lights out, but I did imagine doing it. If there's one thing I've learned from teaching, it is that one can never master it. You should always be striving to become a better educator.

#2 - Don't let people or "things" steal your passion. Less than desirable trends, admin, parent interactions, curriculum programs, NCLB, etc will come and go. Close your door and do what's best for your kids. Easier said than done sometimes, I know!

#3 - Love what you teach, and if you don't...pretend or at least still love how you teach it. Like our friend Dave Burgess will attest, enthusiasm is key. If you have to teach American History up to the Civil War to 5th graders and couldn't care less about history... pretend. If asked, my students would say I'm crazy about history. In reality I didn't have any interest in it...until I started to act like I did and used full fledged, in depth simulations to teach it. Now it's actually interesting to me!

#4 - Share. Seems simple, but I've found that it's not. If you do something cool in your room, share it! I want to believe that the reason teachers don't share is because they are shy about their ideas. (But I know that some just don't like to share the limelight of a good idea. :(  ) The students always benefit when teachers share. So don't be shy, and don't wait for a colleague to ask you! If your colleagues don't like your ideas they won't use them. Afraid you'll look too proud of your own ideas? Who cares? You SHOULD be proud. The end.

Don't fall into the trap of
being a screamer.
#5 - Keep control. We've all had kids with behaviors that are...less than perfect. We've all known teachers who are screamers. (Or maybe you're lucky and haven't!) Don't be that teacher. If you're screaming, you've lost control...don't blame it on your kids. 

#6 - Have high expectations for learning and behavior...AND enforce them. If you don't back up your expectations then they're meaningless. I think a lot of teachers who struggle with classroom management tell their kids that they have high expectations but then when the kids don't meet them they just let it go. 

#7 - Plan. I know that many of you will read that and think, "duh!" But in my opinion planning is not just smart, it's our duty. Kids deserve their days/lessons to be well thought out and planned with them specifically in mind. Taught it 12 times before? Not to these kids you haven't. "But I want to be flexible in my teaching." Great! But being flexible is not NOT having a plan...I've heard that from teachers across my career and it's a pet peeve of mine.

#8 - Fair is not the same as equal. Our society stresses that everyone should be treated equally. And in many cases that is true. But I think when it comes to education it's more important that people are treated fairly. Everyone should have the equal opportunity to reach their full potential. Click my poster over there to download one for yourself for free! Check out my band-aid lesson post for more on this topic.

#9 - Remember your real job. I almost think the hidden curriculum is more important than the actual academic curriculum. Public education was created to make people into better citizens. If I help make my kids into good people, give them good life experiences, provide them with a place that they feel safe and loved, plan exciting and engaging lessons, and get to know them as people...the test scores and all that will work itself out.

I met Killer B when she was a resource teacher
and taught in the classroom next to mine. I
eventually tricked her into marrying me!
#10 - Keep an open mind. Whether you've heard rumors about a kid on your roster, think you can't learn anything from a professional development meeting, think your methods are already good enough, etc...chances are, you're wrong. Sometimes it's easy to go into something with a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. And when you do that, you're bound to miss out on some wonderful opportunities. 

My contribution to Let's Get Acquainted!
So I hope that didn't come off as too soapboxy. A lot of those served as great reminders to myself! Hopefully there are some new teachers and veterans out there that at least can read this and think, "Right on!" 

Didn't win? It's just $5! Click the image to get one!
So, Killer B picked a winner at random (she didn't even know what I was asking her about!) for my pin it to win it for the Book of Awesome Tasks, and it was Joanne M.! I've already e-mailed your prize to you, and I hope you love it as much as I do!

If you haven't stopped by my 350+ Followers Giveaway yet, please do! It's in my last post!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Made Its, and a 350+ Follower Giveaway!

I have three Monday Made Its today! One for home, one for blogging, and one for school! Then there's a giveaway at the end!

First, home: So, I read a thousand million infinity blogs and I see twice as many good ideas on them. Some are easy because I can just go to the store and buy them. Some I love, but are too intimidating. Many are in my "to-do queue." But this one jumped to the front of the line when I saw it on a crafting blog a while back. 

Killer B and I have the same discussion every single night...

B: "So, what's for dinner?" 
Me: "I don't" 
B: "What kind of food?" 
Me: "Um...good food?" 
B: "What's good food?" 
Me: "Food you can eat."
B: "Ugh, seriously, what's for dinner?"
Me: ""

So I showed her the blog post, she said, "We should make one," and we DID! 

Now, I am the Craft/Hobby King, and could spend hours in Joanne Fabrics, Michael's, Hobby Lobby, etc. Killer B on the other hand has the attention span of a very young child when it comes to all things crafty. So it is a miracle that we actually went to the store and took the time to choose fabric and ribbon that worked well for our kitchen. 

Throw in some hot glue, clothespins, some washi tape, a few drops of super glue, a staple gun and some card stock and there you go! It's our brand new Menu Board! I added a clip for coupons up at the top. It's nice to be able to add new meals to our rotation and not forget about them. The ingredients for the meal are written on the back of the meal cards, which are stored in the little attached box. Here's hoping that our dinner choice problems are solved! I guess we'll see!

Second, for blogging: If you look in my right column, you'll see that my Freebie Stuff Label is updated and actually useful now! I've included links to all of my freebies. Some are free on TpT and some are googledocs. I don't get TpT credits for rating freebies...but you DO get my undying adoration and thanks! So if you like one of my TpT freebies, then please rate it! And if you don't like it...hmmm..I wonder about people like you sometimes...

Yep, too cold for recess that day.
Third, for school: If you're like me you almost certainly dread one thing about teaching more than any other...that's right, I'm talking about the dreaded INDOOR RECESS! Up here in the great state of PA, we have quite a few days of the year where it is just too cold or rainy to go outside. Now, if you're also like me then you definitely have kids in your class who are "fast finishers." And I bet we also have in common that we love the idea of "brain breaks" for kids, right?!

Those three things were what got the gears turning in my brain about my newest TpT product. I call it "My Book of Awesome Tasks" and I am super proud of it.

I've been doing these activities with my kiddos for years, but I've never taken the time to compile them into one handy book until now. I'm in love with the idea of my kids having this book in their mailboxes that they can pull out and "work" in whenever they finish early, or if I think they need a brain break, or even as an option during indoor recess. 

The activities include everything from making and deciphering secret codes, to creating artwork in unique ways, to writing stories, etc. Each activity is unique and includes simple directions.

I love that these activities are educational, call upon their creative sides, and don't seem like work. The activities can be finished simply by younger kids, but allow for more depth and effort to be put in by older kids. To be honest, I already printed a copy for myself to do for fun. 

There are a total of 45 different activities for the kids to do. Of course, pages of math facts, etc. could easily be slipped into the book before stapling it together too! I'm working on a second book that the really industrious kids can get when they finish the first one. The book is in my store for a mere $5.00!  

What?! You can't even get 2 cappuccinos at Starbucks for that, people! And those are gone in less than an hour...this lasts at least 45 days a year for the rest of your teaching career! 

Now, pin it to win it! Just leave a comment with your link and I'll let Killer B pick a number to decide the winner!

Now to the other good stuff...

When I started this blog earlier this year, I have to be honest and say that I was kind of afraid that no one would ever actually be interested enough to read it or talk to me about my thoughts. But instead it has become a way for me to interact with some truly awesome teachers out there in the world that I might not have met before starting this blog. And looking at my stats the other day, I noticed that a few of my posts have over 500 views! It really makes me happy to know that others are interested in reading about my ideas, sharing their ideas with me, helping me with issues I encounter, and just get to know me as a person.

So, all that to's time to celebrate with a 350+ Bloglovin' Follower Giveaway! I have to be frank...I was a smidge overwhelmed with my 100 follower giveaway, and things are about to get real with school I hope you'll forgive me that I didn't reach out to all my TpT friends out there for help. I promise I will next time! I hope the potential to get some prizes from my store will still be worth your while though! I'll select 3 winners!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much to everyone who has read this little blog of mine, left comments, found something useful here, or participated in a linky with me. You guys rock!

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