Sunday, August 31, 2014

A forever freebie to celebrate a 3 day weekend!

I made this poster to hang in my classroom for when I introduced the concept of stamina to my kids. We talk about having stamina for both read to self, and for writing during writer's workshop, so I wanted a constant visual reminder for the kids. I've put it up in my TpT store as a freebie. I hope some of you can use it in your classrooms! The graph below it is also a freebie that you can grab from the freebies tab right here on my blog! 
Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Busy First Week Back!

You know it's been a busy week when you start a Five for Friday post on one Friday and end up actually posting it the following Friday...
Last week was full of meetings and room prep...and meetings. Is everyone else's pre-planning like that? A lot of the meetings were worthwhile this year though, and for the first time in a while I actually didn't have to worry about changing rooms or redecorating at all. It was nice to walk in and only have to put my chairs down and do a few other prep things before getting right to the planning. 

The planning this year is bound to be one of my biggest challenges. I'm looping with a little more than half of my class, so most of the things I did last year in class need to be done a little differently this year so that I can keep it fresh. That means finding all new read-alouds, and doing some different community building activities than before. 

So, I came up with a few new activities that I thought went really well! I went ahead and added them to my store. Check 'em out!
These Back-to-School Classroom Procedures Task Cards were perfect for reviewing my classroom procedures of course, but also handy in teaching my kids how we use task cards! I know we'll be using them all year long, so it's great for the kids to get practice with this routine now.

We also played this fun get to know you activity I came up with. My kids played "The School Supply Headband Game" with these school supply cards I made. Kids picked a card, and held it to their forehead. They broke into partners, and they gave each other clues about their picture until they could guess what was on their card. To add a little challenge, I had a rule that each clue could only be one word. When kids guessed their card, they got a new card and switched partners. The kids loved it!
I'm actually making permanent headbands in case we play with other cards
later in the year! The kids loved it and asked to play again later.

I didn't think up all new things and make up all of my own materials, of course! There were still some tried and true activities that I'd learned about on blogs that I hadn't had a chance to try last year. I saw the activity "Saving Fred" on Ideas by Jivey last year and though I'd give it a try. It turned out great! 

In the end, 4 out of 5 of my groups were able to save Fred in the 15 minute time limit I gave them! The kids had a blast, built up some teamwork skills, and everyone enjoyed a gummy worm in the end! 

I was also able to use an activity I first learned about and tried a couple years ago that I thought went really well. I started by talking with my kids about how the things we say and do can have lasting effects. Then we read the book Mr. Peabody's Apples (by...Madonna). Afterwards I gave each kid a tissue paper heart and had them crumple it up. I told them that the wrinkles in the paper were like hurtful words being said. I asked them to apologize by smoothing out the heart. They quickly realized that it was impossible to completely smooth out the paper, kind of like how it can be really difficult to completely erase the hurt we cause other people's hearts when we say or do hurtful things. I think it made a big impact on them, and I'm hoping they'll remember this activity all year long.

I started launching my reader's workshop early in the week, and read The Name Jar the first couple days of reading. The kids really enjoyed this book. And it was perfect because I really think that my student who moved here from Korea just days before school started really believed that I picked it out just for her! If you haven't read this one yet, check it out! And be sure to grab up this book packet from the Collaboration Cuties to go along with it.

I started The Year of Billy Miller on Thursday. This is a pretty good book to start off the year for a few reasons. Billy is starting a school year for one. It has a great message. And it doesn't hurt that it is kind of short. So we'll be ready to start a new book right around the time we're done launching our reader's workshop and in the swing of things. 

All in all we're off to a great start! I'm really excited about the possibilities for this year! It's great to have one of the smallest classes I've had in years (just 20 kids!), and I'm excited to be teaching just 4th grade this year because it means that for the next two years I'll be doing a 3rd then 4th loop. That means I'll be able to pull all of the best parts of the past two years and tweak them rather than reinventing the wheel completely!

How has your first week gone? Check in with Doodle Bugs Teaching to see some more Five for Friday posts!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer's End and What Did We Miss Linky

Have you heard the good news? TpT is having a second chance sale on the 20th! This is great because when the last sale hit I wasn't really ready to be thinking about back to school yet! But now the month has dwindled away and it's time for me to get ready for school again! I start inservice tomorrow, and the kids return the following week.

I have been CRAZY busy doing paperwork and making preparations for our adoption. It's amazing how many forms there are, and other steps that have to be taken just to get to the point where we're eligible to be matched! I've also been trying to wrap up the construction on our house...which means that I have not had the usual time to go up to the school and get ahead of the game by setting up my room before school starts. I have a feeling this first week will be full of long nights!

So check out my bought, wishlisted, and must have for the sale!

Diane from Fifth in the Middle has put together this great set of ELA centers to help out during Reader's Workshop throughout the year. The activities included cover skills like alphabetizing practice, determining synonyms and antonyms, parts of speech, and vocabulary. Each of the individual products included are perfect to help you plan out one of your centers for at least a week, and with 6 products currently included, that's a lot of help! The best part? Buy it now on the cheap and when Diane adds another product to it and raises the'll be able to re-download it for free and get the new pack!

Coming up with meaningful morning work can be such a struggle. But it doesn't have to be! Why struggle when someone else has done all the work for you?! This pack from Pinkadots Elementary covers a ton of those English Language Arts grammar and usage type skills that sometimes kids just need to practice a bunch to get a firm grip on them. You know, stuff like "Its and It's" and comma usage. I really like how the Friday page is an assessment for the week! I think it's crazy not to grab this up while the sale is going on...a year's worth of leveled ELA morning work at what comes out to under 70 cents a week? Yes, please! My time saved is worth way more than that!

In addition to the rest of my store, I decided to go ahead and put all of my bundles on sale 20% as well! I'm really starting to feel the crunch from all the adoption fees... so maybe I can help you, and you can help me! This would be a great time to grab up my Back to School Bundle! It has six of my most popular back to school products included. During the sale it will be just $9! That's the cheapest these products will ever be! That's kind of like buy 2 get 4 free!

This would also be a great time to grab up two of my most popular Monster Math Battle Tournaments bundled together! The multiplication and division tournaments can be mixed together to have one big tournament! During the sale you could grab the bundle for $5.76! That's almost buy one get one free!

My whole store will be on sale for 20% off, and don't forget to put in your promo code to get your extra savings! I've got a lot of other great products that you could grab for cheap! People seem to love my novel units and my math games, and this is a great time to save on those. So, please check out my store!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PA Blog Hop - Tips and Tools for Back to School!

It's hard to believe that lots of my buddies have already gone back to school! I still have a couple of weeks until the kids return, but I'll be heading in this week (unpaid of course!) to set up my classroom. Some of my fellow PA bloggers and I have made this blog hop just in time for our back to school...hopefully it will benefit all of you too!

We're each sharing a tip and a tool for you to use as the new year begins!

Collaborate with Google Presentation!

It was really hard to pick just one thing to talk about here! I've had all of the back to school stuff swimming in my head for a couple weeks now...and honing in on one seemed impossible!

But in the end I figured I'd share about something I do that I think really helps me work better with my colleagues. It's all about Google Docs!  

I used to e-mail a copy of my lesson plans to a couple of my colleagues and all of the special educators, specialists, and paras that I work with. It just makes it easier this way. I don't have to worry about a para not knowing what is going on...and I don't have to worry about remembering to tell the special ed teacher that we've got a special project on a certain day.

One day this past year I was planning with my intern and we wondered if it'd be easier to do it as a google doc. Since then I've created my same weekly schedule in Google Presentation, and then shared all of my peeps on that file. 

Now each week I make a copy of my template slide, (pictured here on the left) then adjust it for any changes in the schedule for the week, then I fill it in with my plans (the basic version). I usually print the slide for myself and my intern as well to clip to a clipboard on my desk. 

Here's a plan in progress!
It's really handy to change the colors of the cells to represent different things. Like one color means "my intern is leading this lesson" and another means "Special Event/Field Trip." I also add notes about meetings I have before and after school. I usually have a few weeks in advance at various stages of being mapped out. And when things don't go as planned? It sure is easy to cut and paste the stuff inside one of the cells and move it down the line.

Why Google Presentation and not Docs? Well, in Presentation each week can be on it's own slide! AND you can merge cells in a table in Presentation, but not Docs! And did you know that you can change the size of the slide to be the same size as a piece of paper? You can! It's under "File" and then "Page Setup"

I've had a LOT of positive feedback from the paras and teachers that I share my plans with. I know a lot of people might be nervous about the idea of sharing your plans...but I think we should be proud of our plans, there's nothing to hide anyway, and it makes communication so easy! Think about trying it out!

EEKK Poster for Read to Someone

This is a handy poster for when you introduce the concept of "Read to Someone" to your kids. You take a picture of some of your kids (I would pick the ones that are LEAST likely to be well behaved during Read to Someone, so you can remind them later that they are the models for the class!) The rhyme on the poster is a great way for kids to remember how they should be sitting. This poster matches a lot of the other decor and Daily 5/CAFE items in my TpT store (most of which are free)!

If you're new around here, thanks for stopping by my blog today! I hope that you enjoy the freebie I shared today. Be sure to stop by my Freebies tab at the top of my blog to check out about 20 more cool freebies! Like what you see? Become a follower!

 Don't stop reading here!  
We have more tips and tools for you.  

Next up is my bud Wendy over at Read with Me ABC!
Have fun hopping!

Graphics and fonts used in this post were courtesy of I'm Lovin' Lit, Melonheadz, and KG Fonts.  Check them out!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Big Announcement for Us!

So, this post is purely personal, no great teaching tips, products to share, or book reviews here...but I did want to let all of you know some big news for my little two-person family.

We are finally taking the plunge and have begun the journey to adopt our first (and very possibly only!) child. For the last seven years it's just been the two of us kickin' around in this house and we're hoping to grow our family by one as soon as possible. 

The process is a long, nerve-wracking, and expensive one. A domestic infant adoption can cost between 30-50,000 smackeroos. But every journey starts with a few small steps! And that's where many of you guys came in...

Whether you knew it or not, you guys have been helping us take steps for the last year and a half! Any time you have purchased one of my products, or even given me a good rating on a freebie, you've been helping our journey get started. Every cent of my Teacher pay Teachers earnings have been going into our adoption fund. In fact, that has been my motivation for all the work I've put in since day one! And now I'm proud to share that I recently hit the first TpT milestone! That's an amazing start (we're halfway there!) to the unfortunate high expense involved with this journey. 

We realized that we didn't have a single
working smoke detector! YIKES!
I'll be installing these new smoke and
CO detectors all over the house soon!
All of the flooding and set backs we've had with our house has been really discouraging. One of the adoption requirements is a home study, and with the state of our flooded house, we had to get that fixed. But last week, as many of you know, my dad and I put in 7 fourteen hour work days to put things back in order! We got most of it corrected, and luckily I only spent about a third of what it would have cost me to hire someone to help. 

It was still a financial setback...but we have decided that if we keep waiting for the "financially right time"...we could be waiting forever. So, we're trusting that God will provide, going into debt a bit, and we've taken the plunge and started the official process this past Saturday! 

We've started working with an agency, and have learned about all the things that we need to get in order to be matched with a birth mother. A lot of it is pretty standard stuff, like getting clearances, but there's also a doctor's appointment to prove we have normal life expectancies, a TON of paperwork to collect, the home visits (which means lots of cleaning and finishing the construction), the interviews by the caseworker, we have to write autobiographies, get letters of recommendation, make our profile(kind of like online-dating), and yada yada yada. It's a bit overwhelming...

This is the first piece of homework,
reading through this massive
information packet, and getting
all of our preliminary paperwork
It's also a bit scary because the timeline is so unsure! We could get everything together, complete our home study, and find a match super quick...or it could take months to a year to find a match. I'm a little jealous of most people's pre-determined 9-month timelines.

But like I said...small steps!

I was wary about sharing my reasons for TpT'ing...but some of my BBBs out there convinced me to share the good news...and I really did want to thank all of you, whether you've bought something from me, or whether you've given a rating, pinned something from my blog, or even if you've just helped motivate me to keep writing this blog by commenting or reading my posts. It still amazes me how blessed we are that TpT is making something like this possible. With our salaries, it frankly wouldn't be possible otherwise. 

I'll be sure to include updates about our journey as we move along it! Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five for Friday - Sore muscles, a big sale, and a giveaway!

After a LONG week of basement and bathroom remodeling, I'm exhausted! But I'm still taking a moment before I collapse from exhaustion to chime in for Five for Friday by Doodle Bugs Teaching!
It's hard to believe that it's already Back to School time! I'm excited to be seeing some of my old 3rd grade kiddos as my new 4th graders! It should really help with all of that beginning of the year rules and expectation setting stuff. Only half the kids need to be caught up to speed! I am lucky that I still have a couple weeks until the kids come back. I have a LOT to do! I've got to finish this remodel AND get ready for the new year! 
The basement is almost totally drywalled! I now have more tools than Home Depot. And the bathroom is...unusable so far! I'm hoping to wrap up most of the work by this weekend!

The best part about Back to School time is that this is the perfect time to fill your online shopping cart and save a bundle of money! That's right, the TpT Back to School Sale is happening next Monday, August 4th and Tuesday the 5th. 

Everything in my store will be marked 20% off! Then, use the code BTS14 to get an ADDITIONAL 10% off! 

Need some ideas of what to buy? Here are the two most wishlisted items in my store:
My Wonder Novel Study Unit is 174 pages long! If you haven't read this book yet then you're doing yourself a serious disservice! Be sure to check out my unit for the companion novel/sequel The Julian Chapter too!

One of my favorite products is my second most wishlisted! The Book of Awesome Tasks is a half-page book that you can make for your kids. Test their creativity and make them do a little work without them realizing it! My kids love the book, especially during rainy indoor recess days! 

And I hope you'll peruse the rest of my store too. I have a lot of dollar items that'll be a steal during the sale, over 20 freebies up for download all the time, and a ton of other great things, all in the 3-5 buck range...super cheap during the sale! All of the money I make in my store goes to a really great cause! I'll be sharing more about that later!

Of course, I'm not going to miss my chance to grab up some things. One thing I'm especially looking forward to is the 4th Grade Math Bundle from Jessica Scott's TpT store. You might know Jessica from her blog, I {heart} Recess!

I'll be teaching 4th grade math for the first time this year (I taught 3rd last year) and I need all the help I can get! This set currently includes 5 products, but if you buy it now at the cheaper price you can re-download it later when the 6th product is added!

Check out some other products you might like to buy!

Now that you've seen some cool stuff to buy, here's a chance to get a gift card to help you get those things!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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