Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Michigan Meet Up July 2012

I woke up in the middle of the night more than a few times before the big Michigan Meet Up.  I don't know why I get so nervous. Okay, I do - I'll be honest with you here...I knew the next day I was about to meet up with some pretty amazing blogger friends and I'm pretty much starstruck.  To meet the person behind the blog just makes me get all jittery. 

Then I get there, and once I see the smiles....

...I forget about my butterflies!

I learned so much from these people!!!!  We talked about networking, some blogger do's and don'ts, and lots more!  You can tell this was put together by some very organized teachers...LOL!

And look what I won!!!!

Click on the book to visit Maria's blog!
I had some dental work done the day before. I was so afraid that my tooth was going to fly out of my mouth and into somebody's froo froo coffee so I did a lot of listening and not much talking.  You don't know how hard that was for me...

I'm pretty sure you're already following most of our blogs, but there were some friends there new to blogging {and a couple that I hope caught the blogging bug..BARB!} so here's the roll call:

Front Row:
Kimberly @ Funky First Grade Fun
Bethany @ B2 Squared Learning
Katie {A new to Michigan friend who I bet will catch the blogging bug once she lands a teaching job here!}
Kate @ EduKate and Inspire
Erin @ Kleinspiration
Karla @ Teach With a Smile
Maria @ Be the Difference
Patty @ Second in Line

Back Row:
Rich @ B2 Squared Learning
Nan @ Third Grade's a Charm
Barb {You know "The Barb" who I mention here and there in my blog?  I think she *may* have just caught the bug...I'll keep workin' on her!}
Marquin @ Writing for Wrinkles
Christina @ Bunting, Books and Bainbridge

I can't wait to do this again! But watch out...my chompers will be in working order!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writer's Block Be Gone...It's a Lightbulb Moment!

Just finding this cute little idea was a lightbulb moment for me...like...HA, where have you been all my life.  It really doesn't take much to make this girl happy. Breeze blowing through the windows, the smell of rain, a cool pillow and Clean Sheet Sunday...oh, and a good idea found somewhere in blogland.

That somewhere was on Mrs. Plum's cute little blog There's No Place Like Second Grade please be sure to head on over and follow her she's full of great ideas just like the one I ran out and duplicated myself!

Bad camera moment...okay, it's not the camera, it's really me.  I have NO photography abilities whatsoever.  You could put a million dollar camera in my hands and I'd still chop off a head or two.  It's genetic, my mom does the same darn thing.  My sister, on the other hand, is an amazing professional photographer...huh, go figure.  I still blame it on my genes.  So, all the more reason to head over to Mrs. Plum's blog because, SHE, apparently has mastered the click of the camera!

The lightbulbs are those squishy stress balls and can be found at....gotta guess?  Target!!! {dollar spot of course}  I grabbed the last four at mine...it was like winning the Mega-Millions or something...I was that happy! I'm going to put mine in my writing area for those moments when the kids are lacking in ideas and need a little help finding that lightbulb moment!  Genius!

The lightbulbs next to the lightbulbs were my bright idea - HA! Yeah, so I was heading toward the checkout when something caught my eye down another aisle.  I'm sure that never happens to you at Target.  You're in and out - stick to the budget, right?  Not me...never happens.  I bought the cutest pair of sunglasses, a super adorable purse...found THE CUTEST wallet with a squirrel on it that  Missy Squirrels would have just loved and then I saw them...a string of lightbulb shaped lights.  I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do with them, but I'm thinking maybe put them in my writing area "Where First Graders Think of Bright Ideas"....hmmm.....

How do you help your kiddos when they've hit a bit of writer's block?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rules!!! *Freebie*


I still have six more weeks before my firsties will set foot in my classroom.  Six weeks to collect MORE items to add to my ever-growing "get-her-done" list. 

Rules, expectations, class pledge, one Golden Rule...I'm really curious what you all do to establish rules in your classrooms.  Do you call them rules?  Do you involve the kiddos in the process or do you just tell them these are the rules follow 'em or else!? {ha}

I involve the kiddos in this process and it usually takes several days to finish up.  I like to elicit ideas for how they plan on keeping our classroom a fun, safe and happy place to learn. 

Here's how I go about creating rules and the poster I'm going to hang in my classroom.  There's more to it and other beginning of the year ideas like ice breakers, how to start building stamina with independent reading & more in my newest product.  Check it out - but don't forget to pick up your freebie that's included in this pack. 

Click here to pick up both ...

You can purchase it at my TpT store if you click on the preview picture!
So, really, if you could take a minute to share how you create rules that help you do that thing you do - I'd really love to read all about it.  I bet there are some newer teachers in the bunch who would like to read about it too!!!! 

Thanks bunches!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Word Wall Anybody? *Freebie*

Do you ever think about the words you use to name things as a teacher and what it might sound like to others?!?  I just got a giggle out of my "title" for this blog post.  Word Wall...what you talkin' about Willis? 


Nah...just that wonderful wall most teacher deem sacred for those high frequency words kiddos encounter day in and day out.  "You better know those words or Mrs. W. will never, ever do another somersault in class ever, ever again!"

My word wall needed an overhaul.  I mean, I DO refer to that thing every single day...multiple times a day.  "Isn't that a word wall word?  Shouldn't it be spelled correctly?" "Don't you stretch that word wall word out you just know it...in a SNAP" "Do you see this wall? {Picture over exaggerated points, hugs, googly eyes} it's full of some supertastic words".  All that fuss about this wall, but it really doesn't look like much.  I still had the old headers up there that somebody made for me...hmmm....10 years ago?!?  Let's just say they've seen better days.

So I put my newly honed talents to work and created some new ones.  Do you want to know what I like about them?  They are black and white.  I did that on purpose.  Well thought out.  Actually woke up in the middle of the night the other night and wrote it down on my to-do list next to my bed.

I thought they would look really good backed with either a color or with more black {sort of like my environmental print concept}.  My room is so colorful and eclectic - I'm not much of a theme person, so I thought using black and white for those really important items that stay up year-round might help them stand out more. 

If your word wall is need of some sprucing up you can pick up this pack that has three different font choices, two different frame choices and larger headers that spell out "Word Wall".  The larger headers can either match the smaller ones or you can choose this adorable one...

Edited: I added word wall headers for each letter with this same frame!!! Can you say CUTE!?!

There's also a bonus page included that I just know your kids will love...Spell It, Smell It!

I know you're loading your carts just waiting for that big back to school sale you know is just around the corner over at TpT.  Mine is F-U-L-L!!!!

Awww...shucks, I'll just toss out a little freebie...I'm loving my Spell It, Smell It and I just know you will too.  Just be sure to pick up some Scentos to make it complete!!!!  Don't know what I'm talking about?

Click the picture to download!
What's something new you're planning for this next school year?  New decor?  New program? Daily 5? Cafe?  Isn't it awesome how we can reinvent ourselves and our classrooms each year!?!?


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Merry Back To School!!!!

I swear, Back to School {No, I haven't had my dream yet} should be a national holiday. I get giddy just thinking about setting up my classroom, emptying those back to school shelves, especially at Walmart...

Have you seen Walmart's new Back to School line?  I was contacted by CraftProjectIdeas.com and they sent some awesome goodies...FREE!  Yup, it felt like Christmas for this teacher!  I was that excited.  I was even more thrilled when I saw how fun, colorful and sturdy the items are.  Take a look! {But be warned...you may just cut your blog stalking short, hop in the car and head on over to your closest Walmart - no joke!}

Can you stand it!?!?!  If you're frugal {Ha - that's a hoot. Teacher = Frugal} this stuff is for you.  Think less than a dollar!!!!! {88 cents each to be exact!} If they haven't hit the shelves at your Walmart just yet...they will soon.  My Walmart is fully stocked and I'm headed there tomorrow to see what else is there. 

Happy shopping!

Hey, if you want to take a second to share with me your Back to School "must have" that would be great.  I'm always in the market to spend more money on my classroom...hee hee!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Learning Stations {A.K.A. Centers}

Happy Sunday!

Hope you've had some fun this weekend.  I've been slowly chipping away at my summer "to-do" list.  Don't confuse this with a "Bucket List" because that would be filled with fun.  My "to-do" list is more like a "honey-do" list for myself...I'm the honey, and I'm the do-er.  My main squeeze has been busy with his outdoor list and I'm slowly but surely working on my indoor stuff.  On the agenda today....clean the refrigerator.  Hold back the excitment...

As far as "Bucket Lists".  We don't have anything official but tonight calls for some firefly catching and ice cream eating!!!!  {Chocolate Chip Mint please}

My school district has adopted/purchased some wonderful resources for us teachers. We use FOSS kits for science {LOVE!}, Bridges for math, we do Reader's and Writer's Workshop.  Like them all - they work for me.  What doesn't work for me is fitting it all in.  I mean, I do - I do everything that I need to do to get everybody where they need to be; but there isn't a spare minute left in the day.

I've had to let go of a few things I used to do just because there isn't enough time.  The bummer being those few things were still good things and I wish I could find time to squeeze them in.  One of those things is "centers" or Learning Stations - which is what we call them.  Years ago I was able to fit them in three times a week.  The kids LOVE this time of day.  It's easy to plan and I CAN commit to doing them once a week.

If you're like me, and feel like your days are filled to the gills and there's absolutely no way you can fit something like centers back into your schedule - you should think twice about that.  I'm so glad I've held fast to Stations.  At the end of each year when we work on our memory books almost every single "favorite" activity is one we did during that time. 

Just keeping up with the workshop way of teaching {It's good stuff...but let's face it, planning our days is WAY more complicated than it was 10 years ago} can be a lot.  The way that I do Learning Stations is simple and honestly, can be pulled together rather quickly if you're in a pinch.  It's also that time I can incorporate all the awesome center games/activities I find around blogland.

At curriculum night I ask for volunteers to help out in a variety of ways. Learning Stations are one hour, once a week.  It's such a great way for parents to connect with their child in the school setting, I love getting to know the parents better, and I know they love seeing if Bobby is really as naughty as the stories at the dinner table make him out to be!

Honestly, Learning Stations can be as involved or as simple as you want them to be.  This past year was one of those years that I had a lot of volunteer cancellations.  The kids were so trained, they knew just what was expected of them, so as long as I kept three of the stations relatively simple, I was able to bop around and keep things running smoothly {pretty much}. 

Here's the nuts and bolts for how I run them:

I divide the kids into four even groups.  Once I find the right mix, I keep the groups the same week after week. It's just easier that way.  One less thing I have to think about.  I write them down on the sheet below.  You can grab one for yourself if you decide this might be something you want to incorporate in your classroom.  Just click on the picture below.

I run four stations. I talked a little about them {here}. Typically they look something like this:

Art - This is where I'm able to incorporate some of the cute crafts I find or something I come up with.  We paint, cut, paste, glue, etc. at this station.  If it's a solo day for me, I'll provide a simple cut and paste or pull out "Herman" {remember my scrap box?} and have them do tear art, or come up with anything they can using their imagination - I love doing this one...my kids will request Herman Day.  So much of their day is prescripted so when they are given the opportunity to just dream up anything, they have a ball!

Math- I like to practice math facts using a math fact ball, or addition bingo, flash cards, or any math games I might find in blogland.  If I'm going solo, I'll pull out a math workplace from our math program that they are familiar with for them to work on.

Computer- We have netbooks in our classroom so I'm able to set those up each week and they listen to stories, work on math facts, draw pictures, whatever program I've introduced they use.

Science or Word Work - This station changes depending on what our needs are in the classroom. If I have an involved science experiment coming up, I'll save that for Learning Stations instead of tackling it whole group.  If I have nothing science related I'd like to get done, we'll work on something with words.  Typically, we practice our word wall {sight} words.  We'll play sight word bingo, or Rivet, build word wall words using tens and ones from math.  I get a lot of ideas from this book.  Many of the ideas can be done with little to no adult supervision - so again, if you're trying to do this on your own...it's do-able!

Usually, I ask parents to arrive about 10 minutes early so they can hear the directions prior to our start. 

I set up the stations in a circle as best I can and every year I tell the kids "We should call it Learning Circles". {Why I don't just call them that is a mystery...HA!} This helps the kids know where to go when it's time to switch.  Each station lasts about 15 minutes and the kids can't switch until I tell them to.  In one corner of the classroom I put out a basket of books for them to read if they finish the art station early.  All the other stations can be played over and over until it's time to switch. 

Another trick, as long as I have at least one parent to help out, is to put one group out in the hallway.  This helps with the sound level in the classroom and that change in scenery seems to help clear some heads for some big business we might need to accomplish a little later in the day. 

You might remember that anything we don't get done during Learning Stations on Thursday we finish on Friday during....

So, if you feel like your days are just jam packed and you can't squeeze in one more thing.  If you think the days of centers are long gone because you've got serious business to take care of and assessments to give and progress to show, and Dibels to do....it's one hour out of your day and it will be the hour that your kiddos smile bigger. 

I sort of had a back to school dream last night, except it wasn't my typical one {you know, where I have no control of my class, the kids take over, and I flip out} it was more like "huh?". I wasn't really in a school, I was outside, and they weren't really students, they were adults...it was bazaar, but I woke up thinking it was school for some strange reason.  Anyhoo...so remember my rule...it's not officially "back to school" time until I've had "the dream"...


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ketchup, Mustard & A Pin

Hey There!

It's official...it's back to school time. Okay, not in MY book...but if you're Walmart or Target or any other commercial establishment that sells gluesticks and the like...it's officially back to school time.  Now in MY book...it's not official until I've had my back to school dream.  I'm here to tell you that this hasn't happened...yet.  I'll let you know when it does and then and only then will we refer to it as "Back to School Time"...

I had some friends ask about ...

Every Friday we complete anything we weren't able to finish up during the week. So the kids get out their desk folders {This is where they store any incomplete activities} and get to work.  Usually, we have a craft that we weren't able to finish during our Thursday Learning Stations {centers} so we'll catch up on it too.  This 45 minute block of time when we "catch-up" or "ketchup" on things is called "Ketchup and Mustard" in Room 8.  Cute, huh?

I'm not the biggest pinner in the world <a collective gasp was heard in blogland> but I've had my eye on this one for a while now.

Source: google.com via H on Pinterest

Right up my alley - simple, easy to do - no crafting background necessary...LOVE!

Here's my version...

I made file folder covers to print and glue on the outside.  I plan on putting any copies that I've made for the week for each subject area in these folders.  Easy access for myself or for a sub to refer to if I happen to be out on short notice. 

If you like the idea - how do you think you may use it?

Wanna grab the folder covers? 

On a different note - I went to Target AND Walmart today...every teachers' paradise.  I had the best self-control EVER and didn't even visit the Back to School aisle...didn't even feel tempted. Yeah, my husband wouldn't let me venture off in that direction...he's a teacher too and he's not as obsessed as I am. 

I didn't even look in the Dollar Spot either...didn't even.

Nighty night!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Schedule? What's That? *Freebie*

I hardly know what day of the week it is and I can use the facilities whenever the heck I want!!! 

Do you put up a daily schedule?  I didn't used to, then I inherited some cute cards from my dear friend Barb, and I was hooked.  My kiddos walk in first thing and check out their day.  I love hearing them read {We're first grade so this is a big deal!!!!} it and either get excited for something {Yeah, we're doing Daily 5...melt. my. heart} or {Boo, we're doing handwriting...stop your complainin'}.

As the years go by, my cards don't quite match my day all that well - I've downloaded lots of different schedules from my bloggy friends, but there are always those few missing parts, so I found myself writing them in on my whiteboard.  I decided to create my own so I could finally have a complete set.  I'm posting them here for you to grab if you should so desire.  Maybe they can work for you.  I've included a few "blank" cards  to write in those parts of your day that are unique to your classroom. 

I print, laminate, cut and put magnet strips on mine.  They fit nicely in a pencil holder like this:

Then I put them on our front whiteboard for the kids to check out our day.  They are nice and big so the kids can see them easily from their seats.  Hope you can use them!

Click on either picture to pick up yours free!!!

Enjoy your schedule-free days! 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Holy Cow!

That "holy cow" could mean just about anything right now.  Holy cow, it's hot out there.  Holy cow, it stormed a good one this morning...thought the roof of my house was going to blow right off!  Holy cow, I found some REALLY great deals at The Dollar Tree!  See...

Get two teachers together on a 40th birthday scavenger hunt and they wind up with some extra time on their hands {What can I say?  We're efficient}.  What would two teachers do with that extra time?  Stop at The Dollar Tree of course!

First off, any husbands out there - there's some stiff competition in Michigan!  My best friend's hubby {Mine claims he had input} sent us on a 40th birthday scavenger hunt.  Some of the hot spots were WMU where we went to college, the movies {You've got to see People Like Us!}, a hotel stay for the night, a massage and then hair and pedi's!!!  At each place we were met with clues and money to pay for whatever we were doing there.  It was the best time ever! 

We didn't leave any place empty handed and that included The Dollar Tree!  They had the cutest banner that says "Great Work Grows Here".  It has flowers and ladybugs on it.  I'm going to put it on the bulletin board where I display their writing.  The star border is the cutest - hard to see in the picture, but it has a black background and super colorful design-filled stars.  I'm going to use that one for my Star of the Week board.  Did you see the mustaches, Farley? Those are for me! When I start to feel like the Charlie Brown Teacher, I'll stick one of those on - that should perk things up in the classroom!  They've got some great stationery right now. I'm going to use the one with stars for their Star of the Week certificates and the one with the birthday candle border for their birthday certificates. 

The word wall spinner is the coolest!  I can't wait to use that for word wall practice.  The options are:

Choose any word:

*That is a noun
* With a short vowel sound
*And define it
*And use it in a sentence
*With a long vowel sound
*That is a verb

I'm seeing a freebie to go along with this spinner in our future...keep an eye out for that {So you might want to secure a spinner right now...quick!}.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you, that is a HUGE fly swatter.  Couldn't pass that up.  I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to use it...any ideas?  I thought we could swat words around the room or something like that.  The picture doesn't do it justice though...it's MASSIVE!  I found some cute first day of school pencils and some Star Student stickers.  I'd say I hit the jackpot!

My little guy wants to have a lemonade stand something awful.  We made a trip to Target to get some of the essentials when I happened upon these...

They weren't in the dollar spot {drat} but they were only $3.50.  I'm going to hang one above each table and adhere their table numbers to them. 

I'm trying so hard to take a hiatus from all things school, but I just can't do it!!  Oh well...just embrace it, right?  So let's go with that - I created a great repeated task packet.  It has 7 repeated tasks ready to copy and get started on right when school starts. 

Click the picture to go to TpT
Okay, I am going to go out and wog.  That's the compromise I have going on right now.  I've told myself that I need to pick up the pace and run.  Myself isn't ready for that but did agree to wogging {walk slash jog}. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

Currently July & A Freebie!

I don't know which makes me happier.  The Bachelorette is meeting the families tonight or Farley's July Currently?  What's even better?  Reading everybody's Currently WHILE watching the Bachelorette.  Them's my big plans tonight people.  Doesn't get much better than that!

I'm admittedly a very nosy person. I mean, I don't weedle my way into your life and make you all uncomfortable or anything - but I do like to know what's what.  My husband often refers to me as "Agnes" or "Mrs. Kravitz".... It can't be helped...it's who I am.  I may or may not have been known to unwrap Christmas gifts just a smidge to see what I was getting...probably never happened {more than once or twice} and NEVER{okay, rarely} happens now that I'm all growed up.

So, tonight is going to be crazy awesome.  I get to hop around to your blogs and read what you're up to AND go on dates with Emily!!!!!!  Sweeeeet!

But for me, right this very instant...

I love all the Stinky Face books!  I can read them again and again both to my school children and my own. The main character reminds me of my own little guy...always full of questions.  I read this one at the start of the school year.

My go-to professional book has really withstood the test of time. I love the ideas today as much as I did when the book first came to print!

Today, I realized that I needed to keep a to-do list on the side of my bed.  Last night so many awesome ideas popped into my brain right before I fell asleep.  You can download it if you find yourself unable to turn off your brain too! Lists for your classroom, TpT, blog, etc.

Click to grab your own!
Have a great Monday and if want to find out what others are up to, or link up, head on over to Farley's blog!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Such a Sweet Sound..."I Can Read" {And a WINNER}

Hey Everybody!

It's time to announce the winner of my 700 follower giveaway!  Thank you so much to everybody who entered.  I loved reading about what you would do with 700 of anything.  Some creative people out there - but that's no surprise!!!

Here we go....

Congrats Natalie for winning a $20 dollar gift certificate to TpT. It's time for you to go back to school shopping.  <GASP> Did I just say those dreaded words?  Just think, you'll be SO ready for school, you'll be able to think of nothing else but that book you're reading on the beach!!! An email was sent...ENJOY!

Switching gears....

Don't you just love it when one of your littles comes up to you exclaiming that they can read!?!  It's even sweeter when it comes from a student that struggles.  We all know that's half the battle right there, getting them to *think* they can read!!! 

I've created a pack of 45 classroom environmental print cards. I did them in black ink using black frames to go easy on your printer!!! You can cut, laminate and mount on colorful or even on black construction paper {which I think can actually make it pop even more in a classroom full of color}.  Post near that object in your classroom.  Before you know it, that struggler will be saying "I know what that says...."

I've made the same set of words on two different frames...both are adorable!!!!! The font is from Kathy over at First Grade a la Carte, seriously rates SUPER high on the cuteness scale and is very easy for youngsters to read. 

Click the picture to go to my store! I can't be the only one gearing up for a new year...right? Right?!?
Have a great week!

Oh - I must tell you, I won the HearALL Assessment recorder from Christie's giveaway over at First Grade Fever.  I have tried winning this gadget so many times.  I finally WON!!!  Can't wait to use it in the classroom.  Oh the possibilities! Learning Resources is so teacher/student/classroom friendly!
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