Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year Freebie!

I'm honestly looking forward to making realistic goals this year.  I'm already starting to generate a list today. Yep- I'm a list person, are you? I don't necessarily FOLLOW them but, least I make them!

But better than that, I'm going to visit a brand new baby today! Is there anything better?  And I'm getting my hair a much needed cut!  Double yippee skippy!

If you haven't done Make-a-Word activities to practice letter/sound combinations with your kids, make that one of your resolutions!  The kids really crank out the words and it's great when you see them APPLYING the letter combos that they've learned.

My firsties loved them so much that I decided I had to make a whole bunch for my store. I don't think I'll ever have enough for them!

Enjoy the freebies above.  Click on pics!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of Day Rockin' Routine! (Freebie, too!)

For years, I've had a closing circle (when time permitted!) at the end of the day.  Honestly, it never knocked my socks off.  Same old, same know what I mean?

So this year, I wanted to make it more meaningful.  I thought and thought and thought some more and I do believe I've found one of the best, most focused, activities to do at the end of the day.  You know what?  With my idea of Personal Daily Goals, I make the time.  I NEVER have to fit it in.  It's a must.
What's so great about it?  It really allows the kids to be reflective of THEIR day.  I don't set the goals for them...they come up with them all by themselves and take it very seriously. 
Their goals range from, "I will try hard tomorrow to raise my hand" or "I won't pick my nose" or "I am going to push is my chair so no one trips and falls over it."  It tickles me to hear their goals each day and how well targeted they are for the following day.
Sometimes a child will keep the same goal because it wasn't reached.  They decide. It's very insightful what they choose to do.  In the beginning, some kids would simply make up a goal- any goal- even if it didn't apply to them.
Example: one kid said, "I won't run in the hallway."  But this child NEVER did that so we spent the first two weeks practicing naming our personal goals and telling WHY it was chosen.  I explained that they had to think about their own day and think hard about what they could improve upon tomorrow.  That really helped a lot to see the connection. It took about 20 minutes in September at the end of day.  Now?  A breezy 6-7 minutes for whole class. They get SO EXCITED the next day if they can report to the class that they reached their goal.  Ownership of the task is so important. 
It also allows ME to be reflective because I often hear MY WORDS coming back to me when someone states goal like,  "I need to remember to bring back my homework so I can be more responsible."
Up until now, I've been writing the goals to save time.  Starting in January, they will take their sticky off the door, fill it in, and it will be their exit ticket as they hang it back up and share their goals with us.  On Friday, kids always take paper home with them.  Seriously, if you are looking to change up your last miutes of the day, try it!  Let me know how it goes.
Click on the picture to get the printout.
 Edited post by using my answer below...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Gifts To Parents from Kids

Aren't these As Cute As A Button?  They were so easy to make and if you still need a gift for a grandparent, aunt, etc., for the holidays, you can make one in a snap.

I wish I didn't have to blur the kiddo's faces so you could see what cuties they are.  Here is one up close without a pic.

One of the reasons I loved this craft was because I didn't have to get the paint out!  Now I love a good painting project but my classroom doesn't have a sink so it's a pain in the neck.  Instead, the kids used markers to color in one side of each stick.  Worked great!  Kids picked out buttons and I glue gunned them on.  From start to finish- ENTIRE time for 21 kids...about 45 minutes!  I printed pics out on printer (4x6) glued on back.  Kids trimmed themselves. Then the kids wrote names and 2012 on back.  Easy peasy!

And I don't wrap for my kiddos.  Why would I when they can make these cute giftbags?

Green and White yarn, colored reinforcements, markers, lunch bags

I think I've finally found the gift I'll be making each year! 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What Does Your Calendar Look Like?

For twenty years, I've been perfectly happy with hanging up the current date on the calendar one day at a time and then proceeding to do my daily calendar routines.  I honestly never gave it much thought.  Once in a while, I'd walk into a classroom and see something "odd" on their calendar:  all the days filled in even before the date happened. Can you imagine? :)
Um...why did I always think that was odd?  (Shrugs shoulders!) In fact, it's not odd at all. That's how the five calendars in my house look right now.  In fact, that's how the one at the bank looks, the one in my wallet looks, the one on my phone looks....

So why was I doing it the "other" way?  Why didn't I ever really THINK about it? 

To be honest, I never questioned "my way" until I read a blog post yesterday. Take a look.

Since lots of people repinned my pin of the post yesterday, I bet there are lots of opinions out there today.  I'd love to hear yours if you care to share.

I'm thinking there has to be a more authentic and meaningful way than I've been doing it for...gulp...20 years!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Differentiated Math?

I really want to step up this area this year.  I read the most wonderful post by Anna Brantley on the topic and pinned it a few weeks ago.  Really helped me clarify some of my thoughts.  If you haven't read it or need some ideas, click pic to take you there.

I was wondering if anyone has any other posts/links/books they care to share?  I'd really appreciate it.

One week of summer vacation left for me...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Win My New Chapter Book Series!

Wow!  I wasn't expecting these in the mail yesterday!!!  Let me introduce you to TJ Trapper, Bully Zapper...

I love, love, love the cover art, don't you?  I have the fabo artist, Gary LaCoste, to thank for doing such amazing artwork!  I am giddy when I look at them! Absolutely beyond giddy!  TJ is a fourth grader and these, I think, are perfect for grades 2-4!  Of course, I know that some 1st and 5th graders will like them as well and are totally appropriate for the firsties.  While they teach a great deal about bullying, they aren't preachy...promise! 

ABDO is my amazing publisher and my editor, Stephanie, rocks!!

When I do school visits (which is now seriously limited since I returned to teaching full-time!), I am often asked how I feel when I see my books for the first time.  Well, I could tell you but when I got my Katharine books and saw them for the first time in 2009, my 5th grader at the time just happened to have his new Flip camera and caught it on tape.  Although he taped 12 minutes of me (but his commentary was the best part!) I only show 1/3 of it.  Want to see it?  It's not pretty- me (9:30 at night!  Just saw them on porch) or the shaky tape, but you'll get the idea of how I felt when I saw my hard work come to life. 

The Books Have Arrived Video

If you want to win the set, just leave your email below.  I'll have it open for a week so if you know of any teachers who might like to win, send them here.  Good luck!  (No, you don't have to watch the video!!)

Okay- now I am off to celebrate my daughter's 15th (GULP!) birthday!  We're going to see this on Broadway today:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Giving Three Away...

Now that I have my handy dandy clip art binder, making this for my TPT Store was way easier than it normally is.  Yea for that!

Want it?  I'll give 3 away to random people. Just leave your email here and I'll pick tomorrow morning.  Don't forget to download the FREE packet I made for September.

I hope you're having a great day!  Thundering here! A storm's a-comin'!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Clipart Chaos No More!

Raise your hand if you love clipart...
Raise your hand if you buy clipart at an alarming pace even if you don't need it...
Raise your hand if your clipart is an unorganized mess...

Okay- the first two I can deal with but the third has been bugging the heck out of me!

This is what I had: 

One folder on my computer that says Clipart.  So far, so good, right?
Then I had zillions and zillions of subfolders inside that one with individual sets.
For some holidays and themes, I've even managed to create more subfolders like Christmas and then moved all my Christmas clipart sets into it.  That's when it got out of hand!  Too much to look through to figure out WHAT was inside and making sure I actually put the stuff IN the correct folder.  It took me forever to find my Cat in the Hat clipart that was tucked inside "School."

So, I have spent the last *cough cough* hours organizing a lot of my clipart.  How?  By printing a major amount of hard copies. 

It started with a new binder and cover using art from Melonheadz.  Neat and tidy!  Yea!


What did I do??

I started by going to the sites where I bought the most clipart: TpT, Etsy, and TheDollarGraphicDepot.  I looked at all of my past orders under My Account and copied the group images.  I now have pages and pages (and pages and pages!) of this:

And when I got free images off of blogs, like this:
(I just grabbed these this week after discovering Nikki's site.)

I DID not organize them into subcategories like Christmas, Birthdays, etc.  That would have added on a lot more time.  I did, however, divide them into images, borders and frames, and papers. 

I'm now left with a book to flip through and WOW...I've learned tons from just glancing at the "finished for now" book. What did I learn you ask?

1. I haven't  used at least 3/4 of the art I've purchased or downloaded for free. Say what?  Sad, but true. 

2. I have a crazy amount of penguin clipart and I'm not even particularly fond of penguins.  Besides that, I don't think I've ever used ANY of it.  Oh, my!

3. I need to continue to be mindful for the need to buy clipart that represents diverse ethnic groups.

4. Two of my sets have arithmetic spelled wrong.  I've known this since purchasing but never contacted the company.  Must do that today.  (It isn't done on purpose, either.) 

5. I'm surprised to see that while I didn't think I had any FALL stuff yet (since I started purchasing in winter),  I do have some.  Even in sets that aren't really fallish, I found a pie that could be pumpkin, some pumpkins, trees, leaves, apple trees and apples, corn from a Native American set, etc. 

6. I have a total of nine sets with a sun in it and all of the suns are very different. Yet, I've continuously used the same sun whenever I needed one.  Same for schools.  That's just stupid of me.  Lazy?  Maybe. Really, who knew I had NINE of them?

7. I have several sets that I HATE for different reasons and know I'll NEVER use.  What was I thinking and why are they still taking up space on my computer???

8. Since I teach first grade, I have lots of cutesy stuff but it's o-v-e-r-l-o-a-d!!   Whenever I saw a "more mature" set, I welcomed it! A breath of fresh air!

9. I don't know if I've always thanked everyone who has given away free art on their blogs.  I THINK I have but I really need to be CERTAIN that I do. 

10. I know I'll add to this book AS I download art.  Upkeep will be easy breezy, right?

11. Renamed all clip art files to include seller's name.  So much easier!

12. Artists rock!  I am in awe of their ability!  (But I've always known that!!)

Mastering Sight Words...

If it's true that close to 75% of all words that we read in books, magazines, etc., involve just 220 sight words, it would make sense to have kids master those sight words in the appropriate grades, wouldn't it?

Quick mastery is a must for early reading success.  

When I first started teaching, I have no recollection of teaching sight words. 

I'm sure I did.  
I HOPE I did.  

Word walls didn't appear that long ago! Really!

I have  a strong committment to not only have the kids learn their sight words and apply them not only to reading but into their writing as well.

I've just posted this in my store.  I hope it bowls you over!  Very helpful, fun, and easy to implement! It's a fun way to build fluency and foster classroom community.  We sometimes use it during Morning Meeting too.

We often bowl during Morning Meeting to practice our words.  Try it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday Made It on Tuesday...again!

I love, love, love all of the milk crate and bucket chairs I've been seeing all over Pinterest, don't you?  I've been dying to make some myself.  Here's my inspiration.

As seen on

As seen on wizardofboz.blogspot

As seen on polkadotteacher.blogspot

I decided to go with a round shape because I thought they'd fit under my reading table- which also serves as my desk- a bit better.   I like to have six chairs at my table but there's no way I can fit six because the legs of the chairs are so wide.  Crazy wide. Every time I researched making the seats, I became overwhelmed even though everyone gushed how easy breezy they were to make.  Soooooooooooo, I thought and thought and thought some more and came up with a new version that isn't particularly creative but, I must tell you that hands down, this version is so so so so easy that a two-year old could do it.  No kidding.

Ready to see it?  Okay, then!  Let's get started!!! 

1. Buy ottomans at Walmart for $18 each.  Yes, a little pricey BUT...these do have nice storage.  I could fit each reading groups' guided reading books and materials inside with room left over. Lots of room leftover!

2. Fabric?  Nope!  I went an even easier route: DUCT TAPE  or Duck Tape as the brand I used is known.  A quick 5 seconds to put it on and then another minute to add the ribbon with Velcro and voila!  DONE!

As a nice bonus, the tops can be turned over to provide a hard tabletop surface.  Good for oh, so many things in my space challenged room!

I grabbed a bunch of junk from my table and put it inside.  Even though there are books and several notebooks and workbooks, and you can see how roomy it is. 

What do you think?  Is it cute enough for first grade?  Will the tape last? 
Should I have waited for the red to come back in stock?  I'm usually a bright and cheery kind of girl and these look a bit more serious than I'm used to.

If the combo looks familiar, maybe you saw the table I "made" a few weeks ago:

Thanks for looking!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

100 Followers Giveaway!

Well, lookie, lookie here.  While I was away, I got my 100th follower!  To celebrate and thank everyone who has taken the time to read my blog (which I haven't been able to dedicate nearly as much time as I had wanted to!) I want to offer this freebie aimed at K-2 kiddos. I so love my poetry binders! Click on cover to get it.

I use them for my Poetry Binders, Shared and Buddy Reading, Word Work, etc.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Problem Solved...At Last!

My classroom is itty bitty. 

Teeny tiny.


Hanging up my word wall has been a struggle for me.  Honestly, since I'm so tight on space, I hated giving up so much real estate for Word Wall Words.  I ended up putting them on four of my closet doors which frustrated me beyond belief.

FOUR doors. 

Do you know what I could have done with that space?  (and they aren't even big doors!)

My colleagues put them across their white boards.  Didn''t work for me since I used them for Boggle and such.

I saw a great pic showing them UNDER the white board.  I really love this! 

But again, after much thought, that really wouldn't be ideal either since I have book bins, carts, etc. that have to be against the wall.  (If I had the space, I would so do that!)   I saw portable ones and all sorts of clever "walls."  But my search is over and it's not rocket science. I just had a Responsive Classroom workshop a few days ago in a room with the words posted ABOVE the boards in that empty space. 

One of my pet peeves has always been when I see things hung up high with such tiny writing that it's useless and certainly not going to help/benefit the kids.  But the words above uses a  HUGE font.  This room is way, way, way bigger than mine and I was standing at the back and, even with my oh, so terrible eyes, I could easily see/read every word. They may not look big or words that can be easily read in the pic but they are.

So, this is my new plan and I am happy.
And relieved.
And did I mention happy?

One Drawback:  Since I add only 5 words weekly, this will require a ladder each week.  Since I am under 5 foot, I guess I'm used to that!

I always think meetings should be rotated to different classrooms so we get to peek inside.  Yes, we go to each other's rooms but when you are sitting in a long meeting, you really get to "see" the room, you know?

Other news:

1. My husband and I just handed in our first historical fiction novel today for ABDO.  A fun project and it was great working with John.  He's a fellow teacher having taught Middle School English for 15 years before becoming a media specialist in same district last year.  He's a HUGE history buff so he made it all run smoothly!

2. Heading to Maine for vacation tomorrow and so looking forward to it. 

3. I just ate a gallon, quart, pint teaspoon of Turkey Hill Yankee Brownie Sundae ice cream and wish I could have shared it with you!

Have a great day!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dollar Store Finds

What to do when you have about 30 minutes before you have to pick son up from soccer? 

1. Stay in sweltering sun and watch him play?

No way.

2. Go through drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts to get their Fabo Iced Tea?

Yes, please.

And then head next door to The Dollar Tree!  I had to move fast but I did get some things I needed...and a few things I didn't need but will find a use for.  Some highlights...

Yea for Butterfly Nets! I'm using them to "catch" some good stories floating around and
then putting the ideas into my pocket for later use.  Think of the fun you can have doing this!  Kids will love it!  I only got 3 because I'm afraid they'll be loving it a little too much and I'd have 20 sweeties waving these nets all day long!

Smart beads...10 for $1.00.  These tend to break pretty easily so I knew I needed some extras.  In the past, I've had these hanging up but I'm thinking I'm going to make a fancy bin/jar/can to store them in.  I'm thinking of letting kids wear them home this year and then returning the next day.  What do you do?  Would love to hear your system.

The hot item right now!  Will tackle birthday balloons soon.  Just not sure what lovely template I'll be using or if I'll design my own. I almost bought these at Target last week but they were 3 for $1.  Here: 6 for a buck!  What luck!

These are HUGE!  They had Birthday Girl and Birthday Boy which I put in my basket first.  But then I got to thinking...what if I had more than one kid celebrate on the same day and both were girls or both boys?  It's happened.  So I went with these. I'm going to allow kids to wear home and bring them back.  Maybe I should have picked up an extra just in case...

Aren't these oh, so cute!  I'm not sure what I'll do with them.  They're about 8 inches tall. Maybe BottleCap Letter and Number Storage?  Thinking, thinking...  They had black pinstripe and some other bright and funky color sombos as well.  They had hundreds and hundreds just waiting to be plucked off the shelf!

A good 30 minutes, yes? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Words Of Wisdom Linky Party

I'm joining Deb from Fabulously First for a linky party that asks teachers to share words of wisdom with those just starting out in our profession.  I've been teaching since 1988 (minus a few years!) and love teaching just as much today- if not more- than I did when I started.  So, here are my thoughts: 

(It took me a while to figure out to print in the boxes! I had to remove the existing words or else font size was too small. Sorry!)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Student Letters and Make-a-Word

Even though I haven't been out of school a week yet, I've already received a few emails from two of my sweeties.

One wrote:

I did it! I got my library card! You were right! I do feel smarter! Then she listed the books she checked out. Most were sequels of books we read in class.

How adorable is that!?  She had been using her Dad's card but I explained to the class that they were old enough to get one and "feel the power" themselves.

The second email came today:

"I lost my tooth but the tooth fairy didn't come.  I am mad.  I have nothing to do. I can't find my Tooth Fairy Make-A Word.  I made 1,000 words in school. My mouth hurts so I might get ice cream tonight.  I miss you.

Poor kid!  No cash from the Tooth Fairy and bored with nothing to do!  (At least imagination is working...1000 words? Oh, my!)

I sent three make-a-words to him and then decided to send them to all my other cuties for a little summer fun! (My class LOVED these and got so good at them! Check out my Free September/October pack!

Why do I love these?

Word Wizard “Make-a-Words” are effective spelling activities to reinforce sound/letter combinations. With September and October themes, these printable worksheets will help your students practice and improve their phonetic skills. These worksheets can be used for literacy center time or independent practice.

Introducing Make-a-Word activities to my class has been a gamechanger for my students. In the beginning, we make words together. I use Magnetic Letters on the board and we manipulate them into words AFTER noticing the letters in the word: the digraphs, vowels, the “s” for plurals, etc. I always remind them that each word MUST have a vowel.

After some independent practice, I often allow them to work together and always have a two-minute break where kids share out a word they made. I’ll write them on board (as we discuss the combinations we see) and students are allowed to “grab” them and add a word to his or her own paper if desired.

Vert guided the first few months but honestly, by the end of the year, kids are able to get dozens- sometimes even a hundred words!  

The following themes are included in this packet...FOR FREE!

★Welcome Back
★Labor Day
★Making Friends
★John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

★Fire Safety
★Columbus Day
★Spooky Night
★Rainy Days

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Looky Looky! Monday Made It on Tuesday!

Thanks to 4th Grade Frolics, I've joined her linky party

(excuse the tardiness but I just read about Monday Made It today!)

Inspired by this on Pinterest:

I ran to Michael's today and then turned my old, small table

into this with Duct Tape.  (Duck Brand Zebra Stripe.)

I love the popular zebra and pink ribbon that seems to be everywhere but I think I'm going to go with red. Not sure.  I picked up some ribbon and am debating if I should add a little and if so, which one?  (I was thinking of running a strip on the front side about 1/2 way down. Apples? Stripes?  Maybe run it around the top lip to give it a finished look?)

It took two rolls and 45 minutes.  If I had to do it over again,
I think I would have painted inside legs/sides black.

EDITED TO ADD:  I think I answered my own answer. The ribbon really finished the look of this
side-table-soon-to-be-classroom... something!

Thanks for looking!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

School's Out and Schools In...

School ended yesterday and the timing coudln't be better.


"Just" a cold but one that has packed such a punch, I ache all over.

So, I've been lazing about thinking about NEXT year already. I am switching buildings and my new classroom has no area rug. UGH!

You see, that is the one item (next to small whiteboards and document camera!) that I cannot live without.
So I won't.

I just ordered this baby from

They had the best price (by hundreds of dollars!) that I could find.  For $325 (with delivery!) it could be yours, too.

Now that is some serious cash, isn't it?  The good news and the bad news:  my sweeties gave me a Visa giftcard at Christmas and another one at the end of the year that will not only cover it, but will leave me with some money left over.  So that is very, very good.

The bad news is that I won't be getting a few items from Brighton that I had planned on splurging on with the money.  Sigh.

My love affair with this carpet came about around ten years ago when I was a K-5 media specialist and was allowed to order it. When I returned to the classroom, I used giftcards to buy the small one since I couldn't take the one in teh library with me. (LOVE those gift cards!)  But when I left the classroom, I gave it to my sister-in-law who opened up a gym since I knew it would be great for her kiddie room.

I could get it back but 1. I know she needs it, and 2. I want the 30 dot one like I had in the library.

What's so great about this carpet?  Since my firsties spend so much time on the carpet, it so helps with classroom management.  Makes carpet time a breeze.  Everyone has their own space AND there's no traffic jams getting up/sitting down to go to easel, bathroom, etc.  My green and red dots step to outside "free" aisle and can easily walk and my orange and yellow dots have the purple dot aisle which I leave open for that very purpose.


So ordering it today not only brought me peace of mind for next year, It made me feel better.


Now that school is over, I am planning on blogging AND reading more blogs on a regular basis.  The last few months were sort of me getting my feet wet!

Hope the sun is shining where you are and you're feeling peachy keen!