Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Try It Free Tuesday Freebie!

Happy Tuesday! 
Today is extra sweet because if you head over to the adorable Miss Kindergarten's blog, you can grab a FREE sample of my Think, Talk, Teach oral language pack! Yay!

Download this ONE DAY ONLY freebie sample over on her blog.
 Click HERE or click the picture below to get started!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - PD Opportunities

Last week, I opened my mailbox and did a little dance when I opened up this SDE brochure for the Ohio K-3 Literacy Conference! Yayy!!! I was so excited and super honored to see my name listed beside these amazing professionals! Mostly, I feel grateful to be able to spend time collaborating and sharing with lots of fellow Ohio educators in December. :) I'm presenting four sessions: writing, science, small group reading, and a comprehension session. I can't wait! You can visit my Presentations page at the top of my blog to find out additional places I will be in the months ahead!
My question for you this week is: What PD opportunities do you hope to be able to participate in this year? If you are not able to attend a PD event, what is your professional goal for this school year? Share it with me below in the comment section! :) I love reading your thoughts, ideas, and stories!

If you have a blog, you can link up with me below! Share your favorite picture from this week and link back to my blog by grabbing the Wordless Wednesday graphic at the top of this blog post. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Cue: Thousands of teachings jumping up and down with complete happiness.

Why? TeachersPayTeachers is holding a ONE DAY special BTS Sale On Wednesday, August 19th!!!! We LOVE Tpt and TpT loves teachers!!!! (And we know that if you are anything like us, there are still some things you need to get before school starts!)

Reaction: Yayyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everything in my store is 28% off today when you use the code MORE15
You may be interested in taking a look at some of my newer products...

Don't forget that site-wide TpT sales are GREAT days to stock up on BUNDLE PACKS for an awesome value! Check out all of BUNDLES by clicking HERE.

Click my store icon below to check out this special one-day sale (August 19, 2015)!!!
Don't forget to use the code MORE15

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Short and Tiny Tour of My 2015 Classroom!

Whew! These past few couple weeks have been BUSY! Between putting my classroom together, lesson planning, organizing, and learning a new math program we recently adopted, I am tired with a capital T! 

I'm sure you can relate to this crazy time of the year for teachers. I have slacked a bit on my blog this past month, but I am hoping to get back into routine as I head back to school.....tomorrow!! That's right, tomorrow is our first day of school with kids. I am so excited! Tonight was Meet the Teacher night and WOW do I have the sweetest little firsties! It's going to be an amazing year. 

Tonight, I wanted to share some pictures with you of my 2015-2016 classroom. For the first time in my teaching career, I did NOT add or change a lot to my room. It was actually an enlightening feeling! I realized that I am 120% in love with my classroom decor. So why change it if I already adore it?! Here we go!
 The picture above is a view from the front of my room, looking to the back. Since tonight was Meet the Teacher night, their information packet, classroom handbook, a little letter about myself, and some first day "confetti" was placed on their desks! 
 This is our little library center and part of our classroom rug. The classroom rug is from Kid Carpet. This corner has not changed from last year. I just love how cozy it is! I did add some more plants to our classroom this year, since they bring a home-like feel to our room.
 This is the front of our whole-group meeting area. The blue disc chair was from Walmart last year. The little pink ottoman is from Target. :) That easel is 8 years old! My mom bought it for me from Big Lots when I snagged my first teaching position. It needs replaced but I have a weird emotional attachment to that thing haha! 
 I use to have a little blue rug under these ottomans. I LOVE using ottomans in the classroom for seating because they provide storage as well! It's a win-win! This year, I opted for a purple rug, and I love the look! Behind the rug is our math bookshelf. This bookshelf holds our Write On/Wipe Off Math Games throughout the year. 
 Here is a view from the door. In the corner, you can see a glimpse of our small group reading table. I love our counters! The flower lights that are hanging from the cabinets are from Pier 1.  I picked those up in the clearance section after summer had ended a few years ago. 
 This is a close-up of our WBT Class Rules Posters! This is a FREEBIE in my store! You can find the posters by clicking HERE
 This pink milk crate will house our tablets and iPads this year. Last year, we just stacked them on the counter, but the cords got SO messy! Since I do not have a fancy tablet cart, I thought this might work better this year.  I will thread the charging cords through the holes in the back and plug them into the wall outlet.  I have six tablets, so each cord will go through one of the holes in the back of the crate. I'm hoping it looks a little more tidy! :)
 Above is a picture of our fiction bookshelf. The top shelf houses my teacher read alouds. The bottom three shelves hold some of our fiction books that students can read and use for book-shopping for Daily 5 time.
 When I gave my Periscope tour of my classroom, some friends were asking me how I organize my teacher read-alouds. Here is a little close-up for you so that you can see! :)
 This is our classroom schedule. The cards are editable and when laminated, are write-on/wipe-off so that you can draw in the time for each subject. You can find these schedule cards in my store by clicking HERE.  

To the right of my schedule are our SUPER Solvers math posters. These are the steps my students take when they are solving word problems within our classroom. You can find this pack, complete with editable word problem pages, in my store by clicking HERE

 This is our word wall! It has not changed from last year. In fact, I was able to stretch the paper a bit and re-use it for this year! Yay! The editable word wall letters can be found HERE
 This is a close-up of my Word Work bulletin board. You can read all about how I organize and manage our word work words for differentiation in my blog post found HERE

That is my little tour this year! Like I mentioned, not much has changed from last year - and I absolutely love it! I love re-decorating a room, but if you were busy and exhausted like I was this year, please know that if you already love your room, it's totally OK to keep it the same! So, find those colors that make you the happiest and own it! :) 

Thanks for visiting my blog today! Here is a little collage to end my 2015-2016 tour. 
I hope everyone has a great week!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Binders & Seuss Landing!

For this week's Wordless Wednesday, I have two pictures for you! This past weekend, I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure with two of my best friends. We had a blast! The teacher in me definitely came out, because Seuss Landing was one of my favorite areas of the park! It was just SO stinking cute!! I snapped the picture below to share with you. :)
As I am typing this up on Tuesday night, I am e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d.
I spent a good part of my day putting together these pretty and colorful math binders.
Inside, are our workbook pages for the first quarter, so that my kids can take out the pages they need easily and quickly, without ripping them. You see over the past four years, we've supplemented our math material. This year, however, we have adopted the My Math program. I know that some people are okay with the program and some people are not a fan of it, but the truth is - no program will ever.ever.ever.ever.ever be perfect. The key is to never let the program run YOU. I told myself back in my first year of teaching that I would never let a Teacher Manual of a program control too much of my instruction, as I know my kids better than a manual ever will. ;)  I am blessed that I will have the freedom to supplement material when we need to. 
So...my question to you this week is:
Do you have a district-adopted math program that you use? 
What is it called?

Leave your comment below and/or link up your photo of the week with me! Don't forget to use the linky button at the top of this post and link back to my blog post.
Happy Wordless Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The First Day! 5 Tips For Success

It is crazy to believe that school is right.around.the.corner! I'm here today to offer five quick tips for your first day of school. I don't know about you, but when I was in college, I was given LITTLE instruction on what to do on that first day. However, over the years, I have picked up a few little tricks that work well for me.  Although these tips are simple, they are effective and can result in a smooth, FUN first day of school! Here we go!
*Crayon boxes were found at Wal-Mart for $1.00 each.* 
A big piece of advice is to worry about school supplies LATER in the morning. Your students may be coming into your classroom with a backpack filled with supplies. It can be tempting to want to get these supplies out of the backpack and tidied up and put away. However, "school supply sorting" is not what I would call the "calmest" part of the first day of school. We know that the first day sets the tone for the year, but I also believe that our first TASK sets the done for our DAY.  Therefore, I like to have kids leave their supplies in their backpacks and get busy! Before school starts, I buy 24 boxes of the 24 pack of crayons.  I start every child out with their own box of crayons from me. The boxes are tucked in their desks, waiting to be loved! On the first day, I invite my little babies to find their desk and enjoy a coloring page with their new crayons. So, instead of everyone sifting through backpacks to find their crayons, we start off our first five minutes of the day with a calm, quiet, and happy classroom hum! This allows me time to take attendance, lunch count, collect notes and first day paperwork, and greet/welcome each child before we officially begin our first day of school!
 I want to immediately start my students off with amazing habits! I use laminated calendar numbers that I adhere to the floor with packing tape. These little numbers become the students' "line up numbers." We spend time on the first day of school practicing how to line up in a calm, orderly fashion. We wait to be called by rows to line up, practice pushing in our chair, standing with our hands to our side, and walking quietly in the hall. Having a procedure in place for lining up is essential to developing smooth transitions within your day.

I also like to attach a kinesthetic learning activity to our hallway expectations. We use marshmallows to understand how to walk in the hallways! Marshmallows do not have feed, hands, or even mouths! They are so....so....quiet! Shhh......!!! 
I give each child a marshmallow and we explore this concept through a class discussion. Then, students practice "walking like a marshmallow" through the halls of the school. This marshmallow hallway activity and printable can be found in my Back to School First Week Fun product in my TpT store.
 We have to hook our students right from Day 1! I want my students to fall in love with coming to school. I want them to anticipate what crazy idea or activity their teacher will come up with next. I want them to LOVE learning! One of my favorite activities for the first day of school is Magic Dough! Students use play dough to "solve" the mystery - Will they have a great school year? This activity is fun, engaging, and keeps kids social!
A first day would not be complete without a lesson on kindness to our peers. Using the book, Chrysanthemum, we pass a smooth heart around the circle. I explain that our hearts are smooth if no one has ever said anything bad to us. However, unkind words can cause wrinkles in our hearts! My students sit in a circle and pass this red heart around. When the heart reaches them, they have to crumble a piece of the heart to signify someone has used unkind words or actions. The heart is now "hurt" and very wrinkled.  We try to smooth the heart out, but we discover that even when we apologize for something we have done, the wrinkle never fully goes away. Students learn that in all situations,we need to be kind and respectful so that we never put wrinkles in anyone else's hearts. 
Another quick but effective first day of school activity is the "I feel..." assessment. Students simply answer the sentence "I feel..." The teacher gives no help at all. I then collect the papers to look through that night. It is always incredible to see the amount of information I can collect about students' writing abilities through that one simple sentence! *TIP & TRICK: Keep the "I feel..." papers to pass back on the last day of school. Students LOVE seeing how much they have grown!

I hope these five little tips gave you some ideas to think about for your first day of school. The marshmallow activity, "I feel assessment," and the "Magic Dough" activity, along with other ideas and lessons, come from my Back to School Pack. You can check that out here.
 Thank you so much for joining me for these five quick tips. I hope everyone has a fantastic and fun first day of school! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Is Your Morning Work Making Kids THINK?

Take a minute and think about what your students do during their first ten or fifteen minutes of class. Are they getting started on their morning work?
If we took a time machine back to my first two years of teaching, my first graders worked on what we called "Math Boxes" from the Everyday Math program. When I moved to second grade a few years later, my students completed a daily "fix it" page. If we go back just a couple years ago, my first graders worked on a math or word work page.

My kids were working on what I would call "practice work." They were answering questions. They were working on surface level activities. They were bored.Some struggled. Others finished so quickly that I spent more time working on "fast finisher" activities than I wanted to admit to anyone. 

Hear me out. There is absolutely, positively, nothing wrong with printable practice pages for morning work. I have used them and I will use them again in my classroom. Sometimes our kids need additional practice.  But this past year, I found myself wondering if there was something they could do in the morning that would work for ALL levels of learners AND foster pure, genuine thinking skills. What would integrate writing, science and social studies content, discussion, and critical thinking within those first 10 minutes of class?

What would make them THINK?
I started to dive into brain research. I discovered the power of pre-exposure for our students. Students will make more connections and retain more information if they are pre-exposed to content BEFORE we directly teach it.  

A week later, I had a plan in place. I threw away the printables sitting in our Morning Work basket. I looked at my lesson plans and saw that we were going to use the old strategy of "seeing, thinking, and wondering" in social studies. We were suppose to talk about the past and the present. I threw this photograph onto my smart board:
"What ARE those buckets used for?" my students asked. "What do YOU think they are used for?" I asked them right back. ;)

First, they wrote down what they could see in the photograph. I encouraged them to use describing words and paint a "vivid" picture in their readers' minds. It didn't matter if they didn't know what the item was in the photograph, I just simply wanted them to write what they could see. 
Then, they wrote about what they thought the item in the photograph was used for. They wrote about what they thought they knew about the topic. They wrote about what they thought it did, or who used it. The verb to pay attention to?? They thought about what they were seeing and looking at. They were thinking. I was immediately hooked. Now THIS is what I wanted morning work to look like for my students. I wanted it to say, "Wake up! Good morning! Today we are going to THINK!"  In the final section, they jotted down questions they had about the photograph. Yes, yes yes! Genuine curiosity! (Remember, I had not told them anything about the photograph!)

The final part of this quick but effective morning work activity is the 2-3 minutes of discussion time that I provided my students with. This is where the real magic happened. As the students had a discussion and shared their ideas, they figured out A LOT of information about the photograph! 
By the time our 10-12 minutes was up, my students had figured out that the buckets were old, they were used for carrying things, and that people long ago must have used them. I filled them in with some accurate, short information on lunch pails and how they were used long ago by children. Guess what?! When we got to our "long ago" unit later in the day, my students had been pre-exposed to a small detail about life long ago, which later helped them make connections to other areas and topics within the unit.

And so it began. Tuesday-Thursday, I threw a photograph up on the board. (Monday and Friday were journal prompt days.) Often the photographs were connected to a concept or topic we were studying in math, social studies, or science. Sometimes they were random antique objects that I knew my kids wouldn't truly "know." I waited for them to think, discuss, ponder, and draw conclusions about what the object was used for and what it was. They were developing problem solving skills and critical thinking abilities faster than I anticipated!

This new morning work routine (what I now call, "Wake Up Work"), led to the creation of my See, Think, Wonder, Write pack!
So why did I do away with our "practice pages" in the morning for this new, integrated writing experience? Here are five reasons why I gave my morning work a "makeover."
I want to CAPTURE my students during those first ten minutes of school. I want to ignite their excitement and their thirst for learning. Providing open-ended discussions and writing opportunities was much more engaging and thought-provoking than the practice pages we were using the prior year. (Again, there's nothing wrong with using practice pages! But for this group of kids, and my teaching style - this "makeover" was what they needed. It worked and we LOVED it!)
Our students are not born knowing how to think critically. The ability to think critically is a life-long skill that needs to be developed and fostered on a daily basis by teachers, families, and the community. I want even those first 10 minutes of the day to be a time when my kids are deeply engaged in thinking critically about a real-world topic.

It was really difficult for me to differentiate my morning work when I used practice pages. Yes, I often tried to run other skill levels off for my kids who were high achievers. But this turned out to be exhausting! Even if I was organized, I found it difficult to manage each morning.  By having my kids participate in a writing-based morning work activity, each child was able to work at his or her level. No matter where they were in their writing skills, 100% of my students were capable of coming up with ideas and getting them onto the paper in some way. For kinders, that could mean drawing pictures. For emerging writers, it may mean labeling. My capable writers took off with pencils flying! Here are two pictures. One is a struggling writer and one is a proficient writer. Regardless of the length of writing, the important thing to note is that within the same ten minutes, both students were fostering thinking and writing skills:

Our time at school is limited. We have so much to do. So much to teach. So much content to make sure our lesson are covering. Pre-exposing my kids to what we were going to learn about later on in the day not only maximized my afternoon lessons, but they allowed my students to make deep connections between the facts we briefly discussed in the morning to the information we learned in the afternoon. Our subjects (math, writing, social studies, science) were blurring together. I showed an abacus one morning. The students wrote about it and later connected what they knew to the addition practice we were completing at the small group table later in the day. Integrating our content whenever possible - even in short, small doses - leads to amazing results!

Children are naturally curious! Make morning work fun by putting the creativity back into it! One morning I showed an antique mixer on the screen. My students, who did not know what it was, came up with ideas on everything from a pencil sharpener to a machine that cleaned dishes (far-fetched, but creative, nonetheless).  (Later, as they discussed the photograph together, they came to the conclusion that the item was a "cake mixer." The cool part? They came to that conclusion entirely on their own! When they do not accurately draw the correct conclusion, they have fun listening to me share facts and details about the photograph. At that point, they are so involved and "into" the photograph that they are captivated by the information!)  When I was using practice review pages as my morning work, my kids were not given creativity in their work. Now, they have the opportunity to put their own voice, flair, creativity, and sense of self into their morning work time! 

I hope you enjoyed reading about our morning work routine. My See, Think, Wonder, Write pack contains 75 photographs that you can use as you implement this into your classroom! Please note, this pack is not only intended for morning work time - you can use it whenever and however you wish! 
Fast Fact pages take the guesswork out for the teachers! Each photograph contains a Fast Fact sheet that you can use to guide your discussion of the photograph and teach your students some basic facts after they have completed their see, think, wonder, write activity.
Guiding questions for each step of the activity are included. Signs and posters can be printed out and used as visual reminders to help students stay on task.
Even kinders can use this pack! A blank template has been provided for children to draw their thinking. Beginning and intermediate templates have been included, as well.

Click HERE to check out my pack in my TpT store. Or, click on the picture below:
Don't forget, this pack and EVERYTHING (I'm talking EVERYTHING) in my TpT store is 28% off today and tomorrow when you use the code BTS15!
You can click on the video below to get a glimpse of just some of these products:


Click  HERE to check out the sale or on my TpT button below! 
Happy Shopping and Learning!