Sunday, November 29, 2015

TPT Cyber Sale! Click. Save. Smile.

It's time to fill up your shopping cart! The Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Sale is this Monday and Tuesday! Use the promo code "SMILE" to receive up to 28% off throughout the site. My entire store will be on sale at the full discount, so this is a great time to stock up on lapbooks and interactive kits. Happy shopping!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Unexpected Dinner Guest

"Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me." ~ Carl Sandburg

On Thanksgiving morning, my table was set beautifully for 18 guests.

Then the phone rang. 

My little sister called to tell me that she would be bringing a guest to dinner this year. This would not be just an ordinary guest. This special guest would be one of my former students!

Those who know me well can now laugh at the thought of me running around the house frantically trying to prepare for an extra place setting and make everything perfect.

Let's just say that on a scale of 1 to 10, I am a 10 20 in terms of anxiety when company is coming. According to my husband, this is what I act like in the hours before a party. I completely disagree. This is not at all what I act like.

Click video for a good laugh

Okay. I admit it. I have a problem. I do *kind of* look like that, even when my guests are not former students.

Once everything was in place and my blood pressure had returned to normal, I was able to appreciate the beauty of this unexpected circumstance. 

Let me tell you about Colby. Colby was a second grade student in my very first class, back in the 1997/1998 school year. I found this picture in a box this morning. It shows his smiling face exactly as I remember it when he was seven years old. We were putting on a Jack and the Beanstalk play. There I am standing behind the beanstalk. I was 21 years old and fresh out of college.

I remember Colby like it was yesterday. I can still remember the big, round curves of his second grade printing. I bet I could still identify his handwriting in a line up.

Colby was full of spirit. He loved to tell stories and make us laugh. He was curious and impulsive. Lucky for him, he had those big, brown puppy dog eyes that saved him every time.

He was the kind of kid that all the teachers knew. He was that cute little kid that made everyone smile just walking down the hall. You know the kind of kid I'm talking about.

And here is Colby today at the age of 26! That is my sister in the picture with him.

How strange but wonderful it is to reunite with a student after 18 years. The young child I once knew so well was now suddenly standing at my front door as an adult! We greeted each other with a hug and I just had to stand back and stare at him for a few minutes in disbelief. How did the years pass by so quickly? His eyes were exactly the same, but the beard and tattoos took a few extra minutes to absorb. 

Adult Colby was just as cute and sweet as I remember him from my first year of teaching. We reminisced a bit about his second grade bowl haircuts and penny loafers. He told me that he remembered (and still has) the books he published with me in second grade. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a delicious meal and played a dice game together. He still has that same laugh and smile.

What an unexpected blessing I received this Thanksgiving. You just never know what surprise awaits you around the next corner. It could be the 19th guest at your dinner party. If you had the opportunity to reunite with a former student, which one would it be? Has this ever happened to you?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Noodles and Turkeys

Hello Friends! How many of you are planning a Thanksgiving feast at your own house on top of Thanksgiving festivities in your classroom? It is definitely a lot to juggle. I'm actually hoping that some small miracles will happen this weekend in terms of house cleaning and material preparations. :-) Maybe the dust bunnies will hop away and the turkey will brine itself. You just never know.

One special craft that I like to make with my students at this time of year involves colored noodles. Do you know the trick for dyeing noodles with such vibrant colors? The magic ingredient is rubbing alcohol! Just pour your noodles in a large freezer bag, sprinkle in some rubbing alcohol, and add some drops of your favorite food coloring. Shake it up until everything is coated evenly. Then pour the noodles into a single layer on some newspaper to dry. In just a few hours, your noodles will look amazing! I never measure the rubbing alcohol. I just sprinkle some in the bag until the noodles are damp and it works beautifully every time.

Now for that craft I had mentioned. A few years ago, I was inspired by these handprint turkey banners from the Yesterday on Tuesday blog.  I loved the idea of using burlap to bring a unique texture to a traditional project. Burlap is fairly inexpensive to buy. I paid $2.99 per yard at my local fabric store.  It only took about one yard to cut the 24 pieces that I needed for this project.

To make the handprints, I had a helper paint the hand of each student and carefully make a print on the burlap. The kids smiled and giggled at the sensation of wet paint on the palm of their hand.

Some years I have used paper bags from the grocery store for the backing, but this year I just used some brown craft paper I already had available at school. I put some clear packing tape at the top of each banner to reinforce the holes for hanging. A hot glue gun worked great to attach the burlap to the brown craft paper.

Next, we practiced some cursive writing for the "Happy Thanksgiving" piece and glued it to the top of the banner. The kids used permanent Sharpie markers to add eyes, beaks, and legs to their turkeys. Of course, they also added a red gobbler. Then they used regular Crayola markers to make colorful patterns around the edges.

I suspect that parents will look back and smile at those precious handprints one day.

Finally, it was time to use those colorful noodles! Each student strung the noodles on a pipe cleaner. We attached the pipe cleaners to the holes at the top of the banner for easy hanging. Then, we finished it off with some raffia on the handle for a nice, natural look.

And there you have it! That's one special Thanksgiving craft to cross off the school list. Now I am off to write a grocery list and make eighteen special name tags (with my real kids) for our home Thanksgiving table. I hope you have a wonderful, restful holiday! Be sure to kick your feet up and relax a bit once the work is done.

Here is another one of my favorite Thanksgiving activities! I teach my students about the history of the first Thanksgiving using this bag book. If you are looking for something more historical, this is the project for you!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thanksgiving Bag Book Tutorial, Plus an Awesome Giveaway!

Hello Everyone! Sorry for my absence. You know how some school years are just more draining than others? For many reasons, this is one of those kind of years for me. I wanted to pop in briefly tonight to let you know that I am still alive and kicking. I'm actually kicking very hard to keep my head above water if you know what I mean :-)

We are gearing up for Thanksgiving in my classroom. The baby food jars are arriving daily for our annual butter making activity. The burlap turkey banners are in progress. Parent conferences are in the air.

I teach my third graders about the history of the first Thanksgiving using a bag book. It is jam-packed with historical information that is appropriate for upper elementary students.

I recently made a video tutorial about how to make a bag book. The video walks through all of the parts to my Thanksgiving bag book in case you are interested. If you are new to bag books, this tutorial will help you get started. You can really take any of your own favorite units and present the information in this format. Kids love them!

Click on image for link to bag book tutorial

Also, I wanted to tell you that my friend Melissa Dailey is hosting an awesome birthday giveaway. Melissa always finds the very best things to give away on her blog, Mrs. Dailey's Classroom (soon to be The Husky Loving Teacher).

I mean, come on. Everyone needs a pair of these Hunter boots! At the hefty price of $150, it sure would be nice to win them for free!

Happy Birthday to Melissa and special thanks to all of the sponsors of this giveaway!

Now, here is your chance to enter! You have until Monday 11/16 to submit all of your entries. Good luck! I hope to find you sloshing around in mud puddles very soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 25, 2015

Clutter Jail

Okay teachers. Does this look familiar? Please tell me that I am not the only one. Do your students make little collections of junk inside their desks? Does the junk sometimes even sneak out onto desktops and fall all over the classroom floor? Sigh.

I saw this brilliant parenting idea for a home "Clutter Jail" on and decided that it could be easily adapted for classroom use! The original plan calls for a laundry basket. Parents collect toys and other clutter left around the house and place the items in the laundry basket clutter jail. In order for the clutter to be released from jail, the child must perform household chores.

I found the perfect classroom clutter jail at Five Below. These safes come in a variety of colors and you can't beat the price! I snatched up a silver one.

Then I headed over to Joann Fabrics and picked up one sheet of black Duck Tape. The sheets are so easy to cut, peel, and stick. You can probably find these sheets at most craft stores.

I cut the black Duck Tape into thin strips and made stripes on the safe. Then I used some puffy paint to embellish with the words "Clutter Jail". Here it is in my classroom just waiting to be introduced on Monday.

I also made these cards to be used with my classroom clutter jail system. Classroom clutter will spend the night in jail and be released upon completion of assigned classroom chores from the Clutter Cop (AKA: me). :-)

I am sharing these cards with you in case you do in fact have a classroom clutter situation like I do. There are eight cards in all, so hopefully some of them will work for you and your classroom. Click on the image below for a link to this freebie.
Clutter Jail Cards for the Classroom

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Constitution Day and Preamble Stretch Book Video Tutorial!

Constitution Day 2015 is just around the corner on Thursday, September 17th! Have you carved out some time this week to teach your students about the United States Constitution?

I know. This is such a busy time of the year. I am currently in the middle of a geography unit with my third grade students, but geography will take a back seat to the Constitution this Thursday and Friday. My lessons will focus on the Preamble.

I love to use this School House Rock video about the Preamble to kick off my Constitution lessons. It has such a catchy tune, and it always sparks a great conversation about the meaning of the words in the Preamble. The video is 3 minutes long. We always watch it at least two times. :-)

Click image for link to the YouTube video

Next, I read aloud this book by David Catrow. It has a terrific foreword and a glossary of terms that comes in very handy for interpreting the complex language of the Constitution for children.

This Preamble Match FREEBIE by Hooty's Homeroom is the perfect supplement to the We the Kids book. I made laminated sets for partners to match together the words to the Preamble and the word meanings.
Click image for link to FREEBIE from Hooty's Homeroom

Finally, my students will make a stretch book about the Preamble. After the above activities, they will be ready to illustrate all of the parts to the Preamble. I will teach them how to fold and assemble this special keepsake book.

Stretch books are somewhat challenging for beginning of the year third graders, but they are definitely possible with good step-by-step directions and some extra assistance. This will be my third time making the Preamble Stretch Book with third graders. I am always willing to take on the challenge because the results are so fantastic. Fourth grade students and older can usually handle the folds with guidance. I made this video tutorial to teach you how to make a Preamble Stretch Book. :-)

Click image for Preamble Stretch Book tutorial

Here is a link to the Preamble Stretch Book in my store in case you are interested!

Have a terrific week everyone! I hope you will spread some patriotism in your part of the country. I was feeling patriotic at the nail salon this weekend. In case you didn't notice in the video, here is a still shot of my fingernails. :-) I think my students will enjoy looking at them this week!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

First Week Snapshots

There is something magical about the first week of school. Even after all of these years, the excitement still feels the same. The smell of new books. The fresh boxes of crayons. The shiny new glue sticks. I love it all. 

Click image for BLOOM Bulletin Board FREEBIE!

Setting the stage for a new school year is so much fun to me. Every single item in my classroom is carefully placed and has a very specific purpose. Structure is the name of the game, but it is all wrapped up in a colorful package. 

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it is all a reality. I really have a career as a teacher. I really manage this classroom. I really have the opportunity to shape lives and make an impact on my community and the world. Truly, it is an honor and a privilege to walk in these shoes. 

My new crop arrived with much gusto this year. Each one so unique and special in his or her own little way. Each one filled with the kind of spirit that comes with eight years of experience at life. Each one ready to teach me some kind of lesson. 

Click image for a link to FREEBIE by Doris Young

Well, the paper bag books are underway.

Click image for link to paper bag books

The "getting to know you" games have been played.

And the buckets are already starting to fill.

Click image for link to book by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer

Important lessons about fairness and equality have been taught. My students learned that "fair" is not always "equal" and that everyone gets what they need in my class, even if it is different. I'm going to need a lot of those blocks this school year.

Click image for a link to picture

We wrote name poems. Everyone learned about the meaning of their name. We shared our needs and fears and loves. We celebrated the things that make us individuals.

We also spent some time preparing for parent night. This paper is folded and the back has a quiz for parents to take as they wait for my parent night presentation to get started. I wonder how many parents will be able to resist the temptation to flip the quiz over while they make guesses about their child's favorites. They always get a good chuckle out of this parent night quiz.

Click image for link to FREEBIE by Rachel Lynette

One of my favorite team-building activities for the first week of school is this cooperative group craft. With very little direction (intentionally), I lay out the materials and show my students a sample. They must work together to problem solve and assemble the parts. I learn volumes about my students while observing their approach to this activity. I discover my leaders and my thinkers. I find out about learning styles and motor skills. I get a taste of personalities and cooperative abilities.

The finished "icosahedrons" also look fabulous hanging from the ceiling in my classroom. The Astrobrights paper sure does give my classroom an added pop of color! Kudos to you if you can pronounce the name of a polyhedron with 20 faces. :-)

I am a little bit sad to say goodbye to the first week of school. I enjoy the flexibility and freedom that comes with this first week. Now I am off to plan for the second week of school, when curriculum comes into play and freedom slowly dissipates.

I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day weekend! Whether you are farther into your school year or just getting ready to jump in next week, treat yourself to something special today. You deserve it. :-)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

Hello Friends! Where in the world did August go? These last few weeks have been filled with all the hustle and bustle of a new school year. Today is my fourth day back to school with students. I must admit that I am tired to the core. :-) I'm popping in briefly for the September Pick 3 Pinterest Linky Party hosted by Pawsitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner. Stay tuned for another post this weekend with some highlights from my first week of school.

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link

Why didn't I ever think of this before?!? What a great solution to the age old dilemma of lack of counter space! My classroom is small, so I am constantly searching for ways to maximize the space. Command hooks with baskets seems so easy!

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link

This will be my first seasonal craft of the school year. I like to give my students opportunities to be creative. I always leave a basket of craft supplies out for students to work on when they finish early. This craft will include some painting and weaving~ two fine motor activities that third graders really enjoy. Be sure to click the link and check out Cassie Stephens's blog for photo directions and many other gorgeous student samples. These are going to look so beautiful hanging in the classroom!

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link

Isn't this such a cute idea? The sign is a free download here from Nicole Bunt. I will be picking up some mints this weekend for my parent orientation night that is just around the corner.

If you are looking for some more September inspiration, check out what others have picked for the month of September! The September Pick 3 Pinterest Linky is open through the end of the month. All are invited to link up below to join in the fun.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Love Lapbooks {a Video!}

Hello Friends! Many of you know that I love lapbooks, but you may not know WHY I love them so much or how I use them in my own classroom. I stepped outside my comfort zone this week in order to tell the world about lapbooks through my very first YouTube video! You can watch it below! Enjoy!