Saturday, May 23, 2015

In Loving Memory

Thank you to our fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Thank you to our veterans and our American military who are actively defending our country to preserve those freedoms. I will never take it for granted. I salute you this Memorial Day and always.

Here is a touching video about an eleven year old boy who understands what it means to be a United States citizen. What will YOU do to honor our fallen heroes this Memorial Day?

If I Were In Charge of the World Poem (Free Template)

Are you looking for one last (easy to implement) writing project for the school year? This poem makes a wonderful cover for a writing portfolio and is guaranteed to make every parent smile. It is surely a keeper!

First, I start by reading and analyzing the poem "If I Were in Charge of the World" by Judith Viorst together with my students (link follows). Then, I have my students use a similar format to write their own poems about being in charge of the world. I have included a free template below.

The final results are always priceless. To top it off, I like to take a photograph of each child and then overlay it with the words from his or her poem. I put my poems together in PowerPoint, and it is very easy to insert the photo and then format the picture. The image below shows how I make the picture "grayscale" and then set the transparency to 50%. This softens the picture and makes it look more like a background. Most editing software will have these features. I just love looking into the eyes of each child while reading their words. As the saying goes, "From the mouths of babes!" 

Here is a link to the poem by Judith Viorst, along with a free writing template that your students can use to make their own "In Charge of the World" poems.

Click image for poem and template download.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Dear Mom, I Remember.

My mom is the toughest woman I know. She is much, much tougher than a cookie. My mom could crush steel in her hands and put scratches in teflon if it were in the name of love.

This woman is a diamond.

My mom is the daughter of a strong woman, who was the daughter of a strong woman. Three generations of toughness. Sometimes I just don't understand why the struggles in this world can't be more equally distributed. Why do some people have to hold such a heavy burden in life? It takes an amazing person to carry the load that my mom carries, and by the grace of God she does it with a smile on her face.

Dear Mom,

I want you to know that I remember.

I remember that time in grade school when you took off work to come to my field day. I remember watching you walk across that field in your flowing skirt and thinking to myself that I had the prettiest mom on the field. It didn't even matter how many gold stars I had on my field day badge as soon as you arrived.

I remember those oh so magical Christmas mornings when everything in the house just seemed to sparkle. I remember the most beautiful trees, the piles of presents that were exactly right, and of course the babka bread. Those days, I never noticed the bags under your eyes, but I know that they were there.

I remember how you worked all day, kicked off your high heels, and then stood there working in that kitchen every. single. night. You worked so hard for us to have a sit down family dinner. I loved the nights when you decided to serve us weenies and beanies.

Mom, I remember that time my friend Kelly came over and wrote her name in the dust on our coffee table. You sat me down and told me something that I understand a whole lot more now than I did that day. You told me how hard it was to work full time and keep a clean house too. You told me that there are other things in life that are far more important than dust, and boy is that true.

I remember that butterfly birthday party that you planned for me. All those games were so much fun! I remember how you took pennies and sprinkled them all over the lawn for us to find. That watermelon fruit salad basket was so cool!

I remember the smiley face pancakes.

I remember our trip to Dutch Wonderland.

I remember the matching blue robes you made for us.

Of course, I remember all of those Halloween costumes. I have no idea how you found the time to make those things. The lion, the flower petals that you shaped out of hangers, the nun costume. All stitched to perfection.

I remember when you let me design my own bedroom. We went to the fabric store together and picked out fabric. You sewed those pink and green striped curtains, comforter, and pillows. You let me paint my room green even though it is your least favorite color. You inspired me to create a matching piece of abstract art with paint splashes to hang over my bed.

Mom, I even remember that time in school when I got in trouble for speaking up to the teacher. You taught me that it is okay to stand up for what you believe in as long as you are doing it in a respectful way. Thank you for teaching me that lesson at an early age.

I remember that time during my early adolescence when I had a major temper tantrum and threw the brush at you because my bangs wouldn't curl right. This is not an excuse, but it was the eighties and bangs were really important. Thanks for just standing there so patient and calm while I acted like an idiot.

As I grew older, I remember that you gave me the perfect balance of freedom and structure. You gave me the room to make mistakes and then helped to pick me back up when I floundered. I remember thinking that some of my friends had parents that were too strict, while others had no discipline at all. You were somewhere right in the middle and it was perfect.

I remember those expensive prom dresses you bought me. The ones we probably couldn't afford. Somehow you always made it happen.

Mom, I remember how you were there for me through all of the heartbreak with boyfriends and break ups. You taught me that saying, "The looser the leash, the less they linger." You taught me how to be independent, and to be careful not to smother. You even peeled me off the ground and helped me to pack up and move back home after an abrupt end to one long relationship. That was an extremely difficult time in my life and I will never forget how you helped me get through it.

Mom, I remember the many things you have done for me as an adult. I remember it all.

I remember when Ray and I bought our first house. You came over and helped us paint it. We painted every room in that house and you did most of the trim work. You have always been so good with detail work like that.

I remember your support through my wedding. I remember my wedding shower at your house, with all those perfect details that you always put into everything you do. I cherish those shopping trips we had together to find our dresses. That dress looked awesome on you.

I remember how you gave up your lunch breaks at work to come let Dewey out of his cage when he was a puppy. You taught him how to give you his paw. I noticed that look he had in his eyes when he would do that for you. His eyes sparkled for you all the way up until the day that he died. He knew how special you were.

I remember that you were there with me in the hospital on the day my first child was born. You came to the rescue when I desperately needed some sleep during that first week home with my new baby. No matter what, you always came to the rescue. ALWAYS came to the rescue.

I remember the time you dropped everything to come help me grade papers at school the night before report cards were due. I thought I was going to have a nervous break down that day, but everything was better when you arrived.

I remember the time you clipped pine branches and holly with me in the dark to help me make last minute gifts for parent volunteers at school when money was tight. You didn't complain one bit.

And speaking of money being tight, I remember when you let me go grocery shopping in your pantry. I remember the many times that you gave us your last fifty dollars to help us get by until pay day. I remember those things.

I will always remember the way you speak to my children. The way you take the time to really listen to them. The way you make every moment with them so special. They love the time they get to spend with you. Every minute is saturated with love.

Mom, there are so many memories that I hold tight. I want you to know that I remember all of the things you have done for me over the years, both big and small. They all made a difference. I remember the sacrifices that you made and the hardships that you faced. You are an amazing mother. You are an amazing person.

My mom is the toughest person I know. She is a diamond.

Interactive Math Kit Bundle: Last Chance to Enter!

Today is your last opportunity to enter the Rafflecopter for my Interactive Math Kit Bundle! :-) Don't miss out on the chance to win this 200 page download that includes five interactive math lapbooks, plus an envelope book! The drawing closes at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 8, 2015

Liebster Award!

Thank you so much to Kirsten from HIP Hooray in K for recognizing my blog for the Liebster Award! What a fun way to connect with other bloggers!
I am actually so new to the blogosphere that I didn't even know what the award meant when I found out about my nomination! I did a little research and found out that the Liebster Award is a way for new bloggers to support and encourage each other, while building a sense of community in the blog world. The word "liebster" has German origins and it has many meanings including welcome, valued, beloved, nicest, and lovely. I truly feel so honored to be included. :-)

As a Liebster recipient, I am asked to share the answers to eleven questions. Then, I will spread the love by passing the award to some other fantastic blogs I follow. You can find those blogs listed at the bottom of this post, along with the Liebster Award rules. So, here goes!

1. Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
My blogging journey started about three months ago. I decided to start a blog as a form of journal writing. It is a way for me to relax, unwind, and reflect on my time in the classroom.

2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Passion is the heart of my blog. There are just certain things that I feel so passionate about and it is hard to hold back my feelings.

3. Is there something you learned late in your blogging journey that you wished you knew before?
My journey has really just started, and I am learning new things every single day. I still have so much to learn. One of the most useful things I have learned so far is how to participate and link up early to blog link ups. I was so proud of myself the first time I made that work. :-)

4. What is your favorite pastime other than blogging?
I am a thrift store junky. I love finding old things and making them new again. I especially love an interesting piece of solid wood furniture that I can paint and distress. I am not embarrassed to admit that I will slam on my brakes to remove something awesome from a trash can.

5. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog/TPT?
I *try my best* to work on my blog and TPT products when my own children are sleeping. I treat it like a second job with very late night hours. I usually work at least two hours per night, but have been known to work until sunrise if I am in the middle of something exciting. I would estimate that I spend about 20-30 hours per week on my blog and TPT. This is on top of my full time teaching job.  I love the time spent doing these things. Blogging and making products is a creative outlet for me.

6. What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
I love reading practical blog posts and tutorials. It feels so good to walk away from a blog post with a realistic application that I can use in my own classroom.

7. Where does your blog inspiration come from?
My blog inspiration comes right from my own classroom. I have a running list of blog ideas that usually come to me right in the middle of a lesson. One of the things I love about teaching is that every day is so different. There will certainly never be a shortage of topics for blog posts as long as I am a classroom teacher.

8. Which post that you've written are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my blog post about opting out of the state test. It was a risky post about a controversial topic in education. That post received a lot of attention! I was so surprised to see the graphics I created for that post all over various forms of social media. It was exciting to see how many people were interested in that topic.

9. Is there a post that you are planning to do but have been postponing it for a while?
Not really. I am a "Type A" kind of person. If I get an idea in my head, look out! I tend to get tunnel vision and will work and work and work until the idea comes to fruition. I drive my own self crazy most of the time.

10. What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
Is it bad to admit that it is fun to have an audience? :-) I get so excited to check my blog stats each day and see the number of visitors and their locations. It gives me great satisfaction to know that other people are interested in the content of my blog. Some people even like it enough to return and that makes me so happy! Blogging makes me feel less isolated within my profession.

11. Which idea from a blog would you like to try yourself?
I am hoping to get my task cards organized this summer, using some of the tips in this blog post from Teaching With a Mountain View. I am hoping that my local Target has the double-decker bathroom organizers and $1 plastic file envelopes. Right now, my task cards are in some serious need of organization. In fact, I hope I can even find them all!

Now I would like to nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Award!

1. Mike at Inspired Young Minds
2. Pamela at Hedgehog Reader
3. Kelly at Glitter in Third
4. Suzanne at Kindergarten Planet
5. Hilda at M & M Bilingual

Here are the Liebster Award rules:

  • Link back to the blog that nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions posted by the nominator
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs (with less than 200 followers) and link to them in your post
  • Contact the nominees and let them know they have been nominated

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TPT Sale and Dollar Deals!

I am sure that you have heard the big news! Teachers Pay Teachers is having a two day Teacher Appreciation Sale on May 5th and 6th! All items in my store will be 20% off, plus TPT will take an additional 10% off with the promo code THANKYOU! Now is the time to stock up on resources!

There is a lot going on this week, so I would like to recap two things and then tell you about yet another surprise!

1. Click here to enter for your chance to win my Interactive Math Kit BUNDLE. It is a 200 page download that includes five math lapbooks and an envelope book, valued at $24.50! 

2. Click here to read about three great ideas for your classroom and to enter for your chance to win two HUGE prize bundles valued at more that $475! Make sure you enter for both prize bundles so you have double the chance to win!

AND. . .now for the next surprise!

Many teachers will also be participating in a special $1 deal promotion! I see a lot of terrific products being offered at a bargain price! Remember to use the promo code THANKYOU to receive the full discounted price of only $1.00! My Mental Math Poke Cards are included in this promotion for only $1.00. They are great for independent practice with number bonds. Poke cards are an engaging learning tool and I love that they are self-checking. If you have never used poke cards before, now is the perfect opportunity to give them a try! 

Check out these other $1 deals!

Monday, May 4, 2015

What Works? Classroom Secrets and HUGE Teacher Appreciation Giveaway!

Isn't it so fun to visit other classrooms and get ideas? I love to see what works well for other teachers and then figure out how I can make those ideas work in my own classroom. You know the expression. The best teachers know how to beg, borrow, and steal share. ;-)

I am linking up with some blog friends this week to celebrate and honor all of the incredible teachers out there. We are reflecting on the things that work well in our own classrooms and then sharing those ideas with you. We also have some hefty prizes in store for our readers! Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this post. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on these prize packages

Here are three things that work really well in my own third grade classroom.
Ziploc Quilt

When I was a new teacher in the 90's, blog hops were called bar hops. We were still learning how to send emails, and digital cameras were the size of a toaster. Since blogs were a thing of the future, we teachers met in person to laugh, cry, complain, and share ideas. I cannot take credit for this fabulous Ziploc quilt. All I can tell you is that a friend of a friend's mom (who was a retired kindergarten teacher) mailed me a picture of a Ziploc quilt she had made and loved. I wish I could remember her name in order to give proper credit. 

My Ziploc quilt (not the one pictured) is getting old now, but it still looks as good as new! It has come in so handy over the years and has received many, many compliments. It makes such an easy and attractive display for student work. Make it one time and use it until you retire. Then you can even pass it along to another nice teacher!

In order to make a Ziploc quilt, you will need gallon-sized freezer bags. The quilt can be any size. Use as many bags as you need for your maximum class size. You will also need regular Scotch tape and two rolls of your favorite pattern or solid color Duck tape. I decided to use a solid color for my frame.  You will also need scissors to cut the tape.

Decide how many rows and columns will be in your quilt. The quilt I made for this tutorial has 5 rows of 4. To begin, you will piece everything together with Scotch tape. This part is really important. Turn the bags backwards so that any brand names or other printing is on the back of the bag. You do not want that printing to cover your student work. All of the tape is on the front of the quilt, which should be the clear side of the bag. Tape together the side seams of the bags to make all of your rows first.

Then, tape together the bags at the top and bottom. For this part, you will want to slightly overlap the bags so that the Ziploc opening is accessible from the back of the quilt. Again, make sure that all printing on the bags is on the back of the quilt.

Finally, you are ready to add the pretty tape. This will cover and support all of the Scotch tape. Simply cover all of your seams with the Duck tape of your choice. Center the tape over the seams.

Here is a before and after picture of the Duck tape. 

Now you can display your student work! Slide the papers in the bags through the back of the quilt. You can hang the quilt with magnets or push pins, but my favorite way to maximize space is to hang it on a bare wall using these Command hooks. I just punched three holes across the top of my quilt so I can slide it right on the hooks.

I have a special teacher in mind for this Ziploc quilt. ;-) Did I mention that they make great gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week?
Math Enrichment Notebook

This is such a simple idea and it works so effectively for students who need extra enrichment in math. I used to copy enrichment packets for my students, but often times many of the pages were unfinished and wasted when it was time to move to the next chapter.

Now, at the beginning of a new chapter, I copy enrichment pages, but then slice up the problems on a paper cutter. I keep the problems in a basket that I can easily access when needed. 

My students use a notebook for many of our daily math problems. We use the front of the notebook for this purpose. Then, we flip the notebook over (and upside down) for enrichment problems. When individual students have mastered a concept quickly, I just pull out my basket and hand them an enrichment problem. They flip over their notebook and use a glue stick to insert the problem in the next empty space. Here is an example from the inside of one of my student enrichment notebooks.

Enrichment side of notebook
I really like this method of math enrichment because I always have challenge problems at my fingertips, and I can prescribe the exact problems that are appropriate for each individual student. It is easy to sneak in a problem even when there is only a few minutes left at the end of class. Also, there is less paper waste. The extra problems in my basket can be used the following year.

The front of the notebook is used for regular math work. The next picture shows what the inside of the front looks like.

Regular side of notebook
My math notebook covers are available as a FREEBIE in my TPT store. Click on this link or the pictures below to grab yourself a copy. The awesome graphics are by Monster Wrangler Mike. I can't seem to get enough of his clip art.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week everyone! Thank you for all the sacrifices you make in the name of children. Thanks for being dedicated and just plain awesome. Now it's time for you to enter for your chance to win some incredible prizes below. After submitting your entries, be sure to hop around on all the other blogs at the very bottom of this post for many more classroom secrets!

Check out these two prize packages! They are each valued at over $475! The more entries you submit, the better your chances of winning!

One lucky winner will win this entire prize package! 

Prize Bundle #1 includes:

PLUS. . . a $140 gift box of fabulous teacher supplies sent to you from Amazon!

We aren't finished yet! Take a look at everything a second lucky winner will win!

Prize Bundle #2 includes:

PLUS. . . a $140 gift box of fabulous teacher supplies sent to you from Amazon!

Be sure to enter both rafflecopters for a better chance at winning one of these amazing prize bundles!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Interactive Math Kit BUNDLE Giveaway!

With Teacher Appreciation Week on the horizon, I have many surprises in store! Here is the first!

Enter for your chance to win my Interactive Math Kit Bundle! This bundle is a $24.50 value and it includes six interactive math kits (five lapbooks and one envelope book) on the topics of place value, time and money, geometry, multiplication, fractions, and measurement. It is a 200 page download that is filled with step by step photo illustrations and black line masters that your students will surely love.

You can submit three entries for this giveaway. Just follow the Rafflecopter steps below. This giveaway is open through May 10th. Good luck! :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

May has arrived and it is time to plan for the end of the school year! Yippee! Our last day for students this year is not until mid-June, but I have been busy gathering ideas and supplies to make the last weeks super special for my students. Maybe some lucky students and teachers get to start their summer vacation in May, but as for me, I'll just be planning. :-)

I am happy to link up once again with Inspired Owl's Corner and PAWSitively Teaching for the Pick 3 Pinterest Party!

Here are my favorites for the month of May.

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link
This idea looks like so much fun and will surely send them off with a blast. Count down the last ten days of school by popping balloons! Each balloon contains a slip of paper with a special surprise for the day. If you follow the link, there is a free printable download with the ten slips of paper to put inside. The ideas are really simple and fun. I especially like, "You are so bright, we have to wear shades." So cute! Now, my only dilemma this year is that we have a latex allergy in the building. I need to get creative and figure out an alternate for latex balloons. Hmmm. Maybe colorful bags?

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link

I am already on the lookout for some nice, colorful frames for this end of year gift for my students. Give each student a copy of the class list and have them write one positive describing word for every classmate. Then, create a Wordle for each student at I like the idea of keeping the finished product a secret when they are writing the descriptive words. This will be such a nice, personalized gift!

Click on image to view the original Pinterest link

Minute to Win It is such a fun game to play in the classroom. Inspired by the television show, students are given simple challenges to complete in a minute's time. This pin inspired me to create some new Minute to Win It challenges for the end of the school year. Reagan Tunstall shares seven easy to prepare challenges that she uses with her first grade students. I am sure that my third graders will be equally challenged by these games. I have already started saving cereal boxes for the "Scrambled Breakfast" challenge. :-)

If you are looking for some more May inspiration, check out what others have picked for the month of May! The May Pick 3 Pinterest Linky is open through May 31th. All are invited to link up below to join in the fun!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Click here if you would like to enter for a chance to win my Interactive Math Kit BUNDLE. It is a 200 page download that includes six interactive math kits (five lapbooks and an envelope book). The giveaway ends on May 10th.