Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Where in the World Cups

Year after year I am always so surprised by the number of students who cross my path without knowing exactly where they live in the world. "What is the name of your continent?" "Ummmm, the U.S.A.?" "In which country do you live?" "I know! I know! Pennsylvania!" 


Really, knowing all the layers of this place we call home is a very abstract concept. It can be challenging for many children to visualize how our place in the world is inside another place, which is inside another place, which is inside another place, and so on. 

One year, I searched high and low for a set of seven nesting boxes that would fit one inside the other. I was determined to make a visual that would help my students remember something that I consider to be an essential concept. The nesting boxes were really hard to find. I thought and thought about other objects that nest inside each other and then it hit me. Cups! That would be an easy {and inexpensive} solution!

Now, my students know exactly where they live in the world. We zoom all the way out to the Milky Way Galaxy and then work our way back in to our planet, continent, country, state, and town. Finally, students are required to memorize their home address.

I would like to share a set of editable cup labels with you so that we can all rest easy knowing that our students will be able find their way home from outer space. :-) Be sure to download the file and then open it in Powerpoint for easy editing. Just click to edit each label as needed. Then print and make copies for your students to cut and paste onto some cups. I bought my cups at the dollar store.

If you teach a whole unit on geography like I do, here is another tool you might like to check out. I ditched my old geography worksheets a few years ago and replaced them with this lapbook. You seriously couldn't pay me enough to go back to those boring old worksheets. Now my students actually enjoy learning about geography!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mason Jar Spray Craft

My daughter and I had some fun with a fall craft last weekend. We are trying to keep in mind that fall is just around the corner despite the fact that we are amid a 100 degree {with high humidity} heat wave here in Pennsylvania at the current moment. This weather is really wacky for September in my area. I sure am ready for some cool, fall air.

You probably already know how much I love spray paint and the dollar store. This craft combines the two into one nifty project that is inexpensive and super easy to make! Snip, snip, spray, spray, tie, and the job is complete!

Decorate your classroom or home. Use them for centerpieces. Give them to all of your friends, relatives, and favorite teachers. Heck, sell these babies at your local craft fair and earn a few bucks! These things turn out pretty amazing!

First, pick yourself up some jars and a roll of contact paper at the dollar store. Also, grab a bag of raffia to tie on the finished jars. Unless you have a million cans of spray paint in your basement like I do, you may also need to swing by Walmart to purchase a few cans of that as well. :-)

Next, decide which kind of design you would like for your jars. Keep the shape fairly simple. We chose apples and leaves for our jars, but I also had visions of pumpkins, bats, turkeys, Christmas trees, snowmen. . .you name it. Print some basic images from your computer or draw them if you are talented. Cut out the computer (or hand drawn) images.

Trace the images on the back of the contact paper.

Then cut out the shapes from the contact paper. My daughter was in charge of this part of the craft. As you can see, she's a dirt-under-the-nails kind of gal. ;-)

Next, remove the backing from the contact paper and slap that sticker onto your jar. Take it outside and spray away! I do caution you not to spray paint in extreme temperatures or high humidity. Luckily, the weather had given us a one-day break last weekend that worked out well for spray painting.

Give all the jars a nice coat of paint. Keep your hand moving as you spray and keep a short distance in order to avoid drips. Try not to pout when bugs fly into your wet paint.

Let your jars sit for several hours or overnight if you are not in a hurry. Then, when the paint is nice and dry, carefully peel off your stickers. Tie some raffia around the top of each jar for a nice, finishing touch!

We added some of these battery operated candles to many of our jars. They are also from the dollar store.

And there you have it! Here are some of our jars in action right in my own classroom. Now, what are you waiting for? Push aside that lesson plan book and go get your supplies to make this super cute and very simple mason jar spray craft! Every teacher needs some time for themselves. Have fun!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Growth Mindset Bulletin Board

I needed a new approach with my hallway bulletin board this year, due to my new teaching position. I'm usually cutting out owls or Minions or popcorn at this time of year, but instead of welcoming a new crop of third grade students, I needed something more general and inspirational for all students. 

I can't take credit for the clever word arrangement. I saw a picture on Pinterest, but the link was dead, so if you happen to know who masterminded the arrangement of these words, please let me know so I can give proper credit. :-)

I received many questions about this bulletin board after posting a picture on Instagram, so here are the details about how it came to be. I am using it as a back to school bulletin board, but it would be a great display at any time of the year for a wide range of grade levels. I hope that you can duplicate it for your own classroom!

I had visions of big, bright letters on a black background for this bulletin board, so I picked up some black fabric and then headed over to A.C. Moore for some scrapbooking paper. I really liked the color assortment in this heavyweight paper and if you look very closely you will notice that it has some raised polka dots that add a nice texture to the display. Of course, the 40% off sign was also very persuasive.

Next, I took the paper squares home and cut them down to 8 and a half by 11 sheets that would fit in my printer. I used PowerPoint to make some large letters as show below.

You can see in the formatting palette that I used the KG font called Behind These Hazel Eyes. This font by Kimberly Geswein is free for personal use and can be downloaded here. I set the font size to 680.

I only wanted the outline of each letter, so I formatted the text by giving it a white fill.

I set the text line to black, which would give a nice line for me to cut. Then I just printed the letters, page by page on the scrapbooking paper. Even with the texture and thickness, it went right through without a problem.

I used a different color for each word. Then I carefully cut out each letter.

Finally, I headed to school and pieced everything together on the board. I started in the middle with the vertical, white word "LEARN" and then worked my way out on either side. The words fit perfectly, but there was a lot of extra black space on the edges, so I found some matching pompoms to use as accents. They were sold in sets of two for $1.99 at Christmas Tree Shops.

Here is a close up of the letters.

Now, here's hoping that my students will do a lot of reflecting, solving, creating, growing, thinking, and learning this year! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Classroom Curtains

Do you have open storage shelves in your classroom that could use a pretty disguise? I did! 

Actually, for years I have dreamed about having curtains to hide the junk teaching supplies on the seven shelves that run along an entire wall in my classroom. It just bothers me to look at exposed storage all the time. 

Now, I will begin by telling you that I do know how to do a basic straight stitch on a sewing machine. I'm definitely not a seamstress, but this type of sewing is pretty much as easy as pressing a pedal. If you don't have a sewing machine, go ahead and recruit a friend or relative who does. Hey, I kidnapped my mom for the day! You could always hand-stitch these curtains, but then they might not be ready in a jiffy.

Okay, so here is my best advice for quick classroom curtains. After years and years of waiting, my dream finally came true, and it was all because of this simple trick. Don't start from scratch! Modify some already-made curtains from the store! Hopefully you can find a fabric style you love on clearance like I did. It will save you lots of time and money.

I found these beauties at Kmart for $16. per 2 pack of panels. They were much too long for my cabinets, so I was able to cut them in half and get an extra set out of each package. Buying the fabric this way was much less expensive than paying for fabric by the yard. I had also considered using flat bed sheets, but these curtains were much better quality and the best part is, they were already hemmed on the sides! Here's how we did it.

The curtains I found had large metal grommets at the top that I did not need. My curtains would be hung with small spring rods, so I just used a pair of sharp fabric scissors to zip across the top of each panel and remove the grommet strips. 

I know those strips will come in handy for some other project, so I saved them for another day. They were just too nice to put in the trash. You may just see them again in another blog post!

Now, the thing that worked out nicely is that the hem on the bottom of each panel could be used as a pocket to hold the spring rod at the top of each curtain. I just had to turn the curtain upside down and pull out a few stitches on the side of each hem in order to open it up for the spring rod. 

We wanted the finished curtains to hang at 26 inches in length, so my mom measured and cut to allow enough fabric for a one inch hem on the bottom, plus a one and a half inch slot for the spring rod across the top. After folding under for each hem, it ended up being 31 inches of fabric. Some sections already had that slot for the spring rod, so on those pieces, we just had to hem the bottom. I ironed and pinned while my mom did the measuring and cutting. If you think I am detail oriented, you should meet my mom!

Once all the measuring, cutting, ironing, and pinning was complete, the sewing went really fast. Zip, zip, zip, and the job was complete! 

Now I smile every time when I look at those curtains. It was worth the effort to go from this.

To this.

I know this post was not very technical or specific. The exact measurements and details will ultimately depend on the size of your shelves. Hopefully, it will at least inspire you to start browsing some curtain clearance racks. One day, the perfect color and design might be right there waiting for you at the perfect price! Modify those things the best you can and put them on a spring rod. No one will ever notice if your hems aren't perfect! :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A New Chapter

For those of you who have been following me on Instagram, you may have noticed that my classroom is taking a new shape this year.  During this, my twentieth year of teaching, I have decided to take on a new adventure as a K-5 gifted support teacher. It has been a bittersweet feeling to hang up my homeroom teacher hat after all of these years and step into a specialist role. Of course, many, many, many factors went into this decision, but ultimately I know that this new position will lead to growth and happiness. I am actually pushing up my sleeves with excitement over the challenge.

I am still teaching in the same school, and my new classroom is directly across the hall from my third grade classroom of 12 years. In our school district, gifted education is currently a pull out program. In this new role, I will set goals, write IEPs, and design and deliver instruction for 31 identified gifted students. These students will visit my classroom throughout the day in small groups {yippee!} for enrichment and acceleration. Doesn't that sound dreamy? :-) Trust me, I have been a homeroom teacher for long enough to understand what a special opportunity this is that I have been handed.

Here are a few snapshots in my new classroom. I have had lots of fun with my new color scheme. It is still a work in progress, so I will zoom out and share more once it is complete.

I'm going to tell you more about those curtains from the last picture in my next post, so stay tuned for that in the very near future.

You can still expect all of the same unique teaching tips and tricks that I usually offer on my blog, but now I will also sprinkle in some posts about my experiences with gifted education. Creativity is my passion, so you will continue to see the "do it yourself" type of tutorials about the items I make for my classroom and my hope is that they will translate to you. I sure hope that you will come along with me on this journey. The ride will be so much better with friends. :-)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Magnetic Dice Shakers

Okay, so here's another fabulous dollar store find for your classroom, although I must admit that this one threw me a curve ball.

I once saw magnetic spice containers at a specialty kitchen shop and thought they would make great containers for dice. The only problem was the price. It would have cost a fortune to buy a class set or even enough for partners to share. I searched on the Internet and kept my eyes open in just about every store for over a year, but couldn't find any magnetic spice containers for an affordable price.

Then, I realized that I was looking in the wrong department! One day last spring, I stumbled upon these magnetic storage tins in the office supply section at Dollar Tree! They were designed to hold paper clips, but looked very much like the spice containers I had been looking for all along. The best part is that they were sold in sets of two for a dollar! I snatched up a dozen packages and went on my way. Here enters the problem.

As always, when shopping at the dollar store, we risk quality over price and quantity. Shortly after filling my containers and hanging them in their new home on the side of my file cabinet, I realized that the dollar store magnets were not going to properly adhere to the back of the tins. I still loved the idea of the containers, but this was just not going to work out.

Enter solution. 

It turns out that this fix-all adhesive (also from the dollar store) will do the trick. Remove each magnet with a butter knife. 

Bada bing.

Bada boom.

And then we were back in business. Those magnets are very difficult to remove and they have stayed in place ever since!

Now that's pure teacher bliss.

I used these 10-sided dicein some of my shakers. Those shakers work great when I need higher numbers because they have a 7, 8, 9, and a zero. Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link for a product that I use and love which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.

Happy shaking!