Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family Traditions

I'm doing a guest post today for the award winning author, Maria Dismondy, on her blog Be The Difference. Maria is doing a summer series about family traditions. I hope you'll stop by and read my post about one of our favorite family traditions. You can click on the image below to read it.

Don't forget to enter my Back to School Giveaway for a chance to win an Erin Condren gift card or a Target gift card! The giveaway ends on August 6!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School Giveaway!

Thank you for visiting today!
It's time for a Back to School Giveaway! 
 2 Prizes = 2 Lucky Winners! 
I hope you'll join me and enter to win!

There are 2 prizes and there will be one winner for each prize!

The first prize will be a $25 to Erin!

Erin Condren has ALL kinds of adorable products that would surely make any teacher jump up and down!  You can read about my Erin Condren Life Planner here.  I LOVE my new planner!

The second prize will be a $20 Target gift card!

Who doesn't love Target? (Well, probably my husband...)

The giveaway starts today and will end on August 6.

The winners will be announced on my blog on August 7.

Winners will need to email me before August 9 to claim their prize.

Let the giveaway begin!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm a Stampin' Fool

When I was little I used to think it would be dreamy to work in a library, so I could spend my whole day stamping the little cards in the back of the books at the checkout counter. That's how old I am. Ha!
I guess being a teacher is the next best thing. So, I shall keep on stampin'! In fact, this summer I was inspired by 2 Crazy Texas Teachers to visit Vistaprint to make my very own stamp. Ok, stamps. I ordered the size that is 2.24 x .83.  They were easy to design on the site and they were delivered in just a few days. I think they turned out super cute!!
Now, to work on the lamination pile that nearly blew out of my Jeep on the way back from school the other day. Oy...
That opinion writing thingy is from my Opinion Writing pack, which will be posted very soon. And...the smaller cards in the pile are from my Funky Fun Vowel Games, which I just posted a few weeks ago.
 Please visit tomorrow to hear about my Back to School Giveaway!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's here! It's here!

I've been waiting (not so patiently) for my Erin Condren Life Planner to arrive. Yippee! Yahoo! It's here!!!

 If you are not familiar with Erin Condren products, you should really check them out. I've been admiring her products (and visiting her website to listen to the pretty noises that the menu items make when you hover over them) for a whole year.

Honestly, I hesitated to buy another paper planner (because I've been using google calendar for a couple years). Google calendar is lovely, but I decided that person in charge of organizing a family with 2 teachers, 2 kids, dance classes, performing company, piano lessons, travel soccer, baseball and church events deserves a fancy planner. I will still use google calendar a bit, but with so many different things on our schedule, I really needed something else to help me stay organized. And I'm oh so incredibly happy that I splurged on myself  our family!!

I read lots of reviews on the Life Planner and everyone seems to mention the pretty packaging.  Well, that's no joke.  I hope the folks in the Erin Condren packaging department know how ridiculously exciting it is for a person like me to open the beautiful package!  My package even contained some extra surprises.  I was in love with their customer service before I even laid eyes on my new planner.

I selfishly hid from my other family members so that no one would "mom", "mom", "mom" me while I focused on opening my present, prize, new and improved organizational tool.

And there it was...

I chose my own color scheme and font and I'm in love!
I stared at it for about 20 seconds before I picked it up wondering 
if anyone but a teacher would be this excited about a calendar.
Then I remembered all the reviews and YouTube videos 
that I watched of other really excited customers.

The cover and the back is laminated, 
but with the hard kind of laminating 
that is normally too expensive for teachers to use!
The spiral binding allows it to lay flat enough for me 
to keep staring at the pages inside.
And, it's the perfect size to carry to a meeting, 
but not so big that the edges would get bent in my teacher bag.

Monthly Layout

When you order from Erin Condren, 
you can choose to start your planner any month.  
I started mine in September because 
doesn't every teacher think the real calendar year
 should match the school calendar?
(In Michigan, we start school in September.)
Did you know that Erin Condren is the daughter of two teachers and she sells teacher planners as well.

Weekly Planning Pages

Meal planning space, 
nice big boxes for morning, day, and night time activities, 
a to do list down the side...oh my!
Did I mention that I am in LOVE with my new planner?

It's full of inspirational quotes, as if the darn thing isn't inspirational enough!  
It even has stickers for special events.  
I also ordered a sheet of custom stickers since I love stickers to help me organize my family events (soccer, dance, baseball, piano).

I must admit that I worried for a few minutes 
that it might be too pretty to write in...
but once I pulled out my favorite colorful pens 
it seemed ok to just go ahead and dig in.

Erin Condren - Here's your report card...

A+ for customer service
A+ for adorable packaging
A+ for quality products
A+ for durability
A+ for stylishness

I will definitely enjoy planning my life this year!

Another Happy Teacher

I'll be doing a back to school giveaway soon, 
and an Erin Condren gift card just might be one of the prizes!
Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mission Organization (and a freebie)

I'm doing a guest blog post for 2 Crazy Texas Teachers today! Welcome, if you are visiting from their blog! I hope you'll consider following my blog on a regular basis too. If you are one of my faithful followers, please consider stopping by to visit 2 Crazy Texas Teachers today. I love that these gals refer to themselves as "crazy teachers"! Don't we all feel crazy in this job sometimes?!

2 Crazy Texas Teachers
I just returned from my 19 day camping trip! It was supposed to be 17 days, but we were not quite ready to come home (really). My parents joined us toward the end of our trip and my mom surprised me with a special gift. She gave me this wooden sign that says "relax". "Relax" is my OLW (one little word) for 2013. 19 days of camping was just what I need to help me relax and I love that my mom delivered such a sweet reminder. Thank you, mom!

After all that relaxing, it's time to tackle the laundry mountain and get busy getting organized (at home and at school) for the new year. When I get the laundry mountain under control, I'm planning to head to school to reorganize my room while no one is around. I have big plans to go there with my messy summer bun, sing really loud and label everything in sight. Ok, maybe just a few things.

I made these new labels for the bins that I keep behind my desk. I will post pictures of the bins as soon as I go there to put the new labels in place. I printed them on white cardstock and sometimes I mount them on another piece of bright cardstock. I don't usually print labels for my bins on sticker style labels, because I don't like to pick off the stickers when I want to change my labels. You can click on the picture to download if you'd like your own copy.

I also need to finish adding labels to some of the book bins in my nonfiction book area.  You can read a previous post about my nonfiction book bins and grab a copy of my nonfiction book bin labels by clicking on the image below.

And as soon as I find composition notebooks at the right price, I'll be able to start preparing my math journals.  You can click on the image below to read about how I prepare those each year.

That should be enough to keep me busy while I dance around singing really loud with my messy summer bun labeling like an organizin' fool!

Now, this tired girl needs to go to bed.  
Sleeping in my own bed after 19 days is going to be dreamy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Helping Each Other Be Successful

About a month ago, I found this poster online titled "12 Things Successful People Do Differently". As teachers, I feel like there are too many times when we "worry about another teacher being successful and how it will make us look/feel" rather that lifting each other up and celebrating the success of other educators.

 Here is the poster. It was shareed by Mrs. McCumbee's Class blog.  I love the name of her blog, McCumbee Talent Development.

I'm on day 14 of my 17 day camping trip, so I've had a lot of time to think about next year.

Next year is going to be a challenging year for my first grade team.  There are 5 of us.  Three of the 5 are fairly new to first grade, but all have lots of teaching experience.  We are starting a new math program (thank you, Jesus!).  We will also be piloting a new reader's workshop curriculum and a new writing program.  How did we end up doing all of that in the same year?  I better not say.  Either way, it will be a challenging year and we are going to have to do everything we can to encourage and celebrate each other.

Here's my plan.  Remember, I'm a goal setter?  Plus, I really need to be a better listener.  It's really a struggle when you enjoy talking as much as I do.

Now, I'm off for a walk on the beach while I wait impatiently for an email saying my Erin Condren Life Planner has shipped.  My husband and most of my friends and family would die if they knew how much I spent on the planner that I ordered.  But, ya'll understand right?

Those tabs,
the pretty colors,
the spaces for all of my lists,
the custom stickers that I ordered,
the pretty colored pens that I will use to organize our crazy schedule,
the adorable custom cover...
I can hardly wait!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Classroom Rules and Motto Freebie

Happy Friday! I was too busy enjoying a boat ride around the lake yesterday to do this post. Oh, how I love summer. So, I'm going to link this to two different parties today...

Freebie Fridays

Last September, I posted about my classroom rules and our classroom motto (which is one that I found on Pinterest). I modified the motto throughout the year with my students and this summer I made new versions of both signs to match my classroom decor. You can read the old post here.

Why do I only have 2 rules?  I only have 2 rules because they are easy for my first graders to remember and each one of the things from the motto can be sorted to go with one of the rules.  I let the kids discuss the things from the motto together in groups and do the sorting as we introduce the rules/motto during the first few weeks of school.  You can read about that (and see pictures) in the original post above.

 If you'd like your own copy of my rules and motto for your classroom, you can click on the first image below. Please follow my blog and my store if you download.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quilted Memories

This post has absolutely nothing to do with teaching...

My own children are growing up so fast (way too fast). My oldest is 10 and my youngest is 7. Over the last several years, we have given away or sold most of the "baby stuff". Of course, I kept some of their favorite toys and stuffed animals. I also kept one bin of my favorite things for each child (my favorite bib, their crib sheets, a few soft blankets, some adorable clothes that they loved or I loved). When I decided what to save and what I could part with, I wasn't really sure what I would do with the things in each bin. I just knew that each bin was full of memories that I was not willing to part with.

 My friend, Holly, is a talented seamstress. She has been sewing for years. When her son, Matthew, died a few years ago, she used sewing as a way to share his things and the memories they treasure with family members and friends. Holly made quilts and pillows from her sons things to give to family members. When we saw her beautiful memory quilts, we started encouraging her to consider opening a business. This year, Holly did that. Her business is called Memories Are Timeless Treasures. She started making quilts and other items for people who have lost a loved one and for people like me who just want to perserve special memories in a unique way.

Holly took a bag full of my "special things" (one for each of my children), made me pinky swear that I was ok with her cutting them up and created 2 beautiful quilts. When she dropped them off at my house, I was flooded with happy memories. The crib sheets that are so familiar to me, my son's favorite shirt, the ballerina pillow case that my daughter loved, special bibs for each, their hospital issued blankets, my favorite bandana patterned Gymboree leggings that were perfect for our little preemie, the first pair of Lightening McQueen big boy undies...and so many more memories for each child.

Each quilt has a backing and the borders around each of the "blocks" are also made from our special things.  They are beautiful!  I could just cry every time I look at them...and I can't stop smiling just thinking about every little piece and the memories that went with that special time.

Marissa's Memory Quilt

Donavon's Memory Quilt

You can visit Holly's website to get more information about her business.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Throwback Thursday (b and d confusion freebie)

Happy 4th of July everyone! 
 I'm celebrating with my family at the lake here in Michigan.  
The sun is shining. The birds are chirping.
We are going to start the day with a long bike ride along the lake.
Then a little beach time, followed by another bike ride into town to watch the parade.
Back to the beach for the 2nd night of fireworks tonight.
Life is good and we are so grateful for our freedom
(and especially those who fight for it for each of us).

I'm linking up with Cara, from The First Grade Parade for Throwback Thursday.  

This post if from September of 2011.  Whoa...

So many beginning readers seem to experience b and d confusion. Many of the teachers who helped me learn to teach reading use the "check your bed" strategy to help students distinguish between b and d. I recently made my own signs to use to prompt students who are confused when they get to a word with a b or a d.
Click on the image below if you'd like to download my signs (the 2nd one is a real photograph).

This is what I say to a student when he/she is not sure if a letter in a specific word is a b or d.
1. Is that a "b" or a "d" in that word?
2. Put your fists together and stick your thumbs up. (like the picture)
3. Slowly say "b-e-d". (Teacher - Trace the b that their left fist makes with your finger while you say the sound for "b". Trace the d that their right fist makes with your finger when they say the sound for "d".)
4. Does the letter in the word look like the b (at the beginning of bed) or the d (at the end of bed)?

Holy Perfect Dot Spots!

A couple weeks ago, I went shopping for new placemats for my kitchen table.

 If you've been following me for a while, you'll remember that my husband made me a farm house table for our new house. I love it. It's so beautiful that I nearly have a heart attack when a guest sets their drink on it. I try really hard not to look like a completely rude hostess while I swoop in to grab their drink and set it on one of the placemats. One friend suggested that I put a tablecloth on the table...but it's too pretty to cover up and it's 7 feet long (which makes finding the perfect tablecloth tricky).

 So, I frequently shop for new placemats. I'm picky about the placemats. They have to be certain colors, certain fabrics and they can not be bumpy (because the bumps help my kids spill their drinks).

I took my kids shopping with me. I love my kids. I do not love taking them shopping. They each had their opinions about which placemats we should buy. We didn't agree until we set our eyes on these perfect polka dot spot placemats.

They are vinyl, kind of squishy and 17 inches. My kids were so excited that I agreed to buy them, until my daughter noticed that I was putting 10 of them in our cart and that they happened to match my classroom. That's when she yelled out, "You're not going to let us use those. We should have known they were perfect for your classroom, right?" Busted.

She's right.  They are way too bumpy for home and perfect for my classroom.  I'm going to use them as seat cushions for different center areas.   I think they will help me define a few spaces, but allow that space to easily be transformed back into a different kind of work station after center time is over. Isn't it funny that I never thought of using placemats to help define a space, until I found them in the colors to match my room?

While they are not being used at a center, I'll keep them in a basket for kids to use to sit on during quiet reading time.  I let my kids grab pillows from around the room to sit in a comfy spot to read 2 or 3 times a week during quiet reading (the other times they read at their own seats). Having these extra seat cushions will help when we run out of pillows.

I found the perfect polka dotted placemats seat circles at Kohls.  They were originally 5.99 each.  But, between the sale price and my coupon I only paid about $2 each.  They also had orange, black, yellow and brown.

Plan for today.  Long bike ride, dog walk, reading, beach time, sunset and campfire.  Summer is so good for us.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reader's Theater

A few months ago, I posted about how we do reader's theater in my classroom. It really seems to build confidence and improve reading fluency for readers of all levels. I also like that students have to really focus their attention to know when to read their part in each play.

Welcome to our theater! 

 You can read my last post here

My friend, Kristin (A Teeny Tiny Teacher) made the first set of plays that I posted about in the previous post.  My students LOVED her first set of plays!
I'm so excited that she made another set. 
I can't wait to use her second set with my first graders next year!

You can find her new set by clicking on the image below.

Thank you for all of your hard work, Kristin!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Game Storage & Funky Fun Vowel Games

Here it is July 1st and the world did not end with Google Reader.  The thought of waking up with no followers had me more worried that Y2K (remember that craziness).   So, thank you for sticking with my blog and/or stopping by to visit!

As I was packing up my room for the summer, I reorganized all of my word work games. I would love to show you a picture of the shelf that all of my games go on, but they move every piece of furniture from our rooms into the hallway for the summer. Which means I used a whole forest full of bulletin board paper and 3 rolls of masking tape to cover up every shelf so those little dumplings who use our building for camp during the summer don't sneeze on, touch, look at or breathe near any of my precious belongings.

Most of my games are stored in photo storage boxes. I buy them for about $2 each at JoAnn Fabrics with my coupons/teacher discount. I like them because they are clear and I use clear packing tape to attach the title and/or directions to the lid of the box. My students have been using them for about 5 years and not one has ever broken (so far). 

Here are a few pictures of one of my games in one of my photo storage boxes. 
This game is from my Alien Zap Dolch Sight Word Games set.

You can find the Alien Zap Dolch Word Games by clicking on the image below.

I also recently scored these polka dotted reusable sandwich bags at Target.  They came in a pack of 3 for $1.  Yippee!  They are made of vinyl and have a velcro closure (easy to use  and windexable - double yippee). 

I'm going to try these for my new Funky Fun Vowel Games.  The bags are nice and thin, which would allow me to store lots more in each of the bins on my word work shelf.

You can find my Funky Fun Vowel Games by clicking on the image below.   I have several short vowel products and long vowel products.  There are 5 different games in this set.  The games were made for students who are ready to sort long vowel words and pictures and for students who need practice discriminating between long/short vowels.

Here are photos of 2 of the games.
 Vowel Sticks from the Funky Fun Vowel Games.

Short and Long Vowel Clip It! from Funky Fun Vowel Games.

I'd love to hear about how you store your games.

Still packing for that 17 day camping trip.  Yes, I will have a shower, running water and electricity.  But, doesn't 17 days in the woods still count as roughin' it?  It does for me.

Are you following my blog at Bloglovin'?  You can click on the icon in the top right corner to do that, just in case all this craziness is for real. 

And...please share how you store your games?