Monday, September 3, 2012

A Big Thank You!

Recently I have been awarded several times for my blog and I am finally getting the chance to send out a huge thank you! I feel very blessed to be noticed and hope that my blog will be an inspiration to many and live up to these awards!

Thank You to Julie at The Hip Teacher & Mrs. Slocum Teacher's Don't Steal, They Share! for the One Lovely Blog Award:

There are only 3 rules to follow once you've received this award :)
1. Follow the person who gave you the award
2. Link back to the person that gave you the award
3. Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers.

Thank you to Antoinette and Emily at 4321...Teach for The Versatile Blogger award!

There are seven rules for this award.

1)  Thank the blogger who nominated you!
2)  Include a link to their site.  (See above)
3)  Include the award image in your post.

4)  Give 7 random facts about yourself.
   #1 - I love spicy food. The spicier, the better.
   #2 - I have been teaching in the same classroom for 10 years now at the same elementary school I attended.
   #3 - I am scared to death of horror films unless they are about zombies...I find zombies to be hilarious!
   #4 - I am a Disney fanatic but sadly this will be my last year with a season pass (I've had one since I was 18) with the outrageous price increases they have made. Just can't afford it anymore and can't justify the expense. :(
   #5 - My husband and I were married 6 months after we met and are celebrating 8 years of marriage in November!
   #6 - I hated math in school but I love teaching it.
   #7 - I love to scrapbook and am a consultant for Close to My Heart. They have the coolest (and easiest) online scrapbooking around and you can play with all of it for free! (I know that sounds like an ad...and it is...but I only share it because I love it soooo much! I'm not much of a sales person. I just like to share what makes my life easier. If you're interested in more info let me know!)
5)  Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.

6)  When nominating, include a link to their site.

7)  Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.

And last but not least Thank You to Lisa at Super Pig and Tyrant King for the Liebster Blog award!

The Liebster award is for blogs with less than 200 followers who need to get the attention they deserve--the rules are as follows:

1. Copy and paste the award onto your blog

2. Thank the giver and link back to them. (See above)
3. Nominate 5 other bloggers and let them know by commenting on their blogs.

So I am really a terrible person because I am not following all the rules for these awards. It is just so overwhelming! So I am not nominating anyone today because I have already taken so much time to thank the award givers and I want everyone to know that I really do appreciate the thought and I don't want to wait any longer. So thank you and I promise to show the love by visiting and commenting on all the wonderful blogs I follow and will follow in the future!

My Classroom 2012

 As you look at these pictures you may be saying to yourself, "Self, where's all the awesome, cool, cute (insert adjective here) decorations? Where's the coordinating fabrics and papers? This room doesn't look like anyone lives here!" ...and you would be right on point! I decided this room needed to belong to my students just as much as it does to me. So I decorated in a very minimalist style for the beginning of the year. Usually I put up tons of posters and such. I go overboard making sure that the kiddos are visually stimulated when they walk in the room on the first day. This year I have decided to give them the responsibility! We have been creating anchors charts in the first week that have already started to grace the walls and I couldn't be happier about it. Yea for taking some of the work off my plate and giving my students ownership!

The first week went great and I am enjoying the changes I have been making in my physical surroundings and my way of doing things. I feel very confident with all the simplifications I have made. I do not feel overwhelmed at the end of the day and I sure hope that feeling lasts.

I have been starting to implement Daily 5 and will hopefully move into teaching the CAFE menu soon. My CAFE board is one of the only boards that had anything on it the first day of school. I made the marble magnets below to write the kids names on for the magnetic white boards. I am excited to see how it works out!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Brand New Year

One of the awesome things about August is that I get to recreate my classroom! We have to pack up everything in June so I get to start from scratch. I used to think this was extremely annoying but I realized I love analyzing my classroom usage each year and making it better plus I love change! For example I have had my desk in every corner of the room since I started teaching. (It does drive my DH a little crazy that I always want the big furniture moved...every year...) This year I have decided the big stuff is going to stay put but I am going to use the smaller spaces in some very different ways.

I was finally able to get into my room this morning and took some "before" pictures. Enjoy! The final reveal will be on the first day of school - August 29th!

When they clean the carpets everything gets pushed to one side...and I have to move it all back but at least the carpets are clean!

My major goal in the next two weeks - get the top of this cabinet clean!

I'm going with bright and colorful this year! I think I'm going to have the kids do an opening week activity where they pick a color that describes them and talk about how colors affect's in the works.

I got these magnetic white boards to go with my CAFE bulletin board...only $3 each! I'm going to make magnets with the kids names to go with them!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August Currently

Linking with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade!

I can't believe it's August. I guess I'm lucky I still have three weeks to go before school starts but most of that will be spent getting ready for school so summer is pretty much over. (Nobody told the weather that, by the way! It's been in the hundreds this week! Yuck!) 

So currently I am looking for new shoes that will allow my ever expanding prego feet to be comfortable while standing at work all day and still have some style to them. Any suggestions?

I really, really need a new CD player for my classroom, especially since I want to implement Daily 5 this year. My current player is cracked and pretty picky about which CDs it will play and which it will not play. I also need to get printing, laminating and organizing with all the awesome online resources I have found for Daily 5 and CAFE!

My plug for this Currently Linky is not actually part of TPT because I don't have my own store...yet! What I am plugging is the Cricut cartridges from Close to My Heart. They have so many awesome images and cuts that you almost don't need any other cartridges! Since I bought the Art Philosophy cartridge I have barely taken out my other cartridges. It has every shape and size (up to 12x12) that you could possibly imagine and they just released a second cartridge that has more seasonal and 3D images. I can't wait to get mine! 
Check it out here: 
*If you would like the PDF of the booklet for the Artiste collection (to check out all the images), leave me your email address!

So my plug for someone else is the Clutter-free Classroom! It is my favorite teaching/organizing blog and the whole reason I was inspired to start my own blog. The products on TPT are top quality as well. Check it out!

So here's to August and all of the teachers who have already started their year! Cheers and best wishes for the best year ever!

Monday, July 30, 2012

What a Deal! - White Boards

As we all know budgets are terrible right now so it's great to be able to find a way to go about business as usual but spend less money. A couple years back my partner teacher and I started to use the Mad Minutes program with our 6th graders who were lacking in basic computation skills but making copies of them was  killing our allotted amount for the year! So we started using page protectors! The kids can slip their Mad Minutes in (or any worksheet for that matter) and write on the outside with a dry erase marker. It works perfectly! We then added a sheet of white cardstock and presto! the back works as an individual white board! The kids can even store them in their binders. Yay! Less stuff for me to store and keep track of!

Box of Page Protectors (50): $16.00 (Use the shiny ones, not the non-glare! They erase better.)

Ream of White Cardstock (250): $12.00

Dry Erase Markers (50): $15.00 (bought at back-to-school sales)

Total per Student:  approx. $0.75

Price @
Lakeshore - $1.40 each
School Outfitters - $1.45 each
Amazon - $2.93 each

The cardstock lasts forever and I'm sure there are even better deals on sheet protectors. The key to keeping the cost down is stocking up on markers when they are on sale. I can usually get them 3-5 for a $1.00!

The downside is that the kids take their boards home at the end of the year so there they are not reusable but I have found that to be a very small downside. If they get wrecked or lost I charge them a dollar to replace it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Welcome to July!

Yes, I have neglected my blog since May. I'm not even sure how it got to be July so quickly! May was testing and open house (crazy!), then June was all the 6th grade end-of-the-year activities and after that I just fell into a stupor. Okay, that's not totally true. I have been taking mommy & me swimming lessons with my daughter and family field trips to the aquarium and Disneyland so I have just been busy in the best ways possible!
Now I am back on the train and ready to rock! I started reading The Daily 5 by "the sisters" and am joining in on a book study at We Read, We Blog, We Teach and am loving it. I am starting to plan out my new classroom organization that I started back in January (see post here). So I have a lot going on and am feeling rejuvenated. 

So I mentioned in the currently that I tire very quickly and in May I said I had a secret to share...any guesses? 
I'm Pregnant!
I found out during spring break in April (Friday the 13th, to be exact) and kept in a secret from my staff until the end of May. (I did tell my partner teacher and principal, just in case!) I told my students on the last day of school. I told my kids that I would not be back next year...for part of the year. They all got upset (we have been talking about teacher receiving pink slips) and then I told them why and they were very excited. 

I am due December 18th, which means I will be on leave from December until March. I plan on taking the entire 2nd school trimester off. So I am feeling very pressured with the time crunch to get my kiddos set up for a long term sub in a very short amount of time. I am also hoping that I can get the sub I trust. She was my sub when I had my daughter and did a fabulous job!

Now on to my favorite reads. 

Holes is a wonderful book and it's old enough now that most of my kiddos have not read it or seen the movie. There are so many amazing elements to the book and it is so accessible to all levels of readers. It has adventure, mystery, friendship, gross boy stuff (which all 6th graders love), icky love stuff, and is just an awesome story all around. Even though it is a long book it goes pretty quickly and has some great cliff-hangers for stopping points. I have had kids begging me to keep reading. Isn't that what every teacher wants in a read aloud?

The Book Whisperer is very dear to my heart. I am a book nerd and have a hard time when kids tell me they just don't like reading. I tell them admitting it is the first step and then we work from there. This book gives great ideas and tips for finding the reader in every child. I just wish my district would allow me to run my classroom the same way that Donalyn Miller does! What a difference it would make! for being so long winded today! I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th and God Bless America! 
July 4th 2010

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May Currently and Updates

Linking up with Oh' Boy Fourth Grade

 I did not realize how long it's been since I posted. I have been caught up in a whirlwind that includes state testing (yay! it's done), project finishing (in history and science), a poetry portfolio (info to come), and some personal issues (good news). Open house is in 2 weeks and my classroom is a disaster area of crafting supplies and poster boards! Somehow it always comes together in a wonderful flourish of students and parents. 

I hope teacher appreciation week was great for everyone. Our principal had a luncheon for us (which was excellent) but I don't think anyone else was aware that it was teacher appreciation week. There is a lot of tension in our district right now especially between the union, the administration and the school board. They have had board meets every Monday this month. We are waiting to hear if they are going to close a school, how our instructional minutes will be structured and if we will have furlough days. There is a whole lot up in the air right now. We just found out that we will not be hosting summer school this year and that hurts a lot of teachers who depend on the extra pay. What a mess!

On a brighter side my sixth graders are gearing up for their end of the year activities, I don't have to retain anyone and the weather has been amazing here in SoCal. I have officially stopped wearing socks and my summer dresses are seeing the light of day.

A couple of weeks ago I won a giveaway on Think, Wonder, & Teach and I worked with Jessica from Quite a Pear to design my new Kinsey buckets. They are absolute wonderful and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I am now planning next year and how many other buckets I am going to need to order! 
Thank you again to Misty and Jessica!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Count On Me

I just had a moment in my classroom that I needed in the worst way. My class this year has been a real challenge. They are a group of kids who are most happy reading the textbook, filling in the worksheet and bubbling an answer on a test. This is soooo not my style! We have been butting heads all year long. I want to push them and they refuse to be pushed. I was talking to my husband just last night about how I don't feel like they really need me there, that I'm not really teaching them anything that they couldn't get out of a book.

So starts another day...
My kiddos have been working on a poetry portfolio for the last couple months and one of the requirements is to memorize a poem and recite it in class. Today we started sharing our memorized poems and one of my students chose to sing the Bruno Mars song, Count on Me. I had to stifle back tears. Let me explain why.

This student was in my combo 5/6 class last year and he was quite a handful. We had weekly meetings with parents and there were daily behavior/homework reports going home. I actually really like the kid but he had issues. As we set up classes for this year I vowed to get to this kid and I have to say that this year has been an incredible year for him. I do not take much credit for this! He has really turned himself around. Listening to him sing today (and the choice of song) was a culmination of who he has become and, gosh darn it, I am going to miss this kid! I am so proud of him and the accomplishments he has made. In fact I am going to send an email to his mom later today to say so and he will get a letter from me as well.

I have been feeling very frustrated this year with the state of education, the apathy of students, the lack of support from parents, etc, etc, etc... (Which I'm sure many of you can commiserate with!) This one act, from one student, has restored me.

Thank you, Jacob.  

Count On Me by Bruno Mars

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea
I'll sail the world to find you
If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can't see
I'll be the light to guide you

Find out what we're made of
When we are called to help our friends in need

You can count on me like 1, 2, 3
I'll be there
And I know when I need it
I can count on you like 4, 3, 2
You'll be there
'Cause that's what friends are supposed to do

If you're tossin' and you're turnin'
And you just can't fall asleep
I'll sing a song beside you
And if you ever forget how much you really mean to me
Every day I will remind you

Find out what we're made of
When we are called to help our friends in need

You'll always have my shoulder when you cry
I'll never let go
Never say goodbye
You, oh, you

You can count on me 'cause I can count on you 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Schedule Conflicts

I got a phone call from the principal today. When it started with "Have you read your email recently? You're going to hate me" I knew the day was going to take a turn for the worse.

Turns out last year's principal had the dates wrong for the testing window and we're a week off. Which means we just lost a week of test prep!

Ahhhhhh! Everything was planned out so nicely!'s to creative planning and being flexible!

What's the worst scheduling issue you've had to deal with?

I hope your day was better than mine! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Malibu is one of my absolute favorite places to go. It went through some major renovations a couple years ago and I haven't missed a year since! It is a perfect spot for our 6th graders because it features the antiquities collection of the Getty Trust. We have a huge unit study on Ancient Greece and then we visit the Villa in the spring. Another great perk is that it is a FREE field trip. Admission to the Getty Villa (and the Getty Center) are free all the time but you do have to pay for parking. Most years we are able to get a FREE bus as well through the Title I fund that Getty supplies! Perfect place, perfect price!

The Getty has guided tours with Getty teachers and self-guided tours. We try to get a Getty teacher whenever we can because they have such amazing insights into the art AND they know how to work with kids.

We do talk to our students about nudity in art and how to react appropriately. It's actually pretty funny to watch them take it all in and still try to be mature about it. We teach them that if they are uncomfortable to say. "Hmmm...that's interesting" and walk to another piece of art. We also show them many of the art pieces before we go so they know what to expect.
They have a gallery dedicated to sports in ancient times.  It blows them away to find out that athletes often competed nude!

The Getty Foundation is an amazing resources even if you don't live in Southern California. Check out their website for all the resources available! The Getty

The Herb Garden is set up with plants that would have been used in ancient times.
The Outer Peristyle
If you're ever in California and want to go to the Getty Villa or the Getty Center I would be happy to be your personal tour guide! 

Walking these hallways makes me feel like I am vacationing in ancient Rome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Playing Tag

This is my first game of tag in the blog world so I am excited to be playing! I actually started writing this post a week ago but I decided to make spring break a real break to focus on my family. Thanks to Miss Nelson at Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera! for letting me join in!

Here are her 10 questions and the rules to the game:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the 10 questions for the tagger who posted for you.
3. Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people you're tagging.
4. Tag 10 people and link them with your post. Don't forget to let them know they've been tagged!

Which do you prefer teaching Reading or Math?
This is actually a tough question because I love teaching both but for different reasons. Reading because it's my favorite thing to do and I love to share what I love and Math because I struggled with it in school so I love helping my kiddos have an easier time with it than I did.

What’s your favorite place for clip art?
I don't have a favorite because I have just gotten into this blogging thing and that's one part of it I haven't figured out yet. Any tips?

Do you count spelling tests as a reading or writing grade?
Both because my spelling tests are also vocabulary tests. They get one point for spelling the word right and one point for using it correctly in a sentence. I then split those points between reading and writing.

Favorite website for your students?
Khan Academy - This man is amazing. There are hundreds of videos and tutorials on all kinds of subjects...and it's all free! I use the videos with both whole class instruction and as differentiation with struggling students, especially in math.

Point and shoot camera  or DSLR?
I only have a point and shoot right now (it is cool because it's also an underwater camera...check out a pic from the tide pools at Science School here) but as soon as I come into some money (ha, ha...) that DSLR is mine!

Do you arrive to school early or stay late?
I try to get in early so I can pick up my daughter as soon as possible after school. It usually ends up being about even on both ends.

Coke or  Pepsi?
Definitely Coke. No contest.

Michael's or Hobby Lobby?
Michael's...but simply because of distance. The closest Hobby Lobby is about 40 miles away and I only go there when I visit my in-laws. In fact it only opened out here in the last 6 months so I don't really know the joy and wonder of Hobby Lobby yet. I have a feeling that is a really good thing for my checkbook! 

What is your favorite read aloud?
Picture Book - Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Chapter Book - A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Winter Break or Spring Break?
 Spring Break because I'm celebrating right now! I don't go back until April 16th! Wahoo!  So sad...back to school yesterday...

Here are my 10 questions for my tag-ees:
1.What is your favorite kind of grading pen/marker?
2.What is your favorite unit to teach each year?
3. Do you like field trips? Where do you go on field trips with your students?
4. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?
5. Do you use classroom rewards? What kind?
6. What is your favorite store to find "teacher" clothes?
7. Heels or flats?
8. What is your favorite teaching website?
9. What is your favorite non-teaching website?
10. When does school end for you?

I have decided since it took so long to fill this out that I am not going to officially tag anyone but if you're feeling up to it I would love to hear your thoughts! So much for following rules. ;)


Summer Reading (Teacher Edition)

I am at the point in the school year where I am gearing up for summer. Not that I'm ready for summer (we still have testing to get through!) but just getting things in order.

Every year I choose a couple of teaching books to read, digest, and incorporate for the new year...along with all the wonderful chapter books I need to catch up on! On my current list is The Daily Five and The CAFE Book but that's it so far.

So what have you read that has inspired you to change your teaching for the better? What do you recommend for my summer list?  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Universal Themes in Literature

Theme is one of the most difficult concepts, in my experience, for 6th graders to grasp. About half way through the year I do this activity to help them think about the themes in the stories we have read together.

List of stories read as a class (include any read aloud books and stories from textbooks)
Theme Posters from Finding Common Themes in Fictional Texts
Post-Its (or whiteboard and markers)

1. Review theme (what is it, how do authors share it with the reader, etc.)
2. Introduce the theme posters and explain each theme
3. Set up groups of 3-4 students (I usually do this ahead of time so I can make sure my ELL students are with stronger readers)
4. Give students the list of stories and have them write each title on a post-it. Ask them to decide, as a group, where each story fits with the theme posters.
5. Once they have made a decision they put the post-its up on the board where you have placed the theme posters (The other (more frugal) option is to let them write the titles on the whiteboard)
6. When all the group are finished have a class discussion/debate about where each story was placed and decide if the stories can stay in that category or need to be moved

After the lesson is done I set up a bulletin board with the posters and the final results. We continue to add to the board as we read stories together. I find that this activity helps my students see that theme is found in all kinds of stories and it also works as a constant reminder that we should be looking for the themes in fiction as well as life. 

CCCS 6th Grade
*Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details 
*Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What's for Lunch? (Linky Party)


 Check out 4th Grade Frolics and link up your lunch!

Lunch at school is not very exciting for me. Although after reading some other comments about lunches I find myself very lucky! I have a 45-minute lunch from 12:15-1:00. I usually spend the whole time in the lunch room chatting with colleagues and maybe grading some papers. I don't typically multi-task because I need the break. We do discuss students and strategies during that time so it kind of functions as an extended PLC.

I used to use a so-cute 31 bag for my lunch but I have found it to be too small for my Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines. (I definitely need to get a new one...yay!) For now I am using a bag I got for free for some reason or another. I do love that it has a shoulder much easier to deal with when my hands are full!

I always have a Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper on hand. I round it out with some kind of fruit and every once in a while some cookies or brownies, depending on what I felt like baking that week.

On a side note: I love, love, love to bake! I will share some of my go-to recipes to please your friends and colleagues soon! I find there is no greater way to a staff members heart then bringing in goodies. It helps on those days that I have to play the role of principal or when I'm conducting a training. I am not opposed to bribery especially when it means I get to try new recipes on willing participants!

(I also eat breakfast at work most of the time. Due to health issues I can't eat any earlier than 7:00am or I am not a happy camper.)

So there's my lunch and breakfast! Don't forget to check out what else goes on a lunch time around the country at 4th Grade Frolics!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It Boggles the Mind!

While searching for new ideas for my class this last summer I learned all about Pinterest. What a joy and a curse! There are so many things I can say about Pinterest but I won't do that now.

What I do want to talk about is Boggle for the classroom. I found a teacher that created a interchangeable Boggle board so I recreated it for my own room. I used my handy-dandy Cricut machine to cut out the letters and simple string to create the board. I stapled the string to the board after measuring it out and then used push pins to attach the letters in a random order.  I cut out all the vowels in red so they would stand out and then I make sure to place them first.

Sometimes I use a couple vocabulary words for the week and set them up hoping the kiddos will find them. We try to change the board each week and it is mostly used as a fast-finisher. I give out awards (free homework pass, sit by a friend, etc) for the most words found (over three letters) and the longest word.  Sometimes I change it up (ex. most five-letter words) to keep them on their toes. Regular boggle rules apply and we do a few round with the real game to learn the rules.

This is pretty easy to manage with minimal effort and students can use their own paper or the handout I created.

I'm not sure how to upload the handout to share with all of you so if anyone out there can help me that would be great!