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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classroom Library

I love to read and I love books! One thing I do not have to worry about purchasing for my classroom is books. My boys have hundreds of them that will be making their way to my classroom in the future. The only problem I may have is that I have lots of books that appeal to boys and very few that would appeal to girls. I have 3 sons so that explains that mystery. I still need to figure out a way to organize said books in my classroom and that will primarily depending upon what my classroom comes with and the space allotted.

This is my favorite idea to date for housing my book collection. Do not look at the price tag... it is from Pottery Barn - enough said! It has 42 cubbies for books and is revolving. If I could label each book and shelf... I have 42 different sections. That would be amazing! Plus it is so neat and tidy. I can image the wooden letters from Hobby Lobby spelling out read sitting on top. Spray painting them with silver glitter for some sparkle. Ah... I love this idea!

Since furniture shopping has to wait until I at least know what district I will be working in and what the classrooms look like... I decided on labeling the books with at least my name for now. So... for my first Vistaprint creation I made address labels!

A couple things that I have since learned (but not soon enough) is that if you click advanced editing you can enlarge the font. I made several items before realizing this. I will do that for future orders. However, I really like how these came out. They are unique, easy to apply, and my boys had the job of labeling all of their books by placing one of these on the first page of the book.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

I love you, Stinky Face

Happy Dally is having a give away. This is the first one I have ever joined in on and am so excited. I am such a nerd... I know! She is asking about your favorite picture books. I have so many that it is hard to choose but I think I will go with my son's favorite.

I Love you, Stinky Face
 by Lisa McCourt

~ Reading Level: 3.7 ~ Genre: Humor ~
 ~ Chapters: 0 ~ Pages: 15 ~

*Spoiler Alert*
This book starts out with a little boy being tucked into his bed by his Mama. You know how little boys are famous for asking strange questions to avoid going to sleep right? Well... this little boys is no different. He thinks up the worst possible scenarios he can dream of to see if his Mama still loves him.

What if I was an alligator? an alien? What if I had razor sharp claws or lived in a swamp? Yes, even them Mama will still love you!

My Opinion
I started out reading this to my boys and when they could read on their own, they wanted to read the questions of the little boy and sometimes make up new ones of their own!

I choose this book because my soon-to-be 13 year old will still ask for it to be read to him before bed from time to time. Perhaps because they are all boys they love it so much but then again who wouldn't want to hear about how one is loved no matter who or what they are or do.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012


Chickadee Jubilee has tagged me! I usually ignore these when I get them by email or Facebook but I am not sure of blog-etiquette for this type of thing. My apologies to all if I mess this up. I have been experiencing a lot of blogging firsts this past weekend and this is another. So here goes.. wish me luck!

The rules are as follows:
1 ~ Post the rules
2 ~ Post 12 things about yourself
3 ~ Answer the 12 questions sent from the person that tagged you.  Then create 12 new questions for the people you tag.
4 ~ Tag 12 people and link them to your post.
5 ~ Let them know you tagged them.

Things About me:
1 ~ I could totally live in a Barnes and Noble store and be completely content. If only they would let me.
My boys would want to live there as well. It has books and Starbucks. We are good!
2 ~ I don't watch TV. Not on my own anyways. Hubby may ask me to watch a movie or a show with him but you won't catch me vegging there.
3 ~ I love Starbucks and chocolate but my favorite food is salad and ice water with lime. How does that work!?
4 ~ I am a Chicago Bears fan and no I am not from Chicago. Neither is hubby although he did live their for awhile. Football is a season at my house. 
5 ~ I live in the Southwest in the middle of dessert. I have a Southern accent that I hide pretty well until I am emotional. Can anyone figure that out? 
6 ~ I am half way through my graduate degree with a 4.0!! Don't ask, I don't know how I did it just still so excited to have a perfect score.
7 ~ I love to exercise but rarely do it. I can get the weight off but have to exercise to keep it off. It is a never ending circle.
8 ~ I claim I am not crafty just so I can get out of doing things becoming a teacher has ruined that illusion. The secret is out.
9 ~ I LOVE to clean things. I LOVE to organize things. Clean, organized things make me happy. Even better... clean, organized matching pretty things with a little bit of glitter thrown in.
10 ~ My biggest pet peeve is dishonesty
11 ~ I love to be outside... camping, hiking, climbing, mudding, 4x4ing, ATVs, snowboarding, or lying about reading a book
12 ~ I have 3 boys who drive me insane some days but swear that I am an EPIC mama and treat me like a princess. Who could not help but forgive them when they say and do things like that?? (Hubby is a great example. I love him too!)

Answered Questions:
1 ~ It's a tie between Clutter-free Classroom & Teacher Tipster... love them both!
2 ~ I love to teach history through literature. My two favorite subjects together what could be better?
3 ~ It's a surprise!!
4 ~ The rotating bookshelf from Pottery Barn (future blog post)
5 ~ The color scheme
6 ~ Sweet Home Alabama.
7 ~ Only 1 book! That is so not fair! Oh.... I know... The Complete works of C.S. Lewis, that is over 1000 pages long. It should keep me nicely entertained. I was going to say my Bible but it's an app on my phone so I don't have to use up that one with this question.
8 ~ Wedges
9 ~ Salad & Fresh Fruit
10 ~ Going to my grandparent's farm every summer
11 ~ It is part of a Dr. Seuss quote from my classroom website. "Think and Wonder, Wonder and Think". I also used Dr. Seuss to build my classroom philosophy off of (future blog post).
12 ~ Grace (I love the boo-boo song!)

 Questions to ask:
1 ~ What is your advice for new teachers?
2 ~ What is the one thing every teacher should own?
3 ~ Where is your favorite place to read a book?
4 ~ How do you destress after a long day?
5 ~ Share a favorite memory of one of your students.
6 ~ What is your biggest challenge in the classroom?
7 ~ What is your favorite snack?
8 ~ What is your classroom theme/color scheme?
9 ~ Why did you become a teacher?
10 ~ What grade do you teach?
11 ~ What blog would you recommend others to visit?
12 ~ What is your favorite thing to do

People to tag: 
1 ~ 4th Grade Frolics
2 ~ A Teaching Life
3 ~ Classy Confessions
4 ~ My Pink Scribbles
5 ~ dandelions & dragonflies
6 ~ Funky First Grade Fun
7 ~ Life is Better Messy Anyway
8 ~ Mommy Teaches
9 ~ My life as a Fifth Grade Teacher
10 ~ Oh' Boy 4th Grade
11 ~ Running with Glitter
12 ~ Teaching with a Twist of Liam

I am looking forward to all your answers!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Classroom Design

As I am obsessed with organization, I decided that the first thing I needed to do was pick a theme for my classroom. I wanted something that could be easily interchangeable with a few minor adjustments just like my home. My home is decorated in primarily black and white with some chocolate and red thrown in depending upon the room. If I get tired of it, I simply pick up the accent colors/pieces throw them out and replace them with something to spice it up. This was the inspiration behind my classroom. I never buy anything without first knowing where I am headed. So... I decided the best thing for my class would be red, black, & white. It even matches my house so items are easily interchangeable.

Imagine my surprise when I found the blog titled Getting Started who shared the exact same tips and ideas. If you are planning on following my blog, you should also plan to follow Jessica. I heart her blog!

Such a cute title for a blog! To further my obsession with this cleverly crafty and brilliantly talented teacher, one day I stumbled upon the classroom I have been building and fantasizing over in my head in her very blog! SHE HAS MY CLASSROOM!! With a few tweaks here and there to fit me plus some really neat Pinterest crafts on my list... this is what my future class will look like.

Jessica was amazing and even let me use her pictures for an assignment. (Thank you again!) Look at the amazing organization. I am so in love with the individual shelves for each group. Look at the space. LOOK AT THE COLORS. Sigh... so perfectly cute and so me! Check out her blog titled Finally, My Classroom Reveal! and Classroom Reveal - Take Two! for even more pictures.

UPDATE 2/25/12: The Teaching Channel Weekly newsletter has an article this week entitled Top 4 Ingredients for Differentiation. Item #2 on the list is from this classroom!!! I am so excited for my bloggy teacher buddy. I knew her classroom was an amazing wonderland...

~ Black, Red, & White Board
~ Black, Red, & White Letters
~ Black, Red, & White Fabric (future blog post)
~ 5 small red trash cans
~ 5 2-shelf bookcases
~ 5 Red Picnic Utensil Baskets
~ 5 Red, Black, or White Germ Juice Bottles (future blog post)
~ 1 Red pencil box per student
~ 1 Black pencil box per student
~ 1 White 2-inch Binder per student
~ 1 Black 1-inch Binder per student

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Love Languages

During a class discussion my professor questioned my use of external motivators. The current philosophy is that children should learn to motivate themselves. I thought I would share with all of you my response.

One of the best books I have ever read was The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages for Children.

Both of these books has allowed me to develop closer relationships with the people who mean the most in my life. If you haven't read these books, I highly recommend them. It discusses how people feel and receive love in different ways.

To a further extent, I think this is also how we feel and accept recognition as well. There is not a simple one technique will fit all approach. Each of us is unique as each of our students are unique. What works for one will not work with another.

I believe this is why as teachers we are challenged with building individual relationships with each of our students. The larger the classroom, the more students assigned to us, the harder it is to accomplish this task. I do not feel it is ever impossible but one must be willing to change their frame of reference and see the world from another point of view.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Desk Fairy

So what could be better than a fairy who inspects for neatness and organization? Personally, I can think of nothing more exciting! The idea reminds me of FlyLady - another one of my favorite website/blog/people. She is the queen of organizing and cleaning your house but enough about her. Perhaps I will rave about this wonderful woman and my obsession with her another day.

So here is my latest Vistaprint creation! I modeled this card after a fellow teacher (which I forgot to mark where I found this. Possibly the incredible Ms. Noble?). I firmly believe in Harry Wong's philosophy of stealing from other teachers. After all, it is the highest complement one can receive! I am going to take a blue or silver glitter pen and highlight the blue strip as I need a little bling for such a happy occasion! I am also planning on leaving confetti on the desk or a wand made out of a small pixie stick and a glitter star. I am so EXCITED!!! For some reason, my hubby and boys do not understand why I am so excited about a cleaning fairy. She is so cute and makes my heart flutter.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Teacher Tipster

I am always looking for fun, creative ideas to use in the classroom. My personality requires me to be unpredictable and spontaneous from time to time. As a teacher, you have a schedule on the board, you follow it religiously day in and day out. YAWN! The schedule is necessary but if I start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher... I am gonna have issue!!

Mr. Smith to the rescue! Mr. Smith is a first grade teacher who every Tuesday (with the help of his wife aka the cameraman) creates a video demonstrating his tip of the week. Seeing the tip in action is a great idea! He even creates FREE printables to go with his ideas. He shares wacky songs, games, classroom management ideas, and so much more! A lot of these ideas I have to alter to fit my intended classroom but Mr. Smith is always good for a laugh and to get you thinking about a new approach to a tired lesson.

What is your favorite Teacher Tipster Video?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Emoticon Magic

Anyone recognize these guys?

I am sure you all do! We use these faces to convey meanings when we are using informal communication. We use it to show our sarcasm and humor in blogs and emails. It is a form of body language that we have learned to appreciate as our virtual worlds merge with our realities. I use these guys in my classroom!

These three peeps are my buddies and they do so much work for me! I have my students choose a face to put on the right hand corner of the pre- and post-tests. They can also include this on any homework assignment. The smiley guy means - easy peasy, I mastered this in Kindergarten! The middle guy says - I am figuring it out but I am doing okay. And my last friend says "whatcha be talkin' about Willis?" These faces are an extremely simplistic way for my students to take ownership of their learning and to convey to me their thoughts on what they are learning. It is a great reflection tool!

For example, if a student completes a unit exam and puts a sad face in the corner but got an A on the exam, it tells me the student is a great guesser, cheated (hopefully that is not the case but is a possibility), or has little to no confidence with the materials. Knowing my student will allow me to guess which one it is and decide if and where we need to work on things. If this same student did not pass the exam and has a sad face, I know the student may need remedial work to pass this portion of the standardized test later on in the year.

I require all students to use this on exams. Sometimes I request in on a particular assignment or project. They always have the option of adding this to anything if they feel they need to/want to communicate with me. If I need more specific information or they want to tell me something more specific, they can write a note on the back of the page.

What do you do to help your students reflect on their work?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Teachers Creations

I have mentioned this place a time or two now and I am sure you will hear about it more in the future. It is a goal of mine to one day have items here. For now, a blog is enough for me. Teachers-Pay-Teachers or TpT as it is often seen in blogs is a place where teachers can sell the items that they have made. A lot of times it is lesson plans, organizational tips or forms, or labels for your classroom. There is a lot of great stuff to find here and it changes daily.

There is also another one that I recently started hearing about but have not yet used. It is called Teachers Notebook. From my understanding this is the now preferred site as the teachers pay less fees for using the service to sell their items. More money to teachers always sounds good to me!

I can't wait to see your stores!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Practicum Prep

Finally, I am able to get into a classroom! It seemed like I would never get to this day but here I am! However, before we get to that there are some things that you will need to purchase and have ready. I HAVE to be organized before starting something! And it HAS to match! (Is anyone giggling over my obsession with the colors of things yet?)

I was in Office Max the other day and found THIS! It was $5 but look how pretty... black and white on the outside red on the inside. {HEART}! I have two of these... I need 1 more. They had another one but it was periwinkle on the inside and did not match. Blah...  (You have to be laughing or at least rolling your eyes by now. Hubby was!).  Binder 1 holds university specific information, Binder 2 holds certification, both state & national information, and Binder 3 holds district information (or will).

I love my Panasonic SLR camera - holds thousands of photographs! It is also big, complicated to use (though not overly so), and expensive. I took it on a three week vacation and it had over 4000 pictures on it with room to spare. Naturally when I went looking for a small camera to fit into my pursue, I looked for another Panasonic and again am in love!

First... it is matching. See, its black! This baby is the older version, cost me $125 on sale, and did not come in red. The new one costs over $300 and its red. It also has a 3D mode which I have no clue what that would be used for. Anywho... back to my new toy... I mean the item every teacher must have before stepping into a classroom. One of the greatest tips I have received is to take A LOT of pictures. You will need to take pictures of students working, classroom designs, and bulletin boards. The camera must be easy to use as you will need your mentor teacher to take pictures of you teaching and working with the students. This was the #1 recommendation for preservice teachers.

The next item on the list was a notebook. It should be hard-bound and professional looking. I found this one for $8 and it is the right color again (I warned you about my obsession, right?). I love the fact that it matches as I can carry it with my portfolio to my practicum and student teaching. Plus all of these items will match my teachers bag (future blog post)!!

What did you purchase to prepare for your practicum/student teaching? Is there anything else that I am going to need?

~ 3-ring binders
~ Pocket-sized Camera
~ Hard-bound Professional Notebook

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Clutter-Free Classroom

My closest friends will tell you that I am the queen of organization and a neat freak. If you need a closet cleaned out, I am the one they call. Not only can I do it but there is nothing more that I love than cleaning and making something look nice and neat. For that reason, I have found a fellow teacher who has stolen my heart!

Clutter-Free Classroom

Click on the picture above for an amazing website full of amazing ideas! Not to be missed is her tutorials, themes, and her Teachers-Pay-Teachers Store (future blog post). She is currently working on a tutorial of how to clean out your classroom and organize it. I am busy taking notes of what not to do in the future and planning future purchases of things to have ready on hand for the moment I enter my first classroom. Stay tuned to both our websites for more amazing ways to get and stay organized!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Ketchup & Pickles

While browsing Pinterest a few weeks back I came across a great idea that I just had to share with you!

Yesterday we were talking about how to motivate students to do their homework. Teach-A-Roo has a great idea. She hangs these guys on her white board (they are free from her TPT store!) The students who have completed their homework get to pick an activity during free time on Friday and their name is written under the Pickles sign. The students who did not finish their homework have their names written under the ketchup sign and use this time to "catch-up" on their homework. LOVE IT!

I have a homework-hating child who I try to run all of my homework motivators by. Usually, he says no to all my ideas and says he still is not gonna do his homework. Sigh! I have tried everything as a parent to get him to do it and so have his teachers but he is a stubborn one that child. His main complaint is that he has too many other things to do after school than to do homework. (Limiting his other activities is not a solution, I have tried that.) He just wants to do everything in class. When I asked him about this, he said he would gladly sign up to be a weekly "ketchup" student so he did not have to do his work at home. This got me to thinking.... if I scheduled this activity first thing in the morning, my students would have all finished their homework prior to spelling tests later on the day. This would help them improve their test scores.

Thanks Callie for sharing a great idea with all of us!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dollar Tree Finds

I had never been inside a Dollar Tree
prior to starting grad school!

I had tried other dollar stores in the past but always found that the money I spent was wasted. Whatever I purchased had a shelf life in my house that was counted in hours not days.

 Imagine my surprise when teacher after teacher recommended Dollar Tree for stocking their classrooms. Now granted, not all things can be found in this store but if you watch closely you will find some great items!

My husband is quite certain I am crazy. I purchased 20 plastic shoe boxes this week simply because they had a red lid. YEP! I think I may have to agree with him but they matched my class!!! Or the class I will someday have.

I wish they had more... they did the first time I went but I decided why buy them and store them in the garage for a few years and then when I went back I bought everyone they had in red. Their website shows them in black as well. Sigh... I will wait for them to restock.

They are now nicely packed away in a box marked classroom. They had other colors as well.... So what does one use these for in a classroom??

My other exciting find... EXPLODING VALENTINES! They come in a four pack. I bought them for my sons and they had a blast with these but stated that the outside packaging looked too girly. I will have to agree with them but still its an EXPLODING VALENTINE!

Shake, smack, and wala... a little balloon pops up.
Perhaps I am just easily amused.

One note about Dollar Tree... I am a firm believer in shopping at their store vs shopping online. All the items online have to be purchased by the case.

Now while I am a little obsessed (or A LOT!) with organizing my future classroom... I am not THAT obsessed.

~ 20 Plastic shoe boxes... you know you will need them!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teaching Philosophy & Personality

My second graduate course was dedicated to learning the history of education in the US, the importance of teachers, and why one should or should not become a teacher. During the course, I was challenged to come up with my reasons why I wanted to teach and what my teaching style was.

One of the things we were asked to do was discover our personality in the classroom by taking the Teacher Personality Quiz. Its a silly little quiz which is probably only partially accurate.

Did you take the quiz? What is your personality? Do you agree with it?

Understanding your passion for teaching is something that should be shared.  I found a quote from Dr. Seuss that captures my feelings about education. I created a framed piece of artwork to display the quote and the basis for my personal philosophy.
The frame reads "There is no limit to how much you'll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go ~ Dr. Seuss." This will be hung somewhere in my classroom. I am planning on teaching 4-5 grades so I am using this in place of the traditional alphabet strip in my classroom.

~ 16x20 White Frame
~ Dr. Seuss ABC Flashcards
~ Dr. Seuss Stickers
~ Red, Black, and White Polka Dotted Ribbon
~ Black Poster Board
~ Spray Adhesive
~ Xylon (future Blog Post)
~ Clear address labels (pre-Cricut solution)

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Homework Rewards

Getting a student to do their homework seems to be an ongoing battle for parents and teachers alike. As a mom, I know I am constantly battling with my son to do his. I have even stood over him, watched him complete it.. only for him not to turn it in. GRRR!

As a teacher, I know I will face this challenge with my students. I need to find something that is both challenging and meaningful. Something that they will want to do and yet still help them learn the necessary skills.

While randomly browsing teacher blogs and websites, I stumbled across Mrs. Raude's 4th Grade Gifted Rock Stars. Mrs. Raude is a nationally certified teacher and has created a very informational website for parents and students. She is also my teacher feature this week!

There is a lot of great ideas to be found here. She rewards those students who have completed and turned in all assignments on time for the month with a celebration lunch. I thought this was a great idea and so headed over to Vistaprint to create a way for me to track this.

The way this works in Mrs. Raude's class is that parents volunteer to purchase and/or deliver items for the luncheon each month. I decided a pizza party would be the simplest and easiest. The card has a space for 5 punches... they represent 4 weeks of homework and the monthly reading calendar (future blog post).

After a few more classes into my master's degree, I have learned that we are to focus on internal rather than external rewards AND there are now laws regarding the nutritional content of things teachers provide to their students. For this reason, I will need to check with my district and principal to see if this is usable in my area. 

I am now searching for more ideas on how to motivate my students to complete their homework.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean

Vampirates: Book 1
The Demons of the Ocean
by Justin Somper


~ Reading level: 5.1 ~ Genre: Fantasy ~
 ~ Chapters: 35 ~ Pages: 330 ~

Fourteen-year old twins Connor and Grace were raised in a small town called Cresent Moon Bay by their father. He was the lighthouse keeper and that is where they lived. On dark nights, he used to sing them an old shanty about Vampirates as they watched out over the sea to ensure all the ships were safe. When their father died, they found themselves orphaned.

Refusing to stay in a town where they were an oddity, they took their fathers ship and headed out to sea. They were soon caught up in a storm, the ship broke apart, and sank. Connor and Grace were rescued but by different ships.

Connor finds himself aboard a pirate ship where he learns to become a pirate and has finally found a place where he is wanted and fits in.

Grace finds herself on the mysterious Vampirate ship her father used to sing about. She finds all sorts of mysteries aboard the ship both vampire pirates and the donors they feed off of but Grace is protected by the Captain and Lorcan. She finds friends and a sense of peace she had been missing in her life.

Despite being happy, the twins miss one another and Connor sets out to rescue his sister. He climbs aboard the Vampirate ship at dawn and pursades his sister to leave with him. Together at last! But Grace is not happy, she vows to return to the Vampirate ship and Lorcan.

My Opinion
When my sons picked out this book I was prepared not to like it. I mean seriously vampire-pirates, how good can that be right? I was pleasantly surprised by how captivating this story truly is. I ended staying up late just to finish it (a rarity for a children's book!). The chapters switch back and forth from Connor's story to Grace's story leaving you always hanging on for what will happen next to each of the twins.

If you know a Harry Potter fan who was looking for something new to read... recommend this to them! Shhh... don't tell the boys but I found the book so good that I just ordered the next 2 in the series.

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