Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making Use of Snow Days {Freebie Included!}

This is snow day number three in a row.  I was kind of planning to be off today as the extended forecast has looked cold for today since it came out.  Friday and Monday were surprising.  Tomorrow is a teacher work day, so when all is said and done, my students will have missed 4 school days (plus a weekend) in a row.  Thursday will be difficult...

I have been trying to be productive on these days off.  I'm currently listening to the dryer working on my towels (sheets are up next).  I've booked my flight to Vegas for I Teach K! (super excited about that one) and the hotel.  Today is my dad's birthday so when laundry is done, a cake will be going into the oven.  I also did a little bit of creating. The Target Dollar Spot is my inspiration for this little creation to build some fact fluency.

I picked up some of these mailboxes.  My Dollar Spot didn't have enough of these little plastic guys, so I'm sending my teammates on a mission to the Target near them.

You could also use these mailboxes, also found in the Dollar Spot.  I created a center last year (click to read post about a literacy activity) using these, and kind of wanted the plastic ones so my students wouldn't mix the boxes at different centers.

You can use these mailboxes or any other container you desire to have students sort the envelopes in the packet by math fact. You need 6 containers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), one for each answer.

You can also find another little math creation for Valentine's Day here. This covers sorting, graphing, measurement, addition and greater than/less than.  While you're there, check out my store!

What do you do to engage your kiddos at centers?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Get the Brain Going

I'm linking up with Brenda at Primary Inspired for Movies to Get Brains Going.  I saw the post in my BlogLovin' account a few days ago and knew I would want to take time to read all about it.  I'm playing catch up today and thought I'd share some of my kiddos' favorites.

1.  My kiddos L-O-V-E HeidiSongs. "Miss Heidi" is seriously the best thing since sliced bread in my room.  We sing her sight word songs daily.  We used the number and shape songs until the majority of us knew them, and we pull pieces and parts from her math DVD as we learn new skills.  I own the majority of her DVDs and my kids can't get enough of them on the SMARTboard.  If you've never used her songs, here is a YouTube link to sample.  You might want to watch the cuties below sing the "love song". This was my class last year.

2.  Counting to 100:  This is the song we sing daily to help us count to 100. As we get to each group of 10, we put 1 finger up.  For example: when we get to 10, 1 finger goes up; 20, 2 fingers go up, etc.  This really helps with the confusion of what comes after 29, 39, etc.

3.  Have you used Keepvid.com ?  You can copy and paste a YouTube link into the box and download the video on your desktop.  Very helpful on those days when the internet is down (our wifi has issues at times).

Now that your students' brains are activated, they will be ready to work!  Christina over at Sugar and Spice has an awesome new writing packet out.  It is on sale ($3 off!) through tomorrow.  Head over to TpT and check it out!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Five For Friday {January 24}

I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly Five For Friday linky.  This is Five For Friday snow day style.

1.  Surprise: I was up at 5:30 when school was called off for the day.  We were thinking delay, and I was quite surprised to see that we were off today.  I was not at all prepared for a day at home!

2. Package Arrived: I co-hosted a Thirty-One party last week.  We closed the party Sunday and my package already came today!

I ordered this for my brother's fiance.  Love it!
3. DonorsChoose: I worked on some DonorsChoose thank-you packages.  I left my camera at school (along with everything else) so I was not able to complete all of them, but I got as far as I could.  It felt good to say "thanks" to those who make our classroom a better place!

4. Errands: I didn't want to waste my day.  I got the bank and picked up my groceries for the week.  I also picked up a few things from the Target Dollar Spot and some gifts for upcoming birthdays.

5. Kitchen Adventures: I made cookies last night to take in for our staff meeting this morning.  That didn't work out!  With the cold today, I decided to work on some soup.  I made this Cheesy Vegetable Soup.  Yum!  

This teacher is hoping that we have school next week at least 1/2 of the week!  We have a waiver day (teacher work day) Wednesday.  I miss my kiddos and we need our routine!  What are you planning to do this cold, snowy weekend?  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Google Forms with Families

Do you use Google Forms with your students' families?  Our district is in year 3 of having Google accounts for staff and students.  Our building attempts to be "paper free" as much as possible.  Within our building, we use many Google features on a regular basis: e-mail, docs (drive), calendar, forms and presentation.

I decided to experiment with Google Forms this year with my students' families.  Many of them are very tech savvy so I thought this would be an easy way to get their opinions.  I started with a survey of their ideal dates and times for a family night.  For families who didn't have e-mail, I printed the form and sent it home in their child's home communication folder for them to fill out.  I got what I felt was a decent response.  Because I wanted to know who was responding on that one, I made my first question, "what is your child's name?" so I had a way of knowing who responded.

I recently implemented a new behavior plan and will be presenting it to our building staff soon.  I wanted parent feelings on the new behavior plan vs. the old behavior plan.  I was not worried about attaching a respond to a name in this one, so it remained anonymous.

I try to use as many multiple choice questions as possible to make it quick and easy for families to respond, which I think will make it more likely for them to do!  In the behavior plan survey, I did ask parents to share positives/negatives, but I did not make this a required question.  I can tell that one parent was very passionate about his/her opinion because there were many comments filled in.

How have you/would you use Google Forms with your students' families?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week In Review: January 8-10

Last week was our first week back from Winter Break.  We had an unexpected two extra days off and a two hour delay.  Our first week back ended up being a two and a half day week.

We had a change to our behavior plan in our first week back.  Our building uses a school-wide behavior plan.  The plan has colored "fish" (card stock cards cut out in the shape of fish) in a pocket chart.  Students lose a fish for negative choices made.  I have some students with difficult behavior, and this plan was not working for them.  I wanted something more positive.  I received permission to pilot a more positive system.  Below is a picture of our new plan.

One of my favorite things about this new plan is that students can move up.  Even if they struggle for a portion of the day, they have the opportunity to move back up.  This was not part of our school-wide system. I also like the opportunity to recognize students for "above and beyond" behavior for those who are on orange, pink and "sparkling silver".  Students who are above green receive a little certificate for the day indicating the color.  If students earn "sparkling silver", they have the opportunity to choose a holographic sticker to put on their calendar box for the day instead of coloring.

So far, my students are responding really well to the new system.  I hope their enthusiasm continues!

Do you use a similar plan?  Any suggestions or tips?

Are you with me on a huge amount of assessment at this time of year?  The end of the nine weeks is this Thursday, so I was trying to get last minute assessments completed on Friday.  I set up 4 math stations for students to explore.

Using manipulatives to explore the pan balance.  Loved their teamwork!
We also used pattern blocks to complete these space-themed pictures.  This is most definitely one of their favorite activities this week.  They are wearing their coats because an announcement was made that we were going to have a fire drill (it was in the 30s).  We kept working until the alarm went off.

This week is a four day week because Friday is a teacher work day for the end of the semester.  We will be finishing up our Day & Night, Light & Dark theme.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday WOW {January 8}

I'm linking up with the fabulous ladies at Curious Firsties for their Wednesday WOW linky.

Today was our first day back from Winter Break.  After two weeks of break, we had 2 snow days with a 2 hour delay on top of that today.  It was good to be back into somewhat of a routine.  The kids were very laid back and quiet today (that in itself is a WOW!).  

Our benchmark assessments are due next Thursday, so I figured I better get started today because it is also report card time and all the regular weekly assessments still exist too.  I started with a "middle of the road" kiddo...or so I thought.  She WOWed me when she met our end of the year benchmark!!  Way to go, kiddo!  I was one happy teacher.  I felt really good about it being after break and knowing that she had those skills down solid to have retained them over 18 days off.  

It was a great way to start our short week back and made me excited to continue testing tomorrow.

What are your successes this week?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


We were to go back to school Monday, but Mother Nature had other plans.  Extreme cold and some ice have lead to 2 more days tacked on to our break.  Good news, our new superintendent called both days Sunday night (actually evening), so kudos to him for planning ahead for us!

I was determined to be productive these two bonus days.  I worked on an evidence binder for our new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES).  It was good to start to get some of that stuff together.

I baked some cookies and made some soup.  Soup was awesome on a cold day!

Bar cookies with mini M & Ms and mini chocolate chips.  Recipe in link above.

Lemon chicken orzo soup (like Panera).  Recipe in link above.
I also cleaned out a closet or two and put organized some things before heading back tomorrow.

I'm heading to bed tonight with a 2-hour delay to look forward to in the morning and hopefully seeing my kiddos!  Our new unit is Day & Night, Light & Dark.  It is about space and opposites.  Looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.

Do you have some good ideas for teaching about space?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Organizational Goals

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin again for their final day of their Welcome 2014 linky.  Today's topic is organization.

I have a love-hate relationship with organization.  I love all cute containers and the idea of being organized.  I hate that I have a difficult time keeping things organized.  I usually start the school year off really well...and it lasts about the first 5 minutes of kids coming into the room.

Small steps towards necessities...

1.  OTES Paperwork: OTES is Ohio's teacher evaluation system.  Our building is piloting this year, but much of the state is already implementing the system.  I'm hoping to learn from others.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I know that if my system has a little bit of personality, I will be more likely to use it.  I purchased a "Fold and File" from Thirty-One.  I'm thinking that a binder might be a little more practical though.  I have a large stack of paperwork in my bedroom closet that is not even close to organized.

2.  Guided Reading Table: Keeping my guided reading table (that also doubles as my desk space) clean so I can actually use it for small group work.  I'd like to do some small group writing activities, and a table to work at is important to me.  Maybe I should actually USE that filing cabinet behind the table...

Photo from Really Good Stuff website.
I bought some of these bags from Really Good Stuff.  They help us keep our leveled reading books organized, and I am thrilled with my purchase.  We have had them since October, and the kids and I love them.

How do you stay organized in your classroom?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Welcome 2014 Professional Goals

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin again for their Professional Goals linky.

My student teacher and I worked together in the fall as she completed her preclinical practice.  Her schedule, no fault of her own, was not ideal with our schedule, but we made it work.  I'm so excited to have her with us full time this semester.  I can't wait to see the impact of having two of us working together to meet the needs of my kiddos!

I find many great ideas and I keep pinning them on Pinterest (thank goodness they are at least a little bit organized), but all this new information seems to get lost between the pinning of it and the actual implementation.  I'd like to try at least two new things per month, even if they are just little things.  I have this habit of going to PD during the year then wanting to come back and implement EVERYTHING I saw the next day.  It isn't realistic, so hopefully this will help get me there.  There are so many things out there that I know my students would benefit from, so I look forward to giving them a try.

I want to have fun with my students and enjoy their curiosity and excitement for learning!  So many times I think I (we?) get bogged down in paperwork, new initiatives and the many other things that take our time that we forget the excitement of learning for our kiddos.  I'm looking forward to them being a little more independent and able to work better in small groups as the second half of the year arrives.

We meet in teaching teams at least twice a week in our building.  I would love to do more with my teaching team to help our students grow.  We've started talking about and sharing resources more this year and have worked together on a few projects.  I'm looking forward to more of that.  I'm also very excited to attend I Teach K! this summer.  I went 2 years ago and learned so much, and cannot wait to go back for more this summer.  I'm also presenting one session, which is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.  

Any suggestions on accomplishing any of the goals above would be appreciated! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five For Friday {January 3}

Happy (or not so happy) last day of winter break here.  I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly Five For Friday linky.

1.  I spent this morning at WalMart getting an oil change.  The light was on and the oil change was long overdue.  The 2 hours I spent roaming around WalMart were not how I planned to spend my last morning of break.

2.  It is frigid here, though I guess not as cold as the Northeast.  Our current temp (at 1:30pm) just finally hit 10 degrees.  We are looking at below zero temps for highs next Tuesday.  Snow day perhaps?

3.  I put together some books I printed from Reading A-Z before break.  I couple theme related books as well as the next level up for my highest group.  I still have a stack of laminating to take care of, but I've been holding off on that because I'm sure I'll have more to print and laminate before Monday!

4.  I'd like to accomplish making another pot of soup this weekend.  I made this soup for Christmas Eve; easy and delicious!

5.  This weekend I should probably also consider taking my Christmas tree down before heading back to work on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Family & Fun Linky

I'm linking up with the fabulous crew over at Blog Hoppin for their New Year Linky.  Today's topic is Fun and Family.

Here is my family on our trip to Savannah, GA this past July.  We took a cooking class with Chef Darin at Savannah Cooking School.  

Bonnie (far left) and Seth (my brother next to her) got engaged this week.  Yay!  Maybe a 2014 wedding?

I moved this past summer, so my parents are now only 20 minutes away (as opposed to the hour and 10 it used to be).  I traded my 5 minute drive to work (now driving 55 minutes to work) for being closer to my family.  I love being closer to them, and look forward to being able to spend more time with them in the coming year.

I'll be venturing to Long Boat Key, FL in February with my parents and cousin. We've never been there; it is on the west coast of Florida.  Looking forward to a little sand and sun!

Looking forward to heading here in July!

My family is meeting me in Vegas then we are driving to explore the Pacific Northwest.  Our plans include Portland, OR, Seattle, WA and Vancouver. None of us have been to these places, so we're excited to explore. Anyone have any tips?

Thanks for stopping by!  Happy New Year 2014 to everyone!