Liebster Award

Who doesn't love an award?  I am so excited to be nominated for the "Liebster Award" by 21st Century Kindergarten.  This award is for those new to blogging with less than 200 followers...with only 2 followers I guess I fit the qualifications!  I know I am very new at this, but I have loved my time blogging and before that I have learned so much from other teacher-bloggers.

1. Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
I started this blog at the beginning of this school year (in August 2014). The reason I decided to start the blog is because I have followed, read, and learned so much from other bloggers that I wanted to join in the fun and network with these great people!
2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why? 
Practical - I am all about real ideas for busy teachers!
 3. Is there something you learned late in your blog journey you wished you knew before?
 I am still so new at this that I feel I learn something new each day!  I feel far from an "expert" at anything related to blogging and am constantly looking for ways to improve.
4. What is your favorite past time other than blogging?
 Other than blogging, my kids (by which I mean my own daughters as well as the many "children" I have in my classroom) are my past time.  I love to spend time with them, watch them play sports and plan for future activities to help them grow.
5. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog? 
In general I spend about one-two hours on my blog. I hope to increase this time, but I have also switched positions this year (from regular education to special education) so there has been a lot to learn in the last two months.
6. What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
I love any blog category that can get teachers practical ideas to use in their classroom!
7. Where does your blog inspiration come from? 
My inspiration comes from my classroom, past teaching experiences (I have taught for 12 years in grades k-3 before switching to an special education position, k-6), professional development trainings, and new products!
8. Of which post that you have written are you most proud?
I loved sharing the reveal of my new classroom.  The switch I made this summer was a lot of work and I was so happy to see it all come together.  
9.Is there any post you have been planning to do, but have been postponing it for a while now?
I have lots of ideas and things on my "to do" list.  Each week I plan to post at least one new practical idea plus participate in linky parties and give-aways!
10. What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
My favorite aspect of blogging is how much it helps me grow professionally and personally.  I get to learn from the real experts in the field and share some of my ideas along the way.  
11. Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself?  
I LOVE 21st Century Kindergarten's blog and ideas regarding their "News" project.  What a fun, real life experience students are discovering!  Definitely a great common core activity!

My Nominees:
To those who have been nominated, here are the "official" rules for accepting:
1. In your post, link back to the blogger who nominated you as a thank you and "shout out." (Follow their blog if you haven't already!)  
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you (the ones I answered above).
3. Nominate 11 blogs of your choice that each have less than 200 followers. Provide them with 11 questions to answer or have them answer the questions above.
4. Let your nominees know that they've been nominated and provide them with a link to your post so that they can accept.
5. Send your nominator a link to your post so that s/he can learn more about you as well! (You can just put your post link in the comments below!) 

Igniting A Passion For Writing important skill that often makes teachers and students cringe!  How many of us have felt that writing lessons seem neglected or pushed aside to make room for more time teaching math and reading?  Have you ever heard the groans or felt the tension in your classroom rise at the first mention of writing time?  You have seen other classrooms and teachers who seem to love does this happen?  

I have felt this way too and have spent hours in professional development and researching best practices for writing instruction.  Writing is not a one hit wonder.  It is a craft that needs daily practice and students need the opportunity to be explicitly taught many skills to continue to improve.  One of the first hurdles we face, however, is getting our students engaged in the act of writing.  How can we inspire our students to love writing?

While I do not claim to know all of the answers to this incredibly difficult question, I do know some tricks that have helped in my classroom.  I have used a "Writing Workshop" method of instruction for many years (often in conjunction with the Daily 5).  I teach daily mini-lessons to help reach my classroom of authors and help them with their writing craft.  One of the first lessons I teach each year, however, is a favorite of mine.  To introduce writing workshop and to get my students excited about writing I read one of my personal favorite books, The Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk, aloud to my classroom.

This book is full of fun pictures and contains a great story to inspire your authors (I have used this story with kindergarten-4th grade!).  As the story begins you meet a mouse, Sam, who lives in a library.  Sam decides to begin writing books of his own and offers tip/ideas to help with writing as he works on his own stories(of of his first tips, for example, is to "write what you know").  As Sam finishes his books he places them in the correct section of the library - a great introduction to a variety of genres is also found in this adorable story.   

Of course the children and librarians who find the stories left by Sam fall in love with them and desperately want to meet the author. Sam decides to surprise them.  He decorates a box and hangs a banner from it that reads "Meet the Author."  This is where my favorite part of the book comes along.  Before reading the book to my class I use a shoe box or tissue box to recreate the box Sam uses.

I have this box sitting somewhere out of the way in the classroom (usually on top of a higher bookshelf or cabinet).  Inevitably when I get to the page of the book where the library opens and kids see this box a student will remark how they saw this same box in our room.  In my most surprised voice I guess that Sam must have come to meet us too!  I tell them that they can each peek into the box, but they have to promise that they won't scream so they don't scare Sam.  I also ask that they keep the contents of the box a secret so everyone gets a chance to see.  As a walk around the room and let students peer into the box their eyes and reactions tell it all!  Inside the box is not a mouse, or a picture of a famous author.  Inside the box is a mirror.  Sam wanted the children to know that THEY are all authors.  After each student in the class has a chance to see inside the box I finish reading the book.  

As you can see from this picture, Sam also has left pencils and books (made by just stapling blank pages together) for the children.  Of course, I have the same materials waiting to go on this day.  We discuss why sam put a mirror in the box and the students are so excited to share that THEY are authors.  I pass out books and tell them to feel free to write a story about WHATEVER they want.  We talk about the genres Sam introduced and tell them they can choose whatever style they want to.  We also discuss Sam's helpful hint that they can write what they know.  You will never see students so motivated to write!  It is amazing what folding some paper into a book shape can do!  For this lesson, it is not about the content of their stories, or conventions of writing...for this moment it is just to get students to feel confident and know that they have the ability to be an author!  

I plan to share more lessons and ideas to teach writing monthly on my blog!  I would love to hear your ideas for teaching writing!  Please feel free to comment below...How do you inspire your students to write?

Happy TpT Birthday Simone...Let's Celebrate With A Giveaway!

Everyone loves a birthday!  Simone's Math Resources is celebrating 5 years on Teachers Pay Teachers with a  giveaway!  I have donated a $10 shopping spree to my TpT store along with many other teachers.  This adds up to a great prize pack!  Please hop on over to the giveaway!  Become a follower of my blog for extra chances of winning!  I have also included a link to my TpT store to start planning your winnings!  Good luck!

Giveaway Link

My Life At The Pencil Sharpener

Finding Some Fun In Teaching Non-Fiction

Teaching non-fiction, informational text, is such an important part of a teacher's life! While my students always LOVE to read these stories (which one of my boys this year described as "the ones where the animals don't talk"), comprehension can be difficult. I am always looking for and creating new ways for my students to excel at this essential skill. This week I am going to begin this journey by introducing non-fiction text features. To help with this I have created a "Non-fiction Detectives" sheet for use with any informational text. Students will look through the non-fiction story and find these features as they read.
You can go to my Teacher's Pay Teachers store to find more products to help teach non-fiction! Please link your ideas or add comments below on how you plan to find some fun in teaching non-fiction!

Wordless Wednesday....To DOL, or Not DOL...That is the Question

I am so excited to be linking up today with Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesdays!
For this week I am inspired by something my daughter brought home on her first day of school:
The DOL. I can't be too much of a hater...I have used it in the past. Last year, however, when I was lucky enough to be a part of an Ohio Writing Project grant we discussed the topic of grammar a great deal. It was debated that having kids constantly look at the WRONG way to write a sentence (although they are correcting them) may leave them only remembering the errors. I was convinced that I need to start a new way of conducting daily grammar practice, but I cannot come up with a good, go to way. So I ask... What does life after the DOL look like? Are DOLs really that bad? What could an alternative be? I would LOVE to hear your comments and suggestions! Happy Wednesday!

Book Talk Tuesday - The Chalk Box Kid

The school year is upon us so many of us are searching for a great book to start the year out right. I have read so many cute picture books with my students so far this year...two of my favorites are The Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk and Ish by Peter Reynolds. When I think of a great book for guided reading groups, however, I can't get past a tried and true classic - The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Bulla What better way to share my thoughts on this story than to link up with one of the greats...Mrs. Jump's Class! This woman is AWESOME and I am so fortunate to have this chance!
This story is perfect for 2nd-4th graders and has a wonderful theme for the beginning of the school year. Many students can relate to the main character, Gregory, as he struggles to fit in at a new school. He finds sanctuary in an unusual place and where he is able to showcase a true, hidden talent. Your students will learn the importance of friendship and acceptance as Gregory's classmates, who once shunned him, find he has much to offer their new school. Each year that I read this with my students I am amazed by all that can be accomplished by handing each child a piece of blank black paper and white chalk (or crayon). Their imaginations run wild as they work to draw their "garden" or dream onto the page. I love this story so much that I have created a book unit to go along with it. It is has been used in my classroom with much success! Find it at my TpT store by following this link: Chalk Box Kid Complete Unit
This pack includes chapter by chapter comprehension questions, weekly focus skills with activities, end of book projects and a context clue game!
I love this story! There are so many great books out there, but sometimes oldies really are the goodies!

Monday Made It - Gutter Planter Box

I am linking up today with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics. I absolutely LOVE her blog and have found so many great ideas from her "Monday Made It" section.
My favorite "made it" from the last couple of weeks has got to be the adorable planter boxes that I have made for my classroom. With such a tiny space to work with, I had to get very creative. Two large (4 foot wide) windows seemed to be the focal point in the room, so I decided to go with it. This project was SO EASY and I couldn't be happier with the results. Here is what I used: - Rain gutters - I bought 1 rain gutter at Lowes (these traditionally come in 10 foot sections) - Rain gutter end caps (for the number of planters you need) - Silicone or hot glue - Floral foam (I found this at the dollar store) - Cute, whimsical flowers to match your decor (the flowers I used were on sale at Michaels) - Some type of covering for the foam (I used burlap to match my room, but there is also moss or so many options) - 3M/Command picture hanging strips After buying the rain gutters (which are incredibly light weight) I cut them to fit the size of my windows. You can cut these with tin snips fairly easily. Next, I attached the end caps with silicone. I also attached the floral foam to the insides with silicone, but hot glue would also work.
Adding the flowers was easy at this point. I just spaced them out and added them as I found looked best. To give it a more finished look you can add a covering over the foam. I found wide burlap ribbon that I wound around the stems to help tie the colors of my room together. As a final step I hung the planters directly below my windows. For this I used the 3M/Command picture hanging strips. I attached 4 of these to each of the planter boxes and put the corresponding pieces onto the wall where I planned to hang them. It was so easy then to press the finished boxes against the wall at the hanging strips and it instantly added a great pop of color to the space!

Surviving The First Week!

I have just completed my first week of the new school year! Yeah! There is such excitement in the air all around school. The new backpacks, supplies and stories to tell about summer have made getting back into the school routine a lot of fun. The first week is always jam packed with procedures, team building and getting to know you activities. Each year that I teach I begin to understand the importance of this time more and more. While the temptation is always there to rush through some of the "boring" rules and expectations...we have all learned that this only leads to disaster. I have also learned that there is nothing more valuable than finding time to learn about student's learning styles and interests. Through interest inventories and getting to know you games (bingo being a class favorite) we can get insight into how each student will best be motivated to learn throughout the year. This year I decided to do a learning style profile with each student online (since I will be working with students in small groups). Wow! This made the task more motivating for my students (who couldn't wait to get their hands on the school's new laptops) and so easy for me since the results were automatically calculated. I am sure there are many great online resources out there, but here is the website that I used: To help celebrate this exciting time of year I made a quick freebie to share with you! This is an activity I used with my students to help get to know them a little better. Simply buy the individual packs of M&Ms or pass out a handful to each student and use the guide provided to learn more about each student. Getting To Know You Candy Activity
I would love to hear about some of your fun first week activities! Happy first week of school!

New classroom decor!

There is something about decorating your classroom and getting ready for a new school year that I love! Maybe it is the anticipation of all of the good things that could happen, maybe it is the thrill and excitement of a fresh start...whatever it is, I LOVE IT! This year, however, I had a double dose of this fun! As I mentioned in an earlier post my classroom setup has been very unconventional this year. I had completely decorated and prepared my third grade classroom when I was offered and decided to take a position as a K-6 intervention specialist. This began my second decorating/organizing challenge of the summer. My new position, however, meant that I had to move from a large classroom to a small, closet sized office space. After downsizing and bringing home about 8 large bins of teacher materials I had a completely blank slate to work with. This is what the room looked like (this picture is actually of an identical office down the may notice later that it is facing a different direction than my room).
The space is SO small and the walls were so bare and white that I felt they were caving in on me! I am not claustrophobic, but this room was beginning to make me understand the feeling! I had to do something, ANYTHING, to give this room some much needed love. I decided on a nature/outdoor theme. Bright blue and burlap were going to be my primary colors, but I have added some touches of pink and lime green throughout. Here is what I have come up with so far (trust me...there is still work to be done!)
My room has 2 BIG windows in it (both are 4 feet across). They really seemed like a focal point in the room so I decided to use this to my decorating advantage and create flower boxes. To make these I utilized rain gutters to hold the flowers and wrapped burlap around the flowers to help give it some more visual appeal.
My lonely little white board also needed some attention. I decided to make add some texture with the flowers at the top and have also added my bright blue colored border around the room.
I do not have a traditional "desk" in my new room. I do, however, have some great cabinets that I plan to utilize to help me post the "I Can" statements for each group I teach. These will be held in the frames you see in the picture. So, there it is. I am so happy with how it turned out! I no longer cringe when I walk in the room and I can see myself having a fun and productive year with my students in this room. Another successful year decorating...x 2. It is a good thing that it is one of my favorite parts of a new year. What are your favorite things about a new school year?

My New Classroom...Almost

Ok, so this year's classroom reveal has been a little complicated. As all teachers do I worked hard trying to find the perfect "theme" and game plan for the upcoming school year. At the end of last year I decided to enlist the help of my third graders to get their input on what would make a great classroom. We had great discussions and students wrote some compelling arguments about their opinions. In the end it was decided that a "Hollywood/Movie Theme" would be best in the room. We worked together to plan and create the new bulletin boards (incorporating learning experiences such as math - measurement, area and perimeter and reading - researching some great topics in movie making). Below you will find some pictures of what we came up with. Some of these ideas were inspired by some other great teachers with some of our own little twists:
This picture includes a bulletin board where students will be posting writing works in progress to get feedback and ideas for editing. Also you can see my Hollywood sign inspired math board.
A "Star of the Week" or "Celebrity of the Week" idea is always something I enjoy doing. It helps so much with building classroom community and getting to know all members of our class. I tried to put all of my ideas and resources for this theme into a product in my store and I made it editable so that it could be meaningful for anyone who purchases! Check it out: Hollywood Themed Classroom Resource Pack Now, why is this my new classroom...almost? Well, midway through the summer I was contacted about moving to a new position at my school. I will now be an intervention specialist for my school. I am currently working on my new room (which is actually the size of a small office) and will post my progress soon!

Hello Blogging World!

Wow! I can't believe I have officially entered the blogging world. I am so excited to begin this new adventure. For the past 11 years I have been a teacher and I have to say that I have learned so much from reading great blogs and networking with awesome teachers. I can't wait to begin to share some of my ideas and some fantastic resources I have found along my journey. As teachers I think we sometimes feel like our lives are consumed by things that distract and take away from the most important part of our jobs...teaching and motivating our students...this is where the title of my blog and TpT store came from. There are not enough hours in a day and dollars in a teacher's bank account to complete everything we would like to do for our students. I hope to continue to grow as an educator and help more teachers find ways to step away from the "pencil sharpener"and give them some of their time back! I have just started on "bloglovin"... Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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