Monday, December 31, 2012

Currently: January

Happy 2013!

When I lived in NYC, I went to Times Square for the big ball drop and it was amazing! This year, I am resting at home with a sacked out toddler and, although it couldn't be more different, it's the perfect way to ring in the new year. I am super excited for 2013!

I am linking up with Farley for this month's Currently:

Clearly, I need to finish this bathroom project. I am so excited- I am using curtains for shower curtains instead of a traditional shower curtain and I think it's going to look amazing! Our main bathroom is so tiny, but it is already making it seem more spacious and luxurious. We are repainting it and I am dreading all of the detail that's required in that part of the project- I am more of a roller kinda gal :)

My OLW is something I found on Pinterest and I lovelovelove it:

Happy 2013 to all of you and have a very, very wonderful rest of your break!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions!

I'll be honest, I am excited to see 2012 go! It had its many highs, but also its lows and I would love 2013 to be a bit more stable and predictable because I would love to just relax for a bit, ya know?

I am linking up with Jen at The Teacher's Cauldron for her "It's a New Year!" Linky:

In Blogland:
Probably my worst flaw as a blogger is not leaving comments on other's pages- there are so many wonderful and amazing ideas out there, I really want to let you all know how much I appreciate them! I am also working on organizing my posts, chats, freebies, products, all that jazz a bit more. I am concocting a pseudo-blogging plan-- nothing set in stone, just a monthly "big picture" view of what's happening so I can be a bit more purposeful with my time, my blog, and my store.

At School:
Ohmagoodness, I am currently obsessing over Daily 5 Math/Math Workshop/Guided Math/all that good stuff!! Holy moly- I am so excited to dip my toes in the water jump in feet first when I get back! I have been not feeling too jazzed about math instruction this year-- and I am someone who loves math! Since Daily 5 rocks my socks, I am hoping that system in math will, too! I will definitely keep you posted on this little journey of mine :)

At Home:
Ok, I am not gonna lie-- being home with my little girl these past few weeks has been totally and completely wonderful... sigh.... I oftentimes wish she and I could just hang out all of the time and dance to Disney songs and eat mac & cheese.
She was soooooo happy on Christmas morning, I died :)
I would love to really work on balance, balance, balance-- I love being mom and want to not feel so bogged down with errands, to-do's, chores, and the like. I want to really focus on being present with her, letting a lot of that other stuff go, and enjoying the ride :)

Source: via Steph on Pinterest

What are your resolutions for 2013? Be sure to head over to link up with Jen. Oh, and any tips for Guided Math or advice on finding balance are greatly appreciated in the comments below ;)

Happy New Year, my friends!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best & Brightest of 2012!

I am linking up with Christina at Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge for her awesome "2012 Blog Best & Brightest" Linky Party!

Looking back at this time last year, I could have never imagined that today I would be blogging, selling on TpT, and have a whole new group of the most inspirational friends in bloggy-land! So, I guess you could say that 2012 pretty much encompasses all of my best moments, but I will try to narrow it down :)

I love that my most viewed posts are some of the original inspirations for getting involved in blogging and TpT- they are my tried-and-true products and class systems:

Class Rules & Gestures: These have really changed so much about my class management system and have become a staple in our class on a daily basis. Based on Whole Brain Teaching, these 5 gems are a bit different, but fit my teaching style so well.

Brain Breaks: These are also my #1 seller on Teachers Pay Teachers and the post is my #2 most-viewed (it's a close tie with #1). These were my first items to post for sale on TpT and they have helped keep both my kids and I energized or focused all day.

One my proudest moments was when my #2 TpT Top Seller was featured by the 2 Sisters (of Daily 5 & CAFE fame) in their weekly newsletter. I also was flabbergasted to see my RACK Tracker on NBC News being used by a fellow third grade teacher to help her kids cope with the Sandy Hook tragedy. It helped to know that we, as teachers, help each other out so much- not just with lesson plans and class management, but also while coping after unspeakable events. This is such a wonderful community of educators and I am so proud and thankful everyday to be a part of it!

I am not even kidding when I say that I have at least 500 bloggers to thank for being a daily inspiration! I will definitely say that the one who sticks out the most is the lovely, kind, and amazingly inspirational Kristen of Ladybug's Teacher Files.

Also, Rachel is the one whose Whole Brain Teaching video totally changed the way I thought about lesson delivery and design and re-energized this very tired new-mom teacher ;)

So thank you to everyone for making 2012 memorable and wonderful for so many reasons :) Head over to Christina's blog to link up and share your bestest and brightest from this year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter, and plenty of R&R!

If you are in need of a good chuckle, here's our little girl's picture with Santa this year. Hopefully the goodies he leaves for her under the tree tonight will change her mind about him :)

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Staying Green During the Holidays + A Freebie

Have you noticed how much waste we accumulate during the month of December?

Our school is eco-friendly and it is such a wonderful value to teach our kids from preschool on up. My kids even compost in the lunchroom- it's pretty cool :)

I thought this quick lesson would be a nice refresher about how they can continue their "green" habits into the holidays, both at home and in the classroom.

First off, there is a super-cute video from the Magic School Bus all about recycling that is set during the holiday season. I think Dolly Parton is even the voice of Miss Frizz's cousin! Here's a nice copy online with no commercials:

I think I will definitely be showing this ASAP because, as it always goes this time of year, I lost my voice this afternoon.... sigh :( Miss Frizz to the rescue!

I made a short and sweet worksheet to go along with this, too:
Fonts and Borders by Jen Jones, Scrappin' Cop, and Kevin & Amanda; Clip Art by Scrappin'  Doodles #58112
I will plan on making a class chart of things we can reduce, reuse, and recycle this time of year using the kids' ideas and some of these resources to help:
Note: Some of the sites above also have some interesting facts about holiday energy/resource consumption this time of year, although I am always cautious about sharing a lot of those stats because I don't want my thirdsters to feel guilty about having their decorations up or lights hanging outside- we instead focus on how we can be kind to our planet by starting new traditions :)

After we brainstorm some ways as a group, I plan on having them fill in their own ideas and color this sheet to take home and share.

If you are interested in this worksheet, I have it on Google Docs HERE. Enjoy!

Do you have eco-friendly systems in your classroom or school? Have any good holiday tips?? Leave a comment below, I'd love to try out some new ideas this season :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pinspiration: Snowman Soup for Your Students

I hope that you all had a good day back at school. I am sosososo glad we stared RACK Week in our classroom because it was a perfect connection to a Mr. Rogers quote that's been floating around:

Love :) I think this has really helped my thirdsters feel like they are part of the bigger picture of doing good and they have been sosososo excited to "RACK" this week and spread kindness- yay!!!

I wanted to share a fun treat I will be giving my kids on Friday as a part of their holiday gift: Snowman Soup!

I was inspired by this pin, but couldn't find its original source :(

If someone knows the source, please let me know so I can give proper credit :)

This is seriously the easiest thing to assemble and all of the ingredients are super-cheap and easy to find this time of year, so it's a win all around!

Here's what you'll need:

  • mini-marshmallows 
  • Hershey kisses (I chose the holiday ones to make them colorful)
  • hot chocolate packs
  • candy canes (they were out of mini and these are sort of medium-sized, so they still fit in the bag)
  • clear baggies (I used clear Ziploc and they aren't as cute as the inspiration, but they did the job just fine)
  • Snowman Soup tags 

Into each bag goes:

  • 1 packet of hot chocolate
  • 2 kisses (1 red & 1 green)
  • 1 candy cane
  • 10 mini-marshmallows
After I zipped the bag closed, I stapled the tag to the top and voila, Snowman Soup for each kiddo!

I will be giving these to the kiddos on Friday along with mini-books I received from Scholastic last year in a book order (love Scholastic!). I can only assume the kids will have eaten the candy cane, marshmallows and kisses by the end of the day, but at least they look cute now, right? ;)

You can pick up the Snowman Soup FREE Tags on Google Docs. Enjoy!

I hope your week is going smoothly and I am sending out lots of hugs to each of you, my wonderful teacher friends everywhere!! {{xoxo}}

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting Ready for RACK Week!

If you have been reading blogs recently, I know you have seen so many fabulous and inspiring examples of RACK: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness!

Check out Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade's post HERE.

Cara Carroll has a beautiful RACK advent calendar for her family HERE.

And my personal favorite, Judy at Kindertastic's HERE.

It is actually Judy's work that I am using this year for our class' RACK Week-we still have a full week to go before Winter Break, so I needed something to keep us kind and in the holiday spirit for the next five days :) Note: I teach in a public school and we have lots of diverse celebrations, so I changed the "Christmas" to "Classroom" :)

We started talking about this today by thinking about each of the words separately and also by brainstorming lots of ways we could practice Random Acts of Classroom Kindness both in and around our school. The kids were awesome at this and we linked it a lot to bucket filling and how, when we fill someone else's bucket, it fills ours up as well!

I then used Judy's awesome Google Docs to not only download her PDF, but to adjust her Word doc to make some that my kids brainstormed- specifically, writing notes and cards to our office staff, school nurse, custodians, bus drivers, principal, and more.

You know me, I love my buckets, so I made a quick bucket label and laminated the slips of paper to make sure they can be used over and over again.

Next week, starting on Monday morning and going through Friday, as soon as Morning Meeting is over, I am going to have kids pull a RACK idea from our bucket to do that day. They will then record it on their "RACK Tracker" and try to complete it by the end of day. Of course, if they want to do more, they absolutely can, and if they pull a duplicate one from a previous day, they can re-choose. I'm not going to be too strict and force them to do a RACK they don't want to do!

Here's a shot of the RACK Tracker that I'm going to copy onto green paper to feel more festive ;) I am having them do this just to keep their RACK in the forefront of their mind throughout the day and really work on intentionally practicing a different form of kindness each day.

Click the image above to download your free copy from Google Docs
It's pretty simple, but it should do the trick and I am so excited to get this underway!

If you are interested in RACK in your classroom, be sure to check out all of the links above and, if you are thinking you may want the "Class RACK" bucket label and RACK Tracker, download them for free from Google Docs HERE.

Happy Friday and I hope you have a wonderful weekend :)

**Update: I posted this morning not knowing how this day would end... who could have ever imagined? My heart goes out to all of the families, teachers, staff, students, and first responders in the Connecticut tragedy :'(

Sunday, December 9, 2012

12 in '12

I am linking up with Miss Kindergarten and A Teeny Tiny Teacher for a look back at 2012 and the top 12 memories from the year!

12. Favorite movie you watched: One of the funniest was when my bestie and I saw Pitch Perfect and laughed the entire time :) From the sing-along songs to Rebel Wilson, it was hilarious!
I know I will change this answer by the end of the year because I am super-duper excited for Les Mis and The Hobbit :)

11. Favorite TV series: Ohmagoodness, without a doubt, Downton Abbey. I'm not kidding, this is the bestest show on the planet and I am currently trying to think of a creative way to have my students call me "M'lady" without it sounding awkward ;) Plus, Maggie Smith is pure genius!

10. Favorite restaurant: Always has been and always will be Chipotle.... mmmm!!

9. Favorite new thing you tried: lol, I definitely think blogging & TpT! It has been such an amazing experience to join this community and I am still overwhelmed with gratitude each time I get an email about a product sold, feedback submitted, or comment left! Thank you all for making this part of my year the greatest!

8. Favorite gift you got: My teammate-friend nominated me for our school district's Impact Award this year and I was just told that I am one of ten finalists! Not only is this SUCH a huge honor, it also is one of the biggest surprises in my life- I had no clue he was planning this and I'm still not sure it's sunk in....

7. Favorite thing you pinned: Wasn't sure I could narrow down over 2,000 Pins and Likes to just one (so I snuck some in up above!), but then I remembered this and it all became clear! This pin introduced me to Whole Brain Teaching, which re-inspired my teaching and changed everything! If you haven't watched it, do so immediately :) 

6. Favorite blog post: If you've followed me for a while, you won't be surprised, but my favorite post is a tech tutorial about how to make bookmarks from PDF files- I seriously am drowning in bookmarks because of this trick ;) Plus, I've also made smaller packets for kids and mini-posters using these same tricks, and who doesn't love miniatures?

5. Best accomplishment: I have been working super-duper hard to lose the extra weight I gained while preggo with our little lovely (I gained the weight of a small village, not kidding!) and finally started sticking to a diet over the summer. I'm proud to say that I have currently lost over 30 lbs.- woo hoo!!

4. Favorite picture: Our little monkey escaping after bathtime and before PJ's to climb the stove (thank goodness she's now over that stage!!):

3. Favorite font: Wish I Were Taller by Kevin & Amanda- How did I ever exist before this font? It's my absolute favorite and first go-to (obviously!), plus the name cracks me up because at 5'10", I have no desire to be taller :) :)

2. Goal for 2013: Keep on keepin' on! I want to make sure I maintain all of the goodness that's started this year and continue to feel inspired by blogging and TpT. I can't wait to continue cultivating my bloggy friendships and look forward to all of the fun ideas I haven't even thought up yet! I want to get outta town for my hubs & my 5 year anniversary in June (we need a vaca something fierce!). Above all, I want to practice daily thankfulness and gratitude :)

1. One Little Word: Blesson (see below)

What are your 12 in '12? Head over to Miss Kindergarten or A Teeny Tiny Teacher to link up!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winner, Editables & Snowy Multiplication Freebie

Happy Saturday!

I have exciting news, especially if you are Erin V. :) You won the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener Giveaway! Check your email and thank you to all who entered- be sure to let Santa know to put this on the top of your list- you will love it :)

I have been working on making some of my products in my TpT Store editable in PowerPoint so you can add cute fonts- I have done this most recently with my Chevron Name Plates & Table Numbers file and my Whole Brain Teaching Lesson Plan Template!

I am still including the PDF in all of the file for those of you who prefer that format or for those of you who may not have PowerPoint, but if you are interested in editing, it's super-duper easy:

  1. Open the PowerPoint file
  2. Go to the slide where you want to add text
  3. Click the "Insert" tab on the top of PowerPoint
  4. Click "Text Box" and click the place where you want to add text
  5. Type away!
  6. You can then change the font, color, size, etc. just like you always do 
  7. Save and Print
Easy-peasy and it makes things so fun and fancy, especially if you have a font addiction like moi :)

I wanted to share a fun freebie that we have been playing with over this past week to help reinforce our times tables. I call it "Snowball Fight!"

It's a snow/winter-themed version of Multiplication Roll & Cover. Directions are simple- kids get two dice and roll them, multiply them, then cover the product.

There are two sheets for this- one that can be used with two regular dice (1-6) and the other that requires higher-numbered dice. Once upon a time, I picked up quite a few of the 10-sided dice (0-9) and holy cow, the kids thought these were the coolest things :) I therefore had them grab one normal (1-6) die and one funky (0-9) die and get to work.

They worked in partnerships and I had these sheets printed front-to-back so they could start on the "easy" side then challenge themselves on the back side. I laminated them so we can reuse them over and over (and over and over), so they used the two-sided red & white foam counters to cover the number when they found it (the white side sorta looks like a snowball, right?). You could also use dry erase markers.

For partnerships who covered all of the snowflakes, I had cute snowflake stickers to give them- fun!- and then I had them work on the other side.

If you'd like to use these in your own class, I have it listed for free in my TpT Store. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful and restful weekend :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching: Simple Lesson Plan Template

For those of you who have been using some of the Whole Brain Teaching strategies out there, how have they been going this year?

Maybe it's just me, but I feel the bulk of the first trimester is spent doing so much guided practice, setting up routines & procedures, and teaching expectations, it feels good to be in the second trimester and actually getting to the meat and potatoes of teaching & learning :)

I am excited to share this next part that we learned once upon a time at the Whole Brain Conference this summer, but I'm just starting to practice and use regularly now (oops!). To be honest, though, the world of Whole Brain Teaching just seems so vast, I am glad I went nice and slow introducing the many pieces and parts, otherwise I would have run out of steam by now!

One of the ways to keep up momentum and keep interest high is with WBT's "Super Simple Lesson Plan". Chris Biffle explains it beautifully below and it's worth a watch if you have some time:

So many things stick out from this video, as usual!

Some of the most helpful tidbits I took away are:
  • Teachers can often be "talk-a-holics" and the longer we talk, the more kids we lose- guilty!
  • "Practice makes permanent"- I heard this a few years ago and love it, but love Shannon from technology rocks. seriously's even more!! I think this gets kids thinking about the process more than the product.
Click the poster above to be taken to Shannon's AMAZING wealth of talent :)
At the conference this summer, we practiced this a LOT in small groups and it was so helpful! The thing with Whole Brain Teaching is that it isn't only fast-paced and engaging for kids, it is for you as the teacher, too! Being prepared helps keep the lesson moving forward and keeps the energy high- you see lots and lots of smiles when you use this plan!

Here's the basic setup of the WBT Lesson Plan:

There are five simple steps and they go like this:
  1. Start with a question, like "What is a noun?"
  2. Answer the question, give the definition
  3. Give an example
  4. Give another example
  5. Have kids give each other examples

Before each section, have a Class-Yes and use one of three techniques- Scoreboard (smiley/frown), Mirror or Mirror-Words, or Hands & Eyes (for more clarification of each step, click the term to be taken to its definition). I have listed all three as a possibility, but only circle one and that way you can remember to vary it throughout the lesson delivery.

Then, in two-three sentences, go through the step (see the video for great examples). Give the kids some simple directions of how they will teach this to their partner- this is the "BR" section for "Bridge". A good example would be, "I want you to turn to your partner and tell them what a noun is, using gestures, until I call you back." This step is especially crucial at the beginning. Otherwise, many kids have absolutely no idea what to do when you say "Teach!"-- this way, there are clear expectations after each step (yay!). 

You will then clap and say, "Teach!" and the kids will respond by repeating your clap and saying, "Okay!" They will turn to their partner (I have my kids sit knee-knee) and practice doing what I asked them and using gestures until I call them back with "Class."

**Tip: I assign "Teaching Partners" in class- it's pretty much a Turn-and-Talk buddy, but with a fancier name and when it's minilesson time, the kids know they have to sit next to this person so when I say "Teach!" they know who to turn to immediately :)

While the kids are practicing, I can get up and wander around the meeting area. During this time, I am P/P&L-ing- I am Praising ("Great gestures!") or Prompting ("Bigger gestures, please!") and then Leaving (I don't hang around, I move on after my quick P/P). 

This cycle repeats itself through the five steps and holy cow- you will notice the difference in the focused and meaningful energy of your kids.

**Tip: I highly recommend starting this in a subject like math or grammar, where the gestures, the questions and answers, and the examples will be easier to come up with. To me, it is so much easier to thing "What is multiplication?" or "What is a verb?" and develop a lesson from there.

Build up to the harder, more complex lessons and soon you-- and even better, your kids!-- will be thinking of gestures for everything!

If you want a copy of my own version of the WBT Lesson Plans, they are available for FREE both on TpT and Google Docs. I have saved it as both a PDF and a PowerPoint. The PDF is easy-peasy, but hard to edit. If you are interested in adding in text boxes and such, opening the PowerPoint file will be best.

TpT Files HERE
Google Docs PDF HERE
Google Docs Editable PowerPoint HERE

I will be happy to post some examples that I am using, but there are already a handy amount on Whole Brain Teaching's website in their "Lesson Design & Delivery" FREE e-book. I highly recommend reading that cover to cover and exploring more of their videos on WBT TV.

Thanks so much everyone and have a great weekend! On a fun side note, I am working to add more of my freebies to Google Docs (it seems the WBT Rules on TpT sometimes download all funky) and am working to create more editable PowerPoint files- I'll keep you posted on Facebook as I complete these projects.