August 18, 2018

Place Value FUN!

I'm here to share with you one of my students' FAVORITE Math activities EVER. I made these for them last year and they loved them so much.

The Build a Place Value House is seriously a center I have on hand all year round. The set includes two digit numbers and three digit numbers AND a fun craft to wrap up your Place Value unit. Watch the video below to see it in action! Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more educational resources in action.

My kiddos loved it so much last year, that I added to the set with haunted houses during Halloween, gingerbread houses in the winter-time, and sandcastles at the end of the year to get us pumped for summer.

The Build a Place Value Haunted House is my favorite, so I made a video for that one, too. :P

You can get all of them and any more future additions (there's one in the works now....) in a bundle designed to save you money. Click any image to get to that specific set or the bundle image below to see them all together.

August 12, 2018

6 Tips for a Successful Back to School Week

Can you believe it is AUGUST?! What happened to the summer? I'm pretty sure I say that every year, but seriously! It goes quickly!

Whether you are going back this week (like me) or next month, this post will help you have a great first week back. That first week is critical but can also be stressful, emotional, and definitely exhausting. Here are 6 tips for the first week back to help you stay sane.

I cannot stress this enough... spending at least two weeks on implementing and practicing routines and procedures with your students is CRUCIAL. If you'd like a smooth year, take the time now to teach these things. You might think your class will know to raise their hand to speak, but odds are that after 2 months off from school, they're going to need that practice again. Ultimately, it is a new year with new kiddos and to them, YOU are a new teacher. Set your expectations, because you are probably a lot different from their teacher from last year. If you are in search of a fun way to practice new routines and procedures, check out this board game that I use every year to practice with a partner!

If you are part of a team of teachers, I always suggest to plan together. This can be difficult at times, but having other people around to share the load with you is worth the time invested up front. Set aside time to plan the first week out. They might have ideas you've never thought of or can remind you of things you haven't thought about in a long time (and vice versa). Teamwork makes the dream work!

If you're like me, you've been known to shove last minute messes into a cabinet and shut the door... only to frustrate yourself in a few weeks. I am very Type B... so organizing early is not one of my favorite things to do. This year, I sucked it up and did what needed to be done! And I am so excited that I can now focus on the things that are much more important: my students and their learning. You have a lot on your plate throughout the year. Make it easy on your future self and get it together now.

You don't want to spend the first days and weeks of school rushing around figuring things out for your home. Figure it out now so you can focus on back to school. Every year, I set aside a day before I go back to work and I cook for hours. I make tons of meals ahead of time and freeze them with instructions on how they need to be heated or cooked when I get home. This means: NO grocery shopping for dinner for a while; NO eating out when you're too tired to cook; and NO big loads of dishes to do during the work week! If you're looking for some freezer meal ideas, I used this blog and it was so helpful! I made enough dinners for my family of three for two work weeks for just $150.

In addition to figuring out meals, don't put off finding childcare. Wait lists are CRAZY! I also suggest treating your tired self when you go back to work and hire someone to thoroughly deep clean your home. This one time service is totally worth your time and energy. Plus, it is amazing to come home to a clean house. I mentioned I'm pretty Type B... so my house after being professionally cleaned is WAY better than when I do it. Hello, Hotel Home!

Once you're at school and you've met your darling little nuggets for the year, start to REALLY get to know them as early as possible. This sets the stage for a positive community in your classroom and learning can truly begin. Try to sit down and talk to your students to find out more about them. Take a moment each day to call a couple of parents to let them know who you are, answer any questions they might have, and let them know how excited you are to have their child in your class. That early relationship building goes a long way.

This is the most overwhelming time of the year. Exciting? Yes! Exhausting? Double yes... Listen to your body and your emotions. If you are feeling frustrated, reach out for help or reach out for clarification. If you are feeling exhausted, what you're working on CAN wait. Take a nap or go to bed early. You owe it you yourself after the exhausting few weeks of Back to School.

Back to School season is a lot of things and I hope for you that it is exciting! Happy 2018-2019 school year!

July 12, 2018

4 Time-Saving Hacks for Lesson Planning

It's almost time for school to start back up and that means designing engaging and purposeful lessons that your students will remember and retain. Sounds dreamy, right? I think I can speak for most teachers when I say that we don't have time for every lesson to be detailed and perfect. I know I don't! Here are the 4 time-saving hacks for lesson planning that help me year after year to remain organized and prepared but without wasting hours each week.

We are living in the digital age, y'all. I absolutely ADORE those beautiful teacher planners and calendars and teacher binders and have wound up purchasing them... and never touching them. I know some people are different than me in this aspect, but every time I use a physical plan book, I leave it at home or at school when I need it, I misplace it, and get upset that my handwriting isn't beautiful. Those are my silly reasons, but they just don't work for me!

I originally started simply typing up my lesson plans on an Excel spreadsheet, but then I would lose my flash drive or forget to email myself something. Therefore, I moved to and then finally to Google Drive. I love the weekly templates you can easily create in Planbook and that you can add standards right in with the drop down menus. However, I wanted something I could personalize a bit more and that was easier to share with my team.

Google Drive is the answer for me. You can find tons of calendar and planning templates available to enter and edit directly in Google Drive. You can have shared folders like I do above, where teammates can access and edit along with you. And as long as you have internet connection, you can access it. No more notebooks and flash drives to worry about losing. This has saved me time by being completely editable and has saved me many headaches of misplacing/losing my physical lesson plans. This has also been a BREEZE to turn in my lesson plans at the end of the year which is the requirement of my district. If you are working in a district that requires seeing your lesson plans weekly or daily, simply link them to your digital plans!

I am lucky enough to have an interactive white board in my classroom. However, I only just received it in March of 2018 so I understand if this bullet point does not apply to you. If you use Smart Notebook for your Smart Board, this is an awesome tip for you that will save you time and will make your day move so smoothly. At the start of the year, create a daily Smart Board template. I put an image on each slide that shows that part of the day. For example, when students walk in, the page displayed says, "Morning Work" at the top and every morning, I simply type what their morning work is.

That "Morning Work" is part of my daily template saved directly onto my school desktop. Following that page is a page that says "Morning Meeting." Once students see the page change, they put their things away and come to the carpet. This is all quiet and practiced. Any information I want displayed for the Morning Meeting, I simply type right into it. This originally started for me as the OPPOSITE of a time-saving hack. I will tell you, that it takes some time to get used to and some playing around to get it the way you want it. But once the students are used to it and you are accustomed to inputting all the pieces you want to show, it is AMAZING and will make your day flow so smoothly.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Sometimes our curriculum leaves a lot to be desired. I get it. We all strive to be that perfect teacher with the supplies ready and color coded with lots of fun where students are creating and moving and discussing. But listen... sometimes, you just gotta go with the pre-made lesson in the Teacher's Guide that doesn't take a lot of prep. Got a doctor's appointment this week and can't plan like you usually do? - Grab the Teacher's Guide. Have a toddler at home (like I do) that really isn't cool with you working while he so obviously needs you to play with him (like I do)? - Grab the Teacher's Guide.

My tip with the Teacher's Guides are to take some sticky notes or sticky tabs and tab all the lessons you actually like. When my district used Wonders, I bookmarked all the Literature Anthology stories that I liked that had great follow-up questions. BAM. Done. When I was in a rush, there they were. And when I finished that story, I moved the tab inside the page so I could reuse it next year but it didn't stick out the side to distract me later.

Don't try to reinvent the wheel! There are MILLIONS of amazing ideas out there for great lesson plans. Use them! Did you just see the cool writing project your teammate did? Ask them to show you what they did and tweak it for your own needs. We have an amazing job where collaboration can literally save the day.

Teamwork makes the dream work! <3

Headed back to school soon? Check out these awesome Back to School Resources!

June 10, 2018

Wonders BUNDLE Giveaway!!! (Giveaway Closed)

Happy Summer, teachers!!!

I have some news that I have mixed feelings about...

This is me right now.

My district is adopting a new Reading curriculum. I like change, so I'm not worried, but I have spent many countless hours creating a supplement resource for our current Wonders program! I am sad that I won't be able to use them anymore, but I am also excited to see what I can do and create with this new curriculum coming our way.

That being said, I know TONS of schools are using Wonders currently and will be adopting it as their new curriculum in the coming years. So, why not give a bundle away?!

I have NEVER given away a year-long bundle before. EVER. Not only am I giving away a year long bundle... I am giving away one PER GRADE LEVEL! That means THREE teachers will win a year long bundle for their Kindergarten, First grade, or Second grade classes! Click the images below for your grade level to check out all the awesomeness!

Here's how to enter:
Find the Rafflecopter that fits your needs below (Kindergarten, First, or Second). Click or tap each category to enter. Rafflecopter will be choosing a random winner on Saturday, June 16th.

If you just can't wait that long or if you don't win, don't worry! All Wonders resources in my shop will be 20% off till June 17th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 22, 2018

8 Ways to Promote Independence in Writing in the Primary Grades

I don't know about you and yours, but my students this year have had a difficult time writing independently. Yes, even this late into the school year (it's April!) and even with writing on daily basis, this year's group of kiddos has struggled with writing on their own. The environment is a bit different for me this year as I teach a Gen Ed and ESE inclusion class (second grade) with students ranging in ability level from Pre-K to 3rd grade. With that wide of a range, no wonder I have resistant writers.

So how can we as teachers help these students with independent writing? Although my students have struggled, they have come a long way since the start of the year. Here's what I have found to be successful, even when my students want to give up.

Every. Single. Day. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is hard to implement with the tight schedules we are faced with. I squeeze in journal writing in the 20 minutes I have between PE and Lunch. Students are given a topic to write about and they write independently for that time. I usually put on some quiet music to keep students from talking loudly. During this time, I allow students to ask their shoulder partner for assistance in spelling or to help check their writing. This took a lot of time to teach the procedure early in the year, but it has helped tremendously with my lower students.

Every writing unit we do begins with an anchor chart. Start your mini-lessons or writing time off by reviewing what is on the anchor charts you've already created together. For those struggling, draw pictures for guidance. A lot of words may intimidate those reluctant students. Check out Pinterest! There are SO MANY anchor charts!!! Here's a link to some Pinterest ones I like:

There are several ways to "collect" or "keep" writing material. You can go the pocket folder route or even the binder route. I also dabbled in lapbooks this year and my class really loved making them! Creating their "Fact-Folio" for informational writing really added to their sense of accomplishment when at the end of the unit, we had a LOT of items inside! Adding in that element of interaction with their research and planning makes the writing a lot more fun. You could do this with narrative writing as well. Click the pictures below to see a narrative writing lapbook that has just been added to my TpT store.

Providing students with a checklist will help them go to the next step on their own.

We use the Collection Pocket for graphic organizers, illustrations, and rough drafts. It is so nice to have everything together.

When you give a topic to write about, brainstorm with your students some words they may want to use and write them on the board or chart paper. Recently, my students wrote in their journals about immigration and how they thing immigrants may have felt when they finally arrived at Ellis Island. My students this year tend to get hung up on spelling and won't move on until they feel it is spelled right. Anyone else experience this?! I look up from the one student I am assisting and 14 more hands are up. That makes the 20 minutes fly by and only a few students helped. By making a mini word wall with words that make sense for that topic, students can refer to it as they write and keep going! Our immigration mini word wall included words like "immigrant," "Statue of Liberty," "countries," and "relieved." These words were thought up by my students, so there was a level of collaboration and students were able to form ideas for their journal entry by listening to word suggestions from their peers as well as spell these large words without getting stuck. I include word wall cards and headers in every Vocabulary Activities Set in the series (which is always growing!), so if you have a specific topic and need the materials, click the images below.

ALSO AVAILABLE: Weather, Life Cycles, States of Matter, Rocks and Soil, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

This is a big one. Sometimes students don't understand the rubrics we lay out. And they definitely won't understand if we don't TELL them what they are. What are your expectations? Do they know what they're expected to do? Do they know if you care about grammar and punctuation or do you only care about the content? Primary students may not know to ask these questions. Creating a visual rubric gives students the opportunity to self-check and keep on track even without your assistance. You can make these rubrics for literally anything. Here's one I made for staying on task! Adding in those colored levels gives you and your students an opportunity to reflect. I often ask my students, "What color would you say you are on this chart?"

Do you have an author's day? Or an author's chair? Students love to share what they've accomplished, especially if you have build a strong community within your classroom. For some units, I've had short pieces read by every student in the room in one day, or for larger scale writing, we have split it up for students to share a few at a time across a week. I know we all love to post student work on bulletin boards, but writing is one of those things that students LOVE to see posted, especially if they've published it in an attractive way.

Check out these super creative author's chair/celebrations I found on Pinterest! Don't forget to follow!

Make that final draft a work of art. There are hundreds of ways to jazz up the final product that will give students the excitement of finishing this laborious task. Add in toppers for them to color or decorate and simply tack them onto construction paper. Use colored pencils or pens to carefully write the finished product. You'd be surprised at how they take their time doing this! And if you're really looking for a beautiful finished product, spend some time allowing students to type their final draft! In the primary grades, this does take a while, but having it as a computer center is one way you can try to fit it in.

Was this post helpful? Check out these other great ideas to implement in your classroom today!
Seven Ways to Use Fairy Tales in the Classroom
Clever Center/Task Card Storage
Using a Hundreds Chart to Promote Mental Math
The Human Body Unit

March 5, 2018

Second Grade Science: The Human Body

For Second Grade Science, one of our units is The Human Body. I have to tell you, I was not impressed with the curriculum and resources available to my students for this topic, so, of course, I made my own. I made the pieces as we went along and kept adding to this growing project.

Before diving into the writing and the INB pages, my class and I did a lot of hands-on activities and read-alouds. We read The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body, Parts by Tedd Arnold, and after learning about the brain, we totally learned the song "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz. They loved it! I loved hearing, "Wait, Mrs. Smith! He would NOT be able to dance and sing if he didn't have a brain!" 

I turned to Pinterest for a couple of hands on ideas, especially with the heart and the brain lessons.

Here's my Pinspiration for a timed "Beat the Clock" activity to help kids realize how strong and amazing our heart is! They had a BLAST. I found this idea through Pinterest which led me to The Primary Theme Park blog:

The heart pumps 1.3 gallons of blood per minute! So we got a gallon of water in one bucket for students to try and scoop to another bucket in a minute! I couple of kiddos got close but no one was able to. Of course it was raining outside the day we did this, so we did it inside, carefully on our Superman blanket. Thanks to the Pinspiration above, here's our try below:

Also during the lesson we did on the heart we did an AWESOME and extremely easy activity with our pulse. We put marshmallows on toothpicks, balanced them on our wrists after finding our pulse, and watched the toothpick dance! To spice it up a bit, we did an exercise video and then watched our toothpicks REALLY go wild with our heart rate even higher. The students were amazed at how the toothpicks were moving. Here's the Pinspiration from What the Teacher Wants blog:

And here's our try! I will be doing this every year. It was easy and it really stuck with the kids.

As we moved through the unit, my class did a fabulous job keeping track of their learning activities in their Interactive Science Notebook. I pulled a couple of resources from the Florida AIMS Life Science book, but I made a lot of my own. Check out the photos below. These activities are included within The Human Body Unit on TpT.

We also created "brain hats" which was another Pinspired activity. The students looked so cute walking around with their brains on all day. LOVED IT!

Here's the Pinspiration from Ellen McHenry's blog. The free download for the template is there. The Pinterest photo shows the different sections of the brain. I printed the template without that and the students colored the different sections.

Here's one of my kiddos sporting her new awesome brain hat! Here's what I learned: card stock is WORTH IT; use Scotch tape instead of glue and don't be skimpy on it; print the adult size version because there are some kids with BIG heads. 

HOW CUTE IS THIS?! While we wore them, we read a mini-book from the Florida AIMS Life Science book (Brain Power) and learned "If I Only Had a Brain." I linked the video below. The kids loved it and it was a nice little break from the "work." ;)

Within the Human Body Unit, I included integrated Literacy and Math printables. The writing task cards were a big hit in my classroom and not only allowed me to see if the students understood the human body, but also allowed them to make self connections. There are several full color and black and white centers, including a True/False sort (perfect for practicing for true/false test prep), Word Wall cards (very handy to go with those writing task cards), and some really neat "brain games." Take a look at the preview and larger pictures below:

Check it out in my TpT store HERE or click the image above. I hope you enjoy this unit as much as I did!

September 2, 2017

Return of the Teacher

Disclaimer: This post contains sponsored content, affiliate links, and review products. Regardless, these are 100% my own opinions.

I'm BACK! After taking a year off from working to stay home with my son, I have returned to the classroom for the 2017-2018 school year. I just finished my first week back and I am thrilled to be there. I miss my baby, of course, but I belong in the classroom and I missed it tremendously. Baby is home with work-at-home Dad and is growing like a weed! He just turned ONE and I can't believe it! Here's a collage from all his monthly photos. <3

A new year means a new bunch of kids and I feel refreshed and ready for this new start. I decided to change up my classroom this year and went with a fun and exciting Star Wars and outer space theme. I am excited with how it turned out! I got many of my decorations at the usual IKEA, Dollar Tree, and Target, but I also snagged some amazing goodies at Oriental Trading this year, too. Take a look at the photos I took of my classroom setup!

I made that long poster and sacrificed a LOT of black ink to make it a reality. But it is definitely my favorite classroom decoration! It was worth it! I snagged the Vader poster at a yard sale for FREE! And with it being at the entrance to the classroom, students are asked what their expression is for that day. Let's hope it is a good one!

The next classroom view is to the left of the door. You can see my shelving unit and some classroom seating. I have a "Paw Wars" poster also found at a yard sale and some cheap DVD shelves for some DVD case centers. If you'd like to store your centers in DVD cases, here's a FREE template to make the covers!

Here's a better look at my shelf. Some cases are still empty so they are blank, but you can easily see how the printed template wraps all the way around so you have spine label, too!

This view shows my Jedi Focus Wall! I am loving my sparkly blue border paired with the plain black border from Oriental Trading. I used black fabric this year, which is something new for me. I usually do paper, but I'm tired of the fade!

The next few photos are just a tour around the room.

Why, yes, that is a sideways IKEA bookshelf.

How adorable are these library pockets from Oriental Trading?! Paired with the space name tag labels, also from Oriental Trading, they are perfect for Exit Tickets on the door! They have a ton of designs of name tags and they come in rolls of 100! Click HERE to see what they've got. I'm sure they've got your theme, too.

Plain and boring now, but those cabinets will be covered with Science Vocabulary as the year goes on!

Hard to see, but those blue labels are the CUTEST Star Wars stickers of all time. The folders will house recording sheets or corresponding worksheets that go with the centers in the same color (and sticker label) bucket which are on the shelves to the right (not pictured here).

Those are the colored buckets mentioned above. They are the colored drawers from those drawer systems from Michael's... but sadly... the metal part didn't hold up.

Probably one of my favorite B2S purchases are these Star Wars buckets. Students who are seated at that area place their pencil pouches inside and their notebooks underneath. Nothing fancy needed and they LOVE the characters on them!

Here's what they look like up close:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these star and moon garlands that I attached to tension rods for this huge window in my classroom. I got them on Oriental Trading and they are HUGE! I was surprised at the size of them. They go across the entire massive window with no problem and they are perfect for my Star Wars/space classroom this year. The cool part, too, is they are made of foam. Not cheap cardboard. They will hold up a long time!

The VIP Desk! This is the first time I've ever used a VIP Desk. Do you have one in your room? I have an awesome antique desk, which was a gift from my mom, cozy IKEA pillow, a VIP journal, and that box is filled with all kinds of special supplies... including the highly sought after "shuttle pens" which are super cheap on Oriental Trading right now:

Kind of reminds me of my childhood! These pens were all the rage! They come in a pack of 12, ya'll. Can you say, "epic rainbow write?!"

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you are having an amazing back to school season.