May 30, 2014

Free Choice in Kindergarten

I have been working on a presentation I am doing in June, trying to get prepared because it is BIG for me. I was asked to be a guest lecturer at the University of Florida on the topic of learning centers. I am....... nervous. O.O

Regardless of my jitters, I am insanely excited as well. Today, in preparation, I returned to my internship classroom where my supervising teacher still uses the system I helped implement for centers during the Reading block. I wanted to make sure I had some good pictures to use in my presentation and I think I snapped a few goodies today. I also had a BLAST with the kiddos. I miss them! My husband tagged along today and read them The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! by Mo Willems. They LOVE the pigeon series!

Anyway, let me explain the centers we used in our Kindergarten classroom. It took a long time to implement and it took a VERY long time for students to learn how to make good decisions and manage their time.

Here's how it works:

Students have a "person." They are just girl and boy die cuts from the library on cardstock that they decorated and we laminated.

Little paper cuties.

We put the little people in the top of a pocket chart.

Then, we used the center labels purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers HERE for $3. They are adorable. The center labels here are in a pocket chart and indicate the centers students can choose from that week. In the beginning, we limited the number of centers per week, but as the year went on and the students grew more accustomed to this method we were able to add in a LOT of different centers.

Next to the center label is a green index card with big dot stickers on them. The dots indicate how many students are allowed at a center at one time. This is a visual way to represent this limit and can be seen at a pretty good distance to quickly determine the number of students in each center. In the picture above, there are 4 students permitted to be in the Writing center at one time and based on the picture, no one is in that center right now! ;)

When students choose a center, they move their "person" behind one of the dots, as shown in the picture above. This little girl is going to Word Work!

Free choice is great, however the students have to have a way to work on different skills everyday. That's where the checklist comes in. If the students had all the choices, they would usually choose the same things day in and day out.

I created little checklists on strips of paper using the same labels (printed in black and white), with the week's dates, and stapled them into a file folder. Students can easily get their folder with their checklist and know which centers they need to accomplish by the end of the week. In the beginning, this was very difficult. Some students would breeze through them and some would wait till the last minute. Like adults, right?! Here's what a checklist looks like on my computer:

I use Publisher ALL THE TIME. I printed less when I made them in strips this way. I just printed them and cut them into strips and then stapled them in! It took maybe 10 minutes on Monday mornings. Not too shabby.

Students are given 15-20 minutes in each center. At first, I let students move freely through centers with no set time parameters, but as mentioned before, some students went crazy fast through them... so, I set timers as a solution and it worked well.

When students finish work in a center, they place their work in the file folder and then put their folder in the red pocket chart which is hanging on the other side of the blue pocket chart with their people in it.

This is the red chart labeled with their student number. I feel bad that the folders weren't in there. My supervising teacher is grading them! But they were filled with folders and papers!

This way made it much easier for little hands to file their work and easy for me to collect at the end of the week. I then graded work, made my notes, and stapled everything together with the checklist on top and sent the packets home on Mondays for parents to see their progress. Easy peasy.

I love this strategy for running centers. The students are given choices which they love. They can work with different students everyday rather than just the few in their reading group. They are learning independence early on and it has set in motion the development of time management skills and good decision making.

I also use free choice within the centers as well, which makes it easier on me because I don't have to change centers all the time! Students know when they go to Word Work, they can do magnet letter challenges, nonsense word cards, partner phonics games, etc. I won't delve into what each center has to offer in this post. Maybe another time!

May 24, 2014

Social Networking OVERLOAD!

I am really enjoying my whole experience with blogging and networking on Teacherspayteachers, but what I have discovered is that if I want to continue to grow and reach people and meet other teachers... I have to network even MORE! A couple of months ago, I created a Daisy Designs Facebook page. I transformed my Pinterest from just a personal Amanda Smith profile to a Daisy Designs profile and made it look pretty. ;) I have been having a BLAST on Pinterest ever since!

I have also had a Twitter account for Daisy Designs since February or so and haven't really paid much attention to it. I am just now discovering how much fun it is, though, and plan to spend a lot more time on it now that I understand how to use it (LOL). So if you are on Twitter, I'd like to follow you! So follow me on Twitter and tweet me @DaisyDesignsTpT and I will totally follow you back!

And now... to the REALLY fun one that I am just falling in love with... Instagram. I apparently had an Instagram a couple of years ago and had like 12 pictures on it, so I just transformed my existing abandoned account into a Daisy Designs account so it is easier to connect. I was hesitant to join this one because I'm not really that good at remembering to take pictures (or remembering even to bring my phone with me anywhere...), but since I want to get better at it in preparation for my first year teaching, I thought I should practice over the summer. I will warn you now, most of my pictures for the summer are of my dogs, food, and the new house. 

So let's get the ball rolling! What's your favorite social network? Use your favorite to tell me including #teachernetworking so I can find you!

PINTEREST (pin the photo below and type in hashtag)
Or any others I don't know about!

Share this with your other teacher friends!

May 22, 2014

Think About It Thursday: Summer Reading

I'm linking up with Comprehension Connection again this week for the Think About It Thursday linky because the topic is summer reading! Ah, summer reading...

My "to-read" list is ALWAYS a mile long and I can never seem to read books fast enough to knock through my list! However, it is always satisfying to add a book to my reading list and even more satisfying to say that I finished it and I loved/hated it. :)

My summer has already kind of started because this year I was a student teacher. Because the university's school year is shorter than elementary school, I finished on April 25th. So I am almost done with my first summer reading book:

I am excited to share this list with you! Please comment and leave recommendations of books if you have them. I am always adding to my never ending "to-read" list!

1. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

About two weeks ago, the library in my county was having a book sale, getting rid of books for almost NOTHING! I got there late so they were picked over, but it was better that way because the man came in and said, "Whatever you can fit in these brown paper bags you can have for a dollar." Needless to say, I grabbed up a few bags. I would up leaving with almost 70 books (mostly for my classroom) for $3! One of the books I picked up has been on my "to-read" list for a very long time, so I decided to start it. I am almost finished with it already and it is awesome! I was just telling my husband that last night when I was reading it, I literally let out an audible "Oh no!" and had to put the book down after looking at the clock and seeing 1:45 am... So far... it is one I have difficulty putting down.

2. From STEM to STEAM by David A. Sousa & Tom Pilecki

Starting June 17th, I will be teaching a middle school and high school summer camp at the college in my town. It is the first time I am teaching there and want to make a good impression. This is an all day camp of which I will be responsible for the morning sessions. I am in charge of teaching the Arts portion of this STEAM camp and want to make sure I am integrating the arts into the other sessions they are working in: Science, Math, and Technology. This book was lent to me and so far is GREAT for my purpose.

3. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

Another book I picked up at the library sale, The Executioner's Song is another old "to-read" book of mine. It's a heavy hardback book with almost 1100 pages... totally my style. ;)

4. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

I saved the best for last, although I will probably be reading this book the day it comes out on June 5th! I am a HUGE fan of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It has been 5 years since the next installment and it comes out in a couple of weeks!!! There is also a TV show starting on STARZ very soon and I am SO READY. I am not a person who re-reads books often because I feel like there are so many things I want to read that I don't want to "waste" my time with one I've read before. But this series is one of my two exceptions (the other being The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons... seriously, look it up. It will blow your mind.). I am beyond thrilled for this one and will probably knock it out in a couple of days.... CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER!

So there ya have it, folks! My summer reading list! If I knock out Written in My Own Heart's Blood as quickly as I think I will, I may be adding another to this list... I just haven't decided on it yet. ;)

Happy reading! And happy summer!!

May 21, 2014

Wordless Wednesday [May 21]

It has been a rough week so far and my husband and I have been a little down in the dumps.
To cheer me up, I've been thinking about my wedding in August 2013 and looking at the beautiful pictures.

What do you think about to bring yourself out of a rut? What cheers you up?

May 15, 2014

Kindergarten Skills 3

It's ready!!! My third installment in the Kindergarten Skills Series is up and ready for download! 

This one is a series of 3-pieces puzzles where students match based on beginning letter sounds as well as uppercase/lowercase letter recognition.

Doesn't the cover remind you of a circus? I love it!
Click the image above or click HERE to see it.

In case you missed them, here are links to the first two downloads in the series. Click the pictures!

Kindergarten Skills 1

Kindergarten Skills 2


Think About It Thursday

I just linked up for the first time with Comprehension Connection for their "Think About It Thursday" linky! You know I love a good linky party!

This week is about the end of the year and I linked up about my end of the year products for kindergarten and first grade. There are some goodies from other teachers on there as well, so go check it out and snag yourself some stuff (some are free!) for the end of the year!

Here's the link! Enjoy!

The Pinterest Makeover + Tutorial

I adore Pinterest, as I'm sure every other teacher on the planet does. One thing I haven't really liked about Pinterest though is that the "cover" photo on each board was just a random pin from the board. I like things to look nice and just some random pin wasn't cutting it for me.

So, I did a little research and used some of the other very organized teachers that I follow and made some cover photos! However, a lot of the other teacher bloggers or TpT sellers I follow have a separate Pinterest account for their personal pins (like recipes and clothes) and for their professional one (teaching!). I decided not to go that route because I would hate to have to log in and out any time I wanted to pin to a different account and I already have my friends following me on this one.

The solution? I made different themed cover photos for my teaching boards and my personal boards. 



My teaching boards are a chalkboard theme and my personal ones are pink polka dots. I've kept them separated to make it easier to navigate (more for myself than anything....). I love it!

Here's how I did it. It was very simple because I used PicMonkey! I am a HUGE fan of PicMonkey!

1. Go to This is a free site where you can edit and create images as well as create collages of images. This is the site I use all the time for my collage images in my other blog posts!

Click the design tab at the top. For this method, don't worry about size of the image. I used an entire image as my background. If you'd like to start from scratch and use the background provided by PicMonkey, the image size that works best for Pinterest board covers is 222 x 150 which you can enter in after clicking "custom" under the Design tab.

2. Again, for my method, I located a background that was a good size for Pinterest covers and opened it as an image.

I clicked Open at the top bar of tabs and it directed me to folders where I located the file I wanted as my background. The chalkboard backgrounds used were downloaded from Creative Commons.

3. After my background is uploaded, I started with the text.

First, click the Text tab on the left (looks like Tt). Then select your desired text! They have some great free ones, which is what I use, but if you like the "Royal" ones, you have to pay a subscription. I chose "Chelsea Market" and then clicked the "Add Text" button at the top.

4. Start typing and then design your text.

I chose my text to be colored white and I centered the text. You can also change the size here, but I prefer a different way. I click out of the highlighted text and drag the corners of the text box. PicMonkey automatically changes the size of the text to match the size of the box.

5. Time for graphics and decoration! My favorite part! PicMonkey has a pretty good selection of overlays you can use for free (or again, if you pay for the royal package you have access to more). Or you can upload your own graphics. Both of which are shown here.

On the left bar, click the butterfly icon which is your menu for overlays. For this tutorial, I chose the Graphic Blooms category and chose a PicMonkey stock image. Once you click the image you want, it will show up in the center of your design. Then resize as normal!

6. I am a fan of graphics behind the text instead of surrounding text with graphics. I love different layers! Since we want the text to be in front of the graphic, we need to re-order the layers.

Simply right-click your graphic and select "Send Backward." This will send the image behind the text to give you some great layers.

7. As mentioned, you can also add your own graphics. In the same overlay menu (the butterfly icon), you can select the "Your Own" button at the top which will open up your documents folder. Select your image and click Open!

The bunting graphic I chose for this tutorial was downloaded from Amy Alvis.

8. This new graphic you inserted acts the same way as the stock graphic. 

Resize it and place it where you'd like!

9. Now it is ready for its debut! Saving is a breeze on PicMonkey.

Click the green Save icon at the top which will direct you to this page:

Name your file and click the green bar "Save to My Computer." Select the location you'd like it to stay and click save! Simple!

10. Ready to upload to Pinterest? Go to your Pinterest profile and open the board you'd like to place this cover photo.

Click the box at the top left that says "Add Pin." It will open up a screen that looks like this:

Click "Your Computer" and find your beautiful photo you created in PicMonkey! Once it is uploaded it will open up a screen that looks like this:

Type in a description (this is required, so just type in whatever you want. I usually just type "COVER" or something. Click Pin It!

11. Now we can finally set it as your cover photo!

Hover your mouse over the board you placed your cover photo in and a box that says "Change Cover" will appear. Click that box and navigate through your pins on that board until you find your cover image. Since you just uploaded it, it should be the first image that pops up, but a couple of times, Pinterest gave me a problem and I had to click next a few times to get to it. 

And there ya have it! I like the look of customized board covers. I think it looks more organized and is easier for me to navigate through. Here is a link to my Pinterest page. Don't forget to follow me for future tutorials and of course, all the teaching ideas and resources I love!! Daisy Designs on Pinterest

I hope this tutorial helped you in your creative endeavors! Comment below if you have any questions!!

May 14, 2014

My Inspiring Day

Today I had the opportunity to attend my first Autism support meeting for no other reason than I am fascinated by Autism and the theater I work for is interested in doing a program I created years ago for my Special Ed class. Today, I won't be going into great detail about the program as it is still in the ironing-out-details phase, but I would like to share the experiences I had today in the meeting.


The Ocala Autism Support Network is a non-profit organization designed to provide free services to individuals with autism and their families. They were established in 2011.

First of all, it was a small group today, but I was happy that it was because I was able to actually converse with the founder and co-founder as well as the specialists that were there from the county. I was able to learn about this new (ish) support group in my home town of Ocala and learned some interesting statistics about Autism in my county's schools. This is great information for a first year teacher come August...

The other great experience I had was running into an old friend. One of the founders of this network is the mother of an old high school friend who definitely had a big impact on me growing up. When I was a senior in high school, I was the assistant director of the show The Boys Next Door which is an incredible play about four disabled men and their caretaker living in a group home and their day to day lives. I was fortunate enough to attend a magnet school for the performing arts and the cast and myself were sent on several field trips to schools for disabled students, facilities for disabled adults, and an actual group home where we spent the entire day with the men who lived there. We helped them do their chores that day and even went bowling with them in the afternoon. It was one of the MOST rewarding experiences in my entire life and has definitely impacted my decision to go into education.

Well, Mrs. Perales of the Ocala Autism Support Network, has two children with disabilities: one with down syndrome and one with autism. She was so on-board with this play and the research we were doing and drove us high-schoolers around several times in order to learn more about the disabilities were we working on. She contacted people for us, she made arrangements for us, and she was like the drama class mom for all of us.

I have been thinking back to the experience I had in high school all day today! I decided to search the vast resources on the internet to find anything about it from 2006 and I found the article in the newspaper about it! You GOTTA read it! It has quotes from Mrs. Perales and mentions my brother (Joey) who played the character Barry, a man with schizophrenia. What memories!!! Click the photo below to go to the original 2006 article. <3

I'll never forget the year when I graduated from high school, Mrs. Perales came with her son to my graduation party and gave me a copy of the book Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss with a written note of encouragement on the inside cover. I still have it in pristine condition (which will likely change when I decide to read it to my classes throughout the years...) and recently flipped through it again as I am packing to move. I packed it along with all my other books in preparation to move in the coming weeks but had I known I would see her again today I would have kept it out and taken a picture of her note in the cover! I will certainly write an updated post when I unpack it in a few weeks in my new house.

It was nice to see her today and learn from her the services her non-profit organization is providing to my community. I am happy to say that I will be working closely with them as the Education Director and I plan and implement a new program at the community theater for students with autism. I will go into more detail about this program in the next couple of months as we figure everything out, but today we took another step towards our goal for the education department.

I am so excited and motivated right now!!!!

May 13, 2014

I Hate Moving...

In the past 8 years, I have moved... wait for it... 9 times. That's more than once a year! But hopefully this next move will last a while. I mean, this move makes the 10th move since 2006! Ugh!

Oh how I hate packing boxes and moving furniture and unpacking and cleaning the dust off the things you're packing and haven't cleaned in a while and when you finally feel like you are done with the MOVING part, you have to organize and get the new place up and running.... Bleggh! I just hate it! Sorry for that really long run on sentence, but that's how my brain is working right now.

Everything is a mess before it is packed. It is driving me insane. I worked for hours yesterday, sorting and packing and dusting. This is the result! I feel like it should look a lot better than that! 

I know that it will all be worth it in the end. We are moving into a beautiful home. The situation is actually quite perfect. My husband and I as newlyweds, moved in temporarily with my parents in the built in garage until we were enough out of wedding and school debt (thankfully we were smart about it and didn't have a lot... but still...) to find a nice apartment or house to rent. Then the plan was to save more money after we were done with school to go towards a house. This is the situation for a lot of young newlyweds and college students as I've found while researching places to live.

But then, plans changed drastically! My mother-in-law got a new amazing job where she gets to travel and every three weeks the company she works for flies her home for a weekend. She's doing something she loves, seeing new places, meeting new people, but still gets time with her grown children at home. That's why she didn't want to sell the house. She wants a place to come home to and the house needed a lot of work and updates before it could be sold anyway. That's where we come in... we are taking care of the house while she is away! The stipulation: she gets her bed when she comes home every three weekends. I can totally handle that.

My sister-in-law will also be living with us, which is fine, seeing as it is a five bedroom house and she's awesome. The floors are getting redone as we speak and slowly but surely the house will be like brand spankin' new! At that point, we may stay, we may move and she may sell it... we don't know. Either way, I am excited for this new adventure and I'm sure MY parents are thrilled as well. ;)

But really... moving is awful...

May 7, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: I Almost Didn't Make It!

So it is 11:45 pm on Wednesday. I almost didn't make it in time for a Wordless Wednesday!

I almost forgot dinner today, too...

What is your "go-to" dinner solution when things don't go as planned?

Mine... well... cheese and tortillas... can't get any easier than that!

End of the Year Bundles Up and Ready! (On Sale till the end of the day)

The TpT Sale for Teacher Appreciation Week is still running for another 8 hours. Both of my End of the Year Bundles (for Kindergarten and First Grade) are on sale for 20% off! Use the TpT promo code TPTXO for an additional 10% off! 

The bundles include 4 products each valuing at $14. The bundle price is regularly $10 and till the end of the evening they are on sale for $8. Adding in ANOTHER 10% discount with the promo code you are looking at $7.20 for four products normally priced at $14.... So... I'd say now is the time to snag these!!!

SO CLOSE! Help Me Get There!

I have been slowly approaching the 100 follower mark on Teachers Pay Teachers and today I hit 80. I am excited that it is growing and that I am almost close to a "mini" milestone! While 100 followers isn't a lot (at all actually...) it still feels good!

To celebrate this little milestone, the day I hit 100 followers on TpT, I will be hosting my very first giveaway! I will be giving away my end of the year bundles (check them out HERE) AND one product from my store of the winner's choice (up to $8!).

But I've got to hit 100 first, so help me get there! Share this post or my status on my Facebook page (below). Can I hit it before the weekend? Hm...

Thanks for all you do, readers!

May 5, 2014

We All Appreciate a Sale!

No time for chit chat! I'm just going to cut to the chase!

300 × 300

Tomorrow and Wednesday (May 6th and 7th), Daisy Designs is participating in a Teacher Appreciation Week SALE! All of the End of the Year items will be on sale for 20% off! I know several of you have wishlisted the Kindergarten End of the Year bundle, so now is the time to snag it! Add it to your cart and use the above promo code!

Click Daisy (below) to go to my store and shop till your heart's content!

Don't forget teachers... even though there are rough days and your job can be incredibly stressful and frustrating... remember that you are appreciated and that what you do TRULY matters.

Happy teacher appreciation week and happy shopping!

May 2, 2014

May Currently

I'm linking up with Farley's Currently posts again! Watch out! I am starting May off on the right track!

LISTENING: It is raining and cooling things off here in Florida. Good thing, too, because it was getting HOT!

LOVING: I just got glasses yesterday and can't believe how different things look when I can actually see them!

THINKING: I am highly anticipating the show tonight of the musical I choreographed at the school my mom teaches at. I can't wait! I know they are going to do so well!

WANTING: I just want my new house, now! It is so big and beautiful! But the floors are getting re-done and the walls are getting painted right now... so I must wait...

NEEDING: If I'm moving in three weeks, don't you think it would be a good idea to pack? Yeah, me too...

SURPRISE: This month, the surprise is to feature a blog of my choice in my post! I am featuring A Spoonful of Learning because I am so excited for her to have won a cash prize through the Ellen Show! She was on Ellen, y'all!!!! Here's the link. A Spoonful of Learning. Or click the button below. You GOTTA watch the video at the end!