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.

April 5, 2017

7 Ways to Use Fairy Tales in the Classroom

Who loves a good fairy tale? I know I do and I also know that my students love them, too. There are plenty to choose from, multiple versions of them, and so many great learning opportunities wrapped up in one. So, besides simply reading and responding, what else can we use fairy tales for? Read on to see topics you could address with a simple fairy tale.

As with any text, fairy tales can easily be used to work on finding key details. Aren't the characters, setting, and plot in a fairy tale a lot more engaging than most other stories? Students are still practicing the skill, but are enjoying the story simultaneously. I like using graphic organizers for students to practice writing down key details in the story. I also like taking a commonly known fairy tale and shortening it (or finding an already shortened version - check out KidsGen for some shorter versions that you could read aloud, print, or adapt even further - they also include videos). Once I have a shortened version, we can then practice our close reading and answer questions for students to go back into the text to find. You know, the usual! ;) The Fairy Tale Unit on Teachers Pay Teachers includes close reads as well as graphic organizers and you can get a sample of the graphic organizers for free below.

This free pack of graphic organizers will help you get started on key details with your students. Click the image to grab it.

Fairy tales are a little unique in that they have a few other elements that set them apart from other fiction. Yes, we have characters, setting, problem, and solution, but we also sometimes have "magic," and always a "happily ever after." Adding in those extra elements makes learning all of them that much more special. Hang posters throughout the room with these fairy tale elements. They will help us remember them through the recall questions, but once students are beyond that, they can use these story elements to answer higher order questions as well as create their own. The posters below are FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click HERE or the image below to get your set and hang them up, ready to go in your classroom.

How to Use These Posters:
- hang them up and use them for student reference
- read aloud parts of the story and ask students which story element it belongs with. You could also provide written cards and students can sort them as a learning center/station.
- hang them up or attach them to a binder ring to place within a writing center for students to use while writing their own fairy tale (more on that later).

Paired with this fun graphic organizer, students can analyze and break down fairy tales they are reading or they can use it to write their own (again, more on that later).

We know that fairy tales have a lot in common, so let's compare! Using a simple venn diagram will have students using those fairy tale story elements we already learned about and thinking about what these stories have in common and what sets them apart.

We all know the kid(s) who summarize by telling you the WHOLE story without leaving out any detail, right? I can't be the only one that has seen that! Summarizing is a skill we use throughout our entire lives and we practice it starting in Kindergarten! Fairy Tales are amazing stories to use to practice this skill. There are opportunities for puppet shows for your younger grades and, what I like to call, The Ultimate Retelling Challenge for your upper grades. Students retell a story either by writing it or acting it out. Read about it on this excerpt from The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT:

Here's a couple of my lovely theater students using puppets to retell a fairy tale.

I. Love. Reader's theater. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Fairy tales are exceptional stories to use for reader's theater because there are so many different ones, they are easily modified for any reading level, and students love them. Not only that, but Disney has helped a lot in this area, too. Odds are, most of your students have seen or at least heard of the Disney movie of Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, so even if they aren't great at acting out a part, they have a character they've actually SEEN to refer to. The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT has 5 reader's theater scenes as well as 5 reader's theater monologues at varying levels of reading difficulty. This is also a fun time to add in costumes (again... sucker for theater...).

Here are some of my students watching another student perform a monologue. Gotta love those costumes!

Now that students know the key details of their favorite fairy tales and they know what makes a fairy tale, it is SO exciting to have students write their own. By exposing students to multiple fairy tales, they'll have an idea of varying characters and different problems and solutions. I've had some students come up with every detail brand new, but I have also had students that combined their favorite parts of various fairy tales to make a brand new mashup of sorts. Both are awesome and both are showing the creative side of your students while using this new found style in story telling. Below is a game I call "Roll a Fairy Tale." Students roll the dice and develop their story that way. There's never the "I don't know what to write," issue with this game and it is a fun addition to any writing center. They just choose a sheet (character, beginning, middle, end, finish the story, or how did this happen?), roll a die, and basically fill in the blanks. This is included in The Fairy Tale Unit on TpT.

We just used our fairy tale knowledge to write our own, but there are so many other opportunities for students to be creative with fairy tales. Here's a bullet list of just some of these opportunities:

- For younger students, dress up in costumes for retelling purposes or have them create their own crown.

- For older students, play the Creative Castle Card Game where they write about or draw a castle with combinations of various fairy tales.

- For any grade level, have students discuss, write, or act out "What If..." questions, such as "What if Cinderella didn't make it back before midnight?" There are many of these included in the Fairy Tale Unit on TpT.

- Read fractured fairy tales, such as The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and have students write their own taking a fairy tale and twisting it around. This is GREAT for teaching point of view!
Here are some GREAT fractured fairy tales to go with your unit. I absolutely LOVE The Stinky Cheese Man.

- For older students, have them write and perform their own fairy tale reader's theater or have them write a skit to have others perform. This is also really fun for those fractured fairy tales. I had a student write a monologue from the point of view of "Awake Beauty," a princess who was given the curse of never being able to fall asleep. LOVE kids' creativity!

For everything you see in this post and MORE, check out The Fairy Tale Unit in my TpT shop! And definitely make sure you snag those free posters and free graphic organizers to use with all these other fun ideas for using fairy tales.

March 1, 2017

A Leprechaun Makeover

And just like that, it's March!

I have had an interesting couple of St. Patrick's Days... Last year, I was scheduled at an all day in-service in my county for STEM leaders, so I missed all the shenanigans with my 2nd graders. The year before that, I had an allergic reaction to a new medication I was on and had to take a sick day, so I missed all the chaos with my kinders. And now THIS year, I am on a leave of absence. UGH! I haven't had a fun classroom St. Patty's Day since 2014!

Well, I decided since I couldn't join in on the fun, that I would at least add to yours. :)

One of my very first products EVER was a leprechaun pocket chart game for sight words. Well, that oldie got a MAJOR makeover today. It went from 18 pages of two simple pocket chart games... to 53 pages of full blown sight word centers and quick no prep printables!

Pictured above are the pocket chart cards, the newly added Shamrock Scramble board game, and 2 of the 11 blackline printables now included.

This set makes me SO happy! So happy in fact, that my entire store (including this updated resource) is on sale for 20% off! The only exclusions to this impromptu sale are the dollar deals.

Click below to head to the Leprechaun Sight Word Activities and take a peek at all the sale items. Happy shopping!

February 10, 2017

Pinterest and Oriental Trading Valentine's Day Ideas

I feel like I start every post with "Can you BELIEVE it's already (fill in with current date)?!" But for real... how is it almost Valentine's Day?

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

Valentine's Day is easily my favorite holiday of the year for classroom activities. I usually go all out with decorations and special centers and activities. In fact, last year, I did special February centers on rotation all month. February is crazy with Valentine's Day, Groundhog's Day, dental hygiene month, Black History month, President's Day, and sometimes Chinese New Year. That's a lot to cram into the shortest month of the year!

Oriental Trading has a ton of super cute and useful Valentine's Day materials for the classroom and teamed with my Pinterest finds... Valentine's Day is bound to be a blast. Take a look!

Here are some awesome Valentine's Day activities I found on Pinterest that use the materials I found on Oriental Trading's website. If you click the images, they will take you to the original post/site.

One of the things I grabbed from Oriental Trading was a set of Valentine's Day beads. I love using beads in my classroom. Currently I teach 2nd grade and we use lots of beads for number estimation, counting by 3s, 5s, 10s, etc. When I taught Kindergarten, beads were awesome to string on pipe cleaners and to practice fine motor. Here are some things I found on Pinterest to go with my set of Valentine's Day beads. (Remember, if you'd like to see the original post/site, click the image).



These are HUGE foam hearts. I saw them and originally thought of doing some sort of craft or presentation on them, which of course would be fine. However, Pinterest enlightened me on some other amazing ideas! Check it out!


Can't step on the carpet game! LOVE this.


These doilies are so cute and I have always felt that doilies make great craft materials, especially for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Christmas. I grabbed a set of the mini's from Oriental Trading and they come in packs of 100! I also decided to grab some colored card stock because the colors are pretty and the price was on point. I thought these would make nice Valentines for family members, but 100 is LOT... so I found some other ideas to use those leftovers.




I stock up on these every year because there are endless possibilities with them. They are also pretty tasty, so that's always a plus. Here are just a handful of activities for them.




Another extremely useful staple for the classroom are straws. How adorable are these Valentine's Day polka dot ones! I especially love the idea of making friendship bracelets for Valentine's Day!




It's a classroom quilt!!! I can't express how much I love this idea. The pictures I snagged weren't great, so this is from the website. I also ordered a pack of Valentine's Day ribbon to go with this for students to have more to decorate with.

Still need more? How about some NO-PREP FREEBIES from my TpT store!