Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 in ‘11 Linky Party

I am joining in on a Linky Party!  Miss Kindergarten and Teeny Tiny Teacher are hosting! Click on the button to check it out!

Miss Kindergarten

11. Favorite movie you watched

I honestly can’t think of one. I love the Love’s Enduring Promise series, almost anything on the Hallmark Channel, and and movie from the 1980’s with the brat pack gang.

10. Favorite TV series

I miss Lost!  That was my favorite show, except for the ending.  They seriously made a mistake with the ending. 

To show how eclectic I am, I love to watch the Deadliest Catch.  My husband started it, we saw the captains in their touring show, and I have become hopelessly addicted to watching them.  I even read their memoires! 

I also really like the Big Bang Theory, which I have been watching in repeats.  Finally, I have started to watch True Blood.  I told you I was eclectic!


9. Favorite restaurant

I’m going to cheat on this one.  I love little dinners.  I found a great one when I went to breakfast with a teaching friend over break.  Three words – carrot cake pancakes.  YUM!!!

We also have a local restaurant that has reopened in my town, moving from a small city near where I live.  I used to go to lunch there with my grandmother before she passed away and, even though it is very different, it reminds me of those times.

8. Favorite new thing you tried

Hmm…I love using Pinterest and I am working on free motion quilting.  I love that I can save a ton of money by quilting my own work. Oh, I also put a few things out at a craft show and finally sold a few of the things I make.

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7. Favorite gift you received

Funny story behind this one – well at least to me!  My dad and I went Christmas shopping this year.  We do every year, but it is always a last minute crazy rush type of thing.  He actually wanted to go to the mall this year and we bought a few things for my mom at JCPennys. 

We were waiting in line and dad saw the kitchen section!  This is a very bad place for the both of us.  Waaaay too many pretty things that we don’t really need but really want.  We both love to cook and love dishes and gadgets.  Anyway, I found a 3 section slow cooker.  I LOVE slow cookers.  The idea that I can make 3 separate things at once is just thrilling.  I planned to buy it maybe after the holidays, but my dad went back the next day to buy it for me for Christmas!  imgres

I just need to paint a picture of my dad at the mall – he got lost because he went in the wrong side of the mall.  He tends to wear his work clothes, a carhart vest and flannel shirt, work boots, and a hat with some sort of farm equipment patch on it.  See my favorite pictures to see what I mean. He was probably walking really fast, because he always does, and looking completely overwhelmed in the rush.  In other words, he does not fit with the typical mall crowd and that is what I love about him – that and the thrill he had finding something he knew I really wanted. 

Now I just have to go back and buy him the olive dish for his birthday – picture a long narrow dish to line olives up in a single row.

Haha!  Found a picture of it!

6. Favorite thing you pinned

Way too hard to choose.  I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest because I love to pin things, but forget that I pin them.  It has become a problem – just like my computer files, email, filing cabinet, closet…

5. Favorite blog post

I don’t really have one.  I feel like my blog is still in it’s infancy.  I have added a few features, but don’t have anything to say that is earth-shattering or any great things to share or sell.  Maybe this year.

4. Favorite accomplishment

I’m still working on this one, but I have been working on my application to go back to school.  I have been working on my personal statement and my research piece.  I vowed to put my final touches on them before going back to school on Tuesday.  It was very hard for me to ask co-workers and administrators to write recommendations because I really do not want the fact that I am going back to school to become public knowledge.  I am so worried that it might not work.  I am scared about doing this, but know that I need to.  Hopefully I will be attending classes in the fall to begin my PhD. in the Philosophy of Education!

3. Favorite picture

Please don’t hate me for this picture.  In my world, hunting is a part of life.  I am not a big fan of venison, but we do butcher our own beef, pork, turkey, and chicken.  It is nice knowing where your meat comes from and that you have a whole freezer full of food.  My husband was an avid hunter before he broke his back and my brother is more than an avid hunter.  My dad can take it or leave it, but hunts to spend time with my brother. 

They asked me to come over and take a picture of them with their deer this year.  There is a family photo of my grandpa and great grandpa (who died long before I was born) with their deer.  My dad and brother wanted to replicate it.  My brother even found a jacket that looked like my grandpas. They would both have a fit if they knew I put this on here, but it is by far my favorite picture.  My brother is on the left and my dad on the right.  I am sure that this picture is not too far from how he looked when he went to the mall – just jeans instead of ripped carharts and his flannel would be tucked in, and of course the gun would be at home!DSC03388

Yes, it is common for people to hang their deer in a tree in the front yard, but this was only done for this picture.  We actually have a place dedicated to harvesting deer at my parents – outside, but indoors.  This is my parents 200+ year old house and the 200 year old maple tree outside my childhood bedroom.  Stormy night could be scary because the limbs of tree often fell outside my window.

Yep, cheating again!  This is a picture my husband took of our dog at the farm.  My husband’s family has a dairy farm where he and Bear, the dog, work every day.  Can you tell Bear loves it there?!?0803111729

2. Favorite memory

This is hard, too! There weren’t any landmark things for me going on this year.  I guess in the long run, it would be my brother telling me that I am going to be an Aunt next April! This is the first baby in my family since my brother 27 years ago!  I always thought I would be first because I am older, but life has its own plans! Oh, and then Christmas shopping with him in the baby store!  He must have said “I need to leave” a dozen times, but preceded to walk through the store picking things out!

1. Goal for 2012

My personal goals:

  1. Apply to go back to school.
  2. Get my house organized.
  3. Try new things.
  4. Read lots of great books.
  5. Spend time with my family.

Work goals:

  1. Get organized.
  2. Leave work between 4:00 and 4:30.
  3. Work hard to find more joy in what I do (it has been a tough one).
  4. Put the final touches on some things for TPT.
  5. Work through the CORE curriculum for ELA and Math

Well, that is a little bit about me.  I am a little bit eclectic and maybe a little bit odd!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year (almost!)

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and is looking forward to the New Year!

I have been busy making big messes at my house! I am planning to throw a baby shower for my sister-in-law and am in the crazy-must-get-the-house-ready mode. Yeesh! Since we moved in 9 years ago, we have sort-of finished many, many projects. We redid the kitchen after gutting it, did the floors in the main part of the house, built a deck, and redid the basement. We actually knocked down a wall and finished the living area in the basement. Dear hubby needed a couple years to recover.

Now I am obsessing over the bathroom and the 2 bedrooms. The goal is to have carpet installed and redo the bathroom by February Break. Our bathroom fan broke a few years ago and the ceiling has begun to fall because of the moisture. So...I am planning to put up a bead board ceiling if my dear hubby ever fixes the fan. I have spend way too much time this week trying to refinish a cheap bathroom vanity, but have decided to just spend the money to get a new one and a new sink. Then I need to get a mirror to match!

Oh, and there is the matter of our front door falling a part. Yeah, the moulding actually popped off under the window. I have my eye on a beautiful wood door, but our dog is REALLY tough on the door, so I will probably need to get a vinyl one.

It is funny how you start to notice all of the things that need to be done when you are planning to have people you don't know well come and visit! We started moulding in the main part of the house a couple years ago and never really finished it. We also need to finish the details on the floor. I love doing the projects, but just run out of steam.

Well, I'll see what I can get done in the next 3 days before I head back to work. I'm sure I will be cursing my friend who teaches in my old school and has a full 2 weeks off!

Have a great New Years!

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Behavior System

I revamped my behavior system  last week.  It’s a terrible picture, but my cellphone is not great.  I went back to my old ring and clip system.  I was using the clip chart that has been all over blog world.  It just wasn’t working for me.  Only a few kids were getting to the top, I was forgetting to use it, and the kids that really needed to have consequences were sometimes able to get out of it by doing something to get their clip out of the hot zone.  I just really needed to tighten down on some of the behaviors.


Long story short, this system really works for me. It uses a pocket chart with several pockets per row.  I think is was for attendance.  We have a system widely used through my building call  ”Shoot for a Rainbow.”  Some use the clip style system.  I use cards in the order of a rainbow on a ring.  The last card is a rainbow.  The kids switch their cards as a reward.  The cards do not go back to red every day.  The kids keep flipping until they get to the rainbow. 

Different teachers use the rewards is a ton of different ways.  I put a card in the back of the pocket with the students’ names and, when they reach the rainbow, they put their name card in the pockets at the top with rewards.  They are easy, but effective rewards.  I usually pick 3 or 4 rewards for a month or so.  I currently have:

  • read to the class
  • share
  • line ender
  • switch seats

They cost nothing and result in the minimum of interruption.

The clips are the  reminder/consequence system.  It aligns with 1, 2, 3, Magic, which is another system popular in my school.  The clips all begin on green.  The yellow is a reminder, the orange is a warning with 5 minutes of recess owed, and the red is 10 minutes of recess owed and a parent phone call.  This has worked wonders this week!

I guess I have learned once again that I should K.I.S.S. (keep it simple silly).  I changed a lot of things this year because I loved how someone else did it and realized I should stick to what works rather than try to use something that doesn’t work for me.  It was taking too much time and energy to change my thinking and was consistent enough.

I am much happier now and I am much more consistent. Behaviors are evening out to a certain extend and, if I can get through this week, maybe everything will hit the mid-year click!

Monday, December 12, 2011

I’m So Hoppy, Again!

Sarah at Fantastic First Grade awarded Hopping into First Grade with the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you so much!


The goal of the award is to spotlight up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers. The rules are: 
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
4. Hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers!!

Here are the sites I am passing this award on to.

First in Maine     Critters in the Classroom  First Grade Has Class  Photobucket 

Mrs. D at The Silver Lining also passed along the Sunshine Award!  Thank you so much, Mrs. D! 


I know it is the cheater’s way out, but I am linking to my previous post for this award. Thank you to everyone who reads this blogs and to those who share their wonderful ideas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Author Sighting!

I was beyond excited to meet May Jane and Herm Auch today!  They are a local author/illustrator duo.  I happened to go to the local Barnes and Noble – well, 30 or so miles local, and the branch happened to have 8 or so local authors there.  Mary Jane wrote the Journey to Nowhere trilogy.  They are wonderful historical fiction books about the Western NY area.  I read them in college when I took a children’s lit class.  I loved reading about where I grew up!   They also write and illustrate picture book.

They were so sweet to sign Journey to Nowhere for me and two of the picture books for my classroom!


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Books, Books, Books: Read to Self and Book Organization

I have been doing a few posts on D5 lately, so I thought I would share how I organize Read to Self. For some reason, I have some photos for what I wanted to share about my guided reading set up, but not everything I wanted to share.  So…I am sharing what I do with student books in general. 

I recently changed out my student book boxes because they were taking up sooo much room. I am trying to open up the room a bit and to consolidate some materials.  I went back to my old magazine file boxes.  My kiddos last year actually preferred them to the plastic baskets. I labeled the back with “Book Box” and put their names on the front.  I ordered them from an educational catalog, but can’t remember which one.  The fronts look similar to the second picture.  I have had this set for 5 years and they have held up pretty well.  They will probably be retired after this year.  I wish I live near an IKEA to pick up some of their beautiful boxes.  They would be cheap enough for the students to get their own to decorate. 


A teacher I worked with had the kids bring in a cereal box to decorate and use for a book boxes.  I am just way to OCD about how things look and want the boxes to be all neat and the same size.

In their boxes they have 5 just right (leveled books) and 2 library books.  They change them out as part of their read to self center every Monday.  They also have their journals, school magazines, and when I did poetry journals, they put those in here too. 



Click on the picture above to find out more about my leveled books.

My students take book bags home every night with their reading log, sight word ring (when I get around to doing them), spelling notebook, and a nightly book from their guided reading group.  When the kids come in, they store their book bags in the baskets on the shelf.  The baskets are labeled with the group colors.  When it is time for a group, the kids grab their bags and come to the table.

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This is the shelf behind my reading table (on my beautiful contact papered counter!).  The basket on the top shelf is for the extra books from the guided reading sets.  When the students bring their bags back, they hand in their old book and I fish out the set from the basket.  They are rubber banded together and put in a basket by the door for a helper to return to the library.  Our library has a pretty amazing book room and our sets are checked out and returned there.  I check out about a week’s worth of books at a time.  Usually I check out on Friday – I know most people just want to go home, but it is when I get jazzed up about the next week.

The barrel holds my reading buddies.  They are mini beanie babies that I bought in a lot on Ebay.  For a few bucks, my kids have a buddy to do a second reading with.  I rarely have complaints about rereading a book because of these little guys. 

The chimes signal a switch in centers. The four containers hold the books for the groups to read. 

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I have an acrylic sign frame thingy next to them that I   use as a table-top easel during groups.  On the end of the bottom shelf, is my running record binder. I keep track of students conferences and pieces of assessment in there, including sight words. It is a system that has worked pretty well for me. The blue boxy thing next to the white shelf is where I keep any response sheets or game that I want to use in groups that week.

On another note, I am dying to make two purchases for my classroom.  I just need to really justify them to myself!  I saw these on two  blogs and decided they needed to be in my classroom!  Merry Christmas to me!

Product Details    

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Have a Winner

Holly of Criss Cross Applesauce had comment number 12 and is the winner of the little goodie package!



Holly, send me an email with your info. and I will get your package in the mail.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference with Sharon Taberski!  She wrote:


She was an amazing presenter!  She really made me think about how I am teaching comprehension skills.  Her main point was that we spend to much time teachign strategies without really teaching children to comprehend.  She emphasized the importance of modeling and developing oral language in the early grades.  She really took me back to how I taught 5-6 years ago, when I taught more of a balanced literacy approach with lots of shared reading and did not focus so much on worksheets and written response. 

The other point I am taking to heart is that we need to give students time to develop their understanding in content areas as well.  She talked about KWLs and how important it is that we use them, not at the beginning of a unit, but after we have exposed students to content.  Then students will have more deep questions that foster their learning instead of those random-out-of-left-field questions that get us no where.

If you ever get the chance to check out these books or attend a Sharon Taberski presentation, do because she was to the point and extremely knowledgeable!

Lastly,  please share what you do for listening centers with my first Linky Party. I‘d love to hear what others are doing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

D5 Listen to Reading and Listening Centers Liny Party

This is my first Linky Party! I planned to share my classroom routines for listening centers and then thought, why not turn this into a linky party! Link up to share your ideas!

I love using my classroom computers for the Listening Center! We have 6 computers in our first grade classrooms for student use and they are fantastic for setting up listening centers.

There are a few free sites out there with stories for children. Some that I have used in the past have added a subscription fee and others have so many ads that I am worried about using them in the classroom. Storyline Online is fantastic! However, I caution you about the Tooth Fairy story. Check it out and see if you want to use this site. I have used it more for a whole class listening activity rather than me reading a story aloud. The Magic Keys is also a good site, but a bit limited. StoryNory, Tumble Books, and Speakaboos have all gone to a fee-based format.

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The Magic Keys – Children’s Storybooks Online

National Geographic Young Explorer gives children access to their past issues of National Geographic. This has been fantastic in my classroom. We subscribe to the magazine and put the issue on the Promethean Board for an interactive experience, but I also love that the kids can go on to read and listen later at centers.

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Next, I have 2 sites that are subscription sites. Our library has subscribed to both sites for classroom use and they are indispensible for most of our classroom teachers. They are great to use with the Promethean Board. Pebble Go is a non-fiction database on animals and the world around us. The kids love to read and listen during centers. It is great for research. Bookflix is another site that I have mentioned before. It has a fantastic collection of fiction and non-fiction books for students to listen to and read.

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I also have a listening center that is not computer-based. I struggled with the old tape-deck players and cd players for years and finally decided to go with MP3 players when I saw a good deal through Scholastic. There are a few great MP3 players out there for children, but they can be pretty pricey. I have seen some good deals on Ebay, but have stuck with my old players at this point. They were $8 on clearance at one point and I bought 8 with my bonus points. I can’t find my picture of them right now.

I have also gradually acquired books with cds through Scholastic. This is a nice system because I only need one copy of the book and students have their own listening tools. I load the cds into my computer and transfer one story to each MP3. With 8 players, that gives each child 2 centers for 4 weeks. So, I have them use the MP3s twice a week and the computer twice a week. I store the MP3 player and the book in a baggie and put the stories in a basket. This gives my students a bit of choice during this center.

I also bought earphones from the dollar store a few years ago, one for each student. They are stored in baggies with student numbers on them. I have toyed with the idea of putting them on a supply list too. The earphones are stored in a Sterlite container with magic numbers 1-7 in the top drawer, 8-14, and 15-21 in the next two.


I store my listening books in a crate with a hanging file for each month. They are filed by month so I can pull appropriate theme and content books for the month. Once the books are loaded onto my computer from the cd, I organize them the same as the crate so they are easy to transfer to the MPs when it is time. Once the system is set up, it takes 15-20 minutes to switch them out each month.

I love this system because it allows students to work independently and make choices. It also cuts down on the behavior issues that occur when students don’t know how to use the players and argue over things – you know how that goes.

Last year I began to incorporate Leap Pads into my classroom. Now that the prices have gone down, I found 3 on Ebay and have found the books and cartridges on Ebay and at thrift stores and garage sales. I put these in as a listening center once a week. The books are not always pure listening, but it works. I store the Leap Pads in a Sterlite file box – 3 fit nicely. The games go in a second one.

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Does anyone have any great, free sites for listening? Any other ideas for the listening centers? Link up to share your ideas!

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party