Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pet Peeve Linky Party

Alisha over at the Bubbly Blonde is hosting a linky party called: What is your biggest classroom pet peeve?"

Here are mine:
  1. When you hear your name called about a billion times (there are days I have changed my name ;).)
  2. Coat and backpack cubbies!!! - I moved to a smaller room a couple years ago and I went from huge, individual cubbies to having kids share. There is never enough room and their stuff spills all over the entryway. (Not to mention there is a conspiracy to create backpacks as big as the kiddos!) I have been thinking about ways to add storage without sending myself to the poorhouse!
  3. The dreaded "Shh!" kids use when they want silence.
  4. My building got new phones a couple years ago and as soon as you get a message, the top of the phone starts flashing orange. Nothing interrupts my follow more than seeing the light flash.
  5. Last minute papers to go home - we sometimes have papers from various folks that "must go in backpacks today" at the 11th hour. Sometimes, they just go home the next day!
  6. Little pieces of classroom things - you know all of those items that go missing from games and manipulatives. All those tings that you find at the end of the year when you are cleaning out your room - they are under shelves, in wrong containers, stashed under the computer...
Link up to share your pet peeves!

Fabulous Give Away at Second Grade Shenanigans

Second Grade Shenanigans is having a giveaway! Check out her site to see the 2 giveaway items: Camp Out...Number Style and Shiver Me "Time"bers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions!

The Clutter Free Classroom is having a New Year Resolution Linky Party.


Right now, I have a billion things I want to accomplish this year. It is so hard to focus on specifics!!! Okay, here are my resolutions:

1. Balance - I have worked so hard to find a balance between work and home. It is difficult to view teaching as a job when your heart, soul, and mind are so tied to what you do. I even find that how I am feeling about myself is reflective of my teaching. I love what I do, but still feel terrible when I don't live for my job. After this many years, I need to stop feeling guilty about wanting to be a person outside of school.

2. Saying No - This goes with finding balance. I am terrible at saying yes to everything. Part of it is that I am just not quick enough on my feet to say anything other than "sure, I'll do that". Again, it is a guilt thing. I need to get over it!

3. Organization - Another goal I have worked very hard on. I am working on letting go. I finally have gotten to the point where I am giving my 3rd grade stuff to a colleague who is moving to another district. (I am fighting the urge to copy the files before passing them on!) I am not the most organized person outside of school either, but I am hoping that getting some systems down pat will result in more time away from school.

4. Involve Parents - I have not been great about inviting parents into the classroom. I started out teaching 3rd and 4th where parents were just not a huge part of the day. First grade was a shocker! I am very shy in a lot of ways and I find that having adults in the room takes away from who I am as a teacher because I am self-conscious. I am also not a huge schedule person, so scheduling helpers forces my schedule and finding consistent help is not always easy. I would not only like to be less self-conscious, but also have parents in to help out more regularly.

4. Be a Leader - I am taking on the position as co-leader of the grade level for the second year. I am hoping that I can delegate and really help to move us forward this year.

5. Go Back to School?!? - Did I really type that? I have wanted to go back for a post-graduate degree for years now and I think the time is coming. I found a really good program and a few supportive folks to guide me through the process. My husband is open to it. We will see...

I think we need a support group to follow through on our resolutions!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fun Back-to-School Stuff

Jodi at So Fun in First is having a Linky Party on Back to School Activities and I posted my ideas yesterday.

I was perusing a few of the links and came across Alisha at

And she posted a few ideas that made me think "I HAVE to do that." I actually went right out to Staples and bought 6x6x6 mailing boxes to make her Back-to-School question dice. Check out her great ideas by clicking here!
These boxes were only $1.49 each and I thought that I could use them for reading comprehension questions, writing prompts, and Alicia's question idea. I am not usually one for shopping at Staples because the people who work there have this annoying habit of greeting you as soon as you walking in the door by shouting across the front of the store and then inevitably follow you around like you have no clue what you are looking for and they NEED to help you. I would swear they work on commission! I also think their prices can be a bit to high. I did find a pack of 3 reasonably good "big girl" scissors for $5.00, a Swingline (the best) hand held stapler for $5.00, 2 small post-it cubes for $4.00, and a roll of packing tape. I use packing tape to attach labels all over my room. Nothing beats it.

I made a printable with prompts to attach to the cube. Check out Alicia's idea and click here to get the printable!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back To School Linky Party

Jodi at Fun in First is having a Linky Party on Back to School Activities!
LinkFun in First

I have done a couple different posts with activities that I use to start out the year.

I do a Treasure Box/Bag activity around Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. Students bring in items that are important to them to share and write about.

Click here to read more about it and score the printables.

I also talked about 2 activities I do when setting up Daily 5. The first is a self-portrait activity and the second is an assignment to bring in a favorite book. I also talked about an "All About Me Writing" that I do for each student. All of these activities make great displays for open house. Ours is in late September.

Click here to read more and find the printables!

I know there are more activities that I love to do, but all of my classroom is still packed and I am refusing to go in with a month of vacation left!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writing Ideas and Writing Centers

Primary File Folder Games

It inspired me to write about some of the things that I have done in writing centers. I did a post a while ago on some of the ideas that I use for writing centers. Click here to go to that post.

Here are some other ideas that I used later in the year to prompt student writing without providing specific prompts:

1. Drawing books - During our animal unit I put out some of those step-by-step animal drawing books. The kids LOVED them! They even drew pictures during recess. The rule was that they had to produce a fiction or non-fiction piece of writing with 5 or more complete sentences by the end of the week.

2. Research - My first graders eat up research. We have subscriptions to BookFlix and PebbleGo. The kids love to look up facts and I provided them with graphic organizers. Again, the rule is that they must produce a piece by the end of the week.
3. Story sticks - A while ago a blogger posted about Story Sticks (please let me know if you know who and I will happily credit and link to them). I printed plain old prompts on labels to put on craft sticks for spring. The kids still asked for them late in to the school year.

4. Squiggle Stories - A blogger also posted this idea with printables, again I don't know who and would be happy to credit them if anyone knows who it is. The printable did not have a name on them. My colleague, who is not a blogger, has been doing this for a few years. You copy paper with a random squiggle on it. The students turn it into a picture and write about it. I made the squiggles on Microsoft Publisher and printed them 4 to a page. Then I just cut them apart. After making 10 or so squiggles, I put all the sheets in a basket. The kids could pick one, draw the picture and glue them into their journals. I didn't have to make copies or redo them each week.

***7/25/11 update - I found the Squiggle Stories on:

Click here to go to the post!

5. Observations! - We had critters visit our room and the students wrote about them. I had a snail, ants, and crickets. We have also had turtles, birds, and even squirrels (yes, pet squirrels). One of my close colleagues brought in a collection of house plants for the kids to observe and write about. I grew a wonder egg plant, too. This year I bought seeds for a Tickle Me Plant and a Venus Fly Trap. They should inspire some interesting writing!

I am already thinking of some ideas for this coming school year. I abandoned poetry journals last year. I just did not have time and they were something that I could put aside. However, our new state standards have a partial focus on poetry. To simplify life, I think I might combine poetry and journal writing and have students glue a weekly poem into their journals to respond to. We use these Primary Writing Journals from Mead. Roaring Springs also makes a great, smaller, journal for first graders.

I can't wait to hear some other ideas!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Favorite School Year Recipe Linky

Clutter Free Classroom is having a Favorite School Year Recipe Linky!

I am the queen of no recipe cooking! I rarely use a recipe or measure anything. I also love to make things that I can switch out ingredients for, depending on what is in the fridge or cupboard. Okay - here's my recipe - super easy and cheap!

Ravioli Casserole

1 bag frozen ravioli (meat or cheese)
1 package ground beef browned (or you could use zucchini, spinach, broccoli or any combination that sounds good to you)
1 can/jar tomato sauce
shredded cheese (optional)

Dump the ravioli in a casserole dish. Top with beef and/or veggies. Cover with tomato sauce and shredded cheese if you wish. Cover with lid or foil and bake until the ravioli is cooked through.

You can even cook double and freeze half for another night. The leftovers are perfect for lunch!

Out of the Mouths Of Babes Linky Party

Mrs. Dillard is hosting an Out of the Mouths Of Babes Linky Party!

I have had so many times when I thought, "Hey, I should write that down!", but you know how that goes! I wish I could remember more, but here are a few of the most memorable!

1. When I was in my first year of teaching, I was teaching kindergarten, one of my students said (with the cutest face), "I'm not very good at coloring." Her neighbor, a little one who always said what she was thinking, said "You're not bad...for a beginner." I can't even begin to convey the voice expression through writing, but it was like a mother talking to her little one!

2. There are those days when you must hear your name a gabillion times! I sometimes tell the kids that I am changing my name and will no longer answer if they call me by my old one. Being that my last name is a color, I will often tell them I am Mrs. _____ (another color). Well, one day at the end of the year, I was losing my mind and desperately trying to finish a million things while the kids should have gone on vacation a week earlier, I decided it was time for a name change. I didn't tell the kids what my new name was this time. One of my little cuties went through about 4 color names and then finally said, "Mrs. Rainbow". I couldn't help but burst out laughing!

3. I had a little guy in third grade who had spent countless hours in my guided reading groups reading chapter books. I was always talking about how good readers visualize and make pictures in their minds to better understand their reading. It was not a concept he was ready to embrace. At one point, I think it was May, he looked at me during reading group with an expression of astonishment on his face. He said, "I just invented that if you use the words to make a picture in your head, you can understand the story better!" Well, glad I was there to do my job that year!

4. This year two of my girls were playing. One said to another, "You be the princess. I'll be the queen...just to be fair."

5. A group of students were playing with beanie babies this year and one picked up the puppy BB. He/She started barking at the others in the group. One of the students replied, "I'm sorry, I don't speak dog!"

6. When I was team teaching, one of the girls said to me, "Just call me princess, everyone does." My co-teacher, who had taught this student the previous year said, "Honey, there are a lot of princesses in this classroom." The best reply ever!

I hope you get a laugh out of this - I know I was laughing when I was rereading them!

Grade Level Linky Party


Check out this great blog to find blogs at all different grade levels!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Oh my! I have been pinned by the Jessica Meacham on Pinterest! I noticed that I had people coming to my blog from Pinterest and wondered how that had happened, so I followed the link. How exciting! I have lurked on Jessica's site for a few years. Her wonderful website helped me to figure out what I was doing as a kindergarten and first grade teacher. Please check out her site!

What I Could Not Teach Without Linky Party

gMrs. Lamb at Views from Room 205 is hosting What I Could Not Teach Without Linky Party!

Here is what I cannot live without!

1. Coffee - We have a Keurig in our staff room, so the little containers of coffee are like gold in our building! Thank goodness I have an awesome group of friends who share!

2. My Vera Bradley Cup with Lid - LOVE THIS! I received this cup as a teacher appreciation gift and have been wanting one for a long time. Coffee is a must-have for me, but I am a slow drinker. Sometimes I even reheat my cup around lunch time. The lid has been awesome! I just found that Barnes and Noble carries these babies and I bought one for home so that I don't have to carry mine back and forth.

3. Kidney Table - I call mine a Jelly Bean Table. I have taught in classrooms without them and I can tell you that teaching guided reading just isn't the same without one!

4. Teachers Pay Teachers - I cannot tell you how amazing this site has been for me! I had lost a lot of creativity over the years in my practice, and blogging and TPT have helped me to find it again! It is amazing to support fellow professionals and benefit from their genius ideas. I will just keep it to myself just how much I have spent on this site!

5. Blogs! - Oh, my! I just discovered teacher blogs this year and I am overwhelmed by the amazingness of folks in our profession! Again, tapping into the blogging world has made me a better and more knowledgeable teacher, made my classroom more fun, and has put some spirit back into my practice. I cannot express how bummed out I had become about work and how bogged down you can get in "how we do things here" stuff. It is refreshing to see how the rest of the world teaches and benefit from the joy others have in their jobs.

6. Google Reader - This is blog related. I would never be able to get so many ideas from blogs without the benefit of Google Reader. It is genius!

7. Google Doc - Again, this has become key for organzing things from blogs. We had used this at school for various committees and I was not trilled with the amount of time we spent trying to collaborate on documents on Google Doc istead of getting things done, but as a tool for saving and accessing documents, it is awesome.

8. RGS Book Bins - LOVE these! I bought a class set a few years ago and have used them for book boxes, the leveled reader library, and the picture book library. Unfortunately, every time I find a different use for them, I have to find containers for whatever I steal them away from. I wish I could afford to supply every area in my room with them.

I am sure there are a few more, but this is what I can think of off the top of my head!