Sunday, April 21, 2013

Linkies, Products, and Rolling Carts - oh, my!

Today I'm linking up with Latoya from Flying Into First Grade for her Let's Get Acquainted linky.

This week's topic is the 3 most favorite places in your classroom. 

That’s so tricky!  I have had a tough time with liking the arrangement of my classroom this year.  I’m sad to say I don’t have many pictures to put up.  It seems like the first year in a new grade never leaves my room looking neat and pretty.
  1. The first would be my business board. It is the hub of my daily operations!  This is a photo from the very beginning of the year.  I have everything on this board that I need to make the day run smoothly.  I keep track of transportation changes and notes on the white board, clip notes for other places underneath, and have all the daily schedule stuff for everyone to see. I also put up a lunch menu and hang out lunch order slips.  It makes it easy to tell a sub where to find everything needed to organize the day.                                            P8300092

  2. My other place would be my tall bookshelf.  I built it with my husband to fit in my last classroom.  It has rows of magazine holders with all of my themes and topics that I teach through the year.  The kids do not take books from the shelf – it contains all of my books for teaching during the year.  It makes me happy to see everything organized and in rainbow color order!

  3. The last place is my guided reading table.  It is in front of my window and I have all of my materials organized behind it.  I will take a picture tomorrow if I get a chance!
I have a new set of centers!  I prettied up all of my spelling centers that I keep in spelling pockets.  They look so cute now and my students are loving the new look.  Click on the images to pick up a set on TPT.


Here is the other piece of my spelling work in my classroom.  Click on the images to grab a copy of the activity sheets I use with my class.


I keep all of my materials organized in these envelopes and place them, along with my students’ lists in the crate.  It makes for a pretty easy system.


On another note, I picked up this cart on sale last summer and have yet to use it in my classroom.  I saw a bunch of teachers used it and had it in their blog pics. When I saw the price, I couldn’t help but pick it up. Any suggestions on what to use it for?

Have a happy Monday!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teacher Haul Update

Before I start my post, I just have to say that I am such a happy teacher when there is something good to snack on in the teacher’s lunch room.  Today there were…cream puffs and eclairs!  I mean, who would just give those away.  I snagged a healthy amount without over doing itWinking smileto enjoy this morning!

Yesterday I posted on my teacher haul at Target, Walmart and Party City.  I had a lovely invitation to linkup with A Teacher Without a Classroom for a Dollar Days Linky
A Teacher without a Class
Click here to check out my post from yesterday!

I tried out the 7ish dollar pencil sharpener from Walmart (x-acto brand) and have to say it is a pretty good little sharpener!  It has a suction cup mount, so I think I will need to have hubby figure out some way to mount it more properly.  It got us through sharpening pencils for our first day of testing.

These little rings from Party City were quite a hit!  I told they kids they were to remind them to read carefully and check their work.  I gave them out after the test and the kids promptly had staring contests – they thought the joke was hilarious!

I had also mentioned a little video I watched about putting together kits for guided reading so that you don’t have to hand out materials all the time.  I found it!  It is from Jan Richardson’s site.  She Wrote: The Next Step in Guided Reading.
She has some really nice video clips.  They are mostly for beginning readers, but it is always helpful to see someone else teach!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teacher Haul

If you are a follower of any fashion or makeup/style blogs, you know they talk about hauls every once and a while.  Well, I know many of us have teacher hauls!  I wandered around Target (the Dollar Spot, of course), Walmart, and Party City for some great finds.

My first stop was Target! Did you know that you can get gift cards from Schoalstic with your bonus points?  To tell the truth, I haven't found too many books that interest me to buy with my points.  I usually buy guided reading sets with bonus points and the values haven't been too great lately.  I have not found the quality of some of the classroom items to be stellar.  So, I have been ordering gift cards.  Can I just tell you, that I totally forgot I even had it on me?  Well, it will just be saved for another time.  Anyway, here is what I grabbed from Target:

Magazine Files - these were a relatively good value for my classroom this year.  They are a dollar and lasted the year (46 days and counting down!!!) The sad thing is, the colors are not great for boys.  This year I used some extra spray paint I had to change the color and there were no complaints.

Stackable trays - I saw a video about using little containers at the guided reading table to house all the little tools for the kids, then you don't have to pass them out.  Brilliant!

Glo-Sticks - I am planning to pass these out to my homeroom and math classes after testing with some clever little saying yet to be determined.

From Walmart I bought Mr. Sketch markers, an exact-o pencil sharpener and Starbucks K-Cups. We have the smallest supply budget I have EVER seen this year - even when I taught at a very rural district where everything was tough.  I just happened to see the very same pack of markers was 15.00 in the catalog and was half that at Walmart - I LVOE Mr. Sketch markers.  They make me happy to make charts because they smell so nice.  The pencil sharpener is not electric and I have no idea about the durability, but it was cheap and will get me through a year where not one, but two electric pencil sharpeners were broken.  And I must mention that one lasted 5 years with first graders and was still going strong until it moved to third grade.  Coffee, well that's just a necessity for me!

Next up was Party City!  I had this idea to give my kids little motivational trinkets every day. I'm not sure why I would do this when they buy the same junk...I mean wonderful items at the school store and drive me crazy playing with it.  But, alas, I thought it was better than candy.  The pencils will say "Go for the Goal!", the smiley faces are pencil sharpeners that will say "Stay Sharp," and the google eye rings will say "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize". The things we teachers spend our pennies on!

Finally, I found some fun stsuff for centers at Party City. 

Glasses – These babies are for buddy reading!  My firsties loved them and I am sure my third graders would to, but I was really thinking about them for a summer reading class I want to do and maybe for next year.  I pop out the lenses and buddy reader who follow the buddy reading rules get to wear a matching pair during buddy reading time. 

Mini-Springs – these are great for helping students stretch out words during reading and writing.

Star Wands – these are fun for reading the room or locating certain words in reading or writing.

Colored Pencils – these pencils are marbled and they writing in several colors at once.  They’re are fun to use for the standard “write your words three times each".

Well, that was my haul from yesterday afternoon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Randomness for Monday

Some randomness:

1. We have two glorious weeks of testing coming up – can we give 3 cheers for standardized assessments?  Yeah, I thought not.  I can’t help but laugh sarcastically when I hear the local news reporting about these *new* tests and how hard the local city school is preparing.  So, we suburban and rural schools just don’t worry about it?!?  Then there are the reports about how the teacher’s union is bringing up issues regarding the testing and new standards.  I mean, really?!?  Where were they the last couple years when this was all ramping up?  Oh, that’s right, engaging in feeble discussions with politician’s the union backs financially.  That sounds productive.  In my view, the union should have been much more vocal on how inappropriate these expectations are for young students. Rather than being proactive, we now shout about it with the administration of a new test we have been aware of for over a year beginning tomorrow.  Okay – done with my soapbox!

2. I finally went to a Thirty-One Party!  I may have found a slight new obsession!  I was all about Lia Sophia for a few years, but then found I could buy very similar items (of similar quality) for 10% of the price. Anyway, they were having a sale, so I bought a new school bag. I bought the Cindy Tote (it was 50% off and that is the ONLY way I would consider buying it!) I also got an organizer bag and file box to go in it.  I am really liking the tote.  At first I thought it was too big and too floppy, buy have really grown to like the size and how comfortable it is to carry.  I haven’t done much with the organizer tote and file box, but I thought they would be great when I do consultant gigs.


3. Well, it looks like I am indeed changing grades and moving my classroom AGAIN next year.  UGH is all I an say.  I think I will be in a grade I have never taught in the classroom and will be with a whole new team.  On the upside, I will not be in a testing grade and second graders are such sweethearts.  I have really mixed feelings, but there are so many different thoughts running through my brain.

4. I am working on cleaning out my classroom library!  I have been working on streamlining my remodeled closet at home and, especially in light of moving my classroom yet again, I am thinking that streamlining my classroom library may be good as  well. It is to the point that I just don’t know what I have anymore and can never find what I need.  So, here are my rules (a la The Clutter Free Classroom idea):P1230232

  • throw away damaged books – I can’t be the only one who keeps tattered and barely glued books around Smile
  • donate any books that are way too young or way too old (those ones I had for when I taught kindergarten)
  • evaluate multiple copies – do I really need them?
  • sell guided reading sets (ebay?) – I literally have dozens of sets of great books I have never actually used and I bought them with my own money when they were cheap in the book order flyers..  The Whipping Boy, Skylark, The Family Under the Bridge, Judy Blume Sets, Beverly Cleary Sets.  I have been storing them and moving them around since the last time I taught 3rd and 4th and still didn’t use them this year.  We have a great book room and I am just tired of packing and moving them.
  • donate books I have never read/used.

5. Just in time for testing – we received our plant AND butterfly kits.  Great timing for activities that much be done in a certain time frame! I so love raising butterflies!  I can’t wait to watch the kid release them.

Oh, and given that I am switching positions, I think I need to change the name of this little ole blog.  I’m not feeling super creative and I dread fixing all of my TPT stuff, so I think I am going to go with something more general. Here are my ideas:

  • Leaping into Teaching
  • The Primary Pond
  • The Primary Pad

Any other ideas? I’m sure someone out there has a more creative name than I have been able to come up with.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Let’s Get Acquainted Linky–Stranded on an Island!

I am linking up with Flying Into First Grade for:
This weeks topic is... If you are stranded on an island, what three things would you have to have with you?

1.  I would have to have my family with me.  We are pretty close knit and I’m not sure what I would do without them.

2.  My pets – Bear, our dog, and Murphy and Mazey, out cats.  (I would be okay letting go of the turtle.)

3.  Books – I would be lost without the ability to read, so I would probably need a library full, or an electronic device loaded with many, many books.

I think I would be happy to be stranded on an island if I could have all of these things!

Check out this fun linky and have a great week!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New TPT Item

In my quest to avoid work for my college course, I finally finished a fun product I have had in the works for a while!  My students LOVE using story dice and I wanted to create some that provide students of all levels with the vocabulary and motivation to write creative stories. So, I used just about all of my clipart sets to create dice that feature 4 dice for characters, 4 dice for settings, and 4 dice for situations for some silly story combinations!  They are colorful dice with pictures and labels to provide vocabulary support for younger learners.  Just choose which dice you would like to include in a writing center, add some paper, and watch your kiddos create fun stories!  The dice are easy to assembly and durable when reinforced with packing tape or contact paper. Four different styles of writing paper are included.  Click on the image to check them out at the special introductory sale price!



Even tough I have been the queen of avoidance the past few days, my work for college tonight is complete (I think) and, after my class this evening, I am truly ready to be on vacation!  I will not let the coating of snow on the ground deter my spring break!!!  Have a great one!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Yay! Monday!

Ahh!  Spring Break!!! Yeah, not so much!  Here in Western NY, it’s about 35 degrees with pretty strong winds that are even colder.  And the sun shines just enough to make you think it is warmer out! Ugh!

I don’t have much hope of going anywhere warmer.  I have been typing away, working on my research project.  I never realized how much time it took to transcribe and interview – or how many weird noise I make when I am having a conversation!

Good thing I went grocery shopping and stocked up on clearance Easter candy!  Who can resist 75% off???  I was actually dropping off clothes at a consignment shop and ran a few errands.  I have mentioned that I am working really hard to clean out my closet and have made a bit taking my things to a consignment shop.  If you plan to get rid of a bunch of clothes, I would suggest taking a look at your local options.  I donate quite a bit as well, but it is nice to take some things that I know will sell and have a little check every month or so.  I am also on the look out for the pair of black skinny jeans.  I tried Maurices – I was actually chomping at the bit to go all weekend but I resisted!  I was disappointed to see that their version has distressing/fading in the knees.  Really?  Why do so many pairs of pants need to look like they have been buried in a hole, hit with a weed wacker or otherwise look like they are not new?  I guess I am just one of those people who likes my clothes to look like I bought them new and purchase things I can actually wear to work if the mood strikes me!  I found a pair at TJMaxx, but they are more like leggings and I’m not sure if they are keepers. Any suggestions?  Target?

At any rate, I just received a little package from Amazon! Oh, how I love clicking a little button and having boxes of books delivered right to my door (especially since the local bookstores have closed and the closest Barnes and Noble is a 40 minute drive.) Here’s what I had in my little box:

I LOVED Comprehension Connections and kick myself every time I think about the concept because I was thinking about similar ideas – making comprehension concrete - back when I was a reading specialist.  When I switched to k/1, my focused switched and I dropped a lot of my focus on higher level thinking skills. Bummer! I can’t wait to dive into the new Genre Connections!

I have had my eye of The Next Step in Guided Reading for a while now. I am a guided reading person.  I work for guided reading people.  I just can’t help but think about the fact that kids have changed immensely in the last 10 years. While I think guided reading still has great value, I wonder about how it is done.  I sometimes feel like I spend enormous amounts of time reading in small groups.  My students not in the groups get to practice skills independently.  I just have a hard time finding 80+ minutes every day and making it feel like I am making the best use of the time.  I used to teach novels exclusively, but with today’s standards and standardized testing, I have infused much more non-fiction and story fiction in.  Right now I am focusing on fables to teach theme and review a plethora of skills.  I hope to dive into some poetry to.  Anyway, what I guess I am trying to say is that I have been actively searching for ways to update and tweak my process for guided reading to make it as impactful as possible.  That may mean finally purging my much loved guided reading novel sets.Sad smile

On another note, I made my goal for Teachers Pay Teachers this past month!  I was so excited to go over my goal yesterday! I feel like I have had a great start and hope to put together more materials as I am able and can get my thinking into a creation mode! Click on the images to check out any of my products!  I love creating ready to use items that you can implement readily in your classroom routines!

  imagePoetry Task CardsSummary Cards

Instant Magazine CenterSequence CardsMystery Eggimage   image     image

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Well, I have put of finishing my interview transcription and working on category coding in my field notes long enough! I need to get something done before my dear hubby comes home and distracts me with the awful tv shows he watches!