Thursday, August 24, 2017

Easy Label Upgrade!

So, this week Connor started going to his little preschool. He will go twice a week for a few hours and even though he was in daycare full time when I was working in the spring, leaving him was harder than I thought it would be! It was nice to get housework done without having to keep one eye on him, but I missed my buddy.

One of the things I did was put together a little first day gift for his teachers. Nothing big- just some small lotions from Bath and Body Works. I had gotten a bag of brown gift sacks from Hobby Lobby with the cute little chalkboard labels and when I went to write on them my chalk markers were nowhere to be seen! Major boo!

I thought about using just plain address or shipping labels on the bags, but I had the idea to fancy them up a bit with some of my decorative scissors. These things have sat on my desk for years and I hardly ever use them, but they were just the thing to add a nice touch to the labels.

All I did was cut all the way around the label with the scissors and it created a whole new look! Since I have several different pairs of scissors with different designs, I can create lots of different types of labels!

So the next time to you need to stick a label on something and want a little fancier look, jazz that label up using some paper edgers! So quick and easy!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A New Chapter, New Blog Look!

I can't believe I am writing these words, but I am starting to feel like an actual stay at home mom now! My husband and I made the decision that I would stay home about a month or so before school let out in the spring and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it come August. Well, now it's August, teachers are heading back to work, students start next week, and I can honestly say I don't feel a twinge of regret. CRAZY!

So, this badly neglected blog of mine is getting a makeover! Not that I have even used this thing in a while, but seeing as I will no longer be teaching full time, and I will take any excuse to buy new clip art, I decided to give it a new look.

I'm really not sure what I will have to write about, but I'm sure I will be able to conjure up something. Mom life is a pretty awesome life, and seeing as I just have my little man and lots of time on our hands thanks to his hard-working daddy, maybe I'll actually be able to come up with a post or two a week. Or not. Who knows!

As with writing about my experiences in the classroom, I really don't care who or if anyone reads what I write. It's really more for me to document my experience and if there is a chance someone might read something that helps them out in some way, that would be just awesome. Teacher life is hard, and mom life is hard. Although I am extremely blessed not to have to juggle both anymore, I feel the pressure to make sure I am the best wife and mom that I can possibly be- especially since I can't blame my laziness on being at work all day anymore! Ha! I love sharing with others, and love that I have the outlet to do so.

So, if you feel inclined, join me as I document (or possibly not!) my adventures in mom life. I of course will still have some posts related to teaching since that part of me can't be put away completely, but those will most likely be few and far between. Or maybe not! Who knows! I am honestly done trying to make plans-especially when it comes to this blog! John Lennon says it best:

I am embracing this new life of mine and loving every minute.

To all of my teacher friends- I hope you have an amazing start to the year!!! You are in my thoughts and prayers. Remember to pack some extra deodorant in your purse for after recess!! LOL!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Reality of Being a Teacher and a Mom

It's 8:05 on a Friday night and I could literally fall asleep right at this moment. I'm exhausted. Besides the fact that this week has been absolutely nuts- think two days of no recess, lunch break or conference, a history-making storm resulting in fearful children crouched in the duck-and-cover position for what seemed like an eternity, throw up, bloody noses, poopy toilets, the list goes on!- this feeling of exhaustion has come to be the norm.

However, my Facebook keeps reminding me of all the things I've posted in the past on this little ol' blog of mine, so I felt the urge to write. And I miss it. Not only do I miss writing, but I miss the person I was when I had the time and energy to write all of those posts. Back when life was more simple and I had fewer priorities. Not that I would trade my life now for anything in the world, but sitting here writing this is making me feel all nostalgic.

I never realized how hard it would be to be both a teacher and a mom. There's a certain guilt I've carried with me my entire teaching career about never being able to do enough, or be enough, for all of my students. There are always a million things on my mind. Right now as I sit here, I remember that I didn't finish filling out the dyslexia paperwork that's been on my desk for WEEKS, I still haven't put together a folder for a parent who asked for extra work, and even after setting a reminder on my phone, I STILL forgot to meet with a student and help them understand subtraction. With all the things that happen during the course of the day and all the needs of my students- it seems impossible to give any one child everything that they need, much less all of them! I'm sure every teacher in the world knows that nagging feeling of teacher guilt. It's tough.

Now that I have my own child, that struggle is even more real. I've been used to being able to spend as much free time as I wanted to working and thinking about my students and school. Now, all I want to do when I get home is play with Connor and when he goes to bed all I want to do is SLEEP. So that teacher guilt? It's even more magnified.

I absolutely love my job and "my kids" at school. I absolutely love my child. And I absolutely NEED some relaxation time. So what's a girl to do? I guess the only answer is learn to live with doing the best I can do with the time I have, and let the rest of it go. Not an answer I love, but it's reality for now, and it's what has to be done. I can't even IMAGINE what it would be like to have another kid - or two!

I'm learning to live life with a child of my own and balance it with the life I used to know. I'm getting better at it, and slowly but surely I know I'll find ways to better maximize my time. But for now, I'll try to hush that inner voice telling me all the things I should be doing and truly enjoy my time with this little guy. And I just might make a little trip up to school this weekend and finish that paperwork. Maybe.

And to all you other teacher mommas out there- hats off to you! Especially those of you with two or more kids!! I honestly don't know how you do it and you are truly my heroes. Keep fighting the good fight and know that you are amazing and an inspiration to me!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Flocabulary: GIVEAWAY!!!

Engagement. It’s a word that’s constantly swimming around in the back of my mind. How can I make this content more engaging? Are my students engaged? If not, why? It’s a struggle to keeps kids engaged in this highly technological world of ours.

A couple of years ago, a colleague introduced me to a little website called Flocabulary. I blogged about it last year, which you can read HERE. However, I wanted to take the time to tell you all about it again, but this time I have some very special offers for you!

I’m excited to be partnering up with Flocabulary and giving away free memberships! Read on to find out more about what the site has to offer and the chance to win a FREE year-long subscription! You also have the opportunity to earn a 45-day extended free trial that is accessible to not only you, but everyone at your school just for entering! How awesome is that!

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I would NOT be wasting my precious time (remember I'm on maternity leave!) to write about a website unless I truly believe in it. I have been using Flocabulary for two years and because of it, my students LOVE learning new vocabulary words and they have been more- can you guess what I'm going to say?!- engaged! So please trust me when I say that Flocabulary is a quality resource and I am so proud to be partnered up with them!

Now, let’s dig in to see what this site has to offer!

What in the world is it?
Flocabulary is an educational website that provides engaging - there’s that word again! – hip hop style videos that help teachers teach content in all subject areas across a range of grade levels. No matter what you teach, you are sure to find a video to suit you and your students.  The videos are visually engaging (there it is again!) and the kiddos love them!

In the past, I have only truly utilized the Vocabulary section of the site on a regular basis, which I describe in detail HERE, but today I want to highlight how useful this site is for any subject and show you what they have to offer.

How It’s Set Up
Every lesson is centered around a video. The authors write lyrics that are fun but that also help teach the content. Additional resources are provided as well.

Let's Explore! 
I’m going to walk you through what I would see when planning to teach a unit on the three states of matter in science in my third grade classroom. Keep in mind that for any subject and topic the layout and resources would be similar.

First, I have the option to select my content area. Notice the options below. 'Vocabulary' is a separate section that is further divided into grade levels. This is the area of the site that I have the most experience with and have LOVED. Also, the site offers a 'Week in Rap' video every week that captures the world's current events in a kid-friendly way. It's an excellent way to keep the kiddos in the loop on what's going on in the world! 

After choosing my content, I then choose my grade level range:

Then, I have tons of videos to choose from within the topic of “Elementary Science.” I find the one that fits my needs for my upcoming unit.

For each lesson, the video is the core, but you have several resources to utilize besides the video itself. Regardless of the content area, the resources available to you include the following:

Let’s take a look at some of the resources available for an elementary science lesson on the three states of matter:

As you can see from the picture, I have the opportunity to print the lyrics for my students so they can follow along. I print lyrics so that after my students watch the video a few times, we simply listen and read along. Having the ability to watch and listen is great.

After listening and discussing the video, I have the option of using fill-in-the-blank lyrics that leave out key terms. This is useful because the kids can simply listen to the song instead of watching it and pay attention to the vocabulary.

After watching the video, reading through the lyrics, and discussing what we’ve learned, the Quick Review is great. The open-ended questions allow for discussion and clarification. I love the way the questions are worded and the connections made. I would have never thought to describe gas atoms as kids running around at recess! 

Next we have the option to use a printable activity. The activities vary depending on the grade level and topic, but regardless of what video you are using, the printable activity will give students the opportunity to process what they have learned and practice. Obviously, because videos are designed to appeal to a range of grade levels, the printable activity may or may not be exactly what you need, but having an option is fantastic! 

As an added bonus, a new feature just introduced this year called the “Lyric Lab” gives students the opportunity to develop their own rhymes or rap using the key vocabulary words and their choice of  music! As words are typed in the box, a box of rhyming words automatically pops up to provide students options for their rap. So cool! I personally haven’t had a chance to use this feature yet, but I look forward to using it when I get back! It would even be a great whole-class activity to sum up the learning!

Now, if you aren’t convinced to give Flocabulary a try after seeing all of that, let me entice you a little bit more! Just for signing up below, you will receive a FREE 45-DAY extended trial that’s not only for you, but for your ENTIRE SCHOOL! I mean, it can’t get much better than that! Also, you will be entered for the chance to win a FREE ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION! I will be giving away THREE OF THESE! Winners will be announced on October 18th. Even if you don’t win, remember that you will still get that 45-day extended free trial for your whole school! Everyone is a winner!  After signing up, you will receive information to access your free trial the week of October 18th. Sign up now! You’ve got nothing to lose!! Be sure to enter every field in the sign up box and your free trial information will be e-mailed to you. You must enter by OCTOBER 16 @ 11:59pm EST!

For now, Flocabulary has several free videos and resources that you can access without needing any kind of code. I encourage you to check them out!

Believe me when I tell you that I wouldn’t waste my precious time writing about a resource I don’t believe in. My colleagues and I have used Flocabulary and know the impact it can have on learning. Engagement is the key, and Flocabulary provides you with tools to ramp up that engagement! 

If you use Flocabulary already, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy teaching!!

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

I'm Back! Plus Place Value FREEBIES!

Happy Back-to-School!!

Wow, have I missed this little ol' blog of mine! It's crazy that it's been so long since my last post. If anyone is still reading this, here's what's been going on in my world!


I know, I still can't believe it. My little guy, Connor, is 6 weeks old and has just turned our world upside down- for the better! He was born on July 12 and our hearts have been so full ever since. I mean, isn't he just the cutest little thing you have ever seen?????!!!


This is even more crazy to me than having a baby, LOL! I'm sitting here, in my pajamas (and yes, it's 1:30 in the afternoon- don't judge) writing this post while my long term sub is holding down the fort at school. I'm not going to lie, I'm missing school. But, holding my sweet Connor and looking into his blue little eyes is the best thing in the world. Of course I had to go to Meet the Teacher Night and meet my new kiddos and help my sub get things set up, but other than that, I've really tried to keep my mind off of the day-to-day happenings at school. The control freak in me is chained up tightly, but she's a fighter and has to be constantly talked down. LOL. Each day gets easier and I'm learning to let go... slowly.

So, I thought now that I have some time on my hands- you know, those short little naps Connor takes during the day- I could get back into blogging! Maybe. We shall see.


Again, CRAZY! I never would have thought that I would not teach reading, but I had a tough year last year and needed a change. I LOVE teaching math and I love that it is much more concrete and visual than reading. Because I am focusing more on math, I'm really digging in and trying to learn more about how to develop number sense and teach more conceptually. I'm very excited!

Right now I'm reading the book Number Sense Routines by Jessica F. Shumway. It's full of awesome routines that are quick and powerful and I'm excited to try these when I return to the classroom in October.

I also found this awesome cursive math alphabet from Life in Room 406 that I love! It has great words for the letters and great visuals. I didn't have a chance to get it up in my room before the year started, but it will be up soon!

I obviously have been away from the blog scene for quite some time, so I don't have much new to offer. However, because place value is a concept commonly taught at the beginning of the year, I thought I would share some resources with you! Hopefully you can find something to benefit your students!

Place Value Quiz-Quiz-Trade- These cards cover naming the value of digits, naming places digits are in, and converting from expanded to standard form. They can be used as self-checking task cards as well! Pick up yours HERE! This will be on sale until I remember to change it! LOL!

Place Value Relationship Pack- This small resource has a recording sheet for students to use to record a number they are given and fill in the relationship statement, a lame little chant I made up :), and a set of 6 task cards. Get your FREE copy HERE!

Place Value Roll-Its These games use dice and playing cards. Students roll the die and follow the directions to practice a variety of skills. Two different versions of the game cover writing numbers in words, expanded form, and expanded notation, rounding to the nearest ten and hundred, comparing numbers, and decomposing numbers in different way. Get your FREE copy by clicking HERE!

Hopefully I will be able to post again soon!

Happy Beginning of a New Year!!

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dr. Jean's Amazing Resources!

I realize I have been a little MIA from the blog scene lately. School has been pretty overwhelming this year and blogging has been the last thing on my mind. However, last weekend, I attended the Early Childhood Winter Conference put on by our local county Department of Education and two great things happened. One, I presented my first professional development sessions with a teammate of mine, and I saw THE Dr. Jean in person!

If you teach elementary grades, you may not have heard of Dr. Jean Feldman. She is an amazing woman who has worked in education her entire life. She primarily works with early childhood students, pre-K and kinder, but her resources are great inspirations for all grades. I want to share just a few ideas with you.

First of all, the most important thing to her is that teachers smile. It's such a simple concept, but one that can easily be forgotten. With the stress of more rigorous standards and testing, the pressure can sometimes bring out the worst in me. Regardless of what I'm feeling, my kids deserve to see a happy, smiling adult each and every day. So even on my worst day, I have to try to leave the drama in the car and put on a happy face for my students. Of course this is much easier said than done, but important nonetheless. One little trick to add a little happiness to your classroom is to sprinkle in some cheers!

In college, my classroom management professor gave each of us our own set of cheers and I have had them ever since. These little babies are just quick little ways to say "Good job" in a variety of cute and fun ways. Check out these four below:

She offers all 50 of her cheers on TpT for FREE! Yes, FREE! Click HERE to get a copy for yourself!

Dr. Jean also has a website that she uses to share tons of free resources. Check it out HERE. 

Another thing she is well known for are her songs, both silly and academic. I mentioned that she works primarily with early childhood, so most all of her stuff is for the little ones, but her songs incorporate motion and cross the midline, which is great for the brain and brain breaks. Although she has tons of academic songs for little ones on her website, I want to share one of her silly songs that I heard for the first time last weekend and loved! It's called "Tooty-Ta!"

Y'all. You have to do this video with your kids. You just have to! We did it as adults at the conference and I just about died laughing. It is silly, gets your body moving, and makes you laugh! My third graders and I have done this song at least five times this week and they still get a kick out of it! It's a great brain break, and helps my struggling readers listen, follow directions, and work on oral language. And I promise, if you are feeling stressed, this song will help you relax- at least for a little while! ;)

Dr. Jean has made it her mission to share everything she has to offer with fellow educators and I absolutely love her for it. You can purchase her materials from her TpT store but also get tons of free ideas, videos, and lessons from her website. If you teach pre-k, kinder, or first, be sure to check it out.

The second part of the conference I co-presented two sessions on increasing oral language in the classroom with a teammate of mine. Increasing oral language has been on my mind a lot in the last few years, especially since attending an amazing training called Talk, Read, Talk, Write two summers ago. We shared some simple ways to increase the amount of academic talk in the classroom.

Of course, in true first-time presenter style, we forgot to bring all of our posters and activities with examples on them. LOL. But, we managed to make it through and had some great educators collaborate and share. Despite our mistakes, I think everyone was able to walk out with at least one idea to take back to their classrooms.

I'll do another post soon (LOL, I know! Soon may be a month from now!) and share the ideas we presented about. For now, go check out Dr. Jean and print those cheers for yourself! You'll be glad you did!

Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Minecraft Challenge... A True Labor of Love!

Well, we finished it! The Minecraft Challenge was a success!

Was it worth it? Yes!

Was it a pain? Yes!

Would I do it again? Yes!

Would I change the some things? Oh yes! I'll elaborate later. ;)

Let me give you some background...

My kiddos this year are obsessed with Minecraft-to the point where everyday at least one of them is wearing a Minecraft shirt. They LOVE it.

So, I knew I somehow wanted to incorporate the game into our classroom, but I literally knew nothing about it. I decided last Friday that I wanted to come up with something fun to review for our math CBA. The idea to do a Minecraft Challenge was born, but I really didn't know how to make it work.

The first step was to learn about the game. I watched videos, asked the kids, and tried to develop a basic understanding. It is much more complicated than I ever imagined! I even downloaded the game on my computer and tried to play, but I couldn't even figure out how to move myself around! It was pathetic! I died several times in a row before I gave up! (Don't tell my students!)

If you don't know anything about Minecraft, here's the basics: You create your own world by "mining" for resources that are all around you, and then "crafting" those resources into things like tools, weapons, building supplies, food, etc. You can play the game in a creative mode where you have no risk of dying and you have unlimited resources, or you can play the game in survival mode, where you are at risk of dying from hunger or monsters.

Because I had a short time to figure out how I wanted the challenge to work (I wanted to do it on Monday, two days after I had the idea, lol), I went of the very limited knowledge I had.

I typed up a text giving some basic information about Minecraft and we read that during reading time. I created comprehension questions to go with it that reinforced the concepts we were focusing on in language arts.

Then, during math, the real challenge began. I decided to have the kids answer questions and if they answered correctly, they could earn "resources"- similar to the mining process in the game. They would then use the resources they earned to "craft" tools. Their goal was to craft all four of the tools I listed in their crafting guide.

I divided the class into four teams. Each team was given a file folder with their team name, their "health bar," instructions, crafting guide, and crafting grid.

I downloaded a free Minecraft font from and used screenshots from a blog I found to make the folders.

The directions were explained in the first part of the folder under the 'Objective' heading. I also got a little ambitious and decided to hang the challenge questions around the school in the hallway, so I also added a map the kids had to use to find where the questions were. Yeah.... it ended up taking us WAAYY too long to move from question to question, and we weren't able to finish in one day. So, I moved the question cards back to the classroom to finish up the second day. :)

The kids had to find a question card and work together to answer the question with their team. If they answered correctly, they earned the resources listed near the question. If they answered incorrectly, they lost one of the hearts on their health bar and did not earn the resources for that question.

As they answered the questions, they earned the resources. They had a small Ziploc bag included in their folder to store their items. 

In the middle of their "mining," Herobrine snuck up and surprised the kids with a special challenge! Everyone had to get together to solve the problem and escape him! 

In the picture above, all of those little pieces of paper coming out of the bag are the "resources" they earned from answering their questions. They could earn wood and cobblestone. And yes, I had to run from team to team as they answered each question to check their answers and either take a heart or award them their resources. It was a great way for me to do some last-minute reteach. Thank goodness I only had four teams! Below are all the baggies that held the resources they could earn as well as the tools they were responsible for creating. It was a lot to juggle! 

Once the kids answered all of the questions, the "crafting" process began. The first objective was to create a crafting table from the wood they collected. Then, they had to craft the four tools listed in their guide. They used the guide included in their folder and the crafting grid on the back of their folder to show the correct recipe, and then they traded the resources they used for the tool they created. I loved this part just as much as the academic part because they quickly realized they didn't have all of the materials they needed to make their tools. They first had to use the wood to make sticks! They really had to rely on their guide and discuss with their teammates to make sure they had the correct materials and put them in the correct order to craft their tools. 

As the kids were crafting, they called me out on a mistake I made! Apparently, the wood shown in the recipe for the crafting table and sticks is called a "wood plank." I used the picture for another type of wood that needs to be crafted into a wood plank first before it can be used to make anything else. OOPS! That's what I get for not doing enough research! LOL! Of course, I told the kids to just pretend it was the right thing! Notice in the picture below how the wood pictures are NOT the same! 

As they used the resources in their crafting recipes, they earned the tools! Once they created all four tools, their mission was accomplished! The picture below shows the crafting table and the four tools they were required to craft. 

All in all, it was a huge success.  The kids absolutely LOVED it and were all smiles the entire time. It was all worth it! 

It was hard to manage moving between teams to check answers, give resources, trade them for their tools, etc. It was much easier to do in the classroom instead of running up and down the hallway to the different teams. Here's what I would do differently if I could have a redo:

1. Keep the challenge in the classroom. It was super fun to get out of the room and use the hallways, but it wasn't the best idea to do it the first time we attempted this. It was too hard for me to move between teams and it wasted valuable time. 
2. Have the crafting grid separate from the folder. The kids had to flip the folders back and forth to see the recipes and then place the pieces correctly. It would have been much easier to have the recipe and the grid side by side.
3. Be sure I have the correct pictures! I should have done a little bit more research to make the game a bit more accurate! 

The great thing about this format is that now that the kids understand how it works, I can simply change out the question cards and we can play it to practice whatever content I want! Next week we may do this again to review for our grammar test! I can also change out the tools they are creating and the resources they earn to add some variety. The kids were begging to do it again, so I just might have to give in! 

Want to try this crazy thing out for yourself?? Click the links below to get a copy of the text we read and the file to create your own challenge! Let me warn you, the wood pictures don't match! Maybe this weekend when I have some energy I will fix it! ;) 

Now to survive the rest of the week! 

Do you have ideas of how to incorporate Minecraft-inspired activities in the classroom?? I would love to hear them!!! 

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