Holiday Math Card Game Fun!

An elementary classroom in December is an exciting place to be! Kiddos are so full of energy and excitement- sometimes it is hard to contain it all!

Educational games are a great way to keep kids engaged and learning all the way up to Winter Break. 

One game that my students have really enjoyed playing is a math game that I created (and is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store) called Holiday War


Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week! Make Ahead Meals!

Linking up again today for Teacher Week 2015 with Blog Hoppin'! I enjoyed reading 5 fun facts about so many teacher bloggers yesterday!

Today's topic is Make Ahead Meals!

So if you read my post from yesterday you already know I LOVE to cook.

Here are a few of my favorite make ahead meals (links to them)- or at least easy meals to fix on a hectic school night!

One of my favorite "easy" meals to fix is salad. This one I would consider make ahead because I can pick up all the parts at the grocery store, stick them in the fridge, and then when I get home from work it can be on the table in a matter of minutes with VERY little to clean up after dinner.

This is a spin on a salad that I used to get at O'Charley's (sadly the location near us closed!). It is a...

Cranberry Pecan Fried Chicken Salad
spring mix salad mix
fried chicken tenders (already prepared from the deli counter)- sliced
dried cranberries
candied pecans (Emerald brand Glazed "Pecan Pie" are the best!)
crumbled blue cheese
Balsamic dressing

Mix it all together- DELICIOUS! 

Crockpot meals are also ideal during the work week- here are a few of my favorites from Iowa Girl Eats (she is my fave food blogger!)

These sandwiches are sooooo good! Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

And I also love Signature Spicy, Smoky, Sweet Chili (it is crockpot friendly!). It is my go to chili recipe these days- the mixture of the spicy, smoky, and sweet really is a hit!

I hope you get a chance to try a few of these out! 


Blog Hoppin'- Teacher Week! 5 Fun Things

I am excited to participating in my first ever Teacher Week sponsored by Blog Hoppin'!

Today's topic is 5 FUN Things!

So... here goes!

1.) I am a tv addict! I have the television on all the time- even if I am reading or doing other things. And I think the DVR is one of the best things ever invented!!! I love Food Network and HGTV. A few of my favorite shows are NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, Nashville, and The Good Wife. 

2.) I am also an avid reader! I love to read and the library is one of my favorite places to visit. I occasionally read books on my iPad, but my preference will always be to hold the real thing in my hands and turn the pages myself!

3.) My husband and I are empty nesters. We have a daughter that is 26 who works for Disney and a 19 year old daughter that is in college. She plays softball and we enjoy watching her play all spring.

4.) I was never a pet person growing up. In 2010, I let my youngest daughter talk me into getting a puppy. We now have 4 dogs (all rescues) and they are the center of our life! I just can't believe how different all of their personalities are! 

5.) I love to cook and bake! My family are great sports and will try anything that I fix! 


Five For Friday!

I am excited to be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday! 

Can you believe August is almost over- this month has gone by crazy fast! But... that means September and FALL are just around the corner!!!!

I have been (not so) patiently waiting for September 1st to get here. I have been dying to start my fall decorating. Fall happens to be my very favorite time of the year and I love to put out all of my decorations. I might happen to be obsessed with squirrels and have added a few to my collection...

I have been excited about the response I have gotten from one of my newest products in my TpT store... I love using an interactive notebook in science and this is a great way to kick off science instruction for the school year! I especially love to see how creative my students can be when decorating their covers!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my new Erin Condren planner! My daughter convinced me to get one after she got hers and we have had so much fun decorating them! And I must say that I finally discovered what the fuss about washi tape is all about!

Love my Kansas City Royals! I have been a fan for my whole life- and I have to  be honest- some years it was hard... but they are rewarding us now! My husband and I watch just about every game and love every minute of it! Hard to say who my favorite player is, but if I had to pick just one (or two), either Alex Gordon or Alcides Escobar!

If you are looking for a delicious chili recipe for FALL- you have got to try this one from Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats (she is my favorite food blogger!)- Signature Spicy, Smoky, Sweet Chili!

Hope you all have a great weekend!


Teacher Tip- Behavior Management: The Class Restroom Break!

A necessary part of the school day for most teachers is the class restroom break. In my school our principal encouraged us to go to the restroom as a class to minimize the number of students out roaming the halls. 
In my class, the kiddos had 4 scheduled opportunities to use the restroom. And as we all know, behavior management can be a challenge while the kids are sitting idly while waiting for their turn. 

Several years ago I started having my students take a book to read while waiting in line. I can't tell you the difference it made!!! The kids sit so quietly, engrossed in their books while waiting.

Here's how it worked: 
1.) when I call them to line up for the restroom, they grab their book from their book bin on the way to line (in my class the kids have assigned line spots)

2.) when we get to the restroom, the kids sit down in their line and begin reading their book

3.) I call students a few at a time to use the restroom and when they get up, they put their book in their line space to hold their spot (the line does not move up after they are seated)

Sometimes I have to call a student's name twice because they are so involved in their book that they don't hear me the first time- but that's a GOOD problem to have!

Not only does this help tremendously with talking in line while they wait for their turn, but I feel so good that those minutes waiting aren't wasted! 

If you try this behavior management strategy, let me know what you think!


I Like (actually LOVE) Kids Books Linky!

So excited to be linking up with Primary Polka Dots for this...

One of the best things about being a teacher is getting to share great books with kids! For this linky I will be sharing my favorite picture books- to see a list of my favorite chapter book read alouds you can check out this blog post of mine- The Importance of Read Aloud

My favorites in children's literature are always changing- but here are my CURRENT faves!

I love, love, love the book Duke the Dairy Delight Dog. It might have something to do with my love of all things dog, but this book has it all! 

Great characters- Darla is a hoot to read aloud and Duke is the hero you root for! 
Action- there are lots of action scenes in the diner!
Humor- the action scenes in the diner are hilarious!
Heartwarming- the ending is the best!
Plus the illustrations are great!

I have written about this book is a previous blog post- Book Talk Tuesday: Duke the Dairy Delight Dog. This book provides the inspiration for a character project we do in my class after our RW unit on character. Here is a peek at my "Darla"...

So, my favorite author is LISA CAMPBELL ERNST- the author of Duke the Dairy Delight Dog and many, many other wonderful books. I discovered her books several years ago and fell in love with them, and then after some research realized that she was a local Kansas City author- which was so cool for my students. 

Miss Penny and Mr. Grubbs and Squirrel Park are definitely on the "favorite book runners-up" list! 

Goldilocks Returns and Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale are both books I use in my classroom during my Fairy Tale unit. 

If you haven't ever read one of her books, I would encourage you to check one out!

This one is a little harder for me... there are several I really like. But I would say that right now my favorite would be J. Otto Seibold. I love the style that he uses. You probably know his illustrations in Olive the Other Reindeer

Here are a few books he has illustrated... 

J. Otto Seibold is also the author of one of my new favorite Halloween books... Vunce Upon a Time!

And here is a book that I love to use to teach how a character grows and changes during the course of a story. This is a book I would use to introduce the concept, as there are very evident changes in Mr. Hatch, and he changes more than once over the course of the story. It also happens to be a very sweet book that really touches your heart. 

There is also a Storyline Online reading of this book by Hector Elizondo that you can watch. 

For more information about this lesson (including anchor charts)- you can visit my blog post Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

I have created an activity that you can use with this book if you like- you can find it here!

Hope you find some new books to love this school year! And another big thanks to Primary Polka Dots for this fun opportunity to link up!


The Importance of Read Aloud

Do you read aloud to your kids everyday? Once upon a time in my classroom, read aloud was something I did if I had time, not a regular part of my schedule. I had all the reasons for skipping it- we had too much to get done, we had to get prepared for "the test", etc., etc., ...

I don't recall the exact moment in time that my perspective on read aloud shifted, but boy did it shift! I realized just how valuable that time spent in my classroom was. I figured it out. 

Read aloud time provides me with so many opportunities... 

1.) It allows me to BOND with my students. I am able to build relationships with my kids over our shared love of the books that I read aloud to them. We laugh together, try to figure out mysteries together, worry about the characters together, and often times we cry together (I have yet to get through Stone Fox without crying- huge dog lover here). At the end of the year...

I want my kids to remember me as their teacher that loved to read to them 
and the connections we made together over books. 

2.) It inspires CONFIDENCE. For me, one of the greatest things that happens during read aloud time is the magic that happens for my struggling readers- especially the kids who struggle with decoding. Those are the kids who reading is so hard for because they can't enjoy a book because they have to try SO HARD just to figure out what the words say that they can't even think about the meaning of what they are reading. During read aloud they are on an even playing field with everyone else. When they laugh at a funny part, or are outraged when someone is treated unfairly in the story, or when they worry about what is going to happen next when the characters that have become their friends are in peril, they are connecting with text in a way they can't independently. Those are the moments that are like gold! 

A few years ago I had a kiddo that had a learning disability in reading and read aloud was her "time". She had great comprehension. She got the jokes in the stories that would go over most everyone else's head- she would laugh out loud! It was the best sound. And when we would stop to talk about a plot point- she was a leader in the discussion. During read aloud she could hold her own with everyone else and that was such a confidence booster for her. 

3.) It INTRODUCES kids to all kinds of great books. It broadens their horizons! Through read aloud I am able to choose the books I want my kids to experience. I choose carefully- trying to find books that will touch them in some way. I mix it up- choosing books from a variety of genres, books that are funny, sad, suspenseful, books that appeal to both boys and girls, classic books from my childhood. We are always discussing what I am going to read next. I try to take an informal poll so that I am not reading something that they have heard before. I try to choose authors that have many books, so that after we finish reading one- they will be dying to read others by the same author. Some books I read every year, others are new- we have a set of books called KC3 that are award books the kids get to vote on. I have found some great new ones while reading those. 

Here is a list of my favorite read aloud books. It's a mixed bag- some sad books, some suspenseful, some funny (but all great in my opinion)...

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L.Konigsburg

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Frindle by Andrew Clements

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley (these are addicting as there are 
9 books and each one leads into the next) 

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret

Thomas and the Dragon Queen by Shutta Crum

I know that teachers are feeling so much pressure these days. The testing and assessments that are being forced on teachers and kids are ridiculous. It is so easy to let the "fun" stuff or "extra" stuff go. But I want to encourage all teachers to hold on tight to those things that you know are good for kids. Fun is good for kids! Hearing great stories everyday is good for kids!

What are some of your favorite read aloud books? 


Back to School- Science: The First Week of School

Back to school is an exciting time! As a teacher, I am always ready to jump right in and get started! Of course, it is so important to take the time to establish routines and procedures and those things tend to fill up a majority of my time the first few weeks. 

So... as a way to kind of merge the routines and procedures and get into the meat of things, I like to set up our Science Notebooks. I started using Science Notebooks several years ago and my kiddos love having  an artifact that shows their learning and what we have done during the course of the year.

To start off the year I like to read a book about science. I LOVE to read the fiction story:
The Science Project that (ALMOST) Ate the School by Judy Sierra

It is a fun book that really holds my kiddos attention and the illustrations are GREAT!

After reading, we create an anchor chart where we brainstorm the word "SCIENTIST". 
The kids will use this chart as inspiration to create a cover for their Science Notebooks. The covers are always so creative and fun!

This year I have created a week's worth of Back to School Science Notebook pages- it is available in my TpT store and it includes:

* cover template for their notebook
*Scientists Can... Scientists Use... interactive notebook page
*The Scientific Process interactive notebook page
*Types of Scientists interactive notebook page
*Science Tools interactive notebook page
*Science Safety interactive notebook page

Thanks for reading! 


Book Bin & Table Shelf Organizers

It's that time of year when we are all thinking about classroom organization and what we need to do to start preparing our classrooms for the upcoming year. 

I want to share with you a purchase I made at Wal-Mart a few years ago that has made my teacher life so much easier! 

That purchase would be small plastic shelves to use with each of my tables (or rows- I like to rearrange in my classroom... ALOT). 

These shelves are great to use to store my kiddos' book bins and also provide a place for a box of Kleenex, hand sanitizer, extra pencils, and to display their table numbers. 

I love having a central place for the kids to keep their book bins...

I can fit up to 6 of my book bins on the shelf...

I also love the plastic picture frames that I use to display the table numbers! 

Enjoy the rest of your summer! 


Big Brains! An End of the Year Project

We are rapidly coming down the stretch to the end of the year (school is out May 21st!). 

I was talking to one of my teaching partners and we were discussing a project we had done last year to remind kids of our test taking strategies- and from that conversation a new idea was hatched...

An end of the year project that would remind kids of all that they had learned this year and that was bulletin board worthy!

1.) So- the first thing we did was to create an anchor chart with kids listing many of the things that they learned this year. They had a ball taking a trip down memory lane. 

Here is our anchor chart-

2.) Next we created a self portrait. I gave them 12 x 18 white paper. The key to the pictures is to make a large head- about 2/3 to 3/4 of the paper should be the head. I told my kids they could make the portrait realistic- or they could make it more cartoonish- it was up to them. After they drew their portrait they colored them in. 

3.) The next step was to cut out the self portrait in one piece. 

4.) Then we cut the top portion of the head off- cutting straight across. Be sure to remind them that they will be writing on a piece the same size as the part they cut off- you want it to be large enough to write under. 

5.) Students will then trace the piece they cut off on another piece of white paper and cut it out. 

6.) Now it is time to glue. Students will need another sheet of 12 x 18 paper in a bright color. Students will glue down the large piece of their self portrait, and then glue the white portion of the top of their head that they traced. 

7.) You will then need to attach the top portion of the head with a brad. 

8.) Students will then list things from the anchor chart that they learned this year. 

Here are a few examples from my class...

And here is the completed bulletin board display- nice for the end of the year!

I thought they turned out really cute!

Have a happy end to the school year! 


March Currently! Spring Fever Anyone?

Time for my favorite link up again! A big thanks to Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for hosting this each month. 

I have to admit that I LOVE watching TV! The DVR might be the best invention ever. One of my favorite channels in Food Network. (I love to cook!) Chopped is one of our favorite shows.

This weekend has been awesome! Have not left the house since we got home late Friday afternoon. I was supposed to be out of town this weekend watching my daughter play softball, but the games were moved to near Houston due to the weather- so I ended up home. Have enjoyed being lazy!!!

Third quarter will be wrapping up soon and I like to get a head start on progress reports- especially the comments sections- I try to do 5 a day and then am finished with the comments in a week. 

Although I had a free weekend- I did miss out on being with my girl. We haven't gotten to see her hardly at all this semester and it has been hard! I will get to see her next weekend, though. Can't wait!

I am so sick of winter- and we haven't even been hit that hard with nasty weather. I can't even imagine how the people along the east coast are feeling! Looking forward to sunshine and flip flops!

Our Spring Break is the week leading up to Easter. My husband and I will be traveling to see our youngest play softball and our oldest and her fiancee will be meeting us there. It will be the first time I have ever eaten at a restaurant on a holiday, but at least we will all be together. 


Our Valentine Holder Zoo!

Today we made our Valentine's Day card holders. We choose to make ours at school so that everyone has one and they are all similar in scope and size. 

The only drawback with these is that they cannot fit all the candy that kids bring with their valentines, so I give them a Ziploc or a brown paper sack to put the candy in. 

One of the reasons I LOVE this project is the creativity that it brings out in my kiddos. We all work fro the same pattern, but they are able to create an animal of their choice- SO FUN!

One of my teaching partners has been making these for years- my 19 year old made one when she was in her class in the third grade. Paige was horse crazy at that time and she made a horse. I still have it... 

Isn't it CUTE???

For this project all you need is 12X18 construction paper for the body, additional construction paper for the hearts and embellishments, and 2 tracing patterns. We have made the tracing patterns from file folders. The heart is glued on like a pocket, so it is open at the top for the cards to slide into.  

Here are the pattern shapes you need:

All that is left is a little creativity and imagination!

Here are two of the samples that I have made- the dog is my actual dog- Stringbean, and I made the squirrel because I love squirrels. (Side note- I had one of my sweet little girls ask me the other day, "Would you still like squirrels if one bit you?" I told her yes, that I wouldn't hold the actions of one squirrel against all squirrels. Then she said, "Well, what if you were attacked by, like, a hundred squirrels?" I told her I would have to get back to her on that one!)

Here are some of the valentine holders my kids made. (Sorry for the boxes, I wanted to protect their privacy.) I hang them in my room until it is party time. They look so fun hanging throughout the room. It was so sweet to hear the kids complimenting each other on their projects today.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE making these! What do you do for valentine holders in your class?

Take care-
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