Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Made It!

I'm really late to this party today, y'all.  I blame it on Emily Giffin, the Olympics, and oh yeah, teaching.  School hasn't started for me yet, but I do get the honor of reviewing reading skills and strategies with some super cool future fourth graders Monday through Thursday through next week.  It's been really hard to wake up and make it through the day.  I miss my naps. :) 

I feel like I've been a crafting fool lately.  Here's the thing though, I don't consider myself to be a very crafty person.  I haven't done this many crafty projects since my wedding two summers ago.  

The main reason.  I decided to be all kinds of crazy sauce and change my classroom theme.  I spent many an hour last week, making this. 
I'm so, so, so excited with the way everything came out.  I searched and searched for polka dot classroom theme sets, and never quite found what I was looking for.  My theme used to be stars and stripes, so I have lots of red and blue in my room, so I wanted my new theme to be primary polka dots without screaming kindergarten or first grade. So I made up my own classroom theme, and I can't wait to start piecing together my room with it! 

I put together my clip chart this afternoon.  Here it is all assembled. 

So sorry for the glare, we have the worst lighting in our apartment, but at least you have any idea. I love using the binder clips to connect the pieces together.  I plan on using ribbon to attach the clip chart to 3M hooks in my classroom.  

I made a separate listing for my clip chart if anybody needs one.  This IS included in the full classroom decor pack though too. 

Finally, I decided I need to make those tissue paper poms to hang from my ceiling.  
I followed this tutorial, which is honestly one of the best ones I've found online.  I am making a couple more in these colors.
I got the tissue paper at Hobby Lobby, and if I could do this again, I'd buy two packages of each color and use 12 sheets per pom ball like the tutorial suggests instead of only using the 10 sheets in the pack.  They look great hanging up, but once you get close, there are some pretty big gaps.  Then again, they'll be hanging way up in ceiling, so I guess it only matters to me. ;) 

The countdown is on for this tired teacher.  School starts on August 22nd, and I'm trying, trying, trying to get my room done ASAP so I can focus on planning with my new team (I'm new to fourth grade) and well packing to move the first week of school too.  So I'm sure next Monday's made it will be twice as long!

Thanks again, Tara for hosting this awesome party, I so look forward to it each week! 

 Good night friends!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Menu Planning Tips and Tricks

Outside of teaching, one of my passions is cooking.  Once upon a time, I even had a food blog, but then discovered quickly that I was more passionate about my teaching blog, and elected to not renew the domain at the beginning of the year.  Even though I love to cook, during the school it can easily become a chore and not something I enjoy doing, especially since I teach right up to 4:00 pm.  However, I do try to make it a priority to try and cook five dinners a week. While, I don't claim to have it all together when it comes to making dinner every night, or that I always say "no" when the thought "take out" comes to my mind after a long day at work, I do have some tips and tricks to share that I hope helps make dinner time less stressful for you this year.   

By far the most successful thing I've done in getting a dinner made by me on the table most nights, is making a weekly menu.  If you don't already meal plan, I highly recommend it.  It saves money and time at the grocery store, as you are only buying what you need. Plus it takes all the guessing out of nightly, "what's for dinner?" question.  

I use this template from Elementary Organization
It's perfect because it only has me planning dinners out for the week, and breaks down down my shopping list by the section of the store the item is located in.  When menu planning, I peek at our schedule for the upcoming week.  I usually only plan for five nights of dinners a week.  My husband has class every Thursday night, and I usually stay late at work that night and either pick up my beloved Chipotle on the way home, or make due with something in the pantry.  My husband also works in restaurant management, and there are some nights he isn't home for dinner.  On those nights, I often meet a friend for dinner or eat leftovers.  Taking a couple minutes before going to the grocery store and checking your Pinterest recipe boards, your favorite cookbook, and your pantry and come up with a plan for your meals for the upcoming week. I promise this time is well worth it!

While I don't plan for breakfast and lunch on my meal plan, I DO make sure I have the ingredients for my favorite breakfast and lunch on hand, so I don't fall into the Starbucks for breakfast trap or the rushing out for lunch routine.  For breakfast, I usually eat oatmeal (just your basic quick cook in the microwave with a scoop of peanut butter), overnight oats (check out my favorite combination {here}, or some frozen waffles with my crack cookie butter.  I honestly kinda despise lunch.  It's such a strange time of the day, and honestly after dropping the kiddos off, using the restroom, and checking my mailbox, I feel like I have five minutes to eat lunch, especially if I have lunch duty.  I usually pack a fruit, carrots or other veggies to dip in hummus, a cheese stick or a Larabar.  Which I usually devour in my classroom making sure all my ducks are in a row for the afternoon or while blasting Miranda Lambert on my iPhone pumping myself up for the afternoon, true story. I try to avoid microwavable lunches as we only have two in the school and the line is usually far too long to deal with. :)
Keep your menu simple!  You don't have to cook elaborate meals to keep your family, or yourself, happy and satisfied.  I do love to cook, but usually only try more involved recipes on the weekend, so I'm always on the lookout for quick, easy, but still healthish meals.  

On crazy nights, I'm known to grill kielbasa sausage, microwave some brown rice, and steam or roast a vegetable.  It takes minutes to prepare, but tastes great.  

Some of our favorite weeknight meals are:
Spicy Bean Burritos (which we make into tacos)

Point being, keep it simple.  This looks different for everyone.  Simple can mean different things for everyone. I often focus on the main course and then usually steam/roast the vegetable quickly for a side.   My hubs manages at a restaurant that has really good salads, so he often brings one home for us to share as a side. :)
 A crockpot can be your friend, but be careful.  If your crockpot isn't about 3/4 of the way full, it will cook faster and can be burnt/ruined before you get home.  I have a great one with a timer, but it's huge.  I usually put our meal in a glass Pyrex bowl with a silicone trivet on top to fix this problem. 
Some of our favorite crockpot meals are:

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help! My husband will often prep and put a meal in the crockpot for us on the days he's off and working on school work.  He won't hesitate to chop vegetables or set the table, but often doesn't know I need help unless I ask.  Dinner comes together in a snap, if you have some helpers.  :) Plus it's a great time to get caught up on each others days. 

I know many of you are back to work now, and most of us are going back soon, so I hope that you found this post useful as you transition back to being back at school.  I'd love to do a flow up post in a few weeks of a linky party of your favorite weekend night meals.  Thoughts? Would this be something y'all would be interested in? Let me know in the comments! :) 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rules and Behavior Expectation Freebies

It appears as though Stephanie from 3rd Grade Thoughts and I shared a brain today, or great minds think alike because I intended on posting on Whole Brainish Rules today too.

I am implementing Whole Brain Teaching into my classroom next year.  I'm calling it an onion approach, introducing a little at a time for my comfort, and my students, and so what we do sticks and I don't just resort back to whatever I was doing before.  While I've loved just about everything I've read...I wasn't crazy in love with the rules.  So like Stephanie, I was very inspired by The Polka Dot Patch's  revised Whole Brain Teaching Rules.  The wording was much more me, and paired with Stephanie's movements, I knew they'd be the perfect fit for my classroom.   So I spent some time last night creating some that fit my new classroom theme.  
I tweaked them just a little because I do allow my kiddos to stand up while working, so I just made Rule 4: Raise your hand to speak to the class.  My school is a PBIS school, so I also made fresh posters for my room of our behavior expectations.  
Click {here} to download your own copy! 
Graphics courtesy of Scrappin' Doodles, Jessica Weible, and Prettiful Designs.

Note: When you view this document in Google Docs, the backgrounds will appear to be gray.  However, once you DOWNLOAD the actual pdf file from Google Docs, they will be all bright and cheery like in the picture! :) 

I printed them off today at Office Depot and I'm in love! They are perfect for my new classroom theme. :)
Speaking of a new classroom theme.  Yeah, I know I said I was doing stars and stripes again this year.  Then the other night I woke up in a panic because I remember I GAVE AWAY all my stars and stripes borders at the end of the year because I was planning on changing themes.  Whoops. 

So for the past few days, I've been a total crazy woman.  Working on materials to bring my dream of a primary polka classroom together. 

Click on the cheerleader below or {here} to check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Due the size of this file, I can only upload it for purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

I'm linking up tonight with TBA!

Freebie Fridays

Anybody got big plans this weekend? I'm working in my room tomorrow, and I just downloaded Emily Giffin's new book Where We Belong to my Nook, so I'm sure I'll be reading it this weekend too!  So, so, so excited.  She's my favorite author. :)  Of course, I'm tempted to start first with this! 
The Diary of Darcy J. Rhone
This ebook FREEBIE is Darcy's (Something Borrowed/Something Blue) diary from high school.  Nook users, you can download it here.  I'm not sure about Kindle, but I'm guessing it's a Kindle freebie too. :)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas in July!

When I was browsing Hobby Lobby the other day, I noticed most of their Christmas displays were up.  A little early for sure, but  I sure do love Christmas, and am SO excited about it this year because my husband and I are hosting Christmas Eve at our new house. 

Since tomorrow is July 25th, several bloggers are hosting sales in their stores to celebrate Christmas in July, and I am one of them! :) 

All items in my Teachers Pay Teacher store are 20% off tomorrow until midnight! It's the perfect time to stock up for back to school. :)  Just click on the pictures to check them out on TpT. :)

Just click on the cute little cheerleader below to head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store! :)
 TpT is having some scheduled maintenance tomorrow until 8AM, but after that, you can shop away! :)EDIT: As of 11:40 AM, TpT is still down.  I am extending my sale through tomorrow, July 26th at midnight, and also putting my entire Teacher's Notebook store on sale as well.  Click on the cheerleader below to head to my Teachers Notebook store.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tell me more, tell me more!

Hello friends! I've had an influx of new followers lately, and I thought this link up with the sweet Amy Lemons would let all my followers know just a little bit more about me.   Hello new friends, I'm so happy you're here! :)

I'm a little late to the party, but I've taken a few days off blogging to focus on things for my classroom next year, in addition to my summer school teaching duties.  I'll be back to regular posting by the end of the week, but I couldn't resist linking up for this party! :)

1. My sweet husband and I will be married two years on August 6th.  We've been together for three years, and were engaged six months after we started dating.  We were both in our mid twenties when we met, and it was one of those "when you know, you know" things.  He's seriously my best friend,  and is currently back in school to finish his bachelor's degree.  I'm so, so proud of him. 
2. I am a HUGE Ohio State Football Fan.  

Nothing is better than a fall Saturday spent in Columbus at the Horseshoe watching my Buckeyes. In fact at my wedding, my dad and I did the traditional father daughter dance to "My Little Girl" by Tim McGraw and then I surprised him with the DJ playing the "Buckeye Battle Cry" right afterwards.  :)  We were doing the O-H  I-O cheer all over our reception hall.

3. I love King of Queens. 
I watched King of Queens on and off while it was on the air, but really started to enjoy it when my husband was traveling for work a lot.  I would get the seasons at the library/Netflix and they kept me "company."  So when I saw the box set at Target for under $50, I thought it was the steal of a lifetime! I watch the DVDs daily!

4. I really LOVE coffee. 
Oh my word.  I really love coffee.  It doesn't even have to be the fancy stuff.  Just a decent ground coffee with a little milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Although I do love mistos from Starbucks, a lot.   My first few years of teaching, I pretty much lived on coffee alone.  My maid of honor joked during her speech that "coffee runs through my veins."  

5. I love running, I just haven't done it in a long time! 
Three years ago, I ran the FULL Flying Pig marathon.  Full marathon people. 

The night before the race, I pulled a leg muscle in my sleep, not even kidding.  I got through the race okay, but any run after a week long rest time was awful.  A doctor advised me to rest some more and just do light impact walking.   Then I met my husband and started grad classes, and well...I stopped running frequently, or even really at all most of the time, even after the pain went away.  Now when I run, I get so frustrated with myself because  I keep thinking of what I used to be able to do back in the days where I was living at home, and fresh off a horrible breakup.  I just ran all the time, so of course I was good at it.  ;) I'm feeling a little "fluffy" lately, and so running and I need to become reacquainted again because it's honestly the only type of exercise I love.  

6. Organization comes so easy for me at school, but not at home. 
I love organizing things in my classroom, but I lack that drive/desire at home.  At school, there is always a container/bin you can re-purpose if you need to organize someething.  At home that requires a drive to Target or Ikea, I don't do Wal Mart...shudder..., and well after school I'm tired and it doesn't get done.  One day, I'll be organized at home too.  Until then, I'll just read Iheartorganizing and pinning away organizational ideas and pretend I'm that organized too!

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about me.  Head over to Amy's blog to read more about some of your other favorite bloggers!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reading Response Home Reading Log {Freebie}

Happy weekend, friends! I hope everyone is having a great day! :) Today is a busy one for me, oh my goodness in about a month we're moving and school starts again.  Oh my word.  Talk about craziness, but it's a good kind of crazy!  We were able to "sneak" into our house last night because all the doors are now locked, and saw our hardwoods, cabinets, and crown molding were installed.  Yay! Plus they painted earlier in the week, so our house is really coming along.  :) 

Earlier in the week, I shared my resources for my reading response journals on Amber's blog
This freebie has been downloaded from TpT almost 1,500 times! Wowzers. :) This easy to implement reading resource is one of my favorite resources to use in the classroom and I'm so HAPPY that many of you found it useful too.  

 Today I wanted to share with you another reading response freebie with you, my home reading log.  I used this baby for four years when I taught third grade, and LOVED it. 
Interested? Download it {here}
Thanks to Scrappin' Doodles, Hello Literacy, and Fabulous in First for the graphics and fonts.  Love them! 

Each week I required my kiddos read 100 minutes a week.  Our reading log went home on Mondays and was due the following Monday.  Ideally, I encouraged my kiddos to read 20 minutes a night, five days a week, but with sports, dance, and all the other things kiddos were involved in, I often saw logs with 50 minutes during the week and then 50 minutes over the weekend.  

Third grade, in my state, is the first year our kiddos take high stakes assessments.  What most of them really struggled with at the beginning of the year in third grade was creating decent responses to test questions, as so many wanted to write simple response made up of just a few words.  My reading response journals and reading response home reading logs, in addition to regular classroom practice and instruction, really helped my third graders get comfortable with creating quality reading responses.  

I stressed what quality responses looked like at open house with the parents, and put a completed reading log in my parent resource packet.  This really helped the families in my room really understand what was expected of their child.  

I monitored my kiddo's reading logs pretty carefully.  If they were reading the same book over and over again, I would let them take books from our classroom library home, and when the public library's bookmobile came to our school, really encouraged them to pick out books for their reading log.  I also used their ratings of books to help me decide what books to order from our book orders. :)

My fourth grade team does not do reading logs. I know there has been a lot of talk recently that reading logs can do more harm than good and cultivate readers who just read until a timer goes off and then stops, instead of readers who do have a passion for reading.  That was my team's rationale for no longer requiring them, which I totally understand too! 

I don't quite know what the plan is for reading practice at home this year, as I feel reading practice is so important, at home and at school.  My plan currently is to  implement reading challenges such as adapting this book challenge that I used from The Teacher Wife with my second graders, to fit my fourth grader's needs or doing monthly reading challenges, no idea what this would look like yet. Or just simply do the reading chain that I've been doing with my summer school kiddos, and once the chain reaches a certain length, rewarding the class with a prize. My summer kiddos are loving it.  Obviously, my mind is still brewing up ideas. :) 

If you don't require a nightly reading log, do you do any incentives to get kiddos still doing some reading at home? If so, please share! :)  I'd love to hear what you're doing. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thinkin' About Lesson Plans and Behavior Sheets

Today I spent a little quality time with my computer drafting up my lesson plans/behavior communication sheets for next year.  

Back in my third grade days, my awesome team and I shared the same lesson plan template.  It was great because we often shared lesson plan writing duties for certain subjects and could just email the template back and forth.  This worked really well, because it was back in the days before I discovered and downloaded a bajillion fonts on my computer that that others don't have at school and word documents could be shared easily.  Now that I hoard all kinds of fonts from all over the web, not so much.  ;) It looked like this. 

Loved seeing the week at glance.  Hated Times New Roman and the tables in Word if you need more space in one column.  Only the good Lord knows how many times I wanted to scream, yell, and throw my keyboard out the window when my table went onto the next page.  

Last year, I went through lots of different templates, but I never quite found one that worked for me. You can read more about that, here.  One of the things I really liked about using a whole page for a day template last year was that it was much easier to write sub plans, as I tended to be a little bit more detailed, and I could just leave the lesson plan page in a pinch, like a meeting, etc. 

I played around today and came up with this.  At the beginning of the week, I have this Week in a Peek sheet where I can list our overall scope and sequence for the week.  Plus spaces for my intervention focus skills/groups.  This is the first time we've done ELA intervention groups as a grade level at the same time, so I'm sure this template will change, but I really like having a rough map of the week and a place to list my centers/intervention groups for math.
 This is my actual lesson plan template draft.  What I like about it all the boxes lay out my day in sequence, I've seen a lot that don't, and the lesson break down in math.  I do a lot of group rotations in math, and I like having a place to put the structure of that day's lesson.   Plus it was created in Powerpoint, meaning formatting is a little bit easier!
I'm fortunate that we don't have to submit our plans weekly and we have the freedom to create plan templates that work best for us.  Our plans are reviewed twice a year though by our administration.  Again this is very much a draft.   I'm not sure I'm crazy about it yet, but at least it's a start.  

I also created a VERY rough draft of my grade level's daily behavior check in.  
I'm not sure how I feel about this one yet.  I like the color coding and number coding, but I'm still playing around with the words.  I've never really had success with a daily check in sheet like this, so I'm hoping the coloring and number coding makes it more manageable and hoping that fourth graders are responsible/independent enough to color their calendar on their own.  My second graders NEVER got the hang of it and I kinda just gave up! I am continuing my clip chart again, but modifying a bit to fit my needs a little more since I will be doing ED full inclusion, so I just picked colors for the color coding at the top. 

 I plan on copying this on the back for days that just need a little bit more communication than just a number code. 
Any thoughts?  Are either one of these something you be interested in seeing in my TpT store?  Friends who have used behavior calendars, any tips for me?  Behavior calendars are a tool that my grade level has found very helpful in the past for informing parents of behavior and for documentation for conferences/meetings, so I'm hoping to finally find something that works for me! :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reading Response Questions for Any Book {freebie}

Hiya friends! I'm not posting on my own blog today.  Amber was sweet enough to feature me as part of her Summer Spotlight Series. :)  
Over on her blog, I shared my reader's response notebooks for my student's independent reading and a special freebie that I use to help pull it all together. 
Click on Amber's button to check out my guest post! :) 
Hope to see y'all over there! :)
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