Christmas Math & ELA Stations in Kindergarten

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been MIA from blogging and social media due to accepting a job as a kindergarten teacher a few miles up the road.  I was not expecting to start working again (as a paid teacher) until fall of 2017.  My mind has been wrapped around all things grad school related for so long, I was thrown for a loop when I was offered a job out of the blue.  For whatever reason, my heart said yes.  Luckily, the school district and I were able to work it out so that I would still be on track to graduate on time, which is coming up this weekend.  (YAY!)

I want to back things up a bit to fill you in on some of the details.  This was not at all a typical situation.  To step in as the replacement teacher two months into the school year is not optimal.  It was a classroom in need of, well, a lot.  A lot of structure.  A lot of routine.  A lot of S-T-R-O-N-G classroom management skills.  A lot of knowledge of child development.  A lot of content knowledge of state standards and how to implement those standards with a group of students in dire need of an environmental overhaul.  Again, the theme of my life for the past two months has been..."a lot".  It has been a lot of diligent, challenging, methodical work to get this group of little learners rebooted.  They needed a highly structured teacher to come in and teach them what school is all about so they have the opportunity to be successful this year and beyond.  Luckily, I was able to provide them with what they needed, and I did it in a way that has been SO MUCH FUN!

I knew right away that I wanted to implement learning stations for math and ELA.  Creating and managing learning stations has been one of my strengths for many years, and I love the hands-on  environment stations create for young learners.  Direct instruction is necessary, but time to practice what teachers are preaching is a critical step for children.  Stations are also a great way to differentiate work for children with varying academic and developmental needs.  They allow slower workers to work at their own pace, while fast finishers can do their thing and start over again for more practice.  Children who are developmentally a bit behind the bulk of the group gain exposure to and practice with grade level concepts, which will allow them to move forward in their learning when the time is right.  Teachers, IAs, and volunteers are able to support each student as needed, while giving room for independence.  It's a beautiful thing.

I've posted a few pictures taken during our daily ELA and math stations.  From left to right; my alphabet letter matching file folder game with magnet letters (found in my TPT store), whole group sentence writing on mini white boards, measuring holiday shapes with Unifix cubes (by Nicole Ricca), building alphabet letters on the light table with the Handwriting Without Tears shapes (from Amazon), gingerbread dice addition game (by Nicole Ricca), more whole group sentence writing on mini white boards.  Again, these are SMALL snippets of all we do in the classroom during station time.  For the record, I did not tell them to write "I love you Mrs. C", but I do love to read it and see it!  :)

My husband made the white boards and light table for me.  Love him!

A station favorite is write the room.  I had everything read to go.  My tiny, aqua pocket charts I bought at Target back in the summer.  There are four charts hidden around the room.  Inside the pocket charts are the holiday WTR cards I created a couple of years ago.  The matching recording sheets reside in the tub dedicated to that station.  The only thing my classroom was missing for this particular activity was clipboards, and that problem was solved with a quick trip to Wal-Mart.  These littles are so proud of their writing.  They bring me their clipboards to show off their hard work, and then they ask if there are more words they can write.  I love it!  I have noticed more and more students heading over to the pocket charts during Writer's Workshop when they get stuck writing  a word.  Although they are encouraged to pull the sounds out of words when writing, I have to admit that I am impressed with their ability to use the resources in our classroom!  (Can I hear an amen from those of us who turn to Google each time we need to write an unfamiliar word?)  I can hardly wait to switch the WTR activity to "winter words".  You can find my Christmas and Winter write the room activities in my TPT store by clicking here.
Writing the room is serious business in kindergarten, folks. 

And that brings me to my dramatic play bakery.  At the very end of our day, I have 25 minutes of free choice center time built into my schedule.  This time allows me to touch base with each student and make sure they have their backpacks stuffed and ready to go home for the day.  It's simply a fun way to end the day.  They get to choose from five or six options that are presented to them on the interactive white board.  Dramatic play is one of those options.  We'll talk more about how I let children choose where they want to spend time in a future post.

This classroom was quite chaotic when I took over as the teacher.  All manipulatives, extra furniture, dramatic play props, books, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, etc. had to be removed from the room until I could guarantee children were able to be safe in the room with "extra stuff" sitting around all day.  One by one, the most critical items came back into the room, along with explicit instructions regarding how to treat those objects.  Sigh.  I told you.  It has been...a lot of work.

With that being said, you can imagine how THRILLED I was to see how quickly students shaped up and were able to "do school".  To celebrate our success as a class of learners able to cooperate and be safe, my husband and I spent our Thanksgiving break busting our humps to create a dramatic play bakery to be used during free choice centers.  We created this amazing walk-up window that will serve multiple purposes throughout the year.  With a quick canopy change, it can be an ice cream shop, flower shop, vet clinic, hot cocoa stand, post office, grocery store, food cart....the list goes on and on.  The silver base was an old TV stand we picked up at the Goodwill Outlet for $10.00.  The two pipes holding up the canopy are conduit, from Home Depot, covered with dollar store wrapping paper.  The canopy is made of PVC pipes that have been draped with wrapping paper.  It all pops apart for storage.  I will try to snap a few more pictures of the bakery before it "closes" for the season.  We will be making room for a new business to move in soon.  I hear that a coffee / hot cocoa stand had signed a lease already.  Shhhhhh...don't tell my students.  I want it to be a surprise when we come back from winter break.  :)
Our grand opening day as a success!  Those are cinnamon rolls, frosted cookies, and gingerbread men on the pastry shelf.

These kiddos are EATING UP KINDERGARTEN.  They went from literally running out of the classroom (and hiding in the parking lot) never wanting to leave the classroom.  When it is time for our learning stations during math and ELA blocks to be over for the day, I hear multiple, "Oh, maaannnnn!  I wanted to do it some more!"  Best of all, they have learned to be attentive during direct instruction and independent during our learning station blocks.  This means, I will be able to focus on small group instruction after the holiday break.  I am beyond thrilled with the way things have shaped up in our classroom.  We've come a loooooong way in 8 weeks.  I am one tired teacher...a lot.  :)

Unexpected (But Welcomed) Changes

Hello blog friends!  Long time, no blog posts.

Life threw me a big, happy curve ball at the end of October.  I received a phone call regarding a kindergarten classroom in need of a new teacher...the next day...and I said yes to the job offer.  So, I have been a full time kindergarten teacher since Tuesday, October 25!  I was not expecting to work in the classroom as a teacher until fall of 2017 due to all of the graduate school practicum hours I needed to log between now and mid-December 16 of this year.  I mean, who in the world expects to get a full time teaching position offered to them mid-year?  Not me.  My goal was to wrap up my reading endorsement and sub for a while.  What I ended up with is WAY better!  I am finally settling in a bit, and I feel as though life is starting to look as normal as it possibly can at this time.  So here I am writing to you.  I hope your Thanksgiving was amazing and you are enjoying what it left of the holiday break!

As unexpected as this has all been, it has been WONDERFUL to be back in my own classroom.  I am sitting here printing out my Christmas write the room packet so we can get crackin' on...well..writing the room starting Monday.  They will be so excited for another new addition to our Daily 5 routine.  It thrills me to watch their little faces each time I introduce something new.

Click image to preview and purchase this holiday packet!
Speaking of, my Daily 5 station tubs are prepped and ready to roll, and I will move on to prepping new math station tubs tomorrow, when my eyes are fresh.  (It is Thanksgiving break, after all.)  I love these silly little tubs so much.  They provide me with no less than two weeks of stations for my students, and these little learners are eating up the hands-on activities provided in the station tubs.  It took a couple of weeks of training to prep them for this independent work, but all of the effort was well worth it to me!  More pictures and info regarding my stations will be posted soon.

Gobble, gobble!

Illness strikes (again)..which led to these cool name mats!

Uggg, I am home sick today.  It's my birthday.  What a crummy way to spend a birthday.  Relaxing...but crummy.

I had a terrible migraine all day yesterday.  It was a super-crazy day at school so I didn't really think much of the head pounding and upset tummy.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized I was running a fever.  D'oh!  How did I miss that?  For anyone keeping track, I was also sick the week before last, and I spent all of last week trying to get over it.  I am hoping all of the germs my kindergarten buddies keep sending my way will somehow give me superpowers.  Flying would be a good one.  I could use that power in so many ways.

Anyway, a friend of mine asked me to make her a new somethin', somethin' to add to her kindergarten morning work routine.  I used this afternoon to create the template for her.  She needed something super hands on, but with loads of emphasis on each student's name to meet their developmental needs.  Something that would be engaging enough to capture their attention while multiple busloads of kiddos trickle into the classroom.  I also made a set for the classroom I am completing my grad school practicum in, but I am not sure they will be used much there because she already had her own system of morning work in place.  Perhaps she will be able to utilize the mats as a word work activity once Daily 5 begins.  If not, I have an amazing template to use in my own classroom...once I have a classroom of my own again.

Here's how this page works once printed and laminated.  Step 1, write your name with a dry erase marker. Step 2, build your name with letter tiles.  Step 3, shape your name with playdough!  SO MUCH FUN!  And yes, I am such a huge nerd that I made one for myself.  :)

I've already had several teacher buddies ask me for a template.  I'm on it, friends.  Check back soon for a FREE editable packet for these name mats.

Bustin' Out Letter Monster

I am probably a *little* too excited about this, but I can't help it.  My heart is deeply devoted to early childhood education.  When I see a group of kiddos highly engaged while learning...and BEGGING to learn more, I love it!  Letter Monster is one of those things.  I am telling you, Letter Monster is such a hit with pre-k and kindergarten friends, I can hardly wait until I introduce him to my kindergarten friends Thursday!

I found the idea of Letter Monster on Pinterest several years ago.  It was a very simple printable that happened to be free.  I printed him on Astrobright paper, laminated him down to an old hot chocolate container with clear Contact paper, and used en X-acto knife to trim out the mouth.  Clearly, Letter Monster is nothing fancy, but my students adore this activity.  Here's how it works.  We all say the chant together, and it goes like this:

Letter Monster, Letter Monster
Munch, munch, munch
What letter will you eat for lunch?

Then, one of my kindergarten friends must choose a letter.  They find both the upper and lower case version of the letter.  (They are spread out on the table or floor in front of the group.)  From there, that friend holds up both magnetic letters, says the name of the letter AND the sound it makes, the group repeats the name and letter sound, and the friend holding the magnetic letters FEEDS THEM to Letter Monster!  After that, we all write the upper and lower case version of that letter on an individual white board.  I am able to differentiate the level of difficulty for each group of kiddos I am working with at the time.  For instance, I used Letter Monster with a very young 3 year old preschool class, and I had children simple name the letter.  When they popped their letter in Letter Monster's mouth, he let out a big, "Yum, yum, yum yum yum!"  Of course, that sent my group of 3 year olds into a fit of laughter each and every time.  I love that this is a group effort activity.  It is a great way to build community and learn letter names and sounds.  If any child ever needs assistance, they can either ask a friend or me.  Sometimes they even ask Letter Monster.  Go figure!

My sweet husband cut my whiteboards for me.  He rounded each corner so my little friends would not get maimed in the process of learning to write.  He also drilled holes in the corner of each board so I could use a book ring to attach a BLACK men's tube sock, which we use as both an eraser and a house for a dry erase marker.

Notice I said black tube socks?  Yep, that is because white socks, or pretty much any color other than black, look TERRIBLE by the end of the school year.  I have used the same black socks for several years, and I have not had to replace a single one.  I do make a point to wash them at the end of the year...just because.  I mentioned above that one marker lives inside each sock.  This makes it super easy for my friends to simply grab a board out of the basket I use for storage, move quickly to their spot on the carpet or at the table, and get to work.  We are not messing around with crinkly gallon Ziploc bags or felt scrap erasers.  Of course, I teach and re-teach the marker saying DAILY so my markers last much longer than they once did.  "Give the cap a clip or the marker will get sick."  We do not want our markers to dry out because we loooooove using the white boards, so they are very well cared for by most of my kiddos.  Notice I said most and not all.  ;)

Do you have a favorite activity to do with your class?  One you just love bustin' out year after year because it is such a hit with students?  

QR Code Listen to Reading Book Rings {FREE}

I must brag about a free printable I found on Teachers Pay Teachers because it is PERFECT for those of us who are not as iPad savvy and techie as some teachers.  Meghan, from Meghan's Pad, posted a FREE printable to help the not-so-techie teachers of the world {ME!}.  I downloaded the freebie, downloaded a free QR code reader, tried out a few of my favorite books by scanning codes directly from the PDF on my computer screen, and promptly began the printing and lamination process.  No kidding. These are totally worth printer toner and laminating pouches!

Printed, laminated, cut, and ready for the hole punch!

I sorted the cards by category and added them to book rings.  I am considering making a cover page featuring a simple graphic/icon representing each set so my pre-readers can easily recognize the category.

So far, I have not found a code that does not link me to the featured picture book.  Meghan does warn us that some of the videos have been removed from youtube and/or may no longer work.  In my opinion, that is pretty much nature of the beast when it comes to anything online.

The videos open up in, which eliminates ads and the ability to hunt for more videos.  (Yes, many kindergarten children know how to search for videos on youtube!  I certainly do not want this happening in the classroom.) Anyway, the QR codes are a brilliant way to have children independently access a "listen to reading" activity.  I placed mine on a binder ring and will add them to my listen to reading center once I finally get my own classroom again.  (Grad school is really bustin' my teacher groove right now.)

Here's to Meghan!  I do not know her, but she has a special place in my teacher-heart right now.  She has inspired me to add to this already amazing collection by making a few cards of my own!  :)

Here is a link to Meghan's Pad blog post:

Here is a link to Meghan's Pad QR code printable on TPT:

Teacher Home Office ORGANIZING Day

I wish I could get paid to organize my home office.  As often as I go through these motions, I would be a bazillionaire by now.  Instead, I keep buying more and more and more and MORE stuff for my classroom.  I do not have a classroom right now due to being in a full time graduate program. With that being said, my little office is bursting at the seams!  I literally have an entire classroom worth of goodies in my office.  (Note the Rubbermaid totes under my work space, and that is only the TIP of the iceberg.  Not optimal!)

My most recent solution was to buy a couple of large file cabinets, as well as an office grade metal bookshelf.  It really did help me get organized and sort through what I have, as well as create a wishlist of what I need.  {That's right, more shopping and creating is in store for me!}

Ahhhhhhh!  I love organizing.  I wish I would have snapped a "before" picture.  This space has been totally transformed by adding the two file cabinets and black bookshelf behind my comfy chair.  :)

I finally have a place for my Guided Reader units and Guided Reading leveled readers (by Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills)!  Those binders are so huge, but they are SO WORTH IT!  Organize them JUST like Deanna says to.  Trust me.  It works.  (Get the binders at Goodwill if possible.)

Tah-dah!  A million file folder games, alphabet match ups, super-fun math stuff, and a so much more resides inside of those 8 drawers!  *TEACHER BLISS*
I am not quite done yet.  I am finalizing permanent homes for each of my files, but there are really only so many places I can shove things.  With that being said, I placed sticky notes on the drawer fronts so I could move and re-organize as I loaded and sorted.  I want to leave them there a few more days before making my final labeling decision.  I know, super classy, right???  They will most likely fall off between now and the time I actually get around to making real labels, and then I will have to start all over again.  I often feel as though my entire world revolves around fallen stickies.  :) 

Enough feeling sorry for myself.  The BEST part of this office re-do cost me $50.  I bought the file cabinets on Craigslist from a dear, sweet elderly man who was shutting down his business after 40+ years!  He kept telling us how the cabinets are HON brand, which are "the very best money can buy".  I believe it!  They are HEAVY DUTY file cabinets.  Moving them upstairs was a cross-fit session, for sure.  And the metal shelf, which weighs about as much as one of the file cabinets, came from the Goodwill Outlet for $10.  If you are not familiar with the outlet, otherwise known as "the bins", you must watch the Thrift Store video from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  You will pretty much find anything and everything at the bins, and you will be sure to take someone's grandpa's style while looking for a "come up".

Back to laminating I go, friends.  I will write more about HOW I chose to organize all of my stuff once I finalize my thoughts on the matter.  Thanks for reading about my exciting holiday weekend.  School starts Wednesday morning.  Wish me (and all 24 of my kindergarten friends) luck!

POLKA DOT Background EDITABLE "I Can" Statement Cards for Pre-K, TS Gold, Head Start Classrooms

They are done!  They are ALL done!  As of this moment, each of my I Can Statement Card packets has been updated to contain EDITABLE files, along with the original print and go PDF from way back when.  :)

The polka dot background I Can Statement Card packet has officially been uploaded to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The packet includes the original 66 checkpoint I Can statements, as well as templates to create your OWN statements.  Here's a sneak peek of the packet contents...

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.  

The editable documents are PowerPoint files.  If you do not have PowerPoint, I can't guarantee you will be able to make edits and customize the cards to your liking (or at all).  However, the original 66 cards are included as a PDF file, as they have always been, for print and go action.  :)

Happy check-pointing with Gold!

Solid Color Background EDITABLE "I Can" Statement Cards for Pre-K, TSG, Head Start Classrooms

The solid color background I Can Statements are ready!  If you already own a license for this product, go download the updated, editable version for FREE in the "my purchases" section of your TPT account.  If you do not own this product, you are in luck!  It now features 66 pre-made "I Can" statements in a PDF, as well as editable PowerPoint file to create your very own custom statements.  You may choose to type in the text or write in each statement by hand according to what you are working on that day, week, month, or checkpoint period!

Click here to preview and purchase this editable packet of "I Can" statement cards!

Click here to preview and purchase this editable packet of "I Can" statement cards!

Click here to preview and purchase this editable packet of "I Can" statement cards!

Click here to preview and purchase this editable packet of "I Can" statement cards!

Standards & Areas of Focus Include:
Social-Emotional Development = Red
Physical Development = Aqua
Cognitive Development = Orange
Mathematics = Pink
Science & Technology = Yellow
Social Studies = Blue
Language = Purple
Literacy = Lime
The Arts = Brown
English Language Acquisition = Emerald

Packet Includes:
- 66 pre-made TSG checkpoint cards with standards listed
- 10 editable pages with select images (4 cards per page) 
- 10 editable pages (4 cards per page) solid background (no images)

Heads up...the editable file is a PowerPoint document.  It will only work and be totally functional if you have PowerPoint installed on your computer. The file contains links to download the free  fonts I used when creating the original packet so everything will match the original set if you would like.  :)

Be sure to check them out over in my Teachers Pay Teachers store soon! 

Striped Background EDITABLE "I Can" Statement Cards for Pre-K, TS Gold, Head Start Classrooms

I have been a busy beaver this week, teacher friends!  I have been creating an updated version of my "I Can" Bulletin Board Statement Cards.  I am please to announce I have the first set complete, and I transformed them into an EDITABLE document!  This first set features the striped background.  The solid and polka dot backgrounds will be headed to my Teachers Pay Teachers store within the next week or two.  YAY!

You will get the same fabulous 66 pre-made statements from my original packet, but I have added templates for editable statement cards.  You may choose to type in the text or write in each statement by hand according to what you are working on that day, week, month, or checkpoint period!

Click here to preview and purchase this set of "I Can" statements!

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.

Click image to preview and purchase this packet.

Heads up...this is a PowerPoint document.  It will only work and be totally functional if you have PowerPoint installed on your computer.  I do have a PDF version of my original I statement cards here if you are in the market for a non-editable PDF available here if that is a better fit for your needs.

Be sure to check them out over in my Teachers Pay Teachers store soon!  If you have already purchased the original striped background worries.  Simply log into your TPT account, click "my purchases", and re-download the new file to get started creating your own "I can" statements that match those you purchased from me.  I made sure to include links to the two FREE fonts used in my original card set!  If you have not purchased the set yet, now is a great time to do so!  You get editable documents AND my tried and true statements for $6.00.  :)

Elephant & Piggie Monthly Name Writing and Self Portrait Assessment Recording Pages

I wanted to take a moment to introduce my latest teaching resource...Elephant and Piggie monthly name assessment recording sheets. Oh. My. GOSH!  I can hardly wait to show these to my students!  I am such a huge fan of Gerald and Piggie that my enthusiasm leaks on over to my students.  What can I say?  We are true fans.  

I made a ruled line version, a plain line version, and four that can be used for students ready to write in the date.  These little recording sheets are such a fun way to watch students grow throughout the school year, and they make wonderful additions to end of the year student portfolios!

Click image to preview and purchase.

Click image to preview and purchase.
 Check them out here:

Back to School Bonus Sale!

Woohoo!  Teachers Pay Teachers announced a bonus sale set for Monday, August 22!  Every teaching resource in my store will be 20% off.  This one day only bonus event will allow you to save 28% when you use the coupon code ONEDAY during checkout.

Shop my store by clicking here:

Daily 5 with The Sisters in Tacoma

I wrapped up my graduate coursework on August 4th.  On August 5, I headed to Tacoma (with my husband in tow) for the Daily 5 conference.  My brain was ready for a break from listening to lectures, but my heart needed a bit of a boost.  The Daily 5 conference granted me both!

Selfie on the pier.  The Tacoma Dome is directly behind us.

It was a gorgeous day to walk 5 miles in search of happy hour and seafood!  :)

Outside of the glass museum in Tacoma.   These sculptures are incredible!

We stayed overnight at the conference venue.  It was a lovely break from the grad school grind we have both endured since January 11th.  (Even though I was the one attending classes, I am pretty sure we will both agree that it took a toll on BOTH of us! lol)  I rolled into the conference very familiar with the structure and philosophy of Daily 5.  However, hearing Joan and Gail speak about what works for their students was the best.  They spoke of updates since their latest book edition was published, and hearing their justifications and research has me itching to try this structure in my classroom.  I sat with a group of teachers who were just as excited to be there as I was. As a matter of fact, one of them offered to snap the picture below.

Gail, Heather, Joan at the Daily 5 conference in Tacoma!

Now my grad school classes have come to a screeching halt...and the one and only summer conference I looked forward to attending is over. You know what that means, right?!?  It is time to clean the house I seem to have forgotten I own.  I did clean it during my semester break, but it somehow grew dust bunnies and mold in places I did not know existed between then and now.  Although my office is not NEARLY as bad as it was in May, I am posting a picture of the mess I am currently surrounded by as a means of lighting a fire under my tush!

I am publicly shaming myself by posting this picture. :)

I have a number of products to work on for TPT, my own classroom use, and for a few clients.  Until this mess is under control, no work cam or will take place.  Uggggg.  Let the cleaning begin!

Grad School Chronicles: Week 26

Week 26 brought a lot of emotion to the surface.  And I do mean a LOT.  Week 26 marks the last week of coursework.  From here on out, we fulfill twelve weeks worth of practicum work in local elementary schools.  At that point, we graduate as schools let out for winter break.

As with any graduate program, it has been a stressful journey.  You would never know we were all in the middle of a stressful day of completing final projects by looking at this picture would you?  I will miss these faces!  These faces belong to AMAZING TEACHERS!  I feel honored to have traveled the path of graduate school with them by my side.  There were many times I might not have made it through without their wisdom, support, and love.

Here's to love and laughter, food and drinks while studying, picture books in the middle of the day, pop bottle rockets flying across the quad (and classroom), and way too much time spent on lap tops.  Most of all, here's to a new chapter in life, my friends.

My thoughts for the week...
I will miss those faces, but I know I will see them again.

Grad School Chronicles: Week 25

I made a promise to myself that I would buy myself something purdy once ALLLLLLLLL of my coursework was complete.  (A little incentive never hurts!)  The second I wrapped up my very last final project, I ran to Target, darted past the Dollar Spot (so unlike me!!!), and made a beeline to the Apple Watches.

Do you hear angels singing?  Because I am pretty sure they are...

My new favorite thing in the whole world.  I have big plans for putting this baby to use in my classroom (once I actually have a classroom of my own again)!
The BEST part of completing all of my work one week ahead of schedule is that I get to sit in class and play with my new toy teacher tool while everyone else has to pay attention.  ***JOY***

My thoughts for the week...

  • I.  Worked.  My.  Tail.  Off.
  • I am feeling a bit numb now that it is all said and done.
  • I can't believe I am the same person who struggled so much throughout my K-12 years.  
  • I ended grad school with a 4.0!!!!!

Back to School Sale

My entire Teachers Pay Teachers store is 20% off August 1 & 2!  Click here to visit my store.

Grad School Chronicles: Week 24

Week 24 means the end is near.  As a matter of fact, the list below is all that remains left from a LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGGG list of assignments.

My thoughts for the week...

  • It feels so good to be ahead of the game.  Two weeks to go and counting.
  • PS, those B2P pens in the picture above are my latest obsession!  I seriously love them. They made color coding all of my assignments a breeze.  They are so much nicer than the old pens I used to make my small groups lesson plans in the past.  The are called B2P (bottle to pen) because the outer part of the pen is made from recycled water bottles.  How cool is that?  Check them out on Amazon if you are into color coding stuff and/or love an amazing gel pen.  :)

Grad School Chronicles: Week 23

Week 23 of grad school came and went.  The work load was tremendous, and the next three weeks will not look any brighter in that department.  However, I received a sweet gift this week from my second grade reading buddy early in the week.  We met during my first semester in this program, and she was very patient with me as I learned how to do all sorts of fun reading assessments.

My little friend is well aware of my obsession with all of the Elephant, Piggie, and Pigeon books, and she made me a "Pigeon" key chain.  How AWESOME is that, folks?

My thoughts for the week...
I placed the key chain on my desk so I can see it while I type all of the final projects due to wrap up the coursework portion of this program.  Only three more weeks to go.

Grad School Chronicles: Week 22

Ahhhh, it's the end of week 22.  I have three weeks and four days of summer classes to go...AND COUNTING.  At this point in the game, I am pretty certain we are all counting.  When the summer semester ends, I will be 100% complete with all of the coursework for this graduate program!  Practicum experiences will fill the months of August through mid-December.  I finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

With loads of upcoming projects looming over my head, it was nice to participate in a classroom experience that was more...elementary school-like.  Something a little more my speed and not quite so dependent on thinking critically, followed up by a 78 page, APA-style paper.

Our STEAM class instructor had us pop open sunflowers so we could observe, feel, draw, and label all of the inner parts of a flower.  It was pretty cool, and that is totally the kind of stuff I love doing in my classroom.  It was a nice break from the same old, same old.

My thoughts for the week...
Three weeks and four class days to go!  I simply cannot jump past that thought.  :)

Grad School Chronicles: Week 21

Week 21 has come and gone, and it fed directly into the looooong 4th of July weekend!  Let's clink margarita glasses together...*CLINK* I do love a good holiday weekend.

My thoughts for the week...
I am having a difficult time jumping back into the swing of full time classes, and I am starting to realize it is due to being tired of trying to figure out a new set of professors (and their personalities, expectations, rules) every seven to eight weeks.  It is exhausting to start over again and again and again.  I miss the routine of regular life, and I need to find a way to let go of my fear and hesitation.

So I jumped back into running.  I have no pictures to share of running.  Why?  Because I was busy running and not messing with my phone.  When I had surgery for cancer in October, I quit running.  This mainly happened out of need. The doc took a mighty LARGE portion of the skin on my left knee, as well as the fatty tissue underneath.  Because there isn't a lot of skin in the knee area, it screwed up my entire knee.  Everything was instantly "squished" together as they stitched me back together.  Over time, my knee cap shifted.  Anyway, my knee still hurts to this day, and I am not convinced it will ever be the same.  I have a physical therapist, and the PT exercises have helped a lot.  She works on "stretching" the skin around my knee to make it all more pliable and bendable.  I am a work in progress for her.  For many months now, I felt as though cancer took running away from me, and it was such a critical part of my life.  Running is how I would blow off steam, go into deep thought mode, work in my cardio, come up with diabolical plans, keep kept my weight stable, etc.  I decided this week that it was time to get it all back.  Now I wish I would have snapped a picture to prove it.  :)

Instead, I will share one of the most sacred images of all time.  *Brace yourself!*  I present to you...a picture of pulled pork.  

My husband and I woke up early Saturday morning to start the Traeger (smoker).  We made the most amazing pulled pork!  Here's what we made with the finished product...pulled pork tacos!

Life is good.  I need to start enjoying it again.

Grad School Chronicles: Week 20

Week 20 of graduate school was *almost* as bittersweet as week 19.  At week 19, I said goodbye to my "surrogate littles".  The good news is, I will see each of them next year as they walk down the halls as first graders!  {Sweet!} I love the "working with children" part of grad school (most likely because working with children is my job in real life), but the full time coursework part of it all is not my cup of tea.  With that being said, back to full time coursework I go.  {Bitter!}  To prepare for the next 6 1/2 weeks of life, I cried excessively prepared three-ring binders to keep me organized.

I think this might be the Hello Pool Noodle font....LOOOOOVE IT!

Inside, there are dividers for each class, with sub-dividers for each week of class.  I designated each of my four courses a color, green, pink, and orange.  For the most part, I take notes for each class on my laptop.  However, if I take handwritten notes, I make sure to use the corresponding color ink for that class.  Same goes for anything documented on my assignment sheets and calendar.    The color code system helps sort the workload in my head with a quick glance.  This is actually a very similar system used for my small groups in my classroom!  (Ahhh, the teacher in me is rarely switched to the off position.)  As a matter of fact, I even color code my text book spines with sticky notes!  It's an illness.

Anyway, each binder contains notebook paper and a Velcro closing binder pocket.  (Side note: I also use the Velcro closing binder pockets throughout my curriculum binders to hold small group stuff and game pieces.  They help me keep me super organized!  Check them out by clicking here).

My thoughts for the week...
I have mixed feelings about this condensed, cohort-based program.  So much so that I think I might be developing an ulcer.  Cramming 15-17 weeks of material into a 6 1/2 week time frame is an insane workload.  I know, I know...I brought this on all by myself.  I do not regret my decision to head back to school.  However, when I begin the process of narrowing down a doctoral program, I will make certain to seek a part time, non-cohort program!  Lessons are learned through trial and error, right?  :)

Cricut Creations for the Classroom: Writing Area Banner

A few days ago, I wrote about my latest Target Dollar Spot finds.  One of the items I was most excited about was a pencil banner.  The banner is made of thin wood, and each little banner flag has been painted to look like a pencil.  I ended up buying two packs of banners because I knew write right away that I wanted to make a little somethin'-somethin' for my classroom...a sign for my writing area!

June 2016 Target Dollar Spot finds for the classroom!

I received a Cricut for Mother's Day and haven't even had a chance to take it out of the box until today!  I sat myself down at my desk and decided to watch a few youtube tutorials regarding how to use a Cricut, as I have no experience with these machines whatsoever.  Three hours later, I emerged from the abyss I call an office with this...


I created the most adorable writing center banner EVER made.  {Tooting my own horn over here!}  My paranoid nature led me to first create the lettering with cardstock to ensure a great fit.  Paper is much less expensive of a screw up compared to the 12"x12" vinyl sheets.  I placed each paper letter on a pencil and decided it was perfect.  (See my temporary paper pieces in the image below.)  From there, I moved on to cutting my very first sheet of vinyl!  I used glossy, black, permanent vinyl for this project.

Paper letters first to ensure a great fit!

The trickiest part of this entire project was A) learning how to use the Cricut Design Space site to create the letters and B) finding the best approach to getting each letter from the backing to the banner pieces.  For the record, youtube taught me that clear Contact paper is the best way to tackle the job of application/transfer.  Because I am an early childhood teacher and think clear Contact is one of the best things ever invented ways to adhere labels to classroom shelves, I had a brand new roll in my closet.  :)

Here's a close up of the letter "w".

Now all I need to get back into my own classroom (once grad school is over) so I can hang this baby on the wall!

Do you have a Cricut and use it for classroom projects?  If so, I would love to hear about the items you have made.  My mind is full of ideas.  If I have hard flooring in my next classroom, I want to make numbered circles on the floor for lining up.  No more contact paper on the floor like I have done for so many years.  I feel as though my world changed forever (and for the better) when the Cricut entered my life.

7/10/18 UPDATE: If you like this classroom decor, you might also like my FREE printable writing area idea poster!  Check it out here on the blog or download it for free in my TPT store.

Target Dollar Spot Pocket Charts, Colorful Bins, & Fun Stuff (Summer 2016)

Hello, my name is Heather, and I am addicted to buying tons and tons and tons of school related stuff.  It is true.  Consider yourself warned.

I missed the boat a couple of years ago when Target had mini pocket charts in their Dollar Spot.  Guess what?  They're back, AND they have aqua and lime green...two of the three main colors I use as a classroom color scheme!  I plan on using these to post my "write the room" cards.

Here are the pocket charts out of the package with a ruler for a size guide.
I picked these up yesterday at the Target off 164th in Vancouver, WA.   I am not ashamed to say...I wiped them out of lime and aqua charts.  However, there is a silver lining to my hoggish behavior.  The two other Targets in town were switching over their Dollar Spot area as of yesterday morning.  I know because I hit all three stores in search of more of the awesome colored bins shown below, which happen to match my small group colors perfectly!

While I was at Target #3, I spotted these adorable wooden pencil banners.  I want to use my Cricut to create vinyl letters that spell W-R-I-T-I-N-G (one letter per pencil) for my classroom writing area!  I will be sure to post a picture once I actually figure out how to use my Cricut.  It was a Mother's Day gift that has not been out of the box yet.

The clipboard pictured with the pencil banners is going to be my new "This belongs to..." spot in the classroom.  Of course, this is the spot where work without names will go to be claimed.

Unfortunately, I was only able to find two of these heavy duty dry erase pockets.  I loooooooove these for center work.  I think they hold up better than plastic page protectors, and I cannot wait to get my hands on more of them.  I would really love to have a double classroom set of these babies!

That's it for my Dollar Spot haul.  I hope they add more school-related goodies as back to school season approaches!