Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Been Awhile...

Hi Friends!... it's been quite awhile since I've posted. Sooo much has happened since the start of the school year that I have to admit, I've been avoiding my blog. It's like when you haven't talked to a good friend in a long time and you know you're going to need an hour long phone conversation to catch up, but you just don't have the's time :)

First of all, I was on strike for 7 days at the beginning of the school year. I'm sure you all heard about the CTU strike in CPS - that was me! It was CRAZY! I had no idea what to expect, but I quickly learned how passionate and dedicated educators truly are. I was honored, inspired, and humbled to be a part of such an amazing group of people! The whole experience was emotionally draining as well as physically exhausting. I was shocked at how much of the media and public are not only anti-union, but anti-teacher. It made me sad - and because of facebook I learned that many people I know and who know me were passionately against the strike...seemingly for no good reason. But, in the end, we won on all the points that really mattered.  

Here's a pic of us during one of the downtown marches. (I'm on the left in the sunglasses - not that that's important!)

Fast forward to last of our teachers left our school rather suddenly (and although I won't go into specifics, I'll say it's a good thing for all parties)...which meant that on Friday, I found out I would be teaching a 1st/ 2nd split starting on Monday (today). WOW - that was some news to get five minutes before picking my kids up from lunch! So, today was my first day with my 11 new firsties - and I have to say, for only 2 days of preparation - it went pretty well! I am hoping in a week or two we will be full swing and on a roll! I am also hoping to be back blogging more regularly :) I'm avoiding looking at my google reader because I know I have over 1,000 unread posts...crazy! 

Does anyone have any advice for teaching a 1/2 split with Everyday Math?!? Would love any suggestions! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stick a Fork in it! Class Pics!

I am sooooo excited to say that my classroom is finally set up! Now I can start thinking about making copies and lesson plans....I think I like setting up better :)

Here is a view from the front of the room, looking back

 This is the classroom library with our cafe board and beanie baby strategies behind it

 This is my math area - bulletin board, work station pocket chart, work stations, and manipulatives. I have a feeling this will not stay as organized!

 This is our HFW word wall. You can get these words at my tpt store. I love how this turned out this year! Rather than teach the words one by one - we are going to go over all of them weekly (and of course they will be expected to spell these words correct).

 This doesn't look like much, but it's most of my students' book boxes and half of my students' buckets for bucket fillers.

This is the Fancy Nancy word wall (which I have posted about before). I know the Velcro looks ugly, but I couldn't get it down...oh well. This is also our computer station.

 This is the side wall. You can see the coat closet behind the research bulletin board. This bb is for research workshop.

 This is the front of the room and a closer view of our night stand...more to come on that soon!

 This is a view from the door looking in. I love how it looks :)

I am wayyyy behind on linking up! So here are all the great places I'm linking up with:

I love seeing how everyone sets up their rooms! So much inspiration!!

Also, thanks to everyone who participated in my giveaway! Katie won and she has already received her gift card. Sorry it took me so long to report the winner!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

B2S Purchases

I've loved checking out what everyone got! I didn't go too crazy, but I did snag a couple of awesome products!

I am super excited about this one! I can't wait to get these babies printed, laminated, and hung in my classroom! I know it will add lots of color, inspiration, and positive energy! I love everything Hope makes by the way :)

This product is so great because it's such an easy and meaningful way to get parents involved in your classroom. I don't know about you, but I work in a community where parent involvement means showing up for report card pick-up once or twice (if you're lucky) a year. So, hopefully this will be fun and not intimidating at all!

Today is your last chance to win a $25 gift card to TPT. I know you're all spent at the moment, but you know in a few months you're going to wish you had $25 to spend (or if you're like me, there's always something I just have to have!).

Click the image to enter! Winner will be announced tonight!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Classroom Library Pics

After 3 days of being in my classroom, I don't have much to show for myself. I've been focused on getting the furniture where I want it, organizing math materials, and the biggest task of all...organizing my classroom library. I've never counted, but I definitely have thousands of books, which makes for an overwhelming task of re-labeling the ones that need it, sorting, and determining how many bins/genres to have. Here are a few "before" and "during"pics. I haven't gotten to labeling bins yet - so don't mind that! I'll be back hopefully soon with more :)

This is clearly a "before" pic - as you can see - I got a new rug! I am standing by the door - the green chalkboard is the back wall.

"Before" pic of the front of my classroom

My new couch!!!!'s not new - it's really old, but I couldn't find space for it in my new apartment and it's just too comfortable to get rid of so I brought it in and so far it's working! I know it doesn't look like much, but it's sooooooo comfy! 

This is the first area I tackled. I organized and sorted math materials. I'm not sure what's going on that hideous chalkboard - nothing sticks - no tape - I've tried every kind. Last year I used butcher paper and magnets. Not the best, but I got through. I need a new plan though.

This is a shot from the back corner toward the front of the room. All you can really see here is the way the desks are set up. I have four tables of either 6 or 8. It's set up for 28 kids, but we'll see how many I actually get. There's always a couple extras hanging around :)

Here is my leveled library that houses book sets for either guided reading of book clubs. Students will not be choosing from this area for their independent reading books, but will get to choose book club books from here and I will pull guided reading books from here.

Don't mind that nasty orange cord. I need to do something about that. So far this is part of the fiction side of the library and on the left side you can see some book boxes (there's another spot for the rest of them).

Here is the rest of our fiction library. I'm still waiting on a shipment of books - that's why there are a couple empty spots. The bulletin board behind it will be our CAFE board and the beanies hang out with us too :)

This is my nonfiction library - all clear bins (from my previous post). No labels yet, but at least they're sorted, right?!

Here's a pic of the whole thing - you can see my new rug that I LOVE! 

Next task - organize my closet. YIKES!

Also - don't forget to enter my giveaway! You could get $25 to TPT!!!!!! It ends tomorrow! Click the image below to enter!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School Jitters and Giveaway

Well, I've been back in my classroom for two days now and I don't have much to show for it. I'm hoping to have pics for you by the end of the week, if not sooner. My library is taking FOR-EV-ER! So today I am linking up with Jessica at A Turn To Learn to share my back to school jitters!

I know what I'm excited for doesn't really have anything to do with school - and don't get me wrong - I'm excited for the new school year and meeting my new kids and trying all the new things I want to try in math workshop and research workshop...but it just isn't the same as my excitement for the Bears and football :) 

What I am nervous for really is something I'm nervous about. I've had some behavior problems in the past - been choked, had to run after a kid who darted out of the classroom and toward the outside door, dealt with a little girl who wouldn't stop getting into fist fights with the boys...but somehow I feel like the two I'm about to get are going to be so much more of a challenge than any of that based on what I've seen of their behavior in K and 1st. My goal (and I've been praying about it this summer) is to help these two students be more in control of their actions and learn how to function in a group. Should be interesting.

I am loving my new room arrangement - couch and all! I got rid of 3 tables this year - which is CRAZY! I'll be meeting with guided reading groups at the carpet! Can't wait to show you pics :)

Finally - what I need to remember is what I need to remember everyday! Us teachers (or maybe it's just me) like to be in control and I need to remember it's really better when I'm not and God is! 

Ok - I have to get to work in my classroom - I'm staring at a pile of books that aren't going to label themselves...but before I go - don't forget to enter my giveaway!! $25 to TPT! Ends the image to enter!

Monday, August 13, 2012

300 Followers Giveaway!

I just logged onto my blog and saw that I have 301 followers!!! Which means it is definitely time for a giveaway!!! Yay! Thanks to all my followers for being on this blog-journey with me. It's been about a year since I started this blog, and I can't believe how many things I've learned from all of my fellow bloggers and how inspired I am by all of you! You all are some incredible teachers! As a thank you - I am giving away a $25 gift card to TPT! All you have to do to enter is be a follower :)

This is my first time using Rafflecopter - so I hope I did it/do it right! The giveaway starts Monday and ends Friday! Good luck :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Bins and Back to School Sale

I have been reading about all of you who are already back in school, and wow I can't believe how time flies! I don't go back until the last week in August and I am going to try to soak every last drop out of summer that I can! 

It's that time again - time for TPT's back to school sale! I love this sale because you can get so many great things 28% off!!! What a deal! I will be joining many other teachers in putting everything in my store on sale - 20% off plus TPT's 10%. Don't forget the promo code: BTS12

BTS 12 250x125

Every year I rethink the bins I use for my classroom library. I've tried the Dollar Tree, Target, and Really Good Stuff...I love the Really Good Stuff bins (really any shape, size, or color), but they are so expensive and I can never decide which size to get. The big ones are a little big for me (I feel like books get lost in the shuffle when bins are overcrowded)  and the small ones are a little small. I've been looking for the "just right" bin. Last year, I found it and I got some more for this year. I present to you the perfect bins:

These are from the Container Store - and they sell them in packs of 20. I have my 20 from last year and I just bought another pack of 20. As you can see from the pics below - I use them for housing books as well as for math work stations. I love that they are clear so you can easily see what's inside for work stations. I also love the depth and width for books - they work for larger picture books as well as smaller chapter books. Labels easily stick to the plastic as well! What bins do you all use for your classroom libraries???

Monday, August 6, 2012

Math Work Station Game

Hi Friends! I have been busy making some Boggle letters for my classroom...but as I was doing that, it dawned on me that the same format would be perfect for practicing addition and subtraction facts. So I stopped with the letters (I need to get back to that!) and created this:

The plan is for these game boards to be used as math work stations. The rules are basically the same as Boggle - add or subtract to reach the target number with as many or as few addends and subtrahends as needed. Numbers can be on top of, below, next to, or diagonal from any starting number. As you can see the blue boards are 3x3 and the yellow boards are 4x4. My students work in partnerships and will work on a different board each time they are at that work station. I am going to laminate these for durability - but I think page protectors could work as well. I'm really excited about these - and hope my kids (and all of you) like them as much as I do! You can pick them up here!

Hope you're all having a great day!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I love reading these every month!!

I love Michael Phelps!!! He is amazing! I'm hoping for a comeback in Rio!

Link up with Farley here

Monday, July 30, 2012

Math Work Stations

Hi Friends! I am writing a quick post to let you know I just finished my first of many (hopefully - we'll see) packs of math work stations - which deals with number sense. I think these stations will be great for 1st or 2nd grade and can be easily differentiated. Here is a little preview...

Click on the picture to check it out! Hope you're all having a great Monday!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CAFE freebie

Hi friends! Just checking in to let you know I've added a few things to my tpt store....

I made these CAFE posters...that are free :)


I can't seem to get them all on the same line, but you get the picture!

I've also been working on new alphabet cards and number cards with ten frame dots to go with what I've been learning about number sense this summer.

Those are some examples...I'm really into polka dots right now (clearly) - and I'm going with a purple, blue, and green theme! All can be picked up here!

Hope you're all having a great Tuesday! I feel like it's the most productive I've been all summer...I'm almost finished with a pack of number sense math stations too :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Apps in the Classroom

Hope at 2nd Grade Shenanigans is having a great linky for sharing favorite apps. She shared what seems like a must-have for keeping track of clssroom library books, called Book Retriever (99 cents). I bought it, but don't have any books here to try it out at the moment. Check out her post on it here!


Unfortunately I don't have ipads or ipods in my classroom, but I do have an iphone and let my students use it if I have to. An app I recently heard about and plan to use this year is called Songify. Basically you just talk into the phone and the app turns your speech into a song. It's pretty cool! I plan to use it for assessment purposes mainly. I'm trying to think more creatively with assessments - and I think this will totally work! I know kids will have fun telling me what they learned about any given topic and then hearing it back into a song. Talk about motivation! I'm sure there's a way to hook my phone up to speakers, or at least a computer for the whole class to hear either a student's song - or groups of students' songs. I feel like it's so quick and easy that there would be countless ways to use it!'s free! Can't beat that :)

Has anyone else used this one? I'd love to hear how!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Timed Tests, Favorite Books, and Strategy Posters

This is going to be a post of randomness, but if you can make it all the way to the end, I would really love your opinion on something I read :)

First, I'll start with my favorite topic - picture books! The Teacher Wife is hosting a linky for must have picture books. It's pretty hard to narrow it down to five - especially when I am not in my classroom - but I will try! Be sure to stop by her party to get some great titles!!

1. I love all books by Chris van Allsburg - I read so many of his books to my kids every year and they are so great for questioning, inferring, and predicting!

2. I also love William Steig. His books are great for vocabulary as well as strategy instruction. 

3. You all know Fancy Nancy. My students and I just love her stories! I use these books to teach vocabulary strategies and have a bulletin board in my classroom for Fancy Words.

4. This is one of my favorite books to pull out during our writing unit on poetry. The CD that comes with it is AWESOME!!! It really helps kids hear the rhythm and music in poetry.

5. Another author I love is Steve Jenkins. His books are informational - and one of my favorite attributes of his books is that he uses comparison to convey information. The pictures are fab as well.

Just writing this makes me excited about books :)

Ok - on to the next topic...strategy posters!

I have finished making 9 addition strategy posters that are on my tpt store. Thanks to Amy for helping me edit them!! I hope they came out ok. Here is a preview:

Last but not least, timed (math) tests. Do you do them??? I do....and I did as a student as well. I am currently reading this book:

and this is what is says, "Teachers who use timed tests believe that the tests help children learn basic facts. This makes no instructional sense. Children who perform well under time pressure display their skills. Children who have difficulty with skills, or who work more slowly, run the risk of reinforcing wrong learning under pressure. In addition, children can become fearful and negative toward their math learning."

It went on to say, "If there is any defensible purpose for a timed test of basic facts it may be for diagnosis -- to determine which combinations are mastered and which remain to be learned. Even for diagnostic purposes there is little reason for a timed test more than every couple months."

I would LOOOOVE to know your thoughts on this! It is making me reconsider doing timed tests once a week (basic addition and subtraction facts - where kids move on to the next one once they pass).