Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to School Books Linky Party & Giveaway

With my first week behind me, and my daughter's tenth birthday weekend finally over, I am excited to share a few of my favorite back-to-school books with you!

On the first day of school, I always read Chrysanthemum.  I love the story, and so do my students, no matter how many times they may have heard it before.  After reading, we make our own names for my word wall.  I print out each student's name in a big, open font, and they decorate it to represent how special their names are.  We talk about how this is a way of making a text-to-self connection, because we all have different names and they are all special.  We graph the length of all our names, as a math tie-in, too.

 I read Missing: One Stuffed Rabbit very near the first of school.  I have a bunny I made at Build-a-Bear Workshop, and a binder with his picture on it.  The bunny's name is Forest (after my school, Forest Acres Elementary), and each week, the Student of the Week takes him home one night and adds an entry about what they did together in the binder.

Judy Blume's The Pain and The Great One was my absolute favorite book as a child.  My brother (who's five years younger than I) was the Pain, and I was The Great One!  I absolutely have to share this favorite with my kiddos during back-to-school.  It's perfect for me to model text-to-self connections, as well as introduce myself.  I talk to my students about how my brother and I always fought over just which one of us was The Pain and which one was The Great One, just like in the book!  I have to admit, on my brother's fortieth birthday, I gave him a brand-new copy for himself.

What books are on your back-to-school list?  Link up at Blog Hoppin' to share a few, and enter the contest to win $50 in books from The Clever Teacher.  If you haven't found their website yet, you absolutely have to check it out!  Search by skill, genre, author, standards, and more, all by grade level.  You can purchase your finds right there, too!

Good Luck,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Therapeutic Thursday

Man, Thursdays have always been the most tiresome for me, as a teacher!  I've always noticed more discipline problems on Thursdays, and my own children seem extra whiney, too.  I think it must be because we're all pretty much "done" for the week, only it's not over yet, and it's not even TGIF!

For my therapy, I have monthly massages at Massage Envy.  My therapist there, Sheila, is incredible, and also serves as my personal therapist (really, she just listens to me gripe and sympathizes at all the right times), and is an expert on religion, so my massages actually serve three very important needs in my life!

Pedicures are second on my list of indulgences.  I don't have them often, but always take my girls with me for some Mommy-Daughter time.  It's priceless, and fleeting...soon, I know they'll leave me at home and go with their friends.  I'm getting in every hug and kiss, every cuddle and kindness while I can.  With my oldest turning ten Sunday, I already feel her slipping away from me way more often than I ever expected at this age.

I am an artist at heart, and try to make time to paint whenever possible.  I absolutely adore throwing pottery (on a wheel, not at anyone!), too, but it's tough to find places that offer that.  I've always wanted my own pottery wheel, since I was a little girl.  This is the latest painting I've done.  It's in Clare's room, which she wants redecorated in Chinese style.  I also LOVE to decorate, and wanted to be a store window merchandiser (like Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore show) until I realized stores in South Carolina don't really have merchandise windows, and my chances of landing the Macy's NYC window were pretty slim!

I love to cook, although it's a rarity.  Sunset Beach, NC is my sanity zone...oh, how I wish I could live at the beach!

Spending time with my hubby's always therapeutic, and when I'm really desperate for comic relief, I look through these photos I took with my phone at the airport recently - they're the funniest t-shirts I've ever seen!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where I Teach Wednesday

Before the overload of photos, let me just pause to thank my UNBELIEVABLE husband, my preciously patient daughters, and my Room Mom from last year!  Without all of them, none of this would have even been a thought, much less possible.

Here's my little itty-bitty corner of the room (I can barely fit in there!), but I LOVE the desk caddie I showed you in an earlier posting, and the shelf my sweet husband installed into concrete block walls.  My friend Jennifer came down and arranged my G and flowers above the shelf - she just has that eye, and I'm not sure how well you can see it, but my absolutely favorite thing in the whole room is right there under the shelf.  That little sign says, "I wish I could help, but I left my wand at home!"  What a hoot!  That just about sums up my sense of humor in one simple sentence.

My classroom library is not quite finished, as you can see.  I like to have an activity with my second graders where we go through all the books together and decide if they are fiction or non-fiction.  Once that's done, we sort the fiction books by genre, and the non-fiction by topic.  I know, I know.  I really already have that all done on my hubby's iPad Book Retriever app, but I think it's a great learning experience for the children to get to know the books, and to learn some basic genre identification.  Once we've had that lesson, I'll unstack all those pretty Dollar Tree Locker Bins and use my Leveled Library tags from Erica Bohrer.

 I use my kidney table as my Guided Instruction area, for both math and reading.  The table in back is just 12 inches wide, but 9 feet long, and the Hobby Lobby fabric hides all my guided reading and guided math instructional materials.  The file cabinet does triple duty, with dry-erase contact paper on the side facing the small group and a dry erase cling calendar facing my desk.

The front of my room is completely covered in whiteboard with a tiny little bulletin board to one side and the Promethean Board smack in the middle, covering the center third of the whiteboard.  And, no, I don't have the new Promethean Board that you can write on, like a whiteboard, and no, it's not a Smartboard, either.  In fact, right now, it can't even find its own pen!  I use this little cabinet to hold my laptop and printer, along with my HUE camera, which is like a grown up overhead projector, but will project anything onto the Pro-board!

Here's the tiny bulletin board to the right of all that whiteboard.  I use it for posting the date, the corresponding day of the year in my place value pocket chart, and my school menu.  In one of the photos above, you might can see my white buckets...I use them for my kiddos to put their popsicle stick in to make their lunch choice.

On the first day of school, when all those supplies roll in, I take them all away from my students!  Can you believe that?  Then I put out four glue sticks, four pairs of scissors, 12 pencils, a box of colored pencils, a box of crayons, and a box of markers in these flatware caddies from Garden Ridge.  The caddies go in a tray, for the table-mates to use to store their incomplete work, and a little trash bucket goes on each table, too.  When supplies get yucky, or are missing, or eaten, or whatever...I have all those brand-new school supplies to replenish our shared supplies.  I think this is one of the most important things I do.  Call me crazy, but if they can share markers, crayons, and pencils, they can learn to share thinking, they can work together to problem solve, and they can use manners to take turns.  Wow - all that from "stealing" their supplies???

Our computer center's pretty basic, but I do love my new ear buds from the nice lady at Best Buy, and I love the Whooo's Reading a Good Book poster to track A/R points, which you can download for FREE from my shop on TPT.

Here's part of my high-frequency word wall.  As you can see, I just keep it up from year-to-year.  These are the first 100 words, and by second grade, all my students have been tested on them in first grade, but still sometimes need them as a reference.  We add our new words from there forward.  You can also see Speedy the painted turtle's home. We just discovered he was a she last week, when she laid eggs!  (S)he was named after my grandaddy, who was so meticulously slow that his co-workers called him Speedy as a joke, and gave him turtle gifts for years!

 I'm working on a math workstation area back here.  Since today's only the second day of school for us, I haven't introduced any of the materials back here, nor have I posted the awesome PSA resources from Hope King, but that's where we're headed!

 These little pails from Target's Dollar spot last year were perfect for "bucket-filling".  This year, Callie, my fifth grader, thought of putting them on an old chart stand.  She's so smart!

When I first moved from fourth to second grade, I distinctly remember stomping down the hall one day, during my planning period, mumbling to myself, "Mrs. Gravett doesn't like tattling!"  Then I found the tattle monster kleenex box on Pinterest.  This year, I could resist the adorable birdhouse, which I covered in scrapbook paper and ribbons, etc. and added a little tag that reads "Whooo Needs to Tattle?'  Kids can write down their gripes, put them in the birdie hole, and the hubby cut me a hole from the bottom, so I can access the tattles to read and deal with at me leisure (or NOT)!

My Student of the Week board is also scrapbook-ish and blinged out a little this year.  I found both the birdhouse and bulletin board ideas on the free tear-off sheets from Hobby Lobby.  The rectangular area is for a photo, and the library pocket holds a little laminated card on which the student of the week can write a little about himself.  Love it!

Finally, the whole shebang...yes, I'm still trying to find room for 25 (as opposed to last year's 19) kids, and all those teaching materials on top of their cubbies.  I don't even have 25 cubbies, and since they don't have desks, it's a good thing I "stole" all their supplies!

So, there it is...where I work.  Man, I barely got posted before Thursday - it's after 11:30 p.m.!  And I have morning to bed!

See you tomorrow for Therapeudic Thusday...I'm hoping to learn from YOU about the therapy!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday

Well, today was my first day with kiddos - whew!  Tired does not even begin to describe it.  Twenty-three adorable, excited, enthusiastic, second graders burst through my door with about a million supplies - It took me 2 hours to put all their things away after school.

So, my first tech tip is:  Get yourself a P-Touch!I know, there are way cuter ways to label everything, but in a pinch, the forty bucks is SO worth it!  I immediately put all my babies' pencils, markers, crayons, glue, paper, colored pencils, and index cards in clear shoebox tubs and labeled them quickly and easily.

Second, if you don't already have the Book Retriever app , the big 99 cent investment is well worth it.  Use it to scan the books in your classroom library, list them by title, genre, author, Lexile, DRA level, Accelerated Reader, Reading Counts, and Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading Level.  They just upgraded, loading over 500,000 more titles, and worked out some Scholastic glitch in the system.  If you want, you can even add your students and their parent contact info.  When a student wants a book, you enter is as checked out to him or her, and the Book Retriever sends their parents an e-mail to let them know their child has one of your books...Get Out!  Only available for i Phones or i Pads (tech tip to self:  get an i-something...I have an android based phone!)

Third, I LOVE Online Storytime by Barnes & Noble, and so do my students.  The best feature is, that they archive the past stories, so if a book you want has ever been featured, you can still view it, even if it's not the book of the month.  Most of the books are read aloud by the authors, but some are read by celebrities.  Either way, it's great, and FREE!

Another Fabulous Read Aloud site is:   We Give Bookswhere you can read books online for FREE, and help worldwide literacy organizations.  Find out more at

Last , but far from least, consider subscribing to PlanbookEdu.  It has free and paid versions, each with their own benefits, but both feature the coolest part:  you can share lesson plans with co-workers and go in and add to or edit the plans as a teaching team, grade level, or just with a friend who's super creative!  You can also attach files, access state and common core standards, export your plans to Word or a PDF, print right from the screen, and save a template to use each week.  It is THE BOMB!  (Did I just show my age a little bit there?)  Check out the one minute video by clicking on the logo above.

So there's my techie tips...I am such a tech geek I could write all night about all the incredible technology I use in my classroom, and in my teaching life, but I decided to talk about my faves, not bore you to death!

See you tomorrow for Where I Teach Wednesday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Must Haves

It's finally here!  Teacher Week a new blogger, I wasn't around for last year's event, but I am super-excited to link up this year!  So, on Mondays (and every day) I MUST have
1.  Caffeine...say no more.

2.   Adderall...Make sure to take BOTH doses!

3.  Now that I can think straight for more than five minutes at a time, I'm ready for: Jesus Calling, my daily devotional book.
If you haven't found this book yet, you absolutely need to get it!  It's available as a free app on Android and i-phones, for a week's worth of daily devotionals.  I promise, once you read them, you'll want to buy the whole app, or the book.  My daughters have their own copy (written for children), too.

4.  Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon...just wait until Wednesday, when I reveal my classroom - you'll see what I mean.  I go through yards of ribbon in just a week or so.

5.  Hot Glue Gun and LONG hot glue sticks...with all that ribbon, a girl's gotta have hot glue!

6.  KPM Doodles clip art - can't live without it!

7.  Pinterest - checking on Mondays is definitely a must!

8.  Amy Lemons' blog

9.  Hope King's blog, and, last, but not least

10.  A full tank of gas!  Did I just come full circle with the car and the Coke?

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stay Tuned...

I can't wait to show you the big reveal of my classroom this year - You'll have to wait until Wednesday, as I link up with Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week, beginning tomorrow with "Must Have Monday".  Have you seen the before photos?  YIKES!  Needless to say, after hours and hours, it's coming along, and I'll be all ready to show you the finished product Wednesday...of course, that will be two whole days into the school year, so maybe I'll take those pictures before the bell rings Tuesday morning!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Whooo's Mind is Spinning Yet?

WOW!  After five days in sunny Las Vegas with the hubby, it was straight back to work, like the very next day kind of back to work!  I walked into my classroom full of anticipation, excitement, and, yep, already the first day jitters!  How on earth would I get everything just right AND go to all those professional development meetings by 3:00 the very next day for Meet the Teacher???

By way of a miracle, my precious student-teacher, Sarah, from two years ago called me at 1:30, on her way through town, just to chat and see if she could visit.  LOVE HER!!!  Of course after hugs and catching up, she immediately asked what she could do to help me.  She made the parent packet copies I needed, straightened up (I call it "shoveandhide") and placed the packets on tables.  She hot glued, laminated, cut, hung, and totally saved the day!  Here she is:

One parent, who kind of works at our school, stuck her head in my door just as I slipped my school t-shirt over my head.  She wasn't at all totally surprised by my half-covered torso!  Anyway, just as the principal announced that he was unlocking the doors, I looked around and everything looked perfect!  My sweet new babies began to show up, some excited, others nervous, but all adorable!  So Meet the Teacher went off without a hitch, thanks to Sarah!

Today, on the other hand, we had a meeting from 8:30-10:00, another one from 10:00-10:30, and still another from 1:00-3:00.  That left me just enough time to make little messes all over that perfect classroom, by starting about 100 projects I want to have finished by the time my sweet second graders return Tuesday for the First Day of School!  Needless to say, I'll be working all weekend to get things straight again, and be ready for those First Day Jitters, for real!

I did have time to look in my favorite teachers' classrooms and got some cute ideas.  This little banner is for tracking A/R points.  My kiddos will move teeny-tiny clothespins from flag to flag as they accumulate A/R points - plus it looks adorable hanging above my windows!  You can get one, too in either chevron or bright polka dots by visiting my TPT store.

Good Luck Everybody!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Linky Party and a FREEBIE

Yesterday, I was super-busy, on my way for my last minute little vacay to Las Vegas (a first for me).  I had about one million errands to run before my 2:00 p.m. flight.  One was to return to Office Depot, where the night before I had bought 25 three-ring binders for my kiddos at 67 cents each!!!  Only, they charged me $1.99 each.  So I had to go in and get that fixed.  Anyway, I was also exchanging some ink (I ALWAYS buy the wrong kind), so while the cashier waited for a manager to do the price adjustment, I found the right ink.  When I came back to the register, there was an older lady standing there, too.  I apologized for her having to wait on my exchanges, but she replied that she had some mess of her own to take care of.  I thought she had a STAR Teacher Rewards flier in her hand, so I asked if she was a teacher.  She said, "No, but if you are, thank you.  You are wonderful, but underpaid, and doing the world a real service.  I had a best friend, who was a teacher, and she died just last month."  Of course, I was already about to cry.  By this time, my binder deal was done, and the ink exchange began.  I asked the cashier if I was going to owe extra, or if the prices were the same...whatever.  I owed $16.74, she told me, and as I tried to reach over to the credit card scanner, the lady, with whom I'd been talking said, "I'm paying."  I told her absolutely not and tried, again, to reach over her to pay, but she elbowed me away and paid for my ink exchange.  That really did make me cry (all the way to the car), but I was able to mumble a thank you, and ask her name so that I could tell my students she paid for their binders (which was basically true).  She said, "Just tell them it was that Chicago lady, and it was a random act of kindness in honor of her teacher-friend."  OH MY WORD!  How incredibly sweet was that???

So, my next errand was to go to Best Buy to spend my rewards bucks ($35).  I walked in, where they greeted me with a how are you today, and I said, "I'm happy, because I have these," and showed them the voucher thingies.  "But," I said, "I don't know how to use them, or what I should get.  I'm a teacher, so is there any great software or something you'd recommend?"  A lady, who seemed to be the manager took over immediately and asked if I wanted something for myself or my students, when I remembered that I really wanted to get new ear buds for my kiddos, because it really grosses me out that they all use the same ones.  I asked her how much they were, and how many she thought I could get with my $35.  She led me over to the area where they were, and I noticed super-cute lime green, hot pink, purple, and turquoise ones, but they were $11.99 each, and the black ones were only $9.99.  She immediately said, "Let me check my margin on these and see what I can do."  I said, "You don't give teacher discounts," but she said, "I can if I want to."  She led me to the front of the line, where she gave me all four colors for $9.99 each.  Again, how sweet?  She DID tell me her name - Krista, and I told her I would teach my students about random acts of kindness, because she was the second one today.  WOW!

Finally, it was off to the airport, where I was upgraded to a better seat, for free, sat next to a very friendly new flight attendant (in her 1st month), transferred to another plane in Charlotte, where I was again upgraded to a better seat, and got a free glass of wine, and, while working on some common core junk, met a nice guy who helped me learn about 50 new Microsoft Office things in about 5 minutes (we're both married, so it wasn't that kind of meeting a guy).  What's up with all that?  I say, it's going to be a GREAT school year, because it has started with some really awesome random acts of kindness.

Before you go back to work, be sure to get your random acts in!  Here's mine, to you...for 24 hours, my newest product on TPT is FREE.  It's called Today's Number Editable Stickers & Task Cards.  Click here to download your free copy, but be quick, it's just one day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Whooo's Having a Back to School Sale?

We all are!  Well, almost all of us...Teachers pay Teachers is sponsoring a HUGE Back-to-School Sale August 12-13th, only, and you can take advantage of fabulous savings!  Mark your calendar, put it on your fridge, enter it in your electronic calendar, and remind yourself on e-mail.  This is one sale you can't afford to miss.  Some of my featured products include my newest additions to my little store:

Plus my Genre Posters, Second Grade Common Core Math Made Easy as 1, 2, 3, Blends, Diphthongs, and Digraphs Header Cards, and lots of owl-themed classroom decor will be featured in the sale!

So, Whooo's ready for some shopping???
See you on the 12th!