Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cyber SALE!

Whooo's lovin' a TPT sale? We all are! Beginning December 2, everything in my store will be 28% off when you use the code CYBER. Don't miss out on this great deal!

That's all for today...Thanksgiving dinner is almost ready!

Happy Turkey Day to you and your families,
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Plans for a Super-Short Week

Tonight, I'm thankful for only planning just two days of lessons! This weekend has been a whirlwind. My daddy turned 70 on Wednesday, and I hosted about 70 people at my house for a surprise party last night, after decorating and cleaning all day. 

Then I got up and taught Sunday School to fifth graders this morning and put up our Christmas Snow Village this afternoon. My parents left for Texas today to spend Thanksgiving with my baby brother, and we're going to my sis-in-law's house, so we went straight to Christmas today! I'll take some photos after I add the "real fake snow" and trees. For now, take a peek at my little bitty week:

To have only two days of lessons is a gift! Of course, I'm linking up with the fabulous Mrs. Wills to share my plans with you all. If you click on the visual plans below, you'll go to the same plans in Google Docs, in which you can actually click the resource links, including a link to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving! If you haven't heard of, you HAVE to know - you copy and paste a youtube link, and get the full video with no commercials, no "junk" on the sides, and no suggested videos at the end :) {LOVE}

This beautifully illustrated book is the focus of my Thanksgiving unit this week, and is my favorite account of the pilgrimage to America. It is written from a child's perspective, is historically accurate, and very informational. It's also the basis for my Mayflower Anchor Chart I wrote about last year {HERE}, with some freebies, and is a wonderful book for a wide range of grades and common core standards.  It's my contribution to the Mentor Text Linky from Collaboration Cuties.  Click on the turkey to see other books teachers are recommending this week!

Happy Turkey Day!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Peek at My Applicious Week

Well, last week I had no problem posting my plans...this week, it can't be done! I've been sitting here for at least an hour trying to get you a picture, but the best I can do is the link. Once you click the link, all the links within will be active. We'll be going to see the play "Johnny Appleseed" tomorrow, so I've included lots and lots of applicious activities in my plans, and I'll be finishing up a "Johnny Who?" Johnny Appleseed Math and ELAunit to share with you soon.
Visual Plans
My little class was selected for a visit from the superintendent of schools tomorrow, as well. She'll be there an hour before we load the buses, so pray that my babies aren't so excited to go that she thinks we're all nuts! We will {try} to continue our writing projects from the fabulous Heidi, from In That Room with Heidi Harrell. We're in the revising stage, just taking one little baby step a day to write a letter to a farmer, as if we are turkeys, pleading for our lives this Thanksgiving. My babies have come up with some of the cutest ideas as to why the farmer shouldn't eat them! One said to eat ham - the pig was fat and lazy, so he must be really juicy! {LOVE} I whipped up some new writing process printables for the kids to have a fresh visual. You can get them free right {HERE}. I also made a new "I Can Statement" just for tomorrow's lesson - you know, the old dog and pony show...but, really I've promised so many people I'll make ELA I Cans that I really should get busy on that!

On another note, I'd love some feedback on how you all get everything done. I often feel like the worst mother and wife - the school nurse from my big girl's middle school called Friday because Callie had a fever. I immediately tried to get my husband, my mom, or my father-in-law, to go get her from school. You know how hard it is to miss school, right? But how on earth I thought that was the right thing to do is beyond me! Anyway, no one was available, so I scrambled around trying to figure out what to do so I could go get her myself, and da-da-da-da-da-da! Principal to the rescue! He found me a sub in no time, stayed with my class until she got there, and told me to GO! Of course, I made a doctor appointment, but "nothing" was wrong. Until yesterday, when we visited the emergency doctor's office, where we found that "nothing" was really pneumonia!

So, tell me, how do the Amy Lemons, DeeDee Wills, and Deanna Jumps of the world do it all? I can barely keep up with lesson plans and teaching, then add blogging, which actually helps, a TpT store, a family, cooking, cleaning, taking care of a husband and (my own) children...really, how do they? It makes my head spin! All ideas and comments are welcome and encouraged!!! ;)


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Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm ALWAYS Thankful for Time Savin' Tips!

Boy, am I thankful for anything that saves time! I have my planning period first thing in the morning, so there's never time to clean up at the end of the day, prepare for the next day, or even just think over how the day went and make any adjustments, based on my reflection time.

One big time-saver for me is making all my copies on Mondays, for the entire week. I store them in these stacking drawer units, paper-clipped together, by the day of the week that I plan to use them. This picture is not the best - sorry! I cropped the drawers from another photo to show them close up. Anyway, they are covered on the inside with scrapbook paper and labeled with the days of the week. If I don't get to something, I just shift it to the next day's drawer. In that extra drawer, I keep random activities, worksheets, and review materials in case of emergency (like last week, when I had no planning period one day because a substitute didn't show up).

My second trick is to keep my guided reading group materials in individual trays by group. Because I teach guided reading with LLI, I usually need to have 2 days' lessons in each tray. That way, I have the re-reading book, the new book, the lesson plans and materials, and the running record forms altogether for each group. These trays are what I've used in the past for table trays, but this year, they are just perfect for LLI!

This photo shows how I've used these trays in years past - they held all the supplies for each table, and doubled as storage for student work in progress at each table. That might be a time-saver for you! I would collect all supplies at the beginning of school, and distribute them to share, as needed, throughout the year. I also used a small trash bucket at each table to keep kids from having to get up to throw away scraps, etc. Anything I could do to save instructional time was well worth it to me!

This might seem obvious, but I have students make lunch choices in little buckets, by putting their numbered popsicle sticks in the corresponding bucket to match their choice. This saves me time, because I can quickly tell who has made a choice, and scan the room to take role at the same time. Later, when it's lunch time, I can walk over to the buckets to verify that everyone is in line in the correct order, according to their choices - this saves more bickering than time, but still, that's pretty nice! No one can try to act like he or she chose something different, and be in the wrong part of the lunch line.

Another time saver for me is to have anchor chart paper pre-bordered. I know that sounds silly, but i really love pretty anchor charts, so if I have extra time, like waiting for Open House, or something (I live 30 minutes from school, so I don't bother to go home and come back), I just get out my chart paper and draw pretty borders. Then, when I want to make an anchor chart, the border's already there, and I don't have to think about leaving room for it later!

All right - now for my biggest time-saver of's my mom! She is wonderful enough to come to my school every single week and help me with absolutely anything that needs doing. She arrives on my weirdo Tuesdays, when I have Related Arts, followed by STEM Lab, followed by Media Center, followed by lunch, followed by recess, leaving me about 2 hours to teach all day. Mom gets there just about the time STEM Lab begins, and we work away at all the little junk that gets pushed to the side day after day. When recess is over, Mom reads to my class and does a related activity with them, whether it's determining authors' purposes, sequencing events, main idea and details, finding vivid verbs and amazing adjectives, or making graphic organizers to keep in their spiral notebooks. This time gives my kids a break from the routine of my LLI lessons, and gives me a chance to do any extra-curricular work I may need to do. My mom even stays until the end of the day and helps me clean up, often takes my daughter home with her, which gives me a little after-school time, and even cooks supper for our whole family sometimes! What more could a girl ask for?
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sneak Peek at My Week

It's Sunday, so you know I've been working on lesson plans virtually all day! You'd think I'd have it together by now, but it takes me hours every week to put together a five day plan. I think it's because I am constantly finding better materials, better ways to teach a concept, and want my teaching to improve every year. That's a good thing, right???

At any rate, I'm linking up with Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to share my visual plans for the week.
The links in these plans will be visible, and clickable, in Google Docs, once you click on either page of the plans. 

Monday, our school is celebrating Veterans' Day like we never have before. I'm excited to be a part of the festivities! I am setting up America's White Table on the stage in our cafeteria, where, in the background, we will have music and videos like this one playing: Veteran's Day Tribute 2009 

If you've not heard of America's White Table, take a look at this beautiful book and story by Margot Theit Raven. Her account of the story of the traditional white table is wonderfully written, and easy to follow to set up your own table of honor.
There is also a video to explain the white table ceremony, here:
White Table Ceremony.

My class will be making a Veterans Can/Do/Are chart, as well. We continue our place value study, with an emphasis on mystery numbers this week, in order to solidify the understanding of each digit's value in its place.

Beginning Tuesday, we'll be in full-on Thanksgiving Mode! Although I'll be out of school, I have an awesome substitute who can get us started with some persuasive writing from a turkey to a farmer, about why the farmer should not eat him for Thanksgiving, thanks to Heidi at In That Room with Heidi Harrell.
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Motivating Students with a Family Meeting

It seems like the time of year when everyone is settled in, all our friends know each other well, and a little bit of fussing ensues. Maybe it's the fact that we need a break. Maybe it's the standardized testing after standardized testing. Maybe we've become as comfortable with each other as we are with our families at home. Whatever it is, it happens every year at about this time. True? Even the BFFs in my class are getting on each others' nerves, and everyone's just a little bit on edge.

I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday series with a couple of ideas.

Well, I've been thinking pretty hard on this one, and this week, I decided to take a family tradition with me to school. It's the "Family Meeting".
At our house, we have a weekly meeting on Sunday afternoons in the living room. Daddy is in charge, I take minutes, and everyone gets to talk about anything they want, including rules, meal plans, agendas, feelings, plans, and our family fun money (our weekly budgeted "allowance" for family activities). It was kind of spur of the moment when I decided, but my school babies just weren't getting along, and I knew just what we needed.

So, we walked down the hall a bit, and met in a vacant room (for a change of scenery, as well as some "neutral" ground). Everyone was able to tell how they were feeling, what was going well and what wasn't, and if anything was bothering him or her. At first, it was a little hard to get everyone to open up, but once one did, they all did, and we had a great discussion about feelings, how we treat others, that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to do something (which I explained is called learning, and is why we go to school), and adding some rules to our class set.

The pretty version was somehow overlooked!
The kids came up with "Treat others the way you want to be treated" and "Be nice and kind". Actually, these "rules" were already beautifully printed and framed in my classroom, but I think they were seen as decor, not rules, so I just made hand-written posters and put them on the front wall.
After our meeting, things seemed better, and I could easily refer to our discussion when friends began to fuss at each other. I think after a couple of meetings, we'll learn to understand each other better, love each other for who we each are, and be kinder, more considerate in general. Okay, maybe we still need fall break, but between Christmas and Presidents' Day is just a way longer time!

I was also asked to review a new computer program this week, and will share that with you very soon. I hope it will be motivational for two students in my class who are quite talented in mathematics. They'll be able to use the program at a self-paced rate, and it seems that it pre-tests them, finds their weaknesses, and creates lessons based on those target areas. I know technology is always motivational to kids, so I'm excited to see just how this will work.

Well, it's technically not Saturday anymore, so I'm off to bed - teaching Sunday School in the morning, and I need some r-e-s-t!

Hugs, Y'all,
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Truth Monday...a Day Late and a Dollar Short!

Literally, a dollar short (see the story below), I've never been happier about making so many mistakes!  I'm linking up with Denise from Sunny Days in Second Grade for her My Truth Monday series.  My truthful story of becoming a teacher is no secret to my family and friends, but maybe it is to you!
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