Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Goodbye Popsicle Sticks, Hello Card-O-Matic

I read all the new blog posts in my Blogger Reading List and still needed a reason to procrastinate on doing the laundry, so I headed over to Teaching Channel to watch a few videos. :) I am glad I did because I came across a video featuring Tammy Ritter and her Card-O-Matic idea.

As you can see, Card-O-Matic is very similar to pulling popsicle sticks with students’ names written on them. The sticks work well, but in order for my students to stay engaged after their sticks are pulled, I put the sticks back in the cup. There were many times that the same students would be pulled over and over again, while some students never got their sticks pulled. Card-O-Matic solves that problem because it ensures that all students will participate, and since each student’s name is in the stack more than once, students will need to pay attention and be ready even after their cards come up the first time.

While boring white index cards get the job done, I thought I would make some 3 x 5 cards that would be a little more fun to look at throughout the day. Click on any of the images below to pick up your free cards. You may want to print them on cardstock or laminate them for durability.

COM 1  COM 2
COM 3  COM 4
I think that my time was much better spent on Teaching Channel than on laundry. I mean, increased student participation versus folding a load of laundry…I think we can all agree on what is more important! :)

What are ways you increase student participation in your classroom? I would love to read about your ideas!

Dani from Patterson’s Porch is giving away a $25 Target gift card and a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate! Click on the image below for your chance to win!



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Reading Book Review ~ Spaces and Places

I love reading bloggers’ reflections/reviews on professional development books. Sometimes I am inspired to read the book myself, and sometimes I just pick up a few tips to incorporate into my classroom. I have a stack of professional development books I am reading this summer, and I thought it would be fun to do a book review series. I will be sharing a little bit of what I learned from each book, and hopefully you will pick up something helpful to use in your classroom.

Book Review Series

First up is Spaces and Places by Debbie Diller.  After hearing my friend, Katie from Kindergarten Crazies!, talk about Debbie Diller for a year, I decided I better read her books myself. I now see why Katie is such a fan…Debbie Diller is amazing! As you can see from my book and notebook, there are many ideas worthy of being flagged and jotted down! I filled pages upon pages in that little notebook.


This book offers a step-by-step guide to setting up/reorganizing your classroom. It includes hundreds of full-color pictures of real classrooms, and I loved getting a glimpse into so many teachers’ spaces! The book is a pretty easy read because much of the information is given in photos, quotes, and tables. I appreciated that I could read it in a day, and now have it to refer back to as I set up my classroom.


Here are some things I learned:

1) Diller suggests completely planning out your space before you move a piece of furniture or hang a poster. This is going to save me a ton of time because I usually move each piece of furniture and poster several times while setting up my classroom. The first step is to make a list of the spaces you need in your classroom.


2) Diller suggests planning for your space in this order: whole group teaching area, small group teaching area, classroom library, word wall, work stations, computer area, student desks, and lastly, the teacher desk. She has so many helpful tips and pictures to think about as you plan for each of these spaces. One of her tips is thinking about how furniture can serve multiple purposes. Two of her examples are hanging small pocket charts on the back of low bookshelves and using the front of a teacher desk as a station where students work with magnetic letters or words. 

3) Diller has great suggestions to make mapping out your room a simple as possible. One of her tips is using sticky notes. She suggests cutting sticky notes to represent items in your room and then positioning and repositioning the sticky notes until you have an arrangement you are happy with. She points out that it is much easier to move sticky notes than big pieces of furniture.

I tried the sticky note method, but found I preferred just sketching and re-sketching things in a notebook. Once I had everything exactly where I wanted it, I used Publisher to create my official classroom map! 

Classroom Map

4) Spaces and Places also includes tips on using your walls. When planning for your walls think about where instruction takes place and how you can use your wall space to support that instruction. On the wall space in my whole group area I will include our daily target skills (learning objectives), a calendar, a hundred chart, posters displaying key words in math word problems, a writing process poster, and a scientific method poster because those are things we use a lot during whole group instruction. I will also leave room for current anchor charts. In my small group area my wall space will include reading anchor charts because we refer to those a lot during small group time. You can read more about my reading anchor charts here. Diller has some great ideas for finding wall spaces in unexpected places, such as using cabinet doors or hanging a clothesline for extra display space.

Once I had my wall space planned out, I added it to my map.


5) Diller included a whole chapter on tips for packing, moving, and storing your classroom materials. She stresses the importance of not taking your room apart before the last day of school because it sends a message that learning is over. The thought of taking apart you room is overwhelming, which is why most teachers start early. Diller has step-by-step directions that will allow you to close up or pack up your room in a day…yes, a day!

I really enjoyed this book and would suggest it. The importance of this book can be summed up in the following quote: “There is a direct link between structure, organization, and effective instruction.” {Spaces and Places pg. 15}

I hope you enjoyed my first book review and gained one or two things you can use when setting up your classroom for next year!


Friday, July 13, 2012

And the Winner Is…

Winner Is
Congratulations to Tammy! I will be emailing you your TPT gift certificate!
Thank you so much to all my wonderful readers that took the time to enter my giveaway! I wish you all could have won…if only I wasn’t living on a teacher salary! :) This weekend I am going to come up with some freebies to share with you next week as a thank you. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blogging Made Simpler

I loved blogging at first sight click! It is just so much fun sharing ideas, dialoguing with other teachers through comments, learning about new blogs, and being part of the blogging community. There was one thing that I was frustrated with though right from the beginning: composing posts in Blogger. It took a long time to upload pictures, it was difficult to change pictures once they were inserted in a post, and extra spaces kept appearing between paragraphs and images. That last one really drove me crazy!

Then I heard about Windows Live Writer, and all my frustrations went away! It is a program you install on your computer and is completely free! You can download it by clicking here. It is part of Windows Live Essentials. You can download all of the Windows Live Essentials products or just chose to download Writer.  

Once you have Live Writer downloaded,  I would go to the Blog Account tab. Here you will be able to choose for Live Writer to look like your blog. You type in your blog address, and it will update your Live Writer program with you blog’s header, background paper, etc.


You are now ready to write a post. I find that working in Live Writer is a lot like working in Word or Publisher. The toolbar is similar and full of great options. The picture of the Home toolbar below is a little blurry, but hopefully you will get an idea of what it is like. One thing to note is that as you type in Live Writer, it will type in Times New Roman as a default, but when you publish the post to your blog it will automatically change to the font you have set on your blog.


The best part about Live Writer is how easy it is to work with pictures. You insert pictures just as you would in a Word or Publisher document, which means no more waiting for pictures to upload! Once you insert a picture it is so easy to rotate, center, crop, or change the size of the picture. There are also picture effects and frame choices. Check out the Picture Tools Format toolbar below.


Once you are done writing your blog post, you can preview it right in Live Writer. I love the preview mode because it allows you to check and make sure that your hyperlinks are working. Then you can click on Publish, and it will automatically send it to your blog and post it. If you need to stop working on a post and save it for later, you have two options: you can save it right on Live Writer, or you can send it to your Blogger account as a draft.   

I am so glad I heard about Live Writer! It has definitely made blogging faster and easier. I am not very tech savvy so there are probably lots of great Live Writer features that I don’t know about. If you are a Live Writer user, what is your favorite feature?

Just a friendly reminder that there is one day left to enter my $20 TPT giveaway. Click on the image below to enter!



Monday, July 9, 2012

They Say It’s Your Birthday…and I’m Ready!

There are so many little things teachers have to do. Often times the little things would normally be fun to complete, but during the busy school year, they don’t seem fun at all. They just seem like more things on the to-do list that take time away from the more important things like lesson planning, assessment, etc. One of my goals this summer is to complete some of these little things when I can actually enjoy doing them! :)

So yesterday I got ready for each of my students’ birthdays! I made a birthday sign and birthday presents and purchased birthday hats and confetti (both from Target). When the students walk into the classroom on the morning of their birthday (or half birthday), they will find the following surprise on their desk.    


I made two versions of the sign to share with my lovely readers. Just click on whatever version below works for you! Once you print the sign, just fold it in half, and it is ready to sit on the birthday boy or girl’s desk.

Birthday Sign Birthday Sign Bible Verse

Next up is my birthday gift for the students: bouncy balls. I know…I am a big spender! :) Second graders love bouncy balls though, so it works! The bag topper reads “Happy Birthday! I hope your birthday is a BALL!” They are inspired by the crafty and creative Danyelle from Dandee.

Birthday Bags

You can get a copy of the bag toppers by clicking on the image below. The bag topper is made to fit 3” x 4” bags, which you can find at any craft store.

Bag Topper

I also found the coolest idea from Kelley at Teacher Idea Factory (she has the cutest blog and shares great ideas). She plays “Happy Birthday Boogie” by Ron Brown. As the song plays, the students get in a conga line with the birthday boy or girl as the leader and dance around the room together. How great is that?! I already purchased the song and can’t wait to boogie with my students!  I think we will save that for the end of the day after we sing “Happy Birthday” and eat the birthday treat. Click here to listen to a sample of “Happy Birthday Boogie.” It is on sale for only $0.99 cents! Kelley has some other really great birthday ideas, which you can read about here.

My plan to get some of the little things done this summer when I can enjoy doing them worked; I actually did have fun preparing the signs and gifts! And one thing is for sure: I will enjoy having these done once school starts! :)

I am linking up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics’ Monday Made It linky party. I have loved seeing what teachers are making out there and thought it was about time I linked up myself! Next week I hope to link up again and share something a little more crafty!

Monday Made It

If you haven’t entered my $20 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificate Giveaway, click on the image below and enter to win!


There are three more giveaways going on that are just too good not to share! Teaching Joys and Teacher-ific in 2nd Grade are both giving away $25 Target gift cards. Yep, you read that right… $25 Target gift cards! Click on the images below and enter to win! Teaching Joy’s giveaway ends today so hurry!


Target Giveaway



Lastly, Lori from Teaching with Love and Laughter is hosting a HearALL Assessment Recorder giveaway. She has so many great ideas about how to use it in your classroom. Click on the image below enter this great giveaway.

Love and Laughter


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Linking Up with a New Classroom Theme

I was so excited to see Corinna from Surfin’ Through Second is having a Classroom Theme/Inspiration linky party!

Classroom Theme Linky

I was so excited because I am going to be rolling out a new garden theme next year! I began contemplating a garden theme a few weeks ago, but I was a little hesitant. I didn’t know if I could pull off a garden theme without it being flowery. Although I wouldn’t mind being surrounded by colorful flowers all day, I don’t think the boys would be too excited about a flowery garden theme. :)

Then on a shopping trip to IKEA with my sister, all my hesitation went out the window when I saw the following rug!

Garden Rug

I couldn’t believe it! The garden theme was on for sure then! How cute is that broccoli guy? I plan on using this rug in the classroom library, which will be called the Reading Garden.

After picking up the rug, I turned around to see this adorable canopy, which I thought would be perfect for the Read to Someone (Daily 5) center. The picture in my head of two students reading under this adorable leaf just makes me happy!

Leaf Canopy

Next, I spotted the cute broccoli guy again, along with his equally cute carrot friend! I plan on having them sit on the bookshelves in the classroom library.


Praise the Lord for IKEA! Now that the garden theme was rolling, I began searching for matching digital paper and clipart. I found the following Vegging Out Scrap Kit by Just So Scrappy 2! It will be perfect for making labels, signs, newsletters, etc.!

Veggin Out

I also picked up two window box planters on clearance at Target. I am going to make a window display in the classroom library, and the students will put their favorite books in these boxes.

Window Box Planter

I am also envisioning a white picket fence someplace in the room and little flower pots to hold our sharpened and unsharpened pencils. If you have any garden ideas, I would love for you to comment below and share them. I am still developing this theme, so any ideas would be appreciated!

Thanks for hosting such a great linky party, Corinna. It is so much fun to see other teachers’ classroom themes!

If you haven’t entered my $20 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificate Giveaway, click on the image below and enter to win!



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Win a $20 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificate!

It is time to celebrate my 100 awesome followers! If you are like me, you have your eye on some products from Teachers Pay Teachers. There are so many great products I am excited to use next school year! So to help you get a head start on your back to school shopping, I am giving away a TPT $20 gift certificate! There are three ways to enter:

     1) Follow my blog.

     2) Follow my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

     3) Blog about my giveaway, include the image below, and link back to this post.

Please enter using the Rafflecopter below, leaving your name and email in each entry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I will announce the winner Friday, July 13. I guess Friday the 13th will be a lucky day for one of you after all! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...