Monday, August 15, 2011


Ever since I added that tiny little "Pin It" button to my toolbar about a month ago, I've been head over heels in love with Pinterest (can you love a website that much???)! I can't go on Pinterest without spending at least an hour 15 minutes perusing all of the wonderful school-related ideas. And then there is the food. OMGosh, so many delicious recipes! And the decorating ideas. And the cute outfits. And the awesome pictures of places to go and things to see...

I used to bookmark everything that caught my eye and then never go look at it again. Or, I'd search through my bookmarks thinking, "I remember that one day I bookmarked that one thing from that one website. Where could it be?" Ugh, so frustrating. But Pinterest is the answer for the visual thinker/blog stalker/former obsessive bookmarker! That handy little "Pin It" button lets me quickly add a photo from any website to any of my boards. I can then come back and check out anything I pinned in one easy place. The best part about Pinterest is that each picture is hyperlinked back to the original website from which it was pinned. 

Anyway, at the risk of continuing to sound like an infomercial for Pinterest (But wait, there's more!), here are a few things that caught my eye recently:

Great folder organizing idea. For file folder games maybe?

Babbling Abby's cloud bulletin board- adorable!

But wait! There really is more! Check out the rest on Pinterest- you won't be disappointed! I'm trying out this linky party business, too, at Plumdoodles. You should, too! Her blog is fantastic! :) Oh, and don't forget to follow my blog!

Happy pinning!

P.S. Click the captions, not the pictures to go to Pinterest and then the original site. I'm new to this blog stuff, so I don't know how to make a picture a link yet... any suggestions?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom I just spent 4 hours in my room!

 Well, the title says it all! :) We are not due back at school for a few more weeks, but I am moving at the end of the month and need to have my classroom DONE and ready for the kiddos before that all happens. So, why not spend a beautiful Saturday summer afternoon in my classroom?

Here is a sneak peak of what's to come (not finished yet...):
When this is finished, there will be a coconut with each student's name on it and the alphabet will be climbing the tree. Chicka chicka boom boom, will there be enough room?

I also organized the you-know-what out of my math manipulatives and started to organize my shelves. Here is a picture of that ginormous undertaking:
What you can't see is all of the stuff I put behind closed doors in the closet. Also, I cropped out the giant mess on the floor and all of the stuff I stuck on the counters.  Why am I telling you this?! I'm excited about how organized everything is now! I bought the math manipulatives racks at Really Good Stuff at the end of the school year. Love them! (I was using old soup containers-which worked great, but weren't as pretty or organizable). They are in dire need of some labels, as is everything else in the room! Above the wire racks are the privacy folders (for testing), red pens for correcting (sometimes we self-correct/reflect), and felt for use with anything that involves rolling a dot cube (because I don't always have my headache medicine). I made that top shelf as small as possible because of the wire racks, but I liked it so much I decided to make smaller shelves in the next section, too.

The red dish tubs to the left are going to hold materials for each table group. They are right at the front of the room where kids can easily pick them up. I grabbed some Cricut vinyl that I am going to use to label them with big chunky numbers. The empty shelves will hold the student book boxes that I picked up at Ikea.

Speaking of Ikea, I also splurged on a clothes rack to hold this pocket chart.
Yikes, ignore the mess!

I haven't decided what I am going to do with it yet, but I am thinking it might be where kids put their folders when they come in (since we are sans-desks now-woo!). I bought it because a) it was on clearance and b) one side of it has orange, blue, purple, and green- which are the colors of the Treasures small groups! I just can't figure out how to use it for reading though...Oh well, it is a good little room divider, too. Oh, and I used shower curtain hooks to hold it up (thank you Lacey for the idea and Goodwill for 99 cent shower hooks!) instead of those fancy-shmancy hooks that I have no idea where to find.

Well, that's what I did today! I feel like I'm headed in the right direction now. :) I'm so inspired by everyone's blogs with pictures of their classrooms. There are so many brilliant ideas for organizing, decorating, and storing! Can't wait until my room is finished, too!

Oh my word- I almost forgot to show you the letters I made on the Cricut. I have had the thing a year now and am finally figuring out how to make things look cool! These will be two different signs. They're just sitting on this black piece of paper, not glued yet. I think I'll laminate them, too. I love the contrast you get when you use the shadow feature!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can't stop blogstalkin!

Is anyone else out there becoming more and more addicted to teaching blogs as the start of the school year approaches? It's summer for heaven's sake and now that we start school in 26 days, all I can think about is my classroom (well, almost all I can think about...)! Here's how the last few days have looked for me:

Wake up, have some coffee, check my dashboard. Take a shower, go for a bike ride, eat lunch, check out the new blog posts (since my morning cup of coffee)...etc. My word I sound like a nerd!

Seriously, all these bloggin' teachers are soooooo talented! I LOVE seeing classrooms come together, bulletin boards hanging, and the way different teachers start the year. On top of all these fantastic teaching blogs, there are these amazing decorating blogs like Better After. Don't even get me started!

Anyway, this morning I saw this post at First Grade Factory which led to this post at Kindertastic with super cute daily 5 cards. Then I scrolled down and found her adorable book basket labels and of course had to download the super cute fonts she suggested! Wow! I could keep going and going and going, but I have to stop myself so that I can actually get some things done! 

Agenda for school projects today: 
  • bust out the Cricut and make some bulletin board letters
  • make coconuts for my bulletin board (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom look who's in Miss Greig's room)
  • put in my supply order and hope it arrives by the start of school
  • make new word wall words and laminate them
  • probably check out some blogs again and maybe even post something to share this evening :)
What projects are you working on before you're supposed to go back to school?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Watch this!

This clip pretty much speaks for itself. It rocked my socks off. Watch it! Now! Do it!

Thank you Matt Damon! When I have a child, I hope he grows up to be as passionate about learning and as appreciative of teachers as you are.

Sidenote: By the way, I don't expect you to read this Mr. Damon, but if you do, LOVED you in all the Bourne films. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Whoever invented these is a GENIUS!

Have you seen these amazing storage crate seats? Seems like they're all over pinterest, but I think I initially saw them at Fantastic in First, which has a great tutorial for making them (check that out for step-by-step instructions). I spent about 3 hours making them yesterday with the help of my parents and the weather staying nice for us. My dad supplied me with plywood, a staple gun, and staples. I did purchase spray adhesive, but did not end up using it, so that's $8 I am going to get back. :) Are you ready to see the finished product?

Ta da! I actually made 8, but a pyramid looks much better with 6. :)
If you look carefully, you will see that the foamy seat parts are different heights on some of them. That's because I spent $10 at Value Village for two foam pads (instead of $60 at Joann-eek!). So, five of them are 1" thick and three of them are 2" thick. Both are equally comfortable, the thicker ones just took a smidge more fabric to cover.

Slip your hand under for easy lifting and access to whatever is stored below.

 A few things I did differently than the other lovely bloggers I've seen:
  1. I did not use spray adhesive. I just stapled the foam to the wood (on top of each corner). I also used the strength of the fabric that is stapled to the bottom to hold it all into place. 
  2. I did use vinyl instead of cloth fabric (shout out to my mom for the BRILLIANT idea). Kids are going to be sitting on these and there is always the possibility of an accident. The vinyl is waterproof and super easy to clean with disinfectant or a simple wipe down. The ribbon is easily replaceable. Also, the vinyl was on clearance at Joann for $6 a yard!
The Bambino is super interested in the new addition to the living room.

So there you have it! I think I am going to put one at each table (I have tables this year instead of desks-yay!) and the team captain of each week will get to sit on the special seat. I haven't decided what to store in them yet. Since tables don't have cubbies for supplies like desks do, I could put things like writing journals and pencil boxes in them and the captain could be responsible for passing them out. I could also store things that are infrequently used so they aren't being opened by kids...  or maybe I'll use them at a writing station.

I don't know... any ideas?

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Allow me to introduce...myself!

Meet the Teacher! 

I saw this on Miss Kranz's blog and thought I should probably introduce myself. All five of my current followers (heh...) probably know this stuff about me. But I imagine one day when I have a thousand followers will search the archives for this Q & A. Ha! (Note: actually, I just felt like blogging, but did not feel like thinking about school).
First, a bit about me...I am about to start my third year teaching. I taught K, then first, and now first again! I hope to stay there for a long time because I love it!

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a teacher?                                             
A:  I would be a photographer. I have always loved taking pictures and have a very full iphoto program and lots of photo boxes from before this digital age to prove it!

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I like being creative. I love taking pictures and writing. I love making things- crafty things, cookies, etc. :)                              
Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?                     
A:  I remember wanting to be a singer, then a photographer, then a teacher. Now, I’m not even close to a singer, I’m an amateur photographer, and a professional teacher.

Q: What are your guilty pleasures?                                                                  
 A: I'm going to answer this one in tiny font so hopefully you can't see it- Keeping up with the Kardashians. I know...ugh. And Frosties from Wendy's.

Q: When you’re on vacation, where do you like to go?                                   
 A: Spain! I love love love Spain. 

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?                                                  
A: My mama always says: “Vaya con Dios” and “Kill ‘em with kindness.”

Q: What do you value most in others?                                                                   
A:  Honesty, compassion, and a sense of humor.

Q: If you could choose one of your personality traits to pass down to your kids, what would it be?                                                                                                        
A: Having empathy for others.

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone in the world….living or dead…who would it  be?                                                                                                               
A:  Well, Jennifer Aniston- obviously- she is my favorite actress ever and my birthday twin. I’d also really like to meet my grandpa and great-grandparents who passed on before me.

*Now say something random about yourself:
I speak Spanish to my cat. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer To-Do List

There are 17 days of school left and so much to do! Next week we are going to the zoo. I have tons of habitat stuff to do before then, but all of my kids are so excited! I still need to make name tags, send in lunch counts,  and finish all of the things that go along with organizing a field trip. Thank goodness I have such a wonderful first grade team!
Today I started making a personal summer to-do list (mostly including going camping, going on bike rides, going on a picnic, and maybe doing some organizing) and it inspired me to make a school-related to do list. So, here it is:
  1. Think of some great projects so I can do art every Friday! I love art and think it is soooooooo soooooooo soooooooo important that kids get to do it every week. This year I have so many artistic girls and boys, they NEED to do art! 
  2. Go to some art classes that my aunt teaches so I can become a better artist (though I'm alright for first grade! :)) I don't think I could learn from a better teacher! Check out her work here! I'm such a lucky niece!
  3. Rearrange my classroom. Big task, but I have lots of ideas after this year...
  4. Plan weekly homework calendars. Or maybe monthly. I need to be better about consistent homework and practice. I feel like I can get a better grip on it next year after teaching first grade for a year now. I used Kelly's Kindergarten as a resource last year for homework calendars. She is brilliant!
  5. Sort out my student books! Should I level them and sort them by genre? Just level them? Just sort them by genre? Right now they are sorted by genre and there are lots of books in the book hospital that kids can't seem to put away in the right spot.
  6. Speaking of sorting: I need to get new book baskets. I got some last year when I taught kindergarten that worked well for moving around the room because they had handles, but I have so many more books now and I want book-friendly bins. These are amazing!
  7. Speaking of sorting again: I need to organize everything! It's amazing how much junk great stuff you can accumulate being a new teacher! (Especially when you think you can find a use for everything and have a mom that is a garage-sale-aholic!)
  8. Make kid-friendly seating options for read to self. I have some in my classroom already, but since I started using Daily 5 this year, I really want to get some more mobile seats like these!
  9. Reread the Daily 5 and finish reading the CAFE book. 
  10. Redo my word wall. Keep the words in a coupon folder. F is for First grade has a cool word wall idea here.
  11. Make a journal jar. Genius! This is such a wonderful way to differentiate, too! Ah, LOVE it!
  12. Do a monthly theme related to each unit of Treasures. Now that I understand the curriculum and have taught it all, I want to do more interdisciplinary teaching. 
  13.  Decide if I want to share supplies again or have kids use their own and replenish them as they run out. Sharing is good, except when some most kids don't bring what they are supposed to...
  14. Figure out how to best use my amazing new listening center! Love it, but can't quite figure out how to make it work best for the kiddos without a lot of teacher interaction. 
Oh boy, I've been so into this blog I've used up all my battery power! Let's see if I can get all of these things done over the summer! I also need to get some serious sunshine time in!!! Ciao for now! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drawing as storytelling

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a training with David Matteson. David's work focuses mostly on early literacy skills and his presentation made me really think about getting back to basics when it comes to teaching reading and writing. 

My AHA! moments were:
  • Reading comprehension and writing skills are rooted in oral storytelling
  • I need to model, model, model, model, and model some more. Then when I think I am done modeling, I should probably model again. I just don't model enough-even though I model all the time!
We watched a great example video of a pre-school writing lesson. Pre-school? Writing? Writing in pre-school? YES! It starts with drawing and telling a story. The teacher started telling a story about her birthday as though she was sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories:
  • "It started when the moon was still in the dark sky (draws moon). The dresser drawers had not yet been opened (draws house, dresser). The flowers had not been sniffed (draws flowers on dresser). I was snuggled deeply under the covers in my bed snoring away (draws bed, lumpy figure, starts making loud, exaggerated (?) snoring sounds)."
As she talked, the entire room full of adults was immersed in this simple story. Her storytelling technique was one to be envied, as were her artistic abilities. She went on to say that her husband walked in the room carrying a cake and woke her up singing her "Happy Birthday." The kids joined in as she sang the song and little giggles kept popping up as she finished narrating the morning's events. She drew speech bubbles and wrote a simple sentence below her drawing. Every day, she keeps the chart paper stories for kids to retell and "read" during center time.

AHA! moment: I must try this with my first graders!

I used the technique today to introduce a writing idea for their Daily 5 choice during reading. We're on unit 5, week 3 of Treasures, which is all about weather. First we brainstormed weather that would make us want to run for cover. Our list included floods, tsunamis, thunder and lightning, tornadoes, rain, hail, and other crazy weather. I decided to tell a story about a time when I was living in Spain and I went for a walk and suddenly the wind started blowing so fast that my umbrella turned inside out. I started by talking about the setting, then the characters, then the main event. Those elements are SO important in storytelling, reading,  and writing and this is such a great way to teach them! If kids go back and read or retell the stories later, they are getting practice with sequencing, too.

Well, they loved my silly little anecdote and when it came time to make their Daily 5 choices, I told them they could write about something that has happened to them with crazy weather. Over three-quarters of the class chose writing as their first choice (usually writing is the least popular)!  

It was so much fun to see their cute little stories! One boy told me he'd never been in crazy weather, but he has seen a rainstorm from his bedroom window while watching SpongeBob. He has a hard time with fine motor skills, so I (against my nature usually, but inspired by Monday's workshop) drew him a house to get him started. As he told me the story, we talked about what he could draw around the house. This was amazing! Just a little start and he drew himself in the window watching SpongeBob, and such a detailed storm outside! Usually it is like pulling teeth to get this guy to write or draw anything, but he really went for it this time. There were clouds, wavy lines showing wind blowing, and branches falling off of trees. I'm so proud!

My idea for next year is to do developmental journals. In September, I want to really get kids thinking and telling stories before I ask them to write and tell me the elements of a story. I do have high expectations for my students, but I don't want to miss these milestones of story telling. Mr. Matteson says that many of these milestones are met during pre-school, but very few of my students had even read a book before coming to school, and they certainly didn't get the benefit of pre-school. My duty is to catch them up and give them rich experiences. He also says that kids should start "above the line" (drawing) and work up to "below the line" (writing).

What better way to build language than to tell stories?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Fever and Why I Love My Job

Dios mio, am I wiped out! Does this happen to you in April? I slept in until 7:30 this morning and it was amazing, but meetings before and after school took away from my planning time and made me mentally exhausted. It was lovely waking up this morning to the sun forcing its way through the curtains as if to say, "I'm baaaack, now get up and enjoy me!" So I did. Took my new bike out for a ride and now I finally feel like it is spring (forget about the snow in my home town two days ago...). Happy spring! 

Now for the fever part- over spring break I got cat scratch fever! I'm taking antibiotics and still dealing with the worst scratch I've ever had right on the palm of my hand, all because of this adorable little peanut: 

Frankie Bambino
Some of the kids in my class have been begging to see the wound...but I won't show them. Kids are strange...

Anyway, the reason I sat down to write today was to reflect on the reasons I love my job.  I need this little reminder because I'm getting worn down listening to all the chatter on the budget cuts and thinking about the impact it has on education. Let's focus on the positive.
  • First graders progress SO much between February and now. They have become so independent (thank you Daily 5) and are just full of great and often hilarious ideas. We made pattern block pictures, graphed the number of each shape we used, then wrote about the picture. I told the kids the only rule was they had to make some kind of spring picture. While girls and boys made flowers, sunshines, bees, and birds, one clever little guy told me that his was a "dragon that spits, uh, a spriiiiing dragon that spits fire." I guess if you add "spring" before the name, then it makes it a spring picture. :) 
  • When state benchmark and unit testing all fall during the same week, the kids are still so excited to be at school. Sure, they're a bit more rambunctious in the afternoon, but for the most part they are just happy as can be. For example, the kids were tested like crazy this week and this is what I heard: 
    • "I love tests. It shows how smart we are."
    • "This is fun!"
    • "Can we correct our own tests? Puuuhhleassse?"
    • "Make sure you fill in the bubble all the way, but you don't have to take too long to color it in because that wastes time." (Did I just hear an echo of my own voice?!)
  • Birthday celebrations are oh so fun in first grade. Yesterday we had fruit smoothies to celebrate one little guy's 7th birthday. His mom attached little Hawaiian flower decorations to the straws and the kids were in LOVE with them. Then, the boys decided to put mustaches on with the whipped cream. They started this all on their own, but I was totally encouraging this by saying things like, "I thought you were 7, not 17!" and also just laughing hysterically because it was so darn cute I couldn't help myself. In the midst of all this testing/budget cutting/economic slumping/povertying/seriousnessing, it's important to let kids show their true colors and have some good ol' fashioned fun! 
  • Yesterday was the final day of "bunny buddies" which lasted all week (think Secret Santa, but for a pre-Easter/almost done with lent pick-me-up). My bunny buddy surprised me with treats on my desk every morning. She was very sneaky and I had no idea who she was all week! Well, on Friday, there was no little gift in the morning. When I came back from lunch, the kids were just entering the room, so I waited until they all went in then closed the door. They were surrounding my desk staring in awe at something. Someone shouted, "The Easter Bunny was here!!!" I had a brief recollection of when the leprechauns broke into our classroom and stole the green markers, but I had nothing to do with this Easter bunny business... turns out my bunny buddy had snuck into my room during lunch and left a gift with a tag that said, "Bunny Buddy" on one side and her name on the other. They saw "bunny" and were convinced the Easter bunny had stopped by to give me a pre-Easter treat. :) I went with it and they didn't question a thing! I love their enormous imaginations and I cherish those special spontaneous moments that can't be planned.
In other news, I accidentally purse-dialed the principal on Thursday. Ooops. Luckily he is very laid-back and laughed it off when I told him what happened, otherwise it might go on my list of embarrassing moments! 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Literacy Ideas & Dollar Deals

When I started this blog, I intended to write in it every week. Well time is just flyin'! At this point, I'm just proud that a whole month hasn't passed by!

Anyway, isn't Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest? Seems like lately it's been a day to play catch up. Here is what I did for 3 hours this morning.

  • I took down my weather bulletin board:  
I'll miss seeing this sun everyday. Maybe the real one will stick around now!
  •  Got my habitat bulletin board ready. I forgot how tiring it is to climb on counters to take down/put up borders! I threw away about 10,000 staples, then put up about 10.000 more. Still a long way to go. I think I'll spend some quality time with my Cricut tonight!
This used to have math on the left, science on the right (above). Each quarter will have a different habitat.
  • I made these literacy centers. We're reviewing for our Treasures unit assessment for the first few days of the week, taking it on Wednesday and Thursday AND doing a state math assessment. Hopefully these centers make it a fun week!
Scrambled Egg Sight Words

Scrambled Eggs Sight Words. We'll be reviewing some words from this unit.
Anything inside of an Easter egg is exciting!
Click here to download scrambled eggs

Retelling Spinner
Love this ladybug retelling wheel! I got this idea at Fun in First Grade, except I bought the spinner at Target's dollar spot. I'm thinking about adding a writing component to this as well.
Word Work Stamps
Mini alphabet stamps=score of the century!

These little cuties were at Michael's in their dollar section. I searched high and low for as many as I could find with the kid-friendly "a". I bought enough for half of the class to be able to use them at a time. They'll be a great addition to the word work part of the Daily 5 in our classroom...more on that later! Did I mention they were only a buck? Can't beat that!

Time to enjoy the last bit of this fabulous Sunday! Have a great week!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Well, it's official-I'm blog-sessed. I've been spending every spare minute I've had over the last few days perusing far away first grade teacher blogs. Who knew that this other world existed in which I could borrow and share ideas, and feel validated in all the stress and fun that comes along with teaching 21 six-year-olds?

Anyway, my boyfriend, Stephen, and I went to the Goodwill today after a beautiful drive out to a evenmorebeautiful nearby city. I went in search of some sort of chair/beanbag/laundry basket/seating device that would be unique and small enough to stick in my classroom as a *new* and exciting read-to-self choice. What I found can only be described as a mushroom or a tuffet-Little Miss Muffet style:

I know. Yuck.

Stephen liked it, too, but I remember telling him at some point, "You have to see things for the potential they have, not for what they are right now." Life lessons at the Goodwill.

So, I drug him to the fabric store where I picked up some fantastic black and red print fabric. (Side note- I use red dish bins in my classroom for centers, turn in box, etc, and the flowers on this material are the exact color red. And I love when things match). I had a vague idea of how I would attach it- nails and glue-  just like when they made it in the 70s. Ha! It was a nice thought, but I hammered one nail about halfway into the little thing and that took a good five minutes. Lucky for me, the glue gun was on my side. And this is what it looks like now: 

So much better now! And, I did it all while watching two episodes of Roseanne on Netflix. :) Frankie Bambino (that's my newly adopted sweetheart of a cat) only tried scratching at it once...and another time fell over and purred after he smelled it (doesn't smell to me, but who knows where it came from and what he senses...). Stephen says it's going to be the new hot spot for read to self. I think he's right.

Now, what can I re-cover next?