Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free Postcards from Vistaprint!

I know that I have read about Vistaprint's free products many, many times on other teachers' blogs, but in case you weren't familiar with the website, you should check it out! Right now they have a ton of June deals that will expire on July 4th. Business cards, postcards, magnets, notepads... the list goes on. You do have to pay shipping, but it's really not terrible. I wanted to show you the super cute postcards I ordered today!
I borrowed this idea from What the Teacher Wants. Periodically, I will mail a postcard to a student's home to recognize his or her great behavior, good choices, increased effort... you understand. This postcard was super easy to make with their templates and fonts, and it only cost me $6.46 for 100! That is 6 cents per postcard! Hard to beat that price.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Classroom Shopping!

Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files (one of my very favorite blogs!!) is hosting a linky party about classroom shopping. I am typically a very light shopper - I hate to spend money. However...... this summer is becoming a bit different! Where shall we start...

After reading about the Making Words folders on What the Teacher Wants, I knew I wanted to make them! I got these heavy-duty file folders from Staples - they were $2 for 12! Since I only have 14 students next year, this was a great deal for me!
 Here is a little pile of the things I have just purchased in the last couple of days! I got the bee notepad for my BEE binders that I will have for my students. I finally found the ASL alphabet that I was dying to have at my teacher store along with the bee notepad. From Target, I got the jumbo bulletin board border of the apples. Some of the apples have paisley print in them, Vera Bradley style! I also got the pencil baskets to make mini chalkboard holders (inspired by Ladybug's Teacher Files whiteboard holders). Inside the basket is a bag of lacing beads for pattern making. And lastly, the inflatable bee!!! I wasn't really planning on having a theme this year (I wanted to focus more on actually teaching...) but I feel called to have bees everywhere!!
 I picked up most of this stuff from a school closing sale. I got about 30 geoboards (hopefully there aren't any in my room already...). I also have a bunch of Uno games and a couple of decks of cards. Then there is a little container of small dice and big dice! I got an amazing deal on this stuff because they needed to sell everything from their school.
 Here are some of my games! I'm going to use Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders to make sight word games and math games for math work stations. The Leap Frog box has a couple of math card games in it, and Cootie is for indoor recess! Not pictured is a counting money bingo game and a bilingual matching game (you'd match casa with house, for example, and there is a picture on each piece). Some of this stuff came from the Salvation Army, some from garage sales.
And of course, my book collection! I decided to put all of my books in a spreadsheet so I could stop duplicating books. I only got through the cardboard box shown here and the red plastic basket, and I'm already up to 76! I still have three boxes to go, plus everything the retired teacher left for me. Holy guacamole!!

So those are some of my recent purchases. Hopefully I can get into school soon and unload all of this stuff into my room!

Link up at Ladybug's Teacher Files!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Book Whisperer Linky Party

Mrs. Lyons, over at Thinking of Teaching, has set up a read-along for The Book Whisperer - definitely one of the best books I have read this year (teaching or otherwise)! I'm still trying to decide if I will join the read-along, but I just read it a month ago so I think I can still contribute regardless. :)

She was able to interview the amazing Donalyn Miller, and now we get to answer the same questions!
  1. What is your favorite book (or series) from childhood? My favorite book, since third grade, has been The Giver. I think I have reread it at least ten times, if not more. Other than The Giver, I also loved the Babysitters' Club and the Little Sister series too. And Wrinkle in Time! (Speaking of Wrinkle in Time, you all should read When You Reach Me!) I read a LOT as a child, and I pretty much loved everything.
  2. What is your favorite book (or series) now? I still read a lot of children's book so that I can stay in touch with my students. My favorite series now are definitely the Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson series. I could read and reread these books! As far as adult books, I really like to read nonfiction books so I can learn. One of my favorite nonfiction adult books is Gang Leader for a Day, which is about the gangs in the former projects of Chicago. I also liked The Kite Runner, which was fantastically written and very heartbreaking.

  1. What is your opinion of e-readers? Ahhh..... this is a tough question. Generally, I do not like them, and I do not want one. Do they have their cool features? Sure. As a matter of fact, my library rents them out, and I would be willing to borrow one for a vacation or something. But I love holding books too much. I love putting my bookmark in and seeing how far I've gotten. I am just too in love with books. Sorry, e-readers.
  2. Finish this sentence: "On Sundays, I like to..." relax! I read teaching blogs, I read books, I love to take walks (a lot)... they are nice, calm days before the new week begins!!
  3. Describe yourself in 5 words! Idealistic, positive, reader, teacher (yeah!), and easygoing.
  4. Hardcover or paperback? Why? I'm not particular. I get whatever format the book comes in when it's at the library. I do like paperbacks, if I'm buying a book, because they are cheaper. :) But I do agree with Donalyn that books like Harry Potter need to be read in hardcover because of their excessive size!
  5. Coffee or tea? I looooooooove tea! I like mainly fruity teas. I just discovered a new obsession - the Youthberry tea from Teavana! When I'm at the mall I drink a ton of sample cups of Youthberry tea.... haha! Maybe once I start teaching I can save up some money and buy it to make at home!

Look at the Thinking of Teaching blog to read other people's answers or to find out more about the book club!

[Also, while you're here, let me know what Math program you use! My principal wants to choose a new one, and I'd LOVE to get teacher input about which programs are legit. Click here to let me know!]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Summer So Far

I have not written in my blog in almost two weeks - yikes!! I hope this mega-post makes up for it. I have many happy things to say today!

1. I am up to 52 followers!!!!!! I am so excited! I remember when I got my first follower, and it was the best day ever. I feel that way every time the number changes. So thank you, friends who are following me now! You make my life so happy.

2. Yesterday I stopped by my school to pick up my science teacher's manuals and I got to check out my (totally empty) classroom! When I got all the teacher's manuals from the retiring 1st/2nd grade teacher, she gave me one of the student science books and told me that they never ordered a teacher's manual. So... I went ahead and asked for one, and my awesome principal ordered it right away. I am really excited to use this curriculum; from what I have seen, it looks great!
While I was at school, I got to go inside my classroom and I took some "before" pictures. I am hoping my "after" pictures will make it look like a totally different classroom! My school was built in 1916, so it is pretty old building, but it has character.
This is the view from the back of the room - so this is what the students will be seeing. The teacher desk is in the top right corner, as you can see, and I don't plan on leaving it there. Also, as you peruse through the pictures, you may notice that my room's theme is Creation (I think). Please note the SUPER high ceilings! It makes the room feel gigantic. Except I can't hang anything from the ceilings..... I think I will do some kind of clothesline thing so that I can hang student work without getting on a hundred-foot-tall ladder.
Here is one of the side walls. I'm planning on using the chalkboard as a word wall since it's magnetic. I will need a HUGE word wall since I have first and second graders. Underneath the chalkboard is a set of little cabinets, as you can see. I talked to my principal about taking the doors off so I can house my classroom library there. When I opened the doors, I found a ton of books that the retiring teacher left for me. This is AWESOME because I knew she had left me other books on a different shelf, so these were like secret treasures!
And the last picture is of the other side wall, which is all bulletin board area. I'm hoping to use the area where the teacher desk is as our "rug" where we will meet to do whole-group instruction, read-alouds, calendar, and all that jazz. The fourth wall is giant windows with radiators underneath. The radiators are painted in the creation theme. I tried to get a good picture, but it was too sunny. They are very interesting looking.... so stay tuned for the painted radiators!

So, as you can see, my room is very brown! Just the other day, I was reading Kristen's post about how she covers her tables with contact paper, and I think I might do that, if only to add some color to the room.

3. Yesterday, I signed up to be a part of Mrs. Saoud's and Ms. Mathes's postcard exchange!
One classroom from each state will participate and send a postcard to 49 other participating classrooms. If you haven't signed up yet, click the link and check if your state is taken! I am super excited about this. My school is in a small farm town, and many of the students haven't even gone to Chicago (which is just a train ride away). I think they will benefit greatly from this project and I can't wait to start!

4. I have gotten SO MANY books for my classroom! I have gone to garage sales, used book sales, school closing sales..... any kind of sales. And I have gotten lots of stuff! It's nice now, knowing which grade I'll have, so I can buy things specifically for my students.
I'm thinking that my mom is excited for August to come so I can clear out these boxes! There are two more boxes not picture here, all full of books (although some are my teacher's manuals - two for each subject, since I have two grades in my classroom).

5. Since I am reading Math Work Stations, I was really looking forward to going through my math manuals specifically. Debbie Diller keeps saying to look in your manual for game ideas. Let me just say, I am pretty sure we have the most BORING math curriculum in the world.
We use Houghton-Mifflin Math. When I talked to my principal yesterday, he said he really wants to get a new math curriculum for next school year (2012-2013), and I will be able to help pick it!

So - blogging friends, do any of you use an AMAZING primary math program that you would recommend? I've used Everyday Math before and LOVE it, but it's kind of a tough sell since it is a bit unconventional. If you use Everyday Math, or a different math program, please let me know which one and why you like it! I need to collect ideas to present to the principal next year. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Favorite Things!

There is a linky party going on over at Little Miss Kindergarten's blog, and it's about our favorite things! Here are mine. :)

1. The Sun and Sand scent from Yankee Candle! I just recently bought some car air fresheners in this scent and I LOVE IT! It smells just like sunscreen, which always reminds me of summer. Also, since it is summertime, I recently saw all Sun and Sand candle products at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on sale! I must go pick some up ASAP!

2. York Peppermint Patties! These are my absolute most favorite candy ever!! I will definitely buy some of these to cheer up my day when I start teaching in the fall - just in case I'm ever feeling down. But I will have to hide them... otherwise I will eat them all at once!!

3. All Mo Willems books! I can not get enough of these books. The third Knuffle Bunny came out not long ago, and it was a tearjerker. Also, I just recently found out that a new Pigeon book will be released next April. I am super excited! I am planning on doing a Mo Willems author study as our first author study this fall, because I want to expose my kiddos to his awesomeness as soon as I can.

4. Reading! I love reading! Ever since I was a little kid, I have read every day as much as I can. Sadly, I fell off the reading train in high school and half of college, but when I took my children's lit class, I remembered how much I loved it. I read a ton of children's chapter books (4th-8th grade reading levels, mostly) so that I can be in touch with my students. I also really like to read teaching books, like The Book Whisperer and Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire. Now that I've picked up my teacher's manuals, I will be mostly reading those for a while... haha!

5. My little pupster! This past August, my family adopted a miniature Schnauzer puppy. He is extremely hyper, loves to gnaw on people... books... his gate... anything you leave laying around, but I love him sooo much. He is just the cutest little thing, and he is a great walker! This is a picture of him in his winter coat when we walk him outside!

Just a few of my favorites. Go visit Little Miss Kindergarten's awesome blog to read other teachers' favorite things!

Little Miss Kindergarten

Monday, June 6, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 3

The latest chapter of Math Work Stations was very helpful, as it described how to set up stations and how to start using them. Debbie Diller had so many examples of mini-lessons and actual conversations teachers can start with students to explain expectations and how the stations work. This is SUCH a great resource!

Here are my answers to the Guided Questions for this chapter!

What should your math work stations look like, sound like, and feel like? This reminds me of the Daily Five framework, where you make anchor charts with students so that they know your expectations for that period of time. I definitely agree with the examples that the book showed. Students should be working the whole time, taking turns, speaking quietly with their partners (about math!), and using appropriate math vocabulary. I think making an anchor chart to remind the students is a great idea - it gives them ownership of the whole situation!

What does your management board look like? Although I am so tempted to purchase Debbie Diller's pocket chart ASAP, I really need to be saving my money... I did see a teacher who implemented her literacy stations, and that teacher created a setup similar to the Really Good Stuff pocket chart, but on her bulletin board. It worked out really well. She used student pictures, and they LOVED that, so I think I will do that next year, too!

How do you support math vocabulary (math talk cards) in your stations? I am planning on implementing Academic Vocabulary in my classroom next year, so this really goes hand-in-hand with that. When I was teaching 5th-8th grade math for six weeks at my school during this past school year, I had students in every section who struggled with what I saw as basic math vocabulary when they were solving word problems. It worried me, so I want to give my students a solid foundation by exposing them to the vocabulary in 1st and 2nd grades. Anyway, I'd be sure to bring up applicable math vocabulary during our Academic Vocab time in the morning, and then we could definitely make the math talk cards as a class to put inside the tubs. I loved her idea of the conversation bubble - how cute! And it makes the math talk cards stand out.

I am starting to feel a lot less stressed about this now. The first two chapters really had me worried, since I haven't been able to check out my math manipulatives and materials. The more I thought about all the work I have to get these stations up and running, the more stressed I was! But Debbie Diller's awesome, concrete tips in this chapter are easing my mind. Thanks, Debbie!! :)

Check out Mrs. Parker's blog to see other teachers' reflections and ideas about Chapter 3!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Best Thing I Learned This Year

Hadar at Miss Kindergarten is hosting a linky party about the best things we learned this year. Yeah!

The best thing I learned this year is twofold - I learned that I really CAN teach a class by myself and that I really enjoy teaching middle school!

Here's the story!

I graduated in December 2009, and since then I have subbed and I had a short-term assistant position in a first grade classroom. In January of this year, I was perusing the Career Services website of my college and I saw a position opening for a first grade teacher for the fall at a Catholic school about 25 minutes from home. I sent my resume and a few weeks later, I got a phone call! How exciting!
When I went in for my interview, the principal mentioned that the seventh/eighth grade teacher was pregnant and would be going on her maternity leave starting mid-March - would I be interested in covering for her? Of course, in this economic climate where hardly anyone I graduated with has a job, I said YES because I didn't want to pass up the opportunity!

Secretly, though, I did NOT want to teach middle school. I had subbed in a few middle school classes and it was just terrible. The students were disrespectful, no one listened to me, and it just made me feel really bad. But I decided to keep an open mind, and I ended up getting the job.

In March, I headed to school for (what was supposed to be) a week of observation before I officially took over the class. But it was not to be - my second day of observation, the teacher I covered for went to her doctor and the doctor told her to stop going to work immediately! So after two days of watching her teach, I was thrown in on my own!
Over the course of the next six weeks, I got to know my eleven 7th/8th graders like the back of my hand. I recommended good books to them, did tons of hands-on science labs, and finished up the year with student-designed solar cookers. It was awesome, and I was so sad to leave after the six weeks were up! I just went to the 8th graders' graduation Mass yesterday and I shed a tear! These students really helped me believe in myself as a teacher - on my own! No cooperating teacher in sight.

And thanks to those students and the experience, I landed the 1st/2nd grade split class for the fall! :)

What was the best thing YOU learned this year? Head over to Miss Kindergarten's blog and join the party!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I Have a Button!!!

Thanks to Ms. M, I have my very own button!! I only have 22 followers now but maybe.... someday... I will have more! Here it is, if you'd like to grab it.

 Marvelous Multiagers
Also, thanks to Kristen, I figured out how to put other people's buttons on my sidebar!

Today, I got FIFTY-EIGHT new (to me) books for my classroom library! A local library had a used book sale, and the church where my mom works also had a used book sale. Between the two of us, we got all of these!
I guess you can't really see them all because I piled them... but I promise there are 58! I was so excited that my mom grabbed Froggy's Best Christmas for me - even if my students think Froggy is lame, I'll just read the books to myself, haha!

I also picked up 10 books yesterday at the Salvation Army for $1 - WOW!

Great day today. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 1 & 2

So I am a day behind on the book study blog party... but it is because my book just came TODAY!

I love that it is spiral-bound and the spiral is red! Also in the mail, I got Dear Abby's Healthy Moms Advice Kit! I got five copies of a selection of the FDA's publications for Women's Health. I'm hanging onto these just in case a mom of one of my students ever sees a need! I have a ton of government-made publications in my life that I've ordered for my classroom because they are FREE!

Anyway, I got right to work reading chapters one and two. Sadly, I really do not have a lot to contribute so far because I'm just starting next year! I am really hoping that I will have lots of math manipulatives - but I teach at a private school and it seems like they don't typically buy "stuff" that comes with curricula... mostly just the textbooks and teacher's manual. But we'll see! I really need to get in there and organize everything. Chapter two was especially helpful and I will definitely bring the book with me to keep me going in the right direction. :)

I've never been in a classroom that has used any kind of independent math centers or stations - only whole-group instruction. Clearly that is not the best method for the students. I think I have my work cut out for me trying to implement math work stations in the fall, it being my first year teaching, but I can't bring myself to just teach whole-group!

One question I have for everyone - I'm teaching a 1/2 split class in the fall, and math is taught separately. I'm not sure how I will be able to teach both grades separately, and do math work stations, and do small group teaching! Does anyone have experience with this, or have any helpful tips that I could use? I would appreciate anything you have to offer. :)

Check out Mrs. Wills's blog for other teachers' AWESOME reflections on these chapters!

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