Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Checklist for the Summer Months-Do you create one?

I find myself to be a pretty motivated person.  I am excited to wake up in the morning, clear my head with a run, and tackle the day.  At the end of each school year I find that the thought of 11 or so weeks is the perfect amount of time to tackle some things that I did not have the time for during the school year, that I would love to learn to do.

I am not a list person, as I know many people are, but I keep this mental list that keeps me a bit inspired all summer.  This year "the list of things I wanted to accomplish during summer" included:
  1. Complete potty training for my three-year old.
  2. Move said three-year old into a "big girl bed" successfully.
  3. Work on writing and reading each day with my six-year old.
  4. Enhance my blog.
  5. Create items for Teachers Pay Teachers.
  6. Try exercise other than running each day.
  7. Read a book a week.
  8. Learn to sew.
The checklist went a little something like this...

I am excited to say that for the most part, it has been a productive summer and I have been able to check many items right off of the list fairly easily.  Not the goal necessarily that things are easy, but things have been accomplished.

1.  My daughter was nearly potty trained at the end of the school year, and with a few minor battles and a few packages of "Princess Undies"-Task ACCOMPLISHED!

2.  She has been very content in her crib-never a climber, so I just thought waiting until summer would be perfect to put her in a bed.  In case of some restless nights, summer is the perfect transition time-surely it was-I only had to take one baby from her, one time, and she has yet to leave her bed again!  Task ACCOMPLISHED!

3.  My son is witty, smart, active, kind-hearted, and thoughtful.  He can make anything out of something that it wasn't intended because of his "engineering" mind.  What he doesn't like to do is sit down and write.  He never has.  When most babies like to scribble with crayons, he wanted no part in that.  He could play all day, but writing takes some work for him.  In fact he has told me all summer that "none of my other friends have to journal."  My response is always, "well they should."  So each day we tackle a journal entry, his kindergarten Star Words list, some flash cards of high frequency words, and five books.  Despite the griping, I will say he has become both a better reader and writer this summer.  He spent a good amount of our vacation reading signs as we drove to Hilton Head.  I am proud of him.  Task ACCOMPLISHED!

4.  Thanks to everyone who has checked out my blog and become a follower.  This has been such a fun experience learning so much about the blogging world.  I love checking in on so many inspirational blogs and hearing so many great ideas from you!  Task ACCOMPLISHED-although I will still view it as a work in progress!

5. I created two items for Teachers Pay Teachers that I am so excited to utilize with my students this year.  while it is time consuming, it was rewarding to create a novel unit and Word Work to go along with my implementing of the Daily 5.  Task ACCOMPLISHED!

6. I am lucky to have such great workout buddies.  My friend Rachel, who I run with most frequently, actually pushed the CRT and Barbell classes. Joining up with my friend Maria for these twice a week classes has been a blast.  I would like to think I am in pretty good shape after this summer. We will be tackling the Indianapolis Half Marathon this October as well.  Task ACCOMPLISHED!

7.  I can't say I have read a book a week, but I have read a ton this summer.  I have read many resources to enhance my teaching and a few novels that I can't wait to share with my students.  The Daily 5, which I finally had the chance to read this summer, has changed everything for me, and I head back to the classroom completely inspired.  Task ACCOMPLISHED!

8. I am sad to say that this is the one item on my to do list that got zero attention.  I have this fabulous sewing machine in my basement that will have to wait until next summer.  While I still have a few weeks, there are baby showers to attend in Chicago, back to school events and football for my son, classroom organization, lesson planning, etc. on my plate.  I am not one for excuses, but I fell short this summer.  Learning to sew will be at the top of the list next year!

I hope in all of the hustle bustle of summer you were able to take on some things that you did not have the chance to get to during last school year!   It can be a challenge to work your tail off as a classroom teacher AND do all of the other things that are important in life.  Most importantly, if checking things off of your list did not happen, I hope you took some time to relax and rejuvenate so you are inspired to be back in your classroom as a SUPERSTAR TEACHER!  Good luck as you head back into the trenches!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Is Your Classroom Ready? How to Make a Classroom Banner...

I always find that I am a bit antsy around this time in the summer.  Our vacation has come and gone, July is coming to an end, and school supply deals are in full swing.  I have been to my classroom twice so far, once last weekend to organize after the summer clean-up crew, and today to drop off some supplies with my own kiddos.

Floors are waxed, desks are in place, and it is starting to look like a classroom that is ready for students again.  I have made some changes to EVERYTHING based on my plan to teach the Daily 5/Daily 3 this school year, so I feel like my brain will not turn off.

My friend Maria, who I have gotten to spend a great deal more time with this summer because my family joined her gym, has inspired me in all kinds of ways through our daily catch-up sessions.  Mainly we are getting in a few words here and there as we are working out or chasing small children around the pool, but she has been a wealth of ideas, nonetheless.  She has made me feel less antsy, and more excited about the year to come.

A few weeks back she made a cute banner to display in her classroom.  Be sure to check out her banner on her blog at http://curiousfirsties.blogspot.com/.  I was inspired by her idea and decided to follow suit.  Surely there is nothing more welcoming, aside from a kind, friendly, and smiling teacher, than a welcome sign!

Because I had scotch tape on hand and ribbon from another craft project, it only cost me $1.07 to make the banner.   You can get incredibly creative with plate design and color fill on the letters, of course.  I chose to go very simple.


If you are up for tackling your own banner, I have included a quick "how-to" to make the letters on Microsoft Publisher:
  • On the Start menu, click on Microsoft Publisher
  • Click on Blank Print Publication
  • Click on Quick Publication Options-a blank page will be visible
  • To the left of the menu you will see shapes-I used the oval-Click on it
  • Click in the middle of your page and you will have a small shape
  • Size the shape how large/small you want it-I made mine roughly 6.062 H by 5.438 W
  • Double click on your shape
  • You can change the outline color of your shape, make the outline thicker, etc.
  • Under the style tab, I made my circle outline 6pt.
  • Where it says Color at the top, you can fill in the space with color if you choose-I did not.
  • Right click and you can Add Text
  • Center your text
  • Depending on the font you select you will need to play with size-I used a font called "wish I were taller" and needed to make it 200 and bold
  • Print your creation and put your banner together!
Good luck as you are getting your classroom in order.  I know each little task I accomplish as I head into August, makes me feel a little less overwhelmed about having it all together when students walk through the classroom door on that very first day of the school year!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Field Trip Opportunities-Where do you take your students?

I feel very lucky to both live/teach in the Cincinnati area because there are so many opportunities offered to teachers and students to enhance what is being taught inside of the classroom, outside.

Our Cincinnati Arts Association http://cincinnatiarts.org/education offers a number of invaluable performing arts presentations to students each year.  I submitted a grant for this coming school year back in June and learned today that we have been approved for a grant.  This grant minimizes ticket cost for our students and covers the cost of our transportation in order for our 6th graders to attend this play.  For just $2 a ticket, our students have the chance to experience the performing arts-kind of exciting.

Here is the play we will be attending:

Accidental Friends
By Y York
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Aronoff Center, Jarson-Kaplan Theater

This funny but moving play tells the story of Jonathan, who is temporarily blinded by a head injury. He sits alone wondering why his best friends don't come see him. Enter Hilda, a classic over-achiever geek, wondering why Jonathan hasn't answered the witty letter she was made to write in class. With Hilda's relentless encouragement, Jonathan learns to get around using his sense of touch. He also discovers that although Hilda may be unusual, she is also interesting and funny. Nonetheless, when Jonathan gets back to school and his friends, he turns his back on her. Only when it is too late does Jonathan realize that he can help Hilda by being her friend.

I will be reading the novel Crash by Jerry Spinelli with my students in the fall of the school year.  http://mrsbeerslanguageartsclass.blogspot.com/p/books-books-and-more-books.html The novel and this play present a text-text connection for my students as characters go through trials and tribulations in order to determine true friendships.

While my hope is that my students view this play and are able to make this literary connection, I am more thrilled that they have the opportunity to experience the arts.  Even more exciting would be a student deciding that upon seeing this performance, they can't wait to try out for the school play in middle school!

So check out what learning opportunities outside of the classroom your town or city has to offer-you never know how cheap in cost an opportunity may come, but how rich an experience your students will have.


Monday, July 23, 2012

How My Family Spent Our Summer Vacation

The pictures have finally been downloaded from vacation...I still have to get copies to fill the frames in my house, and to send to friends and grandparents, but downloading is a start.  With the pictures downloaded, I have been able to create this slideshow on Smilebox.  I have posted a few of these on my blog from last year, but this is another way I utilize this awesome resource. 

This is the slideshow I plan to share with my new 6th grade students the first day of school.  I want them to learn a bit about me as their devoted new teacher, and I am hoping this might spark some thoughts as to what they want to share with me that they did over their summer break. This will be their very first entry in their writer's notebook of the year.  If students are able to bring in pictures to add to their writing, I will welcome them.  Any tools or resources that students willingly add to their writing is exciting.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Customize your own free slideshow

While some students will see this slideshow and immediately have a mind full of ideas, I know that is not true for all.  My plan is to introduce this ABC Brainstorming Organizer to show students one tool that is useful when they are trying to recall as much as possible about a topic.  My hope is that by generating as many thoughts about summer, my students will develop a piece, perhaps a narrative, to share their own experiences.

ABC Brainstorming Graphic Organizer

Good luck with your first few days of writing in the classroom!  How will you inspire your amazing writers?


Sunday, July 22, 2012

More School Supply Deals This Week...Take a Peek!

Another week closer to school and another week of deals.  The deals listed are from July 22-July 28.  Check out what Staples, Target, and Walgreens are offering below:

Office supply stuff that we teachers need lots of for the classroom...

This is a great deal if you are spending over $30.  I am going to take in some laminating for my Boggle board, so this coupon with all of the other things I purchase is great.
Staples Stickies® ½" tape flags, bright colorsTagging places in texts for myself and students.
25¢ each
Reg. price $3.29
Valid July 22 - July 28
In store only. While supplies last.
All 25¢, 50¢ and $1 items are limit 4 each per customer unless otherwise noted.

Sharpie® Accent® tank highlighters - yellowMy students love highlighters for many uses.
Reg. price $4
Item: 356458
Valid July 22 - July 28
All 25¢, 50¢ and $1 items are limit 4 each per customer unless otherwise noted.

 I use these to label student hooks in the locker area.

Reg. price $2.99
Valid July 22 - July 28
In store only. While supplies last. All 25¢, 50¢ and $1 items are limit 4 each per customer unless otherwise noted.

Staples® ruled 3" x 5" white index cardsWord games, research, games, etc.
1¢ each, with $5 minimum purchase
Reg. price $1
Valid July 22 - July 28
Limit 2 per customer. While supplies last. Minimum spend does not include tax or cost of any extreme deal item.

Staples® pink cap erasers

1¢ each, with $5 minimum purchase

Reg. price $1
Valid July 22 - July 28
Limit 2 per customer. While supplies last. Minimum spend does not include tax or cost of any extreme deal item.

Still not a ton of great deals, but some goodies that will save some money...

My students go through these like crazy! Perfect price!

20¢ each
No limit!

20¢ each2-ct. erasers

Lots of additional 99¢ items like colored pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, etc, but I know they will become better deals in the coming weeks.


No limit!

Limit 3!

If you live close to an IKEA, I found magazine boxes 5 for $1.99.  I am carefully considering buying those as they will save me a ton of time.  My original plan was to use pizza boxes, but if I can have ready-made boxes that students can decorate, I may head in that direction.

Let me know any great deals you may find as you go deal hunting!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Preparing Book Boxes for the Daily 5

As I am sure most school districts do, we utilize DIBELs, DRA, and a variety of other assessments to gauge the instructional reading levels of each of our students.  Our building has a calendar of when these assessments are given throughout the course of the school year, and the data is utilized to drive instruction and to measure student growth.

I stumbled upon this resource at the public library in hopes of finding some tidbits to enhance my instruction.  I was thrilled to find an Oral Reading Assessment, Silent Comprehension Assessment, and Instant Words Assessment that I can quickly utilize with each of my 6th graders to help identify their Independent Reading Level, Instructional Reading Level, and Frustration Level.  While DIBELs and DRA do provide this, I thought that these different tools can be beneficial as well, and can provide great information about each student quickly.

One aspect that I like the best is that the Oral Reading Assessment begins at easy first grade level or 1-A and students can be assessed through seventh grade reading level.  This will provide a really quick picture of what I need to be doing immediately for my incoming 6th grade readers.

How to Teach Reading by Dr. Fry - 5th Edition

My goal is to make the read to self and read to someone components of the Daily 5 as productive as possible.  If you are looking for a few quick and useful assessment tools in order to gauge student ability as you work to put together book boxes for each student, check out this resource. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012


So I was reading some great blog posts about "Make Something New Mondays."  While I did not make anything new or out of the ordinary yesterday, a mid-evening adventure to Target brought out "Try-Something-New-Tuesday." 

Things I wish I could do or want to learn how to do:
  1. JUGGLE-knives, fire, small children-something incredibly dangerous that would grab students' attention immediately!
  2. Play the GUITAR-I have tried every instrument as a child-violin, piano, flute, etc.  I am not musically inclined, but I will sing at the top of my lungs in my car like I was performing my own concert.
  3. Make BALLOON ANIMALS-fortunately, tonight was my night!
I head to Target at least once a week.  I am not proud, this is merely fact.  We went tonight to buy a few random grocery items, but my kiddos were most looking forward to an after dinner Icee.  After Icees were purchased, we walked around to find the items we NEEDED and found many things we didn't.  Oh well!

In the toy section, my son stumbled upon this Twisty Balloon kit.  Pretty cute for $1.48.  When we got home he could't wait to give it a try.  The blowing up the balloon part is easy, but the tying and twisting-more of a "Mommy-job."  So following the directions, I began twisting, twisting, and more twisting...

Here we have my very first balloon dog!  Not too bad for a non-circus/non-carnival worker!

So my plan is to purchase a few more of these inexpensive packages of Twisty Balloons.  On indoor recess days when the weather gets a bit crummy, I will show my students a new skill-How to Make Balloon Animals!

Here is a ton of other goodies I picked up for my student Bulldog Buck Store.  All of these items were on clearance for 70% off and were $1 to start.  Not bad.  I will use the buckets for supplies on student desks during working times, but all of the other stuff will be able to be purchased by students who work hard earning Bulldog Bucks.

While I didn't get any school supplies, Target doesn't have the best deals yet-I learned a new skill that I can utilize in a fun way with my silly 6th graders!  Happy Fun Hunting!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

I am a DEAL FINDER! Back to School Supplies for CHEAP!!!

Back to school  is one of those times that can be a tad bittersweet as a teacher.  Summer seems to be in full swing, but all of a sudden those "Back To School" displays just start creeping up everywhere with the reminder that summer will soon come to an end. 

Rather than avoid it, I embrace it by getting the Sunday newspaper every Sunday around mid-July until school begins.   I was most excited today after arriving home from the grocery store to find there were some awesome deals that I will be hunting down with my kiddos after pooltime tomorrow.  I am really only focusing on those items that I utilize with my students on a daily basis or items that I know are on my son's school supply list for first grade-check these out:

Office Depot:

Hot Price $.10 each! Office Depot Brand 3-Prong with 2 Pocket Folders.
Limit 10 per household/business
tug 2 Hole Manual Pencil Sharpener
Hot Price $.10 each tug Pencil Sharpener
While supplies last. No rainchecks.
Limit 3 per household/business.
Avery® insertable 5-tab dividers
1¢ each,
with $5 minimum purchase
Reg. price $1.49
Valid July 15 - July 21
Limit 2 per customer. While supplies last.

Staples® translucent pencil box, assorted colors
50¢ each
Reg. price $1
Valid July 15 - July 21
In store only. While supplies last. All 25¢, 50¢ and $1 items are limit 4 per customer unless otherwise noted.

Staples® 8.5" x 11" writing pad - white
1¢ each, with $5 minimum purchase
Reg. price $1.49
Valid July 15 - July 21
Limit 2 combined per customer. While supplies last.

crayola classic markers 10pack
Crayola® Classic Markers 10-Pack 97¢ each pack
• 10 classic colors in broad or thin tip Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

crayola colored pencils 12pack

Crayola® Colored Pencils 12-Pack 97¢
• Made from reforested wood Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

elmers washable school glue stick
Elmer’s® Washable School Glue Stick 10¢ each
One-Time Offer
• Goes on purple; dries clear
• 0.21 oz. Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

1subject notebook
1-Subject Notebook 17¢ each
• 70 sheets
• Wide or college ruled
• Variety of colors Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

composition book

Composition Book 50¢ each
• 100 sheets
• Wide or college ruled
• Sewn spine Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

1 economy binder
1" Economy Binder 92¢ each
• 2 inside pockets
• Variety of colors Valid Jul 15 - Jul 21

Office Max:

First 6 at 10¢ each. Additional bottles 49¢ each.
*Available in store only. While supplies last.

OfficeMax Stick Medium Point Ballpoint Pens, 12 Blue Ink Pens
First 3 at 25¢ each. Additional packs $1 each.

*Available in store only. While supplies last.
(This image shows 12, but there are only 10 in a package.)
While this may not seem like a ton of supplies for cheap, I find that they add up, and the earlier I start purchasing items for my students and my classroom, the more money I am able to save.  You better believe I will be heading to a few of these stores a couple of times this week, thanks to their limits, but don't forget to tell the employees that you are a teacher-sometimes they will allow you to get more than the normal limit.  It is always worth asking...PLEASE let me know of any DEALS you find.  Be sure to check back next Sunday to see what else I find for the classroom at "dirt cheap" prices!  Happy Deal Finding!