Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School BOOST

It's a BACK TO SCHOOL BOOST today with a variety of resources and helpful hints to get your school year started off on the right foot!  (Pinterest boards, free online resources, and a HUGE sale)  Let's get to it!

A. Classroom Decor:  It's everyone's favorite part of the year...decorating your classroom.  I'll share some of my favorite "hot spots" for ideas, but let's not forget the FAB FIVE rules to decorating your room!
1.  Whatever theme or style you choose, you've got to LIVE with it all year. (And even longer if you're on a budget!)
2.  Avoid OVER stimulating your students.  You don't want there to be SO MUCH in your classroom that they can't focus on the lesson at hand!
3.  Think practical!  Just because it's CUTE, doesn't mean it's functional!  Think about what you'll be using things for and if it's ultimately going to be a big waste of time or not.
4.  Leave some space for movement.  We often forget that an EMPTY classroom has far more room than when you put the 20 + bodies in there!
5.  Don't forget yourself!  Every teacher needs a working space.  We use it to plan, answer emails, fill out paperwork, etc.  Decorate your little private world to be a motivating and pleasant place to work for YOU! Put up some personal photos of your loved ones, inspirational quotes to lift your spirits, and go ahead and splurge on a few items that you just WANT to have.  (Nice planners, cute organizers, colorful folders, etc.)  You'll need that pleasant space to unwind and relieve some stress!  Make it worthwhile!

Click images for some really great Pinterest board full of ideas for classroom decorating!  :-)

B. Set Realistic Goals:  I did say REALISTIC!  Teachers are highly motivated individuals anyway, but sometimes we set goals so high that we only end up disappointing ourselves when we don't get there.  So...think short and sweet goals!  Perhaps one every quarter would be a great place to start!  They can be goals ranging from personal in nature, (I WILL get home by 5:00 three days a week) to professional  (I WILL purposefully pull my high achievers at least 2 days a week in math to teach them an advanced concept).  Share your goals with a colleague.  We all know that when we let someone in on our intent, we are more likely to follow through!  Make your "buddy" hold you accountable!

C.  Purposefully Plan!  Planning is a large part of our lives as teachers.  The buzz word at our school is purposeful planning!  Make the most of every minute.  It's amazing to think about how much time "lost minutes" add up to if we're not planned effectively.  Hmmmm....5 minutes a day of "lost instruction" doesn't seem like much, huh?  After all, it's only 5 minutes.  Those 5 minutes turn into 25 minutes each week.  (I can teach a good mini-lesson in 25 minutes!)  Those 25 minutes a week turn into 1 hour and 40 minutes each month (an entire E/LA block at my school), which turns into 6 hours and 40 minutes for the year.  You've lost an entire day of instruction with the "it's only 5 minutes" mentality.  Purposeful planning isn't just about writing lesson plans either!  It includes everything from seamless classroom routines, to long range mapping, to management of time, resources, and little people!  I like this little website called Teachingleadership.org  (Click Teaching as Leadership image to access).  It's loaded with some tips and strategies, as well as .pdf documents as resources for your purposeful planning events.  Scholastic DOES offer a paid for product called, "Your Best Year Yet! A Guide to Purposeful Planning and Effective Classroom Organization."  It's available for as low as $4.50 on Amazon.

FINALLY, what's a Back to School BOOST without your friends at TpT?  They are offering a very quick ONE DAY ONLY sale for you! **WEDNESDAY, AUG. 2th!**   Most sellers (including myself) will participate in the boosting fun and give you 20% + TpT's additional 8% off if you use the code BOOST when checking out!  (Total of 28% off!) 

I'd love to show you some of my BEST DEALS!

The Problem Solving Monthly Bundle is typically $15.00.  With the Back to School Boost, you'll get it for $12.00.  It contains 9 months of problem solving, including a problem of the day for each day September through May.  It comes with a calendar for each month, adorable monster problem solving tips, and multi-step challenging word problems in a variety of topics each month!  Great to use as morning work, centers, or class constructive response problems you work on together.  (Best for grades 3-4!)

My latest and one of my favorites is the Literary Elements (Make a Case for) unit.  It's full of Close Reading opportunities as students round up some evidence to support their choices for characterization, plot, theme, setting, etc.  This is a great unit to run multiple copies of and keep handy at your guided reading table.  It includes some mini-posters on the Literary Elements you can hang in your classroom.  With the Back to School Boost, you can get it for $4.00.  (Best for grades 3-5!)

Whatever deals you walk away with, I hope you're feeling a little BOOSTED and ready to go.  Best of luck for a fabulous 2014-15!  Got any additional BOOSTING TIPS for us?  Please share!  We'd love to hear from you!

Bananas for a BOOST to help you start your school year,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week Fun and Problem Solving FREEBIE

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love!

Of course, picking topics the students are interested in always helps, too!
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Sharks are IN and so is SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel. No matter how you feel about sharks, we all get drawn in to watching an episode or two during shark week. Kids are fascinated by sharks, so take advantage of this week and engage them in some shark problem solving. This little FREEBIE is a problem of the day for each day of Shark Week. Students could work the problems in pairs, cooperative groups, or individually. It's up to you, but it's a sure way to peak their interest in problem solving. Invest in some cheap shark stickers and mark their progress on the August calendar included in the freebie.

Click the image to try it out!
Be sure to go for a swim in the linky party below. Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th  : )

An InLinkz Link-up

Bananas for sometime scary, but interesting adventures!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FREE Back to School E books

What happens when some amazingly talented educators and creators for grades 3-5 share their favorite Back to School tip, as well as a Back to School freebie?  You get the FREE Back to School E books available in E/LA and Math/Science editions!  Both books are loaded with some easy to implement ideas with little to no prep!  There are over 70 pages in the E/LA book and over 40 pages in the Math/Science book...that's 110 +freebies with some clicks of a mouse! Count me in!   :-)  

Hats off to the contributors, collaborators, and hosts of each book!  As you grab some great ideas and free materials, please remember to say THANKS!  May your 2014-15 school year be an AMAZING one!

Bananas for incredible ideas and new beginnings each school year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I was never one to sit still!  At least that's what my mother always told me!  Isn't it true for our students these days?  Now, more than ever, students' attention span is not what it used to be!  So, how do you combat this?  You MOVE them!  We all know that getting students out of their seats can be beneficial in the long run.   Here's a link to a great article (and reminder) that movement can actually ENHANCE the the learning process.  In a nutshell, "Moving With the Brain in Mind," discusses the physical benefits that directly correlate to increased learning.  1.  Circulation increases heart rate, which gives you a better performance.  2.  Movement gives learners a new spatial reference on your classroom.  3.  We learn in SHORT bursts, not ones that drag on and on and cause us to become squirmy.  4.  We, as humans, are designed to be physical. (walking, running, eating, and DOING)  Keep in mind sitting in chairs is something a person invented...  5.  Certain movement can stimulate the release of your body's natural motivators  6.  Both explicit and implicit learning occur when we are academically engaged, as well as moving about.

There are always BRAIN BREAKS...where you simply take a moment to stretch, dance, walk, jog, etc. to get the blood going!  I found some super FREE resources on brain breaks. (Click images for access)

Another way to get your students moving is to actually plan a lesson where they are required to move as part of the skill practice.  Most of us are familiar with the "I Do (modeling), We Do (teacher/students are practicing together), You Do Together (students' collaborative learning) and the You DO (independently) approach to teaching a concept.  Why not create opportunities where your students are UP AND MOVING during the "We Do" or "You Do Together" phase of the lesson?   It's simple and immediate!   For example, if you're teaching Fact and Opinion, simply call out some statements and ask your kids to do a particular movement if you share a fact, and a different movement if you share an opinion.  BAM!  You've given them time to practice the skill with you formatively assessing their progress, as well as given them a chance to stretch and increase their chances of learning.  It works well for almost every single subject or concept you teach!  (Move this way if you're an adjective/adverb, Move this way if you're an odd/even number, Move this way if you should round up/down, Move this way if the evidence in the text helps prove characterization, setting, etc.)   Wow...the possibilities are endless.

Be sure to investigate "Active Academics," a website devoted to Learning on the Move!  It's a FREE site...but requires you simply register to access!  I was able to acquire activities after signing up in a matter of 90 seconds!

  Teachers love to create their own resources as well!  You know I do!   I've got some activities (INCLUDING FREEBIES) that you're welcome to try out.  The 4 Corners game is probably my favorite because it can be adapted to almost anything!  Be sure to try out the FREEBIE version with "Types of Sentences."  

You've probably heard of the SCOOT games.  Funny thing-- when I first began playing them in my early years of teaching (Ummmmm.....20 some years ago), I always referred to them as Road Runner.  :-)  When "Scoot" caught on, I refused (politely) to call my games that.  I still enjoyed the little ROAD RUNNERS running around (okay, walking at a swift pace and switching seats) in my classroom.  So the race is on in your room if you want to try this freebie on contractions.

I played softball growing up, and had 3 brothers who played baseball, so I'm sure that was the inspiration behind some of the Bullseye games!  I
think these require a little more brain power to score, but they are great fun, nonetheless!   This can be a really FUN way to practice a skill, while bodies are pitching pennies or other small objects.  This one is a FREEBIE on NOUNS...loaded with Differentiation practice!

So what are some things you do in your classroom to get your kids up and moving?  Please share!  I'm that big fan of teachers who share their ideas with others, so we all benefit.  SO... let's hear it!  Give yourself a shout-out.  I'll put names in a hat from those that share and on August 11th (Our students' first day back) I'll draw 2 lucky winners!  Primary (K-2) and an Intermediate (3-5) teacher.  **Be sure to list what grade level you teach, what your get up and move idea is for your grade level, AND your email addy so I can send you something!  *I have some BRAND NEW GRAMMAR RECIPE activities I'll send your way....an engaging, creative center that you can set up for students to APPLY those grammar skills you've taught them!  *I have a primary and intermediate version!  :-)

Bananas for LEARNING while MOVING!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Building a Positive School Climate and FREEBIE!

If you're anything like me, you're not quite ready to think about BACK TO SCHOOL yet.  The truth is, however, like most educators, I begin thinking about it long before the previous year even comes to a close.  I think that's how we teachers roll.   I hope your year was successful and you find yourself looking forward to the new one.  As much as we look forward to new beginnings, the truth is, I find a lot of educators are quite stressed in the work place.  As more and more demands are being placed on teacher and student outcomes, the more challenging it can be to keep calm, be encouraged, and see a light at the end of the tunnel.  There are many articles and ideas out there for how to create a positive work environment that are easily applicable to a school culture.  I love the freebie E book 52 Ways to a Positive Work Culture," by Baudville.  It contains some simple reminders about the importance of staring your day right, practicing teamwork, and keeping a positive attitude.
There's also a book for purchase available called, Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership, written by Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson. (Available at Amazon, and most book stores).  This book addresses the critical importance of the cultural aspects that bind a school community together.  It's based on 20 years of research and real-life cases.  If you're a leader in your school or part of a leadership team in your building, this is a worthwhile read!

Last year for us, the year seemed to start off a little rocky.  Between implementing a new reading series, trying to get a handle on Common Core, new administration, and the list goes on, teachers quickly found themselves overwhelmed, exhausted, frightened, and uncertain.  How are we combating this for this coming school year?  One way was that someone in our district actually began an "Educators for Excellence" Facebook group over the summer.  It's a POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING posts only for our district.  It's designed to celebrate the successes and share positive solutions to existing issues.  It went from a few members to a few thousand members in a matter of a couple of weeks!  The group now even has shirts and bumper stickers available to its members that proudly state, "I LOVE MY JOB!"

One of my personal goals this year to help get our immediate building staff started off on a better foot, is to use some (FREEBIE) ADORABLE cards that I can distribute throughout the year.  They contain encouraging and uplifting comments that can easily be added alongside an inexpensive treat to share with a colleague.  (Who doesn't love a little chocolate, or chips, a Diet Coke, or a nice new pen to grade papers with when you least expect it?)  You can use them anonymously, sign your name, create a "Secret Pal" type situation where EVERYONE commits to using at least 3-5 cards throughout the school year for their secret buddy.  Then, have a reveal party at the end of the year!  :-)  However you use them, they're sure to lift somebody's spirits and nurture a positive environment.  So have FUN with them!

What are some things your school does to promote a positive school culture?  Readers would love to hear!  Please post any suggestions or ideas below!  
Best of luck for a wonderful new school year.

Bananas for this quote, "Positive anything is better than negative nothing." -Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Team in Final Four Sale!

Well, a friend approached me after my team...the Kentucky Wildcats won their bid into the Elite Eight. She asked, "If they win again, are you having a sale?"  I promised I would...so HERE WE ARE!  Whether you're a CAT fan or not, sales are always a good thing, right?  My entire store will be 20% off Sunday, March 30 through Tuesday April 1st!  
Some newer items you can grab a little cheaper...

100 activities for the 100 grid.  This grade 2-4 unit incorporates a variety of math practices and skills:  patterns, problem solving, analytical thinking, basic operations, fractions, missing numbers, rounding, percents, making change, missing addends, and more!  GREAT for centers set up near a 100 grid pocket chart! It also makes a nice addition to the 100th day of school!

Do you and your class enjoy book reports?  Here's a new unit with 8 seasonal book reports to get you and your 2nd-4th graders through the year!  (2 fall, 2 winter, 2 spring, and 2 for ANYTIME)  They're great fun and make incredible displays for your classroom!  Happy Reading!  

Finally, I've added a Math Interactive notebook on Measurement to the big bundle.  So all 8 units (a whopping 293 pages) are available in one download OR the measurement unit is available all by itself! Loads of foldable, flips, and writing to explain for your students.  These make great study tools for students AND parents.   

It's not a REAL celebration unless I'm giving something away for FREE....SO...if you teach
grades 3-5 and would enjoy the Problem Solving through April unit (challenging and multi-step word problems for 3rd-5th grades), simply share your favorite college team and the famous CHEER that accompanies your team!  In honor of the FINAL FOUR, I'll give the unit away to the FIRST FOUR college cheers I hear!  *Email address needed so I can get the unit to you!  

Bananas for my CATS!  GO BIG BLUE!  ;-)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

One Stop Super Bowl Shop

You know what time it is!  SUPER BOWL time!  I've been on the hunt for some of my favorite Super Bowl stops...recipes, classroom activities, and pinterest boards.  Be sure to check out some of my favorite touchdowns below.
It's with NO GREAT surprise that I want to start with FOOD first!  I mean...what's a Super Bowl without some amazing appetizers and food?    Nobody does it better than the Food Network.  So be sure to visit their "Big Game Bash" site where you can grab a variety of ideas for appetizers, chilis, wings, salsas, desserts and more!  (Click image at right for a quick trip to their site).
If you're a Southern cooking kind of fan, then maybe Southern Living is your site.  They list 42 "score big" appetizers for your Super Bowl adventure, including sweet potato chips (yum) and an old favorite, sweet and sour meatballs.  

For all the Pinterest addicts, what's a Super Bowl without some decorating ideas?  I found a few boards I love that have some great visuals and ideas for setting your table, keeping kids occupied, outfitting your drinks, and turning your living room (or front yard)  into a football wonderland.  These boards also have ideas for  giving the simplest of foods a little football "sparkle."  Some cost, but a lot are free.  Even the ones that cost something gave me IDEAS for something I could do on my own!  Happy pinning.  

If time is precious and you just need to find a store with affordable football party decor quickly, you can't fumble with Party City.  They carry everything from tablecloths, plates, cups, platters, invitations, favors, etc. for the big game. Pop in or shop online.  They're always cute and festive!

Need a classroom craft idea for Super Bowl Day?  For the youngers, how about working on some fine motor skills while lacing a football?  At DLTK's Autumn lacing projects, they have a football template where you can print, punch holes, get some brown lace or ribbon, and lace away (How many of you remember this...over, under, over, under)!  You could always decorate with your favorite team colors!  If you want to "bump it up" a level, consider printing TWO footballs, lacing them TOGETHER, and stuffing them with cotton or paper!
EVERY teacher loves great listeners.  This little activity I found at teachingheart.net challenges students to listen to rhymes and color the correct number of footballs asked of students within the rhyme.  It's FREE! 

Finally, your students will get super motivated about the big event, as well as receive a good solid review and practice on some essential skills.  Below are some links to some Super Bowl mini-units and/or reviews you can use with your classroom of little football fans.  All under $5.00!  

Bananas for Super Bowl ideas everywhere!  Wherever you celebrate, have fun, play nice, and be safe!




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