Friday, November 14, 2014

Why I Am Thankful for TpT

Miss Giraffe is hosting a "Why I'm Thankful for TpT" Linky Party and I HAD to join!  November is a time for reflection, a time for giving thanks.  I cannot let this month pass without thinking of how eternally grateful I am for Teachers Pay Teachers.

I began my journey on TpT just over two years ago.  I have always loved creating things for my own students.  Other teachers always told me I should sell my creations.  I had no faith in myself.  How would I start?  Would anybody really want it?  What if I failed?  I was filled with so much doubt and a tremendous lack of confidence.

In October of 2011, I learned that I needed stomach surgery.  Even with health insurance, it would cost a few thousand dollars.  I was devastated by this news.  Times were so hard then.  Money was so tight.  We bought our home when the market was high and our payment was ridiculous.  My husband is a firefighter, and I am a teacher.  You would think we would be alright, but in actuality, every year we took home less money than the year before.  There was no money in the budget for raises and the cost of insurance and taxes went up and up.

I remember leaving the doctor and crying on the phone to my mom.  How could I even think of getting this surgery?  I was taking money from my kids.  I didn't feel that I was a priority.  I always put myself last.  I felt so guilty that I was now going to be a burden.  After I got off the phone, it hit me!  I could raise the money by selling some of my creations!  I would save all the money I made, and I wouldn't feel guilty.  That very night, I signed up to be a seller on TpT.  I made my very first sale within a couple hours.  After that I was hooked!

In the past two years, I have created over 600 resources.  Children in Spain, China, and Australia use my games!  Teachers have shared pictures of their students using my games and even letters from their kids THANKING them for letting them do them.  I am blown away!  I have met some of the nicest people!  I began to realize that teachers actually liked my stuff!  Kids across the country were using my games to have fun and learn!  This is my passion!  This is my dream!  I am all about getting in done, but makin' it fun!  I want kids to LOVE school.  I want them to think they are playing, but really they are learning!  I was now sharing this passion in classrooms across the world!  I had never imagined how fulfilling that could be.

In 2013, I got a booth at the I Teach K conference in Las Vegas and shared my passion with teachers from around the country.  Last summer, I got two booths and presented.  I NEVER would have done this before TpT.  I have found a confidence in myself.  I have realized that I can go as far as I dream.
One year ago, I had my stomach surgery and paid for it all through my TpT earnings.  I feel so much better physically, but I never imaged how much better I would feel emotionally.  TpT has given me a confidence and drive that I never had before.  I know that I am worthy and deserving.  I no longer put myself last.  Teachers Pay Teachers has empowered me, given me a purpose, and allowed me to grow as a human being.  I never expected any of this when I signed up, but I am forever grateful to TpT for helping me discover who I was meant to be.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Life Cycle of a Pumpkin with Free Science Journal

One of my favorite Halloween books is Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell.

In this story, a little boy throws his old jack-o-lantern into his garden and watches it rot.  He is surprised to find new pumpkin plants sprouting from the rotten shell.  For years, I would leave an old jack-o-lantern out so that we could watch it rot.  It was pretty fun.  Last year, I saw an idea on pinterest where the pumpkin is filled with soil so that the seeds can sprout.  We still have all the fun of watching the pumpkin rot but now we also get to watch the seeds sprout.  The kids LOVE it!


To get started, all you need is a pumpkin and a bag of soil.  Cut the top off the pumpkin and fill that baby up.  Put the pumpkin in a clear plastic tote.  I look for something that can be tossed because after weeks of rotten pumpkin, I don't want to clean it.  Water the seeds and watch.  I created some journals for my kids to record the changes we see.  We are just starting them, but my students were SO excited!   Click here to print your own Pumpkin Science Journals.  Here are the pages:


Inside pages.  I put 6 two-sided sheets in each journal.

Last page - reviewing what we learned from the project.
Until next time-

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Favorite Things Giveaway #2 - PowerPoint Clicker!

Wow!  Long time no blog!  I have been super busy with my new group of kiddos.  I am happy to report that they are a great bunch and we are off to a super start.  It has been a month since my last Favorite Things Giveaway, so I had to return to the blog and get busy!  Each month this year, I will be posting one of my favorite things and giving it away!  This month, I am so excited to giveaway one of my favorite little gadgets - my PowerPoint clicker!  I think this is probably my most used piece of technology, but I am surprised by how many teachers have never heard of them!  Here is the breakdown:

What is it?  
This little gadget lets you click through powerpoint presentations from anywhere in your classroom.  It comes with a little part that looks like a jumpdrive and plugs into your computer.  The actual clicker looks like a small remote control.  It has just a few buttons.  Mine has a laser pointer on the end.  I picked mine up at Target and I think it was around $25.

Why do we need it?
You can be ANYWHERE in your room and still control the board!  Here are some ways that I use the clicker in my room:
  • I use these when I read scanned books to my class.  I am able to sit on the floor with them and flip through the pages of the book.  To read more about scanning books, click here!  
  • We play games with it!  This is especially fun with my Alpha-Stretch games!  I have my kids stand in a circle and give one kid the clicker.  I turn on an Alpha-Stretch with the setting "Click to Advance".  The student holding the clicker must think of a word that begins with the letter on the board.  The whole class does the movement that goes with the letter.  After the student with the clicker says a word, he presses the button to advance to the next letter and gives the clicker to the student next to him.  Once we have gone through the alphabet, we do it again and try to beat our time.  I love this game before holiday parties!  It keeps them engaged and gives them a chance to move around.  To learn more about Alpha-Stretch games, check out this video: 

  • We also use the clicker during morning songs.  My star student gets to hold the clicker and advance through the songs for us.  This helps morning songs run without me.  To read more about morning songs, click here!  
Other tips for using a PowerPoint Clicker:
  • Sometimes, my clicker wanders off.  I hot glued a magnet to the back of it and keep it on my board next to my computer.  This ensures that we can find the clicker when we need it! 
  • Kids can get confused by the buttons.  I used a little bit of red and green nail polish to mark the forward and back buttons.  Green means "GO" to the next slide.  Red means "STOP" and go back!  Why nail polish?  It stays put way longer than regular paint and is opaque enough to cover the writing on the buttons.  
And now...The moment we have all been waiting for...THE GIVEAWAY!!!!
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Favorite Things Giveaway #1 Scentsy

If you follow my blog, you know that I have been working all summer to create my dream classroom.  I am excited to start a series of giveaways of my favorite things!  Each month, I will post something in my classroom that I LOVE and you will have a chance to win it!

One of the most important things to me about any space is the smell!  I can be in the most fancy shmancy of places, but if it stinks, it's all over for me!  I teach firsties and after recess, my room smells like puppies.  I can only imagine what happens in older grades!  I use my scentsy everyday to keep my room smelling fresh and clean!  I love that I can change the fragrances daily or according to the seasons and holidays.  New fragrances create a new atmosphere.  I love to smell pumpkin in the fall and citrus in the spring.  For me, scents are really tied to memories and moods.  Scentsy gives me the power to control that!  My Scentsy bars last for SO long!  I keep a variety of fragrances in my cabinet so that I can switch them out as often as I want.  
I get my Scentsy products from one of my parents, Delina Duchaineau.  She is the nicest lady and she is also a teacher!  She has offered to donate a warmer and two Scentsy bars to my giveaway.  I told you she was the nicest lady! 

Scentsy offers SO many different warmers and guess what?  Delina said the winner can choose their own warmer!  
Here are a few of my favorites:
Chevron Black Scentsy Warmer PREMIUMBig Apple Scentsy Warmer PREMIUMCarrey Scentsy Warmer ELEMENT
There is a warmer to fit any classroom decor!  To see more warmers, click here!

Ok, so let's talk about the SCENTS!  Here are some of my all time favorites!
Scentsy also offers special scents throughout the year.  They have a catalog for fall/winter and spring/summer.  Last year, I got a gingerbread and a holiday cinnamon bar that made my classroom smell great all winter!  

Beach Scent CircleI also love the Scentsy body products.  Have you tried them?  They have lotions, soaps, perfumes, even laundry soaps!  My favorite scent is Luna.  I might be called a Luna-lunatic!  I think I have bought everything they make in that scent!  I always put Scentsy Circles in my suitcase when I am traveling.  My clothes smell like home to me.  It's like a little treat!  
Check out Delina's site to see all the wonderful things Scentsy has to offer!  
I am so excited to kick off this giveaway!  Please spread the word to all your teacher friends who might be interested in entering!  

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Walk Around the School - Mr. Adams 5th Grade

I know how fun it is to look at other classrooms and get ideas for set-up, organization, and bulletin boards.  I have decided to start sharing pictures of some wonderful things that are happening at my school.  This is the first of many blog posts that will feature photos from classrooms at my school.  This classroom belongs to Mr. Adams in fifth grade.  Adams is new to my school and has set-up an amazing classroom.  In the lower grades, we don't do a lot with science and social studies.  These subjects are the influence for his classroom theme.  Perfect for fifth grade!  I snapped some pictures of some of my favorite things about his classroom.

This area is in the back of the room.  I love how organized everything is.  Mr. Adams has lots of resources, but they don't feel cluttered or messy because they are organized so well on the shelves.

I am crazy about these huge paperclips on his wall!  I have never seen these before!  He said he found them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  They are perfect for this area because they can easily display flyers and current events and you don't need to bother with staples.  I found them online!  Click here for the link!

This is a view from the front of the classroom.  Mr. Adams has arranged the desks in rows that angle back to form a V shape.  I can't believe how much bigger this made the room look! 

In this shot we can see the computer stations.  I love how Adams used the wall space above the computers to hang charts.  This just looks like an area that will really function well for the students.

Mr. Adams has used the space below his board to display US presidents.  I have seen this bulletin board set displayed in classrooms before, but it never felt so "clean" to me.  He has this displayed in a way that is symmetrical, completely straight, and evenly spaced.  I am so bad at hanging things that I usually try to go for the "wonky" look.  Can you see how he has angled the presidents up on the end?  It looks perfect and what a great use for this space!

When I am in Mr. Adams' room, the longer I linger, the more things I discover.  He has this little solar system hung on the ceiling.  Planets are spaced proportionately.  It is small and subtle.  I love all these special details that Mr. Adams has put in his classroom. 

Isn't it fun looking at what other teachers are doing?  I am going to get some more classrooms for you guys.  There are lots of cool ones at my school.  I can't wait to share them with you!

To Mr. Adams,
 Thanks so much for letting me share your classroom with other teachers.  You have put a lot of work into creating such a wonderful space for your students.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Dream Desk is a Reality!

I love, love love my new desk!  I actually don't sit at the desk except during recess and after school.  My aide uses the "teacher" desk in my class.  I switched out my old desk (which I really liked) for a smaller desk that belonged to a dear friend of mine who is no longer with us.  I was helping clean out her classroom the day after school ended and saw that she had written her name inside the desk drawer.  This melted my heart and I knew that I REALLY wanted that desk in my room.

There were a few problems with it.  It was really small and the wood on the top was dark brown (and if you have been following this blog, you know I am getting rid of dark brown).  Despite these problems, this desk is really special to me and I am honored to have it in my room.  I called up my cabinet man (I secretly call him Cliff Cabinets) and asked him to order some more of that lime green counter top.

I had him make it ten inches larger than the desk so that I could stick a kid on the end if my aide needed to work one-on-one with a student.  Cliff Cabinets showed up today with the counter top and it is better than anything I imaged.  He wanted to screw it to the desk, but the desk belongs to the school so I said no.  The surprising advantage of leaving it unattached is that I can easily slide the counter to one side or the other.  I can center it over the desk if I don't want to put a chair on either end.  This makes the desk is so practical and versatile.  It looks amazing with the lime green top and it is so sentimental.  It really is my DREAM desk!  I am going to be jealous when I see an aide sitting in it!  It is MY dream desk!  :)
Cliff Cabinets will be back next week for a REALLY crazy project!  I will blog about it as soon as it is finished!  This next one may be too much even for me! :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Classroom Set-Up

LOVIN' the counter tops!
My mission to create my dream classroom continues as I get ready for the new school year.  I have spent the last three days at school and feel like I have barely made a dent!  I decided to blog about the progress to motivate me to keep on truckin'.  I will just focus on the good stuff that is happening in room 203!

I am LOVING my new cabinets!  I rip out workbook pages and sort them at the beginning of every year.  Having all this counter space has made this job so MUCH more enjoyable.

I am still trying to decide what I want to store inside of the cabinets.  We have five different reading books in my room.  Five books times 25 copies of each = 125 reading books.  YIKES!  They take up so much rom and they are so heavy!  I managed to fit all of them in the bottom of one cabinet.  Out of sight and out of mind!  The best news is that I still have more space under the other cabinet.

I had some small shelves lining one of my walls.  The shelves stored lots of materials, but they had some issues.  This was the best picture I could find of the old shelves.  See them in the background?
This was an old photo so I don't have a release for this little lady.
Trust me when I say, she is WAY cuter than the cartoon face!
Here is what I did not like about my old shelves:

  • All of my clutter was visible.  I love my stuff, but I don't love looking at it!  
  • The shelves were cheap particle board and the bottoms had buckled from storing all my reading books. 
  • They were also a dark wood and I am trying to get everything to match.  
  • The tops of the shelves were getting very worn.
I looked at many websites and stores.  To get really good classroom shelves would be crazy pricey!  I found some shelves at Target that I think will be a great solution for me.  

Threshold™ Carson 5 Shelf Bookcase with Doors
This is my new shelf from Target!
Here is what I love about the new shelves:
  • They have closed doors that will hide unsightly boxes!  
  • They are tall so that I can take full advantage of my space.
  • The shelf on the left is the finished product.  Still working on the others.
  • I can change the knobs to match my classroom decor.
Polkadot knobs!!!
I put four of these shelves side-by-side on one wall.  I just started filling the shelves and am so excited about how it is coming together.
I have most of the bottom filled and am working on filling the open shelves with containers that match and hide the contents.  I have buckets on top with books sorted by authors that we do for author study.

I found these cute clear paint cans at Joann's and I am such a hoarder that I think I need them everywhere!  I have already put a ton of small ones in my writing area.  Now I am using the gallon size cans to store random materials.  I think they look super cute!  I keep buying all that they have at my local store and then checking for more like a maniac.

Just looking at this makes me happy!!!

Hopefully, I will have some awesome "After" pictures to post soon.  Setting up the room takes so much time!