Sunday, July 29, 2012

A is for Adventure

A is for Adventure.  I would like to thank all of you all in blogging world for inspiring me to join the ranks of teacher blogs this year and to all of you who read my blog and leave me such kind comments.

 As I get ready to begin the new school year, I look forward to beginning a brand new adventure with my students.  I’ve planned all summer, worked on school stuff when I should be relaxing, etc.  (eh…why am I telling you this??  I bet you’ve all done the EXACT same thing.)

Blogging has inspired me and rejuvenated me to be the very best teacher I can be and then give even more.  I look forward to going on an adventure this year and bringing my students along with me. 

On that end, to get ready, I have been visiting recycle/thrift stores like nobody’s business!!  I am so excited about the way my room is coming together.  Here is a sneak peek at some of the things I have purchased…
I'm buying enough so every student in my reading group will have a "reading buddy." 

Got a cutie patootie plan for this adorable mirror!

Can you guess the colors I'm using in my room this year?

What about the theme???

We have been told it will be another week before we can get into our room.  (In fact, when I visited Thursday, the hall was piled high and my room was receiving another coat of wax.)

In the meantime, I am on a personal adventure with my family and the last before school begins.
Manatee Springs State Park

I hope you are all planning and getting excited for your big adventure this year.  Where will it take you?  I hope it takes all of us, but especially the students, soaring to GREAT heights and that all of their dreams come true as they go on the biggest adventure of all…

Have a great school year!  Where will the adventure take you?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting to Know me a Little Better!

Hi Everyone!

I'm linking up with my very favorite blog author...Amy Lemons over at

I have been blogging since January.  Amy was the first blog that I became a follower of and answered LOTS of questions for me.  I cringe now when I think what I pest I must have been!  :~
It's time to learn more about me.

1)  I am still SOOOOO NOT comfortable with blogging.  I am trying!!!  I love it and enjoy, but it's so hard to know what to blog about!!!  I am having to FORCE myself to remember to take pictures.  I'm just not much of a picture taker!  haha

2) I have played the piano for  42 years since I was 6 years old.  (You do the math!)  My favorite type of music to play is spiritual.  I play the piano at my church every service.

3)  I have 2 daughters.  Megan had a beautiful beach wedding almost 2 years ago.  She is beginning her 2nd year of teaching 4th grade.  Here she is with our son-in-law, B.J.

Camille currently works at the county library, attends college, and is planning her wedding in January to Chad.

4)  This past April, I celebrated 26 years of marriage to the love of my life, Ronnie.

5)  My very favorite things to do include:  spending time with my family (OF COURSE!), reading (absolutely love and you will find that I ALWAYS have a book I am reading!), and camping.
We have traveled extensively while camping.  This is our favorite kind of travel.  I LOVE having my own "stuff!"  We have been to the Florida Keys, several beaches, Louisiana, Arkansas, New England states and even to Prince Edward Island and Grand Manan Island.  We have camped for many, many years.

6)  I am a cat lover.  We even take my cat, Sheba, camping with us.  She loves lying on the entertainment center looking out!

6)  We recently purchased my family's "fishing place" in Florida and have spent quite a bit of time down there this year.

7)  I have Lupus and cannot be out in the heat of the day.  I guess it's a good thing I enjoy doing indoor things!  Most of the time, things go really well and as long as I take care of myself, I don't have flare ups.

8) I love learning (which is probably true for ALL teachers). One reason I began blogging and doing TPT is because I like to challenge myself and continue learning. I got my last degree 12 years ago, when I got my 6 year degree as an Educational Specialist in administration. However, I've never had the desire to leave the classroom. I absolutely LOVE what I do and can't imagine my life without teaching the precious, darling children.  I think joining the blogging world has rejuvenated my teaching and I can't WAIT to get back in the classroom this year!!!!

Now you know more about me.  I look forward to learning more about YOU! 
  Link up over at Amy's blog by clicking on the link below.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Do YOU Want?

Wow!  It has been another busy week around my house.  My daughter, Camille, is getting married in January so we loaded up the mini-van and headed to David's Bridal this week to find the bridesmaids' dresses.  We had a successful trip, and I was even able to fit a quick trip (and my first ever) to JoAnna's to get some new fabric for my bulletin board.  Unfortunately, AFTER I got back home, someone told me I could have gotten a 15% discount for being a teacher.  :-(

Oh, well...I really like my fabric.  As soon as I can get into my classroom and put it up, I'll post pictures.

We've had rain almost every day at the house this week.  Usually in the form of a storm and last night was no exception....BOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!  in the middle of the night...jarred the entire house.  Wish I could donate some to all of you in the middle part of the country desperately needing the rain!

I found some AH-DOOOR-ABLE graphics and just had to make another back-to-school classroom decor unit. 
(Click on pix to go view in my TPT store.)

I'm having an intro special for TODAY ONLY...just $5.00.

Now, to the title of my post, "What do YOU Want?" And you've patiently waded through the rest of this you deserve to tell me... "What do YOU Want?"

Well, I'm closing in on 400 followers so you know what that means...time for another freebie!  I would LOVE to hear what NEW idea you would like for me to make for a freebie. 

The bonus part is...if I choose your idea, you will also get to choose $20 worth of items from my store for FREE!

So, help me out..."What Do YOU Want?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder # 13

Do you ever have those DUUUUUHHHH moments?  This insight was one of those times for me. 

When I first moved to 2nd Grade from Kindergarten, I lost the parapro that I had become accustomed to for 16 years.  She was an absolute jewel and took care of all the filing for me.  Suddenly, that was an extra chore added to my day.  I continued the system that we had, which was having the students file folders in a hanging file.  They were each assigned a number and when they turned their work in, I would put them in order and then file.

OfficeMax Hanging File Organizer


One day this past year, I walked into a friend and co-workers room (and yes, just because they are co-workers, doesn't always mean they are friends, so that is why I list both).  We had worked together in kindergarten for many years, but this was her first year in 2nd grade.  I was thrilled to be back teaching with Jennifer, even though we were on different pods and didn't get to see a lot of each other through the day.  However, we would pop into each other's room if we had a chance.  When I walked into her room, I had a MAJOR DUUUUUHHHHH moment. 

She had her hanging files set up in a milkcrate next to her student cubbies...and...

the STUDENTS...YES, the students...(gasp) were doing their VERY OWN filing of their papers.  Then on Friday, she just had them pull them out, put into their parent folder and take them home.

What could be smarter???? 

Oh, my!!!

I'm so glad I'm going to be able to save myself some time daily using her system.  I figure I spent 5-15 minutes daily dealing with this!!!

Thanks, Jennifer!!!!

Don't forget I offer specialty items for your classroom.  Kim just contacted me Monday needing a Farm Theme for her classroom decor.  I gave her several options of  graphics to choose from and we started a conversation of what she wanted.  One of the things that was so great was she had some sample pictures and ideas to point me into the direction she wanted. 

Here's how it turned out:

She told me what she wanted her bulletin board and door to say.

I was very pleased with how it turned out and so was she.

This is what she had to say about her experience on the TPT site:
I am so pleased with my custom back to school unit! It is more than I ever imagined and is going to look fabulous in my classroom. I love how Cynthia involved me in the whole process and made sure that I got a product that I truly loved! If you are looking for an affordable and cute classroom pack...look no further!

So, if I can help you with ANY kind of specialty item, please contact me!

Have a GREAT day...and continue to Work SMARTER, Not HARDER!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Super, Sizzling Weekly Summer Special

Happy Monday everyone!  I hope you all had an awesome weekend.  However, let's admit the truth of the's hard to tell weekends from the week, Fridays from a Wednesday, etc., etc., etc. during the summer isn't it??  hehehe

I've been super busy adding new items to my store.  Here are the items I added this past week:

This was a specialty back-to-school order. 
YES, you too, can make a specialty order for your back to school theme (or anything else for that  If you are interested in this, please send me an e-mail.  You even get to choose your own graphics and have 100% approval every step of the way!

I was very pleased with the graphics she chose and how everything turned out.

All of these items can be found in my store!

I even had time to make some freebies last week as I was feeling very generous!   All of the themed behavior charts are free.  I will be adding more this week for my other themes.

Here's another freebie...Mini-posters to give students' strategies for unknown words.

Wow, until I posted these, I didn't realize HOW many I actually made last week.  I just LOOOOVVVEEE creating things and can't seem to stop.  Remember, there's 23 years worth of ideas in my head!  lol

I even managed to fit in 2 days of helping my daughter fix and can green beans, a day to put up corn for us, and a day of thrift store shopping for my classroom with some of my besties!

This is just MY stuff!!!  We were packed to the very top when everyone's stuff was in there!

okay, okay...enough blabbering about my week last week
 (even though reflecting back on it, it WAS pretty awesome..hahaha)

It's time for...

I just couldn't decide on any particular item for this week's special, so this week
YOU get to choose!!!

You can purchase ANYTHING in my store (there's 107 items right now to choose from) and get an item of equal price or less FREE!!! 
**EXCLUDED is the Choose Your Own Back-to-School Classroom Theme.**
(which is still an AWESOME deal at just $7.95.)

If you buy 2 items, you get 2 free.
4 items, 4 free.
You get the idea.

Just purchase your items, then send me an e-mail
 (always found at the end of my units)
letting me know which items you would like for free. 
You may purchase from my TPT store or my TN store.

So, what are you waiting for????

Start shopping and load up. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder #12

Do you ever find yourself on Friday morning realizing that you haven't yet written the monthly parent letter?  (Oh, CRAP!)  Try communicating with your parents in a different way this year.  There are several things you can do to WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER...

We do a monthly letter.  On one side is the month's calendar with important dates listed and other reminders for parents.  On the other side it tells, "What will my child be learning this month?" We list each subject and what will be taught along with some tid-bits of how the parents can help at home.  This has worked really well for us as a grade level.  If an individual teacher has something special, they can attach to the letter, or send home whenever needed.

Still want to do a weekly newsletter?  Get with a partner or your whole team and take turns writing it each week.  Leave a small space that each teacher can write individual notes.

Other options...consider using social media.  This (along with the monthly calendar format) is what I plan to do.  Previously, we had class websites (as I'm sure all of you do also).  This summer, our district switched over to google mail and did away with all our websites.  We were told it is up to us what to use this year.  I have been looking all summer trying to decide which was the best way to go. 

Another teacher friend and I have discussed in length.  We would LOVE to have a private Facebook page, but alas, it is blocked at school.  Just THINK of the possibilities...Need something for your classroom within the next hour, just post it on your FB page, send info & pictures to parents instanteously for them to view what their child is doing, etc.  The possibilities are endless!  Probably, every parent out there has a FB account and most have phones to keep in constant touch.

However, since that is not an option for me, I have decided to go with a blog.  I worked almost all day on it yesterday setting it up.  (Yes, I KNOW there are lots of ready-made free blog templates out there, but it's just my personality.  I LOVE challenging myself and learning new things!) I would love if you popped over and take a looksie at it.  I'm still working on it, but would love ideas from those of you who have used a classroom blog.  I would REALLY like for my students to be able to blog also.

I'm also involve in TWO huge giveaways.  While you're out blog stalking blog hopping today, be sure to stop by and enter if you haven't already.  Maybe you'll be the lucky winner!

Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings

Brian over at Hopkin's Hoppin' Happenings is celebrating 100,000 views on his blog.  Hurry over, his giveaway ends tonight.

Casey over at Second Grade Math Maniac is also having a huge giveaway.  Hers starts today.

So, please, please, PLEASE leave your comments, thoughts and ideas on this one.  How do you make communication Smarter, not Harder?  What else do I need to add on a classroom blog?  Is there anyway to keep it private for JUST parents?  I really need your help on this one.  Help ME be Smarter!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder #11

     Hi everyone!  This is Donna from Peace, Love and Learning and I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for Cynthia’s “Work Smarter, Not Harder” series.  I’ve never been a guest blogger before so I sure hope I do Cynthia’s awesome blog justice!

    I think that the motto, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” is what teachers everywhere strive for. Let’s face it, you won’t find a harder working group of professionals anywhere.  (Take a minute here to pat yourself on the back.) Looking at the many things we do and finding the most effective and efficient ways to do them will not only benefit us (by giving us a little more time to blog stalk, for instance) but will also benefit the kids we work with every day.

     One practice I’ve really tried to “Think Smarter” about is the way I manage conferring with my kids. Having a meaningful, impactful conversation with a student is always the priority, but I’ve struggled with the best way to document my conferences.  I finally found a way this year that not only gives me the data (a big buzz word in my school right now) that I need to support my early learners but also gives them a “take away” that they can understand.  Stick with me here as I explain…

     My goal is to meet with each student once a week during Readers’ Workshop and once a week during Writers’ Workshop.  To accomplish this, I follow a traditional conference structure and try to keep them to about 3-5 minutes each.  The main things we talk about are strategies that the student is using effectively and those that need some practice.  I wanted a way to document this great info so I could add it to each student’s individual data binder, but I didn’t want to shuffle through 20 data sheets each time I started a new conference to find the right one.  (This is the where the “Work Smarter” part comes in.)   I now use a class set of labels that have a place to jot down each student’s strengths (thumbs up) and challenges (lightbulb).   I have a two page template with a label for each student and I only carry these 2 sheets on my clipboard. The labels look like this:
     At the end of the day I stick the completed labels onto conference logs in the students’ data binders.  This lets me see their growth over time and track their progress. The conference logs I use look like this:
     It’s a great way to organize notes and I know which students I still need to meet with later in the week by looking at what labels I have left on my sheets. If you’d like to give this system a try, you can download the labels and  the log down below.  (You'll need 2"x4" labels, 10 per sheet - I use Avery 5163.) I left the file in Word format so you can type in your own students’ names.

     In order to make the conferences meaningful to the students and hold them accountable for their own learning goals, they each have a matching Conference Strategy Sheet in their book boxes and writing folders.  We partner to decide on a take-away that they add to their sheet. To read more about this part of my “Work Smarter” plan, pop over to Peace, Love and Learning to check it out!

Thanks to Cynthia for letting me visit.  I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Super, Sizzling Summer Special

This week's Super Sizzling Summer Special is HUGE!!! 

I am so excited about all of my Back-to-School themes.  If you haven't already decided on your theme for this year or purchased items for it, this week is the time to do it!  My offer to you this week is .......

Buy one of my Back-to-School Themes classroom decor for your classroom and receive all of the below FREE!!!!!

1)  Coordinating Word Wall and Table Numbers
2)  Coordinating Numbers 1-20 for wall display
3)  Sunshine Craftivity

Here are the Back-to-School themes I have available in my stores...

Here is a sample of the three FREE items:

(This will be in a matching theme to your purchase.)

(These will also be matching.)

Send me an e-mail after you purchase with the theme you chose and I will e-mail you the 3 freebies.


P.S.  Visit my friend Teresa over at 2nd Grade Pig Pen to see her weekly special.